We expect to reach the vents early tomorrow morning, so everyone has been gearing up for our arrival. At an all-hands science meeting yesterday, chief scientist Stefan Sievert and the other principal investigators discussed the expedition’s research goals and how to get the samples and data they need to achieve them.
One big focus will be understanding the activity of microbes that live beneath the seafloor and in the fluids emanating from the vents. “We know pretty well who’s there,” Stefan says of the microbial community at the vents, “but we lack an understanding of how active they are.” An innovative new tool called the Vent-SID that will be deployed for the first time ever on this cruise will help him and his colleagues find out.
Meanwhile, the Alvin team has been getting the sub ready for its first dive. They’ve also been preparing all potential divers on board with a briefing on what to expect inside the personnel sphere and an explanation of the sub’s safety features. Anticipating a possible dive tomorrow morning, expedition leader and pilot Bob Waters met this evening with the first pair of scientific observers, Stefan and graduate student Jesse McNichol, to review the dive plan. With a little luck, they’ll be on their way to the bottom to explore the vents just a few hours from now.