Text and photos: Inigo Everson, Leg 4 “Chief scientist”

We sympathise with you poor people who got off the ship in Cape Town. You had ample time to change your minds though, because we didn’t finally leave until well after dark, too late for those sunset pictures of Table Mountain. Earlier and ignominiously the helicopters had been offloaded like huge dragonflies whose wings had been pulled off. What a fate for those workhorses that had done so much for the programme.

By the time we actually put to sea it was too late for our essential first meeting, a frightening thought for me, as native English speakers are in a clear minority. My fear was short-lived because our team, drawn from far and wide, ranging in the north from Finland, Europe represented by France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland to farther, or perhaps nearer places like Russia and China (actually Yongbiao is currently working in Norway), met together as a team for the first the following morning for a convivial and workmanlike chat. I, with some experience of leading research ship cruises, said that I had never been happy being labelled ‘Chief Scientist’ but preferred to be simply ‘Scientist in Charge’, a role similar to an orchestral conductor. In a concert you never hear the orchestra going back over a piece ‘to get it right’, if someone makes a mistake they continue to all arrive at the final bar together. The key is in planning, organisation and just plain ‘working together’. That is the way it is on Leg 4, everyone is a ‘chief’ and in the spirit of the good sub-aqua diver we check our buddy as well as our own activities.

The routines of the underway sampling methods had already been honed in the preceding three legs, so even though the ship was new to most of the team, they were able to pick up the thread of their project quickly and seamlessly. Currently all the programmes are working well with only minor hiccups. There have been slight additions, such as the sea-watches for flying fish.  Like a bunch of children we rush out onto the deck to see, not only flying fish, but also flying squid.  Initial plans for a swim on the Equator have been shelved for good safety reasons so I lose my bet with Manon.

True, the food is different to what most of us have at home, but there is plenty of it and there is variety. In the pantry, Uda and Daisha keep things under control with happy smiles as they try to understand what it is that we want; generally smaller portions. Mealtimes are accompanied by a continuous buzz of conversation about work, homelife and the idiosyncracies of a Russian ship, but then aren’t all research ships initially very idiosyncratic?

A couple of days ago I thought I was told that the ‘sounders were available for the scientists’. I asked further questions before I realised that a Russian accent allied to my hearing disability meant that I had heard ‘sounder’ for ‘sauna’. Even more so, the Russian language has made me feel illiterate for many years so far little has changed yet on Leg 4. All the problems that we have raised have been resolved gently, with understanding and most importantly with humour; this is a happy ship.

The bootcamps, so popular on Leg 3, have been continued under the eye of Andrea and now go on alternate days with Yoga, I think Katrianne was instrumental in that development.

Not surprisingly on a venture as complicated as ACE the odd piece of data or a sample have gone astray. Some coolstow specimens collected by Giuseppe on Leg 1 have not been seen since they went to the benthic room fridge. Just as surprising is the tale of the weather balloons which have vanished – did somebody accidently take them ashore in Cape Town, or have they gone to that place in the sky where all good weather balloons go? More on this mystery soon…

So we continue North, air conditioning working harder, aerosol samplers getting hotter (does anyone have a cooling fan to loan to Project 7?) whilst we remain cool.

Bidding farewell to ACE expeditioners who left the ship in Cape Town.
Jen Thomas checking the data are still coming in.
Hugo Berthelot in his own relaxed manner quietly sorts out the data.
Andrea Pierucci working at the water filtration station in the wet lab.
Giuseppe Suaria still looking for some missing samples from Leg 1 holds up an example to jolt the memory of PI.