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!
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.