The end of the SMILES Cruise

I am writing this from the hotel lobby in Santiago where we are waiting to leave for the next of our four flights needed to get back to the UK from the Falklands. The group is breaking up with various members having already gone their separate ways and, having said goodbye to the JCR and her crew, we can now reflect back on the SMILES cruise, JR311.

My overwhelming feeling is that the cruise has been an enormous success, benefitting from amazingly helpful weather that was far from benign most of the time but sufficient for us to complete our work, and a perfect oceanographic context in which to collect our measurements. The frontal region within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current has lived up to its reputation as an amazingly dynamic, energetic region. Witnessing the birth and decay of an eddy has been a particular highlight, especially the role of submesoscales around the periphery seemingly acting to erode the giant oceanic whirlpool.

Attempting to work in such strong currents, persistent winds and big swells has presented operational challenges but collectively the team has pulled together to collate a data set that will enable us to answer many of the fundamental questions we have set out to answer within the project. Combined with the numerical modelling work that had already started prior to the cruise, SMILES now has both the observational and theoretical context to make real progress in understanding the role of submesoscales throughout the Scotia Sea and beyond.

We also have to thank both the crew of the JCR and the NMF technicians who have operated both Seasoar and MVP, the primary tools used throughout the cruise. Paul, Dougal, Candice and Julie have spent endless hours resolutely monitoring video feeds of cable drums and fish orientation to ensure that towed CTDs have been operating as they should in such demanding conditions. The ship’s crew have been on hand throughout the cold winter nights to recover and deploy instruments and have done so in a more good natured way than they could have been forgiven for doing given the often late hour and blustery conditions! Similarly, the ship’s officers have ensured that scientific operations could continue whenever possible, something not to be taken for granted in the Southern Ocean during May!

So we head home now after a tough, enjoyable, satisfying, rewarding and successful cruise. Keep checking back for updates as our results start to come out, something that I can feel very assured in saying after the colossal data set we now have on multiple back up hard disks distributed through many people’s hand baggage…..!