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What a difference a month makes!

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sat, 07/20/2013 - 12:34

For those of you who have been following our adventure here's a comparison of the sea-state. I know that the few of us who have been out here for both halves definitely appreciate the difference, and for those joining for the second half it looks like smooth seas ahead!
Also, we have now reached 10,000 page views!! So thanks Mom (and everybody else).
James Gibson Lamont-Doherty

Mi Casa es Su Casa : A tour of the living quarters aboard the R/V Langseth

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sat, 07/20/2013 - 06:17
Our home away from home at sunset
We started our tour of the R/V Langseth almost a month ago with a walk through of the mess hall and now with our return to the high seas are excited to pick back up where we left off.  Let’s begin with our sleeping quarters.
As we all know, the most important aspect of real estate is location, location, location and the same can be said for room assignments when at sea.  On first glance, you might be tempted to opt for a room on a higher floor accompanied by a nice porthole to allow full view of the spectacular sea outside.  However, hold that thought!  Remember that the further above sea level you are, the more you will move with each passing wave.  What may feel like a peaceful sway down on the lower levels can turn into a ferocious veer strong enough to topple chairs on the top deck.  Thus, if you have any inclination that you could succumb to seasickness it is probably best to pass on the picturesque vista and opt instead for a windowless cabin below.  Fortunately, for many of the scientists mental struggles over room selection never occurred as cabins had been assigned to us before we walked up the gangway.  Most of the students aboard are sleeping in a suite of cabins that share a common living space endearingly termed the “Snake Pit”.  The origin of the room’s namesake remains mysterious, perhaps previous groups of students did some sort of battle there? Or fought snakes? Who knows, for now though it represents a comfortable room where many spend their off time reading books from the library or taking short siestas in between work. 
The "Snake Pit" where students read and lounge between shifts
All of the cabins aboard share similar features such as a set of bunk beds and matching closets.  Depending on the individual setup, you might find yourself lucky enough to also have a set of desks and perhaps even a small couch though these furnishings are found mostly in the higher rooms reserved for the principle scientists and the superior ship mates.  Given that work continues around the clock on the Langseth, all bunk beds include an individual light for private reading and also black out drapes to both prevent any light from your bed reaching your room mate and conversely any light from your room mate reaching you.  Additionally, all rooms come with either adjoining shared or private bathrooms (termed “heads”).  Given the combination of rolling waves and slippery tiles, it could easily be said that the heads may be some of the most injury prone rooms aboard.  Thus whenever attempting to take a shower, remember to always keep one hand on the hand rail and if the ship starts swaying don’t neglect to hold on tight otherwise you might suddenly find yourself autonomously ejected onto the cold, wet floor.
Our cozy cabin equipped with bunk beds and closets
I think that about does it for now, dinnertime is just around the corner and I can smell the ahi tuna from here. Buenas Noches!
Natalie AccardoLamont-Doherty

Vigo, Illas Cies, and La Cabeza

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 07/18/2013 - 00:00
As Dale said we are back to work!! We have now completed 3 lines of the ~25 that we hope to cover during this second half.

Being at sea again allows me to look back at our extended stay in Vigo (Galicia). The port city of Vigo is a unique and beautiful place. The summer months are particularly nice as this part of the Atlantic coast is rainy most of the year. Vigo is just about 2hrs north of Porto (Port wine), which is in Portugal. The proximity to Portugal and the fact that in the past teaching the English language was not stressed within the school system leads to a population that speaks a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, but not much English. As a result my (poor) Spanish was definitely put to the test as well as my ability to communicate using what are best described as elementary level sketches. 
What Vigoites lack in English they make up in hospitality and a relaxed outlook on life. In short, the idea of a "siesta" is not lost on them. While the bars (and there are hundreds if not thousands) are usually open, the restaurants do not open until 8:30 p.m., and generally not at all on Sunday. However, we did manage to find one that is, and it happened to have very good (and cheap) Tapas. Although off the beaten path it quickly became one of our favorites.
A view down the alley to one of our favorite bar/restaurants.Vigo also has some amazing beaches! After what amounted to a 45 minute walk or a 6 Euro (~$8) cab ride from the ship we could either lay a towel down and get some sun or grab a drink at one of the bars that are literally on the sand. I was shocked to say the least in the shear number of people that were at the beach, and it seemed like there were more during the weekdays than the weekends. Must have something to do with the laid back lifestyle (?)
Playa Samil on a Tuesday.The best beach (Rodas) in the world (The Guardian, 2007) can be found on one of three islands about 45 minutes (16 Euro, ~$20) by ferry named Illas Cies. The archipelago of Cies is also a Spanish National Park. An interesting thing about these islands is that they look like an above sea analog to what we are seeing sub-seafloor in the data. That is to say that they consist of a series of faulted crustal blocks (granite). The style of faulting is termed "Normal," which means that the hanging wall moved down relative to the foot wall. This type of faulting is indicative of extension and is expected along the length of this margin.

