Diagram of the eastern equatorial Pacific showing the location of the Galapagos Spreading Center and Galapagos Islands.

Diagram of the eastern equatorial Pacific showing the location of the Galapagos Spreading Center and Galapagos Islands. Deeper regions (>3500 m deep) are blue on this map. The Galapagos Spreading Center is an east-west ridge that rises above the surrounding seafloor, and is most shallow (depth ~1600 m) north of the Galapagos Islands. Click image for larger view and image credit.

GalAPAGoS: Where Ridge Meets Hotspot

December 3, 2005 - January 10, 2006

In December 2005 and January 2006, an interdisciplinary team of 38 scientists will venture to a deep sea site north of the Galapagos Islands to conduct research on the Galapagos Spreading Center, which is part of the global mid-ocean ridge. The global mid-ocean ridge is a giant volcanic seam where oceanic plates repeatedly rip apart and erupt lava to form new seafloor, in a process known as "seafloor spreading." Nearly one-fifth of the "spreading centers" comprising the mid-ocean ridge lie directly above or very near "hotspots" in the Earth's mantle. At oceanic hotspots, melting plumes of hot rock rise from deep in the Earth's mantle and erupt lava at the seafloor to form seamounts and volcanic islands.

Our mission during the GalAPAGoS Expedition (Galapagos Acoustical, Plumes, and Geobiological Surveys) is to explore a 400 km-long section of the Galapagos Spreading Center located above the mantle plume that has created the Galapagos Islands.

The portion of the Galapagos Spreading Center where our surveys will take place is completely unexplored for hydrothermal vents and other fine-scale seafloor features, therefore everything that we map and image on this expedition will be a new discovery! Using towed near-bottom sonars, hydrothermal plume sensors, and cameras, we seek to uncover hydrothermal, geological and biological responses to magma supply and crustal thickness along our survey region.

This GalAPAGoS Expedition is jointly funded by the National Science Foundation Marine Geology and Geophysics Program and the NOAA Ocean Exploration Program. Participating scientists, technicians, students and crew come from seven U.S. institutions and agencies (University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), University of Washington, University of South Carolina, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Hawaii, NOAA Pacific Marine and Environmental Laboratory, and NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration) and the Instituto Oceanografico de la Armada (INOCAR) in Ecuador. A dozen UCSB students on board the ship are taking a seagoing course from UCSB Professors Rachel Haymon (project chief scientist and lead PI) and Ken Macdonald (co-PI).


podcast icon NOAA Podcast :

Listen to the NOAA-produced audio podcast on this mission.


Result Of Calderas Naming Contest:

When ocean explorers at sea on an ocean expedition asked for help from students to name a pair of undersea calderas in the Pacific Ocean near the Galapagos spreading zone, school classes from across the nation submitted votes for one of six names suggested by the explorers. Visit this page to learn the winning name.


Related Links:

For stories and photos from some other NSF-funded, deep-sea expeditions, see: www.venturedeepocean.org


Updates & Logs
Click images or links below for detailed mission logs and updates.

January 10 log January 10 The team spends their final days at sea conducting a variety of operations and partaking in an equator-crossing ceremony.

January 7 log January 7 To detect hydrothermal plumes thousands of feet beneath the waves, the team uses specialized instruments called MAPRs.

January 5 log January 5 See how each investigator of the science team has an area of expertise that helps identify likely locations for hydrothermal vent activity.

January 3 log January 3 Ghost-like apparitions appear on the screens as the cameras on the Medea camera sled float over a field of extinct hydrothermal vent spires.

January 1 log January 1 Ken Macdonald talks about his career at sea spanning 38 years, and what it has been like to be a explorer of the oceans.

dec 29 log December 29 The science team has been on a hunt for hydrothermal vent activity, looking for a variety of clues in the type of life, age of lava flows, and type of particulate matter unfolding on the seafloor.

dec 28 log December 28 To figure out what happens during deep sea eruptions, the team studies the outward appearance of frozen lava flows.

dec 26 log December 26 The ship's technicians and engineers managed to fix two major problems that could have sent the Thompson back to port.

dec 25 log December 25 While people worldwide were opening presents safely on land, the Galapagos team spent Christmas at sea.

dec 24 log December 24 Brian Clampitt has been working at sea for 25 years and has spent many holidays away from home.

dec 22 log December 22 How do you determine the age of a rock? You use magnets, of course.

dec 20 log December 20 Learn how scientists are using sound to map the seafloor.

dec 18 log December 18 An undergraduate student explores the world outside of the classroom, as her textbook lessons come to life on the GalAPAGoS Expedition.

dec 16 log December 16 What are the unique challenges of cooking at sea? Find out in this interview with Ray Gideons, Head Cook for the GalAPAGoS Expedition.

dec 14 log December 14 Using some high-tech sleuthing, the team discovers the first "black smoker" chimney ever to be found on the Galapagos Spreading Center!

dec 13 log December 13 An extensive underwater survey by the Medea camera sled reveals "black smokers" and a birthday surprise for a vent biologist.

ask an explorer December 12 How do you become an ocean explorer? Find out as our scientists answer your questions in Ask an Explorer.

dec 10 log December 10 Scientists are busy hunting for hydrothermal vents using sensors that search the murky underwater realm.

dec 8 log December 8 How much hydrothermal activity occurs along the Galapagos Spreading Center? Today oceanographers surveyed these unusual "hotspots."

dec 6 log December 6 At 11AM, a red warning light appeared on the sonar sled monitor, alerting technicians to a power failure in the system.

dec 5 log December 5 The results from the first survey of the seafloor are in and they pose more questions than answers.

dec 3 log December 3 After years of planning, the GalAPAGoS Expedition set sail on a month-long cruise of underwater discovery.