Honey I Shrunk the Cups

Today our crew was on the hunt. We are currently at our southernmost point since we headed out into the Gulf of Mexico nearly a week and a half ago; finding a flat sea floor is harder than you might think out here. A flat ground is necessary to use the multi-corer. Without a flat surface the multi core will not be able to core effectively. It could fall sideways or not be able to pick up samples. You’ll see in the picture that the Multi-core (MC) sits on 8 legs, called the “Spyder.” If the MC were on a bumpy surface those legs would not sit flat and the MC couldn’t efficiently wedge its cores into the ground to collect a sample.

After performing an initial CTD and running Dr. Maiti’s pumps for 3 hours this morning, Dr. Severmann performed a GO-Flo. This is the 7th GO-Flo and In-situ Pump to be run (of each).The samples are piling up as the cruise continues. The whole reason we are out here is to collect these water samples and as far as the scientists are concerned, the more the better. You see in science when you are looking at any kind of data it’s always good to have lots of it. Think of it this way, if you were a basketball coach and you wanted potential athletes to try out for your team and you gave everyone only one shot to prove their skill, how accurate do you think you would be at finding the best players? Probably not very; some might get lucky and others might have a bad shot. On the other hand imagine you gave each player 10 shots, do you think you would be able to pinpoint with more accuracy who the good players are? Definitely! While someone may have had a bad shot or a lucky shot, 10 good shots is skill, not luck. Science works the same way, when you want to find out what the chemicals in the water are, you don’t want to measure water from one location, you would want to collect lots of water from lots of locations to make sure that your results are consistent and true. After Dr. Severmann brought her filled GO-Flo’s up to the surface and into her lab she, Meghan, Cris and I got to work filling the collection bottles with the samples so they could be set aside for analysis back on land.

After that it was time to perform another MC, but not so fast. As I said earlier, it took a little while for Dr. McManus, Dr. Hammond, and Chris Moser to find a suitable, flat, seafloor. Once we found that flat floor we deployed the MC. Along with the MC we sent down to the seafloor a bag full of Styrofoam cups. What do you think happened to those cups? Well we constantly have pressure from the atmosphere pressing down on us. We call that amount of pressure an atmosphere (at sea level). You may notice that when you go up in an airplane or a mountain you can feel the pressure go down as your ears try to equalize and “pop.” Likewise when you swim to the bottom of a deep swimming pool, lake, or beach you may notice your ears popping as they try to equalize to increasing pressure. As you go down into the water every 10 meters (33 feet) the amount of pressure increases by one atmosphere. So at 10 meters the pressure on your body would be double what it is at the surface. So at one thousand meters the pressure would be 100X what it would be on the surface! Marine animals have special adaptations that allow them to withstand these depths without their bodies crushing. One example would be that of many marine mammals who have flexible cartilage that makes up parts of their ribs so that they can safely bend as well as collapsible lungs that can safely “deflate.” You can probably imagine that after sending down those Styrofoam cups to a depth of 2132 feet the pressure was intense! It was so high that it caused the cups to shrink to a fraction of their original size! Check out the picture of the before and after, incredible!

After dinner the day’s work had only just begun. It was now time to deploy the CTD yet again. It was cast out at about 7:00 and brought back in at just about 9:00. As the water gets deeper, so too does the amount of time it takes to deploy and recover any one of the pieces of equipment. Sometimes we’re paying out line for over a mile! That can take some time… Up next comes another round of GO-Flo’s and the running of the IS-Pumps for another 3 hours. Looks like it’s going to be a late night for our team of busy scientists. Keep reading to see what exciting things we find tomorrow… Au revoir, Wessal

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