Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feasting While Afloat

 Nearly every person on the ship will agree that one of the best parts of this trip, so far, has been the delicious food.

We've enjoyed rack of lamb, salmon, curries, twice-baked potatoes, homemade granola, and delectable baked goods that seem to appear out of no-where; just to name a few. The meals on this ship are leaving satisfied smiles on our faces, and perhaps a couple of extra inches on our waistlines.

The food is served buffet style, and everyone is eager to fill their plates.

The menu for each meal is posted on the whiteboard at the close of the previous meal. It gives everyone something to look forward to!

Sarah and Liz made delicious strawberry cheesecake for dessert.

After a hard day of mud-busting, Colin Seifer was eager to dig in to his dinner.

Helena Wiklund said that the food that we've been enjoying on the R/V Thompson is "the best I've ever had on a ship."

Sarah, the Chief Steward, has been keeping us all well fed. She is constantly producing delectable treats and an assortment of exceptional dishes at every meal. Here she is pictured "swabbing the deck," which is a task that would typically be delegated to a lower-ranking crew member. In response to my photo Sarah said, "The Chief Steward swabbing the deck; that says something. We all work together to get [the job] done." With her positive attitude and delicious cooking, Sarah keeps us all smiling. 
Thank you, Sarah!

Written By: Cassandra Turner, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Barbecue on the Bow

The most important thing to maintain while at sea is written on the wall outside the lab: "Clean and Safe Science"

The second most important; however, is morale! Sarah, the ship's chief steward, does a great job of keeping spirits high through her delicious cooking. The other day she threw a barbecue on the bow that left everyone feeling giddy and satisfied.

The smell of lamb, chicken, and vegetables roasting on the barbecue set the perfect tone for the sunset barbecue where the science team and the crew had the chance to chat and get to know one another.

Brie Maillot and Maddie Brasier enjoying the beautiful sunset

As the sun set everyone lined up to watch for the green flash on the horizon, and the festivities continued until the stars were visible. The barbecue started to wind down as people retired for bed to get ready for the busy day to come.

A beautiful, tropical sunset ended our wonderful evening and left the water glowing in pinks and blues.

Written by: Cassandra Turner, University of Hawaii at Manoa;
Photos courtesy of Diva Amon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Our First Days in Pictures

During the four days of transit, we got to know our colleagues (from about 13 organisations! ) better and also familiarized ourselves with the vessel, the instruments and sampling protocols. Surveying the deep sea at 4000m is totally different from what we have done in Singapore waters, which is deepest at 200m.

Updates from other media platforms:

Here is a photographic tour of our first few days exploring the ship, equipment, and personnel:
Photographs and writting by: Chee Kong

The Science Team!

"This is only a drill."
Donning our immersion suits. An entertaining part of
every cruise!

The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) REMUS will be
used to map the seafloor and obtain images of megafauna.

The AUV launcher

The box core will be used to collect a relatively large block of
the seafloor, which will be useful for sampling macrofauna.

The multiple corer (megacorer) will be used to sample intact
tubes of sediment including the meiofauna and microbes
that live within it.

The Brenke epibenthic sled will be used to collect meiofauna
and small crustaceans such as amphipods.

The CTD and niskin rosette will determine water column
properties including salinity, temperature and depth in
addition to collecting water samples at various depths.

The respirometer will be used to conduct in situ experiments
to measure metabolic activity on the seafloor.

The baited trap will be used to attract and capture
scavengers such as fish and crustaceans.
The science team holds daily meetings to introduce sampling
instruments and protocols as well as share findings between shifts.

Let the Box Coring Begin

Just as the sun set on our first day on station, we deployed our first box core of the cruise. We had spent days beforehand prepping it with new wires and elastic cords to ensure that it was in top condition for its 6 hour journey to the seafloor and back.

The box core is an excellent piece of sampling equipment because it takes a large chunk of mud out of the seafloor and brings it to the surface, mostly undisturbed. Our samples come up topped off with a layer of top-water and a sprinkling of polymetallic nodules. Once the box core is on deck, our team works quickly to drain off the top water and remove and rinse all the nodules while carefully retaining all the wash water in a sieve to catch all the tiny, microscopic organisms that were pulled up from the depths. It’s important to keep these animals as cold as possible to keep them from degrading before they can be preserved. We will take them back to the lab in Hawaii where they will be sorted and identified.

