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Interview :04 - 41:45 Play :04 - More
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Peter J. Auster, Les Watling  







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


Peter Auster (PA)
Anthony Brooks (TB)
Les Watling (LW)
Chuck Thompson (CT)

Tony Brooks, Les Watling, Peter Auster. In ROV control room. Printer? can be heard off and on throughout interview.


0:31 lw (off-mic, but clear) "there's an awful lot of structure on the bottom, those are all amph?pod tubes ... " (sound of printer)

1:00 lw "this whole bottom must be very important for food delivery ... "(getting pretty faint, more bg printer)

1:24 pa "one of the things that I'd like to state from the outset is that I'm not advocating that we eliminate mobile gear use everywhere what I've been talking with my dealings with the fishing community and a number of council members is what I've been advocating is that we don't wanna do that everywhere. We don't have ref sites to understand the full implications of what we're doing and I think we need to have places that are rep of all habitat types where we don't disturb the bottom don't produce direct human cause disturbances so we can understand what the imp of those disturbances are for both fish productivity and biodiversity in the region. Then with that info we can make future plans on how to manage living resources ... "

2:15 tb "is it your view too that this nms might be a good place to do that or part of it?"

pa "Yeah I think that stell. is a good ex of a microcosm of the whole northeast shelf it is rep of virtually all habitats that we'd see throughout the gulf of maine southern new england region ...I think one of the real benefits of working in this area is that the usgs with a number of collaborators is uh

3:00 pa "producing very high resolution sea floor habitat maps that provide science community with the type of information that terrestrial biologists gain from things like satellite photographs and we can pick out very fine features of the seafloor know their shape and size and do very strategic sampling within those areas being able to understand their effects and change ... "

3:27 lw "the other thing is that we know enough about these bottom communities now, if we had bottom maps that gave us an indication of what the bottom sediment was like we know what the water temp conditions are like we could make pretty good predictions at any rate about what the kind of species if not the exact species that we should be finding in those areas those are the two primary determinants of species distribution so it would be possible in fact on some kind of sort of back of the envelope level be able to make some statements about the composition and distribution in terms of the kinds of benthic communities.

4:10 lw "And from there maybe talk about habitats that should be protected or areas that shouldn't be disturbed or whatever uses people want to put to these kind of areas. I mean I think there are places like where we were earlier in this dive .. .if somebody had like you see in HI or the florida keys or the bahamas you see these submarines that take twenty or thirty people down to hundred feet or couple hundred feet this is the kind of bottom where you could easily run those tourist kind of activities but the visibility might not be enough ... but ev one is so oriented towards coral reefs and

5:008 lw "I want just for a broader view peter mentioned the fact that we all grew up with cousteau but you'll notice that ev there was coral reef or antarctic or it was some spectacular kind of habitat area and some of us have been trying for a decade or more to get someone to make a documentary on about the small sort of not easily visible organisms in the ocean which I tink can be done in a way that if you watch them they have int movements ... "

5: 29 lw "but its all done on a microscopic scale ... but for the life of me I can't get someone to make a ten minute documentary showing these things and yet the video that I have that I show people they all say wow that's really into this is a really cool critter ... people just don't get a chance to see it so they have no concept about it..."

6:10 lw "again that's part of this problem dealing with communication ..." (voice in bg)

7:10 tb "I read in some of the correspondence before I came out here, you guys were originally interested in doing this research with a manned submarine, am I right about that? Well, ? for both of you-compare this unmanned ROV to what we would get with a manned submarine, I mean is this the best way to be doing this?

