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Exploring the Mysteries of the Ocean Floor


Article excerpt:

About three years ago, Emily Beal — a graduate student in geosciences at Penn State —eagerly boarded the deep-diving research submersible called Alvin, bound for the bottom of the ocean.

After squeezing into Alvin’s titanium sphere, Beal began her plunge to the ocean floor with more than a tad of claustrophobia. Alvin was just big enough to hold her, the submersible’s pilot, and Penn State colleague Chris House….

…Why were Beal and House traveling to the bottom of the ocean? They were heading to collect samples of microbes that live near methane seeps — places where methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluids gush from the ocean floor.

Beal and House collected these samples as part of a research project conducted with Victoria Orphan of the California Institute of Technology.