19 December 2009

On the Granuaile

So on Thursday morning after the Christmas party I went home and got about an hour's sleep, and then had to be up and ready to go out sampling. After collecting the gear from uni we leave Galway about 4am, with one of those GPS navigation things to tell us where to go. And they are so great - it was easy to use, and if you took a wrong turn it just adjusted and gave you the next option, and we got there easily enough so obviously they work.

The drive didn't really seem that long, but then I wasn't driving so perhaps I should not be the judge of that. We got there early, and then the boat wasn't there at the time we were told anyway so could probably have had a bit more sleep. But you know if we had been late the boat would have ended up being early.

The boat was anchored in Lough Swilly, and we were picked up from a tiny pier in Portsalon. Had to suit up in steel-toed gumboots and waterproof pants, put on a life jacket and get on this little boat to be taken to the big boat. Maybe you would call it a ship, I don't know. Just so you know, it is called Granuaile (Gran-ewe-el) which is the Irish name for Grace, and is named after a lady pirate who was notorious back in the day of Queen Elizabeth the first. And the boat belongs to the Commissioners of the Irish Lights, who go around taking care of the light-houses and navigation buoys (thus the name Irish Lights).

Once on board we were taken inside where it was a lot warmer, taken up to the brig to meet the captain and then sent down to the galley to be given breakfast. We were not expecting to be fed. All the crew and the cook were really friendly, and the officers seemed friendly enough too, but perhaps not overly impressed to be taking on board a couple of students. It was about an hour until we got out to where the buoy was, and then there was more waiting while they brung it up out of the water with a big crane.

Finally we were allowed to go have a look for samples. Unfortunately there were not many barnacles on the buoy, mostly mussels, but it was still interesting. Freezing though, it is very hard to get barnacles off of a buoy with a scalpel when your hands are frozen. There were heaps of other things on the buoy as well, starfish and anenomes and urchins. Since there were not many barnacles to collect we grabbed some other stuff too, just for the fun of it. The barnacles were huge and covered in seaweed.

Anyway we were done, we had our buckets of samples, so now I could go back inside and get warm again. We watched the rest of the work from the brig and talked to the captain a bit. Then it was time to have lunch and head back to shore, and from there have another long drive back to Galway. The drive back took longer because there was traffic and we were tired, then back at the lab the barnacles had to be fed and the new samples taken care of. But finally I got home and got to go to sleep. It was a hugely long day.

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