Last year our program embarked on an exciting new project to capture the soundscape from the deepest ocean abyss. At nearly 11 km, Challenger Deep is a unique hadal zone located in the southern portion of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific. The remoteness of the area combined with pressures reaching 16,000 psi and temperatures near freezing, have maintained the mysterious nature of Challenger Deep. Earlier posts describing details from our expeditions outline some of the adventures and challenges we encountered along the way to a successful three week long, continuous underwater acoustic recording in the deepest point on Earth.

Top pair of floats going in.
Top pair of floats going in.

There is significant public interest in this work. Bringing back information from a place only a handful of people or instrumentation have ever been ignites feelings of exploration and curiosity in many. Using sound clips from some of our data that was released to the public earlier this year, a composer, Costas Dafnis, from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music was inspired by the underwater acoustics of Challenger Deep to create Mariana. Click to notes below to listen to the science inspired art and live performance of Mariana and the program note below describing this piece in Costas’ own words;



In March 2016 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released audio captured by a specially designed hydrophone that had been lowered very slowly to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, an area called Challenger Deep. The recordings revealed a surprising amount of noise both from the ocean floor and carried underwater from miles away.


Mariana uses Max to process the original NOAA audio, freeze a series of tiny grains of sound (approximately .01 of a second) and apply a shaped envelope to it. This is looped and repeated quickly to make it resemble one continuous drone. The granularity forces the ear to isolate just a few pitches at different hierarchies, but because of the nature of organic sound the complexity of these drones can be phenomenal.


The singer gives voice to Tennyson’s 1830 poem of despondent isolation and hopeless abandonment by carefully listening to the drones, determining a fundamental, overtones, and timbre and following a score written intervallically relative to characteristics of the surrounding sound world. An experiment in both responsive and intentionally non-responsive interplay between human and generated sound, each performance will be vastly different as it is practically impossible to recreate a drone exactly after it is passed and singers may perceive the same drone with slightly different sonic hierarchy.


Costas also sent along a rough score (click the link below) of the piece that was performed at the workshop in San Francisco in May 2016.


A beautiful example of  the synergy that exists between art and science.

Thank you Costas for sharing your art and inspiration.

How 20 teachers turned ordinary water bottles into spry mini seagliders.

This post comes to us from Sara Heimlich.

From this….to this….bottle to glider in one day!

Changes in marine mammal distribution and abundance, caused by environmental stresses or human activities, can have a major impact on the function of the entire deepwater ecosystem. One of the research projects being conducted by staff at the PMEL acoustics group is looking at exactly this topic in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM).   LADC-GEMM (Littoral Acoustic Demonstration Center-Gulf Ecological Monitoring and Modeling) is a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional effort, using expertise from marine acoustics, biology, physics, engineering, mathematics, and computational predictive modeling, with the aim of understanding of how the regional marine mammal population in the northern GoM  has been affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill.

The research and science behind projects like LADC-GEMM can often seem high-brow, inaccessible, and even confusing.   So, one of the ways the LADC-GEMM project aims to demystify ocean science is by using the popularity of robotic ocean gliders – like our charismatic “Otis” and “Clyde”- to engage teachers and students in exploring many of the essential skills and principles of the kind of work that is becoming more commonplace in the marine sector.

Alex Turpin, Staff Scientist and Selene Fergosi, PhD. student help a teacher with the electronic parts for his model glider.
Alex Turpin, Staff Scientist and Selene Fergosi, PhD. student help a teacher with the electronic parts for his model glider.

“What are underwater gliders and how are they used by scientists to study the ocean and its inhabitants?” is a simple question that opens up many avenues for exploration.  But the most fun and accessible is actually building a working model of a seaglider.   Recently, 20 elementary through high school, in and out-of-school educators from around the state of Oregon came to the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon to spend a Saturday doing just that.  During the SeaGlide Educator Workshop, they also heard directly from David K. Mellinger, Haru Matumoto, Sharon Nieukirk, Sara Heimlich, Alex Turpin and Selene Fergosi about how gliders are being used in their research.  The workshop, organized with the help of Tracy Crews at HMSC’S Oreon Coast STEM Hub, also provided a presentation by Toledo, Oregon high school students.  These juniors and seniors had already spent a school term building their own simple models and analyzing real data collected by gliders used in field work conducted for the Oceans Observatories Initiative (OOI), provided by Jon Fram of Oregon State University’s College of Earth ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS).  This gave the Seaglide workshop participants the opportunity to see how curricula can be developed around this engaging STEM activity, either in a classroom or for after-school programs.

