10 August 2014

New leg, clean slate

As I write this the second leg has been underway for four days. It seems like weeks! Doesn’t one get used to new routines quickly. So leg two; how is it different from leg one? We still get up, bring some cores in, do whatever pleases us between cores, and then do the splitting and describing in the morning. And then we hand over, eat, and go to bed. So lots that has stayed the same! But who looks closer sees a lot of difference anyway. 

 A typical nighttime view in between cores coming on deck: Riccardo (notice the vanished beard) working and Kasper sleeping in some unlikely place

For the night shift the change is profound; we have a new shift leader. Which is me! And it would be immodest to herald that as such a fundamental change, but when I explain that the previous shift leader strongly believed in micromanagement one might start to appreciate the relevance. I know we are a well-oiled war machine, and one should not fix what’s not broken. And instead of Sara, who’d left in Killybegs, we now have Jenny in our team; she did the first leg in the BGS team, and this leg in the science team; that’s what you can do if you’re the BGS scientist. She needed a few shifts to catch up with the war machine, as one would expect, and now she’s fully blended in. 

 Jenny and one of the Grahams trying not to lose any of the sediment

Changes, or absence thereof, in the geophysics team have been a bit more improvised; at the start of the cruise the plan was that our Bangor MSc student would oversee the surveying at night, but during the cruise the chief scientist thought it would be too much responsibility for a student, and changed the shifts around so we would get a Sheffield lecturer, who initially would be in the day shift, instead. But then everything was changed again; Rich Chiverrell, who was only nominally in the coring team on the first leg, and spent his time on geophysics and outreach instead, decided to stay on for the second leg. I assume he used port call to buy some extra toothpaste. Otherwise I suppose he was all ready! And that was bonus. This man knows this cruise like few do. So the corers were well-directed!
The rest of the changes in personnel took place in the day shift; that only differed, for us, in the short periods just before midnight and noon. If we were up early we could socialise a bit with the day team before we had to get to work, and they sometimes did the same with us. Which was nice! And it would be nice to still have Daniel and James around, but now we have Stephen and Kevin, and that’s nice too. Even though Stephen only increases the name confusion: pretty much half the people on board are called Graham, John, Steve or Andy. I think we have three of each! 

 The geophys screens

We also got a fresh BGS engineers team. The first bunch was a pleasure to work with, and the second turned out the same way. The crew pretty much stayed the same. But we have a new function on board: we acquired a photographer annex film maker. We now do our thing with a big camera pointing in our face! I think that’s good; it’s sometimes hard to document stuff while you have work to do. And when you don’t work, you have some sleeping to get done. But he’s on it!

 The technicians preparing the piston core, seen from above

And in between cores I now have switched from my Welsh to preparing some lectures about shelf seas. I had slightly overdosed on Welsh, and it’s good to get some teaching prep out of the way!
Anything else? The weather largely stayed lovely. We had some rainstorms passing, one even with thunder, but generally, these flew over so fast they came and went between core sites, and often we were busy indoors then, splitting and describing, that by the time we got out again it was all gone. 

 Kasper drawing the lines along which the core will be split later

The waves here, on the Atlantic side and often in deeper water, are higher. Nothing excessive; nobody has turned green, the coring hasn’t been hampered, but you feel it. It needs concentration to walk to your seat with a plate of hot food in one hand and a cup of hot tea in the other without making a complete mess. And I sometimes have to grab a hold of the handlebars of the treadmill when the ship is trying to play rodeo. 

 Me with sub-horizontal hair: must be the Atlantic

We also noticed that the supply of fruit is losing some of its diversity. It is still very good, but we clearly ran out of grapes, peaches and nectarines. We’ll see if anything else runs out! On the science front it might; we are now worried about ziplocks, tape of all kinds, and boxes. We’ve been coring a lot more than was intended. Next year we’ll multiply any estimate Colm comes up by three. But we’ll manage! 

 A reassuring sight: Colm, the chief scientist, keeping an eye on things

And one night turned out especially eventful; the only thunderstorm so far passed overhead, which was spectacular enough as it was, but it also inspired the crew to try to stop the rain from falling between the two containers (one for core logging and one for storage) and the wet lab, where we do our core labelling and describing. And it inspired other crew to try and fix a drainage problem, which had lead to a drain gargling water into our lab. They used a phenomenal amount of dye to find out where the problem was. Their testing lead to all that dye gargling up another drain in the same lab. So picture rain, thunder, crew members dropping big pieces of wood into the lab, others perilously balancing on whatever was available, liberally applying foam to the seams of the lab, while a green fluorescent alien tried to gargle its way into the lab, with a solid crew member standing on its head but it managing to stretch its ominously coloured tentacles over the entire lab anyway, and another crew man swearing and mopping it all up, and all the while us keeping measuring, photographing,  describing and wrapping cores as if none of that was happening. Work doesn't stop!

 The green alien spreading out its tentacles into our lab

And anything else? We’ve been getting wistful emails from the men who left us in Killybegs. We’re lucky to still be here! We’re still coring up good stuff (and the occasional dud) and all is well. And it’s strange to think in just over 2.5 weeks, we’ll be back!

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