2010 SouthernExpedition

Day 3 – Now, sitting next to the mound
July 24, 2010

Latitude N 33° 47.944’
Longitude W 118° 38.852’

the location where the D-ESP used to be on top of the mound
Figure 1: A close look shows where the D-ESP was stationed on top of the mound.

Today turned out to be somewhat restful because we had a prescribed set of activities. The D-ESP continued its run on the summit of the mound, returning excellent array and PCR data. We were able to trouble-shoot some minor pressure problems, but the rest of the day we basically sat and watched the instrument.

a look at the new location for the D-ESP
Figure 2: The new, 'off mound' site. Note how different the geology is than the mound site.

After the D-ESP run finished around 1pm, the ROV pilots adroitly lifted the D-ESP from its perch and carried it about 75 meteres north-east, to a more 'typical' seafloor; flat, muddy, and quivering like jelly when the ROV landed. All the constantly falling 'snow' from the water column created a light, 'flocculant' floor, which engulfed the D-ESP feet as if it were on quicksand. We then commanded the D-ESP to start the first of two runs off of the mound. This will give us biological data to compare to our runs on the mound. Those runs will take 28 hours to complete.

Benny sitting at the CTD winch
Figure 3: Dan Benvenuti running the CTD winch.
processing water on deck
Figure 4: The MBARI way in action: Engineers and Scientists working hand-in-hand to process collected water. Scott Jensen, Bill Ussler, Doug Pargett.

After we saw the D-ESP off and running, we returned to the mound to collect some water samples for Bill Ussler, and recover some equipment that had been deployed for several months. The ROV returned to the Western Flyer around 5:45 p.m. which gave us enough time before nightfall to use the CTD rosette to collect water at three sites before the day ended.

All is going much better than expected, and we are on schedule to recover the D-ESP Monday mid-day.


Dr. Chris Preston teaching Brent Roman how to pipet
Figure 5: Chris Preston teaching software engineer Brent Roman the intricacies of pipetting.
Scott Jenson learning how to fill bottles
Figure 6: Electrical engineer Scott Jensen learning about bottle filling but forgetting that the bottles must be uncapped first.
working on the rock drill on deck
Figure 7: A hydraulic-powered rock hammer, used to collect a small sample of the calcium carbonate from the mound, being installed on the ROV.

—Jim Birch

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Leg 1

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.

Deep ESP

The ESP is a self-contained robotic laboratory that collects samples of seawater and tests these samples for different types of microorganisms, either their genetic material, such as DNA, or proteins they may secrete, such as toxins from a harmful algae bloom. Because of the immense pressure in the deep sea, MBARI's researchers had to build a special pressure housing to protect the delicate instrument. They also had to design and build an automated system to "depressurize" seawater before it could be introduced into the ESP.

CTD Rosette

A CTD rosette is a cylindrical frame holding a group of plastic water-sampling tubes. Attached to this frame are instruments for measuring water temperature and conductivity (salinity) at various depths. Also attached to the rosette are instruments for measuring parameters such as chlorophyll, nutrients, and particulate matter in the water. As the frame is lowered over the side of a ship, water samples are taken automatically at various depths. Then the frame is raised to the surface again.

Push cores

A push-core looks like a clear plastic tube with a rubber handle on one end. Just as its name implies, the push core is pushed down into loose sediment using ROV Tiburon's manipulator arm. As the sediment fills up the core, water exits out the top through one-way valves. When the core is pulled up again, these valves close, which (most of the time) keeps the sediment from sliding out of the core tube. When we bring these cores back to the surface, we typically look for living animals and organic material in the sediments.

 Research Team

chris scholinChris Scholin
President and CEO, MBARI

After earning his PhD in Biological Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chris came to MBARI as a Postdoctoral Fellow. In 1994 he joined the MBARI staff as a Scientist with a focus on development and application of molecular probes for detection of a variety of waterborne microbes, in particular toxic and harmful algae. Working collaboratively with a team of engineers, his group pioneered development of the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP), an instrument that collects water samples autonomously, concentrates microorganisms and automates application of molecular probes to detect particular species and substances they produce. In November 2009, Chris was made MBARI's President/CEO.

jim birch Jim Birch
Director of SURF Center, MBARI

Jim joined MBARI as Instrumentation Lead Manager. He currently serves as Director of MBARI's Sensors: Underwater Research of the Future (SURF) Center. The theme for the center is the continued development, extension, and applications of the Environmental Sample Processor (ESP).

scott jensenScott Jensen
ESP Systems Lead Engineer, MBARI

doug pargett Doug Pargett
Deep-water Operations Lead Engineer, MBARI

brent romanBrent Roman
System Control Lead Engineer, MBARI

Brent has been playing with computers and control systems since the late 1970s. He wrote embedded control software for video tape editing while attending the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he earned a B.S. in Computer and Information Sciences in 1985. His main technical interests are computer operating systems, languages and feedback control systems. Brent wrote most of the custom software driving the current generation of the Environmental Sample Processor. He also enjoys sailing.

chris prestonChris Preston
Senior Research Technician, MBARI

bill usslerBill Ussler
Senior Research Specialist, MBARI

burczynskiMike Burczynski
Instrumentation Technician/ROV Pilot, MBARI

Mike has worked at MBARI for over 10 years in a variety of technician roles including Research Technician, Instrumentation Technician, Marine Operations Technician, and ROV Pilot. His current role combines all his previous experience in support of the Marine Operations Division. Mike's main task on this cruise will be to operate one of our CTD rosettes profilers on a hydrowire of the stern of the ship. As the instrument package is lowered through the water column, it will collect a variety of physical and chemical data from the array of sensors that are mounted on the rosette. The package will also collect water samples at specified depths that are brought back to the surface and analyzed in the ships lab by scientists.

Suni Shah
US Naval Research Laboratory

Suni is currently at the US Naval Research Laboratory but soon to be a NOSAMS postdoctoral scholar at WHOI. Her main goal on this cruise is to operate and maintain the in situ mass spectrometer (ISMS) that will be deployed with the D-ESP. The ISMS was developed by Peter Girguis, a former MBARI scientist who was on her doctoral committee at Harvard University in 2008. It will detect dissolved gases in seawater, like methane and hydrogen sulfide.