First few days

Me Writing My Blog

Good afternoon,



I find myself in a state of the art lab (science mission control) aboard the RRS James Cook struggling to get my twitter feed to work properly from my phone and Ipad. Looks like I’m going to have to be less mobile in my uploads and to sit down at an actual computer to get to Twitter. How old school is that? We are all so used to mobile technology. I’ve had to download an App to make my phone pictures a lower resolution so that I can upload them at all. Thin band rather than broad band is definitely the way of my world for the next month and a half.


Not too much of a motley crew….

Motley Crew


Our journey out to Cape Verde was smooth. Passport control, security and queues seemed to go on for ever. I must have the most scanned toothpaste tube in the world!! We had to board to small propeller plane from Praia to St Vincent. I kept thinking of my mother and how she hates such a small planes. The airport terminal is tiny at St Vincent – in fact the whole airport is tiny. I’m sure Stockport bus station is larger.

I hadn’t seen Roger Searle since the interview or Tim Reston either – strange world… a 30 minute interview, a phone call or two and a few emails and I’m away for 7 weeks with 51 people I barely know. Everyone is lovely and friendly and very generous with their time explaining the science to me. (Watch out WJEC students I have many ideas for examination questions.) I’ve learned so much already. I will be blogging about the experiments and the science behind them as we do them on a day by day basis. Roger and Tim have kindly offered to help write a paragraph or two. I’m having to learn a whole new scientific language, there are acronyms for everything. I am reminded of my L6 students starting at Aquinas trying to learn the A level terminology. Sometimes I can barely make sense of what people are saying. I will try to be more sympathetic to my little darlings in the future.

Mindelo (where we stayed whilst waiting for our boat to come in) is a small port town with a lovely little beach, quaint tree lined squares and cake like colonial buildings (pink, blue, green – bright colourful, ornate). The beach is man made with limestone sediment dredged from the bay, I spent some time looking for fossils on the beach – there are many: gastropods, bivalves, corals. The island of St Vincent is of volcanic origin. There are amazing dykes with FANTASTIC columnar jointing zig zagging through the volcanic rocks.

Anna and Matt – scientists in Mindelo. Matt kindly took a great deal of time to tell me about his seismic work.

Anna and Matt

Teacher at sea pointing to Cape Verde on a globe in one of the many picturesque squares in Mindelo. Note the pink ‘cake’ house in the background.

Me in Mindelo

Dykes with columnar jointing at 90 degrees to the margin.

Dykes Mindelo


At 10:00 am yesterday I joined the RRS James Cook. I found my cabin, connected up to the onboard wiFi and made my bed. The cabin is about the size of a university hall bedroom. I have a desk, drawers under the bed, a wardrobe and a small sink. Next door is a shower and toilet. I have everything I need and am very comfortable. I’ll be doing a blog about how the water works on the ship another day.

My cabin – before I made my bed.


A briefing was followed by a tour around the ship then lunch at 12. I’m told to make the most of all salad items as they will run out. I then started the serious business of getting my polystyrene cups ready for their descent to the bottom of the ocean. They will be tied to the back of the autosub and will descend 5000m.

My Aquinas U6 geologists may recognise some of the cups above.


Murray’s cup for scale. Look out for the same cup and ruler on Friday.

Murray Cup

I had some help from the scientists; Murray, Matt and Gael who are working with Birmingham University looking at the seismic data. We also have a polystyrene gnome and head to plummet to depths. Matt decided to name the gnome ‘Tim’ after Tim Reston the Chief Scientist. I decorated the back of the head but was struggling with the face – Gael come to the rescue. He designed a Ziggy Stardust tribute head and I think David Bowie would have enjoyed the result. On Friday I’ll post the ‘after’ pictures and explain the science.

Professor Tim Reston chief scientist on the RRS James Cook with his namesake.

Tim Gnome

Gael with Ziggy.

Gael and Ziggy


Ziggy is good at reading seismic data.

Ziggy Computer

At 3:00pm we had a safety briefing. It’s amazing how these briefings are the same (to a certain extent) wherever you go. Safety is of course extremely important on a ship. There is heavy equipment being shifted about all over the place. I have a need hard hat, boiler suit and safety gloves – all shiny and new.

The science team were admiring (laughing at) my shiny bright pink biogel painted toe nails. I have taken a photograph today (14th January) the Mid Atlantic Ridge spreads about the same rate as human nails grow. I will take a photo of my nails at the end of the expedition to demonstrate this a visual image. Not overly precise but involves considerably less mathematics and formulas than the scientists are processing.



Pink toes



We have just returned from our first full emergency drill. I even had to get into the lifeboat.

Gael and
Juan (ships systems) all kitted out during the drill.

Life saving


Rachel (autosub) and the emminent Emeritus Professor (Mr Mid Oceanic Ridges himself) Roger Searle in the lifeboat. Everyone has to do the drill.

Roger life raft


The life rafts and man overboard boats have also been teasted be the crew this morning.

Life boat


All is well. We are now racing at speed of 10 knots to our first site 200 nautical miles from Mindelo. We then will then test the autosub and ocean bottom acoustic equipment on Friday and the polystrene cups, head and gnome will get their shrinking.


Angela J



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