Ask an Explorer
Questions were sent to the science party during this expedition. Selected questions and answers are offered below.
Question from: Bobby
I was curious to know if Operation Deep Scope was affected by the recent class 5 hurricane that hit the Gulf of Mexico last Monday. I was also curious as to what effect (if any) a storm of this magnitude would have on the ocean's ecology that's so far submerged below the surface. In a recent news article, I read that massive amounts of sand can be transported covering areas by some 60 ft in depth. Yet, I don't know if visibility would be lacking due to the turbulent waters. Thanks for taking the time to read this. It will be interesting to know if this storm has had a unique effect on your operations and observations.
Answer by: Sönke Johnsen, Assistant Professor, Duke University:
Katrina did have an impressive effect on the waters it passed over. First, it dropped the temperature of the water by at least 5 degrees F, enough to hurt some of the animals. Second the waves appear to have shredded an unbelievable number of plankton. Part of my research on this cruise involved SCUBA diving. Before the storm, our scuba dives had visibilities of well over 100 feet, maybe even 200 feet. When we got back, the water was full of shreds of mucus, particles, and other animal parts and the visibility was about 10 feet. I have never seen oceanic water look that murky. There were also almost no animals. Some probably dropped down to hide from the storm. The rest were shredded.
Things were different at depth too. Before the cruise, our sub dive site was clear and had little current. When we got back, the current was high enough to push the sub around and fill the water with enough particles to make it look like a snowstorm (see the pre- and post-hurricane video clips for Vioska Knoll in the 9/4 mission log). A heavy camera tripod we had to leave at the bottom (1700 feet down), was knocked when we got back. It may have been knocked over by an animal, but there's also a good chance it was knocked over by these high bottom currents.
Over time, the toxins and sewage which have been pumped from New Orleans to Lake Ponchartrain will enter the gulf and cause large plankton and bacterial blooms, which will kill fish and other animals. This effect will probably last for months.
So even though it's all hidden below the surface, Katrina had a big effect on the oceans as well.
Question from: Scott
The article mentions that this six-foot squid was of a type never before seen. I am curious if this may be a living example of the giant squid or is this an entirely new species? Thank you
Answer by: Dr. Justin Marshall, University of Queensland. and Erika Heine Raymond, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution:
Thank you for your question! The squid is more likely to be a new
species. This one looks different than the giant squid, Archeteuthis.
are not aware of any records of squid this size and looking like this
being caught in this area. Archeteuthis is not known to be found in
Question from: W. Banks
Is it possible the shellfish are glowing because they are radioactive? Glass with Uranium in it has the same color glow under UV light. Just a thought.
Answer by: Dr. Mikhail Matz, University of Florida:
No, the concentration of radioactive elements cannot get so high in a living tissue as to make it glow in the dark.
Question from: Miachelle of Iowa
I'm very glad to find your web page. I must give thanks first of all for all the exciting work that you and your team are doing. This past few days i've been concerned with what Katrina has done to that coast line and the ocean life there. Can you update me on the fish and wild life and what impact it has done to the ocean animals? Can you also tell me what all of us can do to help? thank you again.
Answer by: Dr. Tamara Frank, Biological Oceanographer, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution:
We have answered this question in the logs which will be posted - re: effects of the hurricane on what we are doing here.
Re: the second part:
The best thing an individual can do to help is to become aware of which seafood is being harvested or raised in an environmentally sustainable manner. One good source is the website www.thefishlist.org. Another is www.seafoodwatch.org. No one is asking that a person give up all seafood he or she enjoys. If everyone cuts back just a little, it can have an enormously positive impact.
Thank you for your concern!
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