A view of Cies from Playa Samil with faults indicated by the arrows.The part that we had been so patiently waiting for arrived after almost 3 weeks in this unique place. While I will not miss being in port, I am happy to have had the chance to see and experience this part of the world as it truly is a beautiful place.

Arrival of "La Cabeza" (the head).
James Gibson
Lamont-Doherty

The highs of going to sea again!

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Tue, 07/16/2013 - 05:36

Welcome back to our blog! As of yesterday morning, we are back at sea and shortly we will resume acquiring 3D data. The repairs to the engine were more difficult than originally thought. We had the Rolls Royce engineers with us for the whole time, working with our fine engineers on the ship. You may not know that Rolls Royce makes really big engines like those in the Langseth. They worked to clean out the engine, ordered a number of parts, and the parts gradually arrived in Vigo. The engine was reassembled and tested at the dock. It worked again!We sailed from Vigo at 0700 on 15 July with a partially new science team. Several people left the ship because they had conflicts with the extended cruise. They were Donna, Tim, Cesar, Mari, Brian, Steve, Luke, Marianne, Miguel, and Toby. Remaining were Dale, James, Raj, and Sarah. We could hardly do with a science team of four, so we recruited six newcomers. They are Natalie Accardo (Lamont), Milena Marjonovic (Lamont), Gaye Bayrakci (Southampton), Joao Pedro Tauscheck Zielinski (Madrid), Tessa Gregory (Southampton), and Katherine Coates (Southampton). We will try to get photos and bios up shortly.We are deploying the seismic gear now. We have two streamers out and the third almost out. We hope to begin acquisition in the morning.We are all excited about continuing our cruise and completing the 3D survey.
Dale SawyerRice University

A Dream Becomes Reality

It has been a while since we last updated this blog. The reasons are many. The primary reason for the delay is that we have had singular focus in launching our next project, a project that for many is a dream come true.

Before we launch into that and officially start the 2013 field season, let’s do a quick recap of our team’s efforts since last August.

Our academic year started with a bang: our new research project, which was an unexpected off shoot of our efforts to study climate, fire, and forest ecology, was funded by the National Science Foundation in September 2012.

Since then, our team has spent much time presenting prior results, new preliminary results and processing samples. Many, many samples.

 N. Pederson

Acres and acres of treats: xylemite that might as well be gold. Photo: N. Pederson

First, kudos to Nicole Davi work improving a tree-ring based reconstruction of the Kherlen Gol in Mongolia (gol = river). Many of the chronologies used were collected between 2009 & 2011 as a part of the Climate, Fire, and Forest Ecology project. The new work, “Is eastern Mongolia drying? A long-term perspective of a multi-decadal trend” can be found here.

Reconstruction of the Kherlen Gol. Figure by N. Davi

Reconstruction of the Kherlen Gol. Figure by N. Davi

Second, we need to congratulate Cari Leland on persisting and publishing the first paper from her thesis: “A hydroclimatic regionalization of central Mongolia as inferred from tree rings “ – link

Hydroclimatic regionalization of central Mongolia. Map work by C. Leland

Hydroclimatic regionalization of central Mongolia. Map work by C. Leland

Cari’s effort set the stage for our second paper on the climate history of the Mongol Breadbasket: “Three centuries of shifting hydroclimatic regimes across the Mongolian Breadbasket“ – link

The swinging of drought through time and space across the Mongolian Breadbasket. Image by N. Pederson

The swinging of drought through time and space across the Mongolian Breadbasket. Image by N. Pederson

Finally, Tom Saladyga got a nice piece of his dissertation published with the article, “Privatization, Drought, and Fire Exclusion in the Tuul River Watershed, Mongolia“ – link

The spatial and temporal fluctuation of fire in the Tuul watershed. Map work by T. Saladyga

The spatial and temporal fluctuation of fire in the Tuul watershed. Map work by T. Saladyga

We have a few manuscripts in development from our Climate, Fire, and Forest history project, which ends in 2013. And, we are very happy that Byambaa is on the doorstep of completing her dissertation. This project is coming to a very nice completion and we are thrilled.

