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Day 1 - Guest post by a visiting student

Hi everyone, Guillaume here (right, that’s my name), the 21 year-old french intern of Dr Basedow. I’m honoured to set things off with this blog, which is going to handle the STRESSOR project trough everyone’s point of view, day after day.

Since yesterday, everyone is busy with loading stuff and equipements on the boat. Nothing has to be forgotten for this long-time prepared cruise. To set up and unpack things, Sünnje did call everyone to meet at 9 o’clock at the boat. As she wrote the time in bold letters (as I did here), I felt a bit stressed about arriving late and leaving a bad impression. Maybe that’s a relevant way to start a project called « STRESSOR ». Finally, I was into it even before it began. As I couldn’t find a bus, I hitch-hiked and a really kind doctor took me to the Helmer Hanssen, where I could finally discover what would be home for me and the crew for the two upcoming weeks.

At the end, I arrived early, considering the fact that the boat was leaving at 1 pm. As nobody needed my help to unpack or tidy up equipements, I started to explore the boat. This is my first cruise like this ever, which actually means longer than one day. Starting from a point where I knew no one, I rapidly found out which was from the scientific team and which was from the crew onboard, as only people from the crew were speaking to me when I somehow found myself in forbidden places (like the engine room). I then found the food storage room, which allowed me to exchange with Sven, the head cook onboard. Now that I was reassured about my survival for the upcoming cruise, I started meeting with people and everybody was kind and really nice with me, so I felt very comfortable.

After the boat left, the first real challenge was to pronounce each other’s name. With people coming from different continents and cultures, it’s hard to both pronounce and remember foreign sounds and names. So I was relieved when my roomate Zhiquiang Su told me that I could just call him Su. Maybe I should find myself a more easily surname to pronounce for him in the upcoming days, although he’s trying hard to pronounce and remember my name. After the meal (which tasted really good), we had our first meeting all together, learning to know each other a bit more and planning what to do for the beginning of the cruise. I didn’t really understand much, as the names of all the sensors were still unknown to me. Everybody got organized and planned potential backup for teams who would have too much work. Every team (mammals, fish, CTD…) then met up to organize themselves, so I was given to rewrite a protocol for all the people who’d have to trawl and sort fishes during the cruise. We then had some free time, as we would reach the first transect to sample only the day after at around 9 am. We all took advantage of it to hang out together, and I personally went on the bridge with some other people to look after marine mammals. We were both lucky for the great weather (and the great weather forecast for the upcoming day) and for all the activity we witnessed in the sea, as we were sailing over a big underwater canyon, where there are plenty of squids, which attract orcas, sperm whales and surely other big mammals we haven’t been able to recognize.

As especially fascinated by orcas as I am, I had the eyes litteraly stuck to my binoculars. It’s a grace to witness how beautiful nature is in the wild. It’s really exciting to observe a flat water surface too, imagining there probably are huge mammals just under it. They say hello from times to times by projecting water in the air, which we are able to see from far away. We stopped this activity not to miss our eating window (30 minutes, not one more !) to actually eat… whale steak. But minke whale steak, which has been a part of Norwegian coastal culture for centuries.

We finished the day with a meeting about security onboard from a crew member. I was given the opportunity to try wearing a life-saving suit, which is supposed to maintain you alive for six hours in the cold norwegian’s water. After everyone surely got amazed with how great I looked in this post-mortem Karl Lagarfeld alike outfit, we tried all the possible ways between our cabins and the meeting point, where everyone got cold waiting, a few minutes only. It is barely imaginable waiting here under bad weather hardly seeing anything and being completely stressed out. Considering that, this kind of security information really can save lives if you acquire some reflexes.

The day finally ended up with a beautiful sunset. As it has only been the first day of cruise, I’m really excited about getting the several samplings started and learn about all the sensors and the studies going on onboard in the upcoming days. For all of this, I’m feeling grateful and looking forward to know everyone a bit more too.

God natt!

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