This is Your Captain Speaking

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. On behalf of the crew, I welcome you aboard Belgica flight A962 to Zeebrugge. We have hit our cruising altitude of 10 feet. We are expecting a relatively smooth cruise and anticipate an on-time arrival in Zeebrugge on Tue June 18th at 0830 local time. You will have noticed there are no seat belt signs. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay aboard the vessel until we arrive. It is a bit wet outside. We hope you enjoy your cruise.

This morning we have concluded the final seismic sampling session of this campaign. The scientists are turning their focus now to the reporting part of the cruise. The crew still has one important task left: getting everyone home safely. This should not be too much of a problem. However, the sea remains a hostile environment to humans, so caution is always required.

It is now three weeks since the Belgica left her home port of Zeebrugge, after we had embarked all the scientific equipment for this campaign. Before the UGent-VLIZ team came aboard in Galway (IE), we had completed another campaign of 1 week with a team from the Continental Shelf department of the Belgian Federal Service for Economy. That one focused on the calibration of our multibeam sonar in 3 different locations: The Solent(UK), Brest (FR) and Galway Bay (IE).

This campaign is not the first one led by Prof. David Van Rooij in the Porcupine Seabight. Let me say that he knows the area quite well. This gave me a certain sense of comfort because I knew we would not get lost. And he could also point us towards a suitable parking spot in Bantry Bay on the more windier days, when we could not operate in open sea.

During one of these days David and one of his students Lotte gave the crew a most interesting briefing on the scientific aim of this campaign as well as the results of the previous campaigns in this area. I always want to understand what the scientific teams are doing on board of my ship. To be honest, for some it is a real challenge to explain that in terms that are understandable for a regular seaman. But they did very well. Thank you again.

Luckily we are not paid to conduct science. Our job is to get the scientists in the required location on time and give them the opportunity to let them do their thing. And to provide a decent hotel service. I agree, the cabins may not be overly luxurious and the staff may not be very nice to look at. But the one thing nobody ever complains about is the food. OK, there’s too much of it. But that is just a question of saying “No” from time to time.

Next year is the final year of operations on the current Belgica (check also the facebook-page), before the new Belgica will take over. I hear that Prof Van Rooij is planning a farewell tour in the Porcupine Seabight. Let’s hope for some extra weather budget, because this year we didn’t see too much of the Irish summer.

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RV Belgica heading home on a fairly calm sea

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Yves on marine mammal and bird counting duty

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