It was strange for all of us to see Stanley again when we had not expected to return. We spent only a few hours there, and it was dark, but we saw the bright lights of Stanley from afar and realised that there still are other people in the world after all. Advantage was taken of the time in port to have divers inspect the prop to see if Carlos' cable was wrapped around it - it was not. And, most importantly, we took on fresh supplies of fruit, salad, milk and chocolate !
At the time of the medevac we were doing closely spaced CTD stations in The Gap in the Falklands Ridge (~49" 20'S, 35" 40'W). We were about to cross the Polar Front and in a region of many mesoscale eddies (fascinating variations in both the ADCP currents and the sea surface temperature). So it was an unfortunate place to break off the section. We are now (Thursday morning, 20th April) steaming back to The Gap, and will repeat a number of stations to make sure we cross the whole of the Polar Front and are able to patch the two legs together. We expect to be doing our next station on Friday morning.
Since time was already very tight to complete the section, the prospect of losing so many days of science was dismaying. However BAS have kindly agreed to a week's extension to the cruise to enable us to fulfil our objectives. We have just had our revised flight details confirmed, and will fly out on 9th May, arriving in Gatwick on 10th May. We expect to reach Rio about 7th May. I know that those of you with loved ones on board will find this extra time frustrating and upsetting, and certainly some here are finding it hard. However everyone accepts that we must complete the task we came here to do.
The general mood amongst the scientists has been positive and morale remains remarkably high. After a day or two when everyone slept and relaxed, we are now making the most of the break to catch up with data analysis. Some of the chemists who were turning nocturnal have even been seen at mealtimes in the saloon ! Luca instigated an evening of Brazilian dancing in the bar, salsa mainly, which proved great fun (and which the Chief Scientist hopes will not be the last such event !). A good deal of bridge (!) has been played in the bar of an evening, not to mention the Scrabble, Monopoly and Boggle marathons. The Doctor has promised a Scottish dancing evening, and a bbq is planned.
A table tennis competition was organised by the 3rd Mate, Antonio, and is now into the second round. It's doubles with teams picked at random, and when one team leads by more than 2-0, they have to wear wellingtons and gloves as a handicap. I have to confess that Trevor and myself were roundly defeated despite the wellies. Ping pong in a force 9 is quite exciting.
In case you get the impression that the social calendar is squeezing out the science, I should report that an excellent presentation was given last night by Brian and Elaine on the acoustic Doppler current profiler, the GPS navigation, and the results so far (which include some intriging observations of the Antarctic Coastal Current). It would have been nice to have deployed XBTs during the steams to and from the Falkalnds, but unfortunately we started the cruise with many less than we had hoped for (only 84) so we were already eking them out. Still, we have thermosalinograph and ADCP data, and the meteorologists have made good use of the steams (they are having to be a bit stingy with the gas for their balloons though). It is amazing how well the ADCP is performing while we are steaming at 15 knots, and in yesterday's rough weather too.
It now seems a long time ago, but just after the last newsletter was sent we approached close to South Georgia. I have rarely seen such a magical looking place - dramatic snow covered peaks rising out of the sea, glaciers glistening. Visibility was good and it was sunny - we persuaded even the sleepy 12-4 watch that it was worth getting up for. We passed close to Clerke Rocks and Nobby and the Office Boys, a small collection of black rocks. There were seals and whales, a pod of killer whales chasing something. As we approached South Georgia we began to be followed by a variety of Albatrosses, including Wanderers and Blackbrows. They disappeared as we approached Stanley, but have since rejoined us. The other wildlife this week has been hourglass dolphins chasing the ship.
The new big fat CTD cable has proved successful and will enable us to do casts deeper than 4500 m, thankfully. It has caused some difficulties with the winch, so we have to go more slowly. It remains to be seen whether the friction will be sufficient to cope with the stations in the Argentine Basin which will approach 6000 m deep.
After some days of rough and grey weather, we are now in brilliant sunshine and calm seas, long may it continue.