February 13, 2002

Wireless tests aboard US Navy ship include exploration of USN/SIO Sea Lab II

Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy Deep Submergence Unit (USN-DSU) brought their ship, the Kellie Chouest, as well as the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Scorpio, to the waters off Scripps pier. Their mission: to locate and dive the site of SeaLab II, a USN/SIO undersea habitat that operated in August-October 1965. This would be the first return to the site since the habitat was pulled up.

kellie chouest

This cruise was a regularly scheduled training exercise for the USN-DSU personnel, however, several guests (including UCSD faculty and staff) were able to join the crew for a day-long excursion. "The purpose of our trip was to recon the SeaLab II site for a possible live broadcast and webcast through UCSD this coming March," explained SIO's Centennial Program Director Kevin Hardy, who proposed and organized the test dive. "In doing so, we bring a shared chapter of the U.S. Navy and Scripps history alive, explore cooperative research opportunities between Scripps/UCSD and the USN Deep Submergence Unit, and test new communication technologies embodied in the HPWREN link between the Kellie Chouest and Scripps pier. We succeeded in all three."

In addition to these tests, HPWREN and ROADNet researchers aboard the ship experimented with a web-accessible, high-resolution camera, which is also being tested at the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. "We also tried out multicast from ship to shore - using a video cable from the Scorpio to a USB-attached frame grabber on a laptop," said Hans-Werner Braun, HPWREN principal investigator. "The software we used for this exercise was vic, which we have been experimenting with for educational purposes as well with the objective of using multicast to distribute real-time ocean floor data."

"This experiment helped us to understand issues with 802.11b traffic over water and specificially the technical challenges behind connectivity from a boat," said Todd Hansen, ROADNet systems coordinator.

The San Diego-based Kellie Chouest is a Navy contracted research and salvage vehicle manned by the USN-DSU, who are experts in underwater operations. The ship has a high resolution side scan sonar for identifying and locating objects below the surface. In addition, the ship has Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) which can verify and recover contacts identified by the side scan sonar.

Additional passengers onboard the journey included Mary Lou Cannon, wife of late aquanaut Barry Cannon; Dr. Fred Spiess, SIO Marine Physical Laboratory professor; and Jim Stewart, SIO Chief Diving Officer Emeritus.

Additional photographs regarding this activity are available at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/Photos/20020204/.

For additional information about the US Navy's Deep Submergence Unit, please refer to http://www.csp.navy.mil/csds5/dsu/dsu.htm.

For technical details of the SeaLab tests, please see http://roadnet.ucsd.edu/tech-advice2.html.

For additional information about SeaLab II, see http://www.onr.navy.mil/focus/blowballast/people/habitats2.htm.

Several texts also discuss the SeaLab projects, including the following:

Bond, G.F. Papa Topside: The Sealab Chronicles of Capt. George F. Bond, USN, edited by H.A. Siiteri. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1993), xxviii, 272.

Bunton, William J. Death of an Aquanaut: A Vivid Memoir of Events that Triggered the Collapse of the U.S. Navy's Sealab Project. Hong Kong: Best Publishing Company, 2000, 69 pages.

Murray, E.A.; Inman, Douglas L.; and Koontz, W.A. "Sealab II underwater weather station." Man's Extension into the Sea. Washington:Marine Technology Society, (1966):134-155.

For additional information about saturation diving, see A Very Short History of Saturation Diving by James Vorosmarti, Jr., MD, in Issue 20 (Winter 1997) of the Historical Diving Times.

Written by Kimberly Mann-Bruch of HPWREN in collaboration with ROADNet. For more information about ROADNet, see http://roadnet.ucsd.edu.

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