A team of OOI Coastal and Global Scale Nodes (CGSN) scientists and engineers returned to Woods Hole, MA aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong on November 4, having successfully completed another round of tests of mooring equipment and site location surveys for the proposed relocation of the Coastal Pioneer Array to the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB), off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/IMG_6640-2048x2048-2.jpg" link="#"]The OOI-CGSN team surveyed the seabed to better understand the environment for the proposed moorings sites. The RV Neil Armstrong operated hull-mounted acoustic equipment to collect bathymetry (depth contours; shown left ), backscatter imagery (seabed characterization), and sub bottom data (seabed profile and geophysical layering). Chris Basque and Irene Duran (shown right) also piloted the ROV over the mooring locations to collect still images, video, and high-resolution sonar of the seabed. Photos: Sheri N. White © WHOI.[/media-caption] [media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/IMG_6643-1536x1536-1.jpg" link="#"]Closeup of multi-beam survey.[/media-caption]
Having accomplished all of the primary cruise objectives under un-seasonally warm and calm conditions, the weather picked up at the MAB as they were finishing up the last two CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) surveys along the proposed location of the main mooring lines.
The team then headed north to conduct a final ROV survey of the Shallow Water test mooring they had put in place the week before in 32 meters of water southwest of Martha’s Vineyard. This ROV inspection was the second conducted at this mooring location. A first inspection was done shortly after the mooring’s deployment, when all components were found to be in place and operational. The second confirmed the earlier findings.
In addition to deployment of the Shallow Water test mooring off Martha’s Vineyard, the CGSN team conducted recovery operations onsite at MAB. They recovered the Coastal Profiler Mooring anchor, deployed in the spring of 2023. The mooring itself had been recovered in August of this year. The team also recovered the Coastal Surface Mooring after ~8 months operating at the proposed Pioneer MAB location. The mooring was deployed in a water depth of 30 m and survived storms with max wave heights of 7.5-10 m and continued to send data to shore![media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/IMG_6642-1536x1536-1.jpg" link="#"]The Coastal Surface Mooring is safely on deck after ~8 months operating at the proposed Pioneer Mid-Atlantic Bight location. Credit: Sheri N. White © WHOI.[/media-caption]
Other activities conducted during the 11-day expedition included a site surveys (utilizing multi-beam, sub-bottom, and ROV) of alternate mooring locations, and cross-shelf and along-shelf CTD surveys to better understand the oceanographic conditions in the Mid-Atlantic Bight.
“Conducting at-sea tests of our infrastructure and detailed environmental surveys of the environment are important to ensure the success of new OOI Array,” said Sheri N. White, Chief Scientist for the recovery cruise. “We were lucky to have excellent weather for our deployment and recovery cruises. But also pleased that our test moorings experienced challenging weather during the deployment. This gives us the confidence that the moorings can operate successfully in the new environment and collect data year-round.” The plan is to deploy the Coastal Pioneer Array in its new location in spring 2024.
More details about and images from the expedition can be found here.Read More
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.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/Pioneer-MAB-schematic.png" link="#"]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.[/media-caption]
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.
