Tuesday, December 4, 2018

JAMSTEC S4I - Posts from Dr. Ellen Briggs

January 10, 2019

Now that the end of the cruise draws near I thought I’d talk about what life at sea is like on a Japanese vessel relative to my previous experiences on US ships. One of the biggest day to day differences is meals. On US ships most often a buffet style meal is offered 3-4 times per 24 hours and during the meal time you can come and go as you please. You can also just stop by and put food away for later. On the Kaiyo-Maru meal time is regarded with more importance and the meals are all sit down service. Before each meal you walk to the kitchen and say ‘Itadaki masu’ and then afterwards when you drop off emptied dishes you say ‘Gochiso sama deshita’ to express appreciation for the food. There are several bowls or plates at each meal with small portions very elegantly laid out. The meals are more at home style cooking rather than what you might find in a restaurant. Rice, soup, and tea are available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and are self-serve. Breakfast is most often a small fish of some sort. Eggs are occasionally served but are often cold. Lunch is the biggest meal and is frequently not traditional Japanese style food like steak, spaghetti, or meatloaf though ramen and other noodles or curry is often served. Dinner is usually some presentation of fish or seafood. All of the food has been very well cooked and presented. It is amazing we still have some vegetables and even tomatoes after 5 weeks! It’s been a little challenging getting used to fish for breakfast everyday (especially when the heads are looking back at me). There are no snack materials provided so everyone stocked up on munchies and coffee in port before heading out. Sometimes there is dessert but it is usually very small unlike US ships which offer cakes, cookies, and ice cream at almost all times.
There is no recreation or exercise room on the Kaiyo-Maru which makes it a little challenging to enjoy all the good food and not be able to burn any of it off!
Another big difference is the bathroom. There is only one bathroom for women and one room with a shower, toilet, and laundry for women’s exclusive use. There is no toilet in the stateroom which is different from any US ship I have sailed on. The toilets are also very fancy with several different options for warming the seat to various rinsing choices. There are rooms with baths as well but are for men’s use. Because there are so many women on board there is a sign that can be put on the door to say a woman is using the bath tub in the room with just one tub. The bath is for soaking in and you are to clean yourself before going in.
There are nearly double the number of crew on the Kaiyo-Maru compared to the US ships I’ve sailed on and they are all at the ready to help wherever needed and very friendly. They wouldn’t let me pick up and move my boxes :) It was quite interesting watching the crew load items onto the vessel as they stood in a long line and passed boxes down the line from the dock to the hold.
Many of the people onboard speak very little English so those of us that don’t know Japanese have been trying to pick up a few words and phrases. When sampling the CTD rosette I learned to count from 1 to 24 in Japanese so I could indicate which Niskin I was on. I also helped sample oxygen from the rosette which required also chanting out the sample bottle and temperature of the seawater: ‘Niskin: ichi (1), bottle: san go roku (356), temperature: rei ten hachi (0.8)’. One of the scientists was very kind to make me a laminated cheat sheet with the Japanese numbers which was very helpful because I didn’t want to risk saying the wrong number!
That’s all for now- we are making very good timing on our transit to Melbourne and the seas have been very kind thus far!


January 5, 2019
We deployed the final SOCCOM float on the BROKE cruise! It was almost bittersweet to see the last yellow float bob up and down in the distance as we steamed away. This float was named Bomber Man by the Mountain Home Public School in Arkansas. Their school is the Mountain Home Bombers and they have a lot of school spirit and every student knows every word of their fight song! For this float I drew the P-51 aircraft the school requested with an added passenger: a profiling float being deployed by aircraft! Some of the floats were stored outside on the deck during the cruise so it took some extra perseverance to brave the icy cold winds to draw the artwork on the floats. It was well worth it though and I would have a nice hot cup of tea to warm up afterwards.

Now that all the samples have been collected and floats deployed much of what is left for me to do is clean up and repack all the containers in preparation for returning home. We still have a couple more days of science but maybe only one CTD cast that I would be needed to help out with. It will be another long transit to get from the Antarctic ice edge to this time Melbourne, Australia. Depending on weather it could take more than 7 days. I will start switching my clock to get on a daytime schedule soon. I’m still waking up at 10pm and going to bed around noon so it will be a nearly 12 hour time adjustment. Because meals are at set times and we are required to be present or give 48 hours’ notice, I’ll have to switch my clock all at once and maybe take some short naps during the day as I get over the ‘jet lag’.

