The research cruise M104/1 (GPF 20-1-69) will take place from November 18 to December 15, 2021, and will travel off the west coast of Africa, to the upwelling area at Cap Blanc.
During the cruise, research activities on the project "SIPA" ("Sinking particles, their production, transfer and transformation") will be carried out. The cruise is led by Prof. Karin Zonneveld from MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences of the University of Bremen within the RECEIVER Unit of the Cluster of Excellence "The ocean floor - uncharted interface of the Earth".
On board the research vessel MARIA S. MERIAN are a total of 18 researchers from MARUM, the Department of Geosciences of the University of Bremen, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), the Institute of Chemistry and Biology of the Sea (ICBM) and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research (NIOZ).
The upwelling area off Cap Blanc is one of the most productive regions in the world. It plays a key role in the global carbon cycle and thus has an impact on the world's climate. Plankton organisms absorb carbon dioxide, process it and sink towards the ocean floor after they die. In doing so, they move carbon from the atmosphere to the ocean floor (biological pump).
The researchers will work together to study the production of these particles, called sediment, their sinking in the water column to the sediment at the ocean floor, and changes that occur. They will sample the particle flux from the upper water column using free-floating traps. These traps float according to the prevailing water currents and collect particles at different water depths. At the same time, temperature, salinity, chlorophyll-a content and turbidity of the water column are recorded throughout the investigations.
Here Karin Zonneveld reports in a logbook about life and work on board.
Wednesday, November 17: Finally back at sea!
There she is, the research vessel Maria S. Marian, in the port of Emden. She will be our home for the next four weeks.
This morning we, 14 scientist of the MARUM and 4 scientists of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Sea Research left Bremen to embark the R.V. Maria S. Merian. To minimise the risk of a Corona infection we are all fully vaccinated and negatively PCR-tested.
We arrived at lunchtime where we were welcomed by Captain and crew and :-) an excellent meal.
After Lunch, the quietness of the harbor was used to unpack and build up as much as possible laboratory and sampling equipment to store them wave and weather proof before departing. We furthermore absolved a safety briefing where we learned how to wear a survival suit.
Now in the early evening, everything is sealed and ready for departure tomorrow morning.
We look forward to start our transit south, to the upwelling area off Cape Blanc (NW Africa)
Weather: variable cloudiness, occasional showers, no wind
Friday, November 19: "Flight" through the English Channel
Today we "fly" though the English Channel with the tide and wind from the back. We are happy to have left the North Sea with its short waves that hit us in unregularly pace from the site.
Life today is characterized by preparation. Beside scientific and technical briefings we use the quit sea to build up and test our equipment for the first sampling station. Due to Corona and Brexit some spare parts, new sensors and equipment arrived at the MARUM weeks to months later than was initially planned. Although they arrived in time for a quick check on functionality there was no time to get a routine for their deployment and optimize their functionality for our special scientific purposes.
Weather: cloudy but dry, Wind speed 5, Speed of Vessel 14 kn.
Sunday, November 21: Animal travel companion
The Bay of Biscay shows itself from its best side. We sneak south in between two low pressure fields. The results a calm bleu ocean where so now and then a plume of water is pushed into the air and a big tail fin becomes shortly visible .....the indication that whales are fishing along the shelf edge. A check in one of the books that lay out in the hangar reveals that the form of the water plume and form of the tail are typical for a right whale. Today we also spotted the first dolphins that tried to keep up with the MARIA S. MERIAN.
Since yesterday we also have some hitchhikers on board, a few finches and a robin. They are curiously hipping around in the hangar and watch us preparing and testing our equipment.
Weather: sun and clouds dry, Wind speed 5, Speed of Vessel 12 kn.
Monday, November 22: Introduction to the work of others
We are about halfway our transit and soon reach international waters where we will take in some sea water that will allows us a detailed testing of equipment and sensors to be optimally prepared the first sampling station.
The day is therefore filled with testing our equipment to be sure that the transportation to the ship did not cause any damage and the equipment functions perfectly.
In the evenings, we enjoy the "science evening talks" where one member of each participating group gives an introduction lecture about their research field, the state of the art in the research area as well as what their group is going to investigate/sample and why this is important.
Weather: sun and clouds, Wind speed 7 Bft, Speed of Vessel 11 kn.
Tuesday, November 23: How do aggregates form?
Contribution by Eduardo Queirez Alves
Yesterday we started testing the equipment for an aggregate formation experiment. Aggregates are clumped particles that sink to the ocean floor. In the ocean, they can consist of clumped unicellular algae, for example. We suspect that organic substances dissolved in the water can also react with each other to form particles and aggregates. But we do not know exactly how they form.
In the so-called Couette tanks, we simulate the shear forces that prevail in the ocean. Theoretically, these should promote the formation of particle aggregates from dissolved organic matter. Over the next three days, we will conduct the experiment with ultra-pure water to determine the background levels and test the motors responsible for the rotational motion. This way we can ensure that everything is ready for our actual measurements with seawater when we reach our first station.
Weather: cloudy, Wind speed 7 Bft, Speed of Vessel 11 kn.
Thursday, November 25: A unique natural spectacle
5:30 in the morning, on the bridge of the MARIA S. MERIAN the passengers appear one after the other. A red glow appears on the horizon... there must be the island of La Palma.
As we approach the island, the glow becomes more intense and soon a glowing lava flow can be seen winding its way down the mountainside. Soon, with a binocular, you can also see individual branches of the flow and occasionally an eruption higher up the slope. The volcano is very active. A fantastic spectacle in the dark night, a unique experience.
Weather: cloudy, Wind speed 7 Bft, Speed of Vessel 11 kn.