Being on the Atlantis/Alvin cruise itself is such an experience. Since the beginning, everything is different compared to other traditional oceanographic cruises.
Instead of navigating to distinct sampling stations, we stay at the same area (9° North) for almost a month. Besides the Niskin bottles coupled with the CTD-Rosette system [for collecting water samples from different depths], we have the famous sub Alvin diving to 2,500 meters almost every day to collect our samples (fluids from the vents, plenty of microbes, chimneys, tube worms, colonizers, etc).
Instead of taking water samples from the bottles, we take samples from special pieces of equipment called “IGTs” (Isobaric Gas Tight samplers) that can maintain the in situ pressure and other environmental conditions from the deep sea vents.
Dealing with the samples is not easy, at least for me! Besides all the protocols normally followed in the lab, we have to control the pressure, be careful when opening and closing the system, work with tools (whose names I don’t even know in Portuguese!), and we have a lot of engineering.
Having the chance to dive deep was one of my (almost impossible) dreams as an oceanographer that came true on Nov. 14, 2014. The first 100 meters of the water column are beautifully turquoise. Then it becomes more and more dark, and after 300 meters it is completely dark and calm, and some bioluminescent organisms appear floating sometimes. After a very smooth 1.5 hour descent, the pilot Phil Forte turns on the lights of Alvin and we land on the basaltic rock that makes up the seafloor at this location and start exploring the area. We saw a lot of life…several crabs, many tube worms, some fishes, shrimps, octopus, lobster, microbial mats. But what most impressed me was the geological structure, which seemed to be artistically sculptured, surrounded by the black smokers with plenty of activity. It was simply unbelievable, like those scenes that you only watch in movies. But luckily for me, it was real.
Reflecting on my dive, I feel grateful, amazed, and blessed. I also feel so small…like a drop of water in the ocean or a tiny microbial cell shining in the microscope.
Dive 4769: An experience that I will never forget. I am fondly thankful to Stefan Sievert, who gave me this chance to be on this cruise, as well as all the scientists and the Atlantis/Alvin crew, for sharing this experience with me and for all their efforts to make things happen. Muito obrigada!