2016.07.13 – Arrival at the TAG-area
Five days after we left dry land we have arrived at the TAG area! 26° North on the mid-Atlantic ridge, the ocean is calm and the weather is blue skies and sunshine, a perfect start (knock on wood). Over the last few days of transit all the laboratories have been set up, and everything has been strapped into place ready for the first operations of the JC138 cruise (#Bluemining)!
When the labs and equipment weren’t being set up, the transit days were filled with lots of meetings to decide on the schedule, choosing sampling locations (not just the drilling locations, but also sediment cores and ocean bottom sensors to be deployed) and running through some workflows, i.e. what we have to do with samples once we get them back to the ship.
Our first operation was a deployment of the HyBIS ROV (remotely operated vehicle), and after a slight hiccup, it came back up and then went back down into the water and was deployed to the first of our drilling targets, named Southern Mound, at around 3530 m beneath the ship.
Being the first operation, almost the entire scientific crew crowded round the 4 monitors displaying multiple cameras on the HyBIS ROV (remotely operated vehicle) everyone trying to be the first to see the sea bottom. The monitors also showed a positioning system, so that we can work out where the ROV is, in relation to the rugged seafloor, and various parameters to help navigate.
The aim of this deployment was to find the potential drilling sites that we identified a few days ago, and then release a small, but powerful, flashing strobe beacon (two ultrabright LEDs in an oil filled jar, powered by battery). We successfully deployed two beacons and identified 3 different drilling locations, one of which the RD2 rig is descending to as we write this blog post!
During the HyBIS dive we also got the first glimpses of a fascinating seafloor environment, a few bits of life (including sea cucumbers, the occasional fish and anemones) and a few examples of the intriguing ‘Paleodictyon’ trace fossils, which form a beautiful hexagonal shape, but no one knows what kind of deep sea creatures form these patterns.