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Interview 30:54 - 48:19 Play 30:54 - More
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Paul Donaldson  







Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary; ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle)  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
30 Jul 1997

  • United States
  • Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary
  • 42.35   -70.5
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Equipment Note
  • Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo; Sennheiser MKH40 Cardioid Mid Mic and MKH30 Bidirectional Side Mic through Sonosax Preamp into Sony TCD3

Stellwagen Bank NMS
reporter: Anthony Brooks

Brad Barr (BB)
Bob Wallace (Bob)
Peter J. Auster (PA)
Paul Donaldson (Paul)
Anthony Brooks (TB)

pair Sennheiser MKH 30s/MKH 40s

1:06 ambi: transfer of the ship

1:27 -"all forward now"

1 :35 -"Steve, you want a line on the stem?"

"Yeah. We are going to need a line on the stem also ... hope they can throw us a line. Flies are here."

1 : 46 ambi -engine -low rumbling
(the following is on and of mike -not great, but possibly helpful to set up scene)

2:06 "Throw the line over! This is as close as we are going to get." (Steve?)

"We got you!" "Just watch that rai1. Hold on until we get it nice and steady here."

"hey -give me a little slack Pau1."

MORE TALK. ... arranging plans for getting picked up.

3: 15 Hello Peter!

3: 17 Welcome aboard!

3: 19 How do you do? Anthony Brooks.

TB -You are?

3 :24 PA -Peter Auster.

More talk between people on board

3 :54 ? -This is where we are going to finish up where we are working this afternoon....

More talk amongst people on board -setting up for day and for pick up

4:24 ? (Brad?) what I thought about doing (first part of this cut oft) was diving right where we are now and then moving up to the site where we surveyed the sets (?)

4:42 ? -"This is 10 miles north here"

"Yeah." "It is supposed to be nice today -yeah, weather is supposed to get

4:58 Brad (?) -it is just that ?? we are going to have to recover the ROV and everything.. ???

5:09 Brad -we were out here and they were bubble feeding all over the place yesterday afternoon.

TB -who is they? Whales? Brad -yeah, whales. Humpbacks, yeah.

5:25 ? -this ROV working ok?

5:27 Brad -yeah. Yeah.

5 :29 -TB -this is it here?

Brad -yup. This is the Phantom S-2 ROY. It's got video cameras (some talking in bg -"morning!" ... ) a pair of lasers for scaling. 2 35 millimeter cameras for high resolution still imagery. Horizontal, frontal thrusters obviously for maneuvering .

5: 51 TB -so this sends back video images from the bottom of the ocean. That is great.

BB (BRAD BAR) -This will work under a thousand feet, although we are working in considerably shallower area here at Stellwagen Bank.

6:02 TB -so pressure never gets -water pressure never effects any of this?

6:06 BB -no, this is all good all of the housings. Inside of the housings is one atmosphere ...

TB -looks sort of like the Martian rover that they just landed on Mars -except a little more complicated!

6:22 BB -well we are talking to it through a hard wire. They are talking to through however many millions miles space acoustically.

TB -138 million miles -something like that.

6:33 ? -you don't have to wait 8 mins for this .

TB -it is great!

6:48 TB (?) -it's a quite a vessel. (off mike) ....

Talk amongst crew -some off mike

8:20 BB -why don't we go up there and do that dive this morning ... and then we will do the other one -we will come back here ... hey Steve? (STEVE -yeah -) let's meet back here this afternoon at around -what's the latest you want to leave here to get
back in?

8:44 ? -well from here 5:00 I can leave 5:00 no problem. BB -well ok let's do that ?? -This position? BB -yeah

?? -I'll be on the eel phone on ?? BB -ok.

9:03 -TB -thanks for the ride Steve

more talk amongst crew

intro of people on board -done very quickly -Chuck Thompson, Les Watling, Bob Wallace

9:50 -ambi -boat taking off

10:03 -talk on board

10:35 ?? -one of the earliest research boats on the US east coast is called the Eastward(?) and the Eastward was a side-rigged ship like this and it was a little bit bigger -about the same size. But you launched all the gear off the side, instead of off the stern. Most of the research vessels these days are stern-rigged so that with the box cords (?) or trawls or dredges off the stern is a little easier but this is a good kind of rig working in a heavy seat. (all of this is a bit quiet -off mike ? or is he soft spoken?)

11:11 TB -so you can pretty much stay out here in all kinds of weather without any problem.

?? -oh yeah. This boat will take a pretty good blow. You will be able to work out here -you wouldn't be able to actually work -you would be able to stay you wouldn't
have to run to port of something on a kind of boat like this.

