With many smiles and good spirits, we are steaming into Newport, Oregon, set for arrival at 1000 am tomorrow. We have completed all our tasks that we set out to do.
It feels strange going to shore tonight…..many of us have worked nearly a decade for this event, and it will be a remarkable moment when data and imagery stream live from Axial Seamount to shore for all to experience, use, interpret and share. Axial Seamount is "alive" with molten lava migrating into its very core and earthquakes that mark small tremors due to melt migration and perhaps even the flow of boiling fluids in the subsurface. And, for some of us, best of all…this harsh, rocky seafloor, which is in ever-lasting darkness, is teaming with life supported by the heat and gasses that are emitted from deep within this active volcano.
Last night we were able to witness this life, live from a high-definition video camera that was installed last year at the chimney called Mushroom in the ASHES hydrothermal field. Using the ROPOS/RSN interface box on the vehicle (5000 ft below the ship), we tested this camera by powering up a 13,000 foot long extension cable running across the caldera floor to ASHES and to the camera that was installed last year.
We waited quietly and impatiently to see if the camera would "talk" to us after a year deployment on the seafloor, resting in the darkness. Indeed, the lights came on and the camera awoke — the main lab on the R/V Thompson was filled with students, scientists, engineers, and ship crew watching this event. It was a fine way to end our work on the summit of the volcano. Onshore, APL engineers talked to Ben Brand, the APL engineer onboard who was instrumental in developing parts of this camera. There were smiles and congratulations all around as the video camera went through its requirements testing, panning, tilting, zooming in and out while streaming live video to shore and to the engineers onland who had helped build this instrument. Many of the students stood in awe, watching life thrive in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.
Now, steaming home late at night, the ship is alive with folks packing and organizing gear, working on final reports, and finalizing documentation for the onshore team and for the next science-engineer-education party coming onboard for Leg 2 of this journey. Our work is not yet complete, but for us, Leg 1 is done. We are especially grateful to the crew of the R/V Thompson and the ROV ROPOS team for making this historical cruise such a success.
Stay tuned……Leg 2 sails from Newport on August 1st to continue the NSF_OOI cabled observatory installation.