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Carl Wirsen


Carl Wirsen, a Massachusetts native, came to WHOI in 1968 and retired in 2003 as a Senior Research Specialist having pursued research in marine microbiology over the 35 years. Being able to “taste” the lunch preserved for 11 months in Alvin after it sank in 1968 and was recovered in 1969, and being among the first scientists to dive at the newly discovered hydrothermal vents in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he never lacked novel research opportunities. Now, as an Oceanographer Emeritus, he can pursue some questions that remained unanswered over the years, as well as some of his favorite outside WHOI activities. For him and his wife Joye, who also retired from WHOI, dogs have always been a big part of their lives, and training them for field and obedience is almost as much fun as rearing a litter. Four grandchildren and all the activities that come with being a grandparent (fishing, camping, science) make life busier now than it ever has been.

Carl Wirsen

Is Life Thriving Deep Beneath the Seafloor?

Is Life Thriving Deep Beneath the Seafloor?

In 1991, scientists aboard the submersible Alvin were in the right spot at the right time to witness something extraordinary. They had sailed into the aftermath of a very recent volcanic eruption on the seafloor and found themselves in a virtual blizzard. They were densely surrounded by flocs of white debris, composed of sulfur and microbes, which drifted more than 30 meters above the ocean bottom. The seafloor was coated with a 10-centimeter-thick layer of the same white material. This vast volume of microbes did not come from the ocean. The eruption had flushed it out from beneath the seafloor.

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