Hohonu Moana: Exploring Deep Waters off Hawaiʻi






Frustrated on Shore

When functioning properly, telepresence can be an amazing outreach tool. Here Bruce Mundy talks to a group of students from a local Honolulu school visit the Inouye Regional Center about the expedition and what lies in the unexplored deep sea right in their backyard.

When functioning properly, telepresence can be an amazing outreach tool. Here, Bruce Mundy talks to a group of students from a local Honolulu school visiting the Inouye Regional Center about the expedition and what lies in the unexplored deep sea right in their backyard. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, 2015 Hohonu Moana. Download larger version (2.3 Mb).

September 21, 2015

Kasey Cantwell
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research

Telepresence is both a blessing and a curse. Ninety-five percent of the time it is an amazing tool that allows NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer to tap into the intellectual capital of a science team bigger than what even the largest research vessel could accommodate. This capability allows us to conduct multidisciplinary expeditions and be truly prepared for whatever we discover during our explorations. It also allows us to harness the Internet and social media into amazing outreach tools that allow the general public to join us in the excitement of the expedition.

With the satellite connection still having issues, the “video interrupted” logo has become one of my least favorite things to see on our website.

With the satellite connection still having issues, the “video interrupted” logo has become one of my least favorite things to see on our website. Click image for credit and larger view.

Then there is the frustrating side of telepresence. The whole operation hinges on a complicated network of computers, network switches, cables, servers, and satellite dishes. While we have built-in redundancies, sometimes even the back-up plans for our back-up plans fail. Other times, we have a single point of failure that becomes troublesome—and unfortunately, this is what is currently happening with the satellite dish on the ship.

When the dish has trouble connecting with and tracking the satellite in the sky, simple things like emails become exasperating as it takes five to ten attempts to send one message and attachments become impossible to upload or download. Sending data to shore often times becomes equally challenging. Since we rely heavily on telepresence to conduct our operations, losing the connection to the shore-based team means that our science team is suddenly limited to only our two at-sea science leads.

From shore, these issues are often heartbreaking. One moment we are connected to the ship, the next we are disconnected—often in the middle of a sentence. The video comes in for a few seconds, pixelates, and then is gone. Or we get some combination of the two—we can hear what the at-sea team is saying, but can’t see what they are describing, or vice versa.

Fortunately, all of the video is being recorded, so even if we can't see the video in real time, we can go back and analyze the data later. The whole situation really makes you appreciate how much we rely on basic communication tools in our day to day lives, let alone when trying to connect a ship to dozens of scientists on shore.

Below are a few of the exciting things you may have missed during the last few dives while we were having satellite issues.

 

Stalked benthic tunicate from our first dive at Johnston Atoll at Karin Ridge.

Stalked benthic tunicate from our first dive at Johnston Atoll at Karin Ridge. Click image for larger view and image credit.




A group of stalked sponges, including some very small recent recruits, at Karin Ridge help give our science team a better idea of the life history of this organism.

A group of stalked sponges, including some very small recent recruits, at Karin Ridge help give our science team a better idea of the life history of this organism. Click image for larger view and image credit.



 

 

ROV D2 documented number of squat lobster s residing in an octocorals throughout the dive at Twin Cones.

Remotely operated vehicle Deep Discoverer documented a number of squat lobsters residing in an octocorals throughout the dive at Twin Cones. Click image for larger view and image credit.



A very small benthic ctenophore rested on a Iridogorgia at Twin Cones.

A very small benthic ctenophore rested on a Iridogorgia (coral) at Twin Cones. Click image for larger view and image credit.



 

 

During the dive at Twin Cones, we encountered a large anemone with a number of small polychaetes roaming over the tentacles.

During the dive at Twin Cones, we encountered a large anemone with a number of small polychaete worms roaming over the tentacles. Click image for larger view and image credit.



This sea toad (Chaunocops cf melanostomus), documented during Dive 07 at Southernmost Cone,  was a new observation for this region .

This sea toad (Chaunocops cf melanostomus), documented during Dive 07 at Southernmost Cone, was a new observation for this region. Click image for larger view and image credit.



 

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