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Latitude: 37° 34'N
Longitude: 59° 48'W
Wind Direction: SW
Wind Speed: 25 Knots
Sea State: 5
Sea Temperature: 72°F (22.2°C)
Swell(s) Height: 10 Foot
Barometric Pressure: 1015.5 MB
Lemon raspberry muffins
Vegetarian split pea and barley soup
Bean and cheese burritos
Lamb curry with rice and barley
Salsa and sour cream
Fricassee of chicken over rice
Grilled veal Delmonico
Buttered penne pasta
Gingerbread birthday cake
June 10, 2003
By Joe Appel
Our return to the northern seamounts was not
greeted kindly. After arriving at Rehoboth Seamount on Monday
night with the intention of diving in Alvin the next
morning, we woke to 25-knot winds and the kind of seas that say, “No
The dive was cancelled, and soon after we were hightailing it to Manning Seamount.
Manning was to have been our primary dive point for the duration of the cruise,
but early on it became apparent that rough weather in the area would keep us
away. Funny, because now that we’re here on Tuesday night, it’s looking
calmer than anywhere else we’ve seen recently. So we plan to dive tomorrow.
You’ll rarely hear a scientist say this,
but there’s an element of cancelled-dive syndrome that
brings a sigh of relief. That’s because the amount of data
this cruise has generated is mind-boggling. And getting your
mind boggled isn’t always fun.
While we celebrate every time the CTD gives us more water samples or Alvin fetches
a new full-basket haul of deep-ocean specimens, the fact is that every single
piece of information we bring in must be examined, classified, stored, analyzed
further, and eventually referred to in a series of learned articles. Not to mention,
sometimes, scrubbed clean with a toothbrush.
At a recent science group meeting, Chief Scientist Jess Adkins acknowledged that
the amount of information his small group of colleagues confronts is “daunting.” Several
of those colleagues noted their difficulty in simply keeping up with what was
coming in, and the mood of the meeting turned a tad dark.
“Hey,” Jess said. “I agree this is a scary amount of data.
But this is not a reason to despair. It’s a reason to be ecstatic!” He
was right: The more high-quality data you have, the more informed your conclusions
will eventually be. But sometimes that’s easy to forget.
You’re probably familiar with this ambivalence whenever you do research
of your own. There’s the excitement of collecting armfuls of books from
the library and a long list of Web sites that promise to address your topic in
detail. You’re on your way! But then, the inevitable sense of doom: How
the heck am I going to get through all this stuff, not to mention make sense
We’re dealing with the same thing here. With a week left in the cruise,
we have more than 3,000 separate Desmophyllum cristagalli samples. More
than a hundred other fossil corals. Hundreds of biological specimens. Millions
of soundings (taking up gigabytes upon gigabytes of disk space) from ABE.
Roughly 70 hours of video from Alvin dives. Thousands of tow-cam photographs.
Water samples. Maps to superimpose on each other and manipulate in order to make
That’s a partial list.
It makes you pine for 1960, which was the last time a vessel named Atlantis came
to these waters looking to find out more about the deep ocean. That ship had
masts and sails. A lot of the scientists’ work lay just in navigation,
a task now left mostly to computers. If they wanted to know the depth of the
ocean beneath them, they used primitive sonar or dropped a weighted line.
The tools for gathering data in 1960 were fewer and less advanced, and the time
to gather it was more limited. But those practical restrictions made it less “daunting” to
deal with the information they did collect.
In 2003, RV Atlantis conducts scientific research 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. It’s very expensive, but it’s a bargain given how well
its expeditions meet the stiff challenges of cutting-edge marine science.
We’re efficient, informed, and fast. But can we keep up with ourselves?
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