Day 5 |
Apr 08, 2012

At sea, en route to Los Roques, Venezuela 

By Uli Kunz, Oceanographer and Zodiac-Driver

Position: 12°06’ N, 69°23’ W
Air temperature: 27°C, 80.6 °F
Water temperature: 26 °C, 78.8 °F
Air pressure: 1008 hPa
Wind speed: 52 km/h

After a wonderful breakfast, of course surrounded by hard-boiled, painted eggs, our climatologist Claudia Holgate presented a lecture about the weather and climate of the Caribbean. We are in an extremely warm environment, but this place will warm up even more in the future due to the global climate change. Claudia explained the different seasons we have on earth and showed the different angles at which the sun's rays reach the surface of the planet. The highest radiation we have at the equator and that is the place where the air is rising because it expands and gets lighter than the surrounding colder air. As air is rising it cools down and can't hold the humidity anymore. That is the reason we experience lots of rain in the tropics. The air sinks again north and south of the equator and forms big high-pressure systems over very dry areas.

Claudia explained the formation of the trade winds, clouds and hurricanes but also ocean currents that affect the climate all over the world. We are right now in an area where most of the hurricanes are formed but they can only exist when the water temperature is very high for a long time, which happens at the end of the summer between July and November.

Before lunch, the ship's crew conducted a general emergency drill. After lunch I presented my talk about 'Amazing Oceans', a general overview on our oceans. During a virtual dive throughout the sea, I explained some basic mechanisms of life in the oceans and gave examples of mysterious organisms that we still have very little knowledge about. Doing research under water is very difficult because of the limited visibility and the great depths we find in the deep sea. We know the far side of the moon much better than any place on the sea floor! Even the history of deep-sea exploration is not commonly known. Everybody knows that Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon in 1969, but who knows that there are people on the planet who have seen the deepest place on earth, the sea floor in the Marianas Trench at a depth of 11.000 meters (36.000 ft), with their own eyes? Hollywood director James Cameron made it a couple of weeks ago, but he was not the first... The oceans are the largest biosphere on our planet and there are still so many secrets under water that are waiting to be discovered...

The lecture program was continued later in the afternoon by our botanist Hans-Peter Reinthaler, who explained the general geography of the Caribbean and showed the location of the Greater and the Lesser Antilles. Beginning with Cuba, he took us on a virtual voyage to some of the most prominent islands in that part of the world. Tomorrow we are going to visit Los Roques, followed by Trinidad and Tobago. Hans-Peter presented the local flora and fauna we are likely to see, which is of course a challenging task, as we are in one of the most diverse areas on earth and everywhere we go we find hundreds and thousands of plant species. He encouraged us to keep a sharp lookout once we are at Barbados as the famous Green Monkey can be seen.

I am sure that the Easter bunnies in our galley have done an amazing job preparing the Easter Dinner, so I had better leave as the guests I invited to join my table are already waiting outside The Restaurant! Bon Appétit!