Friday, July 14, 2017

Before We Go

By Teresa Atwill

It is hard to describe all the work that is necessary for a group of scientists, ship crew, and engineers to plan, organize, and prep the ship before we can leave the dock.

Revelle in Newport OR
Roger Revelle in Yaquina Bay, Newport Oregon.
It all begins about 2 years before the expedition when scientists dream up a project that involves going to sea to conduct the research. They then write a proposal and submit it to funding agencies. Each scientist focuses on their own area of research in the proposal. If they are lucky they find out about 6 months later that the proposal will be funded, and the next step is to get the project scheduled on a ship, which happens about a year before the expedition. An organization called UNOLS determines which research vessel will be available at the appropriate time and location and with the capabilities to handle the type of research and any underwater vehicles needed.

The underwater vehicles we will use on this research cruise are the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Jason and the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) Sentry, both operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. There will be more about these vehicles and how they will be used in a later blog post. These two vehicles are in demand for projects around the worlds, so their use also needs to be scheduled.

Equipment being loaded on the Roger Revelle.
Once the schedule is set for the sea time, the scientists must begin to prepare the science equipment to be used while at sea. Everything must be prepared, then boxed up and shipped to the port sometimes weeks or months in advance of the cruise. There is no going back to shore to pick up something you forgot. Usually, this means the scientists and engineers must bring extra equipment so that if something breaks there is a back-up.

We will use the research vessel Roger Revelle, operated by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography for our ten day cruise to Axial Seamount. The Revelle arrived in Newport, Oregon five days before we depart. During this five day period, there has been a complicated dance on the NOAA MOC-P dock, as various trucks and cranes bring in equipment and gear and load these onto the vessel. The ROV Jason comes with a control van and its own winch. These are loaded and installed on the Revelle aft and port decks.
Scientists preparing to load equipment on to the ship.

Once all of the equipment has been loaded onto the ship, scientists and engineers work quickly to get the science equipment unpacked and put into place so that the moment the ship leaves the dock the equipment is secure from any rough seas and also ready for use.

In addition to all the equipment, the ships’ crew ensure the ship has enough fuel, water and food for the ten day cruise. The scientists are arriving from as far away as North Carolina and bring their own personal gear and stow this away in their rooms on board the ship.

Once everything is set up and stowed safely we are ready to head out to sea.

View this time-lapse movie of the equipment loaded (the end is the best!):