Remote Control Science

No-mount rig with full face and comms

Terrence prepares to dive

Rima and Artie communicate with divers

Amy analyzes water sample

A local park resident watches the action

Our first task of the day was to check the crayfish traps installed in the wells on Wednesday. The traps were placed at 60’, 155’ and 645’ deep, and they were baited with cat food in an effort to capture troglobitic crustaceans. As it turns out, our traps were empty after 24 hours, but we will keep trying in the coming weeks. An interesting thing to note was that a white crystalline structure about 1.5” long, presumably a geologic feature of the system, was collected from the deepest well. We would like to thank Pedro Montero of Spectrum Data Solutions and Eric Housend for their assistance with the formation water samples and trap placement procedures.
We then moved our operations down to Wekiwa Spring and were joined by Rhiannon, Andy, and Renee who spent the morning getting tanks filled at the Dive Station in Orlando. Rima arrived shortly thereafter, and the main objective of today’s dives was to collect samples of bacteria, sediment, and bedrock from the five points along the transect in the cave. These samples will provide invaluable clues as to the food web structure of the cave community.
Rima and several Park staff/volunteers were treated to a tour of the no-mount cave today as Terrence, Andy, and Renee collected the data. A drop camera with 300’ of umbilical was donated by Sartek for this project, and the underwater-to-surface communications gear was provided by NURC. This enabled Rima to examine the bacterial colonies in situ and get a better understanding of the dynamic environment in which they live. Prior to entering the water, Rhiannon and Andy assembled and connected the television, VCR, comms gear, and drop camera on the surface such that all of today’s data collection and cave footage could be recorded for future study

Today’s mission for the divers was to collect a variety of samples from within the no-mount cave for analysis. So that the scientists above the water could best direct the sampling from within the cave, Terrence used a full-face mask with built-in diver-to-surface communications in conjunction with an underwater video camera linked directly to a TV monitor above ground. He was assisted in his sampling tasks by Renee and Andy, who also collected details of the sampling sites such as water flow, level of daylight, character and depth of substrate, and macroscopic nature of the bacterial colonies. Samples were taken from five sites within the cave. Some of these were much more difficult to work in than others due to confined space and high water flow. The most challenging area was at the end of the permanent guideline (limit of exploration so far) where the strength of the current played havoc with the plastic sample bottles and bags we were using. Despite these and other technical problems with equipment we succeeded in safely bringing all the samples required by the scientists to the surface over a two hour dive. Once the samples arrived on the surface, they were fixed and placed on ice for immediate transport back to the laboratory.

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