This was an exciting year for Falkor filled with groundbreaking science, ship upgrades, and many firsts. In July, the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health X Prize announced their winning sensor for measuring pH accurately: Sunburst Sensors, a team from Minnesota, USA. Following the announcement, one of the winning sensors was installed aboard Falkor to begin collecting pH data continuously while at sea. While the first data from the system hasn’t been published yet, we are excited to contribute to the collection of Ocean Health data.

The CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) and water sampling system aboard Falkor is one of the most used pieces of equipment on the vessel. It collects water samples from various depths for a variety of water analyses and is used on virtually every expedition. This year, we added a new Launch and Recovery System (LARS) for the CTD and upgraded the instrument to accept serial digital sensors, an advancement in water sample collection on board. Other equipment additions include a new over-the-side sonar transducer pole to allow for the temporary installation of cruise specific sonar and acoustic systems, and a new transducer pole for the small work boat to allow for similar data collection in shallow water.

The new pH sensor and CTD equipment contribute to conducting state-of-the-art science at sea. In 2015, Falkor also saw additional “firsts” related to conducting research. For example, in May, seismic equipment was successfully integrated onto Falkor for its first seismic cruise, conducted in Indonesia. Contributing to a cruise of firsts for Falkor, a marine magnetometer was installed and towed alongside the seismic gear and Falkor’s sub-bottom sonar was used to continuously profile shallow geologic features beneath the seafloor sediments. Falkor’s 300 m SAAB ROV was also put to extensive scientific use for the first time in 2015, collecting samples and over 130 hours of high resolution video from shallow reef sites on two separate cruises. The use of this vehicle greatly increased the scope of research that was possible on these cruises.

In addition to the new science equipment, the video matrix system was expanded to include the addition of screens and terminals in the Library as well as doubling the number of inputs and outputs. This upgrade has led to a new and improved presentation center in the ship’s Library to enhance ship-to-shore outreach and communications, as well as allowing for more information to be conveyed in one spot. Additionally, multiple cameras were added around Falkor to provide for new viewing angles. Other technology upgrades included the installation of a high-performance computing system, making it easier and more efficient to conduct science at sea. The onboard computing capabilities allow scientists to integrate collected data into models on a near-real-time basis.