An unexpected port call...

Another note from Katie Inderbitzen, our CORK expert (and School of Rock instructor) aboard the RV Atlantis...

Karma, it seems, is not being all that kind to us this cruise! Sometime during the transit out of Seattle the Atlantis's starboard thruster broke, leaving only the port and bow thrusters usable for dynamic positioning and maneuvering while launching the Alvin.  

This is a pretty big safety issue, but since we were already so close to Axial Volcano at the time, we did 2 dives there so that the biologists could collect specimens and get some of their scientific goals accomplished.  Then, after getting a not-so-favorable weather report for the area, we decided to come into port in Astoria, Oregon...which is where I am now!

Fortunately the parts we need should be here by morning, so the engineers on board are confident that we should be back out on Juan de Fuca in a few days.  Once we get back out we'll immediately start servicing the CORKs: we'll download all the accumulated data from the past year and replace the instrument strings that hang down inside 1301A and B.  

In the meantime, however, the CORK group on board has had LOTS of time to prepare our gear and get ready for our dives.  Andy Fisher, Dustin Winslow, and I spent time calibrating the thermistors (temperature sensors) that will go on the instrument strings.  This involved using a very accurate temperature probe and a water bath that we put the thermistors in.  After recording data at different temperatures, we're able to calculate how accurate the thermistors are.  This is really important to know because all our data could be rendered useless if a thermistor isn't performing well.  

After calibration, we attached the thermistors to the Spectra cable that will hang down the hole.  This uses a lot of plastic zipties that we weave through the cable.  Then the thermistor gets wrapped in a woven Kevlar jacket to protect it from rubbing against the side of the hole (or any renegade gun-toting fish...Kevlar is what they make bulletproof vests out of!).  After we put all the thermistors on the Spectra, we coiled it all up so it's ready to use when we deploy the new instrument strings.  

One other exciting thing is that Geoff Wheat's geochemistry group has been producing some short videos about the cruise so far!  You can view all of these by checking out their Youtube channel!  They'll be updating the channel every few days, so make sure to check back!

Stay tuned for more!  And feel free to send along any questions you have!  

Comments

Kevlar!

I was excited to find out that the microbiology cores we were taking on 323 use special markers called Flouresbrite® Carboxylate microspheres. They are 0.50 micron flourescing spheres that are used to determine if contamination had occured after the coring. If you put them under a flourescing microscope you can see anything they've touched, which should be only the outer edges of the core.

The bags the contain them in the coring shoe were tied on with kevlar string! It was the only thing Bubba could find that would hold them in place with the levels of pressure exerted on them. So I guess Kevlar *is* used in more ways than just self defense!

What sort of samples were collected on the two dives you've done so far? Did they relate to the volcano that was in the area?

Look forward to hearing about your successful repair and continued journey. Try posting some links to those YouTube videos in your blogs if they are appropriate. There should be a button that allows you to do just that.

Safe travels!
Doug LaVigne

Doug - Thanks for the info

Doug - Thanks for the info about Kevlar string being used on the JR! It's pretty great stuff with lots of applications it seems.

As to your question about the samples we collected at Axial Volcano (which is basically on the Juan de Fuca Ridge further south of where we're working now) we're mostly biological. They collected palm worms, sulfide worms, and I believe some Ridgeia worms as well. They stick the worms in these pressurized chambers, then manipulate the water temperature inside to see what kinds of environments the worms thrive in. Pretty cool. One of the videos on the Youtube channel I posted is about the worms.

We also collected some basalt from Axial, which I was lucky enough to get a big chunk of, since we got so much!

We're back out at sea now, so stay tuned and thanks for your questions!