Not done yet!
We have a date and we can’t be late. One thing that doesn’t change is that every cruise has to have an end point. We have to be in port at 8 am on Dec 19. Before that we have to be at the pilot point pick up at 6 am that day. We can’t be late – and pretty much we can’t be early. The second mate has the job of calculating how long it will take to get from where we are working to that point – and that time is the time we have to stop. So—we are steaming lickity split, full steam ahead, whatever- pick your metaphor.  We are going back to Freemantle right now – no time left to stop for anything more. We have one more survey to do near port (more on that later) but now we just have to cover over 1000 nautical miles just as fast as we can. It will take the better part of 4 days. Just because we have to stop collecting samples doesn’t mean our work – or any work on the ship stops. There is still a lot to do to get us ready to leave when we hit land.
All the gear we brought out on the ship for coring has to be packed to go home. We have to do this to make room for the next team of scientists to use the ship. For example, that big blue block that we had to put the yellow coring line over the side of the ship? The one in nearly every coring photo I posted? Yep! That would be in the way for any other science work besides coring so—that has to go home until the next time we need it. The ship’s crew swung the crane in and took that off yesterday. It’s now stowed on the back deck – and boy when you stand next to it, you realize just how BIG it really is!
The science team has spent the last day and a half cataloging all the samples we collected and getting that all entered into spreadsheets. Also we kept handwritten logbooks of every sample, every station every core and water sample – that all has to be typed in, copied and backed up. That takes time – and it is important to do that before we leave the ship. All those cores have to go in our refrigerator van– so they will stay cool all the way home. All those tubes have a number and we have to know where each one came from so that we can make sense of the data when we analyze it.

 

This is an important  point – Most of what we have done on this cruise is collect samples. That is not data. Now we have to go home and some of the hardest work will begin – when we run our analyses and get the data, gather it together and make sense of it. In a very real sense our journey has just begun. This will be more of a journey of the mind than the real explorer journey we have been on – but it is a journey just the same.
For the next few days we will be packing, packing, packing. Trying to remember where it all went and then making room for all the samples we have.

But there is still time for a few more beautiful sunsets!