A blog about my trip aboard the Celtic Explorer

SEA DIARY | A TRIP ABOARD THE CELTIC EXPLORER

“Hi, Daniel from Coast Monkey here. Follow the latest from my time at sea as part of the SEA-SEIA deep-sea mission deploying seismometers around Ireland’s territorial waters.”


Day 6 – Super Sunday – Grainné, Quakey & Loch Ness Mometer (Seismometers 6, 7 & 8)

Three more into the deep sea today.

Gráinne (Seismometer no. 6) was deployed at 10 pm.

Named after Gráinne Ni Mhaille, the “Pirate Queen” who was lord of the Ó Máille dynasty in the west of Ireland. This name was the winning entry by Our Lady of Mercy Secondary School, Waterford.

Evening time at sea

Mick and Janneke delighted to be deploying Quakey at 4 am

Quakey (seismometer no. 7) was deployed at 4 am. This seismometer name was the winning entry by Pobalscoil Iosolde, Palmerstown, Dublin 20.

Loch Ness Mometer (seismometer no. 8) was deployed at 1 pm. This clever name was proposed by second year student Marie Barr from Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, Co. Donegal with geography teacher Denise Dowds.

150km northwest of Ireland, 21/09/18


Day 5 – Deploying in the Dark – Tom & Gill (Seismometers 4 & 5)

Two more deployments make it four in twenty-four hours.  At 10 pm, Tom was winched overboard into the foamy black.

Named after legendary Irish explorer Tom Crean, the competition-winning name was submitted by Eimear Courney and the Transition Year Biology classwith Teacher Colette Smith at Largy College, Clones, Co Monaghan.

At 5 am the following morning, Gill was deployed.

Named after that most important organ that helps fish breathe, the name was the winning submission from Grange Community College, Donaghmede, Co. Dublin. and their science teacher Mr Nolan.

We’re traveling north at about 12 knots. The weather has been calm the last few days, waves are much smaller, the journey smoother. Simple activities like walking, working, sleeping become much easier when wave height is below 2 metres. Long may it last!

150km west of Ireland, 21/09/18


Day 4 – Deploying Brian & Eve  (Seismometers 2 & 3)

The seismometer deployments are coming thick and fast now.

First up this morning was seismometer 2, or “Brian”, after Brian Jacob, who led the work on the continental nature of the basins west of Ireland, leading to Irish territory increasing by a factor of 10.

He also happened to be the Senior Professor of the Geophysics Section, at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies from 1989 until 2001.

5pm this afternoon, we deployed seismometer no.3 or “Eve”.

The name is a clever wordplay winner in the seismometer-naming competition derived from ‘eavesdropping on the Earth’ and was submitted by the 5th Year Chemistry class at St. Patrick’s College, Gardiner’s Hill, Cork City, Co Cork, and their teacher Erin Keogh.

So that’s three of the eighteen seismometers now deployed.

You can see in the map above all of the scheduled deployment sites over the next three weeks.

The three seismometers deployed so far – Allód, Brian and Eve – are the most southerly locations and there’s a vast area still to be covered.

*Interesting factoid – The Celtic Explorer produces around 8 tons of fresh water every day for use on board.

250km southwest of Fastnet lighthouse, 21/09/18


Day 3 – Deploying the first seismometer, aka Allód

9 am – All the testing compete, at the first location, 4000 metres of water below. Time to deploy the first seismometer.

The seismometer has been christened “Allód” which is an ancient name for the Irish God of the sea. The name was the winning entry in the seismometer naming competition and it was suggested by Coláiste Phobail Cholmcille, Oileán Thorai, Contae Dhún na nGall  (Tory Island, Co. Donegal). Congratulations to the whole class and their teacher Máire Clár Nic Mhathúna!

As for the deployment, the great news is it went as smoothly as we could have hoped.

Allód is winched off the starboard side by the Celtic Explorer crew and released into the water.

It will now sink 4km to the sea floor, come to rest and collect data from deep within the earth for the next 18 months. Then there will be a retrieval mission but that’s a story for another day.

Just a little note about the weather – there’s been some big waves and over a certain height, about 4 metres I believe, it becomes unsafe to work. Today, the conditions were fine but given it’s the time of year where storms become a common feature in the North Atlantic, there’s been some talk between the scientists about altering the order of locations we visit in order to arrive at the best time. Essentially we want to be at our locations when a storm isn’t. Of course, weather forecasts being fickle things, these are tricky conversations and involve a lot of weighing up of options and alternatives.

Now, onto our next location, traveling at 8.5 knots, it’s about 12 hours away.

400km south of Fastnet lighthouse, 18/09/18


Day 2 – Testing equipment, one final time

We’re expecting to reach the first seismometer deployment location around midnight.

We’ve traveled so far south that we’re not really experiencing the heavy winds that Storm Ali has brought back home, waves are still quite big but it shouldn’t affect the deployment process.

Now the team is preparing the equipment for our arrival at the first deployment site and giving everything one last check.

Laura Berdi and Mick Smyth

Janneke de Laat, Clara Gomez and Laura Berdi

Mick Smyth, Janneke de Laat and Arne Schwenk

Arne Schwenk

All the preparation done, now we wait for show time!

