Research vessel uncovers mysteries on ocean floor
When most people think of oceanic explorers, they might think to say, Christopher Columbus, or Jacques Cousteau. But a look at Global Underwater Explorer’s (GUE) new vessel offers a whole new perspective.
“The most amazing part of what I do is bringing scientists who have studied underwater environments their whole life, and showing them a wreck in person,” said GUE photographer and social media specialist Doug Brandon. “When we discovered the 2,100-year-old wreck in the Mediterranean, the scientists were more intrigued with who the passengers might have been than the artifacts.”
A group of about 12 men stays on board the new 150 feet ship built by New Generation Shipbuilding out of Louisiana called the Baseline Explorer. The ship is docked in Stock Island to make all the modifications before its next voyage and test equipment and conduct training exercises. The GUE ship is equipped with two small boats and two submersibles to carry out its mission — explore the depths of the ocean, do scientific research and capture photos and footage to promote education, conservation and exploration.
Everybody on board is part of Baseline Explorers, a collaboration between GUE and Brownie Marine Group, makers of high-tech diving equipment, plus public donation and other sponsors. The group is 10,000 members strong and develops new underwater practices and procedures for advanced and technical diving and collecting timeline photos of marine ecosystems.
Ted Cole is a project manager, a deep-sea diver and mixed gas instructor. Sometimes he goes as deep as 500 feet, dangling five air tanks from his waist containing different gas combinations for the changing depths.
“Ironically, it is the same as shallow diving but there is a greater obligation to time. You have to get back to the surface in the allotted minutes to avoid injury. It might be three hours to get back to the surface after only being down for 20 minutes,” he said.
There is a hyperbaric chamber on the vessel, just in case. In some situations, divers are equipped with rebreather device, which circulates the exhaled air. And some of the submersibles can operate up to 72 hours at a time. The array of equipment onboard is designed to provide for divers’ safety and ability to perform specialized tasks.
“Divers are mobile and can travel about 6 knots, but the submersibles do not make any bubbles and allow for a clear view of sea life,” said specialist Shane Zigler.
Zigler said the ship’s submersibles can go 1,000 feet deep and collect samples and artifacts with a mechanical arm. It also has the ability to capture photos with an HD camera. The submersible’s remote operator is extremely careful ; the watercraft costs $2 million.