Research vessel taking reef’s vital signs
June 12, 2019
FLORIDA KEYS — That unusual shape offhsore is no oil rig as some are speculating on social media. Instead, it is OceanX’s research vessel, Alucia, and it is studying the Florida Reef Tract.
OceanX, along with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Mote Marine Laboratory, began traversing the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary last week on a scientific expedition to assess the health of the entire reef in real time.
This mission — a partnership between OceanX and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative — is a sort of vital signs check of the reef to help determine what keeps corals healthy and what makes them sick. One of the goals is to help scientists better understand Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease, according to OceanX Vice Chairman Vincent Pieribone.
“We hope to use scientific output from this mission to inform and support conservation and restoration efforts to revitalize the reef,” he said.
Alucia is carrying a team of 11 scientists who will dive the shallow water reefs and conduct research at more than 100 sites along the reef tract in a two-week period ending June 20.
The vessel, equipped with an 8,000-pound submersible vehicle, NADIR, enables the team to test sites up to 3,280 feet below the surface.
“The research will involve fine-scale analyses of reef microbiomes using both macro and micro biotechnology tools and coupling state-of-the-art 3D imaging, coral biofluorescence data and imaging, and disease response to understand the reef vital signs,” Pieribone said.
“We will be collecting over 700,000 images to 3-D map the reef and sequencing more than 2 billion base pairs of DNA to reveal the microbiome of the reef.”
The mission will provide a nearly instantaneous, comprehensive snapshot of the entire 300 miles of the reef, and a baseline for assessment of reef health moving forward, according to an OceanX statement.
“This is entirely unprecedented because scientists will be able to cover a large distance over a short period of time while maintaining very high resolution sampling, which is only possible because of the access and capabilities provided by OceanX’s Alucia,” Pieribone said.
There are no live stream updates available on the mission, but the public can follow along on OceanX’s social channels @OceanX.
Alucia is 184 feet long with a 17.9 foot draft. Its range is 7,000 nautical miles and its average speed is 10 knots. The Alucia has two submarines, NADIR and the Deep Rover 2, both rated for a maximum depth of 1,000 meters, a helicopter and helipad, dry and wet science labs, sophisticated cameras and a media room.
Some of the Alucia’s notable missions include filming the BBC’s Blue Planet II, filming the Great Barrier Reef and a recovery search for Air France Flight 447.
The yacht was conceived for ambitious and extended missions around the globe.
“Alucia is the consummate expedition ship. A suite of advanced shipboard technology enables Alucia to explore, map and sample a realm that is mostly unknown, even today,” according to OceanX’s website. “Alucia is unashamedly futuristic and elegant, yet exceptionally versatile and beautifully matched to her intended role. A one-of-a-kind asset, she is poised to carve a niche as one of the world’s leading privately operated research and exploration vessels.”