onsdag 27 augusti 2014

Danes to the rescue and (again) a rough end

Here is another blog from leg 4 blogger Arjen Boon:

After some deliberations of Magnus with KC Denmark, our Danish friends flew in with a new pump, which...showed the same problems as the old pump. Going back to their hotel after an evening work, the Danes figured out what could be wrong and came back with joyful news the next day. The pump was repaired (some software comms thing, don't ask me) and that afternoon we set sail towards the east coast of Gotland to do our so desired sampling.

KC Denmark staff together with leg 4 crew members deploying the pump, that now functions properly again

The ride down south was bumpy, but with sunny weather. Arriving at our planned location, we were able to deploy all instruments and take the desired samples.
The next sampling location was planned somewhere in the middle of the Baltic, near Estonia. For a change, this was a ride with the wind in our backs. We made good speed and distance, and sometimes it looked more like surfing than sailing. Also this (corkscrew) movement was not altogether pleasant for some of us, but the spirits were positive and everybody enjoyed the trip. When arriving at our location, the waves were too high to be able to deploy the pump and the trawl. So, water samples were only taken with the good old bucket.
It was decided to not to do anymore offshore sampling, but instead to do one last sampling inshore in the shelter of the mainland. We arrived Friday evening after a bumpy ride (what's new...) and indeed in the shelter we could work in quiet waters and all samples were taken.

During the remainder of the night we sailed through the Stockholm archipelago, under a starry night with lightning somewhere in the eastern Baltic, the dark rocky islands glooming in the twilight behind the buoys and lighthouses...In the morning we arrived at sunny Sandhamn where the wind had decided to tease us once more by being virtually absent...

And this was the end of the 'Baltic Expedition 2014' for microplastics in the Baltic Sea. I am happy and proud to have been part of this scientific expedition, onboard a sturdy sailing boat with an interesting and varied scientific crew and under the professional and pleasant guidance and care of Eric, Shanley and Megan. Although the last leg was burden with windy weather (we sailed with two and sometimes even three reefs in the mainsail, and mostly with one foresail), my guess is that the other legs have provided sufficient proper samples to state that this was a successful expedition. It proves that this kind of sampling can well be carried out from a relatively small vessel with a well-trained crew. Usual research vessels are much bigger and heavier and might seem to be more comfortable to be on with bad weather. However, also on such large vessels people become seasick above Beaufort 5 (8.0–10.7 m/s), and equipment handling is equally problematic above Beaufort 6 (10.8–13.8 m/s). It is the larger number and size of equipment (and persons) that can be carried around by thesevessels that makes them profitable, but I am convinced that many pelagic (and maybe even benthic) sampling can be carried out on smaller (and less costly) vessels. I hope this expedition will find a follow-up somewhere next year when the results are available.

Team leg 4!

tisdag 26 augusti 2014

Leg 4 completed and a new crew for the day

The leg 4 crew happily (!) left the boat this Saturday in Sandhamn after an eventful week. There are more stories to tell and I do not think we heard the last from them yet.

On Sunday we got a new crew on board for the day. Politicians, representativs from gouvernment agencies and sponsors visited us and joined Sea Dragon for a day sail in the Stockholm archipelago. We sampled the water for particles using the pump and also showed some of the trawl samples from the expedition. To symbolize the whole expedition, the weather was very nice at the beginning and then quickly changed to a heavy downpour. It was a successful day despite this, the pump was working and there were lots of discussions and positive comments.

Isabella Lövin, member of the European Parliament, and Matilda Ernkrans, chairman of the Environment and Agriculture Committee in the Swedish Parliament, examins one of the particle filters.

torsdag 21 augusti 2014

A cunning plan, fawlty equipment and blisters!

Blog by Arjen Boon

Indeed, yesterday and today a cunning plan was set up an carried out! Due to the meteorological constraints, we decided to stay in the northernmost bay of Gotland, or to be precise, Fårö. Instead of doing a large-scale study on the distribution of microparticles, we chose to do a small-scale study on litter in the bay water column and on the beaches of Fårö island. Not only the weather forced us to do this, also the fawlty pump needed repairs. We had to wait until Wednesday evening for the KC Denmark guys to bring us a new pump. They tried to keep us busy with strange assignments such as: 'turn the propellor first twenty times clockwise, then twenty times counter clockwise....'; nobody believed that it would work, and it didn't.

At one magic moment (after threatening the pump to become a cucumber slicer), the pump miraculously started to work again. In the water, Eric and undersigned inspected the working of the pump. For me it was a good excuse to go swimming, after not having taken a shower so far...However, the pump did not seem to be pumping any significant amount of water.
We had more fawlty equipement: also the engine of the small dingy of Sea Dragon refused to continue to work after one good attempt. This forced us to take out the big dingy to play around with.

