Changing Oceans: A poetic perspective

We’re onboard the RRS James Cook,
Cruise number 073.
We’re off on a 4 week adventure,
to explore the deep blue sea.

We’re not going far from Scotland,
but we don’t know what we’ll find.
We’ll use ROVs and CTDs,
Oh, how the winch will wind.

The ROV is ready now,
With its manipulator arm.
Its boxes and its samplers,
We just need the sea to calm.

The ROV drops to the deep,
To 1000 m or more.
And here we ask what will it find,
Down on the deep sea floor.

The day shift watch, they sit and wait
In front of the TV screen.
Some fish, some plankton, And then, oh yes,
“Amazing” comes the scream.

Coral reefs, they don’t just grow
Near a tropical sunlight shore,
Down in the deep, the dark, the cold,
The coral reefs grow more.

The reef itself is built of lime
Lophelia coral is most.
But in the reef live so much more,
Diversity can boast.

Inside the control box, out on deck,
The Masters make it go.
With a little joystick movement,
It can go against the flow.

As if we’re really swimming there,
Everything’s in range.
It’s like another planet,
The creatures are so strange.

The time at depth is far too short,
The ROV must ascend.
Back on board, a sigh of relief,
Another successful end.

While through the shift the tea flows strong,
We seem to eat all day.
But after the shift has come to an end
A beer is on its way.

Then a sleep and back to work,
Crew and scientists carry on.
While I sit in front of a beeping box,
Analyzing samples all night long.

But when the ROV cannot go in,
We’re not stuck for things to do.
We profile the water with the MVP,
CTD and multibeam too.

We work through the day and the night,
In the dark and in the cold.
Collecting, sampling, coring, logging:
Data is our gold.

The night shifts’ task: we need to core,
But will it work, we cry!
The sediment is far too hard,
No matter how much we try.

It takes two hours up and down,
From surface to ocean floor.
But until it gets back up on deck,
We’ll never know for sure.

When it comes up, we hold our breaths,
In the dawning light,
We see the mud in which the critters hide,
Oh how we do delight!

In between, I hear the beeps,
The never ending sound.
Even when the wind is up,
And waves are crashing round.

And now we’re coming to the end,
We long to see the shore.
But the ocean waves are rolling on,
Intriguing us ever more.

Written by Helen Findlay

Day 28: They think its all is now!

There was a real flurry of activity on the ship yesterday as everyone dismantled their equipment and started the long process of clearing up after a month at sea.

Day 27: Homeward Bound...

And we’re off! After a day of ROV sampling at Mingulay and a night of multibeam mapping, the ‘over-the-side’ science has ended, and as of 0600 we are beginning our journey back to the delights of Govan! So a final equipment blog, coming today courtesy of Juan from Heriot –Watt University.

Day 26: Mud, Glorious Mud

Night shift processing cores
Cries of 'land' filled the chemistry lab yesterday, as the Hebridean islands came back into sight. Following a successful box coring campaign at the Hebrides Terrace Seamount, when scientists reverted to toddlers in the presence of mud, we were back at Mingulay for a final round of ROV dives and multibeam surveys.

Day 25: Bloomin' Ocean

Today has been another day filled with mud - this time on the deck of the ship as the box corer brings it up to for benthic sampling. But more about that tomorrow. Today's blog is an update from Helen....

SPI-ing on reefs and seamounds

Silvana Birchenough from Cefas continues to report on the SPI work conducted during the expedition.......

Special edition: An undergraduates' perspective....

Today we have a special point of view, written by Lissette from Heriot-Watt University...... 

Day 24: Mapping the cold-water coral landscape

The cruise is reaching its final stages now, and the team have collected a number of samples for the ocean acidification experiments. In addition we have placed equipment on the seafloor and carried out visual observations along transects. But how do we know where exactly to go? What kind of environment do our coral samples come from? In today's blog, Veerle from the Natioanl Oceanography Centre, Southampton, talks about the technology we use to do this.....

Day 23: The Coral Doctor explains all.....

Since our early morning arrival at the Hebrides Terrace seamount, and Helen's excitement about getting water samples from nearly 2000 m, the ROV has been busy surveying the seafloor. The coral biologists among us weren't too excited about the swaths of mud in every direction, but each to their own!

Day 22: Rowing on Rockall

Last night, the scientists aboard the RRS James Cook has the once-in-a-lifetime (probably) opportunity to see Rockall, as Captain Bill took us via the the Rock, on our way to the Hebridean Seamount. For those of you don't know (and many of the scientists are among you in the dark), Rockall has been referred to as "the most isolated small rock in the oceans of the world", the UK's furthest outlier. Unfortunately the British weather failed to surprise us, and all we saw was a slightly darker grey blob, amid the grey sea and sky.

Day 21: Sponges of the deep.....

Georgios examining sponges on black coral from the Logachev mounds
Yesterday's dives at the Pisces site revealed a plethora of stunning white Lophelia - a great result, since we were not sure what we would find! Although there are still images and videos from John Wilson's 1973 dive, very little research has been conducted in the area in the past 40 years, so we were all very happy to see the white polyps waving in the currents.

Day 20: A sneak peek at life on board.....

Following another successful ROV dive, in which we saw squid, jellyfish, huge crabs, massive anemones and beautiful fields of the corals Lophelia and Madrepora, it was time to leave Logachev and steam north. Our destination: The Pisces 9 site where pioneering dives by John Wilson in 1973 gave us video and still images of Lophelia reefs on the Rockall Bank 350 miles offshore.

Day 19: It's gettin hot in here.......

The swell continues to prevent any ROV deployments, but everyone's spirits are up, particularly after learning that we appeared on the BBC Jubilee Show in our home-made crowns! The science continues, as there is also equipment that we can deploy in these conditions, and there are many on-board experiments taking place with the corals and sponges collected from the seamound.....

Day 18: The Oily Bits

There were big sighs of relief all round this afternoon as the weather improved and the ROV got back in the water. But now for something different. In the morning, the night shift were treated to a tour of the engine room by the Chief Engineer. Nigel from CEFAS tells us more......

Day 17: Pumps and Pageants

As many of us were missing the Queen's Jubilee celebrations (and 4 day weekend!) back home in Blighty, we decided we should honour the occasion on board our Royal Research Ship.

Day 16: Half-way through and the weather turns

Today's blog is written by the Principal Scientific Officer, Murray, as the weather gives him time to pause.....Today the Atlantic Ocean is roused with winds gusting to Storm Force 8 and a rolling swell of between 4 and 6 m. It’s too rough to put any equipment into the sea so for the moment no more ROV dives are possible and we are running acoustic surveys of the seabed that will help us understand how coral carbonate mounds are formed.

Day 15: Capturing Carbon and Corals

The Changing Oceans expedition has passed the halfway point, and everyone is optimistic that all our aims will be achieved. It's pretty rocky out at Rockall at the moment, the waves are up and ROV operations have been postponed. Luckily, there is other equipment that we can deploy when the seas are a bit choppy so overnight we have had the moving vessel profiler in the water.

Day 14: Up close and personal with corals

Out in the North Atlantic, conditions have changed - the swell is up and we have been busy securing everything after 2 weeks of calm seas. ROV operations have continued throughout the afternoon, and the night team are now about to embark on a box coring campaign in the rain!