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From my seagoing experiences, I have found that people are often curious about the day-to-day life aboard a ship. One of the questions I am most often asked is what the food is like on a ship. As a vegetarian, I’ve struggled a few times during travels abroad to have my dietary needs catered to, and stomached my way through some pretty odd and bland meals. However, this is absolutely not the case on the RV Sarmiento de Gamboa!
There are two chefs on board – a head chef and an assistant – who are responsible for keeping the entire ship fed. I was surprised to find out this expedition is actually assistant chef Krazimir’s first cruise! Just like us, he had to sit through the same on boarding safety briefing and get used to being off the grid.
Our meals are served on a set schedule each day. Breakfast is served from 7:30-8:30, lunch from 13:30-14:30, and dinner from 17:30-20:30. However, if the meal times do not work well with your shift schedule or if you are hungry between meals, there is always some food available. Fruit bowls, milk and cereal, yogurt, and bread with toppings are always accessible along with tea, coffee, soda, and of course, water. If you know where to look there are also some cookies stowed away! A weekly culinary highlight is Sunday, when we are treated to churros with chocolate for breakfast and ‘Pinchos’ in the afternoon. This week we enjoyed these tapas-style appetisers with Spanish food like tortilla, manchego cheese on bread, seafood and some sliced meats.
The food on board is fab! Images © Kelsey Archer Barnhill / iAtlantic-UEDIN / iMirabilis2
The chefs are wonderful! They are genuinely nice people to sail with, and are always checking in on us and asking if the food is nice. The head chef, Juan, is Spanish and has been working as an on board chef for 4 years. He has worked on five different ships and has been on Sarmineto de Gamboa for a year. Krazimir is Bulgarian and, despite not having any at-sea experience, has worked for 10 years in the food industry, mainly in hotels. They both had to undergo several training courses and earn certificates to be fully qualified chefs at sea. In addition to cooking, as members of the crew they also participate in safety drills on board in case of an emergency.
There is a lot of work for them on board. As the only two cooks, there are no days off. They have a break in the afternoon between lunch and dinner but mostly are working all day long preparing food, planning the next day’s menu and cleaning the kitchen. There is also work before a cruise begins. Juan said his method is to think about where the cruise is going and then plan the recipes before making the large food order. On average there are 20 kilos of food ordered for each day at sea!
Whenever we are in port they top up on fresh fruit and vegetables – I didn’t realise there are different types of lettuce which will last longer than others. To ensure variety, short-term, medium-term, and long-term lasting lettuce is purchased and used in the corresponding order in our salads. Some tomatoes are purchased red and ripe and others green to ripen on board. The trick to keeping everything fresh is having a top-of-the-line refrigerator which seals completely shut to prevent any oxygen from entering. The cooks are careful to open and close it quickly each time they need to enter to help preserve freshness. One interesting fact is that the onboard menu sometimes gets adapted depending on the weather! If it is a very hot day the chefs will prepare a last-minute salad to help us stay hydrated.
After we eat each meal on board we separate our trash into three bins: organic waste, paper waste and plastic. The organic waste is placed in a machine and ground up with water to become fish food. The paper waste is burned and the ashes brought ashore, and the plastic waste is compacted to be dealt with on land. With their cooking experience there isn’t too much food waste, as they are familiar with cooking the correct portions. In case of a one dish not being as popular as expected it may be placed out with the following meal or repurposed into something else, but never later than a day after first being served!
Overall, Krazimir is enjoying his first time at sea, and often joins the science team to hear talks about our work and watch the ROV dive. He might be a budding benthic ecologist as he took pictures of our species ID guide! Juan likes working on a scientific vessel as he gets to know lots of different people and finds the deep sea work we do interesting. When I asked Juan why he wanted to be a chef he told me he ‘just is one’ and that he has always had an interest in going to sea, so was happy to be able to combine the two passions.
Yesterday was our first full day at sea for Leg 1 of the iMirabilis2 expedition. After dinner on the first night many of us on board gathered on the deck to watch as schools of flying fish leapt out of the water in the darkness, with some bioluminescence glowing in the ship’s wake. After watching the fish, everyone settled into their cabins for the night and tried to find the most secure sleeping position to prevent rolling around in their beds with the waves.
