FeMO3 Dive Cruise 2008
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I got up from my bunk when I heard the main engines start. Iím on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson for a 3 week research cruise. It was still twilight out on deck but the sun soon broke through the morning clouds. Shortly after 7am the call went out over the loudspeaker "All ashore thatís going ashore". A crane operator lifted the gangplank away from the pier and the side of the ship to store it up on the 02 deck. The lines are cast off and the Thompson backed away from the pier into the channel and the bow thruster and stern drive spin the ship 180 degrees. The Thompson then briefly returns to the pier to load the final container van for the cruise.
About 8:30 the Thompson pulled away from the pier once more and headed down the channel to the fueling dock. We are tied up there almost 7 hours while the ship takes on diesel fuel. About 4pm the lines are cast off a final time and the Thompson makes its way out of Honolulu Harbor past fuel barges, Coast Guard buoy tenders and giant container ships. The channel seems incredibly narrow, and as the Thompson moves into deep water we begin to feel the Pacific swell. The ship turns southeast toward the southern tip of the Big Island of Hawaii about 150 miles away.
We are finally off to send a high tech tethered robot called "Jason" down into the crater of a submarine volcano to get samples of some weird little bacteria that can get energy from the rusting of iron. While there, Jason the robot will recover experiments and recorders that were placed there last year and the year before that, and place new experiments designed to be recovered in 2009.
A particular success today is that we have established brief audio and video contact with my classroom at Sehome High School in Bellingham, WA. The Bellingham School District and the National Science Foundation have provided the time and equipment to allow my students to communicate with scientists and engineers involved with the FeMO research project. To make the connection from a ship at sea requires an antenna that can bounce a signal off a satellite. The signal has a very narrow bandwidth and it is subject to interruption by rough weather and ship direction (which is dependent on wind direction while on station).
Very early tomorrow morning, about 5:45am, we will wake up and attempt to re-establish contact so that my first period students may be introduced to Chief Scientist Craig Moyer from Western Washington University and Anthony Koppers from Oregon State University. Craig is a microbiologist and Anthony is a geochronologist (specialist in the age dating of rocks). Because of the novel character of these bacteria, their probable importance to the weathering of the Earthís oceanic crust, and the fact they could be found everywhere in the deep ocean, Craigís slogan for FeMO is "Rust the Crust!".
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