Monday, June 22, 2009

Elevators to the Deep

Jason II is able to stay down on the sea-floor for many hours exploring and sampling.  The average dive length is 21 hours, but we have had Jason down for as many as 30 hours in one dive.  As we collect samples during a dive, the sample baskets and bio-boxes (we affectionately call them "chamber pots") begin to fill with sulfide chimneys, flanges, and water samples.  In order to lengthen the time Jason can stay down, samples need to be swapped out so collection can continue.  Autonomous Vertical Transporters (AVT's), or "Elevators," are loaded at the bottom and used to send samples to the surface (see photo below).
The weighted elevator is dropped over the side of the ship and travels to the bottom.  Sample boxes and instruments are then carefully switched out by the Jason pilot.  When the ship is ready to retrieve the elevator, an acoustic signal is sent to it that triggers the release of the attached weights.  The elevator is then recovered by the crew and brought on deck using the ship's crane (see photo below).
Once the elevator is secured on deck, scientists are able to retrieve their samples.  In the photo below, Chief Scientist, Anna-Louise Reysenbach is removing sulfide samples from the elevator and Lucia Upchurch, Kristen Myers and Tatyana Sokolova are waiting to take them into the lab for analysis.