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Wally the Crawler's Long Strange Trip

Wally the Benthic Crawler captivates like no other instrument platform. He is the only one to have been named and the only to earn mascot-like status among the crew. Already, his epic travails are becoming the stuff of legend.

On August 27, he was deployed to Barkley Canyon. Subsequent power-up tests were successful and project scientists were able to drive him from Germany via the Internet. Sometime later, though, a ground fault was detected somewhere in Wally's circuitry. On September 10, ROPOS rescued Wally, and brought him safely back to ship. That's when things started getting interesting.

An Arduous Journey

Faced with the prospect of leaving Wally out of the water until next year, our German collaborators decided to send a team on an emergency repair mission. After hurried preparations, Jacobs University instrument engineer Michael Hofbauer and instrument technician Maik Dressel boarded a jet in Bremen Germany bound for Bamfield, British Columbia.

Our ship was operating at the time in the Folger Passage location, not far from Bamfield. Late on the night of 11 September we steamed into Bamfield and sent a Zodiac boat to retrieve Michael and Maik from shore. They were welcomed aboard, and the Thompson immediately set sail for an 11-hour transit to ODP 1027. Seas were rough as the ship bounced, pitched and rolled through the night.

(Click the pictures to view slideshow.)

Heroic Efforts

The next day, despite grueling exhaustion from the 30-hr journey, Michael Hofbauer and Maik Dressel busied themselves on the fantail deck, attempting to troubleshoot Wally's ground fault. Over the next several days, they replaced the camera and isolated the fault to the CTD sensor, which they eventually decided to remove. Finally, Wally was tested and re-rigged for deployment.

(Click the pictures to view slideshow.)

Wally Crawls Again

On September 19, ROPOS went into the sea for its 25th and final dive of this installation cruise. Its precious cargo was Wally the Crawler, dangling from the ROPOS "belly winch". As the pair descended 867m to the Barkley Hydrates field, well-wishers began to gather in the ROPOS operations room.

ROPOS set Wally down on the seafloor, released his umbilical cable and plugged it into the Barkley Hydrates instrument platform. Then a hush fell upon the packed room as we gave our shore station the all clear to power Wally up. His lights winked on, and a short while later, his tractor treads began to turn as he executed a flawless 180-degree turn. Wally was back in business! Cheers erupted and smiles spread across the room. Our enigmatic mascot's return to the sea was a success.

(Click the pictures to view slideshow.)

Hydrates Research

Wally's mission, crawling the hydrates fields in Barkley Canyon, is to help researchers carry out detailed investigations of processes influencing gas hydrates evolution at the seafloor. Learn more about this fascinating research project.

1 Comment

  1. Unknown User (dwowens) AUTHOR

    An anonymous writer sent in this comment:

    "great to get the updates everybody and good to see mr. wally back were he belongs. great job everyone and look forward to getting the data from all the working stations. good luck and have fun (wish i was younger and smarter, very envious)."