Every 3 hours, day and night, on this site you can watch live streaming video from about a mile below the oceans' surface, on the top of a submarine volcano known as Axial Seamount. Axial is located nearly 400 kilometers (~250 miles) due west of Astoria, Oregon on a mid-ocean ridge spreading center called the Juan de Fuca Ridge. This spreading center, forms the western boundary of the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. Axial is the largest and most volcanically active volcano off our coast, having erupted in 1998, 2011, and again April 24, 2015.
At 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 8:00 pm, 11:00 pm, 2:00 am, 5:00 am, 8:00 am, and 11:00am (Pacific Daylight Time), the remote high definition camera, and its lighting system, turn on for 14 minutes. It follows a preprogramed series of pan, tilt and zoom steps that explore, in detail, the surface of an active submarine hot spring deposit. The metal-rich chimney is covered in dense, exotic life forms thriving on gas- and nutrient-rich hot effluent heated and sourced from within the volcano. The adjacent still figure (top right) shows an overview of the ~14 ft-tall structure known as 'Mushroom', from the perspective of the high definition video camera named CAMHD. This photomosaic was produced from 40 still frames taken by the CAMHD. Click on the image to bring up a larger version, clicking on the larger image brings up a pano image interface in a separate window.
This capability is an integral part of the Cabled Array portion of the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatory Initiative. The high definition video is streamed through an electro-optical cable stretching from Pacific City, OR to Axial Seamount. One of the unique elements of this Cabled Sensor Network is the unprecedented electrical power and virtually unlimited bandwidth provided by the fiber optic cable to numerous locations deep under the sea and far from land.
Located within the caldera (a volcanic depression) at the summit of Axial Seamount, the ASHES vent field hosts a number of actively venting sulfide chimneys similar to the Mushroom mound now imaged live. These hot spring mineral deposits are commonly clad with mixed macrofaunal vent communities thriving on the outer surface of the underlying porous rock. High temperature vent fluid within the interior of the chimney is continuously flowing outward through the permeable rocks. Near the outer portion of the chimney walls, the hot fluids mix with cold seawater providing warm, nutrient-rich fluids that support the rich abundance of life within these hot spring evironments all along the entire 43,000 mile long mid-ocean ridge system. Within the chimneys, that may reach >130 ft tall, very concentrated, higher temperature fluids (>500°F) commonly escape through holes in the outer carapace of the underlying sulfide deposit. This results in the rapid growth of metal-rich, delicate black chimneys of sulfide that grows and collapses frequently at various locations on the larger structure. Some chimneys may grow > 6 ft in three days. The animal communities are composed of tube worms, scale worms, palm worms, gastropods, and a variety of other life forms that include novel microbes that can live at temperatures in excess of 200°F. More information on these communities will be provided very soon.