Main St to Main St

JEverest@ECORD_IODP_DSC02750So I live on Main Street back in my wee village in Scotland, though it doesn’t share many similarities with Main Street on the Fugro Synergy, our vessel for Expedition 381. It’s warmer here for a start. It would be t-shirt weather during the daytime (if I ever really saw much daytime) though the nights are pretty chilly. This is made worse by the fact Graham won’t turn the heating on in the ESO Office container. It’s OK for him, he doesn’t sit right by the open door.

I also don’t have a sea view at home. All I have to do here is turn my head to the left, and there it is, the Gulf of Corinth. If I walk ten paces to the starboard rail, at night I can watch anything up to 50 dolphins frolicking (and yes we have discussed the use of the word frolicking. It’s acceptable for dolphins) in the waves next to the ship. When the sun comes up I can watch the sparkling blue waters rolling past in the sunshine, with the snow-capped Parnassos Mountains behind.


My neighbours are just as friendly as those in the Scottish Borders, but morning coffee here is shared with scientists and engineers from Germany, France, the UK, the USA… and Graham, who lives 300 yards from my house at home anyway. On the opposite side of the very Christmassy looking Main St right now I can see Rob examining a section of core, teasing out the fine-scale differences in the sediments. Marcie is staring down her microscope, looking for diatoms, whose species distribution and type will tell us more about the ancient environments preserved in the cores, and whose reproductive habits we only discovered this morning. Donna is lost in synthetic seismics, correlating our core logs with the existing seismic interpretations of the rift geology. Next door Patrizia is curating the latest core that has been recovered, sampling at various points for all sorts of later analyses. In the same container Simone is preparing her speciality, a Squeeze Cake (yum), forcing pore water from the sediments for geochemical analysis. Next door along, Vera is making sure all the data is safely compiled in the onboard database, and probably worrying that I’m going to ask her for another randomly shaped USB cable as I walk past. The MSCL (Multi Sensor Core Logger) container is currently quiet, as Laurence is making himself a coffee back in the office container, but normally he’s in there on his own in his temperature-controlled lab, ensuring the highly sensitive instruments capture the tiny variations in physical properties of each core perfectly. Back across the Street, the sounds of Metal leak from the Geochemistry lab. I think Clint is listening to Slipknot this morning as he is precipitating zinc sulphides in the pore water samples…. I don’t even pretend to understand that. Returning to the Office, Graham is looking out of the door- “Next one’s up- give ‘em the call…”. It’s the signal that a new core has finished its journey from over 500m below the sea bed and up to the deck of the Synergy, and that it’s time for it to start the next part of its journey through our labs and curators hands.

It is 3am.

I wouldn’t be awake at this time on Main Street back at home, and probably neither would anyone else. However here this ridiculous schedule has become normal very quickly, and this Main Street never shuts…


The Raffle Candy Hat

The Science Party have a slightly different take on the idea of Advent this year. Christmas started remarkably early. The Thanksgiving decorations came down on the 25th of November

and five minutes later strings of fairy lights, baubles and tinsel appeared from nowhere. Tools were downed for the next half an hour, and to the melodic strains of Bing Crosby our containers were hung with the finest decorations to be found anywhere on the Gulf of Corinth.

The Advent Calendar hangs in the Curation Container. It’s a special one, full of Swiss chocolate balls (you know the brand), and strangely became the subject of some debate. When should we start opening it? If we waited until the 1st of December, then there would be (hopefully!) six doors still waiting to be opened when we finally disembark the ship at the end of the job. This caused some serious consternation amongst some of the more confectionary-oriented members of the SP. This could not be allowed to happen! All of the chocolate must be eaten! None can be left!

So hang on…. In theory it’s 24 days from today to the end of the Expedition. BOOM! Quickly decorate a hard hat, print everyones names out and put them in our new Christmas “Raffle Candy Hat” (thanks Patrizia!) and we’re ready to draw for the first chocolate ball. All we need to watch out for is Erwan sneaking extra copies of his name in. Again.

Believe me. These things are important…