16 January, 2010 – The floating laboratory

This morning at 9:20 am we past 60°S. We have been making very good progress on our transit and detailed planning for the first drill site on the shelf has began. We hope to arrive at site on Monday. This morning at 4 am the first iceberg was sighted. Unfortunately I was asleep, but there will be more to come…

IODP expedition 318 chemistry/microbiology team
IODP expedition 318 chemistry/microbiology team
By now everybody on the ship is eager to get started – a week of transit is a long time although we have been busy setting up the labs, working out our sampling strategies, and attending science talks. It is quite fascinating to see how diverse the background of all the scientists is. Focusing all these minds on one single science objective is what makes IODP expeditions quite unique. We are all part of a big ‘machinery’ that will guarantee that by the time we leave the ship there is a full science report and data documentation for every singly bit of core we will have drilled during this expedition. This of course also means that everybody has a designated position on board. There are two co-chief scientists, one expedition project manager (IODP staff scientist), ten sedimentologists, four paleontologists (expertise in diatoms, radiolaria, foraminifera), four experts in physical properties of sediments, three geochemists, two logging scientists, two paleomagnetists, two palynologists, and one microbiologists (on top of that there is 27 IODP staff who help us accomplish our science on board, 52 Transocean crew members to operate the ship and 15 catering crew members).

I am sailing as an inorganic geochemist, and my job will be to analyse and interpret interstitial waters we will squeeze out of the sediment, as well as looking at the geochemistry of sediment samples. My shift for the rest of the expedition will be from noon to midnight, and my colleague Francisco Jimenez-Espejo (Spain/Japan) will do the same job while I am asleep. Our geochemistry/microbiology team is completed by James Bendle (Organic Geochemistry, UK) and Stephanie Carr (Microbiology, US). Below you can see a picture of our floating laboratory geochemistry team, including the two IODP chemistry laboratory technicians (Chieh Peng and David Houpt). The analytical capabilities we have out here in our floating laboratory are really amazing – there are thirteen (13!) analytical instruments in our lab including gas chromatographs (GC), inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy (ICP-AES), and x-ray diffraction (XRD). The analyses we can make in the chemistry laboratory range from water chemistry over sediment and rock geochemistry to organic chemistry. The main reason however why the geochemistry lab must be staffed 24/7 is that we routinely do gas safety monitoring for the drilling operations.

A cool little detail is that we have balances in the lab which are specifically designed to make precise measurements on a moving ship. Two of them can carry out measurements down to 10 microgram precision (and wobble around all the time) and the other six are operated in pairs of two to yield weight differences with a precision of about 10 milligram (second video – explained by David Houpt).

It is fun to be back in the lab!

One comment for “16 January, 2010 – The floating laboratory

  1. Hi Tina,

    the BTR93-crew wishes you good luck and success for your expedition to Wilkes Land. We hope to see you in Germany during the World Cup 2010, when Germany kicks out England from the tournament.

    Best wishes, Matthias.

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