One of the major outcomes of this expedition has been the success of the HOG sampler. The large volume sampler for Hydrothermal Organic Geochemistry was designed and built by Chief Scientist Susan Lang and her lab at the University of South Carolina. It was the main workhorse of this expedition, collecting large volumes of hydrothermal fluids (we use the word “fluid” to describe the water, minerals, and gases coming out of hydrothermal vents) from Lost City chimneys that we will use to address our primary research questions. Susan and her team have been designing, building, and testing the HOG sampler for the past two years, and the Lost City 2018 expedition was the maiden voyage of the fully functional sampler. The fact that the HOG performed so well on its first big test is a testament to the Lang lab’s preparation and attention to detail, particularly by Bryan Benitez-Nelson who was meticulous in everything from choosing fittings, calculating how many bottles would fit in a given space, and designing bench tests. The HOG’s sturdy build is thanks to Allen Frye in the UofSC machine shop, who translated pen and paper sketches into elegant solutions.
Our last dive at Lost City with ROV Jason was yesterday because we have been chased away from the area by another hurricane. Even though our days at Lost City were cut down from an originally funded 12 days to 6 days, we were still successful in achieving our core scientific goals. We were able to investigate and sample the key features of Lost City that are most important to our research questions, and we can’t wait to get home and analyze our samples.
This is the first time we have been to Lost City since 2005, and we waited three years for both the R/V Atlantis and ROV Jason to be available after the project was funded. So everyone, including the ROV Jason team and the ship’s crew, worked around the clock to maximize the scientific value of our few days at Lost City. It goes without saying, but we couldn’t have done it without them. For example, yesterday the Jason team recovered, prepped, and launched Jason again in under two hours so that we could get in one last dive before the hurricane arrived. Every single one of the 21 scientists on board worked themselves to their physical limits in order to cram 12 days of work into 6. It’s a great feeling to know everyone around you is completely committed to doing whatever they possibly can to contribute to the scientific mission. We’ll report more on our scientific activities for the past week, but for now, here is a quick summary of how we spent our time.
After a whole week of being chased around the Atlantic Ocean by hurricanes, the weather finally cleared over the weekend and gave us an opportunity to explore the Lost City hydrothermal field. This week of avoiding hurricanes came after many years of scheduling delays and writing proposals. To be honest, I sometimes wondered to myself whether this project was really worth all of this work and stress. But on Sunday morning, when we finally dived at Lost City and saw scenes like the one above, it all seemed totally worth it. This is why all the scientists, engineers, and ship crew are out here.