What is the purpose of a research cruise, you may ask? Yes, spend the time wisely and get as much done as possible. The cruise leader’s responsibility is written in a manual, but if you face reality it is just another piece of paper.
Text: Jochen Knies, chief scientist.
The most important job for a cruise leader is to take care of your team. Since the ROV tirelessly works for us for 24 hours, with four pilots working shift throughout the day, scientists need to split into teams and do different tasks. However, spending time together, interacting, and exchanging knowledge during free time is equally important. I believe we have found a good balance and sunbathing on deck (with social distancing) helps a lot to relax.
If you chase freshwater from old ice sheets, you are supposed to find the product. We believe that the product of the freshwater seepage has been a massive, biomass-rich, chemosynthesis-based community at 800 m water depth. A team of three scientists has now mapped and sampled such a feature in two canyons.
We were hoping to find them in the other canyons too. However, this turned out to be difficult since we, in theory, had to choose between 15 canyons in the area!
The one we picked did not show any signs of freshwater discharge.
The next question is how freshwater reached the canyons in 800 m water samples. The most likely carrier is the bedrock cropping out along the walls of the canyons. Another team of two sampled two canyons and retrieved 5-10 bedrock samples It is largely sandstones we have sampled. And its porosity indeed allows transporting freshwater from its potential source, the collapsing ice sheet, towards its final sink, the canyons on the Lofoten margin.
Finally, we believe that the source of carbon that keeps this beautiful ecosystem alive comes from methane gas. We use acoustic information by mapping the water column to find the escaping methane from the seafloor. This is the most difficult job and admittedly, we were not successful so far. Finding a needle in a haystack is difficult.
The only traces of methane we get is potentially preserved in the sediments we have cored.
So, sharing the load between us makes life easier, and to share the knowledge between geologists, biologists, and geophysicists on a “tiny small” boat is actually quite fun. Teamwork is everything.