8 January 2004

We receive very little real news except brief daily "news" updates that seem to mostly come straight from the gossip columns of newspapers.

We've heard about the success of different movies around, jealous of course that the Lord of the Rings #3 is now screening and that we're likely to miss it on the big screen. And how is the latest Potter movie? We have had very unpleasant seas over the last 48 hours. Rather than try to sleep, I watched Lord of the Rings #1 and #2 in a single sitting. Seemed to make much more sense; now hanging out for the third. After that, sleep was easy despite the rolls.

I don't wish to be boring but, as I've said before, the sea does dominate one's existence. This period of swells from the east, from the west and from the north, all at the same time, have made the 'octopus' carnival ride seem smooth. The portholes in the restaurant have become a row of front-end washing machines. We have been contrasting discomfort stories with the island in a recent radio 'sched'. They don't have much space for protection from the weather and the rain, the wind is continual, and no showers. We have our bobbing, not much space for long walks (though round and round the heli-deck will suffice) and showers aren't that simple either. It was only yesterday that I braced my feet against each side of the shower floor so that I could move with the swinging stream of water, watching the water then miss the drain altogether, continually heaving into the rest of the bathroom and draining out the other plug hole, only to surface again through the shower plug. You have to laugh! I'm having a great time at sea.

I did forget to mention an extraordinarily piece of good fortune during our CTD photography. If you recall an earlier report of photographing a fish in three thousand metres depth at the end of a CTD drop. Well our guys, Tony and Kelvin, who operate and maintain the CTD camera found one helluva surprise in recently developing their latest film. Somewhere in the dim dark depths, but not on the bottom, the flash had gone off (about 1000 m Kelvin tells us) and a squid (Dick thinks it to be a Moroteuthis species), had grabbed the lanyard and taken the most stunning self portrait. Absolute magic! Now, what are the chances of that happening?

Apart from one missed session of sampling with a fine mesh net, we completed the macaroni box before the worst of the weather breaking it off. It was very successful. Because of the weather and taking advantage of available time, we did a lot more acoustic work than we planned and our understanding of that area and the predator/prey interaction is now vastly improved. We are now completing our acoustic sampling of the fur seal foraging area. As with the macaronis, there are new areas popping up as we go (the fur seals are being tracked very well and Sascha's groundbreaking plotting software now keeps us up to date on where they are and also where they are spending most time diving). The windy weather is expected to continue for at least a couple more days. We will probably use this time to do more acoustic work to help fill in the distribution of fish and zooplankton in other areas of the shallow plateau.

The fur seal intensive study area is very different from the macaroni intensive study area in that it is much shallower (about 300 m depth compared with 600-1000 m depth), the acoustic marks suggest that fish and krill are in much greater abundance here with the dense patches scattered here and there.

Scott, our captain, posed the question among the swells "if you want to work on the Southern Ocean, why work in the subantarctic when you could be right down south, among the ice, icebergs, auroras, wonderful sunsets and relatively calm seas?" With bleary eyes from lack of sleep and a dulled brain from a lack of equilibrium, that is a very good question. But it's hard to grow tired of watching the ocean. The bridge is the best place to be in this sort of weather, watching the birds, the peaks and troughs, the whisps of water blown from one wave to the next. And, also, the barometer (measuring the atmospheric pressure), hoping it will flatten out (meaning the winds might abate). In the quiet times, we review the data, the photographs (and some of them are rippers) and try to sleep.

Spare a thought for our galley staff; it has been really hard on them trying to keep our meals coming while being tossed around.

Here's hoping the clinometer (tells us the lean of the ship) does not pass 20 degrees too many more times. It's not that rough really.