We are equally thrilled with the start of our new project, “Pluvials, Droughts, Energetics, and the Mongol Empire”. We’ve gotten a silly amount of press here, here, here, here, and here – it has been great. Both institutions have made nice videos and overviews of the project: here is an example of WVU‘s and here is LDEO‘s. Awareness of this project has been widespread. We meet new scholars from various parts of the world and it seems they are already familiar with the new study. Neil presented preliminary results at the PAGES meeting in Goa, India – that was hard work

Amy Hessl garnered two invites based upon our work. The first was a workshop primarily populated with historians on migration and empires across Eurasia. The setting and out-discipline experience was fantastic. The second was an archeology-based workshop on Chinggis Khaan in Jerusalem – sounds like that was equally hard work!

We are now gathering in Ulaanbaatar to launch the first season of ‘complete’ field work. By complete fieldwork, I mean that we will not only be collecting tree cores and cross-sections from dead trees, but Avery Shinneman Cook will be leading the effort in collecting lake sediments in central Mongolia to better understand long-term environmental history and the impact of the Mongol Empire on the landscape in and around the ancient capitol, Karakorum.

Prior to that, we will hold a 4-day workshop introducing ourselves to our wonderful and diverse team (a dream team? Besides Amy Hessl and Neil Pederson, team members include: Baatarbileg Nachin, Hanchin Tian, Nicola Di Cosmo, Avery Shinneman Cook, Kevin Anchukaitis, Oyunsanaa Byambasuren, and PhD students, Caroline Leland and John Quinn Burkhart) and their specific research. We will visit historical sites and lakes to begin the discussion on how to address some questions originally posed in our grant: did the rise of the Mongol Empire, driven literally by horsepower, benefit from an abundant climate and a surplus of ecosystem energy? Did the construction of the Mongol population, army, and herds of grazers significantly impact the landscape? Answers to the ful climatic context of the Mongol Empire has been a primary goal of the Mongolian-American Tree-RIng Project, (MATRIP) since the mid-1990s. We finally have the chance to address these questions. We do not know the answers yet, but stay tuned.

 N. Pederson

Essense. Photo: N. Pederson

_________________

Brief Observations on an alternative approach to Mongolia:

This is my 9th trip to Mongolia. It is hard to believe that I have visited this far-away land so many times. But, when I smell the steppe as we enter the airport, I relax and hit a new mode that is akin to putting on old slippers. I go through customs with nary a concern knowing that Baatar will be waiting for me with a warm greeting and hug. The drive to UB is filled with the same conversation – “How are you? How is Mongolia? How are things going? How is your family? How are your students? My, Mongolia has changed“. It is wonderful.

What changed for me this year was how I got to Mongolia. I typically venture west and enter through eastern Asia. This time, I traveled east, stopping in Turkey, re-fueling in Bishkek, and then flying over western China and western Mongolia.

The sky was clear upon entering western China and the scenery was stunning. Really. I stopped my movie and just drooled out the window [akin to a dog?]. It adds a few hours of travel time at most, but I’d do it again.

Scenes of Going East to go East

Sun Rising over western Asia

Sun Rising over western Asia. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Mountains west of Urumqi, China. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Mountains eastern of Urumqi, China. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Western Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Photo: N. Pederson

 N. Pederson

Western Gobi Desert, Mongolia. Photo: N. Pederson

Will 2013 provide another gem-quality set of data?

Will 2013 provide another gem-quality set of data?


Categories: TRL

In Ethiopian Desert, a Window into Rifting of Africa

A new study in the journal Nature provides fresh insight into deep-earth processes driving apart huge sections of the earth’s crust. The process, called rifting, mostly takes place on seabeds, but can be seen in a few places on land—nowhere more visibly than in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia. (See the slideshow below.) Here, earthquakes and volcanoes have rent the surface over some 30 million years, forming part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. What causes this, and does it resemble the processes on the seafloor, as many geologists think?

