Whale Fall Cruise
August 6, 2003 - August 8, 2003
Friday August 8, 2003
Jennifer Trask writes: Time to Explore! Because we had such a short dive scheduled for today, we spent the time exploring the canyon walls and ocean floor. We peeked into dark caves, poked around in holes, and generally scouted the ocean floor for signs of life.
In addition to fish, sea cucumbers, sea stars and lacy, stalked crinoids, we found many wonderful specimens of a deep-sea tubeworm, Lamellibrachia. This worm lives on the sulfides that leak out of the sediments, just like the clams we saw yesterday. Each worm contains millions of tiny bacteria that turn the toxic sulfide into energy that the worm can then use for nutrition. The worms make their own houses—hard tubes that twist and turn and can reach lengths of a meter or more. We collected several worms so we could study them in the lab.
On board ship, we worked hard to get the worms out of their snug tube homes in one piece. In order to do this, we cut the tail end of the tube off, and blast them out with a syringe full of seawater. When the water is forced into the tail end like that, the whole worm comes sliding out the head end of the tube, no matter how twisted the tube is! We can then examine the body under a microscope and take samples for DNA sequencing or other analysis.
Unfortunately, it was not only time for the Tiburon to return to the surface, but it was also time for us to return to port. After organizing and gathering up all of our samples of whale worms, tube worms, clams, anemones, snails, crabs and all the other weird and wonderful animals we collected, we concluded that it had been a very successful trip to the whale fall and the Monterey Canyon seafloor!