Daily Science Report 41 -- Friday, 23 March 2012
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As we move into the last week of the cruise, we have finally started to count down the days until we see land again. Following our last update we moved steadily eastwards to two large seamounts: Jahont and R.S.A. While in transit we passed relatively near Gough Island, which is a small, mountainous, windswept island that is home to a South African weather station staffed year-round by a team of about eight hardy technicians and meteorologists. The island’s highest point is about 910 m (3000 ft) and should have been visible from the ship, but unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with us and a grey fog hid everything from sight.
At the moment we are heading slowly northward, alternately dredging a seamount then moving north by one degree to conduct another magnetic survey track. We had good luck on Acushnet Seamount (named after the whaling ship that Herman Melville sailed on), and recovered a large number of rocks, including several with large plagioclase crystals and a well-crystallized groundmass. These characteristics are promising for geochemistry and reliable 40Ar/39Ar dating of the rocks.
We have four dredges remaining, after which we will need to start our three-day steam home to Cape Town. Our estimated arrival time in port is sometime early in the morning on Friday, 30 March. The three days of transit will be used to pack up our supplies, our computers and all the rocks we have collected on this trip. These will be packed into large crates in Cape Town and shipped back to the US. High priority samples will be sent by air freight so we can start processing them as soon as possible after returning to our respective universities.