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So, here comes the very first blog entry. As I already have been introduced a little, I’ll just start directly with the first entry. Such a journey, of course, does not start with actually leaving but much earlier, there are many things to pack and prepare, however, as I am currently travelling this will be the topic of the entry (I’m writing this on my way, each part as it happens). I’ll board the “Sonne” in Guayaquil which is not really close to Braunschweig and therefore I’ve divided my way there into different parts below.

Part 1: Braunschweig ➝ Hamburg (11.04.2023)
I start off with a train journey to Hamburg where I’ll meet another part of the group travelling from Kiel. The others are coming to Hamburg by bus in the morning but I have to travel by train on Tuesday from Braunschweig to Hamburg and then sleep in a hotel.

The journey begins in Braunschweig
The journey begins in Braunschweig. The April weather was very changeable but at least it let me come to the train station without getting wet.

The first part went well, I arrived in Hamburg on time and found the hotel. Hamburg’s weather was similar to Braunschweig’s, but I got to see a rainbow.

Rainbow in Hamburg

However, for one part of the group that was supposed to fly to Guayaquil today, the day didn’t go that well. The airplane returned to Amsterdam and they have to stay there overnight and will join us tomorrow. As they were supposed to be in Guayaquil one day earlier to help with the containers and setting up things, we’ll have to see what this delay means. To explain the containers a bit: most of the equipment is not on the ship but brought by each group using it. The ship is basically a platform with very basic labs and infrastructure. Everyone brings the equipment they need to answer their specific research questions. As the questions can vary a lot the needs of everyone are very different and not everything can be available on board. Therefore, everyone brings what they need: sensors, sampling systems, chemicals, bottles, … All of this is sent by container to the port where we embark (our containers left Kiel in February).

Part 2: Hamburg ➝ Guayaquil (12.04.2023)
Luckily all our flights yesterday did happen as scheduled. The day was long enough nonetheless: seven hours of time differences plus getting up early … And it was raining everywhere except for Hamburg.

Quite fitting advertisement at Hamburg airport (translation: „Would you like some more?“, the joke being that “Meer” (sea) and “mehr” (more) sound the same). In the next weeks, I will indeed have a lot more sea around me.

I met with the group from Kiel at 4.30 am at the airport and received an additional laptop for the sensor. The laptop bag was actually quite a lot bigger than I expected and my carry-on luggage got somewhat bulky but luckily it still fit.

Departure from Hamburg
Departure from Hamburg

From Hamburg we flew to Amsterdam and from there to Guayaquil. There were a lot more security checks in Ecuador than I am used to in Germany. We had a stop in Quito (the flight actually goes Amsterdam – Quito – Guayaquil – Amsterdam) and we all had to leave the aircraft and have them scan our carry-on luggage again. Additionally, they searched for drugs with a dog both while leaving and going back to the aircraft. At the passport control in Guayaquil, I was quite lucky that some others of the group were in front of me so the officer already knew about the group going to the ship and leaving Ecuador very soon. So I didn’t have to explain everything which I was especially thankful for after waiting one hour in the queue. All the luggage had also arrived by the time we made it through immigration (thankfully nothing is missing, I have no idea what we would do if a suitcase was missing, getting it some days later is not possible …). While leaving the security zone we had to scan our passports again and some people had their luggage checked. However, I don’t know what they checked for and how they decided whom to check.

Our “vessel“ to cross the Atlantic
Our “vessel“ to cross the Atlantic

The flight route
Our route across the Atlantic according to the board monitors. At the end of this whole trip, I’ll have travelled around the globe, this was the first ocean crossing.

First glimpse down to South America
Some islands close to the South American mainland. After that it got quite cloudy, unfortunately, so I didn’t see much.

Arrival in Quito
Arrival in Quito. At least there are some mountains in the background. The Ands weren’t visible because of the clouds and me sitting on the wrong side (and not directly at the window).

First glimpse of the Pacific.
First glimpse of the Pacific.

Close to Guayaquil
Close to Guayaquil: A mix of water and land.

From the airport we went to the hotel. I stay in a different hotel than most of the group with just one other PhD student who already had arrived. There was supposed to be a shuttle picking me up and bringing me to the hotel, however with the flight delayed by 45 minutes and waiting at immigration it wasn’t there anymore, so I went with the others to their hotel first. From there a taxi took me to my hotel. Actually, we made a little detour because the taxi driver misunderstood where I needed to go and took me to the airport first. As he spoke nearly no English it wasn’t easy to explain to him where I wanted to go. In the end, I got to the hotel and went to bed directly.

Catedral Católica Metropolitana de Guayaquil
The Catedral Católica Metropolitana de Guayaquil close to the hotel where the group stayed. The tour across the city at least gave me the opportunity to see something.

By the way, it’s warm here. Yesterday, when we arrived, it was 30 °C and in the hotel room, I can choose between having it too loud to sleep with the air conditioning on or too warm to sleep with the air conditioning off.

Part 3: Boarding the “Sonne”
At the moment, I am waiting for breakfast to start and packing up my things. At 8.15 am we will be picked up and brought to the “Sonne”.

Yesterday evening, apparently the containers finally arrived at the “Sonne”. This means today we’ll have to unpack everything. However, if the containers apparently arrived quite late this also means it wasn’t really a problem that the first group did not arrive the day before yesterday.

I have arrived at the “Sonne” now. We were collected from the hotel as planned and brought to the port. There we had to go through a security check and migration which was a little adventurous as only our taxi driver spoke some English and at some times we weren’t really sure what was going on. On the ship, we were checked in and got our cabin keys. The “Sonne” is quite luxurious as she has quite a number of single-bed cabins (in contrast to other research vessels). I also got one. Now there is some time to settle in and wait for the others to arrive at the ship.

And with this, I’ve made it to the "Sonne" and the real journey can start.

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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.