Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ocean Creatures

Home today! For some of us, at least… the gang is headed separate directions after 16 busy days of working and living together. Six of the scientists from our expedition are now onboard the R/V Falkor, and will head back to Axial for another research cruise. Some of us head home today and others will remain onboard for the unloading of equipment and instruments, taking samples to the lab, and stripping the R/V Thompson of almost all traces of the Axial Seamount 2013 Research Cruise.

Last night we left Victoria, headed south across Puget Sound and this morning we go back through the Ballard Locks and to the University of Washington pier.

While the scientific data we have collected is fascinating and the data yet to come will be exciting too, we have also had the opportunity to observe the wide variety of organisms who make Axial Volcano their home. The intersection of geology, chemistry, biology and engineering, all of which are represented by the research we’ve done at Axial Seamount is exemplified by the vent habitats there. Geologically, the magma supplies heat energy to raise the temperature of water percolating through the crust’s fractures to near boiling temperatures, driving it upwards in concentrated vents that build and grow as minerals in the water precipitate when vent effluent meets the cold ocean water temperatures. Microbial communities flourish in the warm water and use the metals and nutrients in the vent fluids for chemosynthetic processes to “make a living.” In turn, those microbes provide the foundation for the food web for the vent communities. Survival of larger organisms depends on these geologic, chemical, and biologic foundations.

And while we didn’t go to Axial Seamount specifically to see the larger organisms living at the vents, we certainly have noticed them! Their physical structures, life processes, and interactions have fascinated us, intellectually stimulated us, and in some cases provided a fun source of surprising entertainment. Check out the images below and the video to see a sampling of some of the deep sea organisms we encountered while working at Axial Seamount 2013.

Thanks for following the Axial 2013 blog, we hope our exploration and adventures at Axial Seamount have been educational and entertaining too. Because it is such a dynamic place, Axial will remain a focus of active oceanographic research for years to come and hopefully you can join us on a future expedition.