Sunday, September 12, 2010

Safety First

42°14.385’N, 64°59.658’ W

We arrived at our test station tonight. This is where we work out the kinks in our procedures and equipment before continuing on. We have also sampled some sediment cores. It’s kind of like removing a straw full of milkshake from a cup, except that we dropped the straw 1 kilometer down to the bottom of the ocean, the Atlantic ocean is the cup, and the milkshake is marine sediment. Generally, the older sediment is at the bottom of the straw and the most recently deposited sediment is at the top. Therefore, these cores allow us to read a record of Earth’s history when we analyze their chemical composition from top to bottom. This is just one facet of our work on understanding the carbon cycle.

How do we know what to do each day? It’s planned well in advance, but the plan is constantly revised. For example, we ran into some choppy seas overnight that slowed our progress to this station. We also had some troubleshooting that took longer than expected, so one of our tests will be delayed. You get the idea. That’s why each day starts with an email telling us what to expect. Here is what I read this morning:

Plan of the Day - September 11, 2010

Hi All,

Here's the schedule for today's activities.

10:30 Fire and safety drill - rear of Main Lab.

13:00 Science party meeting - Library

~18:30 Arrive @ test station (1000 m water depth).

Tentative order of activities:

1. In situ pump test cast

2. Multicorer test.

3. Hybrid CTD rosette/pump test cast”

The first event today was a safety drill. We learned about the various alarms, where to muster if there is a problem, and how to get into a “gumby suit” (see photo) among other things. It’s all part of getting our sea legs. But tomorrow we steam to our first official station. Ready or not, the science begins!


  1. How cold is the water where you'll be working?

  2. Great question. The water temperature at the surface at our present station is a balmy 73°F (23°C)! That may be warmer than you would expect, considering how far North we are cruising. The reason why is that we happen to be very near one of the most powerful currents on Earth: The Gulf Stream. This current carries warm water northward from Florida, then heads East toward Europe. This is one of the reasons why the climate in London is considerably more moderate than the climate in New York City, even though London is further North.

    Despite the warm water surrounding our ship, the ocean gets very cold the deeper you go. We measured temperatures as cold as 37°F (3°C) at 2500 m directly below the ship! These cold temperatures are also due to patterns of water movement that we often collectively call ocean circulation.