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May 16 - King Neptune

Date: 16 May 2004

Noon Position: lat 08 41.9 N, long 28 19.0 W (1371 nautical miles from Las Palmas)
Distance travelled since Immingham: 29435 nautical miles
Distance travelled since Stanley: 4311 nautical miles
Air temperature: 25.0°C
Sea temperature: 26.3°C

The JCR this Week.

This week we have crossed into the northern hemisphere, and every day are coming closer to home. On the day the equator was crossed (Friday 14th), King Neptune's Court was convened in the usual manner and he and his lovely wife came aboard to test and punish those crossing the line for the first time. The day was rounded off with the "Dave Gooberman Memorial BBQ". Dave left us a few weeks ago to become a ship's inspector but his legacy, for which he will no doubt always be remembered, was a very, very nice barbecue. Thanks Dave, it was delicious.

Slaving over a hot BBQ. Click to enlarge.

Richie christens the BBQ in style. Click to enlarge.

Otherwise, it has been business as usual with science stopping for no-one. We have seen life in the form of weird and wonderful plankton, gangs of squid cruising the shallows at night for food and schools of flying fish cruising above the water, escaping the ship. We have even seen a few other ships- a tanker and a bulk carrier, crossing the ocean from Africa to South America!

Science Bit In The Middle: AMT 14.

We have continued our voyage north, testing the water at regular points along the route. We have now had 54 CTDs, deployed 8 buoys, filtered 14,000 litres through the SAPS and taken countless underway samples. In addition, we have had plenty of rain to keep the "rain lady", Karabi Biswas, happy. Her ability to recognise an imminent rain shower is slowly but surely improving ....!

CTD by Young Nam Kim. Click to enlarge.

As always, the mainstay of our science has been the CTD. Click to enlarge.

This week's focus is the biologists. They in turn focus on the microscopic creatures that inhabit the oceans. The plankton, both phyto- (plant) and zooplankton (animals) form the very bottom of the oceanic food chain. We capture these tiny creatures at each of our CTD stations in the water bottles of the CTD itself. However, for Elena San Martin, the CTD is not enough. She deploys a net with the finest mesh, to catch the tiniest of animals, the zooplankton. She uses different mesh sizes to catch organisms of different sizes. By counting and measuring these she can correlate the size of the plankton community with their abundance and therefore the abundance of life of all sizes in that particular part of the ocean.

Elena and her net. Click to enlarge.

Elena and her bongo net. Click to enlarge.

Paul is also in search of the ultimate "plankton party". His favourite party guests are the tiniest creatures, the micro-, nano- and pico-plankton. He rounds them up and invites them into his incubators, where he allows them to laze around in the sun for a day or so and then puts them under the microscope, to measure their resistance to ultra-violet light. He knows exactly how many of each sort of guest comes to his party, and how big they are. The aim is to work out whether each type of tiny creature can be found all over the ocean, or whether they are distributed according to different light and temperature conditions.

Paul serious for a moment. Click to enlarge.

Also studying the effects of light on the plankton community is Young Nam Kim, our cruise photographer. He uses water collected at different depths and subjects it to bright ultra-violet light. The response to the light in the lab mirrors the response to light under the water according to the different physiological properties of the plankton. Young can therefore study the tiny differences which allow these creatures to live at different depths.

Young. Click to enlarge.

Young with his bright blue light machine. Click to enlarge.

Chris Lowe (known to his colleagues as Harry Potter) is looking at the way that the phytoplankton affects light, mainly how they absorb and scatter the rays of the sun. He is trying to find relationships between these factors and how quickly the phytoplankton can convert sunlight into food. Unusually for an AMT scientist, Chris' work does not involve the spreading of large volumes of water over the deck of the ship but can be done with the water in the ocean as nature intended!

Hard day in the office. Click to enlarge.

Harry Potter plays computer quidditch while all the work is done by his light-measuring instruments, below: Click to enlarge.

The amazing optical gadget. Click to enlarge.

Sandy is a South African, from the University of Cape Town, and one of AMT's international collaborators. Famous for filtering huge quantities of water, she is studying the rate of carbon export from the surface water of the ocean. By measuring a naturally-occurring radioactive material called Thorium at the surface and in deep water, she can deduce how much carbon is lost due to dead plankton particles sinking into the depths. This is important as the loss of carbon from the surface water allows it to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The measurements Sandy takes will add to information being used to create a mathematical model which can predict the effects of oceanic changes on future global carbon dioxide levels.

Sandy. Click to enlarge.

Sandy, never satisfied with small bottles of water, filters literally gallons every day. Click to enlarge.

Jane and Mike are the bacteriologists. These two are seldom seen outside the lab, working long hours, studying the microbial diversity of the ocean. Mike in particular is studying grazing, both on and by the bacteria, in order to get a better understanding of the cycle of nutrients. By incubating bacteria-laden water with radioactively-labelled substrates, he can directly measure the uptake of nutrients and excretion of waste products.

Jane at the CTD. Click to enlarge. Mike Zubkov by Young Nam Kim. Click to enlarge.
Jane and Mike. Click to enlarge.

The Court of King Neptune

This was convened at 1400 on Friday the 14th May, according to maritime tradition. Mike Gloistein has provided a short history of the event.

It was in 1471 that the Portuguese Lopa Gonçalvez made history by being the first European to cross the Equator, and this may well have been celebrated. The earliest mention of initiation ceremonies date from 1529, although similar ceremonies are believed to have been performed for distinctive places such as the Straits of Gibraltar. The following is a description from 1784:

"At noon the arrival of Neptune is announced; the marine deity is personated by a sailor bearing in his hand the trident, and seated in a car, which is no other than a water tub, drawn by some of his companions in the charecter of Tritons. The appearance of Neptune and his retinue is highly grotesque; their oozy locks are composed of long, half wet swabs, bespattered with oatmeal, and their faces are painted with red ochre. On approaching the Captain, Neptune demands the object of his voyage, and receives the customary tribute from those who have not crossed the line and choose to evade the ceremony of ducking and shaving."

King Neptune is accompanied by his wife, Queen Amphitrite, and this was noted in 'The Faerie Queene' written in 1590 by Edmund Spenser:

First came great Neptune with his threeforked mace,
That rules the seas and makes them rise or fall;
His dewy locks did drop with brine apace,
Under his diadem imperial:
And by his side his Queen coronal,
Fair Amphitrite, most divinely fair,
Whose ivory shoulders were covered all,
As with a rope, with her own silver hair,
And decked with pearls, which th' Indian seas for her prepare.
These marched far afore the other crew.

King neptune's court. Click to enlarge.

King Neptune's Court: Prosecutor, Judge, King Neptune, Queen Amphitrite, the Doctor and the Barber. Click to enlarge.

Those crossing the line for the first time face the court and are initiated by the ceremonial ducking and shaving:


Andy faces his charges. Click to enlarge.


Dougal. Click to enlarge.


Jane meets the barber. Click to enlarge.
Young nearly gets a scalping. Click to enlarge.

Plead guilty, it's easier!

Karabi foolishly argues with the court. Click to enlarge.
A close shave from the Sweeney Todd. Click to enlarge.
Tim, spattered with "blood" gets an especially close shave

Worshipping the kipper:

Sarah worships the kipper. Click to enlarge.
Jon gets a second helping. Click to enlarge.

Johnnie, this is for deleting my hard drive!

Johnnie too smug. Click to enlarge. Revenge! Click to enlarge.

The part of Amphitrite was played by PSO Patrick Holligan, looking absolutely divine in blue bin liner by Graham Raworth. She was accompanied by King Neptune himself (Katie Chamberlain) wearing a crown designed and hand-made by Preston Enterprises (we are told it may be a one-off).

The prosecutor was Mark Stinchcombe in GLORIOUS black, the Judge Nick Millward, dressed by Jo Cox. The doctor and barber's outfits were from the same designer, "House of King", with bloody accessories by Dr Wilson. Winner of the most stylish hat of the day award goes without question to Karabi Biswas for her unique and practical "Rain Hood". Her prize, a double dose of bubbling, foamy, green goo.

A final thought ...

Relaxing. Click to enlarge.

A relaxing end of day rest on the aft deck for the deck crew. Click to enlarge.

Many thanks to all who contributed photos this week, and especially to Young Nam Kim once again.

Next week....... the homeward leg....