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Robert Allen

Work aboard the James Cook has started in earnest.

With the first few days spent getting ourselves out of Bahamian waters we were limited in what instruments we could have running. None the less it has provided us with a good opportunity to set up the lab and test several of the on-board systems, including the single-beam echo sounder, swath bathymetry, gravity and magnetics. For those on mammal watching duties it has also allowed them to get their eye in and become familiar with the tools of the trade (binoculars and rangefinder i.e. a piece of cardboard with some lines drawn on it). But the good news is that we are currently on our 4th consecutive whale-free day, which bodes well for when the seismic survey starts up later in the cruise.

The magnetometer is lowered into the water as Jenny looks on

This relatively relaxed start has allowed the watch-keepers to adapt to their new work shifts (a 4 on – 8 off – 4 on system, with 3 shifts starting at 4am, 8am and midday). The initial transition to this way of life has been difficult for some. The lack of both sleep and sea legs means the students have spent several days struggling in a hungover-like state (drowsy, queasy, and likely to be found raiding the kitchen for cheese at odd hours of the morning). Although it has to be said that Tim’s seemingly effortless transition to a Midnight – Midday working day has put many of the younger members of the science party to shame.

Sian, Chris and Rob get to work

 As I sit and write this we have in the last few hours reached the promised land of international waters, a famously lawless place where scientific cruises are free to test their air-guns with abandon. First things first, the tail-buoy and streamer go in the water. A minor flooding issue means that the buoy has to be brought back in – a delay of a few hours, but one which might be costly in the long run. Due to mammal watching conventions we cannot start testing the array at night and will have to wait until tomorrow.

The tail-buoy is released into the wild……

Still, life goes on, and the watch-keepers continue to acquaint themselves with the software and scripts needed to interrogate the vast amount of data which is constantly streaming in through the James Cook’s very impressive 16 screen scientific computer array.  

Where the magic happens.

Between shifts there are a number of distractions to pass the time, Jenny’s paper workshops are helping to get many of the uninitiated up to speed with Caribbean tectonics, while squeezing yourself into the ship’s tiny gym with the rest of the crew is always an option. For those in need of some quiet time the DVD library is seemingly bottomless and there is always someone looking for a game of cards or to crack out one of the Cook’s many board games.

 On that note……scrabble anyone?