The Diving Safety Office was recently invited to participate in an ongoing project with the Ocean Circulation Group (OCG) from the USF College of Marine Science. The OCG has been featured on numerous occasions in the last five months with reference to the Deepwater Horizon Oil disaster. This particular project was a continuation of previous field work conducted as part of the Coastal Ocean and Monitoring Prediction System (COMPS) on the west Florida shelf.The COMPS program uses several different instruments including surface drifters, surface buoys and, bottom mount applications to gather and transmit data. Underwater operations involved locating and recovering three bottom mount instruments used for collecting data. Research took place in the Gulf of Mexico in the vicinity of Sarasota aboard the R/V Weatherbird II.
Of the three bottom mount instruments recovered, one was made of concrete and the remaining two were developmental instrument systems mounted to a fiberglass rack. All three bottom mounts contain an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) which is used to measure current velocity. The developmental systems have additional wave measuring capabilities. The ADCP “looks” up towards the surface in order to measure surface waves. The ADCP is connected to an acoustic modem on the instrument which then transmits the data through the water column using sound waves to a receiver on the nearby weather buoy located on the surface. This receiver is connected to a logger on the buoy which bundles the data and transmits it back to USF via the GOES satellite system.
Location and recovery of the bottom mount instrumentation is necessary in order to complete maintenance, gather information and swap out necessary gear. The underwater operations can escalate in difficulty depending on several factors such as location, visibility, current and depth. The Chief Scientist Jay Law, along with R/V Weatherbird II Captain Matt White, used precise coordinates in order to mark the surface where each device is located. In most cases, divers were able to view the apparatus upon initial descent. In cases where visibility was decreased, or the instrument was not located, search patterns were conducted by the divers in order to locate the bottom mount.
The COMPS 66 project also allowed for USF research divers to gain experience with the OCG dive operations both topside and underwater. This provided some of the necessary diving that must be completed annually in order to maintain status as a full Scientific Diver. In addition, this enabled scientific divers-in-training to continue to build on the requirements necessary to become a full scientific diver. Due to the frequency and amount of research diving that the OCG completes, it is necessary to have a group of divers that have the training and experience necessary in order to make each mission a success. All work was completed at each site visited; and all diving was completed with a safe and positive outcome for the 66th mission.