On the first Wednesday morning of 2017 we met for the first time when we were picked up in a NIWA fleet vehicle. This would be the start of a month long adventure eastward on the Chatham Rise looking at biodiversity over the seabed. Neither of us have been out on the open ocean before, let alone for a time this long. We were picked up and welcomed by Dave Bowden, a Marine Ecologist at NIWA who is leading our expedition. When we got down to the central port we were introduced to the RV Tangaroa, our home for the next month.
Our introduction started with a safety tour of the ship. The front end of the ship consists of the inside areas, our cabins, dining room lounges, library (even a gym!). The Stern end of the ship had a large trawl deck and outside areas and the laboratory where we would be working. When working on deck everyone wears high Vis vests, hard helmets and safety glasses. This is because this ship is decked out with some serious heavy machinery you don’t want to get in the way of. We were also shown the muster station, which is where everyone on board meets in an emergency. For the most part of our trip we will be working in a hydro-dry lab, which is set up around a video recording system called DTIS (Deep water towed imaging system). After the tour we helped the crew and science team load up the ship with all the equipment we would be using over the trip. Lots of computers and plastic containers for samples.
The next day we set sail! Before we leave it’s protocol to conduct a few emergency drills. A fire drill where everyone learns how to use the fire hoses, and a man over board drill which the crew conducts. For events like this the crew take charge, but it’s likely that us scientists will be asked to help or assist which is why it’s important we have an idea of the systems in place and how to use the emergency equipment.
Educated and ready the Tangaroa leaves the Wellington harbor at midday on the 5th of January 2017. Cook Strait did not welcome us warmly however. We were warned the night before to start taking our sea sick meds early. However I’m not sure if anything could have prepared us for the rocky departure we had. Thinking it would be nice to have a view we both headed up to the bridge where the ship is steered from. We very quickly realised this was a terrible idea as this is also the point where the ship rocks the most. Very soon after we snuck down to the cabins to find our sea legs for the night.
BLAKE NIWA Ambassador 2016