Last February, we branched out pretty substantially from our usual bailiwick of internal waves and mixing, and grabbed some huge pumps and tanks in order to create artificial salty plumes of water that we then sampled with an ROV to watch them descend. Why on earth would we do this? Possible future deep sea mining operations will need to return the "tailings" they bring up from the sea floor, so it is crucial to know how they will descend and disperse.
In November we'll be continuing this on a cruise funded by the UC ship funds program. First we'll create plumes with massive tanks of salt water and pumps. We'll then use an ROV, an AUV, our Phased Array Doppler sonar, and side-scan sonars to image the plumes as they descend. Finally, we'll use our towed bodies to track them as the ambient currents sweep them laterally.
The ultimate goal is to inform future policy on responsible practices.