Our Folger Pinnacle instrument platform is now up and running after a team of divers plugged in the extension cable connecting it to Folger Passage node and the rest of the NEPTUNE Observatory last week. Glenn Hafey of Pelagic Technologies made the actual connection after he and his 4-man team dove 23m to the platform from the Bamfield Marine Science Centre’s 9.8m aluminum dive support boat, the Barkley Star.
After the dive team was safely out of the water, we held our collective breath as our systems team powered up the platform and sent the first ping. Happily, the platform’s junction box responded! One by one, we then sparked up all 7 platform instruments:
- RDI Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (600kHz)
- Nortek Aquadopp single-point acoustic current meter
- Nortek Aquadopp Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
- 3D Grasshopper high-resolution camera imaging system
- Biospherical Photosynthetically Active Radiometer (PAR) light sensor
- WETLabs fluorometer
- Sidus HD video camera
All 7 instruments powered up successfully, however the HD video camera is not communicating with shore. Our science and technical team is trying to troubleshoot the camera communications, while working on commissioning the rest of the instruments. Some of our early commissioning data are now available via our Data Search and Plotting Utility tools.
23 August 2011: Initial Installation
After a lengthy period of fabrication, integration and testing, the Folger Pinnacle instrument platform, designed by Highland Technologies' Jason Williams, was finally ready for installation late in the summer of 2010. On August 23, it was installed on a sponge, barnacle and anemone-covered rock outcrop 23m below the surface. To prepare for installation, divers first drilled holes in the rock and glued rock bolts into them. Next, they attached the base platform to the rock bolts.
Once the base platform was ready, it was time to install the instrument platform. It was loaded by crane thanks to Lady Rose Marine and transported to the site on a small barge-like landing craft by Norwespac Ind Ltd., while the Bamfield Marine Science Centre (BMSC) M/V Alta supported the dive operations. The Pelagic Technologies dive team used inflated air bags to float the platform, then releasing some air, swam with it as it slowly sank. The divers carefully guided the platform downward and attached it to the base platform.
August 2010 – January 2011: Waiting Game
Unfortunately, the dive team was unable to connect the platform to our network last August, because the end of the extension cable was stuck in deeper waters, out of reach.
This cable was initially laid by ROPOS during the Fall 2009 installation cruise, before the platform was ready. The platform end of the cable had been secured to a fiberglass grating and left near the base of the Folger Pinnacle rock formation. We hoped it would stay there, but the cable end did not stay put. During the winter storm season, heavy surge and strong waves grabbed the grating and drug it down to nearby deep waters.
So, before we could connect the newly installed Folger Pinnacle platform to our network, we had to retrieve the cable end and carefully shift it to the platform—a painstaking task. It took three excursions, two boats and two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to relocate the cable end and reposition it near the instrument platform. Ocean Networks Canada systems integration engineer Jonathan Zand oversaw these efforts, working with BMSC ship crews and ROV operators from International Underwater Surveyors (IUS) and SubOceanic Sciences.
In October, IUS used their Phantom ROV to remove slack from the cable line and reposition the cable end near the instrument platform. In November, SubOceanic used their Falcon ROV to remove the fiberglass grating and pull the cable end to deck for testing. Power and communications were still working, but heavy seas forced the crew to abandon the repositioning work. Then, in December 2010, Jonathan Zand and the SubOceanic crew returned to the site, found the cable end, moved it next to the platform and secured it with a 100lb weight.
We’re now eagerly working to get the Folger Pinnacle instruments commissioned so researchers can start using the data flowing from them. One team of researchers led by Sally Leys and Herb Yang of the University of Alberta will use the custom-built 8-lens camera system to make 3D images of sessile (non-mobile) suspension feeders living beneath the platform.
Other instruments will help scientists monitor plankton blooms, which could help explain variations in herring, and sockeye, chum and coho salmon productivity. Acoustic Doppler instruments will provide information on currents and waves in this VERY high energy environment.