January 15, 2014 Slideshow

Atlantis Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) technician Allison Heater stands next to a group of floats attached to the Large Volume Pump (LVP). These floats act as a small, dedicated elevator, allowing the pump to float back up to the surface once it’s done filtering water at the seafloor.

This image, taken from a video camera aboard Jason, shows the vehicle’s robotic arm pushing the metal tip of the LVP’s tubing, called the “wand,” between a thick clump of tubeworms to sample the vent site called Crab Spa. The wand will stay there for up to 16 hours, pulling vent fluid into the cylinder of the LVP, where microbes will be filtered out for later study. (These tubeworms, which partially blocked access to the vent, were collected by Jason, brought to the surface,  and dissected by Horst Felbeck shortly after this photo was taken.)

A close-up of the LVP’s sampling wand shows a perfect placement in the mouth of the “Crab Spa” vent. If you look closely, you’ll see that the device is covered in duct tape, which is holding Nadine Le Bris’ temperature and chemical sensors onto the wand. “Science without duct tape would be nearly impossible,” said Stefan Sievert.

Microbiologist Craig Taylor adjusts a hose on the LVP in his lab aboard Atlantis.

No, this isn’t a tortilla—it’s the saucer-sized filter inside the LVP. When the pump is deployed, hundreds of liters of vent fluid pass through this filter over several hours, leaving microbes from the vent fluids stuck to its surface. Here, Stefan Sievert cuts the filter into small pieces, which he’ll share with researchers back on shore who will study the microbes in detail.

After being raised more than 8,000 feet from bottom of the Pacific, Medea breaks the surface of the water. The long poles pictured here allow Atlantis’ crew to clip ropes to the vehicle, which they’ll use to help stop the remotely operated vehicle from swinging as it comes on deck.

Shortly after Medea arrives on deck, Jason is hoisted aboard the stern of the Atlantis.

This photo offers an unusual sight: a pile of naked Riftia worms, freshly removed from their protective tubes and ready for dissection. You can see a video of Horst Felbeck at work on a tubeworm in this video. (Warning: It’s a little gory).

A video screen in the Jason control van displays a detailed map of the seafloor. The red dots mark individual vent sites below the ship, and at the lefthand side of the screen, you can see Jason’s heading, depth, and altitude (its distance above the bottom). Maps like these are available for the area we’re studying, since researchers have visited these vents many times—but just outside this area, the seafloor remains uncharted.


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