Written by Deborah Kelley, PI of the Regional Cabled Array, September 17, 2023
The Regional Cabled Array, spanning the Cascadia Margin and Juan de Fuca tectonic plate and water depths of ~260 ft to 9500 ft, is an engineering marvel. It is the most advanced underwater observatory in the oceans comprised of >900 km of high power- and -bandwidth submarine fiber optic cables, a highly diverse suite of >150 instruments, and state-of-the-art moorings with instrumented profilers, which since 2014 have traversed >50 million meters of ocean water! The underwater substations and instruments are installed in some of the most extreme environments on Earth, including the most active submarine volcano off the Oregon-Washington coast ‘Axial Seamount’. Here, extension cables traverse glass covered lava flows and instruments are inserted into underwater, acidic hot springs, hot enough to rapidly dissolve aluminum and melt lead. Profiling science pods on moorings that traverse ocean depths from ~650 ft to 16 ft nine times a day, must be ‘smart’ enough to keep “their heads down” when storms, common in the waters of the NE Pacific Ocean, create waves reaching 30 feet in height or more. Yet, it is within these environments that the cabled observatory has thrived, largely due to its design, rigorous testing, and the hard work of the RCA Team, and Jason and Thompson crews during the annual operations and maintenance expeditions, such as the one nearing its end now: VISIONS’23.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Katie_Studenst_sm-20230908_200403_startL4_ME-copy-scaled-1.jpg" link="#"]First time RCA Chief Scientist Katie Bigham (top row, second from left) with Co-Chief Scientist J. Nelson (far left), RCA technician Andrew Paley (top row, far right) and Leg 4 VISIONS students. Katie was a VISIONS’14 student. Credit: M. Elend, University Washington, V23.[/media-caption]
Planning for the RCA 2023 cruise began over a year ago as there is a high demand for NSF’s global class ships that operate throughout the worlds’ oceans. Scheduling is a complex process with lots of moving parts involving minimization of transit lengths, awareness of optimum weather windows, and researchers’ schedules. As soon as lasts year’s cruise ended, RCA instruments recovered in the Fall of 2022, were sent back to vendors for calibration and refurbishment, parts and cables were ordered, and the RCA teams’ eyes were already looking to this year. By late Spring, most of the refurbishment and integration testing of platforms and instruments was complete, the four Legs were planned out in detail, and the nearly 144 berthing assignments were finished. The careful layout of equipment on the aft deck of the Thompson was of critical importance, with nearly 200,000 lbs of gear on the fantail and the need for deck space free of gear to allow for mooring cables to be recovered and redeployed.
So that brings us to now, nearing the end of Leg 4, which will end on September 18 when the Thompson arrives back to Newport, Oregon. Working at sea is just tough, no way around it, and best laid plans are often adjusted before even leaving port (such as happened at the start of Legs 1 and 3) as the weather gods do not care about our schedule. The prior three Legs experienced numerous perturbations due to the loss of a week of operational days when the ROV Jason could not dive due to bad weather and additional loss of time due to ROV issues. Plans were adjusted on the ‘fly’ over and over again to best accomplish all of our goals, including the recovery and re-installation of >100 instruments. Because of this, some work was pushed out into Leg 4, an already complicated Leg because it was especially dependent on having good sea state conditions due to the planned installation and recovery of two deep profiler moorings, the largest of which rises >8000 ft above the seafloor at the base of Axial Seamount.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Float.jpg" link="#"]The float for the Deep Profiler mooring at the Oregon Offshore site being brought onboard the Thompson. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington; V23.[/media-caption]
Almost immediately, Leg 4 plans were adjusted following the first operation – the recovery and reinstallation of the Deep Profiler Mooring at the Oregon Offshore site. The communications and power ‘dock’ at the base of the mooring would not respond after plugging in the seafloor extension cable that connects it to a small substation (junction box) on the seafloor. While the engineers tested various aspects of the cable, and puzzled over the cause, the RCA team continued their work at the Slope Base site. There, the Deep Profiler mooring cable was cleaned, and the instrumented profiling vehicle deployed in 2022 was replaced. Following this operation, the Thompson transited ~ 18 hrs to the base of Axial Seamount, where, instead of turning the mooring, it was decided to just swap out the vehicle, similar to Slope Base.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/getting-ready-to-bring-in-the-cable.sm_.PD01B_20230909_132549_recovery_ME-copy-scaled-1.jpg" link="#"]RCA engineers and ship crew getting ready to spool cable onboard from the Offshore Deep Profiler Mooring. Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V23.[/media-caption]
With this work complete, a series of dives was planned to support researchers’ projects funded by the National Science Foundation outside of the Ocean Observatories Initiative. These dives were to include sampling of hydrothermal vent fluids to investigate viruses and microbes in these extreme environments, the recovery and installation of cabled CTD instruments to test the hypothesis that highly saline fluids are flushed from beneath the seafloor shortly following an eruption, and the recovery of a cabled multibeam sonar (COVIS) focused on making unique fluid flux measurements in the ASHES hydrothermal field. Time allowing, equipment on the Thompson would be used to “talk” to an acoustic array (FETCH) installed in the volcanoes’ caldera for investigation of deformation within this highly active volcano.
