Interview with John McDonough, Expedition Coordinator
Goals and Objectives
The goals and objectives of the mission areactually there are three primary goals. One is to learn a little more about habitat. This is in depth of the sanctuary that is below SCUBA depth. The other goal is to learn a little bit more about some of the perhaps human use of the sanctuaries themselves. The third thing is to continue on with some of the ongoing monitoring efforts that have been occurring in the sanctuary.
Area to be Explored
The area to be explored is actually very extensive. We're going to be visiting five of the national marine sanctuaries along the West Coast. In the Channel Islands area there are a number of seamounts and deepwater canyons that we hope to explore. When we get up to the Gulf of the Farallones, you're looking at, again, something that can be considered a seamount but in an environment that comes very close to the surface, a pinnacle of sorts. When we get to the Olympic Coast Sanctuary, we're going to be looking at a number of submerged shorelines, essentially almost like broad ledges or plateaus that extend out from shore at depths of anywhere from 300 to 400 meters.
Technology to be Used
We're going to be using a variety of tools and instruments during this expedition, but the primary tool is going to be the remotely operated vehicle, an ROV. This is an instrument it's about the size of a vacuum cleanerthat is tethered to the ship with an umbilical, so all the power to the ROV comes from the ship itself. And the video images you're getting from the cameras on the ROV have to travel back up that umbilical to the ship. That's what you use this thing for. You put it down in the water below SCUBA depth and you get visual imagery from it.
There's quite a bit of challenge in conducting an exercise like this. Primarily, with a remotely operated vehicle or a manned submersible, any time you're taking electronics and putting it in sea water you're asking for problems. So the types of things you can anticipate are going to be breakdowns in equipment, you're going to be anticipating power fluctuations, things that would cause problems to your video feed. You're also going to be challenged by the weather. If we had our preference, we'd be doing this operation in the late summer and early fall. We'll get out there and do the best we can, but we can expect some high seas at certain points.