Cruise Update: Life in the Extreme

During the first week of this cruise, three prototype incubators were successfully deployed. One incubator was placed high up on the structure called Roane, located in the Faulty Towers Complex in the Mothra Hydrothermal Field and a second incubator was placed ~ 20 meters away within the chimney called Giraffe (Figure 1). Fluids venting from the hole drilled in Giraffe were 204°C (399°F)!

Roane is of particular interest because two incubators were placed in the same hole in 2003 and 2004. These prior experiments provide insights into the temporal changes in the composition of microbial communities. Phylogenetic analyses of microbial communities that colonized the incubator show very different make up in a 3 month and 1 year deployment. This 1-month experiment on the VISIONS05 cruise, coupled with in situ sampling of fluids and continuous measurement of dissolved hydrogen will complement the early experiments and provide information on the microbes that first colonize these environments.

We also deployed an incubator near the huge edifice called Hulk in the Main Endeavour Field (Figure 2). The incubator was placed just south Hulk in a small actively venting structure completely surrounded by an extensive area of diffuse flow. The incubator is about 1 meter away from a vigorously venting black smoker chimney. We plan on placing an in situ hydrogen-temperature-resistivity probe within this 320°C (609°F) orifice (Figure 3), an osmo sampler in an area of intense diffuse flow on top of the chimney, and a remote access sampler and fluid particulate sampler a few meters away.

In addition to the incubators, we placed two additional incubation experiments inside the chimney walls of Roane, and Hulk that will be recovered at the end of this program. We hope to recover these instruments as well as the incubators near the end of this cruise, and redeploy them for one-year. They will be recovered in 2006 using the 3-person submersible Alvin.