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Wetlands and Aquatic Research Center - Florida
Cruise Log: 10/08/2008
International Expedition to Deep Coral Ecosystems
Furu Mienis, Tjeerd van Weering, Gerard Duineveld (NIOZ), Andrew Davies (SAMS)
Our collaboration with UNC-W started almost two years ago when Steve Ross joined one of our cruises on the R/V Pelagia to a cold-water coral area close to Ireland. This year we had the opportunity to join this cruise to the cold-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico, and we're all very excited about it. We hope to contribute to the research done in this area by bringing in a new dimension to the research. The landers are fully autonomous; once they are on the sea bottom, they collect data wherever they've landed until we decide to recover them. The landers are being deployed on and next to a coral site. This means that we can measure any differences in conditions near the seafloor on the coral site compared to the site without corals.
Cruise preparations started four months ago with the packing and shipping of a large sea container. Inside contained all of our gear, including the lander frames. After six weeks we received a message that the container had safely arrived in Pascagoula, MS. On the 29th of September we flew to New Orleans, well in advance of the cruise to have enough time to setup and prepare the landers. To make our lives easier, we did most of the construction and programming before we left port.
We brought two different types of landers. Both landers have a frame made of aluminium with glass spheres attached to the frame for buoyancy. However, the lander needs to sink to seafloor and stay there. Therefore both landers carry large weights. When we want to retrieve the landers, we send an acoustic signal to a release that drops the weight. The landers then slowly drift to the surface carrying back valuable data from the seafloor.
Both landers measure near-bottom temperature, salinity, the amount of particles in the water column, current speeds, current directions and are equipped with cameras. All data collected by the landers are stored on data disks. Monday morning, we deployed the landers at almost 500 metres in the Gulf of Mexico and hopefully we will retrieve them within five days to get our first data. Today we were really lucky because we got a view of one of the landers with the ROV. The data coming from the landers, combined with water column studies hopefully will give us a first insight into the hydrodynamic conditions around the cold-water corals in the Gulf of Mexico.
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