Hudson Canyon, Here We Come!

August 6, 2011:  First 24 Hours

We had a pre-cruise meeting on board to work out the details of our operations and coordinate among our three research objective teams (AUV ops, hydrography, and sonar ops) and with the ship’s crew on Friday morning (August 5), then departed Newport aboard Henry Bigelow at 3 PM. Our first mission was to conduct a half-hour calibration session with the NIUST Mola Mola AUV in Rhode Island Sound…just to align its sensors, before heading for our operations area in Hudson Canyon.

We arrived at 3 AM on Saturday, August 6, and began performing CTD-rosette sampling at the northern end of Hudson Canyon. Once dawn broke, we headed south to begin placing and surveying in bottom moorings at about 650 m depth (roughly 2,133  feet deep) that will provide acoustic positioning beacons for long baseline navigation of the AUV and collect CTD and ADCP data. All of that has gone smoothly so far. We still have to do a couple of test dives with Mola Mola to adjust its buoyancy and check the function of its photographic system. All has gone smoothly so far.

Recovery operations for the Mola Mola AUV, visible at the top left. (Credit: Peter Rona, Rutgers University)

We are all very excited about the prospects of this cruise, as our bottom photography is likely to reveal deepwater corals and sponges and cold seep (chemosynthetic) communities. Potential locations of these were pinpointed as the result of our efforts to create ultra-high-resolution multibeam sonar maps of the canyon since 2007. “We” refers to our collaborative scientific PIs (principal investigators): me, Peter Rona (Rutgers), Arne Diercks (NIUST), Leonardo Macelloni (Ole Miss), and Mary Scranton (Stony Brook).

Not such good news on the proposed ME70 Bathymetric Option test. Something went wrong with the Bathy Option system just before we left. The ship’s Survey Techs and ET did a lot of work to track down the problem, only to discover a burned-out power supply. We would need a new one from Simrad to get the Bathy Option running. In other words, we cannot use the Bathy Option on this cruise, although ME70 is still functioning in the Fisheries mode.  We can still perform the survey of part of the tilefish habitat as planned, but will not be able to perform the comparative test with the Bathy Option as originally envisaged.

The weather is great: clear, calm, and sunny, but we don’t know what Emily is up to over the southern Horizon. It broke up over Hispaniola, but may be reforming. We have seen more marine mammals today than I have ever seen before at sea: pilot whales, fin whales, and dolphins… everywhere. Sightings are nearly continuous.

Vince Guida
Chief Scientist
2011 Habitat Mapping Cruise

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