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Teachers at Sea: Farewell Marion!

2 Jul

In the last couple of weeks, GeoLog had the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, joined scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel navigated the South China Sea where teachers worked alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. This is the last post of the series. Check out previous posts here.

Report 9: Farewell Marion!

As the Marion Dufresne heads back to Singapore, the cruise enters its last few days.

The scientific team on board has been very busy updating all measurements taken, storing them in different computers, writing the final cruise reports, cleaning all the equipment used, and packing some of the instruments used to send back home.

The cores in the refrigerated container (photo by Catherine Kissel)

The cores that will be shipped to France are now stored in a refrigerated (4°C) container, ready to transit first to the Réunion Island on the Marion, and from there to France in the same container but on a different vessel. They will be delivered at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement (LSCE) at Gif sur Yvette near Paris in early September. The cores for Tongji University will have a shorter journey: from Singapore, where they will be disembarked, they will be shipped directly to Shanghai.

During the short seven days of coring, much work was done. We have obtained 350 meters of cored sediments, collected water samples for measuring the pH (to study ocean acidification), obtained several CTD (Conductivity/Temperature/Depth) profiles, just to mention a few of our activities.

End of the cruise party in the forum of the Marion Dufresne (photo by Ana Sanchez)

End of the cruise barbecue dinner on the rear deck (photo by Ana Sanchez)

After all the work, we have had a well-deserved ‘end of the cruise party’ at the forum and an ‘end of the cruise barbecue’ on the back deck, now clean and free from the coring equipment. We have also taken the traditional group photo of all the scientists together with the crew of the Marion Dufresne.

The team on board of the Marion Dufresne

We express our deep thanks to the French Polar Institute (IPEV) and to the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for making it possible for us to participate in this session of the Teachers at Sea programme. Many thanks to the IPEV personnel on board who were always very patient with us. Special thanks also go to Bárbara Ferreira, for editing our texts and publishing them in such an attractive blog!

Thank you also to the crew of the Marion Dufresne, particularly to Captain Lassiette and Chief Engineer Rolland.

And of course, we wish to thank all the scientists on board, especially co-chief scientists Catherine Kissel and Zhimin Jian.

The Marion Dufresne from the Zodiac raft (photo by Hélène Léau)

Long live the Marion Dufresne!

By Carlo Laj (with Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez)

Teachers at Sea: Learning physics and ocean science from high sea

29 Jun

Since last week, GeoLog has had the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out previous posts in this series here.

Report 8: A student experiment enters a new stage

The last coring site, which we’ve reached earlier this week, appeared to be a good place to cast off ‘our’ buoy, Neptune. What is this, you may ask? Neptune is an oceanographic buoy made by students in Lycée Monteil in Rodez, France and by the CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) as part of Argonautica, a project to educate students about the marine environment and the climate.

The device provides data through Argos, a system for worldwide tracking and environmental monitoring by satellite. The system receives messages from markers fixed on animals or on buoys all around the world.

Neptune’s instruments

This scientific adventure began in 2008 when Sandrine and her students decided to study marine currents in order to understand the link between the weather and the oceans. The first buoy they built in the remit of this project, named Venus, was cast off in the Mediterranean Sea in November 2009 at the 43rd parallel offshore. It contained sensors made by the Monteil students themselves, which were able to measure temperature and luminosity at different depths inside and outside the buoy.

Unfortunately, it worked for less than three days. But Sandrine and her students decided not to give up and built a new buoy to continue their marine-currents study. And, since then, the project has progressively gathered more supporters at the French high school: just in 2012, 50 students between 15 and 18 years old have worked on it.

On board of the Marion Dufresne, Sandrine has been testing the second buoy, Neptune, since the start of the cruise. The tests showed all sensors functioning correctly, and water tightness was checked in a swimming pool on board.

Students made Neptune’s temperature sensors

There are many components in Neptune, and all need to be carefully checked. The ‘Hera card’, supplied by CNES and the French society Tenum transmits data to a satellite, while specific sensors measure temperature and humidity inside the buoy. The device needs batteries to work, of course, and these are covered in resin in order to resist as long as possible in water.

