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Summer at sea

MI student spends off months sailing and surveying Atlantic Ocean

special feature: Back to school

Part of a special feature coinciding with the beginning of a new academic year at Memorial University.


By Leslie Earle

Danielle Roche finished her second year of the ocean mapping program at the Marine Institute (MI) this past spring.

By mid-summer, she was putting her education to work mapping the Atlantic Ocean between Canada and Norway.

“I was approached by MI’s Student Affairs office about an exciting opportunity to do some ocean mapping aboard a Canadian Coast Guard vessel,” said the Mount Pearl native. “The idea of being part of a trans-Atlantic survey so early in my post-secondary journey was something I could not pass up.”

All aboard

Ms. Roche wrote an essay explaining why she would be a good candidate for the voyage; for her efforts, she was chosen to be the sole Canadian student aboard. One representative from both Europe and the U.S. rounded out the student team.

On July 22 she sailed out of Dartmouth, N.S., from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography dock on the Louis S. St-Laurent with representatives from Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Hydrographic Service and the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center.

“Our goal was to map the sea floor between Canada and Norway using a multi-beam system [the standard technology used to map the ocean floor],” said Ms. Roche. “This was the fifth trans-Atlantic seabed mapping survey completed by the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance and was part of the work being done under the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Co-operation.”

Formed in May 2013, the alliance’s goals are to join resources of the European, Canadian and American signatories of the Galway Statement to better understand the North Atlantic Ocean and to promote the sustainable management of its resources.

Dawn Roche in MI’s computer lab.
Danielle Roche in MI’s computer lab.
Photo: Chris Hammond

“This was a great chance to get hands-on experience on a real ocean survey,” said Ms. Roche. “I had limited survey experience and thought it would be interesting to learn more about collecting multi-beam data.”

While at sea, Ms. Roche and the team surveyed various aspects of the ocean floor. One of her favourite memories of the transit was the survey the team conducted over a number of underwater volcanoes.

“These volcanoes had originally been surveyed during the 2015 transit and our task was to expand on that work. We surveyed around the area for about 13 hours and discovered more volcano-like structures, the tallest of which was 280 metres high along the ridge.”

“The transit allowed me to learn a lot more about the technology, which I know will come in handy as I move forward in my program and eventually into my career.” –Danielle Roche

It was a practical learning opportunity that Ms. Roche won’t soon forget. She says she was able to process data using software she first learned about and practised on during her studies at the Marine Institute.

“The transit allowed me to learn a lot more about the technology, which I know will come in handy as I move forward in my program and eventually into my career.”

Natural sailor

She even got to deploy an expendable sound velocity probe, something she had never done before, and says that life on board a ship is much more enjoyable than she ever imagined.

“Living on a vessel in the middle of the ocean was a different experience,” she said. “At first I didn’t know what to expect, but after a few days I really settled into it.”

Ms. Roche is now settling into her third year of her program at MI. Looking ahead, she hopes to take part in more ocean surveys and plans to pursue a career in hydrography, surveying and charting bodies of water, such as seas, lakes and rivers.

The Louis S. St. Laurent arrived in Tromsø, Norway, on Aug. 2.


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