This morning at 0900, after two full days of loading and prep, Falkor slipped the dock and headed north out of Nanaimo into the central Strait of Georgia. Just north of the Departure Bay – Horseshoe Bay ferry route that runs from Nanaimo to toward Vancouver, the ship parked for some critical equipment tests.
The first task was to check operation of the CTD rosette. This is a circular metal frame that holds 24 water-sampling bottles as well as a variety of sensors for things like temperature and salinity. The team can trigger these bottles via computer at different depths to capture water samples for various analyses on the ship or after returning to shore. The test run on deck was a good chance to make sure Falkor’s crew and the Canadian team are in step on procedures, as Monday will begin a 36-hour CTD sampling marathon offshore aimed at characterizing some of the key research sites.
The next major job was to deploy metal spheres beneath the ship’s sonar gondola. The gondola is a rigid frame under the bow outfitted with an array of sonar transducers (signal senders) and receivers. The goal was to calibrate the system based on the signals the sonar receivers pick up after the transducers bounce acoustic signals off the spheres.
The team will be using sonar at various frequencies not only to map bottom topography to help understand the pathways deeper waters might take after upwelling–a primary goal for Leg One–but also to track and quantify fish and plankton in the areas where they will be working.
With 15-knot winds, the seas were starting to get a little rough during testing. But, by 1800 hours the work was done and Falkor headed for the Strait of Juan de Fuca on her way offshore to begin Monday’s ambitious work plan.