A key Neptune instrument is the ‘stormeter’ (or storm-meter), which is able to measure the amplitude and frequency of waves. It contains an accelerometer to measure gravity, and the signal obtained in this way is then filtered and amplified. After filtering to eliminate high frequency results, a signal oscillates between a maximum and a minimum level thanks to an operational amplifier. Sandrine students will know that the difference between the maximum and minimum levels is proportional to the amplitude of the entry signal and to the wave amplitude via a calibration curve established in class in previous experiments. The buoy serves to teach physics as well as marine science!

Printed circuit and accelerometer in Neptune

Just before the coring in the last site, Hélène Leau, the Operations Manager of the French Polar Institute, allowed us to prepare the buoy. Members of the crew helped Sandrine fix a floating anchor to it and a weight at the end of the line of anchorage (a 40-metre electric cable under the buoy).

Then, the captain gave permission to Carlo to temporarily leave the Marion Dufresne on a small raft. He wanted to take pictures of Neptune in the water, and also to film a Casq coring from outside the ship!

The Marion Dufresne and Neptune on their way

Neptune had a successful 24 hours covering12.5 miles in the northwest direction. With all sensors functioning correctly, the buoy continues its path towards the north of the South China Sea. The students have reasons to be proud!

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: Working hard for science!

27 Jun

Since last week, GeoLog has had the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out previous posts in this series here.

Report 7: Handling a core on board

When a corer arrives at the surface, the crew of the Marion Dufresne lifts it on to the deck. This is not a simple operation, especially considering the length of some of the Calypso cores recovered during this cruise. It involves separating the huge weight of about six or seven tons from the corer itself, and then laying down the core along the starboard corridor (if a Calypso) or on the rear deck (if a Casq). The crew also takes the plastic liner out of the metallic tube (Calypso) or unscrews the numerous bolts that seal the Casq core.

Measuring a Calypso core after being extracted from the corer

From then on, the scientists take over. For a Calypso core, as mentioned in a previous report, our duty is first to cut it into 1.5 meters sections and label it precisely. The plastic liner impresses a straight, longitudinal ‘fiducial line’ along the core, which is used later to split the core into two halves, one to work on and one to archive. The labelling is therefore done on both halves.

A typical label may seem rather complex to those not on the ship: ‘MD12-3432-X’ with additional labels ‘T-1350’ at the top and ‘B-1500’ at the bottom, is an example. But the letters and numbers have very precise meanings that later help to identify the core. ‘MD12’ indicates that it was taken by the Marion Dufresne in 2012 and ‘3421’ that it is the 3432th core taken by this vessel (!). The Latin character X labels the tenth section of the core, which extends from 1350 cm at the top (T) to 1500 cm at the bottom (B).

Labeling a Calypso core

For a Casq core, sampling is done differently, as there is no external plastic liner. Plastic liners, called D-tubes are pushed inside the sediment, labelled in a way identical to Calypso cores, and then extracted after cutting the sediment with a nylon string (a fishing line). The different D-tubes are then covered with a lid that fits tightly on them. Due to the large dimensions of a Casq core, we can obtain three different levels of D-tubes from it.

Sampling a Casq core

The team splits the Calypso core sections into two longitudinal splits along the fiducial line (so that their relative orientation is preserved) using an automated saw. The instrument used on the Marion Dufresne is affectionately called Georginette in honor of Georges Oggian, the engineer from the University of Bordeaux who designed it.

The Georginette

The scientific team immediately packs and stores the archive half, while the working half is submitted to some measurements (preliminary to the on shore laboratory studies). Done in the Mechanical Stability Testing or MST container, using a specific instrument, these include taking a photographic record of all the sections, measuring the magnetic susceptibility of the sediment, recording its optical reflectance (a first order measurement of its mineralogical composition), its density (via absorption of gamma rays), and the speed of sound in it via the velocity of seismic P-waves. These last two measurements are linked to the sediment density.

