Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bones, not boats

To test what becomes of bones on the Antarctic seafloor, marine biologists Thomas Dahlgren of Uni Research in Bergen, Norway, and Adrian Glover of the Natural History Museum in London sank minke whale bones and planks of Nordic pine and oak more than 500 m below the icy water. When they raised them to the surface more than a year later, they were thrilled to find the bones carpeted with pink-hued, flower-like worms of a species previously unknown to science, which they named Osedax antarcticus (ELECTRON MICROGRAPH ABOVE). The wood, on the other hand, came back in pristine condition, which is good news for those searching for wooden ships like Ernest Shackleton's Endurance, which was lost during his 1914 expedition. But even before this encouragement, the men who most want to locate the historic ship are sure it is there for the finding. Explorer Robert Ballard – who discovered the Titanic – says, "I am convinced it will be in a high state of preservation despite the crushing ice damage that sank it." And marine biologist David Mearns concurs, "Some people think it’ll be a bunch of splinters. There’s no doubt it’s been holed by a great big piece of ice but I think the hull will be largely intact."


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