Marine Scotland Science plays an important part in supporting the Scottish Government’s vision of having marine environments which are clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse. They undertake a range of research and recently got in touch with NTS to ask whether we would participate in a project investigating contaminants from the Atlantic ocean.
We were very keen to help because unlike the North Sea or more inshore water there is little known about contaminants from the wider Atlantic and St Kilda is in a fine place for getting information on this area. We would expect the water to be relatively pristine and because of that any data collected from this region could help determine ‘background’ concentrations of pollutants.
In July, a rather robust looking metal cage arrived in the post with a number of smaller sampling devices that needed to be secured to it, including: silicone rubber sheets to measure organic contaminants, plastic discs the size of a ten pence piece to measure dissolved heavy metals (DGT), one mesh bag the size and shape of a teabag to measure algal toxins (SPATT) and a temperature logger to measure...errr, temperature!
Time was of the essence. Once all the devices were attached I only had a few minutes to get the entire cage into the water and ensure it was suspended mid-water column on a weighted buoy. Luckily, the legendary crew from Kilda Cruises helped out and off we went in their tender to deploy the cage over by the cliffs near St Brianans.
Six weeks passed and it was time to retrieve the cage. Unfortunately, the weather was horrendous and no boats visited the bay. I kept a watchful eye on the buoy and across the week I tracked it moving slowly towards the shore. After one particularly awful storm the cage ended up in the rocks and with help from people on the base we brought it in.
The cage had survived the force of the Atlantic ocean, but the more fragile sampling units were lost to the sea.
This is terribly unfortunate as we were all very interested in learning more about the 'health' of the sea. But, it does serve as a reminder that the ocean is a powerful force that should not be underestimated.