January 1, 2019
 It’s the New Year and 2 weeks left at sea in the Southern Ocean. The sunset and sunrise were particularly vibrant as we said goodbye to 2018 and welcomed in 2019. Because we are so far south the sky never really became dark between sunset and sunrise and instead there were beautiful shades of pink, orange, and purple between 2 and 4am. A traditional Japanese New Year’s breakfast was served which was quite yummy! And sushi was served for dinner! There are decorations set up around the ship meant for bringing luck in the New Year. Later there will be calligraphy. We were mostly on transit between stations on the 1st which provided a nice break for most of the science party anyway.

The 4th float, named Schweitzer Lions, was deployed on Dec. 30th. This float was adopted by the Albert
Schweitzer Elementary School in Levittown Pennsylvania. The seas were pretty rough and the winds were strong during the deployment. After lowering the float off the side of the ship there was a little bit of concern that the ship couldn’t pull away fast enough to clear the float being pushed by the opposing forces of the sea state. Once cleared we all breathed a sigh of relief. Several seabirds found the float quite fascinating and circled above the float as it bobbed around at the surface before making its first profile.

There is one float left to go and we will be heading back to port in roughly 1 week!
Happy New Year!


December 27, 2018
We deployed yet another float on December 26th named the Wabanaki Researchers by the Pleasant Point Reservation in Washington County, Maine. 
Spending the holidays at sea can be both fulfilling and at times lonely. It is hard to be away from family and friends back home but there are new friends and sea family to be made while on a research cruise. Operations at sea are 24 hours but there was still time for a small gift exchange and sharing of treats. Christmas isn’t as widely celebrated in Japan as it is in the US but there were some decorations hung and the kitchen staff made a very yummy fruit bread for the occasion. I was excited to have a white Christmas with passing snow showers through the day and icebergs scattering the open expanse. Being from Southern California I only get to see snow when I travel.
While on station, there were very picturesque icebergs on the horizon that painted an ethereal backdrop as the sun rose or set?

There are 2 more floats yet to be deployed and several more stations but we all sense that the end of the cruise is drawing near.

- Ellen


December 21, 2018

We have now deployed the 2nd SOCCOM float (at 0304 UTC at a bottom depth of 3932 meters. Latitude 62º12.61S and Longitude 92º25.09E), the Sundevil Unicorn, adopted by the Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The rival teams of this school are the lions and unicorns giving inspiration to the float’s name. There was substantial chunk sea ice within sight at our planned station so instead we moved about 5 nautical miles to the northwest where we could more safely perform CTD operations and deploy the float.
The profiling floats deployed within sea ice zones of the Southern Ocean are equipped with ice avoidance software so that the float doesn’t run into ice when it tries to surface and transmit its data. If the temperature near the surface (around 20-30 m depth) is -1.8 °C or colder, the float will not surface because of the likelihood of sea ice. Instead the float will immediately descend to park depth and continue cycling until there are 2 measurements warmer than -1.8 °C near the surface. The float will then finish its complete cycle by surfacing and transmitting its data.
Great care is taken to deploy the floats initially in ice free conditions so that the float can complete its initial profile. It is much more reassuring to receive the first profile within ~24 hours rather than waiting until the sea ice has retreated which can be several months depending on the time of year of the deployment.
This year unfortunately the ice edge is extended farther north than on the previous occupation of the BROKE (Baseline Research on Oceanography, Krill, and the Environment) expedition first carried out by Australians in 1996. Even though we have started about one month earlier, the sea ice extent is farther north than mean observations for the month of December in this region as well. We are still hopeful that by January the ice will clear away enough that we can get close enough to the continent and shelf to observe bottom water formation where cold oxygen rich water penetrates deep into the water column.

