In a video- and image-rich presentation, this class will take you on a journey to the world of underwater volcanoes and hot springs - one of the most extreme environments on Earth. Here, hidden deep beneath the oceans surface, over 70% of the world's volcanic activity occurs. Heat from volcanoes over a mile underwater drives boiling hot spring systems venting fluids at over 700°F. Surrounded by near freezing seawater and in complete darkness, these systems are seafloor oases, teeming with life that includes worms that reach 6 ft in length, dumbo octopi that swim using large “fins” on the sides of their heads, squid that turn completely transparent, swarms of shrimp that may “see in the dark”, and microorganisms that live at temperatures over 250°F using toxic volcanic gases as their energy source.
On this journey, you will see some of the most remarkable places and animals on Earth using stunning video and high definition images few have seen before. These sites include metal-rich, actively venting black smoker chimneys teeming with so much life that you cannot see the rocks themselves. I will also take you to the Lost City hot spring system that I discovered in 2000. It is unlike any place yet found on Earth. Carbonate towers rise 180 ft above the seafloor and host amazing biological communities that thrive in fluids with properties similar to liquid Drano at 200°F.
Learn how scientists explore the deep sea using new submersible technology. Find out what it is like to dive in the three person submersible “Alvin” to a depth of 12,000 feet and travel along a huge underwater canyon.
New technologies just online are forever changing the way we explore and learn about the world’s oceans. You will be introduced to the U.S.’s first underwater cabled observatory located off the WA-OR coast – bringing for the first time the Internet into the oceans and, hence, your living rooms in real-time. This system includes approximately 560 miles of underwater high power fiber optic cables that provide power and communication to over 100 instruments now installed on the seafloor and on instrumented moorings that rise over 9000 feet above the seafloor. The cable extends more than 300 miles off our coast to Axial Seamount, the world's largest underwater volcano , and now the world’s most advanced underwater observatory. Here, cameras provide real-time imagery of hot springs and life on the volcano; seismometers provide real-time earthquake detection; and instrumented moorings with wire crawlers detect changes in acidity, temperature, and biology.
Axial Seamount erupted in 1998, 2011 and April 24, 2015. The cable provided real-time data on the eruption, including over 8,000 earthquakes in 24 hrs and a 7 ft collapse at the summit of the volcano. Underwater hydrophones “heard” hundreds of underwater explosions, which you will get to hear. Across the US, researchers were able to “watch and listen” to this event in real-time. You will be able to witness the first dive on this large eruption, which reaches over 400 feet in thickness - about 2/3 of the height of the Space Needle! Three months after the eruption, acres of microbial mats covered the cooling lava flow and “snowblowers” emitted millions of microbes from within the crystallized basaltic rocks.
The hope for this informal “journey” is significant interaction with participants – the more questions and discussion the better. For an advance look at this observatory and the expeditions involved in its installation, please explore: