The INDEX SATAL 2010 Expedition was officially brought to an end today during a closing ceremony at the Port of Bitung with crews from both NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer and the Indonesian Research Vessel Baruna Jaya IV. Remarks about the expedition and strengthened ties between the U.S. and Indonesia were made by high level officials from both the American and Indonesian government. Key people integral to the success of the expedition were recognized, and tokens of appreciation were presented to the crew from both ships.
A letter from U.S. Ambassador Cameron R. Hume congratulating the crew of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer highlighted the success and importance of the Expedition: “Much has been learned about the world’s most diverse marine environment, and the stage has been set to learn even more in the future… The Okeanos Explorer voyage of discovery to the Sangihe Talaud region vividly illustrates how a science partnership can become a powerful tool for diplomacy and result in closer ties between our countries.”
Following completion of the final ROV dive and multibeam data acquisition yesterday, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer crossed the geographical boundaries of our approved INDEX SATAL 2010 operating area and turned off her sensors, marking the end of operations for the 2010 Expedition. The ship headed south, and pulled into the Port of Bitung early this morning. Crew and mission personnel are busy preparing for tomorrow’s closing ceremony. Some of the celebrations begin today with games of ‘Footsal’ and a gift of soccer balls to the children of a local orphanage, and a formal dinner hosted by the Governor of North Sulawesi for crew from Okeanos Explorer and Baruna Jaya IV.
Dive number 14 was conducted on a seamount discovered by Indonesian Research Vessel Baruna Jaya IV during recent mapping operations. The site is referred to as “Gelembung II”. This dive started with a climb up the western leg of the seamount, and then headed north to the top of the ridge of this feature – the westernmost leg of a bifurcating limb. The seafloor was mostly exposed basalt and layering rock with a fine layer of sediment in some regions. A very high abundance and diversity of sessile fauna and its associates was observed in this site. Very high numbers of large sized and healthy bamboo, golden, bubblegum, black and precious corals, and large stalked sea lilies were observed throughout the dive. Very steep walls were commonly encountered. The very high coral dominance presented a shift at the shallower depths where sea lilies appeared more abundant. Nonetheless the abundance of corals remained high. Abundance of fish fauna was very low. We found various bamboo fan-shaped colonies of remarkably large size. A noteworthy observation was the finding of a very large fan-shaped colony of the Scleractinian hard coral, which is likely to be thousands of years old.
Dive number 13 was conducted on a seamount discovered by Indonesian Research Vessel Baruna Jaya IV during recent mapping operations. The site is referred to as “Gelembung”. We started the dive on the northern end of the summit of this feature, at the eastern extreme. This was a shallow dive between 700 and 850m. A relatively high biomass and diversity of organisms was observed on exposed basaltic outcrops throughout the dive. No evidence of chemosynthesis was detected. Highly sedimented rock terraces and flat areas were observed. Relatively high abundances of benthic organisms were found on the flanks of the summit. Dominant fauna included golden, gorgonian, bubblegum, sea fan, bamboo and black corals, large barrel sponges and stalked sea lilies. The sizes of organisms were moderate in general. Relatively abundant large-sized fish were observed. Oreos were among the most common. As we ascended towards the summit, a much lower biomass was observed. High amounts of coral rubble were seen here. A long and tense fishing line, as well as fishing gear (nylon strings, lures and hooks) was observed at the summit.
Dive number 12 took place on a mound feature referred to as “Memeridge”. We started this dive by transiting upslope on the northeastern margin of this mound feature. Once we reached the top, we moved along the crest to the south until dive time ran out. The seafloor at this site was mostly covered with a thick layer of smooth sediment. Extremely low abundances and diversity of megafauna (animals visible with the naked eye) were observed. Little evidence of bioturbation was observed. Xenophyophores and gromiids were the dominant fauna on the sediments, with few sea cucumbers observed. No hard substrates were seen. An exception to the lack of epibenthic megafauna (animals on the seafloor visible with the naked eye) was found on multiple organic falls of plant debris that were somewhat frequently seen. The most common objects were tree trunks and coconut shells. High abundances of organisms were observed on these wood falls. Animals associated with these hot-spots included squat lobsters, urchins, serpulid worms and gastropods.
