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ROV Dives – Interdisciplinary Investigation of the Pescadero Basin

During a 2018 expedition aboard R/V Falkor, Drs. David Caress, Ron Spelz-Madero, Raquel Negrete-Aranda, and Victoria Orphan, alongside a team of interdisciplinary researchers and engineers, explored the recently discovered Auka Vent Field. The Auka Vent field is a series of hydrothermal vents located in Pescadero Basin, one of several small ocean basins in the tectonically active Gulf of California (GOC). While mapping, exploring, and sampling Auka with ROV SuBastian, the team deployed seafloor mapping AUVs to explore other parts of the basin. The AUV data revealed another new hydrothermal vent field, which they named JaichMaa ’jag, a term from the indigenous Kiliwa people in the GOC that roughly translates to “Liquid Metal”. The name refers to an underwater cavern with hot fluid pooled at the ceiling creating a reflective surface like an upside-down lake, which was unveiled within a chimney in the new vent field. The work contributed to a growing body of research determining the hydrothermal vents in the Pescadero Basin are distinct from other known vent systems, from the minerals they emit to the animals that live on them. In September 2021, the researchers will return to further their interdisciplinary investigation of the Gulf of California. They plan to map the neighboring Carmen and Farallon Basins, characterize heat flow in the Pescadero Basin, and examine hydrothermal vent microbiology and ecology in the Auka and JaichMaa ’ja’ag fields in order to further our understanding of these recently discovered hydrothermal systems.

More about the research HERE.

ROV Dive 461 – Isla Cerralvo Scarp
Date: Oct 8, 2021
Location: Gulf of California, just east of Isla Cerralvo in the Eastern continental margin of the Baja California microplate.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 900 meters
Work Completed: Testing systems for Legs 2 and 3. Also collecting a samples of rocks and sediments that make up this fault scarp.

ROV Dive 463 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field
Date: Oct 19, 2021
Location: JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south, spanning a 400 m distance.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed: Primary objective is to collect heat flow data using the heat flow probe on transects across the vent field. Secondary goals include collecting hydrothermal vent fluid samples at selected vents using both major and gas tight samplers, collecting push cores, collecting rocks, and collecting Niskin bottle samples of ambient water.

ROV Dive 464 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field
Date: Oct 20, 2021
Location: JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south, spanning a 400 m distance.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed: Primary objective is to collect vent fluid samples at two sites (“cave with ponded fluid”, “marker 5 vent”) and secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 464 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field – Part 2
Date: Oct 20, 2021
Location: JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south, spanning a 400 m distance.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed: Primary objective is to collect vent fluid samples at two sites (“cave with ponded fluid”, “marker 5 vent”) and secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 465 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field
Date: Oct 21, 2021
Location: JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south, spanning a 400 m distance.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed: The primary objective of this dive is to continue collecting heat flow data using the heat flow probe on transects across the vent field. A secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 466 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field
Date: Oct 22, 2021
Location: JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south, spanning a 400 m distance.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed: The primary objective of this dive is to continue collecting heat flow data using the heat flow probe on transects across the vent field. A secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 467 – Auka Vent Field
Date: Oct 23, 2021
Location: The Auka Vent Field in the South Pescadero Basin consists of eight large and several small hydrothermal edifices in a north-south-ish oriented crescent spanning 600 m south to north. As at JaichMaa ‘ja’ag, the largest carbonate edifices are up to 50 m across and 20 m high.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3650 meters
Work Completed: The primary objective of this dive is to continue collecting heat flow data using the heat flow probe on transects across the vent field. A secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 468 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field
Date: Oct 24, 2021
Location: The JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south-ish and spanning a 400 m distance. The large edifices are up to 50 m across and 22 m high.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed:The primary objective of this dive is to continue collecting heat flow data using the heat flow probe on transects across the vent field. A secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 468 – JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field – Part 2
Date: Oct 24, 2021
Location: The JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned north-south-ish and spanning a 400 m distance. The large edifices are up to 50 m across and 22 m high.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3675 meters
Work Completed:The primary objective of this dive is to continue collecting heat flow data using the heat flow probe on transects across the vent field. A secondary goal is to collect push cores of sediment near and far from the vents.

