Challenging Habitat Blog

Pelican has been in Albion Dockyard for maintenance and is now ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, an expression that, according to our captain Ben Wheatley, was coined here, as a reflection of the superb craftsmanship of shipwrights in this historic dock.

Before leaving, we commissioned a TriLux fluorescence sensor on loan from Chelsea Technologies. For me, it is always a delight to ‘play’ with a new instrument, and this one did not disappoint: easy to operate, no-nonsense data logging and seamless plug-and-play with our laptop. ‘Shipshape’, too!

The science coordinators Rachel, Miles and Hannah on the poop deck of Pelican, discussing the method of our first deployment of TriLux for a depth profile in Albion Dock.

We’ll use TriLux for spot sampling of depth profiles along a Secchi disk to determine key algal parameters involved in photosynthesis (chlorophyll a and phycoerythrin), as well as turbidity.

TriLux sensor, cable and Hawk data logger from Chelsea Technologies.

We will contribute our data to the Secchi Disk Foundation, who research the global distribution of primary producers that underpin the marine food web.

I liked what was here:

a hand-crafted ring embedded in the granite block where a hole remains.

It reminded of a quarry and mining industry long gone,

a part of this landscape’s and people’s heritage.

I hope who removed it had good reason.

Ironic, really…

A very powerful man and ‘professional’ bully,

with a very large audience (pretty much 7 billion people),

who, for years, shut up anybody who started a conversation about a topic he didn’t like, or simply told the truth,

by barking:


is now complaining about being denied popular social media platforms for inciting more violence, hate and spreading more lies (he calls it free speech).

I’d like to laugh out loud, but thinking about his four years in the White House, my laughter would be fake.

Like you, I am European and I live in the UK. By accident of birth and shifting borders, I carry a German passport.

I reflect on history, the bad bits (lots of human suffering at the level of individual and collectively) and the good bits (when society thrived through cooperation and solidarity).

I conclude that being part of a bigger whole is infinitely more desirable than striving to be great and powerful alone, to be the biggest of all.

In the belief that history is a great teacher and the foundation upon which we develop foresight and wisdom,


* Johnson, plus D Cummings, J Rees-Mogg, D David, N Farage et al.

I’m back on the Pelican of London for the final day of the voyage: up the Thames, through Tower Bridge (twice) and the final docking at Canary wharf.

It feels strange to be socially distancing from people I lived and worked with, as recently as last week, in a covid-19 free bubble. …and I’m gutted not to be part of the crew maning the yards on our sail through the bridge.

It’s clearly scenic in its own way, and photographers aboard are as busy as ever. As environmental scientist, I preferred the more natural and pristine land and seascapes of Scotland.

The river is busy and unfortunately carries a lot of floating litter. I chose to show one of the less revolting items …

Exciting times: getting aloft for the sail through Tower Bridge!

Getting ready…
… opening just for us…
… Imogen leading a shanty….
…a job well done, just enjoy it now!

As the afternoon fades, we enter Canary wharf to dock for a final time on this voyage.

We’ve arrived!

A final evening of celebrating a fantastic journey lies ahead and then it’s good bye (for now).

What’s in a Word?

It’s not the first time during the past few months that the language politicians use in relation to the covid-19 pandemic leaves me somewhere between incredulity and hilarity.

If it wasn’t so serious, a lot of the latter.

Today I heard the PM of Great Britain and Northern Ireland utter the words ‘cavalry riding over the hill’ in the context of ‘vaccine’.


Really, how can that have happened?

The language of war is woven into many of these broadcasts and I can’t help thinking: how stupid!

But perhaps there is purpose behind the words.

Superficially, it just sounds as if the (mainly) men who use the language of war simply want to appear fighing and winning a war where there is none, so they look stronger, more decisive and better leaders than they really are.


But there is a more sinister side to this: the language of war induces fear. The control of the masses through fear is the tool of authoritarian regimes.

Perhaps that’s going a little far, bit it’s worth a thought.

On a lighter note, we’re back at stupidity: in a state of fear, we are stressed. Stress triggers the fight flight freeze response and that shuts down all sorts of natural metabolic functions, including the immune system, so the body can focus it’s energy on dealinf with the danger. For a short while, that ok, it’s what we evolved to do.

But covid-19 will be with us for a long time and months of chronic stress and fear are detrimental to health.

Chronic stress also affects sleep and with that, cognitive function.

Conversely, what we really need in a crisis is to maintain the capacity of each individual for clarity of thought and rational decision making, upon which we base our behaviour.

So, using the language of war is at best unhelpful and at worst, endangering public health and lives.

And that’s the opposite of what we wish for and deserve.

12 weeks in lockdown and I’m looking for the silver lining…

What are we learning?

About the value of life?

About the value of health and looking after mind, body and spirit?

About the value of relationships and society?

About receiving and gratitude?

About giving, kindness and generosity?

About our relationship with nature, our being part of nature?

About what we think need and what we think we want, or do we, really?

About status and money and power and priorities and values and meaning and motivation and what we want our taxes spent on in future.

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