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A week of mooring activities at the SAEON Egagasini Node

By Jethan D’Hotman, SAEON/CPUT and Juliet Hermes, SAEON Egagasini Node
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April 2015 marked the launch and inaugural cruise of the Agulhas Systems Climate Array (ASCA).

In April of this year, the second cruise will take place, during which all the moorings and instrumentation will be serviced and the data from the previous year downloaded.

The ASCA monitoring line will also be extended by three tall moorings and five CPIES (Current and Pressure Inverted EcoSounders; Figure 1). This will ensure that the heat, salt and volume transport throughout the extent of the current will be measured and that any major perturbations that force the current further offshore will be captured.


Figure 1: A schematic of the ASCA mooring array through the Agulhas Current

Various local and international institutions are involved with ASCA, primarily the South African Observation Network (SAEON), Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

To ensure a successful cruise and a continuation of the collaboration between the participating institutions, SAEON and DEA hosted a cruise planning meeting, technical workshop and science day. Representatives from NIOZ and RSMAS attended the workshop, which was funded by a National Research Foundation (NRF) equipment training grant. Both the workshop and science day were open to students and interested parties in the marine community.

Cruise planning meeting (25 January 2016)

The meeting was attended by more than 25 delegates, including Professor Lisa Beal (Co-Principal Investigator: RSMAS), Dr Juliet Hermes (Co-Principal Investigator: SAEON), Dr Borja Aguiar Gonzalez (NIOZ) and Dr Chris Duncombe Rae (Co-Principal Investigator: DEA), to name a few. It was a crucial meeting to discuss what data and water samples need to be collected as well as the plans and potential personnel for the April 2016 cruise.

Technical workshop (26–28 January 2016)

The aim of this workshop was to provide a platform for discussions and method-sharing between the technicians, students and interns from the US, Netherlands and South Africa. During the workshop participants discussed numerous refining techniques when collecting data. Topics included mooring deployment procedures; Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) profile procedures; and Ship-borne Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (S-ADCP) correction instrumentation.

Science afternoon (29 January 2016)

SAEON and DEA hosted some 50 delegates from the marine science community, including students, industry and scientists, as well as senior management from the NRF and DST for a tour of the mooring fabrication and instrument warehouse and short science presentations by leading scientists. During the tours, delegates were introduced to the basic mooring design and instrumentation, wave gliders, buoyancy gliders and a Current and Pressure Inverted EcoSounder (CPIES).

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April 2015 marked the launch of the Agulhas Systems Climate Array (ASCA)

Mr Marcel van den Berg (DEA) explains to delegates how a basic mooring works

Professor Lisa Beal shares her experiences from the Agulhas Current Time series array

Dr Juliet Hermes and Dr Chris Duncombe-Rae gave a presentation on the global importance of the oceans surrounding South Africa and the large mooring arrays, as well as the ASCA project and the importance of a long-term monitoring array in the Agulhas Current in the context of South African resources.

Prof. Lisa Beal presented her experiences from the Agulhas Current Time series array. She also highlighted the importance of long-term monitoring, particularly in the Agulhas Current in terms of South African weather, climate and resources.

During the inaugural ASCA cruise, Dr Marjolaine Krug of the CSIR and UCT’s Nansen-Tutu Centre and her team deployed two buoyancy gliders in the Agulhas Current. Dr Krug demonstrated the difficulty of controlling these gliders in such a strong current. She also showed some exciting preliminary results that will shortly be published.

Mr Kyle Cooper highlighted the importance of long-term monitoring arrays for the use of numerical modelling and predicting events and outcomes, particularly for the oil and gas industry. This was of particular importance given the launch of SAMREF that same morning.

Mr Xolisa Dlomo shared his experiences on board the RV Algoa during the inaugural ASCA cruise. He convinced the audience that working at sea can be difficult at times, but extremely enjoyable.

All these presentations are available on the ASCA website.

Overall the week was very successful, with many issues and concerns being resolved and students learning about the complexities of collecting data in the depths of the ocean. Tanja Hanekom, a student from CPUT, said: “There is much more to moorings and the other physical oceanographic equipment than originally realised. Furthermore, we were taught not to consider the instrumentation in isolation, and how to deal with the ocean’s dynamic forces with and on the instrumentation.”

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