Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
2010 Expedition to the Sea
  • August 5 - 13, 2010

Day 2 – Sampling challenges
August 6, 2010
D173 - Taney Seamount B

Dave writes: After a calm ride out yesterday, the seas got a bit rough overnight.  At 6:45 am the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts was on its way down to 3210 m depth on Taney Seamount B, the second to oldest and second seamount from the west end of the chain. The Taney Seamounts are a short chain of volcanoes that formed near the Pacific-Farallon spreading center about 25 million years ago. Taney B is a highly unusual volcano in having an extremely large, but shallow, caldera on a rather small sized seamount. The dive was designed to explore and sample a gap in the caldera rim where lava flows may have overflowed the rim, and then to explore the eastern and northeastern rim of the caldera. The plan was to sample lava flows exposed in the caldera walls, despite the thick manganese-oxide crusts that we knew would coat lavas as old as these.

Manganese-oxide crusts
Thick manganese-oxide crusts precipitated from hydrothermal fluids when the volcano was active and from seawater over time since, making it hard to discern the original rock textures.

Although we executed the dive as planned, thick manganese crusts (up to several inches thick) obscured most of the rocks making sampling a challenge. Much of the outer caldera rim appears to consist of volcaniclastic rocks, based on the presence of eroded pits and depressions. However, we were unable to collect this material with the manipulator, except for one sample of fine volcanic mud/siltstone under the manganese crust. The interior floor of the caldera was buried beneath fine pelagic sediment with a thin surface layer of small irregularly shaped manganese nodules, and the talus and outcrops on the caldera walls were also blanketed in thick manganese crusts. On the steepest caldera wall we finally encountered some pillow lava cross-sections and collected a few nice pillow wedges.

John examining a rock
John Stix examines a rock through a hand lens in the lab. He has chipped off some of the crust, exposing the basalt lava inside.

The animal community consists of many individuals of relatively few species, compared with the diverse communities on seamounts such as Davidson and Pioneer, located closer to shore. We saw several specimens of a large purple-colored enteropneust (acorn worm), abundant small pale pink sea stars, and equally abundant palm-frond sponges on the steeper slopes. Corals were very rare with only a few antipatharians (black corals) and Keratoisis sp. (bamboo corals) observed during the dive. Large sponges were notably absent. Other animals included a variety of colorful holothurians (sea cucumbers) in reds and purples, as well as white and transparent ones, a variety of gastropods, several colorful purple or orange anemones, stalked and un-stalked crinoids, and abundant small red shrimp.

An enteropneust feeding on gravel
An enterpneust feeds on sediment among manganese-nodule gravel and leaves behind a trail of feces. These worms are hemichordates, of the phylum Chordata, to which we belong. The red laser dots are 29 cm apart for scale.

In the end, we collected only 16 rock samples, close to a low for any dive we have done, seven push-cores to be processed for small animals living in the sediment, and roughly a dozen larger animals. We also executed three biology transects to quantify the animals present at these depths and compare with others done at seamounts elsewhere. The dive was in part a “work-out-the-bugs” dive, as we lost navigation for a while, had problems with drift in the pan-and-tilt on the science camera, with the swing arm (so we could not get to use some longer cores we had brought along), and with the animal suction sampler that prevented any animals from being collected using that sampler. However, the few rock samples collected include some thick manganese-oxide crusts and a collection of lavas, as we had hoped. One lava sample has a glass rind, which is better than we had hoped. These are the first such samples ever collected from this seamount.

Our science party, including many new to the use of remotely operated vehicles in doing marine science studies, got a special treat at the end of the dive when we encountered a bright orange octopus that was unfamiliar to us all and that swam gracefully in front of the ROV.

An octopus swims by
An octopus swims by.

Izzy writes: Despite being a submarine geologist, the Taney Seamounts expedition is only the second cruise I’ve ever been on. My first was an ROV cruise in 2008 to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, so this is a whole lot of ‘news’ for me: new ocean, new ship, new colleagues and a new ROV! But, even though we’ve only been at sea for two days, I’m already feeling right at home. We completed our first dive today and I’d forgotten how incredible it is to be able to manoeuvre around the seafloor as though you’re down there walking about and how exciting it is to get your first load of rocks when the ROV gets back on the ship. Even scrubbing mud can be fun when it’s attached to a lava that erupted under 2000 m of water 24 million years ago! Between watches I like to pay numerous visits to the galley, where there’s always huge volumes of amazing food to be had (thanks to our fantastic chef), and to stand outside trying to spot wildlife. We saw whales yesterday so I’m not doing too badly!

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 Daily Expedition Logs

Heading home
August 13, 2010

Read the log

Final dive
August 12, 2010

Read the log

A little something for everyone
August 11, 2010

Read the log

Rock haul
August 10, 2010

Read the log

Exploring calderas
August 9, 2010

Read the log

Full dive on Seamount A
August 8, 2010

Read the log

Stormy weather
August 7, 2010

Read the log

Sampling challenges
August 6, 2010

Read the log

Transit to the Taney Seamounts
August 5, 2010

Read the log


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 Doc Ricketts' 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.


