We are now just 12 hours away from the Porcupine Abyssal Plain observatory (PAP), and the start of some really exciting work on the upper 1000 metres of the water column - which we call the twilight zone. It is here that natural sunlight becomes extinguished with increasing depth.
We have been planning this cruise for three years or so and although I have been coming to sea for a good while, I always find this period just before we start work to be a particular thrill. In this case it is even more so, as much of the work is really novel.
Our mission is of considerable interest to the scientific community and of particular relevance to current concerns about climate change. The basic question is to understand what controls the downward transport of carbon from the surface sunlit layer, and from the atmosphere, into the deep ocean. What we will try to do in particular is to examine the link between the structure and function of the upper ocean biology and this sinking flux of carbon.
As leader of the expedition, my task is to make sure that all the various types of work we are doing bind together as an integrated package. Due to the diversity of tasks and needs of the different scientists, this is not such an easy task. However, with the abundant good will and enthusiasm on board, I am sure this will be achievable.
It is a real pleasure to lead a scientific party representing 13 different nationalities, nearly half of which are women scientists.