Nautilus submarine ‘can send your soul to the bottom’ — Bob Ballard

It is rather amazing to watch live video from a submarine creeping along along the bottom of the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon Coast, and I wanted to remind everyone that this is something they can experience right now via the Nautilus Live webfeed. The live commentary from the operators can be amusing at times, but I didn’t want to wait until Monday to let you know what’s going on.

Exploration Vessel Nautilus, with its remotely operated submarines Hercules and Argus, has been exploring deep-sea vents off Oregon the past few days, marking the beginning of a six-month expedition along the West Coast and around Hawaii. The ROVs were launched Sunday as the weather allowed, and the mother ship is now moving up the coast. I’ve embedded the video on this page, but more information and alternate channels are provided on the Nautilus homepage. One can also send questions to the research team.

As I post this message at 11:30 a.m., Hercules is about two hours into today’s exploration and examining a bacterial mat on the bottom. If things ever seem to be going slow, one can always click back on the video to see what was happening up to four hours earlier.

As luck would have it, right before I posted this, the audio went out. At the top of the page, you’ll see this message from Marty Momsen, communications manager: “We have reached the ocean floor at S Coquille and are actively seeking bubble streams! (We are troubleshooting audio, so we recommend listening to your own background music in the meantime!)”

The current expedition, funded by the Ocean Exploration Trust and led by oceanographer Bob Ballard, will be the one of the longest seasons of exploration since the Nautilus began investigating the West Coast seafloor four years ago.

“With telepresence, you can send your soul to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean with ROV Hercules, and then go home at the end of the day,” Ballard said in a press release. “Anyone with an Internet connection can explore right along with us by watching Nautilus Live.”

The search will include “deep-sea coral habitats in national marine sanctuaries, hydrothermal vents from an active submarine volcano, bubbling methane seeps, and ancient shorelines just offshore of some of North America’s largest cities,” according to the press release.

The scientific endeavor begins with an ongoing study of methane seeps along the Cascadia margin, where tectonic plates come together off the coast of Washington, Oregon and Northern California. During a mapping effort the past two years, more than 2,700 bubble streams were identified at 1,000 different locations, and this expedition will add new scientific information.

The research team will also try to locate and recover the fragments of a large meteorite that fell within the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary in March.

In British Columbia, the Nautilus will explore three offshore seamounts in partnership with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as the ship transits to Hawaii in August. The full schedule from June to November can be see on “The Expedition” page of the Nautilus website.

During the cruise, the Nautilus Facebook page tends to provide some details of interest to online observers, while the Nautilus Twitter feed offers frequent reports of what is taking place.

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