Monday 26 January 2015

King Neptune and the end of science

The polar circle is located at a latitude of 66° 33′ 44″ S. South of this latitude there is 24 hours of daylight in the summer and 24 hours of dark in the winter (for at least 1 day a year). During our cruise we crossed this line, but since summer is just starting we did not get 24 hours of daylight, but as you could see in the previous blog, it was pretty close.
The polar circle might be defined based on daylight, but it also has a somewhat more mythical meaning. South of this latitude, one enters the realm of King Neptune. Rumour has it that he is not always pleased with intruders into his kingdom and that the consequences for those involved could be severe…… The latter information was given to those on the ship who hadn’t been this far south before (known as pollywogs) and this was the first step in the ancient maritime tradition of a crossing ceremony. Due to the unpredictable nature of work at sea, the arrival of King Neptune on board was delayed several times, but finally, when we were already on our way back, he made his appearance with his wife, their baby and his royal guard.
Ella was one of the unfortunate souls who needed to please King Neptune and undergo a special cleansing ritual. Rob is no stranger to this ritual as he crossed both the Arctic and the Antarctic Polar circles as well as the equator so already got acquainted with the King on those occasions. 

Luckily Ella did a good job of impressing the royal family with a skid featuring some crewmembers, a mermaid and a trace metal chemist who had to figure out a way to get trace metal clean samples after the trace metal clean rosette was no longer an option. All that was needed after this was a short visit to the barber/beautician/tattoo artist to become presentable and picking up a toy for the baby from a sea chest.

Ella getting a makeover with some unusual beauty products (left) and trying to get the baby a toy to play with (right)

Overjoyed that she had managed to pass the ritual and now had entered into King Neptune’s inner circle, all that Ella needed now, was to have her picture taken as proof of this joyful moment.

Besides rinsing of some excess beauty products of course……
The crossing ceremony also marked the end of all science on the ship. We are on our way back and done with analysing samples aboard the ship. Now it is just a case of packing everything up, cleaning the labs and doing the unavoidable paperwork to get our precious samples back to the lab at Otago. So for now it is goodbye ice, goodbye penguins and whales, but also goodbye to all the people aboard the ship. One thing about working so closely together with a group of people on the same project is that you get to know them well in a quite short time frame. The saying goodbye to our shipmates is never easy, but we might sail together again in the future as there is much, much, more science to be done here around this marvellous white continent. 

Thanks to all crew and scientists aboard the Palmer for your help and making this expedition unforgettable!

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