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Salvage for Science

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ROV: Remotely Operated Vehivle (ROV) rigged for action with hook, lines and sonar.
From December 1999 to April 2000, the Woods Hole Field Center (WHFC) deployed a regional array of six tripods on the seabed and five surface moorings to study sediment transport and circulation along and across the New York Bight and Hudson Shelf Valley. There is always risk associated with deploying instrumentation and the more gear one puts out, the greater the risk. With luck and skill, we recovered all the gear on the scheduled recovery cruise, except the most strategic tripod at Site B, where both the valley-axis and cross-shelf lines of instruments met. The tripod's recovery float came to the surface towing the lifting line, but due to chafing, the line parted when we pulled the tripod off the bottom. We dragged the area with sturdy 150-lb grappling hooks, hooking the tripod once or twice and tipping it over, but we were unable to bring it to the surface. Deteriorating weather and lack of ship time finally sent us home, leaving over $75,000 of instrumentation with its data on the bottom.

We regrouped and enlisted the help of a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Jonathan Borden (WHFC) and Andy Girard (WHOI) spent a week getting the unit in shape, devising rescue hooks to attach to the ROV and practicing off the WHOI dock on spare tripods we had on shore. In late June, we secured time on the R/V Connecticut, and Jon, Courtney Harris, Dave Foster, Marinna Martini, Ben Gutierrez and Jane Denny (WHFC) joined Andy to head back to New York for a second try. As we were loading, Dan Codiga of the University of Connecticut asked us if we could attempt to rescue a lost bottom package off Montauk, NY, if we had time on our way home.

tripod on crowded deck
Crowded Deck: Tripod on a crowded deck prior to deployment.
We arrived at the NY Bight tripod site at 0400, completed verification of the tripod's location in a fast two hours, deployed the ROV and had the tripod on deck by 0800 in spite of very poor visibility for the ROV on the bottom. Jon and Andy's hook-up rig worked like a charm (see ROV photo). We had so much time left, we returned home by way of Montauk Point and had a "go" at Dan's gear, recovering that too! At 2300 on the same day that we had arrived at the NY Bight site, we were headed back to the dock with two prizes on board. Not only did we retrieve the tripod but all the instruments were also in good condition. Courtney, one of the principal investigators, reports that the data look excellent with intriguing up-valley near-bottom currents.

Many thanks to Andy for his piloting, Jon for handling cruise logistics and for his help and expertise with ROVs (from his old Alvin days), Jane and Ben for navigation via GIS, and Courtney and Dave for their help on deck. Dan was very grateful to everyone for willingness to put in an extra long day to try for his instruments. May all science expeditions go so well!

Related Sound Waves Stories
Moorings Deployed in the Hudson Shelf Valley, Offshore New York
January, 2000

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in this issue: Fieldwork cover story:
Biscayne Nat'l Park Corals

Santa Monica Bay

Salvage for Science

Joint USGS—Monterey Aquarium Cruise

Outreach Teachers Tour WHFC

Students Tour WHFC

West Falmouth Harbor Water Sampling

Meetings World's Largest GIS Conference

Modeling Workshop

SC/GA Coastal Erosion Project

NOAA Data Integration

Staff & Center News Talk at WHFC

New Babies in Western Region

Publications New Coastal & Marine Geology Circular

August Publications List U. S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
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