Inside the labs

Usually on research cruises, scientists from different areas come together and join their forces. Each field requires labs with different tools and specific demands to work in.

Talking about labs creates a picture of people in white coats and safety goggles handling dangerous fluids. However, only one of our labs is a real chemical lab.

Lennart, our chemist is responsible for oxygen measurements and except for the white coat, his workplace mostly fulfills this classic picture of a lab. It has glass bottles and buckets with different liquids, boxes with rubber gloves and two freezers to cool the samples.

Lennart taking oxygen samples.
Photo: Christiane Lösel

Lennart is the one with the most inconvenient working hours in our team. He has to take water samples of every CTD cast, which can take place several times spread through the whole night. He is also always the first to take samples. The reason for that is, that the amount of oxygen in the water samples can change the longer they wait in the bottles and the warmer the water gets.

Afterwards he goes to his lab, taking of his stylish rubber boots and has to wait for half an hour before he can start to measure the probes. Sitting there on his own can be a bit lonely, so sometimes he listens to some music and misses the bridges‘ announcement of wales being sighted.

Lennart working in his lab.
Photo: Christiane Lösel

Next, we will sneak a peek into Wiebke and Pauls lab, the cat lab. It‘s named after the MicroCAT a device to measure temperature, salinity and depth. In the last blog post we talked a lot about moorings, fixed measuring devices attached to an anchor on a long rope. MicroCATs are one of these devices and dominate the interior design of Wiebke and Pauls lab.

The MicroCAT enclosure.
Photo: Christiane Lösel

In contrast to the clean chemical lab you can find a lot of screwdrivers and other tools lying around, which are needed to fix the MicroCATs and to renew the batteries. In addition, there are a hand full of computers and laptops for programming and handling the new gained data.

There can be three up to fifteen MicroCATs on one mooring, depending on its length. To keep track on which device is already cleaned, programmed or still downloading the data, there is a huge complicated looking plan on the wall.

Paul working on the plan and Wiebke downloading data.
Photo: Christiane Lösel


We will leave Wiebke and Paul to their CATs and change rooms to the next lab on the other side of the hallway.

This is where we find the ‘‘Deckslabor‘‘, the other technical lab. René, Christian and Hannah are working here, mostly preparing the moorings, doing logistics and fixing broken instruments.

Broken oxygen logger and view into the Deck lab
Photo: Christiane Lösel

Toolboxes, screws, cable ties and different measuring instruments can be found inside this lab. You can find here the releasers for example, that connect the mooring to the anchor.  Another example are Aquadopps, which Hannah is taking care of. Those are the second most used measuring instruments attached to the moorings we are working with. They are measuring currents via acoustic waves and just like the MicroCATs their measured data must be processed and they must be prepared to be dropped in the sea for two years again.

Hannah repairing an Aquadopp
Photo: Christiane Lösel

The CTD lab is the most frequented lab on the ship. There are a lot of computers and monitors and it is the secret headquarters of the scientific crew. Nils, Daniel, Conny, Patrizia, Tina und Christiane are responsible for the CTD: its preparation, operation, and taking of water samples.

CTD watch operating the CTD rosette
Photo: Christiane Lösel and Patricia Handmann

With a water depth of up to 3500 m it can take around two hours for the CTD to go down to the seafloor and come up again. During this time there has to be at least one person sitting in front of the monitor and observing if everything is going well. In pairs of two people, they work in 4 hours shifts through the whole night. Luckily, other crewmembers with some spare time tend to visit and keep the CTD watch some company. In the night shifts, on the other hand it can be demanding to stay awake and concentrated.

Last but not least we will go downstairs to the only lab without any windows: the salinometer room. On first sight, it can be a bit confusing to see Nils sitting there between some beer cases. Those beer bottles are used to capture the water samples of the CTD and proved to be really convenient in the past. Afterwards all those beer bottles eventually end up in front of Nils and his job is to measure the salinity of those samples.

Nils working in the salinometer room
Photo: Patricia Handmann

His working hours can be long and hard especially if there is heavy swell. With no windows to look at the horizon and a sample to stare at for a long time he might have been effected pretty bad with sea sickness. Luckily we had a calm sea for most of our travel. The only thing distracting him must have been the often frequented table tennis table and the football table right in front of his lab.

Beer bottles and view of the table football from the salinometer room
Photo: Christiane Lösel

I hope you could get a better picture of our work and working places through this blog article.

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