The R/V Thompson arrived at the summit of Axial Seamount at ~ 2 am on July 15 to begin operations. During the previous day, ROPOS was completely tested and safety meetings were held among scientists, engineers, the ship crew and the ROPOS team to go over all aspects of deck and dive operations in preparation for the first dive of 2014 at Axial (Dive R1712). Briefing meetings were also held with the students so that they were well prepared to take on the important task of logging all events in the ROPOS IRLS logging system, and to take digital still images to document vehicle activities on the seafloor, as well as the geology and biology observed there.
With relatively calm seas, ROPOS was launched at 0330 to begin its 1.5 hr descent 5000 ft beneath the oceans surface. An empty junction box frame was connected to the underbelly of the vehicle: this will be used as to 'anchor' the end of an extension cable on a follow-on dive. ROPOS reached bottom at 0513 near Primary Node PN3B. Here, a cable that runs to the Central Caldera site needs to be replaced, so the beginning of the dive was spent cutting the cable to recover expensive wet-mate connectors. During the afternoon, small sections of cable were cut and removed from the well-chosen cable route so that a new cable (nearly 15,000 ft long) can be easily installed on a follow-on dive. Students were excited to "see" the seafloor for the first time and to work along side the scientists, engineers and ROV team during this dive, which is anticipated to last ~ 20 hrs.
We awoke to a sister ship working ~ 3 km away from us in the ASHES hydrothermal field – the R/V Atlantis hosting the human occupied submersible called Alvin. Many of us have long-term friends aboard the Atlantis, and we are sending them good thoughts for successful dives at this site.