The team also does the sedimentological description of each section to characterise possible changes in the sediment. This would reflect changes in the paleoenvironmental conditions or, in other words, changes in the environment at a given period in the geologic past.

A first, very important, analysis is the microscopic observation of the foraminifera content in the part of the sediment present in the lowermost part of the core (the core catcher). The presence of a Globigerinoides ruber (pink) type of foraminifera at the bottom of the core indicates that this core has reached the ‘age’ of 130,000 years (more or less one climatic cycle). This analysis guides the choice of successive coring sites.

MST apparatus

As you can see, there is a lot of work involved in handling a core on board! Just the task prior to the analysis, sampling a Calypso or a Casq core, takes more than the four hours of a shift. Therefore, different shifts each do a part of the work.

Ana and Sandrine are in the 4-8 shift, meaning that they work from 4 to 8 in the morning, and again from 4 to 8 in the afternoon. They work under the direction of the experienced Aurélie Vantoer, who has participated in many Marion Dufresne cruises.

Carlo is not assigned to a specific shift. His job is to ‘spot’ suitable coring sites using the 3.5 KHz sub-bottom profiler – a sonar projected into the seafloor to see down into the sediment. He is active almost round the clock, together with our two co-chief scientists, Catherine and Zhimin.

It is hard work on board, but we are excited to see what the next coring operations will bring!

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: Bon Appétit

26 Jun

Since last week, GeoLog has had the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out previous posts in this series here.

Report 6: the ‘Vatel des mers’

Our position today [25/06]

François Vatel, a 17th century cook, is the most famous of the great chefs of French cuisine, which has recently been distinguished as a world cultural heritage by UNESCO. Here, at the Marion Dufresne, we are lucky enough to enjoy meals prepared by a true ‘Vatel des Mers’ – Chef Claude Cornet!

At the vessel, is it easy to lose track of time, but we know when it’s Sunday because of the Marion Dufresne tradition of eating croissants for breakfast on this day of the week. On weekdays, on the other hand, Chef Claude bakes wonderful French baguettes for breakfast.

He also prepares delicious lunches and dinners, keeping with the theme of French cuisine. Assiette de crevettes with mayonnaise, tournedos bordelaise, coquille de poisson, entrecôte béarnaise are some of the dishes we’ve had the pleasure to eat for lunch. Mixed salads, lasagna, and fish fillets have been served at dinner time. And all the meals invariably end with a platter of French cheeses and fresh fruit!

Chef Claude Cornet

The starter for today’s lunch

Chef Claude welcomed us in his kitchen while preparing lunch. His job includes cooking as well as buying all sorts of ingredients beforehand. He gets the meat in Brazil, the rice in Malaysia, the alcohol in France, the fresh vegetables and fruits at every port call. These ingredients are then stored inside the different refrigerators and deep freezers of the Marion Dufresne: meat is kept up to 6 months, fresh vegetables for up to 3 weeks, and fruits for 5 weeks.

Claude can count with the much-needed help of three assistants. At times, when the Marion is used as a supply boat for the French territories in the Southern Ocean (Amsterdam Island, Crozet, Kerguelen archipelago) and Antarctica (Terre Adélie), the team of cooks prepares food for up to 140 people and the scientific party!

Chef Claude and one of his assistants preparing dessert

Thank you Claude and your team for making life on board all the more enjoyable!

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: the ‘brain’ of the Marion Dufresne

25 Jun

Since last week, GeoLog has had the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out previous posts in this series here.

Report 5: At the controls of a research vessel

Inside the bridge of the vessel

The ‘brain’ of the Marion Dufresne, always alert during the oceanographic cruises, is located at the bridge – the room from where the vessel is commanded.

