Thursday, 14 November 2013

Final Thoughts

We finally made it into Phuket; Au Chalong to be precise.  This marks the end of our scientific endeavours as we cannot sample in economic zones.  It's hard to believe that we made it all the way across the Indian Ocean and living as a land-lubber is staring us in the face.  We thought very briefly about continuing on, but that we have much to do here and hitting the high seas again will have to wait until our 2014 Expedition.  

I had a haunting feeling during our crossing that the oceans were virtually empty, somehow--and incredibly--devoid of life.  Sure we saw a pod of whales, two pods of dolphins, caught precious few fish and birds were few and far between, but the Indian Ocean is considered to be one of the worlds last untouched oceans.  Still many many days passed where we saw absolutely no sign of life.  Could it be that such a vast ocean supports so little life?  And if so, what could we expect to see on the Pacific or the Atlantic...  Anything at all?  

With this on my mind, I read a Sydney Morning Herald article: The Ocean Is Broken, about Newcastle yachtsman Ivan Macfadyen's experiences of his ocean crossings and the sobering state of the worlds oceans as he saw it.  He reports "huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere. Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing wires in the middle of the sea."  He describes part of journey as 'sailing through a garbage tip.'  

As we sailed through some of the most remote atolls in the Maldives, we saw water bottles floating around, flip-flops, household detergent bottles and diapers.  The floating debris got worse as we approached Male, the main tourist hub of the Maldives.  In Thailand, we saw black rubbish bags filled with trash floating on the sea.  And single-use plastic bags were ubiquitous.  
It's tempting to think that whatever is happening to the worlds oceans does not affect life on land.  But that is just not the case.  A recent article in the The Strait Times in Singapore reports what we all knew already: that the world's fisheries are collapsing as a result of over-fishing.  

The good news is that sustainable fishing practices are starting to emerge.  The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) along with the World Wife Fund for Nature (WWF) organised Singapore's first Sustainable Seafood Business Forum.  The bad news is that fish from sustainable fisheries can cost anywhere from 20-40% more.    

There is plenty that we can all do, however.  We can forego the use of single-use plastic bags and bring our own reusable bag when you we shopping.  We can also change our buying habits by supporting sustainable fisheries.  Little things like that multiplied across millions of people has a tremendous impact.  

In the meantime, 
we will be busy forming the Indigo Foundation that will fund our future expeditions and the development of the sampling kits that will be fitted to our world cruiser participants.  Our work depends on the cooperation of our fellow cruisers.  If you are interested in participating, please contact Rachelle Lauro on rachelle (at) to be added to our growing list.  

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Leg 3 from Maldives to Phuket marks the most scientifically interesting leg so far. Certainly, the samples we took from Chagos will be pivotal and ground-breaking, but this leg sees us through the worlds busiest shipping channel. We are looking at how metals leaching from the tankers affects the overall health of the microbial ecosystem.
It was interesting to see that the shipping lane itself was highly organized and limited to a relatively narrow span of ocean.  There were no errant tankers headed every which way.  They all proceeded one after another; it was almost as if outgoing vessels took the north side of the 'lane' and incoming vessels took the south side, just like any freeway. It does make sense though as the international rules for preventing collision at sea specify that in a head-on situation each vessel should leave the other on it's port side. As a net result the ships are keeping the 'right lane' (even in Commonwealth countries).
We cut transects across the shipping channels and with the handy use of our AIS, we were able to avoid becoming a fly on the windscreen of these massive ships.  For those who are old enough to remember the classic videogame of frogger, this is what Indigo was playing in the shipping lane. Here is a shot of Jay Cullen and Joe Grzymski taking a water sample from the wake of a passing ship.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Dolphin Escort

Just never get tired of these!!!  For some while, we had an interesting bioluminescent phenomenon.  Instead of some blue green sparkles, we saw large blobs glowing just to the side of our hull which would light up en masse making the ocean look as though it was boiling with an eerie green glow. 
If it couldn't get any better, a pod of dolphins darted in and out of the glowing boiling waters. We couldn't see the actual animal but we could see torpedo-like wakes that also glowed as the dolphins played on our bow. Of course, we couldn't film that, so everybody at home will just have to settle for a 'regular' bow shot!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Arriving & Departing in Male

