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Logbuch MSM 44

MSM 44 – Expedition BAFFEAST

From the 30th of June until the 30th of July 2015 the German research vessel MARIA S. MERIAN is on its 44th expedition to Baffin Bay, a sea basin located between Greenland and Northern Canada. The expedition is operated by scientists of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), and the MARUM – Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences at the University of Bremen. The expedition is part of AMAR, a cooperation between AWI and MARUM.

Ship's log 4

19.07. – If we were thinking that our first banana was a good example for that term, we were definitely proved wrong today. This time it even happened to our 18 meter gravity corer. With such a length a too high resistance on the sea floor can actually cause a double bend in the heavy metal pipe. Therefore, it took twice as many helpers from the crew’s side as usual and a second crane to get the banana back on board. An event like this obviously didn’t stay unheard for long and after a while almost everybody stopped their normal work for a while to watch the recovery of the banana. Back on deck the core had to be cut with a saw and the five meter sediment that were actually recovered back from the sea floor were brought the work table in the hangar in just one piece. Following that there were almost as many geology team members needed than crew members before to put a weight on the end of the core to cut it in the usual one meter pieces that is normally done outside. The whole procedure did take a little longer than it normally does, but still not too long and it was a really nice alternation to our everyday gravity core procedure.

The banana comes back on deck which requires more help from the crew than usual.

To cut the banana into pieces it takes some more people than usual.

20.07. – Today can really be called a slaughtering day, we opened and scanned three long cores and four short ones. Therefore it is quite reasonable that we even included the table in our evening programme and used it as a picnic area with some foam to sit on and some fuzzy blankets around us to stay warm while it was rather cold outside – a nice way to end a long working day.
21.07. – Today we first continued opening and scanning cores and later ended the work day with a rather spontaneous station. As the parasound and multibeam data are needed to define the final coring location, spontaneous stations aren’t actually that rare. Plus, those stations actually do bring some variety in the otherwise fully structured day. The multinet team had a rather calm day today as we were too close to land on a way into a fjord, which isn’t the suitable place for their samples.

Before the gravity corer reaches the deck again it will be cleaned from the sediment of the outside.

22.07. – This morning, when we came up on deck, we were literally standing in front of a wall. Greenland was only 400 m away from us! Red and grey and really steep it was facing us. It was really impressive and even harder to believe that the water was still 600 meters deep. We reached the fjord close to the coast. It was the best opportunity for a short lesson in Greenland’s geology. In the evening finally happened what we expected to happen right in the beginning of the cruise: we had waves, not strong ones but at least it finally felt like we really were on a ship. Finally everything was slightly moving. Curtains and towels moved in the same rhythm as the ship and at least while taking the stares it seemed somehow convenient to have one hand at the handle.

Greenland’s coast really close to us, an exciting view during a geo station.

23.07. – When there has to be done a 45 hours bathymetry survey there is time for some still incomplete work like opening and scanning cores, digitalise core descriptions or fill in papers for our journey back home. The bathymetry team has to eagerly watch their computers to make sure the survey leads to the right results and if there are some holes in it, they contact the bridge to ask the captain and officers whether they could turn around again to cover the missing area.
24.07. – Today was another multinet day and it brought again some really nice and interesting catch up on deck. Among all the krill and plankton, there was a reasonable big purple-red jellyfish. The multinet contains five different nets that can be closed in different depth to conduct samples from specific depth. Therefore, we knew that this jelly fish was just swimming within 500 meter water depth when it accidently got caught in the net. We named the poor thing Tiffy, but it was obvious that she didn’t survive the ride in the multinet, so we had to throw her over board again. R.I.P. Tiffy.

Sometimes the multinet brings some surprises back on deck: today a purple, unique looking jellyfish.

