Thursday, August 31, 2017

Next Cruise, on a South African Icebreaker!

Stock photo of Agulhas II. It's unlikely that we'll see ice,
we're only going south to about 48°
Hi, my name is Melissa Miller and I'm a marine technician at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I'll be aboard the next cruise that is deploying SOCCOM floats. The cruise is a resupply run to Gough Island and Inaccessible Island, barely habited places (by humans at least, seabirds live there by the thousands!) in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. The ship is an icebreaker called Agulhas II, named after an important ocean current that runs along the coast of Southern Africa.
I've done this before. In March and April 2016, I lived and worked on the Australian research vessel Investigator running nutrient samples and deploying SOCCOM floats. You can read my blog post from that trip here.

Boxes of equipment left Scripps a few weeks ago, with the
floats themselves being shipping from Seattle.

So what does it take to prepare for a cruise like this?
Well, probably the most important thing is to get all the equipment I'll need to the ship with plenty of time to spare. This means that months in advance I get everything set up in the lab, make sure it works, test out all the spare parts (no Home Depot runs when you're at sea!), and then pack it up and send it on its way. Onboard, I will be analyzing the nutrient and dissolved oxygen concentrations of seawater from the surface to a depth of 2,000 meters (over a mile!). I will also be collecting samples that will be analyzed back in the United States for pH and alkalinity, as well as HPLC and POC, which are optical properties (more on all these in future posts!). So lots of equipment is needed! It was all picked up from my lab in La Jolla, California a few weeks ago and has landed in Cape Town. I arrive on Monday and the first item of business will be to make sure everything arrived intact.

I celebrated my October birthday last week by painting
happy little trees with friends. And yes, I'm bringing the
tiara to wear onboard on my actual birthday. 

On the personal side, there's a lot to do to prepare for being away from home for two months. Some fun things, like make sure to see all my friends before I go, take my dog for lots of trips to the beach, eat as many tacos as possible...I even celebrated my birthday five weeks early since I'll be onboard for the actual day. There are also some things that are less fun, like getting vaccines and anti-malaria pills from my doctor so I can explore Africa after the cruise, calling my bank to let them know not to shut off my cards when I try to use them from the other side of the world (almost literally, the antipode of San Diego is off the coast of South Africa. Find out yours here, it's fun!)

I leave tomorrow morning. It's a thirty hour travel "day" to get from San Diego to Cape Town, on top of the nine hour time difference. So leaving Friday morning has me arriving late Saturday night. I'll have Sunday to figured out when/where I am and hopefully see a bit of the gorgeous city. Then a few days setting up my lab on the ship, and off we go! I hope you'll follow along for more on this six week expedition to one of the most remote regions on the planet!