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Media Tip Sheet

The following reports will be presented by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists at the Fall 2010 Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco.
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Timothy Shank
Associate Scientist, Biology

Hydrothermal Vents and Organic Falls in the Heart of the Coral Triangle

From June to August 2010, an international team of scientists collaborated on a unique project to explore Indonesian waters in the heart of the Coral Triangle—one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world’s ocean. During the Indonesia-USA Deep-Sea Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region (INDEX 2010) expedition, U.S. and Indonesian scientists worked side-by-side on two ships, NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer and the Indonesian research vessel Baruna Jaya IV. Satellite and high-speed Internet on the Okeanos Explorer and HD video from the ROV Little Hercules provided real-time video and audio to shore-side scientists, including WHOI deep-sea biologist Tim Shank and his students and interns. The scientists explored 20 sites during the ROV dives, including the first (and only) known hydrothermally active site in the region. Shank, who served as the Lead Shore-side scientist for Leg III, will share what the team discovered about chemosynthetic communities at the site.

Presentation Title: Hydrothermal Vents and Organic Falls in the Heart of the Coral Triangle: Chemosynthetic Communities Discovered via Telepresence in the Sangihe-Talaud Region, Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia
Time of Presentation: Monday, Dec. 13, 8:45- 9:00 a.m.
Location: 3007 Moscone West

Related links:
» INDEX 2010: Indonesia-USA Deep-Sea Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region
» The Economist: What lies beneath— new expedition to the deep-ocean is revealing previously unknown living treasures

** Santiago Herrera, an MIT-WHOI Joint Program student who was onboard the Okeanos Explorer, will participate in a news conference about the INDEX 2010 expedition on Monday, Dec. 13 at 3 pm
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Dana Yoerger
Senior Scientist, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

Exploring Extreme Environments With Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

WHOI Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) Sentry and Nereus were utilized on six deep-sea cruises within the last year searching for extreme environments that could support life. Two of the cruises took place on Mid-Ocean Ridge terrain (Mid Cayman Rise, Galapagos Rift), three on active methane seeps (Santa Monica/Santa Barbara Basins, Hydrate Ridge, Haakon-Mosby Mud Volcano), and one at the site of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. WHOI engineer Dana Yoerger reports on how the vehicles were used, their automatic control systems, and the sensors employed in these different, extreme environments to identify and quantify chemical fluxes emerging from the seafloor.

Presentation Title: Searching for Environments That Could Support Life: Lessons Learned From Six Deep Sea Cruises with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
Time of Presentation: Monday Dec. 13, 8:45- 9:00 AM
Location: 2004 Moscone West

Related links:
» Sentry
» Nereus

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Adam Soule
Associate Scientist, Geology & Geophysics

New Crust, New Questions

The Earth is constantly manufacturing new crust, spewing molten magma up along undersea ridges at the boundaries of tectonic plates. The process is critical to the planet’s metabolism, including the cycle of underwater life and the delicate balance of carbon in the ocean and atmosphere. Now WHOI scientists have observed ocean crust forming in an entirely unexpected way. Working at the Guaymas basin in the Gulf of California, the research team confirmed what they suspected from brief glimpses of the area during previous missions: The inner Earth is injecting swaths of magma called sills as far as 50 kilometers away from the plate boundary, on each side of the ridge —nearly 10 times farther from such an active ocean ridge than had been observed before. Unlike conventional ocean crust production, where magma bubbles up through volcano-like openings in a narrow (about 5 km-wide) zone at the plate boundary, these recently observed magmatic sills never quite make it to the ocean floor. Rather, they form when magma stops in the thick layers of organic-rich sediment filling the basin and spreads laterally. WHOI geologist S. Adam Soule will report on the team’s findings and the implications of widespread, off-axis magmatic accretion in the Guaymas Basin.

