Festive antics on the MRV Scotia

December 30, 2016 by No Comments | Category Marine Directorate Science, Marine Directorate Surveys

Scientists from Marine Scotland Science left Aberdeen on-board the research vessel Scotia on a Saturday morning in December to continue our long-standing monitoring work in the northern North Sea and in the Faeroe-Shetland-Channel. The international group from the Marine Lab consisted of two oceanographers, two engineers, one biologist, one modeller, one technician, and one chemist from Scotland, England, Greece, Sweden, and Germany. The main focus of the cruise was to complete three CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) lines including water sampling while also running the Vessel Mounted Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (VMADCP). We also collected data with a “sledge”, which was lowered to within 30m of the seabed and not, as the name would suggest, towed along the seabed, that contained a CTD and an Optical Plankton Recorder (to look for example for the zooplankton Calanus finmarchicus). The CTD and sledge deployments recorded temperature, salinity, depth, and plankton counts throughout the water column at each station and water samples were taken for salinity, chlorophyll, oxygen, and nutrients. One mooring deployment was also planned in the Pentland Firth.

At a test station we encountered lots of instrumentation problems including for example spikes and bottles not firing properly, which meant lots of possibilities where the fault could lie. Most likely the ship’s wire was the problem as we had similar problems with this 18 year old wire on our last cruise and we knew that our instrument should be functioning properly. We tried different set-ups which worked reasonably well on the first line but then decided to use a different instrument for the second half of the cruise on the other two lines. A lot of time (and nerves) was spent trouble-shooting on this cruise.

But we finished the Jonsis line in the North Sea in good weather and then completed one line across the Faroe-Shetland-Channel without too many problems. We steamed towards the next line along Faroe in the dark and got started, after a short delay due to weather, on the second line in the Faroe-Shetland-Channel. Everything was going well…until, at the deepest and most important sledge station, the CTD didn’t properly record data! With good weather predicted for the next few days we decided to repeat the tow (which takes about three hours) and this time it collected valuable data.

After successfully finishing the main lines we made our way to the mooring location in the Pentland Firth. The mooring had to be deployed at slack tide during day light which was going to be at noon the following day. When setting up the instrument in the morning we encountered problems that unfortunately could not be resolved at sea, so the mooring deployment had to be cancelled.

Moral was good throughout the cruise, with lots of work done (during 12 hour shifts), two jig-saws almost finished (the second one had five pieces left that just wouldn’t fit), and two newly trained people at the end of the cruise. As part of an outreach event we shrunk Christmassy decorated styrofoam cups at one of the deepest stations into miniature cups. The food was good and plenty, including Christmas biscuits and gingerbread. Wildlife sightings were restricted to the usual seabirds and some pilot whales playing at the bow of the ship while we waited for conditions to improve.

The ship’s Christmas tree went up in the mess with lots of glitter and lights, duct-taped to the floor and the wall. The tape got reinforced when the weather got bad but unfortunately one morning the tree was gone – turned out the duct-tape had not been strong enough and the broken tree was lying in the corner, waiting to be resurrected when back in the harbour for Christmas.

Our annual secret Santa present opening cheered everyone up. One present was a game where you had to describe a certain word without using any of the words listed on the card. This led to lots of laughter, especially as the guesses for ‘fish fingers’ led to the suggestion of ‘cod hands’.

Overall we collected high quality data that will add to our long-standing time series. We were very lucky with the weather and only had to dodge for a few hours. Unexperienced staff quickly found their sea legs due to the calm conditions. The science results will now need to be worked up.

I would like to say Thanks to the competent crew and Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to everyone!

Dr Berit Rabe

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