We have developed and successfully collected data with a unique, bottom-transecting vehicle (ROVER) that permits the first long time-series measurements of sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). This instrument has the, following capabilities: (1) it operates as an autonomous, free vehicle on the sea floor to 6,000-m depth for periods up to 6 months; (2) it transits across the sea floor, minimizing the impact that a long-term, free-vehicle structure would have on measurement sites; (3) it measures SCOC by using duplicate benthic chambers at up to 30 different sites over a single dcploymcnt period; (4) it measures sediment porewater oxygen concentration as an independent measure of SCOC by using a microprofiler at up to 30 different sites over a single deployment period; (5) it has an incubation period of programmable duration for each SCOC measurement; (6) it monitors operation of instruments and the surrounding area with time-lapse still and video cameras; (7) it has the flexibility to be used as an autonomous programmable platform for a wide variety of benthic boundary-layer measurements; and (8) it collects a water sample for oxygen and other analyses at the end of the deployment. The ROVER resembles a small forklift with a forward-mounted instrument assembly, a current meter, double-tread propulsion system, central battery and controller electronics, flotation, acoustic releases, and disposable ballast. The ROVER was deployed for a 4-month period (January-May 1996) to measure SCOC at 4,100-m depth in the eastern North Pacific. Durin
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