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Meeting explorers of Bermuda waters

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Studying waters: on board the research ship (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

After several days of exploring the waters off Bermuda, the Canadian Coast Guard ship Hudson heads back north this week, leaving a trove of information with local scientists.

“We think it’s our fourth visit over the 53 years we’ve been sailing,” Captain Rick Cotie told The Royal Gazette ­— and with the ageing vessel set for replacement, the trip will be her last to Bermuda.

The ship has spent several days studying Bermuda’s waters, mainly the depths, with its remotely operated vehicle and sounding equipment — a fine break for a crew more accustomed to sailing the Arctic. Captain Cotie called the Hudson “the best boat in the coast guard, by far” when it came to heavy seas.

“These seas have been very moderate, compared to what we’re used to, going above Newfoundland.”

The ship arrived last week after a mission down the Eastern Seaboard, from Halifax to Bermuda — sharing its detailed scanning of the seas with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

The scan, stretching from the Scotian Slope to just off Bermuda, is “the longest oceanographic transect that’s been done from a Canadian vessel”, according to chief scientist Ellen Kenchington.

The vessel’s deep sea cameras will hopefully give local scientists a detailed glimpse of seamounts such as the Challenger Banks, 12 miles offshore.

Hudson scientists are also partnered with the Nekton Foundation, another scientific venture that has deployed two deep water submarines into the seas off Bermuda.

It recently discovered an algal forest on the Argus seamount, 30 miles southwest of Bermuda.

Visiting Bermuda also affords the ship a chance to examine the Gulf Stream and the Sargasso Sea.

The trip down gave the on-board ornithologist an unusual sighting of the brown booby, a large seabird and an unusual sight.

A tour of the ship with chief officer Catherine Lacombe shows the marks of various missions left in the decks, as equipment has been repurposed over the years.

Various laboratories are housed in shipping containers.

Cranes and winches equipped with thousands of metres of cable allow the Hudson to bring up samples from the bottom of the sea, while its sounding equipment shows the ocean floor in detail. Its latest transect studied water chemistry, conductivity and density as well as temperature.

The old officers’ lounge, now open to all, offers a step into the past, its wood-panelled walls lined with pictures.

The unique hull design makes the ship “extremely good for heavy seas”, Ms Lacombe said.

“We’re trying to extend the life of the vessel, but she is going to have to be replaced eventually.

“She needs a lot of care from the crew, but the crew are proud of her — and it shows.”

The ship departs local waters tomorrow.

Quality control: John Langille, 4th officer, assessing the winch room aboard the Hudson (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Gathering data: the research lab aboard the Hudson (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Taking it in: Andrew Ward, Acting Leading Seaman, on his final foreign-going cruise after 35-plus years of service aboard the Hudson research ship (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
All at sea: crewmen aboard the Hudson research ship (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)