Sgoil Lionacleit's blog

Todays blog was written by Erin Warner, from Sgoil Lionacleit, Benbecula, about her experience visiting the Changing Oceans Expedition.........

So there I was, sitting in the bottom of a little boat, that is bouncing around and feeling much too like I was in a roller-coaster for my comfort. It was too early in the morning, on the 20th of April, and we were on our way to the RRS James Cook. The James Cook is a research ship, that has been all over the world and it has now travelled to our humble little chain of islands to research the cold water corals off Mingulay.

We eventually arrived, and after climbing up the rope ladder (much to my delight), we were ushered into a room full of complicated screens; given a safety briefing; then given a second breakfast!

Then we had a tour of the ship. First, we were shown what all the complicated screens in the first room were for: temperature, depth, mapping of the sea floor, current strength and direction and the radar, to name a few. After that, we were taken to the chemistry lab where they look at ocean acidification and measure the pH of the water. They let us breathe into test tubes of salt water to see how carbon dioxide changes how acidic the water is. This was really interesting, and fun! It also made me realise that it's like the entire human race is breathing into the oceans... a disturbing thought.

Then it was time for more coffee and a tour of the food stores. Well, I have never seen so much food in one place, except from in Tesco. Tins of this, that and the other, in every language, lots of fruit and veg, bread, dried everything and plenty of Nutella. What more could you possibly need? We surveyed the lounge (with a Wii and flat-screen TV), which looked better that my living room at home! And they have a bar! These scientist chaps live a life of luxury methinks!

Then it was off to the Captain's bridge. Again, a plethora of buttons and screens greeted us. We all took turns sitting in the Captain’s chair and found a screen that, much to our amusement, told us we were lost. From here, we could see all of the equipment laid out on deck, including the ROV, which we got to watch while it launched.

Erin and Magnus as Captains
The ROV finds coral!
We all rushed downstairs and stared at the screens as the ROV descended into the depths. Until, there on the screen was the first bit of coral. It wasn't brightly coloured and full of fish like the pictures you see: it was white and rather plain looking and yet so completely awesome! We saw the little polyps that the coral was made from, waving their tentacles to catch food. We saw starfish, a little brown fish and worms that apparently had teeth and weren't afraid to use them.
We then got to go into the ROV control room. More complicated screens and funny buttons met us on arrival. We got to move the camera around and see how the arm worked. It was hard to believe that what we were seeing was more than a hundred metres beneath us at that very moment, showing us live footage from the sea-floor.

Then we were whisked off for a tour of the deck. There were big tanks where they kept samples of coral, brittle stars and worms. There were complicated things that took samples of the sea bed and that measures temperature, acidity and what not. Then we actually got up close and personal with the ROV. It was HUGE! When you saw it from the bridge, it looked fairly small, but it was easily the size of a land-rover!

The Big Tanks!
Anna controls the cameras
Soon, we were whisked inside. We got to look at some of the animals they had photographed so far: sea urchins, lots of starfish and even an octopus! We then got to decorate some more polystyrene cups and a head to send down to the sea-floor so they would be crushed by the pressure and come up a quarter of the size. Again, so cool!

All too soon, it was time to go. Down the rope ladder and into the boat, the end of a great experience something I’ll never forget.

(Thanks Erin!)
Magnus, Erin, Angharad and Erin