As I live in one of the wettest and windiest areas of the UK, some might say that I should be well able to cope with gusty weather!
However, I don’t think anything quite prepares you for the experience of balancing yourself, your sampling boxes and the integrated sampler on a floating plastic cubi in gusts of 30-40mph. Being somewhat inelegant at the best of times you can only imagine the resulting chaos! Trying to negotiate guide ropes and pulling yourself close enough to the mesocosms to enable the safe deployment of the integrated sampler whilst battling against the wind gives the added benefit, for this unfit scientist at least, of a full-body workout!
It was somewhat gratifying therefore to arrive on station early this morning in order to collect my 24 hour incubations (for nitrogen fixation and nitrification) and find a flat, calm sea with the sun just appearing over the horizon.
The incubation lines are set up as close to the mesocosms as possible in order to replicate the conditions (light, temperature etc) within, whilst at the same time causing as little interference with the guide ropes and the mesocosms themselves. Cecile and I headed out for the lines, both saying little and just enjoying the peace and tranquillity. After a brief panic of thinking my bottles had broken free (they weren’t on their usual lines!) we were turning around to head back in when Cecile said “Oh wow, look at that!” Thinking she was referring to the amazing sunrise I replied “Yes, it’s stunning isn’t it?” “No, look! It’s huge! Is it a whale or a dolphin?” she replied. Not having my lenses in it took a while for me to focus (hey, it was early!) It was then that I noticed two groups, fairly close together, of what appeared to be fairly dark coloured dolphins. We edged slowly forward in order to get a closer look and just stood and watched in awe as the groups joined together to play.
After starting to come back in, we then became concerned that the dolphins may have been attracted by what I had been told were fishing nets and might get caught up in them. We turned back in order to make sure they were okay and watched as the little family swam out further to sea.
What an amazing experience, and a perfect start to the day!