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Thursday, September 20, 2007: Day Cruise with MBARI
I was lucky enough to get out on the Point Lobos yesterday to observe the Ventana ROV in action. Ventana is an 18 year old robot, but it has been continuously upgraded over it's lifetime and has all the latest and greatest gizmos and sensors. It's primary mission for the day was to recover a mid-water experiment left earlier in the week, and then if there was extra time try squirting squid at live squids in the wild to see how they would react.


The Point Lobos is a research ship operated by MBARI, the same research lab that let us use their indoor tank a few weeks ago to test SCINI. The crew and ROV pilots are some of the best in the world and have a very smooth routine worked out, and I learned a lot from watching the pilots balance science goals with fixing any problems that cropped up with the hardware.

The launch and recovery process was an elaborate dance between the crane operator, the skipper, tether manager, ROV pilot, and deck manager. The crew was well practiced and made it look easy; it will take a long time before our SCINI launches go that smoothly, even though the Ventana is the size and weight of a jeep, while SCINI weighs about 15kg (35 pounds) and is just 1.5m (5 feet) long...

This innocent looking attachment is a specimen capture tube; when a scientists sees an interesting looking beastie they can ask the pilot to maneuver this cylinder around the organism and then slide the lids shut. After the robot is recovered to the deck, the scientists stored away the specimens to be analyzed on shore later. We spent an hour or two chasing down small squid and at the end saw a rare vampire squid, but it was too large to be captured. This creepy frankenfish has the tail of a squid or octopus but the head of a normal fish.

This shows the below decks ROV control room. The pilots and scientists need a quiet isloated space to concentrate on the imagry and data streaming back from the Ventana, but it's easy to get sea sick when concentrating on the moving video coming from the ROV while sitting in a rolling ship on the surface... a lot of motion to confuse your inner ear!

During one of the ROV recoveries, a few whales surfaced near the ship and swam right around the Ventana. Close call!

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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.