Tuesday 11 November 2014

So long Solan Bank!

Leaving site
Two weeks have passed since we set out from Aberdeen, and following a productive stint of surveying, the sun is setting on our survey of Solan Bank Reef SCI. Having completed our work here, we are steaming for Aberdeen and looking forward to getting back to terra firma.

In total, we have recorded video and still images, and gathered information on environmental parameters at 166 stations. 

We have also used an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) to collect data on the speed and direction of currents in the water column at three areas of Solan Bank. A map of the stations we’ve collected data from can be seen below.

Stations completed on 1714S survey of Solan
Bank Reef SCI

Despite losing some time to bad weather, improving conditions towards the end of the week and the persistent hard work of the crew and scientists on board have resulted in the collection of a comprehensive dataset. This can now be used to help inform the indicator work described in earlier posts.

It is with thanks to the captain and crew of the MRV Scotia and our Marine Scotland Science colleagues for their efforts on this survey that this account closes.
The scientists on board
Please check back with us soon for more survey action!
Joey and the rest of the intrepid scientists

So lan and Goodbye!

Monday 10 November 2014

Technical talk...

Another weather chart. Red indicates bad weather on the way!

As the weather sets in again, it’s the perfect time to talk about the equipment that we have been using on this survey.

The main piece of equipment that we’ve been using is the drop-frame camera. This is a welded metal frame that supports the large amount of equipment needed to enable us to view and record images of the seabed many meters below.

The Drop-frame hub: 1 - Still camera, 2- Standard video camera
3 - HD video camera, 4 - Scaling lasers.
A high resolution still image camera provides photographs to be used as ‘quadrats’ later on, and alongside sits a High Definition (HD) video camera and a backup standard definition camera. The final piece in the 4-part ‘hub’ is the laser-scaling device: four lasers set to provide a reference box
of exactly 64 x 64 mm (the official smallest size of a cobble!) that enables us to estimate the size of features and fauna on the seafloor, especially as the equipment tends to move up and down in the current and swell.

Four LED lamps situated on corners of the metal frame shine a light on the passing sponges and other fauna, enabling the video camera to record clear images in these otherwise pitch black depths. An underwater flash gun provides a high-powered burst of light to enable the stills camera to produce crisp images such as those you have seen  in earlier blog posts. The whole rig is towed behind and below the Scotia by up to 200 meters of armoured cable attached to the ship’s winch.

Not playing Pong! MSS Engineer Chris guides
the Drop-frame through the water

Wires transmitting data and commands to the camera run through the cable itself, allowing a live stream to be viewed and the camera to be ‘flown’ above the seabed. This is skilfully handled by expert Marine Scotland engineers Chris and Neil, who keep the frame in the ‘sweet spot’ to provide as close a view as possible of the habitats and species present without creating an expensive wreck on the  seabed and reefs below...

On this survey,  the frame also carries extra equipment in the form of a CTD probe and Fluoro-turbidity logger. Sitting on the top of the frame, the CTD continuously records the Conductivity (salinity), Temperature and Depth, whilst the Fluoro-turbidity logger measures how ‘clear’ the water is. This allows us to collect environmental data which may influence the differing habitats and fauna below.

The Drop-frame being deployed, with the CTD visible
on the top of the frame.

All in all, some fairly hefty equipment! Graeme

Friday 7 November 2014

Under the weather

The weather has picked up over the last few days as low pressure Atlantic weather systems form an orderly queue waiting to move our way.

Weather chart showing a low pressure system

Due to safety concerns and difficulties controlling the camera system over the seabed in heavy swell, all video sample collection has stopped. This has set in motion a busy period of data management activity as we start backing-up, checking and “folderizing” all the stills and video data collected to date. To make the most of ship time, we have taken the opportunity to collect additional information on environmental factors such as current speed/direction that may influence the type and distribution of species that we’re seeing on our ‘state-of-the-art’ TV screens. Despite the bad weather, morale remains high and breakfasts remain down.

Echosounder image of seabed showing a sharp rise in reef elevation
We have been lucky that the visibility in the area has generally been fantastic and we’ve been provided with some great images of Solan Bank reef. Preliminary viewing of the camera data suggests that the stations we’ve visited have a mix of stony reef and bedrock reef, interspersed with areas of relatively course sandy sediment. Although the reef elevation varies considerably across the site, some areas occasionally rise dramatically from the surrounding seabed (see image below), much to the alarm of our Marine Scotland colleagues as they are controlling the rather expensive drop frame camera. Nervous times indeed!

