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Ocean Research

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February 2016 Issue

SharkCam Gathers Data
On Sharks in the Deep

The dramatic video footage of a great white shark attacking the “REMUS SharkCam” AUV brought some of the highest ratings to Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” 2014 and went viral on the Internet.

But while the footage was unprecedented, the scientific understanding enabled by the REMUS SharkCam is just as groundbreaking. The AUV was used during a science expedition in 2013 to better understand white shark behavior and represents the first successful efforts to autonomously track and image any animal in the marine environment. The research provides critical data for efforts to conserve these animals.

Working in the clear waters off Mexico’s Guadalupe Island, researchers conducted six AUV missions over seven days in November 2013. The team tagged and tracked four sharks over six days using REMUS SharkCam, collecting over 13 hr. of video data from the AUV. The team tracked one male and three female great white sharks down to depths of 100 m.

Most of the encounters REMUS SharkCam documented were with animals that were not being tracked. The researchers logged 30 interactions with 10 individual sharks. The behavior of these sharks filmed by REMUS SharkCam ranged from simple approaches to bumping the vehicle and aggressive bites.

The observations made by the team constitute the first observations of predatory behavior well below the surface. The findings suggest the sharks take advantage of the clear visibility in the waters off Guadalupe to search for seals and to ambush and disable them by attacking from below, where the shark is concealed in darker water while stalking the seal, which is silhouetted from above.

The team recently returned to Guadalupe to continue tagging, filming and studying great white sharks. The new video will be released in summer 2016 during Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”.

In the future, the team wants to use a deeper diving REMUS that can swim for longer durations. Future work will center on increasing tracking durations by using better batteries and integrating the camera systems into the AUV electronics.

The SharkCam offers an innovative tool for scientists to better understand the fine-scale behavior of marine animals. There is currently no other method in the world that can get imagery of white sharks at depth in the open ocean.


New Hydrothermal Vent
Type Discovered

The first discovery of a new type of hydrothermal vent system in a decade helps explain the long observed disconnect between the theoretical rate at which the Earth’s crust is cooling at seafloor spreading ridge flanks and actual observations. It could also help scientists interpret the evidence for past global climates more accurately.

This discovery was made by scientists at the U.K. National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the University of Southampton using a combination of robot subs and ROVs.

Theory has long predicted that there must be more cooling in certain locations on the Earth’s crust than we could account for using the known mechanisms, and this new class of hydrothermal vent system may account for that difference.

What makes these hydrothermal vent systems different is that the source of heat driving them comes from hot rock pushed toward the seabed by low-angle faults, called tectonic spreading centers, rather than volcanic heat from magma chambers.

This new type of vent system is expected to be found in tectonic seafloor spreading sites across the globe. However, since they are almost invisible to the traditional ways of searching for hydrothermal vents, and the process driving them was not understood, they remained unaccounted for in scientific models of how heat and chemistry are transferred from inside the Earth’s crust.

This new class of vent system has important implications for the balance of magnesium and calcium in seawater, which plays a significant role in past climatic conditions. This research will mean that ocean models of magnesium and calcium budgets will need to be updated and could lead to more accurate insights into Earth’s past climate.


AGU, CUR Support
Geoscience Education

In furtherance of their shared goals to build and sustain the global science talent pool, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) outlining the organizations’ commitment to promoting undergraduate research opportunities, enhancing diversity in the geosciences, and supporting the geoscience talent pool.

The collaboration will focus on developing and growing programs and initiatives designed to strengthen research opportunities in the Earth and space sciences at the undergraduate level, as well as expanding such research opportunities at two-year colleges. Opportunities will be created for students to present their work to the broader scientific community and beyond.


EGI Acquires
US-Flag RV

Eclipse Group, Inc. (EGI) has acquired the RV New Horizon, a 170-ft. U.S.-flag research vessel. The vessel has been renamed the Bold Horizon and is home ported in San Diego, California.

The RV will serve as a powerful and flexible platform for tasks ranging from marine survey to sensor deployment to air crash investigation. Features include a large, open main deck, an articulated stern A-frame with 11,500-lb. safe working load, J-frame, deck crane, CTD, instrumentation, and 10,000-m side scan winches. The working deck has direct access to a wet ocean lab, dry lab facilities, and a 15-person conference room with teleconferencing capability, office and other accommodations.

EGI’s 2,000-m ROV Super Mohawk 15 has been installed and is operational.

The RV is now available for charter to military, government, academic, industry and private sector clients worldwide.



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Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.