Ocean science on tall ships initiative _Lord Nelson_

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					         Ocean science on tall ships initiative (Lord Nelson)
The Ocean science on tall ships initiative was a joint collaboration between the Future
Ship project (, the jubilee sailing trust ( and
the Challenger society ( and aimed to put science
onto Tall ships. This had never been tried before so created a very exciting opportunity.
The aim for the cruise, around the Canaries during January 2008 (21st -28th), was to
encourage a team of multi disciplinary marine scientists (e.g. physical oceanographers,
phytoplankton, zooplankton, microbial ecology and higher predator researchers) to work
together to conduct high quality scientific research from a tall ship (Lord Nelson).

Cruise track (Tues 22nd Jan-Sun 27th Jan 2008; Figure 1-red line)

The cruise track was dictated by the weather particularly the wind direction.
Unfortunately we were not under sail for the whole voyage however we did managed
64% under sail and 7 of the 10 sampling stations were under sail (stations 2-8).
Figure 1-Cruise track for scientific cruise (Las Palmas to Las Palmas; number show
sampling points 1-10, 1 - first).

DAY 1 –Monday 21st January 2008

LN 684 Gran Canaria to Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

The beginning of an exciting, interesting and possibly challenging week.
First thing on board, I was shown my accommodation for the week ahead (Figure 2): a
middle bunk of 3 in the bow (front) of the ship.
Figure 2- My bunk onboard Lord Nelson (15)

I suppose it could have been worse, I could have gotten the top bunk. Not sure the best
way to get in and out of my bunk and not wake my fellow voyagers!

Once everyone was onboard we were introduced to the permanent crew, other voyagers
(37 voyagers 14 of which were scientists) and our watch leaders (4 watches forward port,
forward starboard, after port & after starboard; I’m in Forward Port). Captain Clare
Cupples introduced the permanent members of the crew: Neil the Mate, Roger the 2nd
Mate, Vernon the Bosun, Nicky the Super Numery Officer of the Watch, Marco and Mr
Chipps the Engineer, with Taff the Engineering Assistant, Rachel the Medical Purser,
Lesley and Ellen Bosun’s Mates and not forgetting the main man Dave the Cook. Next
to be introduced was John Patching, the senior scientist on this voyage who explained
just what we hoped to be doing and how everyone can help.

After the introductions, we had to hand in our passports and in return were given a card
(our ships passport) detailing our watch (Forward Port) and mess duties for the
forthcoming week (see table 1 for watch duties). Looking forward to the 12-4am
watch!!! I managed to miss doing mess duty not sure yet if that is a good or a bad thing.
           Middle   Morning        Forenoon Afternoon First  Last Dog                First 8pm
           Midnight 4am to         8am to   12.30pm Dog 4pm 6pm to                   to
           to 4am   8am            12.30pm to 4pm     to 6pm 8pm                     Midnight
MON        X                                          X
TUES                X                                        X
WED                                X                                                 X
THURS                                       X
FRI        X                                          X
SAT                    X                                     X
SUN                                X                                                 X

Table 1 Forward port watch duties (X- watch duties; days in bold- sampling days)

The port upper deck head (toilet, see figure 3) has turned into a laboratory (very apt for
studying methanogens!!) and plethora of sampling gear can be found off the stern of the
ship (Secchi disk, acoustic equipment for listening to the ocean, phytoplankton and
zooplankton nets and CTD equipment (seabird)). And there has already been a bit of
confusion over the seabird (CTD equipment). One member of the crew was horrified to
discover that the seabird was kept in a box!

Figure 3-Laboratory in port upper deck head (toilet)

There is great excitement and anticipation amongst the permanent and voyage crew for
the week ahead. We are due to set sail tomorrow afternoon but the plan is to go up the
masts in the morning so I decided to head to bed early. Getting in and out of bed was a
lot easier than I thought and the bed was surprisingly comfortable.
By Racheal Medical Purser and Arlene Rowan
DAY 2 –Tuesday 22nd January 2008

LN 684 Gran Canaria to Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

We started the day with a hearty breakfast, which was followed by several safety
briefings including how to evacuate the ship, what to do in a fire and the correct way to
be sick; (down wind of course!). Next task was to be fitted into our climbing harnesses
so “all hands could go aloft”. I am not a great fan of heights but thought I would kick
myself if I didn’t give it a try. We gingerly climbed up to the first crows nest. The last
part was the worst; climbing up facing backward to get into the crows nest. Then the
more foolhardy sailors (including me) crept along the topsail yard to untie the gaskets to
release the sail (see figure 4).


Figure 4-Foolhardy voyage crew on topsail yard

Nellie (Lord Nelson) left harbour around mid-day and under engine power traveled north
out of Gran Canaria. I began to feel a bit seasick about 5 miles out of the harbour, tried
to have lunch but failed so decided to stay on deck and drink ginger beer. Consuming
ginger really does help. I also decided it might be best to take Stugeron (seasickness
tablets) and thankfully that did the trick. I’m glad I wasn’t on mess duty today.

