After one week of wait in the port, we are at sea at last, in a ship that actually heaves and sways. The RHUM-RUM campaign can finally begin.
Over the past days, we went through a rollercoaster of ups and downs, as hopeful moments repeatedly gave way to new hurdles and bleak perspectives. Our days were spent trying to win the support of the island authorities, and trying to keep up a conversation with the striking dock workers and their union leaders. At the blocked harbor gate, they lent a sympathetic ear to our explanations and worries about our failing experiment, but they also wanted to see their own grievances addressed, understandably so.
Yesterday (Thursday) saw dockworker assemblies and meetings with their employers. The situation was tense. We stayed away, not wanting to be perceived as interfering. The news reached us on the ship through a colleague’s friend, a journalist who’d spent his day among the striking workers. At 11 p.m., an SMS: the strike is over. What a relief! We should finally be able to leave.
Today (Friday) in the morning, the dockworkers served us first as they had promised, delivering our containers to the ship around 10 a.m. By noon, everything has been loaded, and at 3 pm., the Marion throws off its ropes. The RHUM-RUM science party is gathered on the forward deck. The sky is heavy with rain clouds, but our hearts are light. The ship tracks the basalt cliffs along the island’s coast for a while, passing Saint-Denis, and then it heads due east, toward the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, where we will deploy our first seismometer. We had to modify the route, in order to leave our engineers enough time to prepare their instruments.
Six lost days mean that we won’t be able to do everything we wanted to do. The priority will be on deploying our 57 seismological stations on the sea floor between now and 26 October. Timing is much tighter now, but maybe it’s still doable. After a few days at sea, we will be able to tell more confidently than now. It’s also clear that we’ll have much less time to gather bathymetric measurements of poorly known areas, but we’ll make do.
On board, we are organizing ourselves for this new work mode, where everybody will have their specific roles to play. We are drawing up schedules for 24/7 shifts, route plans, deployment planning together with the ship crew…but I’ll leave that for another post.