 It's been a blissful few days cruising the archipelago of the Maldives.  The reefs are surprisingly healthy & abundant (at least on the outer atolls) and who can complain about good food and good company?  Male is quite a culture shock from the more serene places that we have been.  There is open burning of trash & so much of it is floating on the surface of the water (even in the most remote of places).
I've seen cola-cola bottles, water bottles, flip-flops, dish detergent bottles, plastic bottles and more plastic bottles.  We went ashore while we were in Chagos and filled two large trash bags with plastic bottles that had washed ashore on the ocean current.  It is depressing to see so little concern for the very thing that gives us humans so much. 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Clearing into Addu, Maldives

 Per usual, we had to clear quite a few hurdles to clear before allowed into the country. We had health officers, our local (very expensive) agent, the military, immigration officers, the police, harbour master and customs. It was a proper party!!!
We then cleared out the crew from leg two and cleared in the new crew. We had a familiar face: Joe Grzymski from leg 1.  Joe is also one of the founding fathers of the Indigo concept and  great fun to have aboard. We also have aboard Jay 'Iron Man' Cullins, Ruth McCance, Trent Goldsack & Diane McDougald.
Off we go to do some Maldivian cruising before we head east to Phuket!

Maldivian Coral Reefs

We got our new crew settled in & are looking forward to cruising northwards to Male, Maldives.  We visited some beautiful and relatively untouched atolls with some surprisingly stunning reefs.  Its hard to compete with Chagos, who sees perhaps 50 people a year, but I got some really nice shots anyway.
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

Friday, 4 October 2013

Crossed The Equator

We crossed the equator and in keeping with maritime law, we had to punish the pollywogs for their crimes to King Neptune.  Joe Podvarek was "Cookie Wog" who had to atone for the crimes of repeatedly walking into the boom and splitting his head open. His punishment was a random shaving event.
Jasna Zarkovic was "Barbie Wog" who paid penance for falling out of bed.  Her punishment was grease tattoos.
Mike "Show-Us-Your-Warface Wog" Givskov  was held accountable for the grave sin of incomprehensibly rambling like a Swedish chef.  Punishment: grease tattoo and random shaving event.
Jacob "Sparky Wog" Senstius also sinned by incomprehensibly rambling like a Swedish chef and he too paid dearly with a random shaving event.
Gayle "Frilly Nickers Wog" offended the great King Neptune by continually applying sun cream. She was forced to get adorned with winch grease tattoos. 
And lastly Rach "The Admiral" Lauro was also in good company having never crossed the equator before.  Neptune took issue with me threatening other green horns with violence for possible damage to our precious vessel.  And so I joined Barbie Wog and Frilly in the winch grease tattoos department....
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Squally World

When the world's two great counter-flowing wind currents converge in the equator zone...sparks will fly and not a dull moment, nor a proper nights rest, can be found. We had to bail out Peros Banhos (Chagos/BIOT) after a little Trojan Horse came round for a visit bringing a very welcome cold air front, then blinding sheets of rain and 30 knot gusts.  
That turned out to be just a little teaser for squalls to come. The other night, a 60 knot beastie formed on top of our heads, dogged us for 6 solid hours, ripped up our  newly repaired sails and send a nice torrential downpour down the back of our necks!  It was such a persistent menace that at one point, we considered 'heaving-to'.  Fede, myself, Trent Goldsack and his charming wife Ruth McCance sorted things out on deck while Indigo, ever the champion, handled the situation like the seasoned professional she is. Bad things always happen at nightfall and so the worst of it was that I was not able to get any footage but here is what an approaching squall line looks like during the day!!
There must be some sort of seafaring law that says, 'If something bad is to happen, it will happen during the small hours of the night.' F Scott Fitzgerald called that the 'three o'clock hour' when the abnormal becomes normal.  Anyway, I now watch the routine setting of the sun with my customary wonder, but also with a prick of foreboding until we reach higher latitudes anyway!
Between George the grumpy autopilot, Matilda, the cantankerous water maker and Squally World, we've been thinking about renaming our expedition to National Lampoon's...

