text-only page produced automatically by LIFT Text Transcoder Skip all navigation and go to page contentSkip top navigation and go to directorate navigationSkip top navigation and go to page navigation
National Science Foundation
News
design element
News
News From the Field
For the News Media
Special Reports
Research Overviews
NSF-Wide Investments
Speeches & Lectures
NSF Current Newsletter
Multimedia Gallery
News Archive
News by Research Area
Arctic & Antarctic
Astronomy & Space
Biology
Chemistry & Materials
Computing
Earth & Environment
Education
Engineering
Mathematics
Nanoscience
People & Society
Physics
 

Email this pagePrint this page


Press Release 11-172
NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative Streams Live Video of Undersea Volcano

Oceanographers investigate aftermath of seafloor volcanic eruption on VISIONS '11 expedition

Photo of Axial Seamount subshowing showing vent surrounded with bacterial mats.

Axial Seamount in the deep ocean, and a "snowblower" vent with bacterial mats surrounding.
Credit and Larger Version

August 25, 2011

Last spring, a volcano erupted 425 kilometers (about 265 miles) off the Oregon coast and far below the surface, at Axial Seamount. No one was aware for months.

Now, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) will survey the site and stream live video of the volcano. It's the first live video since the volcano spewed massive amounts of lava on April 6.

When NSF-funded Oregon State University geologist William Chadwick first discovered evidence of the April eruption on Axial in late July, he immediately communicated the information to a team of University of Washington (UW) scientists and engineers currently on an OOI expedition very near the recent eruption.

The team, aboard the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson, is conducting site surveys for the deployment of a sensor infrastructure that's part of OOI.

Surveying this site is just one example of the ways in which OOI will revolutionize the way oceanography is conducted. UW oceanographers John Delaney and Deborah Kelley are leading the expedition, known as VISIONS '11.

The submarine volcano is one of OOI's primary study sites. OOI, a multi-scale ocean observing system, will deploy sensors in the ocean and provide a networked system that will allow open access to data from the air-sea interface through the water column to the seafloor.

Scientists and engineers have been putting the finishing touches on the construction design phase of the cabled ocean observing system that forms a backbone of OOI.

This major component of the OOI program, with the formal name of the Regional Scale Nodes, is located off the Oregon and Washington coasts.

The Axial eruption has offered a rare opportunity to use this next-generation ocean-observing technology in innovative ways.

Investigating the seamount and its environs will allow the best decisions to be made on how to construct a long-term observatory at such active seafloor sites.

The crew on the Thompson is now using a host of modern seagoing research tools to examine the Axial site.

Their activities are focused in the short-term on using and producing new maps of the volcanic changes that have taken place since the eruption.

In another portion of the region off Oregon, other members of the OOI team on board the cable-laying ship TE Subcom Dependable are deploying and burying electro-optical cable as part of the current OOI installation activity.

"OOI is transforming our ability to study the global ocean," says Delaney. "We're fitting the Juan de Fuca Plate [off Oregon and Washington] and overlying ocean with myriad sensor arrays connected to a fiber optic-electrical network. This infrastructure will allow scientists to track changes taking place on a 24/7/365 basis for many decades."

Axial Seamount appears to be quiet at the moment, but viewers will see images of "frozen" eruptions with cooling lava flows blanketing the seafloor.

"We are excited to be working at Axial so soon after the latest eruption," said Kelley. "Using a remotely operated vehicle equipped with a high-definition underwater video camera, we are able to conduct surveys that will help determine the extent and amount of new lava flows, and assess the life forms that are already beginning to re-appear at the site."

It's a preview of the kinds of information OOI will enable researchers to collect.

OOI deployments will be on coastal, regional and global scales. OOI's planned operational timeframe is 25 years.

The data will be available to the public, educators and researchers, making oceanography possible for citizens and scholars who might never go to sea.

Sustained, time-series data provided by OOI will enable researchers to study complex, interlinked physical, chemical, biological and geological processes operating throughout the global ocean--processes such as those happening at Axial Seamount.

The OOI is managed under a cooperative agreement with NSF by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that represents 95 of the leading public and private ocean research and education institutions, aquaria and industry with the mission to advance research, education and sound ocean policy.

The major implementing organizations and their partners for the OOI include the University of California at San Diego, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oregon State University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Washington, and Rutgers University.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, cdybas@nsf.gov
Kerry Beck, Consortium for Ocean Leadership, (202) 787-1685, kbeck@oceanleadership.org
Sandra Hines, UW, (206) 543-2580, shines@u.washington.edu

Related Websites
NSF Ocean Observatories Initiative: http://www.oceanobservatories.org/
A New Look Beneath the Waves: Ocean Observatories Initiative Gets Underway: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=115444
Visions '11 Expedition: http://www.ooi.washington.edu/visions11

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2014, its budget is $7.2 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

 Get News Updates by Email 

Useful NSF Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
NSF News: http://www.nsf.gov/news/
For the News Media: http://www.nsf.gov/news/newsroom.jsp
Science and Engineering Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/
Awards Searches: http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/

 

Image showing Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge.
Axial Seamount on the Juan de Fuca Ridge is the site of surveys during the OOI VISIONS '11 cruise.
Credit and Larger Version

Map showing VISIONS '11 cruise track/work areas for NSF OOI regional cabled network component.
VISIONS '11 cruise track/work areas for installation of NSF OOI regional cabled network component.
Credit and Larger Version

Photo of oceanographers watching the live video feed onshore at Rutgers University.
Oceanographers Oscar Schofield and Scott Glenn watch the live video feed at Rutgers University.
Credit and Larger Version

Image showing the VISIONS '11 site Hydrate Ridge, an area of gas hydrate deposits off Oregon.
Hydrate Ridge, an area of gas hydrate deposits located off Oregon, is an OOI VISIONS '11 site.
Credit and Larger Version

Map showing NSF's OOI regional cabled network.
NSF's OOI regional cabled network will carry electrical power and telecommunications bandwidth.
Credit and Larger Version



Email this pagePrint this page
Back to Top of page