Deep-sea chemistry
Chief Scientist - Peter Brewer
10 - 18 August 2011

The primary mission for this expedition is to investigate the chemistry of the water within the sediments surrounding outcrops of gas hydrates and active natural gas vents at several sites near Barkley Canyon and the Bullseye and Amnesiac Gas Vents. Peter Brewer's research group will explore the seafloor around new vent sites to the south. Their primary tool to study the pore-water will be a laser Raman spectrometer, which can bounce a specially tuned laser beam off of almost any object or substance and receive back a signal that provides information about that object's chemical composition and molecular structure. This tool will allow the group to get chemical data back from the seafloor in real time. The researchers will also place on the seafloor equipment designed by collaborator Laura Lapham for long-term sampling. These will be recovered and analyzed at a later date. In addition, the research team plans to take a series of push-cores for pore-water sampling for comparison with the Raman and long-term studies. Gas and water samples will also be collected near the vents to study their impact on the local water chemistry and for comparison with local gas hydrate compositions. If natural oil seeps are found, the group plans to study oil droplets, measuring how quickly they rise to the surface as well as the release of natural gas from the droplets as they transit up to the surface. This provides in microcosm a natural analogy of processes occurring at man-induced oil releases.


Day 9 - All we could have hoped for
August 18, 2011

This ocean expedition has been a great success, thanks to the experience, hard work, and planning that went into it, as well as support from the ship and ROV crews—and a dash of luck in terms of good weather. Ocean chemist Peter Brewer’s team returned to shore with quality data and video that are sure to lead to several significant publications in the field of gas hydrates and ocean chemistry.

Day 8 - Pilots rise to the challenge
August 17, 2011

Chief Scientist Peter Brewer set the bar high today when he requested the pilots fly a 4,500 kg (10,000 lbs) vehicle upwards while imaging a tiny diameter blob of oil wiggling in free ascent in the ocean with millimeter precision.

Day 7 - It's a gusher!
August 16, 2011

The bubbles were still gushing when we returned two hours later after bringing the ROV up to about 400 meters depth to clear the probe of hydrate. As the ROV neared the site, a big crab ambled over, apparently thinking there’d be something good to eat.

Day 6 - New tools prove their worth
August 15, 2011

Ocean chemist Peter Brewer has led the development of a series of instruments to tease out the ocean’s chemical secrets, and today he put one of the most effective such tools to work on both a solid and a liquid.

big red jelly TiburoniaDay 5 - A good day for the Canadians
August 14, 2011

Since we are spending most of this week in Canadian waters, it was a pleasure today to help our Canadian colleagues both onboard and onshore.

Day 4 - We struck oil, but where's the gas?
August 13, 2011

When he wasn’t busy chasing oil bubbles and gas hydrate all over the deep sea, pilot Randy Prickett welded a new handle for the new tripod designed for the inserting a special laser in the seafloor

Day 3 - Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can
August 12, 2011

Close-up of an OsmoSampler which, as its name implies, uses osmosis to move water from the bottom of the sampler to the top. This pumping action forces seawater to get sucked into copper tubing which has one end attached to the sampler and the other end inserted in the mud.

Day 2 - Tiny bubbles, great explorations
August 11, 2011

Plumes of bubbles emanating from the seafloor drew researchers to explore this new site.

Day 1 - Checking every last detail
August 10, 2011

ROV pilot Randy Prickett, left, and research technician Peter Walz work through some of the pieces required to hook up a special laser system on the remotely operated vehicle.

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 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.


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.


R/V Western Flyer

Ian Young


George Gunther
First Mate


Matt Noyes
Chief Engineer


Andrew McKee
Second Mate


Lance Wardle
First Engineer


Olin Jordan


Paul Tucker
Second Engineer


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

Peter Brewer
Chief Scientist

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

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

Peter Walz
Senior Research Technician

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.

Andreas Hofmann
Postdoctoral Fellow

Andreas is a MBARI Postdoctoral Fellow in the Brewer lab. He obtained a PhD in marine biogeochemistry in the Netherlands after his biology undergraduate and bioinformatics graduate studies in Germany. Andreas' specialty is pelagic and benthic biogeochemical modeling with a focus on pH and proton cycling. At MBARI, Andreas is working amongst others on the characterization of marine hypoxic and suboxic zones, focusing on the explicit description of physical limitations to aerobic respiration. On this cruise, Andreas will be involved in obtaining and processing Raman spectra, as well as in various other tasks supporting the objectives of the group.

Nancy Barr
Web/Print Project Manager

Nancy manages the editing, design, and production of the MBARI annual report and participates in a variety of editorial and communication projects. She also oversees the institute website. Nancy has been to sea with several MBARI research groups, helping them to carefully remove worms from whale bones, annotate video, sift seafloor sediment, and collect and process water samples. For this expedition she will be in charge of the daily reports that will be posted to this website and will assist with other science crew tasks.

Elizabeth Coward
Summer Intern

Elizabeth is an MBARI summer intern in the Brewer lab. She is a senior at Haverford College, PA, where she is obtaining her undergraduate joint degree in biology and chemistry. Elizabeth's prior research has been principally concerned with the bioavailability and geochemical dynamics of oil in marine sediments. Her interest in oceanic fossil fuels and greenhouse gases has brought her to the Brewer lab, where she will be using laser Raman spectroscopy to investigate methane and carbon dioxide signatures, the dynamics of gas hydrates and ocean acidification.

Michael Riedel
Research Scientist
Natural Resources Canada - Geological Survey of Canada

Michael Riedel was part of an international team of scientists supported by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) which completed a unique research expedition in 2005 aimed at recovering samples of gas hydrate, an ice-like substance hidden beneath the seafloor off Canada's western coast. As IODP Expedition 311's co-chief scientist, Michael explored his interest in gas hydrate; he believes such deposits have played an important role in ancient global climate change.

Laura Lapham
Postdoctoral Researcher
National Energy Technology Lab, U.S. Department of Energy

Laura's research is concentrated on studying methane cycling at cold seeps, biogeochemcial cycling of methane and sulfer in deep sea sediments, development of deep sea instrumentation to collect novel samples, stable isotope geochemistry, modeling of biogeochemical processes and temporal variability of dissolved methane concentrations. The focus of her research has been mainly on gas hydrate environments, but she is also interested in other systems that relate to the carbon cycle. Her research seeks to understand how methane is distributed between different pools, e.g. dissolved or hydrate phases, and also to understand how local biogeochemical processes affect this methane, mostly through anaerobic methane oxidation.

Jon Furlong
University of Victoria

Jon is a graduate student at the University of Victoria studying with Michael Riedel. His bachelor's degree was completed in Earth Sciences from Memorial University in Newfoundland before he moved from one coast to the other. Jon's research focuses on neo-tectonic faulting offshore Vancouver Island and its links to gas hydrate formation and fluid migration.