Zen and the art of ROV maintenance

In the frantic offshore life of long shifts at awkward hours, drawing graphs plotting that thing against that other thing, and telling a poor ROV pilot that you would like him to use a huge robotic arm to grab that little speck (“not that one, the other one, yes, the one that’s swimming away…..grab it!”), do we ever find the time for harmony, for inner peace in body and mind?
Well, the answer is no, not really. But that doesn’t stop us from attempting daily yoga (a pastime requiring high levels of balance) on a moving platform!

That's me at the back, not doing very well.

What started as a few people with a little yoga experience is now a class. As the most experienced of us, the bilingual Angela has been taking those willing through an hour of yoga each day. The crew seem very open to the idea and there are more new faces each day.

When we are not wobbling on one foot we have been exploring the Arc mounds within Irish waters. This coral area is a relatively new discovery and our work here will help to map its extent and assess the quality and health of the reef.
From what I have seen the area is beautiful. The coral is localised to the peaks of the mounds with a halo of coral rubble around them. On the peaks there is total coral coverage. They are well developed too, not just covering the seabed but forming structures extending several meters up. Lophelia, the more robust coral, forms a strong branching structure whereas the more fragile Madrepora is delicate and has a distinctive zigzag shape. Both corals range in colour from cream to a soft pink or amber. These structures are dotted with an assortment of other life that uses them as a platform to feed from or as shelter. Approaching these structures with the ROV they have a cool blue hue due to the water absorbing red light but as you get closer the red light starts to get through and the image warms until you are confronted with the full colours of the reef. This process adds to the sense that something is being revealed to us, something hidden.

Colourful reefs of the Arc Mounds

While in this area we have conducted a mapping survey. The ROV can get much closer than the vessel; this will produce a very detailed map of the area. We will then fly over the same course using the OTUS photographic system. This system uses a downward facing camera to take photos of the seabed below the ROV and links them to the exact position where that photo was taken. The images can then be made into a mosaic. At first glance the result looks very much like our other mapping methods, until you realise that you can zoom in and actually see the structures! This method is great for giving an overview of the whole area in a very accessible way; you really get a feel for how the whole area looks.

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