Dive number 11 took place on Kawio Barat submarine volcano. The dive started at the wall vents visited during previous dives and focused on documenting the white smoker area. As we moved upslope toward the top of the crest and headed south, extensive fields of barnacles were discovered. Large spires, some active and some inactive, were abundant in this area and were often seen arranged in a line (perhaps along fault lines). Active spires were intensely venting clear fluids. Large aggregations of barnacles were seen on apparently inactive spires, whereas shrimp were commonly seen on the outer walls of the active ones. We started following a path of apparent chemosynthetic activity that headed downslope from the spire field on the southern crest slope. The heading of this trail brought us south and west to a depth of almost 2000m, bringing us to the end of the dive. Continuous observations of white bacterial films, clams and yellow were made along the way. No additional sources of focused venting were found.
Dive number 10 took place in an area recently mapped by the Indonesian Research Vessel Baruna Jaya IV. The dive site is referred to as “Zona Senja”, or “Twilight zone” as the depth range resides in the transition zone between the photic zone and deep-sea. We started at the base of a wall at 323 meters depth, and climbed along the northeastern wall to a depth of 270m. We then moved laterally to the east on this same depth contour. After that we continued upslope toward the south along the eastern edge of the ridge top until reaching a summit at 250m. From there we moved east down slope until we reached the end of bottom time. Impressive assemblages of rich communities were observed. Fauna was different from what we have seen so far in the deeper sites explored during this expedition this site. Big fragments of basalt were covered with high abundances of suspension feeders. Sessile fauna also densely populated terraces of cemented sand. At 286-300m we experienced strong shimmering in the water related to a marked thermocline. No significant changes in faunal composition were detected with this change in temperature. The seafloor became predominantly clay-carbonate (pyroclastic tuff) with rounded cobbles dispersed along the margins and in depressions as we moved shallower. Not much sessile fauna was seen on it. However, high abundances of mobile fauna and burrowing fauna were observed. No significant change in faunal composition was observed along the depth/temperature gradient. The observed changes in the abundances of sessile fauna seemed related to hard substrate availability.
Dive number 9 took place in an area recently mapped by the Indonesian Research Vessel Baruna Jaya IV. The dive site is referred to as “Baruna Jaya IV – Site 1”. The dive started near the base of the nose of the rift. We moved upslope to the southwest moving along the top of the ridge crest. The seafloor was heavily covered with soft sediments and generally contained a very low abundance of epibenthic megafauna (animals on the seafloor visible with your naked eye). Burrows of various sizes were observed but we were not able to determine their relationship to specific biota. As we moved upslope, the seafloor became a mix of pelagic sediment and small pieces of basalt, which became larger in size around 1595 meters depth. Few corals, sponges and basket stars were observed on these partially-exposed hard substrates. One type of sea lily was dominant during the dive. A few wood falls were observed. Fauna associated with the wood falls included squat lobsters, urchins and serpulid worms. There was a high quantity of suspended particles in the water and marine snow throughout the dive.
Okeanos Explorer spent the day mapping, acquiring high-resolution multibeam data in the northeast of our approved area of operation. Multibeam mapping operations during Leg 3 operations have typically taken place in the evening and through the night, with ROV operations during daylight hours. Today the ship focused on mapping, acquiring data over the two ridges in the northeast area of our approved area of operation. So far during the INDEX SATAL 2010 Expedition, the Okeanos Explorer has mapped in high-resolution more than 25,000 square kilometers of Indonesia's seafloor. This area is nearly equivalent to the U.S. state of Vermont, or more than 1.5 times the size of north Sulawesi.
