A song of Ice and Mud
Currently, the Vent & Seep Fauna project (represented by Mari Eilertsen, and collaborators from UiT and University of Aveiro, Portugal) are participating in an Arctic cruise organized by CAGE/UiT and the AKMA and OceanSenses projects. Our main goal for the Vent & Seep Fauna project is to get good samples from cold seeps to generate species inventories and DNA barcodes. But as a part of the team of the cruise, we get to take part in many other fun activities on board!
One of our first stations was actually not for seafloor samples at all – but for samples of sea ice. And this meant showing off the icebreaking capabilities of the RV Kronprins Haakon by moving in to the sea ice until we found a spot with thick enough ice to walk on. And after the ice-team had taken their samples, those who wanted got to take a quick walk on the ice just for the experience.
And what an experience! Watching the ice move and crack while the vessel plowed forward, the sounds, the colors, was really powerful! And of course, standing on the ice, knowing you have several hundred meters of water under your feet, was just amazing.
After finishing the ice station, we moved south-west to the Vestnesa Ridge, where there is a cold seep known at around 1400 m depth. But before we start sampling the cold seep, we used the multicorer to sample a reference station – which is very important to understand the background communities outside the seep areas. And this was a very muddy experience – the multicorer came up with tubes of mud that was split between the different scientists to perform geochemical, meiofauna and macrofauna analyses.
Playing with mud is a messy business, but also a lot of fun, and there are always some cool animals hiding in the mud! Here are some of the critters we found at the reference station: two polychaetes in the families Maldanidae and Ampharetidae. These families also have some species specialized on hydrothermal vent and cold seep habitats, so fingers crossed that we see more of these in the active seep sites!