JC010: Mud volcanoes and submarine canyons


Cruise diary

Day 3: Monday 4 June 2007
Position: 38°26.75N  9°18.74W
Weather: Sunny

Virginia writes:

"Good weather today! In the morning we saw the first ROV deployment at about 9 am. The ROV descended into the oceanic waters, powerful and gentle as a god of the seas (see the photos below).

The ROV arrived at the seafloor at about 11 am. The floor of the Lisbon Canyon is very regular in some places but in other places we could see structures like ripples and rock outcrops. On the bottom we could see sponges, ophiurids, starfish and a lot of other small organisms. The ROV also gave us images of the rocks composing the canyon walls. The water column has a lot of material in suspension, perhaps resuspended sediments and small organisms.

While we were waiting for the samples collected by the ROV to come back up, I talked with Ursula and Kostas about their research...."

Ursula (pictured left) is a Professer of biological oceanography at Aberdeen University, in Scotland. She is studying food webs of communities that live at the sea floor. Ursula is preparing an experiment to deploy in the Nazaré Canyon, in the coming days. She will supply the organisms of the sea bottom with algae marked with tracer stable isotopes. She will use chambers which the ROV will put on the seafloor. After two or three days the experiment will be recovered. She will be able to know with the help of the tracer isotopes how much the diferent organims (bacteria, protozoans, worms, clams, shrimp, small crustaceans, etc) have ingested and to establish the food web structure. She will need to identify a large number of organisms and analyse the chemical composition of their bodies.

Kostas (left) is a researcher of the University of Liverpool. He is interested in the composition and concentration of organic matter (food) in the water and sediments and how this organic matter may affect the deep sea ecosystems. In this cruise he will collect water particles using large volume filtration pumps and sediments using the ROV and the multicorer. He typically measures organic carbon, nitrogen, lipid (fat) and pigment (chlorophyll) concentrations and determines the lipid and carbon and nitrogen isotopic composition of the samples. Samples will be collected in selected sites in the canyons and open slope. We will compare the results obtained in the Canyons and open slopes and in relation with biological and geological investigations and he will attempt to obtain a clear view of canyon ecosystems.

Helen writes:

"It's 8.45pm and I’m just heading to bed. It’s been a busy day today. Everyone was up for breakfast at about 7.30am as the watches haven’t yet begun. The first watch went into the ROV van for 8am, and stayed in til 12. The second watch covers 12-4, and I’m in the third watch – 4-8. This means that we sit in the ROV van, watching the video screens of everything going past, recording images by taking screen shots, photos and also recording the time, depth and position of anything of interest. This could be fish, anemones, and rocks, anything unusual or special. Each watch lasts for 4 hours, and you do two watches every day. So I start in the ROV van at 4pm and again at 4am, hence my plan for an early night this evening!

The time flew by, it was so interesting to watch the sea bed – we are the first people EVER to see this part of the sea floor, which makes me feel very special! The ROV operators were amazing too; they are so skilled and patient. I would have given up quickly on a few tasks they were trying!

I spent this morning interviewing a few crew members to find out how and why they are on the ship; I’ve spoken to the Purser and to the 2nd and 3rd Officers - click on the links to read all about them and their jobs.

After my interviews, it was time for lunch! Lunch is served at 11.30 am when we’re at sea (really early!); today was baguettes, salad and crisped potatoes. There is always food around the ship though (I discovered the supply of biscuits only an hour ago!) - there has to be as people work around the clock. The scientists don’t take many breaks – this is the only opportunity to work at this site this year, so everyone has to make sure they achieve what they set out to. Most breaks are spent checking e-mails from home, reading the news websites and preparing for activities later in the day, however the ship has a gym, TV room, sauna and bar/lounge. Yesterday evening lots of us met in the lounge to chat and we had some music on – when you’re away from land, you can’t pick up a TV signal, so we won’t be watching Neighbours or Eastenders like everyone at home! Lots of people were keen to hear about St Anne’s and how I made it onto the cruise – everyone’s very friendly!

After lunch today I spent some time up on the bridge – showing the crew the articles I’d written and getting their approval, and just admiring the view. I couldn’t take any photos that did it justice, so I’ll pass on a video clip as soon as I’ve worked out how to use the software!  After the trip to the bridge it was time for my stint in the ROV van, and here I am now, about to get ready for bed.  As soon as footage is available of today’s findings I’ll make sure it’s up here to be seen.

I’ll write you some more tomorrow, including how the 3.45 am wake up goes!

Remember, use the online form to ask any questions you might have, and if there are any terms or words you don’t understand, you can look them up in the glossary - coming soon!"


Going down - Isis takes its first dive on Leg 2

The special crane used for lowering
the ROV in and out of the sea

Sarah, Sybille and Helen wait for the
first samples to arrive from the seabed

The computer screen in the lab showing the live video footage from the ROV as it descends to the ocean floor

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