1 On The Road Again

We are on our way again, this time to sail up to Adoo Atoll in the Maldives for our change of crew.  Once the new crew boards, we will cruise up the Maldivian Archipelago to the largest atoll in the world (Huvadhoo Atoll), then Kolhumadulu Atoll, then finally up to Male to reprovision.
The reefs in Chagos, Saloman Islands in particular, are a coral reef wonderland with fish and sharks aplenty. The sandy shores of the small deserted islands are literally crawling with crabs of all types, including coconut crabs, and the corals themselves are very healthy.
Not even when I was studying the protected reefs off Bermuda have I seen such a vibrant ecosystem. I remember my advisor told me that studying coral reefs was just writing their obituary. Considering the reefs I had seen thus far, ocean acidification, warming and other stresses our oceans face, I suppose there is an element of truth to that; but in the meantime, we do have reefs in this world that are recovering, alive and flourishing.  Long may that continue.  Goodbye to one of the prettiest places on the planet!
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

George...Down For The Count

Well, today marks the fourth and final inexplicable breakdown and despite our discovery that George the grumpy auto pilot runs "Windows 98" our attempts to reboot have failed and so we are back to basics here on board. The good news is that we are saving electricity. The bad news is that I'm due on deck tonight at 2am!
Trent, the electrical engineer aboard, and I will make a few last ditch attempts today to revive The Grump before we give up entirely and resign ourselves to the fate of having to hand steer the rest of the way to Phuket...and onto Singapore... Lest we can't fix the problem. George, we love ya, but you are a monumental piece of crap!!! 
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

To Hooka or Not To Hooka

Fede & I had some long discussions about how we were going to diving on these reefs out in the middle of nowhere.  The problem with dive rigs is that air supply is limited to the number of tanks we could carry aboard (not very many it turns out!)  So we looked into a hooka system; which is surprisingly useful!  We can't go very deep and the hoses are a bit of a pain, but the system is rechargeable and we can dive on it, basically until the sun goes down or later. 
Here's a picture of yours truly in action.  The only trouble is coordinating with your dive buddy!
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

George strikes again

George, the grumpy Jefa autopilot, stuck again late last night.  He started steering us off the face of the planet at the very inconvenient hour of 11pm; which meant we all faced a long night of hand steering.  Why doesn't he ever act up in the middle of the day?!
This marks the third inexplicable breakdown, and subsequent recovery, of grumpy George since we left Mauritius 3 weeks ago.  We dug around for awhile and couldn't find anything untoward.  We looked at the mechanics; they looked fine.  No blown fuses or anything.  So with very few options remaining we decided to reboot the system and now George is back to being happy.  We decided that George must be running Windows 98 or something (perhaps even Windows Seven)...what else could explain it??

Friday, 20 September 2013

We arrived here in to the untouched wonderland known as Chaogs/BIOT (British Indian Ocean Territories).  We are the first research vessel to be given water and sponge sampling rights for this region ever.  In fact, there are more scientists going to Antarctica every year than Chagos so there is much speculation aboard about what we might discover here. Will we find that these are the same as tropical waters elsewhere or will these waters show something unique? It's a big mystery and sampling starts tomorrow!
While everybody is aboard sampling, I'll be photographing the reef. As a condition of our permit, the British Government wants to use my footage for their website so I will be busy taking video and photos of this stunning location. So far I've more reef sharks and a rather large one tracked Fede for awhile. Good thing he had no idea!
Look, everyone misses the office job, but somebody has to drive the dinghy! Today I took my Leica for a spin.  What do you think? I suffered a little technical difficulties with lens fog, but overall I'm very pleased. The water temperature is 84F, perfect for my four hour dives wearing only a bikini!
It's to be expected that the reefs here are pristine since this whole area has been named a reserve. In fact these reefs are in fantastic shape. It's a pleasure to see something here in planet earth that hasn't been ravaged in some way by mankind.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Welcome to Chagos/BIOT

I can't say ocean crossings are ever easy, but according to our pollywog crew the trip up was a nightmare. We had to beat upwind for some time, granted, with some crossed seas. There was much grumbling on behalf of our new crew about seasickness, heat and pretty much everything else.
So it was with much relief and happiness that we started to see signs of land. First we saw the sea birds swoop in, then a large pod of dolphins escorted us into the greater banks of the Chagos Archipelago. They swam along side of us for some time and  the more daring crossed back and forth across the bow. The dolphins were unbelievably quick! This was the first time I had ever seen dolphins in the wild and I have to say, they are magnificent animals.  Then, at last, we finally sighted land...

