Coral Banks
Oct. 20, 2002


By: Rachel McEvers, Project Oceanica

You might be wondering exactly what it is we're doing out here. Yes, we told you we're mapping the seafloor, but how are we doing that?

The Principal Investigator (or "Head Scientist"), Andy Shepard, hired a company called Seafloor Systems, Inc. to help us with our mission. Seafloor Systems is an equipment rental and personnel supply company for hydrographic survey (mapping the seafloor). On this mission we're using multi-beam sonar and side-scan sonar. The multi-beam sonar sends out a sound wave and has 101 transceivers attached to the bottom of the ship to "hear" the signal that returns when that sound wave bounces off the seafloor. It creates a 3-D computer diagram of the seafloor. The side-scan sonar also sends out a sound wave but produces a black and white "acoustic photograph" of the seafloor.

Fig. (The transducer head, shown here mounted to the bottom of the sonar pole, is mounted below the ship. The transducer sends out and retrieves sound waves, called pings, that create a picture of the seafloor).

Why does Seafloor Systems offer this kind of service and to whom? For our mission, this "map" we create will help scientists better understand where large coral reef habitats still exist. This is very important because these coral reefs provide a habitat for a large number of fish species. Seafloor Systems also does work with oil and gas companies and telecommunications companies who need to know where they can lay their pipelines and communications cables. This technology is also useful in harbors where there is heavy shipping traffic to determine where dredging is needed to keep the shipping channels clear.

Fig. (Multiple computer monitors show a real-time image of the seafloor as the sound waves return to the transducer and are processed into an image).


Jerry Brantner (pictured left), a senior hydrographer from Seafloor Systems, is on board as a representative of the company to oversee operations and make sure things run smoothly. He arrived at the ship a couple of days before we left to set up all his computers, the transducers (they send the sound waves out), and all the other equipment necessary to complete our mission. He attended California State University and Monterey Bay and while there one of his professors asked if he would like to help in the Seafloor Mapping Lab. That's what got him hooked on hydrography. He went on to graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Earth Systems Science and Policy with a concentration in Coastal and Marine Ecology. We just had to ask him what kind of fish he would be and he said he would be a Cabezon. A what?! It's an endangered rockfish off the coast of California…pretty exotic! So, Jerry is a BONUS Career of the day!


Corey Davis (pictured right), is an Able Seaman aboard the Liberty Star. Corey has been around water his whole life but didn't need any ship experience in order to become a crewmember. He said they do all the training once you're hired. Some of the training he has received includes firefighting, CPR, bridge resource management and standards in watch keeping. Crewmembers work their way up by logging sea time, receiving more training and gaining experience.Corey could gradually work his way up to Captain!

His duties include maintenance of the vessel, cleaning, being on the retrieval team for the NASA shuttle boosters and piloting the ship. He likes the fact that he learns something new everyday and the job is a constant learning experience. What he doesn't like? Rough seas!

When we asked him what kind of fish he would be, after much thought and changing his mind, Corey decided he would be an eel.


Ph. 843-953-7263
Project Oceanica
Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math
College of Charleston
Charleston, SC 29424
Fax 843-953-7850