Saturday, July 7, 2012

Launching a Million Dollar Ocean Sampling Device

Yesterday we retrieved the sediment traps that have been tethered to the ocean floor for roughly four months.  This diagram illustrates the rigging.  There are a series of bottles located under the large yellow funnels.  The bottles are on a timer that advances each of the many empty bottles to the base of the funnel after a specified period of time.   This is the main reason we are out here.  Dr. Maureen Conte is the primary investigator of the Oceanic Flux Program (OFP) time-series and has been for over 30 years.  The sediments collected in these traps tell us about the influence of the ocean surface on the physical and biological processes over time scales of weeks to decades and how particles flux in the water column. This hydrography provides unprecedented opportunities to study the biology, chemistry, and ocean physics especially over a long period of time.  Why is it important? Because this study helps us understand the reprocessing of these particles, like carbon emissions, ocean acidification, or suspended plastics.  The OFP is the longest running open-ocean research of its kind dating back to 1978 and made possible through funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  Thank you NSF!

Anika Aarons and Angela Tomassina prepare sediment trap.
Today, we are 75 km SE of Bermuda.  We returned the sediment traps to the sea with fresh bottles.  Anika Aarons, a grad student at Mount Holyoke, assisted Maureen in the process.  But it took all deck hands and marine techs to launch these gigantic sinkable “rubber duckys” that require thousands of pounds of steel, galvanized line, glass spheres the size of beach balls, and waterproof instrumentation accompanied by a 2,400 lb. anchor. With all of this heavy machinery and equipment on the aft deck, hardhats are a necessity.  Anika will be ghost-blogging her experience working on the OFP later today and I will share what we found in our surface sampling late last night.  

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