Sea Technology

JUL 2013

The industry's recognized authority for design, engineering and application of equipment and services in the global ocean community

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The ABYSS on display. which is grappled from the ship and attached to the support vessel LARS. The ABYSS is then winched back onto the ship. Additional Applications Since its frst scientifc cruise in 2009 aboard the RV Meteor in the central Atlantic, the ABYSS has been used by GEOMAR on nine scientifc expeditions around the world, including the Central Indian Ridge, the Southern Pacifc, the Greenland continental slope and the Tyrrhenian Sea. In addition to its applications in seafoor volcano study, the ABYSS has also been deployed for several other types of missions. One of its highest profle expeditions was the search for the remains of Air France fight AF447 in the Atlantic Ocean, which the ABYSS, together with two sister vehicles owned by the Waitt Institute, successfully located on April 4, 2011. The AUV is also used by GEOMAR oceanographers with a Rockland Scientifc (Victoria, Canada) MicroRider microstructure probe to study how variations in seafoor terrain infuence ocean water mixing close to the ocean bottom. This mixing is an important part of how heat and chemicals move from the deep sea to the surface, and may have an infuence both on the climate and plankton populations. The data on seafoor volcanic activity that the ABYSS collects also has applications for the ocean mining industry, as areas of hydrothermal activity often contain signifcant mineral deposits. Previous the ABYSS expeditions have located deposits of gold, zinc, copper and other valuable minerals deposited around hydrothermal chimneys on midocean ridges. As the underwater mining industry develops, these deposits will present valuable opportunities. 32 st / July 2013 In the future, scientists and geologists at GEOMAR plan to use the ABYSS to study undersea earthquakes. Because the seafoor is so tectonically active, a signifcant percentage of the world's earthquakes originate at the bottom of the ocean. In expeditions in 2014 and 2015, GEOMAR plans to use the ABYSS to survey areas of signifcant tectonic activity, with the hope of establishing some basic predictive measures for future seafoor earthquakes. This additional information on undersea tectonic activity will have broad applications beyond geology, including public safety and disaster preparedness. Conclusion Since the ABYSS was frst deployed in 2009, the AUV has granted GEOMAR scientists and researchers unprecedented deepwater access, allowing them to collect valuable data on seafoor volcanic activity and other underwater phenomena. "The high-defnition bathymetric data that the ABYSS allows us to collect is critical to our work at GEOMAR," said Devey. "While surface ship instruments are quite powerful, they can't compete in terms of resolution with the highquality data that AUVs make possible." As AUVs continue to become more reliable and more capable, they will continue to offer users greater access to detailed seafoor data with applications from geology and biology to mineral exploration. Though the vast majority of the ocean foor remains unexplored by underwater vehicles, AUVs like the ABYSS are rapidly enabling scientists and surveyors to change that. n Graham Lester is the director of Hydroid Europe in the U.K., a division of Hydroid, a Kongsberg company. Lester has 20 years of experience with military, oceanographic, geophysical and hydrographic equipment, including a detailed understanding of integrated solutions for underwater vehicles. He joined Hydroid in 2006 as business development director before moving to the U.K. to establish Hydroid Europe. He has worked internationally to introduce AUV technology into global markets for defense, offshore and academia. He holds a higher national certifcate in electronics and communications engineering. www.sea-technology.com

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