We’re back! After a few months off, it’s time to share some Acoustics Program news…
I’ll start with a little story from a recent trip offshore last week to recover a hydrophone mooring we deployed near the end of the month of June this last summer. We deployed a new shallow water hydrophone mooring around 7 miles southwest of the jetty tips off Yaquina Bay here in Newport, Oregon in 200 ft of water. Not one of our typical data collection efforts from a remote area of the world’s oceans, but rather, a look at local underwater sounds right here in our own backyard. The data will be used to provide
baseline soundscape characterization and ambient noise levels for permit and licensing authorization of a U.S. Department of Energy sponsored wave energy converter testing facility (NNMREC – SETS) off Newport, OR (click here for previous blog post and more info). The mooring was placed in an area designated by local fisherman (Fisherman Interested in Natural Energy – FINE) having the least impact on fishing activities, but meeting the criteria needed for a shore cabled wave energy testing facility. Despite this designation, the area is still heavily used by the commercial and sport fishing communities seeing high levels of seasonal commercial crabbing activity in particular. So, I really wanted to get the mooring recovered before the Oregon commercial crabbing season opened in January of this year. With that in mind, the OSU coastal research vessel we typically use for this and other local work offshore has been out of commission for months. On top of that, we had one of the most “stormy” December’s on record with high waves and winds lasting throughout most of the month. During one stretch, the significant wave heights at the Stonewall Bank Buoy stayed up around 7-8 m and higher for more than a week!
I was scrambling to find a vessel and crew for the recovery, when a friend put me in touch with the F/V Enterprise whose Captain and crew were busy commercial crabbing but said they’d be happy to take me out in between trips. A weather window opened up and we slid out the jaws of the Yaquina at 0630 just as the sun was starting to shed light over the coast range. The Captain put the hammer down and we made quick time out to the mooring station at 17 knots! I was amazed and starting to get nervous by the amount of crab gear in the water on the way out and around the area where the mooring was deployed back in June. One of the great things about our hydrophone mooring is that there is no buoy or surface float to indicate its position. Ships working or traveling through the area have no idea anything is below them. For recovery of the equipment, we are reliant on an acoustic release that when triggered from an acoustic cue at the surface, releases a submerged float bringing the mooring to the surface.
We reached the station, immediately established communication from the surface with the acoustic release and had the entire mooring aboard the Enterprise within 20 minutes. Success! The mooring came back in good condition, back at the lab, the initial quality check of the data was good and the F/V Enterprise has become a great new resource for us for this type local
offshore work. Talking with the crew and watching the sunrise from the water reminded me of how awesome the work we do really is. The day to day office and computer work are a necessary and often exciting part of the bigger picture, but for me, the time on the water and field experiences really bring home the value and privilege it is to get to follow my interests in studying the ocean and earth for a living.