(Photo/Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences)
For several years in a row, Chinese scientists have deployed a long-term ocean observation platform in the cold seep area of the South China Sea, gathering abundant in-situ video and data.
A cold seep is an area of the ocean floor where hydrogen sulfide, methane and other hydrocarbon-rich fluid seep out. These areas are a birthplace for life that can thrive under extreme conditions.
The study of cold seep is growing in popularity, but one challenge is the inability of short-term, random underwater probes by manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles to reflect the long-term biological migration and development.
The researchers from the Institute of Oceanology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences developed a platform called LOOP that uses a new controllable mode for launching and recovery. This is made possible with the help of research vessel and submarine vehicles.
The LOOP can be operated in an online real-time control mode allowing landing site selection and adjustment of observation parameters during the launching process, with subsequent switched to an offline stand-alone operation mode for long-term continuous observation, according to a study published in the March volume of the journal Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers.
The corrosion-resistant platform has been deployed for a total of 1,070 days in the cold seep area in the South China Sea. During the period from 2016 to 2018, it realized an effective observation times of 414 days.
The underwater probe revealed that the dissolved oxygen and methane might be two main factors for the uneven spatial distribution of those life communities making food from inorganic compounds, according to the study.
The LOOP is expected to become a universal underwater observation platform for in-situ, long-term and continuous data acquisition, said the researchers.