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Walvis Ridge MV1203 Expedition

Daily Science Report 47 -- Thursday, 29 March 2012


The Final Report

After 49 days and nights at sea it is time to tally our successes. Almost two months ago we sailed away from Cape Town with a number of exciting science questions in hand and a science crew of 16 to figure them out. Our plan: tackle an area the size of California that has remained largely uncharted by surveying and dredging 40 seamounts. Our destination: the Walvis Ridge in the SE Atlantic Ocean, one of the longest and most continuous hotspot trails in the world. Our results: we mapped 50 seamounts and placed in total 62 dredges, of which 47 contained relatively fresh basaltic rocks. Our bottom-line: we did it. Our prospect: we now are in an excellent position to add significantly to the ongoing science debate on hotspots and mantle plumes.

Our results didn't come without a struggle of course. Not all of our dredges were successful. Some of them returned empty, broken or were lost. Others returned only sediment and Mn crusts. However, the 47 dredges that did contain basalt are extremely valuable for age dating and performing geochemical analyses. On some occasions fishing boats were in our way. They too prefer to work on seamounts where the fish stocks are large. Communication with them was impossible, which meant we had to pull in our gear and choose alternate routes. An unprecedented solar storm flared up making us delay collecting our longest magnetic line. But other things went completely our way. Take the weather. We were sailing through the roaring 40's -- a place typically plagued by heavy storms and high seas -- yet it was as if we were sailing around the equator with calm seas and the sun above our heads. In the end not once did we have to stop operations and that meant more dredging for rocks. For a chief scientist that is nothing to complain about.

In the end the big heroes are the science crew who tirelessly worked for two months, away from home, family and friends, and living in close quarters with 39 fellow sailors. They worked hard with smiles on their faces (most of the time) and they brought a good sense of humor and a large dose of energy. Thank you all for making this cruise such a huge success. I also would like to thank Captain Curl and all his crew for the smooth sailing and for making living and working on the R/V Melville a true pleasure.

Hopefully we will see each other again, somewhere on the big oceans, in search of more seamounts!

Anthony Koppers

Chief Scientist