Dive number 8 of Leg 3 took place on a site termed “Eastern Pujada Ridge”. The dive started along the base of the slope at a depth of approximately 900m. The substrate was mostly fragmented pieces of basalt but very little sessile megafauna (animals that you can see with your bare eyes) was observed except for a few glass sponges. A closer look at the rocks revealed a high abundance of macrofauna dominated by white hydrocorals and some cup corals. As we progressed upslope to the west in a zig-zag movement we started to see increasing abundances of gorgonians, especially golden corals and their associate squat lobsters. Other less common corals included whip corals, soft corals and few bamboo corals. There was a noticeable lack of sea lilies in this area. The current at this point had a heading of 178.4 degrees and a speed of 0.6 knots. We started moving west and encountered a very large field of small white stalked barnacles. They did not appear to form aggregations but were present on about 90% of the rocks. No evidence of chemosynthesis was observed. Few other fauna were observed at this place aside from sea urchins and a few black corals. The current here was very strong at 0.99 knots with a heading of 189.5 degrees.
Dive number 7 of Leg 3 took place at Kawio Barat submarine volcano. The ROV descended 1925 meters, arriving above the wall vents discovered on dive 2 of cruise leg 2. This return dive to Kawio Barat was an effort to relocate and characterize more extensively the characteristics and fauna of this area. We observed white bacterial mats on rocks. The area below the vents presented an accumulation of black, yellow and green sulfur flows. Diffuse venting was also observed adjacent to the main smoker vents. Dense barnacle colonization of rocks on the summit crest above the sulfur vents was observed, likely fed by diffuse venting. Volcaniclastic sediments were abundant elsewhere. The lithology was dominated by volcanic rock with sulphide and manganese content. Volcanic sediments with well-oxidized surfaces were observed as we moved east. As we kept progressing laterally the slope became less sedimented and yellow patches of very light and fluffy orange/yellow material were observed – possibly iron-rich microbial mats and/or native sulfur. Clam fields were also found in this area, most of which appeared to be dead.
Dive number 6 of cruise leg 3 is conducted at a seafloor feature referred to as "Landak". We started at the southern slope and proceeded up a very steep, rocky slope with a good northward current (0.25 knots). The abundance and diversity of fauna was low, dominated by bamboo whips, large sea lilies, hydrocorals, a couple of golden corals and sea fans with their squat lobster and brittle star associates. Also some sponges and shrimp. As we reached the sandy top the abundances of benthic megafauna dropped drastically. We continued moving east along the summit edge, encountering a dominant northward current. The abundance and diversity of fauna slowly increased as we moved shallower, dominated by sea fans, bamboo corals, sponges and actinarians. The observed abundance of sea lilies decreased compared to the beginning of the dive. Other observed fauna included shrimp, hermit crabs, fish, and squat lobsters and brittle stars associated with the corals. The most abundant fauna were sea cucumbers. The seafloor on top of the feature had a flat morphology dominated by reworked iron rocks. Towards the end of the dive glass sponges and sea fans became more conspicuous and abundant. In general the abundance of biota on this feature is among the lowest observed so far.
Today's dive took place on the deep southwestern portion of "Site K", near the base of the submarine volcano. The substrate was totally covered in soft sediment. Few exposed rocks were observed. Fauna colonizing these rocks included one morphotype of sea fan, one of black coral, a couple of sea lilies and glass sponges. Sediment fauna was dominated by sea cucumbers, particularly of a translucent benthopelagic species, which seem to be producing significant amounts of bioturbation. At least 5 different species of sea cucumbers were observed. Brittle stars were observed but were not nearly as abundant as seen in shallower depths. Other conspicous fauna included rattail fish, acorn worms and shrimp. Despite being a deep site on soft bottom, the abundance of epibenthic fauna seemed relatively high. The predominant current had a direction of 330deg and a speed of 0.15 knots.
