While our focus is now on Axial, it is simply the first target for a number of novel approaches that have become possible by gaining access to the full ocean depth using the singular capabilities implicit in the use of the undersea cabled systems. Partly triggered by the advent of a growing number of these cabled research systems, oceanographers are poised to benefit, in the coming decade, from a host of emergent technologies largely developed by investment from communities external to ocean sciences. Important developments include: robotics, biotechnology, cloud computing, in situ chemical and genomic sensors, extraction of novel biochemical materials, digital imaging, nanotechnology, serious gaming, new visualization technologies, computational simulations and data assimilation, seismo-acoustic tomography, and universal access to the Internet.
Far more powerful than any one of these emerging technologies will be the convergence of the ensemble of next generation technologies when applied to the objective of understanding the innate complexity of the many ecosystems within our global ocean system. As these rapidly evolving capabilities are integrated into more sophisticated, remote, interactive operations, a new era of pervasive human telepresence throughout entire volumes of our once “inaccessible” global ocean will be realized. The use of such capabilities to develop, test, and employ novel approaches to enhance our understanding of deep sea microbial communities supported by volcano-hydrothermal systems here on earth may have the potential to inform strategies eventually adopted to send remote sensor-robotic packages beyond earth in the quest to establish presence of viable colonies of living organisms on other water-worlds.