Imaging Einstein's Grotto

Sunday, August 31, 2014
Digital Still Camera At Southern Hydrate
Neptuneas Garden

Hagfish (purple), red rockfish, crabs, and hermit crabs wander within the nusery for Neptunea snails laying eggs that form yellow stocks on carbonate cobbles. Southern Hydrate Ridge. Photo Credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF; Dive R1766; V14.  

Rockfish in Neptunea Nursery

A rockfish and hemit crabs hang out in a nursery of Neptunea snails at the summit of Southern Hydrate Ridge.The snail stalks rise from small carbonate cobbles. Photo credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF; Dive R1766; V14.  

Last evening, we again visited Neptunea's Garden, a vast expanse of Neptunea snails laying eggs that form yellow, woven-like stalks. It was a very busy night and today is more intense. We are installing as much equipment onto the seafloor as possible before bad weather hits, most likely late Tuesday, that may prevent us from diving with heavy packages.

We visited Neptunea's Garden again and conducted another 500-m-long cable route survey for installation this coming week of a 10-km extension cable that will connect Primary Node PN1B to a junction box at the summit of Southern Hydrate Ridge. When installed, the 10-km-long cable will provide power and communication to instruments at this site. We deployed junction boxes LV01B and LJ01B, and this afternoon we finished installation and cabling of a digital-still camera at the Einstein Grotto site. This is a remarkable methane-seep site located at the base of a large sedimented hummock. A gaping hole, greater than a meter across, vents bursts of large methane-rich vapor bubbles. These are rapidly encrusted by a thin layer of a methane-ice compound known as hydrate.

Einstein proper is surround by additional large hummocks and several-meter-wide areas of white to orange bacterial mats that thrive on the methane and hydrogen sulfide being emitted out of the sediments. Rockfish, sole, and hag fish are common here, as are snails, crabs, soft corals, and sea urchins. From visiting Einstein's Grotto several times already on this cruise, it is clear that the seep is highly dynamic with its surface changing from day to day. It will be exciting to follow the changing face of this system in real-time with the digital-still camera installed here. In the days to come, we will be completing the installation of short-period and broadband seismometers, flow meters, fluid samplers, and a mass spectrometer within this area.