Posted by graduate student Alison
Sipe, University of Delaware College of Marine Studies.
Everyone is excited for the first Alvin
dive. It is 6:30 a.m., and the sun has yet to rise. Stars
still shine in the medium-blue sky. The observers for todays
dive are Drs. Craig
Cary and George
Luther. The submarine will be piloted by Bruce Strickrott.
Both observers woke up early this morning, took quick showers,
and got dressed in clothing made of all-natural fabrics.
Synthetic clothing is not permitted in the sphere. They
both are wearing denim blue jeans, cotton t-shirts, and
large sweatshirts. People who dive in the sub are instructed
to not wear any deodorant or perfumes that would cause irritating
The night before the dive, each observer packs up a pillowcase
with items that they will bring into Alvins
sphere. Craig Carys pillowcase is filled with the
following: clipboard, maps, dive notes from a 1998 Jason
expedition to the same vent site, pens, digital moving camera,
extra socks. George Luthers case contains scientific
papers, a clipboard, pens for taking notes, a computer to
support some of the chemical analytical instrumentation,
a hat, heavy wool socks, and an extra sweatshirt. Everyone
seems quite prepared for the dive, which will last approximately
eight hours. The water temperature gets very cold (4°
C) at the bottom of the ocean, and so plenty of extra clothing
is necessary. There are also wool blankets inside the sub
in case they are needed.
Neither observer drinks many fluids this morning. Eight
hours is a long time to go without using the restroom. There
are ways of relieving yourself while in the sub, but the
quarters are so close that it can be awkward. Craig Cary
indicated that he has not consumed any water. George Luther
drank a small amount in order to flush down his daily vitamins.
They are overseeing last-minute preparations to the submarine
and then will move on to the mess for a quick breakfast.
The sub will be lauched at 0800 hours, and there are still
many things to be done before this time.
Posted later in the day . . .
Today was the first successful Alvin dive of the
Extreme 2000 cruise. Alvin began its dive at 0820
hours and descended to a depth of 2008 meters. The two science
observers (Dr. Craig Cary and Dr. George Luther) and the
Alvin pilot (Bruce Strickrott) were in the submarine
for a total of seven-and-a-half hours. The Alvins
inner sphere is only 6 feet in diameter, so there are very
close quarters in the sub. The dive was an important reconnaissance
mission because the scientists located key vent features
that will be sampled during the course of the cruise. The
DLK-SUB-1 electrochemical analyzer is a sensor that can
measure water chemistry in real time when operated remotely
by the scientist sitting in the submarine. This sensor successfully
collected 75 data points during the dive. The mission also
involved the collection of one tubeworm of the genus Riftia.
This tubeworm was brought to the surface in the coffin
collection box and immediately sampled by the vent biologists
on board. The organism was dissected and tissue samples
were placed in small vials and frozen in the -80°C freezer.
The scientists will study the worm using high-tech genetic
At 1145 hours, the submarine received a teleconference call
from 11 classrooms representing the states of Delaware,
New Jersey, and California. Dr. Craig Cary fielded questions
that were assembled by inquisitive students that have been
learning about the hydrothermal vents in their science classes.
Unfortunately, the seas became choppier during the day;
the winds were as high as 35 knots at times. It is very
dangerous to retrieve the submarine from the water when
the winds are greater than 25 knots because Alvin
bobs on the wavy ocean surface for approximately 15 minutes
between the time it surfaces and it is safely returned to
the deck of Atlantis. The Alvin group decided
that the submersible should abort the dive early in case
the weather conditions worsened further. Safety is of utmost
importance when conducting submersible operations.
There were several marine mammal sightings throughout the
day. During the Alvin launch, the scientists gathered
on the ships fantail in anticipation of the dive.
One of the scientists with a keen eye spotted a pod of pilot
whales on the port side of the ship. The pod was about 100
feet away from Atlantis. It was a thrilling addition
to the already exciting Alvin launch. Later that
afternoon, the captain and his crew on the bridge of the
ship spotted a group of blue whales off the starboard side.
The bridge is where the captain steers the ship and so there
are many windows, providing the best view of the surrounding
The science party met for the nightly science meeting at
2100 hours. Dr. George Luther briefed the group on the highlights
of the dive. The scientists discussed the dive plan for
tomorrow, in which they will continue to collect geochemical
data, sulfide samples, sediment cores, and vent animals.
Alvin will concentrate on a feature of the Guaymas
basin vents called Rebeccas Roost. Patrick Hickey,
the Alvin Expedition Leader, will be piloting the
sub tomorrow morning. It is essential that he and the two
scientific observers Drs. Anna-Louise Reysenbach
and Don Nuzzio get plenty of sleep this evening before
their big day tomorrow.