The study suggests that conventional ideas may be wrong. Past calculations done by scientists predict that the solid rock under the Afar should be stretching and thinning substantially as the continent tears apart; thus molten rock should not have far to travel to the surface. Led by David Ferguson, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, researchers analyzed the chemical makeup of lava chunks they collected from the Afar. They showed that magmas actually came from quite deep–greater than 80 kilometers, or 45 miles, within the earth’s mantle–and formed under extraordinarily high temperatures, above 1,450 degrees C, or 2,600 F.

This implies that magmas are generated by a long-lasting plume of mantle heat. It also indicates that magma must make its way up through a surprisingly thick lid of solid rock, called the lithosphere. This idea has been supported by some seismic images of the Afar subsurface.

Rifting here is fairly slow—one or two centimeters a year, or 0.4 to 0.8 inches, and this may partly explain why so much solid rock persists. As the lithosphere is pulled apart, it does stretch, crack and thin. However, because the process in this region takes so long, the base of the lithosphere has time to cool down by losing heat to the colder rock above. This keeps the relatively cold, brittle lithosphere thicker than would be expected, and counteracts stretching. Sometimes, though, magma suddenly spurts long distances to the surface, and the earth visibly cracks and pulls apart during spectacular rifting events. That includes a series of events that started in 2005, and was closely observed by scientists.

Parts of the rift have already sunk below sea level. In the distant future–maybe 10 million years from now–the process will advance so far that the Red Sea will break through and flood the region. A new sea will open up, whether or not there is anyone around to name it.

In East Africa, earth’s crust is stretching and cracking, in a process called rifting. Here in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, hundreds of faults and fissures have formed over time.In East Africa, earth’s crust is stretching and cracking, in a process called rifting. Here in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia, hundreds of faults and fissures have formed over time. (David Ferguson)

 

An important force driving the rifting is magma created beneath earth’s rocky outer shell, which has forced its way upward to push apart the crust. This eruption happened in the Afar in June 2009. (David Ferguson)An important force driving the rifting is magma created beneath earth’s rocky outer shell, which has forced its way upward to push apart the crust. This eruption happened in the Afar in June 2009. (David Ferguson)

 

This crevice opened in a matter of hours, during a sequence of very large earthquakes in September 2005. It formed in response to magma being injected into the shallow crust, and is still emitting volcanic gases. This injection of magma was the largest event of its kind to be observed by scientists. (Lorraine Field)

This crevice opened in a matter of hours, during a sequence of very large earthquakes in September 2005. It formed in response to magma being injected into the shallow crust, and is still emitting volcanic gases. This injection of magma was the largest event of its kind to be observed by scientists. (Lorraine Field)

 

Fresh lava erupted onto the desert floor preserves fragile surface textures, formed as the viscous molten rock cooled and hardened. Over time, these sharp features will erode away. (David Pyle)

Fresh lava erupted onto the desert floor preserves fragile surface textures, formed as the viscous molten rock cooled and hardened. Over time, these sharp features will erode away. (David Pyle)

 

A remote field site within the rift. Afar is one of the hottest and most sparsely populated regions on the planet. (David Pyle)

A remote field site within the rift. Afar is one of the hottest and most sparsely populated regions on the planet. (David Pyle)

 

In a region that is vast, largely roadless and dominated by armed tribes, scientists depend on helicopters to get around, and on local people to act as guides and security guards. The climate necessitates large amounts of portable drinking water. (David Ferguson)

In a region that is vast, largely roadless and dominated by armed tribes, scientists depend on helicopters to get around, and on local people to act as guides and security guards. The climate necessitates large amounts of portable drinking water. (David Ferguson)

 

ethiopia-7

Lavas forming the rift surface cracked apart during an earthquake in 2005 to form this fault. The horizontal boundary between the light and dark area marks the pre-2005 ground surface, and shows that the area in the foreground dropped several meters during the quake. The geology of Afar provides many clues to the tectonic and magmatic process operating beneath our feet. (David Pyle)

