One of the NIOZ dust-collecting buoys in action at sea.

Expedition MSM79 consists of two parts: Eurothaw --which is dedicated to studying the transition from the last Glacial into the present interglacial-- and Macpei , which aims to study the role of the NW African high-productivity area in the global carbon cycle. Please also see the website dedicated to this expedition on the MARUM website.

Photo: NASA EOSDIS website.

As you can see on the satellite image above there is not a lot of dust around on- and offshore Mauritania on 3 November 2018. We are obviously hoping for more dust during the next four weeks!

Click MS Merian's logo to see her actual position.
(link to external website)

Link to sailwx website

On 30 October the Maria S. Merian left the harbour of Edinburgh heading south. Her first stop was just south of the English Channel where a long sediment core was drilled to study the outflow from the European tundra during the last ice age. On 9 November, the research vessel will shortly enter the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain) to receive fresh stores, fuel and scientists. On the same day we will then head towards Cape Blanc at about 21N/21W. At this position the Bremer colleagues have been monitoring sedimentation through the water column since 1988, using so-called sediment traps. Initially, the focus was on studying the carbon cycle in an area that is characterised by high surface productivity, related to upwelling of nutrient-rich waters along the coast of Mauritania. After some time the people realised that this spot is also a key location to study (the marine-environmental effects of) Saharan dust. In 2013 we have added our dust-collecting buoy "Carmen" to monitor Saharan dust directly from the atmosphere. This site now contains one of the longest continuous sediment-trap records in the world and we are very excited to continue working on it!


Regular updates below this line:

11 November 2018: Sunrise

As the sun rises over the northwest African continent in the east, we know immediately if there is going to be dust around or not. Here you see how the atmosphere is hardly coloured orange at all so, unfortunately, no dust today.

Sunrise over the African continent.

9 November 2018: Adios Gran Canaria

We are leaving the harbour of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and are on our way south towards the first station some 8 degrees latitude (about 900km) away. The weather forecast is pretty good and we will sail downwind and down the Canary Current, expecting an “easy ride”.

Adios Gran Canaria.

The pilot who helped us sail out of the harbour has been picked up and waves goodbye. We are on our own now and look forward to an exciting expedition!

On our own now!

After yesterday’s instructions on how to prevent and overcome accidents and fires we are now getting acquainted with the abandon-ship procedures; we all gather at the must station with the appropriate clothes and gear and learn how to put on our life vest. We all feel very safe and taken care of!


8 November 2018: Final preparations before departure

While still in the harbour, we use the opportunity of the still lying very still to install our equipment and measuring instruments. Here you see how Bob installs the instruments we use to collect dust from the atmosphere. The bridge contains many instruments for atmospheric research and many people “at home” also benefit from our measurements. For example, the meteorological data that we acquire daily are stored in a meteo-databank and are used to make weather forecasts in many countries in northern Europe.

Setting up the instruments on deck.

As part of the instructions of how to work safely on board the ship, we get detailed instructions on how to prevent, and - in the unlikely event of an incident - fight fires. Also, we are instructed in recognising the ship’s signals and in putting on our survival suit: one size fits most, but we hope to never have to depend on it!

Safety and fire-fighting instructions.

7 November 2018: Merian by night

RV Maria S. Merian in the harbour of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, still tightly secured to the pier.

RV Maria S. Merian by night.

20 October 2018: no shops at sea

Well in advance of each expedition we need to think hard on what we'll need to do our work at sea in terms of tools and equipment, as there are no shops in the open ocean to buy things! Not only do we need new 3.5 Ton weights to keep the moorings in place but also e.g., laboratory gloves, batteries, empty vials etc. All these boxes filled with equipment and tools need to be brought to the ship in Edinburgh by the end of October, the stuff that we forgot to pack will have to be carried in our luggage when flying down to Gran Canaria....

Boxes of equipment and lab materials that we'll need during the cruise.