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Ashmore 2: Setting sail

November 28, 2013

10/11/2013 -> 11/11/2013

10/11: Spent the night in the Roebuck Bay Hotel, after a catch-up drink with RM and JC, who have been in Broome the past ten days. JC has rented a scooter and explored, while RM has participated in the Australasian Wader Study Group survey for the year. Both appear to have had fun.

Woke around 07:00, packed down all the things, and went to purchase a seasickness-friendly breakfast of sweet biscuits and a pair of bananas – after my dreadful trip out last time, I am taking no chances.

Rendezvous at GS’s house, around 10:00, then off to the beach 10:30 for a wet boarding. All aboard around 11:00, then off immediately.

Our course to Ashmore takes us ~NNW for half a day, then NNE until we reach the reef. This line hugs the edge of the 200m depth contour, more or less.

JC has, for this trip, installed a boom arm on the boat, from which we are towing a high-speed trawl for microplastics. The boom arm is a substantial piece of engineering – the first version, a straight aluminium tube, was bent to right-angles by the drag-force of the trawl. The new one is reinforced by buttressing steel cables, and held by four lines at critical points.

Species sightings are reasonably predictable: Brown Booby, White-winged Black Tern, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Lesser Frigatebird, Common Tern, Crested Tern. Occasionally turtles (Flatback and Green) and sea-snakes (larger golden ones and smaller yellow-and-brown striped ones). Several cetaceans, mostly bottlenosed dolphins. The sea-state is mild.



Woke around 06:00, spent the day observing on the bow. A good diversity of species, but none of them particularly abundant. Saw White-winged Black Tern, Tahiti Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Lesser Frigatebird, Roseate Tern, Streaked Shearwater. Around midday, saw a mixed pod of around 60 Spinner and Spotted Dolphins.

The plastics trawl keeps on bringing in interesting things. Much of the plastic it collects is too small to be seen from the bow, where the smallest visible pieces are around 3cm on the long axis.

AH’s birthday today. Cake, candles, and singing. We’re all unspeakably glad that the sea conditions are mild.

We should arrive on-reef tomorrow around midday. The plan is to do mainly night-work to make bird-capture easier, and with a high tide at 18:18 on the first night, that plan should work well enough.


From → Scientist

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