The AMOC transports heat from the tropics and keeps Western Europe warm. In autumn 2015 the RRS Discovery will recover the moorings from the RAPID array across the Atlantic at 26 North. The data will tell the RAPID science team how the AMOC has changed over the past 18 months. Their challenge to you: can you predict these changes?
See what the experts predict, and follow the 26N team as they recover the moorings and analyse the data to learn the truth.
Friday, 6 November 2015
We are currently crossing the Atlantic on the RRS
Discovery. This is, in fact, the fourth ship to bear the name RRS Discovery.
The original Discovery was the used by Captain Scott when he sailed to
the Antarctic, attempting to conquer the south pole (although his ship didn’t
bear the royal—RRS—moniker when he sailed her). The second was Discovery II—the
first purpose built research vessel in the world. The third returned to the
original name alone—Discovery—and served UK marine science for 50 years before
retiring at the end of 2012. And now we cross the Atlantic for the first time
on the newest incarnation of this prestigious lineage.
Over the next four Fridays, I will post a
piece about each of these ships. The historical legacy of the previous
Discoveries is nicely emphasized around this new ship with lots of old photos
and paintings. I’ll post photos of a few of these with the posts. This week:
RRS Discovery (2013) i.e. this ship. In some sense, this ship has the least
photographs of all—vanity not being high on the agenda of this ship. One
exception is the marvelous shot of Discovery being launched from Freire
shipyard in Vigo.
Discovery is 100 m long and has over 6000
tonne displacement. The new Discovery has its propellers contained in two steerable
pods at the aft end of the ship, unlike previous iterations that had
traditional rigid screw propellers. This combined with two further thrusters
toward the front of the ship (one tunnel, one steerable) allows lots of
maneuverability for the scientific work, which often requires the ship to be
nearly still (‘on station’) or maneuvering delicately. So unlike most ships,
Discovery is designed for staying in one place well rather than just going from
A to B quickly.
The crew on board consist of four departments:
bridge, deck, engineering and catering. In command of the vessel is our
captain, Jo Cox. Scientists and technicians make up the rest of the people on
board. Us scientists work mainly in the laboratories on the upper deck, and are
accommodated on the lower deck in single cabins. Three meals per day are
cooked in the galley. Recreation on board is available in the forms of a DVD
and book library, a gym and a communal bar/lounge; cards and darts are popular in the bar. Meals and recreation
time provides a welcome rest from the intensive mooring work.
A scientist's cabin
Much of the heavy work on our moored
instruments takes place from the aft deck—the deck at the back of the ship. This
deck is jam packed with long wires (our longest mooring is 5100 m—over 3 miles
long), buoyancy (glass and plastic spheres of different shapes that keep our
moorings upright in the water). Over the cruise this will clear out and be
replaced by the moorings that we recover. The moorings are deployed by
technicians and deck crew. The scientists then check, calibrate and ultimately
use the data. When mooring work is taking place the aft deck is a busy place:
cranes dance around moving the heaviest pieces of kit, wires crisscross the
deck as they come onboard, the railings at the back of the ship are down,
meaning that the two men working there have only their balance and a safety
harness keeping them on board.
The aft deck being readied for a mooring deployment
Work days can be long and irregular on
board so it’s nice to get a chance to relax. The forecastle deck—known to us
scientists as the beach—offers some peace and quiet. This is the deck at the
front of the ship, one deck down from the bridge. It’s a nice spot to read a
book or sunbathe. Ships are noisy places and the foredeck is one of the few
quiet spots away from engines, air conditioning units and Darren’s choice of
music. The weather at the moment is calm and warm so the sea just laps and the
clouds sit on a glass ceiling as far as the eye can see. With the view from up
here—it’s not that bad a life, I guess.