One REVEL Teacher, Many Monkeys Fists

Part of the Deep Sea Vents Curriculum Collection.


The ALVIN working on the seafloor. The mechanical arm is used to collect samples from the seafloor. Remember that sunlight does not penetrate at this depth so the light is necessary to illuminate the area for investigation. This photograph was taken by the ROV JASON. Visit the Web site for the Deep Submergence Operations Group at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to learn more about the ALVIN and the JASON. Photo © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Deep Submergence Operations Group.

If there's one thing I've been learning on this research expedition aboard the RV Atlantis, it's that we all work as a team. Everyone here has personal goals and research goals, but nothing can truly happen unless we all work together. And working so closely together means that we all feel happy for each other's successes, and that we all share in each other's disappointments. Last night our team had both disappointment and joy, and we shared them both!

 We've known for some time that a teacher might be chosen from among the REVEL group to go in the ALVIN on one of the dives to the bottom. Last night after we finished our work in the labs, we sat around and talked about how cool it would be to go down. All of us agreed that it would be an awesome experience, even though a couple of teachers didn't want to go. We wondered who would be chosen and what the selection process would be. And as you know if you've been following my dispatches, I REALLY wanted to go! So I was pretty nervous and excited when we were asked to meet our scientists on the lower deck in front of the ALVIN's hangar.

 Our lead scientist explained that he wished we all could go with him, but that we would choose just one teacher by "drawing straws." This would be no ordinary drawing of straws, however! We are here to learn everything we can about the deep sea vents, so even drawing straws was a learning experience. The lead scientist held out a hat full of a pile of folded papers. On each paper was written the scientific name of an animal, but only one of the names would be that of a deep sea creature. The teacher who drew this paper from the hat would be the one to go on the dive.


Ridgeia piscesae, a type of tubeworm that lives near deep sea vents. Photo © University of Washington, American Museum of Natural History, and Pennsylvania State University.

I knew I had a one-in-six chance of being chosen. I crossed my fingers and took a deep breath and pulled a folded paper from the hat. I opened it very slowly, my heart racing. Please let it have the name of a deep sea critter! I read the name on the paper. Rana pipiens... Oh no! Rana pipiens is the scientific name for a tree frog. I wouldn't be going down.

 My heart slowed down a little bit, and I swallowed hard against the disappointment I felt. But who had gotten the deep sea animal? Then I heard a shout. My teacher friend Kathy was shouting and jumping up and down! She had gotten Ridgeia piscesaethe tubeworm of the deep sea vents! I forgot all about my own disappointment as we hugged each other, laughing and shouting together. Everyone was truly thrilled for Kathy.

 Kathy's not only a good scientist and a wonderful person, she's also really funny. Since one of Kathy's hobbies is scuba diving, she joked that she wanted to record her dive in the ALVIN in her scuba log! Scuba divers have to record the day, place, time, and depth of each dive in their scuba logs; most of Kathy's dives had been less than 80 feet deep. Now she was joking that she'd get to record her 2,300-meter (7,200-foot) dive inside the ALVIN in her book!

 I was so happy for Kathy, but I still wanted a little part of the trip to the vents. Before we went to bed, I took off my necklace. Since my daughters gave it to me for my birthday, I had never taken it off. I brought it to Kathy and asked her to take it to the bottom with her. She smiled and said, "I'll wear it for you, think of all of you, and try my best to do a good job tomorrow." We all hugged and felt so good about being part of the team. Then we tried to get some sleep-- tomorrow would be a big day!


Pat and colleagues examine a deep sea crab. Photo © University of Washington, American Museum of Natural History, and Pennsylvania State University.

We were all up at dawn. We ate breakfast quickly, almost too excited to eat. Kathy had all her notebooks and a camera and was ready to go. We watched her climb up into the ALVIN with our lead scientist and the pilot. The technicians closed the hatches over them, and the ALVIN team busily prepared for the launch. The sub was lowered over the back of the ship by a huge crane; the ALVIN hung for a moment over the stern before the crane lowered it into the ocean. I had seen the ALVIN launched this way every morning, but this morning was special. One of us was in there! One of us was going down inside that tiny sub to help firsthand with the exploration of the deep!

 After the launch, we kept busy in the lab all day. In fact, we were too busy to think very much about Kathy's adventure! We had to sort and examine the samples from the previous day's dive; there were clams, giant crabs, and a "bush" of tubeworms, and everything had to be sorted through, measured and catalogued. But before we knew it, the whistle that signaled the return of the ALVIN shrilled across the ship. We all rushed up to the main deck to watch the technicians "capture" the sub and lift it back onto the Atlantis. Soon the sub was safely aboard, the hatches were opened, and out came the three adventurers. Kathy was tired, but smilingeven after she got drenched with the same bucket of ice water that all first-time ALVIN explorers must suffer!

 We all stayed up late into the night so that Kathy could tell us everything about her dive. I put back my necklace back on, and while Kathy spoke, I kept reaching up to touch it; I couldn't believe that it had gone down to the vents and was now back around my neck! It's finally time for bed, and I feel so happy to be here and to be part of this expedition. Even though I didn't get to the vents myself, I got to experience it through the stories of one of my teammates-- which was almost as good!