Unsung hero's

It seems like every leg we have just the right people for the conditions of the trip. I'm convinced that we wouldn't have made it out of that storm if we didn't have Joe Grzymski , Martin Ostrowski  and Josh Goldstein aboard. They all took turns helming every half an hour throughout the night while I manned the radio in case of the unthinkable. Fede and I are still so grateful to those guys for putting up their hand when they had absolutely no reason to do it.
This leg, we have Jacob Senstius who is our everything electrical expert and he has no qualms with diving into the black hole, I mean the lazerette, and digging out whatever we need (a monumental task).  He's been able to resurrect our battery charger, restore our failing peristaltic pumps that we call Siamese twins because one cannot survive without the other, hardwire Indigo on and off shorepower and... he can make beer bread (a highly coveted skill).
Joe Podvorec and Jasna Zarkovic have been our chef extraordinaires whipping up some really fantastic meals on the high seas...and cleaning up afterwards!! This is impressive because this is their first ocean crossing, which renders almost all pollywogs totally incapacitated.
Mike Givskov has commandeered all the complicated scientific equipment and runs the Frrf (doomsday) device that measures the photosynthetic capacity of the little microbes that keep the oceans healthy. He seems to be the only person short of Joe Grzymski who knows how to work that monster.
Ron Hoeke is a useful man of all trades and puts his hand up to help out whenever and wherever. Only a captain and his first mate can appreciate this particular trait. He even rescued us the other day when the dinghy died and I had to swim it ashore.  And his girlfriend Gayle Philip helps me out with retrieving and preserving the water samples. 
As for Fede and myself...we are going to work on being nice because there is no rest for the wicked!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

George the grumpy Jefa auto pilot

It seems George is intent on breaking down.  Fede and I heard the telltale clanking in the middle of the night.  So with much disappointment we turned off George and hand steered through the night.  This would mark the third auto pilot breakdown....... we were not happy. 
Jacob and I disembowelled the lazerette the following day and found that a large nut had literally fallen off a critical bolt.  It wasn't stripped and had been lock tighted at some point.  It was very bizarre.  So we screwed everything back together and put George back on the job.  Days seem to pass in mirror images of one another, and I think its been two days now that George has been back in business.  Go George!!
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

First fish

What's an Indigo V Expedition without any fishing??  Well, today did not disappoint.  Ron's fishing contraption did the trick and we caught two wahoo's .... or something like that.  The boys set one free and we ate the other.  Seems this crew is alittle better at dispatching the poor fish than the crew from leg 1!!  I couldn't witness the actual deed but I heard first hand reports that it didn't suffer (although I did hear alot of banging and I'll have to remember to check the winch handle for fish remnants).
We also started sampling today and needless to say we have a little fine tuning to do... And lastly, my favorite cap went overboard today!!!!  That marks the end of my head gear; I lost my visor on the way out of Mauritius.  Fede launched a very impressive man over board drill in hopes of recovering my hat... and after a few hopeful seconds whereby I thought we could recover hat slipped beyond view and into Davy Jones locker.
The temperature is starting to rise as we approach the equator.  Everyone is wearing as little clothing as possible to still maintain some decency (often unsuccessfully).  I think we're all looking forward to arriving in Chagos where we can open some hatches and get a little sea breeze through the cabins. 

End of the earth...sort of

We stopped at the Carajos Cargados shoals so the crew could catch a breather, most were struck down with sea sicknesss.  The seas coming out of Mauritius were crossed and were a pretty advanced introduction to ocean crossings, but the winds were fantastic.  The morning after we arrived, two very friendly local fishermen came for a visit and to give us some (many) freshly caught fish.  They would not take any money, all they wanted was some fresh fruit and rhum.  I almost had to wonder if there was any truth to the pirate movies that depicts rhum as the most valuable commodity.   
Most everyone aboard hopped on the fisherman's boat for a ride over to his spit of land and a little tour of his tin home.  Apparently only three people live on the island year round, a few more could be found on the adjacent atoll.  Short of a few dental problems, due to scurvy, he loved his life in this desolate place where birds fly a few feet over head and others could be touched with the outstretch of a hand.  They had no running water or electricity; visitors were few and far between and I had to wonder... how much do we really need to be happy?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Why I love this job

What makes this experience special is the people that we meet on the road.  Some of the faces that we encountered in this pause in Mauritius: Sam (the Labourdennais hotel manager), his smile made our mornings better every day; Rasheed was the taxi driver and overall useful fellow: whenever we need to source something or get something done, he was the man for the job. And most importantly, Pierre d'Unienville (photo below).  If it weren't for him and all his help, we would literally be sitting at the Caudan Marina waiting for the Second Coming... of spare parts.  It was a tearful farewell to this beautiful island and the wonderful friends we made along the way.
P.S. If you are ever in Mauritius, contact us and we can tell you how to get in touch with these wonderful folks.

