2009 Pacific Northwest Expedition

Leg 2 Logbook - Midwater Ecology
Day 3 — Two rare finds highlight the day
July 27, 2009

Latitude 46 degrees 55.12 minutes N
Longitude 125 degrees 29.59 minutes W

Overnight, we transited to a deeper site in Astoria Canyon. At this site, the water is about 2,000 meters deep, so this will give us a chance to see what organisms we find deeper in the canyon. The ROV Doc Ricketts was launched by 6:30 a.m. We slowly descended looking for differences from what we found yesterday, while still comparing what we see with observations from Monterey Bay. Today, the water column was not as densely populated by ctenophores and squid as it was yesterday. As we went deeper into the water column, we did see some things that we did not encounter yesterday, like the viperfish (Chauliodus macouni), somewhat common in Monterey Bay. We also saw an angler fish (family Oneiroididae), which is very rare, so rare, that they've only been captured on video fewer than five times in MBARI's 21 years of deep-sea exploration!

Another interesting find was the big red jelly, Tiburonia granrojo, named after MBARI's recently retired ROV Tiburon. These jellies can grow to a size of one meter in diameter! While I was in the control room, I observed at least five individuals today. George Matsumoto is interested in finding a gravid individual (one carrying eggs). He described this species in 2003 and has never seen a gravid one. It must have been George's lucky day, because we saw two gravid individuals. Even more exciting, the ROV pilots were able to collect some of the eggs from underneath the bell using the manipulator arm without damaging the jelly's bell! When you consider how difficult it is to have fine control with a robotic arm, you may realize what an accomplishment this was! George is hoping to culture the eggs, perhaps grow T. granrojo in the lab, and possibly exhibit these beautiful jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium some day.

This individual of Tiburonia granrojo has white sacks near the arms that are full of hundreds of eggs.

ROV Doc Ricketts' manipulator arm samples the eggs without damaging the jellly.

During our ascent, a hydraulic line on the ROV blew. This caused the shutting down of the hydraulic system, which powers the thrusters, manipulator arms, and all of the mechanical parts of the vehicle. Needless to say, this means we have to recover the ROV and the pilots have to fix the line that broke so that the ROV can operate. This also means that the pilots and Western Flyer crew have to recover an ROV that can't propel itself. They can pull the ROV up with the tether, but the challenge comes when the ROV is near the surface. They allow the ROV to surface off the bow of the ship and then Captain Brian Ackerman drives the ship over the vehicle between the ship's two hulls. The crane can then lift the vehicle into the moon pool, but the crew and pilots have to work quickly to get the vehicle onboard so it doesn't hit the sides of the ship's hull. The Western Flyer crew and Doc Ricketts pilots expertly recovered the vehicle with no problem at all. They all work very hard to keep all of the ship's and ROV's equipment working. The pilots spent a few hours finding and fixing the broken hydraulic line and now we're all set for our next dive tomorrow morning!

—Susan Von Thun

Bruce Robison looks on as the ROV pilots look for the hydraulic leak.

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Leg 2

R/V Western Flyer

The R/V Western Flyer is a small water-plane area twin hull (SWATH) oceanographic research vessel measuring 35.6 meters long and 16.2 meters wide. It was designed and constructed for MBARI to serve as the support vessel for ROV operations. Her missions include the Monterey Bay as well as extended cruises to Hawaii, Gulf of California and the Pacific Northwest.

ROV Doc Ricketts

ROV Doc Ricketts is MBARI's next generation ROV. The system breaks new ground in providing an integrated unmanned submersible research platform, with many powerful features providing efficient, reliable and precise sampling and data collection in a wide range of missions.

High-frequency suction sampler

This sampler acts like a vacuum cleaner sucking up samples and depositing them into one of the 12 buckets.

Detritus sampler

Detritus samplers are large Plexiglas containers with lids that can be manipulated by the pilot of the ROV and gently closed once an organism is trapped inside.


Used in combination with the High-Frequency Suction Sampler (HFSS) and Detritus Samplers, the spatulator flips items off the seafloor that are then vacuumed into the High Frequency Suction Sampler or collected with the Detritus Samplers.

Midwater acoustic current meter

The current meter is held by a small standalone fixture and measures the magnitude and direction of the currents about 1 meter above the seafloor.

 Research Team

Senior Scientist, Bruce Robison Bruce Robison
Senior Scientist, MBARI

Bruce Robison's research interests are centered on the biology and ecology of deep-sea animals, particularly those which inhabit the oceanic water column. He has pioneered the use of undersea vehicles for these studies and led the first team of scientists trained as submersible pilots for research in midwater. His midwater research program is presently addressing the ecology of gelatinous animals in the deep sea. This group includes ctenophores, medusae, and siphonophores, animals which cannot be investigated accurately with conventional sampling methods, but which play dominant roles in mesopelagic ecology. Related studies include trophic structure, physiology, and the behavior of midwater animals including fishes and squids. Behavioral studies are also investigating the ways that animals use bioluminescence in the deep sea, with both laboratory and in-situ observations.

Graduate Student, Stephanie Bush Stephanie Bush
Graduate Student, University of California, Berkeley

Stephanie is a doctoral candidate at UC, Berkeley, in the lab of Dr. Roy Caldwell. In collaboration with Bruce Robison and the MBARI Midwater Ecology lab, her dissertation research focuses on deep-sea squid ecology, particularly their defensive behaviors.

Senior Research Technician, Rob Sherlock Rob Sherlock
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Rob studies the properties and organisms of the ocean's largest habitat, the midwater. His research group is learning more about the ecology of midwater organisms; their abundance and seasonal patterns, depth ranges and who eats whom. Rob enjoys watching mesopelagic animals with the HD (high definition) camera; animals that once would have come up as glop in a net can be seen to have delicate structure and complex behavior (e.g., squid inking or changing color, fish eyes that rotate to keep prey in sight, an amphipod carving up a pyrosome to make a home).

Senior Research Technician, Kim Reisenbichler Kim Reisenbichler
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

Kim's general area of interest is the study of midwater and deep sea animals. He has developed many tools and techniques to observe, manipulate, and collect these organisms, and to maintain the animals in the lab.

Senior Education and Research Specialist, George Matsumoto George Matsumoto
Senior Education and Research Specialist, MBARI

George is interested in the open ocean and deep sea communities with particular emphasis on invertebrates. Specific areas of interest include ecology and biogeography of open ocean and deep sea organisms; functional morphology, natural history, and behavior of pelagic and benthic organisms; and systematics and evolution of ctenophores and cnidarians (molecular phylogeny). George also runs a wide variety of education programs at MBARI

Research Technician, Susan von Thun Susan von Thun
Research Technician, MBARI

Susan works in the MBARI Video Lab, where her primary responsibility is to watch video taken with MBARI's remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and make observations about the organisms, behaviors, equipment, and geological features that she sees. While annotating video, she's become adept at identifying numerous deep-sea organisms, specializing in midwater organisms. She works closely with the Midwater Ecology Group and the Bioluminescence Lab to expand her knowledge of the fish, jellies, cephalopods, and other groups in the midwater.

Reseach Assistant, Kris Walz Kris Walz
Research Assistant, MBARI

Kris works with the Midwater Ecology group, analyzing ROV video transects between 50 and 1,000 meters in depth to identify biological organisms from all taxonomic levels, most of which spend their entire lives in the oceanic water column. Kris started working at MBARI in 1996 after finishing her Master's at UC, Santa Cruz. She's looking forward to returning to sea for the first time since starting a family.