OBFS-NAML Strategic Vision Report

OBFS LogonamlNURTEC Director, Ivar Babb co-authored a major report entitled: “Field Stations and Marine Laboratories of the Future: A Strategic Vision” that reviewed the nature of research and education being supported at Field Stations and Marine Labs (FSMLs) and provided strategic recommendations for the future of these important facilities. This was a collaborative effort between the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS) and the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML). The report is available at: http://www.obfs.org/fsml-future.

ROV Support for the Lophelia II Expedition

Corals at Ram Powell
Deepwater corals and anemones found on Ram Powell,   a deepwater oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of the Lophelia II 2012 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEM.

Lophelia II 2012: Deepwater Platform Corals was a 12 day mission in the Gulf of Mexico sponsored by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and NOAA.  NURTEC provided its remotely operated vehicle, the Kraken2 (K2), that worked off from the research vessel the Brooks McCall, operated by TDI-Brooks.  The mission was called Lophelia II after the deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa and focused on understanding the ecology of deep water corals and other invertebrates that inhabit oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The expedition included lengthy, challenging yet successful ROV dives at four oil platforms and one subsea installation off the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coastline.  K2 was used to conduct thorough video and photographic surveys of coral and other invertebrate communities living on the subsea structure of the platforms, extending as deep as 1000m.    K2 was also used to collect biological specimens for museum display and genetic analysis as well as seawater and sediment samples for related ecological parameters. One of the mission highlights was the discovery of a new depth record for Lophelia at 799m on the Ram Powell platform.  Click here for more information.

Shipwreck Lamartine listed on National Register of Historic Places

Lamartine porthole
The carefully chiseled groove around the basin head’s manhole
allowed the manhole cover to fit flush with the slab’s surface.
(Photo Credit: NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC-UConn)

The wreck of the Lamartine, a 19th century schooner that hauled granite for construction of streets, sidewalks and buildings along the U.S. East Coast, has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. The wreck lies within NOAA’s Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in Massachusetts Bay.

Built in Camden, Maine, the 79-foot, two-masted cargo schooner was launched in 1848 and enjoyed a 45-year career along the Eastern Seaboard. The Lamartine is considered by historians as a representative vessel of New England’s granite trade from that era.

While hauling granite sewer heads from Stonington, Maine, to New York City on May 17, 1893, the Lamartine encountered a storm off Cape Ann, Mass. Heavy seas caused the schooner’s cargo to shift, capsizing the vessel.

One crewmember drowned as the schooner settled beneath the waves, and the captain and mate were tossed into the ocean. Luckily, a fishing schooner returning to Gloucester, Mass., saw the Lamartine sink, and rescued them.

“Lamartine’s cargo of cut granite reveals fascinating details about how granite quarried in New England met the demands of a nation growing increasingly urban,” said Craig MacDonald, superintendent of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. “The shipwreck is a physical link to earlier generations who moved the stone and whose hands chiseled the granite blocks that built our great American cities.”

Scientists from NOAA and the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center (NURTEC) documented the shipwreck with the university’s remotely operated vehicle during several research missions between 2004 and 2006. The fieldwork recorded the vessel’s features, including portions of its wooden hull, rigging and granite cargo. This information allowed sanctuary maritime archaeologists, with help from a local maritime historian, to identify the shipwreck and connect it with New England’s cultural landscape that is dotted with granite quarries on coastal headlands and islands.

NOAA and NURTEC scientists have collaboratively located and documented more than three dozen historic shipwrecks in the sanctuary using side scan sonar and an advanced suite of remotely operated and self-guided underwater vehicles. The Lamartine is the sanctuary’s sixth shipwreck site to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.

The Lamartine’s location within Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary provides protection unavailable to shipwrecks in other federal waters off Massachusetts. Sanctuary regulations prohibit moving, removing or injuring any sanctuary historical resource, including artifacts and pieces from shipwrecks or other submerged archaeological sites. Anyone violating this regulation is subject to civil penalties.

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 842 square miles of ocean, stretching between Cape Ann and Cape Cod offshore of Massachusetts. Renowned for its biological diversity and remarkable productivity, the sanctuary is famous as a whale watching destination and supports a rich assortment of marine life, including marine mammals, seabirds, fishes and marine invertebrates. The sanctuary’s position astride the historic shipping routes and fishing grounds for Massachusetts’ oldest ports also makes it a repository for shipwrecks representing several hundred years of maritime transportation.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels at http://www.noaa.gov/socialmedia/.

On the Web:
NOAA Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary: http://stellwagen.noaa.gov
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries: http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
NOAA Preserve America Initiative: http://preserveamerica.noaa.gov
Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center: http://www.nurc.uconn.edu
Lamartine photos can be found on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary’s website at http://stellwagen.noaa.gov/maritime/granite.html

Cocos Seamount Expedition

HELA ROVOn February 6th,  2012, NURTEC’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hela, capable of diving to 1000 feet, departed UConn Avery Point to be air freighted to Costa Rica to support a National Geographic Society (NGS) expedition to explore a deep-water seamount in the Pacific Ocean.  The “Las Gemelas” (the twins) seamount lies about 40 nautical miles offshore from Cocos Island, which itself lies over 375 miles from the coast of Costa Rica.  The expedition is being led by NGS photographer, Brian Skerry (www.brianskerry.com) and Dr. Peter Auster, UConn Department of Marine Sciences is serving as an expedition scientist.

Click here for more information on the National Geographic Expedition.

Cocos Islands

Florida Shelf Edge Exploration II

Pink Stylaster corals
Pink Stylaster corals (Photo credit: CIOERT Research Team)

From September 12 to September 30, 2011, members of NURTEC’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations team collaborated with the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research and Technology (CIOERT) and partner scientists aboard the NOAA vessel Nancy Foster to conduct an undersea exploration of Florida’s deepwater coral ecosystems.  The objectives of this expedition were to survey these shelf-edge habitats and assess abundance and diversity of reef fishes, corals, and other associated invertebrates.  While some areas were revisited from previous years, the team also explored new sites along Pulley Ridge and Pourtalѐs Terrace.


Kraken2 ROV
NURTEC’s Kraken2 ROV (Photo credit: Andy David, NMFS)

The science party utilized an array of ocean technologies including CTD, MOCNESS, multi-beam sonar to identify potential hard-bottom targets of mesophotic coral reefs and NURTEC’s ROV, Kraken2, to ground-truth these areas of interest with high definition video, digital still photography, and sample collection.  For the mission, Kraken2 was equipped with an array of custom designed sampling systems including a HD video camera, four additional SD cameras for a variety of viewpoints, a down-looking digital still camera for conduction quantitative photo transects, forward and down-looking paired lasers for sizing objects, a six function manipulator with cutting claw for sample collection, suction sampling tube and eight bucket array, auto-indexing quiver array for biota collection.


sampling coral
Kraken2 ROV collecting coral sample with manipulator
and suction hose (Photo credit: CIOERT Research Team)

Over the course of sixteen scheduled dive days, a total of 26 dives were conducted ranging in depth from less than 200 meters to 850 meters water depth.  The opportune weather conditions, cooperative effort of science, ship and ROV team, and performance of Kraken2 ROV produced hundreds of hours of undersea video, thousands of digital photos, and wide array of biological specimens collected for taxonomy, genetic sampling, and medical research.  In summary, the research cruise was a success and the resulting data/scientific insight will help assess the efficacy of establishing marine protected areas and understanding coral/fish associations.

For more information about the FLOSEE II Expedition, please visit FLOSEE II: Exploring and Mapping Shelf Frontiers off South Florida.