Dive number 4 of cruise leg 3 is conducted on the submarine volcano termed "Site G". Today's ROV dive started about 2,100m deep at the summit of a knoll located southwest of the volcano's main cone. We moved northeast, and headed towards the main cone. The seafloor along the way was completely covered with sediments, containing low diversity and abundance of benthic creatures. Epifauna were dominated by brittle stars, giant protists, several octocorals and two remarkable fish. Two rocky outcrops were encountered during the transit to the cone, and each was home to a high concentration of biomass. Black corals were dominiant and many brittle stars were seen on both rock surfaces, while one also hosted bamboo corals and sea lilies. We climbed up hill over a steep slope as we moved east, and encountered a hard bottom area where the diversity and abundance of epifauna increased gradually with decreasing depth. A dominant southward downwelling current was observed. On the hard bottom substrates, the fauna was similar to those found in the deeper outcrops. In general the diversity was significantly lower than, for example, site K. But the localized abundances of fauna on hard substrates were very high. It is also noteworthy that the sizes of most organism were quite large. This could be taken as indicative of an ecosystem not limited by food but by availability of substrates.
July 25th marked the third dive of cruise leg 3, on an underwater volcano referred to as "Site G". Today’s dive started on the southeast slope of the volcano’s main cone at 1,926m depth. The seafloor was covered in yellow sediment with very scarce epifauna seen – mostly brittle stars. As we progressed upslope toward the southeast peak of the summit, the amount of exposed rock and abundances and diversity of fauna gradually increased. A dominant upwelling current was encountered. At approximately 1800m, a drastic change in substrate from soft mud to completely exposed basalt boulders were observed at the southeast peak of the summit. Very high abundances of large corals were encountered, especially bamboo corals and black corals, as well as a few sea fans and bubblegum corals. These corals were covered with many associates, especially brittle stars. Moving along the summit, we passed a ‘saddle’ between the north and southeast peaks. The seafloor here was also covered in yellow sediment with very scarce epifauna observed, similar to what was seen at the beginning of the dive. A seeming higher abundance of large burrows were encountered. This continued until we reached the northern peak of the summit, after which we moved southwest towards the southwest peak of the summit. During the last segment of the dive, the seafloor was totally covered with soft sediment with the exception of one large boulder seen at the end of the dive; this boulder contained abundant coral and sea lily fauna. The current at the summit of the volcano had fairly constant speed and heading (NW) throughout the dive.
The ROV was deployed today for its second dive of cruise leg 3 on "Site T", a submarine volcano in the southwest corner of the INDEX SATAL 2010 operating area. We started the ROV dive at the southern peak of the volcano’s main cone, and made our way to the northern peak of the main cone. The seafloor was heavily covered in dark-yellow sediment. Faunal abundances were very low. Sea fans and black corals were dominant. As we moved over the summits of peaks, the area of exposed rock increased as well as the abundance of biota. The region in between peaks was sandy with stalked sponges and zoanthids as the dominant fauna. Abundant staining on rocks resembling iron oxides was observed. Such staining was localized to what appeared to be cracks in the rock. Small tubes were observed in one of the stained cracks – possibly tubeworms – but no evidence suggested that they were still alive. Shimmering in the water was observed early in the dive but no source could be identified. From the northern cone we moved southeast to a secondary cone at approximately 870m depth. Progressing down-slope from this cone, exposed rock coverage increased, the current was stronger and faunal abundances increased. This trend remained as we progressed eastward down slope over a knoll. Gorgonians and black corals dominated the benthic landscape. A stony coral was observed surrounded by a big colony of hydroids. In general, the diversity of Site T was equivalent to the diversity found in Site K, however the abundances here were generally significantly lower.
