OSU researchers journey into the deep ocean to study undersea eruptions.

When OSU’s William Chadwick and Robert Dziak traveled to the Mariana Islands northwest of Guam in 2004, they observed something no one had seen before — a live, deep-ocean volcanic eruption from a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV.

They repeated the feat in 2006, gathering video footage of such high quality that their expedition drew national attention. Now, Chadwick (a volcanologist and chief scientist on the project), Dziak (an oceanographer) and an international team of scientists will return to the volcano in a project funded by the National Science Foundation to further study undersea eruptions. Called Northwest Rota-1, the volcano is still showing signs of activity, according to data retrieved from an underwater hydrophone.

”We don’t know if it will be active when we are there, how intense that activity could be, or even whether we will be able to see much,“ cautions Chadwick. ”But if it is active, this will be an extraordinary opportunity to learn more about undersea volcanoes and some of the significant impacts they can have.“

The scientists’ goal in this expedition is to put more science behind their observations.

”What we’ve done thus far has been to capture a brief scientific ‘snapshot’ of an undersea volcano,“ Chadwick says. ”We know a great deal about the impact of terrestrial volcanoes, but very little about those that erupt beneath the sea — from the underwater explosion processes to the chemical impacts on the ocean and the effects on deep-sea ecology.“

Northwest Rota-1 remains the only undersea volcano scientists have witnessed erupting, making it a unique site for research. Chadwick and his team will report their findings on a blog so that science students and classes from middle school through college — as well as the general public — can follow their progress.

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