7:48 pa "well working in some of these areas where visibility is reasonably poor I've spent hours in a submarine actually looking at a video monitor and so I could have been on the surface, I think ROV technology primarily in the 60s ... occupied submersible ... the benefit of three-dimensiorial depth perception that humans can see and its a little more adaptive and its certainly easier to move around on the bottom. On the other hand your limited because you gotta carry oxygen ... I think for a certain kinds of tasks, like imaging, ROV's are really great tools is something where you could ... "

8:55 pa "it allows me as the chief scientist of this cruise to be able to view all the data as we're collecting it as opposed to in research subs normally you just can't make all the? and they're kind of cramped and even if you're switching out every other day you don't always get exactly what you need. I think an additional benefit to using the ROV is that multiple scientists can participate in each dive you know ifI'm doing something jointly with say page who's a geologist he's going to find things ofgeo interest to him that I'm probably going to ignore on my dive and vice versa and in this way we can actually share in real time what's going on on the bottom and optimize sampling in that way ... "

10:15 lw "the smaller ROV's ... what I wanted to do was to go back into areas I had been in a couple of years ago ... "

knock-lunch call

"and sample them in a way that was more or less comparable to the way that I did then and that means being able to sample the sediment not only around the rocks but the sediment and small organisms that are on the rocks and so you have a suction device that is attached to the submersible that allows you to do that and manipulate around that will let it move around on the bigger ROV that's the kind of thing you can do as well. There's also a history even in the deep sea of running ROV's and there weren't ROV's that were flown? Like this but rather they had tractors in fact I think there's still one around, right at scripps?" (pa yeah)
more about old ROVs .... 11 :50

11:55 lw "here we have a case where the mars parallel is really interesting, here we have a little remote vehicle that's driving around the surface of another planet that's designed with all the money behind it to take samples of rock and yet we don't have that kind of capability to put in the ocean and the newer rover that's roaming around the '" in northern chile is even more sophisticated ...

13:00 lw and pa discussion of autonomous underwater vehicles
talk about underfunding @15:00

16:42 pa "the last number of years we've had to turn away, reject many good projects because of the lack of funding and all of those had very applied topics and would have been of use to the environmental management community in the region."

20:18 lw "about 2/3 of that coastline most of the species that inhabit the ocean ofT that coastline are not even documented we don't even know who they are, who's there. We're also at this crisis point in taxonomy nowadays, where, the old taxonomists are dying, retiring or dying and they're not being replaced by young people coming into the field, so not only do we not know what these species are, we're losing the capability to ever know and uh there is one program in NSF designed for training some taxonomists to come back into these areas, but few of the proposals that were funded were marine. We also have big crises in terms of knowing the insects ofthe world and stuff, but ... "

22:10 lw "I find it pretty telling that here we have this huge coastline with this huge continental shelf which produces a massive amount of resource and uh both living and non-living and we by and large don't know who the species are that are inhabiting this area"

and we're at risk of losing them before we actually know who they are


22:35 lw "there is a bit of a debate going on now as to whether you can really ever drive a species in the ocean extinct. Many people will prob say that you can't just because of the vast areas over which you know larvae can be distributed and things like that but 1 think what the problem is there is that we don't know enough about these species ... and are most intolerant of things like physical disturbances. If we haven't looked at those and we don't know who they are how
can we say we can't drive anybody extinct ... "

23:55 tb peter getting back to fish, if we were to look. .. 10yrs, 20yrs before the stocks of groundfish ... would we have seen some of these fish on a dive like this ...

24:17 during the dive eleven yrs. Ago we certainly saw more fish than we're seeing today ...

27:51 lw "I think this area has been trawled prob a few yrs ago ...notice how all the boulders are up out of the sediment now, there's fuzz all over the rocks as well you don't see the tunicates that you saw . (description of scene) .. look
at this boulder ..."

pa "we see this in other places ... "

28:43 pa "I'm not sure I agree ... "

29: 11 you wanna take a fix on this site?

Ct how much distance have we covered?

Pa "Nearly a kilometer"

description of ROV as not very hydrodynamic ...

32:45 pa "going at these kinds of speeds you don't need things that are hydrodynamic ... you don't need a Ferrari ... "

talk about duct tape.

36: 19 ct "have you color corrected your video?" Color correct because meter is calibrated? Yes.

40:55 pa "Video technology allows us to get continuous coverage ... "

41:28 getting vehicle on board ... printer noises peter talking to assistant ---43: 18

43:20 ambi printer, mechanical humming-

45:36 return of ROV, lines coming up, loud humming

46:11 diff sounding hum-some voices in bg, humming gets increasingly more faint

55:37 end of tape

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