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Expedition to study deep sea corals, volcanoes and ocean ridges

The West Coast & Polar Regions Undersea Research Center, located at UAF, is sponsoring an expedition to the Aleutian Islands, July 10-Aug. 16, 2004.  The main tool to be used in this expedition is the new remotely operated vehicle from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the ROV Jason2. The cruise will take place in two parts, with a quick personnel transfer in Dutch Harbor on July 24. Due to time spent at sea, media access may be limited.  However, a freelance reporter (Sonya Senkowsky) will be on board during the second part of the cruise and will be sending reports from the ship.

The first part of the research expedition will take place south of Unimak Island, Alaska, south of the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula. This study will examine biological responses to an enormous submarine landslide in the Aleutian Trench resulting from a 1946 earthquake and the destructive, Pacific-wide tsunami which followed. A multi-beam sonar survey, ROV Jason2 dives, camera tows and sediment coring are scheduled. This information could help solve a decades old controversy about the cause of the tsunami.

During this part of the expedition researchers will also explore two 55-60 million year old volcanic seamounts south of the Alaska Peninsula to understand how they formed, for how long they were volcanically active and how they have been affected by the bending of the Pacific plate as it approaches the Aleutian Trench. Deep sea coral populations on the seamounts will also be investigated.  ROV Jason2 dives and multi-beam sonar surveys are planned.

The second part of the expedition will be in the central Aleutians, between Seguam and Semisopochnoi Islands. Scientists will use the ROV Jason2 to investigate the distribution and habitat associations of deep water corals and sponges in the central Aleutians, and extend earlier observations to the full depth range of these species as part of a larger, multi-year study of these populations in this region. Another study in this part of the cruise will conduct a geological exploration of Adak Canyon, a steep-walled and tectonically active rifted canyon between Adak and Kanaga Islands. Geochemical studies of rock samples from Adak Canyon will provide information about how the crust of the Aleutian arc has grown over its 50 million year history. 

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