Submersible safety check, launching
Dry Tortugas National Park seabird colonies
Seabird colony ambi
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
2 Jul 2001
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- 24.66417 -82.88528
- :09 - 21:22
- Dry Tortugas National Park; Bush Key
- 24.62806 -82.8675
- 47:02 - 1:02:35
- SONY TCD-D8
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo; Neumann RSM 190 through Sonosax preamp into Sony TCDD8
Show: Dry Tortugas
Log of DAT #: 8
Engineer: Leo del Aguila
Date: July 9, 2001
0:00 Leo: This is tape number 8 and Alex is holding onto Fifi. I'm setting things
0:09 -0:29 Alex: We're about to launch the deep worker off the aft section of the Gunter. It's about quarter after nine in the morning and Sylvia Earl is inside the sub. They've gone through ...most of the safety checks and they're getting ready to liftoff.
0:47 -2:40 Man's voice: Enable thrusters ...right toe down ...right heel down ...turn port...turn starboard ... left toe down .. .left heel down ...enable manipulator control. .. and enable hydraulic pump ... (meanwhile, intermittent sound of boat starting, drilling sound (hydraulic pump?)) woman's voice ...forward, back, right, left. More ambi noise of getting ready.
2:40 -6:00 Man's voice (and woman repeats after him): disable hydraulic pump (ambi sound of pump being turned off), disable thrusters ...switch to emergency power. .. test scrubbers ... both work, great ...ambi sound of talking in com system ... return to normal control power. .. confirm no ground faults, no water alarms ...transducers good...confirm channel 8/2 on vhf. .. (ambi -more checking of equipment) 4:50¬0-2 and CO-2 readings ...confirm starboard scrubber is on and blowing ...set cabin pressure gauge to zero ...we're ready for you to take the plunge.
6:00 -7:30 ambi, more noise, people getting ready but just chatting wi the crew and woman saying to Alex 'I hope you're here when 1 get back' talking about when they're flying out
7:30 -8:15 Leo: Sylvia, is it as exciting this time as it was the first time? Sylvia: Every dive is a new dive and it just gets better. You learn more each time you go so everything just falls into place more each time. 1 see things now in the same place that 1 didn't see last year because 1 have the experience of last year to help guide what I'm doing now. It's just wonderful. 1 want everyone to see what 1 see (laughs) so, (sigh), I'm really grateful to just give them a vicarious glimpse, so maybe they'll be inspired to go themselves in due course.
8:15 Tim: All set? Sylvia: Great, thanks, Tim ...
8:24 Ambi beep, hooks fastening
8:42 - 8:54 Alex: They've just lowered down the plastic acrylic bubble hood on this thing and they're fastening it in now to prepare to send her.
8:54 -9:21 ambi clattering around, hooking
9:21 Tim: This is pulling the vacuum on the submersible. That shows we have good hat seal (ambi sound of air pump. 9:39 -9:50 -fast pumping; :52, joined by sound of submersible being lowered)
10:12 -14:22 more ambi sounds of getting prepared. Pumping stops, engine starts and drones
10:30 -12:56; 12:56 -pumping starts again until 13:22 (engine still droning in background) 13:42 & 14:13 communication btw. Tim & radio.
14:23 Tim: Ok, can I get everybody up on the next deck. .. (ambi motor noise continues)
15:39 Tim: I'm ready .. .let's come up on it. 16:02 -sound of submersible starting? -another engine revving until 16: 14
16:26 Man's voice: Ok, Tim? Tim: Ok. Jolt of starting engine (submersible?) Started, revving until 17:09. 17:07 Man's voice, "
17:27 ambi -good splash ...Man: release sub! 17:41 -sounds like something being raised flowered again with good water lapping against the side of the boat sounds, also around 18:24. 18:30 -more raising flowering machine noises.
