May 15–June 3, 2005
Please visit the Ridge 2000 website for additional information.
May 16, 2005
We are steaming toward our first sample site located in the Lau Basin called Kilo Moana, located just west of the Island of Tonga. ROV Jason II will be deployed at 4:00 am to a depth of 2600 meters descending at 30 meters per minute. At that rate, it will take almost 1.5 hours to reach bottom.
Once on the bottom the laborious process of filming, annotating what is seen and collecting samples begins. The seven cameras aboard Jason II will continuously record everything we see. The Greenwich Mean Time, exact latitude and longitude, and depth continuously appear on the camera's images. A still picture is taken from the three main cameras every 30 seconds to act as markers. A technician will take and record additional still photos of interesting biologic organisms or geologic structures. This provides a method to efficiently access the massive amounts of data recorded during the expedition. The 8 international scientists and their teams decipher this copious amount of information for their research.
Deep-sea hydrothermal vents are an oddity in the biological world. Up until a few decades ago, biologists
believed all biological systems depended directly on the input of sunlight. Plants absorb light energy and
convert it to chemical energy in the form of sugar (Snicker bars). Plants then take sugar energy and utilizing
external nutrients and internal chemical pathways, convert it to complex carbohydrates, proteins, lipids and
nucleic acids. Those molecules are then assembled into a beautiful rose, tasty tomato or giant redwood tree.
Animals eat the plants and life diversifies and radiates. However, down on the bottom of the deep blue sea,
where light never penetrates, the story is very different.
Occasionally there are areas on the seafloor where water heated by the earth's mantle vents up into the ocean.
This hot water dissolves sulfur, other minerals and compounds that are in turn consumed by bacteria and Archaea
to produce the organic compounds necessary for life in this environment. This chemosynthesis of molecules by
bacteria is driven by energy released by sulfur. This process is analogous to photosynthesis, the energy
source for most life on this planet. These symbiotic bacteria live in mussels, worms, snails and other
animals providing energy for their hosts.
This expedition has been made possible by National Science Foundation grants to Dr. Robert Vrijenhoek (NSF OCE-0241613) and Dr. Cindy Van Dover (NSF OCE-0350554)