Introduction from James Bendle

I am an Earth Science Lecturer and research group leader at the University of Glasgow, UK. I’ll be keeping a diary about the everyday ups and downs of life onboard whilst trying to conduct research in a floating (and pitching and rolling) chemistry laboratory on IODP expedition 318!

What’s the point of IODP 318? Start by watching the Youtube trailer!  You’ll learn more from me and the other blogging scientists as the cruise progresses.

I am a palaeoclimatologist and organic geochemist. What does that mean in English? It means I am interested in molecules preserved in the ocean sediments. All organisms on Earth (you, me, fish, trees, algae, bacteria, derivatives traders) are made of trillions of organic molecules. Some of these molecules are resistant to decay, so after the producer organism dies (and mostly decays away), these molecules are left behind… preserved in sediments as molecular fossils. We call these biomarkers because they mark (i.e. tell us) which types of organisms were living in the past. But the thing that is really useful about biomarkers is that they also can tell about environmental conditions in past, like sea surface temperatures. Why do we care about temperatures millions of years back in time? We care because we have have to understand how past temperature changes and CO2 levels effected ice on Antarctica and global sea levels. Why do we have to understand this? Because the CO2 and temperature rises predicted for this century have not been experienced for many millions of years.

What are you most looking forward to about the cruise?
Working with an outstanding team of experts from the US, the EU and Japan on the best Scientific research ship in the world to discover new knowledge about the climate history of our planet….oh and the chance of seeing some Blue Whales and the Aurora Australis (the Southern Lights).

What will you miss most when you are away?
My wife, my little boy George, he’s 3 and a half (the half is important) and our new baby Ryan (4 weeks when I flew to NZ).

What are you dreading most about this cruise?
Not getting the core we want due to bad weather, ice conditions or technical problems… and the pile of work that will build up while I’m away.

What was your most exciting experience on past cruises?
Seeing polar bears in the Arctic from the deck of the RRS James Clark Ross in 2008.

What was your worst experience on a cruise?
Getting into a force 11 storm in the North Atlantic on the RRS James Cook , but it was pretty exciting as well.