Educators putting the finishing touches on the body of their model gliders.
Educators putting the finishing touches on the body of their model gliders.

The seagliders built during the workshop used designs and instructions developed by Michael Britt-Crane at  SeaGlide was originally designed for high school students. It moves by changing its buoyancy, taking in or expelling water. This change in buoyancy causes the glider to rise and sink in the water. As the glider travels up and down, its wings generate lift, which propels the glider forward. SeaGlide can’t run for months at a time like real gliders, but it can collect temperature and pressure data as it ‘flies’ through the water.

Educators test 'fly' their model gliders
Educators test ‘fly’ their model gliders

For the workshop participants, the hands-on experience of building their own Seaglider with the help of mentors (several were local members of the high school robotics club) proved to be the most valuable part of the day.  The majority walked away from the workshop feeling confident in facilitating this STEM learning experience, and being able to teach students about the science, technology, engineering and math aspects.  Some plan to incorporate gliders in curriculum as part of a course in the school system, some in an after school club or activity, and a few as a summer program.

SeaGlide workshops are being organized by PMEL staff working with LADC-GEMM consortium members for 2016 and 2017, in  Mississippi and other “Gulf States”.

Workshop Instructors. Back row: staff scientists David K. Mellinger, Selene Fergosi, Alex Turpin. Front row: staff scientists Sharon Nieukirk, Sara Heimlich and STEM program staff Tracey Crews. Haru Matsumoto is missing from this photo.
Workshop Instructors. Back row: staff scientists David K. Mellinger, Selene Fergosi, Alex Turpin. Front row: staff scientists Sharon Nieukirk, Sara Heimlich and STEM program staff Tracey Crews. Haru Matsumoto is missing from this photo.

I haven’t posted in a while, so lets touch base on the last three months of my grad school life. Michelle mentioned that many in our lab attended the Biennial Meeting for the Society for Marine Mammalogy. I too was there, and it was crazy, but awesome. I gave a talk on my master’s work and was the most nervous I have ever been to give a talk…biggest audience, TWO screens, up on a podium. EEK. I think it went ok though. And the best part of all was that my dad snuck in to watch. And more importantly he refrained from asking a question and embarrassing me.

Getting grilled cheese sandwiches and a PBR with my dad after my talk.

But that wasn’t even the point of this blog. I just had to brag about my dad coming to my talk because how many grad students get to say that??

You all know I work on gliders (and here, and here, and here) by now, right? (note to self – write a blog post on HOW exactly gliders work).

Well, I do. And two parts of my PhD are to compare gliders to QUEphone floats, and to work out density estimation from a glider. To do this, we need to fly gliders and floats at the same time, and we need to fly them in a place where we have known locations of animals (which we get from other hydrophones using localization…I’m sure Michelle will talk about this some day soon). Then we can figure out how far away each instrument can hear the animal, and then we do a bunch of stats, and voila! All the world’s problems are solved.

So to get the known locations of animals, we are doing two sets of field work – one using a permanent hydrophone array of bottom-mounted hydrophones called SCORE, owned and operated by the U.S. Navy, and one this summer…more later. These hydrophones were originally setup up, and are still used, for Naval training purposes, but guess what, they also hear whales. Now the M3R program of the Navy Marine Species Monitoring program can use these recordings for studying marine mammals on the training ranges. Anyway, for us to get to use it, we had to do it in the very brief window between Christmas and New Years.

The cool logo on our ship

Deployment – Dec 20. Right after the marine mammal conference, I went home to my parents house for a day, then flew down to San Diego, Haru, Alex, and I went out on the deployment, and things went mostly as expected. We were only able to deploy one glider because one had an antenna issue, but we also got two floats out. Yay!

Alex readying the gear on deployment day. San Diego sunshine abounds.

