Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deepest explosive eruption on sea floor: Underwater remotely operated vehicle Jason images discovery

Date:
December 21, 2009
Source:
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Summary:
Oceanographers using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason discovered and recorded the first video and still images of a deep-sea volcano actively erupting molten lava on the seafloor.

The orange glow of magma is visible on the left of the sulfur-laden plume. The area shown in this image is approximately six feet across in an eruptive area approximately the length of a football field that runs along the summit.
Credit: Image courtesy of NSF, NOAA, and WHOI Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab

Oceanographers using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason discovered and recorded the first video and still images of a deep-sea volcano actively erupting molten lava on the seafloor.

Jason, designed and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for the National Deep Submergence Facility, utilized a prototype, high-definition still and video camera to capture the powerful event nearly 4,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, in an area bounded by Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

"I felt immense satisfaction at being able to bring [the science team] the virtual presence that Jason provides," says Jason expedition leader Albert Collasius, who remotely piloted the ROV over the seafloor. "There were fifteen exuberant scientists in the control van who all felt like they hit a home run. "

Collasius led a team that operated the unmanned, tethered vehicle from a control van on the research vessel and used a joystick to "fly" Jason over the seafloor to within 10 feet of the erupting volcano. Its two robotic arms collected samples of rocks, hot spring waters, microbes, and macro biological specimens.

Through its fiber optic tether, ROV Jason transmitted-high definition video of the eruption as it was occurring. The unique camera system, developed and operated by the Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab at WHOI, was installed on Jason for the expedition to acquire high quality imagery of the seafloor. The AIVL designs, develops, and operates high resolution imaging systems for scientific monitoring, survey, and entertainment purposes. AIVL imagery has been used in several IMAX films and hundreds of television programs and documentaries.

The video from the research expedition, which departed Western Samoa aboard the RV Thomas Thompson on May 5, 2009, was shown for the first time at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco.

"Less than 24 hours after leaving port, we located the ongoing eruption and observed, for the first time, molten lava flowing across the deep-ocean seafloor, glowing bubbles three feet across, and explosions of volcanic rock," reported Joe Resing, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Washington and NOAA, and chief scientist on the NOAA- and National Science Foundation-funded expedition.

For more than a decade, monitoring systems have allowed scientists to listen for seafloor eruptions but there has always been a time lag between hearing an eruption and assembling a team and a research vessel to see it. This has meant that scientists have always observed eruptions after the fact.

"We saw a lot of interesting phenomena, but we never saw an eruption because it happens so quickly," said Robert Embley, a NOAA PMEL marine geologist and co-chief scientist on the expedition. "As geologists, you want to see the process in action. You learn a lot more about it watching the process."

The scientists involved in the expedition had praise for the people and the technology that helped bring that dream to fruition.

"I don't think there are too many systems in the world that could do what Jason does," said Embley. "It takes a good vehicle, but a great group of experienced people to get close [to an eruption], hold station, and have the wisdom to understand what they can and cannot do."

The Jason team maneuvered the vehicle to give scientists an up-close view of the glowing red vents explosively ejecting lava into the sea- often not more than a few feet away from the exploding lava -- and the ability to take samples.

Enhancing the experience was the ability to view the eruption in high-definition video. Designed to operate at depths of up to 7,000 meters, the unique still and video camera system acquired 30-60 still images per second, at the same time generating motion, high def video at 30 frames per second. The system uses a high-definition zoom lens -- nearly twice the focal length of Jason's present standard definition camera -- that enables researchers to see up-close details of underwater areas of interest that they otherwise could not see.

"We were lucky to have those cameras on the vehicle. They are important to the science," said Tim Shank, a WHOI macro-biologist on the expedition. "We use the high def cameras to try to identify species. They allow us to look at the morphology of the animals -- some smaller than 3 or 4 inches long."

"In terms of understanding how the volcano is erupting, the high frame rate lets you stop the motion and look to see what is happening," said Resing. "You can see the processes better."

The National Science Foundation funded the installation of the camera system for this expedition. The system is being tested in advance of a permanent upgrade in 2010 to the cameras on Jason as well as the manned submersible Alvin. Maryann Keith, of WHOI's AIVL, Shank, and other scientists operated the camera system with the assistance of the Jason team during the expedition.

In addition to the benefits to science, the cameras will serve the added purpose of giving the public more access to seafloor discoveries.

"Seeing an eruption in high definition video for the first time really brings it home for all of us, when we can see for ourselves the very exciting things happening on our planet, that we know so little about," Embley said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Deepest explosive eruption on sea floor: Underwater remotely operated vehicle Jason images discovery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091217183101.htm>.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (2009, December 21). Deepest explosive eruption on sea floor: Underwater remotely operated vehicle Jason images discovery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091217183101.htm
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. "Deepest explosive eruption on sea floor: Underwater remotely operated vehicle Jason images discovery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091217183101.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins