It’s official, I’ve been at sea forever. The voyage has been a huge success. We managed to deliver VIP’s to Commonwealth Bay, sample the Mertz polynya to understand the effects of losing the glacier tongue, and yo-yo the CTD all the way up the I9 transect taking measurements that will determine the velocity and position of the deep currents of the great Southern Ocean. Furthermore, we have continued to measure the effects of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms and taken some of the deepest samples on record that will elucidate the microbial community in the deep dark ocean (5600m to be precise!). But now I think we all feel it is time to go home.
Tomorrow will be the last push and we will sample like crazy people. The ocean floor rises abruptly in the next 60 nautical miles and the stations get very close together so rather than 1-2 sessions at the CTD it is going to be more like 4-5. It is very important that you rinse your containers with the same water you intend to sample. Today we spent a an unnecessary amount of time trying to get the rinse water into other people’s boots, or to tether each other to the CTD, or just generally shout at anyone who passed the doorway. Our grip on the sensible is fading.
I believe tomorrow is Friday and so this will be my last post from me from on Board the Aurora Australis. I’ll write another one on Saturday but it won’t appear until I am safely back in Canberra. By then I will also hopefully have my land legs back. It is a common occurrence, and one I felt acutely after returning from my last voyage, that standing up in the shower is very difficult on your first day back. I think it has something to do with closing your eyes and not having to brace yourself for the first time in weeks; you tend to try and steady yourself unnecessarily and then fall over. Actually you appear to stagger in general even without drinking, although everyone tends to go a little crazy the first night back on land so it’s hard to differentiate between the two causes. For me however it was the silence I found most disturbing. After becoming accustomed to the constant drone of engines, winches and bow thrusters the silence is absolutely deafening.
We’ve hit 35 degrees south and just for a last show the ship is rolling again. The kind of rolling that has the crockery sliding around, not the kind that has it jumping out of the racks. But it is enough to result in abandoned hallways, with many of the expeditioners opting for a prone position. I’ve just watched the pallor of the ship’s good doctor turn a remarkable shade of green in the space of 30 seconds. Impressive.
Shame he had to join the prone or I could have asked him all about the physiological mechanism behind the green hue.