Friday, 19 September 2008

Time for some serious updates...!

Well, it's been a busy few days and some time since the last blog update, for which I apologise - so I feel it is high time to do some updating about the events of the last few days, so stay tuned for some bumper edition blog posts!

The Nansen arrived in port at Toamasina/Tamatave on the evening of the 16th of September. We were all, I think, very happy to reach dry land after quite some time at sea and to get off and stretch our legs - and see something other than the same fairly cramped spaces on the ship and miles and miles of blue (or, if it was rough, blue and white!) water. The vessel docked about here, with pride-of-place in front of the port control building.

In the hours we spent languishing around, waiting for permission to dock (we spent about 5 hours just waiting around in the bay), we cleaned the ship. The crew spent the previous days finding and eliminating any rusty patches they could reach on board the vessel, even climbing up onto the cranes to give them a thorough scrub, either using elbow grease, rust remover or paint! The science team (well, the junior members of it - it seems Norwegian scientists and local cruise leaders are exempt - the perks of seniority!) spent some time turning working spaces into clean, neat and tidy showcases. Jéssica's team capitalised on her penchant for orderliness and tidied away the clutter of day-to-day working operations, leaving open spaces so you could actually see lab benches for once! My team was then tasked with the actual cleaning of these workspaces, so we mopped and scrubbed the floors (and, in places, the walls too!) and worksurfaces - particularly those that were covered in fish at some stage. We even washed the rugs that were scattered around the labs. I don't think the floors have been that clean in some time! We used some sort of bio-degradable detergent made from plant oils and, as a result, things smelt rather like linseed oil around here for a while - but I think that is a considerable improvement over old fish!

Once all of the port formalities (customs and immigration) were completed, most of the people aboard the Nansen ended up going ashore and visiting a local hang-out called "Neptune's" in town. As nice as it was to get off the ship and have a few quiet beverages, it was rather marred by the presence of a gaggle of ladies-of-the-night who were not at all subtle in their intentions (or attentions). It was actually rather difficult to dissuade them and it somewhat dampened my spirits on the two occasions we went there; this seems to be the "best" place in Toamasina to go out, hence our return visit the next evening. So, if you find yourself here, you know what to expect.

We were all rather excited to find they served cocktails, particularly Jéssica who had been dying for a Margarita almost since we left Durban! Unfortunately for Jéssica, they didn't know how to make one. And, it turns out, they don't seem to quite know how to make some of the cocktails on the menu either. Tequila Sunrises were rather unlike the way they should be - indeed, most of the ones I saw made (or sampled) didn't even have orange juice in them and they were shaken with large amounts of grenadine to leave something rather unlike any Tequila Sunrise you have ever seen (or tasted) before - the base fruit juice seemed to be pineapple. I seriously considered showing them how it's done, but I couldn't see any orange juice behind the bar, so I ultimately chose not to! Ultimately, I think travel is about novel experiences - and these were certainly novel!

It was great to spend time with scientists and crew outside of the ship - and, whilst I've mentioned some negative points in the paragraph above, it wasn't a total disaster, and they will be evenings I will look back on for some time to come with (mostly) fond memories!

Next up: the Launch event and tours!

Photos courtesy Tommy Bornman (1), James Stapley (3).

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