We’re in Danish waters now and are drilling in the Little Belt again (see the earlier maps in this blog). We arrived here on Monday and started coring at a new (8th) site, but a sudden extreme increase in wind in the afternoon made further drilling impossible. The drill pipe and template were quickly removed from the seafloor.
We stayed on position for 10 hours while a major storm developed….
The dayshift-team were still at work in the “science garden” but the night shift team gathered on the bridge to view the dark skies, waves and foam. Given the sheltered environment we were in, the waves remained relatively low and there was surprisingly little movement of the ship.
Wind speeds increased steadily, first to a maximum of 88 knots, as shown in the picture, and then to 98 knots, which is equivalent to ca. 180 km per hour!
The next day, we discovered that the plastic “roof” of the science garden had been partly ripped off. We now suffer a bit more when it rains. But not for long! We’re going home earlier than planned! We’ve completed our 7 key stations and the 8th station in the Little Belt is less of interest than we thought. We are drilling at our 1st station in the Little Belt again to get some extra samples and when that is done we are going to head for Kiel this coming Friday! We’ve had a great cruise, but are also glad to be going home again!
We’re currently drilling in the Bornholm area. Although we are expecting stormy weather again soon, it’s warm, calm and sunny today. This area is known for its old ammunition from World War II. That’s why an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) with a video camera was let down to the seafloor to check out the surroundings first.
The videos showed that there is no sign of ammunition at our drill site. There are bacterial mats though! Those are the white patches on the right. The bacteria are “Beggiatoa” that thrive in areas where there is sulfide near the sediment surface.
At one of our earlier sites, the ROV was used to follow the position of the template under water. It’s a great piece of equipment!
Because the days are getting shorter, we’re seeing less daylight each day. But the view from the ship at night can be beautiful as well.
The last few days and nights the weather was not so great. Wind and waves (and seasickness) came and went, but the cloudy skies and rain have stayed, with the sun only being visible occasionally.
There are now often local rain showers in the “science garden”….
…and the men out on the drill-deck need their bright-colored rain gear…
Luckily, we have plenty of chocolate, coffee and tea to keep us going at night.
We’ve now left the Landsort deep and have moved to the south – we’re drilling two sites near the southern tip of Sweden. These are our sixth and seventh site, located in the Hano Bay and Bornholm area, respectively. The samples are steadily coming on deck again. Despite the not-so-great weather, we’re still going strong!
We’re still drilling at Landsort and are now working on hole E, which is the fifth and last hole at this location. The coring is going well and there are lots of samples to deal with. To our surprise, we’ve been having some unexpected onlookers during our work: first a number of small birds emerged…
…and more recently a beautiful owl….
The nightshift team that I’m part of had the chance to visit the engine room and other facilities below the working deck that provide us with power, water and thrust. It was like entering another world – room after room of shiny, bright colored and grey machinery, all in perfect condition. Incredibly impressive!
The ship generates it’s own electricity with separate systems for the starboard and portside of the ship. If you look carefully, you can see that we are wearing earplugs because of the noise.
From below the deck, you can also see the sides of the so-called “moonpool”. That is the big square hole in the middle of the ship where seawater sloshes around and that allows equipment and the drill pipe to be lowered down to the seafloor.
This is what the moonpool looks like from above when the “template” (the big frame that sits on the seabed during drilling) is brought up from the seafloor. A hole in the deck is one of the wonders of a drillship!
After being on the ship for one month, it was finally time for our mid-cruise port call yesterday! It was only 30 nautical miles to get to the harbor of Nynasham from Landsort Deep. We arrived there at 9h and were very eager to leave the ship.
Luckily, it was only a short walk to town where we found many things, including food and all sorts of drinks. It was great to be on land again!
To the south of town, we discovered wonderful walks through forested area...
…with magnificent views of the sea.
At 18h we all had to be on board ship again and we’re now already back at Landsort deep, drilling our third hole with even more enthusiasm!
The contrast couldn’t be larger: after sampling varves in a forested river estuary, we are now drilling the deepest basin in the Baltic Sea: the Landsort Deep. With its water depth of 459 meters, there is a large distance to bridge with pipe before the drillers reach the sediment.
This is an extremely interesting site for microbiologists and geochemists because of its unusual characteristics: the deeper water is completely devoid of oxygen and is instead rich in - highly toxic - hydrogen sulfide. The marine surface sediments here are black and extremely wet, soft and smelly.
The sediment is full of methane gas. Drilling holes in the core liner comes with a risk….
The mud may squirt into your face!
Below the black mud, we’ve found more greyish-green clayey sediments from the time when the Baltic Sea was a lake. Drilling continues steadily, despite somewhat rougher weather conditions.
We’re sampling in the Ångermanälven River estuary (Bothnian Sea) and are surrounded by forested land.
We came here with help from a pilot. Some parts of the estuary are very narrow and we’ll need his help to get out again.
It’s quite a change - the lights that we see at night are nearby and are houses and cars not ships. It’s also colder here at night and there are strange smells from a factory nearby. The good news is that we have had a delivery of fresh vegetables, fruit and other food!
We’re here to drill sediments with “varves”. These are annual deposits of clay that are visible as alternating dark and light layers in the sediment. We hope to get a record of varve formation and changes in deposition of sediment material for at least the past 10.000 years.
Drilling is quick here! The holes so far have a maximum depth of only 37 meters. We’re also taking a few short cores (so-called Rumohr cores, less than 1 m long) to capture the sediment surface.
We’ve already completed all coring at our third site and expect to complete the fourth site tonight. We will then leave the estuary and move to our fifth location in the Landsort deep, tomorrow. We hope to reach that in roughly 36 hours. We’re looking forward to those sulfide-rich smelly muds from the deepest part of the Baltic Sea!
We’re in transit! After successful completion of the second hole at Anholt in the Kattegat, we left for the Bothnian Sea on Tuesday at 10 a.m.
It will take us 3 full days to get to our next two sites in the Angermanalven estuary, so we should arrive there on Friday.
We passed “Hamlet’s castle” at Helsingor, at the entrance of the Oresund, on Tuesday afternoon.
We are now somewhere along the eastern part of the Swedish coast. We hope the views from the ship will be equally beautiful in the north.