3: A New Problem

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East Pacific Rise

Yesterday afternoon, our next to last day in transit, the Captain mentioned to me that my last dive target is not, as I had been told, in international waters, but is in waters that are by international agreement exclusive to Mexico. Although we have navy clearance to dive on this site, we do not have permission from the Mexican government to work in their sovereign waters. Because the Mexican government is justifiably protective of their country's natural resources, we are unlikely to get permission at this late date.

I confirmed that the original information was in error and asked Z and Jim about Plan B's. I could have spent several hours being angry, kicking and screaming because given the previous problems with this cruise having one of this magnitude arise now just is NOT fair, but that wouldn't have done any good. I know the person who made the error didn't do it on purpose and I have made enough errors myself to know how bad he feels. No one is willing to violate international law to work illegally in Mexican waters, despite the unique potential of that last site to address questions of species ranges along this spreading ridge. We have to review our options and make the best of it.

The options are that we try to dive just outside the line, where any collections of vent animals would address those key questions, but the chances of finding hydrothermal vents there are very low compared to the site that is now off-limits. We could spend those dives at other areas where hydrothermal activity was reported, but not explored, some years ago. This plan would be more likely to result in collections, but those collections would be unable to address important questions of biodiversity and how far species ranges in hydrothermal vent habitats on the northern EPR. Neither of these options is guaranteed to find vents, or vents with animals, and they are mutually exclusive. The decision is mine to make. I'm waiting for responses to emails I sent to people onshore yesterday, hoping that they can help clarify our best option.