We’ve encountered a range of typical reef species over the last few days. One of the main targets of the survey has been the humble sponge, of which several examples were described in our last blog. This time we thought we’d share some of the other beasties filling our screens, including several fish species, octopus, squid, sea anemones and other epifauna some examples we’ve preliminarily identified can be seen below.

A., Conger Eel (Conger conger); B., Ray (Raja sp.); C., Squid (possibly Loligo sp.)
D., Sea Urchin (Echinus sp.) and an Edible Crab (Cancer pagurus); E., Rockling (Gaidropsarus vulgaris); F., Octopus (possible Eledone cirrhosa)

We’re off to batten down the hatches, Bye for now! Declan

Wednesday 5 November 2014

An absorbing post from our intrepid scientists....

After a rocky passage up the east coast of Scotland to Solan Bank, the swell has eased and we have made great progress with the survey. We are working like a well-oiled machine, with the usual dose of day-night shift rivalry over who has completed the most stations in a single 12-hour stint.

Our day kicks off at 00:00 hours when we begin our 12-hour night shift.  Our nocturnal team includes resident bird expert and survey ‘rookie’ Graeme, who is on his first trip, and scientist-cum-musician Megan, whose soon to be released marine concept EP has been inspired by her time at sea. The day shift takes over the reins at midday, with keen knitter Becca who, when not working, can knock up a whole pair of mittens in a few hours and fisheries man Declan, who lends a sense of gravitas to proceedings with his recently acquired  beard.

We spend most of our time in a small shipping container which houses a baffling (to the untrained eye) array of computer monitors, cables, buttons and switches. Here we control the video feed, lights and lasers to our underwater camera system, view the live footage as the camera moves along the seabed, and take notes. We are assisted by the ship’s crew who deploy and recover the gear, and the knowledgeable Marine Scotland Science engineers who help with all things technical. 

Many many monitors...
Occasionally, we leave our makeshift office to get some fresh air and help with gear deployments and recovery on the back deck. We’ve seen a nice sunrise breaking through the clouds over (the slightly alarmingly named) Cape Wrath, and watched flocks of brave migrating Redwings being buffeted in the wind as they pass on their way to the UK for winter. There are always a number of gannets gliding around the vessel, not surprisingly as the name ‘Solan’ is supposed to mean Gannet.

A gannet on the wing

We have recorded sponges at sites where they have been known to occur in the past. We have found cup-shaped ‘flabellate’ sponges that are likely to be the species Axinella infundibuliformis, which look like prawn crackers.

Two flabellate sponges either side of a blue encrusting sponge

Another common species is one we believe to be the ‘papillate’ sponge Polymastia boletiformis, otherwise known as the hedgehog sponge due to its spiky texture.

A yellow papillate sponge alongside an orange encrusting spongey friend
We have also recorded encrusting sponges in a large variety of colours. We’re not sure which species these are as encrusting sponges are generally impossible to identify accurately without a physical sample. We may have spotted the grey ‘elephant hide’ sponge Pachymatisma johnstonia too.

More news and life on the Scotia to arrive shortly...

Monday 3 November 2014

All Aboard!

Hello and welcome to the first blog from the decks of the MRV Scotia from Joey, Declan, Megan, Graeme and Becca.

Intrepid scientists hard at work....
We’re onboard with colleagues from Marine Scotland Science to collect evidence to help in the development of an ‘indicator’ as part of the UK’s obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).  An ‘indicator’ provides information on the ‘state’ or ‘condition’ of biodiversity components, e.g. sub-tidal rock habitats.

The proposed indicator focuses on sponge and other epifauna (e.g. coral and anemone) species and is designed to spot changes in the number and type of species present in response to natural variability and human-induced pressures. Sponges and other epifauna are sensitive to environmental variability such as changes in the amount of sediment in the water column and damage from physical impacts such as fishing gear or oil and gas industry infrastructure. Ocean acidification and climate change are also likely to affect the type and quantity of species present.