11 :30 TB -chuck, I might start with Bob and do a sort of general orientation of Stellwagen Bank and then move on with Brad. Think that is a good plan of action?

?? -Yeah that is a good idea.


12:42 TB -there is another -Doh -you can see his fin -so maybe 200 yards away we are looking at -what kind of whale?

Bob -probably a Minke whale.

12:52 -TB -a fin whale.

12:55 restart MIS

13 :01 ambi -of room where interview will take place

13:06 TB -so Bob, tell me about these whales. We saw them as we were approaching
the Able Jay where we are standing now. Lot of whales down here?

Bob -yeah. Well, one of the reasons why the Sanctuary was designated was because of the fact that there are so many whales here. This is an essential habitat for a lot of fish, or a lot of whales. And the reason is that there is so much for them to eat. Bc it is so highly productive it is a place that they all sort of congregate in, in order to catch a meal. And so bc of that we have some of the highest concentrations of whales on the eastern seaboard. At point -which has lead to one of the highest concentrations of whale watches on the eastern seaboard. As a matter of fact Roger Paine, the noted whale biologist at one time called Stellwagen Bank the ground zero of the whale watch industry. Bc it really -bc the modern whale watch industry really started here.

14:02 TB -and how has it gone over the years. I mean the number of whales this year relative to last year relative to 10 years ago -or-

Bob -well, like most biological populations it rises and falls with the cycles of nature
and these last couple of years there has been a tremendous number of whales here. It has been pretty much you can't come out with out trying to avoid running them over.

But, in fact, there is a -the year before that it was pretty -it was a different species
composition. They are generally -there are years when there aren't a lot of whales
here but what happens is that the species composition changes. You see a lot of fin backs and minkes and maybe not a lot of humpbacks. This year you are seeing a lot of humpbacks. And still seeing minkes and fins but it is not nearly as I guess -it maybe almost psychological bc people come out to see the humpbacks you know they jump and they flipper and they tail lob -and they do all of those things that make them really interesting to watch. Where as fin backs rarely jump, they mostly just feed so you don't pay a lot of attention to them bc there is so much acrobatic activity going on with the humpbacks. 14: 14

15:30 -chuck moving to go record the start up of the move of the ship

**15:55 - 17:25 ambi -waves hitting side of boat @16:01 faint engine sound, strong waves hitting side of boat -or is it the boat moving through the water? Boat moving through water-loud -good-

17:40-18:52 ambi Chuck: a walk forward on deck to upper 4 (?) deck -different ambi
-good -gentler sound s boat moves through the water

19:03 -pause-

19:34 -M/S Chuck notes: Chuck walking up on ladder to bow -boat in transit, about 10 miles north of where they started off, about 16, 17 miles off of the coast. A lot of whale spottings -a gorgeous day -you can see Boston from Stellwagen bank if you look hard at the horizon and with glasses but it is way off -cool and pleasant and beautiful

20:26 -ambi chuck heading to the top -lots of wind -engine sound, boat moving through water -fainter ambi -good for bg behind interview

*21:15-23:48 - engine slows down, stronger water ambi as the boat moves through the water - "water shove" coming off the bow of the Able Jay--

23:49 -boat slows down, strong wind

24:21 stop down

24:52-27:26 in the galley of the Able Jay -heading north -music in bg (with a lot of expletives in the lyrics)

25:55 -running water -washing dishes

27:27 TB -well, you got everything you need inhere!

TB -so how many people are on this boat? (music in bg)

Brad (?) -That is a good question. There are 3 ROV crew, there's 8 scientists and 5 crew.

28: 12 -ambi in galley -music in bg -people fixing breakfast

28: 18 -TB (?) how many dives a day are you doing?

(??) -"yesterday we did 2 long ones. The day before we did 4 shorter ones. Depends on what each of the objectives have been .."

30:00 Chuck: standing star bird side, cruising out -in M/S Sennheiser MKH 30 & 40

30:59 -My name is Paul Donaldson and I work with the National Undersea Research Center, University of Connecticut and today we are using the Phantom S-2 in order to conduct surveys along the bottom we are looking at habitat structures and features, utilization of habitat by different organisms. And also the effects that are potentially there by different users of the Sanctuary.

TB -tell me, before we do the walk through, what useful information does this give
us ....

31 :35 Paul-what this particular crew is doing that we are dealing with is the habitat _ how organisms are utilizing the habitat such that we can better understand the resources such as fisheries that are on the Stellwagen Bank NMS. We are looking at different users such as trawlers and gil netters and trappers effect the habitat and is it a positive effect or a negative effect or is it a neutral effect. All these things has to come into play bc we have so many users of the Sanctuary. And therefore we can look at the roles that each of the users play and how this all equates to benefiting the fisheries and sustaining that fisheries as well as the habitat itself 32:24

32:25 TB -Is there concern about conflicting users of this Sanctuary?

