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.
The 13 hour steam gives me time to tell you a little about the ‘floating travel inn’ that is the RRS James Cook! The ship can be home for up to 54 people for more than a month, so as well as being well equipped for all the science we will do, it also gives us a little bit of home.

So lets start at the bottom. On the main deck we have the accommodation - cabins and shared bathrooms for each scientist and technician. Being low down in the ship makes sleeping easier when it gets rough, although there can still be a fair amount of rolling around when the swell is up. Downstairs we also have a gym, which becomes a bit of a necessity with all the nice food we get - especially since jogging round the ship takes all of a minute! There's also a little bit of luxury downstairs, with our very own sauna - perfect for warming up after hours on deck sieving benthic samples  in the wind and rain.

The upper deck is where all the science happens. First up we have the dry lab and the plot, where plans are made with the captain every morning, and the day shift gather around the screen during ROV dives. There can be some tense moments around the TV, particularly where the manipulators are deploying or retrieving expensive equipment! The dry lab is an IT geeks heaven - computers fill every space, bringing in information from the various pieces of equipment deployed from the ship.

Next door is the chemistry lab, Helen's home for 12 hours a night, where she analyses her water samples. She has frequent visitors; Team Microbe process their samples,  Team Coral take measurements of coral health and Team Sponge study their samples under the microscope.

Terry in the wet lab
Heading towards the back of the ship, we have the cold-room and the wet lab. Not actually wet, but a place that equipment can be prepared. Out through the watertight doors, we have the hanger, which houses our 'mini-oceans', large tanks holding a myriad of sea creatures. This is also the space where larger equipment is prepared for deployment - especially when it's raining and windy on deck!

Breakfast in the mess
Up one level on the mezzanine deck, we have the galley and mess (kitchen and dining room to land-lovers!), as well as the TV room (complete with Sky box), Library and the Bar. At precisely 7.20am, 11.20am and 5.30pm, the mess comes alive, as hungry scientists descend on the chefs to fill their empty bellies. The chef's (John and Wally) have one of the most important jobs on the ship - hungry scientists are grumpy scientists. So its a 5am start for John and Wally, planning the day's meals and cooking up a storm. Between 4 and 8 tonnes of food are craned onto the ship during mobilisation, and special fridges keep the fruit and veg fresh for up to 3-4 weeks.

John serving breakfast in the galley
Keep going up the stairs and there is crew accommodation on the boat deck, and then more cabins on the Forecastle deck, including the PSO's suite! Finally, right at the top is the bridge, a flashback to Star Trek, complete with Captain's chairs and touchscreen controls (although disappointingly, no big wooden steering wheel!). The view from the top is stunning, from the huge waves on rough days, and clear skies and wildlife on sunny days. Fingers crossed for more of the latter!

Deck activities
The many decks
The chemistry lab
Mini-oceans in the hanger