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Saturday, 19 October 2013

Cefas Endeavour's current survey work - 2013 Peltic or the Poseidon Survey #cefas

The research ship Cefas Endeavour is currently in the middle of her latest survey contract.

The chart shows the extent of the acoustic survey area due to be covered by the voyage

See previous posts showing the huge algal bloom currently of the Cornish coast thanks to warm waters.

Below is the latest post from one of the most experienced of the Cefas team, Davi Righton:

For today's blog I am leaving you in the very capable hands David 2IC of the night shift.

In the night garden

DaveIt's 1am.  The nightshift.  The last of the staff on the day shift have drifted away to bed, and we're on our own now until 8am, breakfast time.  Tonight, we are working through the tail end of a catch of mackerel and sprat that we caught earlier, and then we need to conduct plankton and water surveys until  dawn.  Out of the window of the plotting room, where the scientific crew gather when work on the bridge or in the laboratories is done, I can see the trawl hanging above the main deck after taking a battering on the last tow.  The deck crew (Paul, Graham and Kieran) are working on the trawl, straightening out the twists in the mesh, and stitching the meshes back where they need to be, ready for next time.

Above us, the night sky is clear after a day of rain, and the moon lights the way to our next station, out to the west.  I love working at night, the different rhythm, time marching to a different beat.  There is something about the quiet, the lack of the hustle and bustle that you can feel during the day.  That can make it hard too…there are fewer people to keep the conversations flowing, energy can ebb away quickly if the night drags on too long.  But the compensations…the blue light of dawn, the moments of quiet reflection, the sense of wakefulness while everyone else sleeps…are more than enough.

My name is David Righton, and this is my 13th year at Cefas.  My first years were rich with seatime, chasing cod and sandeels on the Dogger Bank, but this is my first trip in 4 years. My job has changed a lot in the last few years and I don't have the opportunity or the need to spend as much time at sea as I used to.  I spend a lot of my time in meetings about science quality, about developing scientific opportunities and maintaining Cefas' position as a leading scientific institute.  This month, however, I get to play a practical part in the PELTIC 13 cruise, and help Jeroen deliver this exciting POSEIDON project.  I'm here as one of the 2ICs, and leader of the nightshift.  In practice, it means my time is split between the bridge, talking to the officers of the watch about what we need to do and where, and the laboratories, making sure that everything is OK.  When the opportunity arises, I also play my part in sorting and sampling the fish catch. It is important work to do and, although my skills are a little ring rusty, I have a role to play.  But it is about more than spending time on the Endeavour and sorting pelagic fish.  Out here, it is easier to appreciate the commitment to fisheries science of our sampling team (most of whom I have not worked with at sea before), their technical skill and determination (taking otoliths from juvenile sprat requires Jedi-like powers of intuition and concentration) and, because it has been a few years since my last trip, to be reminded that 'continuous improvement' is not just a trite management phrase, but a reality of the way we work at Cefas and at sea. I add value too…a question here, a comment there, being a sounding board if plans need to be discussed or decisions made.

It is 5am.  We are nearly on station again and I must take the three flights of stairs to the bridge to take the station details and keep the officer on watch up to date on progress.  From my lofty position, I can see that the deck crew 40 feet below me have not yet finished with the net, and that our next chance of fishing will probably be after midday, if necessary.  Below, Joana and Ian are emerging from the workshop, ready to deploy the water sampling gear on the 'Rosette', while James is still busy at his microscope, sorting through the plankton soup we collected over two hours ago.  It may be autumn on land, but the sea is coming alive with an autumn bloom (as Elise talked about yesterday)- the vitality on display in these miniature plants and creatures is amazing.  In the plotting room, Dave is keeping a close eye on the echosounder, ready to raise the alarm if there are fishable 'marks'.   It's probably too early yet…the schools are still forming up, but we need to make a note of the schools and their location, and perhaps come back to visit later in the day.

730am. Dawn in full swing.  We've collected another water sample…and the Marine Life observers, Tom and Nigel,  have arrived on the bridge just as our 'followers' (the optimistic kittiwakes, gulls and gannets) come into view. They hover effortlessly alongside, waiting.  Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…there will be time to trawl again today and assess whether the marks on the sounder are mackerel, jellyfish or sardine…perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…it can probably wait until after breakfast.  Another perk of the nightshift…you feel you really earn your toast and jam!

The night shift being very camera shy or just really concentrating hard on the plankton net. L to R; Jo's head, James' head and Ian's head.


The only problem with working 24 hours is that we only see the night shift for twenty minutes or so at hand over. At which point they have only just woken up or they are dog tired after their twelve hours and do not really want to stay and chat in the plot room…unless you are Jo.