Galathea 3: Status thus far
The expedition has so far been highly satisfactory concerning the research aspects as well as the dissemination of information aspect.
The Galathea 3 expedition is completing its 15th leg on 15 March 2007, a voyage which takes the ship from Galapagos through the Panama Canal and up to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.Research
It is, of course, too early to assess the combined impact of the findings of the research, as a significant portion of the samples collected in the course of the voyage will only be analysed in the course of the coming months and years. However, the feedback from the researchers has, generally speaking, been very positive, and several of the projects have made discoveries that are already at this point assessed to hold promising perspectives.
Not all the projects have been completed at this point, and some have still not submitted their reports. However, the overall picture provides a highly positive indication.
Among the projects that have received extensive media coverage while it was being carried out is the geological project in the Great Australian Bight (cf. the project description at http://www.galathea3.dk/uk/Menu/Science/Cool-water+carbonate+mounds).
The project was implemented between 23 November and 7 December 2006 in the course of what was effectively six days on the research site. Assistant Professor Mads Huuse, Ph.D., from the University of Aberdeen describes the research work as follows:
“We started out with two days of multi-beam mapping of a 900 square kilometre area of the Australian seabed along the shelf-rim of the Great Australian Bight. This revealed the hitherto unknown detail morphology of the cold-water carbonate banks that we had sailed out to examine. They turned out to be up to 10 kilometres long, a few hundred metres wide and up to 70 metres tall, with a marked streamlined appearance, which indicates deposits of sediments by fast-streaming water along the shelf rim. Subsequently, we performed seismic examinations, video recordings and scraping of the seabed, as well as extracting sample cores. We filmed a large amount of video footage and scrapings with corals, bryozoans, fungi, sea urchins, brittle stars, worms, shells and other organisms from the top and sides of the banks. There now remains the arduous and protracted task of analysing our sample material and processing of the seismic data. The findings made so far were presented at the CSIRO and the University of Tasmania (both on 7 December 2006) and at the annual meeting of the British Sedimentological Research Group in Aberdeen (on 18 December 2006)”.
Another project that operates throughout the voyage was able to submit a positive report at the halfway point of the expedition. This is the DOM project (cf. the project description at http://www.galathea3.dk/uk/Menu/Science/Dissolved+Organic+Matter), which is headed by Senior Researcher and Adjunct Professor Stiig Markager of Denmark’s National Environmental Research Institute.
The aim of the project is to examine the global distribution of dissolved organic material. The analyses cannot be performed until the vessel returns to Denmark at the end of April, but the head of the projects is able to establish already at this point that there are promising findings in the samples collected: “For instance, we perform tests in which we examine the speed with which organic matter dissolves in water under natural conditions, and after we have added extra nitrogen to the samples. The findings show that in large parts of the oceans, the dissolution, or degradation, is accelerated when we add nitrogen to the samples. It is not entirely unlike making compost in our own gardens: if we only pile in grass and old leaves, the dissolution/degradation takes place at a slow rate, and the material does not disappear. If we add extra nitrogen, for instance in the shape of manure of poultry droppings, the dissolution/ degradation takes place at a much faster rate, and the compost container will be ready for new waste much sooner. Our research thus demonstrates that the oceans function in a way similar to a gigantic pile of compost – the volume of carbon corresponds to the total volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - more nitrogen causes a faster dissolution/degradation rate. This may have great consequences for the global carbon conversion and thus for the Earth’s future climate. When the dissolution/degradation rate of organic material is sensitive to the volume of nitrogen, the ability of the oceans to bind excess carbon dioxide will also be influenced by changes in the climate, ocean currents or the volume of nitrogen we add to the oceans”.
By the halfway point of the expedition, the project had collected approximately 20 per cent more samples than expected.
The project concerning “Tropical dinoflagellates” (cf. the project description at http://www.galathea3.dk/uk/Menu/Science/Tropical+dinoflagellata) participated in the seventh leg of the voyage from Cape Town to Perth. The project made the first collection of dinoflagellates in the middle of and through the Indian Ocean. A total of 17 water samples from the stations selected formed the basis of studies of the species diversity of free dinoflagellates, and the future work includes, among other things, completing the determination of the species of dinoflagellates observed, as well as determination of DNA sequences from the isolated species. The findings of these examinations will provide the basis for analyses of which species are related, in order, among other things, to assess whether the currently existing system of dinoflagellates based on traditional methods corresponds with the findings of modern DNA methods, or whether there is a basis for adopting a new approach.
Lecturer Niels Daugbjerg, Ph. D., of the University of Copenhagen, concludes “that the project has so far been a great success, and that our work produces many exciting results”.