The highs of hump day and the lows of engine failure…

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/24/2013 - 10:00

June 22 was officially hump day – we were halfway through our 43-day cruise. Happily, we were also about halfway through our data collection; we had just finished acquiring the primary lines in the southern part of our survey area, which was a major milestone.  The data are looking very nice (stay tuned for an upcoming post with some of the first images of features below the seafloor here from our new data!).  Now that we have been out for a while and the survey was proceeding smoothly, everyone had settled into their shifts and routines, and the science party was consumed with onboard processing and archival of the incoming data stream. Funny enough, hump day and the near completion of half of our survey almost coincided with the summer solstice and a very full moon!  It seemed like the convergence of many lucky omens.
Alas, it was not so. In the wee hours of the morning on June 24, the port engine failed as we were steaming along collecting data.  The ship has two engines (partially in case of just such an event!).  Fixing things at sea is obviously more complicated than fixing them on land, and the engineers onboard determined that the damage was significant and not quickly repaired. While we have the parts onboard to replace most of the known broken pieces, making the repairs and assessing the full extent of the damage is best done dockside. Thus we decided to pick up all our seismic gear and head back to Vigo to make the repairs.  It took us >3 days to deploy all of the streamers, paravanes, and associated kit, but only about 12 hours to recover them! Now we are limping back to Vigo through relatively rough (3-4 m) seas powered by one engine.  Once the damage and remedies for the port engine can be fully assessed, we can figure out our next move. Wish us luck!
Donna Shillington
LDEO

How to launch an XBT

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 19:09

All of us on the science team have had our turn being indoctrinated in the "perils" of XBT deployment. In this video, Luke demonstrates the proper technique for launching an XBT.

Ship Tour – The Mess

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 06/20/2013 - 08:49
We’re starting a new series of posts here on the Galicia 3D blog to give our readers a piecemeal tour of our home away from home, the R/V Marcus G. Langseth. Every few days or so, you will see new parts of the ship with detailed descriptions and hopefully a few interesting stories to go with them. Today we focus on the mess and galley (dining area and kitchen), arguably the most important area of the ship, but stay tuned for the engine room, bridge, the rack, main lab, aft decks, gym, steel beach, the ping pong table and more! 

Prior to boarding the Langseth, my expectations of the food on board were clouded with visions of elementary school cafeteria slop doled out in aluminum trays and eaten with sporks and a side of plastic bag infused with milk. Little did I know that the folks on board take their food quite seriously. The three meals prepared each day are easily the most anticipated events of a crews’ day.

The galley (a.k.a. the kitchen in land dweller speak) is manned by a cook and steward who are responsible for sustaining the morale for the 53 people on board. The mess is regularly stocked with snacks like crackers, raisins, peanuts, dried prunes (yuck!), popcorn, cold cereal, microwave pasta, deli meats and cheeses, an assortment of milks and juices, coffee, tea, ice cream, and “fresh” fruits and vegetables (which will slowly be replaced with canned fruits and vegetables as the days go by). Cookies and pastries are also available at select times during the day if one is lucky enough to get there before they’ve all been consumed.



Between snacking times are the three glorious meals. Breakfast has the most stable menu of all the meals with a selection of eggs, potatoes, hot cereal, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, ham, and a fruit platter that is now transitioning from fresh to canned fruits. Lunch generally consists of a type of sandwich, soup, French fries and/or onion rings, hot vegetables, rice, and other unpredictable delights. Supper has been quite intriguing as of late. We’ve been blessed with several kinds of steak, beef tenderloin, meatloaf, spaghetti, and many other varieties of taste bud tantalizing foods. For those who sleep during dinner and require a stomach recharge at 3am (yours truly and a good number of the crew on the midnight to noon shift), the galley staff save plates of dinner for “breakfast” that can be eaten during off times – I like to call this meal “brupper”, but am having difficulty getting the name to stick.


Lunch at the mess with Luke, Sarah, and Tyler.It has been entertaining to watch our young British colleagues become exposed to American cuisine for the first time with foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, meatloaf (although they’ve been informed that it’s never as good as my mom’s – love you mom!), French toast, sausage in patty form, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup. It is also quite obvious that a 2,000 mile pond provides for the generation of different mealtime habits. For example, Luke was quite disgusted that I would dip a chocolate-chip cookie in a cold glass of milk; I shared his disgust when he spiced his French toast (sans-syrup) with salt and pepper and ate it like a normal piece of toast (apparently this was his first French toast experience). I’m guessing there will be some sort of payback if we ever meet in England sometime.
Well folks, speaking of the devil, I’m off to the mess for a warm breakfast. I hope you enjoyed the tour and stay tuned for the next one!

