When the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in the 1800s, a final golden spike was hammered in to officially link the two coasts of the country. This momentous event signified the joining of the East and West, and the opening of a new means of transportation and delivery of information across the continent. Although ROPOS was sadly not carrying a golden connector, during dive R1741 last night we witnessed the ROV making a similarly historic connection: plugging the electro-optical cables connecting the seafloor sensors in Axial Caldera into primary node PN3B. It may sound like a simple task, but this particular dive was a huge step forward in the construction of the Ocean Observatories Initiative seafloor cabled network. It signified the potential to begin turning on and testing the instrumentation that will provide OOI users with a near real-time, continuous window into the deep ocean. As the connectors were plugged in one by one, the crowd in the control room was bristling with excitement at finally achieving one of the objectives that they had been working towards over the multi-decade lifespan of the project.
While the excitement was happening on the seafloor, APL/RSN engineers were swiftly (but carefully) changing out the connector and making modifications to the junction box of the recovered deep profiler mooring. Repairs were completed overnight, and the mooring was ready to redeploy by this afternoon. The mooring was laid out on the back deck, and as soon as ROPOS was back onboard the Thompson, the mooring deployment began and went off without a hitch. The next steps are to launch ROPOS on dive R1742 to make the next major connection between the sensors deployed at the base of Axial Seamount and the nearby primary node (PN3A). Once those tasks are complete, the Thompson will turn towards Newport to end Leg 2 (out of 7) of the VISIONS 14 cruise. After such a successful set of deployments, and the significance of the last couple of dives to the long-term realization of the OOI project, there are a lot of happy scientists and engineers onboard.