MV "Alucia": In search of the Humboldt Squid
Most of us remember watching Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as children or young adults. What once was just a novel fantasy or Hollywood production is now reality. If you have enough money, you can go just about anywhere for vacation!
The MV “Alucia” has undergone reconstruction and retrofit for future use as a research and upscale adventure vessel for those of us who want to venture into new frontiers. The vast oceans of earth still hold many unchartered and undiscovered wonders.
MV “Alucia” was built at the Auroux Shipyard in southern France as a heavy lift ship and launch/recovery platform for diving and submersible operations. She functioned as principle support ship and launch recovery platform for the NAUTILE from 1984-2004, one of 4 submersibles in the world capable of diving 1,000 meters.
Acquired in June 2004 by DeepOcean Quest Expeditions, the MV “Alucia” (183 ft) has undergone a major retrofit and completed the requirements for a 5-year Bureau Veritas Certification survey. Now the vessel is in Seattle Washington, in the last series of integration and installation of the interior upgrades, communication and navigation systems, media editing studio, science lab, submarine and adventure underwater vehicles storage, maintenance and launch platform and other electronics packages that will make this “Ship” a floating research laboratory, cruise ship, art studio and media center.
Radio Holland USA (Seattle) has been engaged to design and execute the engineering, integration and installation of the electronics design, electronics systems and highly advanced technologies that are being chosen for use by DeepOcean Quest.
The vessel will be commissioned in 4th quarter 2007 and will begin a series of Pacific expeditions using the on-board 1,000m rated Deep Rovers and Dual Deepworker (rated at 600m) submersibles, each equipped with a dedicated trolley rail system on deck for easy deployment.
The first of these expeditions planned is with the Discovery Channel to film live footage of the Humboldt Squid. Michael deGruy is an award-winning filmmaker specializing in natural history and underwater photography. He has a BS in Marine Zoology and three years of a PhD program in Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii. Michael deGruy has been in the planning stages of this event for 4 years, which will be the largest Discovery production to date.
At 1000ft there is no light. Michael has developed cutting edge technology to take pictures in this mysterious environment, where even the smallest amount of light would frighten the very specimens they hope to photograph. This new equipment has the capability to photograph to the photon level, providing the opportunity to view objects we may have never imagined. It is believed that the reason the Humboldt Squid has not been seen live in its natural habitat is because of the fact they are photosensitive and may abide and thrive at depths we can’t yet access.
Multi - tasking capabilities of the systems is a critical and vital part of the success of this endeavor to film the ever-elusive Humboldt Squid. All of the production and filming will take place onboard the MV “Alucia”, in the middle of the vast ocean, thousands of miles from the confines of 4 walls and concrete.
In order to accommodate the crew and passengers that will set out on the open oceans and enter into environmentally sensitive areas, the ship has been brought up to the highest standards of environmental safety by installation of state-of-the-art sewage treatment and waste incinerator management systems as well as sophisticated reverse osmosis watermakers.
Diving and submersible operations onboard are supported by inclusion of technically advanced dive gear, rigid inflatables, Bauer air compressor, large capacity oxygen and NITROX/Helium storage and 52-inch twin lock deck decompression chamber with medical lock.
The list of mechanical, electronic and technical upgrades that were included in this all-embracing vessel retrofit is very extensive. Radio Holland USA has been engaged to direct in the engineering, layout and installation of the many electronics systems and networking on board. To provide a glimpse of the electronic operations centers involved, here is a short list:
Mission Control Room – Center of all the Subsea and submersible operations
- Underwater Communications System -
- Hydrographic, Submersible and Subsea Navigation System –
- Science Survey Suite - Scientific collection data systems that will provide geospacially referenced bathymetry (Hypack Max/Hysweep) and refined seafloor positioning (WinFrog INS) for the submerged assets. The RESON 8111 and RESON SEABAT family of multibeam acoustic transceiver systems is installed on the hull of the “MV Alucia” and interfaces with the Hypack Survey Suite via a separate controller. Software packages process the data.
