INSPIRE: Chile Margin 2010
February 24 – March 17, 2010

Chilean flag (En Español)

The incredible geology of Chile, such as found in Torres Del Paine, does not stop at the ocean’s edge. As we explore four sites along the Chilean coast we will study how the exceptional geologic structures fuel a unique suite of species.

The incredible geology of Chile, such as found in Torres Del Paine, does not stop at the ocean’s edge. Exploring four sites along the Chilean coast, we will study how the exceptional geologic structures fuel a unique suite of species. Click image for larger view and image credit.

A diverse team of students from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (UC San Diego) and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Click image for larger view and image credit.

UPDATE: The R/V Melville is OK following the Chilean earthquake on 2/27. The vessel was safely offshore when the earthquake struck, and everyone aboard is fine.

INSPIRE: INternational Southeast Pacific Investigation of Reducing Environments

Chile Margin or Bust!

Jolted by the planet’s biggest earthquakes, sequestering massive reservoirs of methane, while slowly swallowing a mid-ocean ridge, the Chilean margin offers an inspiring natural laboratory for investigating the complex interactions among the solid earth, the deep ocean, and the biosphere. At the Chilean triple junction, where the South Chile rise (a ridge crest) is being forced under the methane-rich South American continent, 10 students — from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and University of California – Santa Barbara— and an international team of scientists will explore for tectonically controlled hydrothermal vents, for seep sites of massive methane release, and for novel “hybrid” systems that may yield hot seeps or cool vents.

With the shared vision of several Census of Marine Life programs, the INSPIRE: Chile Margin 2010 expedition will probe for strange new biological life forms, communities, and ecosystems dependent on as-yet-unknown conditions. As the only location on Earth where all known forms of chemosynthetic ecosystems (hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, oxygen minimum zones, and whale, kelp and wood-falls) can coexist and be studied together, the Chilean margin is a prime target for remarkable discoveries.

Over roughly three weeks, members of the INSPIRE team will use an autonomous underwater vehicle (outfitted with cameras and chemical sensors) called ABE — in combination with instrumentation to measure conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD), a video-guided sediment corer, and a bottom trawl — to locate and characterize heretofore unknown and some barely known ecosystems. Perhaps these will provide a missing link between hot and cold deep-sea communities.

A diverse team of students from SIO (University of California – San Diego) and the University of California – Santa Barbara will be tackling broad-ranging questions about the geology, microbial processing, unicellular life, and multi-cellular animals (and their food and dispersal abilities) at depths far from the sunlit surface. They will be working with an international team of scientists and students from Chile and from other U.S. institutions (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Washington) to blend expertise across geological, chemical, and biological disciplines, and to forge international bonds of collaboration.

This cruise is supported by:

For further information, please visit our Supporters page.


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

Mission SummaryMission Summary The Chilean triple junction presented many challenges during our initial exploration, but we found chemosynthetic fauna and many areas with methane.

March 14 LogMarch 14 Log We have come to the end of the cruise and to our final sampling destination, the Peru-Chile trench. Trenches are the deepest areas in the ocean.

March 13 LogMarch 13 Log A geologist claims to have seen nothing stranger than the primitive nature of biologists at the sight of a trawl. They remind her of "vultures swooping in to scavenge whatever they can get their excited little hands on."

March 12 LogMarch 12 Log It has been days since the multicore has been recovered with any workable samples in it, and the scientists are growing restless.

March 9 LogMarch 9 Log Oceanography depends on access to research ships and field stations. The Chile earthquake has dealt a serious blow to both.

March 8 LogMarch 8 Log Today begins a new part of our adventure. We arrive at the Concepcion methane seep area (CMSA) this morning and immediately prepare for sampling with the video-guided multicore.

March 8 LogMarch 8 Log Death, like formaldehyde, is a part of science. It also stinks.

March 7 LogMarch 7 Log Today we travel north, taking time out for reflection and recuperation. Heading into the lab, one researcher finds a throng of happy (but exhausted) biologists.

March 7 LogMarch 6 Log In the world of deep-submergence oceanography, if your number of recoveries is equal to your number of deployments, you are having a good day. Yesterday, the ABE team had a bad day.

March 6 LogMarch 6 Log Hello out there! It's Harold (the adventure monkey) here! This little travel companion, bored sitting in his bunk, takes a trip around the ship and see what's going on.

March 5 LogMarch 5 Log "What goes up must come down" . . . But what happens when the corollary is not true?

March 5 LogMarch 5 Log Day 7 of our cruise involves fast decision-making based on data recovered. In other words, we're conducting science at sea!

March 4 LogMarch 4 Log The diversity of science and degree of scientific collaboration happening on the research vessel Meville is just one thing that makes the INSPIRE cruise special.

March 3 LogMarch 3 Log Today we are mapping and sampling offshore along the Chile margin, a few hundred miles south of where a powerful earthquake occurred just days before .

March 2 LogMarch 2 Log "I awoke this morning expecting our sixth day at sea to begin with our second multi-core. However, our plans had changed while I was sleeping."

March 1 LogMarch 1 Log There is a great deal of information that can be attained from deep-sea mud. Eight mud cores are split among the science party.

February 28 LogFebruary 28 Log A magnitude 8.8 earthquake shook Santiago early Saturday morning. We were miles off shore running operations on the seafloor with the multicore. 
Video Camera Includes Video

February 27 LogFebruary 27 Log This is Day 3 on board the R/V Melville and things are starting to come together. The big science news of the day: we have begun to do tow-yos.

February 26 LogFebruary 26 Log Preparation for science is officially underway. Today, we continue setting up our equipment on the ship.

February 25 LogFebruary 25 Log It is amazing to watch 38 scientists unpack their equipment in anticipation of a cruise that was first discussed in 2002.

You can access the Ocean Explorer INSPIRE: Chile Margin 2010 News Feed here: NOAA RSS 2.0 Feed