There was, however, a small window to complete this work. After investigation of the Deep Profiler Mooring at the Oregon Offshore site, it was determined that the Thompson would need to transit nearly 300 miles back to this area, to install a new extension cable, and/or recover and redeploy the mooring with the one just recovered at the beginning of Leg 4 – an exercise that could take 2-3 days. Indeed, Jason had other ideas because while working at the summit of Axial, there was an issue with the specialized hydrothermal vent sampler on the vehicle, followed by a failure of the power system, preventing more dives. The Jason team worked very hard overnight to fix the power supply, but with ever decreasing time to get the Deep Profiler work done back on the margin, it was decided to abandon remaining work at Axial (a very tough decision as this would impact researchers work over the entire next year) and head to the Offshore site. This also allowed optimal use of the transit time to thoroughly test the repaired power system for Jason. It also provided time for the APL engineers to ready a new extension cable for the Deep Profiler mooring, hoping that this simple fix would solve the problem, and to catch up on much needed sleep. With huge relief, the replacement of the extension cable did the trick on the first dive at the Offshore site. The docking station powered up and the vehicle completed its test profiling run — opening up a three-day window for additional work.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/ratail-sulis_20230916210321_rattail_probe_closeup.jpeg" link="#"]A rattail fish came to investigate the UFO fluid sampler as it obtained fluids for Dr. Rika Anderson at Marker 113, a diffuse flow site in Axial Caldera. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI, Dive J2-1559, V23.[/media-caption]
With a sigh of relief and desperately wanting to support the external researchers work, Chief Scientist, Katie Bigham, asked Captain Eric to turn the ship around and head back out to Axial Seamount. So away they went, following the same track line they had completed less than 24 hrs before. During the next 34 hrs, Jason pounded out the dives and completed all but the FETCH work, before it was time to once again head back to Slope Base to complete two final tasks.
The above description is only part of what goes on during the various legs of these RCA expeditions. It is hard to convey what it is like to be a Chief Scientist on an RCA cruise. As with this cruise, decisions must be made rapidly, but also strategically, with an eye towards the end of a leg and cruise – “Will this decision prevent other work from happening? What is the weather going to be like in 2-3 days? What is the status of equipment? How are the students doing and how are their projects going? Do they need help? Is the team getting enough sleep? Should we transit to another site to help with this? On and on it goes…Awareness of these questions and outcomes are always in a Chief Scientists’ thoughts and are combined with the everyday tasks of writing plans for the next day and operational reports.
This was Katie’s first time being a Chief Scientist. She has done an exceptional job making adjustments to our “best laid plans” on a cruise that has been one for the books in the near decade of RCA operations and maintenance expeditions.
For more information on the RCA’s ninth operations and maintenance expedition, visit here.
On August 27th, a team of 13 scientists and engineers boarded the R/V Neil Armstrong in Reykjavik, Iceland to head to the Irminger Sea Array. Most of the array’s infrastructure and instrumentation was shipped from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in mid-July to Iceland, where it arrived in mid-August. Part of the scientific party traveled to Reykjavik in mid-August to reassemble the moorings and conduct a “burn-in,” a test period for the power, data, telemetry, and instrument systems to ensure everything is operational prior to loading the vessel.
The Irminger Sea Array is in a region with high wind and large surface waves in the North Atlantic and is one of the few places on Earth with deep-water formation that feeds the large-scale thermohaline circulation. Data collected by the Irminger Sea Array are providing critical insights into circulation patterns, ocean processes, and possible climate-induced changes occurring in this important oceanic area.
After an ~ two-day transit (550 nautical miles) to the array site off the tip of Greenland, the team will recover and deploy four moorings and three gliders over the next two and a half weeks. They will conduct CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) casts at the deployment/recovery sites and carry out shipboard sampling for field validation of the platforms and sensors that will remain in the water for the next year.
