MEDOC 1970: a Cruise Diary

Track Plot for RRS Discovery Cruise 31 (ref: NIO Cruise Report 31, 1970)

Having joined the Oceanography Department in October 1969 as a postgraduate student, my Professor, Henry Charnock, arranged for me to accompany him on an oceanographic research cruise. The RRS Discovery left Barry, South Wales, on the 21st January bound for the Mediterranean Sea with Dr John Swallow as the Principal Scientist.

The aim of the MEDOC 1970 (Discovery Cruise 31) was to continue an investigation of deep water formation in the Gulf of Lion which had commenced in the previous winter (MEDOC 1969). The Mistral wind had been found to cool the surface water to the extent that narrow convective plumes occurred between the surface water and the sea bed. The work would be conducted in cooperation with the French research vessel “Jean Charcot”.

Medoc 1970 A 31

RRS Discovery Main Mast

A second aim was to study the outflow of Mediterranean water into the North Atlantic at a point in the Gulf of Cadiz where the outflowing water was clear of the bottom. These studies were led by Dr Steve Thorpe and Dr John Simpson of the University College of North Wales.

The original understanding was that, with Professor Charnock, I would leave the ship on the 12th February in Toulon. However having proved my ability to work at sea, I was given the option to stay on until the ship arrived back in Southampton on 12th March. This I happily accepted since I was enjoying life at sea.

Undertaking this and several future cruises under the supervision of John Swallow was to provide me with invaluable training in how to conduct research at sea.

Medoc 1970 D 12

Looking forward along the Main deck towards the Hydrographic Winch.

As would be expected during a scientific cruise, I kept a daily diary. Since I had no personal research aims or responsibilities,  the diary mainly reflects the experience of someone on a research cruise for their first time. On later cruises my cruise diary is more concerned with the my own scientific work each day, less about shipboard life, and of less general interest.

So for this, my first cruise, I’ve decided to reproduce my diary here. It is, more or less verbatim with only the occasional word added or corrected to make it easier to understand. To amplify or to clarify what I wrote at the time I’ve added footnotes like this 1:click to expand.

Of course, no research cruise is the same and had I sailed with a different Principal Scientist, or been involved in a different branch of research, then the experiences on my first cruise would no doubt have been different.

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