Invaluable Help and New Friends

Ramon, Art, and Tom review the capabilities of multibeam sonar.

(From left) Ramón de Leon, Art Trembanis, and Tom Hiller review the capabilities of multibeam sonar. The Gavia technology uses an interferometric system (phase measuring bathymetric sonar) developed by GeoAcoustics. Click image for larger view and image credit.

January 8, 2008

Mark Patterson
Expedition Leader
Associate Professor of Marine Science
Director, Autonomous Systems Laboratory
Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary

Early during the first week, we met two important government officials. They have proven invaluable in helping us get ready, deal with customs, and understand the development pressures and dedication to protection that vie on this island territory, soon to become a municipality, of the Netherlands.

One is Ramón de Leon, the Bonaire Marine Park manager (you can read his bio under the Explorers team), a native of Uruguay, master diver, and PhD scientist, who knows aquatic systems and is well equipped to help us with our complex mission. He acts as advocate with the shipper and customs, but as we are approaching the New Year (quite a holiday here, like everywhere, including spectacular island-wide fireworks displays), it may be many days into 2008 before we see our gear. Ramón also helped us go over our tentative site selection and proves to be a fount of information on the reef system and the design of the park.

Right after the New Year, we met Frank van Slobbe, secretary of the Commission Marine Environment. Frank is a native of Surinam and is also a professionally trained environmental scientist, with a passion for marine conservation, proper environmental planning, and fishing. You can fish in Bonaire, but only if you use traditional methods (like a handline). The fish populations are abundant, healthy, with many larger individuals. (Later in the expedition, we will be conducting fish counts.)

Ramon tries his hand at driving Fetch.

Ramón tries his hand at driving Fetch back to the beach after an autonomous mission. All of the autonomous underwater vehicles "think for themselves" when they are underwater. Only when an AUV is at the surface does a human being take over. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Fetch1 being launched by Ramon at 18 Palms.

Fetch1 being launched by Ramón at 18 Palms, one of our many study sites. Fetch made the first measurements of dissolved oxygen over the reefs of Bonaire using a special sensor. It also imaged the reef using side scan sonar. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Frank educates us about the opportunities and challenges facing Bonaire. He also asks our help in mapping some areas of special concern, where development is taking place. He is especially excited by our plans to present all of our data, maps, photos, videos, water quality plots, in the Google Earth .kmz format. We leave his office with a much better appreciation of how we might spend our precious underwater time in the coming days.



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