Paul -I would think that it follows the understanding of any users. You always have conflicts of users not just in the Sanctuary but just even between commercial and recreational fisheries. So I don't want to go out on a limb and say you know just here in the Sanctuary, but I am sure you have conflict of users. 32:53

TB -.... what are the biggest forces on this -in this sanctuary.

33: 06 Paul -well, you have a lot of trawling, a lot of gill netting and some of the things that we are looking at with the scientists today are looking at the effects of the trawls. How are they disturbing the bottom, are they taking away the habitat. Are they burying the habitat. Or are they actually enhancing the habitat. You know these are some questions that are -that have been raised and we are trying to find out how these effects are going on. We also have the whale watcher boats and we actually have scientists coming on next leg they will be looking at ambient noises and boat traffic and things like this and how they effect mammal behavior. The scientist coming on does a lot of acoustical work. So we will look at how are these things actually effecting the behavior and habits of the marine mammals.

34:03 TB -and what have you seen so far. We are out here -you guys have been out here for a while. Can you sum up what you have seen with this underwater rover there?

34; 15 -Paul -well I would suffice not to go out on a limb and truly say, due to the fact that I am not the chief scientist on this -I am more of the operator of the vehicle and I would leave that for them to make those ...

34:33 -TB -let's talk about this vehicle then-
Paul -this particular system is one of 4 that we own and operate. It is the second largest that we have. We have one system that we have one system that is about 3 times this large. But this particular system is capable of a thousand feet. Right now we have a whole suite of video and still photography on there. We have a water chemistry package. It supplies its own lights. We have a tracking system. And what we are trying to do is document by photograph and video as we go along transept lines. We will run long runs in a given direction and we will be able to see changes and look at the topography and actually do statistically analysis on organisms in the topography and habitats that we are seeing on the video. We are also documenting it with still photography due to the resolution -do positive identifications things like that. We have a tracking system on board so that the ship is actually following us a round. It is called live boating where we are not at anchor they are actually moving where we are moving. And the tracking system lets them know where we are and we also integrate that with the global positioning and we correct that with the differential signal and now we are on to a very accurate display of where we are. So we can do very precise calculations of organisms in that area.

36:02 TB -is there an advantage to sending this down versus a submarine with people in it?

36: 10 Paul -oh, much definitely. Some of the advantages that are very obvious are one you don't have people on the bottom, therefore you are taking that element out. If something happens drastically I have lost a piece of equipment. That is bad in itself, but it is replaceable. But you know, you loose a human life you have lost something. So it takes that element right out. The other thing is that we are able to do a dive as long as the ship can provide power and the ROV personnel can pilot the vehicle. A lot of the submarine are very limited in their dive duration based on what they are actually doing. And it is all based on battery power. Some of the exceptions are obviously like the navel nuclear research submarine which is a 30 day duration. We could theoretically go longer than that if we could just keep the thing running and had the ship and the crew to do it as around the clock operations. 37: 10

37: 11 TB -and what powers it?

Paul -this is run by a -this particular system has 220 bolts of a topside supply, and it comes through an umbilical that carries all of our data transmission, our video signals and all of our information that we are putting down to the vehicle and putting back. So we have DC conversion going on to where we run thrusters and the cameras and things like that and then we some have AC voltage for lights and so all of this stuff is done from the topside and the umbilical is like a very long extension cord that allows us to transfer data back and forth and actually look at what's going on real time. And it also has advantages that a sub doesn't have -we can have multiple users sitting here, seeing this video and seeing what is going on. And with a sub you have 2 or 3 people usually at a time that are able to look at that. Now if we have 4 or 5 scientists they can all look at different perimeters all at the same time and they can all converse real time and come up with what maybe going on as a group, bc you usually get a better input with a mass number. 38:25

TB -later when we launch it you will be controlling it from up here.

Paul -that is correct

TB -do you sort of have a sense -do you begin to feel that you are actually under the water?

Paul -it is very important -and I was a diver prior to running the ROV so I have a pretty good sense of what goes on underwater anyway, but it is very important for pilots to get a feel of where things are bc all of you are seeing is a 2 dimensional image and that is straight ahead of you on this particular system. Well I have as you can see light bars that extend well beyond the actual width of the vehicle and I have to know in my mind exactly where those are as you are going around rocks and boulders such that you are not hanging up on them. And also you have got this tether that you have to know where it is in the back of your mind. You never see it but it is very important to know where it is so it doesn't get hung up. 39: 17 so you get a spatiality feeling of where things are.

