Work, Weather, and Life in the Oceans

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The past few days have seen the cessation of high winds and seas, so diving has resumed (after a quick jaunt into Newport, Oregon, to pick up a Benthic Experiment Platform and digital-still camera that we are hoping to install). The ensuing dives provided a whirlwind of activity and much excitement.

A new plume of methane bubbles, indicating the discovery of a methane-seep site, was documented by Brendan Philip, a recent graduate in the UW College of the Environment-School of Oceanography.

We have spent several hours in support of the cable ship Dependable, which has now completed installation of the 10-km extension cable from Primary Node PN1B north to the summit of Southern Hydrate Ridge. That cable is connected to a junction box at Hydrate Ridge, was powered up, and is working!

ROPOS visited the Oregon Offshore Site and reinstalled the junction box there and a new 120 m-long cable. This was connected to the Shallow Profiler Mooring. It was powered up and is working!

We very nearly completed the cable and instrument installations for all of Southern Hydrate Ridge. This includes a digital-still camera, mass spectrometer, three short-period seismometers, a broadband seismometer, upward-looking 75-kHz Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler to image the bubbles and currents, a pressure sensor, a low-frequency hydrophone, two flow meters, and one fluid sampler. All are connected and awaiting powering up once the CS Dependable work is complete. We have one more dive at Southern Hydrate Ridge to install silica beads in the broadband seismometer casson and we need to take water, sediment, and and a few biological samples.

We have also had the privilege to observe remarkable life forms and to share this over the Internet. Their diversity and behavior continue to astound us. Early this morning we ended a dive at a ~ 20-m-tall carbonate pinnacle at Southern Hydrate Ridge as we were awaiting a call from the Dependable. Here thousands of soft corals decorate the landscape and are associated with clams, very small squat lobsters, hag fish, and crabs. Later in the day, a pod of porpoises played in the waves alongside the ship as we were transiting. As we moved to a shallow-water site, we observed a small oasis of snails building towers of yellow eggs. These were intertwined with white-pink anemones and a well-camouflaged fish with only its eyes and a small dorsal fin showing.

Tomorrow we dive at Southern Hydrate again.