On the 1st of July 2019, 41 students from various universities across South Africa have set sail from the Port of Cape Town, onboard the S.A. Aghulus II, as part of the annual SEAmester course run by Prof Isabelle Ansorge from the Department of Oceanography, University of Cape Town. Assisting her onboard is Tahlia Henry, programme coordinator; watch this interview with Tahlia just before departure. Students who are in the marine field of study and who make it through the hundreds of applications get the fantastic opportunity to participate in this 11-day South African class afloat. The cruise travels up the coast to Port Elizabeth where the vessel turns into the deeper oceans in order to travel along the ASCA line. The line plots its course at certain intervals, where CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) tests are done.
While students are onboard the days are filled with a selection of lectures and practicals, run by leaders in the field of marine science. The practicals give students some hands-on experience within their field of interest, for example students get to partake in CTD observations where the CTD is lowered to different depths at different points along the cruise to measure depth, salinity and temperature. These observations are done in order to gain a better understanding of the Aghulus current. The South African Weather Service also has a meteorological technician/forecaster onboard, demonstrating the release of a weather balloon, while informing students on the data gathered from the radiosonde (box attached to the balloon gather certain data) – view this video to learn more about weather observations from the S.A. Agulhas II. Other practicals onboard include; dissections on marine mammals, parasitology studies, seafloor sediments studies, mammal observations and micro plastic sampling.
Surrounded by the blue ocean looking left, right, backwards and forwards reminds one of the vastness of the ocean. Sunrises and sunsets are most definitely a highlight for students as they are able to watch the sun break through the horizon from the monkey deck.
The cruise has thus far experienced some great weather in the first few days, but we did end up face to face with a cold front. It was a slightly bumpy ride to say the least as the vessel had to navigate its way through 9m swells and 40 knot winds.
The vessel is expected to back in the Port of Cape Town by morning, 11 July 2019.
All photo supplied by the photographer onboard the vessel: Alex Oelofse.
Author: Alex Oelofse, Photographer onboard the vessel. Edited by: Anché Louw, 09 July 2019.