We are currently in transit to Cabo Verde, which gives us some time to prepare for the upcoming operations. All the equipment is being tested, lab areas are being set up, and everyone is busy organising themselves. In the morning, the benthic landers team from Heriot-Watt University took advantage of an unfortunate flying fish that flew its way onto the back deck and took an opportunistic sample for isotope analysis. One of the lander team members, Alyica Smith, showed me how she prepared solution for winkler titrations – a test to measure dissolved oxygen (DO) in seawater. The respirometer on the benthic lander has optodes to measure DO in situ, but the titrations are used to cross reference values. Alycia’s team-mate Daniëlle De Jonge was also working to ensure optimal DO measurements as she spent the day calibrating the oxygen optodes.
After learning from the landers team, I checked in with the group working on Autosub6000. I got to see the AUV without its protective casing for the first time as Susan Evans (NOC) was able to confirm her eDNA sampler, RoCSI, had survived the transport to the vessel. I also joined Eoin Ó’Hobáin as he taught Stewart Fairbairn how to create a mission script for a sidescan sonar test. It was interesting to look at the script which runs the AUV.
Murray Roberts, Bea Vinha, and I helped out Andrea Gori with setting up his cold-water coral experimental tanks in a temperature controlled room. First we unloaded boxes from the deck, using a clever elevator on the ship I hadn’t noticed before. As a bit of water had gotten into one of the metal boxes, the filtration material had started to oxidize. Bea and I sorted out the filtration stones and brought the clean ones down to the lab for Andrea. Next, Andrea, Murray and I tested out the aquaria system. The first time we turned on the pumps to get the water flowing through the system there was a leak in the filtration portion caused by a break in the o-ring sealing the contraption. After switching out the lid the system ran leak-free! The next step was to get the temperature in the room and tanks down to the desired temperature and make sure the tank is secured on the lab bench even in a storm. Today the priority in the cold room is to calibrate the flumes in the experimental tanks where the corals will be placed for the feeding experiments – we used coffee grounds to monitor the flow (see video below).
Before dinner, we were treated to two talks, one by Murray and one by our expedition leader, Cova Orejas. Murray shared the background of iAtlantic with us – it was interesting to hear the whole story of how the project came about. Next Cova gave the official cruise kick-off talk discussing the overview of iMirabilis2 Leg 1. She gave the talk in English and Spanish which was a nice touch as members of the crew had joined in to listen.
In between the day’s activities, I was running around the ship trying to find everyone on board to get a three-second video of each person smiling to camera on the back deck. I also asked people which languages they spoke and had them speak the phrase ‘Deep-sea science is a team sport’ for our latest outreach video (see below).
There will be more science talks today as we make our way closer to our destination! our
Video by Kelsey Archer Barnhill / iAtlantic Project-UEDIN / iMirabilis2
The participants for Leg 1 have now boarded the Sarmiento de Gamboa!
This morning we welcomed the new science team on board the ship in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. I was quite envious to see their luggage lifted up to the ship via crane. I certainly could have used that when I lugged my 30 kilo suitcase onto the vessel in Vigo!
It was great to see everyone in person and meet our new colleagues. There were also some on board reunions as one of my PhD supervisors Murray Roberts and my friend and fellow PhD student Daniëlle De Jonge joined the expedition. Bea and I helped show people to their rooms and pointed them in the right direction. It definitely took us a few days, but we now know the ship very well!
As the back deck can be very noisy as we sail, I took advantage of the relative quiet on board and recorded some video explainers about the equipment on board. Shortly there will be videos available explaining the Autosub6000 – featuring NOC’s AUV Operation Team’s Engineering Manager Daniel Roper – and the three types of benthic landers – featuring iAtlantic Fellow and Heriot-Watt University PhD student Daniëlle De Jonge.
Bea, the ROV pilots and I had the morning to ourselves as the new participants gathered in the dining room to watch the safety briefing video. After the briefing, they also got the chance to don the immersion suits and life vests. It wasn’t too long after the lights on everyone’s life vests had been checked that we prepared to set sail. Everyone takes the final moments before entering the high seas to take advantage of cell service for the last time and calls their friends or family. I took the time to call my parents back home in San Diego, who were happy to hear from me despite it being before 7:00 AM their time! There is a phone on the ship that we are able to use to call internationally, but as this is a shared phone for everyone on board it is used in moderation. I’ve only used it once with little success, but this was likely because I tried to receive a call from my partner who is on board a ship off Australia! Clear ship to ship calling from halfway across the world seems to still be beyond current technological capabilities! Our IT technician Rodger had good news for us though, as our internet capabilities have been improved for this leg of the cruise. Hopefully that will make it a bit easier for me to get these blog posts sent out!
