Week one – mobilisation

Wednesday 2nd December – The start of something…

By Wednesday evening all the crew and scientists had arrived in Nassau. A large number of us flew from Heathrow together, although as some of us had never met, we managed to sit next to people on the plane who we didn’t even realise were on the cruise until much later! The temperature when we landed was a balmy 29oC. We had a free evening and so after a shower or a dip in the sea/pool, many of us head into town to try the local Bahemian cuisine and make the most of our free time.

Thursday 3rd – Mobilisation begins
We meet at 8.30am to be transported to the ship. This takes distinctly longer than it should so we arrive on board at around 9.45am after having passed through security etc. We have a quick look round the boat (which is very chaotic and full of crates and boxes). Brian King (Chief Scientific Officer) calls a meeting where we are introduced to other members of the science teams and make plans for the next few hours. After lunch we have a briefing meeting with Ian (the Purser) where we cover safety on board and a few logistical matters. The rest of the day is spent locating all of our equipment, and moving and unpacking boxes.

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Friday 4th and Saturday 5th

Much the same as Thursday but with more work and less meetings. It is incredibly hot and the teams are working on getting their labs ready for departure. This includes setting up rooms with stable temperatures, connecting gas and air lines, organising lab equipment and work stations and conducting on deck tests of equipment. Sinhue, head of the nutrients team, summarises mobilisation for most of the scientists onboard: ‘Unpack the machine. Set up the machine. And then cross your fingers the light goes green and no smoke appears when you switch the machine on’.

Sunday 6th, Monday 7th, Tuesday 8th

On Sunday evening we set sail for Port Everglades, Florida. We arrive on Monday afternoon and undergo some serious customs procedures. The mobilisation process continues much the same as at port in Nassau.

Wednesday 9th

We finally set sail at around 7.00 am on Wednesday morning! In the afternoon we are able to run a test CTD, so that all members of the teams can learn (or be reminded) how to take samples specific for their group. I think everyone on board will agree that we are pretty happy to finally get going!

Mobilising for DY040: In the lab with the Physics Team

Not long after joining the Disco and putting down our bags, it was time to start setting up shop. The physics team was allocated much of the desk space in the roomy, climate-controlled Main Lab. This meant that while the other teams were hauling heavy boxes in the full Caribbean sun, we spent much of the first few days of the cruise in comfy chairs trying to get various computers to talk to each other. On one hand, we weren’t bursting into flame, but on the other, it felt more like being in an office than on a ship in the Bahamas. Depending on who you are, that may or may not be a good thing!

In terms of what we actually did, mobilisation was a pretty diverse few days. Some days it involved getting software systems set up and sensors logging, and on others we were passing boxes of fresh supplies along a chain into stores. One of my highlights was putting together maps of our intended data-collection sites. Brian laid out several nautical charts of various scales, which we covered with transparent plastic and annotated with pens and sticky notes. We carefully added little symbols and stickers until eventually we had a collection of pictures that showed our whole cruise plan: where we’ll stop and sample, where we’d deploy the various types of floats and where we’ll call into port. It became quite an attractive overview of what we would all spend the entirety of the next weeks working towards. Looking at it, it really dawned on me how far this adventure will take us, and the huge volume of data we would gather.

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The best thing about mobilisation is the feeling that you’re working alongside your colleagues building something. You start with countless numbered boxes of gear and enormous lists, and end up with, after a just a few days of hard work, not one but several functional, state of the art scientific labs. It is so satisfying to watch it all come together: various streams of data happily rolling in, stacks of sample bottles numbered and ready to go, an instrument frame full of sensors and gadgets. At the end of it all, when you stand back you can’t help feeling impressed by what a lot of hard work has produced. The only thing left to do is to get out there and start doing some science!

Photo of the week:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Taken by Alice Lebehot

‘This photo was taken as we crossed the Nassau security gate in to the port where Discovery was docked. I think this summarises the mobilisation process really well, because for both the science teams and the crew it is all about making sure that everything is secure and we are ready to go’.

News: Beard Diaries

We are pleased to bring to you the first instalment of our riveting facial hair growth experiment. Upon departure some of our lovely volunteers are planning on shaving all of their current facial hair and then not shaving again for the duration of the cruise. Each week we will document and update you on the growth of the beards, so now is the time to place your bets people!

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