North Atlantic Transit

After four days in Bermuda reconnecting with colleagues at BIOS and preparing for sampling across the North Atlantic, Sorcerer II departed on April 29th enroute to the port of Horta located on the island of Faial in the Azores.  There are nine islands in the Azores archipelago which is governed by Portugal and is located 900 miles from the mainland.

Unfortunately, we had to leave Bermuda with no permits to sample in Bermudian waters. However, shortly after departure we received word from the Harbor Master via the VHF radio that our permits had been granted, and we could indeed collect samples. We located the BATS (Bermuda Atlantic Time Series) station, one of the sites that  we sampled for the original Sargasso Sea Science paper but Sorcerer II was already 20 miles past. Fortunately, by changing course, we were able to resample one of the sites from that first analysis.

As we traveled to the Azores, we gathered eight samples, collecting our deepest sample yet at 70 meters and doing our deepest open ocean water profile of 100 meters. The profiles revealed some interesting data, one being that the chlorophyll maximum was located at 70 meters.

On the North Atlantic transit weather played a key role on when and where we could sample. A few days out from Bermuda we were informed that a weather system was coming from the north, and we had to move south to avoid the brunt of it. I have experienced rough weather during my time aboard Sorcerer II, but the rough weather system we encountered was persistent. The crew had a few days of light wind and high seas; however, we did not have enough wind in the sails to keep us stable, and we just rolled from side to side. If you’ve ever experienced this kind of weather onboard a boat you know what it feels like and it’s tough to walk, work, eat, or sleep. The crew and I were not too happy during this period. Thankfully, the weather finally retreated, and the crew was rewarded with great winds the final days. Sorcerer II sailed into Horta comfortably with an average boat speed of 10 knots.

With this expedition, we’ve established a “mini” Science Series in which a visiting scientist presents his or her specific scope of interest. This was our chef, Karen McNish’s idea since as a former science teacher in the UK she has a keen interest in the science we do. Karolina Ininbergs one of our collaborators from Stockholm University talked about cyanobacteria, her favorite group of microbes. Virologist and JCVI board member, Dr. Erling Norrby joined the crew in Bermuda and hosted two nights of talks focusing on viruses and prions. Both of these scientists are impressive, and it was an honor for the crew to be exposed so intimately to their extensive research. On a personal level the series allowed me a deeper insight into Erling. He is an incredible man with a remarkable life’s work. It was a thrill to have him on this leg of the expedition, and he’ll be missed by the entire crew when he returns to Stockholm after docking in the Azores.

The transit from Bermuda to the Azores covered close to 2,000 miles and took 11 days. When we weren’t sampling, avoiding weather systems, on watch, or sleeping, the crew did enjoy a few hours of down time. We participated in some very competitive games of Hearts, the Sorcerer II game of choice. Despite the weather and work, we were also able to toast a milestone in the life of Captain Charlie Howard. We celebrated his birthday with a delicious roast dinner followed by cake and ice cream. Happy Birthday, Charlie!

All in all, the North Atlantic transit met my expectations of good sampling, good boating, good science, and good conversation. I am glad to have made the crossing safely, and we are all looking forward to our time in the Azores before heading to Plymouth, UK.

As they say in Faial, Até mais!