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Blood, stench, sickness - what's not to love?

DELWYN DICKEY
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014
Rebecca Gibson
FISHING TRIP: Former Orewa College student Rebecca Gibson, right, was a Sir Peter Blake science ambassador on the research ship Tangaroa. Fellow ambassador Lucy van Oosterom is at left.

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Checking the stomach contents of dead fish while trying to keep down the contents of your own hardly seems like fun.

But working on a deep-sea research vessel in rough seas was the experience of a lifetime for Rebecca Gibson, who grew up on the Hibiscus Coast.

Rebecca, 24, was accepted as a NIWA Science Ambassador with the Sir Peter Blake Trust on NIWA's deep sea research vessel Tangaroa. Each year it takes scientists to check Chatham Rise fish stocks. The rise is part of the massive underwater continental shelf New Zealand sits on and connects the mainland with the Chatham Islands.

The waters teem with life and it is one of the country's most productive fisheries. Keeping track of things like numbers and sex of the species, size, and diet helps fisheries figure out how the fish are doing.

Rebecca saw plenty of fascinating sights and enjoyed working alongside the crew and scientists - but it wasn't all fun. The 50 knot winds and swells, along with stormy patches, meant frequent sea sickness.

Dealing with the fish lab, where the fish are measured, weighed and dissected, was unexpected.

"I was mentally prepared to be covered in blood, to see dead fish, to feel sea sick, to work 12-hour shifts for four weeks - but the fish lab was something else," Rebecca says.

"The smell hit me like a tonne of bricks. This isn't just your old fishy rag that you've left on your boat for a week - this is a whole new kettle of fish," she says.

She soon got used to it though. Her work involved rising before midnight to sort through fish and other sea life hauled up in trawl nets, counting, measuring, weighing and dissecting.

She finished at noon, then headed for the bunk.

"All of it was new and bizarre so I was constantly fascinated by these weird creatures," she says.

Surprisingly, the exotic fish, yellow octopus, dragon fish or the giant squid tentacle weren't highlights.

"I nearly exploded when a crew member told me albatross were following the boat," Rebecca says. "I spent a few hours playing with my camera and watching these birds in flight. It's probably one of the most amazing things I've seen."

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