Brian Jordan
Rice University

Calm after the storm

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Tue, 06/18/2013 - 05:46

We made it! According to the 30 minute log, which is one of the duties that we are given while on watch, we sustained up to 40 knot (74 km/hr, 46 mph) winds and ~7m (23 ft) seas for a few hours last night. That said, and aside from a relative lack of sleep, most of us seem to be no worse for wear. We also managed to travel north of our next sail line by almost an entire degree of latitude, which translates to ~111km (69 miles). We have now turned around, and are heading back to the survey area while working on streamer one. We will then re-deploy the air guns, and re-engage the survey in a couple of hours. 

Same view taken this morning.
James GibsonLamont-Doherty

Preparations for the storm

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/17/2013 - 00:08
As a follow up to Donna's post, we are making individual preparations, which include taking the motion sickness medicine of choice or default depending on where you come from.
Spanish, English, and American motion sickness remedies. We are also securing (tying down) our stuff and preparing our beds, which includes a new to us method coined "tacoing." To "taco" a bed means to use whatever you can find e.g. dirty clothes, luggage, random foam (Luke found some foam in the bird lab) in order to form a taco shape between your mattress and the wall. This way the roll has less of an affect on you as you try to get some sleep.. At least that's the theory.
My laptop's ready!Brian in a reasonably "taco'd" bed... And Luke's version.
Will update from the other side of the storm.
James GibsonLamont-Doherty

Storm a Comin'

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sun, 06/16/2013 - 20:06
For the last week, we have been enjoying relatively calm seas.  Swells rolled in from distant storms, but the local weather was quite enjoyable. Now the storm that pummeled the east coast of the US last week is headed our way. This storm is expected to give us winds up to ~36 knots and ~7-8 m (~21-24 ft) waves!  This is too rough for the more vulnerable components of our gear such as the airguns, which are dangling beneath floats behind the ship.  Additionally, our data quality suffers when the weather worsens. When the winds pick up to ~25 knots, we’ll pull in some of our gear, and then turn around to face the storm and ride it out.  In the meantime, we are preparing by strapping things down in the main lab and stowing loose items that might roll around and fall over once the ship really starts to roll.
Wish us luck!Donna Shillington17th June Map of forecast wave heights posted in the main lab. The big bulls-eye is right over our field area...

Hello, sunshine

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 06/13/2013 - 03:31

We have been at sea for nearly two weeks, and during this time we have seen many things… the hints of exciting geologic structures under the seafloor in our data, waves, whales, gear going off the stern. But we have seen very little of the sun, until today.  Most days have been overcast and grey. Now that all the equipment is deployed, there is nothing requiring us to be outside except for the occasional XBT launch, so it’s easy for a day or two to go by without going outside at all. It is even possible to be totally unaware of the weather for long stretches of time since the main lab, where we spend most of our time, is windowless and below the water line. Instead of windows, we have monitors showing what is happening out on various decks from a series of cameras around the ship.  Today they showed bright sunshine reflecting off the water behind the ship.  After spending a few minutes out in the sun on the deck, my unaccustomed eyes are still seeing spots…. Back to the lab!Bern and James are on watch, so they can only watch the sun on TV from the lab. Donna Shillington13th June

Miracle workers of the Langseth overcome the curse of the Costa da Morte

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/10/2013 - 13:28
After days of uneventful and productive data acquisition, a pall fell over the R/V Langseth. Early Sunday morning, one of the streamers began to report communication errors and soon failed to communicate at all.  A series of tests over the ensuing hours revealed that the problem was not on the ship but in the equipment out in the water.  Recovering and repairing seismic gear is not a quick task. To access this streamer, we had to undo many of the steps required to put it out to begin with: recover the port paravane, shift Streamer 3 starboard and out of the way, and then reel in part of Streamer 4. After hours of troubleshooting, the technical staff of the Langseth brought Streamer 4 back to life.  All of the equipment on the Langseth is… not new, and this certainly applies to the seismic streamers. The technical staff on the ship are pros at keeping this equipment alive (and many cases bringing it back from the dead). Twelve hours after the problems with Streamer 4 began, it was back in the water, and we were ready to start collecting data again. 
But no sooner had one problem been solved, another appeared. This time the trouble arose from the failure of a piece of equipment on the ship that is at the heart of our acquisition system – the real time navigation unit (or RTNU, for those in the know). This component gathers satellite and other navigational information from the seismic equipment and delivers it to the navigation software on the ship so that we can determine the positions of all of our equipment in the water, and where and when we need to be shooting.  Once again, the dedicated technical staff of the Langseth came to the rescue.  Painstaking checking and double-checking of each component in the RTNU began last night and continued into the early hours of the morning. In the wee hours, it’s easy to get a little superstitious.  Did all these problems arise because Tim Reston and I each accidentally drew in lines on our chart indicating that we’d completed lines in our 3D box before we actually had? Or was it the curse of Costa da Morte (Coast of Death)? This part of the Galician coast is known for its shipwrecks and nicknamed accordingly. Of course, the real culprit was the non-newness of the gear in question. Once again, the Langseth’s miracle workers saved the day by assembling the working parts of various old RTNU’s into one working unit.  Thanks to their efforts, we are up and running again….

