It’s now day three at sea and things are all humming along nicely. We’ve just passed 50 degrees south and any faint sighting of the mainland is long gone. The next time we will see land will probably be the Balleny Island in a couple of days. The weather was immaculate as we sailed out of Wellington Harbour: blue skies, nearly 30 degrees, flat ocean. Since then it has still been pretty much smooth sailing, but it is getting noticeably cooler outside. We have had a 9 degree drop in water temperature and shorts and t-shirts aren’t the most practical choice of clothing on deck anymore. There is also a constant roll of the boat now, which has had a couple of people stuck in bed not feeling the best, but also has quite a nice rock to put you to sleep at night.
Science-wise we have been towing the continuous plankton recorder (CPR) pretty much since we left which is collecting samples of all the different types of plankton along the way. We have also been taking atmospheric readings on clouds and have been getting everything else set up and ready to get straight into it as soon as we get far enough south. The whale acoustics team have been deploying sonobuoys and have already heard the song of a couple of blue whales. The whale observing team has sighted a sperm whale, two beaked whales, a pod of pilot whales, and a massive pod of common dolphins – all of which have been spotted just minutes after Blake and I have left the observing platforms! I have also seen a good array of seabirds, including the planet’s biggest, the albatross. These birds are truly amazing – their wingspan is just massive and they soar around the boat ducking and diving beautifully.
There are a few things that you don’t get warned about before moving onto a boat Antarctic-bound. First, is how a constant roll can make even everyday things very difficult, such as walking up and down stairs, having a shower, going to the bathroom, pouring a cup of tea, and getting into and out of the top bunk. Second, you are served three amazing cooked meals a day, it is so easy to just pile up your plate and then go back for seconds, and then a big bowl of pudding ……. not to mention the freezer full of jelly-tips that you can help yourself to as you please. All I can say is that it’s a good thing there is a gym on board!
There are still another couple of days before we get to the Balleny’s and we start our 24/7 scientific work, so at the moment we still have quite a bit of down time to acclimatise to life at sea. Once we get there Blake and I will begin our shift work – me from 3pm-3am every day and Blake from 3am-3pm every day. I am fizzing with excitement to get to the Southern Ocean and I can’t wait to get immersed in all of the awesome projects going on!
BLAKE NIWA Ambassador 2014