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Today's Weather
Partly sunny
LAT: 9°21.63'N
LONG 85°01.39'W
Wind: variable
WIND speed: 7 to 10 knots
SEA state: 2
SWELL height: 3 to 4 foot
BARO Pressure:1007.6 MB
AIR TEMP:86°F 22°C
SEA TEMP: 90°F 24°C
VIS:10 nm

what's to eat?

An Early Start for Science
May 20, 2005
By Amy Nevala

In the sticky heat that envelops the western Costa Rican coast each sunrise, four crew members on the research vessel Atlantis stare down at the ship’s anchor, frowning.  Fifty feet of wire debris tangled in the anchor and chain, and our plans to steam 800 nautical miles to the Galapagos Rift seem, for the moment, on hold.

Working quickly, mindful that nearly two-dozen scientists positioned on decks below are eager to begin their research, the crew freed the anchor 36 minutes later. Quietly the ship turns southwest from the coastal fishing community, Puntarenas, to begin a two-day journey to a special area on the seafloor last visited three years ago.

When we arrive in 48 hours, we will learn about biology, chemistry and geology at two hydrothermal vent fields on the Galapagos Rift. One field, Rosebud, was found on a field of fresh lava and just beginning to host tiny tubeworms, thumb-sized clams, and other deep-sea life when it was discovered in 2002. (See Expedition 6.)

“We are eager to see what has happened since then,” said WHOI biologist Tim Shank, this expedition’s chief scientist. “The area could be wild with adult tubeworms. Or it could be shut down by another lava flow.”

We are a group of 53 people who have left homes, families, and other commitments to spend 16 days floating in the Pacific Ocean. On board are graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in their early twenties and thirties, launching careers in oceanography. Others are veteran oceanographers sharing their scientific knowledge and advice about working and living at sea.

Joining the scientists are 23 members of the Atlantis crew, over a dozen who have sailed together for years and now refer to their fellow engineers, oilers, seamen, cooks, and mates as family. Their skills make life on this floating city possible—not to mention enjoyable. (Homemade chocolate cheesecake baked by steward Carl Wood capped today’s lunch menu).

Deeper Discovery

Related links from
WHOI's Oceanus Magazine:
The Evolutionary Puzzle of Seafloor Life

Is Life Thriving Deep Beneath the Seafloor?

Rounding out the group are members of the Alvin team, an all-male ensemble coordinated by expedition leader and Alvin pilot Patrick Hickey. During 11 scheduled dives, the Alvin team will support scientists working on the seafloor. Today Pat provided a safety briefing and is now working on the aft deck preparing for this expedition’s first journey to the seafloor, expected to take place the day after tomorrow.

Also with us are three special guests, each possessing a longstanding interest and commitment to the oceans. They have come aboard to experience marine science research first hand.

Dan Dubno, who covers hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters for CBS News, said that he hopes the expedition will help him discover new ways to get people excited about Earth science through his news reporting.  He said he has wanted to join a research expedition since his youth on Coney Island, where he lived across the street from the New York City Aquarium.

“In the mornings I awoke to the yelps of sea lions,” he said. “When you live next to the ocean, it grabs hold of you.”