Follow Dr. Katrina Edwards, as she explores the microbial life at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean
We have finished a successful coring run here at our second North Pond observatory location. The core we recovered was awesome – we ran into everything from massive basalt (fine grained super hard stuff) to – unbelievably – a trapped sedimentary layer intermixed with all kinds of crazy rock lithologies. This latter unit we think resulted from a mass land slide sometime in the distant past (millions of years) from the kilometer high outcrops that flank this little pond. So debris from the top of these mountains flushed down to the basin and was subsequently paved over by subsequent eruptions of volcanic basalt. What is exciting about these units is that they are incredibly porous and permeable by comparison to massive basalt – these are the conduits of vigorous fluid flow, carrying seawater, solutes, and of course our stars for this expedition, the mighty microbes. We are all super excited to get these samples back to the lab to analyze them. This is the drag about doing microbiological research on a vessel like the Joides. This ship is well equipped to do all kinds of chemical and petrological studies right on sight after sample collection. But we microbiologists have to wait till we are ‘back on the beach’ for any kind of substantive analytical program to commence.
Now we’ve been cleaning and clearing our hole to ready it for the observatory installation. So far, all appears to be in good shape – the hole appears relatively stable (i.e., hopefully will not have major collapses) and ready for our installation. We’ll be continuing this cleaning effort for most of today and then going back in to do our logging using again our new tool for the detection of native microbial cells using deep ultraviolet fluorescent data. Among other measurements, logging is a really important operation for these cruises – this is because when you core a hole, you do not recover all the material drilled. In fact, for hard rock the average recovery is on the order of 25%. We’ve done a bit better here. So logging helps us “fill in the blanks”, allowing us to make measurements of the entire hole intact and cross correlate key physical and chemical parameters with the core that is recovered. Then we have a complete picture of what we actually drilled through.
All of this clearing and cleaning makes for a fairly boring day in front of us. We have some amusing activities that keep us entertained. Such as a Haiku contest that is currently running, and ‘tagging’ our CORK well head with various artwork. We have been holding a contest on CORK art, where people submit drawings that are rendered into stencils for painting on the CORK well head to immortalize this art in the deepest art gallery on Earth, at 4500 m at North Pond. My favorite so far, a drawing of a deep-sea submersible, rat tailed fish, and a snorkeling giraffe in the depths of the ocean – the longest necked giraffe and snorkel ever imagined! Now there is creativity at work.