Another episode in the GEOmon South Atlantic adventure. This time the narrative is taken up by Mathias Lanoisellé:
Following installation of a Picarro CO2 and CH4 monitoring instrument in Ascension Island in June of this year, the next step in RHUL’s South Atlantic project was to install another one on the Falkland Islands. As the easiest way to send the instrument and the 6 gas cylinders there is by boat, Euan Nisbet approched the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who operates the RRS (Royal Research Ship) “James Clark Ross”, to see if it was possible to install the system on board to make measurements during the cruise. After long negotiations, we got the green light. So Dave Lowry, Rebecca Fisher and myself followed our van load of equipment to Immingham (Lincolnshire) on the 16th-17th September to make the installation.
Pic 1 , 2a and 2b.
I returned to Immingham on Monday 27th September to board the ship, 10 days after the original planned date for the sailing. I first made sure that the pressure hadn’t dropped on the cylinder regulators, and started the calibration. We set sail on the morning of the next day. Pic 3.
We finally left on the evening of Saturday 2nd October, during a gale force 8.
The crossing of the Bay of Biscay was quite hard for my stomach. Then the sea calmed down and the thermometer rose and we could install the barbecue on the rear deck and enjoy being outside at nightfall.
Pic 5 and 6.
From Falmouth, we headed straight to Madeira (that we reached on the 6th October), then the Canary Islands (7th Oct), the Cape Verde Islands (9th-10th Oct), and, before we reached the Brazilian coast, we crossed the Equator (13th October). Pic 7
The Crossing of the Line ceremony is organized like a trial in which those who haven’t crossed the Equator before (or who have no proof of it) are charged with many crimes, judged and ultimately punished with a bucket of kitchen slops over their heads. Pic 8
I was found guilty as charged. Pic 9
But I wasn’t the only one. The Doc, unfortunately for her, was the last one to be tried and received a big surprise…
My work on board is quite simple: make sure that the data acquisition is all right, that calibrations are carried out automatically at the correct time intervals and to process the data. Additional tasks include changing the chemical dryer (a mixture of magnesium perchlorate and drierite) when necessary (every 10-15 days), and twice daily collect an air sample in a 3L or 5L tedlar bag to be analysed back at Royal Holloway to measure CH4 mixing ratios and δ13C.
We should arrive in Stanley, the capital town of the Falkland Islands, in the afternoon or the evening of the 24th October. Hopefully I will find Dave Lowry there, who should arrive the day before. Then we will have 5 days to move the instrument from the ship to a hut a few kilometres south-west of Stanley, install it and the airline and set up communications, and then go through all the calibration routines again. Should be some spare time to visit the island and the penguins, but when do these things ever go to plan?
The James Clark Ross webcam http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/images/webcams/rrjcr/index.php
To keep up-to-date with the goings-on the James Clark Ross ship check out the radio officer’s blog http://www.gm0hcq.com/jcr_update.htm