25.07. – Saturday. Weekend. And on weekends there has to happen something special. This definitely was the case today. The day started off with a horizontal tow of the multinet. Therefore the net was equipped with a new net and different sampling cups. Then the net was put into the water on its usual place, the starboard side of the ship, but vertically this time and towed while the ship was still sailing. This was only a try and not a real sampling station, but it was a successful try and we are all interested in what the “samples” will reveal. After this first highlight we went back to our normal work routine, just with two people less on the geology team that spared some time to make a birthday present for a crew member’s birthday.
Right after coffee break we had to interrupt work for an announced fire drill. As soon as the alarm went off, we put on warm clothes and a hat, took our life vests and went outside to the Muster Station. There, we were counted to make sure that nobody was missing. But this time, there actually was somebody missing. What should be done in a situation like that? Luckily, the crew has a plan for such a situation. We were put together in pairs and given a map with the deck where we had to go and search for the missing person. It didn’t took long until we found her and the doc and rescue team were really fast on their way to take her to the ship’s hospital. So we all finished the drill successfully. Obviously our missing person wasn’t really missing, she was told to be missing, but we all didn’t know before that she wouldn’t be there. Our missing person actually wasn’t the only „authentic“ part within the drill, the crew also had to check the water hoses and we even found some smoke in our corridor. So some of us really had to wait for a while until we were able to bring our life vests back into our cabins.

The multinet is set into water to collect water samples within different water depth.

26.07. – Sunday continued to be different and exciting. It all started off with a dead body laying on deck, chained to a wooden block. It was a message from Neptune, who sent us rather angry written messages before, ever since we crossed the Polar Circle. He claims that we didn’t ask for permission to sail his waters and most of us aren’t baptised in his name and therefore weren’t allowed to be here. Now he sent us one of his former victims as a final warning of what will happen, if we keep on ignoring his previous warnings. We didn’t even think about letting him threaten us and continued our journey. But to be honest, what everyone was thinking really was that we might not get around the polar baptism before we finish our cruise.
For now, we continued our work, today with an intern in the geology team. During the whole cruise we sometimes exchanged people. One from the geology team was spending a shift at the hydroacoustic lab to see what they were doing. In return, the bathymetry team spared some helping hands for the geology team outside on deck during stations. During extensive surveys, the parasound team had their shifts on the bridge for easier communication with the captain and officers when the route needed to be slightly changed. So today was the chance for our one-man-core-logging team to improve his core sampling skills. He got an “in training” sticker and one of us showed him how to clean the core and take two different kinds of samples. We have to admit, he did a great job and was a lot of help!
During coffee break there was a big cake today for our birthday boy from the crew. We shortly practiced a song for him, which was presented before everyone got to eat the delicious cake. Of course he also got a birthday present, a hat made of core liner that was made the day before and filled with loads of chocolate. This evening we all came together for a nice little birthday celebration on deck.

While sampling the last core in the geology lab in the hangar the whole team is really busy.

From every core two kinds of samples are taken, one kept in syringes for foraminiferal analysis and one is kept in glass vials for geochemical analysis.

27.07. – The weekend was over but that didn’t mean that this day would be less exciting. Early in the morning we had our very last station of this cruise. With the arrival of this station the last bathymetry survey was concluded and now we were about to put our last CTD, gravity corer and box corer into the water. This probably happened with a laughing and a crying eye as it meant that five great weeks would soon be over as we started our transit back to Nuuk once the station was finished. But we didn’t really think about the close end, it’s still four more days to go. So for now we successfully finished our last station and then most of us thought it would be nice to take a short nap during lunch break. But things became different… It wasn’t for long until we suddenly heard horrifying screams out of the ship’s speaking system. This was followed by a message from Neptune. He told us that we had exactly one hour until he will be entering the ship, because we didn’t take his warnings seriously. So that was it, Neptune was coming… First we tried to hide in one of the cabins all together, but after a short time we realized that we had no chance to get away like this, so we decided to be brave and walk down into the hangar where Neptune wanted to meet us. His assistants weren’t so pleased about us being late and dragged us outside on deck where we all had to fall on our knees and welcome Neptune and his wife Thetis. He really wasn’t amused either, we ignored his warnings and were sailing in his waters without permission. He took over the command from the captain to test us, if we were worth getting baptised and then allowed to sail his waters. So suddenly we found ourselves back in the hangar where we were locked in and always one of the time was dragged out to be audited and baptised by Neptune. Due to our new respect towards Neptune, we won’t report about the baptism procedure in detail, but let us tell you this: it was really dirty, wet and smelled like fish! Fortunately we all passed Neptune’s examination and got baptised in his name, which pleased him that much that he didn’t just allow us to continue our journey, but it also made him stay with his wife for dinner. Now we should be on the save side to continue the rest of our journey back to Nuuk.

