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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Marine Miscellany

  • Alvin lives, we are reminded by Scientist at Work; and the Generation-X research submersible is still doing great work. This time, it's for an expedition to Hydrate Ridge to study carbonate rock, deep-sea ecology, protozoans called foraminifera (whatever that is), and other inscrutibles. Okay, it is showing its age sometimes.

  • Alvin's bio courtesy of Jeffrey Marlow:
    The most important member of the expedition, however, is the 35,000-pound, egg-shaped submersible named Alvin. Alvin has been the workhorse of the deep-ocean scientific community for more than 45 years, allowing us to explore unseen worlds thousands of meters below the surface of the ocean. To sweeten the deal, Alvin comes equipped with robotic arms and an array of sample boxes, so we can collect promising samples and continue our investigations in the relative comfort of a laboratory. Faded photographs and dusty plaques commemorating the sub’s prolific history adorn the walls of Atlantis’s library. Alvin helped recover an unexploded hydrogen bomb in 1966, took Walter Cronkite to hydrothermal vents in 1982 and explored the Titanic in 1986. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, however. In 1967, an ambitious swordfish attacked Alvin’s foam outer layer, got stuck and was eventually cooked for dinner by the crew. A couple of years later, the sub sank during deployment and spent 10 months on the seafloor before it could be resurrected.

  • Aw, shucks. Chinese and U.S. scientists at BGI-Shenzhen claim to have tracked down the oyster genome. And it looks like this could lead to a genetically engineered oyster that comes out of the water on the half-shell.

  • Scat-terbrained scientists (that's a pun, not an insult) are still on the hunt for the elusive feces of the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus). If you think the feces are tough, by the way, you should try capturing their urine.

  • More evidence that beachside resorts and hotels aren't taking the threat to hatchling sea turtles seriously. (hat tip: DotEarth)

  • Oceanographer John Delaney delivered a recent TED talk in which he stumped for "new eyes" (that's a Proust quote) in the ocean through the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). Should man really "be present throughout the ocean at will," as Delaney describes it? My mind's not made up.

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