Microbial Stowaways: Exploring Shipwreck Microbiomes in the Deep Gulf of Mexico

Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.

  • Solving Not One But TWO Mysteries: Assembling the Puzzle Pieces from Two Deepwater Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico

    July 5, 2019  |  Melanie Damour

    As the Microbial Stowaways project fieldwork comes to a close, we reflect on what we discovered over the past week. Two copper-sheathed, wooden-hulled shipwrecks—Site 15711 and Site 15470—give us glimpses into life aboard 19th century sailing ships and will tell us how their presence influences microbial biodiversity in the marine environment.

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  • Dancing in the Dark

    July 3, 2019  |  Dr. Leila Hamdan

    During the lead up to, and execution of an at-sea expedition, it is often easy for me to get caught up in the details, such that I miss the larger view of what we have done. I have been affectionately calling a major element of this research trip my “Gigantic, Terrifying Experiment.”

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  • The Expedition May be Ending, But This is Only the Beginning

    July 2, 2019  |  Rachel Pugh

    Our expedition may be coming to a close, but this is only the beginning of our research. Over the past eight days we have collected sediment cores, pore water from sediment cores, and water from the column above the shipwrecks. These samples all must be analyzed once they are brought to the laboratory in order to discover the story they can tell us.

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  • Positioning for Science

    July 1, 2019  |  Max Woolsey

    I am an unmanned maritime systems engineer at the University of Southern Mississippi. During my ten years of working with seafloor landers and marine vehicles, one challenge I’ve faced involves localization of undersea systems.

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  • The Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask, but Shouldn’t Be

    July 1, 2019  |  Taylor Lee

    The first time we all gathered around the television to watch one of the two never-before-investigated shipwrecks we are exploring, I began to mentally ask a million questions.

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  • Falling in Love with Oceanography and Deep-sea Mud

    June 30, 2019  |  Dr. Justyna Hampel

    This is my first research cruise and my first time sampling marine sediments. Coming from shallow freshwater lake research, I know I had A LOT to learn.

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  • Telepresence: A Virtual Ship-to-Shore Communication

    June 28, 2019  |  Jessi James

    With summer camp coming to a close, Ocean Science and Technology Camp (OSTC) students gathered around the Marine Education Center’s video wall display hoping to catch their first glimpse of a shipwreck. After spending a full week learning about science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) careers, elaborate experiments, and high-tech equipment, this virtual communication was the pinnacle of their week.

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  • Laying Eyes on a Deep Water Shipwreck for the First Time

    June 28, 2019  |  Doug Jones

    When you’re working 1,800 feet underwater, some days are a reminder that patience isn’t just a virtue, it’s also a job requirement. For over eight hours yesterday we conducted the first detailed archaeological investigation of the shipwreck known as Site 15711—at least when we could see it in between the clouds of suspended silt that seemed to be perpetually up current from the remotely operated vehicle’s (ROV) camera lens. The seafloor was soft but our wills (and the current) were strong and we persevered through the haze, collecting enough video data to confirm that Site 15711 is a wooden-hulled sailing vessel, likely dating to the mid to late 19th century.

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  • Science Choreography: Successful Operations Happen by Working Together

    June 28, 2019  |  Rachel Mugge

    Any operation on a research vessel requires communication and cooperation between the ship’s crew and the science party. We science better when we work together!

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  • Highs and Lows of Scientific Exploration

    June 27, 2019  |  Betsy Petrick

    Today I saw what scientific exploration is really like. As someone said, “Two means one, and one means none,” meaning that when you are out at sea, you have to have a second or even a third of every critical piece of equipment because something is inevitably going to break and you will not be able to run to the store for a new one. Failures and setbacks are part of the game.

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  • An Inglorious End to a Once-Glorious Ship? The Steam Yacht Anona (1944)

    June 26, 2019  |  Melanie Damour

    From her graceful clipper bow and ornate floral metalwork to her interior woodwork using the finest mahogany and teak, the steam yacht Anona was a sight to behold in the early 20th century. Originally owned by a wealthy industrialist who purchased her in 1904, the luxury yacht was likely the scene of many social events throughout her first few decades. In 1944, the former grand dame of the seas was reduced to hauling a cargo of potatoes to the West Indies when her steel hull plates suddenly buckled, causing her to sink.

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  • Engaging Future Generations of Young Scientists

    June 25, 2019  |  Jessi James

    Earlier in the year, I was approached by Dr. Leila Hamdan and her team to take on a correspondent role to assist with the education and outreach component of the Microbial Stowaways project. With this latest responsibility, a new educational program was to be created to center around the dedication and experimentation of exploration research.

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  • Machine Learning and Shipwreck Microbiomes

    June 24, 2019  |  Warren Wood

    Machine learning refers to a recently developed type of computer algorithm (program or “App”) that has grown out of, and is similar to, other kinds of artificial intelligence. During this expedition, the team will be using machine learning to determine how well various seafloor quantities, like seafloor slope, distance from the wreck, and bottom water current speed correlate with the various microbial communities around shipwrecks.

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  • Mobilization Day

    June 24, 2019  |  Leila Hamdan

    “Mobilization days are overwhelming, fatiguing and non-stop. Pace yourselves and try to learn as much as possible.” These were the words Chief Scientist Leila Hamdan shared with her team of scientists and engineers as they prepared for a somewhat complicated mobilization on one of the hottest days of the year.

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