Deep Sea Diary

Mud Volcanoes, 10" x 6", watercolor, Mary Edna Fraser

My adventurous spirit is in a state of excitement. On May 27th, my cameras and watercolors travel to Barbados to join Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover’s scientific and artistic team on the Atlantis ship exploring the deep sea. Cindy and I first met in my studio in 2001. She is the first woman to pilot the deep submersible research vessel Alvin. Listening to her tales of the struggle toward this endeavor has encouraged me to continue piloting lessons while I am on aerial photographic excursions. Now Cindy heads Duke Marine Lab. She and artist Karen Jacobsen work in a similar collaborative fashion as Orrin Pilkey and me.

Now I am joining a team of artists and scientists to the Barbados Subduction Zone to map the aquatic bottom. In the deep sea where the Atlantic plate slips under the Caribbean plate, methane-rich fluids feed mud volcanoes on the sea floor, which in turn generates high levels of hydrogen sulfide as microbes process the methane and seawater sulfate. By the way, I am just now introducing my brain to the science reading Cindy’s Deep-Ocean Journeys and The Ecology of Deep Hydrothermal Vents and scientific papers she sends to prepare for the trip. It is fascinating to ponder creatures and depths on the edge of discovery. For my art, the marine realm is a new field of study. Other than the Faulty Towers of Juan de Fuca Ridge and the Great Barrier Reef, I have little knowledge. Science is so fascinating.

I go on the first leg of the trip, June 1-8, where a tethered vehicle will allow those on board to see what is being discovered in otherwise relatively inaccessible environments. My job is to observe, document, share knowledge and make art. I hope to give both a close up and far away artistic rendition with emotion. Mineral pigments offer a new palette of watercolor. Sonar also opens color doors. Just like with my pal Orrin Pilkey, the scientists will advise on what to accentuate.

Yippee. Can’t wait to see the bottom of this sea and learn more. It will be two weeks before the world hears from me once I leave this Sunday.

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