Sunday, April 14, 2024

Illuminating the seafloor

Teamwork between a deep-sea robot and a human occupied submarine recently led to the discovery of five new hydrothermal vents on the seafloor of the eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.
Scientists mapped the area at night using the undersea robot Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) operated by WHOI and the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF) and funded by NSF.
After Sentry was recovered each morning, high-resolution maps from the vehicle’s sensors were then used to plan the day’s dive by the human-occupied vehicle Alvin also operated by WHOI-NDSF, which enables scientists to view firsthand the complex and constantly changing environment of a place like the East Pacific Rise.
Footage description: HOV Alvin navigates the around hydrothermal vents at the YBW-Sentry Field during a recent expedition to the eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.
HOV Alvin lands on seafloor lava flows in the eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, prepared for imaging and sample collection.
Shots of the hydrothermal vent field, Biovent, including Riftia pachyptila - giant tubeworms.
Towering colonies of these giant tubeworms grow adjacent to where hot, mineral-laden water jets out of hydrothermal vents the deep seafloor.
Also present are Cyanagraea crabs, a dominant predator in this ecosystem.
They can only be found on hydrothermal vents.
Footage of tubeworms, muscles, and a zoarcid fish that call this field of hydrothermal vents home.
A downward look at the hydrothermal vent field, Biovent.
A look at hydrothermal vent chimneys in the YBW-Sentry Vent Field.
The white areas are microbial mats.
A panorama of the YBW-Sentry Vent Field, including large anemones.
Hydrothermal chimneys in the YBW-Sentry Vent Field.
A vulcan - or vent - octopus thriving in the ecosystem created by hydrothermal vents.
A lone stalked crinoid sways in the current.
Crinoids are marine invertebrates.
Crinoids that are attached to the sea bottom by a stalk in their juvenile form are commonly called sea lilies.
HOV Alvin approaches a hydrothermal vent.
Its manipulator arm can be seen taking a sample of the hydrothermal fluids and gasses for scientists to analyze.
A WHOI-MISO self-recording high-temperature logger has been inserted into one of the active vent chimneys.
It records temperatures inside the vent orifice every 10 minutes, providing researchers with invaluable data about hydrothermal system behavior and activity over 1-2 years between the site visits to the study area.
The next time the researchers will go back to this site is in about 12-18 months.
A close-up of one of the newly discovered chimneys.
This one is roughly 9-10 meters tall.
This is a curtain folded whorl of lava, quickly frozen into the beautiful shape within minutes after it erupted.
The wrap around feature gives scientists information about how fluid the lava was when it erupted and the rate at which the lava flowed over the seafloor.

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