April 6, 2000
Greetings from the Pollard Middle School, Grade 6!
We hope all is going well with you. We are really enjoying the
program. Here are some questions my classes have generated. Good
luck with everything. We'll be back!
Hi Ms. Collins and students:
Thanks for checking out the Dive and Discover web site. You have
asked some great questions. Here are my answers.
How did you pick the crew?
My co-principal investigators, Mike Perfit and Maya Tolstoy, invited
different people to come on the cruise who could best help us carry
out the science program. That includes people like Rachel Haymon,
Dan Scheirer and Greg Kurras whom we have worked with before on
similar science problems, and people like Paul Johnson, Uta Peckman
and others who are experts in processing different types of data.
We also picked some students who are interested in this type of
research as a career so they could get a chance to see what it
is like being a marine geologist and oceanographer.
Do they have a different crew for each expedition?
Yes, many different oceanographic expeditions by scientists from
many nations take place all over the world every year . I go out
to sea a few times a year, each time for a month or so. Other marine
scientists do the same. Depending on the science problem you are
trying to solve, you pick people who you like to work with -- collaborators
to go out and collect the data and work with you to analyze it.
Collaboration is a key to doing science.
How big are the volcanoes? How far does the mid-ocean ridge go?
What is the largest volcano on the mid-ocean ridge?
Well, it depends on the scale you are looking
at. The mid-ocean ridge axis is a very long chain of volcanoes
that extends over a distance of more than 60,000 kilometers throughout
all the ocean basins. The crest of the ridge is usually at a depth
of between 2500 meters and 3000 meters, and the flanks of the ridge
extend to about 3000 meters to about 3500 meters, so it has average
relief of about 500 meters. You can find out more information about
mid-ocean ridges by looking a our Infomod in the “Deeper Discovery” part
of the Dive and Discover web site.
What would happen if a volcano erupted near you?
If an underwater volcano erupted near us
we probably would not know it because of all the water between
us and the seafloor -- about 3000 meters where we are working now.
Sometimes, if the water is shallower, like near islands that are
volcanically active, people actually see rafts of floating pumice
and “scoria” (frothy
rocks produced by shallow submarine eruptions), and if the eruption
is strong enough, they even see dead fish floating on the surface.
This has happened around the Island of Hawaii in the past.
How much time goes into preparation for the expedition?
A lot! I started preparing for this cruise with my colleagues over
a year ago. Since then, we have had to buy equipment, organize
what data to bring out, and how we wanted to analyze the data we
collected at sea so we could make good decisions about where to
look for new lava flows. Finally, when we had the exact dates of
the cruise, we had to make travel arrangements for all the science
party. It takes a lot of communication and patience to plan a cruise,
but it is all worth it because it helps you be as well prepared
as possible to do your science.
What do you use for fuel on the boat?
Melville uses diesel fuel. It has fuel tanks that have the capacity
to hold 160,000 gallons. We left Manzanillo, Mexico, at the beginning
of the cruise with 155,883 gallons in the tanks. The ship uses
about 3000 to 4000 gallons when we are transiting at a speed of
about 12 knots. We only use about 1200 to 1500 gallons when we
are towing the DSL-120 sonar or Argo II at a speed of about 1/2
to 1 knot.
Has anyone done the Bermuda Triangle?
Do you mean has anyone done surveys in the
Bermuda Triangle? Honestly, I’m not sure. It is in an area
of the western Atlantic Ocean that I have not studied much in my
research. I suspect that there have been marine geological and
geophysical experiments done in this area, but I am not sure of
the exact type or who did them.
Where did the name Melville come from?
RV Melville is named after George Wallace Melville, a pioneer
Arctic explorer and an innovative US Navy engineer and admiral
who served in the early 1900s.
Do you get to go underwater?
Yes, but not on this cruise. I do a lot of research using the deep
diving research submarine Alvin operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution. I have gone to the seafloor in Alvin over a hundred
times on dives to many different sites in the Atlantic and Pacific
Oceans, mostly to study mid-ocean ridge volcanoes and hydrothermal
Thanks for your great questions and keep Diving and Discovering