Seafloor lava flows
Day 2: Today's dive on Axial Volcano
July 28, 2011

Location: Axial Volcano NE flank
Latitude: 45º 57.73' N
Longitude: 129º 59.46' W

We arrived on site at Axial Volcano today around 3:00 p.m., giving us time for one short dive. Since this was the first dive on this leg of the cruise, everyone was learning about their roles. During the dive, the science party has four people on watch—each with a specific job. The person controlling the ROV camera is in charge of running the dive and this person serves as the main communicator with the ROV pilots. It is his or her job to assure that the scientific objectives are met by identifying samples and landscapes of interest and controlling the camera. The VARS (Video Annotation Reference System) operator is responsible for logging what is seen in the video, to ensure that specific times/places can be found again on the dive tapes. Every feature, creature, and sample has to be properly logged. Additionally, this person is responsible for capturing video frame grabs of interesting features and switching out the video tapes. The GIS (Geographic Information Systems) operator marks the dive track and provides navigational directions to the pilots. This person drops "markpoints" to mark the latitude-longitude in ArcGIS, all along the dive-track and at places where samples are taken. Finally, the note-taker keeps a detailed written record of the entire dive. This person writes down everything, from descriptions of the seafloor to where the samples were stored and when the dive tapes were replaced. Any information that may be useful for re-creating the dive in the future is recorded. All in all, we had a very successful dive on the eastern flank of Axial Volcano. All excelled in their roles, and are ready for a full day of diving tomorrow at CoAxial.

Axial Volcano
Sheet flow has been fractured, perhaps tectonically. A rattail fish, marketed as "Grenadier" (Coryphaenoides), glides into view.

After the dive was complete and the vehicle was on deck, all the samples collected during the dive needed to be properly bagged and tagged. This generally requires the help of the entire science party. Each rock sample has to be correctly identified based on the video frame grab, photographed, measured, described, and subsampled for volcanic glass. Since we only collected five rock samples this dive, this process went relatively quickly this evening. Additionally, each core sample needed to have the excess water drained, a foam spacer (aka, "pool noodle") inserted, and the base subsampled before being capped.

— Julie Martin

There were two primary goals for the dive today. First, was to core the two-meter thick volcanic sediment section on the east flank of Axial Volcano where we were unsuccessful on two previous expeditions. We want this section! We collected a 65-cm core, our best yet. However, other cores inexplicably recovered far less, although they penetrated all the way up to the handle, so we still are perplexed by our inability to get the entire two-meter section. Second, we wanted to recover a sample from a lava flow on the northeast rim that in the backscatter data appears bright and therefore should be young. We collected a rock sample for chemical analysis and a short push core of sediment for carbon-14 dating of the foraminifera from just above the flow surface. We estimate from the amount of sediment cover that the flow is several thousand years old, not particularly young. In several months (time to extrude the core into small increments, sieve the increments, pick forams from the other grains, and carbon-14 date the forams) we should have a better age date.

The point of this exercise (and it is starting to feel like exercise!) is to learn the eruptive history of the volcano, or at least since the caldera collapsed. The sediments contain layers of volcanic glass particles from the eruptions that have occurred, which we can chemically match to some of the flows, as well as more forams for dating the intervals.

— Jenny Paduan

push core
Meter-long push core about to be lowered into the sediment. The cores are secured in a quiver on the swing-arm (black bar).
manipulator arm of ROV
Rind of a drained lobate pillow about to be sampled by the manipulator arm.
Brian and Ryan inspect map
Brian Dreyer and Ryan Portner inspect a map of sample sites from our dive.
Remotely operated vehicle, Doc Ricketts
ROV Doc Ricketts on deck, ready with push cores in the sample drawer for tomorrow's dive. The black box with partitions for keeping the rock samples tidy is to the left. Two manipulator arms in stowed position are on either side of the drawer. The main HD camera is in the center, above the drawer. Other cameras and the lighting system are mounted on the bar overhead. The yellow syntactic foam flotation pack is at the top.
Staff with sample
Amy Lange caps a push core with Andrew Burleigh's help during the post-dive sampling party in the wet lab.
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Leg 2

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 the ROV'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.


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.


