Posted by graduate student Alison
Sipe, University of Delaware College of Marine Studies.
The R/V Atlantis set sail for the Sea of Cortés
at 0900 hours this morning. The science party gathered
on the ship's bow to catch the last views of the Mexican
mainland. The grand mountains are studded with green cactus.
Several fishing boats float by the research vessel. In
the Bridge two decks above, the Atlantis captain,
Silva, and his crew navigate out of the port of Guaymas
and begin the transit to the research site.
The scientists continue their preparations for the first Alvin dive. The crew will launch the submarine
at 0600 hours tomorrow morning, so all necessary preparations must be completed by this evening if people plan
on catching any zzz's tonight.
Seven microbiologists assemble in the Hydro Lab and discuss their experimental plan. They will be collecting "sulfide
samples" from the vent chimneys and examining which species of microorganisms (bacteria and Archaea) live in them.
The microbiologists will grind up the chimney into a fine slurry using a mortar and pestle. It is essential that
they standardize their methods so that they routinely pulverize the chimney to a specific grain size. They will
store some of the samples in the freezer and look at others with the microscope to count how many bacterial cells
are present. Several of the microbiologists will try to grow the bacteria and archaea in the laboratory. This technique,
called "culturing," allows the scientists to study the bacterial physiology: the ideal temperature range for their
growth, what they like to eat, etc. They hope to discover species that have never been described previously.
The ship rocks lazily from side to side and I must fight
the constant urge to climb into my bunk and take a siesta.
There is work to be done and no time for sleep until this