The Beacon

Blog Tags: Oceana Gulf Expedition

Leaving Mobile Bay

After making a quick stop in Mobile, AL, the boat is now on its way to Florida, as Dustin reports:

On Wednesday morning the Oceana Latitude pulled up anchor and started to make its way to Port St. Joe, Fla.

As we left Mobile Bay, we passed Dauphin Island, home of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Oceana has participated in this conservation-minded fishing tournament in the past, which typically attracts more than 100,000 spectators and more than 3,200 fishermen.

Unfortunately, like so many other summer activities in this part of the Gulf, the Rodeo was canceled this year after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.


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Rogue Wave Hits ROV

© Oceana/Carlos Suarez

Unfortunately, the news from the boat can’t always be good.  After spotting quite a bit of wildlife in the Alabama Alps, the crew hit a snag with the ROV. Here’s the lowdown from Dustin:

Monday and Tuesday, September 13 and 14

In an unexpected turn of events, the generator used to power Oceana’s ROV was hit by a large rogue wave Monday afternoon near the edge of DeSoto Canyon. While the ROV technicians spent the rest of the day trying to repair the damaged system, the Oceana Latitude began to adjust course and head towards Mobile in hopes of getting replacement parts.


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Photos from the Alabama Alps

Yesterday you heard about the Latitude’s foray into the Alabama Alps. Today, photos!

Here are some of the cool creatures our deep-sea ROV captured on camera. Which one's your favorite?

Special thanks to Nautica, whose support made our use of the deep sea ROV possible!


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Good News from the Alabama Alps

Today’s expedition update, which comes to you from scientist-in-charge Dr. Michael Hirshfield, contains some good news about the Alabama Alps:

Sunday, September 12

After making several transects of the Alabama Alps today and comparing Oceana’s observations with those from previous scientific investigations, we believe to have a fairly good snapshot of the area.

Based on what we saw from the ROV footage and CTD scans, there are no obvious signs that this area was harmed by the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Here’s Oceana conducting a CTD scan:

CTD Scan by Oceana Latitude at Alabama Alps 09.12.20 from Oceana on Vimeo.


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Exploring the Gulf’s Underwater Mountains

It was an exciting day yesterday on the Latitude, as Dustin reports. We owe a hearty thank you to Nautica, who is making this leg of the expedition possible.

Saturday, September 11

The heat and humidity did not divert the Oceana crew from the important task at hand today.

After running a few more quick tests on the Spanish ROV, the crew sent it down for its first operation. Positioned near the “Alabama Alps,” the ROV was lowered nearly 250 feet to the ocean floor.

As strong underwater currents tried to move the Oceana Latitude from the operation site, expedition leader Xavier Pastor worked closely with the ships’ crew to ensure that all the necessary measures were taken to keep us on course.

Here’s Xavier Pastor:

Xavier Pastor in Oceana Latitude ROV Control Room September 11, 2010 English from Oceana on Vimeo.


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Day 30: Testing the Deep-sea ROV

© Oceana/Carlos Suarez

In today’s update from the Latitude, the crew tests the ROV for its journey into the depths of the Gulf. (Big thanks to Nautica for making our use of the ROV possible!)

Here’s Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor:


Friday, September 10

From the surface of the water, it’s hard to imagine that a small underwater mountain range with pinnacles reaching as high as 100 feet above the seafloor is below us.

With the help of an echo sounder and Olex seafloor mapping software, Oceana’s experts were able to create a visual image of a section of “The Pinnacles” off the coast of Alabama, which some people call the “The Alabama Alps.”

As is standard procedure on the first day of a new research operation, the Oceana crew spent time testing the ROV equipment after its long trip from Spain. The reason the Spanish ROV can be used to investigate deepwater areas is because it’s tethered to a weighted line that gives it greater stability and control. A crew of at least six is needed to operate the ROV, including the winch, crane, cable and controls.


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Day 29: Heading to the ‘Alabama Alps’

Senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor is back on board the Latitude after a short hiatus on land, and he’s here to tell you about the latest leg of the expedition in the “Alabama Alps,” an ecologically rich reef in the Gulf of Mexico. More on that below in the video with our chief scientist, Mike Hirshfield.

