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Time flies when you are having fun

15. August, 2014

After a short but successful visit to the hydrothermal vent field in the Kolbeinsey area, we hurried to our final destination of this cruise: Loki’s Castle, a large vent field with the world’s northernmost black smoker. After its discovery in 2008 during a Centre for Geobiology cruise, many of us have been involved in research on the geology, geochemistry and biology of this field – but more samples are needed to continue with this. With weather gods being on our side this year (apart from the transit back to Tromsø at the end of leg 1, we have mainly seen a flat Arctic ocean) and the ROV operations running smoothly so far, everything seemed to be ready for a great finish of the cruise. The 38 hour transit was used by most of us to rest a bit, finish the work on samples collected in the previous days at Kolbeinsey and Jan Mayen, or prepare for the new operations at Loki’s Castle.


Microbial mat in bottle

Work during transit: dividing the microbial mat (the milky-substance in the big bottle) between all the researchers that would like to work with it. 

SRR incubation in glove bag

Work during transit: Desiree performing incubations in a glove bag that is filled with nitrogen-gas, to create an anoxic atmosphere

Unfortunately, Murphy’s law kicked in just when we arrived at location. After the ROV had reached the 2500 meter deep seafloor on Saturday afternoon and started its first operations, we were suddenly staring at a pressure gauge that showed what everyone feared: no hydraulic pressure to operate the arms, the chainsaw, the suction sampler (a huge vacuum-cleaner like apparatus that can suck up biological samples from the seafloor), or anything else running on hydraulics. There was no other way but to recover the ROV and hope that Frank and Erik, the Argus pilots, could fix it.

As cruise time is precious, we switched immediately to plan B. Many of us were hoping for small sediment cores from the hydrothermal barite-rich sediments that would be collected by ROV (so-called push cores), but with more hydraulic oil outside than inside the ROV this scenario seemed to get more and more unlikely. Enough reason for some of us to skip sleep and try to get a larger gravity core from this area during the night. However, as the vent field is deep, the sediment pond small and the currents strong, it is difficult to get the core in exactly the right location using only the winch from the ship. Whether it was plain luck, or perhaps the transponder that we mounted on the corer and sent out its approximate location so that we could position the ship exactly in the right spot, by 5:00 am we recovered a beautiful 2.07 m core of reduced hydrothermal sediments. The coring-crew (Desiree and Anne) couldn’t help but to do a little dance of joy in the hangar afterwards (we just hope no-one was watching the camera).

Measuring oxygen in GS14-GC14

The sediment core from Loki’s Castle.

Still not much luck with the ROV the next day, but as nicely pointed out by Hildegunn – one of the geochemists – the cores had provided everyone with enough work to do. Surely that was true for the microbiologists who nearly sampled the entire core…

Sampling core for microbiology

Pål Tore sampling the top of the core for nitrogen-cycling experiments.

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Håkon sampling nearly the entire core for microbiology 🙂

The last hours of the cruise time were spent keeping our fingers crossed when the repaired ROV went down to deploy Ingeborgs last incubators at Loki’s Castle, and finishing the CTD festival on the Mohns ridge – before setting off to the second CGB pubcrawl in Tromsø.

Although some of our plans may not have worked out as hoped for when boarding the G.O. Sars, there were nothing but happy faces when we left the ship and headed to the airport for our flight back to Bergen. After all, cruise-based research comes with both exciting new discoveries and frustrating failures of equipment, but all of us managed to get hold on new samples that should keep us busy until the preparations for the 2015 cruise start again.


Sulfides down, oxides up

7. August, 2014

Busy times on board the G.O. Sars! We are back at the vent field on the Kolbeinsey Ridge, which we visited with the ROV Aglantha during the first leg. Because the water depth is only 120 meters,  the ROV brings samples back to the ship at a fast pace – it takes only about 5 minutes for the ROV to get to the bottom of the seafloor. In between watching the dives in the conference room on the fifth deck or in the container with the pilots, running to the hangar to see what is in the sampling buckets or processing the samples in the labs, there is thus not much time left for movies, the rowing competition (part 2) or blog writing. Luckily, two of our researchers have found some time to tell you about their fascinating projects and what they are doing on board during the cruise.

Ingeborg Økland is a post-doc in geochemistry at CGB, and set out experiments on the seafloor at Jan Mayen yesterday. Read more about her research below.


