Showing posts from September, 2019

In case you missed it

Friends, I'm sure many of you are wondering about our telepresence broadcasts, especially if you missed the live shows. The recorded videos will be uploaded to this page over the next several days. Right now, a few broadcasts are available. Below is the Portland memorial ceremony from Tuesday afternoon (top video) and two of our direct classroom interactions (one about marine technology, one about biology and archaeology) that were conducted via National Geographic's program Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants . Enjoy! The Portland memorial: The marine technology classroom program: The biology and archaeology classroom program: Our expedition was also covered by the Boston Globe , Cape Cod Today , the Cape Cod Times , Professional Mariner , the Portland Press Herald , and  Ocean News & Technology . Overall, our outreach program included nine direct interactions with 1,415 students in 28 schools. We also had four public broadcasts that were streamed to 21


"Create like a god Command like a king Work like a slave" - Constantin Brancusi My office is quiet. So quiet, in fact, that I notice for the first time the faint whirring of a fan in the ceiling. I am seated in the middle of the small green couch I inherited from the last scientist to occupy this office, and it occurs to me that this is the first time I've sat on a real couch in almost two months. Around me is an absolute chaos of equipment - gear from the ship, boxes from my last cruise , new purchases that were delivered while I was away, and miscellaneous leftovers from the renovation that took place in my absence. It's going to take me a long time to organize, but that is next week's problem. I've just said goodbye to my collaborators and the crew from R/V Connecticut  after a week at sea. We were broadcasting stories about our research to classrooms, educational venues, and the public via telepresence from the wreck of steamship Portland in Stellw

Telepresence on the horizon

Right now, I am sitting cross-legged on the desk in my office. I am surrounded by boxes and gear from my lab, which was renovated while I was at sea. In just a few minutes, I will gather the supplies I need and head out to the WHOI pier, where R/V Connecticut should be waiting for me. We're loading the ship today and will head out tomorrow to begin our investigations of the shipwreck Portland in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  This cruise is highly media-focused with ROV video feed being streamed live online. It will also be my first time serving as chief scientist, so I am very excited! I encourage you to tune in throughout the coming week. We will be broadcasting on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You can find more information about the project and planned broadcasts here:  Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution project webpage: National Marine Sanctuaries project webpage:

Spannung (voltage)

Everything that happens at sea is more vivid. I feel as if I have been rubbed raw, with only a thin layer to segregate my surfacing emotions from the outside world. Words come more easily; ideas show up in my mind more fully-formed. Every part of my nervous system is awake – feeling, thinking, experiencing, remembering. I can recall in perfect, high-resolution detail what happened at sea 2, 5, even 8 years ago, more so than any event on land. Energy courses through me. I become almost impervious to cold. Out here, I am a high-voltage human. This cruise has been trying for me on multiple fronts. The past 5 weeks have brought more storms to the ship than I have ever seen before, in the Arctic or anywhere else, and the consistently horrible weather meant that my research was pushed off until the very end of the cruise. Over and over again, I put together dive plans only to watch them get cancelled as the ship fled to the east or to the west to avoid 5 m waves. In the end, I only got 2

The reef

Martin leaned back and looked over his shoulder at me. “So? Where to now?” he asked. “Keep going northeast, along the ridge,” I answered. In front of me, the sonar glowed with a ragged stripe down the middle of its semicircular scope. I was in the ROV control van – a shipping container filled with monitors, servers, and controllers galore – on the deck of R/V Polarstern . The ROV was 1800 m below us, on top of a narrow, rocky ridge with sheer cliffs on either side. The seafloor was rough, with stones from the size of a grape to the size of a loaf of bread scattered across or buried in the mud. Sponges were everywhere – round ones and branched ones and tall ones and puffy ones. Hundreds of them, plus a number of species we had not seen at the last station. I had written a paper about this reef , located in the center of the HAUSGARTEN observatory, back in 2012, and I was overjoyed to learn more about it. One of my larval traps deployed on the seafloor. The lids will open a


“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads” - Henry David Thoreau I carried a larval trap in each hand, holding them away from my body so they didn’t hit my swift-moving legs. They were noticeably heavier now that they were filled with preservative. As I stepped out of the main hallway and onto the working deck, small white flakes swirled around my head. It was snowing! I took a breath of the cold, crisp air. Something told me it was going to be a good day. My main goal for this expedition is to begin a number of new experiments on the seafloor in the HAUSGARTEN, using an ROV named Phoca . The weather has been horrible over the last few weeks, so we were not able to deploy the ROV until now, and even then, we weren’t able to reach my main station. I spoke to the chief scientist, looked at the map, and picked a new station in the northern part of the HAUSGARTEN. The seafloor looked pretty steep, so I was hoping there would be rocks. A stone covered in sponges a


As I've been analyzing my samples from the moorings, I've been finding a lot of specimens of one species, Bouillonia cornucopiae . This species is an athecate hydroid, which might mean nothing to you but means a lot to me. Hydroids (there's not really a common name for them, sorry) live  A large Bouillonia cornucopiae individual on my frames attached to hard surfaces and filter the water to feed, and they're very commonly the first colonists on substrata in cold-water environments. Some of you may remember that hydroids completely took over the fouling panels I deployed under the WHOI pier for an experiment two years ago. Hydroids have also been ubiquitous on every recruitment experiment I've done in the Arctic, from 7 meters in a fjord right down to 2500 m at the central HAUSGARTEN station. What's strange about B. cornucopiae is that for as many of them settle on artificial substrata, I have never seen any on natural hard objects like dropstones. I

Fantasy world

Sea ice and fog in the western Fram Strait A bivalve in one of my larval traps in the East Greenland Current (996 m depth) "It looks like the entrance to another world," Carla shrugged as she shoved her hands deeper into her pockets. We stood on the upper deck of the ship, and in front of us, ice floes roamed lazily on the surface of the ocean, covered by a thick layer of fog. The ice was so slushy and the air was so moist, it felt like we had reached the critical point where states of matter cease to exist. There was no longer gas nor liquid nor solid, only dull grey moisture, and the very earth was breaking apart before our eyes. At any moment, we would become completely enveloped in the cloud. We would feel weightless and strangely euphoric and be unable to see, but then the fog would lift and we'd find ourselves back on the deck of the ship under a sunny, cloudless sky, and look up to see Narnia on the horizon. This expedition is my first time in the west

Die Verankerung (the mooring): part 2

"Do you want to grab sample tubes and come over?" Theresa signaled with her hands to compensate for the noise. The winch was still whirring as more of the mooring came aboard, and the helicopter was trying to land on the upper deck. I nodded and started heading toward my lab. Theresa's water sampler had been deployed at the very top of the mooring, just 25 m below the surface, and it was covered in biological fauna. I was grateful she let me have a pass at the instrument before cleaning it off for re-deployment. I filled 7 or 8 tubes with hydroids, mussels, and scallops. Theresa pointed to a limp red blob on the frame of her instrument: "I think this one is a slug." She was using the common name in German, Nacktschnecke, which literally translates to "naked snail." I nodded and pulled it off the instrument with my forceps, then grabbed several others like it. Back in the lab, I put the "naked snail" in a dish of seawater. Immediately, e