Around 15:00 we had a pilot board the ship to get us out of the port and left Las Palmas behind quite quickly as we travelled at 8 knots. It was exciting to see the pilot make the transfer from our ship to a smaller vessel once his job on the Sarmiento de Gamboa was completed. After enjoying the view as we set sail, everyone got to work organising the lab and assembling their equipment. Now people are settling into their rooms and working on getting their sea legs. With the ROV, Autosub6000, and three different landers on deck alone, without even mentioning the multi-corer and conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) instrument, there won’t be a dull moment on board!
The first leg of iMirabilis2 has come to a close. It was a successful cruise that mapped new areas and completed a ROV dive at the base of an unexplored seamount. It was sad to see our colleagues from EMEPC disembark the vessel as they have been great mentors and even better company.
One of my favourite parts of the cruise – which I already missed this evening – was listening to presentations in the evenings. During our transit to Las Palmas we heard presentations from the science team on topics ranging from the geological work carried out on leg 0 to someone’s opinion on deep-sea mining. It was really special to see the ship’s crew members joining us during the previous two evenings to listen in as well. As this is a Spanish research vessel the crew are Spanish-speaking. To make sure the presentations were accessible to everyone on board, the presentations were given in either Spanish or ‘Portuñol’ depending on the team member’s Spanish level.
Last night there were over 10 crew members who came to listen into the talks. It was great that everyone on board who was interested in listening to the talks could join and find a common language. It just goes to show what a truly inclusive cruise it was. We finished off our last night with a slideshow of the best photos taken on board and then listened to some music and drank sodas to celebrate the end of the cruise.
Here are some of the best photos showed at last night’s slideshow – they are all taken by Nuno Vasco Rodrigues, who is a professional photographer. You can check out his award-winning work at www.nunovascorodrigues.com and follow him on Instagram.
Thank you to everyone who has been following the expedition so far. We will be continuing to provide ship-to-shore updates during Leg 1.
In the meantime, here are some videos for you to enjoy: highlights from the ROV dive to Azores-Biscay dives, and some reflections from the scientific leaders of Leg 0: Pedro Madureira, Ines Tojeira and Luisa Ribeira from EMEPC.
Both videos © Kelsey Archer Barnhill / iAtlantic Project-UEDIN / iMirabilis2
iMirabilis2 has long been on my horizon. A lot of engineering design work, integration of new equipment, and overhauling of Autosub6000 diverted my attention from just how fast the expedition was approaching. Having completed soak-testing and ballasting of Autosub6000 with just over a week until shipment to Vigo for mobilisation, there was just enough time to organise myself!
I knew I’d be away for 7 weeks, so I took a week off to spend with my wife and baby son (that was actually a busier week than the 8 that preceded it), and thought about how I would spend the 12 days of hotel quarantine. I’ve always been a self-starter, never found it hard to find things to do but I’m very outdoorsy, so many of my usual activities like running, skateboarding, and surfing would all be off limits. Work would bring challenges too: Autosub6000 is mobilised and ready to go. And if I’m not pulling something apart or rebuilding it, I’m designing the next gadget – for which I like to have two 27” monitors. But, I felt as though I had detailed sketch of activities and enough resources to keep my mind occupied.
What I wasn’t prepared for though, was the mental challenge of the hotel quarantine and the restlessness. I probably arrived in a state of exhaustion following the expedition preparation. The moment I closed the door to my room after checking in, it was like my body and mind immediately reduced potential capacity by the limitations of my confinement, and initially my waking hours were little more than a light slumber. My sleep too was little more than a light slumber. I miss my son terribly. But my mind eventually prevailed my lethargic limbs, and I was soon pacing along with Joe Wicks, ripping through his channel feeling positive again, and maintaining some form of productivity. I join my family more or less every meal time, and take my place at the table from an iPad over FaceTime. I even remotely babysat whilst Amelia got on with some housework; Phoenix and I were quite engaged in gargling, waving, clapping, and peek-a-boo for best part of an hour.
