Day 5 Beam me up, Scotty!: Chantelle Cook

By October 2nd, 2017

Image of equipment

This morning was like something out of a sci-fi movie, as we were given a tour of the electrical, engineering and technological side of things on board by Aaron, one of the Seagoing Instrumentation Team (SIT) support officers.

We started in the ops (operations) room, where all the ships data is collected. This room has wall-to-wall computer screens with various graphs, tables, trackers, video and more happening around the clock. Depending on the voyage, data could be collected about biological science, geographical information, surveying, atmospheric chemistry or physics data—yes this ship actually has a gravity meter!

We soon moved around the ship to see where all this data was coming from. The deep towed underwater camera was a sight to behold—400 kilograms of structure and six kilometres of winch cable, controlled by an oversized remote control that sends it to the depths of the seabed, and anywhere in between. Fibre optic cable sends live images to the ops room where scientists use this technology to look at various animal species, natural gas and geographical features of the seabed.

Another machine that gets regular use on board is the Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) tester. This machine is designed to grab water, which is then tested to measure properties, such as fluorescence and oxygen.

The technology went on and on… meteorological tools, anemometer, air intake manifolds for air testing, shore ropes and anchors and navigational stations. Truly incredible scientific tools everywhere you look!

Even after hours, the learning ceases to stop on this ship. Last night, Ben, a science educator/communicator and marine ecologist, gave us a presentation on animal telemetry (animal tagging). We learnt about how acoustic or satellite tagging of elephant seals and other species has enabled scientists to gain important data, including animal migratory paths and behaviours, as well as conditions in isolated parts of the world, where no one has been able to collect before.Image of equipment

On the topic of animals, I want to finish with a quick Monkey Island update from yesterday afternoon. As we travelled over the Tropic of Capricorn, we spotted a couple of new species—one was a new dolphin! We were unable to get a good look at it but from our observations we suspected they were Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin. They had a lighter colour and no yellow colouring, like the common dolphin. Their breaching behaviour was also different with smaller breaches and not much exposure of the animal itself. Elusive little creatures.

We also had a visitor from far-off lands—a golden plover migrating from Siberia. It was heading towards shore at a rate of knots! The golden plover is a land bird and can’t land on water. By the looks of it, he was in a hurry to land, most likely having been in flight for a very long time.

Another new species of bird, the red footed booby also made an appearance. It was a complete David Attenborough moment! The booby swooped in and skyrocketed towards the water to catch some flying fish, but it was not quick enough and the fish dipped below the surface. The booby, not deterred, shot up and circled, watching for his prey. He swooped again and this time snatched the flying fish in his beak. As he took flight, the fish wriggled out of his beak and fell back into the water! The booby determinedly screamed back towards the water and dived under the surface, rising from the water with the fish firmly in his beak. There was no escape for the flying fish this time!