I imagine this is how it feels when crossing the finish line after running a marathon. Relieved, excited, exhausted. Those three words describe my present condition – and I suppose that of many in the KOSMOS team. Relieved that we managed to complete the experiment with all nine mesocosms still in the run. Excited about the incredible team spirit that carried us through this unique campaign and about the fantastic data set we collected and which promises to provide us with deep insights into what drives pelagic ecology and biogeochemistry. And exhausted from the hard work we have gone through over the past two months, the advance team even for the past three months.
It is amazing that with all the challenges we were facing over the past two months we managed to bring this to a successful ending. With the experimental design we took a high risk: only one control mesocosm, the pulsed and continuous treatments with only four mesocosms each. Had we lost the control or more than one mesocosm in any of the treatment lines, the interpretation of the data would have been difficult. It was the combination of good luck and hard work that pushed us across the finish line. What a relief!
At our last science meeting on Tuesday, where all the preliminary data available so far were presented, we got a glimpse of some of the exciting insights the data will provide us. It was good to see that some of our hypotheses will likely be confirmed by our data. But some of the results suggest that we were completely wrong in what we predicted. And some of them seem to break with long-standing paradigms we like to believe in. It only shows - once again – how diverse and complex marine ecosystems are and that it would be naïve to think that we can precisely predict how they respond to human interference.
Even though the scientific activities are soon coming to an end, the work for the core team will continue. The coming days will be needed to prepare the mesocosms for their recovery. On Monday RRS James Cook will be back to help us retrieve the 15 m long bags, the floating frames, the marker buoys, the anchor chains, ropes and anchor weights. In the meantime all the lab equipment will be cleaned, packed and stored in the containers to be shipped home to Kiel. And then it’s time for everyone to fly home and spend Christmas with their families. Well deserved!! Disassembling the mesocosms and loading them into the containers, along with the boats, the buoys and anchors, the diving equipment, the deep water bags, the generator, compressor, hoses and cables and all the rest of our equipment will then happen after Christmas break. Once back in Kiel, all equipment will be serviced, repaired and refitted. After all, the next KOSMOS campaign is just around the corner.