2010 Expedition to the Sea
  • August 5 - 13, 2010

Day 7 – A little something for everyone
August 11, 2010
Dive 177 - Taney Seamount A

Dave writes: Today we stayed at the westernmost of the Taney Seamounts and did our fourth dive to explore the upper, and oldest, caldera floor and wall. We had spotted a delta-like feature in the new AUV bathymetry data that suggested that eruptions, perhaps explosive in style, may have continued on the outer rim of the caldera after it formed, and that lava flows or fragmental debris flows may have poured down the caldera wall. Our dive was designed to explore this feature on the caldera floor and upper rim and determine if indeed this was the case. The outcrops are generally rounded, low mounds and sampling was very difficult, so we collected far fewer rocks than yesterday. However, most of these appear to be fragmental volcanic rocks encased in thick manganese crusts, generally supporting the interpretation based on the AUV high-resolution bathymetry.

julie packard coral
Gersemia juliepackardae is a beautiful, feathery, pink soft coral, here living on manganese-encrusted volcaniclastic rock at the rim of the Taney A caldera. It has been found on Southern California seamounts, in Monterey Bay, and north to the Olympic Peninsula National Marine Sanctuary, from 500 meters to now 2,500 meters depth (this observation is a depth range extension for this animal). It was first described in 2009 by Williams and Lundsten and named in honor of Julie Packard, head of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and chair of our board of directors, for her dedication to ocean stewardship, outreach, and education.

We also collected 15 push cores to study the fauna living in the sediment, plus about 30 animal samples for the biologists. Near the beginning of the dive, we again tested how to collect a core longer than the push cores. We are using the same core tubes as in our vibracoring system, but simply inserting them into the bottom using the manipulator (see August 8 log). This effort was rewarded with a full-meter-length core to be used for paleoclimate study.


Push cores inserted in a row to collect replicate sediment samples. These will be sieved in the lab for the meiofauna and microfauna (the small and smaller animals). Much of the biodiversity of the vast sedimentary plains at the bottom of the sea is with the "infauna": worms, crustaceans, and other invertebrates living in the sediment, eating organic matter that makes its way down from the surface waters.

John writes: One of the principal science activities aboard-ship is geology. We are collecting lots of rocks so that we may study them to learn about how the Taney Seamounts formed about 26 million years ago. By looking carefully at these rocks and examining the detailed maps that MBARI has made of the seamounts, we can understand how these seamounts grew, and how they were excavated by the calderas which indent each seamount. Geology is the study of the Earth and how it formed. Geologists are essentially detectives of natural history. They gather various clues about how a certain group of rocks were formed thousands, millions, or even billions of years ago.

>> More about Geology and Geologists >>

Jason writes: My experience on the Taney Seamounts expedition has been nothing but positive. As someone who has never been out on the open ocean, the friendly crew of the Western Flyer is highly experienced to ensure a safe and comfortable voyage. They are quick to share their vast knowledge of sea life for an easy integration to the “ups and downs” of the ocean. The chef is magnificent, ensuring that the crew is not only eating healthy, but enjoying their food as well.

Academically, the cruise has been very enriching. As a member of an 11-scientist party consisting of biologists and geologists, the range and diversity of knowledge to tap into is enormous. Each discipline brings a different perspective to study their particular aspect of a similar location. Working with the ROV Doc Ricketts is a unique experience. The control room is illuminated by the light of over a dozen screens, each dedicated to a specific task ranging from oil pressure, to the high-definition camera revealing the mysteries of the deep. Spending a day in there makes you feel as if you are in a science fiction movie. The result is a scientific endeavor which leaves the lasting impression that you have been a part of something significant.


laetmonice worm
This 10-centimeter-long polynoid polychaete worm of the genus Laetmonice, which we fondly call the Liberace Worm, is relatively abundant at these depths. It can raise its sharp bristles like a porcupine. The bristles have been shown to be effective fiber-optic-lightwave guides. However, our specimens did not bioluminesce in the lab, which one might expect of this adaptation. This group of worms has pincer-like jaws at the far end of the pharynx. They invert the pharynx to eat, reaching out and exposing the jaws. A fearsome predator and not easy prey!