In addition to the recovery and deployment operations, the team will be conducting some CTD calibration casts in support of OSNAP-GDWBC (Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program-Greenland Deep Western Boundary Current). A participant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will also be on board using “Big Eye” binoculars mounted on a forward deck to make observations of marine mammals during the transit and in the Irminger Sea.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Big-eyes.jpg" link="#"]Large, deck-mounted binoculars known as “big eyes” are used for marine mammal observations. NOAA Research Wildlife Biologist Peter Duley will be aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong watching for marine life in the Irminger Sea. Credit: Al Plueddemann ©WHOI.[/media-caption]
The Irminger Team will also be testing out some equipment modifications on this deployment. One change is an updated satellite telemetry system. This system would provide higher bandwidth allowing better and quicker data transmission from the global surface mooring potentially saving power, and better remote command and control of the mooring systems. Another change is a revised mounting scheme for the glider optode, which measures dissolved oxygen concentrations in the water column. The new mount may provide better in-air measurements during glider surfacing. The in-air measurements allow scientists to characterize the changing accuracy of the instrument over time.
“It’s always a challenge to get ready for this month-long expedition to this remote, but critical region, but we are ready and eager to get there,” said John Lund, Chief Scientist for Irminger 10. “We are pleased to play a part in collecting data that scientists are using to better understand changes occurring in this region, with implications for both weather and climate.”
The team will reporting regular updates from the field. Bookmark this page so you can follow along on their progress.Read More
Watch live video here.
The numbers are remarkable for the Regional Cabled Array’s (RCA) Operations and Maintenance Expedition that left Newport, Oregon aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson on Sunday August 13. Because of its complexity and the need to move 100 different instruments, the expedition consists of four legs over 41-days. The legs are separated by ~2-3 days port call at NOAA Marine Operation Center in Newport, Oregon. A science team of 12 is conducting the scientific operations, with their work supported by an engineering team of 20 (not all onboard). The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Jason, operated by a team of 12 from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, is recovering and deploying instrumentation on the RCA for the duration of the expedition.
Finally, 25 students in the University of Washington’s VISIONS Program are onboard during various legs to gain real sea-going experience and work side by side with the scientific team. Additionally, six other guest participants will be onboard, including a children’s author, engineers, and scientists.
The RCA annual expedition is always an exciting opportunity to watch real-life operations at sea. Operations will be live-streamed here. Details about the expedition, who’s involved, and what’s happening and planned can be found here. Daily updates can be found here.[video width="608" height="1080" mp4="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Thompson-loading.mp4"][/video] Read More
The Global Station Papa Array is in the Gulf of Alaska at a critical region of the northeast Pacific Ocean. The region is extremely vulnerable to ocean acidification, has a productive fishery, low eddy variability, and is impacted by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, often described as the as a long-lived El Niño-like pattern of Pacific climate variability.
A team of 10 scientists and engineers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the University of Washington will be onboard the R/V Sikuliaq for 15 days in May to ensure that this Array continues to provide data from this important region. The team will deploy three OOI moorings, two open ocean gliders, and one profiling glider. A waverider mooring, which measures wave height and direction, will be deployed for the University of Washington. During the expedition, the team also will be conducting water sampling during recovery and deployments, and sampling while underway for instrument calibration purposes.
Located next to the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Surface Buoy and deep-water sound buoy, the Station Papa Array is an important contributor to a cooperatively studied region. The University of Washington operates a waverider mooring near the buoys. The US Coast Guard’s Research Vessel John P. Tully regularly collects data in the region. And the Department of Fisheries in Canada operates a glider line in the region.[media-caption path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/CGSN_Papa-10_IRR_Presentation_2023-05-01.jpg" link="#"]The Global Station Papa Array and complementary components. Credit Sarah Battle, NOAA/PMEL, adapted from OOI.[/media-caption]
This annual spring “turn” of the Array is no small undertaking. A successful turn requires months of equipment preparation and testing. After all instrumentation has been cleared to go, it is then shipped from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to Seward Alaska, where it is again tested as the moorings are assembled for loading onboard the Sikuliaq. Loading is complex, as well. All deck space is fully utilized and when loading is complete, 106,340 pounds of equipment will have been moved onto the ship.
