Jeremy, Tuesday 4 November 2008
We have worked our way across the southern Atlantic gyre sampling intensively as we went and have now left the tropics and run straight into a force 8 gale. This has stopped the science, so, there is finally time for us to catch up on the blog, starting with a little discussion of some objects representative of shipboard life.
The coffee carrier: The “Underway Instrumentation Centre” (UIC) where our microscopes are based is a nice dry air-conditioned environment, in contrast to the warm and wet labs below. Along with the microscopes are computers controlling various machines, and scientists tending them. Now, scientists need coffee to sustain them and coffee comes from the bar one deck up and quite a way along (see photo of ship). Carrying cups of coffee by hand is a bad idea, since the ship rolls and a golden rule on board is one hand for the ship and one for yourself, i.e. you have got to have a free hand to hold onto the ship. So, one of the most useful pieces of kit in the UIC is the coffee carrier which allows us to transport cups of coffee in total safety – it may not look very clever but on a rolling ship a hanging tray works perfectly. It is also a nice example of the economy of ship-life. There are no shops around so making things yourself is the way to go, hence objects like biscuit tins, rope and copper piping get re-used and workmanship is valued (look at the neat way the ropes are tied off).
The scientist’s beaker: Along with improvised construction another way to get things on ship is by searching and borrowing, and people are remarkably generous in lending each other stuff. This beaker was leant to me by Paul Mann from the Plymouth team, and it filled a severe gap in the arsenal of multi-purpose objects I remembered to bring with me. The little chap next to it is also Beaker, from the Muppets, in honour of whom scientists on board ship are generally referred to as “beakers”. So, our humble pyrex vessel is “the beaker’s beaker” and hence arguably the smartest thing on ship.
The doctor’s scone: The ship also has an impressive range of human resources, including our very own doctor, Nerys, who is responsible not only for our well-being but also for the ship’s official blog, or web diary. As part of her research for this she has been investigating the different parts of the ship, including the galley where she was put to work making scones. We had them for pudding at lunch recently. Very good they were too, just like my mother makes, or in the words of Alex (the third mate) marine-grade ballast scones.
Nerys’ mother’s crayons: Martine, I and the other scientists will be leaving the James Clark Ross when we get to the Falklands in a week or so. The officers and crew will be staying for three more months till the mid-cruise crew change. So our lovely doctor, Nerys, will be the only person staying on the ship until it returns to England in May. Which means she is away from home for eight months. Her mother was obviously concerned about this and has given her a series of date-marked parcels to open at Christmas, New Year and other such important dates, as the cruise progresses. Yesterday was the 31st of October and Nerys had a parcel containing, hallowe’en chocolates, a witch’s hat, and a set of face-paint crayons. The crayons looked innocuous but they provided the catalyst for some flamboyant artwork.
Jeremy, South Atlantic