Quarantine is an unusual experience; I’ve always eaten when hunger has driven me to, or when it’s convenient. Now I find I sit idly for those meals late, or eat without my usual appetite for those meals early. But the hotel’s room servicing rota has been more randomised; I’ve maintained a state of readiness to leave the room (it’s the only time I can leave) but this can occur any time between 10:00 and 15:00, so I haven’t been able to fully submerse myself in work to avoid the distraction of being involuntarily removed from it, until the housekeeping service has been – I can’t possibly miss the opportunity to leave the room for 10 minutes, and the opportunity to raid the steward’s trolley for coffee and water (or perhaps, politely request it)!
I’ve been bringing the outdoors in as much as I can. The air conditioning shuts off when the window is open (neat!) but I much welcome the humidity, warmth and draught to maintain my connection to the outdoor elements. I can see the port where Sarmiento de Gamboa will collect us, the clouds in the sky, and I down tools between 10:00 and 11:00 each morning to bask in the sunlight that is thrown in through the window.
Sharing the experience over Zoom with colleagues and friends also helped maintain a sense of connection and reality that was initially lost as I became self-absorbed – I’ve only really glimpsed these people during the PCR test, and returning to my room I quickly felt alone again. Reading the experience of others on the iMirabilis2 blog also brought an inspirational positivity – rather than focusing on the here and now, I can eagerly see the bigger picture.
Just 3 more days…
The experienced EMEPC team who are driving the scientific objectives during Leg 0 have been kind enough to offer hands-on training to myself, Bea, Rita, and Caio, who are sailing as trainees.
Yesterday, along with Rita, the other trainees and I learned how to process rock samples collected from a dive. The geology team emphasised that the first step is to make sure the rock matches up to the correct ID number. As all the rock samples were placed in the same container on the ROV, there is a chance of certain samples being mixed up. To prevent any misidentifications, the geology team watches the recording of the dive to visualise each rock sample in situ to match up each rock with the ID number. Rock size, shape, and any distinguishable characteristics are used to make sure the rock is correctly identified. Once the ID has been matched to the rock sample, they are photographed with a scale. Two days after the dive the rocks were sawed open to better understand the types of rocks collected. Anyone interested was given instruction on how to use the rock saw and got to cut some pieces. I was a bit nervous to cut open the first sample, but Luísa was a great instructor and assured me the saw was safe to use as it is specially built to not cut fingers. She told us to have a wide stance and slowly slide the rock under the blade until the entire sample was cut into two. I had good luck with the saw and all my samples cut with ease. As water is involved in the cutting process, the cut rocks were then placed in an oven to dehydrate the sample overnight. Today each cut rock sample was photographed, examined under a microscope, described in detail in the cruise notes, and divided up into sample bags for different research purposes.
Notes of each sample include observations such as the likely minerals present and the appearance of a quartz vein, photographs of the rocks after they have been cut, the size of the sample, and the details of in situ collection such as depth and coordinates where the rock was found. Each sample is then divided into three different bags: one for geochemists to analyse the composition, one to be made into thin sections, and one for a microbiology experiment. While the geology team on board has a good idea of what types of rocks were retrieved, real identification will be made once the thin sections can be viewed under a microscope and all minerals present can be identified from their optical properties.
Caio and I, along with Bea, have also been learning about work done by the ROV team. ROV maintenance to troubleshoot the issues which prevented us from having the planned second dive was carried out yesterday. Caio and I got to see how the ROV team worked through rebooting sensor and controller connections with the umbilical. All connections between the control room and the ROV is made by fibre optics, so we watched as each fibre optic was connected one by one to check the connection in each cable. It has been great to learn from members of different teams and also have the opportunity to talk to them about their career paths. I thought it was so interesting to learn that Andreia, one of the ROV pilots, didn’t know what an ROV was before she started in her role in 2008. She came from a physical oceanography background, as opposed to an engineering background which tends to be more common for ROV pilots.
Leg 0 continues on board the R/V Sarmiento de Gamboa. Unfortunately, due to ROV connectivity technical issues we could not have our planned second dive. The hope was to return to the location of our first dive and continue our ascent up the seamount. Despite having to forgo this, the geology team on board are hopeful that they were able to collect enough samples during the first dive to meet their scientific objectives, which is a big positive.
The ROV repairs mean we have shifted our focus to bathymetric mapping. The EMEPC team have identified target areas to map and the science team on board are divided into three shifts to acquire this data. The shifts are from 8:00-12:00 AM/PM, 12:00-4:00 AM/PM, and 4:00-8:00 AM/PM. As the bathymetric multibeam data is largely self-sufficient, we jokingly refer to these shifts as ‘babysitting’ the multibeam.
