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Meteor-Blog 1. August 2008: QUEST under control

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Oni Oluwatobi studies microbiology and neurosciences at the Jacobs University Bremen. Today he reports directly from the ROV-container about a complicated dive with underwater robot QUEST 4000.

Planetearth Blog

Does the biodiversity of deep-sea organisms play a role for the climate on Planet Earth? Questions all about marine research will be answered directly aboard of the German research vessel Meteor by cruise leader Prof. Antje Boetius and her crew. In cooperation with the geoportal from 17.07.08 to 24.08.08 they contribute a Science-Blog of METEOR expedition M76/3 GUINECO – MARUM research of fluid and gas seeps on the Westafrican continental margin. Technical highlight of the cruise is the remote-controlled under water robot QUEST4000 by MARUM that will be deployed for taking fauna and sediments samples and conduction of in situ experiments. Go on a dive down to places no other human being has ever seen before: explore the fascinating deep-sea fauna and watch the scientists’ work at gas and fluid seeps deep down on the ocean bottom.

Expedition M76/3b is a collaboration of MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences at Bremen University and its associated institutes MPI and AWI as well as the French research institute IFREMER and the University of Paris.

More Informationen of the Meteor-Blog, an overview of all contributions to the blog and expedition M76/3B:

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1. August 2008 (Author: Oni Oluwatobi)

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Today's Meteor-Blog is contributed by:

Oluwatobi Oni“Hello, I am Oni Oluwatobi, from Nigeria. I am in my second year of a Bachelor’s program in Biology/Neuroscience at the Jacobs University Bremen. I really love Microbiology and this prompted me to spend my summer holiday working as an intern in the Microbial Habitat group of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPI), Bremen - a group headed by Antje Boetius, a Professor at the Jacobs University. There I had the opportunity to join the cruise to explore the African Margin of Namibia, Angola, Congo and Gabon.

On this cruise, I assist in keeping protocols for the push cores used for collecting sediment samples from the bottom of the sea by the underwater robot QUEST. I also help sectioning the sediments into different lengths for investigation of the microbial life in the deep sea. I also help in the fixation of samples for quantification of microbial cells by Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) and Acridine Orange Direct Cell Count.”

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Oluwatobi staying up until 4 am doing his protocol job.

QUEST under control

Just yesterday, I was asked by Antje Boetius to spend two hours with her in the ROV Container, where all the operations of the robot at the sea floor are remotely controlled. I was asked to keep a protocol of the activities of the Robot. It was my first time of doing that and actually seeing how the robot is being controlled. I was really stunned to see how effective a robot could be collecting samples at over 3000 meters depth at the exact point of interest. To me, a diehard soccer fan, watching the UEFA Champions League final game or the FIFA world cup final could not be as interesting as watching the robot on a crystal clear screen. Everything was going on smoothly and I enjoying every second of my stay in the ROV container.

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Oluwatobi and Petra Ristova applying the Winkler titration method to determine the respiration rate of deep sea microbes.

When the robot had finished its task it was time to ascend and everything went smoothly as it seemed. Only the drawer of the large shuttle, in which all the collected samples and instruments are being kept, had to be closed before the ROV starts its ‘’jolly’’ ride up to the sea surface. As much as the pilot tried to push the drawer in, it slid backwards, and it became more difficult as he tried. He started calling in co-pilots one after the other to contribute their long years of ROV piloting experience to solving this seemingly easy problem but all efforts proved futile. Frustration grew in everyone’s faces, me inclusive. At that point, I could not just wish for any other thing than this drawer closing and ending my shift in the ROV container. The pilot kept trying all his skills, and suddenly it worked!! Smiles came back to our faces and everybody was happy thanks to the expertise of the pilot and his crew.

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Oluwatobi, Petra and Felix Muller having a tour through the ship´s engine room.