Sunday, 2 June 2013

2 - Setting up a lab at sea – a nutrient chemist's perspective

It’s been a hectic time.  First of all the packing, which can take weeks to make sure everything is working before it’s sealed in its box and sent to the ship - as well as trying to think through every possible requirement on the cruise.  When the equipment arrived at the ship we had to unload it quickly and start setting up.  With only 24 hours until the ship sailed it was a busy time for Emily and I, making sure all the equipment was found, put into position and securely tied down so it wouldn’t move if we hit bad weather.  This was finally achieved and we were able to set sail.

However, this is far from the end of the story.  Tying everything down is not the end of it all.  The first day at sea saw us trying to reconnect the hundreds of tubes that are essential for the running of the Segmented Flow Auto-Analyser which I use to measure nutrients in the sea water.  By the end of day one this was complete and we hadn’t even switched the instrument on yet.  Day two was a slow day as we got used to the movement of the ship again.  We concentrated on getting the chemicals made up for the Auto-Analyser and finally, after one day of setting up and two days at sea we were able to switch it on.  At moments like this there can always be problems and this time was no exception.  Thankfully we were able to sort out the minor leaks and other problems quickly.

We are now on day three of the cruise and we are due at the PAP site tomorrow.  Today we ran our first full test of the Auto-Analyser, which passed without mishap so we are finally ready for samples.  Three days of hard work have paid off and we can finally relax for a few hours tonight before the start of the scientific work tomorrow.

An oceanographer’s work is never done...

By Mark Stinchcombe

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