On August 12, 2015 we explored another site near San Pedro, California called Point Dume. Similar to the other sites we mapped the area using multibeam sonar as well as subbottom sonar. We mapped three areas of bacterial mats and small bacterial chimneys (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Top of bacterial chimney from previous Nautilus cruise.
Chimneys is not the official technical term but a word used to describe the feature. Chimneys are rock formations made from bacterial by-products that are synthesizing chemicals seeping from the sea floor. After the dive we transited to Catalina island. We also explored maggot-like creatures living on bacterial mats. As a side project, the expedition leader has begun to keep count of how many catsharks we observe during the dive (Figure 2 & 3). The count responsibility is given to the Honors Research Program (HRP) students.
Figure 3. The real catshark we were looking for during the dives.
HRP is program for rising high school seniors interested in learning more about the Nautilus and ocean exploration. They spend one month at the University of Rhode Island prepping for their offshore trip doing small projects. One of their projects included creating ocean drifters to collect data to help improve mathematical models of ocean currents. For more information click here. Application for the 2016 Nautilus expedition will be opening soon, click here for updates.
On another note, when working offshore you are required to carry your passport and hand it over to the captain. I found out that one of the first things Captain Neal does is look through all the dates of birth to see if there are any birthdays while offshore, thus they figured out it was my birthday on August 12. During lunch I was greeted with several “Happy Birthday’s” and during dinner the cooking crew was kind enough to bake a cake for me and began to sing “Happy Birthday” (Figure 4). It was one of the kindest things that has happened offshore. I really appreciated everyone especially the crew making me feel special. Thank you all! This was my first offshore birthday.
Figure 4. The tasty birthday cake cooking crew made for me.