Here I am after two dives with the Nautile and I am still trying to get my thoughts together, to find the proper words to describe the incredible experience of plunging into the abyss.
It had been one of my longtime dreams as a geologist to dive with the submersible and directly observe outcrops of oceanic crust, so when the possibility became reality I did not have any doubt. I had to go. It has been of course worrying to organize things at home. Leaving the family for such a long time. But I had incredible support and all of a sudden I was at the airport saying goodbye and embarking in Mindelo on the Pourquoipas?.
I had my first dive on July 30. The anxiety and excitement levels that morning were super high. I did not know what I wanted more, if to smile or to cry. A rush of adrenaline shock me when I finally entered into the sphere, not before the chief pilot one last time looked me straight in the eyes and asked me: “Anna, are you ok to dive?”. Hell yes.
And there I was tree hours later at the depth of 5573 meters to start a 5 hours journey across the transform fault domain of the Romanche Fracture zone, collecting rocks and looking for evidences of active tectonism. I have basically crossed, back and forth, from the South American to the African plate where the two plates have a huge age contrast where the southern portion (the South American plate) is about 10 million years old crust and the northern portion (African plate) was emplaced at the seafloor 40 million years ago! What a time warp.
The second dive was on August 10 and we reached the depth of 3900 m. The stress level this time was almost down to zero and I have really enjoyed this journey, not holding my breath through the alarms and noises, now familiar, of all the electronics inside the Nautile. Here, I have crossed west to east a portion of the Mid Atlantic Ridge, flying over the plate boundary where oceanic crust is newly created! We collected loads of fresh pillow basalts and observed impressive outcrops and fault walls.
It has been an extraordinary experience. I will forever treasure this adventure, diving to the astonishing depth of 5 km below sea level, exploring live tectonic plate boundaries, seeing oceanic rocks in places where they belong…..it’s been a long way to the bottom, but I can assure you it was so worth the wait.
“I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll”