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Apr 25 - The End of JR144 at Montevideo

The End of JR144 at Montevideo

Now when we left you in our last instalment, the ship was moving about all over the place. Having hit a storm on the way northwest from Shag Rocks, the ship was pitching and rolling continually, though fortunately everyone had gained their 'sea legs' over the previous seven weeks and there were no major sickness issues.

Huw and Claire with the Plaque they made for the Ship
Huw and Claire with the Plaque they made for the Ship

With the 'End of Cruise Party' scheduled for the 15th, the question had been as to whether it could go ahead exactly as planned. In the end it was to be effected, though only in a functional manner. As with the end of cruise party after the Amundsen Sea, everyone congregated in the Officers Lounge. Here there were the usual pre-dinner drinks and speeches from Katrin, the PSO and Captain Jerry Burgan. At this point, Katrin presented a plaque for the ship, made during the cruise by some of the science team, thanking the Ship's Company for all their hard work, without which, the previous seven weeks couldn't have been such a great success.

Yours Truly, the Ship's Doctor after Dinner
Yours Truly, the Ship's Doctor after Dinner

Pete Enderlein with his award of 'Star of the Cruise'
Pete Enderlein with his award of 'Star of the Cruise'

Pictures by Jan Strugnell

Pre-weather, the plan had been to have a buffet in the Conference Room next door, but the rolling and pitching of the ship would have simply made such an endeavour nothing more than a sorry mess. It had thus been decided that we would retire for a seated meal downstairs, to return for coffee, drinks and cruise presentations afterwards. The cruise, as a whole, had been a very hard working affair and there had yet to be a time since the start when someone from the science team wasn't undertaking responsibilities of one sort or another. This made the evening the first point in the last seven weeks that everyone could completely relax together. Even saying that, though, there were still all the end of cruise reports to finalize, cleaning to undertake and demobilization to start prior to the actual end of the cruise a few days later.

Matt and Dan, the winners of the 'Kings of Comedy' Award for the cruise
Matt and Dan, the winners of the 'Kings of Comedy' Award for the cruise

Huw, the winner of the Cruise 'Mouth' Award
Huw, the winner of the Cruise 'Mouth' Award

Pictures by Jan Strugnell

The last full day at sea for all the scientists saw the rough seas and heavy swell moderating. and was the opportunity to finish, or even start, those last few chores before arriving in Montevideo. It was at last calm enough for crew and scientists to get out on deck to start packing away equipment and cleaning all the spaces that had been everyones' home and workplace, all wrapped up in one for the last 7 weeks. There was a lot to do before everyone left on the 19th but, as had been the case for the whole cruise, everyone chipped in where it was necessary and, if things needed to be done, they just got done, an attitude that continued until every last job was finished two days later in Montevideo.

The arrival of the Montevideo Pilot
The arrival of the Montevideo Pilot

The Arrival of the JCR at Montevideo
The Arrival of the JCR at Montevideo

Pictures by Dave Farrance

The Montevideo Pilot came aboard at 1330 afternoon and it was a short pilotage to arrival at berth; the ship was all fast alongside just an hour later. As soon as the ship arrived, everyone pitched in to get demobilization on the go and afterwards all those on the ship not on duty escaped for the first time since Stanley for meals (with the bonus of fresh fruit and veg) and entertainment in town. Tuesday was another day of demobilization, taking bunkers and the loading of a small quantity of fresh stores to see the ship through it's next 3 weeks until arriving in Portland. Many escaped for a short spell, as feasible, for either whistle-stop run into town, or lunch in the beautiful, and internationally renowned 'Meat Market' just outside the port.

The Delights of the Meat Market outside the Port at Montevideo. Picture by Mike Goldstein.
The Delights of the Meat Market outside the Port at Montevideo. Picture by Mike Goldstein.

After a last night all together in town, it was now time for the whole of the scientific team to go their seperate ways. Five of the team were heading off, all in their own directions around South and Central America, while the rest were getting on to flights to head back to their normal working lives at BAS, and a few other Institutions around Europe. After all the sad goodbyes, everyone set off, either to the ferryport or the airport, at 1030 on the 19th April, leaving myself and the Ship's company alone for the last 3 weeks of the season and the trip north.

One of the Hangers-on after Montevideo. Picture by Mike Goldstein.
One of the Hangers-on after Montevideo. Picture by Mike Goldstein.

The JCR started her final leg of this southern season, leaving Montevideo at 1550, to much calmer seas than when she arrived. The first couple of days at sea were windy yet the swell had eased and continued to do so into the weekend. The ship continued over the next few days, heading up the east coast of South America, picking up a few migrating birds and insects on the way and with the ship's thermometers slowly rising to more tropical numbers.

The whole science team together (almost) when at KEP. Picture by Pete Enderlein.
The whole science team together (almost) when at KEP. Picture by Pete Enderlein.

The Final Science Piece of the Cruise and the Season
With David Pierce

The biosphere is dominated by microorganisms. They are the most numerous, genetically diverse and least understood component of any given ecosystem, but particularly in the Antarctic. However, despite the importance of the microorganisms, we still have only a very limited understanding of how microbial communities function in fundamental ecosystem processes such as biogeochemical cycling. Recently, however, the development of DNA based molecular techniques has revolutionised the study of environmental microbiology.

A long term monitoring component of JR144 has used the latest molecular technology to assess the biodiversity and genetic composition of bacteria in Antarctic microbial marine communities. The end goal is to generate an environmental DNA ‘blueprint’ known as an environmental genome or metagenome, which will be used to investigate the relationship between the biodiversity of Antarctic bacteria and their function in Antarctic nutrient cycling. This will provide a firm basis with which to study the potential influences of global climate change on bacterial-mediated ecosystem processes in the Antarctic, and also likely consequences, in terms of the carbon cycle, on the wider Earth System.

The actual day to day laboratory work in this project involved taking 300L water samples from both surface and deep zones using a CTD – a series of 12L bottles attached to electronic devices for measuring the physics and chemistry of the water column. The microorganisms from these water samples were then extracted using a special type of filtration system which progressively removes water from the sample rather than by pushing the sample through a filter. The end result is a 300 ml water sample containing all of the smaller microorganisms from the original water sample. These will be taken back to BAS, the genomic DNA extracted and metagenomic libraries constructed and analysed – something to keep me busy for the next couple of years!!!

And so now it's time to head north to the Tropics.