Illuminating Biodiversity of the Ningaloo Canyons

Following the Dream

Alex Ingle/SOI
Mar. 30 2020

Liam Cook has been our high school participant on Research Vessel Falkor. He is a senior at Geraldton Senior High School and in the Follow the Dream program designed to help Aboriginal students to reach their career potential by graduating from high school and achieving university entrance.

Liam Cook (Student, Geraldton Senior High School) assists the Falkor‘s crew with preparing SuBastian’s bio boxes. These are where specimens from the sea floor will be collected.Alex Ingle/SOI

A Unique Opportunity
He has been well supported by his mum Elizabeth Cook and dad Michael Cook, as well as the indefatigable Helen Bell, who has done so much to coordinate regional student involvement as part of our cruise. His interests include drawing, engineering, and a whole range of different sports. When he came onboard he immediately gravitated towards the gifted ROV team who took him under their wing and made him part of their crew. He has been helping launch and recover ROV SuBastian – as well as the lander and fish traps – and has spent time touring the engine room and the bridge plus has been assisting with data entry while on board.

A New Routine
A typical day for Liam involved an early breakfast followed by the daily deployment of SuBastian. With a hearty breakfast keeping them going, Liam, the ROV team, and the crew would assemble on the aft deck of R/V Falkor to begin preparations for launch. After a back-and-forth of radio chatter and tests, Liam and the crew would then be given the all-clear to unstrap ROV SuBastian and to prepare for deployment. As the ROV is lifted off deck, Liam and his teammates would use tag lines to control any swinging caused by the motion of the waves.

During deployment, the aft deck is a busy place. Tag lines allow the crew to control the movement of equipment as it is lifted, while straps hold other gear safely in place.Alex Ingle/SOI

As SuBastian entered the water, the propellors would spin, and in a surge of sea-spray the vehicle descended into the deep. Liam’s next job would be to assist attaching floats to the umbilical cable which act as markers for recovery. After that is done, it would be time for a well earned break while the ROV continues the long descent to the sea floor (this can sometimes take hours, depending on how deep it is)!

ROV SuBastian returns to the surface after another full day’s dive to the sea floor. Amongst the sea spray, a rainbow appears.Alex Ingle/SOI

Time Flies
During the day, Liam was busy taking any opportunity to explore his unique surroundings and to learn more about the different roles on the ship. Time flies on board, and before you know it, you will find yourself looking at the clock and realising it is time for dinner… shortly after that, Liam and the ROV team would be back on deck to begin the recovery process. This can be quite an exhilarating experience, particularly in rougher conditions, but Liam took everything in his stride and was a much appreciated extra pair of hands – even during some of the more hair-raising recoveries!

Left to right: Ben Chiong (ROV team), Liam Cook (Student, Geraldton Senior High School), Archel Benitez (Lead Deckhand) and Russell Coffield (ROV team) stand in front of ROV SuBastian. Liam has been working closely with the team – assisting them with deployments and recoveries of the ROV.Alex Ingle/SOI

Thanks for all of your help Liam, you will be missed mate!

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