After the nodules are removed, the mud is removed from the box in sections up to 10cm deep. This mud is also sieved and the animals are preserved for later identification.

The box core can bring up a cube of mud over 40cm deep, so, after the samples are removed, there is lots of mud to be tossed overboard and sent back to the depths. This is when things get really muddy! Who wants a deep-sea spa treatment?

Written By: Cassandra Turner, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Food for the Deep Sea – Recovery of our Sediment Trap Mooring After Sixteen Months in the Deep Dark Sea

Recovered sediment trap with sinking detritus
in the sample bottles from the past year.

Nearly all of the deep-sea floor is fed by a rain of dead organisms, plankton, fish, and whales sinking from the productive surface waters of the ocean.  Sediment traps are used to measure this rain of food, catching sinking particles in large inverted plastic cones. We deployed  two sediment traps at a mooring in an abyssal study area in October 2013, and returned two days ago to recall it from the ocean bottom more than 2 miles (>4000 m) down.  Recovery of such mooring is always nerve racking – many things can go wrong over the course of 16 months due to corrosion, battery failures, or fouling of our moorings on debris at the seafloor.

Craig Smith (left), Clifton Nunnally (right), and 
Andrew Sweetman (back) working on
sediment trap during recovery.
To our delight, our sediment trap mooring responded immediately to our acoustic commands, rising rapidly to the ocean’s surface within 1.5 hours.  The recovery was smooth and we were presented with 42 sample bottles that had captured the sinking flux of food to the deep-sea over the course of one year (see image above). The “food” was brown flocculent material covering the bottom of our 1-liter sample jars, resembling the dust that accumulates in the dirty corner of your basement. Ahh, but this is delightful sustenance for the starved animals living in the cold, dark deep sea! These samples will tell us the quantity and quality of food material reaching the sea cucumbers and brittle stars of the inky depths, helping us to understand how they might respond to changes in their food availability resulting from sediment plumes from deep-sea mining.

Written by: Craig Smith (Chief Scientist) - University of Hawaii at Manoa

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Welcome to the ABYSSLINE Project Blog!

“ABYSSLINE” stands for Abyssal Biological Baseline Project, an international research program to study  biodiversity, connectivity and gene flow of deep seafloor communities targeted for nodule mining in the future.  Our study sites lie at ocean depths exceeding 4000 m (2 miles) and are among the most poorly studied ecosystems on the planet.  These habitats are also characterized by a high diversity of seafloor invertebrates. Our benthic biological baseline studies address the following key questions:

1) What are the baseline conditions of community structure and biodiversity for the key benthic abiotic components of this abyssal benthic ecosystem (megafauna, macrofauna, meiofauna and microbes)?

2) How do community structure, sediment community respiration, and biodiversity vary as a function of environmental parameters (especially nodule cover) within and across three study areas (or “strata”) within the UK-1 Claim Area, and between years within one of these study areas?

3) What is the connectivity at species and population levels between strata and across the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (see below) for representative components of the biota?

Map detailing the various claim areas within the CCFZ.
The area we will be sampling is highlighted within the red box on the right.
We are now conducting the second ABYSSLINE Project cruise aboard the research vessel RV Thompson, with an international team of 28 scientists hailing from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Natural History Museum and National Oceangraphy Centers in the United Kingdom, and research institutions in Norway, Sweden, Germany, and Singapore.  We will be at sea for 42 days, working in a region 1250 miles south of San Diego, far out in the equatorial Pacific.  We left San Diego on Feb 12, and are just now arriving at our first real study site, after 4 days of transit through calm Pacific waters.  We have spent days setting up our equipment, which includes all kinds of state-of-the-art gear and techniques to sample mud and the diversity of seafloor life 4 km below us.   The crew of the RV Thompson have been extraordinary in helping to plan our gear deployments.  Our meals have also been amazing this far, requiring frequent work on the exercise machines aboard the ship to protect our waistlines!

Over the course of the cruise, we will have various members of the scientific team write blogs, describing their research activities and experiences at sea. 

Written by: Craig Smith, (Chief Scientist) University of Hawaii at Manoa