Deep Ocean Explorer
In order to study the benthic zone of the ocean, scientists rely on different types of technological equipment. The main piece of technology we are using here on the Ron Brown is an ROV called the Jason II. An ROV is a remotely operated vehicle. A tether attaches from the ship to the ROV as it moves across the ocean floor. ROV’s allow scientists to study unique organisms on the ocean floor while never leaving the ship. This is kind of like your television’s remote control. You can be comfortable sitting down, and use the remote to change the channel without ever getting up off the couch. This type of remote sensing is used in many applications where technology allows the collection of information more quickly and precisely and without putting people at risk compared to older methods.
Jason has many capabilities, including sonar mapping, still photos, video recording, and water samplers. Jason has two manipulator arms that collect samples. These samples can either be stored on the ROV or can be sent back to the surface using an “elevator,” which can hold heavier loads and bring time sensitive samples to the surface while the ROV remains on the bottom. Jason works in conjunction with a separate machine called Medea, which hovers above Jason and absorbs any shock caused by the movement of the ship. Medea also absorbs the tremendous strain the ocean currents place on the cable connecting the remote vehicles to the ship, freeing the Jason to navigate the intricate habitats with greater freedom.
On board the ship, a special area called the ROV “van” contains many types of equipment necessary for recording data provided by Jason. Several people work together to make Jason function properly. One scientist points out organisms to be collected as samples; one scientist keeps an event log to use as a reference point; another scientist is in charge of recording and organizing visual images; the ROV engineer keeps Medea and Jason in the right location in relation to one another and monitors system pressures and critical functions; the pilot drives the ROV remotely and uses the manipulator arms to collect specimens; the data manager makes sure data is collected correctly; and the navigator communicates with the bridge to coordinate the position of the ship in relation to Jason. As you can tell, teamwork is very important to this type of research and data collection.