“We have a good, experienced team and the Sikuliaq captain and crew couldn’t be better, “said Kris Newhall, Senior Project Manager at WHOI and Chief Scientist for Station Papa 10. “Our work in this region is really important for the data being generated are helping scientists to understand primary production, marine heat waves, and a whole lot more.”
Regular updates from the Station Papa 10 expedition will be reported here. Bookmark the page and follow along.Read More
The weather for the 15-day Pioneer 15 expedition aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong came in like a lion and left like a lamb. As the ship departed the Woods Hole dock on 28 October, the sky was gray, the air damp, and the forecast foreboding as the 10- member scientific team and the crew of the R/V Neil Armstrong headed toward the Pioneer Array, about 75 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard.
During Leg 1, the ship had some rocky days and briefly sought the protection of Menemsha Bight on the northwest side of Martha’s Vineyard as Tropical Storm Zeta passed through and brought her fury with her. Leg 2 of the journey brought with it clear skies and smooth sailing. The following shows the wind and pressure data from the ship throughout the Pioneer 15 cruise.
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/AR48_Weather-1_annotated.jpg" link="#"]Wind speed, direction, and barometric pressure from the met mast of the R/V Neil Armstrong. The green lines indicate when the ship arrived at the Array, the red lines show when it departed. The solid lines are for Leg 1 and Leg 2, and the dashed lines are the excursion to Menemsha in Leg 1. Credit: Sheri N. White (WHOI)[/media-caption]
Chief Scientist Sheri N. White said, “Despite the difficult weather, we had a very successful mission. The team recovered and deployed three coastal surface moorings and a profiler mooring, and deployed two winter coastal profiler moorings. We also were able to recover three gliders, and collect shipboard and CTD data in the vicinity of the Array. We planned on a bit of flexibility in the schedule due to the late fall departure, which always brings with it unpredictable conditions.”
The expedition was conducted in two legs because all of the moorings could not be accommodated on the ship at the same time. The Team returned to home port at the conclusion of the cruise on 11 November, when they disembarked after a month of being either in isolation or at sea away from friends and family.
The recovered moorings are now undergoing refurbishment onsite at WHOI so they will be ready for the next equipment turn in spring 2021. Next on tap for the Pioneer Array is the deployment of four gliders, Next on tap for the Pioneer Array is the deployment of four gliders, which will be done from a small vessel when the weather allows a safe transit.
Pioneer 15 in Pictures
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/DSC_0138-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Pioneer 15 Team deploys the Central Surface Mooring on Leg 1 in dreary weather. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/DSC_0685-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Pioneer 15 Team recovers the Inshore Surface Mooring. It had been in deployed in the water for 12 months. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4234-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Team dressed as oceanographers for Halloween… and deployed the Inshore Profiler Mooring in the few hours of clear skies between two storms at the Pioneer Array. Credit: Sheri N. White©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4244-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The R/V Neil Armstrong left the WHOI dock on Leg 2 of the Pioneer 15 expedition, with the Central Surface Mooring in position for deployment. Credit: Sheri N. White©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4245-scaled.jpg" link="#"]The Offshore Surface Mooring is ready for deployment on the stern of the R/V Neil Armstrong on Leg 2. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IMG_4245-scaled.jpg" link="#"]Beautiful weather on Leg 2 made recovering the large surface moorings a bit easier. The surface moorings were deployed for 12 months, rather than six, due to the COVID pandemic. Credit: Jennifer Batryn©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/PMOU-16_deploy.jpg" link="#"]This is what a Profiler Mooring looks like during deployment. Profiler Moorings collect data from the entire water column using a McLane Moored Profiler, which crawls up and down the mooring line. Credit: Sheri N. White©WHOI[/media-caption]
[media-caption path="/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ISSM_Biofouling.jpg" link="#"]This is some of the biology that has taken up residence on the Inshore Surface Mooring during its year-long stay on the Atlantic continental shelf. Credit: Dee Emrich©WHOI[/media-caption]
By Darlene Trew Crist and Debbie Kelley
23 days at sea.1200 miles of transit. 44 ROV Jason Dives. Over 80,000 lbs of equipment mobilized. Turned, deployed or recovered 225 pieces of infrastructure on the seafloor and in the water column. More than 500 hours of continuous livestreaming video from ship to shore through a satellite 22,000 miles overhead, and daily updates of cruise activities.
