Out to Sea With R/V Neil Armstrong

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We marked a career milestone this June, spending a week at sea documenting the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s new research vessel, the R/V Neil Armstrong.

The mission: gather as much imagery as possible for archival use and for a German documentary on the Gulf Stream, as well as for two forthcoming videos we’ll produce about WHOI research. While we’ve been at sea on other ships, it was a real treat to spend time on a brand-spanking new research vessel while the science party and crew tested its capacities.

At times, it seemed like we were gathering data much like the scientists did, with cameras instead of nets and instruments. Except, while they knew exactly when and where they would cast an instrument overboard, we were in reaction mode, ready to shoot the action in 4K and stills at a moment’s notice.

If an announcement came over the radio that whales were sighted from the starboard aft, we were there. A trawl net deployment at midnight, no problem. Technical difficulties, we certainly understand. Surprises, like waking up to the Newport-Bermuda regatta on the first morning, were welcome sights in the midst of so much ocean. Our minds were blown by the power and proximity of fin whales at sunset, the playfulness of the dolphins that followed our wake, and the wholehearted dedication of all the scientists on board to get accurate data.

There was a real cross-section of talent on board, including acousticians, biologists, and chemical and physical oceanographers all working toward a common goal: to characterize the waters along the continental shelf. (If you’re curious about that, Elise contributed to WHOI’s Neil Armstrong blog during the cruise, which you can read here.)

Now that the “dock rock” has subsided, we’re tackling our “data”, trawling for tidbits of detail that will tell the story of the ship’s new broadband acoustic capabilities and how scientists use shipboard and at-sea instruments to get a more complete picture of the vital shelfbreak ecosystem.