Friday, 31 May 2013

Sailing log part 1

Day 1

We finally made it out of Port Elizabeth on the evening of the 29th May following delays of all sorts. We are now well underway on our route to Mauritius. We will start taking water samples when we are out of the 200 nautical miles range. On our first day the weather was gorgeous, 15 kts of wind and we caught our first yellowfin tuna (5 kg) on the line that we trawl ‘just in case’. The tuna then magically transformed into sushi that we all very much enjoyed. You can't get any fresher than this. Life is great!!!

The Indigo V in Port Elizabeth

It has been a very hot first full day of sailing. The winds died and we have been getting knocked by the Agulhas current. We should be into fairer currents and winds tomorrow. Everyone was getting their sea-legs, especially down below where everything is moving around.

Day 2

We made very good progress last night and we are now sailing at 10 knots of speed in the right direction (always useful!). The seas are quite big and we have nothing else to report other than the usual little dramas on board (spilled coffees, leaking hatches, somebody seasick). Actually all of us have been feeling sick but from late this afternoon, things calmed down. Sea sickness tablets are good! We are now definitely getting better and fully functional.

We were travelling pretty fast but the waves were coming from all sides, and over the deck. I had a watch at 4am but most of the foul weather had subsided to rough weather by then. I enjoyed clear skies and a very bright milky way with the southern cross in the middle.

No fish today. Still fixing many small problems, but we are travelling faster than the motor with the sails.


Seal snoozing in comfort
Lazy seal

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Getting used to life on board

The Indigo V crew is getting used to life on board the ship and late night watches. We have been sailing along the African coast in the sunshine.
The weather has been reasonably good so far but the wind is blowing head on from the travelling direction, which means we have been motoring for most of the way so far.
After a short refuel and fixes in Port Elizabeth, we will sail out of territorial waters and start the main bulk of the scientific sampling all the way through to Mauritius.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Au revoir Fran!

Over the past 3 months, the Paulsen lab has hosted Dr Fran Pitt, a visiting scientist from the University of Warwick, UK working with Prof Dave Scanlan. Fran is a long time colleague of Martin Ostrowski and Sophie Mazard from their time in the UK. She has been working for quite a few years on all things cyanobacterial, from detailing sensing and regulatory mechanisms of phosphate stress in freshwater Synechocystis sp. to environmental transcriptomics of marine cyanobacteria.
She recently took part in the Atlantic Meridional Transect in October 2012 (AMT) a research expedition sampling waters from Southampton, UK down to Punta Arenas in Chile. And liked it so much she has also obtained a couple of berths to participate in the coming AMT this October. We will certainly talk again about the AMT cruises in future blog posts.
Fran took some time out of her busy schedule in the UK to take advantage of our newly updated Flow Cytometry facility (MQ FC), and continue the development of her work on some fresh water samples she collected during the monthly Port Hacking run (Post).

Fran has gone back home to the UK last week, but we hope she will come back soon to say hi.

Best wishes from all of us on her future adventures!

On the monthly Port Hacking sampling run
With the creator of the Influx cell sorter Ger van den Engh
Sorting cells on a flow cytometer can be fun!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Finally on the way

Following a few hiccups that delayed the start of the expedition, the Indigo V and its crew left Cape Town bright and early on May, 17th. Sailing shifts and work shifts have been organised (Martin got the lucky pick of the first 3-6am shift!!), the equipment is safely tied down and most importantly the food supplies are plentiful!
Let's hope there will not be too many teething issues with the instruments when the boat is actually out of the calm waters of the harbour, but all the initial tests sails conducted have already sorted a few problems so it should be plain sailing until Mauritius.

Who wants to organise the food?

Best not to have vertigo

Friday, 17 May 2013

Voyage Preparations – Cape Town

Cape Town is a pretty amazing place to start a research voyage. The food is fantastic so I have been filling up my quota of vitamins and minerals, from amazing full breakfasts with Boerewors sausages and fluffy scrambled eggs to thin crust pizza and sourdough smoked salmon sandwiches.

Apart from pre-fuelling the body, we have been hard at work to prepare the yacht, from the sails, engines, supplies and sheets to the batteries and electrical systems that will support our science equipment while we are under sail power.

We have one more day of intense preparations but we are now happy with the safety systems and backups. Just have to do the laundry, fill the fuel tanks and clear customs before sailing tomorrow.


The Marina in Cape Town
A lazy seal soaking up the sun

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Calling all Evolutionary Genomics Scientists

For any of you who may be interested, Macquarie University Department of Biology is advertising for an Evolutionary Genomics faculty position:
To translate for non-Australians, a lvl B/C faculty position is approximately the equivalent of an Assistant Professor in US terms.

The architectural highlight of Macquarie Uni- the new library

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

All aboard

Our resident sailor Dr Martin Ostrowski has escaped the laboratory once again to take part in an exciting adventure on the high seas. Dr Federico Lauro, an ARC DECRA fellow at UNSW and accomplished sailor, transformed the delivery of a yacht from Cape Town to Singapore into an amazing oceanographic research sampling expedition that will explore marine microbes and their involvement in some of the major global processes throughout some of the most under-sampled waters of the globe.
The Indigo V, a Nautor Swan 61, or for the relatively non-nautical people like me: an 18m sail boat, will accommodate several consecutive 7-strong crews of scientists from around the world during each of the four legs of the transect: Cape Town - Mauritius - Maldives - Phuket - Singapore.

The voyage has already attracted quite a bit of press coverage in some of the major Australian newspapers (Sydney Morning Herald) and radio (ABC). The work and adventures of the sailing scientists will also be recorded in a documentary being filmed on board the ship along the way!

A Live blog and some more details on the research voyage can be found at the following link.

Come back on this blog too for some updates from the escapee.

Indigo V

Monday, 6 May 2013

The New Science

Well, I'm running about 3 weeks behind on my blogging, things have continued to be a little crazy and hectic here. But, the combination of science and gaming has provided the motivational energy to post again. We had dinner last night with my friends Fraser and Lencia. After an excellent dessert of berry and rhubarb cobbler (mmmm, thanks Fraser!), we tried out a new boardgame called "The New Science". My friend Fraser had supported the funding of the game through kickstarter. For a game that had been funded through crowd funding, I was very impressed with the high production values of the game, better looking than many other games I've played. My one criticism was that my dementia-addled brain kept confusing the little square block pieces with the ever so slightly larger square block pieces that were used for a completely different purpose.

Anyway, in the New Science, you play as one of the great scientific thinkers of the 17th century. And science in the 17the century clearly was just as competitive and cutthroat as it is today. You have to beat your fellow scientists to publishing your significant discoveries. Each turn you get 3 actions, where you can either research a scientific theory, experiment to prove your theory is correct, publish your theory to gain prestige (whoever has the most prestige wins the game), gain influence (by schmoozing government, religious, scientific or industry figures), take a random event, or rest. Deciding when the publish was crucial, you don't want to get scooped, but on the other hand, do you want to let your scientific competitors get a free ride on your research? So, pretty much just like real life. Resting at the right time to build up your energy for important scientific work was also crucial. Overall, we all thought it was a very fun game. The irony of relaxing from the stress of science by playing a game simulating the stress of science provided additional entertainment.

I played as Gottfried Leibnitz, my girlfriend played as Isaac Newton, resulting in an animated discussion about who really invented calculus!