The Nautilus Journey to the southern Lesser Antilles volcanic arc is part of the INSPIRE project, funded by NSF with the purpose of studying and improving telepresence for ocean exploration. Scientists will implement several student-designed exploration projects led from shore.
Kick’em Jenny is the most active submarine volcano in the Caribbean Sea, and during the past century it has shown a history of progressive growth with explosive eruptions. Hazards include explosive eruptions that can breach the sea surface and the potential for tsunami generation.
The Nautilus cruise in 2014 will continue exploration of Kick’em Jenny with a new set of sensors to examine any changes in gas/fluid venting in the inner crater that might indicate renewed eruptive activity. Another area of investigation is a large province of cold seeps and mud volcanoes North of Trinidad & Tobago. These methane and sulfur-rich fluids host chemosynthetic biological communities and produce mud volcanoes by transporting and discharging fine grain mud on the seafloor.
The Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus is a 64-meter research vessel operated by Dr Robert Ballard and his Ocean Exploration Trust team. Dr Ballard is internationally known for finding the wreck of the Titanic and the German military ship Bismarck. The ship carries with it two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) named Hercules and Argus which explore the seafloor and can be viewed in real-time online.
ABOUT THE SHIP
Ocean exploration is a complicated business, and E/V Nautilus is outfitted with all of the latest tools to provide scientists on board and ashore with all of the data they need for research on physical oceanography, geology, biology, and archaeology. From mapping the ocean floor to collecting delicate artifacts from ancient shipwrecks, the Corps of Exploration are prepared for anything they might encounter in the dark abyss of the deep sea.
The Corps of Exploration’s flagship vessel is one of only two dedicated ships of exploration in the world. The 211 foot (64 meter) ship is equipped with all of the latest in ocean technology and can host a 31 person science team, in addition to 17 crew members. The ship is outfitted for a two-tiered approach to exploration. First the team uses a multibeam sonar system to map unknown areas of the seafloor. Once the data is analyzed and targets are chosen, they use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to collect video footage and a variety of samples.
TOOLS FOR THE JOB
This neutrally buoyant yellow remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is the workhorse of the Nautilus Exploration Program, and it always used in tandem with Argus. Hercules is equipped with six thrusters that allow the pilots to “fly” it in any direction, plus two manipulator arms designed for collecting samples and recovering artifacts. Video from Hercules’ high-definition main camera is streamed up a fiber-optic cable to the control van on Nautilus, then out to the world. It is capable of operating down to 4,000 meters.
This stainless steel towsled-style ROV is typically used in conjunction with Hercules, although it can be operated alone. When used in tandem, Argus takes the roll of the ship so Hercules can remain steady through sensative operations. It also provides additional light and serves as an “eye in the sky” during operations. When operating alone, it can dive deeper than Hercules - down to 6,000 meters.
In 2013 the Corps of Exploration added a new hull-mounted multibeam sonar system to Nautilus. The system can efficiently map the seafloor in waters ranging from 10 meters to 7,000 meters deep, all while the ship cruises at up to 10 knots. The sonar collects bathymetric data, surface sediment characteristics, and water column data. The information it collects helps to identify areas or features of interest to plan for ROV dives.
It takes a lot of people to explore the ocean — at any particular moment E/V Nautilus can host up to 31 members of the science team and 17 ship’s crew, all contributing in various ways to the scientific efforts of the Corps of Exploration. No one is expendable — without pilots, cooks, navigators, mates, data loggers, engineers, and many more, the ship couldn’t function. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to sail on Nautilus — just a passion for science and discovery.
Dr. Robert Ballard
Dr. Robert D. Ballard has been a pioneer in the development of advanced deep submergence and “telepresence” technology. Although his PhD is in Marine Geology and Geophysics, his scientific interests run the gamut from the volcanic, tectonic, and hydrothermal processes of the mid-ocean ridge to deep-sea archaeology and maritime history. Dr. Ballard also spends a great deal of his time involved in various educational outreach programs; including the JASON Project, Immersion Learning, Nautilus Live, and TV programs for the National Geographic Society, where he is an “Explorer-in-Residence”. In 2008, Dr. Ballard secured the E/VNautilus, which has become his flag-ship for exploration funded in part by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration. Nautilus is connected by way of a high bandwidth satellite link to the Inner Space Center and from there to the world.
University of California, Santa Barbara, B.S. Physical Science, Majors: Chemistry/Geology; Minors: Physics/Math;
University of Hawaii, Graduate School in Oceanography; University of Southern California, Graduate School in Marine Geology; University of Rhode Island, Graduate School in Oceanography. Ph.D. Marine Geology and Geophysics PhD is in Marine Geology and Geophysics