2009 Pacific Northwest Expedition

Leg 5 Logbook - Submarine Volcanism II
Day 9 — Transit Day - heading to Pioneer Seamount
September 6, 2009

Latitude 39 degrees 26.9 minutes N
Longitude 125 degrees 40.23 minutes W

We are steaming south from Escanaba Trough to Pioneer Seamount today. This transit was planned for Tuesday, but sea state precluded our dives at North Gorda and a second dive at Escanaba Trough. It has been a strange cruise with strong weather chasing us here and there, changing the cruise plan on numerous occasions. Despite these difficulties, we have managed to get in a dive each day—just not where we had planned. At this point we have lost two dives at North Cleft and one more at North Gorda, but added one at President Jackson Seamounts and, with some better luck, will add two more at Pioneer Seamount as we steam back to Moss Landing.

At Pioneer, we plan two dives to add to an already impressive number of prior dives by several groups. From the geologic perspective, we hope to sample about a dozen additional eruptions and determine their compositions and ages. To date, the rocks from Pioneer have all been about 11-13 million years old and had similar compositions, in contrast to other similar seamounts we have worked on, such as Davidson (10-15 million years old), Rodriguez (10-16 million years old), and San Juan (2.7-11 million years old) and a wide range of lava compositions. These seamounts form slowly with many small eruptions over many millions of years and none have formed calderas like those seen on Axial Volcano, and the President Jackson, Vance, or Taney Seamounts.

—Dave Clague

Huge swells from the north (the storm that has been chasing us) and west (another storm headed our way) made it hard for the ship to hold station this morning. So the dive today at Northern Escanaba Trough (NESCA) was cancelled. We are headed south to Pioneer Seamount, with an ETA of tomorrow, late morning. We are surfing on swells that tower over the aft deck and lift us up gently as they roll on underneath.

—Jenny Paduan

clam shells

Shells of two Ectenagena extenta clams we collected yesterday. Scale bars are in centimeters and inches.

This is my first campaign on board of a marine vessel doing geology-biology research. After a week on the Western Flyer, I can now give a personal view of what’s going on.

During the dives I am helping with the GIS and as a note-taker. In my postdoc project I work with data collected in a similar way to those obtained here. This is giving me a good point to understand my data, either the advantages or the limitations of the methodology and equipment. To work with one-meter-resolution bathymetry is just amazing, but even with it, special attention must be given to GIS data. Video images are just fantastic; you can almost feel how the ROV touches the sea bottom and grabs deep-sea animal or pillow samples. The best images are the volcanic chimneys that we saw during Dive 79, and the fractures across the seafloor in many of the dives that seem to go deep into the crust! Large pillow lavas are also interesting; it is something that a carbonate sedimentologist does not see every day. And what about animals, fun to see all the living crabs, sponges, sea stars, corals, crinoids, and so on that people usually see in aquariums or as preserved specimens in alcohol. I am happy to see how biologists work and what their interests are (quite weird sometimes...). You can learn new things, every dive.

Once the ROV is recovered, the laboratory work begins. Then you can see that sometimes rocks seem different from how they are at a couple of thousand meters depth and how some animals are not as “pretty” as they look in the videos. The laboratory is a more familiar environment to me and easier to work in. I remember all those lectures on volcanic rocks during my student years. And again, the contrast between geology and biology comes up. It is funny, biologists look at the rock samples wondering what is special—they are all black!—and we have to ask the biologists every time we find “something alive” attached to rocks. We do not know yet (at least me) what is “exceptional” as Craig says. And take care of ROV pilot Bernard Roth, he is always there, taking pictures!

Well, about the crew, ROV pilots and the science party, I rate them all 10 points out of 10 points. I really enjoy the meals, very early for me, but great. Today I really enjoyed the bean soup, wow, really similar to Spanish “cocido” but with beans instead of chickpeas. The Western Flyer crew is…don´t know, after a week, they look like people that you have been seeing during your normal life for a long time.

And now, just waiting for another day in this new experience.

—Ángel Puga-Bernabéu

Angel and sieve

Angel cleaning particles from the mesh of a sieve before starting to sieve the next push-core sediment sample.

Bernard Roth (ROV pilot) photographing a lava sample with his tiny camera. He has taken some of the beautiful photos we have posted, often using his much more hefty camera and lenses.
shrunken cups

Styrofoam cups after being decorated and sent to 3,320 meters at NESCA yesterday, our deepest dive of the expedition. The extreme pressure has squeezed the air out of the foam. An intact cup in the upper left shows the original size.
cups full size

Same cups, before the dive.

We hope for ROV dives at Pioneer Seamount Monday and Tuesday but hear rumors of high winds there too. I am looking forward to returning to dry, stable land, and to my family, which I have learned (via brief emails by satellite) has gained a member while I was away!


Life has gone on while we've been out on the high seas: my husband took in a rescue dog, this six-month-old standard poodle puppy. Marilena, out with us on Leg 4, helped us choose a name, "Fiamma" (Italian for flame). I'm going to be several weeks behind in "bonding".

—Jenny Paduan

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Leg 5

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 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.

