Scientists are People Too!

The science party consists of 34 people from many countries including Brazil, Japan, China, United States and across Europe. Meeting them and sharing stories is one of the real pleasures of this trip. The close working proximity and time spent together means that we have to work like one big family. We support each other when things are difficult (like when someone is sea-sick!) and share good things too, like birthday cake! If we didn’t, then we would all be too tired and stressed to get any real work done! Two people from very different backgrounds and cultures who work closely together are the Italian, Michelangelo, and Tamokoi from Japan. Michelangelo went to University in Italy but he now works at the National University of Mexico. Tamokoi works for the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) after attending Tohoku University. They work together on the ‘petrophysics’ (physical properties of rock) benches. So what are they actually looking for, and why? Geologists want to know how rocks behave deep down in the Earth, beyond anything we can observe at the surface. Indeed, as you go down through the layers of rock, the pressures and temperatures increase so the conditions are very different. How can we investigate these conditions? Well, one way is by looking at the physical properties of the rock so we can work out how it behaves under those conditions. So, how much water does the sediment hold and how densely packed are the particles? This tells us about how seawater from the ocean circulates in the rocks. How quickly can the rock transfer heat? This tells us about the heat flow upwards from the warmer rocks below. Is the rock magnetic? Can the rock conduct electricity? How efficiently can the rock transfer pressure waves (like Earthquake waves). All this helps scientists to work out what is going on beneath the sea floor. After the drilling is done and all the cores are up, a wire-line with lots of scientific instrumentation can be lowered down into the hole to get another set of data (information) and sometimes a ‘CORK’ (sub-sea observation unit) is installed at the top of the hole which monitors information long after the ship has left! And what will Michelangelo and Tomokoi be doing after the ship has got back to port? Well, they have lots of scientific data to work through, reports to write and research to complete, but not all the time! Michelangelo likes to go out to lively clubs to dance and sing with his friends, and Tomoki likes to go to a karaoke club! So you see, scientists are people too!