Alana Sherman and Jake Ellena send acoustic signals to the deep-sea observatory, commanding it to release the weights that have anchored it remotely to the seafloor for the past six months. Ken Smith and Fred Uhlman assist with troubleshooting the receiver box and transducer. It took more than an hour for the researchers to detect a response from the observatory, giving an initial worry that it might be damaged in some way and unrecoverable.
A bright orange flag on the mast assembly marks the top of the deep-sea observatory and is the first part that is pulled out of the water. Lines connect the mast to a series of flotation blocks that lift the entire instrument chain to the surface after it is commanded acoustically to drop weights that have been anchoring it to the seafloor. The remote observatory has been collecting samples and images autonomously in the deep-sea at 5400 meters depth for nearly six months.
The sediment trap captures small particles that drift down to the seafloor. A carousel of 18 bottles are programmed to rotate every 10 days to collect distinct samples. Chief scientist Ken Smith smiles as he steadies the sediment trap before it is lifted onto the ship.
The second sediment trap is lifted out of the water. This trap is positioned 50 meters above the camera tripod frame that rests on the seafloor.
The final part of the observatory was successfully lifted out of the ocean by noon. This large tripod frame was designed to position a camera and two powerful strobe lights to capture images of the seafloor.
—Debbie Nail Meyer