DEEP SEARCH: Take Two

A few members of the DEEP SEARCH team participated in the time-honored oceanographic tradition of decorating, and then shrinking, Styrofoam cups. These cups can be sent down on any oceanographic equipment (i.e. CTD or AUV), where they will be exposed to the high pressure environment and compress. It makes for both a fun lesson on depth/pressure and an excellent desktop souvenir.

A few members of the DEEP SEARCH team participated in the time-honored oceanographic tradition of decorating, and then shrinking, Styrofoam cups. These cups can be sent down on any oceanographic equipment (i.e., CTD or AUV), where they will be exposed to the high-pressure environment and compress. It makes for both a fun lesson on depth/pressure and an excellent desktop souvenir. Image courtesy of DEEP SEARCH 2017, NOAA-OER/BOEM/USGS. Download larger version (jpg, 3 MB).

September 19, 2017

Caitlin Adams
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

While we’ve already sent previous batches of cups down on the CTD cast to depths greater than 1,200 meters, we’ll be sending this round down on AUV Sentry to a depth of approximately 600 meters. Here, mechanical engineer Andy Billings works to secure the cups in the vehicle’s center compartment.

While we’ve already sent previous batches of cups down on the CTD cast to depths greater than 1,200 meters, we’ll be sending this round down on AUV Sentry to a depth of approximately 600 meters. Here, mechanical engineer Andy Billings works to secure the cups in the vehicle’s center compartment. Click image for credit and larger view.

With the Port of Morehead City in the distance, the DEEP SEARCH team headed out to sea for the second time during this expedition.

With the Port of Morehead City in the distance, the DEEP SEARCH team headed out to sea for the second time during this expedition. Click image for credit and larger view.

Since our expedition began on September 12, the DEEP SEARCH team has spent nearly an equal number of days at sea and onshore. After four successful, science-filled days at sea, we had to head into port in Morehead City, North Carolina, to avoid Hurricane Jose. Now that Jose is slowly moving north, we finally have enough of a safe weather window to head back out today!

With Hurricane Maria intensifying in the Caribbean, we’ll never be fully clear of the weather, but we’re doing the best we can to make science happen while we still can. The Pisces crew worked quickly this morning to get us out for an 0900 departure. It’s a nearly straight steam south to our next site, Stetson Bank (Site 10). We’ll arrive on station overnight, and then, once daylight breaks, it will be time for action.

The Pisces engineering crew will lower the centerboard from the ship’s hull back into its active position. The centerboard is raised when the ship is transiting to maximize speed. This will allow us to run a quick hour-long transect of ship-based multibeam mapping to collect missing seafloor data near the site. After that, we’ll be deploying Sentry for its third day-long dive.

The Pisces will continue to track the Sentry overnight, as it will remain in the water until early Thursday morning. After a speedy recovery, Pisces crew members will raise the centerboard back to its maintenance position and immediately begin the transit north to avoid the weather that’s coming with Hurricane Maria.

Our path after that still remains uncertain. We’ll head into the Chesapeake Bay this weekend to avoid this latest hurricane, but we’re not yet certain how much remaining science time we’ll have once it passes. Our cruise is slated to end on September 28, and the Pisces is a busy ship—she has another mission to complete right after ours, as does the Sentry.

Unfortunately, we are learning one of the biggest truths of ocean-going research right now: you just can’t control the weather. We always knew hurricane season was a risky time to work in the South Atlantic, but we certainly didn’t anticipate a hurricane season quite this strong!

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