Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Wednesday 3 December 2014


Ocean research cruise blog of Jonathan Sharples


We finished up all of the sampling during yesterday afternoon, and headed in past the Needles lighthouse on the west corner of the Isle of Wight. The pilot was picked up just before Calshot Spit, and we steamed up Southampton Water. It was bitterly cold! Probably the coldest weather we had experienced all cruise.

The ship docked in Empress Dock, in front of the Oceanography Centre, just after 1700. As soon as the gangway was in place, and we’d got the announcement that the ship had been cleared by customs, off we all went – the entire science group headed off through the docks to the Platform Tavern.

And that’s it. A very busy morning ahead as we unload the ship, but normally we are able to get away by noon. The end of a very productive cruise, with remarkable weather allowing us to do a lot more than we expected.

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The Needles

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Land sighted

Ocean research cruise blog of Jonathan Sharples 


We steamed along the south coast overnight, and at breakfast this morning we passed Lulworth Cove and then Swanage. There’s just one last bit of science left to do. We are crawling slowly into Poole Bay and Christchurch Bay, taking surface samples of seawater. Clare Davis, from the University of Liverpool, is processing these water samples for a couple of the Liverpool University PhD students. The students are researching the dispersion of organic matter from estuaries out into the ocean, and also looking at the relative supplies of nutrients from rivers and from the deep ocean to the shelf seas. These samples are also tying our work into another research project focussed on land catchments and river nutrients. Anouska Panton, a researcher working at the University of Southampton, will be carrying out fieldwork in Christchurch harbour today so that later we can link the data together with what we are collecting to get a broader picture of river-supplied nutrients and their fate in the autumnal shelf sea.

One important job we managed to clear yesterday was the cruise photo. We picked the right time for it, sat 20 miles off Plymouth with nice, sunny weather. Today wouldn’t have been as good – it’s windy and grey outside. But at least we can now see land, for the first time in three and a half weeks.

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DY018 people

Monday 1 December 2014

Visitng E1

Ocean research cruise blog of Jonathan Sharples


We arrived at position E1, south of the Eddystone, at about 0600. This is a site regularly sampled by the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), generally about once per month but more frequently recently in collaboration with the project we are working on. Scientists and technical staff at PML maintain a data-gathering buoy out here. We carried out 6 seabed cores this morning, and were then met by the two PML boats. Coring the seabed from the PML boats is difficult, so they are very happy that we can stop here for a few hours to collect these samples for them, and transfer the samples to their boats to be taken back to PML and analysed.

pml explorer alonside

It was also our last CTD profile here at E1, at 0630. And it was fully mixed from the surface down to the seabed! Not too surprising as E1 is fairly close to the permanently-mixed water of the English Channel, and it’s only 75 metres deep. So we expect it to become mixed relatively early in autumn. We’ll do some more zooplankton nets this afternoon – Sari Giering is keen to have a lst go at collecting some more of the trichodesmium nitrogen-fixing bacteria, this time to get some samples for some DNA analysis.

Nick shows us the engine room

The clear-up of the labs has begun. The ship has a fast turn-around in Southampton, so we need to be ready when we arrive tomorrow evening to get some of the larger bits of equipment and container labs off. Some of the scientists took some time to go on a tour of the ship’s engines. Nick, the 2nd enginner, showed us around those normally hidden parts of the ship that power us through the water, provide fine-control of the ship’s position when we are working a station, as well as powering all our instruments, making our freshwater, ventilating the ship, and treating the sewerage. Remember there are about 50 people living on this 100m-long metal box for several weeks at a time: the ship is like a small, very independent village.

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