|The Safe Seas 2006 Exercise is a multi-agency drill coordinated by NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program (NMSP) and Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R). The purpose of the drill is to exercise emergency capabilities in response to a simulated marine disaster. The 2006 exercise was conducted in the vicinity of national marine sanctuaries off the coast of San Francisco, CA and simulated the collision of a freighter and tug towing an oil barge. In the scenario the barge sinks resulting in oil spilling from both the barge and damaged freighter.
The Office of Coast Survey AUV Team was invited to demonstrate the type of information that could be provided by an autonomous vehicle. The AUV Team’s project plan was to deploy the AUV from a vessel of opportunity to collect side scan sonar imagery of an existing wreck (SS Jacob Luckenbach) in the exercise area.
The AUV Team operated from the Bodega Marine Lab 42-foot Safe Boat. Once on station the AUV was deployed to conduct a 15-minute search mission. The team expected to evaluate the imagery collected during the search mission to refine the search area to produce the highest quality sonar imagery. However, excellent imagery of the wreck was collected on the first mission and it was determined no additional missions were necessary. The imagery and derived statistics (position, size, depth, height of bottom, and condition) were collected and available within 1 hour of arriving on site. A final product was delivered to the Exercise Command Center immediately upon the vessels return to the dock. Additionally, oceanographic data (Current-Temperature-Depth measurements) were transmitted from the AUV operations area to the Command Center to be used in the models to predict oil disbursement distribution.