Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Vance Expedition
July 24 - August 6, 2006
Equipment we use for taking samples of rocks and animals

ROV Tiburon

The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Tiburon is our most crucial piece of equipment. It is shown sitting on the closed moonpool doors of our ship, the R/V Western Flyer

Benthic toolsled
Manipulator arm (upper left)
Sample drawer with partitions (bottom)

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, all covered in manganese, but the conditions and chemistries of the eruptions are different,  so it is important to keep the samples separate so we know where each came from. 

Glass suction sampler

This equipment is used to vacuum glass particles and larval animals from cracks and crevices. The carousel of small plastic jars fitted with wire mesh will be mounted in the benthic toolsled. The hose will be held by the ROV's manipulator and a suction will be drawn by the pump (out of view). 


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.

Push cores on swing arm rack

A sediment core has just been taken. The push-core is held by the ROV's  manipulator. The core tube will be put back into its holster on the swing arm, which will then be rotated back alongside the vehicle, out of the way. Back in the lab, the sediment will be extruded from the core tube and sieved.

push-core rack
Sediment scoops

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

Scoop bag
Temperature probe

Held by the ROV's manipulator, the wire on the right is placed into the fluid emitted from a hydrothermal vent to record the temperature.

temperature probe
Gas-tight water sampler

Held and triggered by the ROV's manipulator, this bottle will keep the water sample inside at the pressure at which it was collected so the gases don't escape. The gases can then be extracted in the lab.

Niskin bottles

Two water sampling bottles are hung from the side of the Tiburon. They are pictured in the closed position, full of water. They were deployed in the open position and were tripped by a command from the pilots, which flipped closed the large seals at the top and bottom. After the vehicle is on deck, water is collected by opening the small white port near the bottom.

Rock crusher

This device is used to collect volcanic glass fragments from the surface of a flow. It is made of about 450kg of lead and steel and is launched over the stern of the ship on a long, long wire. Fragments of rock that break off of the lava flow on impact are trapped in wax-tipped cones mounted around the crusher. The wax is melted in the lab to liberate the rock particles for analysis.

Rock crusher


The vibracoring system attaches to the frame of the ROV Tiburon to collect sediment cores up to one meter in length. An empty aluminum core tube is placed into the movable vibrating clamp by the ROV's manipulator arm, a hydraulic motor is energized, and the vibrations cause the core tube to quickly penetrate soft sediments. The full core tube is lifted out by a small hydraulic winch and a finger-like core catcher mounted at the bottom of the core tube prevents sediment from falling out of the tube. The tube is transferred to a nearby benthic elevator that will carry a group of cores to the sea surface.

Benthic elevator

The benthic elevator allows us to collect more vibracores than the ROV itself can carry. Loaded with empty vibracore tubes, it is deployed from the ship before the dive and free-falls to the bottom. After each core is taken by the vibracoring system on the ROV, the full tube is exchanged for an empty one, and the ROV carries the elevator along to the next coring site. 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.