Tuesday, November 14

Project Summary

Map of Bransfield Strait research area

Research Objectives
1) First deep-water hydrophone deployment in Drake Passage and Bransfield Strait, Antarctica
2) First deep-water (greater than scuba depth) ROV survey of hydrothermal vents and ecosystems at Deception Island, Antarctica
3) First long-term, microseismic survey of seafloor tectonic and volcanic activity in Antarctica
4) First study of possible link between ice movement and seafloor tectonic/volcanic activity in the Antarctic
5) First acoustic survey of the presence and distribution of large baleen whales (blues and fins) in the Bransfield Strait
6) First test of active subduction processes at South Shetland Islands (King George Island), Bransfield Strait.

We are attempting two main projects this year:
1) Recover and re-deploy our hydrophones in the Bransfield Strait and Drake Passage that were deployed last year. The goals of the work are to detect otherwise unobserved seafloor volcanic activity, monitor/track the sounds of ice break-up and the tremor produced by the movement large icebergs, and monitor the distribution of large baleen whales in the area that are globally endangered. The poles are the "canaries in the coal mine" when it comes to global climate change, meaning they are the most sensitive and will be first to show the effects. Glaciers in Antarctica are known to be receding, likely due to an increase in ocean temperatures. Speculating a bit, we are also looking to see what contribution to large ice breakup might be from natural (i.e. volcanic) phenomena. A common misconception of Antarctica is that it is an ice-covered, lifeless rock. Instead, it is a tectonically and volcanically dynamic region, filled with surprising and numerous heat sources.

2) Perform the first ROV survey (submersible camera with propellers) of the underwater hydrothermal systems in the submerged caldera of Deception Island. There is the possibility that both photo- and chemosynthetic ecosystems exist in hydrothermal vents found in the caldera. All previous studies of these vent communities were conducted in deep water, below the reach of sunlight. This observational study will attempt to identify interactions between light-dependent (photosynthetic) organisms and the chemical-dependent microbes (Archea), which form the base of the hydrothermal community.

I will be filing log reports and pictures this year at: http://hmscblog.blogspot.com. These will be collected and posted at both the Sea Grant and OceanExplorer web sites.
The daily logs and pictures from our 2005 research voyage to Antarctica can be found at two different sites:

Look for "Sounds from the Southern Ocean".


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