Saturday, 30 August 2008

Farewell and Hello!

Arrie Klopper and Sean Fennessy got off the Nansen today - eventually - aboard a tugboat from the port. We'll be sad to see them go, but look forward to making new friends and colleagues with the Malagasy scientists joining us.

The small tender boat on the Nansen seems to have developed a fault with its gearbox, which prevented us carrying out the plan of ferrying people back and forth with that. The port at Toalanaro has a very shallow depth, which meant the ship couldn't get in to dock. We spent most of the day waiting around to make contact with the port authorities and then for the customs officials to come aboard. Hopefully, I have some new, exciting stamps in my passport!

Most of the new Malagasy scientists were brought out on the tug, which was eventally organised after the Nansen's tender ended up out of action. (Two of them came earlier in the tender with the customs officials from the port). There were some fairly hair-raising moments as people transferred themselves and all their luggage between the two vessels and up a rope ladder (with wooden rungs to make things a lot easier!).

In other news, and to keep the technophiles happy and informed, our internet has been really glitchy for most of today and intermittently yesterday. This part of Madagascar has a small mountain range right up against the coastline - quite spectacular, but sadly very hazy and hard to see! Yes. Mountains are stopping our internet!

Our internet is provisioned through a geostationary satellite (the dish radome and the rack-mounted gear have Telenor on them). Geostationary satellites are "parked" above the equator, so, as you get further north or south from the equator, you have to point you satellite dish closer and closer to the horizon. If you've never been near the equator, you've probably never seen the strange-seeming sight of dishes pointing straight up into the sky (no doubt, satellite dishes pointing at the horizon look strange to people from the equator!). At the moment, our dish is pointing at about 30° degrees of elevation from the horizon. With a bit of maths (basic trigonometry) you could work out what height of mountains would block our internet from what distance out to sea. The mountains have gaps through, so sometimes, we've had a brief burst of connectivity. Somewhat frustrating if you're trying to blog!

Satellite connectivity gear. If the green light saying "tracking" goes out, and the green one (dark in the photo) next to "Searching" comes on, you've lost the internet. Ooops!



The radome housing the dish that connects to the satellite. Obviously, as the ship moves around a lot, it's constantly in motion inside there, adjusting to the motion of the ship on the water, and its position as it moves around the world.

Photos courtesy Jens-Otto Krakstad/Magne Olsen/Bradley Flynn/James Stapley.

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