2 December 2015

Hydrothermal Hunt: How to recover an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

Posted by lhwang

By Thom Hoffman

This is the latest in a series of dispatches from scientists and education officers aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s R/V Falkor. This November, scientists aboard the research vessel Falkor will aim to shed light on the Mariana Back-arc, which is expected to be teeming with activity and life. Over the course of their 27 day mission at sea they will explore the back-arc spreading center to find new sites of hydrothermal activity and to better understand the physical, chemical, and geological forces that shape biodiversity in these unique ecosystems. Read more posts here, and track the Falkor’s progress here.


The star of the show AUV Sentry; this will be the second time Sentry will be deployed at Loihi Seamount. Photo credit: Carlie Wiener/ SO

The AUV Sentry.
Credit: Carlie Wiener/ SO

The Sentry Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) can reach depths of 6,000 m (or about 3.73 miles) below sea level. It is one the best tools for detailed mapping of the water column and deep ocean floor. But even if your instrument has survived the crushing hydrostatic pressures at the bottom of the ocean, you will find another kind of pressure waiting back up on deck. Recovering unique and precious scientific equipment out of the swelling ocean and putting it back onto a moving ship is an intimidating prospect. Here AUV Program manager, Carl Kaiser, gives us his key tips for ensuring a smooth AUV recovery and how to cope when things start to go wrong.

—Thom Hoffman is a science communicator, multimedia journalist and film-maker based in the UK.