First I’ll take a little time to introduce this blog and the trip. The layout might change as we go along, but first things first: our menu for the day will be posted, because food is the most important thing. You can’t do science if you can’t eat! Next, I’ll post our location in Latitude and Longitude, and the weather for the day. Finally, I’ll go over some of the activities going on around the boat – there are two other scientific groups on the boat other than ours, although ours is the largest, so I won’t be able to cover all of the different projects.
Our group’s goal over the next month is to collect deep-sea corals off of some seamounts known as the Southern Hills – just south of Tasmania. Seamounts are exactly what they sound like – underwater sea mountains, or to be more precise, extinct underwater volcanoes. They are formed when the earth’s crust passes over magma “hot spots”, jutting up volcanoes on the sea floor. Or, they are formed at a mid-ocean ridge, where two plates are newly forming, and move slowly away from the ridge along with the rest of the plate. Kunzig, in Mapping the Deep, gives an eloquent description of our deep-sea corals on a seamount:
“…the Deep Tow photographs showed [that the seamounts] were covered with fileds of a spiral black coral, as many as 20 per square metre, clustered in eerie dark forests on every knob and pinnacle: on any perch that would allow them to intercept a decent current. Each spiral looked a bit like the dead branch of a corkscrew willow, planted in the hard rock. But each one was a colony of polyps, and each polyp was equipped with tentacles around its mouth to snare food from the passing water.”
Hopefully we’ll get some pretty pictures from Jason when she dives!
So it’s the first day on the boat…we’re still docked in Hobart, and are scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 0800. Hobart is a pretty small city…only around 200,000 inhabitants, with about 500,000 on the entire island of Tasmania.
In the morning, we had a meeting with the Jason crew – Jason is the Remotely Operated Vehicle we’ll be using to collect the corals – to discuss different tools to try out for dislodging and collecting the corals from the rock. Basically, they went to a hardware store and bought a whole bunch of gardening tools – shovels, rakes, hoes – and decided between them which one would be the best. We also went over to the machine shop at CSIRO (which is the Australian version of WHOI) and worked with them to design and fabricate wire and cloth mesh nets to scoop up the corals.
Afternoon was spent settling in and going through customs: we met the Customs crew with our passports, and got a safety briefing about the boat. We had some fun goofing around in our safety suits; big orange things that keep you warm if you go over but also make you look like a big orange Gumby…
I also got a chance to drive out into the countryside to pick up some final equipment – check the photo gallery for some pictures!
That’s it for today, stay tuned tomorrow for the first day at sea!