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clear weather
79°F (26.1°C)
Latitude: 25 deg 19.2’S
Longitude: 70 deg 01.8’E
Wind Direction: ESE
Wind Speed: 17 Knots
Sea State 3
Swell(s) Height: 6-7 Foot
Sea Temperature: 80°F (26.7°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1017.0 MB Visibility: 18+ Nautical Miles


Swarming Shrimp

what's to eat today?

Daily Update: At the Kairei vent field
April 4, 2001
By Amy Nevala

At the bottom of the Indian Ocean, covered in white wiggling shrimp, we found them at last -- black smoker chimneys first described last fall by Japanese scientists.

Working around the clock, scientists tonight will begin pinpointing the chimneys’ exact locations and dimensions. Then they will start making maps showing the distribution of animals living on the vents. The information we gather will build on research done here last fall by Japanese scientists.

The vents crawl with sea life. At the chimneys’ base, white sea anemones resemble fuzzy snowballs. Fat mussels and snails tuck into the crevices. Thumb-sized shrimp swarm the chimneys’ length, feeding on the bacteria that thrive on its surface.

Between this weird, wonderful zoo streams superheated water with high concentrations of acid and metals. This dark fluid gives the black smoker its name.

For the next week we will float two and half miles above this area, using ROV Jason to explore the vent sites. It will be tricky, considering the chimney site - a complex system of thin spires as high as a two-story house - and the often difficult task of manipulating ROV Jason.

“Imagine dangling a long piece of spaghetti from the top of a tall building and trying to get the end of it into a waiting mouth. That is what it is like maneuvering Jason,” said geologist Dan Fornari.

We arrived at the chimneys late this afternoon, three hours after ROV Jason and the vehicle’s six cameras splashed into the ocean. A dark, bumpy seafloor scattered with rocks and sediment appeared on the ship’s TV monitors.

Then, there was life.

“There’s an anemone, look at that,” said biologist Colleen Cavanaugh.

“What is that? Could be a dead octopus,” said biologist Tim Shank, pointing at a lumpy mass on the screen.

“Vent shrimp! Vent shrimp!” said biologist Cindy Van Dover as several of the snow white crustaceans zipped by one of ROV Jason’s cameras.

Scientists on Knorr now watch this site 24 hours a day, each person working four hours on, then eight hours off. The schedule repeats as long as Jason is under water.

This afternoon biologist Shana Goffredi noted her scheduled 4:00 to 8:00 watch shift. Tomorrow her alarm is set for 3:30 am.

“It’s brutal,” said Goffredi with a good-natured grin. “I hope that coffee pot is on a timer.”

Goffredi and the other scientists stand watch in the control van. This is where the DSOG team operates ROV Jason.

Two 20-foot shipping containers pushed together form this portable room, filled with high-tech equipment where scientists make observations and record their data. It’s dark inside, like a movie theater, and quiet except for the hum of 12 computers and 22 computer and television monitors. These display data and views of the seafloor.

Except for the galley, the control van has now become one of the most popular places on the ship. With discoveries ahead like the spectacular show we saw tonight, it likely will remain that way.

Learn More About...
ROV Jason


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