Flight time – All good UNTIL Dec 30 – when we started to have communication issues with the glider…that we COULD NOT RESOLVE. The glider was trying to call the base station, we could see the lights on the modem lighting up, but it could not connect. Come to find out, as phone lines are being updated, sometimes this happens, and there was NOTHING WE COULD DO ABOUT IT. But the glider is still flying we know that, that’s good.

Recovery – Scheduled for Jan 4. Alex and I were slated to fly down from Portland to San Diego, head out early in the morning on the 4th (it takes us about 7 hours by boat to get to where the stuff was), and try to find the glider, that will surface for about 15 mins, every 5 hours, in 12 foot seas, within 2 km of a particular point.

So already, I’m NOT feeling super optimistic about it. Oh and then the offshore weather forecast is bad. Real bad. Like we might get down there, head out of the bay, and have to turn around. I was thinking if we pushed it back we might have a better chance of fixing the communication problem and find a better weather window, but remember, we are working on a typically ACTIVE Navy Range, we have to get our gear out of there before they start training again. So lets go forward as planned.

Wake up Sunday morning, Alex is going to drive from Newport to Corvallis in our rental car, so we can drive to the airport for our midday flight. Guess what. It snowed. Our rental car wouldn’t make it over the coast range. SO. We reschedule our flight for later. Alex gets a ride over the hill from Haru, who has a truck. We take my Subaru to the airport. WORST DRIVE EVER. Corvallis snow melted, Portland was in a full on ice storm. Cars sliding off the road everywhere, somehow we make it (Thank you Remy Lebeau…my car). Oh but wait, halfway there, I get a text message that our flight has been cancelled. Alaska automatically re-routes me: Portland to LA, LA to Seattle, Seattle to San Diego..midday on the 4th. REMEMBER we need to get our stuff on the 4th. The weather forecast has gotten worse for later in the week…Monday is our only chance. Oh and bonus, Alex got rerouted as well…for Tuesday the 5th, at 7pm, direct flight Portland to San Diego. SUPER GREAT!

And it begins...

But don’t worry, I’ve got a plan. We fly to LA, just to LA, we rent a car there, we drive the two hours to San Diego, its all good. Granted, the LA flight is from 8-10, so we would get down to San Diego by about 1 am, but we would make it to the boat for our scheduled departure at 4. So ok…lets do it.

So we call Alaska, and we wait on hold, while driving through ice, for like 45 minutes. Finally we get through to this very nice woman, who fixes everything (oh and we have to run all our travel through our accounting people too, on a Sunday night, so there are lots of calls being made). Alex and I, both on the flight to LA. Great.

We get to Portland, we park, we check in for our flights, we go to Enterprise to switch our car reservation to LA. We wait. Guess what…LA flight is delayed. Yup. Ok, we board, only an hour late. Then we sit. On the tarmac, while the de-ice the plane. Yup. I’m a west coast girl, born and raised….this is all so weird to me!!!!!!

So we make it to LA. Midnight. We sit. On the runway. For an hour. Because our gate had an oil leak. YUP. ok…we get off. its 1:00. Remember, we are supposed to be at the base at 3:30, to meet our escort to the boat at 4. It takes 2 hours to drive from LA to San Diego. So we’ve got 2.5 hours. WE MIGHT MAKE IT!!!

The enterprise shuttle is late. Its supposed to come every 10 mins, its too far to walk (45 mins, we mapped it). It comes…1:30. We get to Enterprise. WE SPRINT OFF THE BUS to beat everyone else on it (it was very crowded because we weren’t the only travelers with issues).

The rental car shuttle arrived! This is what you look like after traveling for 12 hours and you've still got 3 to go. The guy in the back is my favorite...

We get our car. its 1:45. We start driving. Thankfully I used to live in Southern California so at least I know where we are going. Plus Alex helps me navigate. We text the boat crew…we will be a little late. Forget checking in to our hotel, we are going straight to the base. YAY WE MAKE IT TO THE BASE AT 3:45!! Did I mention its raining now, and again the glider isn’t really communicating so we will be finding a needle in a hay-stack of waves. But we actually made it to San Diego.

