I am NOT writing from 35,000 ft. I am still enroute to our ship, the Merian... today was
Miami -> Haiti -> Point a Pitre. And will hopefully finish with Point a Pitre -> Forte de France, but here we sit in the terminal while there is a strike going on and nobody to fuel our aircraft.
As I noted in my first blog, since leaving Chicago I have been traveling with Jennifer Biddle, a postdoctoral researcher in Andreas Teske's lab at the University of North Carolina. We were just thwarted in our efforts to get food and beverage during the delay, because we have not gotten Euros yet and our credit cards won't work here. I am hoping this is just a local phenomenon...
So by now you might be wondering what we are planning to do on this expedition. At least I am hoping you are getting curious about our plans, and how they fit into the concepts of "intraterrestrials" and "dark energy." I'm going to try to get the chief scientist, Heiner Villinger, to add some contributions later on regarding our overarching goals for this expedition as well.
As I mentioned in my first blog, this expedition is the first in a series that are focused on this particular section of the bottom of the Atlantic known as "North Pond." The site has quite a long history already of research and study, but never for our purposes: microbiology of the deep subsurface, or, intraterrestrial marine life -- which happens to be entirely microbial -- too small to see by eye without a microscope.
North Pond was first "surveyed" in 1974, to determine if it was a reasonable place to drill in order to recover a cross-section of ocean crust. This was early in the days of what was then the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP), and marine geologists were interested in learning about the basic nature of igneous ocean crust -- the portion that forms by eruptions of hot lava at the seafloor and right below the surface. Like the layers you can see in some rocks in road cuts made for highways, the ocean crust has a layered structure too, but geologists were not able to see it without drilling holes.
In 1975-1976 the DSDP first drilled into North Pond, a tiny wedge of sediments that have collected in a valley ("pond") between mile (+) high mountains of basalt. They picked this site because it was kind of average -- so they hoped that what they found there would be pretty similar to what the crust was like most places in the ocean, so that they would not have to drill too many other holes all over the place. It turned out that North Pond was a good pick, and marine geologists learned a ton about what the crust is like from this site.
But there were some big surprises too. When they poked one of these holes in the bottom of the ocean, the hole began sucking in seawater -- a lot of seawater. The water rushed in at more than 250 gallons per hour. But what goes down, must come up, and so this means that a LOT of ocean water is flowing into, out from, and within the ocean crust -- a phenomenon that even today we don't understand too well.
These exciting discoveries led to some early fame for North Pond. But it has not stopped there, as I'll continue to talk about later.
Time to board!