Oases for Life on the Mid-Cayman Rise
Hydrothermal Exploration using Advanced Underwater Robotics
Join a renowned team of oceanographers and astrobiologists exploring one of the deepest points in the Caribbean Sea, searching for life in extreme seafloor environments. Using the new hybrid underwater robotic vehicle Nereus, these scientists will extend their investigations beyond the reach of other research submersibles to the bottom of the Mid-Cayman Rise, whose maximum depth is just over 6,800 meters (4.2 miles) deep.
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Passing the baton
That elusive pot of goldâ¦ Tradition has it that all cruises end with a sunset. But, just like I have kept to a promise I made myself at the start of the cruise (no matter how boring the blog is, do NOT start writing about what you had to eat). Iâve decided to skip the sunset instead and end with something I had never before seen at sea â a perfect Rainbow. This was a photo we took while
Down to the wire
Not exactly fireworks (it is bonfire night back home in the UK today) â but these wiggly lines were enough to put a smile on our faces this afternoon. The green trace, whenever it plunges down the screen, is from Ko-ichiâs Eh sensor and tells us when we are closest to the plume source. The blue trace shows the depth of our instrument package as it varies with time (the axis across the bottom of
If it wasnât for bad luckâ¦
Leaving itâs mark(er). When we come back here in future â and we surely will â this little marker on the seafloor will provide a âreality checkâ between one cruiseâs navigation systems and the next â as well as a lasting testimony of some of the challenges faced, and the contributions made to deep submergence research by âthe little ship that canâ and all who sailed with her to get us this far
David and Julie H (from our ship) wave off our recent visitors â science colleagues Julie S and Cindy, flanked by Ari and Mark from National Geographic. They may have taken two of our scientists away but we traded them for Katy, their field producer, who will continue to ride the ship with us all the way back to Grand Cayman at the end of this week.The tug boat Sand Cay as it departs for Grand
Ghosts in the machine?
All clear: Hereâs Andy checking for stow-aways in the tool sled prior to Nereus launch. Could that have been the cause of the excess baggage? Or was it just a Halloween haunting?Please, please, please, let me get what I want (with apologies to Morrisey and the Smiths). Here goes Nereus, back to the seafloor late Sunday afternoon. Position at 16h00 EST â End of CTD 48Lat: 18Â° 33âN Long: 081Â°
Getting Ready for the Big One
Suit up! David is our chosen victim of Leg 2 who gets to don one of the immersion suits we are all issued with in case of emergency.Getting ready. Nereus team preparing the Depressor (looks like a large missile with its covers off!) for deployment over the rear end (nautiacal speak = aft, or stern) of the ship ahead of tomorrowâs Nereus dive when it will be used for real.Position at 16h00 EST
Back on the road again
Hereâs where we left off â running ahead of the seas into port last Monday evening.Does this tool sled make me look big? Nereus put on a bunch of weight while we were in port â but in a good way, we reckon.Becky (jumping) and Evan (already in the water) came by for a while this afternoon to take advantage of the wonderfully clear waters here and shoot some HD video of Nereus in action
If fools rush in, it's the wise man who heads to port - right?
Heroes of the High Seas. Medal of the day goes to all involved in the safe recovery of Nereus aboard ship in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Both our Captain, Dale, and Andy have decided that since they have now proven that they can get the vehicle back safely in bad weather, they donât need to do so again. Iâm all for that â weâd just like nice weather for Leg 2 now, please. Thank you!
Its good to be wrong (in moderation)
After two weeks of dives, I finally found a new vantage point to get a clear shot of Nereus being lifted outboard on the shipâs crane.A picture that tells more than one story. On the right hand side of this map is where I had THOUGHT Nereus should search for hydrothermal activity on the seafloor on its latest dive â the dark red circles show how wrong I was â strong hydrothermal signals are
Wild Mood Swings
Home with a tale to tell. It had been predicted, before Nereus made it up from the seafloor, that there was a problem with one of its thrusters. But can you guess which one? Hint: this is NOT a trick question!!!Position at 18h00 EST (Recovery of Nereus 020)Lat: 18Â° 33âN Long: 081Â° 43âWWater depth: 4650mWhere to begin with a recap of the past 2 days â including two Nereus dives and two new CTD
Back in the Game!
AUV-ROV mind-meld. James (left, wearing ABE AUV T-shirt) and Chris (right, wearing Jason ROV T-shirt) deep in discussion during pre-dive deck-tests of the Nereus Hybrid vehicle.Once more unto the deep. In this photo, Nereus is just visible as a green-yellow blur directly beneath the arm of the crane that it was just released from.Position at 16h45 EST (Launch of Nereus 019)Lat: 18Â° 33âN Long:
All we seem to do is talk about the weather
Position at 12h00 EST (CTD 38/Tow-Yo 3)Lat: 18Â° 30âN Long: 081Â° 43âWWater depth: 5100mMaybe itâs the curse of being English (as well as Doug and Carla, both Andy Bowen and I are also UK passport holders) but weather seems to have become a key topic of conversation lately. Yesterday morning, after a seriously poor night's sleep, I came down from my cabin to find waves breaking over the back deck.
