The mesocosms touch water

The day started really early. At 5am we all met at the dive locker and brought everything we needed to the boats. Ropes, life vests, helmets, food, cable ties, lashing straps, lamps, fuel …. are we forgetting anything? We were all tired but at the same time excited. After 15 days in La Punta waiting for our containers to come out of customs, finally something was happening. Like a little armada we left the small La Punta harbor on our motor boats Rita, Wassermann, C5 and Pischel with direction Isla San Lorenzo. The Peruvian research vessel Humboldt was already anchored waiting for us with five of the nine mesocosms on board. Four of us went on board and the first thing we were asked was if we wanted to have breakfast with them. It was definitely tempting, but we really wanted to get started as soon as possible. We knew that we only had that one day for the deployment and we wanted to win some time for unexpected delays. 

B.I.C. Humboldt waiting for us at 6am in front of Isla San Lorenzo, Callao. Photo: Mar Fernández-Méndez

 Jan Hennke, the head of the KOSMOS technical team started telling us and the Peruvian crew what to do. Moritz and me released the lashing straps and with the help of the crew and two forklifts moved the mesocosms into position on deck. Micha K. climbed on to the mesocosms (about 6-8 m high) like an elegant monkey to prepare the guide rope and hook the crane. You could think he has been doing this his entire life. Jan communicated with the captain of Rita, Sidney, who was ready to approach the vessel to pick up the first mesocosm with Christian and Marvin. Perfect team work, at 7am our first mesocosm was in the water. 

First mesocosm touches the water. Rita´s crew led by Sidney drags it towards the moorings. Foto: Mar Fernández-Méndez

Conditions were smooth: no wind, no waves. Rita dragged the first mesocosm to the mooring field that had been set up the day before and handed it over to the crew on Wasserman. Micha S., Jan T. and Peter with the help of Allanah and Carsten hooked up the first Mesocosms in its position. Ulf and Leila were documenting the smooth sailing from the other small boat, Pischel. We were so efficient that by 10 am we were done setting the first five mesocosms in the water. We asked Diego, the second officer of Humboldt if we could maybe enter the Navy Base earlier to pick up the four other mesocosms and continue as fast as possible. He tried his best, but the traffic in Lima, both on land and on the water, made it impossible. We entered the base at 11:30 as planned. Two mesocosms were already waiting for us at the pier. Sidney and me quickly went to pick up the other two with the forklift truck. It was good that I was there, not because of my technical skills with the forklift, but because of my Spanish. In the few meters that separated the vessel from the missing two mesocosms, we encountered at least 10 people asking us what we wanted and what were we doing there. The Navy base is full of pelicans, war ships and the military. It was a funny contrast: our huge mesocosms transported with a tiny forklift in between all these military ships with men in uniform playing marching songs. They even stopped their music to ask us what these huge things were. I didn´t have time to explain, so I told them: “Mesocosms… follow us on social media!” We won about 20 followers that day.

Michael climbing on the mesocosms to hook the crane. Foto: Mar Fernández-Méndez

Back on the ship with the rest of the mesocosms on board, we were ready to leave. But first lunch. A four-gang menu with the captain, the pilot, the crew, and our IMARPE colleagues Michelle, Jesus and Kevin. Everything got a little delayed, but first things first. By the time we got back to Isla San Lorenzo, the wind had picked up and it took us a while to find a good anchoring position. We started the procedure once more and lowered the sixth mesocosm. Sidney and his crew did a good job dragging the mesocosm against wind and waves. The ropes were in tension and the forces of nature demonstrated their strength once more. BAANGG! One of the ropes snapped. Wassermann came to the rescue and after 20 minutes fight they managed to anchor the mesocosm into its position. Ufff, that was close … should we continue? Will the wind decrease in a couple of hours? Postponing to tomorrow is not an option, but we don´t want to risk any damage.

Technical KOSMOS team led by Jan Hennke, making decisions. Foto: Mar Fernández-Méndez

Jan was waiting for a call from the crew on Rita after they had discussed how to proceed. Finally the call came: “Lower the next mesocosm”. Happy faces on board Humboldt. It took us a few hours to position the last 3 mesocosms fighting with the wind and the waves, but at around 6 pm we were done! Now the team on the water just had to lower the bags and pick us up from Humboldt. According to Jan this should only take half an hour. Easy … However, after one hour waiting for our pick up, we realized that something must have happened. We called Imarpe VI, the boat guarding our mesocosm field and they told us that the small boats were still there working in the dark. When we saw them appear after two hours completely wet and exhausted we were relieved and eager to know what had happened. The bags were so full of air that with the waves it was not so easy to pull them down without the 3mm net at the top breaking. It took them a while, but they are a tough team of experienced KOSMOS people, so of course they managed. It was dark and we were exhausted, but all mesocosms were anchored in place and that made us all sleep very well that night.

Mar and Moritz helping with the deployment of the mesocosms from Humboldt. Photo: Kevin Díaz (IMARPE)