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Lake Merritt Exploration

May 11 2014
We're going to examine an area of Lake Merritt using an OpenROV controlled from a classroom. We'll be broadcasting the dive via Google+. (Donations go to the Oakland High School ESA program.)

May 11 2014


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Name: David Lang
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Debriefing Stage

Here is our dive log: Image is log-takers during a lag spike.

TIME Notes May 11th 2014 at Lake Merritt, Oakland Recorder Videos
2:42-Eric and Evelio left Lake Merritt Boating Center in paddleboat KMN

2:42 -Boat left Annie & John

2:43-Dives in water. Before that (time not noted).Sated at Evelio's back for 11 sec.
Stared at pole at ocean for 54 sec. Stared at ocean/lake for 23 sec. Adjusted camera for 23 seconds. Jacky

2:45 -Surfaces and extra weights added. Jacky

2:48 -Re-dives Jacky

3:15-Put 'bot in water under 12th St. bridge - beautiful view. Sea lettuce (Ulva). Middle light cut out so they pulled it into check. Reset. No flooding in e-chamber or battery tubes. KMN #1 at 2:52 #2 at 3:11 #3 at 3:16

3:19 -Changing batteries to see if that will bring middel light back. (?) Zero depth. KMN

3:23 Put back in water KMN

3:26 Stopped by biology. Sea lettuce on camera. KMN

3:30 Reset the ROV (again). Not getting… Matt sent a ping and it came back. All 3 (lights on?). KMN

3:30 Resetting the ROV Annie & John

3:32 Resetting ROV USB. It's back. Sirach

3:32 ROV is back. The 3 lights are on. Annie & John

3:33 Recording. ROV is under water. No fishes seen. Annie & John #4 at 3:33

3:34 No fish in water but plant life abundant. Sirach

3:36 Pulled out of water Sirach

3:37 Going to wall to left side of bridge (?), but at wall pulled out (3:40). Shok a little water from the e-chamber. KMN

3:37 ROV on bottom. Sirach

3:37 ROV is at bottom of Lake Merritt Annie & John

3:38 Navigating toward wall. Sirach

3:41 Pulled out of water. Tiny leak. Sirach

3:42 Annie made lame joke. Sirach

3:42 ROV is pulled out of water Annie & John

3:42 Evelio is seen from the ROV's camera Annie & John

3:43 Evelio working with some cords. Sirach

3:45 Went to check seal. Forgot vacuum pumper. Saw mussels, barnacle. Frozen video problems. Reset ROV. Andrew's brother Anthony arrives. Swapping out ROV's to OpenROV office one. KMN #5 at 3:44

3:46 Back up and running Sirach

3:48 Put back in water Sirach

3:48 ROV is moving to the side Annie & John

3:49 Possible fish spotted, mussels and maybe barnacle spotted. Sirach

3:49 For 30 sec ROV is gonna be tested cause the vacuum was forgotten. Annie & John

3:49 ROV reaches the wall. Annie & John #6 at 3:55

4:02 ROV is resetting. Annie & John

4:10 Still checking lights on topside box. Moving along wall - mussel, sponges, bryozoans. KMN

4:15 Bubbles covered screen. Pulled out ROV. Some fogging in e-chamber but no water inside. Moving along wall. Lag spikes. ROV turns in circles because Andrew can't see what is happening. KMN #7 at 4:15

4:25 Decided to pull it out after extended lag. KMN #8 at 4:23


Here is one of the videos taken along the floor of the channel between the lake and the estuary. You can see quite a bit of detail when the ROV is near the bottom, even though the upper water column is pretty turbid. We noticed a sea anemone, sponges and a crab only after watching the recorded video, not while flying the ROV.

Dr. Andrew Cohen of San Francisco Estuary Institute and the Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions identified some of the species seen:

"Very cool project. The common yellow sponges appear to be Halichondria; the pink sponge at the bottom of the screen at about 48 sec may be Haliclona. Red patches at different times may be the sponge Clathria prolifera or possibly the seasquirt Botrylloides violaceus. The crab appears to Pyromaia tuberculata, and the anemone a species of Diadumene. Some of the shells looked like bay mussel (Mytilus) and softshell clam (Mya arenaria) shells. (As usual, most of these are introduced species.)"

Mission Underway

Driving along the bottom. Water surprisingly clear. We'll post the recording of the dive in the debriefing.


And they're off! R/V Paddleboat leaves the dock.

Preparation Stage

On board the research vessel.


Turning a paddle boat into a ROV deploying research vessel


Step 5: attach base station antenna to door of classroom


Setting up the remote operating station. Step 1: Monitors


Our first dive was a gamble, but pretty exciting! We put the ROV in at Fox Landing on Catalina Island. It maneuvered pretty well and we were able to see the ocean floor in the cockpit as shown in the video.

We noticed that the vehicle was not traveling smoothly, so we took it out and rearranged the weights. At the same time we saw a small amount of fogging in the electronics chamber, but couldn't resist one more dive. The vehicle submerged and traveled along the dock, but we noticed bubbles coming from the battery tubes and took it out immediately.

It turned out both the battery tubes and the electronics were flooded with a small amount of sea water! We made a panicked call to Eric, who coached us through how to deal with the flooding.

Back in Berkeley, Eric and David helped us nurse the ROV back to health by step-by-step ruling out of possible problems. Patience and logical approach paid off. Success! (image)

We are getting ready to put our ROV into Lake Merritt tomorrow. We have made some repairs to make it less prone to flooding we hope. Eric gave us some heavier endcaps for the battery tubes and we re-potted one end of the electronics chamber.

Wish us luck! This is pretty cool. No pressure, as Jacky would say.



The class did a pool test at Oakland High a few weeks ago. The ROV drove well, until it developed a small leak. They immediately removed the ROV and have made some fixes that we think will fix the issue. Salt water is less forgiving!

Expedition Background

For the past few months, the Oakland High School ESA program has been building an OpenROV for underwater exploration. One of the first big dives will be at Lake Merritt, which is a location the class knows well, and has collected important environmental data on for many years. We're going to be attempting to stream the dive in realtime via G+.