Running Up The Score
My fair-weather friends: Tina and Sean putting the CTD outboard in bright sunshine, Sunday morning.There goes the neighbourhood â this is what our view is gonna be like for the next 48-72 hours. So THATâs why so few devote their lives to deep-sea oceanography! Welcome to the Caribbean? This is not like the Johnny Depp movies, and no, that bottle Iâm holding is NOT full of rum - shame. Actually
Happy Happy Joy Joy
Welcome home. Nereus being lifted out of the ocean at the end of its first AUV-mode science mission.No room for error. There isnât a lot of spare space on the deck of âthe little ship that canâ. From left to right: Casey, Daniel, Andy and James carefully lower Nereus into place in its cradle. We had to add the wooden uprights because otherwise, whoever is driving the crane from the deck above
Riddle me thisâ¦
Stowaway!!!Optical illusion. Believe it or not, this is a picture of the CTD package already beneath the ocean surface â thatâs how calm it was earlier today. Donât believe me? Look close and you can see a âkinkâ in the wire where it cuts the ocean surface.Whatâs BIG, cute, yellow, and currently >4000m under water?Position at 18h00 EST (Nereus Dive 18)Lat: 18Â° 22âN Long: 081Â° 42âWWater depth:
Not just a blogger. Hereâs me (left) and Sean (right) putting the CTD outboard in mid-afternoon: our 2nd deep cast of the day.Savour the moment. After a very heavy rain squall in late afternoon we had a beautiful evening. This photo was taken right after dinner during a 10 minute break waiting for the CTD to come back up to the surface. Pretty phenomenal view, huh?Position at Midday EST (CTD
Inside: Outside - Youâre OK to Launch
Just say when! From nearest to farthest wearing hard hats, the âoutsideâ half of the Nereus team (Chris â Mr Green hat; Andy - Mr Yellow; Daniel - with the pull-pin, Mr Red; Casey â Mr Orange; and last but not least, Mr Versatillity, Mike: he not only handles the lines for Nereus launches & recoveries but is also the 4th member of our AUV brains-trust. In 2004, he taught an AUV to think the
If you want to make Chicken Soupâ¦
Dana showing off his birthday present, featuring a robot he really admires (clue â he was made in Mexico, smokes cigars, and likes bending things). Looking on are two more members of our AUV brains-trust: James Kinsey & Louis Whitcomb.Position at Midday EST (Danaâs Birthday)Lat: 18Â° 31.6âN Long: 081Â° 40.0âWWater depth: 4950mFirst, get a chickenâ. So said Dana Yoerger today and we had to
A typical view of the CTD these days: all you can see is the wire descending into the depths. Because we are using it round the clock, the instrument is never going to be on deck for more than an hour at a time until Nereus is good to go again.Position at 23h00 EST (Launch of CTD 09)Lat: 18Â° 36.3âN Long: 081Â° 41.4âWWater depth: 5087mNot much to report today. With Nereus on deck our small but
Weâve only just begunâ¦
Up at dawn. The Nereus team were up and prepping the vehicle today long before the sun came up.Over the side. One quick pull of the slip pin and Nereus was off to the bottom of the ocean.Deployments 1, Recoveries 1 = the sign of a good day with any AUV. Nereus is snared and then lifted back on board using the shipâs crane.Position at 11h00 EST (Launch of Nereus Dive 16)Lat: 19Â° 17.6âN Long:
Closeâ¦ but no cigars
Close, but no rum either! This was our clearest view, approx 12 nautical miles (22km) off the western-most coastline, of Cuba.Happiness is a wet (and working!) CTD. Weâve carried out two 1000-meter test deployments on our transit South. Each of the numbered bottles goes down open with their spring loaded caps pulled back, top and bottom. At depth these springs are released, one bottle at a
Driving South (and West)
Clearing the harbor wall at Port Canaveral, Wednesday morning.Casey donning his immersion suit during safety training.Sunset over West Palm Beach on Wednesday.Nothing but blue skies and sparkling seas as we continue SouthPosition at 20h00 ESTLat 24Â° 23.4âN, Long 082Â° 04.2âW68m water depthAfter leaving port on Wednesday we sailed out past the harbor wall with the Kennedy Space Center launch site
Houston, we have left the harbor
Nereusâ tool sled with manipulator arm being craned aboard.We brought everything but the kitchen sink!Lifting the gang-plank ashore.Tina secures the CTD while Steveâwho will be rejoining us for Leg 2, and our local agent Malcolm (right) watch on from dry land.Lat 28Â° 24.5âN, Long 080Â° 36.3âWWe were all up early again today ready to set off, but first we had to load a few last items.First aboard
Getting Ready, Part II: We're OK to go!
Pictures 1-3, Nereus being lowered into the water for first âwet-testsâ in port.Nereus on the end of a tether, going through its test program this afternoon.Lat 28Â° 24.5âN, Long 080Â° 36.3âWA quiet but busy day on the ship today â all the engineers working intently and intensely leading up to a moment of truth with the first wet-test deployment of Nereus off the port side of the ship early this
Getting ready â where preparation meets perspiration
The RV Cape Hatterasâthe little ship that canâin Port Canaveral. In this photo, Doug Connelly is still working hard shifting boxes while I am goofing off with the camera.Taking Nereus for a spin. Here is Nereus being driven (in reverse!) across the dockside from the warehouse in the background where it had been assembled.Safely delivered. Nereus being deposited as close as can be to the ship at