Thursday, 19 May 2011

Back in the Minch

Hello all,

Typically, as we have had 2 days off, I have managed to fill my time so successfully that I have neglected my blog. This has essentially been a weekend for me, as I woke up wednesday morning and turned up for my 4am shift to find the ship rolling all over the place and none of the night shift in the main lab where they should be. I finally found them all in the bar: they had been there since 11pm when the captain had made the decision to run for cover and we were heading full speed through increasing seas, the 9 hour run to Lewis and the shelter of the bay just off Stornoway. It was very surreal to be sitting in the bar and drinking tea and eating yoghurt for breakfast while people were finishing up their bloody marys and beer cans. And with that the day was given over to rest: no obligations to be on call. Inevitably this meant I was more than able to fill it with books and films and playing trivial pursuit.

We were banned from the deck as the waves were sloshing all over it, so I took a couple of pictures from my porthole to evidence the ride. It really wasn't bad, although I did have to wedge myself diagonally in the shower cubicle for some stability and I did go into the galley to find the contents of the tea and coffee fridge and icecream freezer all over the floor, minus that it was pretty easy to deal with.

We then found ourselves in Loch a' Tuath (as my map reliably informs me) just off the coast of Lewis at Stornoway. The wind was still whistling through but the ship was steady as a rock, which was quite a change. So today, I slept in til 6am, finished a series of the wire and then decided to take in a little air which fair lept through my nostrils when I got out on deck, but it was wonderful to clear out the cobwebs and had a great view of Lewis with the hills of Harris just visible in the distance. There was also a brief sighting of a dolphin during the day but by the time I'd got my camera and wipped out on deck I saw it pop up only once before it was gone, so no pictures this time.

After a day of concentrated rest yesterday, I also felt more productive today so I dug out the hard drive and found some videos to work up from the Polygonal Faults where we will be heading for a repeat visit after the Darwin Mounds. That is now all set up to get stuck into during my down time on shift again (provided the weather is conducive to watching the camera bob around under water!).

Our PSO (Principle Science Officer) was also feeling productive and yesterday called around some agencies to see if they wanted any survey work done in the Minch as we were sheltering here. So so far we have also acousticly surveyed the area of coast just south of Stornoway where apparently there is a borehole that BGS (British Geological Survey) would like a better map of, tonight we are multibeaming an area of reef in the middle of the Minch for SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) and tomorrow we may even do a ROV dive there for them too- all just because we're here, bored, and have all this paid for equipment sitting around. Good work methinks.

While yesterday the rumour mill was saying we may be in the minh until Saturday, perhaps even Monday before we can return to the Darwin Mounds, today it was a different story. When I did my second check in mid morning today, I was told that we were off to the Mounds after lunch to catch a weather window for a bit more work, we'd then sit out the next rough patch before the next weather window as there appeared to be missed opportunities to get stuff done between the bad bits. However by lunchtime priorities changed, the weather window narrowed and we decided to go to ullapool and pick up a spare part ordered yesterday and amazingly arriving a day early today, meaning that we would hang around the Minch until late afternoon tomorrow, before heading back out to the Mounds in the evening, bumping through the rough for 9hrs to make the next weather window on saturday morning (Thus the multibeam tonight and ROV tomorrow for SNH). So fingers crossed the rough stuff ain't too rough and the weather window does what it says it will!

Right I'm off to bed again. It's after 10pm now, and while I am allowed to sleep in tomorrow, I am planning on getting up at 6am so as not to get too much out of the rhythm.

More anon (probably tomorrow!)

A little idea of what my cabin looks like taken with my phone camera, also note the angle of the bed relative to the dangling and therefore verticle curtain. This was the level of roll we were getting on our way through the storm to Lewis.

Above: a couple of pictures out of my porthole on the journey from the Darwin Mounds to Lewis, and Below: the much calmer conditions in the bay sheltering behind Lewis (also through my porhole with my phone camera)

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