Our lives are now slipping into routines. The scientists have their routines, the meteorologists and subsea teams have theirs, and so on. For John and myself, it seems to be mostly one meeting after another. For everybody, although they are enjoying the voyage, their days are so packed that by 22.00 they are utterly exhausted and ready for their bunks. Covid, of course, remains an abiding concern; we all wear masks, we keep our distances from each other as best we are able and the first thing we all do when we get up in the morning is to conduct a lateral flow test and report the results on a tick-sheet as we go into breakfast at 07.30.
We are now starting to pay close attention to what is happening within the Weddell Sea pack. Today we had our first ice-strategy meeting. Chaired by expedition Chief Scientist, Lasse Rabenstein, from the German ice monitoring company Drift & Noise, we will be holding these sessions every day at 09.30 in the ship’s auditorium. Also at these gatherings will be the Chief Meteorologist, Marc de Vos, who will be reporting on the weather ahead as well as that over our destination. Today they presented the latest MODIS ice-data of the search area and its surrounds (courtesy of NASA), as well as TerraSAT-X radar satellite imagery (courtesy of the German Aerospace Centre DLR) and optical imagery from Sentinel-3 (courtesy of the European Space Agency). What they show is that the ice is currently being driven south by the wind, but that will change and the whole gyre will resume its northerly trend. At present ice conditions are good. From the ice edge to the search area it is 125 nautical miles, of which the last 20-25 is old, gnarled multi-year ice that will be challenging. But of course, we still have a week to go and in that time the pack could further open or, just as easily, it might consolidate.
The weather this morning was perfect; the sea was calm and we were bowling along at 17-18 knots under unimpeachable skies. But now a storm is brewing; the isobars are crowding, the barometer is plunging and we are promised a rough night. We practise what is called ‘storm routing’. These days weather forecasting is so precise that it is not often a ship has to go through the centre of a major gale system. You see them building several days ahead so vessels can usually avoid their most venomous parts. In our case, we have throttled back a bit and have altered course to the west so that we will come around behind it and thus only have to cross its tail. Seasickness pills please nurse.
Mensun Bound (Director of Exploration)