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Jul 23 - ISIS

Update (23rd July 2006)

Noon Position : lat 63° 40' N, long 007° 38' W

Eighty miles north of the Faeroe Islands

Air temperature @ noon today : 10.1°C

Sea temperature @ noon today : 10.4°C

The Week(s) In Brief.

This week you find us back at sea heading north again, our next place of call is the archipelago of Svalbard deep inside the Arctic circle. This morning saw us pass the Faeroe Islands, see below right, as we head to collect the sixth of our seven Norwegian moorings. We will then head for the port of Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen to collect the rest of the science party for the forthcoming cruise.


Evening over the Western Isles. Click to enlarge.
The coast of the Faeroe Islands. (Douglas Leask) Click to enlarge.

Evening over the Western Isles. Click to enlarge.

The coast of the Faeroe Islands. (Douglas Leask) Click to enlarge.

When we last spoke we were involved in trialing the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) "Isis" off the west coast of Scotland . Most of the trials had been planned for the area around Rosemary Bank, an area the ship had done some survey work on in 2003. For more details of that cruise click here. Unfortunately the weather wasn't going to be with us this time and so we moved operations to The Minch and the Sea of the Hebrides i.e. the areas to the east of the Hebridean Islands. The conditions in this area were lovely, which you might gather from the evening picture of one of the southern islands which can be seen above left.

Trials completed it was Clyde bound and all change once again. The "Isis" team departed along with about eighty tonnes of equipment, various comments about traveling light were mentioned, but they'll be back in January for the Antarctic leg of the operation. The ship was then required to undergo its annual round of surveys by our certification authority, Lloyds, and the Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) to ensure everything is in order and ship shape. This completed we loaded the equipment for the upcoming Arctic cruise and after enjoying several hot and sunny days we headed back to sea on a bit of a grey morning, but more of that later.

The NERC Remotely Operated Vehicle - Isis.

The "Isis" operation could not be described as small; it briefly involves five containers of controls and equipment, a gantry, two winches and a power pack. Having said that I wouldn't describe "Isis" itself as being exactly small, as you might gather from the pictures below. The vehicle is 2.8m long, 1.8m wide and 2m high and weights in at 3250kg. This all adds up to a scientific tool that can operate in waters 6500m deep. Two of the containers mentioned bolt together to become the heart of the operation and it is those that can be seen under the gantry below. Inside are the banks of monitors and television screens displaying the data from the vehicle and the views from its various cameras. The cameras not only allow the environmental conditions to be surveyed and filmed, but also allow the operator to operate the manipulator arms to sample the seabed for whatever the scientists are interested in.

JCR Aft deck showing the control  container. Click to enlarge
The heart of the operation. Click to enlarge

The JCR's aft deck showing the control containers. (Colin Day) Click to enlarge.

Inside the control container. (Colin Day) Click to enlarge.

From the pictures below launching and recovering the vehicle is not a small task either and hence the need for relatively good weather. The most risky part of operating most scientific equipment is the transfering it in and out of the water. To reduce the risks as much as possible "Isis" has its own gantry which latches onto the top of the ROV once clear of the water. This allows for careful manoeuvring of the vehicle back onto deck. The process can be seen below.

The Isis ROV. Click to enlarge
Isis being brought back onboard. Click to enlarge
Landing back onboard. Click to enlarge.

Isis returning from the final mission. Click to enlarge.

The gantry lifts Isis inboard. Click to enlarge.

Landing on deck. Click to enlarge.

Although this was primarily a trials cruise we did have a small scientific party onboard to evaluate the operation for their own future work and because of the areas we were working coincided with the own areas of interest. A few samples were then recovered, those of the final dive can be seen below.

The catch of the final dive. Click to enlarge.

Catch of the final dive! Click to enlarge.

I'm sure more details of "Isis" will appear in the coming months when it is back onboard, but for anyone requiring more technical details can I direct you to the Isis official website.

Departing the Clyde

After five days of work in harbour, last Friday morning saw our departure. Unfortunately after several days of bright and hot sunshine, Friday was quite grey with low cloud. This was disappointing as our passage out passed the home stomping grounds for several onboard. On leaving King George V dock in Govan we travelled down the river, which has seen the birth of many a sea going vessel over the years. The length of the river passage and the speed at which we broke out into open country was a little surprising to those, like myself, who are not familiar with the area. Our passage down river took us under the Erskine Bridge, which at least one member of the crew is looking forward to seeing again as it will carry him homeward in a few weeks time. Our passage under the bridge was uneventful compared to that of an oil rig which managed to hit the bridge back in 1996, closing it for several months.

The Erskine Bridge crossing the Clyde. Click to enlarge
Clyde Traffic heading up river. Click to enlarge

The Erskine Bridge crossing the Clyde. Click to enlarge.

Clyde Traffic heading up river. Click to enlarge.

Our route then took us down the Clyde Estuary passing the islands of Great Cumbrae, Bute and Arran, all having connections with people onboard. As we passed Millport on Great Cumbrae it looked as if the whole town had come out to wave to one crew member, that of our Second Engineer Gerry Armour. Fireworks rose above the town and some horns could be heard. His Mum and Dad even came out in boats to wave as we passed by. Gerry can be seen below with his home town behind and with own flotilla. What views we would have had if only the sun had shone!

Gerry & Millport, Great Cumbrae. Click to enlarge.
JCR's escort from Millport. Click to enlarge

Gerry & Millport, Great Cumbrae. Click to enlarge.

JCR's escort from Millport. Click to enlarge.

What Next?

Monday evening should see us cross over the Arctic Circle and complete our mooring recoveries in the evening. Then we will time our arrival in Longyearbyen for sometime on Thursday, whilst doing additional survey work on the way. So until next time it's goodbye from us.