The first ROV dive of Leg 3 is complete! The ROV was launched at 0400 local time today on "Site K", marking the first dive of cruise leg 3. The ROV descended down to 630 meters and explored an area where water column anomalies were previously detected in multibeam data. After finding no evidence of venting or clues as to the origin of the anomaly, we decided to move west towards the volcano's main cone. As we moved uphill heading west, the abundance of biota rapidly increased: sea fans and black corals were especially abundant. The seafloor substrate was sedimented with heavy ripples and low biodiversity, but contained linear rock outcrops covered with corals, barrel sponges, sea lilies and their associates. We continued to move into shallower waters with steeper terrain, navigating southwest over a ridge; during our traverse biomass and diversity dramatically increased. Large bubblegum coral, seafans,black corals, sea lilies, sponge barrels, hydrocoral and brittle stars filled our field of view. Moving downhill to the south, the abundance and diversity of life declined, and the terrain dropped very steeply, containing few sponges, very scarce corals, some black corals and sea whips. We then started our ascent over the volcano's outer wall, moving northeast towards an area where the two volcanic cones are connected. As we moved to the secondary peak we reached a 'plateau' where the terrain was dominated by a heavily sedimented seafloor with little life, but containing outcrops hosting high coral and sponge diversities. We continued moving east, nearing the summit of the secondary cone, where the abundance and diversity of animals increased once again. In general, this new dive on Site K confirmed that this seamount hosts the highest diversity and abundances of organisms observed so far in the region.
Underway! The ship departed Bitung, Indonesia this morning and set to sea. At 1500 local time, Commander Joe Pica and Lieutenant Nicky Verplanck met with our onboard security officer from the Indonesian Navy, Major Adrianto, and confirmed that NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer had entered the approved geographic bounds of the INDEX SATAL 2010 operating area. Sensors were turned on, and data collection commenced. Leg 3 operations have officially begun! Our first day at sea was filled with drills, familiarization meetings, training of new personnel and preparations for tomorrow's ROV dive.
Today marks the end of INDEX-SATAL 2010 Leg II. The NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer returned to Port in Bitung, Indonesia at approximately 0900. The crew will spend the next few days finishing outstanding tasks from Leg II and preparing to head back to sea on July 21 to start Leg III.
The crew launched the ROV for Dive 13 at 2º 50.651'N 125º 03.503’E around 0500. Initial target depth was 432m. This was our second dive at a shallow volcanic cone that rises to a depth of 500m. The ROV reached bottom on the south slope at a depth of 650m and moved upslope toward the area where we previously observed a wide variety of corals, crinoids, sponges, crabs, gastropods and fish. We then descended deeper to a depth of 800m and followed a ridge from the southwest back upslope. A much lower biomass and diversity of organisms, consisting mostly of corals with brittle stars and urchins, were visible in the deeper area. There appeared to be a significant amount iron staining around cracks in many of the rocks and what might have been some yellow bacterial mat. As we ascended back upslope biomass began to increase until we were again in an area of higher biological diversity.
The crew launch the ROV for Dive 12 at 2º 37.480'N 125º 05.18’E around 0815. The target seamount had an east-west trending ridge that rose to a depth of approximately 1100m. The ROV arrived on bottom approximately 100m below the summit. It traversed up a steep slope which was heavily sedimented and had relatively low biomass. We observed sparse assemblages of hexactinellid sponges, corals with brittle stars and various types of crabs, urchins, and fish. Shallower depths closer to the summit were also heavily sedimented and the feature overall resembled some of the other deeper seamounts we had explored on previous dives.
The crew launch the ROV for Dive 11 at 2º 51.76'N 125º 02.06’E around 0815. The ROV descended to a volcanic cone shaped seamount hoping to find new vents and their associated critters. Instead we were astonished by the diversity of corals, sponges, crinoids, and countless fascinating invertebrates. Personnel were immediately struck by the incredible diversity of colors and species on display as we rose up along the steep WSW slope toward the summit. Some of the organisms imaged included a 30cm wide, 20cm tall sea spider (pycnogonid) whose bright orange spindly legs and specially modified arms were quite a sight to see; a colorful octopus who danced around frantically in search of a place to hide; a large flat fish with big protruding eyes; a striped crinoid; and a wide array of fish of different types and colors including one species that had little feeler fins beneath its pectoral fins. We also saw some large white venus flytrap anemones, many colorful corals of many different species and morphologies, a huge brittle star filter feeding on a rock, large tubular sponges with striped fish feeding inside them, and fluorescent blue mucous nets that stretched up to a meter long from rock to rock. Overall this site appears to contain greatest diversity of any we have seen to date during this Expedition.
