Follow Dr. Katrina Edwards, as she explores the microbial life at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean

9/25/2011

Terrific couple of days out here – so good I have to wonder when the next problems are going to occur, like we are biding our time before some sort of disaster.

We successfully retrieved the old CORK at Hole 395A, which was a remarkable operation. I include a picture of the CORK coming up through what is referred to as the “moon pool” – this is basically a hole in the middle of the ship that is opened up in order to retrieve or deploy large equipment – like CORKs. Our new CORK will be deployed through the moon pool as well. We set about sampling like crazy all of the different components of the CORK body that were retrieved – we did that both at the moon pool and on the “rig floor” where the drilling operations take place.

One item that we were really keen on sampling was the CORK observatory cable that hung down in Hole 395A for the past 14 years. This is really our first opportunity for sampling in-situ deep subseafloor life. As the cable was brought up, we would select certain sections for sampling – no way we could sample the whole thing, it being 600 meters in length!

I was quite worried about maintaining “clean” sampling conditions as the drillers brought up the cable, so requested that they wear lab gloves for their operations – which they quite willingly complied with. These drillers out here are great – really helpful, knowledgeable, and highly skilled.

After retrieving the CORK we had to again “trip the pipe” – this what they call putting pipe either up or down to the seafloor. This was in order to set up for our next operations – logging the hole. Hole logging is done in order to measure key parameters of the formation in-situ. They will measure how wide the hole is, gamma ray parameters, etc.

This logging operation was a bit different from the norm, however, because we built and brought our own new logging tool to test in Hole 395A. We call this tool “DEBI-t” for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigative tool, and its purpose is to use deep ultraviolet fluorescence detection within the hole to detect native proteins in live microbial cells. This gives us an estimate of how abundant these intraterrestrials are in-situ, i.e., without having to sample.

This is a brand new technology and tool – specially built for this expedition, and we were quite anxious to test its performance. Last night, into the early morning hours, we deployed this tool in the hole for the first time. And remarkably, it worked! It will take us some time to reduce all the data and interpret what it all means but the bottom line it that it did work and did detect signals we were after. Yay!

Next up in our operations…….CORK assembly and installation. This should be fun. After that, we are done at this site and ready to move on to the next one!