We had beautiful sunny weather when we reached our first destination: Helgoland. This is Germany’s only island in the open sea. During the 94 sea mile journey from our departure in Hamburg to the southern port on Helgoland, we had not a single breeze. The wooden deck on the “Dagmar Aaen” had to be watered continually. Heat, sunrays and dryness can inflict real damage to the deck planks which are 6 cm thick and made of Oregon pine. The planks can dry out and contract which could, in the worst case, cause the joints – which are filled with tow and tar – to split open. This could mean a leaky roof for the crewmembers sleeping in the upper berths. With this in mind, the deck was kept wet and the areas under deck were kept dry.
During the crossing, Arved Fuchs took advantage of the time to give the crew a safety briefing. From the use of the different fire extinguishers and the use of the safety sensor on our highly modern Secumar life jackets, to the technique of entering the life raft on board the ship, each aspect was handled in detail, questions were answered and possible scenarios were simulated. The safety aspect should and must play a central role on an expedition. Once again, we were made aware of the contrast between our way of travel and modern passenger transport. While we made our way with a speed of five knots in the direction of Helgoland, the “Halunderjet” (the ferry between Hamburg and Helgoland) passed us with a speed of 34,7 knots.
On Helgoland we experienced the first stage of our “Ocean Change” Expedition program. In the branch of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), the crew had a look at the so-called student lab. Here young people are confronted with the problems around plastic garbage in the oceans. In practice this means that sections of the beach are defined and measured. Here plastic waste is collected, documented and of course disposed of properly.
The dramatic consequences plastic waste can have for bird life were demonstrated to us by a member of the Jordsand Society. There is a gannet colony in the cliffs on Helgoland. In the course of time, the birds have developed the habit of using plastic fibers from “dollyropes” to build their nests. These trawl attachments often loosen themselves, are washed ashore and are picked up by the gannets. Whole nests are then built from these plastic fibers and again and again the animals not only eat the plastic but strangle themselves in the fibers and die a miserable death.
The next destination on our journey north is the offshore wind park “Butendiek”, 20 sea miles west of Sylt.