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An international team of scientists and students aboard the Hawaiian Research Vessel Kilo Moana are studying a Samoan Hotspot – 600 meters beneath the South Pacific.

They are participating in the first ever student-to-student videoconference between a high school and a research vessel with the help of HiSeasNet, a satellite communications system that provides continuous Internet connectivity for oceanographic research vessels at sea.

Led by researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Oregon and University of Sydney, the expedition has discovered an active underwater volcano near the Samoan Island chain about 2,400 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Scientists uncovered a submarine volcano growing in the summit crater of another larger underwater volcano. Researchers explored the unique biological community surrounding the eruption site, and were amazed to find an Eel City , a community of hundreds of eels.

Scientists were tipped off to the volcano s existence when they profiled the seafloor using multi-beam mapping. Existing maps of the seafloor in the area gave little indication that this volcano existed. When sound beams were directed into the crater this time, they measured an unusually shallow depth.

Those results prompted further investigation of the area using the manned submersible Pisces V, a seven-foot sphere that can dive to more than 6,000 feet, operated by NOAA s Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory.

Three students from High Tech High in San Diego were aboard one of the two expeditions to the Nafanua Volcano near Samoa and are assisting researchers in collecting and analyzing data.

The students have created and maintained an in-depth Web site with maps, photos and videos posted from submersible dives.

HiSeasNet is a new satellite communications network designed specifically to provide continuous Internet connectivity for oceanographic research for ships and oceanic platforms. On March 1st, 2005, the HiSeasNet Atlantic Hub went into operation. A second 7m antenna was installed by CommSystems on the roof of the San Diego Supercomputer Center to provide HiSeasNet service to the southeastern Pacific and Atlantic ocean regions.

Last year the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $3.9 million over four years to the University of Washington (UW), the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and partner institutions to build the Laboratory for the Ocean Observatory Knowledge Integration Grid (LOOKING).

It is the largest of nearly 120 awards from the agency’s Information Technology Research (ITR) program this year, which total $130 million to be disbursed over the next five years.

Big deal, NSF.

Virtual, observation-based science is beginning to enable both real-time and continuous, long-term exploration of, and investigative interaction with, the physical world. But how do they enable easy, authorized access to such instruments across diverse, distributed communities of interest?

Calit2 is sponsoring a tutorial: ‘Building Web Services Resource Networks with Globus’.

Join astrobiologists, engineers and students on-scene via the Atlantis Diaries. It doesn’t get more intriguing than this.

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