The last couple of days were spent writing up cruise reports, packing gear and tidying up. Last night we had the end of cruise dinner. At six everybody gather up in the bar for a drink. All had to be dressed up: at least a shirt and tie for guys. This was followed by a sitting dinner at which speeches were given by the Principal Science Officer and the Captain. The captain handed out small presented for some of the crew members and scientists. The foreign collaborators received a plaque with the crest of the ship. Afterwards we had a last social event on the ship: horse races. Basically it’s a sort of shortened snakes and ladders game played with six horses with the track covering the width of the bar. Two dices are used one to determine which horse is moving along the other to determine how many places it advances. In total six races would be run and each race the owners (the people rolling the dices) would change. The added difference is that monopoly money had been handed out beforehand and bets could be placed. Special prices were to be won for the winners of individual races and of course whoever would end up with the most money. I am pleased to say that my horse “moules frites” won the race and that I wore my fake eyebrows with pride. Glen and Colin from the kitchen would end up winning the big prize. Today we arrived back in Stanley at the Falklands, ending our time at sea. Work however isn’t over yet: the next couple of days we’ll continue the packing and hopefully get some time for another walk around the island. On the 21st we will be leaving for the UK again.
Bird Island is a small island at the western tip of South Georgia. Upon the first discovery people were amazed by the diversity and abundance of birds on this island and hence the name. Although the island still has large populations of seabird some people think Seal Island would be a better name. At the end of the sealing era the population of fur seals on the island had been reduced to less than a dozen. Since then seal populations have known an exponential increase. In summer at the height of the breeding season the beaches of Bird Island are densely covered by seals. At this time of the year a large proportion of the seals have returned to sea.
The Bird Island base lies in a small bay near Bird Island Sound where South Georgia and Bird Island almost touch. The bay is too small and shallow to let the ship dock right in bay. This means that the ship has to remain in front of Bird Island Sound where it’s susceptible to the changing weather. If the weather is to rough the boats that bring material and people back and forth to the ship cannot be deployed. This means that the relief operation is highly dependent on the very changing weather of the Southern Ocean. For the base relief various things had to be done: José had to be dropped of wil the summer group had to be picked up. The emergency batteries at the base had to be changed over, food had to be dropped of for the wintering people and the trash had to be taken on the ship. All scientists that volunteered to help with the relief were divided in two groups. The first group would help out in the morning while the second group would help out in the afternoon. Those who hadn’t been to BI before were in the first group: this would mean getting up at six in the morning but in case the relief had to be stopped but would mean the having the best chances to get ashore. As one can image we all suffered the early rise with pleasure keen on getting foot ashore.
Since yesterday the main transect has been done and finished with and we are setting forth again. Now it’s towards the Polar Front. The Polar Front is the boundary between the Cold Southern Ocean and the warmer subantarctic waters. Like other areas in seas were two different water bodies collide this forms a productive and diverse area. Copepods can be found in many forms and shapes and high numbers. Feeding on these copepods is an array of mesopelagic fish such as myctophids. It is also interesting that a lot of the enigmatic wildlife such as penguins and seals will often forage in this area, despite the distance they have to travel. At the Polar front we hope to do plenty of fishing in order to investigate the diversity of these fish and their role in the ecosystem. However, going there is not without trouble. So far the weather has been quite good, grey and dull at occasion but not to rough. As we’re approaching the Polar Front we’re faced with the roughest weather so far. So we have some rest, although this is relative since we often have to hang on to our stuff or inform people that their work area has been transformed from a tidy electricity workshop to, well euh a mess.
A special bonus for this occasion: an English nursery rhyme
Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not!