Water flowing underground

posted Oct 20, 2017, 6:44 AM by Beth Orcutt

By Kelle Freel


[editors note: introducing Kelle Freel, a postdoctoral scientist from the University of Hawaii. Kelle is part of the team operating a special deep-sea pump to collect some wonderful fluids from below the seafloor.]


This expedition is focused on looking at what’s going on under the sea floor. One way to understand the processes under the ocean involves collecting water samples (crustal fluid) from what flows under the crust. We brought specially designed sampling equipment we can load onto ROV Jason and send to the CORKs on the sea floor. We basically hook a hose to an outlet on the CORK and use it to fill bags with the crustal fluid. The bags are strapped to Jason in one large plastic box on the front and six smaller boxes on the back.

Here I am (far left) posing with the box filled with bags and the manifold, ready to go get some samples.


To fill the smaller boxes, we divert the fluid to a piece of equipment (called a manifold) with multiple outlets. In addition to the boxes, there are outlets connected to filters so we can pass water through them while Jason is sitting on the seafloor. From the Jason control van on our ship (aka the command center), we can change which outlet the water flows through. First, we fill up all the bags and then pass fluid through the filters.

Here’s a different view of the sampling box and manifold. All of this gets mounted on the back of the ROV Jason.


Preparing for our first dive to collect fluid, anticipation built as we strapped our equipment onto Jason. When everything was checked and ready to roll, Jason was hoisted into the air and over the side of the ship, into the rolling swells. We had a few days of troubleshooting as some oil leaks came up, but eventually we hooked up to a CORK and start filling our bags with water. We managed to collect over 100 liters of crustal fluid on the first dive. Everyone was happy to grab their bags of water, whew, what a relief that everything worked! So far it has been quite an adventure, and hopefully, we continue with successful attempts collecting fluids.



Here is my partner in crime – Clarisse Sullivan, also from the University of Hawaii – hooking up the equipment on the back of the ROV Jason.


And here is Clarisse preparing the large bag sampler that goes on the front of the ROV Jason.