But wait, there’s more!

A low-resolution version of our high-resolution map of the seafloor where we want NUI to take a closer look. (image by the NUI engineering team)

A low-resolution version of our high-resolution map of the seafloor where we want NUI to take a closer look. (image by the NUI engineering team)

Today (Thursday) was a day to pause and breathe.

I slept REALLY well last night, and today we headed back to the seafloor with the OFOS deep-tow camera system in search of our elusive deep-ocean vent site. While I was busy with that, the NUI engineering team were busy preparing the vehicle for its next dive, which I negotiated to occur on Friday 9/30 rather than Thursday, so that the team has time to add some new tricks to the vehicle’s capabilities.

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I Love My Job

the other starboard

The other starboard. In theory, the way that we bring NUI back to the ship sounds straightforward. In practice there can be wrinkles. NUI was told to come up to 2 meters (7 feet) depth at a range of 50 meters (160 feet) from the center of the ship on our starboard side where the Captain has prepared a nice pool of open water for it to surface. Instead, it came up at a range of 50 meters from the center of the ship on our port side under ice! (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Some days I just really truly absolutely positively love my job.

NUI Dive 14 began with alarms ringing at stupid-o’clock on Tuesday in cabins all along the length of the NUI team’s corridor to turn us out, ready to start work at 4:00 a.m. Based on past performance, we had estimated that we needed 3.5 hours to prepare the vehicle to be ready for the crew to help us launch at 8:00 a.m. So, with half an hour for breakfast at 7:30, that meant a 4:00 start.

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Smoking Guns

While the new data from this cruise are hot off the presses and the samples have yet to be analyzed, one of the plume signals we intercepted on Sunday had a curious combination of plume signals that we had previously seen during a 2009-2013 project studying hydrothermal venting on the equally ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise in the western Carribean. This figure shows all the different kinds of analyzes we conducted there on the physics, chemistry, and microbiology of the ocean associated with that hydrothermal plume. Out here, we have the in situ sensor data in-hand already for particles and redox anomalies, the latter using instruments provided by collaborators in the US and Japan (Hi Sharon! Hi Ko-ichi!). The next job has been started by two groups on the ship—Jill and Gunter, and Kevin and Laura—to measure hydrogen, methane, and ammonia concentrations. That will be followed on shore by work from Wolfgang Bach's team to analyze trace metal content (Alex and Elmar are out here with us to make sure they collect the right samples) and a range of further microbiological analyses in Antje's lab. But hopefully we don't need to wait that long to learn more. Better still would be to fly right over, and photograph, the vent site.

While the new data from this cruise are hot off the presses and the samples have yet to be analyzed, one of the plume signals we intercepted on Sunday had a curious combination of plume signals that we had previously seen during a 2009-2013 project studying hydrothermal venting on the equally ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise in the western Caribbean. This figure shows all the different kinds of analyzes we conducted there on the physics, chemistry, and microbiology of the ocean associated with that hydrothermal plume. Out here, we have the in situ sensor data in-hand already for particles and redox anomalies, the latter using instruments provided by collaborators in the US and Japan (Hi Sharon! Hi Ko-ichi!). The next job has been started by two groups on the ship—Jill and Gunter, and Kevin and Laura—to measure hydrogen, methane, and ammonia concentrations. That will be followed on shore by work from Wolfgang Bach’s team to analyze trace metal content (Alex and Elmar are out here with us to make sure they collect the right samples) and a range of further microbiological analyses in Antje’s lab. But hopefully we don’t need to wait that long to learn more. Better still would be to fly right over, and photograph, the vent site.

After Friday’s fun, our cruise took a different direction over the weekend. Literally. We relocated over night to our deep hydrothermal vent exploration site and suddenly it was 3:15 a.m. Saturday morning and a phone was ringing in my cabin.

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New Adventures with Robots

Still collecting new experiences after 30 years of going to sea—in this case, Mike, Christian, and Marcel dig NUI out from under the ice to end NUI Dive 13. The cage next to them is how they got on and off of the ice. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Well, Dive 13 happened, and the vehicle is back on deck. That’s the short version.

