25th Mar, 2013

25 years of sampling at L4: a personal view

From Angus Atkinson – from email sent on 19/3/2013

What were you doing exactly 25 years ago?

Back then, L4 was just a bone in my lower back and E1 was a rock climbing grade. Some of us were probably in nappies. In March 1988 I was at BAS and the Plymouth Plankton Mafia were rivals at the time. We just laughed at their legendary tales.

Anyway, this afternoon marks 25 years of almost continuous weekly sampling of the L4 site, half way out to the Eddystone.  Over 1000 weeks of sampling is hard to imagine until you have done, like me, a mere 6 weeks of it. Blundering around in the dark on a wet winter morning…..getting out to Rame before turning back with the weather, then having to repeat this next day………. and that is just collecting the samples.

 What is the big deal about L4? Some time series are miles longer. Our E1 site further offshore has been sampled for a century, but most long programmes are neither regular nor continuous.  Some famous efforts like the CPR survey cover huge swathes of ocean, but the temporal coverage is coarse. Others seem to have it all – regular, long-term sampling of the whole planktonic food web (e.g. Helgoland), but these sites are often shallow, just outside the lab where the land has a huge influence on the sea. L4 does have it all. We are sitting on a gold mine.

 Since arriving at PML a year ago I have been a late gatecrasher to the L4 party, but we are all indebted. Let’s just pause a second and think of the multitude of people who carried L4 along through all these years.


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