Today we arrived to the middle of the North Sea. We woke up to some some lousy weather; cold, rain and windy. Today feels more like winter in stark contrast to yesterday where we had a summerday. It‘s incredible how the weather can change so fast out here, but I guess we are right in the heart of the ¨North¨ Sea.
Another great day, made even better by sunny weather that reminded us that it’s actually summertime. It was honestly a gift that we all thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed. But the horizon looked a bit different today and we weren’t able to get the full impact of its immense beauty because a huge oil platform was never out of our sight, an unfortunate reminder of all the damage they do to the seabed. A shame.
Today we arrived at Devil’s Hole, here there are several muddy trenches and our plan for the day was to look for sea pens using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The weather was on our side, the sea was calm and the currents were weak, perfect for the ROV! In fact, we managed to complete four ROV dives!
We took advantage of a still-calm sea and filled the air tanks in the inflatables with twice the amount of air and packed some sandwiches with a plan to perform two dives on the coast while the Neptune is out working with the ROV and taking care of some other loose ends.
Today’s diary comes to you from a guest on board the Neptune, from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) - an organisation which advises the UK government on conservation matters. Oceana are hosting two members of staff from JNCC on the first leg of the North Sea survey and hopefully the information collected in the waters off Scotland will help ourselves, Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland add to the picture of what the seabed habitat looks like in these areas. In return, we are getting stuck in to lend a hand with grab sampling and assisting wherever we can.
Today is more than just the first day of July; I began working at Oceana four years ago, on a day just like today. It’s also the first International Polychaete Day, but we’ll leave that for another entry…
Today was a great day. The weather got steadily better and the waves dropped to nearly calm. We started taking grabs off the Moray Firth coast, finding everything from worms to sea squirts. Deeper grabs produced brittlestars with enormous long arms twisting round in the dishes as photos were taken. The best find of the day was a tiny hermit crab from over 100m depth. We’re not sure which species it is, so we’ll let him be looked at by experts after the survey has finished.
Back on board the Neptune to launch our second research campaign in the waters of the North Sea. There’s rough weather today, so the work we do on board is completely different: material checks, operations tests, meetings and “office work” take up most of our day. However, today I would like to talk about something that has made it possible for us to be here right now doing research in this sea: what goes in to preparing the campaign, not only at a purely scientific level but in terms of administration.
We have a very special contraption sailing on board the Neptune. Helena (marine mcientist and expert in morning briefings) has named it the Grabator. It is something like a rustic washing machine that cleans the seabed samples that we take with the grab. Grabator basically consists of a bucket with a set of sieves, a pipe to remove the sand and another one to drain the water. We’ve used it a few times and both times it’s managed to get everyone’s attention.
After more than two days loading and preparing the vessel here in Edinburgh’s Leith port, the Neptune’s engines started roaring at 11pm. It was just after midnight when the lock gates opened and we headed out to the North Sea. Yay, we’ve finally set sail!