Greetings! The final few days on the R/V Kilo Moana went by in a blur. The second to last dive was at the Asut Tesoru seamount. We implemented a new sampling method a few dives ago that involved sending down a 30-foot tube into the CORK-Lite to help us sample more fluid from deeper inside the borehole. We had a lot of success during the last dive at this site using this method, so we made the decision to return to ensure enough quality samples for our analyses.
We were able to get another set of four filters for use in metatranscriptomics and metagenomic analysis. This will allow us to investigate the makeup of the microbial community, and what role they are playing in the fluids of the mud volcanoes of the Mariana forearc.
Our last dive was a very short dive at Yinazao seamount. Where we were able to see a few interesting animals and get a few more filters for our analysis before packing up all our samples and supplies and heading back to the port in Guam.
Once back at port, we had to figure out the logistics of bringing all our samples and supplies back to the University of South Alabama. The company that supplies dry ice in Guam was not open on the weekend. Since we arrived back to port in Guam on a Saturday, we had to leave our samples in the -80°C freezer on the R/V Kilo Moana until Monday when we were able to pick up the dry ice to store our samples for transport home.
On Monday, December 19, 2022, we traveled from the hotel to pick up dry ice. After, we went back to the Naval Base to board the R/V Kilo Moana to collect our samples. Once collected, we organized bringing all our samples and supplies back to the continental United States as checked luggage on the plane (7 bags!). The next day we set off on our 21-hour flight home!
In Guam, I checked my seven luggage containers at the airport, which was a little bit complicated due to the containers with dry ice and ice packs. We had a layover in Hawaii, where I had to collect all seven of my containers at the luggage carrousel and bring them back through customs in order to recheck them for the remainder of my flight.
This required me to pack all the containers onto luggage carts and bring them up two stories and push them all the way through the terminal to recheck them, which I imagine looked quite silly since the carts were both bigger than me. I had to do all of this and get back through security in only two hours! Luckily, I was able to make my flight.
I arrived in Mobile, Alabama at 11:15 a.m. on December 20, 2022. From the airport, I traveled directly to the university to unload all the samples into the freezer and refrigerator in the lab before the dry ice sublimated. All the samples and supplies arrived safely and just in time for me to spend the holidays with my family.
This trip was such an amazing opportunity for me to learn and gain experience as a researcher. I also had a great opportunity to make new friends and colleagues. This has been an experience I will never forget.
I cannot wait to find out what we learn about the microbial communities in the serpentinite mud volcanoes of the Mariana forearc from our samples as we move forward with our analyses.
Thank you all for following me on my adventure, and I hope to sea you soon :).