Featured Site: Venture Deep Ocean

April 06, 2005

Last May, Ridge 2000—a research coalition focused on mid-ocean ridges and tectonics—launched the first of five ambitious missions to explore the South Pacific ocean floor. Their specific destination? The Lau Basin, an underwater terrain "chock-full of underwater volcanoes and vents, and a multitude of exotic life-forms."

Nearly a year later, Ridge 2000 has set sail again on the third of five expeditions. On April 4, the team—led by Chief Scientist Meg Tivey of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution—loaded their ship in Nuku'alofa, Tonga for a month-long exploration of the creatures living in and around underwater geysers.

This expedition will be "the first in the series to conduct in-depth studies of the seafloor in this area using remotely-operated submarine vehicles, such as JASON."

The first two research teams focused on mapping the sea floor, with the goal of determining the best site for future intensive study. ("One strong candidate is in the south of the Lau Basin, on the Valu Fa Ridge, where several vents have been found.")

Penn State is an important contributor to Ridge 2000's success. Biology professor Charles Fisher currently chairs the Ridge 2000 program, and University Park has been home to the program office since 2001. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Ridge 2000 will no doubt enrich our understanding of the tectonic forces that sculpt the ocean floor and nurture a variety of life forms—from microbes to huge tubeworms—in the lightless depths.

In honor of Ridge 2000's third expedition to the Lau Basin, Research/Penn State is highlighting the project's Education and Outreach Web site, Venture Deep Ocean.

Last Updated April 06, 2005