We decided to do the 3 lakes in the Banyoles area first because the weather in the Pyrenees was so bad that we wouldn’t have been able to get up the mountain to sample Lake Redon. Lake Redon is a pristine Alpine lake that is sampled weekly by Spanish researchers. On Tuesday May 11th the weather prediction for the next few days in the Pyrenees said clear skies, so we loaded up the van and Chris, Emilio, Maria and myself took off on the 341 kilometer (211 miles) drive.
The drive was amazing……. clear skies, beautiful green mountains and crystal clear lakes. Our destination was The Center for Mountain Research, a research station of the University of Barcelona. The research station is run by Lluís Camarero and is at the base of the mountain which Lake Redon is located.
Lluís showed us around the station, including the well equipped labs, dorms and full kitchen. After our tour we were told some bad news, we might have enjoyed great weather for our drive up, but that was all about to change. A big snow storm was on the way………our plan was to take a helicopter from the station directly to Lake Redon……but the helicopters can’t fly in snow storms. Since weather up in the mountains can be unpredictable, we just decided to see how it was in the morning and go from there.
As you can see from the above picture, we weren’t flying anywhere! Instead we took the day to catch up on emails/work and get some rest……it had been a week straight of driving and sampling and a day of down time was greatly needed! During the day we discussed a few options on how we could collect the water from the lake and bring it back to the lab to filter. Our time was limited (I had to join Sorcerer II and Chris had to catch a flight back home), so we decided that if the weather was still bad we would assemble a hiking team and hike the 2-3 hours up to the lake and carry water back down. A couple problems for me were 1. I hate cold weather 2. I didn’t bring any cold weather gear up there, I had jeans and tennis shoes! Lucky for me I am bigger than most Spanish men, so nobody had gear I could borrow……..Chris wasn’t so lucky!
So Thursday morning Emilio, Maria, Chris, Lluís, Jean-Christopher, a few post docs and grad students set out in the blizzard to collect as much water as they could carry down the mountain…………..me and my big feet stayed inside…….warm and dry!
About 5 hours later the team returned with 70 liters of water. I asked Chris how it went and he replied with “That was the worse experience of my life!”
The water they collected looked very clear and I was worried 70 liters wouldn’t have enough biomass for DNA extractions. As you can see from the above filter picture there was plenty of biomass on the filters.
After a long hard day (well not for me, but for everyone else) Emilio and Lluís took us all out for a great local meal. At the restaurant they had the town paper, which had done a story on us……….all the facts aren’t correct, but not bad for never interviewing Chris or myself!
Friday May 14th we loaded up the van and drove back to Blanes. We stored the samples in Emilio’s lab and unloaded the gear. It has been a very successful 2 weeks of sampling, we collected samples from a variety of lakes. These are very unique sites and I am sure some great scientific work will come from these samples for the Venter Institute and all our collaborators that we worked with.
Tomorrow we are driving to Barcelona, Chris will fly back to San Diego and I will join Sorcerer II and her crew, which are making their way to Barcelona from Valencia.
I would like to thank all the collaborators and people that helped make this 2 week road sampling trip possible, not only did we collect great samples, you all showed us your country, culture, history and great food! Thanks again!