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.
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.
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).
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…
Pål Tore sampling the top of the core for nitrogen-cycling experiments.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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
27. July, 2014
Today, the marine biologists – better known to the rest of the science crew as the ‘guys that sample the stinky animals’ – report on their sampling nights and intriguing finds from the Kolbeinsey and Jan Mayen ridges.
While much of the daytime has been used for AUV mapping and ROV dives, the nights have been the busiest for the biologists. So far we have had two dedicated bio-nights, where we used our trawl and sled to get samples of the animals living on the seafloor. In addition the geologists have been dredging for rocks for two nights, and then we have been ready on deck to get the biological by-catch.
Sorting out the by-catch from the rock-dredge.
Sieving samples on deck.
In the sled samples we got a lot of mud that needed to be washed and sieved to find the animals within, but it was worth the effort! Especially the second bio-night, when we got many individuals of a small calcareous sponge that we were hoping to find. The sledge samples also contained a wide variety of bristle worms, crustaceans and other small animals. The trawl samples usually bring up larger animals, and in the picture below you can see the cocktail of shrimps, brittle stars, fish and various other deep-sea creatures that we got from the trawl at almost 2000 m depth close to Jan Mayen.
Sorting the sieved samples in the lab. Almost like a treasure hunt!
Megafauna-cocktail from 2000 m deep.
Baby octopus looking out from his egg.
Although the first whole night of work was hard because we had been up since breakfast, we have gotten into the rhythm of sleeping during the day, and working during the night. The midnight sun makes the arctic nights just as bright as the days, which makes is so much easier to stay awake.
Sunshine at 3 AM.
25. July, 2014
It has been a couple of days since the last update on this blog, and that has a very good reason: all of us have been very busy with the collection and analysis of samples from the hydrothermal vent field and volcanic area of the Kolbeinsey Ridge! In between labwork and processing of mapping data, we also enjoyed the first ROV dives (read more about what an ROV is here)– whilst surely setting the record for the fastest offshore popcorn consumption – and have started a 5K rowing competition in the gym, which is currently led by Ole the AUV technician. Early on Thursday morning, we got clear views of Jan Mayen island when passing by so that some of us ran to the deck to take hundreds of pictures in the cold morning air.
G.O. Sars passing by Jan Mayen island.
Well – not cold enough for socks in sandals, apparently…
Arctic air is not cold, according to Alden.
Below is an update from all the geo-groups on board. Stay tuned for an update from the biologists tomorrow!
Geochemistry (by Anne and Tamara)
At the Kolbeinsey Ridge the water column/geochemistry group got samples from 5 CTDs (a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth sensor, read more here). We took these samples to identify the hydrothermal signal in this area, and to get information about the types of volatiles emitted at the seafloor in this area. In addition, we did pore water analyses on a core taken outside the hydrothermal area that is further sampled by the microbiologists.
Although we are running up and down the stairs all day to check on the CTD, the group is not doing well in the rowing competition. Thinking about it, this might be due to the cake, Sørlandschips (favorite meal of the day) and candy in our daily diet but still, we are very enthusiastic about the rowing and are convinced that we will be champions in the end.
The CTD is coming back up with samples for the geochemists.
Ingunn and Ingeborg measuring oxygen concentrations in the sediment core.
Petrology (by Filipa and Cedric)
Ship time is precious and often one needs to make long work marathons to use the most of the time available on a specific area. We had one night to dredge the Seven Sisters volcanic system on the Kolbeinsey Ridge – focusing on the sulfide mineralization and hydrothermal alteration of rocks as well as the fresh volcanic rocks. The first two dredges were made over known active hydrothermal vent areas, previously seen by the ROV Aglantha, and the latter dredges were made on fresh lava flows near and far from the active hydrothermal areas.
Dragging a metal framed basket through the bottom of the ocean can be a tricky operation and the first two dredges got stuck to a rock. 6 000 kg tension on the cable was not enough to break the samples and we had to turn the boat around to finally get us free. Feel the dredge, see the dredge, be the dredge.
