May 15–June 3, 2005
Please visit the Ridge 2000 website for additional information.
After two days travel, we quietly arrived at the Mussel Valley collection site (18°, 49 minutes south latitude X 173°, 30 minutes west longitude).
While cruising, a school of flying fish amused the crew. Often attracted to the ship's lights, these four to five inch acrobatic wonders will use the wake of the boat or white caps to propel themselves into the air. Spreading their pectoral fins these marvels of nature briefly leave the water and glide. This adaptation presumably helps individuals escape the hungry mouths of predators like tuna, Mahi Mahi and squid. Occasionally some land on the deck where their beautiful iridescent colors are visible as they flap helplessly attempting to return to the sea. Speaking of returning to the sea.
Putting down Jason II in unfamiliar waters requires a great deal of thought and planning. Dive time is precious and expensive. The first order of business is to create a topographic map of the bottom. An instrument called Sea Beam, named after the manufacturer (visit gear page), sends down a multi-beam echo that bounces off the bottom and returns to the ship. A receiver calculates the time it takes for the beams to get back. The density, temperature, and salinity of the water effects the travel time of the sound beams (see equipment for more detail). Through the magic of computer programming, and the expertise of Tom Bolmer and Dan Jacobsen, a colorful topographic map of the scanned area was produced. The map then helps guide the route of Jason II to the most likely vent sites. However, sometimes the best-laid plans don't pan out.
Jason II found the bottom around 9:00 am. Unfortunately it was a flat, muddy and relatively uneventful. Sponges were collected and sediment cores taken. After looking around for awhile the chief scientist and pilot agreed to a four-mile transit to a more promising site. Jason II moves slowly and the journey took five hours. In the meantime, there has been more interesting surface activity.
A pod of six Minke whales (we think) attracted to the ship, entertained off the starboard side for about thirty minutes. These relatively small, slender baleen whales roam most of the world's oceans collecting krill and other goodies with comb like filters made of keratin (fingernail material). Sadly, they are still hunted by several countries for food. After quenching their curiosity the small pod headed off to do whatever Minke whales do.
This expedition has been made possible by National Science Foundation grants to Dr. Robert Vrijenhoek (NSF OCE-0241613) and Dr. Cindy Van Dover (NSF OCE-0350554)