ISPOL-Logbook1: 8 November, 2004
The viewpoint is crucial looking at a mountain. The Table Mountain of Capetown, a myth in itself, is best to be looked upon from the sea side. And maybe the planks of a vessel are the utmost place to watch this granite monument at the southern tip of Africa.
It is 8 p.m. on 6th of November. On the helicopter deck of Polarstern a bunch of scientists from various parts of the world (Australia, Belgium, Brasil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Greece, Netherlands, USA, and Germany) wait for the vessel to leave. Thoughts are - unlike trace elements, one of the many scientific issues on this expedition - nothing to be measured, but nevertheless some faces tell tales of melancholy but also of a "Let's go!"-spirit. Routiniers and newcomers to the icy world of Antarctica toast on a successful trip, someone offers cape-strawberries, and a small group of scientists is discussing where to go for real good scuba diving resorts in S.A. - what a nice and warming thought when approaching the coldest part of the world! On top of all: Fireworks are painting the sky as we leave, it was not meant for us, but we took it as our farewell.
The first good experience on board: the food is as excellent as it was said to be. A first glance into the fitness room gives you a glimps of hope that you will still fit into your survival suit inspite of all the delicious things to come. The safety instructions stress what cannot be denied anymore: water all around, and though the temperatures are still at 18 degree Celsius it is not a good idea to leave the vessel uncontrolled. The scientific community on board may essentially deal with icy matters, but the first talks reveal warm hearted people. You ask one or two key- questions - where are you from? what will be your main interest? - and you are part of the in-crowd. However, when it comes to simple questions like which group needs how many labs or storage space (not to speak of helicopter-hours!), everybody falls back to Charles Darwin`s survival of the fittest. In other words, to be fit for good hard work one has to make sure that the equipment is suitable. Michael Spindler, the chief scientist, shook his head and frowned (friendly): "Friends, there seems to be a sort of gap between your very whishes uttered in Bremerhaven and your needs here on board ..." But all in all most whishes, needs, desires can be satisfied, only the two chemical labs will be overbooked permanently. The problem while sharing chem.-labs is well known; one has to make sure that one's results are not spoilt by, let's say, the solvent used by the neighboring group.
The second day is workman`s day. All the containers stowed with scientific tools, fluids, etc. have to be emptied. Since the containers could not be filled up group-wise (space on board is too scare) a complicated seek-and-find-game is on all over the various decks. Even newcomers to the sea realize that logistics and logic both are closely linked. Moreover, Polarstern carries in her lower decks the equipment for the next expedition that will also start from Capetown shortly after ISPOL. Apart from inflammable stuff, there may not be any chemicals stored in containers on Polarstern. The chemicals are separated and declared according to international standards: 1 (explosive), 6 (poisonous), 7 (radioactive) ...
The lab container of our Belgian colleagues was the talk of the town(ship). It has to be moved from the aft to a place closer to all the other labs. Normally, such problem can only be solved with harbor cranes, but the crew will watch out for a suitable ice floe, put the container on the floe by her own cranes, move the ship half a ship's length, and hoist it back on board. Photographer Ingo Arndt was delighted when he heard that this action is not just routine, even for an experienced crew.
Most people on board missed their first whale, but Albatrosses, who seem to mock on gravity when they sail at the edge of breaking waves, caused a interdisciplinary discussion: are they Mollymauks or Giant Southern Petrels? Markus Esser from Cologne University spotted "Sailers with the wind" that pop up like blue condoms in the white foam aside the ship. Fortunately, the waves are smooth and gentle - pleasant for all of us who suffer from seasickness.
Quote of the day (Michael Spindler, chief scientist): "If anybody has problems with material or with colleagues, please contact me, and if someone has problems with himself ... I also have a PhD in psychology."