RV Lone Ranger, ROV Phantom, Sediment traps, Deep-sea observatory, Bait station, Kite Assist System
The Lone Ranger, a 255-foot ship donated to the Schmidt Ocean Institute by Mr. Peter Lewis, is dedicated as a platform for increasing knowledge and understanding of the world’s ocean through scientific and engineering research. Originally an ocean tug, the Lone Ranger was redesigned into a yacht then transformed into a research vessel for scientific investigation at Mr. Lewis’ request.
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The team will use Phantom DSII remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to videotape the deeper portions of the floating Sargassum mats and to make water-quality measurements. The ROV will be deployed from the port (left) side of the ship using the deck crane. The researchers will let out tether over the side while the ROV pilot operates the vehicle from the laboratory van on deck. Using the ROV camera to record observations will help the team to determine what species are present in and around the seaweeds and how many animals live in this unique community.
Sediment traps are large funnels that collect particles of debris that rain down from sunlit surface waters. This rain of debris is the primary source of food for deep-sea communities. By measuring how much debris sinks into the traps, researchers can figure out how the food supply for deep-sea animals changes over time.
At the most southerly study site, about 500 miles west of Bermuda, the research team will set up a long-term observing system 5,400 meters down on the abyssal seafloor. The new observatory, commissioned by the Marine Science and Technology Foundation, consists of a time-lapse camera system connected to a string of “sediment traps”. The time-lapse camera will snap pictures of a four-by-five-meter patch of ocean floor every hour for up to six months. Smith will retrieve the data from the observatory on a separate cruise scheduled for August.
Two free-vehicle baited camera systems will be dropped off the ship and left on the seafloor for 24 hours to see what animal scavengers are attracted to the bait. Each camera system has a 4x6 ft footprint and is 3ft high with a deployment weight of 600 lbs. After about 24 hours on the seafloor, an acoustic command is given from the ship that releases the anchor from the camera mooring so that it floats back up to the surface for the scientists to recover. It takes about two and a half hours for the camera system to rise from the abyssal depths more than 4,000 meters below to the sea surface.
Kite Assist System
The Kite Assist System consists of a winch, flying line, launching mast, kite, line climber, cameras, and anemometer. Kites can be flown from 50 to 600 meters (160 - 2000 feet) altitude with a line angle of 45 degrees. Researchers can choose from an array of kites ranging from two to seven meters (six to 20 feet) across depending upon weather conditions, sea state, and wind speed. The Kite Assist System requires 10 minutes to launch, and three minutes to retrieve each kite system. Multiple camera systems and sensors can be deployed simultaneously in collaboration with Sargassum sampling and satellite imaging.