Monika Bright of the University of Vienna had the first dive of the expedition yesterday and brought back with her all sorts of squishies both tiny and small from sites of diffuse venting around the high-temperature hydrothermal vents far below the ship. Being that I am a geophysicist, I don’t fully understand all the biological-type analyses her group is doing with the captured creatures, but word has it that they are studying succession processes (how organisms colonize new sites and how those communities change over time), and infection processes (how young tube worms that start their lives without their required compliment of chemosynthesizing microbes eventually acquire them). Pretty interesting work!
Meanwhile, Carl and I have been making final adjustments to the camera system before its scheduled deployment on Sunday. We are making small tweaks to the code that controls the automatic exposure routine so the video we collect will be suitable for the image analyses we’ll complete after recovery. Although we hope to get good science from the data we collect, this is the maiden voyage for this particular instrument, and our attention is mostly directed at making sure that the apparatus is properly configured for easy positioning by the sub’s manipulator arms and that we get a few days worth of good video with good light levels. Many more adjustments will probably be required before the system is ready for a long term deployment.
On yesterday’s dive Monika spent some time scouting around for a good location to place our camera system, but none of the sites she visited will do the trick. This is a bit of a problem for me because I need to know a little about the geometry of the environment around the vent so that I can adjust the tripod accordingly. For this reason my dive has been bumped back one slot and Scott’s dive has been rescheduled for tomorrow. Scott has has agreed to do a little more scouting for me before he gets on with his pressure measurements. Problem solved. Hopefully.
Scott’s work is also pretty cool. This is the second year of his three-year campaign to take pressure readings at
a set of concrete benchmarks that he placed along the ridge axis and off to one side. The pressure at the bottom of the ocean changes slightly over time because the shape of the seafloor changes as magma moves around below. Scott’s experiment will help us better understand the dynamics of plate tectonics and how new crust is formed at mid-ocean ridges. I’ll try to keep you posted on how this project and all the others go during the cruise.