Submarine Ring of Fire 2012: Mission Logs

September 26 Log
Mission Summary
Given the complexity of the logistics involved in the Submarine Ring of Fire 2012 expedition, an apt summary of the cruise is “Whatever could go wrong didn’t go wrong”. Twelve dives at nine sites were successfully made, with 98.5 hours of bottom time and 164 samples for geology, chemistry, biology and microbiology.

September 26 Log
September 26: From Samoa and the NE Lau Basin, Tofa and Goodbye
Our planet still holds many amazing phenomena that remain to be visited, discovered and understood. In particular, the deep ocean is hidden from view, and its unexplored places remain a major challenge to humankind.

September 25 Log
September 25: Piloting the ROV, A New Experience in Ocean Exploration
Seeing the process of planning the dive location, waiting for the ship to navigate to the site, watching the ROV enter the water and explore the seafloor, and then, at the end of that day, be able to hold a crab from 1500 or so metres depth was brilliant from start to finish.

September 24 Log
September 24: In Keeping with Tradition
As the exploration team on the Submarine Ring of Fire NE Lau Basin 2012 Expedition, we follow several centuries later in the footsteps of the early explorers of this region, with a focus on submarine volcanoes and associated hydrothermal vents deep on the ocean floor.

September 23 Log
September 23: Mata Tolu, King of the Northern Mata Group
Mata Tolu didn’t disappoint, showing us an array of beautiful features during our visit. After crossing young volcanic landforms on the steep south face beneath the summit, we reached the top and discovered an active hydrothermal system surrounded by a large area of currently inactive chimneys.

September 22 Log
September 22: A Comparison between Mata Fitu and Niua North
Mata Fitu exhibited a stunning display of high temperature hydrothermal activity, with pagoda-shaped chimneys everywhere. Niua North, on the other hand, had no chimneys. Instead it had jets of sulfur shooting out from many holes in the sediment-covered seafloor.

September 21 Log
September 21: Seamount Eruptions: Windows to the Development of Hydrothermal Vent Biological Communities
Vent systems in the deep sea have a birth, life, and death, in which vents are often created through volcanic activity and crustal cracking and often their cessation brought about by subsurface plumbing changes or through cooling of their heat source or magma chamber.

September 20 Log
September 20: Needles and Haystacks
Finding the bubbling crater of a terrestrial volcano poses no problem: look for the smoke using a satellite or aircraft or even your pickup truck. Exploration of submarine volcanoes under the opaque ocean is far more challenging.

September 19 Log
September 19: The MARUM Remotely Operated Vehicle QUEST 4000
The cable-controlled ROV QUEST can dive down to 4000 meters and is equipped with a suite of sensors, such as acoustic sonar and a CTD. Various high-resolution cameras document the deep-sea environment with exceptional high quality and precision.

September 18 Log
September 18: New Black Smokers Discovered at Niua South Volcano
The ROV sampled vent fluids and gases coming out of the chimneys as well as a few pieces of the chimneys. Animals living at the vent included two species of shrimp, two species of snails, limpets, scaleworms, crabs, squat lobsters, eelpouts, and barnacles. We had discovered yet another spectacular oasis in the deep sea. 

September 17 Log
September 17: What’s Been Happening on West Mata?
A hydrophone and other instruments placed on the vertical mooring (the top has a large float to hold it vertical) have been recording for more than two years, and we hope these recordings contain critical new information about the nearby submarine volcano, West Mata. 

September 16 Log
September 16: Hunting the Plume at Mata Ua
Submarine exploration over the past decade has shown the Northeast Lau Basin to be one of the most intensively active regions on the surface of the Earth, with rapid crustal extension, numerous volcanic vents of both focused- and rift-like character, and multiple hydrothermal sources.

September 15 Log
September 15: Chemistry and Ecology at Volcano O
Volcano O is the most captivating feature on a map of the NE Lau Basin, sitting enigmatically between the volcanic arc and the backarc NE Lau spreading center. At 15 km across and nearly perfectly circular, it certainly catches the eye. Our dive at Volcano O focused on the central cone near the summit, which is interpreted to be the site of the most recent volcanism.