Then we sleep. The AMAZING crew had our beds all made :)

—took a break from writing this blog post to get free cake—

Ok, so we sleep, for a while, till like 7 or 8, then my phone starts beeping. The crew says we are getting close. We discuss where exactly we are heading. We are super far offshore BUT we have this super cool satellite phone wi-fi hub thing that can forward sat phone texts and calls to my regular phone wherever I am on the boat (WHAAAATTT). Haru is giving me up dated info on the floats. AND. WHAT. MIRACLE. THE GLIDER CALLED IN. Oh side note, it is super rough and I’m looking at computer screens at this point and repeating over and over in my head “dont throw up dont throw up dont throw up”.

So now we’ve got a glider location, but we are a couple miles away and we don’t know how long it will stay at the surface. I go to lay down for a few minutes while we move towards it. The captain comes into the server room where are temporary bunks are. “Uh….I think I see it…”

I jump up. Run outside. There it is, sitting in a kelp patty. Just sitting there. I suddenly do not feel sick. I hug the boat captain (I can’t help it).

Then the fun begins, because its so rough and we are on a pretty big ship we deploy a little RHIB (all black, Navy style) off the back of the boat and go out to pick it up.

I'm literally cradling the glider in my lap so the antenna doesn't get broken in our bouncy ride back to the ship.

All is calm (NOT), all is bright. This photo does not do justice to the "washing-machine" of seas.

The rest is somewhat less memorable. The floats were easy to find, the sun came out and I lay on the back deck soaking it up, the crew made dinner, we drove in, got to the hotel at 8 am the next morning, had a mimosa, slept, packed everything the next day, and flew home.


The end.

This turned out a lot longer than I anticipated, and perhaps the stress and anxiety and then happiness did not come through this…but writing about it brought back some heart racing…so trust me…it was stressful. But it all worked out. Yippee!! Now I can’t wait to look at these data and actually do something with it.

Plus..serious shout out to Alex, best glider tech/pilot/friend I could have out there.

We’re back! After a few months off, it’s time to share some Acoustics Program news…

Waves breaking off the north jetty tip of the Yaquina Bay bar.
Waves breaking off the north jetty tip of the Yaquina Bay bar.

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!

Recovering the hydrophone mooring during sunrise off Newport.
Recovering the hydrophone mooring during sunrise off Newport.

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.

Welcome aboard!
Welcome aboard!

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.

Courtney has joined our team and will be processing acoustic data, managing our social media, and other assignments around the lab. She is working in Rm 114 next to Brian K. most afternoons. Stop by and say hi!
From Courtney:
 photo (8)I have worked many jobs in Newport, Oregon, from bartending to jewelry sales to working in the judicial system, but none of them had me thinking that someday I would work at Hatfield Marine Science Center. As a local for many years, I have had the opportunity to get to know some of the scientists who work here, and have had many visits to the museum with my six year old. I have always wanted to work in the brown buildings I see as I cross the bridge, and by a stroke of luck, here I am. This incredible opportunity has many wonderful aspects to it, including environmental awareness, the chance to network with some incredible people, the sense of pride that comes from telling my son I work here, and, honestly, a little peace and quiet.
I have a very inquisitive son named Lochlan. Together he and I like to explore the world around us by going on hikes, fossil hunting at the beach, and visits to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center. We have a great time learning about our Earth, and to be able to explore it in this new way is very exciting, and something he and I can both be proud of.
While there are many wonderful things about this new job, my favorite part might very well be the chance to plunge deep under the sea and slow down for a moment. While the data I will be going through may represent some pretty tumultuous stuff going on down there, up here it is an opportunity to quiet down, turn on some classical music, and tap into the calm that I just know is in there. I look forward to sitting at my desk each day to escape life’s highway and take a more scenic route through the waters for a while.

A few weeks ago it was time to recover and re-deploy an Ocean Noise Reference Station (NRS 03) hydrophone mooring located in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary off the Washington coast. The mooring had been out for a year and needed an instrument refresh for another multi-year long deployment. Fortunately, the NOAA research vessel Bell Shimada, home ported next door at the Marine Operations Center – Pacific, here in Newport would be transiting down the Pacific Northwest coast from some work in southeast Alaska and could accommodate our request for the mooring turnaround work at NRS 03. This was really nice

NOAA ship Bell Shimada at port in Newport, OR.
NOAA ship Bell Shimada at port in Newport, OR.

since I was able to load the ship in Newport before they departed for Alaska and wouldn’t have to travel or ship a bunch of luggage, tools, etc., including a 3400 lb. trawl resistant concrete anchor!

