Sailing the Baltic Sea

In 2005, just after having obtained my MSc degree in Marines Sciences, I was lucky enough to be one of the granted students to take part in an oceanographic campaign across the Gulf of Finland in the framework of the Baltic Floating University. I shared the experience with students from France, Poland, Russia, and other two students from my university. The expedition, which was onboard the Sailing Catamaran Centaurus-II, was an unique opportunity to become familiar with collection of oceanographic data and learn about the Baltic Sea.

The Gulf of Finland

In the Gulf of Finland, as for the majority of the Baltic Sea, eutrophication is a major issue due to the strong antrophogenic impacts in the area. For 20 years (1997-2007), the BFU expeditions aimed to monitor the south-eastern coastal area of the gulf, the Luga-Koporye bays.

The ecological importance of this area lies on their natural resources it supports, such as the main spawning grounds of the Gulf of Finland’s Baltic herring stock and a very important resting ground for hundreds of thousands of birds on their spring migration along the Baltic-White Sea Flyway. However, the area suffer the pressure of a cargo port in Luga Bay, the giant fertilizer factory ‘Phosphorite’ on the Luga River and the Sosnovyj Bor Nuclear Power Station.

The 2005 expedition

The expedition consisting of sailing across the station grid in the eastern part of Gulf of Finland (Luga and Kopora Bays and Vyborg Gulf), although the route was sometimes adapted to the weather conditions. My shift was from 2 to 8 (a.m. and p.m.) and during that period I helped in collecting water samples with Nansen bathometers (was like a museum on-board!). The water samples were used to measure different physico-chemical properties of the water, such as dissolved oxygen, pH and temperature (we used the tiny lab of the catamaran). Other tasks on board were the measurement of meteorological variables, the CTD launch to obtain profiles of salinity, dissolved oxygen and temperature, as well as zooplanckton sampling with a Juday net and benthic fauna sampling with a van-Veen dredge.

In addition to the “scientific tasks”, life onboard the catamaran included taking lessons about the Oceanography and Ecology of the Baltic Sea, as well as doing the daily chores: cooking, washing-up, cleaning… And on top on that, we had spare time to enjoy talking with the shipmates, having a bath in the sea or playing African rhythms with improvised drums :-)

To highlight

  • The fact of seeing in situ what I have only studied in books before, especially: Langmuir’s cells, blooms of blue-green algae, and manganese nodules from the sea bottom.
  • An alternative way of learning, in a friendly atmosphere and enjoying the cruise.
  • The cultural activities when visiting the cities of Vyborg and Sosnovyj Bor.
  • The lovely Russian food.

Read more

  • de los Santos CB2005. Thermohaline description of Luga and Koporye Bays during the scientific expedition on-board the sailing catamaran Centaurus II. BFU Research Bulletin 8, 56-58, RSHU, St. Petersburg. English.
  • de los Santos CB2005. A wonderful experience onboard the sailing catamaran Centaurus II. BFU Research Bulletin 8, 80-81, RSHU, St. Petersburg. English.