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Innovation to Learn More About Alaska's Deep-Sea Corals and the Species that Live There Post #5

July 14, 2022

A review of challenges and accomplishments upon arrival in Yakutat, Alaska at the end of Leg 1 of the coral survey.

A group of scientists pose around an underwater drop camera in a metal housing aboard a ship. Credit: NOAA Fisheries The vessel and scientific crew aboard the R/V Woldstad. From top-left: Michael Rathibhan (Woldstad) and Glen Martin (Woldstad), James Longero (Woldstad), Chris Andrews (Woldstad), Brooke Andrews (Woldstad), Pam Goddard (AFSC), Elaina Jorgensen (AFSC), Pat Malecha (AFSC), and Sean Rooney (AFSC). Not shown, Meredith Pochardt (AFSC) Image courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

After a productive first half of the research cruise, we pulled into Yakutat, Alaska, a remote community located in Northern Southeast Alaska. Yakutat is surrounded by a vast wilderness, abundant wildlife, and legendary surfing waves.

We came here to exchange scientific crew and make some repairs to our drop camera system and winch. Thanks and congratulations to all who participated in Leg 1.

Job well done!

On Leg 1, we completed 125 drop camera deployments and made 248 eDNA collections. We made observations across a wide range of habitats, from inshore protected waters down to almost 800 meters along the continental shelf and upper slope.

Along our way, we have had to overcome some obstacles.

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Coaxial cable and spooling equipment undergoing inspection by a scientist on the deck of the R/V Woldstad. Credit: Sean Rooney / NOAA
Pat Malecha inspects the coaxial cable that provides the connection from the drop camera system to the winch at the surface. Image courtesy of Sean Rooney, NOAA.

Fieldwork can seem very glamorous when read about in magazines or when seen on TV. What is not shown are the long hours and dedication it takes to make it all work. When doing fieldwork you can virtually guarantee that something will go wrong, be it equipment failure, extreme weather, or something else totally unforeseen. Successful fieldwork often requires excellent problem-solving skills and resilience.

During our time at sea, we had a few problems with our drop camera system communicating with the surface and with our winch cutting out during the deepest dives. To fix these, we decided to take advantage of our time in port to swap the wire on our winches and to re-terminate the connection to our cameras.

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Two scientists repair a coaxial connection to a drop camera using various tools scattered about the base on the deck of the R/V Woldstad. Credit: Sean Rooney / NOAA
Michael Rathibhan (left) and Pat Malecha (right) work on reconnecting the winch’s slip ring, which allows the transmission of power and electrical signals necessary for winch operations. Image courtesy of Sean Rooney, NOAA.

This process meant that we had to remove all of the thousands of feet of wire from both winches, make some electrical repairs, and then respool the wire back on the winches. Luckily we have a resourceful team who was able to make these repairs with the materials on hand and without any delays.

With a reinvigorated system, we are now ready to continue our explorations.

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Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on July 26, 2022