These numbers provide only a glimpse of what was accomplished by a team of scientists and engineers from the University of Washington (UW), pilots of the ROV Jason from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the captain and the crew of the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, during a nearly month-long expedition in the northeast Pacific Ocean to maintain OOI’s Regional Cabled Array (RCA), operated and maintained by UW. After a mandatory two-week quarantine, the scientific party departed aboard the R/V Thompson from Newport, Oregon on 1 August to begin the journey to replace and install equipment on the array. The ship returned to Newport on 13 August to offload the recovered equipment and load a new supply for the second Leg, which left on 15 August, finally returning to port on 26 August.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the cruise was highly complex, involving a diverse array of ~109 Core instruments, three junction boxes, two Benthic Experiment Platforms, six instrumented pods on the Shallow Profiler Moorings, which were recovered and installed, and three Deep Profiler vehicles, which were turned. In addition, six instruments conducting scientific experiments for principal investigators external to OOI were recovered, one was installed and another turned.
While the overall mission was clear, the cruise plan remained flexible to allow the Chief Scientists to modify operations, as needed, depending upon weather conditions. The expedition traveled to all of the RCA sites — Slope Base, Oregon Offshore, Oregon Shelf, Southern Hydrate Ridge, and Axial Base and Axial Caldera, with multiple 22-hour transits to Axial Seamount.[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Regional-Cabled-Array.-.jpg" alt="Regional Cabled Array" link="#"]Location of RCA infrastructure showing installed backbone cable (solid lines), extension opportunities (dashed lines) Primary Nodes (red boxes), cabled moorings (green dots), and Endurance uncabled moorings (yellow dots). Credit: University of Washington.[/media-caption]
All Objectives Completed on Leg One
All instrument and platform installations scheduled for Leg 1 were completed by mid-day on 12 August during 26 dives. Six instrumented platforms on the Shallow Profiler Moorings and three instrumented Deep Profiler vehicles were turned, two junction boxes and over 80 instruments recovered and reinstalled.
Taking advantage of the good weather and the early completion of anticipated tasks, the RCA team transited to the Endurance Shelf site (80 meters), where they recovered several cabled platforms and instruments that were planned for Leg 2 of the expedition. Again, taking advantage of ideal visibility at the seafloor there, the RCA team performed three Jason dives, successfully recovering the Zooplankton Sonar, the Benthic Experiment Package (BEP), and a digital still camera.
After the completion of these dives, the R/V Thomas G.Thompson headed back to shore. The ship arrived at the NOAA Marine Operations Center-Pacific dock in Newport, Oregon on 13 August and began mobilization/demobilization for the changeover from Leg 1 to Leg 2 of the cruise.[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Combined-picture-RCA.jpg" alt="Combined picture" link="#"]Deploying the new Deep Profiler vehicle at Slope Base on 11 August (left) Credit: M. Elend, University of Washington, V20.; Recovering the Benthic Experiment Package (BEP) at the Endurance Shelf site (right): Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V20.[/media-caption] [media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Combined-2.jpg" alt="Combined 2" link="#"]R/V Thomas G. Thompson, Leg 1 Demobilization / Leg 2 Mobilization of two BEPs, a Zooplankton sonar platform, and platforms to be installed at Axial Seamount Credit: University of Washington, V20.[/media-caption]
Weather Challenges on Leg Two
The ship departed from Newport again on 15 August and headed to the Endurance Array Oregon Shelf site to resume maintenance operations. There, the team deployed the cabled Zooplankton Sonar, however, installation of the BEP, which weighs over 3,000 lbs and is latched underneath Jason for installation and recovery, was postponed due to large swells.
