Final post

Hi everyone,

We are currently moving quickly towards Guadeloupe where we will get off our ship. You can check where we are on the map page.

At the moment we are busy cleaning up the laboratories and making sure the ship is tidy for the next scientists who will join the ship.

We are also packing up all our equipment into boxes so we can send it back to Southampton so we can collect it!

As a final post I wanted to say hello to Matilda in Miss Barr’s class, Nathan and Liam in Miss Dornan’s class, Mia Gaughan-Naylor in Mr McCartney’s class and all from Mrs Benz’s class who all asked whether can play on the boat and what we do in our free time when we are not doing science?

Most of the time on the ship we are working hard to do our science and then the first thing we do when we have spare time is to sleep!

However, we do also have other things we do. Its nice to talk with everyone when we eat our meals (see this post about the food).

We also have a nice games room where we can sit down and have a drink, play darts and table football. We have lots of board games and can play cards together too. During the trip we have organised a table football competition between everyone!

Here is the games room
This is the bar area next to the games room

Yesterday we had a special end of trip barbecue at the end of the ship and everyone dressed up in fancy dress using the things they could find around!

Some of the scientists in their costumes!

Tomorrow will be our last day on the ship … I will get my flight back to England on Friday and be back home in Liverpool on Saturday morning!!

I hope you have enjoyed reading the answers to your questions and I’m sorry for those who I have not been able to reply to.

On Monday morning I will take Matilda to school so come and say hello if you see me!!



More answers

Grace Edwards, Year 7: What do you on the ship all day? Answered by Dakota Gibbs, Southern Cross University, Australia


An average day will vary depending on what science is being carried out that day. We can sample the water at any time of day which means the scientists have to be ready to work any time. We usually find out the day before what times we need to be working. Once the sampler has been put in the water, scientists will have time to get bottles ready for sampling and pick the water depths they want to sample from. After the water sampler is back on deck, the scientists will take their specific samples. During our rest hours we play table football, darts, card games and board games, watch movies and get some sleep!


Lily Chorley, Year 7: How will you get to the volcanic vents?


We have a good idea of where the vents are by looking at the work of other scientists, so we can sail quite close to them. Then we have a couple of ways to make sure we find the stuff coming out of the vent, but my favourite is a “Tow-Yo”. This is where we have a few sensors on a really long 8000m cable and move it up and down like a yo-yo while we slowly move the ship forward, towing it along. The cable is long enough to go between Bridgewater High School and the middle of town, then all the way back again.


Daniel Hutton, Year 7: How cold is the Atlantic?


The temperature ranges from about 30 degrees Celsius at the surface to below zero in the deep ocean. Water moves to the Arctic or Antarctica, where it gets cold so becomes denser and sinks. It doesn’t freeze at 0 degrees Celsius because it has salt in it.



Jasmine Malem, Year 7: Do you have a lab on-board?


Yes! We have 3 labs on-board the ship, the wet lab, main lab and temperature controlled lab. The first one is where we take the water we need to do our experiments, and often involves washing bottles so we call it the wet lab. The main lab is where we do the experiments. The temperature controlled is where we do experiments that have to be kept at the same temperature.


George Hayman, Year 7: If you get nervous what do you tell yourself to boost your confidence?


For things like giving presentations I always just tell myself that its completely normal to be nervous, and some nerves can be a good thing. A teacher at The University of Manchester told me that he noticed some of his presentations weren’t as good as they used to be, and he realised it was because he stopped getting nervous before them. Often nerves are just there to make the feeling afterwards even better, so however nervous I am I say it’ll be worth it in the end.





Alex Eaves, Year 7: How bad are the tides or storms on your journey?


We don’t really notice the tides on the ship, but it can move water around in the ocean. It’s possible we could see some chemicals from a volcanic vent, then come back a few hours later and they’d have disappeared because the tides moved them. The Captain of the ship is quite good at avoiding storms, but we had some good lightning!



Holly Hesketh, Year 7: To drink on the ship do you have to drink seawater some how?


We bring enough drinking water on-board at the start of the trip to last for the whole journey. Then for showers and washing the ship has a water tank filled of 200 cubic meters of water, that’s like 200 baths full. We can drink that water if we need to. It can be refilled by heating up seawater so it evaporates into steam and leaves the salt behind, then we cool the steam down so it condenses back to water, but has none of the salt in it.


