WHOI underwater vehicle PUMA
The Puma, or “plume mapper,” vehicle uses sonar,
lasers, and chemical sensors to search wide areas
near the ocean floor to detect the telltale temperature,
chemical, and turbidity signals from hydrothermal
vent plumes. Credit: Hanumant Singh/WHOI

The dispatch titles tell a compelling tale all their own: Life on the Edge and Echoes from the Deep. Or how about Puma is unveiled and unleashed?

A team of scientists and engineers on the Arctic Gakkel Vents Expedition have now ventured hundreds of miles into the shattered summer pack aboard the icebreaker Oden on their mission to seek out new volcanic vents, map oozing submarine lava, and maybe greet and catalog some strange abyssal life.

So far, they’ve logged 24 different updates with glimpses of life aboard the ship and insight into the knotty problems that accompany launching robot subs to cruise beneath ice floes.

Even in an age where every snow-tramping adventurer with a biology degree and a snazzy diga-cam uploads dispatches to their website, this project sponsored by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has been exceptionally informative.

The slide shows have got narrative flow, with captions that further the story told by the image rather than simply repeating the obvious details in words.

Check out There and Back Again, posted on July 21:

Sometime after 7 a.m. Friday, about 3,700 meters, or 2.3 miles under the Arctic Ocean ice cap, the robotic vehicle Puma lost a thruster on a mission to search for plumes from hydrothermal vents on the seafloor. Scientists, engineers, and the crew of the icebreaker Oden all mobilized to try to get the hobbled vehicle back to the surface, to guide Puma to a rendezvous with Oden in the shifting ice pack, and to make a hole in the densely packed ice for Puma to surface safely.

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