18:38 ...(from com system underwater) thrusters disabled (would be cool except somebody sneezes right after)
18:43 -21:30 Tim: chase boat, you can deploy swimmer at this time ("roger, "from radio) ... more ambi movement 19:15 Tim: navigation, dive suit, you can take life support at this time. ("roger that" ... from radio) 19:50 -louder engine sounds mixed with communication with submersible. Interesting, but could be too loud. 20:30, start to hear noise that sounds like rain. Talking about coordinates, air pressure with underwater 21:10" You can flood soft ballast at this time and lift up on thrusters. "
21 :49 Leo: I'm in mission central or something like that. Communication with sub has been established ... I'm just going to be recording what goes on hear. The click you hear .. .is the audio coming from the sub (hear voice from the sub, and steady clicking sound until the end of this segment).
22:44 Male voice to sub: Roger that, deep worker ...good copy, good copy, begin dive, begin dive ...dive at will, dive at will, "roger, roger" from sub. Ambi click continues throughout.
23:57 Sasha Lebaron, newco (?) I'm in charge of navigation and tracking. I'm also sub technician, and going to be moving into sales and marketing as well, so jack of all trades...
24:13 Sasha: at this point I'm tracking the submarine with three systems. The Trackpoint system is keeping track of where the sub is physically, the computer is giving me visual representation in three dimensions of where the sub is in relation to the ship, and the acoustic communication system, obviously, so I can talk to the submarine.
24:38 Leo: do you have to hear this click all day long? Sasha: All day long, and I dream about it at night, too. Another voice: you get used to it -after a while you don't hear it anymore. Leo: ...painful. ..
24:58 Sasha: If you watch right here, the first click is the try point -it's talking to the transponder, the second two clicks is the transponder talking back and saying, "here's where I am." So it send out a signal..the interrogate ..says hi ...sends back says, "here I am, I'm at this depth at this range and here's where I'm heading." Alex -how deep is she now. Sasha: she's at 1-5 feet. (150 feet)
25:36 -25:55 ambi clicking without voices
25:55 -26:28 Leo: reminds me of a metronome... ambi clicking with some chatter.
26:28 Sasha: With Sylvia this is basically what you'll get. She's almost like a marine mammal herself. She goes down, she doesn't come back for five or six hours, she's just totally at home down there. And she'll just find things that no one else will even find. No matter where she dives she'll always find something amazing. It's -I don't understand (chuckles). Alex: what kind of things?
26:57 -27:30 Sasha: Like life on the bottom or .. .if there's over fishing in a situation she'll find a place where there's fish traps and ropes all tangled up and bring back pictures of that. Or if there's a wreck she'll bring back pictures of that. She'll find in a little crack she'll find a little fish that's never been seen before and get a close-up of it...she's pretty impressive.
27:30 -27:55 Click, click, click
27:55 -29:00 Click, with some movement and low voices
29:24 -28:50 Alex: we're maneuvering the ship right now, the Gunter, to hold right over the sub which is down on the ocean floor. We're going to try to talk to Sylvia.
28:51-40:10 ambi chatting about interviewing Sylvia. 31:26 ambi -start to hear crackling., idle chatter about fish, Sylvia (37:44: good "Deep worker, deep worker, topside?"- trying to contact Sylvia)
40:10 Sasha: Deep worker, deep worker, topside? Sylvia, from the depths: go ahead, topside... discuss saying a few words to Alex. "I'd be delighted to."
This interview is difficult to hear. Not only does she sound far away, but the intermittent clicking Makes it impossible to hear some of the words, unfortunately.
40:32 Alex: Deep worker, this is Alex. Sylvia, can you tell me what's it like down there. Sylvia: Well, Alex, it's nice to have a piece of this kind of habitat within the fully protected area because as much as people disparage a mud bottom, this is a very lively place. Do you copy, over?
41:00 Alex: Deep worker, I copy you. Can you describe what you're seeing? How deep are you?
41:05 Sylvia: ..right about at 150 feet. Divers can come this deep but they can not stay too long -as I am staying. They have a passport ...of only a few minutes .. .I plan to stay three or four hours to really get to know these creatures. I've seen many small burrows. I just got acquainted with some small ...jawfish. One fish to a burrow. They're very feisty, territorial little guys. They're no bigger than your little finger.