Before launching the ROV on initial planned location, the bridge discovered that the dive area was located in an explosive ordinance zone. The dive location was moved to a ridge to the south that rose from the bottom to a depth of approximately 2240m. The crew launch the ROV for Dive 10 at 3º 16.0926'N 125º 17.454’E around 0845. There as almost no current at the bottom and the surface was heavily sedimented with very few animals anywhere. We did however come across a few very interesting creatures as we climbed up the slope. These included a large purple spoon worm whose digestive tract was clearly visible through its translucent skin; a fascinating large purple nudibranch; and a camouflaged sea urchin covered with a hat of organic debris and smaller animals. We also noticed a number of large burrows in the sediment and several track lines with a lot of oddly shaped debris or perhaps unidentified organism. Near the end of the dive we came across a small cliff face that resembled a canyon with pale orange colored rock, a stark contrast from the brown sediment we saw for most of the dive.
The crew launched the ROV for dive 9 at 4º 56.96'N 125 º 46.70'E around 0815. The target was an oddly shaped feature that rose to a depth of approximately 500m and had an almost square shaped and flat plateau. The plateau measured roughly 4000 by 3500 meters. It dropped off steeply on all sides to a depth of 1100m below. The top surface was composed primarily of eroded carbonate rock with fine-grained pelagic sediment on top. We ascended up a steep slope that contained a high biomass of corals, crinoids, shrimp and galatheid crabs (i.e. squat lobsters). Two of the galatheid crabs were holding a cylindrical shaped purple object that appeared to be some type of egg case or plankton which we could not immediately identify. We saw many of these objects float by the camera throughout the dive. The top of the plateau was fairly deserted in terms of biomass. We did however come across two animals that appeared to be either octopi or squid. We also found an approximately 1m long stingray and several urchins that appeared to have the ability to climb up corals and sponge stalks. After canvassing the plateau for a few hours we descended back down the slope in a different location. The slope included a number of interesting geological features and high biomass. We also found a school of fish and a sandy area beneath a cliff.
Special Note for the Day:
With the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, there is no single individual, no star of the show. It’s teamwork, with numerous players, many of which are behind the scenes both on the ship, and on the shore.
The crew launched the vehicle for dive 8 at 5º 04 678'N 126º 39.125'E around 0815. The target was a shallow seamount that rises to a depth of approximately 1550m. It lies along a shallow ridge at the southeast corner of the northeastern priority area. Between landing on bottom and ridge ascent, the topography varied between steep cliffs and relatively level terrain. It was dominated by older, volcanic rocks with a light dusting of pelagic sediment. Corals were abundant in the deeper part of our track but were less so as we approached the summit. Several types of sponges and crinoids became more prominent. Unlike previous dives where sponges were mostly hexactinellids, we saw several different types of sponges with interesting and unique morphologies. Some larger sponges had large, labyrinthian indentations that appeared to be oriented to align with the current. Another type of sponge looked like a furry coconut mat or animal hide. We did not identify it as a sponge until we harnessed every bit of our powerful high-definition cameras. As we got closer to the summit we came across an octopus that was purple with large glassy eyes. We did not find any hydrothermal vents on this dive but we did succeed in discovering what may turn out to be a number of new species. This dive concluded our exploration of the northeast area for this expedition leg. We now start our gradual return to Bitung with continued mapping and ROV operations along with way.
At the end of yesterday's dive, we discovered a tiny bit of moisture in the housing of the camera sled high-definition camera. In order to ensure we took care of the problem properly, we canceled the planned dive and conducted a multibeam survey in the far eastern portion of our approved geographic area operations. Our Mapping Team collected data over a large area of seafloor >4000m.