December 17, 2018
We arrived at our first CTD station on December 15th at 63.5°S, 80°W after a very long transit. We deployed the first SOCCOM float for this cruise, the SJA Angelfish, at this station. This float was adopted by St. Joseph’s Academy in St. Louis, MO. The students provided 2 drawings which I tried my best to transfer to the float but the students are very talented artists! St. Joseph’s Academy’s mascot is Angels which provided the inspiration for the name SJA Angelfish and “We figure the float is moving through the ocean gathering data like a fish could do (and the oil that regulates the buoyancy is like a fish gas bladder). We want it to be an angelfish because the data from the SOCCOM float can be used to help make predictions about our ocean and hopefully protect it.” -SJA
The sea state was very calm for the deployment and several scientists and crew came outside to the aft deck to see the float off on the beginning of its hopefully long voyage throughout the Southern Ocean.

It will be another couple days before the next SOCCOM float will be deployed but there is much work being done collecting water and biological samples. Ship operations are 24 hours and I am on the 10pm-10am watch except when a float needs to be deployed. The sky is lit up almost 24 hours a day with only a slight period of dusk for about 2 hours which makes it less confusing being awake all through the night! Unfortunately there are no dark night skies for observing the stars or frequent Aurora australis. There are still plenty of interesting icebergs and sea ice to gaze out upon.
 Until next time,


December 14, 2018
So far we have been in transit from Fremantle, Australia to our first station at approximately 63 °S, 80 °E and we are due to arrive sometime on December 15th. Due to sea ice we will not be able to head as far south as we would have liked on this first leg for CTD (conductivity, temperature, density) operations for measuring seawater properties from the surface to the bottom of the ocean. Sea ice cover is challenging to predict and it should be net receding as we are approaching austral summer in the southern hemisphere. Hopefully by the time we arrive at the other planned stations the ice will have melted and/or blown away. Unfortunately the RV Kaiyo-Maru is not an ice breaker so we have to be careful to avoid sea ice and icebergs. The biologists on board will still be able to accomplish plenty of their mission collecting various plankton, krill, and other small critters that happen to be in the path of their specialized sampling net.

Fig. 1. Survey area for a dedicated krill survey for CCAMLR Division 58.4.1 during 2018/19 season by the Japanese survey vessel, Kaiyo-maru. Depth data: ETOPO1 (Amante and Eakins, 2009); coastline: GSHHS (Wessel and Smith, 1996).
There have already been numerous icebergs causing the ship to alter course to navigate around the various sized bergs. They really do come in all shapes and sizes and cause quite a bit of excitement to the crew and scientists aboard. Several seabirds have been gliding alongside the ship as well including albatross and petrels. It’s amazing watching these graceful birds navigate the heavy seas and unforgiving winds. 

Until next time,


December 4, 2018

After a long 30+ hours of plane rides, layovers, and taxis I arrived in Fremantle on the western coast of Australia. Being on the other side of the planet, the clock is 16 hours ahead of my home in San Diego, CA. It’s also quite hot outside because it is near austral summer. Fighting to stay awake through the jet lag I’ve been making preparations for the cruise on the RV Kaiyo-maru Japanese fisheries vessel.

I was given a very helpful tour of the ship by the Chief Scientist Hiroto Murase. This is my first time on a Japanese vessel and it is fairly different from the US ships I have gone to sea on before. Luckily for me there is English in addition to Japanese so hopefully I won’t get too lost in the early days of the cruise.
Rick Rupan (left) from the University of Washington has been hard at work testing and prepping the SOCCOM profiling floats that also had to make the long trip to arrive in Fremantle. Unfortunately one of the floats needs some repairs and will be shipped back to UW.
My job on this cruise will be to help prep and deploy the profiling floats and to collect seawater samples to be shipped back to the US. I’m currently a Postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and this is going to be my 5th long research cruise and 4th trip to the Southern Ocean. We will be heading south to near the ice edge of Antarctica and return to port in Melbourne, Australia in 41 days. This won’t be my first time at sea over the holidays and hopefully there will be some celebrations while at sea. Please follow my journey to the ice edge!


1 comment:

  1. I am a student from St. Joe, and I find this very interesting! I have always had a great interest and soft spot for our oceans, so it makes me happy to see a SOCCOM float adopted by my school being put to use in the Southern Ocean. I look forward to seeing the results!