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Joint Canada-U.S. Deep-Sea Coral Seamount Survey Post #1

September 14, 2022

On September 6, an international team of researchers assembled to survey deep sea coral and sponge habitats on seamounts 300 miles offshore of the U.S.-Canada border in the Northeast Pacific. Follow this blog to learn what they discover.

Photograph of ships bow crashing through rough water. The bow of the Canada Coast Guard vessel John P. Tully plowing through rough seas in the Northeast Pacific Ocean—150 miles west of the US-Canada border. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.

Preparations, and a Long, Rough Trek 300 Miles Offshore

On September 6, an international team of researchers came together from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center and Fisheries & Oceans Canada. We boarded the Canadian Coast Guard vessel John P. Tully in Sidney, British Columbia. The Tully is a 226-foot vessel that supports both research and search-and-rescue missions. She was built in 1984 and on this survey, she is staffed with nine officers, 15 crew, and our science party of nine for a total of 33 onboard.

Photo of red and white ship at dock across water with hills in the background.
Looking across the water at the CCGS John P. Tully docked at the Canadian Coast Guard Base Patricia Bay in Sidney, British Columbia. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.
photo of red and white ship at dock where crew in yellow hard hats stand near stack of boxes
Crew loading gear over the bow of the CCGS John P. Tully. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.

Our first objective upon boarding the vessel was to take a COVID test. You can see us all here with our heads down on the timers!

photo of ships gangway with sign at entrance directing crew to Covid testing
The gangway leading onto the CCGS John P. Tully, with a sign notifying all passengers of the COVID testing requirement. NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.
Image of 6 people in masks standing around table with covid tests and timers.
Science crew takes COVID rapid tests upon arrival. Credit NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.

Once negative, we were allowed to bring our gear onboard, and the remainder of the day was dedicated to setting up and testing equipment to be used on this 14-day expedition. And it’s a good thing we did. The team found a broken pin on one of the connectors to the underwater stereo camera, which is the main tool for this survey. The fix required cutting the cable and soldering on a new connector. Since this cable routinely goes down to about 1,000 meters (more than half a mile), this is no small task. After the cable is spliced, it needs to be waterproofed with a thick casing made out of epoxy, and that casing needed to cure for 24 hours.


Photo of man on knees and elbows soldering a wire.
Chief Scientist Chris Rooper solders a new cable connector onto the 1000-meter wire that lowers the stereo camera platform
to the depths of the ocean. Credit:NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.


Two photographs. Left panel shows close-up of a man's hand encasing cable in epoxy. Right panel shows him from a distance kneeling.
Encasing the newly spliced cable in epoxy. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.
Photo of cable attached to stereocamera system on ship's deck
The spliced cable connected to the stereo camera system. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.

After everything was ship shape, we departed Sidney midday on Tuesday, September 7, and headed south down Haro Strait and out toward the Pacific Ocean. 

As we turned the corner into the Strait de Juan de Fuca, we noticed the seas pick up from the flat calm protected waters behind us, and enjoyed a beautiful moonrise and sunset looking south toward Olympic National Park in Washington.

Photo from back deck of ship showing moon rising in pink sky over distant mountains and two people on deck.
Moonrise over the Olympic peninsula of Washington state as scientists enjoy the sunset. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.


Photograph of pink clouds over dark water and distant mountains.
Sunset over the Olympic peninsula of Washington State. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.

As we hit the open ocean, the seas got bigger. Ahead of us was a 40-hour transit to Eickelberg Seamount. Rocking all the way over 10-foot seas and into 40-knot winds, the journey was rough, and we had to secure everything for the adventurous ride. Enjoy the photos below (including a chance sighting of an ocean sunfish (Mola mola)), and tune back in for the next update to learn more about the science mission and what we find at Eickelberg and Warwick seamounts.

Photograph of rough water alongside moving ship.
Rough seas along the starboard side of the CCGS John P. Tully. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.
Photograph showing small white object in the sea, circled in red, beyond the ships deck
Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) spotted off the starboard bow. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.
Photograph of white Mola in blue ocean from ships deck.
Looking down on an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) as we pass it by. Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Paul Hillman.
Next: Joint Canada-US Deep-Sea Coral Seamount Survey Post #2

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Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on June 12, 2023