26 February 1999

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research - NIWA
Greta Point, Wellington, New Zealand

Once we reach Kaikoura and research dives in the Deep Rover begin, all scientists on board will be glued to the video monitors on board the Kaharoa. With at least four cameras mounted on Deep Rover, chances are there will be many things to watch. Since this is the first time a submersible with Deep Rover's capabilities will be visiting the depths of Kaikoura Canyon, the crew is showing a great deal of anticipation on what may appear on the video screens. In order to quickly identify and count all the creatures that may dart into view, a number of different identification log sheets are being assembled. Since it is difficult for any one person to identify all the possible animals that may swim into view, Clyde got together with a few people this morning to help design the tally sheets.

Along with Clyde were Mike Sweeney, a fellow cephalopod biologist from the Smithsonian, Di Tracey, a NIWA specialist on deep water fishes and fisheries, and Steve O'Shea, who in addition to all his work with the giant squid of late, is a specialist on octopods and is also very knowledgable about other invertebrates of this region. The tally sheet will not only facilitate quick identifications, it will also allow be used as a tool for estimating some of the biodiversity of Kaikoura canyon.

As I sat there listening to their discussions, I looked around Steve's office which is filled from floor to ceiling with jars, vials and boxes containing creatures of every size, color and shape imaginable. Suddenly, there in a little box about two feet long, I saw a row of four little fish, each a couple of inches long, that looked remarkably familiar.

Since Di was the person who knew all about these little guys, I asked her what they might be. She looked at them, picked one up and turned it over and then said quite definitively that they were juvenile spikey oreos. On my first day in New Zealand when I entered the NIWA lab, I was impressed by a large metal sculpture in the reception area. It turns out that the sculpture is modeled after the black oreo, which to my untrained eye is remarkably similar to these little guys in the box. However, to give you a sense of scale I later learned from Di that the eye of the metal fish was actually made out of a cooking wok. Whoever would have thought it possible to "stir fry in a fish's eye"?


Early that afternoon, Clyde received a call saying that the second session of Deep Rover training was going to begin and that we should make our way back to the Kaharoa. Ian assembled his students, Clyde and Mike with myself as observer on the fantail, and with great ceremony brought out a large gray plastic container. This, Ian told them was their emergency kit, and it contained all the things that must be placed inside the submersible each and every time the Deep Rover enters the water, no matter how short the dive is expected to be. Emergencies can happen at any time and you have to be prepared.


The variety of things contained in that box is amazing. Flashlights, water bottles, oxygen test devices, first aid supplies, and much more came out of that box with Ian providing a complete explanation for their uses. Two packages were completely wrapped in gray duct tape and were of particular interest. The one that Ian referred to as "woolies" was a set of thermal underwear that could be worn if the pilot got chilled. Although Deep Rover's five inch acryllic sphere is a very good insulator, the aluminum ring that seals the two halves together is not. The deep sea is a very cold and dark place and I have to wonder just how warm a pair of woolen underwear is going to keep you. In the meantime, the package of woolies serves the role of footrest since it is usually placed just below the pilot's stocking feet.

I forget to mention that shoes are not allowed at anytime inside Deep Rover. It would be too easy to scratch the inside of the acryllic sphere with a pebble or nail that may have gotten stuck to a shoe's sole. The other package, also sealed in the same gray duct tape contained all the emergency food rations that are needed to provide the complete nutritional requirements for one person for NINE DAYS! This package, not much bigger than a large grapefruit apparently contains some seriously nutrional material, although in consistancy it felt more like playdough.

Fluid management in Deep Rover is pretty simple. You take some bottles of water down with you each time you dive. In the event of an emergeny, there is a desalination device that can take salt water from a valve on the inside of the sphere and extract about one liter of fresh water for every ten liters of salt water that passes through it. In a serious emergency, the instructions on the desalinator clearly suggest that it is possible to substitute urine in place of sea water. There is a special plastic bottle with a large "R" written across the top for just such a purpose.

In addition to oxygen needing to be continuously added to keep the pilot alive, it is equally important to remove the carbon dioxide (CO2) that the pilot respires. Since there is no way to selectively vent the CO2 to the outside, the Deep Rover is equipped with two CO2 scrubbers. These are metal cannisters about six inches in diameter and about 12 inches in length mounted inside on either side of the sphere. Fans continuously pass air through the canisters where, by a fairly simple chemical reaction, the excess CO2 is removed. Before each dive, the canisters must be refilled with the chemical that does this job.

After this training session was completed, it was finally time to put Deep Rover into the water for the first time. The test dive was going to be done with Deep Rover tied to the wharf and was primarily to check out the submersible after its long journey. Scott, one of the three Deep Rover support crew was going to make the first "dive". In all truth, it was going to be more of a first "dunk" since the Deep Rover was still going to be attached to the ship's winch cable and it was not going to dive below the surface. Ingrid and Clyde pressed their noses up to the sphere to watch carefully as Scott went through all the pre-dive checks. Clyde in particular had a vested interest in making sure he followed along with each and every step since if all went well, he would soon be in the pilot's seat himself. All systems checked out as expected.

For about thirty minutes or so, Scott bobbed around at the end of the winch cable performing a series of system and electrical checks while the rest of the crew watched with great interest from the stern of the Kaharoa. In particular, Clyde and Mike deGruy seemed to be paying particularly close attention to everything that was happening . Finally, with all the checks being completed and with just a few minor electrical problems being found, the Deep Rover was hoisted back on deck, the sphere opened up and Scott emerged. They were now ready to "dive Mike".

 

As before, the complete pre-dive series of external and internal checks were done, crossing off each item on the checklist as it was completed. Mike deGruy and Clyde had a few last minute words before the Deep Rover was sealed, the lift cable attached and the dive got underway. By this time, the sun had started to set and the skipper had turned on the lights that were attached to the A-frame. As the Deep Rover was lifted off the deck, bathed in the warm glow of these lights, we could all see Mike getting familiar with his new surroundings. The A-frame tilted aft, the cable let down and the Deep Rover was once again in the water. Mike did another series of tests including using the Deep Rover's propulsion thrusters. Being so close to the surface, these created quite the stir, churning the waters around the sub into a frothy mass.


All too soon it was time to bring Deep Rover back on board. As the sub broke through the surface, the brightness of the lights was only matched by the sparkle in Mike's eyes and the smile on his face.


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