Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A bit about.. F.L.O.A.T.s - by Melissa M.

Braving cold weather and harsh conditions in the pursuit of science is something all of us onboard know something about. We sacrifice time with family and friends to live on the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, so we make sure to collect as much data as possible during that time.

The SOCCOM program doesn't operate its own cruises, rather it piggybacks on research expeditions already planned in areas where they want floats deployed. What makes GO-SHIP cruises particularly good targets is that most of the required parameters - nutrients, oxygen, salinity, pH, and alkalinity - are already being taken at every station as part of the overall science plan.

F.L.O.A.T. before its deployment (isa took the freedom to draw a "Fairly Large Operational Aquatic Technology" standing on Antarctica)

SOCCOM floats can be tracked online at using their serial numbers. But they're also given a nickname, and the second float we deployed has a great one. Float #12892 will now be known as F.L.O.A.T., for Fairly Large Operational Aquatic Technology. It was adopted by students from the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut. You gotta love a good back-ronym, an acronym that was clearly decided upon before the full name.

 Captain Eric, marine tech Jenny, Mike and Isa, just before deploying F.L.O.A.T. (ph. by Patrick M.)

Deployment of F.L.O.A.T. (ph. by Andrew C.)
F.L.O.A.T. was launched on April 20 at 08:50 GMT (10:50am local) at 63 degrees South latitude, 30 degrees East longitude. We also used the CTD to collect water samples from 36 different depths at the same location. The water will be analyzed and those values will be used to calibrate the sensors onboard F.L.O.A.T., which will drift with ocean currents for years to come.

There's a few extra samples taken from the CTD when a SOCCOM float gets deployed - HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) and POC (particulate organic carbon). Both are needed to validate the fluorescence and backscatter sensor on the float, which provides information about chlorophyll and plankton.

We collect seawater from the bottles closed at the surface (which is actually between 3-7 meters deep) and at the depth of the maximum chlorophyll signal (63 meters in this instance, as measured by a sensor on the CTD). The water is then filtered and only the filter is saved, frozen for analysis in a lab back on shore.

 Sampling around the rosette (ph. by Mike K.)

Every data point we determine from this expedition is available to other scientists and the public. GO-SHIP cruises repeat measurements every ten years to better understand the ocean's cycles. SOCCOM floats report back every ten days to learn about some of those same parameters on a finer scale. Working together to understand these changes is what oceanography is all about, and the diverse science party onboard is dedicated to the cause.

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