One of the most successful open-ocean, interdisciplinary expeditions using a remotely operated vehicle was conducted last year and is being looked on as a harbinger for future deep submergence expeditions. Unmanned systems have emerged in the past decade as an alternative to manned submersibles for deep-ocean studies. But until now they have not proven themselves to be equal to manned vehicles in conducting multiple sampling tasks in an interdisciplinary milieu.
Last year's expedition involved extensive investigations and sampling using the Canadian Remotely Operated Vehicle for Ocean Sciences (ROPOS) [Shepherd and Juniper, 1997].A team of 33 chemists, biologists, geologists, and engineers, including a number of principal investigators from the United States and Canada, sailed on the Ronald H. Browne National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship, with ROPOS to investigate in detail the aftermath of a diking event in the Pacific Ocean and its effect on hydrothermal chemistry and on seafloor and subseafloor biological communities. The expedition was part of the New Millennium Observatory (NeMO) project and began in earnest the in situ portion of the project in August 1998.