To navigate the oceans of the world, the Marion Dufresne uses three shipboard GPS satellite systems, as well as nautical charts. Weather reports and charts obtained daily from Bon Voyages Systems, a private company, are also used for navigation. We were a little worried in the first few days when, looking at the most recent weather chart, we realized that a rather severe tropical storm was sitting on the area where our coring sites were located! Luckily for us, the storm moved away from the zone and so far we have found only calm waters.

Forecast of stormy weather in the area of the core sites

Captain Bernard Lassiette and his officers showed us the different instruments present at the bridge of the vessel. We were first struck by the two radar screens, right in the centre, which operate at two different wavelengths, 3 cm and 10 cm. The one operating at the shortest wavelength yields very precise images but is sensitive to atmospheric phenomena such as rain, while the other one provides less precise images but is much less sensitive to these kind of atmospheric perturbations. Both detect other vessels or the coast at a distance of about 50 km.  Also in the centre is the rudder, which can be computer controlled or hand manoeuvred.

The two radars

On the port (left) side, there are two panels similar to those we saw in the machinery control room a few days ago. The commands originate from here and are reproduced in the ‘heart’ of the Marion Dufresne four decks below.

But the most spectacular feature in the bridge is the control station – the real ‘brain’ of the ship – on the starboard (right) side. This station is particularly important during the long coring sessions, when the Marion Dufresne cannot move by more than two or three meters during the entire operation.  To keep the vessel in the same position, it is important to take wind and surface current into account. The ‘brain’ does this (up to rather bad sea and weather conditions) and automatically controls the two propellers and the thruster to keep the Marion Dufresne stable. At times, however, man replaces the machine: the ship officers can control the boat manually using a ‘joy stick’.

The joy stick to control the boat

As for the ongoing coring operations, we obtained three new cores  (35, 49 and 52 meters long) with Casq and Calypso since our last report! The activities in the Marion Dufresne don’t stop: the team continues to work, preparing, labeling, and storing the cores. At the same time the scientists study the main characteristics of the samples: color, density, magnetism, foraminifers, and so on.

Ana and Sandrine packing a Casq core

There is much to discover on board of the vessel!

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: the first coring site!

22 Jun

In the next two weeks, GeoLog has the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out previous posts in this series here.

Report 4: The first coring site!

Our position today [21/06]

Our adventure continued as the ship arrived to the first coring site on Wednesday evening. From now on, we are divided into three watches (sometimes called shifts). The three groups work 8 hours a daily, divided into two periods of 4 hours each.Operations began with a hydrological experiment: a rosette holding 24 opened bottles and a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) sensor was lowered down into the sea, almost reaching the bottom at 660 meters. Then it was pulled up and at chosen depths, the bottles were successively closed by a command from the boat. In this way, each bottle recovers a sample of the water at the depth at which it was closed. In the end, we recovered 24 bottles (12 litres) each sampled at a specific depth and temperature, and a CTD profile. Once on board, our colleagues from the University Sains Malaysia in Penang, immediately froze and/or analysed these water samples to test in particular for their pH.

The rosette ready to be lowered into the sea

After this experiment was completed, the team on the vessel attempted to core sediments with the Casq corer for the first time. This is a very large 25x25cm gravity square corer, 12 metres long. It has the capacity to recover a large amount of undeformed sediment.

Unfortunately, on this first attempt, the Casq was empty when it was pulled back on the deck! The system that traps the sediments in the corer as it is pulled up and back on to the ship did not work properly and the sediment was lost.

The Casq corer

On the other hand, everything worked perfectly for the Calypso piston coring that the team performed immediately after: the corer recovered 28 metres of sediment with a core diameter of 10cm! Not bad at all! Microscope observation of a small amount of sediment from the core catcher points to an assembly of several fossil foraminifera (a type of marine plankton), which gives scientists an idea about the ‘age’ of the sedimentary sequence reached by the corer.

The second Casq coring was also successful, with the team recovering over 7 metres of undeformed sediments. And because Casq recovered such a large amount of sediment, the scientists on board could sample part of it for the teachers. Yes, you teachers will have ‘real’ marine sediments to show to your pupils!

