Tom Holmes (UTAS/IMAS/ACE CRC) and I enjoying a sunset at the bow (photo credit: Pete Harmsen)
Working on a research vessel is never the same. We work in labs, in front of a computer, we sample waters or operate winches (not on this one, though). We are never still, constantly balancing our weight, carrying heavy stuff around, smashing wooden boxes with big hammers or karate-like kicks (lots of fun!), operating under rain or freezing wind. Working in the Southern Ocean means also breathtaking Auroras, majestic sunsets (like the one below), funny penguins, silent icebergs and great fun. But it's not just that (although it definitely is for a large part). Sailing on a boat, in general, is risky (remember what happened to my shipmates during the big roll of Jan 27? check it out on my blog if you missed it out) and tough, and one has to pay much more attention than usual when doing normal things, such as walking or carrying things. But here in the Southern Ocean we must take even more special care of ourselves, due to the distance from any land, any help (several days divided us from the closest city, while on the plateau). That means that if something happens.. well.. it can be really really dangerous.
On some cruises (like this one) there might be a doctor, but despite their expertise and skills, there's only much they can do on a ship. Unfortunately, on this voyage a medical emergency occurred, and 10 days ago we had to depart from the plateau and started to make our way to the closest port (Fremantle, WA), which we would have reached in more than 1 week, while steaming at full speed. Fortunately, our shipmate's conditions stabilized since then, and consequently we changed our course first to Hobart, then decided to take the patient to the closest port (and hospital), in order to avoid any medical complications.
The patient is being transported to Albany (WA) on one of the lifeboats
I'm happy to say that the patient is now in good care and recovering well (my thoughts are with you, friend!!!!). We are now on our route to Hobart, which we should reach in 6 days or so (depending on the weather). For the moment, we are processing data, discussing future publications and collaborations and writing reports of the cruise. But also enjoying a bit of break outside on the foredeck, with some music, relaxing on a hammock, sunbathing (we're very close to the Australian coast, so it's very warm.. more than 35 deg C!).. or having a gym session (led by me, of course ;-) ).
May this return be smooth and enjoyable for everyone!
We couldn't complete our research projects, so no more of my planned SOCCOM floats will be deployed this time (but don't worry: we're already working on a future plan, and these floats won't miss their opportunity to dive in the Southern Ocean!! stay tuned for future updates ;-) ). But, my thought is that no matter how vital our job is, Life has always the priority.
A storm is building up in Western Australia. This (and others that are expected in the next days) might delay our return to Hobart..