Deep Sea Diary: Day 3

Clam Alley, watercolor, Karen Jacobsen, 1995, Juan de Fuca vents, East Pacific Rise

We are looking at the bottom for a place to collect specimens and the depth is 4931 meters. After a 2 hour nap my night shift begins.

Ancient cold seep sites that we are seeing are about 150 miles from Barbados and exist in the boundary between the Atlantic Plate subducted below the Caribbean Plate crumpling the surface, a global scale process. The mud volcanoes are iron and manganese oxides covered by silty clay soft mud. Fluid gas and debris from down deep is squeezed up. The methane rich seeps are located generally on the tops and upper slopes and in odd fractures. We have identified two known seep sites so far which Jason will visit in two different dives.

A whole community lives in the seep environment that includes large clams, squat lobsters, carnivorous sponges, crabs, clams, and anemones. Worms living inside the clams and threadlike gutless tubeworms add to the interesting mix. The babies (larvae) are so darling and I absolutely adore the images taken under microscopes. They move by millions of tiny cilia and are at the mercy of the currents.

Craig Young, Director of the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, wrote the Atlas of Marine Invertebrate Larvae. He is a Principal Investigator on this exploration and brought 6 graduate students and 1 post doc. When he was 8 years old he knew he wanted to be a marine biologist but when he saw under a microscope the sperm and egg of a sea urchin uniting and cells forming he found his calling. He is teaching me and I am an eager student.

The MOCNESS, a plankton collection device, is a series of 9 of the nets and 350 meter intervals are opened by electric cable sequentially and held at a 45 degree angle. It is a little less than 3000 meters from the bottom that is 4904 meters presently. 7350 meter intervals are opened to capture specimens which is less than 1/4 mile or about one lap around a football field. The MOCNESS must be starboard (right) side ready for deployment from the ship. I am in the room where the operation of the joystick of the winch is taking place. Four women are in this lab with me, making this happen right now…yeah. It is a ballet of speed, location, winch operation, current and wind. This sampling is about 6 hours.

Thirty species of larvae from the deep sea have been raised in the Oregon lab. The larval forms are recognizable and have specific shapes as babies. When I get home I will share the photos of these highly diverse and luxuriant marine babies.

Must go paint my first mud volcanoes. It is 3 am.

Gonatus red squid, watercolor, Karen Jacobsen, 2006, Japan

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