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 Daily Expedition Logs

Heading home
August 13, 2010

Read the log

Final dive
August 12, 2010

Read the log

A little something for everyone
August 11, 2010

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Rock haul
August 10, 2010

Read the log

Exploring calderas
August 9, 2010

Read the log

Full dive on Seamount A
August 8, 2010

Read the log

Stormy weather
August 7, 2010

Read the log

Sampling challenges
August 6, 2010

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Transit to the Taney Seamounts
August 5, 2010

Read the log


R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, Gulf of California, and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

R/V Zephyr

R/V Zephyr is the primary support vessel for MBARI's autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) program. This 26-meter vessel is also used to maintain environmental moorings, collect time-series data along the California Current, and support scuba divers as they study near-shore habitats.

AUV D. Allan B.

The MBARI mapping AUV is a torpedo-shaped vehicle equipped with four mapping sonars that operate simultaneously during a mission. The multibeam sonar produces high-resolution bathymetry (analogous to topography on land), the sidescan sonars produce imagery based on the intensity of the sound energy's reflections, and the subbottom profiler penetrates sediments on the seafloor, allowing the detection of layers within the sediments, faults, and depth to the basement rock.

Push cores

A push core looks like a clear plastic tube with a rubber handle on one end. Just as its name implies, the push core is pushed down into loose sediment using ROV Doc Ricketts' manipulator arm. As the sediment fills up the core, water exits out the top through one-way valves. When the core is pulled up again, these valves close, which (most of the time) keeps the sediment from sliding out of the core tube. When we bring these cores back to the surface, we typically look for living animals and organic material in the sediments.


The box fits in a partition in the sample drawer. It is shown open, with an animal being placed into it by the ROV's manipulator. When the lid is closed, the box will hold water to protect the animals inside.

Benthic toolsled/
Manipulator arm/
Sample drawer with partitions

The benthic toolsled is attached to the bottom of the ROV for our geology dives. Its components are the manipulator arm and the sample drawer. The sample drawer is shown open on deck, full of rocks. Normally it is closed when the vehicle is operating and is opened only when a sample needs to be stowed. Partitions in the drawer help us keep the rocks in order. The rocks often look alike, but the conditions and chemistries of the eruptions are different so it is important that we know where each came from.

Sediment scoops

Canvas bags on a T-handle for collecting gravel or other materials that fall out of a push-core.

 Research Team

David Clague
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Dave's research interests are nearly all related to the formation and degradation of oceanic volcanoes, particularly Hawaiian volcanoes, mid-ocean ridges, and isolated seamounts. Topics of interest include: compositions of mantle sources for basaltic magmas and conditions of melting; volatile and rare-gas components in basaltic magmas and their degassing history; chronostratigraphic studies of eruption sequence and evolution of lava chemistry during volcano growth; subsidence of ocean volcanoes and its related crustal flexure, plate deformation, and magmatic activity; geologic setting of hydrothermal activity; origin of isolated seamounts; and monitoring of magmatic, tectonic, and hydrothermal activity at submarine and subaerial volcanoes.

Jenny Paduan
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Jenny works with Dave Clague in the Submarine Volcanism project. On this expedition, Jenny will be in charge of the GIS work, including use of the recently acquired, high-resolution MBARI mapping AUV data of our dive site. She will also stand watch in the ROV control room, help with rock and sediment sample workup and curation once the vehicle is on deck, and coordinate these cruise logs. She is now quite solidly a marine geologist, but her degrees are in biochemistry (Smith College) and biological oceanography (Oregon State University). She is thankful for the opportunities that have led her to study volcanoes, and loves being involved with the research and going to sea. She looks forward to discovering more about how the Earth works.

Lonny Lundsten
Biologist, Video Lab Technician, MBARI

Lonny received a B.S. in Marine & Coastal Ecology from California State University, Monterey Bay, and an M.S. from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. His thesis work at MLML described the biological communities found at three seamounts off the coast of California. On this cruise, Lonny will be in charge of biological sample collection and processing and video data management. This work entails identifying unique biological and geological features that will be seen during the dive, while using MBARI-designed software to log the observations. He will also be preserving and organizing many of the biological samples collected during the cruise, preparing them for identification and further analysis by MBARI scientists and research collaborators.