42:00 Alex: ... What's the light condition down there?
42:17 Sylvia: Visibility here is 10 to 15 feet. Nearer the surface, curiously, it is much clearer. But down here there's a layer about 40 to 50 feet of high sediments. It's like being in a fog.
43:07 Alex, chuckling: I'm struck dumb by talking to you here, on board a ship, and you're 150 feet down, dry, making notes and observations on sustainable seas. Over.
43:16 Sylvia: That's right -150 feet, warm and dry. Just looking at this really protected part of the marine sanctuary -fully protected -the fish I see here -I also see many other small creatures: little crabs, small creatures ...expect to encounter growing? -but so far, mostly small mats of algae.
43:57 Alex: Thank you for that report
44:02 Sylvia: Roger, roger. I wish you could be here, Alex. I think you would really enjoy seeing this great field of? in burrows with pencil urchins scattered about. ...Look like little pin cushions on the bottom ...
44:45 Sylvia (in response to request for stats): cabin pressure ...0-2...CO¬2...pressure...
45:36 Leo: Hello again. We're back in Fort Jefferson. We are being escorted by Paul, the ranger, who is going to take us over to what's called Bird Quay (Key?), or Bird Island. And we're going to be recording these birds ....middle of the day they are not as active as they could be. I'm just going to roll ...
47:00 Paul: These birds are faithful to the nest so they tolerate people pretty well. They croak like that if you get close .. .if you want some of the more colonial noise ...
47:23 Paul Taylor .. .I'm the supervisory ranger here at the Park ...We are right on the edge of Bush Key, which then becomes Long Key further down. There are 60,000 Terns on this island trying to make a living. There are Sooty Terns and Brown Knotties and then further on down we run into a colony of200 pair of magnificent (?) Frigate Birds. Onward (until 48:03)
48:03 ambi birds 48: 13 -20, can hear birds, small waves -kind of cool 28 :28 -cawing
48:36 Alex: Paul Taylor has just stopped...on the shore. We're walking up to the bird refuge area. And what is that right there?
48:42 Paul (who has a great New England accent): That's about a six or seven foot nurse shark. They're bottom feeders, fairly benign critters but they get awfully large -they get almost double that size. Reported up to 14 feet. We've seen pretty regularly to ten or 11 feet ... If you'd tripped and stumbled you'd a landed on top of him, which woulda been a thrill for both of you.
49: 16 -49:29 ambi -good -walking...
49:30 Paul: We probably startled him a little bit since he was so close but looks like he'll come back in. Maybe he's curious. They are very curious creatures. When you're in the water snorkeling or diving they frequently will come right up to see what you're all about. Sometimes get right in your face which with the big ones can be a little more of a thrill than most people want. But they're generally pretty tolerant critters. They're capable of damaging people but they eat crustaceans and mollusks. They know that, they're not interested in people so when you're in the water you're not on the menu. But it's still kind of thrilling when several of the big ones are in and around your space .. .I guess he's going to drift along (until 50:30)
50:38 Paul: This is a breeding area for nurse sharks. When they breed they do it in really shallow water. And sometimes when you're out in a kayak and you have 10, 11 footers ... bumping the bottom of your boat it's also a thrill ... they're big burly sharks ...that beautiful reddish bronze color They're graceful swimmers (until 51:20)
51:20 -51:35 ambi birds, walking
51 :38 -53 :04 Paul: These are Brown Knotties here -the ones with the brown bodies and the white caps. They prefer nesting in the brush -that's why you see most of them sitting in this woody stuff here. The Sooties prefer the ground, they nest right on the ground. There's actually more of them...they'll be on the ground on the other side of this brush right here. They coexist -each has its own space. They're generally very quiet. .. every now and then if a bird of prey...or a predatory gull comes in can whip the colony up and when that happens it's bedlam. Sometimes in a swirling vortex .. .looks like a typhoon ...a typhoon of birds rises up...tremendous racket ...predator swoops in and makes off with an egg or a chick and the colony eventually settles back down once the excitement's over. Let's wander up in here
53:04 -53:25 ambi birds
53:25 Paul: These birds are remarkably faithful to the colony, returning year after year. . .live ... 30 years. They return year to year sometimes fairly consistently
53:47 -57: better ambi birds! (esp. 54:20 -:30, maybe a little louder around
54:45¬55:02, 55:19 -good chirp, 55:30 -:55 -more chirping very close to mic) 56:23, fade -then more from a distance at 56:28, getting louder but still further away. Neat!