On an early Sunday morning I flew up to Ketchikan to spend the next day or two waiting to board the ship as they finished their mission. Let me just say Ketchikan is wet. Having lived on the Oregon coast for over a decade I thought I knew about rain. From the time I landed in the airport until we crossed back in to U.S. waters heading south 4 days later, it rained. No breaks. Just rain. A few locals told me they see around 200 inches of rain a year. That is a lot of water, and why SE Alaska is a phenomenally green and beautiful landscape. At the same time, it gave me a new appreciation for dryer climates back home in Newport, OR.


The lush green shores of Ketchikan, AK where I walked the same small 15 acre island 5 times a day.
The lush green shores of Ketchikan, AK where I walked the same small 15 acre island 5 times a day.

After the science crew from the previous mission disembarked, I boarded the Shimada from a small transfer vessel in the dark hours of the morning and the ship began heading south. That evening, as the skies began to clear, we came across a large group of humpback whales in Hecate Strait just to the east of Graham Island. By a large group, I mean more whales than I could imagine in one spot. They were everywhere, all sizes, with numbers in the hundreds. I went up to the ship’s bridge and they had slowed the Shimada down to ~ 1.5 kts and were trying to skirt the eastern edge of the whales. We opened the doors and could hear them whooping and whistling just below the surface as they fluked and lazily dove and milled around. It was awesome.

A humpback whale skull in the boatyard behind our lab after being dug up off the beach south of Newport (courtesy of Jim Rice, MMI).
A humpback whale skull in the boatyard behind our lab that was removed off the beach south of Newport a week after I returned from this trip (skull courtesy of Jim Rice, MMI).

A few days later we reached the NRS 03 mooring site around sunrise. After establishing communication with the acoustic release, I “popped” the mooring and we waited for the floats to rise to the surface. This was a little different than our standard deep water moorings with extra glass floats fixed along the line down near the acoustic release due to the heavier anchor. Slightly after the big yellow syntactic foam 40 inch float reached the surface, the series of glass balls in yellow “hard hats” popped up nearby. Here’s where it gets interesting. The instrumentation and line are in a big belly loop strung between the 40″ float and the glass balls.

The 40" top float and lower glass floats before recovery.
The 40″ top float and lower glass floats before recovery.

Careful not to get between those two and severe the line or catch it up in the props. Normally on a buoy recovery, we throw grapple hooks or try to clip in to the large floating loop at the top of the mooring on the 40″ float in order to attach it to the ship’s working line and lift it on board. But on this trip we were going to do something a little different. The ship’s Chief Bosun (Bruce) has a special approach called the “Bruce Noose” where he uses the ship’s crane to create a loop that can be dropped over the buoy and then cinched up and attached to the lifting line. This technique has several advantages: 1) not throwing metal hooks at your gear; 2) don’t have to be right up on the buoy where the weather can push the buoy against the ship’s hull and damage things; 3) once cinched, you have a nice grip on the mooring and can tow it or move it around slightly before recovery.

The "Bruce Noose" in action.
The “Bruce Noose” in action.

After using the “Bruce Noose” successfully, we recovered the NRS 03 hydrophone and mooring, swapped out all of the hardware (shackles, chain, etc.), replaced the hydrophone, new zincs and link for the acoustic release and redeployed the mooring at the same site. It will stay out, monitoring ocean noise levels and recording all types of cool sounds for the next 2 years before it is recovered in 2017. Needless to say, the “Bruce Noose” was a great new technique to learn for buoy recoveries and something I’ll put to use on  future missions. Thanks Bruce and the Captain and crew of the Bell Shimada!