Michael Harrison, Year 8: What do plankton do?


Plankton have 2 main groups, phytoplankton and zooplankton. Phytoplankton take carbon dioxide and use it in photosynthesis. Zooplankton then eat the phytoplankton. Zooplankton themselves are then eaten by fish or mammals, or they die and sink, taking carbon to the bottom of the ocean. So really plankton keep all the life in the ocean alive, and take carbon from the atmosphere to the bottom of the ocean.


Andrea Campana, Year 8: Does the ocean get more interesting the deeper you go?


It depends who you ask and what you are interested in! The top of the ocean is full of life and changes a lot more over one year. The middle of the ocean is where stuff breaks down into chemicals that made it, then slowly moves back to the surface so that it can be used by biology again. The bottom of the ocean is where material is buried and volcanoes put chemicals back into the ocean.


Guy Holden, Year 8: What is the best part about your job?


The best part is knowing that I am working on something that no-one has ever done before. The work we are doing at sea right now will give us information to help answer questions we couldn’t answer before this trip.


Willow Nair, Year 8: What colour are phytoplankton?


Just like plants on land, phytoplankton use the sun’s energy in photosynthesis as their way to survive. To do this they need chlorophyll, which is what makes plants on land green, so phytoplankton are green too. We can even see them from space when enough phytoplankton grows, this is a photo from a NASA satellite where the green streaks are probably phytoplankton:


Isobel Green, Year 9: Do you directly work with, or have you heard of SAMS (Scottish Association of Marine Science)?


When I was studying for my Ocean Science degree at The University of Liverpool we had a class called the ‘Sea Practical’. This class involved a trip up to Oban, Scotland, where we went out on a SAMS research boat for three days and learnt all about the different ways to measure things like temperature, salinity and oxygen in the ocean.


Ethan McEndry, Year 9: What colour is the boat and will you see any dolphins?


The RRS James Cook is white and black with a little bit of red at the bottom. And yes! We saw this dolphin in the ocean after only one day at sea.


Jess Savage, Year 9: Do you keep a diary of what you do every day?


We have to keep a diary of everything we collect so its easy to keep track of all the water we have. We’ll be taking around 2000 samples of water while we are at sea so making sure we know where it came from and the depth it Is from is really important. We also have to make sure we know how much water we need for each experiment, just so we don’t run out.


Jonathan McLennan, Year 9: How long do you stay up for? What are your working hours?


As soon as we get to a place we want to collect water samples, which we call a station, the team for collecting those samples has to be awake. That can take six hours maximum, but usually takes around four hours depending on how deep the water is. Then another team takes over to process the samples once they are on the ship, which can be another few hours. So we don’t have set working hours, but work when we need to. We need at least ten hours a day for resting so we can work safely.


Abi Savage, Year 9: Have you got enough lifeboats?


Yep! There are a total of 54 people on-board the ship and we have a life boat on both the port (left) and starboard (right) side, each can hold 54 people, so have room for 108 people total in the lifeboats. There are inflatable life rafts around the ship as well for if we can’t get to the life boats.


Max Stanley, Year 10: Who is funding this research?


Most of the funding comes from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC). They get money from the government and other places to pay for us to use the ship and do some of the experiments on board.


Jordan Stone, Year 10: What is your favourite takeaway?


Fish and chips. Fortunately, we can have that on the ship every Friday (we don’t go fishing for it). There’s also curry Saturdays if you prefer that.


Mckenzie Gourlay, Year 10: How large is crew on-board?


There are 54 people on board. There are 6 sailors on deck, one of them is the bosun who is in charge of that team. We have 6 engineers. The purser, 2 chefs and 2 stewards who look after us. 1 electrician. 4 technicians who look after the scientific equipment. 4 deck officers, including the Captain, who drive the ship. 2 sensor technicians. So that’s 28 members of crew. Then we have a total of 26 scientists.



Emily Divall, Year 10. How much preparation goes into an investigation like this? Answered by Halley Spaid, University of Southern Mississippi.