The dredge used by the petrologists to get rocks from the seafloor.
By early morning there were enough rocks on deck to make the scientists happy and eager to work on. The next step is to prepare the rocks for petrographic observations and geochemical analysis once we are back in the lab.
A happy petrologist with the result from a rock dredge.
Mapping (by Alden)
As a marine scientist working in acoustics my main goal is to see the seafloor, ideally as well or better than we can see land. For the 2014 expedition to the Kolbeinsey seafloor volcanoes, we needed the best map of the seafloor possible in order to identify small but important hot vent features. To do this we used a state of the art autonomous robot (or AUV – read more here) that acoustically maps the seafloor to a resolution of 3x3cm, covering a square kilometer per hour. At Kolbeinsey we mapped several locations, rapidly processing the sonar maps overnight to use the information for cruise operations the next day. After two days of mapping and many discoveries based on the sonar data, the robot Hugin proved itself as a capable mapping vessel and an essential element of our expedition.
The ROV Aglantha is being deployed to figure out what is there on the seafloor.
21. July, 2014
We are almost at the Kolbeinsey ridge and ready for the first ROV dive, so before all the science and excitement starts – a couple of photos that Cédric made showing the highlights of the first few days of the cruise.
Loading the AUV container onto the ship in Bergen.
Heading to Kristiansund to get spare parts for the GPS.
Steffen preparing for the sediment core sampling.
Asgeir (IMR) explaining the instruments operated from deck 5.
Scientific discussions on how to split up the sediment core between all researchers.
Calm seas all the way on our journey.
Curious about who is who on board this leg? Read more here.
18. July, 2014
Slowly we have started making our way up north, but not without an unexpected journey along the beautiful Norwegian coastline and a short stop in Kristiansund (about 400 km north of Bergen) to get new parts for the GPS (navigational system) of the ship. This is one of the reasons why test runs are done before heading out to sea – if something turns out to not function as it should, it is still relatively easy to get it fixed without losing lots of time going back to the mainland or requiring an expensive helicopter to drop the stuff. Still, the piece of equipment (vital for basically all of the mapping, AUV and ROV operations) had to come from Trondheim so some patience was required, and we were happy to continue our scientific discussions and meetings on sampling strategies in a bar overlooking the Kristiansund harbor.
Just before dinner, the AUV crew started testing their equipment and launched the instrument into the fjord outside Kristiansund. Watch a video of the launch here.
AUV Hugin on the deck of the G.O. Sars
Preparing for launch
The AUV in the water. We all wondered what the fisherman in the background – just in front of the yellow house – was thinking when this bright orange torpedo look-a-like approached him…
17. July, 2014
With so many people and different research groups joining this expedition, the logistics of bringing all equipment from the university to the ship involve quite some effort. After carefully placing all the boxes and instruments onto pellets and wrapping these in plastic foil in the last couple of days – well-prepared for the Bergen weather, we started loading everything into a truck at 8:00 on Wednesday morning. It was not until lunch-time that everything had arrived on the ship and was ready to be installed in the laboratories, but where to start with that many boxes…?
Anne in between an endless stack of boxes…
Tamara checking the CTD equipment
Alden and Joakim helping out with the lab tables
In the meantime, other gear was checked and the ship moved to another port to get the AUV on board, and rumors started to spread that we would not leave Bergen until tomorrow. Not bad for those who had forgotten to pack some essential personal gear, such as their warm sweaters or toothpaste. Although everybody is keen to leave, the delayed departure was welcomed as perfect opportunity for that last beer (no alcohol is served on board) and kebab out in town.
11. July, 2014
Boxes are starting to pile up in the laboratories at the Centre for Geobiology.
They are filled with all sorts of lab equipment and hundreds of tubes, flasks, filters and tubing for the collection of geological and biological samples from the Arctic mid-ocean ridges. It is all part of our extensive preparation for the cruise, which usually starts in the spring and continues until the very last day before departure with discussions on where to go, what to sample and if we packed everything that we need. Of course, this preparation is key to a successful cruise – in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, you don’t want to find out that you forgot to pack something essential!