It seems we are back in the game with regards to frozen samples. The -80 freezer was stripped down and restarted on deck and quickly plummeted back to very sub-zero temperatures. Turns out it simply over heated in the wet lab like the rest of us. To maintain this facility we have had to lash the -80 outside on the deck. How we are going to deal with this on the trip back to Auckland should be interesting. Anyway, plummet is a great word, and simply switching things on and off does work sometimes.
At first light we brought in Frank Trappa which heralded a relatively good catch from 2000m. Shortly after we had the lander on board which finally produced something other than ophidiids and pennaeids- they were of course there, but we had a more typical scavenging community. We imaged Chimaeras, Bathyrajid rays, a couple of macrourids including the mighty Coryphaenoides rudis, and various others critters. This means we have found the bathymetric boundary of this deep oligotrophic system. Good work, good science, but not quite have-a-go-hero hadal work is it?
So we set a course for the deepest part of the New Hebrides Trench and decide to nail this thing once and for all. Because of our incredible run of bad luck we don’t actually have a fully working system rated to 7000m. But we think we do now. I’m not going to explain how we overcame this problem, what happens on Kaharoa, stays on Kaharoa, but it was one of those moments where I was thinking it but didn’t want to say to Thom while Thom was thinking it and didn’t want to suggest it to me. But in the end we agreed a course of action that would take us to the deep end, and so we did.
We shot Frank Trappa down to exactly 6000m followed by the lander to 7000m and then retired to the hot, muggy, filthy deck for a cold and crisp Steinlager and think about what we have just done.
A lot of the day was spent trying to formulate a plan of what to do with the remaining days we have on this charter. As supreme commander of the Pacific Rim, everyone seems to think that I actually have a plan. Partly because I did have a plan, but unbeknown to them that plan was jettisoned over a weeks ago and now I am completely winging it. On the plus side, despite the kinks in the lineage of certainty, the ripples in the ship-time continuum and complete lack of cosmic stardust, we have actually already done a sterling job in this trench. The deployments today were numbers 32 and 33, that’s a lot of work. The success rate is in the mid-80% and it looking very much like we will complete an imaging and sampling transect spanning a 5000 m depth range (2000-7000m) at a less than 500m resolution. With all the problems and stuff we have had to duck, dive and bodge our way through, I didn’t realise we have done such a amazing job.
Alan – 24th November