Thursday, 4 August 2011

Milly: Ugly Fish pt 2

RRS James Cook
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 1
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 3
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 4
Milly: Ugly Fish pt 5
Milly: Ugly Fish Pt 6
Milly: Ugly Fish Pt 7

We made it! We are on the James Cook, phew.  Since we have been sailing for a few days you might think I'd have worked out where everything was by now but I still end up on the forecastle (I have no idea what that is) deck when trying to find my cabin. Quite a confusing error to make since the forecastle is at the top and my cabin is in the bowels of the ship. My room has no windows which is quite handy as I'm on the 4pm to the 4am shift. So, apparently there is a sauna here but I'm not sure if this is a crew in-joke whereby I turn up at the 'sauna' in a bikini to find that it's actually the engine room.

Tubes of ocean floor
The weather has been extremely good and the boat has been hardly moving at all. I've stayed away from the sea sickness tablets thus far, however there has been mention of 'dreadful conditions' in the next few days and when an experienced deck officer uses the word 'dreadful', you know you're in trouble.

There is an interesting mix of scientists aboard this cruise, exploring the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP). Many people from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), at Southampton, seem to be interested in mud. Not just the mud, they say, but the wee beasties that reside in it. One important group of organisms are the Foraminifera, or forams for short, strange protists that can be used as indicators of environmental change, as they give scientists an indication of what's happening to the oceans' currents. To study forams, this group are sending a machine, consisting of a frame and 8 tubes, flying the bottom of the Atlantic. When it hits the ocean floor the tubes stick into the mud triggering a mechanism that closes them, then bingo, all you need to do next is drag the thing back to the surface and you have loads of lovely mud!

An unfortunate little sea urchin, captured by one of the tubes
Yesterday I was learning how to slice mud. Easy? No, not easy. For starters it's all carried out in a cold room at 4 degrees, secondly you have to somehow get the mud out of the tubes in some sort of sensible manner so you know what bit you are sampling and thirdly, the mud isn't sloppy, oh no, it's hard like a big rock sausage. Fun though, and now I have something new to add to my CV 'is able to slice deep sea mud'. Tastes nice too.

Carefully removing mud from the tubes
We are currently steaming to PAP and will arrive in an hour or so. There we will be sending down various bits of kit to image the sea floor. As lovely as mud is, I'm excited to see what else PAP has to offer...

(I should also mention that Juliette is still alive)

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