As I spent time on ice watch yesterday (Friday), and as the snow blew past and the temperature dropped below -5°C (23°F), I had time to reflect on some of the crazy things I have done with robots during my career.

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Ist Geschluppt!

Louis (closest to camera) and John (farthest to right) preparing to deploy the 2nd of our two NUI navigation beacons (called transponders) with the help of the ship’s crew, late at night. Moments later, es war geschluppt! (photo by by Frau Dr. Professor Jill McDermott, Lehigh University)

We got our first look at the Gakkel Ridge seafloor late last night. And immediately decided to run away. We also got a first sniff of the hydrothermal plume we will be chasing, as well—albeit about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from where we were extracting our mooring yesterday. But a sniff is a sniff and once you have picked up the scent, it is hard (for me, at least) to drag yourself away.

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Summer’s End

Keyhole Surgery: the moment when the bosun and crew snagged the topmost floats of the Instrument Mooring #2 at the start of the morning watch aboard ship. By lunchtime, more than 2 and one half miles of equipment had up through this small hole. Note that, the rest of the Arctic Ocean is completely frozen-over, which means we now have to break ice with the ship everywhere we go. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Keyhole Surgery: the moment when the bosun and crew snagged the topmost floats of the Instrument Mooring #2 at the start of the morning watch aboard ship. By lunchtime, more than 2 and one half miles of equipment had up through this small hole. Note that, the rest of the Arctic Ocean is completely frozen-over, which means we now have to break ice with the ship everywhere we go. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Today was the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. With the sun directly over the Equator today, there would have been exactly 12 hours each when the sun was above or below the horizon at the North Pole. After today, the sun never reaches above the horizon now and, since we are pretty close to 90°N (about 200 miles at most), from this point on our days are going to get shorter and shorter (and darker and darker) and the temperature is predicted to drop accordingly as winter closes in.

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Bad Robot

Nereid Under Ice at the surface on its first dive of the cruise. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

NUI returns to the surface after a new record descent to 350m in the Arctic Ocean during engineering trials on September 20, 2016. It was much warmer in the ocean than it was out on deck! (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

NUI tried to misbehave today (Tuesday), but Mike took it out on deck and gave it a stern talking-to and eventually we ended the day friends. That’s the short version.

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The Daily Grind

Not all our progress is in the water above the seafloor. As soon as I finished my CTD watch today, it was time for my polar bear watch as Kevin collected more cores from the ice camp. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Not all our progress is in the water above the seafloor. As soon as I finished my CTD watch today, it was time for my polar bear watch as Kevin collected more cores from the ice camp. (photo by Chris German, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Things didn’t shake out as neatly as I had hoped they would over the weekend and I am doing my best not to accuse the Arctic Ocean, or Nature, of betraying me.

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Fire, Then Ice

ps_jill_bw

(photo by Jill McDermott, Lehigh Univ.)

The rest of Wednesday passed quietly and ended well with a barbecue on deck. That’s right, all kinds of exotic meats being grilled over charcoal as we steamed past ice floes. I guess summer isn’t over until we SAY it is over! But it wasn’t exactly T-shirt weather.

We changed the ship’s clocks for the second and final time overnight and now we are on the same time zone as Muscat, Oman—the location of one of my first expeditions as a graduate student in 1986—as well as Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, which was the site of the longest expedition of my career (70 days at sea, with only 5 days ashore in the middle) in 2001. Needless to say, this is not the warmest place I have visited.

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On Top of the World

[Editor’s note: Chris is currently limited to sending individual files less than about 100 Kb in size. We apologize for the loss of image quality this causes and will try to improve them in coming weeks.]

Our cruise track to date (noon, 9/14/16) is shown by the solid red line on the map at right. After leaving Tromso near 70°N last Friday we sailed all the way to 85°N and are now just 300 miles from the North Pole (the X in the center of the large circle). Home for the WHOI team is south and west of Greenland (left off the map) and the line running through 0° of Longitude passes through Greenwich (near London) in the bottom left corner. We came north at a longitude of about 30°E and when we reach the next solid line of longitude (60°E), it will be time to turn and head  another 100 miles north to the ridge-axis and, hopefully, some really hot vent sites. We should be there in another two days or so.

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