Monday, 5th March 2018

Day 8: Splash Planet 2.0

Day 8: Splash Planet 2.0 Featured Image

The days are getting warmer and warmer out here in the Kermadecs – the perfect time to start getting into the water!

I had been waiting eagerly for the words ‘Hands to bathe’ to be piped through the speakers of the HMNZS Canterbury. This meant that Ships Company and Embarked Forces (aka. Navy Crew Members and Civilians) would be allowed to jump from the ship into the warm, welcoming Kermadec waters.  This sounded so satisfying and just what everyone needed. I’m sure more than just one of us had been thinking about pulling a ‘man overboard’ and jumping over the side of the ship to cool off earlier this expedition. 

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I started my day right by indulging in the funniest game of ‘Cards Against Humanity’ with other student voyagers plus our amazing GP, Sheelagh, before everyone started doing the tasks they had been timetabled to do. I excitedly took part in helping with the different scientists and researchers who were analysing their new findings in ‘the lab’. Dr. Wendy Nelson had brought in samples of algae from Boat Cove and now some of the student voyagers began looking closely at the algae under the microscope. Things sure do look different when you take a closer look at them. It’s like a whole different world all in one tiny sample – I even came across a very cute looking little crab, partly orange and partly translucent, scuttling across my petri dish obviously wondering where on earth it had ended up!

Dr. Libby Liggins and Dr. Tom Trnski entered the lab enthusiastically grabbing the scientific books in the corner of the room and flipping through the pages. They smiled with delight at all of us as they pointed out the Black Trevally which they had spotted while collecting the light traps this morning. What made this exciting is that the Black Trevally has never been seen in the Kermadecs before. This expedition has all been about observations of the biodiversity within these waters, which made this an exceptional find.

At around 1500, we all finally heard the words we had been waiting for: ‘Hands to Bathe!’ We rushed to get changed into our togs and pulled on those classic Sir Peter Blake Trust red socks, so that when we dived into the water from the cargo deck, we were representing the people who made it possible for us student voyagers to experience this thrilling adventure. It’s not every day you get to say that you snorkelled and did research in the Kermadecs!

Jumping off the fly deck was one heck of a rush. I hit the water without getting winded which was a relief since falling from that height was a little daunting, but we all made it out alive.

While I was swimming by Samara, I remember her saying ‘Shark!’ to me as there was apparently one right beside us. I wasn’t too alarmed considering that Galapagos Sharks seem to be quite relaxed in these waters, but very brave and curious since they’re not used to human interaction. But, without goggles or anything, I felt a little vulnerable and quickly yet calmly swam the opposite direction. Luckily, this isn’t a Jaws movie. 

It was an absolutely gorgeous swim. The hardest part about the whole thing was getting back onto the ship. You had to time it just right or you’d get pushed out into the sea by the mass of water that acted like a waterfall once it was dropping back from the stern ramp into the ocean, bringing down everything with it. This often included people trying to get back up on the ramp which turned out to be quite a struggle. Though, in the wise words of Sir Peter Blake – if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing!

 An energising way to end the night was going ‘fishing’. However, the Kermadecs being a no-take marine reserve, we weren’t doing your average recreational fishing. Going out onto the stern ramp and flashing our torches in the dark above the water with a net, we waited for invertebrates and other sea critters to appear. We ended up catching goat fish, a little squid, a long tom pipe fish and some Glaucus nudibranchs (also known as sea dragons) for sampling and observations since we have a science permit to do so.

It was like watching a Rugby match. We’d all start hyping each other up when we saw something appear in the water and the person with the net would go in for the catch. We’d cheer when we caught something, and moaned when we didn’t. It was definitely an electrifying night under the stars in the warm weather.

Signing off from the HMNZS Canterbury