Jeremy, Tuesday 11 November 2008
Nearly over. After six weeks the cruise has ended, at least as far as we are concerned. We have got to the Falklands safely and docked at Port Stanley. The Falkland Islands invite rather mixed comments on ship but they looked beautiful in the early morning sun as we arrived, and to remind us of the naval history a frigate was anchored in the entrance to the sound.
The last few days have been rather dominated by weather as we have gone through a series of gales alternating with calm sunny intervals. The sunnier intervals allowed some sampling in these waters and we have been rewarded with green soupy water rich in diatoms, copepods, some rather unpleasant gelatinous gunge and a few whales.
Coccolithophores have remained common and surprisingly diverse but the layers of different populations are no longer distinct – they now look pretty similar throughout the water column.
The zooplankton samples have been interestingly variable. Plankton net sampling has been cancelled several times but the samples which did come in made a very useful addition to the material I have been collecting.
However, science stopped completely a couple of days ago so that we could get packed before arriving in the Falklands. The first task was tidying up and sorting out the samples. There is a decent haul – we have collected from about 70 stations and accumulated about a thousand filter samples, four hundred microscope slides, eighty bulk organic samples for DNA analysis, two hundred filter samples prepared with a special buffer to allow labelling of cells with fluorescent markers, and hundreds of pteropods and ostracods picked from the zooplankton.
After that the main dismantling of the labs and packing up took place on Saturday afternoon, just as we hit particularly bad weather. To make things worse we were sailing south whilst the wind and waves were coming from the west, which made for rather chaotic ship motion and the occasional spectacular roll of up to 30°. So packing was sporadically interrupted by the need to grab something solid with one hand while restraining what ever one was trying to pack with the other hand. The rolling also added a certain something to the end of cruise dinner, and especially to the dancing in the crew bar.
So that is about it for the cruise, although we will have a lot of work to do on the samples over the next few months. It has been a great experience, we have learnt an immense amount and had some excellent evenings. The RRS James Clark Ross is a fine ship and everyone from galley staff to the captain has made us welcome. It’s nice to see dry land but we will be sorry to say farewell to the ship.
Jeremy & Martine, Port Stanley.