A new start
Céline Dimier, a biology engineer from Villefranche-sur-Mer, gives us her first impressions on leaving Cape Town. A new mission, a new start… and a new oceanographic adventure for this veteran of long-distance scientific expeditions.
Discovering the S.A. Agulahs II
To go outside, as far as possible beyond the walls, to be enriched from within. That gives meaning to life. Perhaps this sentence gleaned from a book was important to me. I don’t know exactly. In any case, I’ve often had it in my head, and it’s helped me to get out of my comfort zone… a big word these days. The plane is about to land. Between the clouds we can see Table Mountain, the impressive plateau that dominates Cape Town from its 1086 meters of altitude. The landing goes smoothly. We get off the plane, complete the immigration formalities and head for the hotel for a well-deserved night’s sleep. The next day, I join the Monaco Explorations team on the boat.
Heading for the Water Front, East Quay. The Agulhas is docked. With its bright red hull, it is impossible to miss. The South African research vessel is enormous: 134 m long, 7.65 m high, 8 decks. It can accommodate around 100 people. I’m at the foot of the gangway; that’s it, I’m on board. At first sight, it is a real labyrinth. It will take some time to avoid getting lost in the meanders of corridors and passageways. The tour begins on Deck 3, where the various laboratories are located.
It’s spacious. The rosette, an essential tool for analysing seawater, is also there, ready to dive into the ocean depths. I can already imagine myself at sea, with the equipment installed, with the filtration ramps, the measuring devices, the bottles, the filters, etc. And everyone crowding around the Niskin bottles to collect the sea water and carry out their analyses.
On the upper floors, there is the auditorium, work rooms, laundry room and gym. There is everything you need to spend weeks on board without missing anything. On deck 5 is the hangar where up to 2 helicopters can be stored. For this campaign, it will be used to store the thirty or so profiling floats that we have to drop at sea and which will take measurements of the water column for several years. The data will be transmitted regularly by satellite to the laboratory. On the back deck, the ROV is wisely waiting to be deployed at sea. It will be tested the day after we leave Cape Town.
Finally, I am assigned my cabin. I’m lucky, I have a cabin all to myself, on deck 7. A bench, a desk, a bathroom, and even a sofa: it will be my haven of peace for the next 2 months of the mission. I don’t linger there because the safety briefing by the first mate is about to start. The survival suit, the life jacket, the raft to evacuate the ship, everything is reviewed. But don’t worry, everything will be fine.
Embarking on an adventure
As night falls, it’s time to put our foot down one last time before leaving to enjoy the bustle of the Water Front. A last bath in the crowd, a last photo of the sea lions sleeping on the pontoons. Tomorrow, we cast off for the Indian Ocean!
This marine biology engineer has been working for the CNRS in Villefranche-sur-Mer since 2014. She is in charge of the management of the SAPIGH analysis platform (Pigment analysis service by HPLC: high pressure liquid chromatography). On the expedition she is part of the team of Hervé Claustre, Head of the BGC Argo project.
23 to 31 October 2022