On the road again (and t-shirt competition)

Indigo is almost ready for another ocean passage! The new crew arrived to Mauritius in the last few days and the boat is getting loaded with provisions and scientific equipment. For this leg we have a real multinational crew composed of: Federico (Italian), Rachelle (USA), Ron (USA), Jacob (Denmark), Mike (Denmark), Joe (Australia), Jasna (Australia), Gayle (Ireland).
While getting ready in Port Louis, we were interviewed by the Mauritian local news, met with University representatives, had an interview with business week and Indigo starred in a Bollywood movie.  Yes, you read correctly: a Bollywood movie crew asked us if they could shoot a scene while motoring around the harbour and dancing on deck. We couldn't pass the opportunity to see some funky dance moves so we accepted. And what a show it was. 
The only issue is that everything happened so fast and the film crew was so efficient that we forgot to ask the title of the movie: so if you are a Bollywood fan and come across a dance scene shot on the bow of Indigo V, contact us and you will receive an expedition t-shirt as a prize!
Stay tuned for more news from the high seas. 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Everybody likes whales

Since we got back, the Indigo team has been busy analyzing data, giving seminars and interviews and getting ready for the next legs. But the recurrent question is: do you have pictures of the whale encounters? So, here they are, enjoy!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Some fun back at home

Back in Sydney, catching up with office work but we still had some time to have fun with another ABC radio interview:

and making a teaser trailer for our upcoming expedition movie:

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sic transit gloria mundi

And so passes the glory of the world. Its been quite a journey, but after 2,600 nautical miles, the first leg of the expedition is over.   The boat is packed, the samples on dry ice, the crew is on planes to their respective destinations. Indigo will enjoy a well deserved rest under the sunny skies of Port Louis (Mauritius) until the start of leg 2 in a couple of months that will see us pass through Chagos Archipelago, then on up to the Maldives. 
This has been a 'landmark' sampling expedition that would have never happened without the guinea pig crew.  Joe, Martin, Josh and of course my wife Rachelle ... thank you all. 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

We've been adopted by a big mama

The ocean never ceases to amaze. The other day we were just done sampling when I suddenly looked around with my polarized sunnies and asked 'There are some weird dark patches out in the water, anybody has an idea of what they might be?'.  It wasn't long before we saw a large back with a small fin and a spurt of smelly water at mere 50 meters from us. We were right in the middle of a pod of blue whales making their migration.
Deciding not to disturb them, we pulled up the sails and started making way (we sample with the engine off) but the pod kept following us. Sometime a whale would pop up right behind us, sometimes right on our side, sometimes crossing our bow amazingly close. And when we changed course, the whole pod would change course with us. Maybe because of our dark blue hull they thought we were one of them, the long lost silly cousin that goes in the wrong direction, or maybe they just liked the Miles Davies cd that was playing at the time. This lasted for over an hour but everyone was so excited by the show that we forgot to take pictures... except Rach who took some video, but that cant go on a blog!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Seamstresses and electricians

On a sailing passage this long, one must employ some ingenuity.  Yachts are self-sufficient floating universes with all sorts of systems that can break or misbehave and the team has to deal with it.
One example happened when, during the big storm of last week, one of our peristaltic pumps got wet and stopped functioning. Our team of electricians (Martin 'Edison' Ostrowski and Joe 'Tesla' Grzymski) went to work. With the aid of common household items (and a multimeter) they found out that the pump was still serviceable but the controller was shot. They therefore used the other peristaltic pump and with a usb cable connected both pumps to a single controller in parallel. End result, we have two functioning pumps again which we nicknamed "the siamese twins".
Another example of skill deployment was when, during a squall, one of the seams of our mainsail busted open. Our sail repair team (Josh 'Jack-of-all-Trades' Goldstein and Joe 'McGyver' Grzymski) got thread and needle and sutured over a meter of sail back to its original state. The repair is so darn good that we have problems even spotting it.     
I am not sure how these newly acquired skills will be used once we get back to civilization but when you are on a small boat in a vast ocean they certainly do come handy.  Now if we can just find someone to fix the wind machine across this part of the ocean, all will be well!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Where the magic happens

