Yes we do mean that literally, but don’t worry, they are only
Children of SVSG were onboard the U.S. research vessel Thomas G. Thompson this week
participating in a science experiment with oceanographers from the University
of Washington in Seattle.
You may recall UW’s first mission here last year where they
laid the groundwork for research on the strong ocean currents 4-5 kilometers
below the surface that run through the Samoan Passage---largest and deepest
slot in a series of ridges separating the deep basins of the North and South
Pacific that is roughly 400 km north of Upolu.
The team is back this year to collect data from their
instruments that they set in the Samoa Passage last year. While they are at it, they will take the
Styrofoam heads decorated by SVSG and send them 5 kilometers below the ocean
surface where the water pressure will shrink the heads to a fraction of their
original size, with the decorations/drawings become very detailed. This change in size of the heads gives a very
real sense of the immense pressures that both deep-sea life and the scientific
instruments have to deal with.
According to the ship’s scientists the Samoan Passage acts
as a nozzle that funnels deep ocean currents in the Pacific. About six million tons of water flow through the
passage every second, or 30 times the average flow of the Amazon. Over the coming months, a team led by Mathew
Alford, a Principal Oceanographer and Associate Professor at the School of
Oceanography at the University of Washington, will study and measure the water flows,
analyze tidal changes, and assess ocean turbulence. According to Alford, the more turbulent the
flow the more it exchanges heat with the warmer water above. “This is important
because the deep circulation of the Pacific is the key to understanding sea
level rise and the way the planet will respond to climate change.” This
includes measuring underwater waves that can reach over 1000 feet.
One Samoan scientist from the Ministry of Natural Resources
and Environment is scheduled to join the ship and participate in the research
over the coming months. The ship, along
with the shrunken heads will return in mid-February.
Kim Martini, the first PhD student from the Wavechasers group, has moved on to a postdoc with Harper Simmons at University of Alaska Fairbanks, but is still finding time to blog and tweet about internal waves. Way to go Kim!
The Revelle hosted visits from two groups of Samoan scientists and students as well as two news teams while were loading the ship (photos here at the US embassy site). We made "top story" on the TV channel, and were written up in two of the local newspapers.
We had hoped that developing a "crush cam" would provide a point of interest for sharing our research with non-scientists----but we were still stunned by the interest. Here are a handful of articles about our hi-jinks on the high seas: Seattle PI Seattle Weekly KPLU UW Today