Lots! I was invited to go on this cruise in April of last year to take water samples. Over the summer, we prepared our supplies we would be bringing. Coming from the US, I also had to get my passport and book plane tickets to make the trip myself in December. To go onto the ship, I had to have a special medical exam and take a course on sea survival.


Leyton Holden, Year 7. What is your favourite part of the world? Answered by Dr Amber Annett, University of Southampton.


My favourite place is Antarctica! I’m very lucky to have been there to do research five times, including during the winter. It seems very bright because there is so much snow and ice to reflect the light. Also, the penguins, whales and seals are amazing to see and are often very curious. You have to like the cold though!


Aidan Williams: Do Yeti Crabs have heat sensors to find hydrothermal vents because they’re blind? Will there be any tremors going on when the tectonic plates move near you? Answered by Prof Rachel Mills, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Environment Sciences, University of Southampton.


Great questions from Aiden – we have only found Yeti crabs in the warm water surrounding the hot vents and it certainly seems they need this warmth to survive.  They farm tiny microbes on the hairs on their body and feed off these.  Because it is pitch black at these depths they don’t need to be able to see, rather they need to be able to stay near the warm waters so we think they have evolved to survive in these extreme conditions.

Onto your second question – tremors go on all the time at the boundaries of tectonic plates but most of these tremors are too small for us to feel and too small for our equipment to pick up remotely.  Big tremors happen less frequently but certainly do occur from time to time as the plates judder apart along the ridge.  In the Atlantic the plates are separating at about 10 mm each year so this movement will lead to small tremors and faulting and fissuring of the seafloor as well as of course hot rock seeping up to the seafloor and forming new ocean crust.


Hannah Brindle, Year 10: Are any of the volcanoes likely to erupt along the ridge near where you will be researching? Answered by Prof Rachel Mills, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Environment Sciences, University of Southampton.


The Atlantic is very quiet in volcano terms compared with the Pacific Ring of Fire.  But all of the islands along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge are volcanic and volcanoes on Iceland regularly erupt under the ice as we know.  The Azores, Canaries, Ascension, Gough Island are all dormant volcanoes and have been known to erupt in the past.  As we get closer to the Caribbean then there is a higher chance of volcanic eruptions and islands such as Montserrat have been highly active over the last decades and the Volcanic Observatory on the island has a great website you can check out.


Tom Switch, Year 8: If the moon wasn’t there would the oceans be flat? Answered by Katherine Turner, University of Liverpool.


We see differences in sea level for lots of different reasons. Winds blowing over the ocean pile up water in some places and take water away from others; the sea level in the middle of the North Atlantic is a few metres higher than it is closer to the coast. And there are other tides as well, not just those caused by the moon! The sun and planets like Jupiter are large enough to create their own (small) tides.



Harleigh Hulme, Year 8: What sort of chemicals are in the ocean? Answered by Sean Selzer, University of Oxford.


This is actually why I decided to study the oceans and is basically why we go and measure concentrations of chemicals in the ocean. Almost every element on the periodic table can be found in the ocean, there is loads of some and incredibly little of others. All life in the ocean depends on the ocean’s chemical make-up. Right now the extra carbon dioxide that humans pump into the atmosphere dissolves into the ocean waters and makes it a tiny bit more acidic. This makes it more difficult for corals and small plankton to form their shells or skeletons out of calcium carbonate and damages coral reefs.



Kaya Okten, Year 8: Is the ocean floor where you are smooth? Answered by Dr Alastair Lough, University of Southampton


I can see why you might expect it to be smooth but its quite the opposite its actually very rough. The vents sit on the Mid Ocean Ridge which is like a mountain range that runs up and down the seafloor of the Atlantic Ocean. The vents look like sharp spires several meters tall that sit within the valleys of these Mountains.


Mae Haley, Year 7: How many people are in one bedroom? Answered by Dr Carl Spingys, University of Southampton


On this ship we are lucky as we all have a cabin, the word for bedrooms on a ship, to ourselves. This is not always the case. On my last cruise we were on a different ship, RRS James Clarke Ross, and I shared a cabin with two other people for eight weeks. Fortunately we were working at different times of day so didn’t disturb each others sleep too much!

Rubbish in the Ocean

Hi everyone at Banks Road! I realise that it has been more than a week since I sent any answers from the ship. I am very sorry about that but we have been very busy ….