„Core Counter“

Total recovered sediment:287 m
Gravity cores:39
Box cores:17

Ship's log 3

13.07. – This day started with an unusual picture: the sun was not there! Where was it? All the other days started really nice and sunny and ended the same way, as the sun never sets. Today started rather grey, cloudy and somehow rainy to snowy; weather that we weren’t used to work in. But we were fortunate and today was no geology station scheduled and the Geology team was working inside opening and scanning cores. At 4.30 pm we all stopped working for an all scientists meeting. Boris our chief scientist updated us with all the successful work of the Bathymetry team so far and the team leader of the other two teams did as well report on their work, so everyone was updated on the current progress. Apart from a slight route change due to sea ice we followed the worked out plan of this expedition.
14.07. – Again the day started grey and misty, but brightened up after a short while when our first 18 m gravity core contained more than 13 m of sediment – our longest sediment core so far.
15.07. – Bergfest – mid cruise party! The first half of the expedition MSM 44 is now over and this, of course, has to be celebrated. Fortunately, this day was one of the long bathymetry surveys, giving most of us the time to enjoy the dinner party. After all cores were opened, the Geology team cleaned the table and the floor in the hangar and the crew set up some benches and tables to turn it into a dining room. The barbecue was set up, the cook started grilling and soon the stewardess provided quite some delicious food – steak, sausages, tuna steak, salads, – everything one can think of for a perfect barbecue. Everyone – scientists and crew – sat together to celebrate the successful first half of the cruise. We all had a really nice and fun evening all together.

Cleaning the floor for the mid cruise party later that night.

Our fantastic barbecue table at the mid cruise party. Thanks to the great kitchen team who provided this for us.

16.07. – Today finally the sun was back! After three days, we really started missing it, because it got really cold and the view started to turn into a grey in grey picture. But now everything is sparkling blue everywhere around us again. Every third day, the board shop opens. There, everyone on the ship can purchase drinks, snacks and sanitary products. Today was again one of these days. Many people queued in the narrow ship’s corridor, waiting for their turn to order what they wanted from the stewardess behind the counter of the really small store. This, however, is a rather convenient way of shopping, with such a short way home. In addition to the normal shop hours, today was also the opportunity to buy souvenirs like fleece jackets, sweaters or postcards with the MERIAN logo on it. So there is really nothing missing in our own little world here onboard MARIA S. MERIAN.
17.07. – This Friday the 17th seemed to be a rather dark day for the IT department, the software of some of the computers was just not as cooperative that day, so we were forced to survey bathymetry instead of doing geology for a while. This problem was fixed after four hours due to the capable and eager people onboard. We started station work with only a little delay and continued by deploying the CTD and the multinet. The Geology station was then scheduled for later that night so there was some time to see what the multinet brought up to the surface. Besides micro organisms and krill, also a fish and a jelly fish were in the net. Our assumption was that the fish wanted to save the little jelly fish and therefore got caught as well. The jelly fish gave its life for science, but we felt sorry for the fish and tried to set it free in the ocean. But due to the shock of being captured, of pictures being taken, and the time during transport, our hopes of saving the little fish dwindled. When we eventually set it free, it was too late, but at least we tried. R.I.P little fish and may you take your place in the food chain.

As soon as the multinet is back on board, the filled sample cups are removed and brought into the lab.

18.07. – As the Geology station was scheduled for rather late last night, there were still some tasks left to be done during the day. The sediment had to be taken out of the box corer that wasn’t used for sampling. Additionally, there was a spontaneous CTD station today as the bathymetry team needed a sound-velocity-profile through the water column to correct their data.

