Getting to the pointy end

After three days at sea, we’ve stopped off New Jersey to conduct a test of some new equipment that will improve downhole measurements of pressure, permeability and porosity.

The equipment is called the Motion Decoupled Hydraulic Delivery System or MDHS and you can read more about in the Expedition 342’s scientific prospectus. But the real interest in this test for the paleontologists is that we will get our first cores to play with. We’ve spent our time learning about operations on the ship and feeding paleontological data into the ship’s database. This is far more complicated than I’d anticipated and we’ve had plenty of discussion about which geological timescale to use and how much detail to feed the database.

We are relying on the co-chief scientists to have predicted what we’ll be drilling correctly. So, we anticipate recovering mainly Eocene and Paleocene sediments (35 to 65, or should that be 66 million years ago?) but perhaps it’ll all be much younger or much older and we’ll have to quickly reload the database!

You can be assured, that we are all really looking forward to peering down the microscope rather that checking through excel spreadsheets. There are 7 paleontologists on this expedition. Two each to study calcareous nannofossils, benthic foraminifera and planktic foraminifera and me, the sole radiolarian specialist. So, the other fossil groups have someone looking after them continuously over 12 hour shifts – noon to midnight or midnight to noon. But the radiolarians will have to rely on me working extra hard to make sure they all get identified and assigned the correct age.

Life on the ship has settled into a routine. We had one quite rough night and the ship has continued to roll around a bit during the transit to this site, so quite a few of the science party are a little bleary-eyed and sporting sea-sickness patches. My seafaring genes appear to be doing the job and I’m feeling fine, and getting ready for starting my midday to midnight shift in a few days.


On the deck of the JR wistfully hoping for the sun to break through the clouds to witness the Transit of Venus. Didn’t happen.

Don, Diederik, Peter and Caitlin soaring in the breeze. Might supposed to be some connection to a movie.