Yes! The ship is loaded with equipment! Scientists! Gear! Instruments! Rubber boots and glass jars! The last couple of days of preparation have been busy. Extremely busy. The ship is loaded with an arsenal of collection nets, a multicorer (which is a fancy name for a deep-sea mud grabber), a cold room (yes, an entire transportable refrigerated room is bolted to the back deck!), a variety of instruments to measure water properties, computers, microscopes, preservatives, and many, many jars of all sizes for preserving specimens. After months of coordination and collaboration, the scientific party boarded the Scripps ship R.V. Melville this morning and got underway (yes! nautical terminology) shortly after 10 am.
This research cruise is rather unusual – we are exploring our own underwater backyard. Much of the exploration we’ll do in the next week will take place within eyeshot of land. It’s amazing how little we know about environments and ecosystems that are thriving right under our noses.
Despite the location of the world-renowned Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) right on the San Diego coast, most of the research conducted from our fleet of vessels takes place far away from home. And most of the sampling that is carried out close to shore is in depths that can be reached by SCUBA divers. This is the gap we want to explore – seafloor environments outside of diveable depths. The deep sea is often believed to be a cold empty place, but it is in fact teaming with life. Over the next few days I will show you the life forms that we are finding on our journey.
As the biologists onboard care a lot about how the environment affects distributions of animals on the seafloor and in the water column, we need fine-scale measurements on the physical and chemical environment. That is where our awesome CTD/Pelagic Environment team comes in.
The “CTD” (pictured left) measures Conductivity (a way to measure salinity), Temperature and Depth, but it also does so much more. The CTD also measures oxygen, pH, and chlorophyll levels. Bottles attached to the CTD frame collect water at 24 different depths, and the water is then analyzed by the marine chemists in the onboard lab. We did our first couple of CTD casts today, and they went great.
The ship and science crew are excited to be out here for the pre-holiday season.
For background on the San Diego Coastal Expedition, please visit: https://sites.google.com/site/sandiegoseaflex/
Previously in this series: