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.
The image above is of a structure often called “IMAX Flange”, so named because it was featured in a film. We scientists affectionately call it Marker 2. The water venting from the bottom of this “flange” is 60 ºC (140 ºF), which is nice and warm for microbial life, and rapidly cools as it mixes with seawater down to temperatures tolerated by the diverse animal life of Lost City. It has tons of hydrogen and methane gas, which are great fuels for microbial life and endosymbionts of animals, but it is extremely alkaline (pH 10). That combination of abundant fuel for life (hydrogen and methane gas) and challenging conditions (warm and alkaline) is one of the major themes of our research at Lost City.
At this point, we have about one week to do all of the work we need to do at Lost City. We might not be able to come back here again for several years or more, so everyone is working around the clock to accomplish as much exploration and sampling as we possibly can. No one is getting much sleep, but no one is complaining. It’s like early Christmas morning, extended for a whole week with tons of hard work.
We’ll post more details on the blog about what we’re doing out here if we can find the time! In the meantime, check out our Expedition Gallery and follow us on Twitter #LostCity2018.