Until recently, too little data existed about the distribution of trace elements and nutrients in the oceans to provide a global picture. In 2002, a group of scientists connected with Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory set out to fill those gaps.
In southern Greenland in summer, rivers have been streaming off the ice sheet, pouring cold fresh water into the fjords. A new study tracks where that meltwater goes—with surprising results.
My German colleague and I could conceptualize five kilometers horizontally—the same as her bike ride to work, the same as the first ever race I ran. Neither of us could quite grasp what flipping 5 kilometers 90 degrees might mean, as our pump continued on its 3-hour vertical journey to that depth.
Being aboard a ship is isolating—but for a scientist, it’s not lonely.
We’ve just completed our first full station and are remarkably pleased with the results. We collected 8 seawater samples to measure helium isotopes; 20 to measure thorium and protactinium isotopes; 7 in-situ pump filters; 1 box core of the ocean floor; and more.
With an abundance of time and a dearth of work, we have begun to devise ways of doing science before we can actually do science at sea. Among other things, we set up an imaging system to take pictures of particle filters we bring back from the deep sea.
The South Pacific Gyre is the most nutrient-poor region in the ocean, and the waters are the clearest in the ocean. The sediments accumulate below the water at rates as low as 0.1 millimeter per thousand years. So, 10 centimeters of seafloor are equivalent to one million years of material deposition in the South Pacific.
In the weeks before departing for my first scientific cruise, everyone I knew who had ever been to sea gave me some form of the same advice: Nothing ever works the way you expect it to work at sea.