//
you're reading...

deep sea

Ocean Exploration aboard the E/V Nautilus

Introduction:

You may be familiar with some videos taken aboard the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus that have made recent headlines

Tools for exploration: The E/V Nautilus (top) and the two ROVs, Hercules (bottom left, in water collecting a sample), and Argus (bottom right, getting lowered into water before a dive).

Tools of exploration: The E/V Nautilus (top) and the two ROVs, Hercules (bottom left) collecting samples during a dive and  Argus (bottom right) getting lowered into water before a dive. Image from Ocean Exploration Trust.

such as the mysterious purple orb, the googly-eyed stubby-squid, or last year’s encounter with a sperm whale.

The E/V Nautilus is one of two vessels dedicated solely to exploring the largest habitat on our planet- the deep sea. While the majority of Earth lies in the cold, dark water of the deep sea, we have explored less of this environment than we have the moon. Thankfully, the Corps of Exploration is helping to better understand the deep sea using tools like the 211 foot Nautilus ship, which is equipped with a multibeam sonar mapping system, and  two onboard remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), Hercules and Argus.

As an Ocean Science Intern, I was one of the 31 scientists on the ship (with an additional 17 crew members – to virtually tour the ship watch this video). For the 2016 expedition season, the Nautilus explored the region off Canada and

the Western coast of the US. I was aboard for a portion of time exploring the Southern California Margin and during the exploration of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

 

The Mission:

While on board, it was obvious that The Ocean Expedition Trust and the Corps of Exploration embody a multidisciplinary approach to science. Meaning that in any given season there are multiple scientific objectives the team is trying to accomplish, which involve exploring geological features, examining the biology, and surveying archeological treasures – all in the same area. For the first half of my time aboard, we investigated the fault zones of the Southern California Margin- an extremely active tectonic zone off California’s southern coast. In the second half of my

The 2016 exploration schedule. To learn more about each location, visit http://nautiluslive.org/expedition/2016 .

The 2016 exploration schedule. To learn more about each location, visit http://nautiluslive.org/expedition/2016. Image from Ocean Exploration Trust.

voyage, we worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to explore the deep waters of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. This involved both biological exploration and also included a survey of three different shipwrecks in the area- the Dorthy Wintermote, the Ituna, and the USS Independence. To hear more about this portion of the cruise, watch this video  featuring the chief scientists of the expedition.

One of the most exciting features of exploration on the Nautilus is that you can join along from home! All of E/V Nautilus’ missions are simulcast so that viewers and scientists can watch expeditions in real time, around the clock, from anywhere. You can see what the vessel is up to right now at http://nautiluslive.org/ .

How the science happens:

The Nautilus crew runs the ship 24/7. Most of the surface of our planet has not been mapped, making seafloor mapping a very important piece of the Nautilus’ exploration. This is accomplished using a multibeam sonar mapping system and subbottom profiler. Scientists on board and on land are then able to look at the maps generated to pick out interesting features worth further exploring (this can include interesting geological features, archaeological sites, or potential areas of biological interest like methane seeps or hydrothermal vents). Once a site has been chosen, the team launches the two ROVs into the water to explore areas of the ocean that have oftentimes never been seen by human eyes before.

Both ROVs are connected to one another via a cable that connects back to the ship, allowing pilots to operate the unmanned vehicles from above the surface. The cable also streams high definition (HD) video back to the ship so that pilots and scientists can see exactly what is happening 100s of meters below the water (Hercules can travel to 4,000 m and Argus to 6,000 m). Hercules is the major workhorse of the ROVs, equipped with probes and sensors to monitor ocean parameters (such as temperature, salinity, and oxygen content), two manipulator arms, a suction hose (called the slurp gun), and several cameras. In addition, Hercules is outfitted with water sampling bottles, push cores for sampling sediment, and insulated bioboxes to help preserve biological materials collected during dives. Argus is  suspended above Hercules and also outfitted with a camera, allowing the team to view Hercules from above. In the water, Argus is much heavier, and dampens the wave action experienced on the ship to keep Hercules stable during the dive. To see learn more about the ROVs, you can watch this video.

