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Sediment, corals, and crustaceans, oh, my! Learn how scientists and crew prepare for a three-week research cruise at sea. Get submersed and take a dive with deep-sea robots! Find out how scientists collect and store deep-sea samples like sediment, echinoderms, and microbes.

Watch four videos about a USGS expedition to the Escanaba Trough, in the Pacific Ocean off of northern California.

In May and June of 2022, a team of researchers from the U.S Geological Survey, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and partners have explored Escanaba Trough, a seafloor spreading area 200 nautical miles off the coast of northern California.

Studying the seafloor more than 3,000 meters beneath the surface without ever leaving the deck of the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson requires specific tools and state-of-the-art technology.

Using the submersible robots Jason and Sentry from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the research team conducts exploratory dives to study seafloor features at Escanaba Trough as often as conditions allow. In between dives, the team sinks gravity-driven cores to obtain sediment samples and deploys instruments to measure water conductivity, temperature, and depth, among other parameters.

Researchers are enthusiastic about the data collected so far. In addition to gathering samples from locations not previously sampled, the joint deployment of Sentry and Jason is allowing researchers to plan each dive with greater precision.

Researchers work with WHOI staff to map the route of each robot’s dive. Working from detailed bathymetric maps created by Sentry’s autonomous transects of the seafloor, researchers can fine-tune Jason’s dive plans to make the best use of the ROV’s time on the bottom. Jason can collect a variety of seafloor samples as well as photos and videos but only travels at less than half a kilometer per hour; using Sentry’s high-resolution maps helps the team place Jason as close to specific seafloor features as possible for each dive.

 

Video Transcript
Embarking on a three-week deep-sea research expedition requires a lot of preparation...
[Click play, or listen to the audio-described version.]
Video Transcript
Critical to scientific operations aboard the Escanaba Trough expedition is the submersible robots Sentry and Jason...
[Click play, or listen to the audio-described version.]
Video Transcript
For scientists aboard the Escanaba Trough expedition, obtaining sediment cores or deep-sea biological and geological samples after a Jason dive is only the beginning....
[Click play, or listen to the audio-described version.]
Video Transcript
To collect subsurface data, scientists can push hollow tubes, or cores, into the seafloor, extracting cylinders of sediment that preserve its various layers, or stratigraphy. Learn more about coring the seafloor in this video. Listen to the audio-described version.

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