Dive and Discover Explorations of the Seafloor
1. Introduction - Welcome to the Dive!

Modified with Permission from Dive and Discover  


This material is based upon work supported
by the National Science Foundation
under Grant No. 0089071


Expedition Menu

1. Introduction

2. The Setting

3. Let's Begin

4. The Volcano

5. Hot Spring?

6. Where to Dive?

7. Welcome

8. Preparing to Dive

9. Hell Vent

10. Temperature?

11. Inferno Vent

12. Flame Illusion

13. Plumbing

14. Sampling

15. Tubeworms

16. Fightin' Worms

17. Mad Crab

18. Octopus

19. Vent Ecosystem

20. Heat Worms

21. To the Surface

22. The Find

Don's Introduction

Videos and Photos Courtesy of
NOAA's Ocean Explorer Web Site and WHOI's Dive and Discover
Underwater volcanoes, scalding hot water, incredible pressures, toxic fluids, and utter darkness!
What an EXTREME place to live!
Yet an oasis of life thrives!

Expedition Worksheet

Download Expedition Worksheet
if you do not have course workbook

Expedition Objective: In this expedition, we will examine an incredible marine ecosystem, which was unknown 30 years ago. This ocean discovery changed our understanding of life on this planet and elsewhere in the solar system.

But first we have to find these ecosystems beneath nearly two miles of water. We will first map the seafloor with an autonomous underwater vehicle (ABE) using multibeam sonar to find locations of underwater volcanoes along the mid-ocean ridge off Oregon and Washington.

Next we will examine the water over top these active volcanoes for evidence of hot springs or huge plumes of hot fluid and particulate matter coming from the volcanoes.

Lastly, we will venture inside an active, underwater volcano using a remotely operated vehicle, called ROPOS, to view a fascinating collection of life, which was first discovered by accident in the equatorial Pacific Ocean during a dive with the submersible Alvin in 1977. 

The nature of discovery takes many paths, indeed a geologist looking for underwater hot springs, discovered what may be one of the most important biologic discoveries of the century that is turning upside down our view of life on this planet and elsewhere in the solar system.

Image provided courtesy of the VISIONS ’05 expedition
(www.VISIONS05.ocean.washington.edu) and David Randle.

This community of bizarre organisms thrives in what would be considered, by all other organisms, an inhospitable, hostile and extreme environment.  The temperatures encountered by these organisms vary from 0-400°C, with incredible pressures (imagine 21 tons on your head), completely dark except for an occasional low-level glow from flows of molten lava, toxic waters beyond belief (rich in hydrogen sulfide), volcanic eruptions and earthquakes....to name just a few of the environmental conditions. Yet life survives, indeed thrives....possibly for several hundreds of millions of years since fossils of these organisms have been found in rocks in Russia that are 300-400 million years old.

Join me in this exploration of the interplay between plate tectonics under the sea and life on this plant.

Contact Don Reed
Dept. of Geology
San José State University
©Copyright 2006
Last Updated on October 2, 2006


Where should we search for active underwater volcanoes?

a) deep-sea trench
b) mid-ocean ridge
c) San Jose

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