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Saturday, July 16, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer VENTure Survey: Day 1

Date: 15/07/2011
Time: 2000h (UTC)
Position: 53 deg 09.67' N 09 deg 36.53' W
Wind speed: 16 knots

We have spent today completing our final preparations, before we head offshore from Galway.  Once we're out in the North Atlantic, we will be on our own: no service engineer is going to visit us if we have a problem with any equipment, so we've been making sure that everything is in working order, and that we have any spares that we might need.

With a voyage of exploration such as ours, we need to know exactly where we are before we can map places where no-one has been before.  So our checklist has included calibrating the underwater navigation system for our deep-diving remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), the Holland-1.  Like any modern vessel, the RV Celtic Explorer uses pinpoint-precision satellite navigation.  But those GPS signals do not reach the deep ocean, so we use an additional sonar beacon system to track the ROV relative to the ship during its dives.


The remotely operated vehicle ROV Holland 1


In the evening, we launched the ROV on a test dive.  One of the tasks for this dive was to test and calibrate the multibeam sonar system, which can map the seafloor in fine detail.  We're very grateful to the Geological Survey of Ireland for providing us with vital data, through the INFOMAR Programme, to complete that calibration test and prepare for the voyage ahead.

Our journey to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge will take around three-and-a-half days.  Although the weather over our target area looks good at the moment, we're expecting some rough seas on the way there.  So another important task has been tying down all our equipment securely--from the computers in the "dry lab" to the microscopes in the "wet lab"--ready for any rocking and rolling.

Once our final checks are complete, we'll be leaving the Galway area overnight, bound for the undersea volcanoes of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

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