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Meteor-Blog 23. July: Come on, let's dive!

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The big day has arrived: QUEST 4000 will take his first dive down to the gas and fluid seeps on the Westafrican margin. Florian Brinkmann documents the event.

Planetearth Blog

Does the biodiversity of deep-sea organisms play a role for the climate on Planet Earth? Questions all about marine research will be answered directly aboard of the German research vessel Meteor by cruise leader Prof. Antje Boetius and her crew. In cooperation with the geoportal from 17.07.08 to 24.08.08 they contribute a Science-Blog of METEOR expedition M76/3 GUINECO – MARUM research of fluid and gas seeps on the Westafrican continental margin. Technical highlight of the cruise is the remote-controlled under water robot QUEST4000 by MARUM that will be deployed for taking fauna and sediments samples and conduction of in situ experiments. Go on a dive down to places no other human being has ever seen before: explore the fascinating deep-sea fauna and watch the scientists’ work at gas and fluid seeps deep down on the ocean bottom.

Expedition M76/3b is a collaboration of MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at Bremen University and its associated institutes MPI and AWI as well as the French research institute IFREMER and the University of Paris.

Mehr Informationen über das aktuelle Meteor-Logbuch und Expedition M76/3B

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23. July 2008 (Author: Florian Brinkmann)

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Today's Blog is contributed by:

 Florian brinkmann„Moin moin (typical Northern German salutation)! My name is Florian Brinkmann (photo 1)! I am a PhD student at the Bremen Graduate School GLOMAR and I am currently working with the Geobiology group at the MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at Bremen University. My research mainly deals with carbonate samples which form at sites of gas seepage on the seafloor as a product of microbial respiration. 23. Juli: shiptrackGeochemical analysis and mineralogical investigations provide a better understanding of different occurring processes and support a deeper insight into open questions regarding the interaction between escaping gas, predominant habitats, and the inanimate environment. During this expedition I will collect a set of samples for my PhD project, but also help with mapping the seafloor and scientific support of the ROV dives (ROV: remotely operated vehicle). As it is my pleasure to be the responsible scientist for today’s dive, I will give a short summary of what has happened in the last eleven, very interesting hours, putting emphasis on the ROV mission.”

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photo 1:   Florian Brinkmann holding the ROV (in front of the video screen)

Come on, let’s dive!

This morning, after more than one week of transit, busy preparations, and intense planning, the long-awaited event finally happened: The ROV  QUEST 4000 went on its first dive. Exactly at 8:30 the diving robot (photo 2) was manumitted from its steal mounting into the endless blue of the ocean. Not only the operating team under supervision of Volker Ratmeyer had been looking forward to this event, but also all other scientists and the ship crew. Unfortunately the high expectations were briefly let down, when some minor technical problems forced the operation to be cancelled. The heavy red hulk had to be lifted up onto the deck again. But luckily the team could solve the problems in less than half an hour, and hence a second launch was followed by many spectators, this time without any problems. After two hours of descent to a depth of more than 2750 meters the ocean revealed its beauty: a heavily populated seafloor (photo 3).

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photo 2: The diving robot ROV QUEST 4000 is deployed

The actual investigation had started. Different streams of transmitted video signals from the ROV could be followed on several screens and monitors from all over the ship. Hardly anyone missed out on these spectacular scenes. Especially the HD camera provided amazing videos and a feeling of being on-site. This makes one feel proud about being part of such an expedition and the opportunity to see all these things most other people will never be able to see.

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photo 3:   First visual contact with the sea floor : a diverse ecosystem

The first objective was to locate a site of gas seepage. Based on a gas flare that was mapped with acoustic geophysical methods  the night before, it took us less than half an hour to find the first bubbles. Despite several minor problems with the system (which is rather normal for the first dive of an expedition) many scientific tasks for the dive could be completed and a range of samples could be taken: gas bubbles in specific designed high pressure containers (photo 4), sediment samples in so called Push Cores (photo 5)- these are small cylinders that are used for recovering more or less undisturbed sediment cores- a net filled with mussels and tube worms, and small bottles with water samples. All together a quite good result for the first diving day.

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photo 4:   Pressure container for recovering gas bubble samples

After the ROV had finished its two hours ascent without any major problems, it was unfortunately discovered that the cable was damaged, and that a longer repair period is needed. However, with the samples recovered, for many of us the lab work has started: First samples can be investigated, quantified, prepared, or even analyzed. Even though there will be several other winch operated sampling events during this night, I will have to say good bye for now, as I have to work on my first gas sample. I hope this short insight into this day could give you an idea of the challenging and fascinating life on board of a research vessel.

Cheers and best wishes,

Florian Brinkmann

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photo 5:   Push Cores for retrieving rather undisturbed sediment samples