Dr. Eugenie Clark, Underwater Research Pioneer Dies

Feb 27 2015
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Dr. Clark in 2011

Dr. Eugenie Clark, marine biologist also known as ‘The Shark Lady’, passed away February 25, 2015. She will be remembered by many who worked in the underwater and science realm, including the Boston Sea Rovers.

Her research with sharks started in the 1950s when she began working with experiments proving that sharks can learn. Lemon sharks were trained to push targets and ring bells for food. In the Steinitz Marine Lab in Eilat, Israel, Genie conducted experiments with sharks that unlocked the secret of a shark repelling poison emitted by the Moses sole. This complex toxin proved to be both a hemo AND neuro toxin that passes simultaneously through the circulatory and neurological systems.

Clark was the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including The Explorers Club Medal; Medal of Excellence from American society of Oceanographers; Underwater Society of America; Society of Women Geographers; the National Geographic Society; International SCUBA Diving Hall of Fame; Women Divers Hall of Fame; Legend of the Sea from Beneath the Sea; NOGI Award from the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences.

We at Black Laser Learning extend our condolences to her family and the underwater community.

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Side Scan Sonar Students and RJ Walker shipwreck

Aug 16 2014
RJ Walker Side Scan Sonar Overview-web

Side Scan Sonar Image of RJ Walker

“About 2 degrees to starboard and slow down to 3 knots,” I said to Captain Steve Evert of Stockton College’s Marine field Station. RJ Walker Remote Sensing Stockton College_&_ Vince_Capone_webWe were surveying the Robert J. Walker shipwreck, using the latest in side scan sonar technology to remotely produce a picture of the wreck.

Side scan sonar is a towed sonar which creates overhead images of the sea floor using sound rather than the light used in photography. The in-water portion of the system called a towfish, skimmed the sea floor only feet from the sea bottom and the wreck. Pass after pass produced fantastic images of the wreck that no camera could capture.

The data was returned to the Stockton College Marine Field Station laboratory where the students processed hours of sonar data to create a diagram of the vessel as she lie on the bottom in 85 feet of water. I watched with fascination as students dove into the work and produced a diagram worthy of any commercial operation. I was very proud of what they had accomplished in such a short time.

In 1860, Robert J. Walker was one of the U.S. Coast Survey’s (predecessor organization to NOAA) new iron-hulled steam-powered survey vessels. She was cutting-edge. Previously, sailing vessels had carried out surveys to create charts.

The paddle wheeler was making her way up the Jersey coast when she collided with Fanny, a wooden coal schooner. The collision stove in the Walker’s iron plates, causing massive flooding. Valiant efforts by the crew to thwart the flood by stuffing wool blankets between the leaking iron plates was in vain. Twenty sailors lost their lives on that night, the largest single loss of NOAA personnel in its history. These gallant officers and sailors are memorialized in NOAA’s Hall of Honor.

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RJ Walker Painting

While the wreck was initially found in 1970, she wasn’t officially identified until about a year ago with NOAA and associated partners, divers and archaeologists. The latest in high-resolution multi-beam side scan sonar and ROV imagery were used to finally make a positive identification.

Now the wreck has become an important historical and archaeological site and one on which a team of Stockton undergraduate students as well a community divers, assisted by NOAA personnel, lead by my colleague Dr. James Delgado, will be mapping in detail during an August expedition.

The 1847-built Robert J. Walker mapped navigational routes and created charts until her demise in 1860. With the impending U.S. Civil War, the ship was in full-out survey mode to ensure vulnerable ports and coastlines were mapped.

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Remains of RJ Walker Paddle Wheel – Courtesy of NOAA

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Multibeam Bathymetry of RJ Walker Shipwreck-Courtesy of NOAA

Today, some 154 years later, coastal mapping involves sophisticated sonars. These sonars produce images of the sea floor and measure ocean depth. Students at the Stockton Marine Field Station learn how to operate these new technologies as part of a special summer internship. Reviewing the sonar data with the students, we see evidence of the once-proud vessel now degraded by the ocean into the barely recognizable remains of the boiler and engines.

