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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.


12 April 2016

Bringing the Seafloor into Focus

This is the latest in a series of dispatches from scientists and education officers aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor. “…Our study sites are at water depths of 1,900-2,700 m, which is the equivalent of 4-6 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. In this water depth, ship-based sonar systems could produce maps with a mesh size of about 100 m, or the length of 2 Olympic swimming pools. At this resolution we would not even see an airplane sitting on the seafloor.”


10 April 2016

Inside the Box: Bringing Vent Life to the Surface

Imagine if we replicate the conditions of a deep sea hydrothermal vent onboard the ship! That is exactly what we intend to do aboard the R/V Falkor using our custom-built mobile laboratory. Known as the “pressure van,” this laboratory—which is housed in a 20-ft shipping container—contains the infrastructure needed to keep deep-sea animals alive onboard a research vessel.


8 April 2016

2,400 meters under the South Pacific

Today we are embarking on a research expedition to visit hydrothermal vents in the South Pacific. These particular deep sea vents are found about 1.5 miles (~2400 m) below sea level, nestled between the islands of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. Like the first vents discovered off the Galapagos Islands, these vents are teeming with life, from microbial mats to snails, mussels, barnacles and fish. The snails and mussels dominate these vent sites, and are symbiotic with bacteria. During this expedition, our research will focus on better understanding these symbiotic relationships and how they are affected by natural and human-induced (i.e. anthropogenic) changes in their environment.


17 March 2016

All good things…

by Nanci Bompey Nanci Bompey is AGU’s public information manager. She is spending a week aboard the R/V Oceanus with scientists from Oregon State University (OSU) who are studying the role that small rivers play in the productivity of the coastal ocean during the winter. Click here to read Nanci’s previous blogs from this trip. We arrived at the dock at Newport Wednesday evening, unloaded our gear from the ship …


Making it all work: the crew

Wednesday is the last day of the cruise – we are zig-zagging back along the coast and will head back to Newport tonight. I am finally getting the hang of walking and living on a continuously rocking boat, including being shuttled across the lab on a rolling office chair when there’s a big swell. I’ve also realized how many people, all working together, it takes to pull off a research cruise.


16 March 2016

Sleeping, showering and working on the ship

On Monday night, I slept for the first time on the ship while it was moving. Laying in my top bunk, swaying side to side, I could hear the water moving and waves hitting the side of the boat. The motion of the ship rocked me to sleep, but every so often the boat would rock further sideways, and I would have to brace myself so I wouldn’t fall out of the top bunk. I could also hear the CTD hitting the deck periodically while the night crew did their work.


15 March 2016

A rough ride down the Oregon coast

When you plan a research cruise in the winter in Oregon, there’s a good chance the weather will change your plans. That’s what happened to us this weekend. We were finally able to get back out on the ocean on Monday afternoon and we drove south to the Umpqua Hydrographic line – a seven-hour trip. It was a rough ride and most people spent it in their bunks or in the lounge, where books flew off the shelves when we hit particularly rough spots.


14 March 2016

Waiting for the weather to clear

On Sunday afternoon, we headed back to Newport. The scientists and crew were closely watching the weather to see when we will be able to head back on the water. The down time gives Goni and his team some time to filter water samples that were collected from the Newport Hydrographic Line on Friday. The samples are one piece of a larger project trying to figure out how small coastal rivers are influencing coastal ocean productivity during the winter.


21 January 2016

Rapid warming over the Indian Ocean reduces marine productivity

Increasing water temperatures in the Indian Ocean are taking a toll on the marine ecosystem, according to our new study.


22 December 2015

Hydrothermal Hunt: Mapping Earth’s Ocean Seafloor

This is the latest in a series of dispatches from scientists and education officers aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor. On this voyage, scientists aboard the research vessel Falkor hoped to shed light on the Mariana Back-arc. Read more posts here.


16 December 2015

Medieval solution to climate change

Stanford University’s Miles Traer, once again, is cartooning from the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.