Tuesday, 6 October 2015

One week in

We are now one week in since we left port. Everybody is starting to get used to the work and the people have started working into teams. We have three teams; the seismic acquisition team, the sedimentology team (otherwise known as “team extreme”) and the CPT team (cone penetration testing – geomechanics). Data is coming in steadily and we are beginning to understand that this is not going to be an easy task. The slope seems very complicated with many small landslide scars everywhere! Old, very old, more recent…. it will be hard to understand what happened here. And why should it come as a surprise? People have been working on this slope for decades and we’re still none the wiser as to what happened in 1929. See, the conundrum we are struggling with is that small landslides don’t in principle generate tsunamis. It’s the large ones that do. We are not finding anything big though, and no one found anything big here before us (and it would have been found) so we are scratching our heads trying to come up with working theories and make scientific plans. This is how it works; 1) you get an idea based on existing data and this is your hypothesis, 2) you need to test your hypothesis so you try to figure out what data you need for that, 3) you make a plan of where on the slope you have good chances of finding that data, 4) you get the data (if nothing goes wrong), 5) your hypothesis is either confirmed or debunked (most frequently somewhere in the middle), 6)you then must alter your hypothesis or come up with a new one (usually we work with two or three different scenarios at the same time). The key is to be open-minded and expect your hypothesis to be wrong, and to never try to fit the data to suit your hypothesis. If you do that you’ve lost the game.

Coring at night
Playing with mud - taking measurements of the strength of the sediments 
And then shoveling the mud overboard

At the moment we are working on the St Pierre slope, so we haven’t moved too far offshore yet. You may have heard on the news about hurricane Joaquin. We’re very much close to it but just north of it. Two days ago it was rough, very rough; doors to the deck were shut, computers put on the floor and bruises were acquired from knocking about against door handles and bannisters. If you are not seasick it’s great fun trying to take a shower in this weather, as you try to chase the water and place yourself underneath it! I’ve been lucky this time and haven’t got seasick, the tablets have worked, fresh air on deck, the ginger cookies that Aoife got me, carbonated water seems to help as well.

In the middle of the bad weather day, we also had a birthday onboard, me! I tried to keep it to myself and didn’t tell anyone anything, and I thought I was going to get away with it, until at lunch time, in the mess, Ralf, the 1st officer came behind me and hugged me and said “it’s your birthday today isn’t it? Happy birthday!” Everyone was really surprised (as I hadn’t said anything), but the Captain and the Officers have our passports and so they gave me away :) That evening we had a small party – yes, in the bad weather. But sure if you’re drinking you don’t know if it’s you or the ship that isn’t steady.
Our chief scientist, Sebastian, opening the bottles
I also got birthday cards, one from the crew and one from the scientists J It was the first time I had my birthday at sea and it was a very nice experience. Everyone tries to make you feel special and everyone enjoys it because it is an excuse for a party. Sebastian provided a few bottles of cava and beer and everyone had a good time. Surprisingly no one asked me my age and if anyone is wondering it was another 29th hahahaha!

The postman found me in the Atlantic
Yesterday was a gorgeous day, sunbathing on the deck while waiting for the core to come up, and a pod of pilot whales paid us a visit. It must have been about 30 of them and they came quite close to the ship. I think they were feeding, they looked like they were feeding. Everyone was really excited and we’d been on the look out for whales as we are in a very busy spot for them, and yet we hadn’t seen any yet.
The day after the night before

Sunset in the Atlantic
A bird also sought sanctuary in our lab last night, a storm petrel. The poor thing came flying in and went crashed against one of the windows. True to my former supervisor’s training I gently picked it up, put it in a box, covered it with a towel and let it settle and rest overnight, and released it this morning - he flew happily away!
When we're not busy playing with mud we play table tennis and kicker on a moving vessel - our version of extreme sports!

No comments:

Post a Comment