The ship next transited over 300 miles offshore to Axial Seamount to complete the maintenance activities there. When the Thompson arrived at Axial, it successfully turned a secondary node at the Eastern Caldera site that provides power and bandwidth to a geophysical suite of instruments and now hosts a new CTD funded by NSF to Dr. W. Chadwick (one of three instruments for installation on the RCA as part of this award). It was a notable event because the junction box had been deployed on 22 July 2013 and had spent the last 2,583 days or 7.1 years in 1516 meters of water within Axial Caldera!
For the next eight days, cruise operations proceeded smoothly with intermittent weather delays. Even though weather was not completely cooperative, the team was able to complete a total of 14 dives during which they turned a BEP, two digital still cameras, two uncabled seafloor instruments, and a CTD. They also recovered three cabled instruments and an uncabled instrumented platform for principal investigators conducting research at Southern Hydrate Ridge. One dive was dedicated to an inspection and troubleshooting of Primary Node PN1B, which was offline.
Later in the cruise, weather put onboard activities on hold, however, a cohort of enthusiastic students onshore (due to COVID) virtually ‘visited’ the ship and Jason operations van as part of the NSF-funded STEMSEAS program, which provides at-sea experiences for undergraduates. The students had the opportunity to interact with Chief Scientist Brendan Philip, who completed his oceanography undergraduate and masters’ degree at the University of Washington, as well as a visit with two UW and Queens College undergraduate students sailing onboard as science aides as part of the UW VISIONS experiential learning program. They were also introduced to RCA engineers and members of the Jason team inside the control van.[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Katie_Steve_sm.Newport_20200815_111023_L2_start-copy-2-scaled.jpg" alt="Katie_Steve" link="#"]K. Gonzalez, UW Oceanography undergraduate, and S. Karaduzovic, Queens College undergraduate, gaze out into the NE Pacific as the R/V Thomas G. Thompson sails through the Yaquina Bay channel on its way to begin Leg 2 of the RCA expedition. Credit. M. Elend, University of Washington. V20.[/media-caption] [media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/J1267_20200809_155656_THSPHA301_deploy-copy.jpg" alt="Screen" link="#"]Video, sonar, and navigation panels inside the ROV Jason control van as the team works nearly a mile beneath the oceans’ surface at the International District Hydrothermal Field atop Axial Seamount. Credit: University of Washington. V20.[/media-caption]
With lessening swell heights, the team completed RCA maintenance tasks at Southern Hydrate Ridge. Additional efforts were focused on the recovery of a cabled multi-beam sonar and a 4K camera funded by Germany to Drs. Y. Marcon and G. Bohrmann, Bremen University, to quantify methane flux and turning of a CTD. In addition, a methane microbial fuel cell platform was recovered as part of an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded project to Dr. C. Reimers (Oregon State University)—sailing as a member of the Leg 2 shipboard party. Upon completion of instrumentation work at Southern Hydrate Ridge, the Thompson transited back to the Endurance Array Oregon Shelf site to complete the remaining maintenance task, the deployment of the cabled BEP.
During the latter part of the cruise, weather again impacted what the team was able to do, but the science team continued to improvise to utilize ship time as efficiently as possible. For example, when winds (>20 knots) and large swells in the Shelf Area prevented the team from deploying the final (heavy) BEP, Dr. Reimers used some of her remaining ONR-supported at-sea time to conduct a Jason dive in the region of the West Coast Rockfish Conservation Area to survey fish, invertebrates, seeps, and trawl marks along a downslope transect. These data will be useful for collaborative work between Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife scientists in decision-making about the reopening of the region in 2020, after 19 years of being closed to bottom trawling.
When the weather cleared, the team performed its final maintenance task of the cruise. They deployed the cabled Shelf BEP in 80 meters of water, after which the ship headed back to Newport to reunite with friends and family after six weeks away. The expedition ended having met all objectives, in spite of the weather.