So, the cunning plan was to trawl the bay for microlitter, and to sample the beaches in and nearby the bay for macrolitter. The trawl surveys consisted of two hours sitting in a dingy with 3 to 4 men/women sailing around the bay and  having really important discussions. Getting the catch from the trawl net properly into a jar appeared a challenge though. The beach surveys consisted of controlled observing and sampling specific stretches of beaches, describing the items found and taking sediment samples for later studying in the lab for microlitter. Tuesday only nearby beaches were sampled, but today also the southern beach was sampled. With no alcohol on board, it suddenly seemed very necessary to sample this beach which very conveniantly passed a bar...a beer was well deserved after the long walk, which caused some blisters on the poor researchers' feet. The Fårö beach surveys delivered interesting results. There was the discovery of the until now unknown Fårö freedom fighter (a.k.a. the 'Hose guy'), the remains of an unidentified Fårö culture and leftovers of the last war between Denmark and Sweden.


Unfortunately, tomorrow we will be leaving this lively and culturally diverse place for a sampling spot down the East coast of Gotland. This means for half of the crew taking the necessary precautions (pills), and enjoying a good night sleep before again a bumpy ride south.

onsdag 20 augusti 2014

Gale warning

Months of careful planning diseappears in a second when a comprising low pressure enters the Scandinavian peninsula. Sea Dragon is taking shelter at Fårö on Gotland waiting for conditions when sampling on open sea can be carried out again. The crew seems to be in a good spirit and performs some innovative sampling on land and in the bay.

måndag 18 augusti 2014

A rough start

Blog by Arjen Boon

The  fourth and last leg of the Baltic expedition 2014 promises to be quite a windy one! We sailed from posh and noisy Sandhamn Sunday morning, when the sun was shining and the wind was promising us a beautiful sailing and sampling day. And it did...for a short time.
Of course, the weather forecasts did warn us and the sampling plan was adapted accordingly. The first sampling station was nearby, and we succeeded to take both trawl and pump samples (photo 1).


Eric, the captain and Magnus, the expedition leader, set up an adapted sampling plan for the rest of the week; the second sampling station was planned just east of Gotland, but it was against wind. The other sampling stations were spread along the Gulf of Finland, and more downwind (from Gotland). With the predicted wind forces and directions, the chances for getting good samples were best to go southwest first, and then east and northeast.
During the evening and night the wind picked up and we were sailing close to the wind in forces of 30 knots, with two reefs in the mainsail and the jib. Later on the wind increased further to 35 knots and the jib was replaced by the staysail and a third reef in the mainsail. During the night and in squalls wind gusts of over 45 knots were measured, and the Sea Dragon was racing off and over ever increasing waves like an experienced surfer off Hawaiian waves. Fortunately for most, this was the 'worst' it got. About half of the crew did not handle well with the rough sea state so early in the expedition and disappeared below decks, or stayed close to the deck hose (photo 2).

After realising that we were not to do any decent sampling with this weather, and the knowledge that it would only get worse on Tuesday, we decided to seek shelter at the northern tip of Gotland, and this is where we are now. A new squall is coming and dinner is being served (photo 3).

Apart from the less than perfect sampling, the last leg of the Baltic expedition is enjoyable so far and far from boring (for the other half of the crew that is...). The weather development for the rest of the week is not likely to leave us much room for expecting all planned stations to be sampled. We are in need of a cunning plan...

söndag 17 augusti 2014

Leg 3 completed

The pump getting out of the water
After the maintenance work the pump has been working beautiful. We lost one sampling point in the beginning of the week and was hoping to do some damage control later. However the weather did not work with us and the strong winds and high waves resulted in another missed sampling point. Sea Dragon was in her right element tacking in strong head winds and the crew experienced some real sailing. We set some Baltic Sea Expedition records; strongest wind, highest waves, fastest speed, number of people puking, number of pukes by a person, largest puke by a person. The crew was despite this in a good spirit during the whole week and sailing into Stockholm again was a calm and wonderful finish of leg 3.
Joakim Engström and Megan Evans at the main sail

The crew enjoying the last afternoon on Sea Dragon

The best views from the boom (Nooshin Olsson)

onsdag 13 augusti 2014

Rough wheather

Today we had an early day, waking up at 4am, as I and my watch team had the pleasure of steering the boat in the early morning hours. We had been anchored close to land during the night, to get protection from the wind, but this morning we headed out to do samplings in the Bothnian Bay. Something we were prevented from doing the day before due to rough weather. After the sampling we headed south to reach the next position. However, the weather turned worse during the day; first heavy rain, and later big waves. Despite that the windy weather made the sampling impossible and made several people seasick, this weather gave us a great chance to see this boat using its full potential, as the boat was heeling over. This was both much fun to some of us, as we did the so-called hiking, sitting on the rails with the legs over board. But when being downstairs, the heeling over made it difficult to walk around, as you constantly were tipping over to the side the boat was leaning to.