The JOIDES Resolution is currently enroute to our rendezvous point with the U.S Antarctic Program’s RV/IB Nathaniel B Palmer, the icebreaker that will lead us through the sea ice and into the Ross Sea polynya. We will then proceed to our first drilling site on the continental shelf. Before we arrive on site, our job as scientists is to put together the methods sections of our reports within our individual science teams. Our science teams are made up of scientists from various countries and experience levels. Aside from working on the methods, touring labs, and listening to science talks related to what we expect to see in our shelf and rise sites, we have also been exploring the shipboard facilities including: the gym, computer room, and movie room. The first-timers are also trying to not get too lost in our new home.
Yesterday, all scientists took a drilling operations tour of the ship, where we learned about the technology involved in obtaining the sediment sequences we will be recovering. Hard hats and safety glasses are required at all times in these areas, due to the inherent risks involved with drilling operations. We first had a look at the machinery on the drill floor where the bottom hole assemblies are prepared for drilling. The derrick is the tallest feature on the ship (147 ft), and the drawworks within the derrick make it possible for us to lower the drill string (pipe) to the sea floor. Inside the drill string are additional wirelines, which bring the sediment core barrels to and from the sea floor. This is a very noisy area, which is strictly off-limits, except for authorized personnel.
I am on the Physical Properties team with four other scientists from the U.S, South Korea, France, and the U.K. When our sediments first come into the laboratory, my group runs the cores through various instruments that measure the physical properties of the sediment. This includes density, magnetic susceptibility (related to sediment composition), and background radiation which helps in identification of clay minerals. These analyses allow us to establish first order sedimentological changes downcore and help us to make hole-to-hole correlations, when we drill multiple holes at one site. Dr. Amelia Shevenell is on the Sedimentology team, which includes eight scientists from the U.S, Norway, India, Japan, Brazil, and South Korea. The sedimentologists describe the core and make detailed notes about the lithology, color, sediment structures, biogenic components, and mineralogy. We will work in the core lab on 12-hour day and night shifts, and will be very busy once the first core arrives on deck!