Our first day of transit is quite busy with planning meetings, clearing-ups of already emerging jumble, and doing a safety drill to practice the worst-case scenario. As of yet there is not that much science going and I will take the opportunity to introduce some of our research group leaders!
Saskia Brix is our chief scientist and she works as a biologist at Senckenberg am Meer in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. She’s got the hat on for our cruise. Everything related to station planning, organising and decision making goes through her. She’s been planning this cruise since 2013. (At that time, the new R/V Sonne wasn’t even existing!), and it has been her heartfelt wish ever since. Originally, the cruise should have taken place 3 years ago but due to internal shifts it has been delayed several times. Then came Corona… but finally we’re all here now thanks to Saskia’s tireless and insisting efforts! Among marine animals, seahorses are her favourite animals, but she works with a completely different group – deep-sea crustaceans. Although the adventures with ROV Kiel 6000 were her dream for this expedition, in general her favourite device is the brand-new epi-benthos sledge (EBS) called ‘Ursula’ that was ceremonially baptised yesterday. With this, she can devote to her most beloved field of research, the isopods (small crustaceans). Saskia has over 10 years of experience in leading and participating in cruises, and she can tell many stories about life at sea. Here is one of them: It was on a cruise to the Neumayer station in the Antarctic, during a cold and ice-heavy antarctic summer, when they met a freighter that was stuck in the ice. It had to be freed from the ice, and soon it was discovered that the freighter had been running out of fresh water for days. So its entire crew ended up entering RV Polarstern to take their long overdue showers…
James Taylor is the group leader of the scientific ROV team. He is working as a biologist at Senckenberg am Meer in Wilhelmshaven and polar bears are his favourite animals. When he’s not at work, you can find him on one of the upper decks, nose in the wind. His major focus during the ROV operations on board is the video footage, offering the opportunity to see – in real time – what is happening on the seafloor and being able to get highly specific ground-truth data using non-invasive methods that do not harm deep-sea life. One of the most exciting adventures in James’ career was when he was invited to Cambridge to catalogue and reclassify samples of barnacles that were actually been collected by Charles Darwin himself! Apparently, Darwin had really bad handwriting!
Morgane Le Saout (GEOMAR-Helmholtz Institute for Ocean Research) leads the hydroacoustic group and organises the multibeam surveys in order to get high resolution maps of the seafloor. Knowing the topography of the ocean’s bottom in detail is the basis for any successful operations as a lot of information can be derived from bathymetry, such as sediment characteristics, slopes, under water features and many more. Morgane’s craziest experience related to science was a shark attack during a magnetometer dive – it probably considered the magnetometer to be something to eat because next to the bite marks, Morgane found a shark tooth sticking out of the plastic case!