Daily Updates: May 2002
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sunny weather

Mostly Clear
79°F (26°C)
Latitude: 0 deg 48.6'N
Longitude: 89 deg 32.4’W
Wind Direction: SE
Wind Speed: 13 Knots
Sea State 3
Swell(s) Height: 1-3 Foot
Sea Temperature: 75°F (23.9°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1013.0 MB
Visibility: 12+ Nautical Miles

what's to eat today?

Banana Walnut Bread

Red Beans, Rice and Andouille Sausage
Beef 'n Cheese 'n Beans Burritos
Shrimp Creole with Steamed Rice
Spinach and Monterey Jack Quiche
Chips 'n Salsa
Ice Cream Bars

Blackened Tuna
Baked Pork Chops
Potatoes au gratin
Fresh Bread
Ice Cream


Hustle, bustle and mussels
May 31, 2002
by Lonny Lippsett

So ABE and the CTD “sniffed” through the night for any sign of hydrothermal vents. Together the two instruments covered 10 miles of this unexplored region of the Galápagos Rift. When the sun came up, the news was bad. ABE had found nary a wisp of warm waters. Bob Collier, who had guided the CTD through the night, just shook his head.

Alvin continued the search today. It dived between two halves of a seafloor volcano on the ridge axis. The volcano had once lay atop the ridge, but it has since been split in two, as the seafloor continued to spread apart on both sides of the ridge.

Waiting is hard. Waiting and hoping is even harder. The day passed slowly and the tension slowly mounted. By 3 p.m., the scientists moved with a little less enthusiasm and slumped a little more in their chairs as they gathered to figure out what to do next. If this spot seemed to have no signs of hydrothermal activity, it might be time to move on and search somewhere else. The scientists looked at their maps, studying seafloor features that might point the way to hydrothermal vents. They debated whether one place or another might be more likely. The mood was about as buoyant as Alvin descending to the bottom.

Then the phone rang: “Tim Shank to the Top Lab.” The Top Lab is where a non-flying Alvin Pilot tracks the submersible and maintains contact with it. Tim jumped up, fingers crossed. When he came back down a few minutes later, he announced. “They found mussels.”

Mussels live around hydrothermal vents. “Unless the mussels are in marinara sauce, they have found a vent,” said Dan Fornari.
True, but hold on—the vent might no longer be active. The meeting ended instantly, as scientists rushed up to the Top Lab. Alvin Pilot Bruce Strickrott, who had spent much of the day alone in the Top Lab monitoring Alvin, was suddenly surrounded. “You say one word—‘mussels,’ he joked, “and whoa, look what happens!”

At 3:30 p.m., Susan Humphris reported from the “ball,” Alvin’s sphere: “We’ve found pockets of mussel shells—dead mussel shells. We’re trying to determine if anything is alive, but it appears to be a dead site.” Alvin was scheduled to surface at 4 p.m., but Pilot Anthony Tarantino reported that Alvin’s batteries still had some juice. The decision was made to keep Alvin hunting for another hour. The crew found another pocket of mussels, but it, too, was dead.

“With only three Alvin dives left, I’d really like to find an active site,” Tim said.

Web Sites following Dive and Discover
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - Ocean Explorer - Click on “education” for lesson plans and activities!

“Tomorrow is June 1. There is a custom that if your first waking words on the first day of the month are ‘Rabbit, Rabbit,’ you’ll have good luck.”

Because this is Tim’s first cruise as Co-Chief Scientist, colleagues—for a joke—had given him a stuffed version of the killer rabbit in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” “Maybe I’ll sleep with it tonight,” Tim joked.

Bob Collier won’t be sleeping. He will guide the CTD throughout the night across several miles of the rift valley, searching for signs of active hydrothermal venting. The mussel shells found today indicate that at some point, there was active venting in this area. Is there still?

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