Top questions from schools

Compiled by Michael Poelchau.

Last week, Kevin Kurtz came on board the Myrtle for a few days to help us with public outreach. Kevin had a number of live video tours and Q&As with elementary, middle and high school students, where some of the scientists on board took questions. Here are some of our favorites:

1) Are you drilling into dinosaurs?
We didn’t see any T-Rex remains in the cores, but what we see are hundreds of thousands of nanno and micro fossils under the microscope. We use these fossils to date the sediments above the crater, so that we know exactly in which layer we are and when to expect the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary.

2) Are you drilling into bits of the asteroid?
The asteroid actually hit the Earth at such a high velocity (60000 km/h) that it was vaporized, creating a huge vapor plume above the crater. The microscopic asteroid remains were then deposited as the ash layer that we now see worldwide at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, which was discovered in the 1980s and led to the discovery of the Chicxulub crater. So, no asteroid chunks so far.

3) What do you eat, and how do you get fresh foods?
Good lord, the food. The cooks have to make sure that the drillers get enough to eat, so there are a lot of really good meals that are making us put on a lot of extra pounds. Hamburgers, ribs, pizza, pastas, burritos, brownies, cakes, etc. Fresh food gets delivered about once a week by a supply boat. We have to hoist up the food container with a crane.

4) How do you get on and off the lift boat and how often?
A supply boat parks by the lift boat and we get lifted up by a special basket attached to a crane. Once we’re on the lift boat, we stay there until there’s no more work for us to do or we get relieved by a colleague. Some of us will be staying on the boat for a full two months, with no breaks or onshore visits.

5) Do you get seasick?
The lift boat is standing on three legs that are rammed into the seafloor. Surprisingly, there still is movement. The lift boat sways back and forth in the wind, so there’s always some gentle rocking, but not enough to get seasick.

6) How many women are on board?
The size of the crew changes constantly. Of the 30-40 crew members that have come and gone, between 5 and 9 were women. Most of them are scientists, including our principle investigator Jo Morgan, who is the driving force behind this scientific drilling!

7) Were aliens involved?
Yes! The asteroid was from outer space!

8) What language do you speak on board?
English, with a colorful mix of American, English, Scottish, German, French, Dutch and Mexican accents.

9) Are any animals being hurt, is the drilling environmentally safe?
We had to take a number of precautions to make sure the drilling is environmentally safe and fulfills the strict environmental requirements of the state of Yucatan. The drill hole is sealed off from the ocean to prevent any leakage. We also see a lot of fish swimming around the lift boat, and we’ve tied a GoPro to a rope to look underwater. We were surprised to see how many fish there are!


  • Feature Image: MMowat@ECORD_IODP
  • Central Mosaic: MMowat@ECORD_IODP

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