The Shipboard Scientific Services Group (SSSG) of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution provides technical, scientific, and operational services to all Institution ship users. These services include maintaining and facilitating the operation of shared-use research equipment provided in support of cruise specific scientific programs.
The SSSG group consists of sea-going marine technicians and shore based technical support personnel. They maintain, repair, and assist in the operation of the available general use research equipment including data collection systems, ship installed sensors, portable vans, freezers, refrigerators, fume hoods, water sampling systems, corers, and over-the-side instrumentation handling devices.
They are responsible for the configuration and condition of the ship laboratory spaces and provide direct assistance in cruise preparations, frequently serving as the interface between the ship's agent, crew, local contractors and the science party.
Deck operations aboard WHOI ships are the responsibility of the Chief Mate, under the direct supervision of the Boatswain; the ship's technicians provide the science party interface with the Boatswain and crew members as needed.
During each cruise the marine technicians ensure proper operation of the ship data collection, logging, and distribution system including sensors, computers, display devices and interconnecting cabling. The system utilized on WHOI vessels is extremely flexible allowing the ship technicians to tailor its operation to the needs of the cruise participants, including specialized data formatting and distribution to science supplied equipment. All of the ship generated data log files are available to cruise participants in near real time.
At the completion of a cruise, collected data is copied to USB drives, one of which is provided to the Chief Scientist and another is sent to WHOI for archival storage.
The R/V Armstrong and R/V Atlantis routinely carry two SSSG Marine Technician for all cruises, and therefore, technical support can be available for nearly 24 hours a day. Early in each cruise the technicians and Chief Scientist discuss and decide how the technician's working hours can be arranged to provide the most effective level of support.
The ship technicians are not members of the science party and cannot be utilized in that manner. Time at sea is spent servicing and assisting in the operation of supplied instrumentation and equipment, including science party training in its safe and effective use as necessary. In general, the purpose of the onboard technicians is to assist the scientific party rather than to undertake research operations directly; the technicians are not available for watch-standing duties except under unusual circumstances. The normal expected workload associated with calibration, maintenance and repair of ship-supplied equipment plus the necessity to be continuously available for unscheduled technical assistance precludes routine watch standing. However, the assigned technicians will augment the available science personnel in any way possible in helping to overcome unexpected problems, including repair and testing of science supplied equipment if necessary.
Services of the SSSG are charged to users through a daily rate for each ship, which consists of the costs for ship-specific effort and a pro-rata amount of the shared equipment maintenance and coordination effort based on total technician operating days. This rate includes the costs associated with reasonable use of WHOI-owned shared-use equipment; for most science cruises there are no additional charges. User fees outside the funding provided by the day rate are charged when specialized personnel are required due to the complexity or the magnitude of the operations. Extensive or specialized sediment coring and SeaBeam post-processing work are examples of this kind of effort. These non-basic services are quoted to individual scientific users on a time and materials basis.