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Entries in abyssal (4)


It's a long way down

Check out this scale figure of how deep the Marianas Trench is at Challenger Deep.  Click the image to see the original full-sized jobbie.  Oh, and if you don’t know Cthulhu


Via a strange circuitous route, but mostly Kevin Zelnio from Deep Sea News on Twitter. Follow him @kzelnio, and me @para_sight



Okeanos footage

National Geographic is hosting some nice footage of a submarine volcano in Indonesia.  The video was gathered as part of the Okeanos Explorer and its current collaborative research cruise between NOAA and the Indonesian Government

The footage shows some impressive fields of stalked barnacles, an abundance of shrimp and some really cool sulfide chimneys and elemental sulfur flows.


2 of the 10 worst jobs in science

Popular Science has just published its annual "Ten worst jobs in science" issue, and two of them are in marine science!  How is this possible?  Marine science is clearly the best job since, well, ever.  Hmmmm, lets take a closer look.

1. Oceanic Snot Diver.  The name sounds gross enough, but what does it mean?  Well, it turns out that they are talking about collecting "sea snot" true enough, but to call it nasty is a bit of a beat-up, IMHO.  Scientists call this stuff "aggregates", and its an incredibly important part of the nutrient cycle in the ocean.  Really, sea snot is just the secreted mucus and fecal casts of hordes of plankton.  Wait a sec, when you write it like that, it does sound gross!  Its biggest role is in "exporting" nutrients from the surface layers of the ocean, where the sun sponsors all that plankton growth, to the dark depths, where sunlight never penetrates, but life nonetheless thrives.  Not only do some animals down there eat the stuff (ew), but at those crushing depths, some of the snot also dissolves under the immense pressure of all the water above it, much like snow melting before it reaches the ground.  In this way, the snot plays a very important part in taking nutrients produced at the surface, and dissolving them in the water at great depths.  Maybe not the most attractive concept, but pretty important in the grand scheme of things.  Like Tom Cruise says in The Firm: "Its not sexy, but its got teeth". 

2. Whale slasher.  OK, I have to concede that one.  I've seen a few stranded whales being cut up on the beach (this is called a necropsy, not an autopsy, which is reserved for people only), and it pongs.  I'm not talking sweat sock pong, or even doggy-breath-after-eating-goose-poo pong, but serious, invasive, gets-into-your-hair, throw-your-clothes-away stink.  While the cause of death is always interesting, wading through week-old whale giblets that have been baking on the beach?  Not so fresh...


Try fitting *this* into a bedside lamp

Work reported in Nature today from a presentation at the annual AGU meeting shows easily the deepest underwater volcano ever filmed.  The eruption was filmed from a remote submarine at 1200m depth - far more than the previous 500m depth record - and shows lava bursting out onto the sea floor.  The discovery helps scientists understand how pillow basalts form and how sea floor materials are added to the oceanic crust.

Its hard to imagine how extreme that process is.  We're talking hot enough to melt lead, at pressures that would turn a styrofoam cup into a thimble!