The proposed indicator we are testing on this survey has two main parts:
  • Sponge morphological (body shape) diversity: Identifying individual sponge species can be very difficult due to the vast number and variation in sponges that occur in the UK and further afield. As such, spotting changes in the number and type of species present could be very time-consuming and costly. However, recognising different body shapes or ‘morphological diversity’ of sponges (see image below) is much more straightforward and quicker to do. Therefore, this could be used to detect changes in response to variations in the environment. This method has mainly been tested during inshore dive surveys and so one of the key objectives for this offshore survey is to collect data on sponge body-shapes using a drop-down camera, to test whether this approach will work in deeper waters.
  • Species composition and abundance of other epifauna communities: Epifauna is the collective term for animals that live on the surface of a substrate, in this case the sea floor and the rocky outcrops emerging from it. We can measure epifauna species composition and abundance in two ways: either by counting the total number of epifauna species or by measuring the area occupied by epifauna.

The many shapes of sponges (Berman et al 2013)

The location for our study is Solan Bank Site of Community Importance (SCI). Bedrock and stony reef are present at the site, which is fantastic habitat for sponges and other epifaunal species. Solan Bank is located approximately 50km north of Cape Wrath on the Scottish mainland. Extensive areas of bedrock outcrops with cliffs rising up to 10 metres from the surrounding seabed are found across the site. Away from the cliffs, habitat ranges from sands through to highly fissured bedrock reefs.  Hopefully there will be some interesting photos of sponges and other epifaunal species to come in the next blog.

Bye for now! Joey, Declan, Megan, Graeme and Becca.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Offshore survey of Solan Bank Site of Community Importance

On the 28 October 2014 JNCC will embark on a 14 day survey of Solan Bank Reef Site of Community Importance aboard the MRV Scotia.  Solan Bank Reef is one of the 20 offshore candidate Special Areas of Conservation in UK offshore waters and is located approximately 50km north of Cape Wrath in the north-west of Scotland (see map below).
Map displaying the cSAC boundary and reef feature.
View and download spatial data for this MPA on the JNCC UK MPA interactive map.

The site is designated for Annex I reef, specifically sub-types ‘bedrock’ and ‘stony’ reef. Bedrock outcrops create areas of high topography with linear features, thought to be bedrock joint planes, forming cliffs up to 10m. In areas of bedrock where linear features are not as prominent, bedrock outcrops are smooth and undulating forming features known as roches moutonnĂ©es. The reefs are characterised by encrusting fauna, mainly bryozoans and in the shallower areas, encrusting coralline algae. Also present are cup corals, brittlestars, a range of sponges, bryozoans, hydroids, soft coral, jewel anemones, foliose red algaes and kelp.  

On this cruise, we will focus on gathering seabed evidence to inform the development of a 
national indicator of ‘Good Environmental Status’ for sponge and other epifaunal communities (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-6817) as part of the UK’s obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The indicator analyses the number of sponges present and their morphologies (body shapes) to assess the state of the seabed communities. 

As the indicator was developed for SCUBA diver surveys, the survey hopes to determine whether this indicator can be adapted for use in deeper waters. The survey team will be using a drop down camera system to collect high definition seabed imagery in order to assess changes in sponge communities in response to natural variables and human-induced pressures. 

Data on environmental parameters which could contribute to sponge community structure (e.g. turbidity, temperature, current flow and direction) will be collected, and imagery data collected will also help improve our understanding of the distribution and extent of Annex I reef in the site and the biological communities associated with them.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Dogger's in the Bank!

According to North Sea legend, there exists a merry elf-like creature called a Klabautermann who helps sailors and fishermen with their duties on ship. While none of us here have actually seen one of these good willed sprites, we must surely have had one on board given how smoothly everything has gone on this trip!

Sailing into the sunset (A. Cunha, JNCC)
All in all it’s been a pretty epic survey; we’ve been operating around the clock for 456 hours, collected samples from more than 400 stations over an area roughly a third the size of Wales, sifted our way through around two thousand litres of sediment and captured over 30 hours of video footage of the seabed. The data we’ve collected will now be processed and analysed back on shore, the results will give us plenty to pore over in the next few months. The outputs from our survey will allow us to get a much better understanding of how the biological communities at Dogger Bank respond to anthropogenic pressures and natural processes, how we can monitor these changes and how different sampling gear can affect your results. 

