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Marine Debris Assessment Expedition

July 20-25, 2009
aboard the R/V Manta

Click on a link below to jump to a specific expedition blog or scroll down the page to read them all.

Monday, July 20 - Jennifer DeBose

Tuesday, July 21 - Scott Fowler

Wednesday, July 22 (a.m.) - Emma Hickerson

Wednesday, July 22 (p.m.) - Jeff Reid

Thursday, July 23 (a.m.) - Russ Green

Thursday, July 23 (p.m.) - Marissa Nuttall

Friday, July 24 (a.m.) - G.P. Schmahl

Friday, July 24 (p.m.) - Ryan Eckert

Saturday, July 25 (a.m.) - Greg McFall

Saturday, July 25 (p.m.) - Doug Kesling

Click here to return to the Expedition page.

Click here to learn more about the Expedition Team.

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Mission Blog
Monday, July 20, 2009

by Jennifer DeBose
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Research Specialist, Co-Principle Investigator

We’re prepped and briefed and ready to go! The NOAA technical divers arrived Sunday and stayed on the Manta overnight.

Today we pulled out the HyperLite portable decompression chamber and practiced putting it together.

Two men in the wet lab of the R/V Manta, one standing and one kneeling, with various parts of a decompression chamber resting on the floor around them.
Mauritius Bell and Doug Kesling work on constructing the Hyperlite portable decompression chamber in the wet lab on board the R/V Manta.

Jeff volunteered to ‘go for a dive’ in the HyperLite, so we strapped him in and pulled him through the slightly cramped cylinder.

A man lying strapped to a stretcher on the floor of the R/V Manta.  The man's legs are facing toward the viewer and beyond his head is a long orange tube which the stretcher will be placed inside of.
Jeff Reid, strapped to a stretcher, getting ready to take the first "chamber ride."

Putting the chamber together took a little while this first time – which is why it was good to have everyone play a part to see how all the pieces fit together.

One man stands next to a decompression chamber (a large orange tube) holding the portal that will seal the chamber shut.  On the floor alongside him is another man lying on a stretcher waiting to be pulled inside the tube..
Mauritius Bell holds the chamber portal in preparation for sealing Jeff Reid inside the chamber. The strap reaching through the chamber tube will be used to pull the stretcher inside.

Scott was ‘driving’ the chamber and took Jeff down to 15’ before bringing him back up again.

A man crouches along the left side of a long orange tube (a decompression chamber) while several other people look on.
Scott Fowler, crouching to the left of the decompression chamber, is in charge of the chamber controls which are lying on the floor behind him. These controls allow him to raise or lower the pressure inside the chamber to return a diver to an appropriate "depth" in an emergency situation (i.e. decompression sickness).

Jeff was a good sport as we literally pushed down on the chamber to bring him up those final few feet, by squeezing the air out!

Several people lean on the long orange tube of a decompression chamber to remove the last bit of extra air pressure before the diver can be removed.
Stetson Bank is located about 30 miles northwest of West Flower Garden Bank and about 70 miles south southeast of Galveston, TX.

After the chamber assembly, short decompression-dive, and disassembly, Doug led the pre-dive briefing. He covered dive planning, safety diving, and contingency plans – and then we broke for dinner and met back on the boat at 10pm for a late night departure.

However, the weather report has thrown a wrench into our plans – and it looks like we won’t be leaving until tomorrow morning. 4-7’ seas are not conducive to tech-diving. Hopefully the seas will calm and we can get out tomorrow to start work!

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Mission Blog
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

by Scott Fowler
National Underwater Research Center (NURC)
Dive Master, Technical Diver

Weather has been the big story for today.  Unfavorable winds and seas have forced the expedition to remain at the dock for an additional day.  In the scientific diving community there is an old mantra – “safety before science.”  Both the captain and science team thought it best to heed those words for today.

A man checking on his scuba gear as it sits on the dive bench of the R/V Manta.
Jeff Reid making final adjustments to his equipment.

The unexpected down time was not a loss however.  Equipment set-up continued along with additional gas mixing.  More importantly, the team was able to assemble for a detailed dive briefing.  Though dive briefings will start the day for us each day that we are out, this particular dive briefing was used to discuss overall dive safety, emergency procedures, dive protocol, dive and safety team assignments, gas mixes, and decompression schedules. More importantly, it was a time for the team to familiarize itself with our technical diving procedures. Each member comes from a dive background that may be similar or quite different than our methodology. To function as an efficient and safe dive team, it's vital that we put aside our individuality and conform to a standardized dive plan and system.

Three men sitting around a table in the galley of the R/V Manta.
Part of the dive team deep in discussion. (left to right: Greg McFall, Jeff Reid and Mauritius Bell )

Here is a brief outline of our discussion:

Doug Kesling and I will act as the Dive Supervisors. Our main jobs will be to manage the dive deck, insure each diver is prepared for the dive, communicate and work with the vessel captain to make go or no-go decisions, and account for divers as they enter and exit the water.  He will take the lead when I'm in the water and I will supervise when he is down.

Other than the fact that Doug and I must alternate our roles, the dive teams will be rather flexible. We will most likely operate as two three-man teams, with two divers doing the work while the third takes photos or video. Depending on the site and the task, we may operate as three two-man teams to cover more ground, if needed.  Due to the variable nature of the target sites, the teams will most likely not be determined too far in advance.

The safety teams were also determined.  They will operate in pairs and be responsible for in-water communication and assistance for the decompressing bottom team.  Their job is one of the most important of the expedition.  Without highly trained and competent safety divers, the mission would be much less likely to succeed.

Dive emergencies were also discussed.  Though no expedition wishes for the unexpected, due to the nature of technical diving, the possibility of a mishap always exists.  We spent quite a bit of time going over likely scenarios and appropriate solutions to each.  Each team member now knows what role to assume and the appropriate action to take in the unlikely event a mishap should occur.

Finally, mission objectives were identified and discussed.  Varied subjects such as marking of targeted debris, possible debris lifting techniques, and secondary tasks were brought to the table.  Though each dive will be unique due to the variety of debris on the bottom, each team member left the briefing with a better understanding of the unique demands and hazards for the task.

With the dive briefing completed, the plan now is to finalize any remaining equipment issues and get a good night’s sleep.  Having lost a day due to weather, the team wants to be refreshed and ready to make this expedition a success.

Scuba gear attached to dive tanks sitting on the dive bench on the back deck of the R/V Manta.
Assembled technical diving gear.

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Next Blog Page

Mission Information

For a general overview of this expedition, please visit the Marine Debris Assessment Expedition 2009 page.

To learn more about the scientists on this expedition, please visit the Expedition Team page.

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
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