The modern world is hungry for energy. While demands continue to rise, a move toward less reliance on fossil fuels in the direction of sustainable and renewable energy resources will have a lasting effect on world populations. Diversity in energy resource development, particularly in the renewable sector, has the potential to spread financial and environmental risks and impacts across a broad range of the largest consumer nations. With that said, it will take a variety of different renewable energy technologies to help accommodate increasing world energy demands. Solar, hydroelectric, and wind driven turbine technologies have a substantial head start on marine hydrokinetic energy conversion devices.

George DeSoto surfing an outside reef off Lincoln City, Oregon ©Tyler_Roemer

Shift back to the Oregon coast…

Energy resource models have shown the Oregon coast to be one of the potentially richest wave energy resource areas for the continental U.S. Those of us living here or who spend time near or on the ocean can strongly attest to that. It is rarely calm. In light of a nascent wave energy conversion (WEC) device industry, the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) was established with support from the U.S. Department of Energy to provide standardized WEC testing facilities offshore of Newport, Oregon. There are something like ~130 different types of WEC devices out there, while tidal turbines have converged to around 20-30 different devices benefitting from wind turbine testing and technologies. Different WEC’s are bound to perform better in different types of conditions and water depths, but without live testing of scaled devices too many questions are left unanswered at a great financial and potentially environmental cost.


WET-NZ wave energy device test at NNMRECs North Energy Test Site.
WET-NZ wave energy device test at NNMRECs North Energy Test Site.

This is where we come in. Since 2009 our group has partnered with NNMREC to provide passive acoustic monitoring and support of the testing facilities off Newport. Since WEC construction and operation may potentially generate mechanical noise, we are measuring changes in ambient noise levels before, during and after NNMREC project activities. The concern being that increased noise levels may have adverse effects on acoustically sensitive transient and/or resident marine mammals and fish in the area. Another objective of this work is to provide the developers with an acoustic signature of their device which can then be used for model input to forecast acoustic conditions surrounding the commercial scale build out of an array of their device. We are still in the phase of acoustic site characterization, the “before”, collecting passive acoustic recordings at the testing facilities.


Lifting the mooring anchor off the deck to deploy the acoustic mooring at SETS
Lifting the mooring anchor off the deck to deploy the acoustic mooring at SETS

Last week we deployed an acoustic mooring at the South Energy Test Site (SETS) that is scheduled for recovery in October. The hydrophone will collect data on a duty cycle, recording 10 minutes of every hour until recovery. As a NNMREC partner we hope to provide valuable information that can assist in the permitting and licensure process as well as move the wave energy conversion industry forward toward a commercially viable marine renewable energy resource.

Here’s a short update from our recent trip back to Guam last week. We just returned to town (Newport, OR) yesterday, so I’m still pretty bushed, but I wanted to share a few images. (Click on them for a higher resolution full image)

26 hours of travel from Newport, Oregon to the hotel in Guam, waking up to this in the morning before heading down to the ship. Not too bad?

view of Magic Island from the hotel in Agana Bay
View of Magic Island from the hotel in Agana Bay
Sequoia - the Black Pearl of the Pacific
USCGC Sequoia – Black Pearl of the Pacific

We went back out to Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench to recover the full ocean depth hydrophone (FODH) mooring we put out in January of this year. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sequoia also known as the “Black Pearl of the Pacific” was there to greet us at the dock having just missed tropical storm Bavi. We had to do some creative travel including flight delays and re-scheduling in order to avoid the bad weather and 20 ft seas impacting the area just days before. Part of the deal working in the tropical Pacific. As you can see in these images, it was worth it. The weather couldn’t have been any better for the recovery work.

FODH mooring at the surface after coming up from ~11 km at Challenger Deep
FODH mooring at the surface after coming up from ~11 km at Challenger Deep
pulling the FODH mooring on deck in one shot with Sequoia's crane
Pulling the FODH mooring on deck in one shot with Sequoia’s crane

The recovery operations were successful, aside from a few agonizing moments establishing communications with the acoustic release down near 11 km below the sea surface. The Sequoia is an outstanding work platform with an exceptional Captain and crew and we are really lucky to have formed such a great partnership with them. Check back in the near future for more info on this and other program projects.

