Regional Cabled Array 2019 Expedition Sets Records

[media-caption type="image" path="" link="#"]From inside the Jason control van, images of the active >270°C hydrothermal edifice “Inferno” showing a beautiful tubeworm bush – the bright red plumes indicate that these worms are “happy and healthy”. UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI: V19.[/media-caption]

This summer’s Regional Cabled Array (RCA) 44-day expedition (May 30-July 12, 2019) onboard the R/V Atlantis was highly successful with the completion of all tasks scheduled for this annual maintenance and operations cruise. One hundred forty-nine out of 151 RCA Core and PI instruments are operational, all three instrumented Deep Profiler vehicles and instrumented Science Pods on the Shallow Profiler Moorings are conducting daily traverses through the water column, and 113 RCA instruments were installed. It was wonderful to once again see the beautiful life inhabiting the hydrothermal vents at Axial Seamount, amazing aggregations of cod curious about our work at the Oregon Offshore site, and to witness the profound changes that have taken place again at the methane seeps at Southern Hydrate Ridge.

During the 53 days of staging and demobing for the cruise over the four legs 166 tons of RCA equipment were transported to/from Seattle, WA and Newport, OR. Onboard staffing included 52 personnel with 13 students, six non-OOI PI’s-technicians from four institutions and one member from industry. In addition, Susan Casey, a New York Times bestselling author (i.e. The WAVE, the Devils Teeth, and Voices of the Ocean) participated on Leg 4. As part of the NSF Oceans Month, a 1-hour “Science in the Deep” Facebook live interactive broadcast was conducted, including live streaming of imagery from Jason working at Southern Hydrate Ridge and a period for questions and answers. There were 58 Jason Dives, with a record setting 20 dives in five days including deep dives to 2600 m and 2900 m water depths. The vehicle worked extremely well with turn-arounds commonly less than one hour.

Another big success for this summer occurred during nine days of at-sea operations dedicated to turning and installation of  cabled and uncabled instrumentation and field work provided to externally-funded researchers. This work included the:

  • Installation of an NSF-funded new high resolution, self-calibrating pressures sensor at Central Caldera, Axial Seamount (W. Wilcock, University of Washington).
  • The recovery, repair and reinstallation of the NSF-funded COVIS multibeam sonar for hydrothermal plume imaging at the ASHES hydrothermal field, as well as installation of a thermistor array (K. Bemis, Rutgers University); Bemis also conducted a several hour thermal and video survey of the field.
  • The turning of an NSF-funded CTD at the ASHES hydrothermal field, Axial Seamount (W. Chadwick, Oregon State University). Note Chadwick received a new NSF award to expand the CTD network to monitor the release of subsurface brines associated with eruptions at Axial as observed during the 2015 eruption (see Xu et al., 2018).
  • The recovery of an ONR-funded uncabled Benthic Observatory Platform (BOP) from the Oregon Offshore site and installation of another BOP at a seep site at Southern Hydrate Ridge (C. Reimers-Oregon State University and P. Girguis-Harvard University) and associated sediment sampling; and
  • The recovery, repair, and reinstallation of a University of Bremen-Germany-funded cabled overview multibeam sonar for imaging of all methane plumes at Southern Hydrate Ridge (G. Bohrmann and Y. Marcon -University of Bremen) – the range of this sonar is now extended from 200 m to 700 m. A new 4K video-still camera was also installed near Einsteins’ Grotto.

The RCA engineering and science team is enjoying being on land after conducting round the clock operations to insure that the facility work was completed on schedule. Folks are enjoying the Seattle sun and the Cascades and Olympic mountains during the summer blue-skied days. Soon however, our thoughts, will be turning to refurbishment and planning for next years cruise. The team is looking forward to working with the VISIONS19 students on their projects this upcoming academic year; we are excited to see the stories they tell with new eyes focusing on the oceans, the RCA, and OOI.

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Streaming Live From the Deep: The 2019 OOI Regional Cabled Array expedition

[media-caption type="image" path="" link="#"]ROV Jason is launched at the Oregon Offshore site during the 2019 NSF-funded OOI Cabled Array expedition during Visions2018 with the Benthic Experiment Package attached beneath the vehicle. Photo by M. Elend, University of Washington[/media-caption]

This summer’s exciting sea-going expedition in the Northeast Pacific to maintain the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative Regional Cabled Observatory is underway, and you can join us at InteractiveOceans.

Over the next several weeks, the University of Washington Cabled Array team will be adding novel sensors that allow a global audience to watch live the daily deformation and seismic activity at the largest underwater volcano off our coast, Axial Seamount. Axial erupted in 2015 and is poised to do so again. In addition, we will be adding new instruments, including a 4K video camera aimed at a highly dynamic methane seep site off Newport, Oregon, called Southern Hydrate Ridge, where streams of bubbles issue from the seafloor daily.

[media-caption type="image" path="" link="#"]R/V Atlantis steams back to shore after Leg 1 of the 2019 Regional Cabled Array cruise, following the successful installation of the Shallow Profiler Mooring at Axial Base. Photo by J. Tilley, University of Washington[/media-caption]

The cruise, which departed June 2 and continues until July 12, is using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason onboard the R/V Atlantis operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Nineteen U.S. and international undergraduate students are working side-by-side scientists, engineers, ROV team, and ship’s crew on the expedition as part of the UW experiential at-sea VISIONS program.

This expedition is highly complex with a diverse array of more than100 instruments, junction boxes, and instrumented pods on the Shallow Profiler Moorings that will be recovered, installed, and tested. R/V Atlantis will be “packed to the gills” on each of the four legs that make up this expedition, carrying everything from state-of-the-art mooring components to sharpies.

Starting around June 12 or 13, you will be able to watch our underwater operations live through streaming video as ROV Jason works more than 300 miles offshore and 5,000 feet below the surface down at the summit of Axial Seamount, which hosts 350°C (660°F) deep-sea hot springs that support some of the most bizarre creatures on Earth. We will also be 250 miles off Newport in depths ranging from 250 feet to 10,000 feet in some of the most biologically productive waters in the world and at sedimented sites on the Cascadia margin where methane-rich plumes jet from the seafloor. There, methane seeps support dense bacterial mats and large clams that thrive in the absence of sunlight on gases pouring from the seafloor.

A 4K camera funded by the University of Bremen will provide real-time views of the methane plumes and seafloor life to document this incredibly dynamic environment marked by large explosion pits and collapse basins. This is the second year of this international collaboration that expands the capability of the Regional Cabled Array and provides new imagery of these dynamic systems for all to see.

An enhanced, high-bandwidth satellite connection from R/V Atlantis will allow you to experience our deep-sea operations through daily live video streams. It will also allow onboard engineers and scientists to see data for the first time as new instruments are connected to the seafloor submarine fiber optic cables that bring the global Internet into the oceans. So tune in and see what we see when we see it.

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