The world's largest airship, the Skyship 600, made its way through the clouds on a month long journey across the United States. A team of British scientists made the air trek in a blimp as part of a BBC expedition team to study the clouds and life activity in the air. Microscopes from Carl Zeiss Microscopy, LLC were used to assist in the research being conducted by the traveling team for the BBC Two series Cloud Lab.
The team included an entomologist, meteorologist, and professional explorer who hoped to shed light on the creation of clouds and the relationship between diverse ecosystems and weather.
The research team travelled from Florida to California in the air and landed at 13 different air fields along their route. A small ground crew followed the blimp's path to monitor the progress and transport equipment to each stop. Carl Zeiss Microscopy loaned an inverted, compound microscope (Axio Vert.A1) and a stereo microscope (Stemi 2000), which were used by the scientists at the temporary “labs” to be set up on the air fields. Bugs captured and air cultures grown in the airship were examined and dissected. With the use of the microscopes, the scientists were able to look at the cultures grown on filters from different locations for fungi and bacteria. They also examined insects and anything else they came across. After being examined in the field, the bacteria were sent out to be imaged with a scanning electron microscope, as well as possible DNA testing.
The main goal of the exploratory expedition was to explain the changes in weather and its effects. Also, data was correlated to current weather, migratory, and wildlife patterns. The idea started with the question, “What would it be like to live on a cloud?” To be able to be among clouds and accurately measure them, a gentle machine was needed so as not to disrupt or change the cloud patterns. The U.S. was chosen due to the availability of renting an air ship for a month and no country borders needed to be crossed along the way, which makes travel easier. The Cloud Lab will be seen on BBC Two television next year.