Friday, June 11, 2010

June 11th, 2010

Whales, Wogs and Work, Oh My!

TGIF! If only we actually had weekends on the ship…

Taken this morning as some of the 4-8 watch was trying to stay warm in the chilly science lab

We’re continuing on our dredges and closing out the final leg of the cruise. It’s hard to believe that so much time as already gone by!

We’ve progressed eastward from the lineaments we’ve been focusing on, and earlier today we dredged a seamount within the transform fault. The Galapagos transform is unique because it runs oblique to the spreading ridges, whereas most transform faults are perpendicular to the spreading ridges. This obliquity causes the transform to grow wider and may be allowing magma to travel towards the crust, which may be causing the atypical volcanism within the fault.

The highlight of the day was probably the pod of pilot whales that were spotted near the ship throughout the day. They came pretty close a few times and some of us even managed to snap some pictures. There was a baby whale in amongst the pod.

The whales are dark gray with a bulbous head and a short nose. Pilot whales largely feed on squid so it makes sense that they would venture near the ship, as we often see squid in the waters underneath the A-frame when the floodlights are on.*

We also had another successful TowCam run today. We sent some more styrofoam cups down with the TowCam. We’re donating the cups to schools in the Galapagos to give out to local children.

Pictures taken from the TowCam of the bottom of the seafloor...

We’ve been collecting some biological samples along with the geologic data we’ve gotten. Our resident biologists Daniel Wagner and Stuart Banks search our dredges for sea creatures and plant life before we collect rock samples. Check out the biological overview that Dan put together at the end of this post!

We’re also drawing closer to the pollywog equator crossing ceremony. The wogs have been on their toes as decrees from King Neptune keep coming. Tomorrow we’ll have to perform before King Neptune’s Court and keep them entertained. Unfortunately, the shellbacks (i.e. people who have crossed the equator before) infiltrated our preparatory meeting by placing a hidden camera in the room. We found the camera and deleted the video, but rumor has it that they managed to listen in anyway...tomorrow will be an interesting day…

¡Hasta mañana, amigos!

*Information about pilot whales taken from “Short-Finned Pilot Whale” from the Sierra Club Handbook of Whales & Dolphins.

Brief overview from Daniel...

My name is Daniel Wagner and I am a graduate student in Biological Oceanography at the University of Hawai‘i. Together with Stuart Banks from the Charles Darwin Foundation, we are the only Biologists aboard the R/V Melville and responsible for documenting all marine life that is collected during this cruise. While the primary mission of this research expedition is to obtain geological information, the deep-sea is so scarcely surveyed that any record of life at these great depths is extremely valuable. So far we have been able to obtain samples of many different organisms including brittle starts, sea stars, sea cucumbers, stony corals, gorgonians and even fish. Many of these include organisms that have never been surveyed from the Galapagos Archipelago, and some of them are likely to represent new species. It has thus been a very exciting and productive cruise for the study of deep-sea biology, and we hope to continue to document deep-sea fauna in the remaining days of this cruise.

Sea star

Brittle star

Sea Cucumbers




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