A tugboat maneuvering the RV Sonne into the harbor of Cape Town after four weeks of transit from Emden. Due to COVID-19, we were not allowed to leave the ship, not even for a jog in the harbor.
Germany’s largest research vessel – the RV Sonne – recently returned to harbor in the port town of Emden after 73 days, the longest-ever research cruise in the history of the ship. I was lucky enough to participate in the journey, which took us to through Cape Town, Walvis Bay and Las Palmas. As part of a team of 30 scientists, 22 women and 8 men, we set out to study one of the most productive ecosystems in the world: the Benguela Upwelling System off the coast of South Africa and Namibia.
Spending this long at sea is a truly special experience and here’s my personal account of what it’s like day-to-day on one of the largest research ships in the world.
Drawing of deep-sea fishes by ‘Résultats des Campagnes Scientifiques’ (1889) by Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1848–1922). (Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd., CC BY 4.0, Image Cropped)
If you were asked what the largest and most common habitat on Earth is, you may intuitively think of forests, grasslands or deserts. When you think of the least explored regions, pictures of some far-off rainforest may come to mind.
Introducing: the deep sea, covering over 70% of our planet, and arguably the most unexplored environment on Earth, which is simultaneously highly vulnerable and currently threatened by human activities.