Craig McClain
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center

Craig has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 30 papers in the area. Participation in dozens of expeditions has taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig's research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary drivers of marine invertebrate biodiversity and body size. He is the author and editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog and rated as the number one ocean blog on the web, and his writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, and Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

John Stix
McGill University

John studies large caldera-forming volcanoes and their eruptions—termed supervolcanoes and super-eruptions by the popular media—which have global impact. The underlying causes of these large eruptions remain enigmatic. John also studies volcano degassing, which can result in severe local, regional, and global impacts. Understanding the subterranean pathways through which volcanic gas is transported allows insight into the subsurface structure of volcanoes, and can also aid in eruption forecasting and better understanding magmatic-hydrothermal ore deposits. John's interest in this cruise lies in better understanding caldera development in marine environments in relation to underlying magmatic processes. John has been chair of the McGill Earth and Planetary Sciences Department from 2006 to 2010 and executive editor of the Bulletin of Volcanology from 2003 to 2010.

Isobel Yeo
Summer Intern, MBARI

Currently Isobel is an MBARI summer intern working with the Submarine Volcanism Group looking at how crust is built at intermediate-spreading mid-ocean ridges and how melts are supplied to seafloor eruptions. Isobel is also a second year Ph.D. student at Durham University in the U.K. At home she uses physical volcanology and geochemistry to study how huge volcanic edifices (called Axial Volcanic Ridges) are being built on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This will be Isobel's second research cruise and she can't wait to go to sea again!

Ryan Portner
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Ryan recently completed his Ph.D. at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, working on volcaniclastic and sedimentary rocks of the Macquarie Island ophiolite. His interests mainly focus on subaqueous mass gravity flows and their relationships to tectonic and volcanic controls. By identifying these relationships and implementing provenance and geochemical techniques, insight into the petrogenetic history of igneous and metamorphic source terrains is sought out. Soon to start a postdoctoral fellowship at MBARI, Ryan will examine the modes of volcaniclastic particle transport and dispersal from deep-sea eruptions, and their record of eruptive and magmatic controls.

Lucas Koth
Graduate Student
University of Quebec, Chicoutimi

Lucas Brião Koth finished his bachelor's degree in geology at the University of Brasília, Brazil, in 2008 and currently is working toward his master's degree at the University of Quebec, Chicoutimi. His research is focused on the relationship between dykes, synvolcanic faults, and mineralization associated with an Archean subaqueous volcanic center. His participation in this cruise will be complementary to his studies and is also a great opportunity to look at modern submarine volcanism and better understand the genesis of volcanic massive sulfide deposits (VMS) associated with these geological environments.

Sarah Hardy
Assistant Professor of Marine Biology
University of Alaska

Sarah has a B.A. in marine biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.S. from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in biological oceanography from the University of Hawaii. Her research focuses on the biology and ecology of benthic invertebrates, particularly in polar and deep-sea environments. She is especially interested in the growth, reproduction and dispersal of benthic invertebrates, and uses a variety of research tools including genetic techniques. On this expedition, Sarah is working with Craig McClain to conduct biological investigations on the fauna encountered on seamounts. Their goal is to determine the number of invertebrate species found at various depths on seamounts, and investigate whether (and why) seamounts are home to unique and/or more diverse invertebrate communities than other seafloor habitats. Sarah will also be collecting specimens for use in genetic studies to look at patterns of gene flow on seamounts, which will provide clues to tell us whether seamount act like isloated island habitats, or whether tiny invertebrate larvae are able to move between seamounts and the mainland.

Jason Coumans
Graduate Student, McGill University

Jason graduated in 2010 with an H B.S. in geology from the University of Toronto and is a M.S. student at McGill University, Montreal. His research focus will be oriented on the geology and petrology of the Taney Seamounts. His research interests are the physical, chemical and geodynamic processes that govern volcanism.

Justine Jackson-Ricketts

Justine recently received her bachelor of science degree in biology from Duke University, where she worked for Craig McClain at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. She will be entering the marine biology graduate program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the fall with plans to pursue a career in marine conservation biology.