The sun rises and we are not in Kansas anymore. The Sonora desert in northwestern Mexico and southern Arizona is home to amazing cacti; some are on display in the hotel garden overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Even without the hydrothermal vents of Guaymas Basin, there would be plenty to see and to do for enterprising travellers.But we want to get to the ship ! The travel parties who have made it to Guaymas so far meets for an epic breakfast with lots of coffee; from left to right, Roland Hatzenpichler of Montana State Universit, Brett Baker from the University of Texas Marine Station, Virginia Edgcomb and Paraskevi Mara [“Vivian”] from WHOI. Brett is the project leader for an enormous metagenomic analysis of the microbial communities in Guaymas Basin that will be published soon in Nature Communications; more than 500 genomes, many representing entirely new evolutionary lineages of life! But even extraordinary scientists need their morning coffee.One more taxi ride with a loquations driver, and we are in the “industrial harbor” of Guaymas, where R/V Atlantis is berthed. During the day, the entire science crew arrives and moves in. This is home for the next two weeks.The first task is to unpack dozens of expedition boxes with lab equipment, consumables and chemicals and get the shipboard labs going; everything has been shipped to the Atlantis in containers months in advance. The success of an expedition depends to a large extent on good planning, to make sure everything what could possibly be needed is there on the ship; there is no Home Depot or Lowe’s in the Gulf of California.
After schlepping and opening boxes and expedition crates and setting up the labs all day, a trip to downtown Guaymas is a welcome diversion, and it leads to a “luncheria” that serves tasty tacos, gorditas, patas locos etc. at unbeatable value. The flaming red-orange color scheme is daring, but that does not bother hungry scientists. Here we see the science party working on their second orders. Vivian appaears to thinks that Mexican cuisine is OK as long as it resembles Greek food.
Next to her, in the grey jacket, sits Thorsten Brinkhoff from Oldenburg University in northern Germany, who recuperates from gruelling travel; he is planning to look at epibiotic bacteria on crabs. Classical hydrothermal vent inverbrates, such as Riftia or Alvinella, and their bacterial symbionts have been studied almost to death, but the carapaces of many crustaceans [deep-sea crabs] are covered with bacteria that like this habitat so much that they will defend it against competitors with bacteria-killing secondary metabolites. Members of the Alphaproteobacteria are particular good at this, so they will be the focus of this investigation.