Time series of hydrothermal vent fluid chemistry at Main Endeavour Field, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Remote sampling using the NEPTUNE cabled observatory

TitleTime series of hydrothermal vent fluid chemistry at Main Endeavour Field, Juan de Fuca Ridge: Remote sampling using the NEPTUNE cabled observatory
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSeyfried, WE, Tan, C, Wang, X, Wu, S, Evans, GN, Coogan, LA, Mihály, SF, Lilley, MD
JournalDeep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers
ISBN Number0967-0637
KeywordsCabled array, Main Endeavour Field, Ocean Networks Canada, Remote sampling, Seafloor hydrothermal vents

Seafloor hydrothermal fluids play a critical role in regulating a wide range of geochemical and biological processes. Chemical and physical changes to venting fluids undoubtedly occur in response to geological events, at depth or near the seafloor, with corresponding effects on vent fluid chemistry, mineralization, and biological activity. However, the uncertain timing of such events makes it impractical to anticipate their occurrence. Thus, the temporal evolution of seafloor vent fluids and coexisting mineral deposits is most often inferred from observations made using conventional deep submergence assets that may be non-continuous for a specific vent field. The recent development of submarine volcanic observatories operated by Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) and the Ocean Observatory Initiative (OOI) in the U.S. that deliver power to instruments on the seafloor and communications via high-speed fiber optic cable permits real-time communication and monitoring of seafloor vents. Here, we describe the development and application of a remotely operated hydrothermal fluid sampler that enables repeat on-demand sampling of high-temperature vent fluids triggered through the internet. The sampler was deployed from September 2019 to June 2020 at the S&M vent area, in the southern portion of Main Endeavour Field (MEF), Juan de Fuca Ridge, on ONC's NEPTUNE ocean observatory. Nine vent fluid samples were acquired over a period of nine months. Analyses of these samples confirm the moderately high-temperature origin of the source fluid, as indicated, for example, by dissolved chloride depletion relative to seawater (vapor-rich) and moderately high silica concentrations. These and other dissolved species, such as methane, a known hallmark of MEF vent fluids, are in excellent agreement with the reported composition of S&M vent fluids over the past 15 years or more, suggesting overall chemical stability and rock-dominated alteration processes. On the other hand, short-term variability of dissolved Mg, sulfate and barium indicate entrainment of conductively heated and partially reacted seawater. Both before and after the incursion of the “secondary” seawater derived fluid, however, samples reveal the lowest Mg and sulfate concentrations yet reported for seafloor hydrothermal vent fluid samples. Accordingly, these data provide new insight on the solubility of these and other elements coexisting with minerals close to the Axial Magma Chamber (AMC), from which the primary source fluid is ultimately derived. A separate noteworthy event characterized by ∼20 °C decrease in temperature and associated 24–77% decrease in dissolved Fe concentration was observed toward the end of the deployment, with implications for hydrothermal transition metal fluxes and linked biogeochemical processes. On-demand remote acquisition of a continuous series of high-temperature vent fluid samples from a single vent permits the temporal evolution of heat and mass transfer processes to be studied with a heretofore unavailable perspective. Furthermore, deployment of this sampler within the NEPTUNE ocean observatory opens the door to future studies based on comparative analysis of contemporaneous datasets.

Short TitleDeep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers