Saturday, July 15, 2006

Expedition to Shepard's Meander

Last week we attempted to deploy the MTM-4 Science Experiment in Monterey Canyon.

These blog entries describe the cheap thrills, the nausea and the ecstacy we experienced during the expedition.

Click images to enlarge.

Here's a shot of the usual suspects on the aft deck of the RV Western Flyer.

The MTM-4 mooring rides the waves off the bow of RV Western Flyer, 100 kilometers west of Moss Landing, one week after being deployed from the RV Point Sur. The mooring looks deceptively small against all of that ocean – but the solar panels are about 7 feet tall. Meanwhile, preparations are made to dive to the base of the mooring with ROV Tiburon.

Kent and I with ROV Tiburon. Tiburon will attempt to plug a seafloor cable into the 4 kilometer vertical “riser” cable that extends from the sea surface to the seabed. Tiburon is a “remotely operated vehicle” – she carries no crew. Rather, the pilots remotely control Tiburon from a control room aboard the Western Flyer; a 2-mile-long umbilical cable connects Western Flyer to Tiburon, providing power and communications to the ROV. The vehicle fairly bristles with lights, cameras, robot arm, science instruments, and other gear.

Charlie and Larry prepare to mount the seafloor cable spool onto Tiburon. The first 100 meters of cable is steel-jacketed; the remaining 2000 meters is covered in Kevlar.

From the ROV control room aboard Western Flyer, pilots “fly” Tiburon using joysticks and computers. Images from Tiburon’s video cameras are displayed on large monitors.

A crane lifts Tiburon off the deck, and the “moon pool” doors unfold. It’s a long way down through those doors – the seafloor lies 2 miles below the ship, and Tiburon will take over 2 hours to descend. The silver and orange spool of seafloor cable is visible hanging underneath Tiburon. Once on the bottom, Tiburon will plug one end of this cable into a connector at the base of the mooring, then unreel about 2.7 kilometers of cable along the seafloor to the edge of the Canyon, where the first science station -“the BIN”- will be attached. The orange floats attached to the side of the vehicle provide added buoyancy to compensate for the weight of the cable spool. As Tiburon unreels cable on the bottom, the pilots will periodically release
the floats.

Into the drink - and on the way down to rendezvous with the mooring anchor. On previous attempts to deploy this mooring, we encountered extreme nastiness at the base of the mooring, and so we have extensively redesigned the cable and mooring anchor. What would we find this time?

NEXT - on the bottom


Blogger Hippo said...

hey these are great picts! How do I subscribe to this blog?

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, this is extremely cool.

3:15 PM  

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