NEWPORT, Ore. - Scientists seeking to confirm a major volcanic eruption off the Oregon coast are scrambling to put together a 10-day exploratory cruise on Oregon State University's research vessel Wecoma.

Starting April 6, underwater cameras towed by the Wecoma at a site about 100 miles west of Coos Bay will be focused on evidence of ocean floor venting, fracturing and eruption processes. The Wecoma is operated by OSU's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and owned by the National Science Foundation, said Fred Jones, OSU marine superintendent.

The excitement began on Feb. 8 when undersea earthquakes were detected on the northern Gorda Ridge, said Christopher Fox, OSU associate professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences. The pattern resembles another major eruption in June 1993 on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, 275 miles west of Astoria.

Studying a current eruption can give scientists data on how volcanoes affect the ocean environment, as well as any fallout on global processes such as climate, said Fox, who is working in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Vents program in Newport.

Teams on the voyage include scientists from OSU, NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the University of Hawaii and the University of Washington. Funding is being sought from the National Science Foundation.

"This is a rapid response effort," said Jones. "The Wecoma has been down to the eastern tropical Pacific and is due in Newport on March 31. We've had little notice about this, but we'll be able to react quickly and it's good to keep the ship working as well as give us a nearby science project."