Geology Students at Bryn Mawr College Explore Arctic Sea Floor

On an expedition to discover the Arctic Sea Floor, Kelsey Meisenhelder, a Haverford student majoring in Geology at Bryn Mawr and Evan Rivers, Sophomore majoring in Chemistry and possible Geology, were given the great opportunity to travel with Geology’s Lynne Elkins aboard a research vessel traveling to the Arctic Sea, where very little research has been done. They wanted to try and fill in the missing details regarding the ocean floor, a place we know less about than our surrounding planets, especially in this area.

Before arriving at their planned research area in the Arctic Sea, the ship took a 6 day cruise to get there, going through the 2 sections of Denmark, the Atlantic Sea, and then finally the Arctic. Upon arriving at their planned research spot, they quickly realized a serious problem. There was too much ice! The researchers estimate that, on average, they spent about a day of valuable research time attempting to navigate away from the drifting ice, which was thought to have drifted from Greenland as 98% of their surface ice had melted this last summer.

After repeatedly lowering the dredge (a large iron bucked drug along the sea floor to essentially break off rock and bring it up), Meisenhelder and Rivers eventually pulled up something exciting, after countless attempts made resulting in sea sludge. The discovery that they made was a large bucket of volcanic rock, so fresh that it was sizzling due to trapped air. This lead the researchers to a previously unknown, very large volcano which was causing the volcanic rock.

Rivers and Meisenhelder learned that life on the ship was far more comfortable than they originally expected. Rivers explained that a quad he had stayed in during his freshman year and the room he inhabited on the ship was, in fact, larger. Plus, as the sun never really sets on the Arctic in July, any of the cruise ship members could venture onto the deck and gather some fresh rays of sun.

Elkins, Rivers, Meisenhelder, as well as Haverford senior Rachel Davis (not aboard the research vessel) will continue to study the rocks found throughout the year and next summer.