MMRI Marine Update

The ROVARD ready for deployment at Woolsey Mound in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Pictured from left to right are Dan Hoer and Howard Mendlovitz (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) and Larry Overstreet, Brain Noakes and Matt Lowe (MMRI shop team).

MMRI had another busy quarter in the Gulf of Mexico, executing two cruises to our Seafloor Observatory site. The MMRI-designed and built ROVARD (remotely operated vehicle assisted recovery device) easily and smoothly emplaced an array of chemical and physical sensors on the seafloor at the Observatory site. A wealth of information on chemical gradients between the marine sediments and the overlying seawater will be collected continuously over the next 6-12 months. The Benthic Boundary Layer Array (BBLA) was also deployed at the observatory. Its purpose is to evaluate chemical flux in the lower water column and aid in the evaluation of oceanographic forcing factors on hydrate formation and dissociation. The Station Service Device ROV made several successful dives to inspect these new installations and to collect sediment cores to evaluate the potential for impact to the area from the oil spill.

Max Woolsey observes the launch of the Mola Mola AUV by Larry Overstreet and Brian Noakes of MMRI. The Mola Mola is designed for mapping inaccessible habitats on the seafloor.

The Underwater Vehicle Technology Center (UVTC), a sister center of MMRI's Seabed Technology Research Center, participated in the first September cruise to Woolsey Mound in the hope of obtaining high quality images of the seafloor. Woolsey mound is known to have diverse habitats with fauna unique to the deep marine environment but these habitats are not well mapped and the populations not well documented. Max Woolsey, vehicles engineer at UVTC, and the Mola Mola Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, specifically designed for mapping habitats on the seafloor, participated in the early September cruise. Max had his hands full with control and command issues with the vehicle’s navigational system and he spent the better part of the cruise writing new code. However, the team managed four deployments for the Mola Mola which gets ever-nearer survey capability.

(October 2010)