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.