The crew launched the ROV for dive 7 at 5º 14.964'N 126º 39.378’E around 0815. The dive began 150m below the summit on the eastern slope of a steep ridge. The top of the ridge was at a depth of approximately 1050m. The pilots traversed the ROV up a steep face of rock that was lightly covered in fine-grained pelagic sediment and contained several different species of corals, sponges and crinoids. The Team captured excellent close-ups of what may turn out to be a number of completely new species for scientists. Biomass appeared to increase as we approached the summit ridge and was mostly dominated by sessile species. We also happened to spot an octopus hiding beneath a pile of rocks. As the sub traveled in a southerly direction down the ridge we found an area with relatively few organisms that appeared to have been recently disturbed. We did not find any evidence of hydrothermal or volcanic activity at this site.
Today we completed our first ROV dive in the Northeast portion of the INDEX-SATAL 2010 area of operations. Our launch location was 5º 22.638'N 126º 46.016’E. The ROV reached the seafloor at 2725m and proceeded to climb the slope of a ridge-like feature that peaked at approximately 2600m. The seafloor was covered mostly with fine-grained pelagic sediment. The bottom ranged between mostly sediment with sparse rocky outcrops to steep slopes of broken pillows and talus. Epifauna were generally sparse but we imaged a number of hexactinellid sponges, sea whips, sea stars, some fish, and a variety of corals and sea lillies. We also encountered what appeared to be a very long sea cucumber that was making some interesting tracks in the sediment in search of food. In comparison to previous dives, we noticed fewer crabs and shrimp, but many more sponges. The top of the summit ridge did not yield much different from what we saw during our ridge ascent.
Though many of us onboard had thoughts of outdoor BBQs and family events back home, it certainly wasn't a day to kick back and relax onboard the Okeanos Explorer. After completing ROV dive #5 on July 3rd, we then transited toward the northeast priority box in the approved geographic area of operations. The ship collected multibeam data during transit and arrived in the northwest corner of the priority area at approximately 0830 on July 4. This allowed for approximately 12 hours of multibeam operations in the area we needed to select an ROV dive target for July 05. While the Mapping Team monitored the multibeam system, processed data, and developed products, the ROV crew spent a full day discussing lessons learned from previous dives, addressing open ‘trouble tickets’, and making improvements in preparation for tomorrow's dive. Eric Prechtl gave an impressive overview of the ROV Wiki in development.
The launch target for EX-1004-Leg II_ROV005 was 3º 46.73’’N 125º 22.18’E. The target is nearby the site termed ‘Naung’ in 2004 paper by McConachy. Multibeam bathymetry revealed a shallow seamount with a central peak and several surrounding lower peaks. CTD casts the previous night indicated hydrothermal activity. The ROV landed downslope of the central peak but was unable to make forward progress in the desired direction due to strong NE to SW current. ROV Operations Coordinator Dave Lovalvo informed the science party of the need to change tactics. He directed the ROV navigator to have the ship ‘tow’ the ROV to a new location up-current to begin the dive. Currents were greatly reduced in the new area and the ROV was able to make headway. The soft sedimented bottom was covered with many ripples and there were often large scour marks around the many rocky outcrops we encountered. The biota of Naung was similar to what we saw in our previous dive, however, this seamount contained a much greater abundance and diversity of organisms. Though the ROV found no evidence of hydrothermal activity, it did capture stunning high-resolution imagery of the various corals, sponges, shrimp, sea cucumbers, and other animals.
The launch target for EX-1004-Leg II_ROV004 was 4º 00.760’N 125º 16.800’E. The vehicle descended to a depth of 1600m on a small seamount that lay at the base of a larger seamount to the east. It reached the bottom approximately 40m downslope on the western flank of an east-west trending ridge. The bottom for most of the dive was light-colored, sandy sediment. A few rocky outcrops appeared in areas of steeper terrain. There was no evidence of hydrothermal activity. Biology appeared dominated by sparse assemblages of solitary corals, shrimp, galatheid crabs, and sponges. Small crustaceans or barnacles were visible on several corals and sponges.
