2010 Expedition to the Sea
  • May 10 - May 18, 2010

May 15, 2010


free vehicle grab respirometer
The free vehicle grab respirometer on deck.

This morning we recalled our free vehicle grab respirometer. The weather was a bit choppy so we had to put our grapling hook skills to the test.

tripod recovery from the deep
A different piece of equipment (the camera tripod) being recovered by the Western Flyer crew.

Scientists use a grappling hook to catch the line of the mooring so they can pull it close to the ship.  Then the line is attached to a winch which pulls the mooring up from the deep. Once we had the FVGR on the deck of the ship we went straight into processing samples. The sediment from each grab had to be sieved through small screens so get rid of some of the mud. The remaining material was then preserved and will be analyzed in the lab, but even without the aid of a microscope we could see the sediment was teeming with life. Numerous tube worms and arthropods were visible just by looking at the muck! Once in the lab, someone will sift through all the remaining material and pick out every little critter that can be seen with a microscope. Using these data along with the oxygen consumption rate obtained by the instrument gives us an estimate on how "active" the life is down in the deep.

dumbo octopus
The dumbo octopus can hover a bit above the seafloor looking for food.

— Jake Ellena and Stephanie Wilson


Previous log


free vehicle grab respirometerDay 6 - Testing skills in choppy seas
May 15, 2010

This morning, we recalled our free vehicle grab respirometer. The weather was a bit choppy......

Alana with sediment trapsDay 5 - Views from the deep camera
May 14, 2010

The focus of today was to prepare and redeploy our long term camera and sediment trap mooring system...

Day 4 - Rough Seas
May 13, 2010

Today we had another day of rough seas which prevented us from diving with the ROV or deploying any instruments...

Day 3 - Instrument Recovery
May 12, 2010

The day started out fairly slow due to rough seas, but thankfully the weather improved substantially throughout the day...

Day 2 - Deploying Instruments
May 11, 2010

After spending most of the previous day prepping and getting to our research site, we were very pleased to be able to begin deploying our instruments today...

Day 1 - First Day Out
May 10, 2010

Our first day out was spent steaming to our research station 320 kilometers off the coast of Point Conception, California...


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.

Long Term Sediment Trap

Sequencing conical sediment traps, each with an effective mouth opening of 0.25 m2, are moored at 600 meters and 50 meters above the bottom at 3,500- and 4,050-meter depths, respectively (Baldwin et al. 1998). Trap sequencers are programmed with a sampling resolution of 10 days to collect sinking particulate matter in sampling cups poisoned with 3.0 mmol HgCl2. In the laboratory, the collected particulate matter is analyzed in duplicate for total and inorganic carbon, with organic carbon determined by difference following methods described by Baldwin et al. (1998).

Push cores

A push-core is 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 the cores are brought back to the surface, scientists typically look for living animals and organic material in the sediments.

Benthic Rover

The Benthic Rover is a mobile physiology lab. In a series of experiments, the rover measures how much oxygen seafloor animals are using. Precise motors lower two 30-centimeter-wide (12-inch) sample chambers into the sediment, where probes record oxygen levels. Two acoustic scanners use ultrasound (in 4-MHz pulses) to look 10 centimeters (4 inches) deep into the sediment for large animals, such as worms.

High Frequency Suction Samplers

This midwater toolsled contains a High Frequency Suction Sampler (HFSS). You can see one of the 12 collection buckets in this image. This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

Benthic Elevator

The benthic elevator allows us to carry more than the ROV itself can carry. Loaded with sediment enrichers, it is deployed from the ship before the dive and free-falls to the bottom where the ROV pulls the equipment from the elevator for use. After the ROV is recovered, the elevator anchor's acoustic release is triggered from the ship, and the elevator freely ascends to the surface and is recovered.

Free vehicle grab respirometer (FVGR)

Oxygen consumption (a measure of biological activity) of the organisms living in the sediment is measured using a free vehicle grab respirometer (FVGR) with grabs that retrieve the sediments for faunal examination and chemical analyses.

Lagrangian Sediment Trap (LST)

The Lagrangian Sediment Traps or LSTs are used to collect sinking material at specific depths. Once they are deployed they will sink to a programmed depth and float along with the current. After a few days the sample cups will close and the LST will activate its variable ballast system to rise to the surface to be recovered.