The tropical botanist Axel Dalberg Poulsen has just completed his fieldwork, which includes the collection of ginger in the Solomon Islands and in Papua New Guinea, and the work has been particularly successful. Dalberg Poulsen has succeeded in finding no less than five species of ginger that have so far not been scientifically described. For further information and links, please go to http://www.galathea3.dk/uk/Menu/Science/Gingers.
Other research (examples)
Among the other major research-related events on the expedition, we must include the discovery of a new species of fish at the Antarctic. The specimen was a kind of viviparous eelpout, which was caught at a depth of 1100 metres off the Antarctic Peninsula, and the scientists on the project think that the material collected may include several new species. The project on “Parasites in animal plankton” has also discovered at least one new species, and in addition to this two or three kinds of parasites that are known, but which today have not been determined to belong to a specific type of organism group. These parasites are being analysed, but it will take some time yet before the final results are available.
Furthermore, one of the large projects that participate in the entire journey, Roseobacter –The Stars of the Sea, has made highly exciting discoveries. The project is headed by Professor Lone Gram of The Danish Institute For Fisheries Research and aims to examine 1) whether dominance by bacteria populations in various locations in the ocean may be correlated to the ability of bacteria to produce a biofilm (fastened) and/or produce antibacterial substances; and 2) examine whether any of the marine antibacterial substances that are found possess technological potential as, for instance, disinfectants, antifouling components, food preservation of perhaps as new antibiotics. In her report, Lone Gram writes: “the project has experienced a much higher “scoring rate”, that is, findings of bacteria that retard others, than expected. Especially examination of the so-called biofilm samples (bacteria that attached to surfaces) appear to produce very high occurrences of bacteria that retard others”, and further “that it is highly likely that the bacteria strain collection brought home conceals new species or even new genera of bacteria”.
The largest project onboard VÆDDEREN is the Carbon Project, headed by Professor Katherine Richardson of the University of Aarhus (since 1 February 2007 University of Copenhagen), and also this project proceeds according to the plan. The project participates in the entire voyage from beginning to end and examines the marine carbon cycle along the entire route. The oceans have so far absorbed approximately half of the carbon dioxide we have emitted since the beginning of industrialisation, so the oceans have helped us get rid of a large proportion of the greenhouse gasses. However, we still do not know much about the processes in the top layers of ocean water, especially not those that take place out on the open oceans. Galathea 3 has provided scientists with a unique opportunity for conducting uniform continuous tests of the carbon conversion along the entire route of the expedition, and the approximately 30 project staff that have so far worked onboard the ship have collected large amounts of data that can become a valuable contribution to better understanding of the role of the oceans in relation to one of the greatest challenges of our time: global warming.
Dissemination of research
The group onboard VÆDDEREN includes, among others, representatives from the three largest Danish daily newspapers, the weekly magazine Ingeniøren, a TV production company and representatives of the educational sector.
Every month, the Danish Expedition Foundation receives between 1,500 and 2,100 press clippings covering a broad spectrum of journalistic angles, ranging from dissemination of research, reports on life onboard the ship and portraits of the various participants for logbooks, satirical presentations, etc. In addition, Galathea 3 regularly supplies material for news broadcasts on the two large TV channels in Denmark, DR and TV2, as well as a range of assorted radio programmes.
Furthermore, the media (cf. for instance www.galathea.nu and www.politiken.dk/galathea), the Ministry of Education (cf. www.galathea3.emu.dk) and others (for instance www.satelliteeye.dk) have established websites that contribute to a broad and comprehensive coverage of the expedition.
Shortly before Christmas, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten contracted with Rambøll Management to conduct a survey of the Danes’ knowledge of Galathea 3. The survey showed that more than nine out of ten males had heard about the expedition. The figure is slightly lower among females, being eight out of ten. The vast majority of Danes who have knowledge about the project, 73 per cent, are predominantly positive towards the project.
As concerns the international press coverage, the expedition holds press conferences in connection with calls at ports. The expedition has experienced positive interest, and the coverage locally for these events has been satisfactory and at times quite overwhelming!
The Danish Expedition Foundation predicts that the upcoming calls at ports in Chile will attract considerable attention. The combined efforts of the embassy, the media partners and the Danish and Chilean ministries of education have prepared the event, which is the local media and schools look forward to with much excitement. In addition, the Danish Expedition Foundation is planning a number of activities at relevant research institutions in Boston and the US Virgin Islands in connection with the vessel’s visits to these locations.
The organisers have placed considerable emphasis on inviting, wherever it has been in any way possible, local school classes onboard the ship and conducting meetings and seminars at local research institutions in connection with the calls at the foreign ports, so that Galathea 3 can contribute to strengthening the international network that characterises modern research. This trend is also reflected in several of the participant lists of the Galathea 3 projects, which show that several foreign project staff members and universities are involved in the research.