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.