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SOI Expedition Blog 4 – Worse things happen at sea

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

We have already done two dives this morning. Now just a couple of mud grabs to do and we can head back for lunch. The first grab is successful, and we collect a large scoop of worm filled mud for Christy. We give the next grab a good jiggle on the cable to get it to close and start to pull it up. But something doesn’t feel right, the cable is slack. Oh no! The grab has parted from the cable and is somewhere on the seabed below. The only thing for it is to go for another dive to try and find it. We take a GPS position to mark our spot and despondently we head back to the boat the collect more tanks. The chances of us finding it in the soft mud is slim but we have to give it a shot. Guess its lunch to go then – we want to get the dive done before the wind starts to pick up. With pizza slices in hand, we head back out.

We are 25 minutes into our dive and starting to get low on air. We’ve been swimming in expanding circles from our shot line trying to find our grab. I feel a series of sharp tugs on the end of the line. Millie is flashing her torch excitedly over the seabed mud. I swim towards her and spot our grab, half sunk into the soft sediment. After a little underwater celebration, we get to work on retrieving the grab. We secure the rope we’ve been carrying onto the shackle, fill our lift bag with air, and send the grab up to the surface. Sam is standing by on the zodiac to pull it in. So that’s the grab retrieved. Now we have Hurricane Fiona to contend with.

Claire, Christy and Millie are relieved after they recover the grab. Credit: Students on Ice Foundation.

We’ve come into Shelburne harbour to hide from the storm. Everyone has been watching the weather forecast intently tracking the system as it moves up the coast. This morning has been calm but now the wind is increasing, whistling over the bow. We move around the ship making sure everything is secure. Christy and I carefully wrap the microscopes in bubble wraps and pack them safely under the tables.

Hurricane Fiona approaches. Credit:

Geoff, expedition leader, summons us all to the legacy room for a meeting. We all squeeze in, perching on the arms of sofas and filling all the floor space in the small room. What would we do if the ship starts to sink in the storm? someone nervously asks. Geoff reminds us of the drill we practiced the first day. ‘Grab your immersion suits and lifejackets and head to the muster stations’. He also reminds us that the Polar Prince is an icebreaker and used to crashing its way through pack ice and high seas up in the Arctic. In this sheltered location we shouldn’t have any trouble. But it still doesn’t completely ease our nerves. The mood does become lighter though when zodiac driver Gen brings in a massive sack of storm chips that the crew have picked up in town. We pass around bowls of popcorn and chips and chat before heading to our bunks.

The crew gather to enjoy some storm chips. Credit: Millie Mannering

I’m surprised to wake up at seven in the morning, almost too late for breakfast. I’d expected a bumpy night, but I haven’t felt a thing. The Polar Prince has ridden out the storm. Talk over breakfast is about news from home. Many friends and relatives have lost power, but all are safe. Our thoughts are with the hard-hit communities in PEI, northern Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. We pass the rest of the day at anchor, waiting for the winds to drop enough to head out to sea. Christy and I take the chance to catch up on sample processing and data entry. But we do manage to join in with a yoga session in the hangar, which feels great after bending over a microscope.

The storm is buffeting the hangar as we enjoy a yoga session. Credit: Students on Ice Foundation.


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