Camera Mooring

The time-lapse camera consists of a Benthos 377 camera mounted on a titanium frame at an angle of 31º from horizontal with the lens approximately two meters above the seafloor. The camera is equipped with a 28-mm Nikonos lens, providing angular coverage of 50º in the horizontal and 35º in the vertical plane, and holds 400 feet of 35-mm color-negative film (Fuji, Type 8514, 500 ASA). Up to 3500 images can be collected in 4.6 months. Two 400-W-s strobes, one mounted on either side of the camera housing, illuminate approximately 20 square meters of the seafloor beginning at a distance of 1.8 meters from the camera frame and extending approximately 6.5 meters from the base of the camera frame (see Smith et al. 1993 for a more complete description of the time-lapse camera). In June 2007 a high-resolution digital camera was added to the frame. The camera is housed with a PC104 processor and external memory drive. These components are used to control the camera and store images. Additionally, in the same housing are a low power controller and an electronic interface board to control power to the PC104 stack, camera, and strobes.

 Research Team

Ken Smith
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Ken is an open-ocean ecologist with 40 years experience going to sea and studying extreme ecosystems ranging from the deep ocean to Antarctic icebergs. The main thrust of his research is to understand the impact of a changing climate on deep sea and polar ecosystems. On this cruise, he will be coordinating the deployments of autonomous instruments to continue long time-series studies at Station M on the Monterey Deep-Sea Fan at 4,000 meters depth.

Jacob Ellena
Research Technician, MBARI

As lab technician, Jake's responsibility is to make sure everything runs smoothly so samples can be collected at sea and analyzed in the laboratory. He'll handle much of the organizing of the equipment being taken to sea, and will ensure everything works during the cruise. Once ashore he'll take all the samples and analyze them in a variety of ways with the goal of achieving a better understanding of how the ocean works.

Rich Henthorn
Software Engineer, MBARI

Rich has been at MBARI since 2000. Rich has spent time on many types of projects, but mostly writing software for MBARI's autonomous vehicles. On this cruise Rich is responsible for the control system on the Benthic Rover. The Rover will be tasked to run a four-to-five day mission to test new equipment and capabilities at a fairly extreme depth in preparation for a six-month deployment scheduled for November.

Paul McGill
Electrical Engineer, MBARI

Paul specializies in underwater vehicles and instrumentation. On this cruise he'll help prepare, deploy, and recover the drifters, crawlers, and landers being used to study the deep ocean at Station M.

Alana Sherman
Electrical Engineer, MBARI

Alana specializes in instrumentation. On this cruise she will be deploying three instruments: the Benthic Rover, the time-lapse camera tripod, and Lagrangian sediment traps.

Stephanie Wilson
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Stephanie works on the ecology of deep-sea zooplankton and their effects on particle repackaging and contribution to the biological pump. Her current research includes investigating relationships between zooplankton and sinking particles at the Station M time-series site and seeking to better understand how zooplankton and particle flux may be affected by climate variation. On this cruise Stephanie will be helping to process sediment trap samples, counting zooplankton fecal pellets, and collecting deep-sea zooplankton.

Jeff Drazen
Associate Professor
Department of Oceanography
University of Hawaii

Jeff is an associate professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii. He received his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography and was an MBARI postdoctoral fellow before moving to Hawaii. Jeff studies the ecology and physiology of deep-sea animals, principally fishes. Currently he is focusing on the pace of life in deep-sea fishes, which will be important in understanding the effects of ocean acidification and fishing on their populations.

Annekatrin Enge
Ph.D. Student
Institute for Geoscience
University of Tuebingen, Germany

Annekatrin's research is focused on the diversity and ecology of benthic foraminifera and their role within deep-sea carbon cycling. She is investigating the response of foraminifera to simulated phytodetrital pulses to the deep seafloor in the abyssal northeast Pacific as well as within the oxygen minimium zone of the Indian continental margin (Arabian Sea).

Elizabeth Ross
Graduate Student
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Henry Ruhl
Head, DEEPSEAS Group
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Researching the links between climate variation and deep-sea ecology has been a primary focus for Henry. In particular he's interested in understanding how changes in climate are related to the role of the deep ocean as a carbon sink. During the cruise he will be researching the abundance and distribution of animals on the seafloor, as well as their respiration rates using specialized chamber systems. Respiration is a good indicator of carbon utilization and provides key input into estimates of carbon flow and the importance of biodiversity at the seafloor.