It’s hard to believe that our science on this cruise is almost over. This morning The sub picked up the last three iSmacs (my mineral samplers) that we had deployed and set out the three that we are going to leave out there. We are hoping that a colleague who will be working in the area in a month or so can pick them up or that we can get back out here next summer to collect them. I hesitate to write this because I don’t want to jinx things before the last 3 are in hand and sampled, but it’s pretty exciting how well things have gone with these samplers so far. Who knows if I will be able to extract DNA from them, but the deployment and collection has been pretty smooth. A couple have gotten broken by the sub arm during deployment, but nothing that I couldn’t fix.
This afternoon we take the final sample with the big instrument (the ESP) and tomorrow the instrument gets pulled, and the remaining couple of dives are not ours, so we will begin packing things and making sure we have all the necessary data files etc.
We have been able to collect lots of different types of samples at the same time or at least in the same area. Between ESP, iSmacs, niskin water samples that get preserved in a variety of ways, sulfide rocks, and tube worm collections we will be able to put together a nice picture of the microbiology of the area with good geochemical data to go alongside. Hopefully this will form a compelling story and translate into a nice paper or two.
It has also been fun to peek over the geologists shoulders. There is a group out here studying lava flows, so I have enjoyed talking with them and seeing how they do their science. The portions of the dives that they have controlled have been fun t watch too, because they go away from the vents and look at the area surrounding the vents that I would probably never see otherwise. Believe it or not, those lava flows are beautiful and very diverse in terms of shape and size of features and general texture.
I have to say that I am feeling scientifically rejuvenated. It’s easy to get discouraged after a year of lab work with out any great successes, but being out here watching the video feed from the sea floor every day gets me excited, once again, about the work I am doing. This is probably a good mindset to be in right before my qualifying exam (scheduled for September 6th).