JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Cruise diary

Day 5: Monday 25 June 2007
Position: 39°29.712N 09°55.984W (Google Earth reference: 39 29’7”N 09 55’9”W)
Weather: Sunny with light cloud

Richard writes:

"The 0000 shift started with a photo mosaic of the seabed at 4300m. I found this absolutely fascinating, although it was very tiring and required a lot of concentration – and I was only logging the events that happened! Anyway, I think you will find it equally fascinating, so keep checking the website for an activity linked to this which should be coming soon. In the meantime I will try to let you know a bit more of what life is like on board…

Even though it is a bit strange for me being awake at night and asleep during the day, I am really enjoying myself. The crew and the scientific team have all made me feel really welcome and have been very patient with me and my sometimes perhaps naïve questions. Believe it or not, even some of the most hardened sea-goers suffer from sea sickness from time to time. Well, so I am told – they don’t admit it themselves! Anyway, I am hoping to introduce some of them to you over the next couple of weeks so that you can find out more about them and how they ended up in their jobs.

Having recently read about Tony Wright from Cornwall who tried to break the Guinness World Record for going without sleep, one thing I found interesting today, from a scientific angle obviously (albeit nothing to do with Marine Biology or Geology) was that when I returned to my cabin, Phil the purser had stuck a ‘Record of Hours of Rest’ sheet on my door. Apparently even though Tony stayed awake for 11 days and nights, he has been told he does not officially hold the world record as this is a very dangerous thing to do – it can lead to both mental and physical exhaustion although there may also be much more serious consequences. As it was thought to be too dangerous he was disqualified!

Anyway, it is a legal requirement to fill out ‘Record of Hours of Rest’ sheets so that you can be proven to be getting enough rest and not overworking yourself as this can lead to all sorts of problems in a dangerous workplace. Applied Science students should know that this would have to be considered when forming risk assessments – I am sure you can imagine many of the things that could go wrong in the work Tina describes below if the people doing the work are exhausted. To find out more about working hours at sea, search the web for ‘articles 5 and 8 of the Seafarer’s Hours of Work’.

Tina writes:

“We successfully picked up three experiments today from a site that was prepared five days ago during leg 2. The first was Teresa’s. This is a series of experiments to find out why sea cucumbers are so amazingly successful in this area 3.5km under water, unlike all other fauna in this area. 5 days ago Teresa’s apparatus was taken down to the sea floor by the ROV.  The ROV then used a large sieve to scoop some of the sea cucumbers out of the mud and place them in her prepared chamber. 

Today when the equipment was brought to the surface Teresa was able to collect the sea cucumbers and the waste they had excreted (poo).  In the earlier visit she had already collected core samples and water samples. Teresa will look at the bacterial content of the guts of the Sea Cucumbers.  If she finds bacteria in the guts that is not found in the water or sediment this may suggest that the Sea Cucumbers have their own bacteria that helps them digest available food (like the ‘healthy bacteria’ we can eat).  Alternatively if bacteria are NOT present in the excreta but was present in the sediment this may suggest that the Sea Cucumbers are digesting the bacteria to use as food. 

Also, she will be studying the fatty acid in the muscle tissue of the Sea Cucumbers she will look for traces of chemicals in the fatty acids that will either indicate either, that the Sea Cucumbers feed on bacteria in the water, or that they feed on something (bacteria or organic matter) in the sediment.  Here the guts of the Sea Cucumber are arranged so that Teresa can take the samples she needs from it.

The ROV carefully scooping sea cucumbers off the
seafloor and putting them into Teresa's experimental chamber

Once back on land, Teresa extracts the sea
cucmbers and their waste from her experiment

Teresa then examines the guts of the sea cucmbers to help find out how they digest their food

The photo below shows a brittle star - a type of Echinoderm (in Greek, ‘Echino’ means spiny and ‘derm’ means skin, so Echinoderm literally means ‘spiny skin’ which makes sense as brittle stars have tiny spines over their bodies). 5 days ago the ROV scooped it off the sea floor and placed it in Sarah’s respiration chamber. Sarah has now collected the data.  She will use it to calculate a rate of respiration for the brittle star and also to assess whether or not the respiration boxes are effective.  

The brittle star on the seafloor, where it is
gently scooped up by the ROV...

...and in its new home in Sarah's respiration chamber

Close-up of the brittle star

The respiration chambers, ready to be taken
down to the seafloor by the ROV

< Previous day | Next day >

Home -



Latest news

For teachers
Contact us

© NOCS 2007