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Flower Garden Banks underwater photo
Mission notebook

Mission Log March 7, 2007

by G.P. Schmahl
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent

Crew change on the NR-1
Crew change taking place on the NR-1 while at sea. (Photo: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary)
During the night, the Carolyn Chouest with the Argus in tow transited from the mud volcano southeast of the West Flower Garden Bank to the East Flower Garden Bank. The day began at 0600 hours with a personnel change in the NR-1. Doug Weaver and Mark Betts (Devon Energy Co.) left the NR-1 after two days under the sea, and were replaced by Jack Irion (MMS) and Kat Cantner (Institute for Exploration). As soon as the sub was clear of the Carolyn Chouest, we brought over Emma Hickerson and Rachel Graham (WCI) from the M/V Spree, where the annual winter research cruise was underway.

Shortly after the crew change, the Argus was redeployed in the deep reef area south of the East Flower Garden Bank. By the time of the first live Immersion Presents broadcast of the day at 1000 hours, the Argus had made it to the brine seep at the southeastern edge of the bank.

Crew change on the NR-1
Filming of a live show. (Photo: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary)
The Argus captured some incredible high definition video of the brine seep and overflow channel. Although we had been to this area a couple of times previously with other ROV's, we had never been able to capture the true essence of the brine seep until this expedition. The camera was able to zoom in and position its lights to clearly demonstrate the flow of the supersaturated, highly dense brine layer over the sea floor. The overlying water was so clear that it looked as if you were flying over a terrestrial landscape, viewing a flowing river below. A marbled grouper would swim by every now and then to remind you that this was all happening over 230 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Emma and Rachel were featured on several of the live broadcasts during the day, co-hosted by Dwight Coleman (on the Carolyn Chouest) and Bob Ballard (from Mystic, CT). Mark Betts, a marine geologist, was also a guest on the broadcast while the Argus was transmitting the footage from the brine seep. Mark could hardly contain his excitement while being interviewed for the show, as he couldn't keep his eyes off of the
stunning images that were coming in live as he spoke!

After visiting the brine seep, the Argus continued exploring and filming around the large "sinkhole" (depression area) on the east side of the East Bank, revealing some outstanding deep coral reef areas not previously documented. Meanwhile, the NR1 conducted some high resolution side scan sonar mapping of deeper water patch reef areas in the vicinity.

We said good bye to Emma and Rachel in the evening, and prepped the Argus for another night of exploration at Rankin Bank, located about 6 miles east of the East Bank. It was a great day!

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