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Daily Updates: May 2004
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cloudy weather
Latitude: 48° 02'N
Longitude: 128° 30'W
Wind Direction: NW
Wind Speed: 15 Knots
Sea State: 2-3
Swell(s) Height: 6 Foot
Sea Temperature: 58°F
Barometric Pressure: 1021.0 MB
Visibility: 15+ miles

what's to eat

Cinnamon muffins
Scrambled eggs
French toast
Fresh strawberries and mango

Kale soup
American chop suey
Wings of fire
BBQ steak sandwich
French fries
Rice and veggies
Salad bar
Ice cream sandwiches

Meatloaf and gravy
Sesame soy fillet
Mashed potatoes
Farfalle pasta with pesto, peas and pignolias
Baked butternut squash
Cauliflowers with garlic butter
Oatmeal wheat rolls
Blonde brownies

Floating Over a Volcano Shaped Like... A Hot Dog Bun
May 25, 2004
By Amy Nevala

Volcanoes in the sea often bear little resemblance to their cousins on land. For those accustomed to steep-sided, cone-shaped volcanoes on land, the undersea volcano Endeavour Segment at first appears a bit odd. On a 3-D map, its two tall ridges split by a deep valley resembles a giant hot dog bun that stretches nine miles along the seafloor.

Hundreds of thousands of undersea volcanoes dot the 46,000-mile mid-ocean mountain ridge that encircles the globe. So why are the scientists on Atlantis interested in this particular volcano?

The Endeavour Segment first caught scientific attention in the early 1980s, when the first of five high-temperature hydrothermal vent fields were located on its side. Each field extends about 1,000 feet on a side, and some researchers compare the fields to jungles on the seafloor, hosting forests of tall, black smoker chimneys teeming with creatures that include red-tipped tubeworms, long-legged crabs, and ghost-white fish. Oceanographers consider this particular swath of seafloor one of the more dynamic areas discovered worldwide.

Of particular interest to some of the scientists on this expedition are tiny organisms visible only through microscopes. Despite their size, some of these microbes are tough creatures. They thrive in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Celsius, which would instantly boil any other known organism.

We have come to spend two weeks learning more about these microbes by snapping photos of their habitat, capturing video, making maps, taking temperatures, and even sampling microbes to study on the ship and in laboratories back home.

After arriving at the site at 2 p.m. Monday, the Alvin group began dispatching to the ocean floor three transponders that give off sonar pings to guide divers in the deep-sea vehicle Alvin.

“They act like beacons that help us maneuver to the seafloor,” said Bruce Strickrott, an Alvin pilot.

On Tuesday morning, chief scientists Debbie Kelley and John Delaney will dive in the sub to the Mothra hydrothermal vent field on the Endeavour Segment, accompanied by Alvin pilot Pat Hickey. It’s a trip Deb has spent nearly a year anticipating. Ten months ago, she left two instruments in chimneys and rigged them with temperature probes and special materials to grow microbes. She is confident, based on the successful recovery of a test instrument last summer, that the probes have worked and the microbes have flourished.

But on Monday night, as she prepared clothing, cameras, and notes for the first dive of this cruise, she was also nagged by the possibility that the whole thing may have failed days, weeks, or months ago, without her knowledge.

There’s only one way to know—by getting them back. Once the instruments are collected, and transported back her research lab at the University of Washington, Deb plans to continue growing the microbes and conduct DNA sequencing.

“The idea is to find out who is living there,” said Deb in the Monday evening science meeting, “and learn about what they are doing.”