An Ocean Quahog, Arctica Islandica (A. Cunha, JNCC)

We had an exciting end to our penultimate day shift when we found a huge Arctica islandica in our grab. These bivalved behemoths are really rare and can live for hundreds of years (the oldest recorded, nicknamed ‘Ming’, was thought to be over 500 years old!). After recording its measurements, we returned this fella to the ocean, where it will probably live for many decades to come.

The Day Shift, plus 'floaters'! (A. Cunha, JNCC)
The Night Shift, taken by their camera shy shift lead (P. McIlwaine, Cefas)
To sign off, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved in the survey. It’s been a really successful trip, especially as we’ve managed to meet all our main objectives and more to boot. None of this, of course, would have been possible without the skill and professionalism of the officers and crew of the RV Cefas Endeavour as well as the experience and expertise of our partners at Cefas, including Scientist in Charge Dr Sue Ware. 

Stay tuned for future instalments from our next survey later on in the year!

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Pick a grab, any grab

For 17 days now, we have been grabbing bits of the Dogger Bank seafloor in order to better understand the habitats and communities that live there.

Today we are entering a new phase of the survey in which we’re going to use 5 different grabs to collect samples from a smaller area within this marine protected area.

The reason behind this extra effort is the need to compare our data with data collected in previous studies and by international colleagues using different grab equipment. Analysis of samples collected from different grabs can give different results. This is thought to be due to the differences in the way these grabs operate as well as their specifications.

Mini Hamon grab being deployed (A. Cunha JNCC)

The mini and large Hamon grabs for example, are effective for sampling fine and coarse sediments and have been widely used in the United Kingdom.

A Shipek going into action (A. Cunha JNCC)
The Shipek grab is smaller and used mainly for sediment particle size analysis; it is better suited for coarser sediments. The Day and Van Veen grabs are good for sampling fine and sandy sediments but are prone to getting stones caught in their jaws which can result in part of the samples being lost.

New grab induction day  (A. Cunha JNCC)

Because the Van Veen grab is a new piece of equipment on board of the Cefas Endeavour, a Risk Assessment  protocol has been created and everyone on board that will eventually use or help using this grab had to participate in a full demonstration of all possible hazards and risks.

The Van Veen being inspected by the Master, the Chief Scientist
and the engineers on board (A. Cunha JNCC).

A Van Veen grab being deployed by crew members  (M. Nelson JNCC)
We hope that the findings from this part of the survey will help us gain an insight into how data collected using different grabs vary and allow us to better compare our results with those collected in other studies at Dogger Bank. 

Saturday 31 May 2014

The Lesser Weever FIsh

The sea has calmed down and we’ve arrived in the final and largest survey area. We’ve continued to encounter a range of interesting species. Dogger Itch is not the only animal which we need to be wary of. In the last few days, we have also encountered the lesser weever fish. A picture of the lesser weever fish accompanied by the words ‘Weever Fish Stings’ was placed on the wall in the wet lab on the first day of the survey to warn the scientists to take care. The lesser weever fish has poisonous spines on its first dorsal fins and gills. Needless to say, we’ve being handling it with extreme care.

Lesser weever fish with its poisonous black dorsal fin.  

We’ve also encountered several crabs including the edible crab (Cancer Pagurus), the flying crab (Liocarcinus holsatus), the toad crab (Hyas coarctatus) and the hermit crab (Pagurus prideaux) with the cloak anemone (Admasia carciniopados). The cloak anemone envelops the hermit crab’s shell and increases the size of the shell. This means that the crab does not need to change its shell as it grows. 

Edible crab (Cancer Pagurus)

Flying crab (Liocarcinus holsatus)

Toad crab (Hyas coarctatus)

Hermit crab (Pagurus prideaux) with the cloak anemone (Admasia carciniopados).

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Beware the Dogger itch!

We have now moved into our third survey area on the Dogger Bank and we’re making good progress despite the best efforts of the North Sea weather, which has certainly picked up a bit from what it was.

Sampling the sea floor with the Van Veen grab in more idyllic conditions (S. Pearson, Cefas)

During our sampling so far, we’ve found lots of interesting sea floor animals including several starfish, flatfish such as the lemon sole and dab and various species of crabs and shrimp. We also happened to pick up a few animals that live in the water column above the seabed, including a few little cuttlefish which we couldn’t resist photographing.

