by Liz Shea, Ph.D., Delaware Museum of Natural History
June 9, 2017
After a 24-hour weather delay, we were happy to pull away from the dock in Newport, Rhode Island, and watch land recede into the distance. Although remnants of the storm were still being felt off shore, it was a beautiful morning to leave, and we were eager to go. The views of the bay, the bridges, the marinas, and mansions were stunning on the way out of Narraganset Bay.
Transit to the first station was uneventful, and we made good time as we moved across the shelf. While we steamed towards the canyons, the scientists and ROPOS team used the time to get familiar with the video equipment and annotation methods, finalize dive plans, and check over the array of monitors and equipment set up in the acoustics lab where we will sit during the dives. We also did safety drills – finding our muster stations and putting on our immersion suits to familiarize ourselves with the process and to make sure that we had the right sizes – universal (orange), small (red) or large (green).
Once we get onto station, the scientific and ROPOS crew will be working on a variety of watch schedules. Most scientists will be on duty while ROPOS is in the water, generally from 8 am to 8 pm, providing audio and written annotation of the dive as well as directing sampling. The ROPOS crew will be divided into the early-shift, the mid-shift, and the late-shift, so that there will always be engineers around who can safely set up, deploy, pilot, and retrieve the remotely operated vehicle. Although each ROPOS dive will "only" last 10-12 hours, the ship operates around the clock.
During the night shift, when the video and images are downloaded from ROPOS, there will be lots of other activities, including CTDs, multibeam mapping, photographing and preserving specimens, taking tissue samples for genetics, and mud sample processing. It’s going to be a busy two weeks!