ROV Dive 469 – Scarp offshore of Isla Espiritu Santo
Date: Oct 25, 2021
Location: A steep eastern scarp of a topographic high located about 24 km east of Isla Espiritu Santo.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 420 meters
Work Completed: The primary objective of this dive is to attempt to sample rocks from this area. The geology and morphology of the east margin of the Baja California Peninsula reflects the continental rifting that has created the Gulf of California, ultimately resulting in the several en echelon basins we have been studying. These rifting processes have included low angle normal faulting that has left behind many blocks of the pre-existing continental crust that have been broken up, tilted, and rotated. Ron Spelz (Chief Scientist of Leg 1) and his students are studying these aspects of the rifting history, and wish to test hypotheses about the formation of the many topographic highs between the Baja east coast and the deep basins.

ROV Dive 470 – Auka Vent Field
Date: Oct 29, 2021
Location: The Auka Vent Field in the South Pescadero Basin consists of eight large edifices and several small hydrothermal features spanning 600 m in a south to north orientation.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3650 meters
Work Completed: This dive has five primary objectives: (1) collect rock samples for microbial community and activity analyses from Matterhorn (2) sample animals at Matterhorn and in the surrounding area (3) obtain combined ti-major and gas tight vent fluid samples from the Matterhorn vent, (4) deploy colonization rings at top of Matterhorn and (5) collect push cores and corresponding temperature profiles near Matterhorn and from the mounds in the surrounding area.

ROV Dive 470 – Auka Vent Field, Part 2
Date: Oct 29, 2021
Location: The Auka Vent Field in the South Pescadero Basin consists of eight large edifices and several small hydrothermal features spanning 600 m in a south to north orientation.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3650 meters
Work Completed: This dive has five primary objectives: (1) collect rock samples for microbial community and activity analyses from Matterhorn (2) sample animals at Matterhorn and in the surrounding area (3) obtain combined ti-major and gas tight vent fluid samples from the Matterhorn vent, (4) deploy colonization rings at top of Matterhorn and (5) collect push cores and corresponding temperature profiles near Matterhorn and from the mounds in the surrounding area.

ROV Dive 471 – Auka Vent Field
Date: Oct 30, 2021
Location: The Auka Vent Field in the South Pescadero Basin consists of eight large edifices and several small hydrothermal features spanning 600 m in a south to north orientation.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3650 meters
Work Completed: This dive has five objectives: (1) Collect rock samples for microbial community and activity analyses from Z vent (2) Sample animals at Z vent and from the surrounding area (3) deploy colonization arrays at top of Z vent and (4) Collect push cores and corresponding temperature profiles at oily mat site. (5) Fly over survey the areal extent of mats around Z vent. If time, we will collect major water and gas tight samples.

ROV Dive 472 – Auka Vent Field
Date: Oct 31, 2021
Location: The Auka Vent Field in the South Pescadero Basin consists of eight large edifices and several small hydrothermal features spanning 600 m in a south to north orientation.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3650 meters
Work Completed:This dive has several primary objectives: (1) Collect push cores and corresponding temperature profiles at oily mat site near Z vent (2) Fly over survey the areal extent of mats south of Z vent (3) Collect animals and gas tight sample in diffuse flow near oily mat site (4) Collect rock samples in areas of active venting for microbial community and activity analyses, and (5) Sample animals at P vent.

ROV Dive 473 – Midway to JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Field
Date: Nov 1, 2021
Location: Exploratory dive to a suspected hydrothermal feature detected during seafloor mapping surveys found midway (~650 m) between Auka and the JaichMaa ‘ja’ag Vent Fields.
Estimated Maximum Depth: 3680 meters
Work Completed: The objectives of this dive are to (1) explore and photo document the Midway vent feature and, if actively venting (2) measure temp of fluid flow and (3) collect representative animals, rock samples and push cores in the vicinity of the vent, followed by (4) heat flow measurements during a 650 m transit (heading 160°) to JaichMaa ‘ja’ag and (5) collect Xenophyophores along the way. If time permits, (6) we will take samples at the Big Sister of the ‘The Sisters’ site at JaichMaa ‘ja’ag, the northern most feature of a vent field that consists of four large and several small hydrothermal edifices aligned N-S over a 400 m distance. The Big Sister site has steep topography and is ~ 10 m high.

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