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.
Arts and Craft time
Being mainly prepared for science, not arts and crafts, we had to use our imaginations! So out came the waterproof marker pens (designed for writing labels on tubes) and aluminium foil, and the scientists found their creative sides, designing crowns and hanging bunting throughout the ship. Everyone got into the task; Americans, Maltese, Spanish, German, Finnish, Belgian, Chilean and Irish joined with the Brits to mark the occasion. Then, while the sun came out over the Atlantic, those of us on the night shift wound down from their grueling shift by watching the people of London turn out in the rain to watch the Jubilee pageant.

Preparing filters
Ok, onto the science. Overnight, we have been running a CTD/SAPS campaign. As in an earlier blog, Helen has been using water collected by the CTD to analyse the carbon chemistry and other oceanographic parameters, like temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll. Attached to the CTD frame, we have a SAPS - Stand Alone Pumping System.  The SAPS is basically a big pump attached to a filter rig with a delayed timer - it means we can send the pump to whichever depth we want and switch it on without being there.

James helping me rig the SAPS
But why exactly do we want to do this? Well, we use the SAPS to look at the amount of particulate organic carbon (coral food) that is reaching the reefs. The pump records how much water flows through the filters, and following laboratory analysis of how much carbon is on the filters, we can calculate how much carbon (food) the hungry corals have access to. This information, combined with surveys of the reef and CTD data, can help us understand why the corals live where they do, and what any future changes in climate and currents may have on these ecosystems.