About VISIONS’21 Cruise

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Jason breaks the surface above the most active volcano off the WA-OR coast. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI. V20.

The University of Washington Regional Cabled Array team is working full out in preparation for our upcoming Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Expedition for the cabled component of the National Science Foundations’ Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI), July 30 to September 4, 2021. This 37-day cruise will be on the global class research ship the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, operated by the University of Washington, which will host the remotely operated vehicle Jason, operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  

Please follow us on this expedition through the live video feeds from sea, daily updates, and stunning imagery. During the cruise, you will be able to directly observe parts of the seafloor rarely seen by humans – the most active submarine volcano off our coast ‘Axial Seamount’ located ~300 miles offshore and nearly a mile beneath the oceans’ surface. Here you can witness one of the most extreme environments on Earth – underwater 700°F hot springs teaming with life that thrives on volcanic gases and lives in the complete darkness of the deep sea. We will also visit the Cascadia Margin, spending time at Southern Hydrate Ridge where methane ice deposits are exposed on the seafloor that hosts dense microbial mats, and at shallower sites that are some of the most biologically productive areas in the world’s ocean.

The El Guapo hot spring, covered in life venting boiling fluids 4500 feet beneath the oceans surface. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/CSSF; V11.

We are excited to get underway and very much look forward to being out in the Pacific Ocean again. This is an immense logistics operation with ~ 20 trucks transporting >130,000 lbs of gear to Newport in support of highly complex at-sea operations that have required months of planning, and testing of gear to be installed. During the cruise, the ROV will deploy and recovery a diverse array of >200 instruments, several small seafloor substations that provide power and communications to instruments on the seafloor and on moorings that span depths of 2900 m (9500 ft) to 80 m (260 ft) beneath the oceans’ surface. In addition, several novel, externally funded instruments developed by scientists in the US and Germany will be installed.  

A “Mosquito” flow meter (far left) and osmotic fluid sampler (far right) installed on microbial mats Southern Hydrate Ridge.Photo credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF; Dive R1772; V14.

This year we are very pleased to have 19 students sailing with us as part of the UW’s educational mission (VISIONS’21) who will be distributed over the four Legs.  The VISIONS program has allowed >160 students to participate in this at-sea experiential learning program. Please share in their wonder and excitement through their blogs:  for many students this experience has changed their lives. We look forward to sharing this expedition with you as we continue to maintain this advanced underwater observatory that brings the internet into the ocean and the ocean to all on land.