Preparing for life at sea

How many sample bags do you need for a six-week research cruise? How much ‘blue roll’ (like lab kitchen roll I guess) should we pack? How many permanent markers is too many? Answers: far too many to count and in every size imaginable; 48 rolls to be precise but we might pick up a few more on the way just to be safe; and apologises, we may be responsible for a temporary permanent marker shortage in Southampton.

These are the sorts of questions we have been having to try and answer in preparation for a cruise to the South Georgia basin in January. Leaving from Punta Arenas, the RRS Discovery will be our home for 6-weeks while we go explore the South Georgia basin collecting seismic data and taking a few piston cores along the way.

Here is a video about life on the Discovery!

A couple weeks ago we had to pack up all the lab equipment we will need for the cruise to ship it over to Chile where will we meet it at the very beginning of January and move it onto the ship. We have spent days and days packing and repacking the boxes to make sure we have everything we need from microscopes to rubber gloves, from glass vials to more kinds of tape than I realised existed! Everything that we may (or may not need) for the cruise we have had to pack in boxes and now just hope that we haven’t forgotten anything!

And anything can happen when we try to do science at sea right! Possibility number 1: we don’t recover any sediment. Possibility number 2: we recover more sediment than we could possibly have ever hoped for! Possibility number 3: we all get too sea sick to even tell you whether we recovered any sediment or not. I am sincerely hoping for possibility number 2 (or more realistically something sitting perfectly between numbers 1 and 2!).

This has also reinforced just how lucky we are on land to have access to full stocked labs! And next day lab supply deliveries! It also makes you realise just how many everyday objects we re-purpose for the labs.

Ok so maybe not an everyday item but one unusual example is swimming woggles (or noodles for any Americans out there). Yes, we have taken an entire box of swimming woggles. And provided much entertainment for many around NOC when we managed to lose them in the building and had to spend a day walking round asking people if they had seen our bright blue woggles! Before you ask, this isn’t so us scientists can take a nice leisurely swim but in fact that woggles if sliced in half match the shape of the core liners really well (for core liners imagine super strong drain pipe) meaning we can cut up the foam woggles to fill any gaps in the core or after we have taken samples to keep the ‘mud’ in place.

RRS Discovery (Source:

Along with packing the lab kit we also had to ship off some of our personal safety kit:

Hard hat – check!

Steel-toed capped boots – check!

High vis vest – check!

Boiler suits – check!

Full high vis waterproofs – check!

……this all makes for a highly fashionable and attractive outfit! Jokes aside, this kit is really important to make sure we are safe when working out on deck. We have lots of other PPE kit to take but these big bulky items we have shipped over to Chile….we would probably get strange looks at the airport if a whole team of scientists turned up kitted out in full high-vis with hard hats and big boots on!

Next up is making sure we have all the certificates we need to board the ship:

Sea survival – check!

Medical – booked!

Vaccinations – booked!

Marine mammal observation training – booked!

What is left to do? Too much! Book flights! Work out what else I need to take and pack my personal luggage, make sure all my land-based lab work is at a stage where it can be left for two  months, double check our lists of lists to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything and cross our fingers that all our lab kit arrives in Chile before we have to leave port!!

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