Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's all in a name...

Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are structurally diverse systems.  Two kilometers below sea surface, Jason comes across 20m tall spires, puffy pillow lava, and projecting flanges - and everything in between, including some more creative formations.  Scientists onboard the R/V Thompson have taken to giving these structures "working names."
Back in 2005, when last exploring the Lau Basin, a structure was nicknamed "Bench Top" (photo above).  This structure proved not only to have an interesting formation, but was also microbially fascinating.  The first thermoacidophile (heat loving, acid loving) ever to be isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent was from "Bench Top" samples.  It is in part due to those scientific findings around "Bench Top" that Dr. Reysenbach has brought the expedition back to Lau.  Yesterday, however, when the Thompson arrived at "Bench Top," its formation seems to have changed over the past 3 years.  We came across something that can only be described as "The Toilet," complete with water tank and seat cover (see photo below).  It will be interesting to determine the geochemical and microbial reasons behind such a modification.

Other nicknames include a beehive structure that looks like a "Christmas Tree,"
A cluster of spires called "Hogwarts,"
And a "Cappuccino" spire!