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The last week

Position am 1.6.2023Current position (diamond shape). The circles are the positions at previous blog posts, the black line is roughly the route we took (base map from Opens external link in new windowggplot2).

The last week of the cruise started a little hectically because the research permit for Papua New Guinea had not been granted by Friday evening, and therefore, the next station moved to a position outside the exclusive economic zone. Everything had to be prepared within five hours, and everyone needed to know which CTD would be done in which order. Luckily, everything settled down after two hours or so.

After that station, we shut down all the measurements that are usually running during transit between stations. This meant that I also had to shut down all my measurements, and I started to tidy up a little bit. As the seawater pumps were also not running, my lab was quieter than it had been in the last few weeks.

As there was still some hope of getting the research permit on Monday, we could not start packing during the weekend. This was because, with the permit, there would be a station on Monday after all and one on Tuesday too, and we would also be allowed to continue the measurements taken while we were underway. Due to this uncertainty, we spent the weekend very much “in between” – no stations but also no packing yet.

At least for me, the missing stations had one upside, as I was able to finish the measurements of alkalinity and DIC of the discrete samples. I had taken two samples per day and was only able to measure when the instrument was not needed for CTD samples. Now in this forced break from CTD stations, I measured the last 12 samples, and as long as we had no permit, I also didn’t take any new samples.

On Sunday, we saw land for the first time since Ecuador and even on both sides of the ship. Additionally, to seeing land, there were other signs that we were getting closer to civilisation again: more ships and more waste. We also saw more birds, and on Monday morning I saw the first insects. Compared to the blue sky of the past weeks, the last few days have often been very cloudy with rain in the night. During the day, we sometimes see clouds with rain passing by, but we rarely get any rain ourselves.


We are getting closer to land: insects have appeared again. (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)


Clouds with rain passing by.. (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

On Monday, Eric decided that we would wait until Tuesday afternoon for the research permit before starting to pack. So, we continued to wait. At least, there were ships and sometimes even land to look at.. 

By Tuesday evening it was certain that we would not have another station, and we could start to pack. On Wednesday everything was packed into boxes and those were then carried into the containers on Thursday. In some cases, the packing is similar to Tetris: carefully arranging everything to make it fit.

We’ll arrive in Townsville on Friday morning and stay on board until Saturday morning at 10 am. After that, I’ll start my journey back. The GEOMAR group will stay overnight in a hotel and then move on, either back to Germany or for a holiday in Australia.

With our arrival in Townsville, the work is, of course, not finished. We collected lots of data which needs to be analysed, and there are also many samples that can’t be measured on board. These samples have been conserved and will be shipped to Germany where they will be analysed in labs. As these labs also have samples from other cruises, it can take many months before any results are obtained.

And to finish off, some sunsets:


Sunset (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

Sunset (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

Sunset (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

Sunset (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

Sunset (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

Sunset (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)
In the last few days, it was often too cloudy to see the sunset. (Pictures: Rieke Schäfer)


Waves (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)

We can only hear the waves because they break against the ship. (Picture: Rieke Schäfer)


PTB doctoral student Opens local program for sending emailRieke Schäfer is blogging here directly from the RV "Sonne" on her way west from South America across the Pacific Ocean.