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13 August, 2001

August 13, 2001

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Not Necessarily in That Order)

Let's start with the ugly. Last night we dredged up some rocks that were not only ugly in appearance, but they smelled bad as well. The rocks are called sulfides and their smell comes from the element sulfur.

On to the good: These sulfides are an awesome discovery. Such rocks are found in hydrothermal vent areas- places on the ocean floor where seawater is heated up in cracks of the oceanic crust by the hot volcanic material there. The seawater in these spots undergoes chemical reactions and forms hot springs averaging 350-400 degrees C. These vents, also known as "black smokers", contain the minerals that allow life forms to survive there by chemosynthesis. What makes these sulfides so exciting is that their discovery indicates the first hydrothermal vent discovered in the Arctic Ocean!!! This morning we are heading back to the area where the rocks were found in order to sample the water for chemicals that should be present around such vents.

Unfortunately there is bad as well. A dredge was attempted early this morning that was caught up on a steep slope of the ocean floor. In an attempt to dislodge it by maneuvering the ship, the dredge wire was placed under much tension and snapped when a piece of ice forced it into the ship's hull. We lost a second dredge, a second pinger, a second MAPR, and 3,400 meters of wire-approximately 2 miles worth! We are now left with about 1/3 of the amount of wire that we should have-not enough to accomplish the goals that had been set. The chief scientists will meet today to make some decisions as to what our options are. Our plans will certainly change with this event.

Today was a snowy day, and going back to the area around the hydrothermal vent took many hours due to extremely heavy ice cover. The ice was several meters thick in many places, but it was beautiful to look at. The turquoise color never ceases to amaze me!

Lat: 83 45 N

Long: 6 20 W

Air Temp: 31 F

Water Temp: 29 F

The water is an amazing color. The ice very thick and difficult to break today. <>

A piece of equipmant called a CTD is prepared before being lowered into the water. The CTD will check the water chemistry for signs of a hydrothermal vent. <>

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