The Little Cuttle, Sepiola atlantica (H. Hinchen, JNCC)

Working at sea has its risks, but you might not expect to face much danger handling the innocent looking creature pictured below. This is a bryozoan called Sea Chervil (Alcyonidium diaphanum). Bryozoans are a collection of tiny animals called zooids all living together in a colony. They often resemble plants more than animals and ‘bryozoa’ actually means ‘moss animal’. Each individual zooid looks like a tiny sea anemone, often having a ring of tentacles surrounding its mouth.

The Sea Chervil, Alcyonidium diaphanum, 16cm (A. Cunha, JNCC)

This particular bryozoan is said to cause the dreaded ‘Dogger itch’ when handled by unsuspecting fishermen (or scientists!). The Dogger itch is caused by a hypersensitivity to the sea chervil and can give you a nasty weeping rash which can last for months! As scientists we often like to get up close and personal with the animals that we collect; feeling their textures and looking closely at their characteristics. We’ll certainly all be careful what we touch after handling these specimens though, even with gloves on!

Monday 26 May 2014

Welcome to Doggerland!

If we were to sample the Dogger Bank SAC a few thousand years ago, we would be better off doing it by foot than on a ship. At that time, the area was dry land and formed a larger landmass which connected Great Britain to Europe known as Doggerland.

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland (c. 8,000 BCE), which provided a land bridge between Great Britain and continental Europe (© Max Naylor)
The landscape would have looked very different from the extensive mass of water we see today; mammoths would be roaming through the tundra, and we might have encountered some humans running after lions with stone spears!

After the last Ice Age, around 8000 BCE, the north-facing coastal area of Doggerland had a coastline of lagoons, saltmarshes, mudflats, and beaches, and inland streams and rivers and marshes, and sometimes lakes. The archaeologists studying the site think that this was probably a rich habitat with human habitation and may have been the richest hunting, fowling and fishing ground in Europe in the Mesolithic period!

The Dogger Bank itself, an upland area of Doggerland, is believed to have remained as an island until at least 5000 BCE. After the end of the final glacial period of the last ice age, rising sea levels gradually reduced it to low-lying islands before its final abandonment, perhaps following a megatsunami caused by the Storegga slide – a submarine landslide off the coast of Norway. Nowadays the shallowest tip of Dogger Bank is below 20 meters of water. It is still a very rich fishing ground mainly for flat fish and sandeel.

A piece of peat with holes made by bivalves retrieved from the Dogger Bank seabed (A. Cunha, JNCC)

Some fishing vessels operating in the area today still occasionally drag up remains of mammoth, lion and other land animals, and even small numbers of prehistoric tools and weapons. This prompted the team to be on the look out for any suspicious objects while going through the benthic samples retrieved from the seafloor, in the hope of finding some interesting archaeology.

Fragments of peat retrieved from the Dogger Bank seabed (A. Cunha, JNCC)

Until now we haven’t been that lucky, although we have been finding little fragments of what we think could be pieces of peat, charcoal and even fossilized trees (although no one on board is an archaeologist!). Maybe we are being too creative but it is exciting to think that we are actually floating over such an amazing place.

Unidentified fragments, possibly charcoal pieces... (A. Cunha, JNCC)

Friday 23 May 2014

A bird in the hand...

by Becks Hunter

We’ve moved on to our second survey area and have left the tropical conditions behind. Night shift battled through seven hours of sieving in heavy rain under rough conditions. Now is the time to test who really has their sea legs!

Some of our most interesting finds include pogges (Agonus cataphractus) and sea mice (Aphrodita aculeata). These marine critters obviously aren’t actually rodents, but are a species of segmented worm. They are covered by a characteristic ‘fur’ of bristles and chaetae. Some of these are iridescent, giving the sea mouse a blue/green shimmer.

Sea mice, Aphrodita aculeata 

We are finding a lot of hermit crabs as well, including some whose shells have been entirely taken over by Epizoanthus incrustatus, a colonial species related to coral. One larger crab climbed out of his whelk shell and gave us the unusual opportunity to photograph the whole body.

Hermit crab with Epizoanthus incrustatus

A hermit crab outside its home

At 5am this morning, during transit between stations, night shift were called upon to perform a high seas rescue mission. A Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) had flown inside the ship and was stuck in one of the tea rooms. We were able to catch it and take it back outside, although it didn’t seem to be in any rush to leave!