Back in January of this year, Bob Dziak, Bill Hanshumaker and I were out in the field for the deployment of a new mooring, the FODH (Full Ocean Depth Hydrophone). The FODH is a newly designed system for collecting acoustic recordings in the deepest depths of the oceans. NOAA’s Ocean Exploration Program ( funded this project nearly a year ago and in January of this year, after months of planning and coordination, we were finally able to deploy the gear in an effort to reach the deepest place in the world’s oceans,  Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench southwest of Guam . The engineers at NOAA-PMEL worked for several months designing, building and testing the specialized mooring for a slow, controlled descent to the seafloor, allowing the equipment to equilibrate slowly to the extremely high pressures and avoid being crushed at nearly 11 km depth. Our chief acoustics engineer, Haru Matsumoto, designed a specialized titanium pressure housing and sound acquisition system unique for this deep ocean application and technician Alex Turpin assembled and tested the instrumentation.

FODH mooring on deck of USCGS Sequoia
FODH mooring on deck of USCGS Sequoia (R. Dziak)
Map showing the location of Challenger Deep in the western Pacific Ocean


Back to January of this year…, we flew to Guam to join the U.S. Coast Guard buoy tender Sequoia and sail out 200 miles to Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench to deploy the FODH on its first science mission. It was exciting with some initial heavy weather (running into a typhoon!), but we eventually had a successful deployment and got the gear to the seafloor. The Coast Guard coverage of the deployment mission can be found here USCGChallengerDeep .

heavy seas and winds on the way to Challenger Deep
Heavy seas and strong winds on the way out to Challenger Deep (R. Dziak)
12,000 m rated glass floats being deployed off the ship (R. Dziak)
12,000 m rated glass floats being deployed off the ship (R. Dziak)

I’m going to keep this post brief. I just wanted to give some preliminary background on the project with a few pictures; there will be a lot more detailed information (including video footage) of our deployment and recovery expeditions to follow. We are heading back out to Challenger Deep next week, so stay tuned for updates. Also, for more information and some cool history and images of this unique spot on earth check out James Cameron’s website (

When I’m asked, “What do you do?” my answer, “Ocean Acoustics” is often followed by a puzzled look. And when I think about it, with good reason. Underwater acoustics can be a dense subject, difficult to describe in a short sentence with many different areas of focus. A few weeks ago, a presentation on representing science in social media ( by a few of the graduate students in our program, sparked the idea for this new path of communication and outreach for our group. The intent of this new blog effort is to share the science, research and all of the challenges and triumphs we go through to get to the point of discovery and results. By sharing some of the day-to-day activities and projects of our diverse group we hope to make underwater ocean acoustics research more accessible and interesting to a broad audience.


So in that light, I’ll share a recent journey I took into the wild-lands of an elementary school classroom to talk about sound in the ocean with a group of first graders. It was a tough room. Hard stares were directed my way as they determinedly chewed their popcorn snacks with looks of, “Well? Show us what you’ve got.” I brought in about 20 different biological, natural and man-made sounds that ranged from local recordings of whales, ships and a wave energy conversion device made right off the coast 5 miles from their classroom to ice noise recorded on the other side of the earth near Antarctica. I also brought in a collage of pictures composed of each type of sound with the words written in bold letters. After a very brief introduction on ocean acoustics, I told them about each sound we were going to hear and they were to guess at the source from the collage of images on the board. I played the sounds through a small sub-woofer and satellite speakers so we could shake the fluorescent lights in the classroom and give the kids some “boom” with the lower frequency signals. After a few rounds of playback and guesses were made, the room began to loosen up. I started to see a lot of smiles and excitement growing in every little face. Hands were shooting up around the room at each question. We talked about high and low frequencies and I started out each new guess with the question of whether they thought the sound had a biological, natural or man-made origin. Still not sure that last one sank in with all of them. The magic and fun of listening to sounds in the ocean was alive. After we’d finished the playbacks I took a poll to find out their favorite sound. Result: earthquake just barely won out over the blue whale!? That almost never happens. Must have impressed them with the sub-woofer turned up. At the end of the 40 minutes the kids’ tough stares had turned into smiles and I hope they learned some new things, particularly about sound in the oceans. I even think I might have made a few new friends.


Well, now it’s your turn. Guess the nature of sounds A and B below. Are they biological, natural process, or man-made? Send us a comment and let us know what you think they are.

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