Getting ready to …..

  ….. go again.

Life as we know it, at least for a while, has changed.

However, that doesn’t mean that science has stopped and for some research projects the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive outcome, as instruments deployed onto the seabed at the start of the year have had to stay there, collecting data streams for far longer than originally planned.

We have two sets of instruments on the seabed at the moment for which rescue missions are in the final stages of planning now that travel restrictions are starting to ease.

We have one set offshore the Congo canyon that have been there since August last year; and one set off the Azores which have been there since February.

This latter set were due for recovery in April.

Not something that became possible, but nevertheless these instruments just sat on the seabed recording regardless.

These instruments are monitoring earthquakes being generated by a faulting event that is allowing molten rock from deep within the Earth to erupt at the seabed forming new crust – eventually making the adjacent island of Faial just a bit bigger.

Blog readers will know that we used the University of the Azores vessel Arquipelago to facilitate the deployment of these instruments and the plan is to use the same vessel for the recovery.

All vessels have to undergo annual checks to make sure they are seaworthy.

And as the COVID situation has eased, the Arquipelago has left the Azores and is now in a shipyard in mainland Portugal undertaking its annual service and certification.

In fact it is out of the water and currently on a concrete slipway – as shown by the orange dot that shows the position its locator beacon is reporting.

In 35 days, Arquipelago will return to the Azores and we will be its first activity, and we will embark to recover our instruments.

It will be interesting to see how many earthquakes they have record after this long.

Back in the lab – and we can now actually use that phrase as some of the team are back in the lab rather than working at home – we have been pressing on knocking items off the long list of development activities we had prior to COVID.

PCBs have been designed during home working …..

….. and now these prototypes are being fabricated, adding the components onto the board, so that they can be tested.

Working at home has proven challenging, requiring turning our skills to even fabricating work tables.

But work continues, despite the working environment challenges.

A tidy wiring job …..

…. some flashing lights to know what it is doing ….

….. and perhaps even adding GPS to know where it is and what the time is!

Storage for data, connectors for cables, and making little test beds to run software for the “brains” in all these systems.

We are looking forward to getting back to sea and supporting science, and the first instrument retrieval could be as soon as the end of August or early September, depending when the Arquipelago passes its annual inspections!

Its nice to report we are back to normal – or at least the “new” version of normal!

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