Every 3-hours from 250 miles off the Oregon coast, and 1 mile underwater, HD video streams live over the Internet through the OOI’s Cabled Array in situ camera system. Live video streams of an actively venting hydrothermal chimney occur during the hours of 2:00, 5:00, 8:00, and 11:00 EDT & PDT day and night, for a duration of 14 minutes. In addition, as of November 2016, the camera now records for 24 hours non-stop on the 10th and 20th of every month, and 72 hours non-stop from the 1st to 3rd of every month, to examine animal behavior, diurnal/tidal cycles, and longer-duration changes in hydrothermal flow.
The HD video focuses on the 14-foot tall actively venting hot spring deposit called ‘Mushroom’ located within the ASHES vent field on Axial Seamount. The vent rests on an old lava flow. Radiating cracks in the flow are filled with white bacterial mats and small tube worms, marking sites of diffusely flowing fluids that issue from the fractures in the basalt. Axial is the largest and most active volcano on the mid-ocean ridge spreading center that forms the western boundary of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. Through the course of the 14-minute video the HD camera pans, tilts, and zooms to highlight different aspects of the south side of this metal-rich chimney that vents hot spring fluids at 260°C (500°F!). During this operation, the camera images the entire face of this animal-covered chimney. It focuses in on key areas of interest that include a small, high-temperature spigot near the base of the main chimney, the boundary between the base of the chimney and the lava-covered seafloor with snails and sea spiders, and areas hosting extremely dense assemblages of tube worms, palm worms, and limpets.
The camera is a SubC 1Cam high-definition video camera adapted for use on the OOI cabled network by Cabled Array engineers at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. The camera is designed to transmit an uncompressed video stream in real time to shore at a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, 60 frames per second, interlaced. The shorthand notation for this mode is 1080i60. This HD video camera was installed in 2013 and connected to the primary infrastructure in 2014. The video streams back to shore and can be watched live every 3 hours.
The camera is associated with fluid samplers for follow-on chemical analyses of diffusely flowing fluids and with a novel thermistor array that provides 3D measurements of temperatures in diffusely flowing fluids. Fluids in the vent have been measured at over 260°C, while the surrounding seawater is ~2°C. In concert, these instruments allow characterization of how fluid chemistry and temperature impact biological communities of tube worms, palm worms, limpets, and microbes, and how these communities evolve over time in response to volcanic and seismic events.