The ship is to set sail in less than 24 hours. While the seaman prepare the vessel for her trip, the science party held two briefings and a health & safety session.
Health and safety is a serious matter when on board such an industrial ship. Non-permanent crew were given a guided tour of the ship, shown areas of different restriction level, given explanations on what appropriate wearable gear is need for the different areas, the internal communication phone lines, laundry rooms, relaxation areas etc.
During the science briefings the mission targets and procedures were discussed. It is an amazing experience to se how scientists from different countries and institution come together, share their ideas and expertise, in order to come up with the best implementation.
Later during the day everyone has been informed to be on board the ship by 7 am tomorrow morning, Tuesday 1st March. The ship is to set sail at 8 am sharp.
All the equipment is now on board the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth. Technicians spent the day checking that the instruments are in good working order and updated as necessary. For example seismic stations are mounted to support frames, and data loggers have their timing synced with the Global Positioning System (GPS). The instruments are put on deck and locked securely to avoid shifting during the voyage.
Today, most of the scientific crew arrived on board and have their respective rooms assigned. It is a nice social atmosphere here; new people are introduced to each other, whereas some of the crew members are reunited with former colleagues from past missions.
The Passive Imaging of the Lithosphere and Asthenosphere Boundary project aims at studying the interaction of the base of the rigid tectonic part (the lithosphere) with the softer layer underneath it – the asthenosphere. Understanding interaction between the two layers is essential in order to better understand what makes plates ‘plate-like’, and thus understanding the origin of continents, ocean basins and mountain ranges. To achieve this, Ocean Bottom Seismometers (OBS) and Ocean Bottom Electro-Magnetic (OBEM) instruments will be deployed across the Mid-Atlantic Ridge along the equator. The instruments will be left at sea for a couple of months to record seismic vibrations and measure the Earth’s electro-magnetic field. The data will eventually be used to map the Earth’s interior structure beneath.
This project is a collaboration between various institutions that are providing the instruments and technical expertise including Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) from the University of Columbia, Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) from the University of San Diego, University of Southampton (UoS), University of Bristol, and GEOMAR from Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Kiel. The funding is provided by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the European Research Council (ERC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Principal Investigator of the mission is Catherine A. Rychert from the University of Southampton.
The instruments have been travelling along way; some by cargo ships and some by air cargo planes. Each batch of instruments is then cleared through customs. More information on the experiment itself and the different types of instruments used will be reported in the coming weeks, when they are being deployed. Stay tuned!