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USV returns from first volcano caldera survey

Date: 03 Aug 2022 Author: Chief Editor

🎯 SEA-KIT International’s USV Maxlimer has returned from an initial survey mission inside the caldera of the HungaTonga Hunga-Ha’apai (HT–HH) volcano carrying a plethora of data and imagery to fill important gaps in current understanding and knowledge of the seamount and water above it.

For the ongoing second phase of the NIWA/Nippon Foundation Tonga Eruption Seabed Mapping Project – TESMaP, funded by The Nippon Foundation, USV Maxlimer is equipped with a Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) to acoustically measure depth and state of the seabed. Importantly, the vessel also has new winch capability for deployment of multiple sensors down to 300 metres to obtain direct water column measurements.

Data collected using a Conductivity Temp Depth (CTD) instrument, deployed using the winch, is providing important temperature and salinity information as well as dissolved oxygen and turbidity readings. A Miniature Autonomous Plume Recorder (MAPR), designed to detect chemicals in the water that are common in hydrothermal plumes, is recording light backscattering for suspended particle concentrations, oxidation reduction potential, temperature and pressure from multiple winch dips and tows. The MAPR project is a joint initiative between NOAA in the USA and GNS Science in New Zealand.

Maxlimer is returning to the caldera this week for a more detailed survey to fill gaps and better target volcanic plumes and hydrothermal vents with the CTD and MAPR.

🚤🛰 The 12-metre USV is being remotely controlled on its caldera missions from SEA-KIT’s base in Essex, United Kingdom, where a team of four operators work shifts for round-the-clock.

Knowledge gained from the project will be invaluable to the Tongan authorities in preparing and planning for future possible eruptions. Seabed data gathered by USV Maxlimer will also be contributed to The Nippon Foundation GEBCO Seabed 2030 Project, a United Nations Ocean Decade endorsed programme, which aims to map the entire ocean floor by 2030.

📃📷 Source: SEA-KIT