Hugo Marrero: Submersible Pilot Experiences
The most rewarding experience, of course there are many, because to me in every opportunity to get underwater you always find something that is new and that is always rewarding. But the first time I got into this section of the Gulf of Mexico is called a brine pool, its basically a lake in the bottom of the ocean. It is salt water that is super saturated with salt and is basically so dense that it does not mix with the other water. I remember seeing it for the first time, as you approach it looks like you are in some other planet trying to land - because it all looks pretty foreign. When you actually touch the water you can see it undulate just like if you were to hit water on the surface. The submersible once it hits that water, it does not go any further, the submersible does not have the power to penetrate that density. The type of marine life that is around it, all the clams, the tube worms - they are all fascinating. Also there is an area around that zone that has mud volcanoes and it is basically brine that is coming from the bottom. At one time we had a scientist that had left a thermister which is a devise that measures temperature for over a year, he had left it with a stick about three feet long with a 10 foot line attached to a bouy - well the next year we came back to recover it and we could not find it. The mud volcano was so active that it grown to cover the area where we had left the thermister. We kept looking and looking, remember we were trying to find an object that is maybe a few inches in the bottom of the ocean so its not an easy task - you may have coordinates but you are not always in the exact position so we kept looking and looking and we went right to the middle of the volcano with very little visibility and at one point we see a little flash of color and it was the tip of the bouy and that is how we found the theromister so the sediment had come up about 10 feet at that point - we were lucky to find it and of course the scientist was happy because he had given up all hope of finding his equipment and it would be one year of data that would be lost so he was extremely happy.
During Deep Scope 2005 our mission was to take different scientists doing unrelated research one of them was a scientist and he had developed these lights for underwater that are of a certain light frequency in the light spectrum, when you put these lights underwater. With the naked eye you tell much except that the color is different - but then they developed these special glasses and they look like those special glasses you wear in the movies - we thought it was kind of funny you know in the beginning we were like this is kind of dumb you know - we put on the glasses and when you put on the glasses it is a completely different world because there are certain animals that have certain pigment on their skin with reacts with that light and they floresce, they produce light and it was incredible the first time I dove and we could see what things reacted to the light or not. You can detect a little worm that was maybe an inch and a half long 20 or 30 feet away from the sub; we would go there take video and get close-ups and then we collect it. The most interesting one was we found a shark, I believe it was a Leopard Shark, they're very small they're maybe about 18 inches long. This shark had an incredible display of colors from the florescent lights, we took video and we collected him. It was fascinating to see this little shark that had these colors when these light were shined on them.
Another very memorable experience was right after hurricane Katrina we were in the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina came in and we moved into Galveston, Texas, we were on the docks for about a week and Edy's camera had stayed underwater because we couldn't recover it, so we come back and we try to look for the camera. I was not the diver that recovered it that day - somebody else recovered it but then we put it in the water once more and it was a dive where I had to go and recover it and it was unbelievably difficult - the visibility was maybe 10 feet at best. The currents were still strong, remember it was only a week after Katrina and the camera was set up in an area where the bottom was not flat - there are undulations of sand and sediment on the bottom and it took us almost two hours to find the camera we were just going back and forth and even with the sonar we could not find the camera - when we finally found it, it was so difficult to dock the camera to the submersible that we used just about all of the power we had and at one point when I realized we were just about out of power I told the scientist that this is it - we either pick it up now or it stays here and fortunately we were able to lock the camera but not completely we were able to use the manipulator arm - I remember calling that the dive from hell - It was just so tough, it was one of the toughest ones for me particularly because of the difficulty of trying to work in no-visibility conditions.