57:14 -:20 sounds very cute)
57:27 Leo: Paul, what set them off?
57:30 I don't think it was us, actually. A bird or two gets up, it's kind of a ripple effect in the colony. I don't think they even know why they're getting up at times. Once they realize there's nothing really going on, they swirl around a bit and then they settle back down. Leo: It's beautiful! ...
58:00 Paul: it's a tremendous concentration of birds....they're even faithful to the same square meter of real estate from year to year. Birds that have nested for 10,15,20 years have nested on the same square meter each and every year. And they travel as far as Africa in the off season, the juveniles do, and the adults range throughout the South Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf. And somehow they manage to come back year after year and find the exact same spot. (until 58:25)
58:25 Alex: So this is actually the nesting, breeding and hatchery site here and then they travel out?
58:32 Paul: Right, this is one of them. This is the only significant North American colony. They're very wide-ranging and numerous bird worldwide but in North America this is the only significant colony. And after they raise young here they disperse quite widely around the world ...
58:57 Paul: Well, there's a good 60,000 of them around us here. Most of them are not apparent, they're down on the ground. When they rise up you're probably seeing 5 or 10 percent, you're seeing and hearing maybe5 or 10 percent of what's over here. The rest are sitting down low.
59:15 Alex: ...Why is it that this place -that -exists over here (that: six-sided brick structure) along with this.
59:30 Paul: Well, Fort Jefferson, you have to recall, back in the early 19th century when the future of America was still somewhat in doubt. There were other countries very much interested in regaining a foothold over here. And so it was up to the United States to make a strong statement to the effect of we're not going to easily give up what we have. We have this system of forts commonly known as the third system. There were in fact two previous smaller systems, but up and down the East Coast through the Gulf and even on to the West Coast. .. we're here to defend what we have. Anybody that wants a piece of this country is going to have to fight for it.
1:00:20 Alex...What appealed to the military planners when they were thinking about putting in Fort Jefferson
1:00:28 Paul: The Fort Jefferson site was logistically significant because it was right at the tip of Florida where all the shipping from the eastern seaboard makes the turn through the straits. It's only 90 miles separates southern Florida from Cuba and all that shipping has to pass through on the way to the Mississippi River, so whoever controls this spot, this anchorage for a fleet of warships, then controls the straits and all the shipping that passes through. (until 1 :00:58)
1:00:59 Alex: It just happens there's a harbor out there where a warship can hold up ...exceptional harbor, eh?
1:01 :08 Paul: Well, at the time it's a large bowl, a 2-mile bowl capable of holding a very large number of warships under the shadow of Fort Jefferson's guns, so a very safe place to be. If you're an adversary you'd have to think twice about attacking American ships that were able to lay up that close to 400 heavy guns.
1:01:58 Paul: People frequently ask how many battles did this fort see. . . They're usually disappointed to hear that there were no battles fought here. . .People usually respond with, "Gee, what a waste. . . another government boondoggle." But the fact is at the time or at any time the battle that you don't fight is probably the best battle of all. . . the strongest statement. . . probably kept other countries from being more aggressive was probably the best defense we could have without ever firing a shot. (until 1:02:35)
1:02:35 - 1:03:28 ambi birds in distance, Alex and Leo talking about the pretty birds.