Why are we out here?

Now that we are in the open sea, out of sight of land, and beyond range of easy communication with our friends and family, it seems like a good time to discuss why we are out here. Why are we spending a whole month away from our loved ones and normal lives? Why are we spending so much of our time (and public funds) in the middle of the ocean taking samples of the seafloor? My two-year old daughter is going to do a hundred little things for the first time while I’m out here on this ship getting very seasick – why would I do that?

The short answer is the thrill of discovery. This expedition is so exciting to us because of the very good chance that we might be able to see things that nobody in the history of the world has ever seen before. Like what? We don’t know! And that’s the exciting part. The Lost City was discovered in exactly this way: a group of scientists (many of whom are involved in our current expedition) in 2000 were pursuing their scientific interests by exploring the geology of the Atlantis Massif (the underwater mountain on which Lost City is perched) and accidentally discovered this amazing natural wonder that was directly related to those scientific interests and yet completely unexpected.

The scientific rationale for the expedition is a set of very specific, experimentally testable hypotheses grounded in our previous research. We have been planning this expedition for the past five years, and as a scientist, I can’t wait to finally test the hypotheses that we have been thinking about during that time. As a human being who is attracted to the idea of true exploration like a compulsive gambler to a slot machine, I am full of the anticipatory excitement that precedes venturing into the unknown. Even if, in the end, our new discoveries “only” amount to some new species of microbes and some mysterious chemical measurements, the mere possibility of discovering something new about our planet will always keep us coming out here for more.

Read more about Lost City research on our Research page, and ask us anything about the expedition in the comments below or by tweeting #LostCity2018.

– William Brazelton