RTNU carnage on a table in the main lab.
Donna Shillington
10th June

Poseidon Visits (and Seismic Oceanography)

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/10/2013 - 12:41
One of the secondary activities on the cruise has been the deployment of XBTs off the stern. XBTs are a standard oceanographic tool designed to measure the variation of water temperature with depth, providing information on mixing processes within the water column. As temperature is one of two primary controls on velocity of sound in water (the other being salinity), it is also of interest in the processing of our bathymetric data.

Poseidon's Zodiak on the way over to exchange supplies.
A few years ago, it was realised that seismic provides a method of directly observing the mixing processes, as the different water layers have sufficiently different seismic velocity and salinity for reflections to be generated at their boundaries: we have already seen reflections in the water column of our data, probably from boundaries between North Atlantic water and warmer, more saline Mediterranean water. However there have been relatively few studies of these processes using traditional oceanographic and seismic techniques, a deficiency being rectified by the deployment of XBTs at regular intervals during our cruise.

A successful exchange on medium-high seas!!
In addition to deploying ocean bottom seismometers to record our seismic shots, the German research vessel F.S. Poseidon has been carrying out oceanographic measurements, mainly using CTD casts (conductivity-temperature-depth), which provide more information than XBTs. As a result they had several XBTs left over. These they transferred to us this morning: Poseidon came within about 1 km of the Langseth and sent the XBTs over in a small boat. A real bumpy ride!

Goodbye, until we meet in Vigo!Tim Reston
University of Birmingham

Miracle workers of the Langseth overcome the curse of the Costa da Morte

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/10/2013 - 00:32

After days of uneventful and productive data acquisition, a pale fell over the R/V Langseth. Early Sunday morning, one of the streamers began to report communication errors and soon failed to communicate at all.  A series of tests over the ensuing hours revealed that the problem was not on the ship but in the equipment out in the water.  Recovering and repairing seismic gear is not a quick task. To access this streamer, we had to undo many of the steps required to put it out to begin with: recover the port paravane, shift Streamer 3 starboard and out of the way, and then reel in part of Streamer 4. After hours of troubleshooting, the technical staff of the Langseth brought Streamer 4 back to life.  All of the equipment on the Langseth is… not new, and this certainly applies to the seismic streamers. The technical staff on the ship are pros at keeping this equipment alive (and many cases bringing it back from the dead). Twelve hours after the problems with Streamer 4 began, it was back in the water, and we were ready to start collecting data again. But no sooner had one problem been solved, another appeared. This time the trouble arose from the failure of a piece of equipment on the ship that is at the heart of our acquisition system – the real time navigation unit (or RTNU, for those in the know). This component gathers satellite and other navigational information from the seismic equipment and delivers it to the navigation software on the ship so that we can determine the positions of all of our equipment in the water, and where and when we need to be shooting.  Once again, the dedicated technical staff of the Langsethcame to the rescue.  Painstaking checking and double-checking of each component in the RTNU began last night and continued into the early hours of the morning. In the wee hours, it’s easy to get a little superstitious.  Did all these problems arise because Tim Reston and I each accidentally drew in lines on our chart indicating that we’d completed lines in our 3D box before we actually had? Or was it the curse of Costa de Morte (Coast of Death)? This part of the Galician coast is known for its shipwrecks and nicknamed accordingly. Of course, the real culprit was the non-newness of the gear in question. Once again, the Langseth’s miracle workers saved the day by assembling the working parts of various old RTNU’s into one working unit.  Thanks to their efforts, we are up and running again….
RTNU carnage on a table in the main labDonna Shillington10th June

Poseidon: OBS deployment update

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Sat, 06/08/2013 - 07:13
On 5th of June, Poseidon deployed her last three OBH instruments. The crew then spent the next two days doing CTD ("conductivity, temperature, depth") measurements of the water column. They typically recovered good measurements of conductivity and temperature for depths down to 1000 m. These measurements can be used to monitor mixing of different water bodies (such as warmer Mediterranean waters with the cold Atlantic) and to calculate variations in velocity within the water column to compare with seismic reflections we observe within the water column. Rough seas for the last 1.5 days have made the CTD measurements challenging.

