0530h Woken by the motion of the ship, the weather is obviously still too rough to work. Last night we finished work at 2100h with deployment of the PALander in winds gusting to 45 knots as a gale blew up earlier and stronger than expected. This is to be the last scheduled day at the NW station. We have now lost 44% of planned time at this site through bad weather.
Over breakfast is it is agreed that the weather has moderated sufficiently for us to go ahead with the scheduled megacorer and by 0800h Ben Boorman has set up the corer, the wire is being paid out and the ship comes to life, doing science again!
0830h Back on the bridge to chat with watch officer Ralph Stevens who is on loan to us from the British Antarctic survey, he had been expecting a nice warm summer voyage with us, but it is 12°C, foggy , visibility half a mile, force 6 wind.
1018h I issue the programme for the day’s work.
1130h the Megacorer is on deck with 5 cores full of the beige sediment that cloaks the entire sea floor 2.5km below us. Even the hilly areas with hard basalt rock below are covered in this fine beige layer of fine creamy sediment. It is not sticky and Alan Hughes pointed out me it actually tastes and smells quite pleasant (unlike the smelly black stuff at the bottom of many ponds and lakes), a sort of a salty creamy material made up of microscopic skeletons of plankton fallen out from the surface layers. Numerous deep sea animals make their homes in, or on this soft covering of the sea bed.
The ship now moves to the position for recovery of the amphipod trap deployed 2 days ago. While we are waiting Gavin Tilstone and Victor Martinez do their optical casts and the technicians prepare to send release messages to the amphipod trap. Steve Whittle and Terry Edwards get frustrated that the electronics refuses to reply but Nikki King makes contact using the Aberdeen hardware and gets a signal indicating that the trap had already obeyed the first command and is on the way to the surface. It is always stressful working with free-fall landers, we are totally dependent on the remote acoustic command signals sent from the ship, to retrieve our valuable gear.
1413h The trap surfaces to reveal capture of two giant crustaceans. An Amphipod, Eurythenes gryllus over 10 cm long; normal shallow water kinds are less than 10mm long and a giant Ostracod we cannot yet identify. David Shale Emails pictures to experts in the UK.
1550h The PALander is also retrieved, surfacing in rough seas making for challenging manoeuvring of the ship and retrieval. The floats are all tangled up by the wave action. Nikki downloads over 1000 digital images of animals visiting the baits.
As the afternoon turns to evening the St Andrews pelagic ecology team do acoustic surveys and we wait for the weather to calm down sufficiently to do some mid water trawling to find out what animals make up those echoes they see a few hundred meters below the ship.
1900h we have a meeting of the scientists to discuss the work over coming days. I then calculate the distances and times and publish the schedule for the next 24 hours as we plan to move off east during the night traversing to Mid Atlantic Ridge from west to east. The weather clears and cloud lifts sufficiently for us to see the sunset behind us. Not a bad day’s work, 5 stations completed and it looks like we shall get a good night’s work done keeping the operation going 24h a day 7 days a week. But Tony Gatti warns us to expect another gale on Saturday; what a summer!