What’s it like to be on a ship in winter in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? USC College geobiologist Katrina Edwards is finding out –- as will readers of her blog, www.usc.edu/northpondexpedition (also at www.sciam.com/blog/60-seconds-in-north-pond/).
Edwards and other marine scientists led by Heiner Villinger of the University of Bremen are taking a three-week cruise to the middle of nowhere –- specifically, a point about 20 degrees north and three miles above a sediment-filled hollow on the sea floor known as North Pond.
There they have been drilling into the sea floor. Why? We’ll let Edwards explain in her posts. But expect musings about life in unlikely places, such as the basaltic rock that makes up the crust.
“That’s where my heart lies: what’s going on with the basalt,” she said.
Edwards already showed that the sea floor is incredibly rich in bacteria. Just as microbes help turn rock into fertile soil, it appears that sea floor bacteria may break down the crust.
The German research vessel RV Maria S. Merian was to set off Feb. 16 from Martinique, but a national strike delayed the scheduled departure until Feb. 18. It returns Mar. 13. The vessel is carrying 22 scientists, among them Edwards’ colleague Wiebke Ziebis and postdoctoral researcher Nina Knab, as well as researchers from the University of Bremen, the Max Planck Institute, the University of North Carolina and Oregon State University.
Other team members may join Edwards on the blog. Comments and questions are welcome.
The National Science Foundation and German agencies funded the expedition.
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