AUV Mapping and ROV Exploration of Los Frailes Submarine Canyon, Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Abstract:Los Frailes submarine canyon is located at the south boundary of the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park on the southeast tip of the Baja California Peninsula. During the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) 2015 Gulf of California expedition we used an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to map this canyon from 50 m to 450 m depths, and then explored the canyon with a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV). This three day R/V Rachel Carson cruise was a collaboration with the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Centro para la Biodiversidad Marina y la Conservación in La Paz.
The MBARI AUV D. Allan B. collected high resolution bathymetry, sidescan, and subbottom profiles of Los Frailes submarine canyon and part of the north Cabo Pulmo deep reef. In order to safely generate a 1-m lateral resolution multibeam bathymetry map in the nearshore high relief terrain, the mapping operations consisted of an initial short survey following the 100-m isobath followed by a series of short, incremental AUV missions located on the deep edge of the new AUV bathymetry.
The MBARI Mini-ROV was used to explore the submarine canyon within the detailed map created by the MBARI AUV. The Mini-ROV is a 1.2-m-long, 350 kg, 1,500-m-depth-rated ROV designed and constructed by MBARI. It is controlled by six 600-watt thrusters and is equipped with a high-definition video camera and navigation sensors. This small ROV carries less accurate, lower cost navigation sensors than larger vehicles. We implemented new algorithms to localize combining Doppler velocity log sensor data and low-cost MEMS-based inertial sensor data with sporadic ultra-short baseline position measurements to provide a high accuracy position estimation. The navigation performance allowed us to colocate the ROV video imagery with the 1-m resolution bathymetric map of the submarine canyon.
Upper Los Frailes Canyon is rugged and, aside from small sand pockets along the thalweg, largely bare of sediment. ROV video indicates the north wall is composed of granitic rock similar to outcrops on shore. Few fish or other animals are observed below 100 m depth, but considerable diversity exists along the canyon walls above 100 m depth. These observations are consistent with a pronounced oxygen minimum zone present below about 100 m depth.