|Mail Buoy |
May 28, 2003
What do you enjoy most about being on a research vehicle?
What do you miss most while on the research vehicle?
Josh & Jessica Bowling
Hello Josh and Jessica, thanks for your question.
I took it around to a variety of members of the group
here, and here's what they said:
Dave Shuster, scientist:
enjoy: the views
miss: nothing yet
Ian Yurdin, DiveDiscover photographer:
enjoy: the blue sea
miss: my wife, and regular exercise
Dave Dubois, Shipboard Scientific Services Group Technician:
enjoy: the night sky
miss: Sunday New York Times
Kate Buckman, scientist
enjoy: the people
miss: other people
Blee Williams, Alvin pilot
enjoy: Kate Buckman
miss: Kate Buckman
Dan Scheirer, Co-chief scientist
enjoy: discovering new things on the ocean floor
miss: my wife, Allegra
involves how the coral skeleton can indicate climate
changes. I read the "About the Cruise" and
Hot Topics about it and there is reference to "chemistry" of
the skeleton and how that relates to the chemistry
of the water, but can you be more specific? How can
the coral skeleton indicate whether there was cold,
deep water flowing when they lived? (I imagine it has
something to do with the CaCO3 of the skeleton and
CO2 in the atmosphere being incorporated into the ocean?)
Could you please
expand on the paragraphs below from the "About the Cruise" section
as far as the biochemistry so I can better understand
your mission and explain it to my students.
Thanks so much and good luck discovering!
7th grade teacher
skeletons can provide crucial clues to the history
of Earth's climate, which is what the cruise is all
about. We hope to find out how and why the planet's
climate has rapidly shifted from cold to warm periods,
and to use that information to predict how it might
change in the future.
skeletons are rich repositories of environmental
information. The biochemical composition of their
skeletons is different if they grow in different
water conditions. And water conditions change as
Earth's climate does. Like undersea tape recorders,
individual corals at different depths in the ocean
have recorded how Earth's climate has changed through
Here's a partial answer, from the expedition's chief
scientist, Jess Adkins:
The most important piece of chemistry we're interested
in is the C14 (radiocarbon) age of the water. The plot
below shows that modern, living corals record the same
C14 age as the water in which they grow. Click here
to see a figure that illustrates this.
Why waters have different C14 ages will be covered
in an upcoming Hot Topic about radiocarbon aging.
But briefly, once water sinks from the surface, it
no longer can exchange CO2 with the atmosphere, and
it therefore loses C14 by radio decay. The longer water
spends below the surface, the older its age and the
less C14 it has. Therefore, the radiocarbon content
of the deep ocean is a measure of the overturning time
of the deep sea. This is a critical component of the
ocean's heat transport, and therefore climate generally.
How likely is it that Alvin would discover the wreck
of a vessel in its search for coral within the seamounts?
Irene P. Atney
Brookhaven National Laboratory
DSV Alvin Expedition Leader Patrick Hickey responds:
Every time we make a dive in ALVIN, there is a chance
we will come across some obstacle on the sea floor.
We (ALVIN Operations Group) are specifically prohibited
by our operations restrictions from diving the submersible
in an area of known entanglements. Our dives on the
Titanic, for example, required special permission to
Wrecks definitely fall into this category. We do not,
however, have a magic map showing all the wrecks of
the world and have, occasionally, come across bottom
debris in various forms. An old warplane off San Diego,
jettisoned munitions off New Jersey, a whale carcass
off Oregon. If something is found, it is then up to
the pilot in command of the dive to report his find
and then to determine if it is safe to continue or
to abort the dive.
Because of all the sea traffic that has occurred in
this area, especially WWII convoys, coming across a
wreck is possible, though unlikely. The ocean is a
large place and stumbling onto an old warship, freighter
or submarine would be like winning a lottery. You always
hear about it happening to someone else, but never
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