From North to South: A0 – Antarctica Cruise Expedition

My (Ismael Kangueehi) ACE Maritime University 25-day trip on board from Bremerhaven to Cape Town started on the 19th of November 2016 to the 15th of December 2016. It was very exciting to meet all the different young scientists from all walks of life. Most of the students (researchers) are currently pursuing their master’s degree or early PhD in the fields of geochemistry, oceanography, climatology and marine biology. Everyone was all eager to learn and utilize this once in a lifetime opportunity that might never come again. I personally felt very privileged to be part of this cruise and believe that it will definitely change my life forever for the good. The A0 cruise is part of a bigger project that will embark a big journey which will visit to all the Southern Ocean Islands around the Antarctica.

Before departure from Bremerhaven, the Shanty-Choir from Bremerhaven bidding farewell to us with some wonderful sailor songs. The Swiss ambassador to Germany also gave a farewell and well wishes speech which highlighted the fact that it was a unique opportunity and that we should enjoy it to the fullest. The first day on the ship which was the trip from Bremerhaven to Southampton was a bit rough because the ship sailed through a huge storm, with most students having grumpy faces from the rocking ship the next morning.

After a short stop of 2 days in Southampton where helicopters where loaded among other stuff, our journey towards the south continued. Surprisingly the weather became pretty warm outside rather quickly (not as cold as it was in Bremerhaven), with a few scattered clouds and just simply a beautiful ocean view extending in all directions one can look at. I cannot even start to describe the feeling rather than saying it’s just amazing, I really feel grateful and privilege to be part of this cruise and was particularly amazed by the vast different backgrounds of the participants in terms of cultures, traditions and educational research. Just after we cruised past the Canary Island, the weather became really warm and sunny, at least for the next 3 days, this was needed and welcomed after the cold weathers we experienced as we left Europe. The ocean was much calmer with almost no waves, just a few thick swells. I must state that this conditions were a total surprise to me, I have never seen the ocean this calm in my lifetime. As we got closer to the equator, we started seeing more clouds and feel much more moisture in the air. It was particularly very humid, but still very hot. On mid-days, we could not really see very far because of the high humidity, but the ocean was still very calm with almost no waves at all.

All the students got baptized after crossing the equator, the ceremony was really a good one and a lot of fun. The theme of the event involved some students acting as mermaids, while another group were the devils, pirates and Neptune. It involved going through what literally smelled like ‘vomit’ and a bath a seawater before getting a stamp and certificate which showed that we passed the test of crossing the equator. Then finally we all toasted to a Russian drink, a good cup of vodka which will give you a kick but was highly welcomed after spending a few weeks on the ship.

Besides having lectures on the ocean circulations and how to use different scientific instruments that are available on board for measurements, we got a feel of how these measurements were being captured right in action. The students also got a chance to give presentation about their different research interest and the scientific research that they have been carrying out back at their universities. Afternoons where reserved for scientific discussions on various scientific research with the focus mostly being on climate change how we can preserve the environment. Students were divided in different groups which all got a chance to work with the various scientific group and make a presentation based on their experience.

We conducted deck works at each CTDs stations with the various different scientists. Students were divided in groups of 5, and each group got a chance to work with the different scientists on their different projects. There were lectures on the new programming (Python) and Ocean Data View in order to plot some of the CTD data collected at the various stations.

Meeting new people is always amazing, and when you bring scientists from 15 different nations, there is so much different cultural diversity which makes the atmosphere on the ship just simply incredible. We were 49 students, 15 scientists and a ship crew of about 30 members. I would encourage other postgraduate students to apply for such expeditions and participate in them as it is such a great opportunity to form new collaborations, gain new knowledge, ideas, inspiration, meet fellow other young researchers to see how they conduct their research, learn about their work and form strong networks. You make friends for a lifetime. Just to sum it up, when the trip started in Bremerhaven, 49 students and conveyors boarded the RV Akademik Treshnikov but 49 friends got off in Cape Town’. We are surely now all part of the ‘ACE family’. Thank you to the ACE Maritime University and the coordinators for making this trip such an amazing experience.

By: Ismael Kangueehi

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