Hydrothermal Exploration of the Mid-Cayman Rise

International Superstar

Chris German
Jun. 22 2013
Nereus being recovered earlier than we might have hoped for today, with Paul (2nd Mate, Safety) doing the driving and Mick hooking the lines up between Nereus and the Ship.
Nereus being recovered earlier than we might have hoped for today, with Paul (2nd Mate, Safety) doing the driving and Mick hooking the lines up between Nereus and the Ship.Chris German

Today wasn’t our best day for Telepresence, I’m afraid – but fortunately, we had international help to cover for us, not more than 20 miles away ☺

Our planned launch for 06h00 had already slipped to 06h30 when we developed a problem with our depressor, just as we were getting ready to launch.  It didn’t take much more than an hour to fix once we had the depressor back on deck and by 8am we were headed back to the seafloor.  Once we got there, things started to go as smoothly as yesterday’s dive: we arrived West of the Von Damm mound and then drove Nereus East through the water column until we made “landfall” close to the mound summit, as the flank of the central cone rose beneath us.

International Microbiologist of Mystery?  Don’t worry, I’m assured that Ken doesn’t dress this formally for every hydrothermal dive ☺
International Microbiologist of Mystery? Don’t worry, I’m assured that Ken doesn’t dress this formally for every hydrothermal dive ☺JAMSTEC, Ken Takai

So far so good and very shortly we were back where we had been yesterday, getting ready to sample fluids.  We took some time to set up facing into the hottest area of flow we had seen at the same location as yesterday (and last year) and after about 45 minutes, we had collected the first sample.  About 10 minutes later was when things started to go wrong.  First, we lost the feed to the HDTV video camera so we had to switch our off-ship feed to a standard definition video as we set up to take our second high-temperature fluid sample.

Then, while measuring up to 215°C on the temperature probe, but before we had time to take a sample, our remaining cameras flickered and then went dead.  Fortunately, Casey had spotted the flicker and just had time to tell me “I’m pulling off bottom” before we lost our fiber-optic communications.  It didn’t take long to rouse James from his pit, concur among the Nereus team that it was time to end this dive, and sent the acoustic confirmation that Nereus should drop its anchor weights and come home.

By 1pm Nereus was back on deck and done for the day.  We constructed a series of survey lines to occupy for swath mapping of the seafloor and put the ship back to work on a program that will keep us busy until 2am tomorrow when we break away from the Von Damm field and head to the Piccard site for tomorrow’s dive.  In the meantime, for most of the science team, it was a chance to prepare for that dive – by watching TV!  While we are broadcasting all of our dives live, on this cruise, our colleague Ken Takai was diving and broadcasting live today from the Shinkai 6500.

Shinkai 6500 – while we were diving to the Von Damm site today, Ken Takai and his Shinkai pilots were diving to the deeper Beebe Woods site at the Piccard Hydrothermal Field, about 20km North of us.
Shinkai 6500 – while we were diving to the Von Damm site today, Ken Takai and his Shinkai pilots were diving to the deeper Beebe Woods site at the Piccard Hydrothermal Field, about 20km North of us.JAMSTEC

As well as providing live footage from the seafloor, they had a very professional crew conducting interviews aboard ship, both before and after the dive along with a TV studio and panel providing information about Shinkai all through the day.  By streaming the broadcast from the internet, we were able to share that footage all across the Falkor this afternoon and continue our exploration that way.  We all watched the Shinkai recovery in the crew mess over dinner this evening and it was fun to watch Ken’s happy face waving to the cameras as he climbed out of the sub this evening.

We can’t wait to get down to the same site tomorrow and share our images with you for anyone who missed it.  But maybe there aren’t many who did – Ken tells me that more than 200,000 people (mostly teenagers) watched his dive today – most impressive!


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