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Life at the ship: Our first week

Posted on 04-10-2017 by Lisette Mekkes

Life at the ship: Our first week

After a short delay due to some last-minute repairs to the ship, we were able to set sail on Friday morning. We were very excited, so we quickly found our way through the maze of hallways on the ship to get onto the front deck. Here we had a great view over the British coast, with its beautiful white cliffs and beaches. We saw some dolphins leaping from the water and many birds flying around the ship (which makes Lisette very happy). 


We soon lost sight of the coast and were greeted with vast views of large swells and white foaming waves. It almost felt surreal to finally be at sea, as we have worked towards this moment for months. We prepared ourselves for such a long time already to ensure that we would have all materials ready when boarding the ship. Forgetting something could significantly affect our research. So, in the end, we packed 40 boxes with scientific equipment, from small brushes, electrical tape and disposable lab coats. Despite all our efforts, we already come across some stuff we didn’t bring. Fortunately, we are surrounded by 23 other scientists working on this ship, we can help each other out.

During the first two days, we had to adjust to our new lives which we’ll be living for the upcoming 7 weeks. Strong swells made the ship move forward, backwards, sideward.. Combined with a fully enclosed laboratory where we work behind our microscopes, it was the ideal recipe to become a bit sea sick. Fortunately, the motion of the ship starts to become normal and we developed our sea legs already! 


As zooplankton species are generally vertical migrators, we only try to catch them during pre-dawn hours when they are close to the surface. Our schedules are therefore completely adapted to it, so we start at midnight and work until late morning or early afternoon till all the plankton is sorted and preserved. We have released our first nets now, and every time we are so thrilled!  When the catch comes in, we quickly put a sample of plankton into our petridishes, climb behind our microscopes, turn our Plankton Disco playlist on, and start sorting. Every few seconds you will hear one of us yell from behind our microscopes ‘Wow!’ or ‘Look at this!’ or ‘No way! Can’t believe we found this!’. Thus far we have found the most colorful jellyfish, the most bizarre looking alien-like amphipods, baby fish with huge eyes, and so much more. But the most excited we get when we see pteropods and heteropods of course. The more, the better!

We just arrived at the Azores where we top up fuel of the ship so we can go straight to the Falkland Islands without any more stops. From here, we are heading to the subtropical and tropical regions where we expect to find more pteropod and heteropod species. We will start our experiments by then, we cannot wait for it!

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