During these shifts the science teams keep their eye on the different monitors to make sure everything is functioning properly. The ATLAS Hydrographic multibeam acquisition software should be green or yellow at all times as this indicates higher quality data. Every 20 minutes a log is recorded where we note down the survey line number, date, time, velocity, saved file name, width of the bathymetric swatch, the depth, number of beams, and coordinates. Those on shift must also keep track of the range manually set in the multibeam programme as the depth must be between the beam range. For example, this morning the depth was 5300 meters so the scientists had manually entered a 4000-5700 meter beam range. When we are transiting we sail at around 10-12 knots and can acquire decent data, however we slow down to 6-8 knots when we are mapping a target area to ensure higher quality data. I was surprised at just how much area we cover whilst mapping – we are currently mapping a swath width of 7.4 km.
The most exciting part of a seafloor mapping shift is when an Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) is launched. An XBT probe measures the temperature profile down the water column. These are deployed whilst mapping to calibrate the multibeam data. As the multibeam uses sound to acquire seafloor bathymetry data, understanding water column parameters such as water density and velocity of sound in water are important information for calibration.
One team on board whose work has not been impacted by the cancellation of the second ROV dive is the seabird survey team. This small team of three ornithologists conduct seabird surveys whilst we are in transit. They are not able to collect data during ROV dives as the ship must be moving between 7-10 knots. This hardworking team works from morning to night as they survey during most daylight hours. After an 8:00 breakfast they contact the ship’s bridge for permission to stand in front of the bridge overlooking the bow. Once the captain or on-duty officer gives them the go-ahead they climb upstairs to their survey location. Two people survey at a time, with each scientist responsible for surveying the 90 degree section on their side of the ship. With two people on watch they can cover the entire 180 degrees of sea ahead. The third team member stands by ready to help identify any bird spotted and take photographs. They switch positions every 2 hours so no one has to be on alert for more than 4 hours at a time. So far they have identified 10 species and counted between 200-300 individuals across over 190 surveys. This is low density for a bird survey, but not unexpected as we are far out in the Atlantic. Species seen include pomarine skua (Stercorarius pomarinus), Bulwer’s petrel (Bulweria bulweri), and Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris borealis). I spent a few hours observing the seabird team at work and was extremely impressed with their bird-spotting abilities. I don’t think I have a future in conducting sea bird surveys as I didn’t spot a single bird, including ones they tried to point out to me!
I am looking forward to the rest of the day on board as we are scheduled to cut open the geological samples today. I may even get a chance at sawing one of the samples which would be an at-sea first for me!
ROV Luso completed its first scientific dive of iMirabilis yesterday at the Azores-Biscay Rise. The dive objectives were to capture footage of the area and take samples at an unnamed seamount which has not been previously explored.
The ROV went in the water around 9:00 in the morning. As the start of our dive was around 2600 metres depth, it took two hours for the ROV to reach the bottom. This meant the first part of the operations involved staring at the water column as we descended, often termed a ‘blue water dive.’ For this less engaging portion of the dive we saw some jellyfish, zooplankton and gelatinous zooplankton in the water. Around 11:00 the seafloor came into view and all scientists on board focused their attention around the monitor to view the seafloor. The majority of the science team on board the Sarmiento de Gamboa watch the dive from the main laboratory. A large television screen and multiple smaller monitors are setup along one of the work benches. We all pull chairs from around the lab and find a comfortable place to sit for the duration of the dive. The two lead scientists spend most of the dive in the ROV pilot container on the rear deck. We have a walkie-talkie in the lab to contact the scientists in the ROV area to request a sample, ask to zoom-in on an organism, or to receive any general updates.
Because we were testing navigation aspects of the ROV, once we reached bottom we saw we ended up a bit further away from the seamount than we intended. This meant the first portion of the benthos section of our dive consisted of a sand-bottom environment, where we saw shrimp, pretty pink holothurians, clams, and fish. Each time an interesting geological feature or organism is seen on the monitor a member of the science team logs the entry in the Ocean Floor Observation Protocol (OFOP). As ROV trainees, Bea and I got to try our hand at data logging observations during the dive. It was tricky to keep an eye on the screen while taking notes but the other scientists would call out an organism identification if I was writing/looking away from the main monitor. I didn’t find this multitasking too difficult, as the hardest part for me was definitely species identification! This is my first cruise in the Atlantic Ocean so I am not familiar with all of the genus or sometimes even families so I relied on my colleagues for many identifications, who were happy to help share their expertise. I also really struggled with the spelling – whoever said Latin wouldn’t be useful to learn?!
