Atlantis reached the field site early this morning in perfect weather. The ship’s crew got us positioned over our target and launched the motorboat that would bring back the sub’s escort swimmers. Scientists wrapped up their preparations of the instruments and sample boxes strapped into Alvin‘s basket. And the Alvin group wheeled the sub out onto the deck and finished their pre-dive checklists. Finally, pilot Bob Waters, chief scientist Stefan Sievert, and grad student Jesse McNichol climbed in, and the A-frame picked Alvin up and set it into the water.
The three descended a mile and a half to the seafloor, where they visited several vents. They found what looks like a good spot to deploy the Vent-SID for measuring microbial activity rates at the vents, set out colonizers for microbes that will be brought to the surface, collected vent fluids at high pressure in Jeff Seewald’s gas-tight samplers for chemical and microbial analysis, and grabbed some giant tube worms for studies of the symbiotic bacteria that live within them.
Alvin team members in the TopLab aboard the ship stayed in touch with the sub throughout the dive. After the sub crew finished its work on the bottom in the late afternoon, Alvin surfaced and made it back aboard without a hitch. Jesse received the traditional welcome for a first-time Alvin diver: a few buckets of ice-water dumped over his head. (On such a warm, sunny day, his fate didn’t seem half bad.)
Stefan reported that his first experience in the newly revamped sub was wonderful. Alvin now has five viewports instead of three, and he raved that the new configuration gives science observers a much better view of their surroundings. “It was incredible,” Jesse added. He’s seen these vents before, through a live video feed on a previous expedition. “But to actually be there—it’s completely different.”