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Testing, testing … 1,2,3!

By Lauren de Vos, 20th June 2012

If there’s one thing marine science has taught me, it’s that preparation is everything. The correct amount of fuel for the boat, the proper navigation equipment (and yes, properly plotted route!) and all the equipment loaded … and that’s before we’ve even left land!

Part of this preparation, for our False Bay project, included testing our newly designed and made camera rig. It’s a simple design (purposefully so) so that any marine protected area manager along our coast can replicate it to use in their reserve. We needed to be sure that the camera deployed properly, at least on the first few trial runs, and landed with the bait canister in view …

Our first test run took place in the sheltered waters of the Simon’s Town yacht club, where we dropped the camera off a jetty into shallow waters. Why shallow waters? Well, if there were any problems, it would be easy to dive the camera back out again!

In fact, we’d learnt the merits of keeping things shallow for trial runs after I dropped a small piece of vital equipment through the slatted boards of the jetty. Some quick thinking resulted in the obvious – I had no choice but to jump in, swim down (sans goggles, or fins) and hunt around for the piece of white putty in the equally white sand … The putty was recovered, the corrective focus lens for the camera quickly stuck in place and the rest of that day is recorded on camera.

Follow this link to the video on Vimeo, and keep your eyes peeled for some interesting fish. I was particularly happy to have some puffadder shysharks and pyjama catsharks pay our bait canister a visit – see if you can spot them through the kelp …

As with any scientific research, the trial runs really highlight any teething problems we might experience during actual camera deployments. You can see a couple of those already from this footage, from the issues with water clarity and visibility, to errant fronds of kelp landing right on top of the camera and obscuring the field of view. Learning curves are great though (especially before the real-deal deployments!) and we’ve taken much of what we learnt into account for our current fieldwork efforts.

There is some more test footage to come (with some more sneaky cephalopod visitors to scupper our camera deployments) before I start uploading the results from our current days at sea.

Right now, it’s off to prepare for another day at sea tomorrow … Cameras to charge, maps to prepare, GPS points to download, fuel tanks to load and (very importantly) a lunchbox to fuel all the researchers on the boat!

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