Pioneer Mid-Atlantic Bight At-Sea Tests Continue

On Monday October 23, 2023, a team of scientists and engineers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) left Woods Hole, MA aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong to conduct a variety of at-sea tests to continue preparations for the anticipated move of the Coastal Pioneer Array to the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB), off Cape Hatteras, NC. The science team first traveled to a site off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard to deploy a newly designed shallow water mooring (SWM).  This test deployment site was chosen because it offers suitable conditions to test the moorings performance in a shallow water environment, with easy access from Woods Hole, simplifying monitoring and recovery.

The mooring will be deployed for a few months to test the seabed multifunction node, buoyant stretch hose, riser cable, and Prawler profiling vehicle. Engineering data will be collected and assessed prior to the SWM’s deployment at the proposed Pioneer Mid-Atlantic Bight in Spring 2024.

Schematic drawing of the proposed Pioneer MAB moored array to be deployed off the coast of Nags Head, North Carolina. The full array, proposed to be deployed in the spring of 2024, would consist of ten moorings at seven different sites (three sites contain mooring pairs). For the test deployment, one Coastal Surface Mooring was deployed at the Central site and one Coastal Profiler Mooring was deployed at the Northeast site.

From there, the team will head to the Mid-Atlantic Bight to recover a mooring and two anchors that have been in place since spring 2023. Other activities will include a multibeam and sub-bottom site survey and ROV inspection of alternate sites. Water and CTD sampling will be conducted at various depths at the proposed mooring locations.  Ancillary science activities will be conducted as time allows. The public comment period on the environmental assessment of the new location is open until October 30, 2023.

“The goal of our test cruises is to evaluate our mooring designs and instrument sampling strategies, and collect environmental data at the new location.  This will help to ensure a successful first deployment in the spring of 2004,” said Sheri N. White, Chief Scientist for this expedition and a senior engineer at WHOI. “Understanding the seafloor and water column conditions in the Mid-Atlantic Bight will help us to confirm the optimum locations for the moorings and paths for the gliders and AUVs.”

“This new location in the MAB offers many opportunities for scientists to obtain data to further their research and will provide better insight into conditions in the area for a variety of stakeholders, “said Al Plueddemann, Project Scientist for OOI’s Coastal and Global Scale Nodes group at WHOI, which is responsible for operation of the Pioneer Array. “We welcome researchers, educators, and industry members to reach out to us to explore ways we might work together to maximize the usefulness of the data.”

The new MAB site offers opportunities to collect data on a variety of cross-disciplinary science topics, including cross-shelf exchange and Gulf Stream influences, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, processes driving biogeochemical cycling and transport, and fresh-water outflows during extreme rain events.

The test mooring data will be evaluated during the deployment and after recovery to determine whether any modifications are needed to the mooring designs. The full array will be deployed at the new Mid-Atlantic Bight location in the spring 2024. The At-Sea Test expedition team is expected to return to Woods Hole in early November.