As easy as that …..

….. and time for lunch!

Well after three COVID-19 PCR tests and 14 days of quarantine the day we have been waiting for since the planned recovery in April finally arrived.

Azores recovery day.

Would the instruments still be there?

Might they have been welded to the seabed by volcanic lava eruptions?

Might they have been taken over by communities of exotic species?

Today we would find out.

Sadly this was not to be out vessel of choice for the day …..

…. and it wouldn’t be very functional either despite its low freeboard at the stern.

An early start at the Arquipelago

with the equipment already loaded it was a quick departure.

There is something about working in the early mornings, the quietness, and often things you see because it is dark.

A good weather window for the day resulted in a calm sea as we left port and headed towards the first instrument platform recovery site.

Deck cleared, tools ready, dunking transducer ready to be deployed over the side to talk to each instrument and release it, hose poised and ready with fresh water for the wash down on recovery.

An empty deck on a recovery mission always has a sense of hope but also a sense of dread – would we get these instruments back at all? Would they have recorded data?

Sunrises at sea are one of the truly memorable experiences we have and they never fail to impress, and they do make long night shifts really worthwhile.

As do curious dolphins.

On arrival at the first site, we hoved-to to dunk the transducer, ping the instrument’s wake up code, say hello, ping its release code and wait for it to surface.

The advantage of a small and manoeuvrable boat with a low freeboard is that it makes our platforms very easy indeed to recover.

One down.

Eagle eyed blog readers will notice that there is something missing off this one. Where is the flag?

Long gone, together with its bracket.

Although all the metalwork on these platforms is stainless steel, stainless steel is only good as its imperfections and it still does corrode. Here it has corroded at the welds that held the bracket on.

The Boss will be having to get the sowing machine out to make a new flag!

The platforms were, in our normal working terms, very close together, so not soon after arrived the next.

and eventually number five.

The vessel track clearly showing the recovery strategy and where the instruments were located.

Looking at the track chart is always interesting as it shows, even to those not there, how easy the instruments were to release, how easy they were to spot when the surfaced, and which ones required quite a bit of tracking down.

The Arquipelago isn’t very tall and this makes seeing for any distance quite hard.

An attempt to release the first one was made from a distance of a few miles, as the track shows on the right below. A slow down, a quick dunk with the transducer and a quick ping to release and carry on with hopefully, the instrument arriving at the surface not long after the vessel arrives at its anticipated surfacing point.

Some instruments, like those without flags, are not so easy to spot and require a bit of trundling around in a search pattern to find them.

Some pop up right in front of you and just require a bit of vessel manoeuvring to bring the instrument alongside.

Those following us on tracking might of thought this was a really easy spot and catch.

But actually it was the crew having their lunch break.

One of our favourite sights though, is a deck full of all the instruments we set out to recover – back safe and sound.

But the light, radio and flag pole of each had gained some hitchhikers that will have to be removed before shipping. Perhaps their chosen attachment point is to catch food drifting past in the water?

During lunch the crew also spotted a roaming fishing buoy that they also recovered.

Things that spend time floating at the surface attract quite different and more voluminous hitchhikers.

Looks like this one has been roaming for some time.

Recovery complete we extracted the data and cleaned and disassembled the instruments as we returned to port,

admiring the scenery along the way as it was still light.

The islands in the Azores are entirely made from lava flows, with flow after flow stacked up one on top of the other.

With the equipment all cleaned and packed up, we await the lorry that will collect it, before we travel home.

Well done team – we look forward to seeing how many earthquakes these instruments actually recorded.

 

We would like to thank the crew of the Arquipelago and the University of the Azores for their assistance with this project – untiringly helpful and supportive throughout.

Vessel tracking courtesy of Marine Traffic.

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