Work Complete At Axial Base For Leg 1

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The past 36 hours have been a whirlwind of intense activity, ending with the successful completion of all planned work at the Axial Base Site for Leg 1 of the UW-OOI VISIONS’16 expedition.

During five Jason dives:

  • the low-power junction box (LJ01A) hosting an array of instruments associated with making physical, chemical, and biological measurements was recovered and reinstalled – water depth ~2600 m (8530 ft),
  • the medium-power junction box (MJ01A) hosting an array of geophysical instruments to monitor local and far-field earthquakes was recovered and reinstalled – water depth ~2600 m (8530 ft),
  • the instrumented Platform Interface Assembly on the 12 ft across, 7 ton Shallow Profiler Mooring platform 600 ft beneath the oceans’ surface was recovered and reinstalled – water depth ~195 m (640 ft),
  • the instrumented winched Science Pod on the Shallow Profiler Mooring platform was recovered and reinstalled – the recovered pod made >2000 transits through the water column since its recovery and reinstallation Summer 2015 sending data from ten different instruments continuously to shore – water depth ~195 m (640 ft),
  • the mass spectrometer at the summit of Axial Seamount in the International District Hydrothermal Field was recovered, for reinstallation on Leg 2 of this cruise. This instrument has been analyzing gases in the high temperature underwater hot spring called ‘El Gordo’ since last year – water depth ~1527 m (5009 ft).

This summary does not reflect the intensity and complexity of these operations and what it takes for them to be successful – hundreds of hours of testing and planning have taken place by the science-engineering-Jason teams over this past year, the entire Jason vehicle was modified for Cabled Array work supported by the National Science Foundation, and step by step detailed procedures have been developed for each dive. On the ship, all deck work must be highly orchestrated to insure safety. Thousands of underwater images have already been taken documenting the status of the infrastructure before recovery and after installation. It is a fine ‘dance’ that we do out here and one that renews our spirit.

All dives were very successful, a testament to the hard work onshore and out here. Many of the operations were a first for the ROV Jason e.g. turning of components on the Shallow Profiler Mooring, a particularly challenging task because of the shallow water depth. With all goals met, the shipboard team left Axial Seamount in the early morning hours of today with happy faces.

We are now transiting to the Slope Base site at the base of the Cascadia Margin, with arrival at 0030 tomorrow morning (Friday), to start the dance again…folks are catching up on sleep, exercise, and documentation, not to mention the fabulous meals we are being served aboard the R/V Sikuliaq!