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Monday, June 18, 2007: SCINI gets wet!
We put the ROV body sections in the water for the first time today, to check buoyancy calculations and trim configuration.


As expected, SCINI is heavy in the butt (or airy in the head) without any innards but that will change when we add the navigation, camera, and propulsion systems. The three good things we learned were
  1. all the pieces fit together
  2. the watertight sections do not leak (they have been pressure tested as well)
  3. as calculated, there is enough excess buoyancy to accommodate the hardware.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007: SOS-SCINI
Part of the mission of this project is Education and Outreach. We are partnering with a local high school program, Second Opportunity School, to create SOS-SCINI, a plan for the students to build an experiment for the ROV to conduct in Antarctica, and to analyze and report on the results.


We visited the school, which is on the Cabrillo College extension campus in Watsonville, to introduce the students to the project and the experiment. One of the initial scientific goals for SCINI is to have excellent visual capabilities, to provide image data on deep or otherwise inaccessible habitats to the scientists on the surface. Ecologists will need high enough image quality to identify organisms to species. Image quality is a result of the combination of camera resolution capabilities, lighting, and distance. The question the students will be answering is under what combinations of light and distance does the camera module we have selected allow them to identify species level characteristics. Rather than have them learn to identify Antarctic sponges, a skill of dubious utility in the real world, they will be taking standardized photos of themselves, laminating them to make them waterproof, and constructing a collapsible, adjustable frame to hold them. The array of photos will be deployed under the ice, and SCINI will record imagery under high light levels and low light levels, at 1 m (near) and 3 m (far) distances. These data will be sent back to the SOS class, and the students will try to identify themselves and each other in the images. By comparing the percent correct under each set of lighting and distances, we can deduce which conditions are sufficient, and which are not, for our ecological work.

An example of the seafloor community in McMurdo Sound. This image, taken by a diver, is very clear, and it is easy to identify the yellow sponges (Dendrilla antarctica), the white sponges (Haliclona dancoi), and also to count the 1 feather star (Promachocrinus kerguelensis), 12 urchins (Sterechinus neumayeri), 4 brittle stars (Ophionotus victoriae), 2 seastars (Odontaster validus) and 2 scallops (Adamussium colbecki).

In this image, taken at Cape Armitage, it is very hard to see the octopus until the light levels are high.

In this image from the Jetty, it easy to tell there is a sponge (Anoxycalyx joubini) in the image, but not until you are close can you also see the fish (Trematomus bernacchii) inside.

Monday, June 4, 2007: First Light on Elphel Camera

We're looking at using an "open source/open hardware" video camera from Elphel. Here's one of the first frame grabs we got back from the device just the other day.

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.