Week one of an Atlantic crossing aboard the RRS James Cook

It’s been about a week since the RRS James Cook departed from Rio De Janeiro on its expedition across the South Atlantic Ocean. As we waved goodbye to sugarloaf, I had not yet fully realised that next time I set foot on land would in Cape Town in 6 weeks’ time. This will be my longest expedition yet and if each week is as exciting as this first, then its setting out to be an incredible journey.

The expedition in question (JC159) is led by the ORCHESTRA project and is aiming to collect crucial data on important physical and biological ocean parameters. This includes salinity, temperature, oxygen, nutrients, chlorophyll levels, microplastics (my focus), radiocarbons, CFCs, you name it! The labs on the ship are filled with state of the art equipment to get great quality data and often within a few hours of sampling.

But there is so much more to a research expedition than just the science! The environment on board is like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. All of us 21 scientists as well as 24 crew on board will live closely together for the next 42 days and this creates a really close and friendly community.

The James Cook is a fantastic research ship both in terms of lab space and living conditions. First off, every single crew member (engineers, scientists, officers, cooks etc…) has their own cabin. And believe it or not, my cabin on board is nicer than my student accommodation back home! Also, if you’re extra lucky then you even get a porthole to look out at sea, or IN the sea even depending on weather conditions…

Second of all, the ship has all sorts of entertainment available to unwind when not on shift. The living room is equipped with all the essentials: table football, darts, board games, PS4 and a Wii (in case anyone feels like throwing a just dance party…). The chefs are always cooking up fantastic meals. It was someone’s birthday today so I am writing this whilst digesting a very large amount of kiwi and chocolate topped cheesecake. There is also a gym and just today one of the scientists on-board will be running regular circuit classes at 4pm on the forecastle deck. This means no need to cut down on the cheesecake!
Oh and in case this wasn’t enough, there is also a sauna (yes you read that right, a sauna!). Finally, because we are sailing through the tropics it can get very hot and so one of the engineers transformed a crate into a seawater horizon pool!

There is limited internet for uploading pictures on the ship but here is a link to some of us taking a break in the makeshift seawater pool on the back deck! Safety first of course. https://twitter.com/jc159_24s/status/970463827245568001

You’re probably wondering by now, does any science get done?? And the answer to that is an overwhelming yes! Life on board the ship is intense but rewarding. Science is happening 24h a day to maximise the ship’s capabilities at sea and everyone is on tight shifts with swift changeovers to ensure that research and data collection is happening at all times. You can wander around the ship at any time of day and you will witness rooms buzzing with scientists carrying out calibrations, sample collections, measurements, and of course repairs to temperamental equipment.

If you want to follow our journey and get regular updates about both science and life aboard the ship then you can follow the expedition’s twitter account @jc159_24s

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