The 'global thermohaline circulation' or 'ocean conveyor belt'. Image provided by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (

We are getting ready to leave our icy nook that has been home for a week (or it could be a month it’s hard to tell). The AAD’s leader has been returned and was quickly shuttled off to his next rendezvous point. We will not have another chance to walk on the ice. We have several days steaming until we get to the beginning of our marine science leg so I will still be able to gaze out at this truly magnificent icescape for a little longer before we head north toward Fremantle along the I9 transect.

This may not be common knowledge but the ocean is crisscrossed with invisible highways that the world’s oceanographers sample repeatedly. In order to understand our oceans, and to understand how they may be changing, these transects are sampled to A) make comparisons with previous years and B) retrieve equipment that has been left to monitor a location.  Marine science voyages take many years to plan, ship time is expensive and it is highly competitive to obtain the space needed for expeditioners.

The logistics of performing science at sea need to be as comprehensive as those performed on the moon; once you leave port, there is no running down to the local store to pick up supplies, and so it is ALWAYS imperative that you have someone on board that can build ANYTHING out of gaffer tape and a few cable ties (thank you Aaron).

Our first stop is to collect the moorings that were laid down two years ago on the bottom of the ocean to monitor deep water formation in the region. If the sea ice hasn’t broken up they will stay at the bottom of the ocean until another voyage of opportunity comes along and they can be collected. This work will enhance our knowledge of thermohaline circulation, sometimes referred to as the “ocean conveyor belt”.  This describes the enormous currents that circle the earth, both at the surface and through the water column, that transport heat and nutrients around the globe regulating the climate which all living things rely on to survive. I was having a discussion with the two ships doctors last night about how human beings have evolved to survive in SUCH a narrow band of conditions; too hot we perish, too cold we perish, if we try and habit the high altitudes of the planet we perish, and yet we are altering the climate as if we were very robust creatures capable of adapting to anything. Not so my friend, not so at all.

In the mean time we are getting ready for the second party of the trip. The theme is anything starting with C or T or D, which is a nod to one of the fundamental pieces of equipment in oceanographic research the CTD (Conductivity that measures the saltiness of the seawater, Temperature and Depth). I am pairing up with the Doc, who is going as a Doc, by going as her Casualty. We will wrap me up in bandages and then perhaps finesse with a little tomato sauce. We do have a supply of blood on the ship but if we were to need it in an emergency and it had been used as a prop then I imagine there would be a little explaining to do…..not worth the paperwork……and it’s disgusting.