39:22 TB -I want to try and give some idea of what this looks like. I mean I don't mean to sound disrespectful but it almost looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption -it is sort of part sled -you have got these skidders along the bottom, it looks like something you would see racing down a snow covered mtn. There are lots of lights and cameras and things -that are gafford tape together, taped together with duct tape, but we are talking about a fairly sophisticated piece of equipment here .

39:53 Paul -Well, you also kind of hit the nail on the head so to speak. This is not standard. There are no manufacturers that make ROVs directly dedicated for scientific research. Most of the ROVs are done for search and recovery, oil field uses, cable lay and things like that bc that is where a lot more of the money is. Scientific? is very limited in their budget so it is not very productive to target that. So what we do is we take a standard off the shelf piece of equipment and we modify it completely. The cameras are completely modified. We have added lasers. The still cameras we have added. So that is why you see all this extra floatation we have added the oceanographic sensor with an overlay package. And all of these things -scientists need it. So we figure out how we are going to do it. You just kind of work with them and they say I want to go do this and I sit down and I figure out how am I going to do it. This is some of the stuff I come up with. The skis are added on bc of the fact that we are doing long transepts and we want stability so a ski was a logical idea for us instead of a rounded frame which would give you rocking. We were trying to keep a level platform, so that the video image stays as close to the same size as possible for doing the calculations on the field of view.

41 :20 TB -so this will descend and sit on the ocean floor and film. Or will it move along on those skids?

Paul -we will be moving along. What we actually do is take a heading based on whether it is a current or whether it is visibility or whether it is topography and we will convey that to the ships operator and say we are going to be heading north north east, or something like that and then he will be watching our tracking and he will make forward headway and they will be keeping up with us during that transect run. 41: 51

description of the ROV:

42:35 Paul -yeah this particular system is outfitted on the front here with 2 cameras inside one housing. It gives us a wide angle and a close up. This is very good for doing close identification of species that are very similar together in their appearance so we can identify them correctly. We have a set of lasers that we use for scaling set up on either side of the camera here as you can see that are done for size variations such that you have a 2 dimensionality of a TV screen you don't know how far away things are so you don't know how big they are without a scale. These are set in parallel so they are always the same distance apart on the bottom here you can see a bulk load (?) still 35 mm camera. We can take 250 exposures per dive with this camera and the remote strobe heads are illuminating the field of view of that camera. I have also redone the harness such that I can take a small -called mini-cam -it is very small camera that holds 35 mm 36 exposure cassettes and no we can take the image with these as well at a different angle. So we can take 2 angles of the same structure or organism. The platform that the lights and cameras and lasers are mounted on are tilted with this drive motor and warmed (?) (worm?) gear such that we can tilt up and down. The -all this floatation, this is syntactic foam that is hanging off of the sides as well as trawl floats. And this is to offset all of the weight we have added. We have added probably 75 lbs of weight, and this vehicle is not designed to hold that. As you

47:29 Paul -as you can see we have a lot of floatation on the vehicle bc what we are trying to do is make this thing buoyant so that we will float. We don't want it to sink. If we have trouble with the vehicle, cables cut or something like that we would like the vehicle to eventually make its way back up to the surface just like a float would.

TB -so if you were to loose it -if the cable were to be cut, if the tether were to be cut, it would be a tricky business but you might be able to recover it.

47:55 Paul -that's correct and potentially if it is cut in the right area you can see that we have floatation on the tether itself and those will help get the tether up and if we have the tether at the surface we can then recover the vehicle by getting that into the cable and bringing it on board 48: 12

TB -well thanks -we look forward to seeing you skipper this thing under the ocean

Paul -my pleasure

Chuck -(add on for writing purposes) this thing is slightly larger than a square it is an almost square. It sits on a rail that is a trapezoid rail and then the Phantom S2 main body which has both the thrusters and the navigational equipment attached that basically the thruster package it attached to and then rails on that detached cameras, etc. hanging off the rear of it is this long tether and coordination tether that runs out and allows them to steer this thing around. Sitting on top of this are 7 orange floatation balls that provide the positive buoyancy that allow this thing to float to the surface if necessary and it is very slight positive buoyancy so it would take a while to come to the surface. And as you look at the front of it the lights are approx 5 feet outside of a sled that it roughly 2 and a half feet wide by about 6 feet long. Sled has a lot of flexibilities in terms of rigging on these rails ... 50: 16

9:06am -still heading north to the location

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