Axial Volcano is, scientifically, one of the most exciting parts of the OOI cabled approach. Located on the western edge of the Juan de Fuca Plate and located on top of a very shallow portion of the Juan de Fuca Spreading Center, Axial Volcano, or Seamount, is the locus of a highly active volcano-hydrothermal system.
Research conducted by Chadwick and Nooner (2011) clearly indicates that the center of the caldera on Axial is constantly inflating from growing pressure within the underlying magma (molten rock) chamber about 2 km below the seafloor. An especially exciting observation since 2012, by the same authors, indicates that the rate of rise of the caldera floor suddenly increased by a factor of 4, from an average of 15 cm/year to nearly 60 cm/year at the center of the caldera.
Many scientists believe this rate of rise is not geologically sustainable and that Axial will soon shift into an eruptive phase, as it did in 2011 and earlier in 1998. The difference now, however, is that the OOI Cabled Array has more then 22 instruments inside the caldera and to highly sophisticated water-column moorings on the eastern side of the base of the volcano.
For the first time members of the science community interested in submarine volcanism and hydrothermal activity are on the threshold of remotely witnessing the complex processes leading up to an eruption, the actual eruption, and the transition from eruption to post-eruption. Scientists on land and Instruments on site are capable of two-way communication at the speed of light (lasers on optical fiber) all of which are connected to the Internet. This is an entirely novel opportunity for scientists and the public alike to observe the prelude, event, and denoument of an Axial Seamount eruption.
In 2014, during ROPOS Dive R1729, a digital-still camera (left), a mass spectrometer (middle) and a fluid- and microbial-DNA sampler (right) were installed in the Axial Volcano International District Hydrothermal Field at the vent called El Gordo. A titanium "hat" rests on top of the structure in a tubeworm and limpet patch. Inside the "hat" are temperature probes and intake nozzles for the fluid and DNA sampler. Photo credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF; Dive R1729; V14.×
An octopus hanging out next to primary node PN3A at Axial Base, 2600 meters deep.
Photo Credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF, Dive 1742, V14×