"Core Counter"

Total recovered sediment:231,79 m
Gravity cores:33
Box cores:14

Ship’s log 2

About Christmas greetings, boat tours and bananas

07.07. - Today we started heading directly towards the ice edge, a fine, white line at the horizon, continuously coming closer. From thereon we will work our way back to the middle of the bay and take plankton samples with the multinet, to document the ecologic distribution of the polar foraminifera N. pachyderma.

„Mummy“ and her core team at the main deck of MARIA S. MERIAN, on their way to the cool storage container.

08.07. – During those days when there is no station for the geology team, it is usual to open, sample and measure the cores taken so far. Before the cores can be opened they have to be logged. The still sealed cores will be put onto the MSCL Core Logger, which is then measuring the physical properties of the sediment. The thickness, the p-wave velocity within the sediment, the susceptibility as well as the permeability of γ-rays will be measured at the same time. This data can later be used to determine the density and the sonic velocity within the sediment. The susceptibility is needed to make assumptions about the magnetic properties of the sediment. After processing all this data, we will get the cores back into the hangar to start with opening and sampling. During this already every day processes our day was interrupted for a special occasion today, a tour through the engine room of the ship. The chief engineer guided us to the heart of the ship and explained how everything is controlled from there and how the warm freshwater and energy supply for the ship works. MARIA S. MERIAN even has its own waste water treatment plant and reuses the recycled water as cooling water.

„Core Counter“

Total recovered sediment124,03 m
Gravity cores22
Box cores8

Iceberg in Northern Greenland, close to the ice edge

09.07. – The view from the ship has been breathtaking during our whole journey, but when we reached the furthest north point at 76° N today, we just couldn’t stop ourselves from starring at the blue water and Greenland in the background! Icefloes, icebergs, mountains, glaciers and sea ice! In an environment like that it’s even more fun to work outside on deck. At every new station we reached, cores have been taken, this time the gravity corer even contained 18 m of core tube. Furthermore, we again took a CTD and boxcores. This evening after work we had a little “Woohoo, we reached the furthest north point” – party. All the ice and cold temperatures put some of us into a Christmas feeling. As those conditions are quite rare in Northern Germany we quickly decided to ignore the fact that it is July and enjoyed our little winter wonderland with some Christmas music and Glühwein. Due to our continuously good mood and fun during work it is hard to realize how fast time is going by and that soon we will continue our way towards the South again.

Some of our sampling gear onboard beneath the Greenlandic sun, multicorer, giant box corer and the gravity corer (from left to right)

10.07. – The next day revealed some surprises. The sea floor at today’s station wasn’t as soft as we thought, which lead to an only 1.25 m long core within our 6 m gravity corer. So, off to the next station. Due to long transit times before, all the so far taken cores have already been sampled, which meant that there was some free time for the Geology team to spend some time in the sun until we reached the next station. So we all put on our polar suits, the neatest peace of clothes the AWI could give us and laid down in the sun. With the suit it almost feels like one took their blanket outside as they are so thick and fuzzy. After a new suitable station has been found by the bathymetry team we could continue our work of taking further cores.
11.07. – Today was definitely the highlight of the expedition so far when it comes to non-working activity. One of our stations had to be moved due to sea ice at the location, so our chief scientist decided to take the boat out. Two crew members took four of us at a time into the boat and around the MARIA S. MERIAN and then close to the icebergs and sea ice. It was amazing to be so close to the icebergs that we so far have only seen from the save distance of the ship. We still didn’t get to go close enough to the icebergs to touch them but the crew members already brought in a piece of glacier from their first test ride.

Off to the iceberg tour!

The angle of the picture indicates the wave motion on the small boat ;)

Icebergs, so close and so beautiful! Absolutely amazing!

