The CODA science team is finally at their first science stop! 23 days after the expedition started (14 days of quarantine and 9 days of transit time on the ship), the “real” work begins.
The mission is to recover four moorings that have been hanging out on the sea floor at a variety of depths for the last 10 months, recording data about currents, waves, temperatures and ice drift. There are so many things that have to go just right for this mission to be a success.
First, the moorings need to still be there and intact. Over an Arctic winter, ice could have dragged them away or a curious seal or whale could have caused damage. Even little crustaceans can dig in and break seals, cover sensors, and block signals.
Next, the team has to find the moorings. Option A for that is to communicate with the moorings using acoustic signals and instruct the mooring to release a buoy. The buoy then pops to the surface. Even if it pops up right next to the ship, those buoys are small and very hard to spot in the vast ocean.
Lastly, the data has to be there. The SD card from the mooring might be corrupt or damaged. The batteries could have died. The data could just be mysteriously missing.
Whew, that’s a lot that can go wrong!
Which is why the team was ecstatic to recover two moorings yesterday using the acoustic release process and download 7.6 GB of data! The moorings were covered in slime, barnacles, whelks (funny little snails) and their eggs, but the data was there!
Today, Jim and Alex are diving for the other two moorings that did not respond to their acoustic instructions, hoping to be able to gather even more data from the site. The water is a balmy 41 degrees F at the surface and 33 degrees F at the bottom, where they are headed. BRRRR! They need full dry suits, efficient dives, and a steaming cup of tea on the other end! So, send your good warm mooring-seeking vibes to the Arctic today.