Sunday, 31 August 2008

We're currently here. At about 8PM (Madagascar time), we'll reach our next CTD station. I'm supposed to be sleeping now as my shift starts again at midnight. I've just spent quite some time trying to explain most of the CTD sampling stations to the 3 Malagasy scientists who have been placed on my watch. Mainly in French, which is quite tiring - I haven't really used any French since school, which was quite some time ago now! I cunningly brought a French/English dictionary, and a book of nautical terms in ten languages, which should help. Still, it's very rusty, but I think I'm making myself better understood in my limited French than in English, so I guess it's worth it. To the right, Bradley is processing a zooplankton sample from the multinet.

Earlier on, Bradley explained his multinet zooplankton sampling method to all the newcomers; on the left, he's showing them the datasheet generated by Nansen's on board systems that tracks at what depths and for how long each of the 5 multinet nets was open for and between what depths - he also covered how to actually process the samples and how to correctly label samples. After that, we went to the back of the ship where he showed them how the sample containers (cod ends) are hooked up to the system.

Proper labelling can't be underestimated; there's nothing quite as frustrating as coming across a jar of something and not knowing what it is or where it's from - a waste of potentially very valuable data! Most containers on this cruise are labelled at least twice, generally once in pencil and then in permanent marker; if the samples get really wet, the labels suffer, and if there are solvents, the marker is erased. Many samples also have a pencil-written label inside too! Adequate redundant labelling is particularly important on very long cruises, and when you are collecting specimens for other people - ditto adequate note-taking so they can work out what you did - and if they ask you, you have something to refer to in 2 years time when they suddenly ask you to remember something you did at 3am one morning on a heaving ship!

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