Sampling Seawater from the Arctic Ocean


Outside of the ice pack surface water is collected from a small boat with acid-cleaned plastic tubing and a peristaltic pump. Away from the ship, the small boat slowly moves forward as surface water is pumped into a large carboy. Only water deeper than 20 meters is collected from the ship to avoid contamination from the Healy’s metal hull.

The most abundant elements in seawater are salt ions (sodium, chloride, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, etc.), and on average one liter of seawater contains 35 grams of dissolved salt (one liter of seawater weighs roughly 1000 grams so salinity is measured as parts per thousand). The GEOTRACES program specializes in measuring the least abundant elements in the ocean, referred to as “trace-elements.” Concentrations of the trace-element mercury, for example, are often less than 0.000 000 000 200 grams dissolved in one liter of seawater (parts per trillion). From this perspective, finding a needle in a haystack sounds easier than searching for mercury in the ocean.

Because these elements are found at such low concentrations, even a small amount of contamination can significantly alter a sample. Collecting contamination-free samples is a delicate process – imagine the challenges that arise when looking for trace amounts of iron in seawater collected from a giant rusty ship! The GEOTRACES program has developed specific sampling protocols that include a number of inventive solutions such as plastic shower caps, Kevlar line, and hand carrying 4 ft long GoFlo bottles. The photos below outline the procedure for collecting contamination-free vertical profiles of seawater from the ocean surface to the ocean floor.

Full depth profiles are collected in specially designed GoFlo bottles. The bottles are long cylinders with openings at both ends and are lined with high quality plastic (Teflon) that can withstand acid-washing to remove contaminants. In this image —> Read More

Ancient Artifact Goes On Display In Kurdistan After Museum Deal With Smuggler

WASHINGTON — Syria lost one of its iconic ancient treasures Sunday, when ISIS blew up the 1,800-year-old Arch of Triumph in Palmyra. The incident drew attention to another destructive consequence of crises in ancient areas, in which well-preserved ruins and artifacts fall victim to modern-day warfare.

But in a less noticed piece of news, a valuable artifact in another war-torn country was actually saved and displayed for the public, Live Science reported Friday.

The Sumerian-age tablet, which contains 20 previously lost lines of “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” was bought from smugglers, reflecting an uncomfortable ethical dilemma for museums and other institutions: Should they make deals with smugglers and looters in order to protect and preserve history?

The tablet was one of a group of 80 to 90, and bought for $800 off a smuggler in Iraq in 2011 by the Sulaymaniyah Museum in Slemani, Kurdistan, which is directed by the council of ministers of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The tablet rewrites the setting of an important scene in the epic, a pre-Homeric Sumerian poem widely regarded as the first great work of Western literature.

The tablet’s translators, scholars F. N. H. al-Rawi and A. R. George, wrote of their findings in the Journal of Cuneiform Studies in 2014: “The most interesting addition to knowledge provided by the new source is the continuation of the description of the Cedar Forest.” Al-Rawi and George cite descriptions of the chatter of birds and monkeys that color what was once thought to be a tranquil and unassuming forest.

The museum started an initiative to make deals with smugglers after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent looting of museums in the country, according to Ancient History Etc., a U.K. —> Read More

Futuristic Device Fixes Holes In The Heart Without Invasive Surgery

Scientists in Boston have come up with an ingenious new way to repair life-threatening holes in patients’ hearts and other organs.

Instead of invasive surgery and the risk that entails, the new technique makes use of an ultraviolet-light-enabled catheter that patches the holes using a plug made of a biodegradable, light-activated adhesive (see video above). The experimental device may prove useful in fixing stomach ulcers and abdominal hernias as well as hearts.

“Currently, to repair wounds or holes in the body, a second large hole made by incision must be created in order to give clinicians access to the affected area for suturing,” Conor Walsh, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard University and co-author of a paper describing the research, told The Huffington Post in an email.

With the new device, a tissue patch can be delivered and adhered to the area in a minimally invasive manner — either through the original wound opening itself or through another small incision depending on the location in the body,” he said. “This can all be done within a matter of minutes — it is certainly our goal and belief that this could revolutionize wound repair.”

The device is snaked into the body via a vein into the hole in the heart or other body part to be repaired. The device deploys the patch at just the right spot, and then two balloon-like chambers — one positioned on either side of the hole — are inflated to keep the patch in place.

Then the catheter emits UV light that causes the biodegradable patch to harden and form a tight seal with body tissues. Just check out the GIF below.

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