By Lindsay McKenna - NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research
October 3, 2014
What happens on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer when the weather is too poor to deploy the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs)?
We map! The ship is equipped with three sonar systems that allow us to collect a variety of different ocean data, including:
During regular ROV dive operations, we run all three sonars at night as we transit from one dive site to the next. When rough weather or strong currents prevent us from deploying the ROVs, we immediately switch over to mapping operations so that we can maximize our time exploring the ocean.
Mapping operations onboard Okeanos are managed by a team of three seafloor mapping scientists. One of us sails on every ROV cruise, where we make detailed maps that the scientists and ROV team use to identify exactly where to deploy the ROVs and explore the seafloor the evening before a dive. We also manage the overnight and inclement weather mapping operations. We must take into consideration where existing mapping coverage exists and what parts of the seafloor might be more important to map over others, all while making sure the ship is on location at 5:30 in the morning for the next scheduled dive.
During overnight and bad weather mapping operations, we also try to incorporate more specific exploration requests from on-shore scientists. For example, on this leg, we have collected single-beam sonar data that can pick up schools of fish for fisheries biologists and subbottom profile lines that geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey are using to study the history of landslides along the mid-Atlantic Canyons.
Okeanos is truly always exploring, even if we're not streaming live video from the seafloor!