As the dive continued we viewed our progress via a monitor showing our GPS location overlaid on the bathymetry we mapped last night. We watched as we inched closer and closer to the seamount. The first sign that we were getting close to our target was that we started seeing black rock fragments dispersed among the light sandy sediments. The fragments became larger and more frequent the closer we got to the seamount. Soon we started seeing larger cobbles which had some organisms on them. Both the geologists and biologists get excited when we start seeing rocks on a dive. While the geologists are excited for the obvious reason of seeing the focus of their research, the biologists also perk up as deep sea organisms are more often found on rocky substrate. Sessile benthic organisms attach themselves to the hard rocks and mobile animals also use the rocks as habitats such as a place to hide.
At first we started seeing a cobble with one or two stalked crinoids here and there. Soon after we began seeing higher densities of crinoids and some corals as well. Finally, the entire landscape changed from sandy sediment to large rock formations and boulders. Here we were treated to an exciting conglomeration of sponges and corals. It was a gorgeous view to behold and, as I was operating the OFOP when we arrived at the base of the seamount, I couldn’t type fast enough as we saw glass sponges, demosponges, stalked sponges, stalked crinoids, crinoids, bamboo corals, black corals, and gorgonians. We had been sitting on shift watching the ROV footage for nearly 9 hours aside from a short break for lunch and a few coffee runs and yet I felt disappointed when we started recovering the ROV around 18:00 as we were witnessing such an incredibly biodiverse place.
Here are some images from the ROV Luso to give you a flavour of the views we were treated to! All images © ROV Luso/EMEPC/iMirabilis2.
After nearly two hours of ROV recovery operations, the ROV was back on deck and the microbiology team were the first to recover their samples. They took water samples with a niskin and sediment samples with a corer during the dive. The microbiologists collected their samples with gloves on to avoid any contamination. Next up, two biology team members went to recover the samples in the ROV sample boxes. They also used gloves as the microbiology team members scraped some samples of interest off of different rocks and biological samples. Once the microbiologists were happy with their samples, the biologists removed any organisms from the rock samples and processed the biology-specific samples as well. Biological samples included crinoids, sponges, and foraminifera. The geologists were the last to access their samples, simply photographing and describing the rocks. The geology team will use the time in transit following the diving operations to saw open the rocks and fix them in resin. They are hoping for rocks which have not been altered by seawater and are thus relatively ‘fresh’ by geological definition. As the rocks collected during yesterday’s dive were all black and similar-looking, the geologists will not know if they have collected everything they hoped for until they can saw the samples to see the insides.
My main job after the dive was to sort through the still images taken by the ROV camera. From over 1000 images I selected 115 ‘best of’ images for EMEPC to use in their outputs and selected 40 to be used for outreach purposes on behalf of iAtlantic. It was quite hard to narrow down all the images to just 40 as the dive was so exciting and there were plenty of exciting moments to sort through – just a few of them are on this page for you to enjoy.
Overall, from launch to recovery it was a great dive. I really enjoyed the day, no matter how busy it was. Whenever I got a bit tired, I just thought about how incredible it was that I was getting to see places in the world that no one had likely ever seen before. This, combined with the contagious energy of excitement on board helped keep up morale into the late hours of the night. I cannot wait until the next dive of iMirabilis and hope to have more exciting news and images to share then!
We have set sail! The iMirabilis2 cruise began at 15:30 yesterday when we departed Vigo Harbour. It was an exciting morning full of preparations and reminders for people to take their travel sickness medicines. We started off the day with a safety orientation from the ship’s Chief Mate, Pablo, and another officer, Alex. They showed us some videos which were in both Spanish and English. These videos covered emergency signals, fire safety and exit routes.
After the safety briefing we practiced what to do if an abandon ship alarm went off. We each quickly walked back to our cabins to grab the immersion suit and lifejacket which are stored on top of our wardrobes. We carried these down the stairs to our muster point which is in a hanger on the main deck. Once there, we donned the immersion suits and placed the life jackets on top. Everyone managed to get into their safety gear quite quickly and we soon felt the effects of the immersion suits. As they are used to keep you warm if you end up in the water, we were all overheating by the end of our drill!
