VideoRay today announced that the VideoRay underwater robot is aboard the SRV Derek M Baylis, a 65-foot sailboat designed for ocean research that is offering tours of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, California, to introduce the public to the bay’s history, sea life, and research efforts. Amy West, one of three crewmembers, operates the 8-pound VideoRay, which captures underwater video through its camera eye and lets passengers view ocean-bottom sea life from the ship’s deck. The sanctuary is one of the largest and richest marine protected areas in the United States.
Running up to six days a week from mid-June until October, the three-hour tours are part of the “Science Under Sail” program offered in conjunction with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The VideoRay sends back vivid color images of sea life that are displayed on two large, flat screen monitors in the pilot house. Passengers work alongside marine biologists on projects such as observing threatened sea otters and recording otters’ identifying tags and locations; sampling the ocean to measure basic biological and chemical indicators of ocean health; and collecting plankton for the aquarium’s exhibits.
“The VideoRay is in line with our less invasive and more interactive approach to marine science,” says West, who reports getting close-up views of sea life that wouldn’t be possible through diving. “When we see something interesting with the VideoRay, we don’t have to pull it out of the ocean. The VideoRay allows observation without invasion.”
However, West says the VideoRay has been pulling trash out of the bay, with the assistance of VideoRay’s manipulator arm – a handy alternative to using a net.
“The VideoRay is the most ‘gee-whiz’ thing on the boat, besides the boat itself,” says West, who has worked with larger manned ROVs and AUVs on other ocean missions. “The VideoRay was the best option because it doesn’t require any mobilization. Just hang it over the side, and it’s ready to go. Passengers and scientists alike keep asking, ‘How can I get a VideoRay? I want one!’”
Science Under Sail departs from Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. The cost of a tour is $59 per child (ages 10-17)/$69 per adult general public and $49 per child (ages 10-17)/$59 per adult aquarium members. Learn more about Science Under Sail at http://www.mbayaq.org/vi/vi_events/vi_events_sailing.asp