Meet Bill, the multi-beam guy!

Bill Danforth is an expert in multi-beam forming seabed mapping and is accompanying us while navigating in the Gulf of Alaska. He’s been working with this technique for more than 30 years at the USGS in the Woods Hole Observatory in Massachusetts and he has travelled and navigate to almost every single ocean in the world (even the Great Lakes!). He considers that the most exciting part of his work is how the technique has evolved with the years: when he started working with multi-beam sonar systems back in the 80s, the recordings where all made in paper (like old school seismographs) and now everything is digital and stored in computers. Bill says that the largest challenges of the multibeam bathymetry technique are knowing the equipment used and being aware of what things can go wrong and when using sounds waves and what kind of factors can affect the data, such as environmental factors like the weather.

Bill.pngBill Danforth while mapping the seafloor.

How this technique works? This technique release sound waves in a fan shape that is then reflected in the seabed and send back to our ship. The two-way-time that these wave takes to come back to the ship is a direct indicator of the morphology of the seabed. This technique originated from the need to map large swaths of the sea floor for submarine operations, such as military and academic tasks.

But, why is it important in our project? The morphology of the seafloor is an important feature in subduction margins. The extent and thickness of the continental shelf, the depth of the trench, and the presence of seamounts are factors that determine the tectonic and seismological response of these margins. In the Gulf of Alaska margin, the Pacific subducting plate is plagued with seamounts with variety of sizes and distribution per unit area. In our deployment It’s important to map this oceanic features in order to know the site conditions of stations that can alter the results once the instruments are recovered next summer.

bill2.pngBathymetry in our transit to the third station to deploy.

Thanks Bill for such an important job and for being a great roommate!

In the meantime, today we have deployed two more instruments (WD49 and WD53) and we are getting ready to deploy one more station while the sun rises in the early hours of July 14th.

Jefferson Yarce


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