RESEARCH REVEALED: UW vessel Rachel Carson’s work off Alki Point could help predict earthquakes

(Photo by David Hutchinson)

One day earlier this month, a reader asked us about that University of Washington research vessel, R/V Rachel Carson, lingering off West Seattle for hours. That set us on a research quest of our own, learning that the Carson was there for earthquake-related research. The work, UW oceanography professor Paul Johnson tells WSB, has been under way for about three years and involves methane bubbles that seep from the Seattle Fault beneath Puget Sound off Alki Point. The work could someday help with earthquake prediction. We asked for details in hopes of writing a story – and Professor Johnson provided the words and images in the format you see below, which tells the story quite well without much intervention from us – scroll on:

The next image shows a bubble plume, photographed by an ROV in December 2019. The white zones are “bacterial mats that feed the biological swarms around the vents.” (Added: Video)

SIDE NOTE: The Rachel Carson is named for the famous scientist/writer you can read about here.

17 Replies to "RESEARCH REVEALED: UW vessel Rachel Carson's work off Alki Point could help predict earthquakes"

  • Lisa Dodge-Johnson December 20, 2020 (9:25 pm)

    This is the COOLEST Blog Report I’ve read in a long time! Easy to grock, fascinating and darn right entertaining! THANK YOU for your Research, Sharing and Caring! Plus I’m Happy that the fault movement creates Good Food for the whales etc. (And that I don’t need a hard hat or life jacket – but will adhere to wearing a mask;-) Well Done WSB & UW!!!

    • Kim December 20, 2020 (10:17 pm)

      Agree. Fascinating! Thank you so!

  • LivesInWS December 21, 2020 (6:20 am)

    Intriguing story with clearly written explanations and illustrations. Also, who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor?  Thank you Prof Johnson!

  • drM December 21, 2020 (6:52 am)

    Thank you Prof Johnson for a couple of reasons.
    Firstly, you replied in a way that did not treat us as people who would simply not understand, but essentially as equals… often a rarity these days.
    Secondly, you showed us why science in it’s purest form is so essential, and admitted to us that there were certain unknown aspects worth finding out more about.
    UW can be very proud of your expertise and research.

  • Andy December 21, 2020 (6:52 am)

    Very interesting.  Thank you for putting it together.

  • Andrew Schmeising December 21, 2020 (6:52 am)

    Great presentation! It would be fascinating to see if the data supports any correlation with the small earthquakes detected last Tuesday along the Bainbridge Island segment of the Seattle Fault. 

  • Flo B December 21, 2020 (6:56 am)

    Can’t help but hum the Don Ho song……”tiny bubbles”

  • r December 21, 2020 (7:50 am)

    This was a fun blog read. I like how the scientists simplified their work in writing so a very non-scientist like me can grasp it  easier. 

  • Trileigh December 21, 2020 (7:56 am)

    Loved this article, thank you! I worked at UW Oceanography for a few years a while back; they’re a fantastic group of researchers and it’s terrific to see what they’re up to around here these days.

  • momof3boys December 21, 2020 (8:20 am)

    Agreed! That is definitely something to be investigated, how interesting. Thanks for those who asked, and to WSB for following up.

  • Don Brubeck December 21, 2020 (8:34 am)

    Thank you!

  • Terry December 21, 2020 (9:44 am)

    Great article and follow-up by WSB. Paul Johnson’s  response  is very informative and helps me appreciate the science and what is happening around us. This is good on so many levels: Thank you!

  • Meeeee December 21, 2020 (2:47 pm)

    Thanks Professor Johnson!

  • John Walling December 21, 2020 (7:07 pm)

    Great article on important research.

    This article is being shared with citywide hub captains for Seattle Emergency Communication Hubs.

  • Gina December 21, 2020 (7:36 pm)

    Thanks! I love getting the scoop on local scientific studies. : )

  • PJK December 22, 2020 (7:59 am)

     Awesome article/details.  Also appreciate the humor/reality that most of us UW employees can’t afford champagne – especially since the governor’s two-year budget doesn’t include raises for us!!

  • WSTom December 31, 2020 (3:02 pm)

    Fine article, but you mention that the last activity on the Seattle Fault was 1,300 years ago. Wasn’t the strong 1965 Seattle quake, which was centered under Alki School, located on the Seattle Fault? It was a major quake, with a moment magnitude of 6.7 and a maximum perceived intensity of VIII (Severe) on the Mercalli scale. It was 37 miles deep, though, so maybe not technically part of the Seattle Fault?Another thought: Could the unpleasant summertime odors along the water at Lowman Beach during the summer be related to the “bacterial mats that feed the biological swarms around the vents”? I haven’t heard of any other explanation so far. And could the methane vents be exacerbating the algal blooms that appear there as well?  

Sorry, comment time is over.