 

 

Stockton Summer Research Team - Awesome

Stockton College Summer Research Team

Students Walt, Jamie, Chelsea and Emily, learned the art of advanced sonar image interpretation as well as how to operate the newest EdgeTech multi-beam side scan sonar. Analysis of the sonar data provided divers a working map of the wreck. This preliminary diagram of the vessel remains allows divers to efficiently plan their working dives. Groups of divers will map different portions of the shipwreck in detail. Each dive team will record minute details from which a final drawing will be created and presented to NOAA.RJ Walker Bow Only w Anchor Stockton_Capone_07t

In preparation for the archaeological dives, a workshop was held at Stockton College where Joyce Steinmetz, an archaeologist from East Carolina University, met with Stockton students and Atlantic divers and spoke about her work on the wreck — she used NOAA multi-beam to confirm measurements of portions of the wreck. Additionally, Ben Lieb is training divers on the mapping techniques and the measurements he wants taken.

Robert J. Walker sank in just 30 minutes early on June 21, 1860, and the dead outnumber any other sinking of a U.S. Coast Survey or NOAA vessel. The shipwreck has been added to the National Register of Historic Places to recognize the service and sacrifice the crew gave to their duties and their country.

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Stockton RJ Walker Survey Team – Explorer’s Club Flag #132

The 20 officers and seamen are recognized on NOAA’s Hall of Honor having lost their lives in the line of duty.

Robert J. Walker is a unique representation of the new age of steam technology and iron-hulled ships that were coming onto the commercial maritime seascape at the beginning of the 19th century. This project bridges the past and the future.

Past cutting-edge technologies studied by future generations of marine scientists and archaeologists.

 

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Explorer’s Club Flag #132

As part of an Explorer’s Club Expedition (Flag # 132) led by Captain Steve Nagiewicz and Dan Lieb divers will descend on the wreck again today to complete the mapping effort. The final diagram, a combination of  Stockton’s remote sensing and diver mapping will be compiled into a beautiful drawing of the vessel as she lies on the ocean floor today.

 

RJ Walker Poster

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MH370 is whispering to us

Apr 09 2014

The U.S. Navy’s pinger locator aboard the Australian vessel Ocean Shield has positively identified pings from the MH370 flight recorders. Earlier reports from a Chinese vessel some 600 kilometers south were greeted with skepticism. The Ocean Shield has, on multiple occasions, heard the pinger and has narrowed the search area.

Congratulations to the entire team, from the analysts who deciphered the satellite data putting the pinger locator in the right vicinity, to the personnel operating the Ocean Shield and pinger locator. One of the talented technicians aboard the Ocean Shield is Curt Newport who is best known for finding and recovering Gus Grissom’s Mercury space capsule located in the deep ocean off Florida.

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Is MH370’s Black Box Gone Forever?

Apr 03 2014

Like a lonely whale song, a single repeating ping echoes in the deep Indian Ocean. Somewhere in this vast watery wilderness lies the black box of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, with its battery-operated pinger slowly losing power.

The pinger is small and the echo must travel through miles of ocean which slowly saps its strength, its call fading dramatically as it reaches for the surface. Waterlayers of different temperatures bend sound waves in a process known as refraction, trapping echoes in deep water layers or bending them away from listening devices. Even with today’s most sophisticated listening devices, the odds of being close enough to hear the pinger are as remote as seeing a candle two miles away in the fog.

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Apollo F-1 Engine Returns to Cape Canaveral

Mar 14 2014

Seabed Worker NASA Background web

The Seabed Worker’s unique wake trailed to the east as the morning sun glowed on the NASA vehicle assembly building in the west. After more than 40 years on the bottom of the ocean, the F-1 engines were returning to NASA and back to the famous Apollo launching grounds at Cape Canaveral.

The team had set out prepared to recover three massive Apollo 11 engines near the Bermuda Triangle in water depths of over 14,000 feet or 4,300 meters. After three weeks at sea searching numerous debris fields spread over 40 square miles of ocean, the team did not find an intact engine. However, we did recover what remained of several engines, including one from Apollo 11 as well as their turbo pumps, heat exchangers and LOX injectors; enough pieces that a good representation of an engine could be lovingly restored for display in a museum.

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