Did you hear the one about the crab and the underwater volcano?

Did you hear the one about the crab and the underwater volcano?

Studying an underwater volcano is hard enough without a spider crab getting in your way. In an absolutely delightful field dispatch, Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Jes Burns tells the story of a crab, geologists just trying to set up their equipment, and a remote-controlled vehicle named Jason who, from the sound , is locked away in a seemingly eternal place. crustacean fight.

“We expect sabotage, crab sabotage. Because obviously there’s a battle going on between Jason and the crabs at Axial Seamount,” Oregon State University volcanologist Bill Chadwick told Burns.

Burns is on a ship with Chadwick and other researchers, reporting on the serious scientific effort to study Axial Seamount, an undersea volcano 300 miles off the Oregon coast. As part of the research, the scientists were trying to install seismometers on the ocean floor: instruments that record movement and could help them understand the volcano’s inner workings. But before they could seal one of these instruments with a big plastic bubble, a big, pointed spider crab decided it would be the perfect perch.

Animal interference is a fairly common problem with seismometers, even terrestrial ones. They are designed to monitor earthquakes, but they detect any type of movement and animals move a lot.

Tracking animal activity can be useful: Scientists have used the equipment in other settings to track the roar of elephant herds. But it can also be slightly annoying. Whale songs are known to drown out evidence of earthquakes. And bears, in particular, tend to abuse geology equipment. (Bears “encounter” seismometers in Alaska so regularly that there are scientific accounts of the dynamics, with the researchers warning that “future seismic experiments in remote areas of bear country should carefully consider bear impacts” .)

The crabs, apparently, fall into the mildly annoying category, and the scientists on the boat had to figure out a way to drive the crab away so they could get their volcano data – would they “swallow” it with the vacuum? Threaten him with Jason’s titanium claw? All the foregoing? Would the crab finally kidnapped come back for revenge?

The crab story and others like it are a cheerful reminder that science can be fun and even funny – often when you least expect it. To find out how it all happened, go read (or listen to) the full story of “crabotage” here.

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