Ingeborg med inkubatorane klare til å takast ned på havbotnen med ROV’en / Ingeborg ready with the incubators to be send down to the seafloor with the ROV

Eksperiment på havets djup

Eit av måla for dette toktet er å sette ut eksperiment der vi skal undersøkje kva som skjer med sulfid- mineral når dei vert eksponert for sjøvatn og dei mikroorganismane som fins i miljøet. Vi prøver å forstå desse prosessane fordi dei vil kunne påverke miljøet dersom ein skal drive gruvedrift i sulfidavsetjingar på havbotnen. Vi vil undersøke korleis minerala løyser seg opp og endrar seg og om tungmetall vil verte spreidde til sjøvatnet.  Eksperimenta blir utført i titan-inkubatorar som består av mange små kammer som vi har fylt med sulfid mineral. Kammera har små hol i veggane der sjøvatnet kan trenge inn og reagere med minerala.

Midas 040_small

Eit av kammera i inkubatoren som er fylt med sulfid mineral. Sjøvatnet vil komme inn gjennom dei små hola og reagere med minerala.
One of the chambers in the incubator that are filled with sulfides. Seawater will come in through the small holes and react with the minerals. 


Inkubatorane festa til ROV’en klare til avreise / The incubators attached to the ROV and ready for departure

Nokre av eksperimenta har blitt satt ut på meir enn 500 m djup i gamle sulfid avsetningar ved Jan Mayen  hydrotermale felt og nokre skal setjast ut ved Loke slottet hydrotermale felt på meir enn 2000 m djup. Eksperimenta skal stå der nede i minst eit år før vi kjem tilbake og hentar dei opp igjen og skal undersøkje korleis mineral har endra seg og kva mikroorganismar som kan ha vore med på påverke korleis minerala løyser seg opp og blir omdanna.


Inkubatorane er satt på plass på havbunnen, her skal dei vere minst eit år før vi hentar dei.
Placing the incubators on the seafloor where they will stay for at least one year. 

Dette arbeidet er ein del av eit EU-prosjekt, MIDAS,  som undersøker mulige miljøkonsekvensar av ressursutvinning i djup-havet og prøver å finne metodar for miljøovervaking slik at utvinning av ressursane vil kunne skje på ein mest mulig miljøvenleg måte.

Experiments in the deep sea

One of the goals for the cruise is to deploy experiment where we will study weathering of sulphide minerals as they are exposed to seawater and the microorganisms in the environment.  We want to understand these processes because the might influence the environment during deep sea mining of sulphide deposits. This is a part of an EU-project, Midas, which is investigating how to manage impacts when utilizing deep sea resources.


PhD student Jan Vander Roost is investigating the microbiology of the hydrothermal vent systems. Read here about his stressful hours during the last few hours of ROV-time at the Jan Mayen vent field yesterday…

Number 13

With the aim of cultivating iron oxidizing bacteria on this cruise, my research can be situated within the wonderful field of microbiology. This asks for a finer and more peaceful approach of exploring the seafloor than the standard geology or biology dive (so no hammers, heavy vacuum cleaners and trawlers here).  The last dive at the Jan Mayen Vent Fields was reserved for this aim and so, the ROV was equipped with a “biosyringe”.  This tool allows a more gentle uptake of the finer material at the seafloor, and is the perfect tool to collect microbial mats (see picture of the biosyringe).

Iron oxidizing bacteria grow and develop rusty organic mats in order to control acidity, nutrient flows and oxygen levels. Consequently, I try to mimic the specific growing conditions within these mats as I try to grow them in the lab.

With the whole ship crew and all scientists on board watching over my shoulder, the pressure was on! It didn’t help that this would be ROV dive number 13.  Luckily, I am not superstitious and I could count on an excellent ROV team. We managed to collect a big part of a microbial mat…before the inlet of the biosyringe broke off. Luckily, our sample was then already safe and well in the tummy of the biosyringe.


The ROV coming back on board with Jan’s samples.


Microbial mats sampled in the biosyringe. The red color is from the iron oxides. 

Because of some delays in the day schedule, and with the long time of preparing growth vials for my little bacterial preciouses ahead of me, I was set for a long night in the lab.  But that didn’t matter. I couldn’t be happier about this successful dive and I only hope my collected iron bacteria will find their new lab environment “meget koselig” too…

Stinky stuff

6. August, 2014

Whereas the marine biologists were renowned for their stinky samples during the first leg, the last few days all of the science crew have been involved in some seriously stinky business. After arrival to the Jan Mayen vent field area on Monday evening, we started off with a dive of the Argus Mariner XXL ROV that was loaded onto the ship in Tromsø. Although the smaller Aglantha ROV had allowed us to have a look at what the vent fields looked like a few weeks ago, with the bigger Mariner XXL we would be able to get rock and fluid samples from the vent fields. Enough reasons for everyone to mobilize their equipment and sample bags and anxiously watch the chainsaw cutting off pieces of hydrothermal chimneys.



