The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) and the University of Washington have been using SubC Imaging’s subsea cameras, LEDs, and lasers in the Regional Cabled Array (RCA) since 2014 to carry out extensive and time-lapse research on volcanic activity methane seeps, hydrothermal vents, submarine earthquakes, and various environmental changes. 

The RCA is a network of ocean-observing technology across the Juan de Fuca plate and the surrounding water. One of the RCA’s key sites is the Axial Seamount, the most active underwater volcano in the Northeast Pacific. Located 250 miles off the Oregon coast at a depth of 1500 meters, it last erupted in April 2015. Seismic data shows two large magma reservoirs beneath the volcano, which drive underwater hot springs and hydrothermal vent deposits. This makes Axial Seamount an important site for studying the seafloor. 

Observing through the right lens 

At the International District Vent Field on Axial Seamount, scientists study the chemistry and temperatures of high-temperature and diffuse flow vent sites. They also research the unique microbial communities living there to understand how seismic activity, fluid temperatures, chemistry, and biological communities change over time in these dynamic environments.  

Since August 2020, researchers have used SubC Imaging Rayfin cameras at several RCA sites, including the International District Vent Field 1 on Axial Seamount. The camera system includes an Aquorea LED lamp, Mantaray Parallel lasers, and a pan-tilt unit. These tools have been essential for capturing high-quality images and videos. 

The Time-Lapse Effect 

The University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory uses SubC’s Rayfin camera to create educational time-lapse videos. By using the camera’s scripting function, researchers take a digital still of an actively venting chimney, called “Tiny Towers,” every 30 minutes. This time-lapse imagery provides valuable insights and educational content, showing the dynamic nature of these underwater environments. 

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