Scientists sit in the control van, watching a dive as Hercules zooms in on a octopus (large right hand screen). The Argus view of Hercules allows scientists (large left hand screen) to keep an eye on the ROV during the dive. Photograph by Julye Newlin.

Scientists sit in the control van, watching a dive as Hercules zooms in on a octopus (large right hand screen). The Argus view (large left hand screen) allows the crew to keep an eye on the ROV Herules during the dive. Photograph by Julye Newlin.

Because the ROVs are unmanned robots, they can stay down indefinitely – ROV dives can last over 24 hrs. How does the crew keep up with that schedule? Scientists and ROV pilots sit 4 hour shifts (called “watches”). There are 3 rotating watches: a 12 – 4 (am and pm), a 4 – 8 (am and pm), and an 8 – 4 (am and pm), so that the crew works for 4 hours with 8 hours off. During ROV dives, the watch team sits in the control van – the ship-board mission control. The control van is just two shipping containers which have been pushed together and have multiple screens and computers allowing each team member to do their specific job.

It takes a small army to run the dives and every watch has a navigator (telling the ship where to go), a Hercules pilot (controlling the ROV Hercules), an Argus pilot (controlling the ROV Argus), a video engineer (responsible for operating the cameras on the ROVs), a science communication fellow (serving as a liaison between the crew and the viewers back home), a data logger (recording information about the dive and samples collected), and a watch leader (ensuring that the crew is working to best complete the dive objectives). Unfortunately, with the vast array of science being completed on any given dive, the Nautilus cannot possibly fit all of the necessary scientific experts on the ship at once. Instead, numerous scientists tune in from ashore and help remotely guide the dives through real time communication with the watch leader. After a dive, both ROVs are recovered on the boat and any collected samples are processed by the science team. Samples are held on the ship and sent to museum collections for further laboratory analysis.

The Perks of Exploration:

Even if only for a month, being a part of such incredible scientific exploration was an unforgettable opportunity. While it was incredible to learn from the many scientists aboard and to witness deep-sea exploration first hand, perhaps the most exciting part was being able to share our discoveries, in real time, with viewers back home – to engage with the public and get people excited about ocean exploration. The work being done onboard the E/V Nautilus is so unique and important. It was an honor to be a part of the team.

If you are interested in sailing with the Nautilus, there are opportunities for students, educators, and scientists. Visit the Ocean Exploration Trust’s website to learn more. To learn more about previous expeditions and the exploration team visit Nautiluslive.org.

 

Stay tuned for the 2017 season- Happy Exploring!

Discussion

One Response to “Ocean Exploration aboard the E/V Nautilus”

  1. Hello, I just saw an article about a “strange” pool or jacuzzi it was called, containing higher amounts of salt and sulfur etc. I am wondering if this could be a result of the dispersing agent used during the deep water oil spill in the gulf a few years back. It’s just a thought. How you find some answers. Keep up the good work

    Posted by Real Marion | November 5, 2016, 10:59 am

Post a Comment

Instagram

  • by oceanbites 2 days ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 1 week ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 2 weeks ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 1 month ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Feeling a bit flattened by the week? So are these summer flounder larvae. Fun fact: flounder larvae start out with their eyes set like normal fish, but as they grow one of their eyes migrates to meet the other and
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Have you seen a remote working setup like this? This is a photo from one of our Oceanbites team members Anne Hartwell. “A view from inside the control can of an underwater robot we used to explore the deep parts
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Today is the day of  #shutdownacademia  and  #shutdownstem  and many of us at the Oceanbites team are taking the day to plan solid actions for how we can make our organization and the institutions we work at a better place
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Black lives matter. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have once again brought to light the racism in our country. All of us at Oceanbites stand with our Black colleagues, friends, readers, and family. The
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com