Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Oceanographers work a quarter of the world away from ship they’re ’on’

01.08.2005


Being seasick is not a problem for scientists on a major expedition now under way in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That’s because most of the researchers investigating the eerie Lost City hydrothermal vent field are working "aboard" a landlocked science command center in Seattle.



Only four scientists are with University of Rhode Island oceanographer Bob Ballard aboard the Ronald H. Brown, a research vessel operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the expedition’s major sponsor. The other 21 are with University of Washington oceanographer Deborah Kelley in a classroom on the UW campus that has been outfitted so scientists can direct sampling efforts and can be in constant contact with pilots and navigators on the Brown. Ballard is the mission’s principal investigator and Kelley is chief scientist. Operations are supported by a command center at the University of Rhode Island.

The expedition marks the return to the Lost City vent field discovered in 2000 during a National Science Foundation cruise. The field, formed in a very different way than the black smoker vents studied since the 1970s, includes a massive 18-story vent taller than any seen before.


"Having most of the members of an oceanographic science party on land has never been tried. The approach will provide an opportunity for a much larger number of researchers to explore the oceans," Kelley says.

"Our primary reason for conducting this cruise is to get ready for NOAA’s new ship of exploration, the Okeanos Explorer, when it comes on line in 2007," Ballard says. "Since this ship will ’go where no one has gone before,’ it is important that we are able to ’beam’ scientists aboard when a new discovery is made to guide the team of explorers on board the ship. Although the cruise is still not over, we have already accomplished this primary goal and can’t wait to see the discoveries that await us."

For those ashore it’s meant adjustments ranging from out-of-town scientists finding taxis back to their hotels at 2 in the morning when their shifts end to worrying whether there are enough scientists aboard the ship to analyze samples from the seafloor and chew over the implications that might guide the rest of the expedition.

At the same time scientists ashore and those on board the Brown used the remotely operated vehicles Argus and Hercules to see the field like never before and in real time.

"For the first time, we traveled the entire field and discussed its many varied features with people at the Seattle command center and on the ship at the same time," says Jeff Karson, a Duke University geologist. "The powerful lighting system provided unprecedented overviews of large areas of the seafloor and sections of major hydrothermal structures seen previously only in very limited glimpses."

Other science firsts accomplished or planned for the July 23 to Aug. 1 expedition include:

  • Learning whether the microbes in the mantle rocks beneath Lost City are residents, thriving in tiny fissures, or are commuters simply coursing through on highways of fluid without much need for the rock, says Gretchen Früh-Green, a scientist with Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. By carefully correlating samples of rock, fluid and biology, scientists hope to determine if the energy these microorganisms need is coming from the rocks reacting with seawater. If so, the ocean floor is littered with vast, exposed deposits of mantle rock like those under Lost City that could be filled with life that no one realized was there.
  • Sampling for radiogenic age dating from across a broader swath of Lost City, seeking areas that may be older than the 30,000 years previously determined, Kelley says. Lost City-type systems might persist hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of years, she says, far longer than black-smoker systems, and could provide a whole new avenue for looking for the earliest life on Earth and for signs of life on other planets.
  • Learning whether the animals, most of which are less than a half-inch in size and have translucent or invisible shells, are unique to Lost City or if they are found at other vent systems. Tim Shank, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says, "Another fundamental question is how they have evolved to thrive at Lost City."

Major partners in the expedition are NOAA, University of Washington, University of Rhode Island, Institute for Exploration, Jason Foundation for Education, Immersion Presents and National Geographic. The public can follow the voyage at:

http://www.oceanexplorer.noaa.gov
http://www.immersionpresents.org or
http://www.Jason.org/lostcity.

Immersion Presents broadcasts are being seen at select Boys and Girls Clubs, aquariums and museums.

"This summer’s expedition to Lost City could be the prototype of many voyages envisioned for the newly converted NOAA vessel Okeanos Explorer, unique to NOAA and the federal fleet as the only U.S. government ship dedicated to exploring the Earth’s oceans," Kelley says.

"I hope that the students from Woodstock High School in Chicago, who came up with the Okeanos name in a nationwide contest, might one day sail on the vessel," Ballard says. "Perhaps one of them will be a scientist or operator of deep-sea robots, or a teacher whose class takes advantage of the educational activities that bring the excitement of expeditions such as this into the classroom."

Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.washington.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>