May 16, 2017
Day 2: Asher Flatt, onboard communicator
We board the 'Abyssal Express' in Launceston, the bus sent to whisk us all away from the airport and down to the boat port, where the RV Investigator, our home for the next month, is waiting.
There is a mad dash to get everything off the bus once it arrives so the ship can get underway. Bags are thrown and flung from doors and hatches and pilled in a heap of zippers, cords and canvas on the dock, waiting to be stowed away safely on board.
The excitement really begins once on board as we are all ushered around on a 'tour de boat', which feels as though it comprises of going down the same eerily familiar looking corridor over and over again, only to come out a door to somewhere completely new each time.
With all the excitement out of our systems we are shepherded into one of the two lounges and given the run down of rules, regulations and considerations on board, to try and minimise loud music, loud stomping and being loud in general. The ship is amazingly quiet and I'm surprised to find, about halfway through the safety induction, that we have left dock and land is fast becoming a haze of twinkling lights.
I am called upon to demonstrate the correct donning of a giant orange wetsuit that looks as though it was made for someone, or multiple someones, twice my girth, although I'm told that in the event of abandoning ship into the frigid waters around Tasmania, it's supposed to be quite comfortable, much like a portable jacuzzi.
And speaking of someone twice my size, dinner is served not long after, which is really quite superb and plentiful, leaving my mouth watering and my belt groaning, for the meals to come in the days ahead. Finally we are left to our own devices for the rest of the evening. The highlight of the talks is my demonstrating the correct donning of a giant orange wetsuit that looks as though it was made for someone, or multiple someones, twice my girth, although I'm told that in the event of abandoning ship into the frigid waters around Tasmania, it's supposed to be quite comfortable, much like a portable jacuzzi.
Out on deck I take my camera to get some shots of the twinkling lights of land slowly fading on the horizon. The wind is constant and icy, forcing me to tuck my hands under the canvas of my windbreaker, my poor exposed head, however, is slowly turning into a block of ice. There is a stunning moon, slowly rising, over a bed of clouds and shining a yellow light across the waves towards the ship, I set my camera to time lapse mode and stand there breathing in the salty sea air, while the camera clicks away.
I awake to the gentle pitch and roll of a boat at sea. Day two has been like the deep inhale of breath before the plunge. No one has much to do until the first nets go down and the first samples come up, and the time is being taken up with planning and preperation.
We are circling in the ocean at around -41 degrees latitude and 148 degrees longitude, off the east coast of Tasmania, searching for an appropriate place to drop the demersal trawl net. The plan is to do a test trawl today at about 1500 metres, but the first unforseen complications have arisen, and the net is not deploying as it should, meaning that there will most likely be no real sampling until tomorrow.
The most excitement being had is by the data entry crew, who are using the down time to go through their workflow for data acquisition and entry until it is a well oiled machine.