That’s a wrap on PIRATA 2022
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A collective human adventure, an exceptional amount of data collected and the beginnings of a science of the sea concerned with its environmental impact: this is how we can sum up the success of this 2022 edition of the 32nd PIRATA oceanographic campaign.
A complicated start but the goals were met
Finally! The 32nd edition of the PIRATA campaign ended on 10 April.
And despite a complicated start due to the sanitary crisis and certain technical and logistical problems, it turned out to be a real success: an exceptional amount of data collected, coupled with a human and collective adventure built up over 50 long days at sea thanks to a team that remained united despite the difficulties and daily challenges.
From the outset, it was necessary to make up for the 5 days of delay accumulated at the start of the mission. Certain choices were therefore made while ensuring that the scientific goals of the mission were maintained. These included reducing most of the profiles to 500 metres in depth instead of the 2000 metres initially planned, thereby making it possible to make up for more than 36 hours of delay, and not taking any samples in the equatorial band of the Gulf of Guinea (3°W) and in the middle of the Atlantic (23°W), where a US team partner of PIRATAs’ campaigns had already made measurements in December 2021.
An exceptional amount of data collected
The mission was therefore fully accomplished, with the replacement of meteorological and oceanic moorings (especially those damaged or set adrift as a result of vandalism by industrial fishermen), multiple seawater samples and vertical profiles taken along the way.
A total of 55 hydrological and current profiles were successfully completed, of which 23 were carried out along a section (at 10°W) every year and 6 around St Helena Island.
2965 samples of sea water were collected, at the surface or at depth, allowing the analysis of numerous parameters: salinity, dissolved oxygen, nutrient salts, chlorophyll pigments, carbon and carbonate parameters and, for the first time, the pH to measure the acidity of the sea water. 1600 analyses were carried out directly on board for salinity, dissolved oxygen and pH. The other samples were conditioned for later analysis in the laboratory.
Scientists concerned with limiting environmental impacts
However, some campaigns may also present opportunities, such as being able to recover scientific objects that may be at the end of their life or drifting at sea – such as the ARGO autonomous profilers.
Thus, this PIRATA campaign was the opportunity to recover 2 ARGO profilers: a DEEP-ARGO type deep profiler, deployed during the PIRATA 2020 campaign and now at the end of its life; and a prototype profiler deployed since July 2021 and equipped with several biogeochemical sensors and a video camera.
This success demonstrates the need, in the future, for greater coordination between scientific teams in order to systematise these operations to recover drifting scientific objects and thus limit the environmental impact of activities carried out for scientific purposes.
The importance of teamwork and the diversity of jobs at sea
But the success of such a campaign is not measured by the amount of data collected.
As mission leader Bernard Bourlès, director of research at the IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), explains :
“l’ensemble des opérations a pu se faire dans de bonnes conditions sur toute la durée grâce à l’équipe scientifique, mais aussi grâce à la présence d’un équipage hors pair !
Cette mission nous rappelle à nouveau l’importance du collectif humain. Une campagne océanographique fonctionne grâce à tous les corps de métiers présents à bord : officiers, mécaniciens, matelots, cuisiniers, électroniciens, maîtres d’hôtel…Tous travaillent avec passion et avec un grand professionnalisme, dans la bonne humeur et surtout avec la volonté de bien faire.
L’alchimie entre les différents acteurs, personnels et scientifiques embarqués pendant près de 2 mois est sans aucun doute l’élément-clé qui a permis d’atteindre la qualité des travaux scientifiques menés sur toute la durée de la campagne.”
(All the operations were carried out under good conditions throughout, thanks to the scientific team, but also to the presence of an outstanding crew!
This mission reminds us once again of the importance of the human dimension. An oceanographic campaign functions thanks to all the trades present on board: officers, mechanics, sailors, cooks, electronics technicians, butlers… All work with passion and great professionalism, in a good mood and above all with the desire to do well.
The alchemy between the different actors, staff and scientists on board for nearly two months is without doubt the key element that enabled the quality of the scientific work carried out throughout the campaign.)
This mission reminds us once again of the importance of the human team. An oceanographic campaign functions thanks to all the trades present on board: officers, mechanics, sailors, cooks, electronics technicians, butlers… All work with passion and great professionalism, in a good mood and above all with the desire to do well.
The alchemy between the different actors, staff and scientists on board for nearly two months is without doubt the key element that enabled the quality of the scientific work carried out throughout the campaign.
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