The time has come. The elevator is empty, Jason is stowed, and the lab is slowly being separated into boxes. The screens show a quiet deck and the wake of the ship as we steam towards Auckland.
The end of a cruise is a bittersweet time – everyone looks forward to their return home (and to solid ground), but the family gained while on board is something to be missed. We have created both intellectual and personal relationships with everyone, whether during van shifts, meal times, or simple down time. We return to port for one last celebration of time between shipmates, between new friends and old colleagues, and of the science that brought us all together.
Niya dilutes metal samples to create vials for SiO2 samples from the fluids gained at each vent. “It was a great learning experience,” she said. “This was my first cruise, and I didn’t know how things worked. I loved being in the control van and actually seeing the vents in real time. I hadn’t appreciated how small the vent sites really were. Jason gives off this tiny halo of light, and you realize just how much you could be missing. We learned that on this cruise with the Eccentric Gardens site – it was on the edge of the map, and no one had ever found it before. It was great seeing the critters at each vent and learning what they were, writing down ‘galatheids’ and other names I’d never heard of before.” She grinned.
|Neya finishing her analysis|
When asked, everyone agreed that they would come back in a heartbeat. It is such a wonderful experience and we all learned so much. It isn’t until you’re on a research cruise that you realize just how much work goes into sampling, collecting, and processing. In the end, however, it’s all worth it. When it comes to the best part of the cruise? That varies:
· Being in the control van and seeing things many only read about
· Finding the new vent sites
· Getting good samples!
|Alex setting up one last qPCR experiment|
· The teamwork, meeting new people, and playing (and losing) board games in the downtime
· Watching pilots attempt to collect chimneys far bigger than expected
The one thing no one agreed upon was the favorite site. From Toilet Bowl to Mothership to ABE and back, the opinions varied - and rightly so. Every site we visited had a special significance to someone and provided a sample that could potentially give science a new insight into hydrothermal vents and their microbes, chemistry, and communities.
It has been an unforgettable experience. Someday we will return to sample again, but for now this cruise – and this blog – have ended. Thank you to all science members, pilots, engineers, and ship crew. We couldn’t have done this without you.