350km south of Fastnet lighthouse, 18/09/18


Day 1 – We’re on our way!

7 am breakfast, then 8 am came around really quickly and we were off.

We gathered up on deck to watch as the Celtic Explorer made its way out to sea.

First past Cobh, looking great as always.

Last past Roche’s Point Lighthouse at the entrance to Cork Harbour.

So, finally out at sea, I had lots of photos to process, emails to send, various other bits and bobs to do on my computer. It was about half an hour later the seasickness kicked in.

I’ll omit the gory details, suffice to say there’s definitely a certain amount of adjusting the human body has to do to life on a boat on 5 metre waves.

We’re now making our way along the southwest coast to the first seismometer deployment site. We should reach it tomorrow.

30km off Skibbereen, 18/09/18


1 Day til Departure – Expect the unexpected

I’ve arrived at the Celtic Explorer in Cobh and due to the intense weather the southeast is experiencing, the departure has been put back until tomorrow morning 8am.

This has allowed me to explore the ship and meet my new shipmates without contending with 6 metre waves rocking the boat.

We had an orientation briefing from the crew. They gave us the lowdown on ship. One thing is very clear, should I hear an alarm of any kind I know the muster station is the place to be.

The SEA-SEIS team

The DIAS scientists have had their first team meeting and everyone is now excited for tomorrow, heading out to sea on a pretty unique science mission.

The weather is expected to be fairly rough for the next couple of days but that certainly isn’t dampening the enthusiasm of anyone onboard.

Cobh, 17/09/18


1 Day til Departure – Questions, questions and more questions

It’s Sunday, and this time tomorrow, I’ll be aboard the Celtic Explorer as it makes its way out to sea.

My bags are packed, train ticket to Cobh and various necessary documents in hand, and I feel ready to go. Here and now is a good time to make a rough list of some of the questions I’d like to answer.

  1. What is it the scientists hope to learn from this mission?
  2. What is it like to live aboard the Celtic Explorer?
  3. What’s it like to be a scientist at sea?
  4. What’s an average day at sea like?

I think this is a good starting point and I’m sure many more question will occur to me.

Dublin, 16/09/18


2 Days til Departure – Checklist

Ok, I’ve been putting together my checklist of things I will need and things I think I’ll need.

I generally like to travel light (who doesn’t?) but when you going out to sea and the closest supermarket is a bit out of the way, I’m thinking you gotta be thorough.

Essentials

  • Changes of clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Camera Equipment, Batteries
  • Computer
  • Passport
  • Sea survival certificate
  • Medical Certificate
  • Some Chocolate!

There’s something missing from this list but I won’t remember what it is until Cobh is slowly disappearing over the horizon. I’ll remember very clearly what is then.

Dublin, 15/09/18


3 Days til Departure –  Essential Training

There’s some essential certification you have to get before going out to sea.

I’ve just completed the sea survival course. It was a really interesting and informative day course delivered by Ben Pluck from Sea and Shore Safety Services

We had a morning class about what to do in an emergency situation.

In the afternoon, we had a pool session where we practiced using emergency equipment.

I now certainly feel a lot more informed about emergency procedures, emergency equipment, and general safety. I’m also one hundred percent certain I would like a nice, uneventful journey.

You also have to go for a Seafarers medical which involved hearing and sight tests and the usual medical checks.

Both of these result in documentation that you have to bring with you when boarding the ship.

Dublin, 14/09/18


4 Days til Departure | An invitation to go to sea

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a phone call and was asked to join a 21-day marine science research mission heading deep out into Ireland’s Atlantic waters. I didn’t have to think long about the offer and quickly said yes, I mean, how often do you get an opportunity like that?

Now that I’ve had time to think about it I have lots of questions but bunched together they can be summed up in one: What’s life at sea really like? It’s a question I’d really like to explore and hopefully will by the time this voyage is concluded the answers will be found in this blog.

But first here are a few questions I do have the answer to.

1. What’s the research mission you’ve joined?

The 21-day deep sea mission is a part of the SEA-SEIS project (Structure, Evolution And Seismicity of the Irish offshore) which is being run by the scientists from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and will involve the deployment of seismometers to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean at locations covering the entire Irish offshore area. These devices will be in place for 18 months and will record the vibrations that come from deep within the Earth. The information the seismometers collect will allow the DIAS scientists to shed light on the nature and history of the deep ocean floor along Ireland’s west coast.

But check out this video to hear it explained by the Scientists carrying out the research:

2. When does the voyage begin?

We leave Monday 17th September form Cobh in Cork. We’ll be at sea for 21 days and return to Galway on Sunday 7th October.

3. How are you getting there?

We’re going out on the Celtic Explorer, the Marine Institutes largest research vessel. Check out this virtual tour of the ship.

Marine Institute’s Research Vessel Celtic Explorer

4. And finally – who are you and what’s your role on board the Celtic Explorer?

Good question and maybe I should have started with this one – Hi I’m Daniel, I’ve been working in media and communications for a number of years and I’ve always had a love of the Irish coast. As for my role onboard, I am going to be sharing content about the scientific expedition for both the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and the Marine Institute.

Personally though, there is one question above all I would like to answer: What’s life at sea really like? Hopefully, over the coming weeks, I’m going to find out.

Dublin, 13/09/18