The main aim of this cruise is to dive to the bottom of the ocean at the Romanche transform intersection with the Mid Atlantic Ridge to make observations of the tectonic structures and collect rocks. We do this with the Nautile, the manned submersible owned by Ifremer, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, which has been around since the 1984. It has a maximum working depth of 6000 meters, which will be put to good use with our expedition since several dives will be well below 5000 meters. The submersible looks quite big from the outside, it is about three meters long, but the titanium alloy sphere hosting the two pilots and one scientist is only 2.1 meters in diameter. The sphere of course also holds all the computer systems for navigating and commanding the arms of the Nautile.
In preparation for the dives, we had a crush course about the Nautile done by the chief pilot Xavier. We learned how it navigates, what we can do in terms of observations/recording/sampling and, most important, what we have to do in case of an emergency (how to use the breathing masks in case of fire or malfunctioning of the CO2 recycling system and how to bring the Nautile at the surface by ourselves). We also entered the sphere and set for a while in our designated position, learned a bit about the instruments we can touch and tried to get used to the available space. You can probably read our feelings and emotions from the pictures below!!
The first dive will be on the 21st of July and Marcia, our French co-chief scientist, will dive the deepest of all the programmed dives!