Fixing the ROV

The ROV team works on the control and camera systems. Click image for larger view. Photo by Anne Smrcina, SBNMS

The Best Laid Plans

Sept. 14, 2003

Anne Smrcina
Education and Outreach Coordinator
Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, NOAA

It seems as if the saying “Hurry up and wait” is our theme today. We rendez-voused at the State Fish Pier where our ship, the research vessel (R/V) Connecticut, was berthed. We had expected to depart the harbor for the Portland site by 6 a.m. Unfortunately, glitches with the control system (the brains behind the camera system) of the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) prevented us from leaving.

Working on electronic gear in the marine environment is difficult due to the sensitivity of the equipment to the saltwater environment. Technicians must take care not to contaminate the inner workings of their complex equipment with ocean water, and also make sure that all housings for such equipment are watertight and capable of sustaining pressures at depth. To keep the equipment at a manageable size so that it does not become too heavy, which would cause buoyancy problems, engineers design complex instruments that pack a lot of circuitry in a small package. Fixing this equipment in the lab is difficult enough, but it’s even tougher at sea. Today, the decision was made to allow the tech team to work on the camera controls in their shipboard lab at the dock, which created a more stable platform than open water.

Fixing the ROV

The ROV team continues to work on the control and camera systems. Click image for larger view. Photo by Anne Smrcina, SBNMS

Throughout the day we thought there might be the chance we’d actually make it out of port. The drizzly morning turned into a sunny midday, and we had hopes for a possible research cruise, albeit shortened. Alas, it was not to be. Nevertheless, the day ended on an upbeat note. During the late afternoon, the “brains” of the ROV appeared to have been unscrambled, and all indications pointed to a functional camera system. The captain of the R/V Connecticut moved the vessel perpendicular to the pier to test the ROV off the starboard (right) side of the ship.

After a few buoyancy adjustments, the ROV began to fly as planned. Tweaking of the system tonight should put everything in order for an early departure to the Portland wreck site tomorrow.