Operations Never Before Done in the Deep Sea

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Starting last night about midnight, our “day” became very busy with three rapid dives with the ROV ROPOS to recover and reinstall instrumented science pods on a 12 foot across, 7 ton platform atop a 2700 m (~8600 ft) tall, two legged mooring. The two science pods were installed in 2014 and have been collecting data since that time, sending it to shore via submarine high power and bandwidth cables as part of NSF”s Ocean Observatories Initiative. The instrumented mooring was designed to investigation processes that include climate change, ocean acidification, and biogeochemical processes that occur in this biologically-productive region off the coast of Oregon.

At a water depth of 195 m (640 feet), it takes little time for ROPOS to reach the platform and begin operations. During the three dives, the vehicle latched into the pods for recovery, and unlatched for reinstallation, released and reattached power and fiber optic cables on the science pods, and pulled and pushed a variety of levers to latch the pods to the platform. It is an interesting dance because the platform is floating, attached to the seafloor by two, >3000 m long legs (9842 ft), so as ROPOS pushes against the platform, it moves away from the vehicle. The ROV pilots often used one manipulator to grasp the platform as the other arm completed manipulations.

This is the first time the science pods have been switched out – it took less than 16 hrs to complete all tasks. The success of this operation was a testament to the skills of both the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab engineering team and the ROPOS team. It was a great “day” of work…now we are off to the largest submarine volcano off our coast ‘Axial Seamount’, which erupted this year on April 24th. Ours will be the first eyes on the volcano since it erupted.