Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Setting up in Port

The floats take in a lovely Table Moutain view.
There's always a loading period before a research cruise where the ship is in port and the science party rushes around getting everything prepared. I've been in Cape Town for a few days now and it's been very busy! I will be analyzing seawater samples for nutrient and dissolved oxygen concentrations onboard, so I have a lot of gear to set up. Thankfully since there's only a few scientists on this cruise, I have plenty of lab space. After making sure all my shipments arrived safe and got onboard, I started unpacking. The lab didn't have power or water the first day, so there was only so much I could do.

By the afternoon of day two, that was up and running so I could test each machine and start making reagents. I had to make a trip to a hardware store to get supplies for securing everything on the lab benches (tables) so it won't fly around if/when we hit some weather. Today (day three) I realized that the power converter I was using for the filtration rig wasn't strong enough and had blown a fuse. Most of our equipment can be used with either 110V (US) or 220V (everywhere else) power, but there's a few things that have to go through a transformer. So I spent a few minutes panicking and then called the chief scientist, who within a matter of minutes had secured me a replacement pump and transformer from a lab at the University of Cape Town. A taxi ride and an hour later, I now have three working pumps instead of zero!

Technician Rick enters the matrix.

I also helped the technician from University of Washington prepare the floats for deployment. He went through a whole series of tests to make sure all the instrumentation wasn't damaged during transport (see photo at right). This involves bringing them out on deck so they can communicate with a satellite, which provided some lovely photo opportunities as well (photo above).
Each float has been adopted by a school, so I wrote the name and drew a few designs on them. We're deploying them in cardboard boxes this time around, so I'll probably decorate those as well.

R/V Agulhas II is quite a ship! It's the biggest I've ever worked aboard, and thankfully has color-coded decks like a parking garage (the lab is on purple fish, or deck 3). There are many differences I've noticed already from the U.S. research vessels that I'm used to - including served meals (rather than cafeteria style) to which men have to wear collared shirts, tea time, a bar (two actually), and the presence of passengers instead of just crew members and scientists. I'll write more about that in an upcoming post. Every ship has its own vibe, and I'm interested to learn more about this one. The South African people I've met so far as friendly and helpful, so that bodes well. Last year I was aboard an Australian research vessel deploying SOCCOM floats and shared that experience in a blog post. 
We leave tomorrow, hope you'll follow along!

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