This first leg of the Indigo V expedition is drawing to a close and it's time to start looking back at these past few weeks.
We've been through beautiful sunsets and sunrises, squalls, storms, doldrums, heavy seas, sleepless nights, great meals, dreadful amounts of 2-minute noodles, lots of laughs and some great memorable times.  The scientific part of the expedition has been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We have plenty of data to work on and lots of equipment to improve or repair before leg 2.
But for those of you interested, this is where all the science happens: on our reconfigured lounge table. For extra credit try identifying in the picture all the following items:
  • The flow cytometer
  • The FRRF (fast repetition rate fluorometer)
  • The barcode printer
  • Joe Grzymski with a deer-caught-in-headlight look
  • The navigation station
  • The panic grab bag (contains all the emergency stuff in case we sink)
  • The repurposed library now filled with syringes and filters (and 100 books)
  • The -80 freezer (that now heats instead of cooling after a run in with some bad seas)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Who Turned on the Wave Machine?!

When we left Port Elizabeth, our only concern was a small low pressure system developing west of us and moving east. It was predicted to hit us five days later (Sunday June 2nd) with max wind gusts of about  35 knots. In sailing terms, this is strong wind but nothing to write home about.
Of course Mother Nature always has her own plan and as the low pressure system deepened, the weather forecast grew grimmer. By Saturday evening the winds were already gusting over the initial 35 knots and rising. We decided take the safe approach and "heave to".
Heaving to is a classic sailing maneuver for storm management. It's been described as the sailor's 'safety valve' and allows to endure the biggest waves and storms by slowly drifting sideways with minimal sails and creating a protective slick that prevents breaking waves.  Basically, we lashed the rudder all the way to starboard, tied the staysail to starboard and tied the main sail to port.  This gives lift to the bow when she turns into the wind but when it turns away the rudder and the mainsail keep it at the right angle to the waves.
We all woke up the following morning to some less than pleasant weather and some surprisingly considerable waves (over 10 meters) coupled with sustained gusts at over 45 knots. Fede and Josh, who have seen a lot of bad weather in their sailing days, confirm that this gale was one of the best (worse?) they's ever seen.  So we made the best of it.  We fired up a Macbook with a movie selection, made some popcorn and had a movie & book reading fest ... for 30 hours.  We have about 100 books stocked in our library here aboard, I think we've almost read them all!  
The following day was hang-over day across the open ocean, pitching with dead swells left over from the party so we delayed sampling until the next day that proved to be sunny, cheerful and Rach saw a rainbow on the horizon just off the stern.  Our next concern?  We seem to be running out of gin & tonic! 

Friday, 31 May 2013

This is not real science, it's a fishing expedition

Believe it or not, we get that a lot. Because we do metagenomics, which means that we go out in the ocean, take a bucket of water, sequence all the DNA contained and put the genome information back together on a computer, many believe that we are just going 'gene hunting' and have no clear hypothesis in mind when we start. Nothing is furthest from the truth, but in this case, I might concede, it's been a fishing expedition. We collected our first scientific samples today (more on our lab setup in future blogs) but the most exciting part of the week has been catching a 5 kg yellowfin tuna.
How? Well... we have a fishing line (actually it's a clothing line with a hook and an orange plastic lure at the end) trailing the boat 'just in case'. And yesterday, we finally caught lunch. Best sashimi ever!!!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Science team places in local regatta

The Indigo Team has been officially marooned for almost a week in Port Elizabeth waiting for a weather window to make it across to Mauritius. To broaden our horizons, some of us hired a cab for $25 bucks and went safari'ing where in addition to spotting elephants, warthogs and kudu, we also came to find out that a rickety tin can can safari just as good as a truck (minus creature comforts like shock absorbers).  we've been adopted by the local yacht club and, as honorary new members, we participated in a small local regatta in the bay of Port Elizabeth. Despite our temporary amnesia of course rules (and the actual location of the finish line), the Indigo team came a respectable 2nd and is now officially accepted as a contender in the local yacht club.
Go team!!!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

My kitchen rules

Before the Indigo V expedition started we had a number of people thinking that their masterchef skills would make them famous aboard our little floating universe. These go from the legends of Joe's homemade pasta to Martin's baking prowess, from Rachelle's pizza galore to Ray's fish'n'chips. Not to mention my sorta famous tiramisu.
On the boat we have 3 tiers of meals: rough seas meals (approximately 120,000 portions of two minutes noodle - thanks Brownie), quick meals for when we are too busy sampling or sailing (basically pre-pepared frozen bags of lentil daal or curry) and raw ingredients for making any haute cuisine delicatessen.  The big running joke was the seemingly sheer improbability that all the people on planet earth could never possibly consume the amount of minute noodles that Mark Brown provisioned, but since we've been at sea, choice number one has been the noodles.  And as impossible as it might sound, I do believe we might be running low! No cooking team has yet to embark into making their long promised gastronomical dream meal. 
Will it ever happen? Only time will tell.  Martin promised to bake an orange cake for Rach and my fourth wedding anniversary - which is today.  I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with two minute noodles and some of our best mates.... and hopefully some orange cake!

