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sunny weather

78°F (25.6°C)
Latitude: 25 deg 53.2’S
Longitude: 69 deg 36.2’E
Wind Direction: E
Wind Speed: 15-20 Knots
Sea State 4
Swell(s) Height: 6-8 Foot
Sea Temperature: 79°F (26.1°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1021.5 MB Visibility: 18+ Nautical Miles

what's to eat today?

Daily Update: Happiness is a warm plume
April 16, 2001
By Amy Nevala

Renewed enthusiasm shot through the ship today after members of the Plume Team announced they had detected strong plume signals at the 24°S site during their overnight Tow-yos.

Scientists this morning gathered in the main lab to hear Bob Collier, Marvin Lilley and Darryl Green relay the happy news. Just a few days ago we turned our backs on this area, convinced it was a bust for hydrothermal vents. Last night, we decided to give it one last shot before returning to the Kairei Hydrothermal Field at 25°20’S to finish our work there.

It was a winner. The plume not only had large quantities of particles but also showed high temperatures and salinities- a strong clue that a hydrothermal vent is nearby.

“We’re fairly hyped up about this,” said Darryl, still smiling after 30 hours of eye-straining computer work and data logging. Darryl says he thinks a fairly large hydrothermal vent field resides on a steep slope along the eastern side of the Central Indian Ridge rift valley.

German scientists found evidence of a plume in this area 18 years ago. However, seafloor hydrothermal vents have not yet been identified. Although we are now on our way to retrieve the equipment and finish our work at 25°20’S, the plan is to return to the new plume site in several days to continue searching for the actual hydrothermal vent field.

“This will be a brand new discovery if we find something here,” said Darryl.

The plume announcement was a breath of fresh air after four days of seesawing on 15 foot waves under a dark gray sky. Spirits were starting to sag, and many people were eyeing the expedition’s end now that we have crossed the half way point, or Hump Day.

“You can’t let disappointment get in the way of science,” said Geologist Dan Fornari, a 30-year veteran of oceanographic expeditions who knows the joys and sorrows of ocean research. “That’s certainly true in oceanography where the weather, as well as the Earth and ocean, sometimes seem to conspire to keep you from solving a problem.”

“But then there are times like this, when it all comes together and you make a breakthrough,” said Geochemist Susan Humphris.

How did the Plume Team find the plume, when only days ago it proved evasive? Partly because they knew that the currents in this area flow south, a hint to narrow their search to sites in the north. The other part was luck.

“We could have been totally wrong, it was an educated guess,” said Darryl.

The Plume Team had a hint of a plume signal when we first sampled at 24°S on April 3. But when we tried again at the same place three days ago, the signal was weak. Disappointed, we finally threw in the towel.

Last night, the Plume Team decided to move their search about 8 nautical miles to the north. Luck was on our side and almost immediately the computers registered signs of large particle-rich plume clouds, thick with methane gas and metals such as manganese.

Scientists this evening congratulated Bob, Marvin and Darryl on their hard work. Soon after, the weary team retired while the ship continued on to 25°20’S.

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