September 14 Log
September 14: Crossing the Cone at Volcano O
The R/V Roger Revelle transited northwards to one of the most remarkable volcanic structures on Earth: a giant near-circular caldera ~15 km in diameter, colloquially known as “Volcano O”, with a floor at a depth of about 2000m, and a young cone in the southeast sector rising 730m above the floor to a summit at 1270m depth below sea level.

September 13 Log
September 13: Hybrid Backarc Volcanoes Yield Unique Discoveries
Shortly after arriving on the seafloor at a depth of 975 meters this morning, the cameras mounted on MARUM’s Quest 4000 revealed small lava towers approximately 5-10 m in height with steep walls rising from the seafloor at Fonualei Rift. 

September 12 Log
September 12: Our Work Has Just Begun
Our Quest 4000 dive (Q322) to find iron- and manganese-oxidizing microbial mats proved to be a great success. From previous cruises and surveys we had a pretty good navigational fix on where to find these mats, and within about an hour of the ROV reaching the bottom we had discovered what we were looking for. 

September 11 Log
September 11: Bacterial Mats and More at Vai Lili
The R/V Roger Revelle arrived at the first exploration target, Vai Lili, in the early morning hours of September 11, 2012, with the science team looking forward to exploring bacterial mats and collecting samples from hydrothermal vents at this vent field located on the central Valu Fa Ridge in the Lau Basin.

September 10 Log
September 10: In Transit to Vai Lili
The R/V Roger Revelle continued to steam toward its first exploration target, Vai Lili, to explore bacterial mats and collect water samples from hydrothermal vent sites found at this vent field located on the central Valu Fa Ridge in the Lau Basin.

September 9 Log
September 9: On Departing Suva, Fiji
A total of 35 scientists and 21 crew from 15 organizations representing the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Germany departed Suva, Fiji today...

For previous years coverage of the Submarine Ring of Fire expeditions, visit:

The Ring of Fire Missions
Click images or links below for more information on all Ring of Fire missions.

Magic Mountain Virtual Site camera icon Magic Mountain Virtual Site
Take a trip to the seafloor! Explore the hydrothermal vents of the Magic Mountain Chimney Fields via a series of interactive computer animations and videos. (Where is Magic Mountain?)

Submarine Ring of Fire 2007 offering Submarine Ring of Fire 2007
(July - August) Scientists return to the Kermadec Arc, to explore in great detail the Brothers submarine volcano. This will mark the most comprehensive exploration of this type of arc volcano and is one of the most vigorous geothermaly active yet discovered.

Submarine Ring of Fire 2006 offering camera icon Submarine Ring of Fire 2006
(April - May) Scientists return to explore active submarine volcanoes lying along the Mariana Arc, extending for more than 800 nautical miles.

New Zealand American Submarine Ring of Fire 2005 camera icon New Zealand American Submarine Ring of Fire 2005
(April - May) Join scientist as they explore the active submarine volcanoes along the Kermadec Arc, located north of New Zealand, with a pair of manned submersibles the PISCES IV and V.

Submarine Ring of Fire 2004 - Mariana Arc camera icon Submarine Ring of Fire 2004 - Mariana Arc
(March - April) An interdisciplinary team of scientists returned to the submarine volcanoes of the Mariana Arc to explore, utilizing an underwater tethered robot (ROPOS).

Pacific Ring of Fire 2003 Exploration camera icon Pacific Ring of Fire 2003
(February - March) An interdisciplinary team of scientists explored the submarine volcanoes of the Mariana Arc lying north of Guam in the western Pacific.

Submarine Ring of Fire 2002 Exploration camera icon Submarine Ring of Fire 2002
(June - August) An interdisciplinary exploration team used new technology to investigate the birth of new ocean crust off the coast of western North America, part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire."



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