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The Hunt for the Alligator

Hunt for the Alligator Expedition Log for Thursday, Sept. 8, 2005

By Melissa Madrigal
Ph.D. Candidate
Coastal Resources Management Program
East Carolina University

preparing the ROV
C. Eben Franks (right) readies a Benthos "Stingray" remotely operated vehicle for the 2005 Hunt for the Alligator expedition with help from East Carolina University Ph.D. candidate Melissa Madrigal (center) and NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program Marine Archaeologist Michael Overfield, the expedition's coordinator. Photo: John Williams/ONR

The day before a survey mission begins is just about my favorite day of a project for two reasons. First of all, the entire day mainly consists of meeting new people – learning about what they do, where they came from, and the special skills or tools they bring to the project; and greeting old friends – hearing about the different projects and new experiences they have worked or had since we last saw each other. The second reason concerns the equipment and technology brought aboard the vessel. This time gives us the opportunity to see all the equipment that will be used during the survey, which allows us to become at least familiar with the tools before we have to handle it in/over the water.

Today, while we waited on the YP-679 to dock, I met with the chief scientist and archaeologist for the expedition, Michael Overfield, to discuss plans and contingencies for the survey week. I also spent the majority of my day working with C. Eben Franks from Benthos gathering last minute items for the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that he brought for the survey, discussing the technology surrounding the vehicle, and learning about how the ROV is going to be used during the mission. However, the most excitement came when I was able to not only help him unload the ROV but also to actually drive it once we checked everything out and put it in the water! After he was assured everything was in proper working condition, we packed it back up and continued to wait for the arrival of the YP.

The YP-679 docked around 7 p.m. Once they completed their required tasks, we were able to come aboard to set up the survey equipment in the survey control room. The operators from Ixsea set up the magnetometer station with screens to monitor the data as it is being received and computers to run all of the equipment behind Michael Overfield’s station, where the global positioning system (GPS) and survey maps are located. There is also a station for the ROV operator with his monitoring equipment and control devices. After the equipment was hooked up, we checked and double checked everything to ensure that the equipment would be ready for use first thing in the morning. Finally, the YP crew came around to secure every loose object in the room so we can operate without worry of anything falling or coming loose.

The day before a survey mission is long and it does involve a lot of hard work but in the end it is so fun and exciting that you hardly even notice!