SONNE & Ozean und mehr

Research on the invisible

An Bord des Forschungsschiffes SONNE: Abfüllen von Wasserproben an der CTD. Auf dem Bild: Jutta Niggemann. Foto: Beatriz Noriega Ortega (beide Forschungsgruppe für Marine Geochemie, ICBM)
Aboard the research vessel Sonne: Collection of water samples from the CTD. In the photo: Jutta Niggemann. Photo: Beatriz Noriega Ortega (both Research Group for Marine Geochemistry, ICBM).

The focal point of our research on board are bacteria in seawater and sediment. These bacteria are so small that they can only be seen under a microscope. But we are also interested in something that can’t even be seen with a microscope: dissolved compounds that are found in amazing variety in seawater. We want to understand where these compounds come from and how they are used by bacteria.

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Bacteria – the smallest life forms in the ocean: How many are there?

Helge-Ansgar Giebel bedient das Durchflußzytometer, ein Gerät zur Bestimmung der Bakterienzellzahlen.
On board the Sonne: Helge-Ansgar Giebel works with the flow cytometer to count the number of bacterial cells in the water column.

The smallest forms of life in the ocean, bacteria, are the central focus of our research on board. Bacteria are single celled life forms; they are so small that we cannot see them without a microscope. Nevertheless, we want to know how many bacteria there are in the ocean; how are they counted?

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The deepest place, and (finally!) land in sight

Eine Ohrenrobbe vergnügt sich im warmen Wasser der SONNE.
A fur seal enjoys the warm water near the Sonne.

Yesterday we passed through the Aleutian Islands. The Aleutian Islands are a chain of volcanic islands dividing the Bering Sea from the Pacific Ocean. We were lucky: the visibility was good, and it was still light outside, so that we could see one of the islands relatively clearly, and two others could be seen (using binoculars) on the horizon. South of the islands is the Aleutian trench, where the Pacific Ocean is nearly 8000 meters deep.

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Heavy equipment for small cells

The video showing sampling of the ocean floor with the multicorer (MUC) was taken at Station 12 (43 N, 177 E) during our cruise with the Sonne in the Pacific. It was one of the few stations at which the MUC team was able to collect samples during daylight hours.
  …and what happens after the video?

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Behind the scenes – the heart of the Sonne

Zusätzlich zur normalen technischen Ausstattung eines Schiffes, hat SONNE noch viele Maschinen, die für die wissenschaftliche Meeresforschung gebraucht werden. So gibt es auf dem unteren Deck einen extra Windenraum für die kilometerlangen Drähte und Kabel, an denen wir unsere wissenschaftlichen Geräte ins Wasser lassen.
In addition to normal technical equipment, the Sonne has many other pieces of equipment that are required for oceanographic research. On the lower deck, there is a winch room for the many kilometers of winch wire and cables that are used to lower equipment into the ocean.

For more than three weeks, we have been underway aboard the Sonne as we transect the Pacific. While we carry out our research around the clock, others are also working night and day. The Sonne does not operate itself –  the engines are continuously working. Moreover, the 70 people aboard need power, water, and heat, and we need special technical support for our equipment.

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15000 liters of water for science – and more is coming!

Die niegelnagelneue CTD des ICBM wird ins Wasser gelassen. Mit tatkräftiger Unterstützung der Deck-Crew des Forschungsschiffs SONNE.
The brand-new CTD from the ICBM is lowered into the water with assistance of the crew of the research vessel Sonne. Picture shows Frank Heibeck and Sascha Fischer.

The brand-new CTD from ICBM – Germany’s largest CTD –  is being used for the first time during this research cruise with the Sonne. In addition to valuable data, the CTD brings 24 large bottles of seawater from different depths on deck. Not ‘just’ water, but up to 480 liters with every cast. Continue reading

Lab work at sea: a special experience

Everything has to be taped and lashed, also in the fume hood. Pipetting  on a moving ship is a challenge! On the picture:  Mara Heinrichs and Beatriz Noriega (Research Group for Marine Geochemistry).

We have been on board Sonne already for 15 days; it feels like we have been here since forever. We know where everything is and we are so used to our working space. But it was not always like this…

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There’s also life without oxygen…

Kulturgefäße mit sauerstofffreiem Medium. Bislang unbekannte Bakterien, die ohne Sauerstoff leben können, sollen sich unter sauerstofffreien Bedingungen vermehren, damit wir sie später genau untersuchen können.
Culture vessels with oxygen-free media. So far unknown bacteria that can live without oxygen are supposed to grow under oxygen-free conditions for later studies.

The microorganisms in the ocean enjoy the sun and warmth of the equator, just as we scientists do when we are not working. Here in the equatorial upwelling zone, microorganisms grow well because of the extra nutrients that are brought to the ocean’s surface by upwelling (upwards movement) of water from the deep ocean. As a consequence, in certain depths of the water column, oxygen is consumed faster than it is supplied via circulation

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