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BLOG: Excitement builds as the science begins

The first CTD of the cruise is lowered into the sea
The first CTD of the cruise is lowered into the sea

Dr Kristin Burmeister is an oceanographer on the scientific cruise DY120, headed for the North Atlantic to undertake crucial data monitoring and retrieval work. But this cruise on board the RRS Discovery is very different to every other that has gone before, because of COVID-19. DY120 is only the second scientific cruise to leave the UK since lockdown in March and only half the original science team have been allowed on board. In the second of a series of blogs recording this unique experience, Dr Burmeister shares her excitement at seeing the first scientific instruments go in the water.


Do you know the mix of excitement and nervousness when you have something new and you cannot wait to use it? Will it work as you imagined?

Well, that is exactly how I felt this morning during our first CTD test station, running around the ship like a small kid with a new toy, waiting for the moment the CTD is finally lowered into the water off the coast of Lizard Point, Falmouth.

It is Friday, 9th October and everyone is happy. We finally can test all instruments attached to the CTD frame: measuring temperature, salinity, pressure, oxygen and pH and carbon. It is the first time for all of us that we are using pH and carbon sensors during CTD casts. I am in charge, checking these data and making sure that the instruments behave well. Luckily, I am not alone. Billy and Olliver, two NMF technicians are in charge of programing and deploying the sensors. And Clare, who stayed at SAMS in Oban, is supporting me with the interpretation of the data. We need to check, that the new measurements are plausible and find the best measuring set up for the instruments.

It is a great feeling when the data of all instruments are finally popping up at the screen of the CTD, including pH and carbon. When we get home we will analyse captured water samples for carbon parameter to compare to the new sensors.

We set sail yesterday afternoon, 8th October, at about three o’clock. We stayed longer in the harbour then expected, due to COVID-test analysis which took longer than anticipated and some technical issues with the engine of the ship that finally could be fixed. This gave us a bit extra time to set up everything onboard and to get familiar with the software to process the data. All that is one part of the mobilisation of a cruise. You may now wonder what even is the mobilisation of a research ship? Saz, one of my colleagues onboard, wrote about it here:

The CTD is back onboard, water samples are taken to calibrate the instruments and we are heading toward to our first mooring turnover at EB1 on the Rockall Bank. And we are not the only one on the way to EB1. At the end of September, we launched a sea glider from SAMS near the Isle of Tiree. It is programmed to head for EB1 as well, logging data like salinity, temperature and depth in a sawtooth-like profile across the Atlantic. The race is on, who will arrive at the station EB1 first, the RRS Discovery or the wee seaglider?

Follow the race on twitter (