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"Mob" Time

When NEPTUNE Canada prepares to sail, quite a bit of preparations are necessary to get all necessary equipment out to sea. Mobilization (a.k.a. "mob") encompasses three tasks:

  1. getting things to the ship
  2. loading the ship
  3. tying things down so that everything stays put in rough seas on a swaying ship

For our September 2011 cruise, we had quite a lot of equipment to deal with:

  • 3 instrument platforms (IPs)
  • Wally II (deep-sea crawler)
  • Tempo-mini (new integrated platform from France)
  • 4 large cable drums
  • 3 250m moorings, each with 9 scientific instruments
  • 1 array of 4 temperature probes
  • 3 short-period seismometers
  • 2 sonars
  • 2 Benthic And Resistivity Sensors (BARS)
  • 4 bottom-pressure recorders
  • 1 high-definition camera platform
  • and a partridge in a pear tree (just kidding)

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Three IPs and Wally II await loading on a flatbed truck at Esquimalt Graving Dock, 9 September 2011.

In addition to these major items, were numerous bits and pieces including SPARES, which you just don't want to forget when there is no convenience store nearby or a seeming insignificant but crucial adapter on the shelf in your lab is totally out of reach for three weeks.

It was like setting up a rock concert to move all that gear from our MTC lab in Patricia Bay (near the Victoria airport) to the Graving Dock in Esquimalt where the R/V Thompson berthed. We packed five large trucks (two 54-foot step decks, two 45-foot and one 30 foot flat deck), using one 60-ton mobile crane and three forklifts (one 7000 kg, one 6000 lb and one 5000 lb). Unloading them at the Esquimalt Graving Dock required one rig to shuffle trailers and two ship cranes.

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Wally the Crawler at Esquimalt Graving Dock, 9 September 2011.

The R/V Thompson arrived on time and loading commenced without any delay. The major challenge for smoothly transferring all the equipment from shore to the deck is to stow each load without delay after it lands on deck. Otherwise, we quickly run out of open space to drop the next crane load. Almost all of the large plastic containers full of small items could go straight into the main lab, rolled along by a jack lift. Finding space for all the bulky parts like the IPs, Wally and cable drums was more difficult. Bulky things can't just be stashed anywhere on deck or they start getting in the way. Sometimes we had to find passages for the gear using a tape measure.

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NEPTUNE Canada and ROPOS crew members help load a large cable drum onto the R/V Thomas P. Thompson, 9 September 2011.

Operations Set-up

Meanwhile, the operations lab computers were set up and networked. These include laptops for the chief scientists and loggers, a dedicated laptop for conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) measurements, a printer, and our video encoder. At the same time, the R/V Thompson crew installed a block onto the A-frame for us.

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R/V Thomas P. Thompson crew members install a block onto the ship's A-frame 9 September 2011.

Working Late

Loading continued right into a beautiful sunset, unfortunately missed by those who were working inside, tying down boxes, bits and pieces or setting up the computer network.

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NEPTUNE Canada science staff member Steve Mihaly (centre) and contractor Adam Cavanagh during mobilization work, 9 September 2011.

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NEPTUNE Canada systems integration engineer Jonathan Zand seeks deck space for three mooring floats aboard the R/V Thompson, 9 September 2011.

Unfortunately at some stage the ship's crane stopped working with two trucks still needing to be unloaded. Unfazed, the mobilization crew switched to the Esquimalt Graving Dock crane and was able to finish all loading work by 11:00PM.

But the ship's crane needed a spare part, forcing a delay in our departure time until 11:00 a.m. the next day (Saturday September 10, 2011). This gave our crew a good reason to enjoy one last beer onshore and a steady bed for one more night before finally setting sail into another three week adventure.

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R/V Thomas P. Thompson crew member signals to the crane operator, reflecting the mood on deck when the crane broke down, 9 September 2011.

Photo Slideshow

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