By Brian Cousin, Florida Atlantic University – Harbor Branch
August 24, 2014
Back around the turn of the century, or the millennium if you’d rather – old times in terms of the digital age – I was reporting my first mission logs for the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution web site, @sea. I had a Betacam SP analog video camera and a big box of tapes to capture the moving action, and a brand new Nikon Cool-Pix digital still camera to immortalize single moments in time. The Nikon was a bit slow responding to shutter pressing and so many pictures captured the moment immediately following the ‘Kodak moment.’ Little could be done with the Beta SP at sea that could be managed in the limited twice-daily satellite transmissions between ship and shore, same with the Hi8 (analog) video of the deep sea that surfaced with the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles following each dive.
Over the past few years, a revolution has taken place in the digital imaging arena with the introduction of new cameras and platforms at super-low prices making them accessible to a widening consumer base. Almost everyone on the ship has at least one GoPro camera.
The Florida State University fish scientists have 10 GoPros enlisted in the pursuit of scientific documentation, including five for the ‘Revolution’ fish survey array. Others are deployed whenever and wherever imagination wanders: examples include a view looking up from a light trap as it rides the mooring line into the depths, on the tether of the remotely operated vehicle for a shot of the actual vehicle, on a crane arm, on the In-situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System, and on a fish trap to see how grouper approach the bait. These robust little cameras seem virtually indestructible, reliable, and perform at depths well in excess of the manufacturer’s suggested limit.
Cedric Guigand (University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science) has brought a drone on the cruise, so we are acquiring aerial footage of the ship and various activities that benefit from a camera angle that is just off the ship.
There are a lot of winners in the explosion of low-cost digital image capture devices including the scientists who can illustrate their incredible work in unique new ways and the visitors to places like this NOAA Ocean Explorer web site, who can enjoy a richer visual experience that helps promote understanding and interest in the pursuit of science at sea.