We set sail in the afternoon and we were treated with lovely weather, calm seas, and gorgeous views. Once we were far enough offshore to no longer see any land, we spotted some common dolphins playing in the waves near the ship. Everyone was happy to have an excuse to stand out in the fresh air on deck and look for more dolphins.
Nuno, who is on board as a photographer, was able to fly his drone once we were in open water to get some pictures and video of the ship in transit. I’ve never seen a drone flown off of a ship before so it was quite exciting. His footage also turned out incredible and I hope it will be made available soon!
Video below © Kelsey Archer Barnhill / UEDIN / iMirabilis2
After dinner we started preparing for a 500 meter technical ROV dive. We were given an introduction to the ROV video annotation software ‘Ocean Floor Observation Protocol’ or as it is referred to on the ship, OFOP. This program is what we use to take notes of anything interesting during the dive as well as note down the time and location when each sample is collected. All notes are also replicated on paper to have a backup in case of any issues saving the OFOP data.
The purpose for the night’s dive was to calibrate Luso’s new inertial system to help ROV navigation and allow us to collect multibeam data directly from the ROV. Our cruise leader Pedro shared the multibeam bathymetry we had previously collected of the dive site and I got in position to take some pictures and videos of the first ROV launch. I had to wear a hard hat and steel-toed shoes to be out on the deck during operations. It was very cool to see the ROV lowered into the water at night as the light from the ROV slowly disappeared as it descended and floated further back away from the ship.
Unfortunately, we had to abort the ROV dive as there were ground faults in two of the lights, causing them to fail. If this had happened during the daytime it would have been likely that we could have continued. However, as one of the lights was a back light which is key for ROV recovery, the call was made to bring the ROV back on deck. We did not reach the bottom before aborting the dive, making it a blue water dive with plenty of marine snow to look at.
We are currently on transit to the location of the first planned scientific dive in the Azores-Biscay Rise. The plan is to start the dive early tomorrow morning around 6:00. I am so eager to help out and learn more about the ROV operations during the dive tomorrow that I’m not even bothered about an early wake-up call!
Above: The ROV Luso being launched for a moonlight test dive. Both videos © Monica Albuquerque / EMEPC / iMirabilis2
Today was the day for the Leg 0 participants – we all finally boarded RV Sarmiento de Gamboa! After breakfast, we all met at the hotel lobby to check out. It was exciting leaving the hotel and getting some fresh air after our 10-day quarantine and we were in high spirits as we chatted while walking over to the port together. It was very exciting to see the vessel in person, which appeared larger than I expected, especially compared to the small fishing vessel in the next berth.
As I am notoriously known for my inability to pack light, I struggled to get my luggage up the gangway. Once all participants and luggage made it on board, we were told which room we would be staying in. I was happy to be paired with my friend and fellow iAtlantic Fellow, Bea.
Bea and I are really pleased with our berth, which is on the first floor. We each have our own closet, there is a desk for us to work at and – the best part – we have our own bathroom. We didn’t know we would be treated to our own suite on board!
After unpacking and settling into our room, we decided to venture around the ship. We got a bit lost at first and ended up chatting on the upper deck with two of the seabird observation team members who have already pointed out some birds to us. We were able to see the ROV and Autosub on deck and I was really surprised about the size of Autosub6000, which is much bigger than I thought it would be. Then all the scientists on board met in the ship’s main laboratory for a tour of the ship. It was great to get to see everyone from less than 2 meters apart and see their entire face!
Bea and I were really awed by the size of the different labs on board. In the main lab, there is a picture wall with photographs of the science teams on previous cruises, and it was fun to look through the pictures for familiar faces as well as imagine having our own cruise picture added to the wall soon. Our tour took us to the meeting room, library, game room, gym, and most importantly, the galley (kitchen). We were also able to see the bridge, which was very impressive – although we were all a bit nervous about accidentally hitting a button and messing up the ship! I am still quite disoriented on the ship and have already gotten lost. We have been reassured that in a few days we will know exactly which door leads where!
This afternoon we had our first meal on board. After having no choice of food during hotel quarantine it was nice to choose my own portions and have some vegetables and salad. There was also a nice selection of fruit to choose from and I’ve been told there will always be some cookies sitting out. One thing that surprised me about the ship was that the most popular aspect on board thus far seems to be the coffee makers. These were well used and nearly everyone had an espresso after their lunch. Later today we will have our orientation and safety briefing to officially kick-off Leg 0!