It was a long process for the team of engineers from the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche (Edouard Leymarie, Antoine Poteau and Christophe Penkerc’h) to prepare the 8 floats up to their departure from Villefranche via Brest on their way to La Réunion. The preparation started a year ago, when NKE, the manufacturer, delivered the floats. First we tested the floats in the deep pool of Ifremer (Brest) in order to check the navigation. Then, we shipped them to the Villefranche Lab for additional tests and preparation.
Two kinds of floats have been prepared:
- Six Bio-Argo floats to which Antoine added an oxygen sensor to the initial payload. Then he programed the mission of the floats for the Southern Ocean. It takes an expert eye to set a dozen of parameters without reading the documentation!
- Two ProIce floats, similar to Bio-Argo but with ice detection capability.
For these, we started by doing the internal cabling between the electronic boards and the connections to the sensors. This was a thorough, time-consuming work! Then we attached all the sensors to the floats, checking at every step that the communication was working properly. The following step was to adjust the weight of the floats so they have perfect buoyancy. Finally, after we programmed the floats mission, we ran a test deployment approximately 2 miles off the Villefranche coast during a warm day of May. It may be the warmest temperatures these floats will ever measure during their life! The week before, we did a last check-up of the floats, which consisted in simulating a real deployment. Being confident that the floats were ready to navigate the harsh southern waters, we put them in their transport boxes, ready to be shipped.
As a third kind of floats being deployed during the cruise, two ProVal floats are being prepared and will be ready to leave by air in September ...