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'.