Picture of the R/V Thomas Thompson

Expedition to the Mariana forearc


New! Mud Volcanoes On CD-ROM!

Check out a preview of what's available on CD.

New! The Photo Gallery is here!

Browse through the expedition's image collection.

Latest News: Supercomputers tackle the Mud Volcanoes!

The Maui High Performance Computing Center has awarded Tom Fedenczuk and Patricia Fryer funding and access to its parallel computing facilities. MHPCC is a Department of Defense research laboratory and has recently acquired a parallel computing system with 5120 processors. We will be using MHPCC resources to quantify and characterize the surface morphology and rheology of volcanoes as well as develop 3D interactive models. (Read below or click here for more information).

AGU Remote Sensing Awards

Tom Fedenczuk has recently received two awards. The first is an Outstanding Student Paper Award from the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Earth and Space Science Informatics Focus Group. The award was for his contribution to "Quantitative characterization of topographical features in Digital Elevation Models and bathymetry data" by T. Fedenczuk, P. Fryer, J. Escartin, and A. Harris. The award will be announced in the upcoming transactions of EOS. The second award was an honorable mention from the National Science Foundation MARGINS program, and will be highlighted soon online at the NSF MARGINS web site.

Mariana Expedition display in the News

The SOEST Open House was a tremendous hit. Patty Fryer and her graduate students prepared a display that included a slide show, posters, videos, and hands-on samples. Highlights included 3D bathymetry maps that made the volcanoes pop right out of the walls, and a 3D virtual environment where students navigated an underwater submersible and explored an entire serpentine volcano.

A total of 3,600 students, teachers, and parents, attended the 2 day open house. Dennis Oda from the Honolulu Star Bulletin photographed local students as they checked out the expedition display.


Location of the Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc and surrounding tectonic features(click for full size image)


This expedition will journey to the Mariana forearc, the region between the Earth's deepest ocean trench. (The Mariana Trench) and the active volcanic arc. The Mariana forearc region lies above the subducting Pacific plate and just west of the Mariana trench, and is the only place in the world known to have modern, active serpentine mud volcanoes

As the Pacific plate descends into the subduction zone, it is squeezed and heated and this causes chemical reactions, which releases fluids into the surrounding rocks.

The forearc overlying the subducting plate is broken by numerous faults. The fluids from the subducted plate seep into these faults and react with the mantle rocks of the overriding plate, forming a new rock type - serpentine.

Serpentine is less dense than the surrounding unreacted mantle rock, so it tends to rise along the faults. With enough fluid present it forms a mush of ground up serpentine and chunks of rock from the walls of the faults. These muds ooze up the fault and out onto the seafloor. The muds eventually build huge mountains on the seafloor (up to 50 km diameter and 2 km high). We will be visiting these 'mud volcanoes from the mantle' and sampling the muds, the rocks from the fault walls, as well as some very exotic animals that inhabit the volcanoes!

This is a 3-d oblique view of some mud volcanoes. Distance and depth scales can be found on full size image. Vertical exaggeration is 5x. These were made from MR-1 sonar data by draping the backscatter image on the bathymetry information.
Bathymetry of mud volcanoes(Click for full size image)


We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you have about what we are doing out here. Please send us an email at tmf@hawaii.edu, and remember to let us know who you are so we can mention you or your class in the email section!


For a technical summary of the project, please read our Project Summary.

Presented by the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii, with financial support from the National Science Foundation and the Ocean Drilling Program.
National Science Foundation
School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology, University of Hawaii
Ocean Drilling Program
University of Washington Department of Oceanography
University of Alaska Fairbanks

For more information about this web site, please contact Tom Fedenczuk. For information on our research, please contact Patricia Fryer.

Tom Fedenczuk

Phone (808) 956-3159 tmf@hawaii.edu

Patricia Fryer

1680 East West Road, POST 504, Honolulu, HI 96822

Phone (808) 956-3146 Fax (808) 956-6322 email: pfryer@hawaii.edu

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