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

The calm before the storm is definitely over. I’m anxious to begin and nervous about leaving. I’m positive I’m forgetting a million important items. Meanwhile there is still teaching and running a lab and a home to contend with …. normal life for less than one more week.

Thought I’d take a few more minutes to tell you about what is really the hallmark feature of this project: our engineering and CORK operations that I mentioned in an earlier post. These are essentially seals that we put at the top of a cored hole that allows the nature thermal, hydrological, and hopefully biological systems to return to “normal” after the drilling disturbance.

See, drilling always disturbs the natural conditions – cutting through rock with a rotary drill bit that has to be lubricated by pumping surface seawater into the bore kind of mucks things up for awhile.

But we are patient scientists, and willing to invest the time and infrastructure to enable the system to re-establish to its natural state, in order to have the opportunity to study geological, hydrological, geophysical, and — of course — biological processes in-situ.

So we will plug up those holes, instrument them with our experiments and novel tools. And then wait and watch. For probably the next four to ten years!

You might begin to get a feeling for the scale of these programs – both size and length of planning and experimentation. We consider these observatory programs to be very akin to the planning, operations, and engineering that is involved in space exploration. These big programs are essentially our “Apollo Missions” to the innerspace of Earth to study the deepest and darkest ecosystems that exist within our planet.

We *hope* to set up three CORKed observatories in the very middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I say “hope” because like missions into outer space, missions into inner space are fraught with major hurdles and some objectives may not be met because of them. But we are optimistic … it is impossible to be anything else!