10 observations in 5 expeditions
Expeditions Contributed to
Who knows why we get the urge to explore, or why we perpetually expand upon what is accessible. The long-pondered allure of subterranean waterways came to mind once again, as it has for years. On Friday, April 21- A small team of engineers, ROV enthusiasts and explorers are taking an OpenROV Trident to a flooded and shut down mine shaft in Jackson, California. Nobody on this trip has sent an ROV into a labyrinth of tunnels before. The excitement is childlike. Located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts, Kennedy Goldmine is tapped into the 'Mother Lode', a mineral-intense region from 1.5 to 6 kilometres (0.93 to 3.73 mi) wide and 190 kilometres (120 mi) long, extending from El Dorado County on the north, south to Mariposa County. I called and talked to the operator of the historic landmark: It is currently flooded all the way up to its entryway, at ground level. Operational gold mine between 1848 and 1942. During wartime conservation the gov't mandated all single-ore mines shut down to conserve labor for more productive multi-ore mines. While it was running, they had to pump out 1,000 gallons per hour, 24/7 to keep the shafts from flooding. Maximum depth is 1500 meters. Nothing is known of its layout, there are no records available that would help us extrapolate what it is like inside. Total mine output was 1.7 million ounces of gold. Above the mine, they used to smelt gold ore into bars, that would be transported to San Francisco via Wells Fargo. Using the ROV, we are going to try to get a good sense of the layout of the tunnels. The goal of this dive beyond scratching a curious itch is to learn how to best navigate in an underwater labyrinth environment. The tunnels are [assumed] very small, not always level or straight, with many forks and branches. This is going to be a good challenge. Using visual cues from the camera feed, depth and gyro position, we are going to employ our geospatial visualization skills to form an idea of a day in the life of the working mine. This first excursion will likely only take up the first half of the day, leaving plenty of energy left to explore other caves in the region, of which there are plenty. One nearby cave with an underground lake, that had inspired a great deal of ambition and excitement around it, is run by a private tour company that requires we rent the entire premises to explore its waters, which is unfortunately beyond our means. It is part of the Calaveras cave network - Black Chasm Cave, California Cavern and Moaning Cavern. As none of us on this trip are acquainted with the cavernous foothills, and non-commercial cave openings are not easy to find online, we may simply ask locals where we can find what we are looking for - which is a deep mysterious hole, preferably with water. Part 1: Mine shaft -> Planned out very concisely, ready to execute. Part 2: We don't know yet. We will most likely end up just taking a regular cave tour (which definitely won't suck) and hoping that they will let us carry that Pelican case in after all.
Friday the 16th, we were finally able to pool-test the ROV's and they worked great! The beach was kinda tough to launch from, as swell was a little high near the shore and visibility was not very good that day. After I left, they went onto a boat and properly launched the ROV's into a reef!
The participants of the group, taken along to a local Hindu temple for ceremony by the owner of the resort- Taman Sari. He was grateful to have us visit his temple.
Sly Lee, from the Hydro.us project, who was leading the 3D scanning workshop, brought his aerial drone and got some amazing shots, like this one, while we had divers down with tanks at Menjangan natl. park, do document the reef there. The reef there was the nicest I've ever seen, personally!
At the resort we were staying at, they were using Bio-Rock to stimulate reef growth in the waters off their beach. This lotus-perched Buddha structure was a highlight of it. We were snorkeling and capturing images of the corals to render 3D graphics from.
This trip to Bali entailed several workshops including: Building + Operating an OpenROV kit, Free / Scuba diving to photograph corals, and creating 3D structures from those photographs. The participants learned quite a bit about coral reefs, their importance in the ecosystem as well as the cutting edge technology people are using to document and study them. Much of this week-long trip was a learning experience for everybody involved, even the instructors.
After arriving at our intended destination, we discovered that the tide was super low- there was approximately 10-15 meters of much and marsh pretty much entirely across the coast line that we were planning on entering the water from, and we were ill-equipped for marching across marsh and muck. We quickly realized from a distance that a dive was not possible from this location. We then drove back up to Islais Creek as before, and to our surprise the water line was also very low. We took a hike around the surrounding area, near some homeless encampments under freeway over passes, talked to some of the locals who lived in nearby tents and they gave us their account of the surrounding nature, wildlife and foot traffic in the area. We saw a cormorant, a seal and a robin during this hike. After hiking to the other side of the creek we decided that it wasn't a good day for deploying the ROV. We headed back to OpenROV HQ to start our workday. However we shall return to the area soon, and we will check tide charts before we leave next time. -Nima
Today we are heading out for our second dive in Hunters Point, San Francisco. This time we are diving in India Basin. Finding parking in this neighborhood is quite nutty, not to any surprise. As recently as the early 1800's this area was prime hunting / foraging land for the Muwekma-Ohlone tribes, the wetlands covering 800 sq/km and flourishing with fauna, fish and wild edible plants. During the gold rush (mid-1800's) when the population of the San Francisco Bay significantly increased, the biological diversity of the region began to diminish, leading up to today (2015)- Where a fraction of the biodiversity still exists. A few ways this region has been affected are: -Hydraulic Mining: In the gold rush, this was the most popular mining method, as miners could simply wash away the sediment they were handling and it would carry downstream, affecting croplands and eroding everything in the path of the water stream. -Blocking the estuaries from tidal action: Beginning in the early 1900's, private industry started blocking off estuaries from tides, calming the water for salt extraction. -Synthetic Landfill Neighborhoods: Today some of the most expensive real estate on the planet (SF) is build on wetlands turned solid ground via rubble. At any rate, we are going to explore the water in India Basin today- Hopefully see some native plant and animal species in their natural environment. I really wish we had a water sampling set with us, I'm having trouble finding any information on the water quality in the Bay. More to come once we leave this coffee house, keep posted!