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Dr. Randy Keller : Responsibilities at Sea

My responsibilities while at sea are to decide where we want to map, where we should take the ship to make our bathymetric maps of the sea floor.   That allows us to pick locations where we can dive with the Alvin to look for good rock samples.  And once we’ve collected the rock samples, we catalogue them, and describe them at sea, and then pack them up and get ready to take them home. 

This clip shows us picking the samples out of the basket in the front of Alvin.  This is where Alvin places the samples.  After it has picked up a rock from the seafloor with its manipulator arm, it puts the rocks into the basket.  And once we have the submarine back on deck, we can pick those rocks back out. 

Like on many expeditions, graduate students come along to help with the duties at sea and also to learn what its like to be a geologist at sea.  They bring their knowledge and we work together trading ideas and working on the samples.  There is a lot of teamwork involved in preparing and describing the samples after we get them on the ship, and this clip shows some of the graduate students that I brought along, helping me describe the samples and prepare them for bringing them back to the laboratory. 

In this clip, I’m getting my first look at a rock that we’ve just brought on board.  We’ve cut it open, and I’m using a hand lens, a magnifying glass, to get a close-up look at the texture and the minerals inside the rock to tell me how it formed.  The next step up from a magnifying glass is a microscope. What a biologist would use for dissecting, geologists use them to get a higher power magnification view of the rock and actually see the smallest detail. It shows us how the lava flowed and how big the minerals are, and how long they had to grow. Along with the hand lens, the other favorite tool of the geologist is called a rock hammer.  It’s useful for breaking up the rocks and getting a fresh surface inside the rock for us to look at. 

The biggest challenges at sea have to do with adjusting to life on a ship.  Also, I’m fairly tall.  I’m 6’5”.  And ships have small confined spaces.  The beds are smaller, the doorways are lower, and I have to watch my head a lot on ships.


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Dr. Randy Keller's Profile

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