2009 Pacific Northwest Expedition

Leg 1 Logbook - Laser Raman Spectroscopy
Day 11 – Where no ROV has gone before
July 17, 2009

On-station at Barkley Canyon, west of Vancouver Island, Canada.
Latitude 48 degrees 17.7 minutes N
Longitude 126 degrees 6.7 minutes W

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While surveying the bottom, the ROV Doc Ricketts came across an octopus snuggled up to a rock on the seafloor.

The cable ship Lodbrog and the R/V Atlantis with ROV ROPOS are actively laying cable into the area of the hydrate mounds at Barkley Canyon today, so we have given way to them and moved over to a small tributary canyon where we see similar topography. Unfortunately, we do not have a high resolution map of this area like the one for the hydrate mounds prepared by MBARI’s mapping AUV several years ago. So, today we will be exploring “blind” in a submarine canyon where no ROV has gone before. We begin the dive with great expectations, however, once on the seafloor we quickly discover that the area is rather undistinguished. There is featureless green-brown mud everywhere and not much else. As we survey the bottom, a game begins to see who can spot the occasional critter first and the most unusual one. The big prize today went to the octopus (above) for most interesting creature. We saw lots of tanner crabs and rockfish (below) but surprisingly no rocks. The prize for most unusual couple went to the hagfish snuggled up with a rockfish (below). We pulled the ROV early—there is just so much featureless bottom one can survey.

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A tanner crab slowly crawls across the seafloor while a rockfish waits patiently nearby. If you look carefully, you will notice that the tanner crab has lost an arm. Clearly, this is a rough part of town.

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A hagfish snuggles close to a rockfish on the sea-floor. While I am not a marine biologist, something tells me that this couple doesn’t have much of a future!

After the dive, the ROV pilots needed to change out a cable to correct a ground-fault so the science team took advantage of some free time to grab a quick nap before dinner. After dinner the pilots did a quick moon-pool test of the ROV (below) and found that their repairs were successful. As soon as the ROV was back on deck a mad scramble ensued as much of the hardware used for the past few days was removed from the toolsled tray and new gear added on for tomorrow’s dives (see bottom image). The science team was especially grateful for all the help they got from the ROV pilots getting their gear ready for the next dive.

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After dinner, the ROV pilots take Doc Ricketts for a quick dip in the moonpool to see if replacing a cable has fixed the ground-fault problem.

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Bernard Roth pilots the ROV using the belly pack in the moon pool. We often don’t do moon pool dives at sea due to the danger of running into the ship, however, the seas tonight were especially calm allowing the dive to be done safely and without incident.

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Bryan Schaefer, Randy Prickett, Mark Talkovic (kneeling), Eric Nelson, and Peter Walz discuss plans for prepping the ROV for tomorrow’s dive. Whenever there is a major change in the equipment to be deployed, the science team and the ROV pilots all get together to discuss the options for placing the gear on the vehicle. This way the gear is mounted in a way that is easy for the pilots to deploy successfully.

Due to the major re-mobilization of the ROV tonight, this week’s mystery photo will be delayed until we get some time for me to find a suitable location.

- Ed Peltzer


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Leg 1

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.

Laser Raman spectrometer DORISS2

By bouncing a specially tuned laser beam off of almost any object or substance—solid, liquid, or gas—a laser Raman spectrometer can provide information about that object's chemical composition and molecular structure.

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 Tiburon's 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.


Vibracoring is a common technique used to obtain samples from water-saturated sediment. These corers work by attaching a motor that induces high frequency vibrations in the core liner that in turn liquefies the sediment directly around the core cutter, enabling it to pass through the sediment with little resistance.

CO2 accumulator

Carbon dioxide is a liquid at the temperatures and pressures on the seafloor where hydrates are known to occur. Because of this, one cannot simply take down a tank of gas and expect to be able to release it at depth. Instead, the CO2 piston accumulator is used to deliver precise volumes of liquid CO,2 to experiments on the seafloor. The valves are operated hydraulically by remote control and hydraulic pressure is used to expel the liquid CO2 and deliver it to the experiments.

Heat-flow probe

MBARI's heat-flow probe is mounted on the side of the ROV Doc Ricketts inside the vertical stainless steel box. This both protects the delicate probe and provide the track so that the probe can be inserted into the sediment along a totally straight path.  The probe contains five high precision platinum sensors which are used to measure the vertical temperature gradient in the sediments. This gradient along with some knowledge of the heat capacity of the sediment allows scientists to calculate the rate of heat loss from the sediments into the ocean.

 Research Team

Peter Brewer
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Peter has taken part in more than 30 deep-sea cruises, and has served as chief scientist on major expeditions and on more than 90 ROV dives with MBARI ships and vehicles. His research interests include the ocean geochemistry of the greenhouse gases. He has devised novel techniques both for measurement and for extracting the oceanic signatures of global change. At MBARI his current interests include the geochemistry of gas hydrates, and the evolution of the oceanic fossil fuel CO2 signal. He has developed novel techniques for deep ocean laser Raman spectroscopy, and for testing the principles and impacts of deep ocean CO2 injection.

Ed Peltzer
Senior Research Specialist, MBARI

Ed is an ocean chemist who has been with MBARI since 1997. He has been involved in developing instrumentation and analytical techniques to study the composition of gases in gas hydrates and deep-sea vents. He has also collaborated on the development of new instrumentation for the measurement of temperature and pH from an ROV. As the group's project manager, Ed is also responsible for expedition planning and logistics.

Peter Walz
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Peter has worked as a research technician for a variety of scientists at MBARI. Most recently he has supported the research efforts of Dr. Peter Brewer and his interests in the ocean chemistry of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Peter assists with the design, testing and deployment of the ocean going science hardware and works closely with the marine operations group to integrate new equipment to work with MBARI's ROV's.

Xin Zhang
Graduate Student, Ocean University of China & Visiting Investigator, MBARI

Xin Zhang is a Ph.D. student from the Ocean University of China and is now studying at MBARI with Peter Brewer and Bill Kirkwood. He has been involved in the development of a Deep-Sea Raman Probe for the measurement of sediment pore water geochemistry. In this expedition, he will focus on obtaining the in situ pore water Raman spectra and the collection of pore water samples for subsequent shipboard analyses by ion and gas chromatography.

Keith Hester
Conoco Phillips

Keith is currently an associate engineer with ConocoPhillips focused on natural gas hydrates. Keith received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines in 2007. This was followed by a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute with Dr. Peter Brewer. His research interests include the use of carbon dioxide to replace methane in natural hydrates.

John Ripmeester
Principal Research Officer, Materials Structure and Function Group
National Research Council Canada

John has been a staff member at the NRC since 1974, first with the Division of Chemistry, then with the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences upon its establishment in 1991. His research focuses on the chemical applications of solid state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, the development of multi-technique approaches to the characterization of materials, supramolecular chemistry, porous materials, clathrates, gas hydrates, and other guest-host materials. He has nearly 500 publications and six patents and is often an invited speaker at special events.