The first of the scientific sampling got underway at about 5.30pm. All sort of equipment
attached to ropes (phytoplankton and zooplankton nets, Secchi disk, CTD equipment and
acoustic equipment) was deployed over the back of the ship. For my part, I sampled the
zooplankton population using a zooplankton net. The nets were lowered to the required
depth (50m for both nets at station 1 due to water depth (approx. 100m) all other hauls
were 50 & 200m for phytoplankton and 200m for zooplankton) and hauled back to the
surface using man power (see figure 5). Thankfully all the crew were keen to help haul
the nets and even more keen to find out about the contents of the hauls. Gary Caldwell
(the zooplankton expert) and the Irish phytoplankton posse (Cillian Roden, Hazel Farrell,
Sandra Lyons, Evelyn Keady) were on hand to describe the contents and amaze the crew.

Figure 5 Permanent and voyage crew helping haul nets

Dedicated searches for 'cetaceans' (whales and dolphins) and sea birds (the feathered
variety) were also to be carried out, throughout the cruise, from the bridge.

Our first watch began at 6pm until 8pm. This was when I got my first chance to helm the
ship which I quite enjoyed.

As the sun was setting we were fortunate to see a pod of 6 or 7 short fin pilot whales.
The first sighting of the cruise!
By Susan Geebels and Arlene Rowan
DAY 3 –Wednesday 23rd January 2008

LN684 Gran Canaria- Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

The science has really taken off today, with 2 sampling hauls planned (9am and 4.30pm).
There has, however, still been time for the usual Jubilee sailing trust (JST) delights of
happy hour (no not drinking: scrubbing decks, cleaning heads and generally tidying/
polishing the ship) and bracing stations, particularly as we have to heave too (stop the
ship) for the scientific samples. All of which leads to an interesting sight even for the
more experienced sailors of seeing the foresails full of wind whilst the mainsails are
backed up.

Today’s sampling hauls seemed to be going to plan, until one strange moment on the
second haul of the day. We were pulling up the zooplankton net which was coming up
very easily until it reached about 30meters from the surface and suddenly it became very
difficult to haul. We struggled for about a minute then just as suddenly as it became
stuck, it was freed. When the net came to the surface we discovered that the wire
attaching the net to the hook was severely twisted and broken. We pondered over the
reasons for this and the only explanation we could come up with is that a whale
swimming near by (spotted while hauling phytoplankton net) decided that we had taken
enough zooplankton and tried to stop us taking anymore???!!!

Tonight we have had the excitement of an anti-piracy drill (during our watch) but rather
than this being the alert we anticipated (no Johnny Depp I'm afraid) we were able to
assist in the search and rescue of a number of illegal immigrants. Luckily for us as our
only means of stopping them was a water hose.
By Mandy Fry and Arlene Rowan

DAY 4 –Thursday 24th January 2008

LN684 Gran Canaria- Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

Today we reached our most southerly point of the voyage ,around 187 miles south of Las
Palmas and about 120 miles off the Moroccan/Mauritanian border, before heading back
towards Tenerife. Over the course of the day we covered approximately 100 nautical
miles all under sail, with all square sails set, giving us a very satisfying traveling speed of
4 knots (max of 7.8, 1 knots = approx. 1.2 mph). The ships movement under sail is much
gentler and more relaxing than under engine power and of course Nellie looks fantastic
with all her sails set (Figure 6).
Figure 6 Nellie under sail during the day and at dawn.

During the day we had several tantalising sightings of Minke whale 'blows'. And Captain
Clare has inadvertently discovered a great new technique for getting 'all hands on deck'
by simply shouting 'whale spout off starboard midships' and waiting for the rush!!
We have also had sightings of a Hoopoe (European species of bird, figure 7), several
swallows and a Portuguese Man of War.

Figure 7 Sighting onboard of a Hoopoe

Today, Forward Port’s happy hour duty was to clean the lower deck heads (toilets); made
more difficult by the continued rocking of the ship particularly in the bow heads.
We heaved to on three occasions today twice during the day (9am and 4pm) and once at
night (12am). My spare zooplankton net was brought out for today’s sampling, after our
run in yesterday with the whale. The night sampling went well and thankfully some of
the permanent and voyage crew got out of bed to help sample. We did have a funny
moment though, while sampling zooplankton. Certain planktonic organisms are known
to fluoresce in the dark so to illustrate this we decided to collect the sample in a bucket,
switch off then lights and watch them glow. Everything was ready, we switched off the
lights and something fell out of someones pocket: a glow in the dark key-ring. We had
our fluorescence!! The phytoplankton and zooplankton also glowed but not quite as
brightly as the key-ring.

