And So to Sea


Departing Tromso, Norway. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The last of our shore-side team left ship late yesterday evening around 11:00p.m. Tromso time. This included Jeff Seewald from WHOI, who had flown out specifically to help set up our vent-fluid geochemistry laboratory and to make sure his special “Seewald samplers” are functioning properly and will work as expected with our NUI robot when the time comes, a few weeks from now. He will be on his way back to the U.S. by the time you read this.

This morning we woke to clear blue skies and bright autumnal sunshine. After 5 visits to Tromso since 2010, I finally got to see what the skyline looks like, and it is tremendous. After breakfast it was time to tie down our equipment and make sure everything is secure before we set sail. Then, at 9:30 and to the relief of many on board, an announcement came over the ship’s loudspeaker: “Would anybody expecting luggage please collect it now from the terminal gate.” Twenty-five greatly relieved scientists rushed out to retrieve their missing bags and carried them back ashore, where an equally relieved remainder of the science party gave silent thanks that we wouldn’t have to share our own clothes with our cabin mates for the duration of the trip.

Soon it was time to raise the gangplank, cast off the lines holding us fast against the dock and put out to sea. To be honest, we actually sailed north through fjords to start with for a few hours, but by early afternoon we emerged along the North Coast of Norway and were into open water.

The sun is still shining and there is a brisk breeze, but the waves are not too heavy. Everyone is glad to be underway. There is still much for us to do—mainly setting up laboratories and preparing equipment—but at least we now feel like we have begun.

To end the afternoon, our Chief Scientist Antje Boetius called us all together for the first of what will be daily science briefings, during which she updated us on the plans for the next few days. In a nutshell, we will be heading pretty much due north for the next 2-3 days, still in open water, and should be passing close by the east coast of Spitsbergen by Monday, when we will begin testing some of our deep-ocean exploration equipment for the first time. I’m going to be looking forward to that!