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Smoker

   
by Mariana Mateos, Rutgers Ph.D. candidate

We started our trip to the bottom of the ocean at around 8 a.m. on a beautiful morning. A rainbow in the sky gave us the feeling that we were going to find something interesting. As we dropped through the darkness, all we could see outside were fluorescent green flashes from bioluminescent organisms.

About an hour and a half later we got to the bottom, but we didn't land exactly where we had planned because we had drifted with the current. We landed right on the edge of a steep wall in the ridge.

The pilot said, "Oops. not a very good place to land." We got out of there and moved north in search of a site, called Mori, that had been previously found by Japanese scientists.

Within a few minutes we started to see many anemones and crabs, which are characteristic of areas surrounding active vents. We also started to see zoarcid fish (they look like eels) swimming around. We found several black smokers (chimneys belching blackened water) at this site and stopped to sample one. The pilot accidentally broke a piece of the sulfide chimney which fell onto the collection basket. So there was our first sample, and it weighed about 100 pounds!

We collected two crabs but were unable to collect any more. We took water samples and used a slurp gun to collect some of the bacteria that lives in this environment. We then took temperatures at different distances from the vent for Peter Rona's flux experiment. Fortunately, there was a very helpful crab that held the marker while we were doing our work (click here). While we were doing this, a red shrimp came to visit me at my window and stayed there for a while.

After we were done, we traveled further north in search of other active sites, because the results from the previous night's CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) experiments showed that there could be an active site in that direction. We went through areas with lava sheets and pillars (geology terms used to describe the form that lava takes when it cools down). Some of the rocks had yellow-brownish colors which indicated that there had been hydrothermal activity and organisms before. We started to see anemones and crabs again and got excited. However, we were instructed from the surface to go and look for a transponder that didn't want to come up (it is a device used for getting information on the location of the submarine. They are usually launched before the dive and recovered after). Suddenly, Cornel (click here) and Blee (our pilot) saw several chimneys and some of them were smoking. It was a beautiful site much bigger than Mori. It was named Smoking Shank (for Tim Shank, our colleague back at Rutgers). We took some more water and gas samples here but it was getting late. After we were done, the pilot instructed me to drop the weights, which allowed us to sink, and up we went.

On deck, our reception party greeted us with buckets full of cold water because it was the first Alvin dive for Cornel and myself and we had to be appropriately baptized.

Alvin Dive 3325

Date: 29 December 1998

Location: Southern East Pacific Rise, 14 degrees South

Pilot: Robert L. (Blee) Williams

Port observer: Cornel De Ronde

Starboard observer: Mariana Mateos

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