Radio Holland has engineered a seamless network infrastructure that incorporates independent vessel and productions server and storage capabilities, while maintaining integration to minimize network hardware cost and maintenance. The vessel network incorporates a standard cost effective office infrastructure, while the production network utilizes the Apple systems that are the industry standard for video production facilities. The Discovery Channel Project production network takes full advantage of Apple’s high-performance Xserve RAID storage from ingest and capture to final output, whether working in video and film, editing audio or creating effects and motion graphics. This Media Center system will provide the latest cutting edge production facilities on board with the stability required and the performance desired as well as superior throughput and access times. Consistent high-bandwidth drive performance, offline Edit flexibly providing every editor on a project has concurrent access to source media files and never needs to transfer this data between stations allows teams to work on board with all of the technology they would expect in a Hollywood studio. Professional ink jet printers, file level locking, user quotas and authentication, beyond fast file and print services, the Mac OS X Server provides cross-platform management, imaging, and security capabilities, and collaboration features that integrate seamlessly with the desktop user experience. There is also support for POP and IMAP mail, ftp, QuickTime Streaming Server, DNS, and DHCP.
Communications and Navigation System
The MV “Alucia’s” Bridge incorporates cutting edge technology and observation methods for support of the scientific and subsea operations. Navigation Systems include AIS, S-Band and X-Band Radar, ECDIS, DGPS, GPS, Ecosounder, Gyrocompass, Gyro Repeaters, GPS Compass, Thermal Camera, Speed Log, Anemometer, Weather Station and Weather Fax, Fisheries Ecosounder, Forward Looking Sonar and are the complement of various specialized equipment installed for the Bridge Crew to monitor their voyage both under and on the water.
Communications Systems include Inmarsat C, MF/HF DSC SSB, VHF DSC (Class A & D), Loudhailer, VHF AM Aircraft, Iridium fixed telephone, Inmarsat Fleet 77, VSAT and PABX allowing the crew and passengers the ultimate connectivity available today from a remote location.
The advanced radio communication systems, radar and navigation systems are networked in the “glass bridge” matrix system that has 12 monitors interswitched with all of the navigation and science systems. The “Glass Bridge” allows the Bridge officer to track, visually and electronically the movements of the Subsea and surface conditions and operationally oversee the safe and best course.
Dynamic Positioning System
This group of systems (DGPS Positioning, Differential Corrections, Gyro heading input, Acoustic positioning and Sound Velocity Profile data) are integrated to allow seamless operation above and below the waters surface, continually monitoring, adjusting and recording all elements that can affect the positioning and tracking of the vessels. (surface and subsea)
Vessel Wide Computer System
Equipped with 60 RJ45 Outlets for the vessel work stations, Vessel Network Infrastructure Hardware and Vessel Network Software (MS Office, Norton’s Ghost and MS Server), capable of creating and publishing impressive sales and marketing materials in-house – for print, Web, e-mail, presentations and CD, advanced backup and recovery of data, independent power options and integration to all of the various work stations, this system will provide seamless technical media rich work stations above and beyond the expectations of the crew, scientists and guests while at sea. High-speed access to shore using the latest in VSAT technology. All having access to the data storage capabilities. The three computer systems onboard can run independently and collectively as necessary and have access to huge databanks of storage, memory and backup.
- Media Computer System
- Science Computer System
- Vessel Computer System
Radio Holland offers various airtime services from a number of Satellite Operators and Systems, tailored to the requirements of every specific customer, whether it is ocean going, mega-yachting or fishery. Besides attractive airtime rates the customer can save cost and administrative hassle, thanks to the availability of split billing, separation of private and business calls, an online traffic monitoring system and various overviews on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Radio Holland Seattle has a unique opportunity with this project, building a media platform on the MV “Alucia’s” that would be the envy of any ocean scientist, film producer or media professional onboard a scientific vessel, in a Hollywood studio or in at 5th Avenue Marketing firm.
Experience and technical savvy are an absolute necessity for a project of this magnitude. Grounding, placement of antennas, power requirements and back up as well as placement of electronics components themselves onboard can be very daunting to the uninitiated. Service access, cooling systems, mounting requirements, cabling, carpentry, ironwork, space limitations, waterproofness specifications, electronics screen capabilities, redundancy requirements and other non-land based factors can play havoc with installation and integration. Add in the fact that all work on the ship has to be performed with due observance of the Rules and Regulations of the Flag State and Classification Society concerned, and it is easy to see why it is very important to choose the right team to undertake a operation like this.