As for the Calypso samples, it’s hard to imagine how we could bring a 28-metre core back to the laboratory in one piece… Naturally, the team cut the Calypso core into 1.5-metre segments (called sections), each carefully labelled so that its order is known with no possible error. These segments will be split afterwards longitudinally into two halves, one labelled working (W) and the other archive (A). Scientists do preliminary work on board on the W halves (description to come!) before both halves are sent to the laboratories.

Cutting the Calypso corer into 1.5m sections

The cutting, labelling, and storing of the samples went on all night long and continued in the morning. Everyone was rather exhausted at the end but excited about the job in hand. It all starts again tonight as we reach our next coring site!

If you have any questions for us, please leave them in the comments section of this post.

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: the ‘heart’ of the Marion Dufresne

21 Jun

In the next two weeks, GeoLog has the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out the first and second posts of this series.

Report 3: How a research vessel works

Location of the Marion Dufresne

The ‘heart’ of the Marion Dufresne, beating steadily 24/7, is its machinery. And today we received a very special treat: Chief Engineer Alain Rolland invited us for an hour visit to discover the inner secrets of the vessel.

From Deck E, which is the main deck for many operations, we descended a steep staircase to Deck D and started by visiting the control room. Here, a glance at the different and numerous control panels tells Alain that everything is working properly, or eventually what adjustments need to be done to correct small anomalies here and there.

We then moved further towards Decks B and A. The noise became very strong – so much so we were required to wear safety ear muffs – and the temperature increased: a thermometer hanging on a wall read 42°!

Here, Alain explained us a bit about how the boat works. Three diesel engines drive alternators that provide the necessary energy to two electric engines, which in turn propel the boat via two propellers. An electric motor is much more flexible than a diesel one, and this way of functioning is extremely important when the boat has to stay steady during the coring time.

Alain explains how the vessel works

The power from the diesel generators is also crucial to support life on board the vessel. It is used to evaporate sea water, which is distilled and mixed with some minerals that make it drinkable. As a result of this process, we can drink water from every tap on the Marion Dufresne. About 20 tons of water are produced in this way every day. Power for the entire electric system of the vessel is also generated by the diesel engines.

The highest possible power that can be generated is 6000 MW; in transit, in a balance between speed and efficiency, this value decreases to about 2500 MW. Life on board requires about 1000 MW.

At the prow, there is also another element of the vessel’s machinery: a transversal engine called a thruster. A propeller placed in a channel can project water either to the right (starboard) or to the left (port), which is very useful to stabilize the boat.

With more knowledge about own the Marion Dufresne works, we continue our itinerary. We’ll be sure to keep in touch!

Our itinerary

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: science, core drills, and buoys

19 Jun

In the next two weeks, GeoLog has the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon. Check out the first post of this series here.

Report 2: The scientific adventure begins

Location of the Marion Dufresne

Hello everyone!

This morning [18/06] we had our first meeting with Catherine Kissel and Zhimin Jian, the two chief scientists, who outlined the main scientific objectives of the CIRCEA (CIRCulation East Asian regions) mission, and also told us about the difficulties encountered during the preparation of this cruise.

Catherine Kissel explains the scientific objectives of CIRCEA

We then listened to a technical introduction to the different coring systems available on the Marion Dufresne (the Calypso and Casq corers) by Yvan Réeaud of the French Polar Institute (IPEV).

In the afternoon, the Malaysian team from the University Sains Malaysia in Penang, presented some of their research programmes. First, Nithiyaa Nilamani, a PhD student, introduced us to the topic of ocean acidification, describing some of her first results and giving an overview on the impact of the decrease in pH in the ocean on calcareous organisms such as coral reefs. Then Foong Swee Yeok, a lecturer at the University, gave an overview of the situation of mangrove trees in Malaysia, with emphasis on the massive destruction of this habitat due to the 2004 tsunami, but also as a result of human activities.

