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Thursday, November 16, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Terry Kerby, chief pilot of the Pisces IV, peers from a porthole
as he makes final checks in preparation for Wednesday's
dive off the Big Island.

Pisces IV offers
in-depth learning

Fund-raiser to benefit
UH marine program

By Helen Altonn

The Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory's emergency submersible Pisces IV is going to sea to fill in for its sister sub, Pisces V.

The laboratory's ship, Ka'imikai-O-Kanaloa, left yesterday for science dives at Cross Seamount, Keahole Point and the undersea volcano Loihi off the Big Island.

Pisces V, normally used for the laboratory's deep sea explorations, was damaged last month in an accident aboard the mother ship while working in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

"Everybody was pretty upset that the dive season had ended before it started," said Terry Kerby, operations director and chief submersible pilot.

His response was: "Hey, we're not out of the game yet. We've got a second sub."

Kerby and his team had been putting in long hours since February, altering and enhancing Pisces IV and doing trial dives to prepare it for emergency backup.

"It really paid off with the accident with Pisces V," he said.

But Pisces IV wasn't ready to be a full-blown science sub. It had to be certified by the American Bureau of Shipping before taking scientists down to about 6,500 feet.

"We came right back to make it operational so we could do science with it," Kerby said.

Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory Director Alex Malahoff acquired Pisces IV last year as a standby for rescue in event of an emergency with Pisces V. The two were regarded as the best of 10 Pisces class submersibles built for Canada.

Malahoff said they didn't intend to certify Pisces IV this year, "so we had to really hustle and resume the (dive) season."

He said the backup sub passed the certification test Monday.

The mishap with Pisces V was the first since University of Hawaii scientists began using it in 1987, and the problem wasn't with the sub but the handling system.

"It wasn't life-threatening, but annoying," Malahoff said, describing how the submersible dropped about 12 inches when a hydraulic latch failed during liftoff from the ship.

"It wouldn't have been bad on its own because the line keeps the submarine up, but the ship lurched at that moment, and the sub was just lifting off," he said. "You've got 15 tons swinging, and the skid hit the sub on its sled, like hitting the fender of a car ... We have to repair damage to that frame."

Brian Midson, laboratory researcher and data manager, said fisheries and aquatic resource surveys are planned through Nov. 27.

University of Hawaii oceanographers will study corals and fisheries at Cross Seamount and Keahole Point.

Midson and Malahoff, or one of Malahoff's graduate students, will dive at Loihi next Wednesday and Thursday.

Malahoff has been studying Loihi since the submersible program began and Midson's graduate work focused on Loihi. Last year he went to the volcano's base -- about 15,510 feet down -- in Japan's Shinkai 6500, the world's deepest-diving manned submersible.

A major experiment had been planned with Pisces V this season to try to collect tiny organisms from Loihi's hydrothermal vents, keep them at the same pressure and temperature in a specially designed "extremophile bioreactor," then fly them to a University of California-Berkeley reactor.

But that's on hold until next year because two arms, or manipulators, are needed and Pisces IV has only one.

The scientists still expect to collect "completely viable communities" of organisms as they have the past few years to get an idea what's living in the hydrothermal vents, Midson said.

Pisces V had one arm for years but now has two, which is one of the things that makes it so successful, Kerby said. "It's so dexterous you can practically tie knots with it. With two arms, you can do a lot of work."

Kerby said both subs may be used next year to make up some of the dives lost this year. "That would be exciting."


Fund-raiser to benefit
UH marine program

Star-Bulletin staff

A fund-raising party will be held Saturday at the Hawaii Maritime Center to try to save the fiscally endangered Marine Option Program at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.

Oceanic Imaging Consultants Inc. is sponsoring the event from 6-9 p.m. on the Falls of Clyde.

The Manoa-based software development company specializes in sea-floor mapping and employs several program alumni.

"Unfortunately, because of university budget cuts, the Marine Option Program may be facing extinction," said Sarah Doudna, marketing manager for Oceanic Imaging.

The company hopes to raise $50,000 to prevent loss of the 19-year-old UH program and make the public aware of its value.

The program teaches undergraduates about the marine environment and gives them hands-on experience in the marine industry.

It was funded under the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, but lost $150,000 this year in budget cuts.

Program Director Sherwood Maynard met with deans and others and obtained help to keep the program going this year.

The school is paying his salary and providing office space. The College of Natural Sciences contributed $50,000.

The Oceanography Department gave the program $10,000 and took over two of its graduate certificate programs in ocean policy and maritime archaeology history.

The Marine Option Program was created in 1971 to create more awareness and understanding of the ocean among students.

The party Saturday will feature pupus, drinks, musical entertainment and a silent auction.

Tickets, available at the program's Manoa office, are $25 in advance; $35 at the door, or $10 with a valid student ID.

People who are unable to attend and would like to contribute may send donations to: University of Hawaii Foundation, care of Oceanic Imaging Consultants, 2800 Woodlawn Drive, Suite 270, Honolulu 96822, attn: MOP Miracle Fund.

For more information, call the Marine Option Program: 956-8433.

Ka Leo O Hawaii
University of Hawaii

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