Friday, September 4, 2015

Life at 7000 feet beneath the sea

Yeah, I'm still fascinated with the EV Nautilus and it's travels/explorations. Yesterday, they boogied about 190 miles west of Vancouver Island into deep water, to Ocean Network Canada's Endeavor station, a 'mid-ocean spreading ridge with very active hydrothermal vents'. They have various instruments there which record all kinds of things, including seismic activity.

Yesterday's dive started with a bit of drama. Just after launch, the crew saw on the camera that a camera cover that should have been removed before launch was still there (evidenced by a long red sash clearly reading remove before launch). They discussed taking it back on board, but that's a hassle, so the ROV Hercules pilot made use of one of the robot arms to grasp and remove the item, then hold it close to the ROV until they hit bottom. Then, trying to store it in a bin, they dropped it, retrieved it from the bottom and finally got it put away. Really fun to watch the delicate operations of these remotely controlled arms in performing their work. Pardon the poor quality of these photos, but screen shots of moving items are never really clear. The video is HD and beautifully clear.

Retrieving the dropped item from sea floor.
Getting the dropped item into the storage bin. They made it.

Then, they went on to their first official chore, which was to attach a recovery beacon to a sediment trap anchored to the ocean floor, being brought up after a year of service so the contents can be studied. Once the trap is released from the floor, it'll float to the surface and the beacon will allow them to find it wherever it drifts. Another delicate operation involving both arms of the ROV.

Ready to attach the recovery beacon, left, to the trap.

Shortly afterward, they spotted this old chain and anchor rusting away down there. Wonder how long that's been there, and what ship dropped it? We'll never know.

This was all happening last night and while they work around the clock, I don't. This morning they are still at it, doing a photo-mapping survey of the ocean floor so they can make a 3-D map of it. Great images. I don't know what the instrument is in this one, but the ocean bottom down here is interesting, so I did a quick screen shot.

Tubeworms growing near thermal vents at around 7200 feet. It's still cold down there -- about 35 fahrenheit, although the scientists say that near the thermal vents it's about 300 C, which according to Google is about 572 F.  Fascinating listening to the scientists talk about what we are seeing.

Active thermal plume spewing 'black smoke'
Some kind of deep sea skate -- they're not sure which one

They've just announced the plan for the next 12 hours, so they'll be down here all day. Check it out!
a mid ocean spreading ridge with very active hydrothermal vents - See more at:

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