Date of Original Version
Efficiently identifying and localizing diffuse sea floor venting at hydrothermal and cold seep sites is often difficult. Actively venting fluids are usually identified by a temperature induced optical shimmering seen during direct visual inspections or in video data collected by vehicles working close to the sea floor. Relying on such direct methods complicates establishing spatial relations between areas within a survey covering a broad area. Our recent work with a structured light laser system has shown that venting can also be detected in the image data in an automated fashion. A structured light laser system consists of a camera and sheet laser projected at the sea floor. The camera and laser are fixed to a rigid calibrated mount such that the optical axis of the camera and the laser plane intersect at some distance away from the camera, typically 2 to 5 meters. The position of the laser line, visible on the sea floor in the image, can be extracted using standard computer vision techniques (Fig. 1) and used to determine the height of the bottom along the laser line. By collecting images in a survey pattern at a high frame rate, typically 20 to 30 Hz, a bathymetric map can be produced using the individual profiles. In the presence of venting, temperature anomalies refract the laser sheet such that it does not project a crisp and clear line on the sea floor. The laser will instead appear blurred and visible over a larger section of the image. By processing the images to segment out clear laser lines from refracted lines it is possible to identify areas of venting. Our initial approach uses calculated image moments relative to the peak intensity level detected in each column of the image matrix. In the presence of venting the calculated moments differ from those of the undistorted laser shining on the sea floor. Test results from the Kolumbo submarine volcano near Santorini, Greece demonstrate this approach and show the utility of the method for survey work. Test images over active vents are compared to typical sea floor images, allowing for allowing areas of venting to be identified from sequences of images taken during a standard grid survey over the vent field. The use of structured light laser image offers potential for broad area vehicle surveys. The method would also complement direct visual surveys and other acoustic coherence methods that are used to identify the location of fluid flow. AGU session number OS11B-1473.