Question time

The team are now on their way back to the UK, so we can no longer contact them with your questions.


Your questions answered...

Q

What will happen to all the rock samples - will they be worked on in the U.K?
Dave's Mum & Dad, UK

A

Dave: A great number of things will happen to the rock samples, firstly the interesting samples from each dredge will be cut and thin sectioned. This involves cutting the rock to only a few microns thickness then attaching it to glass to be examined using a petrographic microscope. Petrographic microscopes are similar to normal microscopes but have special filters that can polarise light. This enables the minerals to be seen close up in spectacular colours. We can then describe the structures, % mineralogy, freshness etc. to enable us to classify the rock more precisely and determine the amount of alteration. The main task will be to analyse the composition of the rocks – that is, the elements that make up the rock and for some elements, their isotopic ratios. That way we can ‘fingerprint’ the rocks and tell what processes have formed them. Rex will analyse the rock’s isotopic lead ratio using a mass spectrometer, whereas Bram will look at the trace elements using a laser to vaporise the glass.
It is not however just rock samples, there are wee beasties that Sophie will examine. Water taken from varying depths by the CTD which have to be fully analysed to get information on the huge volcanic plume that was discovered. we must also start to interpret the 3D echo soundings from the SIMRAD swath system – which will give us loads of information about the size and shape of lava flows, the height of cliff scarps and the directions and lengths of breaks in the crust.
Tina: It’s quite likely that I will do a sizeable amount of geochemical processing on these samples, for Rex and other researchers. I would be involved in the work done towards analysis for lead, strontium and lithium. It’s going to be amazing to describe to future students of ours exactly how we took these samples!

Q

You said that glass was good evidence of recent volcanic activity- What would the time scale be weeks, months or years?
Dave's Mum & Dad, UK

A

Tina: 5000-10,000 years (i.e. just about a second ago in geological terms).
Dave: After that period the glass is likely to degrade. In rocks we can find evidence of this in devitrification structures such as replacement by clay minerals.

Q

How did you and Tina get the diary job - was it the old short straw or more scientific than that?
Dave's Mum & Dad, UK

A

Dave: I have often pondered this question. I can find no metaphysical explanation. I think it was a mix of Brams leadership and foresight (Tsnik), Tina’s enthusiasm, and my boredom.
Tina: I was taking snapshots and downloading them, and Bram suggested I wrote some text to go with them, then Dave admitted he was writing a journal for the trip, so we decided to combine our talents.

Q

Do you get lonely or homesick on the ship?
Alex, Age 11, Romsey, Hampshire

A

Tina answers: The answer is sometimes, because I am away from my familiar surroundings, and my close friends and family. But there is another community on board ship, and with shift times, there is always someone awake. For instance I got up at midnight tonight (on my nocturnal watch pattern still, despite the fact we are not dredging) to do some reading and work on the diary, and there is an IT technician, Paul Duncan, on duty to help transfer files and jpegs for me.

Q

Did you feel the 7.6 magnitude earthquake reported from the Carlsberg Ridge on 15th July?

A

A lot of people have asked this question! The scientific team didn't leave the UK until late on the 16th July, so they were not in the area when the earthquake occurred.

Q

What is the atmosphere like on the boat?
Ashley, age 14, Hampshire

A

Every one is working together as a tight-knit team - we have to as we all rely upon each other for the succes of the mission. For example, without the galley staff we would go hungrey, and without the crew we can't deploy the scientific gear. Also, bec ause there is no where to go if you get annoyed, no-one annoys anyone and we are all getting along fine. Outside on the deck the temnperature is 42ºC. The sea water is 30ºC. But inside we have airconditioning which keeps us cool.

Q

How many species have you discovered, if any?? What did you call them?
Richard, age 14, Hampshire

A

We have only just started recovering things from the seafloor and haven't found any animals yet. The great thing about hydrothermal vents is that there are lots of new species to discover. The animals are very different to those that live elsewehere in the deep sea.

Q

What types of things do you bring up from the ocean using your weighted dredge?
Ashley, age 14, Hampshire

A

We are bringing up chunks of volcanic lava and sediment. The lava comes from the volcanoes and is may be anything from a few years old to hundreds of thousands of years old. The sediment is white carbonate ooze and comes from the shells of tiny dead animals about the size of a pin head.

Q

Where do you get the names for new types of creature?
Ray, age 14, Hampshire

A

Dead creatures are usually named after the biologist that discovers them. Geological features like volcanoes are usually named after places or dead people that you want to remember.

Q

What do you do for fun on the boat?
Trent, age 14, UK

A

We watch movies on our large navigation screen - when we are not navigating our sciene operations. We also have a table tennis tournament. Also there is a bar where we can relax and have a beer and listen to music. The ship also has a library of scientific books and novels.

Q

Are you enjoying the cruise so far?
Pippa, age 13, Hampshire

A

It is very exciting since no-one has sampled or mapped the Carlsberg Ridge here before. We are truly exploring the seafloor - and this is exciting.

Q

Have you had any really bad weather and has it affected your research?
Shari, age 14, Hampshire

A

This is the northwest Monsoon season and the wind has been quite strong at times. The sea gets a bit rough - because we are a long way from land, the waves are over 3 metres (10 feet) high which makes the ship roll about a bit. Some of us were sea sick at the start, but everyone is used to the motion now.

Q

How far down is the bottom of the sea bed?
Alice, age 14, Hampshire

A

We are collecting samples from 4000m, but we have been over water 5600m deep.

Q

How can the animals live at the bottom of the sea without any sunlight?
Lauren and Miranda, age 14, Hampshire

A

Some animals near hydrothermal vents use the chemicals coming from the volcanoes as nutrients. In fact, it's mainly the bacteria that use the volcanic chemicals, and other creatures eat the bacteria. Some vent animals like the tubeworms, clams and mussels have chemosynthetic bacteria in their stomachs so they don't need to feed - they just supply the bacteria with a regular supply of sulphide and methane.

Q

Do you get to contact your family ever? Are there any down sides to the trip?
Jessica, age 14, Hampshire

A

We have email and an expensive satellite phone. Most people get emails from their families twice a day which is a great help in keeping us all happy.

Q

How high is the rig on the ship?
Shari, age 14, Hampshire

A

The rig is 10 metres high and the engineers have to wear safety harness to make sure they don't fall.

Q

Are the animals funny-looking deep down in the ocean?
Josh, age 14, Hampshire

A

We haven't brought any animals up yet, but we expect to find some very strange-looking creatures - some that no-one has ever seen before!


© CDSP 2003