Sunday, September 2, 2012

What am I doing in Thailand Again?

I'm back in Thailand for the second year in a row.  I am here to help with an environmental survey being performed by Tetra Tech in the Gulf of Thailand.  Specifically I am here to operate our vibrocorer, a piece of equipment designed to collect cores of sediment from the seafloor.  This equipment is important to the study because it allows us to collect sediment samples deeper than can be collected with any of the other sediment sampling equipment.  We have the vibrocorer configured to collect samples up to 2.4 meters deep although our goal is 1 to 2 meters.

It takes a team of seven people to operate to the viborcore in the 70 meter waters of the Gulf of Thailand. I am more like a director than and actual operator.  Here is the breakdown of the people involved:

two deck hands to handle the vibrocorer during set up, launch, and recovery
one deck hand to manage the power umbilical at all times
one dedicated winch operator
one vessel captain to hold the ship on possition
one navigator to give guidance to the captain and track the viborcorer
and me to orchestrate, make sure we get the sample, and make sure no one gets hurt

Essentially I am a deck boss, I answer to the project manager but of course the captain always has the final say.

It can be challenging to get a good sample with the vibrocorer.  There is no way to see exactly what is happening when the equipment is on the seafloor so you have to rely on feeling the cable to determine how deeply the core has penetrated into the seafloor. If you go too deeply or not enough it is necessary to reset the entire process and start again.  "Feeling" how deeply the viborcorer has penetrated into the seafloor from 70 meters above on a vessel that is bobbing in the seas is not easy, but at least we have experience from last year to help guide us.

The game changer this year is that we will have a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the water.  We are working closer to sub sea pipelines that ever before, thus to ensure that we don't land on top of one of these pipes the ROV will monitor our equipment.  The ROV is equipped with lights and cameras and will provide a live video feed from from the seafloor and will be controlled by a operator on the ship.  I am excited this year to see the vibrocorer in action from the ROVs perspective.

Aboard the Miclyn Energy in 2011 ready for some vibrocoring action

Bringing the Vibrocorer aboard after taking a sample

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