The Joides Resolution is a large boat—more than 450 feet long and almost 70 feet wide. That's small compared to a lot of cruise ships, but big enough to house and feed and provide work space for 126 people. It's a floating city, with a movie theater, helipad, hospital, cafeteria, laboratories, and a giant drilling rig. But even a big boat can start to feel small when you have nowhere else to go, and no land in sight, for two whole months.
Some science can't be done on shore, and the Joides Resolution is one of the tools researchers use to learn more about the world beneath the waves. The ship travels the globe, serving as a mobile research station for scientists who want to study the bottom of the sea.
Between June 2 and August 1, 2012, a team of researchers, technicians, and support staff took the Joides Resolution north, to the cold waters off Newfoundland. Their goal: Collect samples of mud, clay, and muck from the ocean floor. Using a deep-sea drilling system, they lowered thousands of feet of pipe through the water, and forced it into the sea floor below. When the pipes were pulled back up on deck, they contained core samples—cylindrical logs that allowed the scientists to see layer after layer of sediment. By looking at what those cores are made of, the chemistry they contain, and the physical fossils buried deep inside them, researchers can begin to reconstruct what Earth's climate must have been like tens of millions of years ago.
On July 11th, while the Joides Resolution was still at sea, I got to interview several of the scientists on board. Paleontologist Richard Norris, geochemist Jessica Whiteside, and sedimentologist Chris Junium (along with communications officer Caitlin Scully) talked to me about their research, what they hoped to learn, and what it was like to live in a laboratory far from home.
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