The Saga of the SeaSoar

“Sally saw the SeaSoar near the sea surface over the seamount…” – The ‘6 o’clock News’ SeaSoar watch (Sara Rivera, Lauren Manck, Cynthia Martinson). 


One of the funnest parts of oceanography is getting to play with high-tech instruments that help us collect data about the sea around us. Yesterday we deployed something that looks like a yellow toy airplane – the SeaSoar!

The SeaSoar waits patiently on deck for its chance to shine on our cruise

The SeaSoar is a winged torpedo-like instrument that we tow behind the ship to collect a 3D profile of the water column. The instrument ‘soars’ up and down between the surface and 260 m deep in a yo-yo-like pattern, recording water temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll fluorescence from phytoplankton, and  water clarity.


The Ohman Lab and volunteers gather on the fantail of the Revelle to learn about the SeaSoar.

Our goal during this cruise is to sample and track the evolution of a filament of cold, newly-upwelled water that has developed along the Central California coast, extending out into the California Current System. Filaments like the one we are tracking are common upwelling features along our coast, and can be important conduits for moving nutrients, plankton, fish larvae, and other organic matter into offshore waters. The SeaSoar measurements help us characterize the subsurface picture of the filament.


Deploying the SeaSoar requires a large and attentive team.

Our SeaSoar path is a radiator-like grid pattern that traverses up and down between Pt. Conception and Monterey Bay, which means that today’s upwind leg to Monterey brought plenty of large swells, sea spray, and rocking ship decks. The SeaSoar has to be monitored via computer full-time, so our army of grad students and volunteers has been busy standing watch and composing sea limericks. We are all in good spirits after some evening whale-watching and a beautiful sunset – along with a great first day of data!

Classic Central California spring wind-driven upwelling – rough but beautiful.

The SeaSoar saga will be continued by The 6 o’clock News tomorrow…


Posted by: Laura Lilly, SIO

We are finally off!

Where will we fit all these boxes on the ship?!

After much land preparation and several hectic days of ship loading, we finally headed out to sea yesterday on our 2017 CCE-LTER Process Cruise! Our trip out of San Diego Harbor and up to the Channel Islands has been smooth and sunny, allowing us to get our feet under us as we navigate the maze of tunnels and hallways on the 277-ft (aka huge!) R/V Roger Revelle, as well as to test-deploy some of the instruments we will use on our cruise.


Tristan Biard collects CTD rosette water sampled from 800 m deep off San Clemente Island.

Some of today’s tests included: two types of CTDs, which measure water column properties (temperature, salinity, clarity, nitrate levels, chlorophyll fluorescence); two types of plankton nets; and a Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP),  a fish-shaped metal instrument that we tow behind the ship to get a 3D profile of the ocean by measuring similar characteristics to CTDs.


This Process Cruise marks the beginning of Phase III of the CCE-LTER program. This phase focuses on cross-shore fluxes in the Central and Southern California Current, which means we are interested in how water masses change and evolve as they move from coastal upwelling regions out away from shore.

Preparing the Trace Metal-Clean CTD for deployment. This CTD measures iron levels in the ocean, which means it must be kept completely iron-free – a hard feat on a metal ship!

Our cruise is a collaboration between multiple groups, with representatives from the Ohman, Landry, Barbeau, Aluwihare, Allen and Goericke labs at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Bishop lab at UC Berkeley, and the Stukel lab at Florida State University. We also have several enthusiastic volunteers, some of whom are at sea for the first time. We look forward to learning from each other and working with the ship’s excellent crew to collect valuable science!

We have already pulled up several interesting organisms in our first net tow! The large pinkish tube on the right is a pyrosome colony, and the small clear triangles are siphonophores.


Posted by: Laura Lilly, SIO