Grow from failing

Ulf Riebesell by Ulf Riebesell on 28.10.2018

This year’s campaign wants us to grow rapidly. Since starting our sea-going activities we have encountered a gruelling series of technical problems and unfavourable wind and wave conditions. It has been a strenuous effort combined with an amazing team spirit to overcome those difficulties. Until the morning of day 12 of our experiment - when the first boat going out sent some devastating photos to all on site. Along with the note: M4, M5 and M7 drowned. We were just getting ready to leave harbour for the daily sampling when the message caught us. What a shock! Soon after I could see the disaster with my own eyes. S . . t! How could this happen? What did we miss that could have prevented this?

Gesunkene Mesos

Three mesocosms lost, in addition to M9, which had drowned a few days earlier (see Moritz' blog post), and at least two other mesocosms showing signs of some damage to the floating frame – there is no point in continuing the experiment. What surprised me most: there was no thought of giving up, not for a second, not from anyone in the team. You could sense the great disappointment, but not the slightest sign of despair.

The group’s immediate response: Let’s secure the mesocosms to avoid further damage and lift the ones that had sunk. That took the rest of the day. The next day was spent on getting a detailed inventory of all damages and finding out what exactly had happened. The divers' report drew a clear picture: Obviously the combination of strong currents in the bay due to spring tide and a heavy swell from the southeast pushing right into our mesocosm playground had caused the steel rings holding the weighted bottom flange to pound against the flotation pylons – to the extent that small leaks were hammered into the fiberglass structure. Water penetrated into the pylons and eventually made the whole mesocosms sink.

Luckily the divers' inspection revealed that no other major damages had occurred. So green lights for a restart. Until that point there will be several days of repairs, fixing the steel rings to prevent the unfortunate chain of reactions to reoccur, emptying of the pylons and renewing of the enclosed waters. On the positive side, while part of the team was taking care of the sunken mesocosms, another part was out on the tug and supply vessel J Socas to collect another batch of deep water. Late at night that day Micha posted this photo in our WhatsApp group.


100 cubic metres of water from deep down contained in our deep-water collector. Mission accomplished. The huge bag is now securely moored next to the mesocosms storing its precious load until needed for another deep water injection into our mesocosms. Allow us a few days and we will be back on track.