After sampling, we were on watch duty; the hardest watch so far. To keep us awake
Roger the 2nd mate, who was also on duty, showed us the instruments on the bridge. We
were shown our cruise track, learnt how to identify ships nearby and to find out how
close they were.

In the early hours, the following watch spotted a porpoise leaping from the waves
alongside the ship.
By Judy Foster Smith and Arlene Rowan

DAY 5 – Friday 25th January 2008

LN684 Gran Canaria- Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

Another sunny day with barely a cloud in the sky as we continued under sail towards La
Gomera and then Tenerife. I found it difficult to get up this morning after our late night
watch but there’s still sampling to be done. We now have the technique for “Heaving to”
down to a fine art and everyone seems to appear in the right places at the right time!
Another 2 collections were made today at 9am and 4pm.

It is good to see little huddles all over the ship with passionate scientists showing their
latest finds to interested non scientists (who will now think carefully before swallowing
sea water in future!; figure 8).
Figure 6- Scientific research onboard Nellie (Lord Nelson)

There was great excitement in early afternoon when the ship was buzzed by a plane
which was presumably from the local coastguard. On its last pass it was below the top of
the mast and Kate (Katherine Crawford; who was climbing the ratlines at the time) could
almost reach up and shake hands. We couldn’t decide if they were thinking we were the
missing refugees or whether it was hoping to parachute a few onto deck to get rid of
them! During the afternoon a few Portugese Man-O War sailed by but not a lot else
happened as people sunbathed on the deck and caught up on much needed sleep.

Jubilee sailing trust (Lord Nelson) merchandise was on sale tonight. It ranged from
postcards and eye patches to jackets and jumpers. I opted for a hooded fleece top and
some postcards.
By Aft Starboard watch and Arlene Rowan

DAY 6 – Saturday 26th January 2008

LN684 Gran Canaria- Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

Forward port had an early start today; 4am. But surprisingly enough I woke just in time
for the watch, I must be getting into the watch sleep rhythm. Ruth our watch leader
decided we should have a competition to guess at what time and angle the sunrose. Neil
the mate was on watch so he calculated the time and angle then judged the competition.
The sun was due to rise on our watch so we waited in anticipation to see if the Neil’s
calculations were correct. He seemed to be getting quite nervous as the time approached
but to his relief he was more to less spot on (102º and 0753 see figure 9). I failed
miserably on both counts. Susan (angle competition winner 1º out) and Rob (time
competition winner 2 minutes out) won the competition and were presented with the
wonderful prize of a banana.

Figure 9- Sunrise at 102º and 0753

There were another two scientific hauls today at 9am and 4.30pm, with the 4.30pm haul
being the last of the cruise. Figure 10 shows examples of the kind of organisms we
caught or spotted on the cruise.

It was Evelyn birthday today and as a special treat Dave the cook made her a cake which
we all enjoyed with our morning tea (Smoko-coffee break). I must praise Dave for his
cooking throughout the voyage
By Arlene Rowan
 A                                              B

C                                               D

Figure 10-Some of the organisms we saw/caught over the course of the voyage. A-
Zooplankton net (taken with camera), B-Phytoplankton net (under microscope), C-
Cetaceans, D- Sea birds.

DAY 7 – Sunday 27th January 2008 Last day out on the open sea

LN684 Gran Canaria- Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

Most of day was spent tidying and packing up equipment. Unfortunately the weather
report was wrong so rather than the planned sail back into port we had to travel back
under engine power. A few of us got to travel back into port in the dottie boat (small
rubber motor boat). We had the task of sorting the gangway and tying Nellie up. It felt
very strange being back on land as we all still had our sea legs. Everyone was standing
with their feet apart; I mean you never know when you might fall over.

Once Nellie was properly secured we a final meeting and the general opinion was that it
had been a fantastic and extremely successful cruise. Finally we had the cruise photos
and then there was just enough time to put our glad rags on and head into Las Palmas for
our final dinner of the trip. Susan and I had agreed to do watch duty so had to head back
early. Watch duty was however, very entertaining as other members of the crew rolled
back in at various times of the night in various levels of drunkenness.
By Arlene Rowan

DAY 7 – Sunday 27th January 2008 Last day onboard the ship

LN684 Gran Canaria- Gran Canaria

Scientific Voyage

What a wonderful week! Over the week, the number of voyage crew on board grew at
times from 50 to 50 million with the various zooplankton, phytoplankton and other such
life being welcomed, examined and photographed.

This voyage has involved all the crew which has been great for the non-scientists
amongst and has also been great for the scientist some of whom have never sailed before.
Proving environmental science can be done on an environmentally sound tall ship.

But amongst all the new activity on board, there was still lots of camaraderie and
willingness to muck into the ship’s routine of mess duty, happy hour, bracing the yards
and climbing the rigging and of course, doing the watches and helming the ship – a full
week you’ll agree but one we’ll be talking about for many evenings to come.
By Rachel Medical Purser