Sunday, 19 May 2013


My dad always used to tell me: 'The worst thing you can do to a boat is not use it'. And he was right, boats that are not used get ambivalent.  They pile on the winter pounds and with nobody around to play with, they slip out of shape.  I remember when I used to get back to my racing dinghy after a month of winter storage and I had to tighten every screw check and lubricate very deck fitting. The only time I didn't do that, I lost the rudder during the first sail.  Our local skipper said it best yesterday, "An unused yacht is a very unhappy yacht."
Of course, with that type of experience it's tempting to believe that without any human companionship, gremlins are welcomed aboard to play.  Indigo V is no different. She was waiting for us in Cape Town for 2 months and now, during the shakedown part of the voyage, little things got loose and need attention.  From a small leak in one of the deck hatches (bothering Joshua's beauty sleeps) to the filters of the watermaker.  Today we found some dirt in the fuel filter which was causing throttle irregularity on the main diesel engine.  All minor hiccups, nothing major. 
Indigo V has alot of heart and she carried us safely to Port Elizabeth which we will use as our jumping off point into the blue ocean transact up to Mauritius.  Even the weather cooperated and two major weather fronts didn't materialise leaving us alone to enjoy the short sail up the coast.  So, even if the scientific sampling hasn't started yet, the whole crew is keeping busy and everyone is having a great time. As a little side note, peristaltic pumps are great for sampling diesel from sailboat tanks, more on that in a scientific paper to follow...

Friday, 17 May 2013

Where Oceans collide

It's all happening!!! We have cleared customs and left Cape Town and are now underway. Next stop Mauritius.
Having just gone past the Cape of Good Hope (aka The Cape) I discovered that it is incorrectly labelled as the tip of Africa and the meeting of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. The actual southern tip of Africa is Cape Agulhas. I guess ancient trading mariners were more interested in Good Hope because by going around that, you have 'turned the corner' and are on your way home with a clipper (a type of sailing ship) full of tea. It was a major accomplishment and to this day, doubling The Cape is a required rite of passage for any ocean sailor. We'll, we've done it and I wonder if our large box of earl grey would still qualify us even if going in the wrong direction.
On the science side, all the pumps are tested and the equipment has been strapped down. They seem to tolerate the tossing around of the southerly swell better than us.
S/Y Indigo V Team
Indian Ocean Expedition

Monday, 13 May 2013

South Africa - Days 1-3

The IndigoV team all arrived safely in Cape Town over the past few days. We are eight total: Federico, Rachelle, Mark, Martin, Josh, Ray, Henry and Joe. I think we all get along quite well and have spent the past days getting to know each other while prepping the boat for sailing and science. There is a photo of the beautiful IndigoV in her berth at the marina.  Today is a busy day and primary tasks include: food shopping, continued instrument set up and calibration and some electrical work to install a -80C ultra low freezer. Stay tuned for more updates as we prep to leave and get sampling!

Monday, 6 May 2013

Ready for leg 1

The lab stuff is packed, the merino wools too, it's time to leave for South Africa and leg 1 of the Indigo V expedition: the next post will be from the boat, hopefully with lots of pictures.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Indian Ocean Relief Map

This is Joe Grzymski, one of the scientists joining the Indigo V expedition. Here is a relief map of the ocean and a theoretical route from Capetown to Port Louis, Mauritius. In subsequent posts I am going to attach maps of some of the oceanographic variables in this part of the Indian Ocean.  This map is a Robinson (world) map projection.  Maps produced by Sara E. Jenkins, 2013 using ArcGIS 10.1

Joseph J Grzymski, Ph.D
Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Desert Research Institute

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

ABC radio interview

This morning Fede was interviewed by Tim Holt of ABC radio about the Indigo V expedition. In his words: 'It's funny how different you sound when you listen back to yourself'.