We’ve kept up a busy pace of dives over the past few days. Yesterday’s recovery was even more spectacular to watch than usual: A pod of pilot whales stopped by to check out Atlantis and Alvin as the sub came up. The three divers inside—pilot-in-training Jefferson Grau, pilot Phil Forte, and research associate Sean Sylva—could hear our visitors but weren’t able to see them. The trio came aboard with several more vent fluid samples and tube worms for the science team.
Yesterday also brought the second deployment of the Vent-SID microbial incubation tool. After some testing and debugging on deck, the platform went over the side again last night. It should be collecting and incubating microbes now. We’re looking forward to its arrival at the surface tomorrow afternoon to see what it brings back.
We promised you more ice-bucket action, and now it’s time to make good on that: On Monday, marine biologist Horst Felbeck, postdoctoral researcher Donato Giovannelli, and pilot Bruce Strickrott dove to the bottom, where they deployed microbial colonizers and collected tube worms, vent fluids, and two nice chunks of basalt (volcanic rock).
Newbie diver Donato, easily recognized around the ship by his imposing frame, was welcomed back with a limbo stick. When he could no longer make it underneath, he got his ice-water shower. Chief scientist Stefan Sievert delivered the first blow, and grad student Jesse McNichol (a freshly initiated Alvin diver himself) finished the job.