Deployed at a cold seep in the Barkley Canyon gas hydrate field, Wally the Benthic Crawler is equipped with sensors that measure temperature, pressure, water currents, salinity, methane, and turbidity. Wally’s webcam provides researchers with a detailed view of the seafloor sediments and local marine life. At a depth of 870 m, Wally is connected to the Barkley hydrates platform by a 70 m long cable and navigates a series of numbered way markers arranged along a seafloor tour route known as “Wally Land.”
It’s hardly been a case of “all play and no work” for Wally the Crawler. Researchers in Germany and Canada have been making heavy use of Wally and the unique data this deep-sea crawler gathers among the gas hydrates outcrops of Barkley Canyon.
Wally the Crawler underwent the ultimate stress test on Sunday. After entering the water tethered beneath the Remotely Operated Vehicle ROPOS, strong waves apparently sprung Wally loose. He took an 870 m free dive from the sea surface to the seafloor at Barkley Hydrates.
Wally the Crawler dangles below ROPOS just prior to entering the ocean at Barkley Hydrates, 18 September 2011.
Shortly after entering the water, we checked for Wally in the downward-looking camera, and he was gone. As the dive logger described it, “The hook came off, Wally is by himself.” Onlookers both on ship...