Story last updated at 6:52 PM on Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Equipment adds to volcano knowledge

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer

After six weeks of sitting on the bottom of Cook Inlet, five ocean-bottom seismometers have been successfully retrieved from their stations around Augustine Volcano by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Woods Hole, Mass., and the Alaska Volcano Observatory, with the help of Maritime Helicopters of Homer.

  Photo provided
Augustine Volcano continued to steam on March 25.  
“John Power from AVO took a quick look at the data and it looks encouraging,” said Uri ten Brink of the United States Geological Survey Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole. Ten Brink is the head of the USGS program set up to quickly position these seismometers during events such as Augustine’s eruptions.

Also on hand for the retrieval was Victor Bender, senior engineering assistant with Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Ocean Bottom Seismic Instrumentation Pool. Bender builds the watertight seismic recorders that weigh 100 pounds and cost $30,000 each.

“One hundred percent recover, 100 percent data recording, usable data and, of course, some fun, is all we can ask for,” ten Brink said. “Moreover, I think that we proved the concept of rapid OBS response.”

On March 25, the team of scientists traveled to the water surrounding Augustine aboard Maritime Helicopters’ 86-foot research vessel, Maritime Maid. Unlike stormy conditions that prevailed when the seismometers were deployed from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Roanoke Island Feb. 8, the retrieval process was conducted with “basically calm” seas, according to Howard Reed of Maritime Helicopters.

The equipments’ role was to collect seismograms, recordings of tiny shakings of the earth, according to ten Brink. The data collected from the ocean bottom will be integrated with data collected on land at Augustine and give scientists an improved view of the depth and location of tremors accompanying volcanic activity.

“AVO will take the lead on the data analysis because they have many seismometers on land and are much more familiar with the activity of Augustine than I am,” ten Brink said. “We provided the instruments and the expertise in deploying them, collecting them and downloading the data.”

Battery power limits the time the seismometers can be in place. However, just because they have been removed doesn’t mean they can’t be brought back.

“We may return, should the volcano become a lot more active again,” ten Brink said.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at