It’s a tradition aboard oceanographic research vessels to send styrofoam down to the depths of the ocean (and then bring them back up, of course!). On Tuesday, after many days of decorating, we sent a bag of Styrofoam cups down to 2,500 meters. For some of us, this was a first in decorating cups and sending them down to the bottom of the ocean. For others who have been aboard tens of cruises, it was not very exciting to make another cup. The majority of the cruise members partook in the artistic activity of decorating a cup, and the designs ranged from chubby birds to gliders to pride flags. Some common designs were the surface mooring, the CTD, the OOI logo, and the Neil Armstrong. A few ramen cups were also sent down. Along with the design, it is customary to write the latitude, longitude, and depth on the cup.
After decorating the cups, we put them in a mesh laundry bag, and attached them to the CTD. We heard some horror stories about the cup bag breaking, so we secured it well with zip ties and electrical tape. The CTD went down to 2,500 meters and its return was much anticipated.
|Emma and I holding the bag of cups before attaching it to the CTD.|
|The CTD returning with our shrunken cups attached!|
Upon return, Emma and I were shocked at how very tiny the cups became! The cups shrink when they go down to 2,500 meters because the huge amount of pressure at that depth (250 times the atmospheric pressure that we and the cups experience at the surface) forces the air out of the styrofoam. The interesting part is that we started with two different kinds of cups: ones that were originally very small, and large Styrofoam cups. Once they returned, we noticed that the large cups had shrunk more than the small ones! Henry informed us that the amount of shrinking depends a lot on the brand of Styrofoam.
A few of the cups had shrunk into each other, so to separate them apart, we soaked them in hot water, and patiently pried them apart. Many of the cups deform and shrink in funny ways, so we also used the hot water to reshape a few.
|On the left are the shrunken cups and on the right is a cup that depicts the original size of the cups.|
|A collection of some of the cups after they have shrunken.|
It was a lot of fun!