Earth Observatory Blog
A Day on the Decks of Marion Dufresne
For the past three weeks, the scientists on board the R/V Marion Dufresne have had a great deal of work to do. Previous voyages to the Wharton Basin yielded evidence of the formation of a new plate boundary, and one of the research goals of this expedition was to image the subsurface of the sea floor, down to a depth of 30-40 kilometres (km).
These research goals were only made possible by the tremendous effort of the ship’s crew and the resident Marine Mammal Observers, who continuously worked to support the scientists. For one day, I observed the comings and goings on the decks of the Marion Dufresne. This is what it looked like.
06:00 Dawn has broken on the horizon; it is the start of yet another day on the MIRAGE II voyage. The air-guns are prepared for deployment after undergoing maintenance throughout the night.
07:00 The air-guns have been deployed, and the Marine Mammal Observers (MMO) in charge of this morning's shift scans the horizon to ensure there are no marine mammals in sight within a 500-metre radius of the vessel. The acoustic waves emitted by the air-guns towed behind the ship may impact these marine mammals in ways we do not fully understand, so it is important to err on the side of caution. If the crew are given the all-clear, operations can begin.
08:00 The air-guns have begun operating, and the Captain and Chief Scientist review the waypoints for the day.
10:00 The scientists work tirelessly, relentless in their examination of the seismic data that has been collected. They look for clues to unravel stories about the tectonic behaviour of the area.
11:00 The participants in the Floating Summer School learn from their Watch Leader, Dr Kyle Bradley.
12:00 Scientists change shifts in the Science Room. Dr Mari Hamahashi takes over.
13:00 The airguns continue firing acoustic waves every twenty seconds.
14:00 Dr Helene Carton examines data tirelessly, offering invaluable insights about the plan for the rest of the expedition, as well as potential future research papers.
14:30 While off-duty, some of the Floating Summer School students take time to switch off their brains and rest for a little while.
15:30 A shift’s long hours create a foundation for newfound friendships: Marie-Laure Fournasson and Filomena De Jesus listen to music together while processing bathymetric data.
16:00 Dr Satish Singh, Chief Scientist, briefs the participants about the main events of the day, and the plan for the next twenty-four hours.
17:30 Dr Nugroho Hananto gives a lecture on the tectonic history of the Wharton Basin, to students and all others who are interested.
After a productive day on board Marion Dufresne, the crew members, students, MMOs, and scientists are all ready for dinner and a goodnight's sleep. They rest and prepare for another full day tomorrow.