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19 August 2016

Pacific sea level predicts global temperature changes

The amount of sea level rise in the Pacific Ocean can be used to estimate future global surface temperatures, according to a new study.


6 July 2016

‘The Blob’ overshadows El Niño

Research identifies earlier ocean warming as dominant effect off West Coast.


24 June 2016

Big Becomes Great

There is some debate on what makes a river great. Is it its length? Its width? Ajit always thought it was more a matter of water volume, but after years of observing river plumes, he now opts for permanence. A river is great when its discharge has a detectable impact on the ocean; when its plume remains unmixed or fairly stable for a considerable period of time, without losing its idiosyncrasy.


23 June 2016

The Thrill of Predictability

There are those who argue that predictability is the greatest gift of progress, the biggest merit of civilization. Our ability to explain nature through science makes the world and the universe predictable and understandable. That enables us to have a more informed and productive relationship with our natural environment and its resources.


22 June 2016

It is what it is – searching for symbiosis

Andreas Novotny thought he would find Hemiaulus here. He has not. “It is what it is, which is fine,” he says. “What we need to do is figure out why.” Andreas is a PhD. student and his research focuses in the symbiotic relationship between a kind of plankton, a Diatom called Rhizosolenia, and a Nitrogen-fixing Cyanobacteria, called Richelia.


20 June 2016

Observing bubbles from underwater gas seeps (video)

Natural oil and gas seeps exist on the ocean floor all over the world. Although humans have known about and exploited these natural resources for thousands of years, scientists know little about how oil and gas droplets disperse in deep water and how they affect underwater ecosystems.


16 June 2016

The Expected Unexpected

The challenge is that the scientists have had great difficulty finding evidence that we are indeed on the plume. Amicable discussions often take place in R/V Falkor’s Dry Lab or the Library. Joseph might think that the satellite images give evidence a certain location is within the reaches of the plume, but oceanographer Annalisa Bracco might reply the data could also be related to coastal upwelling, and not the plume itself.


15 June 2016

5 Reflections Beyond World Oceans Day

June 8 was World Oceans Day, but onboard every day is ocean’s day: non-stop work to better our understanding of 70 percent of our planet. We asked some of our crew and scientists to share thoughts we could consider beyond one calendar date.


14 June 2016

Unidentified Strange Object

Not only has Rhizosolenia turned out in the water samples collected in the latest CTD cast, but it has company: the cyanobacteria Richelia. The exciting aspect is they are together, coexisting in a intracellular symbiotic relationship.


10 June 2016

Exploring the Ocean Balance of C, N and P

In order to understand how our oceans are changing, it is necessary to take a close look at what is going on with plankton. It is not only the very base of the food chain but also provides several key services, such as removing carbon dioxide from the water and atmosphere, and fixing nitrogen.


9 June 2016

The Dragons are Calling

The 12th longest river in the world has summoned us here. It is born in China, and after flowing through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, the Mekong River arrives in Vietnam and merges with the South China Sea. When it joins, it does not come alone but is escorted by all sorts of human-induced modifications.


13 May 2016

Cruise Fantasy Plan

When you work in the deep sea, with new and cutting edge technology, in environments that often change between visits, and in areas where the weather is unpredictable, cruises almost never go the way they were planned. Our Fantasy Plan changed before we left the dock in Suva for the first leg, because we were delayed due to weather.


10 May 2016

Scientists search the seas for soot

Earth system scientists from the University of California, Irvine have taken water samples from the north Pacific, north and south Atlantic, and Arctic oceans in search of repositories of black carbon, soot from burning biomass and diesel engines, among other sources. They’ve found considerably less of the material than expected, and they’ve discovered that it exists in at least two varieties, a younger pool closer to the ocean’s surface that is absorbed into the environment in a roughly 100-year cycle and an ancient reserve that remains stable for millennia.


4 May 2016

Imaging the Deep Sea

Thanks to the fast advances in technology, we have now the ability to take very high definition photos in the deep sea. The quality of these images is so high that it is possible to identify any organism big enough to be visible to the naked eye. Therefore, these images can be used identify species assemblages on hydrothermal vent and document changes in their composition over time.


29 April 2016

Too Hot To Handle?

There’s a reason why people are hesitant to walk over burning coals. Barring those who have congenital analgesia, everyone can feel heat, and unless you live above the Arctic Circle like me, it is not a feeling we often relish. In fact, heat sensitivity can invoke serious fear and has fueled mankind’s most sadistic tortures and punishments. Nonetheless, it is vital for survival. Because we can sense heat, we can avoid it and prevent harming our bodies.


27 April 2016

All Aboard!

Much like the deep sea hydrothermal vents we study, no light penetrates into the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) control room. Here, the ROPOS team operates the submersible, helping scientists collect samples and conduct analyses. Working 12-hour shifts, a ROPOS pilot may spend a full day in this room, lit only by glow of ~22 computer screens showing video feeds of all the cameras mounted on ROPOS used to navigate and observe the deep sea.


Back Again

Over a decade ago, we established 19 long-term study sites in four different vent fields here on the Eastern Lau Spreading Center. We placed small, floating markers on each of these sites in the hope that one day we would return to see how they had (or had not) changed. And now, here I am again, floating over our long-term study sites and preparing to launch the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to visit one of my favorite environments on the planet: an active hydrothermal vent field.


22 April 2016

Among Waves and Whirlwinds: A Mid-Cruise Account

On the morning of the 19th, the R/V Falkor entered harbor in the country of Tonga after nearly 12 days at sea. As we stood on the deck watching the dockworkers heave lines to and fro, several scientists breathed a sigh of relief, for we had spent a number of days being tossed around by the sea.


19 April 2016

Living Together in the Deep Sea

Around hydrothermal vents, many animals have evolved specific relationships with bacteria that use the chemicals in venting fluid to make sugar, providing them with the nutrition the animals need to survive (as mentioned in the previous blog). These bacteria are often actually found inside the animals’ cells. In other words, the animals are essentially farming their own food inside their bodies.


18 April 2016

The Struggle to Survive

Tubeworms are unusual creatures. They have no eyes (there is no light where they live) and they do not have what we think of as a mouth or stomach. The way they survive is with a mutually beneficial relationship with other creatures. Instead of taking up food with the mouth, little gutless tubeworms house sulfur bacteria in their body.