|Dana showing off his birthday present, featuring a robot he really admires (clue – he was made in Mexico, smokes cigars, and likes bending things). Looking on are two more members of our AUV brains-trust: James Kinsey & Louis Whitcomb.|
Lat: 18° 31.6’N Long: 081° 40.0’W
Water depth: 4950m
First, get a chicken”. So said Dana Yoerger today and we had to listen: it was his birthday! Dana has plenty of tales to tell, the sign of a true Grandpa, I reckon – and I should know: for this trip he is Grandpa Senior and I’m Grandpa Junior. Anyway, Dana’s more pertinent point is that we can’t use Nereus to find a vent-site until we use the CTD to first find some tell-tale signs that there is something nearby to chase after.
So this morning, Dana announced that this year, for his birthday, what he would like would be for the CTD team to find us a plume signal to chase after. And right toward the end of the afternoon, in fact just around dinner time, I think that may well be just what we found.
So while most of the team were enjoying their evening meal – complete with birthday cake, a few of us were almost completely distracted looking at traces on a computer screen from Ko-ichi’s in situ sensor that showed us a layer of water, down below 4000m, that is chemically different from everything else we had seen in our previous 10 casts. Lying that deep, just a few hundreds of meters above the seafloor and in a layer a few hundred meters deep, is exactly the kind of setting we might expect to find the effluent from a hydrothermal field. That’s not proof positive, but it is a start. And we certainly know this is something that we have not seen anywhere to the North or East of us – so now we need to continue South and West (we are only about 1/3rd of the way through our survey) to see what the rest of our exploring brings. But after 10 sets of results that showed absolutely nothing at the bottom of the ocean, this new profile is certainly encouraging. Or, to quote Tina (and returning to the message of the day): Sweet, Sweet, Chicken-Feet!