27-APR-2009

Bermuda: Back to Where We Started

Sorcerer II arrived in Bermuda around 7 p.m. on Saturday April 25th after a five day, 1,000 mile sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During the crossing, the crew experienced some challenging weather to say the least.  Two samples were collected, and the CTD data confirmed what the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) science team expected:  this deep, yet nutrient-poor stretch of open water was very mixed and observed no chlorophyll maximum within 50 meters depth. We are spending three nights in Bermuda before leaving for the Azores, a cluster of islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portugal.

Bermuda is where I first started participating in the global ocean sampling work of the Institute. In January 2003, Dr. Venter asked me to fly to Bermuda and to work with a team of scientists at the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, now known as the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) . BIOS, led by Anthony Knap, Ph.D., is an independent marine science organization founded to research and better understand Bermuda's unique deep-ocean and coral reef environment. Dr. Knap and Rachel Parsons (presently the Microbial Observatory Lab Manager) welcomed me and the crew of Sorcerer II.

Back in 2003, I did a few sampling trips with Rachel on their research vessel the Weatherbird. In May 2003, Sorcerer II sailed into Bermuda and we did our first sampling in the Sargasso Sea off Bermuda’s coast. This work was our pilot study of ocean environmental sampling. The results from this work were published in 2004 and helped launch the official Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition later in 2004. Learn more about that pilot project and the results from our work in the Sargasso Sea here. Although we have enhanced our sampling gear, the basic idea of what we do and how we do it is still the same. It is almost surreal to be here approximately six years later, a circumnavigation under our belt, 400 samples collected and the Baltic, Black and Mediterranean Seas just ahead of us.

While in Bermuda I reconnected with friends and colleagues from BIOS, including the Dr. Knap, Rachel, James Marquez and Kristen Buck. They hosted an incredible tour of the station and the new research vessel the Atlantic Explorer. In an ongoing journey down memory lane, it turns out that the Atlantic Explorer was the first boat I did research on in graduate school at Louisiana State University in the 1990s. The Sorcerer crew was very impressed by the tour of the new ship and the new facilities. Rachel and Kristen provided extraordinary summaries of some of the research being done at BIOS. I recommend that you take time to visit their website and review their ongoing research projects.

While in Bermuda, Dr. Erling Norrby joined the crew. Erling, a virologist and former Secretary General of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, is a good friend and colleague of Dr. Venter and serves on the Board of Trustees of the Venter Institute. Erling has completed multiple crossings on Sorcerer II, including Fiji to Vanuatu and South Africa to Ascension Island.  He is an experienced sailor, and over the years I have found him to be a knowledgeable source on a range of topics. His presence ensures that the next 2,000 miles will include good science, good conversation, and additional sailing skill for the Atlantic crossing.

We leave Bermuda tomorrow (April 28th) and will not likely have internet connection until we reach the Azores so stay tuned for more exciting tales from the sea.