Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mission Blue: Rough Weather at Roughtongue Reef

On the Survivors of the Spill expedition’s first full day at sea, wind and waves conspired to keep the Deepworker sub out of the ocean–but the Medusa marine lander made a successful first drop onto Roughtongue Reef. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and Harte Research Institute ecologist Thomas Shirley recount the day. After long minutes scanning the water, the team spots the Medusa bobbing at the surface and prepares to retrieve it. BY SYLVIA EARLE and TOM SHIRLEY Earle: We had a rough time at Roughtongue Reef, but a good success story, too. Edie Widder’s wonderful machine, Medusa, went over the side at 7 o’clock this morning and we picked it up at about 5 o’clock this afternoon. It’s loaded with images of what was going on at the bottom of the sea.…
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Mission Blue: Test Dive at Roughtongue Reef

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and Harte Research Institute ecologist Thomas Shirley describe plans for their first dive of the expedition in the Waitt Institute’s two-person Deepworker sub at Roughtongue Reef, part of the “string of pearls in the top of the northern Gulf.” The two-person Waitt Institute’s Deepworker sub with hatches up before departing from Pensacola. BY SYLVIA EARLE and THOMAS SHIRLEY SHIRLEY: When we descend in the Deepworker, we hope to find ourselves near the Medusa lander–Edie Widder and ORCA’s photographic landing module–and then to swing by and take videos of that. We’ll keep our video cameras running, and hope to run one or two transects across the top of Roughtongue Reef, then go over the southwest edge downslope to the bottom, which is not a lot of vertical relief–probably ten meters max.…
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Mission Blue: Medusa Drops to the Bottom of the Gulf

At Roughtongue Reef in the Gulf of Mexico, some 80 miles east of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill site, Dr. Edie Widder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) deploys the Medusa–a sophisticated deep sea observatory that can film and test seawater conditions–for the first time in the open ocean. At dock in Pensacola, Florida, a crane hoists ORCA’s Medusa deep sea observatory onto the research vessel Brooks McCall. By Edith “Edie” Widder I’ve brought the Medusa deep sea observatory. It’s a lander system that you can just throw off the back of the ship. It floats down to the bottom and settles there, and then it can record for two to three days. It uses the same principle as the Eye in the Sea camera system that I developed.…
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Mission Blue: Next Stop – The Ocean

As the research vessel Brooks McCall prepares to embark from Pensacola’s city dock for destinations near the BP Deepwater Horizon spill site, expedition co-leaders Thomas Shirley and Sylvia Earle discuss their goals for the week ahead. Sylvia Earle with the Brooks McCall. By Thomas Shirley and Sylvia Earle Shirley: Sylvia, we’re departing on the Mission Blue: Survivors of the Spill expedition. What do you expect to get out of this? Earle: I am really looking forward to using that cool little submersible that the Waitt Foundation is making available to us. It has the capacity to go down to 2,000 feet, and it will let us personally look around. And you’re going to try to get some core samples out there?…
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Mission Blue: Team of Leading Scientists Explores Oil Spill’s Legacy

PENSACOLA, Fla.–Scientists and representatives of several organizations head into the northern Gulf of Mexico from Pensacola this week on an expedition led by Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and Dr. Thomas Shirley, professor at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The expedition aims to explore and document several areas west and east of the site where the BP Deepwater Horizon released nearly five million barrels of oil from a depth of 5,000 feet, beginning April 20, 2010. “Our goal is to identify areas with potential for Gulf ecosystem recovery,” said Dr. Earle, founder of SEAlliance and recipient of the 2009 TEDPrize that developed into Mission Blue, an international ocean conservation movement. “That is going to require protection of places healthy enough to replenish and rebuild populations.…
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