| Daily Updates: May 2002
| Daily Updates: June 2002
Latitude: 0 deg 30'N
Longitude: 87 deg 00W
Wind Direction: SE
Wind Speed: 13 Knots
Sea State 0
Swell(s) Height: 2 Foot
Sea Temperature: 78°F (25.6°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1014.5 MB
Visibility: 12 Nautical Miles
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Sautéed Zucchini and Eggplant
Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
The secret (undersea) garden
May 25, 2002
by Lonny Lippsett
years have passed since scientists last visited the extraordinary
communities of undersea life thriving around hydrothermal vents
in the Galápagos Rift. How has the neighborhood changed
animals were first discovered 25 years ago here. Two years later,
when biologists got their first chance to investigate, they saw
a wondrous sight. A mass of tubewormstoo many to countwith
their blood-red tips peaking out of long, narrow, bright white
tubes. They swayed in the slow ocean-bottom currents like a field
of flowers in the wind. The scientists called the site Rose
Six years passed until oceanographers could return
again. In 1985, Bob Hessler of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
described a different scene in the Rose Garden. An army of giant
clams had invaded. Great clumps of clams and a few mussels piled
up beneath the tubeworms white stalks, crowding out the tubeworms.
By 1990, the last time scientists visited Rose Garden, clams and mussels had
taken over. Only a few bouquets of tubeworms remained.
Like any community of living things, circumstances
change over time. Imagine if you returned to your neighborhood
12 years from now. Perhaps another family has moved into your old
neighbors house. Your neighbor's barking dog is
gone. But some thingslike the tree you used to climb, or your old basketball
hoopmight seem just the way you left them.
Hydrothermal vent sites are ever-changing. They
are fueled by volcanic heat from deep within the Earth. That heat
can fade out or be turned up, and the whole environment changes.
The amounts of hydrothermal fluids emitted from vents site may
increase or decrease. Their temperature can go up or down. Their
chemistry changes, and with that, the amounts and types of microbes
that use these chemicals to live also changes. And as the microbes
change, so do the large animals (or megafauna) that eat different
How do all these changes affect the communities
of animals that live around vents? Why do some types of animals
thrive at some times, or in some places? How do the different animals
interact with each other and with different microbes? How do communities
start, grow, change, die and get reborn?
Tonight, we dispatched to the seafloor two transponders,
whose sonar pings will
serve as landmarks to guide our deep-sea vehicles in the dark ocean bottom. But
first, Pat Hickey, Expedition Leader, scanned the seafloor with soundjust
to ensure that no other active transponders were inadvertently left in the area.
(Their signals would confuse our vehicles.)
ABE, the Autonomous Benthic Explorer, was launched
to map the Rose Garden area. Sometime after midnight, Bob Collier
and John Lupton will deploy the CTD over the Rose Garden to see
if this area is still venting warm hydrothermal fluids. Tomorrow
morning, Tim Shank and Steve Hammond, the expeditions Co-Chief
Scientists, will descend in Alvin to return to the Rose Garden.
It could be completely dead and long gone and wiped out, Tim said. Or
maybe there was a volcanic eruption last year, and the hydrothermal cycle began
again, and its reinvigorated.
We have traveled 275 nautical miles in the past
30 hours to arrive at 86°W,
where hydrothermal vents were first discovered. We will read the next chapter
in the history of a place that made history.
On Sunday, we'll all find out if the bloom has
faded in the Rose Gardenor
if it has blossomed again.
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