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New hydrothermal vents discovered as 'South Pacific Odyssey' research begins

ading center is located right next to a subduction zone (the Tonga Trench) where one plate of Earth's crust dips beneath another one. The Lau Basin opens up a "window" into the deep Earth below, revealing the process involved as plates recycle. The subducting plate also contributes many chemicals to the overlying volcanoes of the Lau Basin, creating ocean crust of unique composition.

MORE ABOUT THE 2-YEAR EXPLORATION OF THE LAU BASIN

The "South Pacific Odyssey" expedition of the Ridge 2000 program is a series of five cruises scheduled through June 2005 like the passing of a baton in a relay race: what scientists learn on the early cruises is essential for the success of subsequent cruises. The ambitious research goals include high-resolution mapping, sampling of deep-sea volcanism, photography of the ocean floor, ananlysis of water chemistry analysis, and up-close-and-personal observations of the microbes making a living in such a bizarre environment.

All told, about 100 scientists from nearly 20 science institutions are involved in the quest to unravel the mysteries of the Lau Basin. Lanmuir said the project is the most complex cruise that he has been involved with because of the large number of different programs that have to be coordinated and the large number of high-tech and low-tech instruments that will be deployed. The team will use tools ranging from the most sophisticated submersibles and sensors to basic rock grabbers. Also working on behalf of the research team will be the newest addition to the U.S. research fleet, a super-stable, twin-hull research vessel called the R/V Kilo Moana, a name that literally means "one who wants to learn more about the ocean" in Hawaiian. Home base for the R/V Kilo Moana is the University of Hawaii.

One of the primary goals of the scientific team is to identify a 'bull's eye' site, a localized site that will become their research focus for years to come. The bull's eye can b
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Contact: Barbara K. Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
23-Sep-2004


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