Ten school classes had a live teleconference via satellite with the research vessel and from there via radio link with the submersible. The students asked their questions directly to the crew of the vessel and the sub.

We payed the costs.

Each class addressed one question to a crewmember of the ship (free choice: captain, officers, seamen, cooks, engineers, scientists, and students) and one to the crew of the submersible (Alvin-Pilot or scientist)

The teleconference took place on the school day November 3rd at 3 pm.

At this time the research vessel Atlantis was in the midst of the Pacific. The exact latitude and longitude were 9°50´N, 104°17´W. Search the position on a map! At the same time, the submarine Alvin was in the caldera of a volcano at the sea floor in 2500 meters depth, surrounded by absolute darkness, with an external pressure of 250 bar and deep sea temperatures of 2° Celsius.

The participating schools sent their application with the name of their class, the school, the address, their teacher’s name and the telephone number until October 15th 2006. We had heir questions not later than October 27th, so we could persuade the particular persons to join in.


Telephone call 2006

Questions to Alvin

BRG 6, Vienna 3rd grade

Q: Are the sites of the volcanic eruption in spring 2006 already colonized? If yes which animals?

A: Many of the old sites look completely different or were moved a few meters aside after the eruption. And now there are new sites. At some sites you do not find animals anymore, but there are a lot of Pompeii worms and tubeworms of the genus Tevnia at many other sites. You find great many crabs and also octopus and fish.

BG and BRG 3, Vienna 3rd grade

Q: How is the daily life in a sub (sleep, taking a shower, food, toilet...)?

A: A dive with the submersible lasts around 8 hours. Every diver is provided with a lunch packet for the dive. It becomes rather cold during the dive, so you take thick pullovers with you though it is very hot at the surface. At the end of the dive you are mostly very tired and often you fall asleep during the way up to the surface. There are no showers in the sub, it is much too small for that and in the case you have to go to the toilet there are urine bottles like in the hospital.

BG and BRG Mödling 6th grade

Q: Why do the animals in the deep-sea, especially the fish, have so bizarre shapes?

A: Fish rarely find food in the deep-sea. They have very big mouth; so that they can possibly eat every other animal they meet and also engulf very large prey, because the food has to suffice for a long time. Many animals can enlarge their stomach to the double size and engulf prey, which is larger than they themselves. Moreover many animals lack a swimming bladder, because it would not resist the great pressure. The eyes of most deep-sea fish are reduced as well, because it is completely dark in the great depth. But some of then have special light organs to attract prey or mating partners.

Haupt-and Musikhauptschule Herzogenburg

1st grade

Q: How old is the submersible?

A: Alvin was permitted on June 5th 1964. Today November 13th 2006 Alvin completes it 4271st dive. Since it undergoes constant refinements and modifications no original parts are left. In 1997 for example the old steel pressure hull was replaced by a new made of titanium.

Landwiedgymnasium, Linz 4th grade

Q: Which pressure do you feel in the inside of the sub? Which pressure can Alvin withstand?

A: Actually you feel a slight deficiency of pressure like you would be at around 500 meters height. During the descent there is a pressure of one atmosphere. This changes a bit because of the changing temperatures. Alvin withstands a pressure of 475 kg per square centimetre.

International School Hamburg

Q: How does the pilot keep track when Alvin is at the bottom of the sea?

A: We keep course with acoustic navigation, as well as maintain communications with the UQC (under water telephone).

BG/BRG Purkersdorf 3rd grade

Q: How is Alvin propelled and how are the crewmembers supplied with oxygen?

A: 6 thrusters propel the submersible. Two of them serve for the vertical motion; three provide forward/reverse motion and the horizontally mounted one we use as rudder.

The oxygen in the sub could provide one person for 210 hours. The pilot controls the oxygen concentration in the sub and we use carbon dioxide filters to remove the CO2 from the air.

Stiftsgymnasium Kremsmünster 4th grade

Q: How deep can Alvin maximally dive?

