I have received quite a few inquires regarding what the JR is actually doing right now.
There are no scientists on board and we are tied up at a dock in Cape Town, South Africa. Don’t let the lack of scientific expedition fool you into thinking there’s not much going on right now, quite the opposite!
Only a small crew of technicians (including myself), engineering SIEM crew, and of course our catering staff are on board. The smaller number of personnel on board is really noticed during our boat safety drills, which are different of course since we are not actually at sea. Instead of mustering at our lifeboat stations we simply walk down the gangway and gather on the dock.
A tie up period like this gives all crews the opportunity to attend to maintenance needs and other tasks otherwise impossible to do during expeditions. As technicians, besides cross training in other labs we can spend time on projects aimed at making life a little bit better for the next scientists. The chemistry lab just got a mini facelift when we installed new lights, taking care with plastic sheeting to protect the instruments. Even more exciting is the brand new auto-sampler our chemistry technician set up to use with the Cary Spectrophotometer (CS).
The CS can be used to determine how much ammonium is present in the pore water of sediment (this pore water is extracted by squeezing the sediment in hydraulic presses). Ammonium concentrations clue the scientists in on how much diagenesis (the process that turns organic matter and sediments into harder lithified rocks) has taken place. Until now, a scientist on board, or your friendly neighborhood marine technician, would have to painstakingly aspirate each sample one by one into the CS. With the new autosampler over 120 samples can now be drawn into the instrument which means more science can happen! It’s a win-win.
Upstairs the core deck is where normally thousands of meters of core would be passing through and getting meticulously looked over by scientists has morphed into more of a workshop. Our rock saws, used to cut anything from thin-section billets to paleo-mag cubes have been refurbished and are certainly looking their best while they eagerly await for samples to cut.
Instead of retrieving our nearly 10 meter long cores on the catwalk technicians have been using this outdoor space, with a lovely view of Cape Town I might add, to refinish everything from lab countertops to those handy rolling carts the scientists see us moving heavy core boxes around with.
Another project that could be done only during tie up is fixing a few areas on the floor of the galley. This was terrible news as the catering staff forced us to enjoy an outdoor barbecue, or what they call here in South Africa a braai, while the floors got repaired inside.
The JR will go off on her next mission on July 4th. I am around through May so if anyone has any questions about what else is happening during tie up just contact us!
It’s a shame we have to endure the harsh sight of land everyday while we are at the dock!