Today the Poseidon is recovering eight OBH to download the data they recorded and redeploy them elsewhere within the 3-D box. It will be exciting to see the first OBH data! We won't see the rest of the data until the remaining OBS and OBH are recovered in August and September.

Despite being in the same area, here on the Langseth the science party hasn't seen the Poseidon since our first day passing them on the way out to sea from Vigo. However, this may be because we are all busy below deck in the main lab (with no windows) processing data!

Marianne Karplus
8th June


Underway and beginning to collect data

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Fri, 06/07/2013 - 23:43
For the last couple of days, we have been slowly (very slowly) steaming along at 4 knots (~4.6 miles an hour) towing all of the gear behind the ship and collecting seismic data. A lot of data! Each of the four seismic streamers behind the ship records returning sounds waves on 468 channels. Every time one of our air gun arrays fires, we collect 60 Mb of data.  Repeat that every 16 seconds for a few days, and it adds up.  Even though we have only been at it for a few days, we have already generated 405 Gb of raw seismic data, and that does not include all of the other types of marine geophysical data that we collect (bathymetry, magnetics, etc). Nonetheless, there are many reminders that we still have a long ways to go.  For example, a large map on a table in the main lab shows all 56 profiles that we plan to acquire during this cruise in our target area for 3D imaging (black horizontal lines in the image below). As we complete them, we draw a green line along the profile on the map. Four down, fifty-two to go! 

Donna Shillington8th June
Map in the main lab showing planned profiles. The ones we've already completed are in green
*Follow our progress on the "Survey Area" page as we update the sail lines every ~4 days.

The Source

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Thu, 06/06/2013 - 06:07
Our fourth (and final) gun array was deployed last night!! This means that all of the hard work that the crew has performed (with our help, of course) will begin to pay off as the data streams in while we traverse east along the western most extension.


Marine reflection seismology involves actively generating soundwaves (rather than waiting for earthquakes as in many other types of seismology). The ideal seismic source is as close to a “spike” as possible. Sound waves from the source travel into the Earth, where they reflect off sedimentary layers as well as hard-rock surfaces. The returning reflections are recorded by over a thousand hydrophones (underwater microphones that gauge pressure changes created by the reflected seismic waves) in the streamers that we have been deploying for the last four days.



The source consists of a series of air guns of varying sizes, which are hung at a depth of 9m (~30 feet) below large inflatable tubes. The tubes are 60m (~200 feet) long and each has 9 active air guns (10 with one to spare). In our case there are two sets of air guns being towed 150m (~500 feet) behind the ship, that alternately fire. To create a strong source that is as spike-like as possible, the guns are carefully arranged and fire almost simultaneously. The air is released from the chamber of the air gun, creating a 3300 cubic inch bubble pulse, which collapses to create the sound waves.
Orientation of the streamer and gun arrays being towed by R/V Langseth.
The red circles indicate the location of the gun arrays.We are making sound in the ocean, where many mammals use sound to communicate and hunt for food. In order to ensure we are operating responsibly and minimizing our impact on mammals, we have five Protected Species Observers (PSO’s) onboard who both watch and listen for (from the observation deck in Donna’s previous post) any marine mammal that comes close to the ship. If any are spotted or heard within a specified radius around the ship, we power down the guns until they leave the area.
James Gibson
Lamont-Doherty

Langseth: The paravanes are out!

Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain - Mon, 06/03/2013 - 23:24
Most of the science team came out on deck this afternoon to watch the starboard-side paravane deployed in relatively calm waters under partly cloudy skies. The technical and engineering crew proceeded slowly and carefully through the deployment procedure, and after about a couple of hours the paravane and attached streamer were over 300 m off the starboard side of the Langseth.
The second paravane went in the water at 22:00 this evening, and streamer 2 is currently being uncoiled into the water behind the ship. Despite a few delays, we are making good progress!
Marianne Karplus4th June




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