Science

Update from Evelyn at Sea!

As many of you may recall, our dear friend Evelyn just recently boarded a research vessel to study an underwater chain of volcanoes in the Indian Ocean. She just sent me this update . . . if anyone has any specific questions for her, post them as comments here and I’ll e-mail them to her, but I can’t promise she’ll answer due to how busy she is exploring the world. Enjoy!
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I am writing you from the middle of the Indian Ocean! We are currently at the northernmost site of the Ninetyeast Ridge and are studying the oldest of the volcanoes. For the past 24 hours or so, we have been making detailed maps using multibeam bathymetry. This morning, we attempted our first rock dredge. From 5 am to about 10:30 in the morning we dragged the dredge basket behind the ship up the flank of one volcano, but unfortunately the sediments are thick here so all we gathered were a few pieces of carbonate (compacted ocean sediments, not pieces of the volcano) that look sort of like white dinner plates that have been broken up into pieces. We also caught one tiny fish. Overall, not a great first dredge, but at least we now have a sense of how the equipment works. As the sediments are thick everywhere along these old, thick volcanoes we likely have to wait until we steam further south until we are able to collect some real rocks– basalts, dolerites, and maybe even some gabbros and peridotites, if we end up dredging along fault zones.

For the next thirty hours or so, the geophysicists have control of the ship. They are in the process of doing one of their detailed geophysical studies. After that, we’ll be able to move south and look for our next dredge site. We’re hoping to dredge along the eastern side of the volcanic chain. This eastern side is stepper and full of faults, so we’re hoping to be able to scoop up some loose rocks.

Life aboard the ship has been exciting, so far. On our way out from Thailand, we had two days of stormy weather and big swells. We had an incredible thunderstorm, and it was very cold and windy on deck. Most of the scientists ended up seasick, but most people are recovering now with the help of some medicine and also the calmer seas we have today. The sun is even out today. Fortunately, I discovered that I do not become seasick! I didn’t take any medicine, and at my worst I felt a little tired and had a slight tension headache. I was able to keep down all of my food. I was also probably a little tired because it was difficult to sleep in the bad weather. I kept rising up off my bed several inches and slamming back down. Eventually, I managed to brace myself into the bed and get some sleep. I have the top bunk, so I was worried somewhat the first two nights that I might fall off!

The food onboard the ship is excellent. I eat far better than I do at home as a poor graduate student. Eventually, we’ll run out of fresh fruits and vegetables and the food will be more plain. For now, though, we’re enjoying the fresh fish and produce that was bought in Thailand. The rooms are fairly comfortable, and there is a large library and lounge. The lab spaces are also reasonably large. We have plenty of room to lay out our laptops and rock samples…. once we get some samples, that is!

Well, I had better get back to work. There’s much to do, and soon we’ll have some rocks, I hope!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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5 Comments

  1. Good luck with the whole not-getting-seasick thing. I used to be immune to that also, but now even looking at that picture makes me want to hurl.

    Note: I mean the picture with the waves, not the one with you! ;)

    I have to say that the phrase "the geophysicists have control of the ship" fills me with dread. It sounds like some kind of horrible techno-mutiny has occurred. Are you sure they're not going to steer the ship onto a reef?

    The only piece of useful safety advice I can remember from my sailing cruise days is: "One hand for the ship… one hand for your drink." Hope it helps!

  2. bug_girl: Perhaps she's using that device to send orders to her bee minions? That would explain CCD. The bees aren't dying, they're just flying to the Indian Ocean to assist Evelyn in her planned mutiny. Soon, once she has gathered enough of them, she'll return to land and take over an island to rule with a chitinous fist.

    There is no other possible explanation for that picture.

  3. Thanks for the update! Yeah, you drew the good genes as far as seasickness goes. My mom travels a lot and gets motion sickness fairly often. Fortunately medication has improved and greatly mitigates her suffering these days.

    Here's to dredging up the rocks you need and sleeping well. Keep us posted as you can!

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