The Project Begins

Multibeam Sonar Head during deployment

the NOAA R/V Shearwater

The Cambrian Foundation Team

Preparing for the trip

the CFG R/V Swordfish

Friday, September 5, 2003
Due to the success of previous expeditions and our reciprocity agreement, the Cambrian Foundation was asked to assist the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the recovery of a multibeam sonar head (MSH) that was lost in over 250 feet of water while surveying the topography at Cortez Banks, 100 miles off the coast of southern California. After the MSH was lost in July, the plan to recover it was set in motion, and time was of the essence. The longer the MSH was left unrecovered, the greater the chance the device would be permanently lost or damaged.

The project required the cooperative effort of several agencies – NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), the NOAA Dive Office, California Fish and Game (CFG), California State University Monterey Bay and the Cambrian Foundation. NOAA CINMS provided the RV Shearwater as the principal operations vessel and crew housing, CFG provided the MV Swordfish as a support vessel, NOAA Fisheries provided the ROV to search for the head and the Cambrian Foundation provided the dive team to recover the device.

The NOAA Dive Office approved the dive plan and secured DCAP dive tables for trimix 14/60 (14% oxygen, 60% helium and the balance made up of nitrogen) from Dr. Bill Hamilton. The dive plan called for the use of the technical diving techniques that have been successfully used for all Cambrian Foudation operations – incorporating safety with experience. The divers would only be deployed if the MSH were located. They would use a liveboating technique, and the two bottom divers would deploy down the ROV cable. They would be supported bt two in-water divers at shallow depths, as well as, several surface support personnel with multiple chase vehicles. Decompression would be performed while drifting to make it as effortless as possible.

The dive team met at Malibu Divers in Malibu, California at 1 PM for final gas fills and to prepare the lifting apparatus and hardware. The team also went through a “walk through” of the dive with deployment, lift procedures, decompression amd recovery to insure that all members were familliar with each others responsibilities and limitations, as well as, to prepare the divers mentally.

Once everything was completed, the team left to meet the NOAA team at Ventura Harbor and arrived at 5 PM. The team staged their decompression cylinders onboard the Swordfish and Tim briefed the crew regarding support operations during the dive phase of the operation. The NOAA RV Shearwater arrived about 6 PM. After the team loaded their equipment onboard and prepared for the transit to Cortez Banks. The transit would occur while we slept.

NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program

  • Dana Wilkes – NOAA MSH Project Coordinator

NOAA Fisheries
  • LCDR Scott Hill
  • Melissa Neuman, PhD
  • Chuck Oliver
  • ROV Crew
    • John Butler, PhD
    • John Wagner
    • Anthony Cossio

NOAA Dive Office
  • David Dinsmore
  • Frank Parrish
  • Diving Safety Board

California Department of Fish and Game
  • Pete Haaker
  • Ian Taniguchi
  • MV Swordfish
    • Lt. John Suchil
    • Warden Santos Cabral
    • Warden Robert Walther

NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Sarah Fangman
  • Chris Mobley
  • RV Shearwater
    • Capt. Luman Moody
    • Capt. Terrence Shinn

California State University Monterey Bay
  • Rikk Kvitek

Cambrian Foundation Team
  • Tim Gallagher Project Diving Safety Officer
  • Karl Shreeves Bottom Diver
  • Steve Mortell Bottom Diver
  • Jeff Schoonover Support Diver
  • Grant Graves Support Diver and Project Director

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