Report 3: It's not BROKE it's working

BANZARE bank
BANZARE bank first sampling station
The first night's sampling from BROKE-West

Steve Nicol, Voyage Leader

The scientific juggernaut that is BROKE-West finally emerged from its slumber and started to gain momentum on Tuesday at the first sampling station on the southwest edge of BANZARE Bank. The bank was unexpectedly awash with icebergs and was shrouded in fog. A heavy swell made progress difficult but at 2000hrs on the 9th of January the ship shuddered to a halt and sampling gear was lowered into the ocean from almost every conceivable angle. The process is coming to resemble a well oiled machine; the main oceanographic sampling instrument (the CTD) is lowered, and then a suite of instruments is deployed from the rear deck as the CTD slowly grinds its way to the ocean floor. Meanwhile a pump is struggling to send water into the helicopter hanger where experiments eventually will be run in large tanks, once they have stopped exploding and Klaus and Karen have come out of trauma counselling. This will be complicated still further in a short while when the big net is wheeled out and begins probing below the water's surface, at which point the hordes of krill enthusiasts will have to rehash their justifications for failing to catch more than a handful of what is reputed to be the most abundant animal on the planet.

Keeping track of where we are and what we are doing is the province of our data domanatrices, Bec and Belinda, whose task is made more difficult by the plethora of numbering systems used by the various scientific groups aboard. Setting the foundation stone of difficulty in place were our oceanographic brethren who insisted on naming the first CTD station Number 2. That in itself would not be an insurmountable problem except that during the planning of this voyage a major regional conflict was avoided by agreeing that certain of the scientific factions could have access to water collected at the even numbered stations and others could have the precious liquid collected on the odd numbered stations. Now, if Station One was indeed really Station Two then where does this leave our water distribution system and the fragile truce that it allowed? This is obviously a problem that can be easily fixed by a number of intercontinental telephone calls and several meetings to which all parties are allowed to bring mediators, however, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Station Two might amicably be redefined as Station One but where does Site One fit in, and what about Event Number Two. Luckily we have a number of mathematically endowed brains aboard who have been spending the last ten days applying complex systems analysis to the problem and just when they were approaching a rather elegant solution Bec stamped her foot and laid down the law – so we do it her way from now on. Now we have pages of rather agreeably described entries, colour coded in attractive shades of pastel, and if we deviate from the master plan we will receive a severe nagging.

If the nomenclature system was a problem that required urgent solution then the acronym jungle was a positive minefield. Instructions from the bridge often suggested pulling in the CPR, opening the CTD door, lowering the FRRF and the ACS and while you are at it how about getting a GPS on the last ARGO before we deploy an XBT. In various corners people are measuring DMS or PCO2, collecting samples from the POOZ or surveying whole CCAMLR areas. Luckily some biologists are natural taxonomists and Stevie Davenport was to be found earnestly wandering the laboratories with a notebook in an attempt to define most of the common acronyms, but surprisingly, some defied translation even by those whose research depended on the offending instrument. At least this time we do not have to struggle to make sense of the voyage acronym as we spend an entire voyage doing that ten years ago and the process left us so exhausted that most of us are content to accept that we are indulging ourselves in Baseline Research on Oceanography, Krill and the Environment (West).