18th Turn of the Pioneer Array in April

Sixteen science party members will be on board the R/V Neil Armstrong during April for each of two legs comprising the eighteenth turn of the Pioneer Array, where moorings are recovered and new ones deployed. This April cruise will be extremely busy, with 32 overall objectives, as well as other ancillary operations.  Pioneer 18 is the first cruise since 2020, when COVID-19 protocols were implemented, to support a larger science party to conduct ancillary activities.

The cruise plan calls for deployment of eight moorings and three gliders and recovery of 10 moorings. Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) missions will be conducted in the vicinity of the moored array, providing additional ocean observing measurements. CTD casts and water sampling will be done in conjunction with deployment/recovery operations and ship vs. buoy meteorological comparisons will be made at each Coastal Surface Mooring site.

During Pioneer 18, ten moorings will be recovered. Once close to the ship, crew members grab the moorings with a hook, and direct them to the stern of the ship to be brought onboard. Credit: Darlene Trew Crist ©WHOI.

“We are pleased to be approaching full capability for Pioneer 18 after multiple cruises with COVID-related restrictions,” said Al Plueddemann, chief scientist for Pioneer 18 and lead for the Ocean Observatories Initiative Coastal and Global Scale Node of which the Pioneer Array is part. “There is a lot to accomplish over our 21 days at sea, and having the opportunity again to bring collaborating scientists onboard will make full use of the ship and our time at sea.”

On Leg 1, Scientists Mei Sato of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will join Pioneer 18 to conduct zooplankton sonar testing, Peter Duley of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct Marine Mammal Observations, and a student from the University of Rhode Island will oversee a glider deployment. Additionally, unattended underway sampling will be conducted in support of the Northeast U.S. Shelf (NES) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project on Leg 1. On Leg 2, NES-LTER efforts will increase, with four participants (two from WHOI and two from the University of Rhode Island) onboard to conduct activities that include CTD and ring net casts and incubations, as well as continuing unattended underway sampling.

Plans are to deploy three gliders that will collect data in the water column between the Pioneer moorings for the next sixth months. Credit: Darlene Trew Crist ©WHOI.

Weather conditions and time constraints during the Pioneer 17 cruise precluded complete recovery of the Offshore and Upstream Offshore Profiler Moorings. Additional objectives for Pioneer 18, to be conducted if time and conditions permit, include completing the recovery of these two moorings, as well as several anchor recoveries using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), glider tests, and surveys in the vicinity of the Pioneer moored array using shipboard systems (CTD, ADCP, EK-80).

“We have a very ambitious agenda for Pioneer-18, but our team is experienced and well-equipped to complete this large list of tasks ,” added Plueddemann. “We just need a good weather window to get the job done.”

Pioneer 18 team members will be sharing their progress during the month of April.  Bookmark this page and follow along.