Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Pacific NW Expedition: ROV Deployment!! COOL deep-sea TECH!

Whew! So, I've been back a few days now and I've been trying to catch up with my life and get all of my stuff in order since I got back from TWO weeks at sea!! I was graciously invited by Craig McClain over at Deep-Sea News and geologist Dave Clague at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to participate in Leg 5 of the 2009 Northwest Pacific Expedition to visit seamounts off the western coast of North America!! Both I and all the participants blogged about the highlights here.

Our floating research platform was the 117 foot R/V Western Flyer, a SWATH type vessel (with twin hulls) built specifically for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. The Western Flyer acts as the operations platform for the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Doc Ricketts which has a submersible range of up to 4000 meters depth!! Just for scale..the Doc Ricketts is about the size of a volkswagen bus! Between August 29th to September 9th we investigated a series of seamounts in the North Pacific along the Juan de Fuca Ridge studying geology and biology of rocks and animals and made some FANTASTIC discoveries! (some of this was on the blog..but I'll touch on more of it later this week)
Today, I just thought I would share with all of you one of the inherently COOL things about working with MBARI and their maritime research vessels.

What is unique about the Western Flyer and their research submersible is the WAY in which they deploy (yes..I like to say the word deploy! How often do you ACTUALLY get to use the word DEPLOY?) their submersible.

Most times, subs are just hung off the aft (i.e., the rear) of the ship and sunk into the water.

But NOT the Western Flyer & Doc Ricketts...It just goes THOUGH the floor of the ship between the twin hulls!!

The deployment sequence goes like this:

The ROV is prepped..cameras, dohickys, hydraulics, electronics and etc. are all checked out.

When the ROV is ready, the various umbilicals and etc are disconnected!
HOLDING STRAPS ARE RELEASED!!!You can tell things are getting exciting because the BLUE light is ON!! (things REALLY get hopping when the RED light is ALSO on!-sadly I didn't get a pic of the red light!)
Here's where things get cool...the giant cranes pick up the submersible..and then THE DOUBLE DOORS UNDER THE ROV OPEN!!!

doors are OPEN!!!
The cameras and such are ON and the ROV Control room (separate from the bridge) begins to receive the feed from the cameras and preps the motors (and etc.) for launch!Very large cranes then proceed to place the ROV into the water through the doors!
The sub is lowered into the water...

The ROV is connected to the ship via a VERY long tether. This is also deployed..
The double doors are open for as long as the ROV remains deployed. This reveals the ocean surface into the docking bay as an area called the MOONPOOL!

which looks like this:
Cameras on the ROV then beam back signal to the control room where the scientists and ROV pilots can manipulate, collect and do the valuable scientific work that MBARI brings to oceanographic/deep-sea research!

Recovery of the ROV is pretty much the same thing but in reverse.. Here's a video of how that happens (doors closing, etc)!

Under good conditions, this can get pretty routine-but when you start to get a little rough weather even something relatively stereotyped like this deployment/recovery can get a little tricky... Especially since the ROV is recovered from UNDER the ship and NOT at aft!

(for those who want to compare this sequence with the dropship launch in Aliens-click here!)
After the day is done..and the sub begins its ascent..the science team waits patiently for its return!....and the specimen processing and lab prep awaits!
More later this week-critters and etc!

1 comment:

asian cowgirl said...

This is all way cool so far! Looking forward to hearing more...this is Jessie, btw. :)