R/V Western Flyer

George Gunther


Lance Wardle
Chief Engineer


Andrew McKee
First Mate


Paul Tucker
First Engineer


Olin Jordan


Vincent Nunes


Dan Chamberlain
Electronics Officer


Patrick Mitts


ROV Doc Ricketts

Knute Brekke
Chief ROV Pilot


Mark Talkovic
Senior ROV Pilot


Randy Prickett
Senior ROV Pilot


Bryan Schaefer
ROV Pilot/Technician


Eric Martin
ROV Pilot/Technician


 Research Team

David Clague
Senior Scientist

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

Jenny works with Dave Clague in the Submarine Volcanism project, processing the high-resolution MBARI Mapping AUV data and interpreting the maps using ROV observations and samples from our research sites. On this cruise, she will 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. 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.

Linda Kuhnz
Senior Research Technician

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.

Julie Martin
Senior Research Technician

Julie works with the submarine volcanism group, where she currently produces high resolution maps of the seafloor that are used to identify geologic features along submarine ridges and seamounts. Her research interests also include modeling of volcanic ash from sub-aerial, large-scale explosive eruptions.

Ryan Portner
Postdoctoral Fellow

Ryan's work with the submarine volcanism project primarily focuses on the formation and distribution of volcaniclastic deposits on active and extinct seamounts and mid-ocean ridges. By categorizing the diversity in these deposits with respect to volcanic landforms he hopes to better understand the underlying controls on explosive vs. non-explosive deep marine eruptions. His background research on deep-marine gravity flow deposits preserved in sedimentary-volcanic successions exposed on land lends a comparable platform to study similar deposits of the modern oceans.

Brian Dreyer
Institute of Marine Sciences
UC Santa Cruz

Brian is an isotope geologist in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz where he studies the recent magmagenesis and petrology of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. His interest in the petrology of mid-ocean ridges began during his postdoctoral fellowship with MBARI's Submarine Volcanism Group; there, he utilized uranium-series disequilibria within individual lavas of Axial Seamount to clarify eruption and petrogenetic timescales. At mid-ocean ridge systems globally, Brian is interested in a) how variability in lava morphology, geochemistry, and petrology reflect deeper mantle-melting and magmatic processes and their complex interplay with tectonism and b) improving the chronological framework of the ridge magmatic plumbing systems. Brian received his B.S. in Geology from Cal State East Bay in 2000 and PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007. When not on the Western Flyer this summer, Brian defends the left side of the infield for the Surfing Squirrels, MBARI's coed softball team.

Andrew Burleigh
Oregon State University

Andrew received his bachelors in geology at Oregon State University in 2011 and is currently a graduate student at Oregon State University. His research focuses on the geochemistry of plagioclase ultraphyric basalt from mid ocean ridges to investigate how and why they form. Particularly, he is interested in using major and trace element variations in mineral phases to better understand magma chamber processes that modify melts in residence and transit prior to eruption.

John Jamieson
University of Ottawa

John's research interests focus on sulfide deposits that form on the seafloor as a result of venting of hydrothermal fluids. In particular, he uses radioactive isotopes to determine the ages of sulfide deposits in order to better understand the history of a vent field, as well as the rates at which sulfide accumulates along ocean ridges. John also studies the mineralogy and trace element geochemistry of seafloor sulfides, in order to better understand the tectonic controls on massive sulfide formation. The broad aim of this research is to constrain the impact of hydrothermal activity on the metal and sulfur budgets of the ocean and evaluate the geo-economic viability of seafloor massive sulfides as a source of copper, zinc, gold and silver.

Amy Lange
Oregon State University

Amy received her bachelors in geology from Hanover College in 2008 and is currently a Ph.D. student at Oregon State University. Recently she has been working on the geochemistry of plagioclase ultra-phyric basalts from mid-ocean ridges globally to understand why they erupt and what information they can tell us about crustal magma chamber processes. Her research uses trace element and isotopic microanalyses of mineral phases to unravel the pre-eruptive history of magmas. This is Amy's first cruise and she is excited to actively participate in ocean research!

Sean Scott
New Mexico State University

Sean received his B.S. degree in geology from Central Washington University in 2009 and is currently pursuing his M.S. degree at New Mexico State University. Sean is presently working on uranium series geochemistry of Endeavour basalts to evaluate spreading dynamics and chemical variation through time. Never did he think that he would have the opportunity to go on a research cruise with MBARI to his thesis area, and he is absolutely ecstatic about this trip!

Kevin Werts
University of Florida

Kevin graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in geology. He is currently working towards his M.S. degree with Dr. Michael Perfit at the University of Florida. Kevin's research focuses on the phase chemistry of evolved mid ocean ridge lavas from the Cleft segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. He is using phase chemistry to better understand the processes of differentiation that produced such evolved lavas at this mid ocean ridge.