By Gerd Schriever
Today it is my turn to write something about our cruise SO 242 leg 1 – DISCOL – Revisited. My name is Gerd Schriever and I am the “veteran” mentioned in an earlier blog entry. “Veteran” means that I am probably not just the oldest person but also the only one on board of this ship who participated in all four previous cruises from 1989 to 1996 and took part in the development of the disturbance experiment, commenced after a baseline study of the area from January to the end of March 1989. DISCOL is the abbreviation of the project name “DISturbance and re-COLonization Experiment in a Manganese Nodule Area of the South East Pacific Ocean”. I think I will have more time to write about the project in later blog entries – but in case you have questions already now, please let me know (by posting a comment).
We arrived in our working area Thursday morning – the DEA (DISCOL Experimental Area) at about 88°28’W and 7°04’S. We had two days’ time to get used to the ship, to unpack the containers, to arrange the laboratories and the equipment and to learn the names of our colleagues from Bremen, Oldenburg, Portugal, The Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain, Belgium and the crew members we have to work and live with for the next four weeks.
Standing on the main deck of this new large research vessel SONNE, 116 metres long and 20.5 metres wide, and looking around on the Pacific Ocean, nothing seems to have changed. Some more clouds in the sky, the air temperature is about 21 to 24 degrees Celsius during daytime and the blue water has a temperature of 24 degrees and invites for a swim – but this will not be possible.
Our research platform has changed. Compared to the old RV SONNE, the number and space of the laboratories has increased as well as the space on the working deck. At the moment, the ship is “fully booked” what means, in addition to 31 crew members a scientific party of 40 people are on board. Except for a few of us, everybody stays in single cabins, equipped with bed, TV, refrigerator and a separate shower and toilet room.
Sitting in my cabin after the departure from Guayaquil, I immediately realized a big difference to the old SONNE: The noise level on this ship is extremely low. You almost do not realize that the ship is moving. You do not hear the engines and you do not hear the winches lowering or hoisting the scientific equipment to or from the sea. On each cabin deck a laundry room with washing machine and dryer is provided. The large mess room where excellent food is served and the lounge with comfortable chairs and both with big panorama windows are impressive. In these areas you are reminded that the new SONNE was built on a German ship yard known for its first class cruise ships.
But coming down to the main deck you immediately realize that the new SONNE is a scientific working ship. All laboratories are now equipped with computers and the monitors for the different information systems. Special rooms with monitors provide information from the scientific equipment at sea directly into the laboratories. Communication between the ships’ crew on deck, in the engine rooms or on the bridge from nearly every point of the ship is easy.
Our work just has started. The ships hydro-acoustic mapping system and the AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) have provided first new maps about the sea floor topography and presented just a first impression about the disturbance we have created 26 years ago. The final data are still under processing and will be available within a few hours from now. Meanwhile the sampling program with different equipment like baited traps, lander systems, box corer and multiple corer will go on during daytime and night every day of the week. We will report more about our work, the program and first results during the upcoming weeks.