Mission Logs

Follow along as participants in the cruise provide updates and reflections on their experiences, the science, the technology, and other elements of the expedition.


The DEEP SEARCH science team at the end of the 2017 expedition.

September 22: DEEP SEARCH 2017 Comes to an Early End, but the Project Is Just Beginning

It’s Friday, September 22—six days before the scheduled end of DEEP SEARCH 2017—and the Pisces is back in port in Norfolk, VA to avoid yet another hurricane. While the forecasts still aren’t certain as to what Hurricane Maria will mean for the eastern seaboard, the DEEP SEARCH team has made the difficult decision to end the cruise this weekend.

These are a few of the organisms that we’ve found most often in our Sentry photos: (1) lobster, (2) horseshoe crab, (3) spider crab, (4) squid.

September 21: Looking Through Sentry Data

Several previous DEEP SEARCH mission logs have bragged about the tens of thousands of seafloor photos that autonomous underwater vehicle Sentry has taken so far despite the weather limiting our dives. They are also a somewhat daunting task to me—the pair of human eyes that needs to look at them all.

Screen capture of one of the preliminary processed sub-bottom profiles collected by the AUV Sentry during Dive 455. In this profile, sub-seafloor layers (stratigraphy) are visible as are several of the data artifacts that remain to be removed.  Sentry transits at approximately 6 m above the seafloor when these data were collected.

September 20: Interpreting Sentry’s Geophysical Data

The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry collects a large amount of geophysical data (bathymetry, side-scan and sub-seafloor reflection profiles) during each 18- to 24-hour dive, all of which needs to be processed from streams of 1’s and 0’s into correctly located maps and other visual representations of the seafloor and sub-seafloor.

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.

September 19: DEEP SEARCH: Take Two

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, NC 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!

Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry captured this image of an extensive bacterial mat (white areas) at the Pea Island B site. The bacteria thrive off of gases that seep up through the seafloor.

September 16-17: Best Laid Plans...

I’m sitting at the dock in Morehead City, North Carolina, waiting for the weather to clear so that we can resume the DEEP SEARCH expedition. It would be an understatement to say that weather is an unpredictable force, particularly during hurricane season. However, Mother Nature has thrown us a few more curveballs than I would have ever imagined.

After looming out in the Atlantic all week, Hurricane Jose has finally become an unavoidable threat to the DEEP SEARCH team. Though the Pisces crew did their best to keep us operating in areas where the storm wouldn’t be a problem, that won’t be enough this weekend. Jose is expected to generate large swells (13 – 22 feet) throughout the entirety of our planned working area, and there’s just nowhere to avoid it.

September 15: A Second Round of Weather Delays

After looming out in the Atlantic all week, Hurricane Jose has finally become an unavoidable threat to the DEEP SEARCH team. Jose is expected to generate large swells throughout the entirety of our planned working area, and there’s just nowhere to avoid it.

Amanda Demopoulos watches as deck crew members Knott and Cornell deploy the CTD at Pea Island B. The CTD collects conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth (pressure) data, plus it has sensors to detect dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and turbidity (particles in the water), as the instrument travels down to the seafloor. The CTD is also equipped with a rosette of Niskin bottles, which are specially designed water bottles that can be triggered to collect water at set depths.

September 14: How Much Science Can We Accomplish in One Day?

On a cruise like this, there are many operational considerations to weigh as plans are made. Each of these operations can’t be completed solely by scientists—the ship’s crew plays an integral role in all of these tasks, and we have to be sure to schedule around their needs as well.

AUV Sentry was successfully deployed for the first time on September 13. It ran a 24-hour survey before being released to the surface and recovered on September 14.

September 13: Improving the Pisces’ Ability to Track AUV Sentry

Though Sentry’s engineers are able to pre-program the autonomous underwater vehicle's track before launch, it’s important to know where Sentry is whenever it’s in the water, to ensure that it’s operating as planned and that no complications have occurred.

NOAA Ship Pisces left the NOAA Marine Operations Center - Atlantic facility in Norfolk, VA at 1600 on September 14. She will be underway exploring Atlantic coral, canyon, and seep habitats until September 28, when she arrives back in port in Morehead City, NC.

September 12: Underway and Headed to Our First Dive Site

It’s official: we’re on the Atlantic, and the real work has begun! Overnight, the Pisces will steam to our first dive target, Kitty Hawk seep.

The NOAA Ship Pisces waits out Hurricane Irma at the NOAA Marine Operations Center - Atlantic (MOC-A) in Norfolk, VA.

September 11: Hurricane Changes and Delays

It may be September 11th, our scheduled departure date, but the DEEP SEARCH team is still ready and waiting at the dock, delayed because of Hurricanes Irma and Jose.

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