2009 Pacific Northwest Expedition

Leg 5 Logbook - Submarine Volcanism II
Day 10 — Waiting on the wind
September 7, 2009

Latitude 37 degrees 22.11 minutes N
Longitude 123 degrees 24.39 minutes W

We arrived on station at noon, but the wind was right on the edge and the swells were still high. So we waited. Maybe it would settle down. Mid-afternoon, the wind had decreased below 46 kilometers per hour. Our hopes soared. We planned a shallow dive to the summit of Pioneer so that the ascent and descent time would cut into our bottom time as little as possible. However, as soon as the pilots started the pre-dive procedure, the wind picked up again. By evening the wind has dropped a little but it is too late in the day to dive now. So we will wait here until tomorrow morning, and if it isn't diveable by 8:00 a.m., we'll head to Moss Landing and be home in time to catch the high tide. With any luck the wind will cooperate; we will have to see. All we could do today was go on a virtual dive.

—Jenny Paduan

Linda and Jenny went on a spectacular virtual journey to Axial Volcano on an otherwise undiveable day.

What happens now? So far, of the nearly 100 specimens collected on this cruise, over 35 are different sea stars! Nearly all of the stars represent either new or rare species, all of which need to be further studied before finally being published and documented in a scientific journal. Here’s a brief outline of what happens to the collected specimens after the expedition concludes.

  1. Identifications & comparisons with the scientific literature (i.e., doing the homework). After the sea star specimens are shipped to my lab in Washington DC, they will need to be positively identified. Even though I have access to one of the most comprehensive echinoderm libraries in the world, it is often tricky to determine whether any of the specimens we’ve collected on this trip have been collected before. In some cases, the literature includes papers or books that may be over 100 years old! Similarly, our specimens will be compared with previously collected scientific specimens to further verify their identification.

  2. Cataloging and processing. One of the most important parts of collecting scientific samples is keeping track of the geographic location where they were collected. Absence of original collection data makes a specimen nearly worthless for research. Several computer databases help keep track of not only the specimens, but also videos, digital images, and environmental conditions (e.g., salinity, temperature, depth, oxygen concentration, etc.) of each specimen. Tissue from specimens are also routinely sampled for DNA, which will be used to determine their place in the sea star evolutionary tree. New species discoveries are potentially very important for clarifying relationships in this tree.

  3. Publication! After all of the processing and the other homework are completed, the fun begins! New species are described in technical terms (specific to sea stars), including photographs, measurements, and figures. These papers not only include the descriptions but also comments on relationships, ecology, and natural history. Natural History Museums serve an important function by acting as repositories for specimens of new species (called type specimens) where they are housed in perpetuity. As the primary author for this material, I will get the pleasure of naming the new species (and in a few cases, the new genera) described!

We have made many new discoveries about the sea star fauna of this region. Not just the many new species, but also ecological observations and hints about how this fauna relates to those closer to shore. I look forward to the next opportunity to collect or receive specimens from this area!

—Chris Mah

White brisingid on the seafloor at NESCA.

Because of all the weather-induced changes in our plans, we will not accomplish one of our primary objectives—to revisit each of the historic lava flows on the Gorda and Juan de Fuca Ridges. The missing survey is the one we had planned at the North Gorda Ridge, the site of a small eruption in 1996. However, we did return to the two flows erupted at Axial Volcano in 1998, the pillow ridges erupted in 1993 and between 1982 and 1991 at CoAxial, and the 1986 pillow ridge at North Cleft. We have collected new samples, found hydrothermal deposits, and refined the mapping of these flows so we can determine the history and volume of each. Few eruptions along the global mid-ocean ridge system have known volumes, and any relation between flow volume and flow style and eruption rates is unknown, although we hope to use our observations and mapping data to change that.

We also will not have used nearly as many of our dives to determine what small features revealed in our new AUV high-resolution maps really are, as all the lost dives were planned for sites where we had just recently collected survey data and none of their replacement dives have such data yet. In place of these dives, however, we were able to survey and sample an additional seamount in the President Jackson chain, where we had done several dives at other seamounts in years past. These short chains of seamounts form near spreading ridges and have unusual histories characterized by formation of abundant volcaniclastic rocks and large nested calderas, each offset from the previous one towards the ridge crest. We will be studying the chemistry of the rocks collected and trying to determine how the rocks relate to the caldera formation.

—Dave Clague

Truncated pillow lavas at the edge of a tectonic fracture several meters wide that was visible in the high-resolution AUV map at CoAxial.

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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.