I do have something interesting to show you though. Mr Savage’s class (hi everyone!) asked me about plastic in the ocean and whether we will see any?

Yes, I have seen a lot of plastic, especially near to the Azores Island. It is very surprising to see rubbish like this in the sea when we are so far away from Towns and Cities where people are living. Recently, we were stopped in the sea well away from anywhere (look on the map and see how far away the land is!) and a bit of rubbish floated by!

Who can see the funny cylinder shape floating towards us?

As the rubbish got closer we could see that was an aerosol can used to spray hair spray … it was all rusty because it had been floating in the sea for a long time. As it rusts it can release bad things into the water or a sea animal may try to eat it. Not good!

Here it is as it came closer!

It just shows that we need to be careful not to throw rubbish in the street and instead protect our environment by putting it in the bin!

Make sure you do your part by making sure your rubbish goes into the bin!


Iron is important!

Hi everyone from the James Cook!

A special hello to Ava TS and Anthony W in Miss Dornan’s class who asked me why iron is important to animals and plants

and also a special hello to Ben and Francis in Mrs Brierley’s class who asked me how we measure the strength of the iron

Iron is really important to the plants in the sea, without it they would not be able to grow and the animals that feed on the plants would have nothing to eat!

Plants do not have to eat anything and instead they grow by using the energy of the sun in a special process called ‘photosynthesis’. This means that with enough sun, there is the chance for plants to grow. Iron plays a really important role in photosynthesis and so if there is not enough iron, the plants cannot grow.

On land, there is lots of iron, so it does not really affect the growth of plants so much.  But in the sea things are different and iron is really low. This is why we need to understand how much iron is added by the deep sea volcanoes!

This is the special machine we use to collect bottles of seawater to measure how much iron is there

Because the iron levels are low in the sea, we need to be very careful that we measure them properly. We carry the bottles into a special clean room to collect the water into little bottles.

Scientists carry the bottles from the machine to the clean room (the white box at the end of the deck)

When the little bottles in the clean room are filled they are taken back to the main laboratory. In there we have built a special ‘bubble’ to make sure nothing gets into the water.

The Clean bubble!

Inside the bubble, scientists measure the strength of the iron very carefully!

My friend David, who is measuring the iron. Can you see the little bottles next to his right hand? They contain the seawater collected in the big bottles!

So far the scientists are doing a great job and we already know that some of the volcanoes are adding a lot of iron to the ocean! Great for the plants!!

A nice sunset from Thursday the 18th of January

Becoming a Scientist …

A big hello to:

Heidi, Ivy, Lexi, Matilda, Sophie and Yanyan in Miss Barr’s class


Ava S in Miss Dornan’s class

All of you asked me how you can become a scientist?

Daniel in Miss Corkill’s class also asked me if I enjoy my job?

Being a scientist is a job I really enjoy. I spend my time trying to understand how the world works. As an Ocean scientist, I am especially interested in the sea and how it provides all the things the sea creatures need to grow. Because of my job, I have the chance to visit different parts of the work to talk with other Ocean scientists about new ideas or things we have discovered and I get to go on big ships like this one to see wonderful things!

The Sea: This is what I am trying to understand

To become a scientist of any kind you need to do well at school! First, you need to make sure you go to school everyday and when you are there you need to listen to your teachers. At the same time, you should ask questions about things you do not understand so they can explain things to you!

Look at this amazing Rainbow we saw on the ship!

When you finish primary school and go to secondary school you can learn more about different parts of science. Taking care to practice your Maths is important so you can count up the things you find and estimate how important they are. You also need to pay attention to reading and writing so you can explain to other scientists what you have found!

Other Scientists working hard!

After secondary school, I wanted to continue studying to become a scientist and knew I wanted to especially work on the sea. So I went to a ‘University’ when I could learn much more about being a scientist. After 3 years there I went to another University in the United States of America to do what is called a ‘PhD’ on one very specific part of the sea – after you have a PhD you are an expert and can get a job as a scientist!

Me and my scientist friend Malcolm!

Becoming a Scientist was great, but I could only do it because I paid attention in school! If you’re interested in becoming an Ocean scientist you can learn more by watching some great nature programs like the Blue Planet!

