Researchers compile 3-D map of hydrothermal field in Pacific

22.03.2016 19:20
Kategorie: News

Streaming live: Video footage of mission accessible online

Using the latest 3-D camera technology, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel is investigating a hydrothermal vent field at the bottom of the Western Pacific. Thanks for modern satellite technology, the images captured by deep-sea robots on-site can be transferred live to the lecture facilities at GEOMAR in Kiel and the planetarium in Münster and the Internet.

Gallery 1 here

Metre-high chimneys on the seabed, emitting hot, dark-coloured liquids... such is the world of black smokers. It was not even forty years ago that we set eyes on such structures for the very first time. At that time, scientists were cramped into the US submersible Alvin in the East Pacific Ocean, marvelling wide-eyed at scenes of the ocean depths through tiny portholes with fireproof casing. Today, the exploration of the ocean depths is done via autonomous remotely controlled drones and cable-controlled robots.

There is much interest in hydrothermal systems due to the valuable mineral deposits within them. Yet, they remain a mystery, and we only know the location of just a small number of them worldwide. Many questions about the biology, geology and geochemical processes that take place at these hot springs are still unanswered.

Under the management of GEOMAR, scientists from Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) are currently on board the research vessel FS FALKOR, some 200 kilometres southwest of Samoa, in the vicinity of the Niua submarine volcano.

As principal investigator Dr Tom Kwasnitschka from GEOMAR explained, they will attempt to digitally recreate 3-D models of the hydrothermal vents there, with unprecedented resolution. When completed, this would be the first public-access virtual model of an entire hydrothermal vent field.

Gallery 2 here

Another unique feature of the expedition is the round-the-clock video streaming from both cameras mounted to ROV ROPOS and also from the ship. So, anyone interested to tag along and follow the on-going scientific work can do so at "Expeditionsblog" (

In addition, two lectures will be broadcast live at GEOMAR in Kiel and the Planetarium Münster. Attendees can ask the scientists any questions they have and also see the black smokers that are literally thousands of kilometres away, said Dr Kwasnitschka. The lectures will take place this Thursday, March 24th, 10:00 to 11:00 at the auditorium of GEOMAR
( in Kiel. A second session will be held at 19:30 in the planetarium of the „Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe“ ( )

The expedition will provide fresh insights for the scientists taking part in the expedition as well as their colleagues back home. Practically every corner of the hydrothermal field is being surveyed via a complex process using sophisticated cameras designed to yield a seamless visual coverage of the entire hydrothermal vent field.

Aboard the ship, a high-performance computer uses the images to recreate a 3-D colour map with a photographic texture, using over one hundred thousand images. In the later part of the expedition, the geologists, oceanic biologists and geochemists will use the map to take samples from the site more efficiently, as they would just go to those locations that appear promising. In addition, both the public and scientists will be enabled to explore the deepsea landscape in unprecedented resolution, brilliance and colour, as if the water had just been drained.