Scientist at work: I'm a geologist who's dived dozens of times to explore submarine volcanoes | 1/31/2019 | Staff
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Staring up into the night sky as a kid and wondering what was out there started my journey to a career that involves diving in a cramped submersible vessel into the darkness of the deep sea to see what's there.

By the time I was 15 years old, I discovered I was already too big to fit in those small early space capsules as an astronaut. My focus shifted toward inner space, thanks to Jacques Cousteau's documentaries, detailed maps of the seafloor and historic dives to the deepest parts of the ocean in submersibles.

College - Wonders - Geology - Spreading - Seafloor

In college, I was introduced to the wonders of geology and how the spreading seafloor was one of the keys to understanding the newly developing theory of plate tectonics. I was hooked.

After obtaining my Ph.D., my grad school colleague Dan Fornari connected me with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who were using the HOV (Human Occupied Vehicle) Alvin to study the geology of the Galapagos Rift – a spreading ridge where deep sea hydrothermal vents and animal communities were first discovered in the late 1970s. They needed a "hard-rock" geologist with a marine geology background to collaborate with them – and I was thrilled to join their expedition leaving from Acapulco. A plate tectonic event nearly stopped me from joining the cruise when the 1985 Mexico City earthquake delayed my flight for hours.

Alvin - Dive - Rift - Description - Frightening

My first Alvin dive into the active volcanic rift was nearly beyond description: frightening, exhilarating, fascinating, tiring and the most exciting event in my life to that point. Although pre-cruise training by the Alvin pilots is very thorough, the fear of the unknown lingered until the hatch was shut and we were lowered into the water.

What will I see? How dangerous is this really? Will the sealed sphere really protect me from the...
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