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Revelle Blog #16 The Journey Home

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Alec Yates is a Research Assistant at Victoria University of Wellington. He is currently working and reporting on the research occurring along the Hikurangi subduction zone on board the US research vessel Revelle.

We’ve arrived back in Wellington to finish the US research ship Roger Revelle’s New Zealand tour. This was the last of three research voyages studying New Zealand’s largest fault, the Hikurangu subduction zone.

During our eight days at sea, we recovered 42 electromagnetic instruments from the seafloor and installed three pressure sensors. The data will now go back to the US where the research team at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, will continue to learn about the presence of fluids within the Hikurangi subduction zone. The data will also be used by scientists here in New Zealand, with Dr Ted Bertrand and Dr Wiebke Heise of GNS Science hoping to combine this new offshore data with their own land data. This will provide a more complete picture of the role of fluids in New Zealand tectonics.

I am also pleased to announce that we returned to Wellington with a Wave Glider! If you read my previous post, this had seemed unlikely at the time of writing. However, our A-team, consisting of science and marine technicians from both the US and GNS Science, took advantage of slight improvements in the weather to pull off a successful recovery. This ensured we returned to Wellington in high spirits!

My first research voyage has proven to be a highly valuable experience. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many new faces, while also learning more about the world of electromagnetism! Perhaps the most interesting thing I have taken away is just how complicated performing research at sea can be, and the amount of human ingenuity that goes into studying the sea floor.

On land, recovering an instrument is as simple as turning up at the spot you left it. At sea, we are left with instruments that, at times, were a few kilometres beneath us. Not only does this require successful communication between the ship and the instrument, to instruct it to release from the sea floor, but it also requires us to be in the right spot for collection once it has resurfaced. In some cases, the instruments resurfaced approximately one kilometre away from the site they were installed!

It is a testament to the amount of work that goes into voyages like this one that we were able to recover all 42 electromagnetic instruments successfully. This includes the work of the crew onboard R/V Roger Revelle, who did a fantastic job looking after our science team and ensuring day-to-day operations ran smoothly. I certainly became accustomed to a life of scheduled meal-times, being the only member of the Science team to attend every meal.

R/V Roger Revelle will now begin its journey home to the US, where it will go on an extended vacation as it undergoes renovation. For the onboard scientists, the work is just beginning. I am sure we will have many exciting results to look forward to in the near-future!

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