A: 4500 meters Questions to the Atlantis:

BRG 6, Vienna 3rd grade

Q: Which risks bear an expedition of this kind? This questions is clearly for the captain

A: There are a lot of things, which can be dangerous on board of a ship. There are large engines, which propel the ship. Because of that we have exclusively qualified engineers working with them. They can be dangerous for everyone who is unacquainted with the use of such engines or who is unskilled. To have a dive with Alvin to the sea bottom can be dangerous. The Alvin- swimmers, who go into the water during the launch and recovery of Alvin, can meet dangerous sharks. The scientists use dangerous chemicals and therefore have to be very careful.

BG and BRG 3, Vienna 3rd grade

Q: How do the scientists communicate with their families?

A: We have Internet and satellite telephone. The telephone is admittedly expensive and costs around 2.50$ the minute. Internet is free, but you cannot send large pictures or texts. That would take too long.

BG and BRG Mödling 6th grade

Q: What happens to the litter? Is it thrown over board (glass, plastic)? This is a question for the chief

A: No, there are explicit international agreements, which rule the fate of the litter. Plastic never is thrown over board. The litter gets assorted. Biodegradable litter like paper, paper cups and food is put in heavy paper bags and thrown over board. Plastic is burned on the ship at temperatures up to 1200° Celsius. We have a high efficiency waste disposal for food with the nickname Morris. Eventually some of the waste has to be disposed on land. Chemicals, paint buckets and aerosol cans.

Haupt-and Musikhauptschule Herzogenburg

4th grade

Q: Assumed you discover a new animal in the depth of the oceans, are you allowed to pick the name this animal is going to bear? What happens to the animal?

A: The person who scientifically describes and publishes chooses the name. Often these names are in Classical Greek or Latin or quite simply the name of the colleague who discovered the animal. The best case is when you find several animals of this new species at once, because one specimen has to be public accessible holotype, that means is has to be deposited in a museum.

Landwiedgymnasium, Linz 4th grade

Q: Did you yourself discover new species in the deep-sea?

A: Yes, several and it is no problem with small animals, which are smaller than 1 mm. Before we started to work here, virtually nobody was interested in these small animals and therefore there were and still are many new species, which we either describe ourselves or send to colleagues for description. This time we even discovered a 4cm long bristle worm, which is with great certainty a new species.

International School Hamburg

Q: What are the smallest and largest living things you saw at the hydrothermal vent?

A: The largest animals at these vents down there are for sure the giant tubeworms. Their tubes can be larger than 2 m and the animal themselves are also more than 1.5 Meters. The smallest animals I saw out of the window of Alvin are still quite large and are snails I would say or small worms. But the smallest animals I found in vent samples using the microscope is probably the babies of the giant tubeworms, which I have been studying. They are only one fifth of a millimetre long.

BG/BRG Purkersdorf 3rd grade

Q: How do you take the animals to the surface and how do you look after them so that they have the same conditions as in the deep-sea?

A: Some animals like the vent crabs are easy to maintain in the fridge. The crabs are quite though ones. Anyhow we have to put most of the animals in so-called high-pressure tanks, so that they can live on for while under the same pressure and temperature conditions. Some animals also need certain oxygen conditions or hydrogen sulfide that makes maintenance of the high-pressure tanks even more complicated, but was already done.

Stiftsgymnasium Kremsmünster 4th grade

Q: Do you get kind of cabin fever on board or is the ship big enough also for a long stay.

A: During a 4 weeks cruise you always get to know people you come along with very well and who you make friends with. Then again, as everywhere there are others you do not like so much. Though the ship is only 64 meters long, it has several floors and you can easily keep out of someone’s way, if you want to.

Therefore cabin fever in the sense of the ship’s littleness does not happen. It is rather so that you are quite tired after 3-4 weeks intensive work and that you are looking forward to go home.

           

                             Monika between satellite and deep-sea                    Chief Mark, pilot Bruce, Monika

That is going to happen soon, because on Wednesday there will be our last dive and then we steam directly to the next harbour in Manzanillo, Mexico. From there we will fly back home. We have heard all questions now and I hope we answered them in a nutshell but well. We had great fun talk to you on the phone. I am glad that you are so curious and that you took part in our program „ extreme 4 kids- expedition to the depth of the oceans“. In the name of the Atlantis and the Alvin crew as well as the scientists here on board I say good-bye. Cheers until the next time.