Last day on the ship

Day eleven 

Our last full day on the ship.

The day starts with a team breakfast at 7:30am, then the day is ours. Up on the bridge at 12pm there is the daily 'toolbox' meeting attended by crew and our voyage leader, Joe. It's essentially a planning meeting for the 'demob' tomorrow (that's demobilisation - or our arrival in Wellington and the removal of all our gear). It identifies potential hazards for crew and lays out the plan for the following 24 hours. Tomorrow will be busy. Science staff and crew will be unloading gear, there is a large shipping container which has doubled as an office (as well as additional storage space) that needs to be winched off the ship (and this is a crew task) plus a new 'swing' (crew) starts at 10am.  We have a good plan in place to manage all of this. 'Demob' will take most of the day. There will also be some testing of the ACDP instrumentation (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler – used to work out how fast water is moving across a water column) tonight during our journey back to Wellington. Around 1pm we head past Stephens Island, which I'm told by a crew member, is managed by DOC (Department of Conservation). Stephens Island lies at the northernmost tip of the Marlborough Sounds and is known as a sanctuary for tuatara these days. Marine mammals such as dolphins and fur seals can be regularly spotted around it’s shores. Stephens Island is also known as Takapourewa by Maori and is approximately 1.5 square kilometres in size.

Demob in action back in Wellington.

Joe and I have a chat about the work that has been undertaken with the CTD sampling for oxygen and salinity. This data will be downloaded and checked for quality by Matt (another marine physics technician). From the salinity information we can further develop our understanding of water density and subsequently, water flows in this part of New Zealand. In order to build a profile transects are carried out, these are measurements taken from one point to another and enable figures that are similar.

This voyage has given me insight into how research is carried out into ocean processes. On the technical side I've learned about the instrumentation that is used to take measurements. I've had a baptism by fire lesson on how these measurements are practically carried out. CTD sampling involves repetitive samples that are taken at regular intervals (or 'CTD stations'). At first this seems monotonous, but it's actually important for building a profile of how density varies below the surface of the ocean in this part of the country. We're a coastal country and from a teaching perspective, I think it's important for students to have an understanding of how the ocean works and the processes that lie beneath it.

Before this trip is finished I have already started to write a teaching unit that introduces students to processes that are key to understanding how the ocean works. There's a strong working relationship between science staff and the technicians on the voyage and that enables the science to 'get done'. There's a focus on ensuring that data is accurate and there's a lot of sharing of information between science staff to ensure that this happens.

The purpose of the voyage for me was to understand how science is carried out at sea and learn how that work contributes to our understanding of water flows in the West Coast region of New Zealand. I’ve certainly achieved this. It’s been great to see the collaboration between science staff and crew in order to achieve this. Learning to work together to achieve a collective goal as well as my journey down South will be a focus for sharing with my students back at school. However, immediately, priority number one for my return home, will be adjusting my sleep pattern back to ‘normal’