Category Archives: Indian Ocean

Malaspina expedition: Deep sea -omics

S 29° 33 15″ E 72° 26’ 25″ – The sun returned to the Hespérides Saturday. Scientists sprawled on the flight deck after lunch, indulging in short siestas or playing a little foosball in the hangar. Just before 3pm, an alarm clock rang and one of the researchers sprang up to check on a filter running downstairs in the laboratory. The microbes were waiting.

Now that the seas are calmer, the researchers onboard have their hands full again with sampling and filtering and storing data. In the sunless laboratory below decks Encarna Borrull Francesch, a graduate student at the CSIC’s Institute for Marine Sciences in Barcelona, plugs in a device that looks like a cross between a solar panel and a small stool. The disk is a filter, she explains, which she can tune depending on what she wants to extract from the water. Today, it is viruses.

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Malaspina expedition: Catching our breath

S 30° 03’ 13″ E 61° 28’ 50″ – On Sunday the researchers aboard the Hespérides woke to frothing waves rushing past their portholes. The ship had rocked and rolled through the night, but it had not stopped for its normal pre-dawn observations because the sea was too rough. Sunday would be the first of four days when the scientific staff took a forced partial break.

It is too risky to lower the sampling rosetta or other bottles and nets when at one moment the guardrail appears to tower over the foaming breakers below and at the next the cerulean water rushes onto the deck. A sudden pitch has been known to snap cables holding sampling instruments or to send a careless journalist sprawling on a gritty deck. Continue reading Malaspina expedition: Catching our breath

Malaspina expedition: Life on the inside

This is day 4 of an enforced wait aboard the Hésperides. The ship ran into a windstorm south of Madagascar over the weekend. We experienced it as more pitching, which sent some folks to their bunks to recuperate from seasickness and sent at least one scientist’s breakfast back into his bowl in the dining room. It also confined the scientists to less of the ship. The top photo shows a handful of them waiting around at the service door. They’re not allowed on deck without a Navy escort during high seas so I’ve decided to show a few photos of windows and portholes, which are the way most of the scientists see the ocean most of the time.

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Malaspina expedition: Data deluge

S 32° 27’ 41″ E 50° 55’ 53″ – It’s pushing midnight in the computer room and the zooplankton team, some of them awake since the 4:30am Neuston net tow, are starting to get cranky.

barcodeFederico Maldonado Uribe, a marine physiology graduate student at the University of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria, curses the programmer who wrote their awkward data entry system. The sleep-deprived researchers sway from side to side as their floating laboratory bobs up and down on 3-metre waves.

His colleague Ángel Lamas clicks on yet another drop-down menu on the screen in front of him. Maldonado reads him a figure. Lamas taps the keyboard a couple of times. All told, they will label around 100 samples today, which is just one of 28 planned sampling days on this leg of the cruise. They may spend more than 120 hours between them on this leg clicking drop-down menus and repeating numbers in a late-night monotone drone. Continue reading Malaspina expedition: Data deluge