Carlo and Yvan preparing Calypso

On board, people are getting their instruments ready for operating at the first site, which we will reach in two days. On the deck in the back of the Marion, Yvan tested the triggering mechanism for the Calipso corer, which is our main coring instrument; in front Sandrine tested a buoy built by her pupils in France, in the framework of an educational program sponsored by the French Space Agency (CNES). If all goes as planned, the buoy will be dropped into the South China Sea, will wander around pushed by surface currents, and transmit data on the temperature of the water and movement of waves, as well as the approximate state of the sea. Students and teachers in France will receive this information via satellite. Today Sandrine tested the batteries inside the buoy and so far so good. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of this project.

Aline, Aurélie and Sandrine test Neptune, a CNES-students buoy

We have also started a movie on the life on board, which we hope to be able to show at the 2013 GIFT Workshop in Vienna.

Keep checking this space for more updates on the life and work on board the Marion Dufresne!

By Sandrine Vivier, Ana Sánchez, and Carlo Laj

Teachers at Sea: welcome aboard!

18 Jun

In the next two weeks, GeoLog has the pleasure to host reports from Teachers at Sea. This educational programme, co-sponsored by the European Geosciences Union (EGU) and the French Polar Insitute (IPEV), gives school teachers the opportunity to take part in oceanographic cruises with scientists. This year, Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez, teachers of Biology and Geology in Rodez (France) and Madrid (Spain), respectively, together with EGU’s Education Chair Carlo Laj, join scientists on board of the Marion Dufresne. The research vessel is navigating the South China Sea where teachers will work alongside scientists in collecting marine sediments to retrieve the secrets of deep ocean circulation and understand past variations of the Asian Monsoon.

Report 1: Welcome aboard the Marion Dufresne!

After a long trip from our countries, we arrived in Singapore where we met EGU’s Carlo Laj and Catherine Kissel (Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l´Environnement LSCE). Yesterday [16/06] morning, we were picked up from the large port of Singapore and travelled in small boats to the Marion Dufresne, which was waiting for us in the middle of the bay.

The Marion Dufresne (above) and sea conditions (below).

Discovering this famous scientific boat has been an amazing experience. Carlo showed us around the vessel and we had the opportunity to learn a bit about how the ship works.

We left from the bay of Singapore in the evening with a lovely sunset. The captain closed all the doors because, just an hour after departure, the alert level was raised due to risk of a pirate attack! Fortunately, no attack happened and we are sill alive and well. The trip continues with the Marion Dufresne progressing towards the first coring site at a speed of 13,6 knots (about 25 kilometres per hour).

Singapore at sunset.

Stay tuned for the next updates!

By Sandrine Vivier and Ana Sánchez

Imaggeo on Mondays: Apostles along the Great Ocean Road

4 Jun

The 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road by Fabien Darrouzet, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

Tucked between the rough Southern Ocean and stunning cliff tops, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most scenic routes. The 243-kilometre stretch of road along the country’s south-eastern coastline is surrounded by beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, as well as incredible geological formations. The 12 Apostles, stacks of rocks located in the Port Campbell National Park, are one of the highlights of the route.

Two of these structures are visible in this wild scene captured by Fabien Darrouzet of the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy in Brussels. He took this picture in June 2011 while travelling in Australia before the XXV General Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics in Melbourne.

“Those stacks are composed by miocene limestone rock, and were formed by erosion,” Fabien explains. “The Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone of the coast to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches, which in turn collapsed, leaving rock stacks up to 45 metres high.”

The wild Southern Ocean with its rough waves is still shaping these rock formations. “Due to the strong waves in this area, those stacks are susceptible to more erosion, and can even collapse, as one did in July 2005,” Fabien says. “This means these geoscience elements are in constant evolution, and they show the changes of nature due to nature itself.”

Imaggeo is the online open access geosciences image repository of the European Geosciences Union. Every geoscientist who is an amateur photographer (but also other people) can submit their images to this repository. Being open access, it can be used by scientists for their presentations or publications as well as by the press. If you submit your images to imaggeo, you retain full rights of use, since they are licenced and distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.