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Fieldwork

USGS Research Vessel G.K. Gilbert Helps Secure Super Bowl XXXIX


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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research vessel G.K. Gilbert, based in St. Petersburg, FL, augmented security for Super Bowl XXXIX, the National Football League's championship football game played on February 6, 2005, in Jacksonville, FL. The Gilbert scanned miles of piers, docks, bulkheads, and bridge abutments along Jacksonville's waterfront with an underwater Mobile Inspection Package (MIP) developed by the University of South Florida's Center for Ocean Technology (USF-COT). USF-COT has been developing the system for two years with funding and oversight provided by the Office of Naval Research and the Coast Guard Research and Development Center. Chief Scientist John Kloske (USF) conducted the cruises with Captains Richard Young (USGS) and Dave Bennett (Eckerd College) at the request of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and with the support of the Florida State Department of Community Affairs and the assistance of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Operations were coordinated and supervised by the USF National Center for Maritime and Port Security.

The Jacksonville Landing, the center of Super Bowl XXXIX activities, was scanned by the USGS research vessel G.K. Gilbert to ensure the absence of underwater threats. This collage shows the above-water area at night with the below-water seawall structures that support it, including those beneath the gazebo (inset) on the left and along the St. John's River waterfront to the bridge abutment on the right. Two scanning sonar heads are mounted on the end of a swing-down pole off the starboard gunnel of the USGS research vessel G.K. Gilbert.
Above Left: The Jacksonville Landing, the center of Super Bowl XXXIX activities, was scanned by the USGS research vessel G.K. Gilbert to ensure the absence of underwater threats. This collage shows the above-water area at night with the below-water seawall structures that support it, including those beneath the gazebo (inset) on the left and along the St. John's River waterfront to the bridge abutment on the right. Photographs by Steve Untiedt (USF). [larger version]

Above Right: Two scanning sonar heads are mounted on the end of a swing-down pole off the starboard gunnel of the USGS research vessel G.K. Gilbert. The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) stands ready on the fantail. Photograph by Steve Untiedt (USF). [larger version]

USGS research vessel G.K. Gilbert (50 ft long) running alongside the Holland America Line's merchant vessel Zaandam Alltel Stadium in downtown Jacksonville where Super Bowl XXXIX was played.
Above Left: USGS research vessel G.K. Gilbert (50 ft long) running alongside the Holland America Line's merchant vessel Zaandam (780 ft long), one of four cruise ships that provided accommodations for guests and dignitaries in Jacksonville, FL, during Super Bowl XXXIX. Photograph by Steve Untiedt (USF). [larger version]

Above Right: Alltel Stadium in downtown Jacksonville where Super Bowl XXXIX was played. Some spectators came in large yachts that were scanned and checked by divers. Photograph by Steve Untiedt (USF). [larger version]

The MIP consists of a 3D-imaging sonar and a high-resolution-imaging sonar, a topside camera, and a high-accuracy navigation system. The sonars were mounted on a pole extending 6 ft under the boat. Piers, docks, bridge abutments, and seawalls around downtown Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium were scanned at 3 knots from a distance of 50 ft to inspect them for suspicious objects that could be explosive devices. During the week before the game, the Gilbert scanned multiple times more than 2 mi of the St. Johns River shoreline. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had designated these areas of special interest because of the security risk posed to Super Bowl activities, including the cruise-ship docks where guests and visiting dignitaries (including two past presidents) would be accommodated. The high-resolution images were analyzed immediately aboard the Gilbert and transmitted in real time to a Command and Control Center set up aboard the Florida Institute of Oceanography's research vessel Suncoaster (berthed a few miles away) for further analysis by explosives experts from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

These data were used as a baseline for subsequent scans made before the Super Bowl and will also provide a valuable database for future events. Numerous suspicious objects were detected and subsequently investigated by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with a high-resolution-imaging sonar and a video camera, which determined that most of the objects were construction debris and harbor jetsam. Remaining targets were investigated by sheriff's divers and found not to be explosive devices. This approach reduced the divers' time in the water, which is especially important in the tidally influenced St. Johns River, where dives are restricted to short periods of slack water four times a day. The sheriff's office was pleased with the MIP system and grateful for our assistance, saying it eliminated many hours of dangerous underwater time for divers in the treacherous St. Johns River, which is known for its strong currents, poor visibility, and cold water this time of year.

With this successful deployment of the MIP system aboard the Gilbert to secure the Jacksonville waterfront during Super Bowl XXXIX, the results of post-9/11 port security research and development investments are beginning to be realized, and the safety of our ports and waterways will be significantly enhanced.


Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Vessel Used to Test Counter-Terrorism Surveillance Equipment
October 2004

Related Web Sites
St. Petersburg Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
USF Center for Ocean Technology
University of South Florida (USF)

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USGS Research Vessel Helps Secure Super Bowl

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