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.

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.

Sediment scoops

Canvas bags on a T-handle for collecting gravel or other materials that fall out of a push-core.

 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 site. She will also stand watch 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.

Lonny Lundsten
Biologist, Video Lab Technician, MBARI

Lonny received a B.S. in Marine & Coastal Ecology from California State University, Monterey Bay, and an M.S. from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. His thesis work at MLML described the biological communities found at three seamounts off the coast of California. On this cruise, Lonny will be in charge of biological sample collection and processing and video data management. This work entails identifying unique biological and geological features that will be seen during the dive, while using MBARI-designed software to log the observations. He will also be preserving and organizing many of the biological samples collected during the cruise, preparing them for identification and further analysis by MBARI scientists and research collaborators.

Craig McClain
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 writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, and Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

John Stix
McGill University

John studies large caldera-forming volcanoes and their eruptions—termed supervolcanoes and super-eruptions by the popular media—which have global impact. The underlying causes of these large eruptions remain enigmatic. John also studies volcano degassing, which can result in severe local, regional, and global impacts. Understanding the subterranean pathways through which volcanic gas is transported allows insight into the subsurface structure of volcanoes, and can also aid in eruption forecasting and better understanding magmatic-hydrothermal ore deposits. John's interest in this cruise lies in better understanding caldera development in marine environments in relation to underlying magmatic processes. John has been chair of the McGill Earth and Planetary Sciences Department from 2006 to 2010 and executive editor of the Bulletin of Volcanology from 2003 to 2010.

Isobel Yeo
Summer Intern, MBARI

Currently Isobel is an MBARI summer intern working with the Submarine Volcanism Group looking at how crust is built at intermediate-spreading mid-ocean ridges and how melts are supplied to seafloor eruptions. Isobel is also a second year Ph.D. student at Durham University in the U.K. At home she uses physical volcanology and geochemistry to study how huge volcanic edifices (called Axial Volcanic Ridges) are being built on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This will be Isobel's second research cruise and she can't wait to go to sea again!

Ryan Portner
Postdoctoral Fellow, MBARI

Ryan recently completed his Ph.D. at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, working on volcaniclastic and sedimentary rocks of the Macquarie Island ophiolite. His interests mainly focus on subaqueous mass gravity flows and their relationships to tectonic and volcanic controls. By identifying these relationships and implementing provenance and geochemical techniques, insight into the petrogenetic history of igneous and metamorphic source terrains is sought out. Soon to start a postdoctoral fellowship at MBARI, Ryan will examine the modes of volcaniclastic particle transport and dispersal from deep-sea eruptions, and their record of eruptive and magmatic controls.

Lucas Koth
Graduate Student
University of Quebec, Chicoutimi

Lucas Brião Koth finished his bachelor's degree in geology at the University of Brasília, Brazil, in 2008 and currently is working toward his master's degree at the University of Quebec, Chicoutimi. His research is focused on the relationship between dykes, synvolcanic faults, and mineralization associated with an Archean subaqueous volcanic center. His participation in this cruise will be complementary to his studies and is also a great opportunity to look at modern submarine volcanism and better understand the genesis of volcanic massive sulfide deposits (VMS) associated with these geological environments.

Sarah Hardy
Assistant Professor of Marine Biology
University of Alaska

Sarah has a B.A. in marine biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.S. from San Francisco State University, and a Ph.D. in biological oceanography from the University of Hawaii. Her research focuses on the biology and ecology of benthic invertebrates, particularly in polar and deep-sea environments. She is especially interested in the growth, reproduction and dispersal of benthic invertebrates, and uses a variety of research tools including genetic techniques. On this expedition, Sarah is working with Craig McClain to conduct biological investigations on the fauna encountered on seamounts. Their goal is to determine the number of invertebrate species found at various depths on seamounts, and investigate whether (and why) seamounts are home to unique and/or more diverse invertebrate communities than other seafloor habitats. Sarah will also be collecting specimens for use in genetic studies to look at patterns of gene flow on seamounts, which will provide clues to tell us whether seamount act like isloated island habitats, or whether tiny invertebrate larvae are able to move between seamounts and the mainland.

Jason Coumans
Graduate Student, McGill University

Jason graduated in 2010 with an H B.S. in geology from the University of Toronto and is a M.S. student at McGill University, Montreal. His research focus will be oriented on the geology and petrology of the Taney Seamounts. His research interests are the physical, chemical and geodynamic processes that govern volcanism.

Justine Jackson-Ricketts

Justine recently received her bachelor of science degree in biology from Duke University, where she worked for Craig McClain at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. She will be entering the marine biology graduate program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the fall with plans to pursue a career in marine conservation biology.