Thanksgiving at sea

Happy Thanksgiving from the R/V Atlantis! Today was business as usual for the crew and science party aboard the vessel. We did have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner complete with Turkey and all the usual sides, but Alvin dove and samples were processed just like any other day during this cruise.

We were joined two days ago by Richard Harris from Morning Addition and All Things Considered on NPR. He is conducting interviews with various science party and crew members and will be sending along sound bytes that will be heard on NPR starting tomorrow morning. Also joining the science party is a documentary videographer from UGA.

Today’s dive site was a small brine pool located on the south side of large collapsed dome-like seafloor feature. As with the other sites that have brine pools, we collected a profile through the depth of the pool to examine the chemistry of the brine. Since this brine pool is so small and has so many mussels around the edges, the decision was made to use the brine trapper on Alvin rather than disturbing the pool with a CTD from the ship. The brine trapper has several bottles that can collect fluids and gases through a small hose that is lowered from the submarine.

In addition to the brines, some mussels were collected, along with some sediment samples. In the sediments, Jake Bailey from University of Minnesota found a Thiomargarita bacteria cell. Thiomargarita are particularly large (perhaps the world’s largest, up to nearly 1 mm in diameter) and are also among the oldest forms of life found to date in Earth’s geological record. Jake compares modern cells to those preserved in ancient rocks and is able to comment on early life and the surrounding environment here on Earth. Though these are very basic life forms, they hold a great deal of information about life in extreme environments such as anoxic deep waters.

Tonight, rather than a post Thanksgiving feast football game, we are mapping our next dive site with multibeam bathymetry and subbottom profiles. Tomorrow, chief scientist Mandy Joye and PI Ian MacDonald will dive on a large mud volcano that has recently been and may still be discharging oil, gas and of course mud. After the dive, we will sample the water column (about 1000 meters deep) and take some sediment cores. Then we will transit back to a previous dive site where we will collect a few additional samples. 

Late Saturday we will transit to the area very near the recent oil spill location. Starting Sunday, we will be even busier (if that is possible) with water and sediment sample processing aboard the ship. Stay tuned…

-Rich and Rick

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