Sunday, 24 February 2013

16 - This is only the beginning…

Will, Diva and Leigh in relaxed mode!
Team Chemistry have finished sampling and are wrapping up the analyses in the shipboard laboratories. We have stunk the ship out with hydrogen sulphide collected in the water samplers used by Valerie and Alain. We have measured huge amounts of this smelly gas in the hot, metal-rich vent fluids, along with other gases such as methane. We have traced this methane up through into the ocean, transported with the buoyant plume of material gushing from the vents. We have filtered over a tonne of sea water to extract the particles of different sizes to understand how the metals are dispersed in the ocean. We have probed the seafloor to measure temperature and collected mud to extract the fluids that ooze through the edges of the sulphide mounds. This is just the start of our work to understand the impact of these deepest vents on the ocean.

Detailed analysis of samples back at the National Oceanography Centre and the Geosciences Environment Toulouse laboratory will enable us to relate the chemistry in the local vent environment to discoveries made by the geology and biology team on the distribution of different rock types and organisms across the Beebe and Von Damm vent fields. This allows us to see how different species survive and tolerate different chemical environments. The micro-organisms that survive in these harsh, toxic conditions are an example of how life can survive in the most inhospitable places and may be our best model to search for life in other parts of our solar system.

On this expedition, biologists, geologists and chemists have collaborated to generate new views of the deepest known vents on the planet.

Team Chemistry: Alain Castillo, Valerie Chavagnac, Jeff Hawkes, Will Homoky, Aly Lough and Rachel Mills

Rachel on deck

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