It is great to be back on the R/V Atlantis. Between research cruises, I forget how much I love going to sea. As I look over the ship’s rails and then back up towards the bridge, I remember how lucky I am to be able to do this. The last time I was onboard the Atlantis was August 2006. Over 4 years ago, but it doesn’t feel that long. As I look around the ship everything falls back into the place. Metal stairs going up and down leading to heavy doors, the tracks across the back of the ship that Alvin gets rolled out on, Alvin wearing boxing gloves, the wet lab where my high pressure high temperature experiments met a terrible demise in 2006, the cold room where we kept tubeworms alive, the freezer, the duplication system where all the media from Alvin is transferred and then last, but not least, the smells of the ship. As you move from mechanical rooms to science labs, past heads and to bunks, there are unique fragrances: specific mixtures of grease, bleach, and ocean. A familiar place, but many things have changed. It’s 2010 and we are about to explore the Gulf of Mexico with a great team of scientists, Alvin crew and ship crew. Katie Sheline (Haverford College ’13) will be posting here, but also check out daily updates from WHOI Dive and Discover here.
Archive for the ‘Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Research’ Category
After an early start, we made it to Gulfport, Mississippi with little difficulty. We headed straight to port and, after a short security delay, we boarded the Atlantis. I’ve never been on a ship this big– I’ve already gotten lost a couple times and I’m sure it’ll happen again. I’m waiting to explore the ship until I get a better sense of where everything is. We spent the first few hours unpacking our supplies and organizing our lab space. For now everything is nicely labeled and orderly. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for our “berthing” accommodations, but I’m sharing a room with two of Erik’s lab members- Cheryl and Andrea, and there seems to be plenty of space. Most of the day has been pretty relaxed, with people slowly filing on board and preparing to leave port tomorrow. We left ship to have a nice seafood dinner in town, which was delicious– gotta love Southern cooking. Other than that it has been a relatively uneventful night, just getting settled in, meeting everyone, and resting up for the big day tomorrow.
With classes finished and the stresses of school work off my mind, it’s crunch time for prepping for the cruise. So far we have two action packers full of jars, vials, and anything else needed for collecting samples. Now we just need the finishing touches. I’m slowly getting over my nerves and am excited to leave tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about the cruise for so long– it’s finally happening! Tomorrow we have an early flight to Atlanta where we meet up with the rest of the scientists, and then it’s on to Gulf Port, MS.
Top 5 things I’m excited for:
1. Alvin’s dives
2. Sentry’s evening operations exploring the seafloor
3. Working with/meeting top oceanographers who have been studying the Gulf of Mexico for years
4. Working! Sampling corals, sediments, slime, deep water…
5. Warmer weather and calm seas (fingers crossed)
Katie and I spent Saturday afternoon in the lab of Dr. Erik Cordes of Temple University. Erik’s graduate student Jay Lunden taught Katie how to separate coral tissue from skeleton. Erik also showed us an isopod collected from the Gulf. A scavenger of the deep! Erik then left to head to the Fox TV studio. This story is reported in many places, check it out. We will be heading there in December. More news to follow.
These photos of Katie Sheline ’13 prepping samples of corals for biomarker analysis, were taken a few weeks ago, but we just ran the extracts on the GCMS. This was a quick first pass attempt to see what compounds would be obtained. The expected fatty acids and sterol biomarkers were observed. Now comes the quantification aspect to determine the quantity of material need for the Gulf of Mexico project.
In December we will be heading to the Gulf of Mexico to examine the effects of the recent oil spill on cold-water seep biological communities. This is a collaboration with Erik Cordes from Temple University, Chuck Fisher from Penn State University, and Chris German and Tim Shank from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. A short news article about the research can be found here. Part of the research cruise in December will involve a survey with a drift camera system to examine some of the hardground biological communities in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon incident. We also plan to explore 3-4 as yet undiscovered sites with the Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin during the research cruise. Check back for more info soon!