Heading to the Mother Land — Sweden
After transiting through the Kiel Canal, the waterway that links the North Sea to the Baltic Sea, and welcoming Dr. Venter in a rainy Copenhagen, we embarked for Sweden, my home and one of the main destinations of our 2009 expedition. It was a proud and special moment for me when first mate, John, hoisted the Swedish courtesy flag.
Unfortunately, the weather has not been cooperating and was putting a damper on the excitement. My friends and family in Stockholm tell me it has been the worst June weather in 50 years! When we were about to collect our first sample in the Baltic in winds up to 30 knots, rain and cold, Jeff Hoffman felt the need to pull out his thermal underwear that he uses in Antarctica. For some reason he didn’t seem overjoyed when I screamed through the wind “Welcome to the Baltic!” In fact the rest of the crew appeared very skeptical and were probably wondering what they had gotten themselves into for the summer.
With Dr. Venter at the helm, and in spite of the weather, we made our way north along the Swedish coast and after a brief overnight stop in the island of Öland, we reached our first Swedish sampling site. Because of the cold weather I didn’t expect to find much of my beloved cyanobacteria, but the CTD cast revealed a chlorophyll max around 15 meters and just by looking at the 3.0 µm filters we could see the spiky colonies of Aphanizomenon sp., one of the common bloom-forming cyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea. We also saw some of the toxic dinoflagellates Dinophysis, and it will certainly be interesting to see what kind of smaller bacteria and viruses that are associated with these phytoplankton communities are also present.
After sampling we headed for Visby on the island of Gotland for the night. Visby is a well preserved medieval city and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site. We did not have much time for sightseeing, but the crew did enjoy a short walk in the historical center before a good night’s sleep.
We took off early this morning and are now sailing in good wind, heading for Sandhamn in the outer part of Stockholm archipelago. In two days I’ll be home!