Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 21 Oct 2017 by:

The air-guns stopped shooting at 5:00am. Years of preparation, countless financial resources, hours of effort, and bright minds from twelve different countries went into making the MIRAGE II expedition a reality. On Friday, the 20th of October, congratulations were in order for a job well done.

As the seismic team retrieved the streamer and air-guns for the last time, everyone on board began to pack their belongings, data, and experiences, and bid the R/V Marion Dufresne farewell.


A huge box of envelopes had been resting in the Captain’s office for the duration of the expedition. These envelopes are part of a tradition that started in 1896, when a resident of...

Submitted on 19 Oct 2017 by:

For the past three weeks, the scientists on board the R/V Marion Dufresne have had a great deal of work to do. Previous voyages to the Wharton Basin yielded evidence of the formation of a new plate boundary, and one of the research goals of this expedition was to image the subsurface of the sea floor, down to a depth of 30-40 kilometres (km).

These research goals were only made possible by the tremendous effort of the ship’s crew and the resident Marine Mammal Observers, who continuously worked to support the scientists. For one day, I observed the comings and goings on the decks of the Marion Dufresne. This is what it looked like. 

06:00 Dawn has broken on...

Submitted on 18 Oct 2017 by:

A flash of light catches my eye and I raise my binoculars to check it out. A dolphin perhaps? Or a basking turtle? I search until I spot it again. The object is bobbing high in the water, doing a little dance in the light breeze. It is a stick. It has bobbed far to get here, over 300 miles from land, through waters five kilometres (km) deep.

I keep watching, straining to keep my tired eyes entertained. It is hot on the bridge, and the 12:00pm to 2:00pm shift – immediately after a heavy French lunch complete with cheese and wine – is dragging. The incessant heat of the midday sun drives me from the roof of the bridge. I gain shade but lose what little breeze there was and now must find a way to stay alert for another hour and 12...

Submitted on 17 Oct 2017 by:

Follow the progress of MIRAGE II between 25th September and 20th October 2017 on the EOS blog, and spread the word using #MIRAGEcruise.

Submitted on 16 Oct 2017 by:

If you know anyone who has ever been out at sea for a long period of time, they will tell you just how difficult it is to have access to certain luxuries such as internet connection. On board R/V Marion Dufresne the internet speed varies wildly, but it is at best, slower than mediocre bandwidth on land.

With this in mind, Chief Marine Technician Sacha Fouchar had to try every trick in the book to make our conference call with the United Nations (UN) in Geneva possible.

Chief Scientist Satish Singh was invited to share his experiences in a joint event organised with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The goal was to discuss how to reduce disaster risk in order to achieve the UN sustainable development goals.

Submitted on 13 Oct 2017 by:

We have all heard that our planet behaves like a living organism. Just like us, the Earth has systems that are all linked and constantly influencing each other. Still, realising that the gradual motion of tectonic plates could somehow effect the quality of air we breathe in the future, or the strength of the storms we will face, seems somehow unbelievable.

But geophysicist Dr Sudipta Sarkar is here to tell us that it is not, and to remind us that tectonics and climate change work hand in hand. His research has taken him all over the world and, in the process, seismic data has played a fundamental role.

Feeding Off Each Other

The Earth’s climate can affect its geology and in return, plate...

Submitted on 10 Oct 2017 by:

On board the R/V Marion Dufresne, the daily rhythm of life is determined by our shifts, which can be very intense. We work with bathymetric data eight hours per day, cleaning and processing the data received.

We generate digital models that show the different elevations of the seafloor, compute the reflectivity of the seafloor, and analyse maps while our colleagues monitor seismic acquisition and fill in the log book every 15 minutes. One of the most useful takeaways from this is that we learn how to use key software, like Seismic Unix (for seismic data processing) or Caraibes (for bathymetry data processing).

Every day at 4pm we have a meeting to update the entire research team. It is followed by a...

Submitted on 09 Oct 2017 by:

Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” We should take his word for it, especially when it comes to science.

As I walk around the Science Control Room on board the R/V Marion Dufresne, I witness a small army of experts keeping close tabs on endless spreadsheets, running equations or measuring maps with religious precision. It seems counterintuitive to think that passion and imagination are driving this research, yet they are. 


Picture pieces of floating dust, colliding and forming stones. Now, picture these stones crashing and merging, forming bigger rocks. Follow the thread of time and suddenly...