Easter Microplate Expedition
March 26, 2005 Day 15

Please visit the ChEss website for additional information and translations in Español, Português, and Français.

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We are steaming from the 38°S site to the 32°S site. We should arrive in the middle of the night, in plenty of time for a dive tomorrow. The weather has improved considerably. There are scattered clouds with blue sky between, the wind is on our stern, and the ride is very smooth. The multibeam sonar system is running, and earlier today we mapped an 8 km wide swath along two spreading segments on the west side of the Juan Fernandez Microplate.

Most of us used the day to catch up on sample processing, paper or thesis writing, and sleep (the biologists have been up until at least 3:00AM every night this week). We had a barbeque on the fantail tonight that the entire ship's crew turned out for: steak, shrimp, chicken, sausage, tortellini, sides, and the most delicious cookies (Larry the steward's own recipe)! The setting sun was spectacular and the full moon rise was dramatic (though it was frustratingly impossible to get a decent photo on a rolling ship). It was nice to relax together, almost like "getting away!"
–Jenny Paduan

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Larry (Steward) firing up the BBQ on the fantail and everyone enjoying the feast!

Some of our responsibilities as scientists include educational outreach and communication of the importance of our work to society. After all, we could not conduct our research without the support of public funds. Most of our findings are published in scientific journals that are relatively inaccessible to a general audience, but some of our work is communicated through special television programs or through mainstream journals such as National Geographic or Discover Magazine, two of my favorite magazines when I was growing up. We also expend a lot of effort creating web logs such as this one, which we hope will bring our cruise experiences to all who are interested in sharing them.
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Robbie figuring out how to process and display the Imagenex bathymetry data collected by the Alvin. This data will be used to create high resolution (1 meter) maps of the dive sites.
One of the most important outreach activities, in my opinion, is visiting schools to talk with students. I visited Hammond School in South Carolina a couple of times at the invitation of Mrs. Norton, my sister. Mrs. Norton has visited MBARI, and is involved in developing lessons for elementary-aged children that utilize our publicly accessible database. During my visits, a more personal experience than television or magazines can afford, I introduce the children to the wonders of the deep sea, scientific research, and a global perspective. Two years ago, I gave a presentation to K–4th grade. My most recent visit was to talk with the first grade. These first grade students decorated the styrofoam pieces shown here, which I will send to them after the cruise.

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Left image: White bacterial colonies on a sulfide chimney. These are similar in appearance to colonies growing on the alvinellid tubes, but we won't know if they are the same until we do genetic screening. Right image: Dorsal view of a shell of Leptodrilus, the limpet that we have found attached to crabs and mussels at these vents. Photo by Greg Rouse, South Australian Museum.

Shrunken styrofoam cups, mannequin heads, and other objects make great souvenirs of deep sea expeditions. They are decorated with permanent ink markers and secured in the sub outside the personnel sphere where they are exposed to the tremendous pressure exerted by the overlying water. The pressure increases by 1 atmosphere every 10 meters (33 feet) depth, so at 2200 m they have 220 atmospheres of pressure squeezing them. (Consider that going from sea-level to the vacuum of outer space is a change of only one atmosphere!) The styrofoam shrinks because the air spaces in the foam are compressed and don't recover when brought back up to the surface. The same effect, only far more tragic, would happen to your air spaces (e.g., lungs and sinuses) if you were to go to 2200 m depth without sophisticated technology, such as the titanium sphere of the Alvin, protecting you from the pressure.
–Jenny Paduan

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Left: Styrofoam cups and a mask that were shrunk on Alvin dive #4089. They were decorated by students at Hammond School, South Carolina. The ruler is in inches (top) and centimeters (bottom). Right: Styrofoam ball decorated by Robbie as the Earth, with the photo centered over the East Pacific Rise in the South Pacific Ocean. Red dots mark the hydrothermal vent sites he has visited.

See more pictures on the image page!

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This expedition has been made possible by National Science Foundation grants to Dr. Robert Vrijenhoek (NSF OCE-0241613) and Dr. Cindy Van Dover (NSF OCE-0350554)

All underwater photos were taken with the submersible Alvin, and are courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.