A nice picture of the sunrise to say bye for now!

Cooking at Sea …

Thanks to:

Heidi, Gracey, Harley, Mason and Ivy from Miss Barr’s class

Jack Moran in Mr Savage’s class

All of Miss McGorry’s class

Jake, Maimuma, Casey and John in Mrs Brierley’s class

Dylan, Tom, Katelin and John in Mrs Brierley’s class

And all of Mrs Benz’s class

All of you asked about what we eat on the ship and how we cook our food?

At home, we buy our food from the supermarket and cook it at home or we might go out to a restaurant.

On the ship, we cannot go to the shop to buy our food and instead have to bring everything with us when we sail. That means our ship is full of enough food to feed 50 people for 6 weeks!

As you saw in my earlier response, we live in little cabins and don’t have our own kitchens to make our own food. Instead, we have two fantastic cooks called Darren and Chris who make the food for us in the ships kitchen. Except on the ship the kitchen is called the galley! They make us breakfast, lunch and dinner every day! Even when the ship is rocking a lot in the waves.

Our great Chefs Darren (on the left) and Chris (on the right)
Chris making cookies!

When it is time to eat we all come to the galley and queue up to get our food just like you do at school! We eat our breakfast at half past seven,  our lunch at half past eleven and our dinner at half past five.

Dinner time! With food ready to be served!
The Scientists queue up to get their food – my colleague David from Spain is smiling at the camera!

Darren and Chris are helped by Stevie and Peter who take away the dirty plates and keep the galley clean and tidy.

If we are working late, then we can come to the galley for a snack. Some people like to have some cheese and crackers, while others like to have some biscuits!

Nice tray of cookies!

Have a nice meal to eat is a great treat at sea so we all really appreciate the effort made by our excellent galley team!

Recently we have had some stormy weather with big seas … but now things are calming down! I hope you are all well back in Liverpool!

Stormy seas!

Second set of answers

Ben McCarthy, Year 7. How will you connect with family when you’re on board? 


We can use Whatsapp while we are here to chat to people back home, but if we want to talk to family then we need international calling cards (easy to buy from a supermarket)


Julia Nicholls, Year 7. Does anyone get sea sick on board? 


Yeah seasickness was a real problem at the start of the journey. I had some medicine but it made me sleep for 16 hours on one day. It takes maybe a week to get over seasickness the first time but some people didn’t get sick at all, some took longer than a week.


Olly Cooper, Year 7. How hot are the hydrothermal vents? 


There are all different kinds of hydrothermal vents, some low temperature vents are as cold as 6 degrees, but the hottest are ‘black smokers’ which can reach 400 degrees Celsius.


James Lynchehaun, Year 8. How often do you go on research cruises?


This is my first long research cruise to the open ocean, during university I got to go on a 3 day cruise around Scotland. There are some scientists on this cruise that have been on nearly 40 long research cruises.


Lauren Norman, Year 8. Is the food good on ship?  


The food here is actually really good, every meal is different and made by a professional chef who makes sure we can get a balanced diet.


Lauren Scattergood, Year 9. What kind of organisms do you find on the bottom of your boat?    


A few days ago I attached a GoPro camera to a VMP (vertical microstructure profiler) which went underneath the ship and it came back with a video of a little squid swimming around the boat.


Billy James, Year 9. How are you going to measure the iron?


To measure iron we send bottles down to whatever depths we want, then close the bottles to trap the seawater in. Once we bring it on-board, we get the iron to react with a chemical to produce light, the brighter the light the more iron there is.


Mike Holce, Year 10. Can you do basketball on ship or other exercise?


Not basketball but we do have a gym on-board we try to use when we can. It has a treadmill, rowing machine, free weights and home gym.


Lottie Hales, Year 10. What will you do with the results of your research?

Once we get results we have to work out what they mean and how important they are for the ocean and climate change. Then we write about them in scientific magazines like “Nature” and “Science”, or talk about them at conferences. One of the most important parts of science is being able to communicate your results and what you have found out. All the data we get will be added to the GEOTRACES database, which is a website where anyone can access results from loads of cruises in the programme.


Shaun Rigby, 11 Jan 2018