Interesting Deep Sea Adventures!

Dr. Nooner, what is the most interesting thing you have seen in the ocean?
I have seen a lot of interesting things over the last 14 years. For example, when I was lowly graduate student on one of my very first cruises, I was out at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge on the R/V Atlantis. We were doing Alvin dives during the day and using a towed video system to image the seafloor at nighttime. I was, of course, stuck in the midnight to 4:00 am watch when we discovered an entirely new type of hydrothermal vents that had never been seen before. This type of hydrothermal vent is caused by a chemical reaction between the ocean water and rocks on the seafloor that have been brought up from deep within the crust by motion on a fault. This chemical reaction is called serpentinization and gives off heat, apparently enough to cause hydrothermal venting! It was very exciting!” – Dr. Nooner

Jason holding the steak knife, ready to cut a strap.

Jason holding the steak knife, ready to cut a strap.

Sitting in the Jason Control Van for hours on end with live video feed of the seafloor reveals interesting creatures and strange happenings.
During my second four hour watch shift in the Jason Control Van, one of the research groups was installing a large tower like structure over one of the hydrothermal vents. They are trying to prove it is possible to generate power from the heat coming out of the vents. To set everything up, Jason had to lift this tower from the location where it settled after being deployed and move it to its permanent spot above a vent. There were straps on the tower that needed to be cut and the way this was achieved was pretty awesome! Apparently one of the standard tools on Jason is a steak knife that has a T-handle hose clamped to the top. Surprisingly, this is not so Jason eat his dinner at the bottom of the ocean. Once he was in position in front of the tower, one of his mechanical arms reached down, grabbed the handle, pulled up, and a steak knife appeared. He then moved the knife in place and easily cut the straps. It was definitely a very strange sight seeing an ROV use a knife at the bottom of the ocean!

Mega jellyfish swimming by Jason!

Mega jellyfish swimming by Jason!

The marine life in the deep ocean is sometimes astounding. On the descent of the first dive, a large squid hovered around Jason for a few moments before swimming away. Other more common creatures seen are brittle star fish, ratail fish, deep sea cucumbers, and a number of different types of jellyfish. One of the coolest jellyfish we have seen so far is this marshmallow-looking, large, jellyfish. This was during one of the dives when Jason had to come a short ways off the bottom of the seafloor while the ship crew was fixing the bow thruster, which has been giving us problems for most of the trip. Right as he came up, this mega jellyfish swam past. Unfortunately the jellyfish didn’t linger around the cameras for very long, but we were able to grab a couple of good pictures.

The mangled fish being swarmed by brittle stars after experiencing Jason's thruster.

The mangled fish being swarmed by brittle stars after experiencing Jason’s thruster.

Another really interesting event took place earlier this morning. Jason had carefully placed the MPR’s atop one of the benchmarks and began making a pressure measurement, part way through he jolted up. The Jason pilot had no idea what was happening; no one had touched the controllers so he should not have moved. After Jason ran into the benchmark (taking a chip of it with him), he settled down on the seafloor. Everyone in the Control Van looked around on the screens and saw a mangled fish lying just behind the benchmark. Apparently, the fish got sucked up through the thruster causing Jason to jerk. Pretty quickly, a number of brittle stars flocked to the dead fish and had a little feast.
We have a few more days of Jason dives so I am sure that we will get to see a lot more interesting sea creatures and I can’t wait to see what exciting things happen next!

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