NEWPORT – The Hennings Auditorium in the Visitor Center at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will host a live, ship-to-shore chat with scientists 300 miles off the Pacific Northwest coast as they investigate the recent eruption of the Axial Seamount, an active submarine volcano this coming Saturday, Aug. 22. The event, which starts at 1:30 pm, is free and open to the public.
The research team, with scientists from Oregon State University and several other institutions, will call in via Skype to talk about their work and answer questions from the Visitor Center audience while making dives with the remotely operated vehicle, Jason, near the eruption site. They left Seattle on Aug. 14 aboard the NOAA ship R/V Thompson, and expect to return to port on Aug. 29.
Bill Chadwick, and OSU/NOAA oceanographer and geologist serving as chief scientist for the cruise, has been studying the Axial Seamount for more than 15 years. On this trip, he plans to use seafloor pressure measurements to measure volcanic inflation and deflation. As he wrote in the cruise blog, “Volcanoes like Axial Seamount inflate and deflate like a balloon. If magma accumulates below the seafloor, the seafloor will rise (inflation) and during an eruption the seafloor will sink (deflation).” By comparing current measurements to readings taken before the eruption, they hope to learn more about how the volcano is forming.
In addition, the scientists will be deploying a remotely operated vehicle, JASON, to record visual observations of the volcano and its surroundings.
Scientists were first alerted to the April 24 eruption by signals from the a series of seafloor sensors installed last year as part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative, an unprecedented National Science Foundation effort to establish a vast network of underwater and ocean surface “observatories” delivering near real-time data about ocean conditions to labs on land via high-speed fiberoptic cable.
Research teams onboard the Thompson will
- collect water samples from the seafloor near the volcano as part of ongoing work to learn what microbes are living in the warm hydrothermal fluids circulating beneath the seafloor and what energy source they use to fuel their growth;
- attempt to retrieve acoustic data from a hydrophone previously placed on the sea floor in the Axial caldera;
- Surveying the volcano and its surroundings to make new maps showing how the area has changed since the eruption
Agencies and institutions with scientists and technicians participating in this cruise include NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, OSU, University of Washington, California State University – Chico, University of Massachusetts, University of North Carolina, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Canada’s Dalhousie University,
En route to the volcano this past weekend, the crew also deployed the SS Morning Star, a 5 foot, unmotored sailboat built by Tillamook High School physics students as part of NOAA’s Educational Passages program. The boat, equipped with a GPS Unit, can be tracked on its journey across the Pacific at http://educationalpassages.com.