Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sediments are so sedentary

Have YOU ever wondered how much sediment is dropped onto the seafloor in our world’s oceans? Have you ever wondered how it varies as you move away from the coasts? What’s that? You HAVEN’T!?? To be fair, I guess it’s not a topic one broaches on a daily basis, but today I’ve had to think a little about this question so I’ll tell you.

Sediments (i.e.: dirt, broken shells, fish poop, dead phytoplankton, and whatever else constitutes all the crap floating in the ocean) collect on the seafloor on the order of centimeters per thousands of years. That means that hardly anything makes it to the seafloor. Near the continent (land) we get a larger sedimentation rate, like a few millimeters per year in areas where junk is roaring out of rivers and where productivity in the surface waters is high. But out in the big, deep Pacific you’ll find maybe 2 or 3 centimeters of sediment accumulation for ONE THOUSAND YEARS. That means when you scoop up a sediment core, you’re looking tens of thousands of years into the past.

I had this idea while sifting through mud cores on our last expedition to bag up all the mud that we didn’t need and package it so as to sell it to fancy ladies for spa treatments. Could you imagine? People would eat that shit up. All I’d have to do is use lots of words like “vital” and “nutrients” and “exclusive” and “silky”. So long NSF, hello Lancôme. Not surprisingly, it was very nice mud. My hands were very soft after working in the lab for several grueling hours. I kick myself for not actually following through with this genius scheme.

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