Another Saturday Night

Another Saturday Night.

Today was not like any other Saturday. We are now off the coast of Oregon and steaming toward our project site. We spent today looking at cores and learning about the geology, chemistry and biology of black smokers.

Almost everyone has seen the National Geographic videos that feature these wonderful formations. Basically seawater circulates through the crust and overlying sediment and leaches ions and metals from the basalt at high temperatures. Then these mineral and nutrient rich materials are spewed out into the ocean depths. One thing that I learned today is that the minerals can be stripped out of the basalt leaving a totally different looking rock.

This afternoon we received a briefing about the project we will be working on when we reach the site. Deep beneath the ocean in some old boreholes is what is called a cork. It is a suite of scientific instruments that were placed in the borehole on previous cruises. Two of the corks were not sealed well enough and we will be attempting to pump down some cement to seal the cork. Think of it like this. Imagine trying to thread a needle from the top of a six story building. This is what the drillers, engineers and scientists are going to do on this trip. I thought my job was hard.

On a lighter note we had a demonstration of a core lab test that is run on all cores brought up from the ocean bottom. A piece of the core is placed in a metal cylinder and 40,000 pounds of pressure is applied to it. The liquid is then captured as it passes through a 2 micron filter. The liquid is then run through a suite of tests and is logged into the database. We did not have a new core to sample so we improvised. We recovered 60 grams of used coffee grounds and placed them in the press. We recovered 21 cc of liquid after applying 40,000 pounds of pressure. You can check out the picture I put in with this blog. Then one of our instructors ran a very critical test on the recovered liquid.  He drank it. The last time we saw him he was on his seventh lap around the ship. What else are you going to do when you are on the Pacific Ocean on a Saturday night? When he stops we’ll find out if it was good to the last drop.