ROV Jason

ROV Jason

R/V Atlantis

R/V Atlantis

AUV Sentry

AUV Sentry

Come join us Dec. 1-6 as we explore central Costa Rica –  rich with volcanos, rainforests, beaches and wildlife.  You’ll be discovering the countryside of this Central American nation and meeting its people – “Ticos” – as we do. Then, hop aboard as we join our team of scientific researchers on the Research Vessel (R/V) Atlantis Dec. 7-23. There we’ll follow along and report on the activities of the Dorado Outcrop expedition.  This group will be conducting its own exploration of the area – but from 30 miles off of the coast of Costa Rica.  These scientists are interested in checking out the altered seawater flow that stems from deep under the sea floor – that’s right – seawater circulates within the earth’s crust, just like groundwater circulates through continental crust! It’s really very cool – literally!  More about the expedition…

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Dec. 20 Slow day for yours truly…by Gail


My shift this morning had a slow start as we had to be off bottom during the recovery of Sentry, so we started a bit later than usual around 9 am.  During my watch we did a lot of exploration of individual zones on Dorado. The watch leader was looking for warm water sites to sample and investigating each zone of the area in detail.  It is very important for the scientist to examine each area of the expedition site—this is how they decide where and when to do experiments as well as thinking about future work. 

Note: while we were waiting to get on the bottom I had a chance to chat with our JASON pilot, Jimmy.  He has been doing this work for 21 years—his expertise is evident as he maneuvers JASON, taking samples, manipulating equipment, making observations about the area of exploration and so much more. Our navigator for this watch is Tito who is also a pilot as well the expedition leader for this leg of JASON’s work–again the knowledge of the operations under the sea combined with the pilot’s and the engineer (on our watch that is Jason–aka JJ or JASON’s Jason).  I must point out that each member of the JASON operations team is invaluable.  Every group of scientists have reported that the support and expertise of the JASON ops team is extraordinary.  The team works like a “finely oiled machine”–communication between each position in the van and outside is seamless.  The expedition leader, Tito meets regularly with the scientific leaders to help plan the next moves for explorations.  The importance of each job is critical to the work that JASON is able to accomplish. 

I should also note that the Sentry ops team is equally wonderful.  They coordinate with all the working parties of the expedition to assure that the best maps are created for the scientists’ work.  I have to admit I am not sure when they sleep–every time I look in their lab area the 5 man/woman team is gathered around their computers adjusting the program so Sentry can do the important work of mapping the bottom.


This is a perfect time for me to give a personal THANKS to all of the JASON and Sentry operation team members.  Each and every one of you has been so patient and articulate about your work and the workings of JASON and Sentry.  I truly appreciate your explanations and time. THANK YOU!!!!!

Note: Cheese O’clock: a term used to describe the snack that is provided at 3pm.  Although we have incredibly delicious and plentiful meals we still all anticipate the few moments we take to socialize and nibble on cheese and crackers.

Here is your sunset:


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Dec. 19th

Dec. 19

During my watch many microbiology, temperature and fluid collection experiments were deployed at sites of interest.  We saw multiple purple octopi; in fact a rather large one hitched a ride on the Predator arm of JASON.  There were more shrimp swimming around than I had seen before and white worms hanging around on the rocks also. 


Karen and I continued interviewing our fine scientists and catching snippets of science in action.  Each time I have an opportunity to hear a scientist explain his/her work I make stronger connections to the science being done out here–they are so skilled in explaining their work to a non-scientist.  We have several interviews with scientists posted now–learn more by listening in to their explanations in the interview section of the home page!

Due to slow Internet and the method we need to use to upload them, many of our videos will take days to appear.  Please be patient and continue to check the blog after the holidays!

Can’t leave you without a sunset.     Note: I forgot to show this sunset 19th
rainbow at sunset 16thrainbow.

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Travis with Bottom Water

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Choosing Questions Wisely: Exploration in a Google World….by Karen

Dec. 18, 2013


These days, in the “Google” era, it seems we are never without an answer to life’s most pressing questions:  What makes a ketchup stain come out?  How do I cook the perfect hard-boiled egg? How do I fix my bicycle tire?  What are the secret codes for Minecraft? What are typical flu symptoms? Or, in the case of seamounts and fluid flowing through the Earth’s crust and up through the seafloor, where does it happen, and at what rate?  What does it consist of?  What impact does it have?  What does it mean about the ocean system in general?

Er…well, I’m pretty sure we could find some solid answers to the questions about ketchup, boiling an egg, fixing a bike, or cheat codes for a video game. And, we could find information – some research – on seamounts and sub-seafloor fluid flow in a quick Google search. But since the discovery phase on that topic is still going strong, the jury is still out.  In fact, this research is at a point where the questions scientists are asking are still bubbling to the surface, so to speak.  And, with every answer comes a new question. This is what makes science today so exciting:  It is possible to make great progress – in terms of new information and understanding – over a fairly short period of time. 

Yes, in these hi-tech times if given the opportunity, we can use multiple scanning, searching and sampling machines at the same time to help us explore and understand much more in a three-week exploration cruise than we ever used to beIMG_2474 able to do in the course of several, much longer expeditions.  As a layperson with limited science background (compared to the majority on board this ship), it seems to me that the biggest Google-era challenge lies in formulating – and choosing – the most meaningful questions and reasonable action plans that can bring manageable responses – given what technology can now offer.  From this ship, and in just two weeks, “we” were able to map the seafloor with (AUV) Sentry – that’s right, maps were created (processed and enhanced by a skilled scientist on a computer with the data provided by the ship’s sonar system and Sentry) — and follow not far behind with JASON (ROV).  We were able to bring up data coils from the seafloor that were placed there around five years ago.  We are able to watch and record what JASON saw and did (by remote control) at 3,000 to 4,000 feet below in real time, take temperatures, pull samples and leave samplers.  It’s stunning to witness!  And informative, of course.

But, along with that super technological capability comes a need for even more efficient human processing.  There’s more information to “download.” And things do break.  Things go wrong.  It’s part of real science.  During this excursion, we’ve had a number of difficulties, from electrical failures, to a fishing net coming into our reseIMG_0853arch area.  What happens at the human level once information is gathered – or not – can literally make the difference between moving ahead and getting stuck.  A team must be in constant evaluation mode, ready to fix something, to let go of an expectation if things prove to be different, and to alter a schedule or plan if necessary.  And, team members must be respectful and supportive of one another’s interests and goals.  Being able to see that scientific collaboration in action here – especially considering the stepped-up pace of findings — is truly inspiring.


On this ship there is no shortage of curiosity, motivation and determination. Some scientists may find what they were looking for; others will take what they learned as a basis to continue their search.  In the end, the main question or hypothesis this scientific expedition started with is what it will answer.  It may not be a clear-cut response – like how to fix that bicycle tire or cook an egg – but it will tell a story; it will have solidified some theories, broadened understanding of others, and fed ideas and concepts that will fuel the drive to find out even more.  And that is a process that has been going on since way before the Google era.

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