Easter Microplate Expedition
March 17, 2005 Day 6
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Transit day 6:
We began mapping the seafloor with the multibeam sonar and deployed a magnetometer, both permissible because we are now clear of all classified and territorial waters. We began mapping to start bringing in data so we can learn how to process it before we reach our first dive site, as well as to add to the global database of bathymetric survey data. How often does a ship equipped with such equipment traverse this patch of ocean? We deployed the magnetometer for the same altruistic reason, at the request of the scientists who were out on the previous leg of the ship's expedition even though we do not plan to work with it.
Computer display of the multibeam sonar data as it is being acquired. An icon for the ship is in the lower right edge of the contoured green swath representing the bathymetry of the seafloor. The depth here is about 4000m (13,000 feet).
Joe working with Expedition Leader and
Alvin pilot Pat Hickey to configure the science basket on Alvin. In the extreme upper left is the pilot's
viewport. Below that are five Niskin bottles for collecting water and microbial samples. In front of that are white "bio-boxes", which protect animals as the Alvin comes to the surface and on deck.
Among the many ways in which we fill time during our 9 day transit aboard the R/V
Atlantis is to conduct nightly science meetings during which two members of the science party present their research objectives for the cruise (or general research programs back home) so that we can learn more about each other. Two evenings ago I spoke about marine invertebrate-bacterial symbioses. Symbiosis by definition is the permanent (or some would say ‘non-transient’) association between different organisms. Turns out that symbiosis is quite common on earth, from our own intracellular mitochondria (which are thought to have been free-living bacteria at some point in history) to vast forests that rely on root infection by fungi to survive in certain conditions. Symbiosis is a very powerful phenomenon that can dramatically affect the morphology, physiology, biochemistry, evolution, and ecology of the organisms involved. Nowhere on earth is this more evident than at hydrothermal vents. In fact, an entirely new type of symbiotic association (involving giant tubeworms and chemoautotrophic bacteria) was discovered less than 30 years ago at vents along the Galapagos Rise. This partnership, between bacteria that can use toxic chemicals (rather than sunlight, like most other living things) for energy (=chemoautotrophy) and invertebrates that have no eyes, no mouth, and no digestive system, allows these organisms to live in a very inhospitable environment not available to other animals. On this cruise, like so many others previously, we anticipate discovering entirely new symbiotic associations, particularly those involving snails, worms, and bivalves, and perhaps involving some unanticipated animals as well. This cruise is particularly exciting for me as my research program has come full circle since my first Alvin dives 10 years ago as a graduate student (while studying those same famous giant tubeworms). During the first few days of our Alvin dive series, we will keep you posted on the bizarre and wondrous creatures living in the deep sea at 38°S in the Pacific Ocean.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Few people wore green. Shannon got into the spirit of the holiday as she caught up on some reading on the deck. But we celebrated by having a limpet limerick contest after our science meeting tonight.
An exciting part of today was heckling people about their lack of green for St. Patrick's Day. Michel from France was unaware of the holiday and ended up covered in lime green lab tape. He retaliated by putting a piece of bright green lettuce in his pocket. It is endlessly entertaining to talk with people from other countries about cultural differences. Due to the long transit, I've had time to catch up on school work and work on my senior honors thesis. This afternoon, between writing sessions, I went up to the bridge to see all the ship's controls. The Second Mate said the ship is on auto-pilot; we should reach 38 degrees in about 3 days. I took a break tonight for some stargazing from the fantail--it's amazing how clear the stars are here in the middle of nowhere.
There once was a limpet named Chris
Who decided to do something amiss
She hopped on a plume
That had too much kazoom
And now she's currently off-axis.
There once was a girl with no hair
Her head was terribly bare
One day like a bonnet
A limpet perched on it
And now people no longer stare.
A limpet with eyes peering out from
Her cap shell topped with an algal frond
Sashayed leaving slime
Through tidepools so fine
Singing "Bonnie lies over the ocean."
There once was a limpet in crisis
His shell was not one of the nicest
He craved "Riftia Red"
So shot himself dead
Mollusca - not always the brightest!
There was an old limpet from Tahiti
Who missed her niece in the deep sea.
So to Atlantis she clamped
And from Alvin decamped
To arrive at the vents screaming "Hi sweetie"!
A vertically challenged leprechaun named Shannon McGee
Clawed desperately at the hanging ham in the tree
Not quick to admit defeat
She tied limpets to her feet
And scaled up the trunk salivating with glee.
There once was a limpet from the EPR.
He was so sad cuz there was no bar!
What oh what is a lepetodrilid to do?
With just one foot and no shoe!
Well, said the limpet, never one to despair, I just won't send my larvae very far!
There once was a limpet named Hal
Who decided to go grazing with a pal
Knocked over by a bump in the rear
He saw the bright lights of a sphere
In horror, it slurped cousin Al.
The limpet was having a ball
Somersaulting down the hall
But the scientist shouted,
and the escape effort was thwarted
when the formalin caused him to stall.
Your not going out looking like that!
Its not like I'm wearing the cat!
Might be better if you did
Well your hair looks like a squid-
And that's what you get with a limpet for a hat.
There once was a wee little limpet
Who got crunched by a big bad pirate
Who thought that the speck
Was a spider and said "Heck,
That was a mollusk and not an arachnid."
Our location at the end of the day is 30.4°S 126.2°W. We still have some 880 nautical miles to go.
All underwater photos were taken with the submersible Alvin, and are courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.