Day 3: Putting plans into action

The day started with the meeting of Captain, Principal Scientist (PSO) and all the key people, with everyone listening, in which, the PSO gave a briefing about the operations of the day.

Plan A!

Tim explains the Ocean Bottom Seismometer (OBS) instruments

The Ocean Bottom Instrument team carried out dip tests. This happened at 1530 hours – the first science operation of the cruise. The purpose of dip test was to check if the transponders on the OBSs, when in water, are communicating to the system pings from the ship.

The transponders going into water

Marine mammal observation was also carried out during the dip tests – we have to ensure that the area is clear in case our work causes any disturbance to these animals. There were no mammals observed in the region for two hours, hence, good to start multibeam bathymetry recording. This is a technique that uses sound waves to map out the 3D topography of the seafloor.

Watchkeeping has commenced!

After the dip tests and marine mammal observation, we started recording bathymetry while heading towards the site. We expect to reach the location c. 2000 hours and perform few more tests before starting deployment of OBSs at the midnight.
See you tomorrow for more updates!

Day 2: In transit…

Day two of the cruise: RRS James Cook is traversing along the coast of the UK to reach our study site. We expect to reach the site by tomorrow afternoon and begin the operations. The weather is perfect – a glorious sunny evening!

Cruise activities are steadily gaining momentum…
The determined OBIC team has set up all 25 OBSs  (ocean bottom seismometers) ready for deployment. This morning, they tested the beacons that will be fixed on top of the OBSs and prepared their charts for deployment – they look all set! The OBSs will sit on the seabed to detect and record the artificial seismic signals generated by our equipment. The acoustic (seismic) signals will pass through the sub-seafloor geology, bounce off the different rock layers and back up to the seafloor, where they will be detected by the OBS. The data will reveal information about the subsurface geological structures.

More OBSs than yesterday…

Andy holding one of the beacons that are fixed to the OBS

The Airgun engineers were also in action this morning, performing tests on the airguns by triggering virtual firing. The airguns provide the acoustic (sound) source for our seismic experiments by releasing a high-pressure blast of air – effectively an underwater ‘bang’. In times (long) past, this was done by lobbing dynamite off the ship!

Back deck fully occupied by the airgun engineers…

The Principal Scientist called a meeting at 1400 hours, during which Mark explained the data that appear on different screens of the swath system in the lab – there are so many screens for the watchkeepers to look at whilst on duty! It’s important that we monitor the progress of the experiments as they happen so we can watch out for problems with the instruments.

16 screens. Seriously…

Following the talk, Jon and Tim briefed about the watchkeeping rules for logging information and how to fill Mammal observing documents – Guys, the jobs are attention-demanding!
The PSO took the science party to the bridge from where the mammal observation is to be done – this is an important job during cruises like this one as there is a risk that seismic experiments could affect marine mammals, so we keep an eye out for what might be in the area. The view is awesome from the top of the ship!

Bird’s eye view from the top of the ship

End of day two. It’s time to socialise a bit before everyone gets busy tomorrow. See you then! Good night.

Day 1: Setting sail

RRS James Cook leaves the dock outside NOC, heading for the study area in the North Sea

RRS James Cook set sail at around 1100 hours today from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton through the English Channel on its next scientific expedition in the North Sea. The weather looks fantastic (so far!), so a perfect beginning. This expedition is a part of the project STEMM-CCS with an aim to acquire high-quality seismic data over chimney structures in the North Sea, about 200 km east of Aberdeen.

Day 1 of the cruise started with an introduction talk from the Principle Scientist (PSO) Prof. Jon Bull, explaining briefly the aim and the plan of action to the super excited scientific crew on board.

Briefing the science team

The ship looks all ready for the scientific operations with every bit set and secured.
The crew is already in business – preparing for their roles in the coming days.

Equipment poised and ready for action

Team poised and ready for action!

Gaye fixing connections, whilst managing to smile for the camera at the same time

The OBIC team are working hard to set up the OBSs before we reach the site…

…and here they are: OBSs lined up and ready for deployment

As part of safety on board, we had the safety drill at 1600 hours – Muster meeting and life boat drill. The safety officer briefed us on the procedure in the event of accident on ship.

Safety briefing includes practising putting on a life jacket

At the end it was a pleasant day one with none of the crew falling seasick…See you tomorrow with more updates!