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

Day 4 – Full dive on Seamount A
August 8, 2010

Jenny writes: Today the weather improved enough, and we got in a full dive on Taney Seamount A. The dive began by ascending to the top of the wall of the eastern-most and youngest caldera of four overlapping calderas on this volcano. On the floor of the caldera to which we climbed, we traversed some steep-sided hills that turned out to be mounds of elongate pillows built by low-effusivity eruptions. From there we diverted to a flat, featureless area on the map, and cored into the thick sediments accumulated there, in case this location might yield a long paleo-climate record of California. We continued over to and up the wall of that caldera, sampling loose talus as we went, as in-place rocks are well-cemented by thick manganese-oxide crusts. We collected 21 rocks in all on this dive, but the biologists won out with 34 animal collections, mostly sea stars for genetic analysis.

sampling a rock
Collecting a piece of pillow-lava talus with the manipulator. The ROV sample drawer, at the bottom of the photo, has numbered partitions so we can keep track of all these similar-looking rocks. Back on deck, we compare the rocks against video images we took while collecting, to be sure which rock is which.
After seeing few sponges on Taney Seamount B, today we were delighted to find several that are unfamiliar to us, including this lovely purple goiter sponge.
sponge closeup
Close-up view of purple goiter sponge, with the feathery arms of a crinoid in view at top.

Ryan writes: Feeling much better today as the three-day, wobbly-leg, weird belly is (hopefully) over.

Just as we sometimes get lucky playing poker (John took all the pennies last night!) we were dealt a reasonably good hand today during our dive #174. We sampled many pillow-lava fragments from the flanks of some pillow cones today. Very cool stuff. Also, ten long years of patience, or maybe better put by our fearless leader—stubborness—paid off in 71 centimeters of foraminifera-rich, calcareous ooze cored from a sediment pond on the caldera floor. So this got me thinking...

So let's just put this into perspective: here we are sending a robot to the bottom of the ocean that pushes a pipe into mud and pulls out cores, and picks up cobbles and boulders from talus piles! Amazing, right? Okay, so we send down this robot to a region never seen by man before, and where 100 percent of all sunlight is absorbed. To the surprise of the region's creatures that call this place home and have never seen light except faint bioluminescence, a funny-looking robot shows up blaring intense high-powered lights at them with crazy metallic arms waving about and a suction tube for a mouth that can suck them up into its belly (biological sample jars). Okay, so now, the robot (controlled by alien life forms floating on a mother ship 3000 meters above), decides, "Neat, I have never seen this type of creature (e.g. an interesting and most peculiar mushroom-shaped sponge) and I want to inspect it in more detail." It goes ahead, grabs it with its manipulator arm—which can crush aluminum pipes—and neatly and accurately places it in a little jar. Meanwhile, aboard the alien mothership, we (the aliens) are seeing this happen through the video lens embedded in the robot's eyes, and as the arm takes the sponge off the rock a cloud of mud-dust fills the screen. This is by all definition an ALIEN ABDUCTION... another day on board the Western Flyer.

Inserting a 1.5-meter-long aluminum tube into the sediment to collect a core.

Lonny writes: While parallels of alien abduction certainly exist, the sampling that we do of both biology and geology are valuable work. Many of the animals that we collect are those that we are nearly certain are new to science, expanding our knowledge of the biodiversity of the deep sea. In many cases we are able to collect small fragments of the organism, leaving the animal virtually unharmed, continuing to grow as if nothing happened. Aside from helping us better understand biodiversity, many deep-sea organisms have medical uses of value to humans, including sponges, which harbor a wealth of pharmacological purpose (they have been used to find lifesaving drugs), and corals, which have been used in pharmacological research and bone-replacement studies. The rocks and cores aid in our understanding of geologic and climatic processes which occur on very long time scales. For example, using the two-meter-long cores that we collected may give us a detailed climate record going back hundreds of thousands of years. Using this information, we may be able to predict and be more prepared for the impacts of future global climate change.

scrubbing rocks
Izzy and Jason scrubbing rock samples in the lab.
rock photos
Jenny photographs the rock samples while John and Lucas examine and describe them.
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 Daily Expedition Logs

Heading home
August 13, 2010

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Final dive
August 12, 2010

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A little something for everyone
August 11, 2010

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Rock haul
August 10, 2010

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Exploring calderas
August 9, 2010

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Full dive on Seamount A
August 8, 2010

Read the log

Stormy weather
August 7, 2010

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Sampling challenges
August 6, 2010

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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.