Here’s Dustin:

Thursday, September 9

As Will Race and the rest of our Alaskan colleagues headed back to Juneau this week, a new crew was making its way to Gulfport, Mississippi to board the Oceana Latitude.

Our next mission? Documenting seafloor habitat areas along the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico that may have been harmed by underwater oil.

During this leg, Spanish ROV operators Jose Manuel Saez and Josep Fleta will use a device to reach depths of approximately 1,500 feet and film in high-definition.

The Oceana Latitude also welcomed support divers Thierry Lannoy (France) and Jesus Molino (Spain), as well as Maribel Lopez from Oceana’s Madrid office. Dr. Michael Hirshfield has also returned to the ship. Here he is talking about this leg of the expedition:

Dr. Michael Hirshfield on Oceana Latitude Describes Deepwater ROV Research Sept. 9, 2010 from Oceana on Vimeo.

 


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Oceana Divers Explore Life Under Gulf Oil Rig

In today’s update from the boat, expedition leader Xavier Pastor discusses the preparations for the next leg of the journey, and the divers’ exploration of the waters beneath one of the gulf’s myriad oil rigs.

It’s incredible to think about communities of marine life living in the shadows of oil rigs, isn’t it?

Have a burning question about our ongoing expedition in the gulf? Ask it in the comments!

Here's Xavier:

Tuesday, 9/7/10

The Latitude is like an anthill. There’s a crane working on deck to remove some of the materials that were used in the last stage of the expedition: anchors, compressors, chains, ropes, buoys...

Part of the Oceana crew is also packing their bags in order to make room for the new members of the expedition who are slowly making their way to the boat.

The frenetic activity on-board is slowed only by the heat. It’s so hot, and the humidity is so high, that even the boat’s operators have to stop and drink water to avoid dehydration.


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Day 25 + 26: Jellyfish and Canyons

Oceana's Cheryl Eldemar removes test strips from the line. © Oceana/Carlos Suarez

The crew aboard the Latitude has successfully completed the experiment to map the oil plume around the Deepwater Horizon. They successfully deployed 16 buoys up to 6,000 feet deep, and were able to retrieve 90% of the buoys and hundreds of sensors.

Oceana’s Pacific science director Dr. Jeff Short will now analyze the presence and concentration of toxic hydrocarbons surrounding BP's Deepwater Horizon wellhead, which noone has yet done.

Here’s Will’s final report, and stay tuned for the next leg of the expedition, in which the crew will use a deep-sea ROV to explore important habitat areas near the Deepwater Horizon.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another hard working day notched into the belt. After today the Oceana team can check three more moorings off the list. Today started in similar fashion as the last few days: wake up early, eat breakfast and hoist a mooring. What separated today from the others were jellyfish and canyons.

To this point the Oceana team has been relatively lucky in terms of accidents and painful encounters. Yet today after an “easy” first set, we went for another, and boy did we get a surprise. Everything was normal at first, and then it happened. Jellyfish started floating past the line. Minutes later, as the crew pulled the line through the winch, jelly slime began to pass through hands. Unnoticed at first, soon people began to squirm. 

Jellyfish sting their prey using nematocysts which are their stinging structures located in specialized cells called cindocytes. In our case the stinging structures of the jellies wrapped around the long line and in some cases stuck. As the crew pulled in the line the cindocytes transferred from the rope to the gloves of the team. Minutes later the fun ensued. When nematocysts pierce the skin they inject venom. The venom is very uncomfortable, and sometimes requires medical assistance. Luckily for us no such medical assistance was needed, but we all immediately washed off and changed clothes after the set.


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Day 24: Missing Moorings and Mahi-Mahi



The Oceana crew has officially become used to the life aquatic. After a hard day yesterday and having worked on this leg of the journey for a little over a week, our heads hit the pillows hard last night.

We thought we had seen everything, but this morning we awoke to yet another surprise: silence. No waves, no wind and no clouds. The crew began work today under a clear sky – it’s the first time in this part of the expedition that the seas have been favorable.

Our first task was to seek out a mooring. With the given GPS coordinates in hand the crew took to the deck, eyes on all levels of the ship. We scanned the horizon but saw nothing; the first buoy of the day was missing. The story was the same at the second mooring site. Some of the crew suspected foul play and others thought it may have been run over by another ship, but only Poseidon will know for certain.


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