12.07. – Today we had fruit, not just on top of our ice cream for dessert. So far we haven’t had that much trouble with the gear apart from two not closing multicorers. But this time we recovered our first “banana”. The seafloor apparently has been too hard for the gravity corer to penetrate the sediment which led to an almost 45° bend within the core liner, a shape like a banana. Our task for today was to take 3 meter long gravity cores at nine different stations within a fjord to find indications for glacial movement. The bathymetry team found terminal and retreated moraines within their data. At those locations now the gravity cores have to be taken to determine, date, the age of the moraines.

A glacier on its way into the fjord. Northern Greenland, close to the ice edge

The gravity corer on its way into the deep unknown water!

Ship’s log 1

Good morning! The first week of the 44th journey of MARIA S. MERIAN is over and we already have a lot to report. We started our journey in Hamburg to travel all together to Copenhagen. After a nice evening where we all got to know the rest of our colleagues, we continued our journey to Nuuk, Greenland, on the next day, Sunday June 28th. To get to Nuuk, we had to change planes in Kangerlussuaq and get from our big trans-Atlantic plane on a really small plane, which took us on a 50 minute ride above snowy mountains and glaciers. It is hard to believe but it really was a lot warmer and sunnier in Nuuk than it was in Denmark. Our first task on board was to take all our working equipment out of the containers, which had arrived before we did. After that there was some time to enjoy the Greenland sun, either by wandering through Nuuk or onboard the ship on the “Peildeck”. It really is an amazing experience to see beaches and ice together in one picture. This is even harder to when seeing the natives and even 2 – 3 of our brave colleagues take a swim in the Arctic water. We really thought this nice weather would change offshore, but this hasn’t been the case, so far. There are still times when we can sit on deck, just wearing a t-shirt and watch the icebergs pass by, only in the shade the weather reveals its true face and suddenly a warm jacket feels like a good idea. When it comes to work onboard, so far we have taken 6 gravity cores, 4 box cores, 1 grab sampler, 3 muticores, 16 multinets and 3 CTDs to collect sediment and water samples. During those sampling stations and the in between transit times the geophysicists are continuously observing the multibeam and parasound data. As well as for data collection, this also provides information on the suitability of our next coring location. The fascinating thing is that most of this happens at the same time and it is impossible to see everything at once. Between the stations are long time intervals of transit. But even then, a lot is happening on deck: cores get split, scanned and sampled, multinet samples containing foraminifera have to be picked. During those days we work normal hours, but when we arrive at a station, work can start at any time whether at ten in the morning or at two o´clock in the night.

On Saturday, we were all really excited when the bridge announced whales on starboard stern. So we all spent some time whale watching or rather “whale waiting”. Unfortunately, only a few of us were lucky enough to see them. As opposed to the whales, seals are more common and easier to spot when they are lying on the ice floes basking in the sun. By now, almost every one of us has seen at least one seal gliding from an ice floe into the deep blue water. Besides the icebergs, these ice floes are another highlight. With the MARIA S. MERIAN passing through the ice floes rather slowly in the midnight sun, this whole atmosphere reveals great opportunities for impressive pictures. When it comes to the weather, so far, we have had a lot of sunshine, hardly any wind and really calm seas. Most of the time, we hardly notice that we are actually on a ship in the middle of the Baffin Bay. But no matter if it’s warm or cold, we all have a really good time on board whether working or relaxing. Every now and then, there is even time for a table soccer or table tennis match or to go to the sauna. This Sunday, there was a really special coffee break with freshly brewed espresso and cake on deck. Perfect to enjoy while watching icebergs passing by!

While following their assigned tasks, everybody is excited to see what will happen next: Will there be more unexpected happenings? Will we finally all see some whales?
Enjoying the Greenland sun while waiting for the multicorer to reach the sea surface again.

Enjoying the Greenland sun while waiting for the multicorer to reach the sea surface again.

The first ice floes in the Baffin Bay.

The boxcorer comes back on deck again, full of sediment from 1000m water depth.

Sediment core sampling – splitting, scanning, sampling, packing for storage.

Before samples can be taken from the sediments within the box corer, the water on top has to be removed.