It may be another six months to a year until researchers come back to these study sites. All of the physical samples, digital images, video, and information or “metadata” about how and where the samples were taken are being painstakingly recorded and tracked in logbooks and spreadsheets. The collaborative nature of the overall study—researchers from more than 17 different institutions are involved—requires extra attention to the metadata. Dr. Chuck Fisher’s graduate student Pen Yuan Hsing back at Penn State sent notebooks with bright labels reminding all data-keepers at sea to be aware and exercise “extreme paranoia when logging.”
There are only three more days left of ROV dives for the expedition. Today the ROV Global Explorer MK3 dove at the deepest site yet to survey another area that is being monitored for impact by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Rock outcroppings with coral colonies of Paramurecia were scattered around the seafloor,1,800 meters below R/V Falkor. The lack of currents today made the imaging work much more time-consuming as the sediment clouds kicked-up by the ROV dissipated extremely slowly. Nevertheless, the team succeeded in recording sharp photos and video for their studies.
The deep dive today also provided an opportunity to demonstrate the effects of deep-sea pressure using common foam coffee cups. A mesh bag with decorated cups was strapped onto the ROV for the dive. The air spaces within the foam cup are crushed under pressure as the ROV dives to depth, shrinking the cup dramatically. For every 10 meters that the ROV descends, the pressure increases by one atmosphere. At 1,800 meters, the pressure is 180 atmospheres. Withstanding these extreme pressures is one of the major engineering challenges for all deep-sea oceanographic equipment.