I slept in until 11. I have no regrets about it – it was a wonderful nap. I joined the others upstairs for a bite to eat, then headed down to the main lab where a massive ping-pong game was ongoing between Nick and Carlos. Out of everyone on the science team, it was well-agreed that Carlos, Annalouise, Jeff and Stephane were the best. Talk of a tournament was tossed around and agreed upon – later, we nodded, when the boat was rocking more and it was harder for the best players to get an advantage.
The game ended (Carlos won) so Nick and I played for a little while, stopping every so often to watch the screen showing Jason’s movements on the seafloor below. We had gotten to Mariner late last night and launched early this morning, right after breakfast. I had slept through it, which I hadn’t meant to do, but I knew that they didn’t necessarily need me. My presence would not be missed.
Around 1pm, we noticed a shakiness in Jason’s left arm. By 1:30pm, we saw why. Hydraulic fluid was leaking from a joint. The camera stayed on the arm for a few minutes. We knew that upstairs in the control van, the pilot and engineer were in deep conversation about what to do.
And then he was on the way up.
We all knew what that meant. Whatever samples Jason had taken on his travels in Mariner were coming up with him, and we had to be prepared for everything. Jeff instructed Niya and I to prepare the setup for low H2S, which he was expecting due to the low temperatures at the sample sites. This meant doing a titration and preparing six separate standards for the electrode, which meant an hour and a half of work for Niya and myself.
She took on the majority of the work for this part, having done it before. I stood by and recorded mV measurements for the titration. As she prepared the standards, I went and prepared the vials for the two samples we had on the way, then set up several glass vials from the vacuum pump. These took much longer and their level of vacuum had to be recorded before they were filled for CO2 and hydrocarbon measurements.
Jason was up by 3pm and we were immediately at work, trying to finish our work in time for a 6pm drop. The first sampler was clogged, much to Jeff’s dismay. We spent most of the time attempting to unclog the valve, and eventually we had to simply replace it. Once we got started, however, we were in for a surprise.
It must be mentioned that for some reason, Mariner is much different from all the other vent sites we’ve visited or plan to visit. In fact, everything is nearly opposite – all the measurements of gases and elements that were low at the other vents are high at Mariner, and vice versa. Thus it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the pH was so low (2.56 was our lowest of the two) in our samples, or that the H2S was high enough to destroy our electrode. Jeff had to turn to the high H2S method (my method, with phosphoric acid and silver nitrate) much sooner than he expected. Methane and hydrogen were at near-absurdly high concentrations.
It made Jeff, Sean, and all the biologists giddy with excitement.
We finished up the samplers just in time to catch the last of dinner and to replace the samplers on Jason’s deck. The engineers had fixed his arm and saw no further problems with it in his future, so they were confident enough to send him back down.
We finished dinner quickly. I stood with Niya and Rick to watch the launch, then hurried to my shift in the control van, where I watched the descent with a knitting Annalouise. At 8pm my replacement had arrived and it was time for me to depart.
The rest of my night was spent at leisure, reading and watching my tv show. The elevator was scheduled to come up with four new IGT samplers after breakfast the next morning, and so I drifted, reluctant to leave my book, to bed.