Presentation Title: Widespread, Off-axis Magmatism at a Young Oceanic Rift, the Sedimented Guaymas Basin Spreading Center
Time of Presentation:
Tuesday, Dec. 14, 9:25 - 9:40 a.m.
Location:
2016 Moscone West

Related links:
» Novel Ocean-Crust Mechanism Could Affect World’s Carbon Budget


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Chris R. German
Senior Scientist, Geology & Geophysics
Chief Scientist for Deep Submergence

Unusual Variety of Deep Sea Vents in Mid-Cayman Rise

Thirty years after the first discovery of high-temperature submarine venting, the vast majority of the global Mid Ocean Ridge remains unexplored for hydrothermal activity. In October 2009, WHOI geochemist Chris German led the first expedition to search for deep-sea hydrothermal vents along the Mid-Cayman Rise, an ultraslow spreading ridge located in the Cayman Trough. The team identified the deepest known hydrothermal vent site and found three distinct types of hydrothermal venting, each representing a different type of water-rock interaction. “The diversity of vent-types identified and their relative geographic isolation make the Mid-Cayman Rise a unique environment in the world’s ocean,” German said. The work was conducted as part of a NASA-funded effort to search extreme environments for geologic, biologic, and chemical clues to the origins and evolution of life.

Presentation Title: Diverse styles of submarine venting on the ultra-slow spreading Mid-Cayman Rise
Time of Presentation: Wednesday Dec. 15, 2:25-2:40 p.m.
Location: 3007 Moscone West

Related links:
» Expedition to Mid-Cayman Rise Identifies Unusual Variety of Deep Sea Vents
» Hybrid Remotely Operated Vehicle Nereus

 
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Rich Camilli
Associate Scientist, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

WHOI-led Team Conducts Flow Rate Measurements from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

In May 2010, a team of experts led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) were contracted by the U.S. Coast Guard to collect on-site measurements and derive an estimate of the flow rate from the blown out Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and collaborating with colleagues in real time at the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Georgia, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chief Scientist Rich Camilli and his team made concurrent measurements from imaging multibeam sonars and a profiling Doppler velocity log (DVL) at the leak sites above the riser pipe and at the kink above the blow-out preventer. The multibeam sonar was used to calculate the horizontal cross section of the flow from the riser pipe. The profiling DVL measurements provide detailed estimates of the speed of the fluid flowing up (vertically) at various locations within the flow field. The team also used unique sampling bottles designed for use at hydrothermal vent sites to collect fluid from the wellhead.

Presentation title: Quantifying the flow rate of the Deepwater Horizon Macondo Well oil spill
Time of presentation:
Thursday, Dec. 16, 9:00-9:15 a.m.
Location:
3007 Moscone West

Related links:
» WHOI in the Gulf

» Camilli’s Congressional testimony

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Jian Lin
Senior Scientist, Geology & Geophysics

Haiti?s Earthquake Future

WHOI Senior Scientist and lead author Jian Lin and colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Kyoto in Japan continue to study the aftermath of the devastating, magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti last January and its implications for possible future quakes in the region. They have come up with an increasingly complex picture of both strike-slip and thrust faults that permeate the region. Moreover, they pinpoint areas where the January quake appears to have increased stress on adjacent segments of the Enriquillo Fault south of Port-au-Prince, possibly increasing the likelihood of a future earthquake there.

Presentation Title: Stress Interaction of strike-slip and thrust faults associated with the 2010 M=7.0 Haiti earthquake
Time of Presentation: Friday, Dec. 17, 10:20-10:35 a.m.
Location: 2007 Moscone West

Related links:
» WHOI Expert: Haiti Quake Occurred in Complex, Active Seismic Region
» 2010 Haiti Earthquake Animation

Media Contacts

Stephanie Murphy, samurphy@whoi.edu  or 508-566-3055

Joel Greenberg, jgreenberg@whoi.edu or 626-298-4087

Erin Koenig, ekoenig@whoi.edu  or  508-566-0989

Erika Fitzpatrick, efitzpatrick@whoi.edu or 508-289-3281

WHOI Media Relations Office, media@whoi.edu or 508-289-3340

Last updated: December 10, 2010