Dana R. Yoerger, Ph.D.
Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Discovering and surveying hydrothermal vent fields with an autonomous underwater vehicle
Wednesday – May 9, 2007
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.
Nearly 30 years has passed since hydrothermal vents were first discovered, but over 90% of the 55,000-kilometer mid-ocean ridge system remains to be explored in detail for hydrothermal activity. Autonomous underwater vehicles are now playing a significant role in locating new sites efficiently and performing initial suurveys. Starting with clues provided by towed sensors, we have used the Autonomous Benthic Explorer to home in on vent sites using a three-phase strategy (German, et al., in press). We have employed this technique to find vents in the Eastern Lau Spreading Center and to make the first discoveries of vent sites in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the South West Indian Ridge. Data products from these cruises include water column maps, fine-scale bathymetry, magnetic field maps, and near-bottom photos.
Results from these cruises will be presented along with the underlying methodology. Research results are also presented that can enable more fully autonomous operation to improve efficiency.