Niskin bottles

Niskin bottles are used to collect water samples as well as the tiny bacteria and plankton in that volume. The caps at both ends are open until the bottles are tripped, when the caps snap closed.


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.

Rock crusher

This device is used to collect volcanic glass fragments from the surface of a flow. It is made of about 450kg of lead and steel and is launched over the stern of the ship on a wire. Fragments of rock that break off of the lava flow on impact are trapped in wax-tipped cones mounted around the crusher. The wax is melted in the lab to liberate the rock particles for analysis.

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.

Glass suction sampler

This equipment is used to vacuum glass particles and larval animals from cracks and crevices. The carousel of small plastic jars fitted with wire mesh will be mounted in the benthic toolsled. The hose will be held by the ROV's manipulator and a suction will be drawn by the pump.

Sediment scoops

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

Temperature probe

Held by the ROV's manipulator, the wire on the right is placed into the fluid emitted from a hydrothermal vent to record the temperature.

 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 sites. She will also stand watches 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 for our group's two legs of the expedition. 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.

Brian Dreyer
Science Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Brian completed his Ph.D. in igneous geochemistry at Washington University in Saint Louis in 2007 and has since been working in MBARI's Submarine Volcanism Group. Brian applies the principles of isotope geochemistry to young samples of volcanic rocks to gain insight into aspects of magmatism. Much of his postdoctoral work focuses on eruption and petrogenetic timescales of Axial Seamount, the most volcanically active portion of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. His other research interests include geochemistry of the Earth's mantle, magmatic interaction between oceanic spreading centers and hotspots, and exploiting the systematics of rare isotope species to quantify material flux through subduction zones.

Craig McClain
Assistant Director of Science, 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 popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, and Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

Linda Kuhnz
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Linda specializes in the ecology of small animals that live in marine sediments (macrofauna), and larger invertebrates and fishes that live on the seafloor or just above it (megafauna). She conducts habitat characterization studies in benthic (seafloor) ecosystems using underwater video and by collecting deep-sea animals. She hopes to find some new and interesting animals in the unique habitats we are visiting on this cruise.

Ángel Puga-Bernabéu
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sydney

Angel is a carbonate sedimentologist specialist in non-tropical carbonate sediments. His current research, however, is focused on the tropical realm. He is working on drowned reefs from Hawaii, studying their morphology and structure, sedimentary facies and stratigraphical successions in order to attempt to constraint eustatic sea-level changes, subsidence rates, drowning times, carbonate accretion rates, and paleobathymetry. In this expedition Angel hopes to learn basic skills in marine geology that could help him to better understand the data he works with in his current research.

Julio Harvey
Research Technician, MBARI

Julio is a molecular ecologist and evolutionary biologist currently working on the population genetics of various deep-sea invertebrate species in Bob Vrijenhoek's laboratory. Julio is also developing molecular probes capable of detecting a variety of marine invertebrate larvae and other microorganisms from environmental seawater samples as part of the Environmental Sample Processor project.

Chris Mah
Research Collaborator, Smithsonian Institution

Chris specializes in the evolution, systematics, and taxonomy of echinoderms, specifically asteroids (starfish or sea stars). His research emphasizes cold-water species, including those living in the deep sea and at high-latitudes (Antarctica and the Arctic). He has identified starfish species for National Geographic, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and MBARI, as well as organizations in France, Australia, Palau, and New Zealand. He has been on many deep-sea cruises, including submersible work in the Bahamas and Hawaii as well as more conventional scientific cruises in Antarctica, Alaska, as well as off Monterey, California. He is also the author of the Echinoblog, an echinoderm-themed blog. This will be his first trip on the Western Flyer.

Soureya Becker
Graduate Student

Soureya recently received her bachelor's degree in general geology in Munich. She gained field experience related to volcanology during a campaign to Colima volcano in Mexico, where she looked at pyroclastic flow and block-and-ash flow deposits, did detailed stratigraphic logs, and performed density measurements in the field. She also participated in a field trip to Etna, Vulcano, Lipari, and Stromboli volcanoes where she was shown the different aspects of Italian volcanism. After these terrestrial experiences she is now looking forward to discovering more about submarine volcanism. She will benefit greatly from participating in this cruise, as it is highly complementary to her university education.

Levin Castillo
Student, University of Quebec, Chicoutimi

Levin Castillo-Guimond finished a BSc-Honour's degree in Earth Sciences at University of Quebec in Chicoutimi (UQAC-2009). His prime interest was on the physical volcanology of Archean mafic and felsic submarine successions, as they are often associated with volcanic massive sulfide deposits (VMS). In addition, to better understand large-scale caldera evolution and pyroclastic processes, Levin participated on a field trip in autumn 2007 on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). In summer 2009 he worked for an exploration focusing on gold and uranium deposits.

Gillian Clague

Gillian recently received her BSc-Honours degree in Marine Biology in Brisbane, Australia. She gained diving field experience while observing fish behavior on the Great Barrier Reef. On previous research cruises, she has assisted in the processing of collected organisms and in the collection and analysis of underwater video to identify the benthic life present on flows over an age series. On this cruise, she will assist in the collection of underwater video and hydrothermal clams and tubeworms, and aims to gain a better understanding of the diversity of animals living at these sites.