The only prior information available on today's dive site was single beam echosounder data and one CTD cast. The ROV descended to a peak at a depth of about 900m on a large seamount with a 10km long ridge. We transited along a saddle to another peak and explored the area surrounding it. The seafloor on this dive was dominated by loose rocks. In a few places on steep slopes were truncated with pillow flows. We saw a very interesting hermit crab that had a symmetrical soft coral for a shell. The crab was approximately 15cm in diameter and had asymmetrical furry chelae that appeared to be covered with encrusting sponges. We saw another of these crab and coral combinations later in the dive. The ROV imaged several species of coral, shrimp, hydroids, an eel-like fish, and a very unique looking squid that at first glance appeared to have a siphonophore attached to it. It was difficult to identify what we were looking at but the squid was certainly a breathtaking example of the diversity of unique life that lies deep beneath the ocean surface.
After detecting a plume at the end of EX-1004-Leg II_ROV002 on Kawio Barat, we hoped to find its source during today’s dive. Today’s initial bottom target was 04º 40.590'N 125º 05.236' E. We found the source of the plume almost immediately after reaching the bottom. At a depth of about 1850m we encountered a sulfur vent with a number of point sources. Surrounding the vent was a large amount of yellow and black molten sulfur, multiple species of hot-vent shrimp, a 10cm scale worm, and a small patch of stalked barnacles. After departing from the vent, the ROV ascended the summit ridge and encountered fields of sulfide chimneys with vast aggregations of stalked barnacles at their base. The chimneys varied in terms of age and venting characteristics. Some chimneys were fairly oxidized and others covered in white sulfide. Some chimneys were venting clear fluid while others were venting black smoke. Though there is plenty more to discover on Kawio Barat, we are moving to other targets for subsequent dives.
At 1704 local time, the Little Hercules ROV was safely back on deck after completing the first dive during the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer's maiden voyage. We'll save a substantive update on our findings for a full web log, but it's safe to say that we confirmed previous indications of hydrothermal activity on Kawio Barat.
Dave Lovalvo, ROV Operations Coordinator, and his team deserve a big congratulations for today's milestone!
The shipboard and shore-side team continued preparations for the our first ROV dive which is scheduled for tomorrow. We spent today continuing our multibeam mapping survey and outlining the dive plan for tomorrow. The deck and ROV crews completed a final dry run of the first ROV launch.
Between 2001 and 2003, Indonesian and Australian scientists did preliminary investigations of volcanic island arcs of Indonesia. They identified Kawio Barat submarine volcano as a priority for future exploration. This volcano was one of several targets included in our initial mapping survey. We spent most of today conducting CTD casts around the volcano summit to try to detect hydrothermal activity.
The 25th was the first full day of INDEX-SATAL 2010. Multibeam mapping operations are ongoing and expected to continue for several days. Jakarta and Seattle Exploration Command Center (ECC) scientists are monitoring data and information from the ship and are working to establish firm watch schedules. The ship and ECCs will use the gradual spin-up toward a combination of mapping, CTD, and ROV operations to test and refine communications protocols.
After more than one and a half years of planning and preparation, INDEX-SATAL 2010 has finally started. At approximately 1630 local time, Major Muddan Zayadi, the onboard security officer from the Indonesian Navy, confirmed that the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was within the approved geographic areas of operations. Within 15min of that determination, ship sensors were turned on. The Indonesia-US Deep Sea Exploration of the Sangihe-Talaud Region is now underway!
It is quite difficult to accurately communicate what happened during the 24-hr period beginning at 1200 on 6/22. At that point, ship and mission personnel were planning to provide one 'low-key' ship tour the following day for key US Embassy-Jakarta personnel, the Governor of North Sulawesi, and the Mayor of Bitung. Around 1300 on 6/22, Embassy staff and ship personnel realized that our local Indonesian hosts had additional plans. We just didn't know what those plans were. On the morning of 6/23, the ship was officially welcomed to North Sulawesi. The ceremony included traditional dancers, food, drink, speeches, and even a bamboo-instrument band. By the end of the day, ship and mission personnel were absolutely exhausted. . . .but we all had big smiles on our faces! It was a great day!