Studying the San Clemente Basin in a book is one thing. Studying it on a ship is something else entirely.

That’s what 20 students found out in early January when they spent a week aboard the Roger Revelle, a 273-foot research vessel, as part of a Geological Sciences Dept. study of the area’s marine geology.

“Hands-on learning is one of the most valuable forms of education. Not only did we learn about how the geology of the sea floor is studied while on the ship, but we actually operated the machines and performed the analysis ourselves,” Alison Duvall, a second-year graduate student in the Geological Sciences Dept., said. “I learned a good deal more than would be possible in a classroom.”

The 10 graduate and 10 undergraduate students, led by geological sciences Professor Ken Macdonald, were selected on a first-come basis and departed Jan. 5 from the Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego Harbor. Costs were covered by a University research grant.

“We had students from many different departments because there weren’t any specific requirements, just enthusiasm,” first-year Ph.D. graduate student of marine science and geology Katie Inderbitzen said. “The first thing you notice while aboard a research vessel is that the science doesn’t stop when the sun goes down.”

The students lived at sea for five days and mapped an area of the basin where a hole appears to exist in a ripped section of the ocean floor. They also learned about sonar geological mapping techniques, seismic analysis, gravity and magnetic studies, and dredging and coring of the sea bottom.

“I had never slept out at sea before this trip,” Duvall said. “It’s a pretty foreign feeling to wake up in the morning, step outside and see nothing but a vast expanse of water for 360 degrees.”

The team studied the offshore part of the San Andreas Fault system, taking measurements using equipment such as magnetometers and a quarter-ton dredging basket. It spent most of its time monitoring data collection.

“This is a new type of study for UCSB,” Macdonald said. “This trip was for student education and worthwhile research at the same time. It was a classroom experience.”

The group continues to meet about once a week to learn how the obtained data can be used in geological interpretations. The group expects to have its findings published in a scientific journal.

“The purpose of the cruise was to obtain geophysical data that will allow us to figure out how the rocks at and below the sea floor in the south San Clemente Basin have moved with time,” said Mary Jane Coombs, a first-year Ph.D. graduate student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in the Marine Science Dept. “These data and our interpretations will hopefully provide further insight into the movement of the Pacific tectonic plate relative to the North American tectonic plate.”