Towards the end 1960s, submersible called Alvin they met with disaster near the shore of Martha’s Vineyard. The white-grey boat, carrying three people, was being lowered to crash when the rope broke. Suddenly, Alvin it was sinking. The scientists came out, shocked and a little broken, when the ship crashed, breaking up and resting about 4,500 meters below the surface of the ocean. Alvin he was in a slightly embarrassing situation. Although the unit was only a few years old, it had a distinguished CV which included, in 1966, helping to recover a 70-kiloton hydrogen bomb dropped when two warplanes crashed on the coast of Spain. Now it was the one that needed to be saved.
Ten months later, Alvin they were pulled from the ground – an explosion in the life of the vessel that jumps to this day (although the permanent replacement of parts means that there is no original part). But the accident left its legacy in the form of a surprisingly preserved lunch. In their hasty escape, the crew left behind six sandwiches, matwo thermoses filled with bouillon, and a handful of apples. After restoring Alvin, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were interested in the nature of this water party. The apples look a little tired from the bright water, but not stagnant. The sandwiches smell fresh, and the bologna (this is 1968) is still pink. Although they taste good, the researchers confirmed after a few bites. Similarly, although the thermoses were crushed by the pressure of the water, the soup, when heated, was considered “delicious.”
Those ideas were published in a magazine Science in 1971, when surprised scientists rushed to study the food before it spoiled—which it did, within weeks under refrigeration. In addition to digging into the bologna, the researchers measured the amount of chemicals in the food and how viruses were collected there. In time, they decided that the damage has been happening at 1 percent of the level that it would have on land, controlling the temperature. The question—which has plagued researchers for years—was because. In the 1960s, researchers had little knowledge of the cold, highly pressurized deep ocean, but they expected it to be teeming with microbes capable of breaking down living organisms, even under extreme conditions. Maybe there were bugs that we had in mind, or not the right species. Or enough air. Or it was too cold or too stressful. The answer was difficult to explain.
Over time, the question at the heart of the lunch mystery has become more important as scientists understand the role the oceans play in removing carbon dioxide. About a third of the carbon that humans have put into the atmosphere has been reabsorbed by the oceans – and much of it is thought to be stored in the deepest oceans. Therefore an accurate picture of how much carbon is entering and leaving the atmosphere is important. It’s especially important if you want to reverse the process, as some do, by doing things like growing weeds—which take carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis to make carbon dioxide—and then sink it into deep ocean trenches to store the carbon. .
In general, the problem for researchers who study deep-sea gases is that conditions at the bottom of the ocean are difficult to replicate at sea level. In most cases, researchers draw water into the hull of a research vessel where they are equipped with instruments that can measure the activity of microorganisms. But this has led to disagreements, says Gerhard Herndl, an oceanographer at the University of Vienna. On the boat, small insects like to eat the food we find. Their appetite is great, and it is not well understood, because it is bigger than the food found in the deep sea. “When you try this on land, there’s always a difference,” he says.
So instead, follow the long legacy of Alvin sandwiches, Herndl’s team tried a new experiment. By sending autonomous devices to spray the microbes where we live, they quickly discovered that the microbes found in the depths were not happy and hungry. The distinguishing factor, they wrote in a study recently published in Nature Geoscience, it was forced. Some organisms like high pressure – they are known as piezophilic – and will happily wash away deep things. But they represent a tiny fraction of the insect populations studied by Herndl – about 10 percent. The rest were wrong; luck was suitable for another place, shallow and was floating on the bottom.