Unique Views of the Seafloor
The RCA expedition literally offered a “bird’s eye view” of seafloor life. Below is a collection of some of the activities conducted and life witnessed on the seafloor.
Crab-infested Primary Node[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/News_Crabs_PN1B-use-sulis2_20200818202445--scaled.jpg" alt="News_Crabs" link="#"]The ROVJason inspects Primary Node PN1B. These 12,000 lb nodes and primary backbone cable were built and installed in 2014 through an award to L3MariPro. This large seafloor substation converts 10,000 volts to 374 volts, and 10 Gb/s bandwidth to be distributed to cabled platforms and instruments. Here, extension cables plugged inside the node with wet-mate connectors provide power and bandwidth to Southern Hydrate Ridge, and upstream to the Oregon Offshore and Shelf sites. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI. V20.[/media-caption]
Octopus Abound[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Octopus-on-the-seafloor.jpg" alt="Octopus on the seafloor" link="#"]Octopus on the seafloor at Endurance Array Oregon Offshore Site. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI. V20.[/media-caption]
Islands of Sea Life[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/news_SHllow-Profier_Offshore_20200803_133613180.framegrab03-copy.jpg" alt="Shallow_Profiler" link="#"]The ROV Jason installs a refurbished instrumented platform onto the Shallow Profiler Mooring at the cabled Oregon Offshore site. The platform hosts a zooplankton sonar, and instruments that measure pH, dissolved CO2, salinity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. The 12 ft-across large mooring platforms at 200 m depth stay in the water for several years and become islands inhabited by a wealth of sea life. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V20.[/media-caption]
Big Red[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Big_Red_Jelly_sm.sulis2_20200817205124-copy-2-scaled.jpg" alt="Big Red Jellyfish" link="#"]A “Big Red” jellyfish swam past the ROV Jason 68 miles offshore of Oregon. Credit; UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V20.[/media-caption]
Methane Seeps[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/News_Abundant-Life-SHR_good_sulis2_20200826014741-copy-2-scaled.jpg" alt="Abundant_Sea_Life" link="#"]The Regional Cabled Array team always enjoys dives to the methane seep site at the Southern Hydrate Ridge. It is rich in animals — e.g. red striped rockfish, lavender hagfish, crabs, spotted sole — that thrive among the carbonate blocks and adjacent to the seeps where methane streams from the seafloor. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V20.[/media-caption]
Axial Seamount Summit[media-caption type="image" class="external" path="https://oceanobservatories.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/News_use_J2-1277_Great-Crab-collapse_sulis2_20200817132525-copy-scaled.jpg" alt="Spider Crab" link="#"]A spider crab explores a collapsed, frozen lava lake at the summit of Axial Seamount, an active underwater volcano 4970 ft beneath the oceans’ surface, which is poised to soon erupt. Credit: UW/NSF-OOI/WHOI.V20.[/media-caption]
Don’t miss this rare opportunity to participate in a research cruise from aboard the ship and below the surface. Live video is being broadcast from the Regional Cabled Array’s eighth Operations and Maintenance expedition aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson. It is really an extraordinary way to watch first-hand the complexity of the operation involved in keeping a network of 900 kilometers of electro-optical cables supplying unprecedented power, bandwidth (10 Gigabit Ethernet, and two-way communication to scientific sensors on the seafloor and throughout the water column, so data are continuously collected and research conducted. Bookmark these links and tune in often!
Streaming live video from the ship and from the ROV ROPOS.
For the month of August, you can be a scientist aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson Regional Cabled Array expedition and explore the ocean floor and biologically-rich waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean in real-time. A livestream is being broadcast of onboard activities and from the ROV, as it recovers and deploys instrumentation to maintain the Regional Cabled Array. Bookmark this livestream link and during August you can experience life and science at sea.
Please note: The livestream video is transmitted from the ship to a satellite, then to shore. Occasionally, the land-based down-link system goes down and depending on the ship’s heading, there may be an intermittent pause in the satellite connection. If the screen is blank or you see an error code, please check back soon as the connection should refresh shortly.