Gas Chemistry of Submarine Hydrothermal Venting at Maug Caldera, Mariana Arc
Abstract:Maug volcano consists of 3 islands that define the perimeter of a submerged caldera that was formed by an explosive eruption. The caldera reaches a depth of ~225 meters, and has a prominent central cone or pinnacle that ascends within 20 meters of the sea surface. Our exploration of Maug began in 2003, when a single hydrocast in the caldera detected a strong suspended particle and helium plume reaching a maximum of δ3He = 250% at ~180 meters depth, clearly indicating hydrothermal activity within the caldera. In 2004 we returned armed with the ROPOS ROV, and two ROPOS dives discovered and sampled low temperature (~4 °C) diffuse venting associated with bacterial mats on the NE flank of the central pinnacle at 145 m depth. Samples collected with titanium gas tight bottles were badly diluted with ambient seawater but allowed an estimate of end-member 3He/4He of 7.3 Ra. Four vertical casts lowered into the caldera in 2004 all had a strong 3He signal (δ3He = 190%) at 150-190 meters depth.
A recent expedition in 2014 focused on the shallow (~10 m) gas venting along the caldera interior. Scuba divers were able to collect samples of the gas bubbles using evacuated SS bottles fitted with plastic funnels. The gas samples had a consistent ~170 ppm He, 8 ppmNe, 60% CO2, 40%N2, and 0.8% Ar, and an end-member 3He/4He ratio of 6.9 Ra. This 3He/4He ratio falls within the range for typical arc volcanoes. The rather high atmospheric component (N2, Ar, Ne) in these samples is not contamination but appears to be derived from subsurface exchange between the ascending CO2 bubbles and air saturated seawater. A single vertical cast in 2014 had a maximum δ3He = 55% at 140 m depth, much lower than in 2003 and 2004. This decrease is possibly due to recent flushing of the caldera by a storm event, or may reflect a decrease in the deep hydrothermal activity. This area of shallow CO2 venting in Maug caldera is of particular interest as a natural laboratory for studying the effects of ocean acidification on corals.