A Chiffchaff infiltrates the lab

Not quite Doctor Doolittle, but close enough

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Dog Days on Dogger Bank

Today marks our third day of sampling on the Dogger Bank Site of Community Importance (SCI), where we’re gathering evidence to help inform future monitoring options. Weather conditions have so far been exceptional with the water colour resembling what you would imagine seeing in some sort of tropical paradise rather than the North Sea!

Scientists and crew deploy a grab into the azure waters of the North Sea (A. Cunha JNCC)

At our first survey area we are collecting data for a Before-After Control Impact (BACI) study. This type of study is designed to experimentally test the effects of a particular event, such as closing an area to fishing or exposing an area to contamination. Samples are taken before the event happens both inside and outside of the affected area. The same locations are then sampled a period of time after the event to see if any changes can be measured. Sampling a control area is important as this helps us to say whether any change measured is happening because of the event or if it can be attributed to other variables or natural variation. 

Our sampling strategy involves collecting grab samples of the seabed to examine the animals living within it and get an idea of the types of sediment that are present. We’ve also been carrying out camera sledge tows and small scientific trawls to see what animals we can find living on the surface of the seabed. Sifting through the animals to classify them by species and size can be a risky business, with the swimming crab Liocarcinus being particularly pinchy! 
Handle with care! Liocarcinus crabs like to snap at the fleshy fingers of unsuspecting scientists... (A. Cunha JNCC)

Friday 16 May 2014

Offshore survey of Dogger Bank Site of Community Importance

On the 17th May 2014 another 20 day JNCC commissioned survey will commence aboard the RV Cefas Endeavour to the Dogger Bank Site of Community Importance (SCI) in English offshore waters.  Dogger Bank is one of the 20 offshore candidate Special Areas of Conservation (cSAC) in UK offshore waters and is located in the Southern North Sea, approximately 150km north east of the Humber Estuary (see map below).

Map displaying the MPA boundary and sandbank feature.
View and download spatial data for this MPA on the JNCC UK MPA interactive map.

The Dogger Bank is the largest sandbank in UK waters and extends into both Dutch and German waters. It is home to a variety of species which live both on and within the sandy sediment. This includes segmented polychaete worms, shrimp like amphipods and small clams which burrow into the sand. Animals like hermit crabs, flatfish and starfish also live on top of the sandbank. Lots of long thin silver sand eels can be found on the sides of the sandbank and are food for many seabirds, whales and dolphins and other fish such as cod. The aim of this 20 day survey will be to gather evidence to help inform monitoring options for the site.

Monday 31 March 2014

Land ahoy!

We’ve now come to the end of this survey aboard the RV Cefas Endeavour, completing our voyage around Farnes East, Swallow Sand MCZ and the Fladen grounds – three special areas of the northern North Sea. We’ve steamed back down south to Lowestoft through a thick blanket of fog and now have sight of the Suffolk coast again. However, whether we can actually come into port tonight remains to be seen, as we wait to see what visibility is like at high tide.

Spring temperatures haven't reached the foggy North Sea yet (Photo: Neil Golding).
The last stretch back to Lowestoft has seen us packing away equipment, cleaning the workspaces and completing our final checks of all the data we’ve collected. We have come back with plenty of data (despite the poor weather last week) and with the steam home taking 36 hours, we’ve had a good opportunity to get as much of our data entry and map work done as possible.

We’ve also had several more visitors joining our journey on board, the most recent and unexpected being a moorhen which turned up yesterday evening while we were in the middle of the North Sea. The moorhens that breed in the UK are resident, but this individual may be a Scandinavian bird, spending its winters in western Europe then crossing the North Sea to return and breed in Norway or Sweden.

A very camera shy moorhen Gallinula chloropus hitching a lift on the stern (Photo: Neil Golding).
Our last day also saw us being treated to a tour around the engine and winch rooms by Gary the Chief Engineer. This, in addition to our crash course on steering the vessel, could help us if we ever had to take control of the vessel in an emergency, but thankfully it didn't come to that!

The engine room on the lower deck (NB. imagine lots of noise) (JNCC/Cefas).
Of course a class photo with the vessel’s ensign was in order too – all looking happy to have made it through the survey with not a single sign of sea sickness!

Geeks at sea! (JNCC/Cefas)
Finally, we would like to thank our colleagues from Cefas for all their hard work on this survey, and the ship’s crew who helped us tremendously and made us feel very welcome aboard ship.