G.O. Sars and Argus crew waiting for the recovery of the ROV


ROV Mariner XXL coming back on deck with new samples

Around midnight, the smell of sulfide filled the hangar of the G.O. Sars. The source: a large piece of sulfide chimney in one of the sample boxes in the ROV! Despite the intense smell of rotten eggs, sampling started as soon as the deck crew cleared the area with microbiologists scraping of material for extractions and incubations that will tell us what kind of micro-organisms live in the chimney, marine biologists carefully searching for any shells or small animals on the outer side of the chimney and the petrologists taking rock fragments to study the minerals and geochemistry of the system. True geobiology happening there!

Read here how a PhD student in petrology, Oles Savchuk, experienced this ROV dive on his first research cruise!



Håkon is carefully sampling the piece of chimney for microbes…



…while Joanna inspects the sample for larger organisms.

Next door, another festival had started with the non-stop collection of samples from the water column (CTDs) around the vent field area, which involved the filling of tens of meters of copper tubing for He-isotope analysis, 96 syringes for dissolved methane and hydrogen concentrations that were analyzed right away, 480 syringes for geochemical analyses and (here comes the fun) filtering more than 8 liters of seawater through a 0.2 µm filter by hand. If you think that is easy – all of this had to be done in about the same time it took for the ship to move to the next sampling location, which is not very long if they are only 500 meters apart… Like a proper party, the CTD marathon started at midnight and didn’t end until breakfast the next morning, but luckily there was lots of candy, chocolate, bad music from the nineties and the help of strong men to get us through the night.

Despite the short night (or actually, the lack of that) business continued as usual today, so after a few hours of sleep most of the festival-people were up again to stick syringes into very smelly sediments brought up by the ROV, sample and analyze hydrothermal vent fluids, get the lander back that we deployed during the first leg or have fun with the sampling of gasses collected from the vent fields. And yes, these are stinky too.


Marv and Tamara fixing the bottles used for gas sampling from the ROV

Watch the video here showing the final stages of the gas sampling when the ROV is back on board – the gasses are released from the titanium bottle and collected in special sample bags for further analysis.




Hard work, hard fun

2. August, 2014

After the CTD festival ended a little earlier than planned, we headed further north to the Schulz Massif – an area where rocks that you normally find in the mantle are exposed on the seafloor. A very interesting feature for both the geologists and the biologists on board, and both teams had to join forces to handle the enormously large pile of sponges and other sea-creatures that the biologist got in their final trawl from this area.


All hands on deck: a big catch for the biologists!

Our deck clothing needed some serious rinsing afterwards to remove the sponge spicules that apparently tend to move to places where you rather do not want them to be, particularly because we were about to get more fun on deck: the final gravity core, with a record length for this cruise of 363 cm (congratulations Steffen), that was sampled in the final minutes of the cruise time in a very deep basin close to the Loki’s Castle vent field. We had to hurry up, because bad weather was expected for our transit that would slow us down too much, so after the core was recovered by 2 am at night we headed off immediately to Tromsø.

The night that followed was short and bumpy with waves crashing into the ship, and sampling the core the next morning on deck in the stormy weather became an interesting battle against the elements. Even though we all crashed into tables and doors several times due to sudden big waves and had to protect the core with our bodies from the seawater that washed over the ship, the spirits were good and I actually had quite fun out there in the rough sea. These videos are nothing but an obvious proof of that.

Steffen and Michael sampling the sediment core.

Even though it was sometimes hard not to fall…

Ingeborg measuring oxygen concentrations in the sediment.


After the storm calmed down in the evening, we woke up in the harbor of Tromsø yesterday morning – ready to celebrate a successful first half of the CGB cruise. I think that the motto of one of the bars in Tromsø, “Hard work – Hard fun”,  was very appropriate for the scientific crew on this leg: we made good progress, got the samples that we wanted, but also laughed a lot together and had a good time. We will miss the guys that left the ship and are enjoying their well-deserved holidays right now, and welcome the new crew for a second and hopefully just as successful second leg of the cruise!



R/V G.O. Sars in the Breivika harbor in Tromsø


Celebrating the end of cruise leg 1