NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
August 16-30, 2002
Day 15: Sunday, August 25, 2002
The FOO’s quote of the day (I really like this one!):
“Let your dreams run wild and free and always follow where they lead.” – N.E. Foster
Here are our observations at 2200 today:
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 120°
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 3-4′
Swell wave height: 4-5′
Sea water temperature: 27.3°C
Sea level pressure: 1011.7 mb
Cloud cover: 3/8, Cumulus
Hurricane Fausto is slightly diminishing in strength, but is still maintaining winds at 90 kts, gusting to 110 kts. It is currently located at 18°N, 125°W and is moving northwest. Another tropical depression has formed at 11.5°N, 148°W and has maximum sustained winds at 30 kts with gusts to 40 kts. It is expected to gain strength and move into the tropical storm category. We are definitely not in danger of being impacted by either storm because they require Coriolis to form or to be sustained. Coriolis is negligible at the equator so we’re safe!
Science and Technology Log:
This has been my favorite day of the trip so far! I awoke hurriedly at 5:50 AM and ran outside with my hard hat and life jacket. We were taking the RHIB (once again, the rigid inflatable boat) out to retrieve our first buoy. Earl, Dave, Paul, Doug and I rode toward a gorgeous sunrise, removed sensors from the buoy, and then hooked it to a line to drag it in toward the ship. What an amazing morning! It all started there. As soon as the buoy was lifted onto the dock Nadia and I began removing barnacles from the bottom of the frame. The barnacles were still alive with their legs appearing and disappearing within their hard shell. They stick to the mast, buoy, and inner flotation device in clumps. At this point, I am filthy, smelly and loving every second. The barnacles are full of sea water which occasionally bursts and runs down your arms as you work over your head. I’m sure I’ll smell like fish for the rest of the day. The retrieved buoy was then power washed to remove the salt water, algae, and remaining barnacles parts, and to prepare it to be deployed again later during the trip.
I then helped pull in the 4300 meters of nilspin and nylon cable by taking over one of the spools where I turned it around and around as the cable draped over the top. Fun, and tiring! Just as we finished with the last spool, Doug, the XO, decided to fish off the back of the ship. You should have seen the amazing fish swimming all around the fantail of the boat… mahi mahi, and every beautifully colored huge fish that you can imagine! A blow hole was spotted by the FOO earlier, sure signs of a whale nearby. I also saw a huge fish jump out of the water, but couldn’t identify it. The fish all hang out around the buoy because of the barnacles (food) and the shadow created by the buoy, thus creating a small ecosystem in the middle of the Pacific. Suddenly, Doug caught something! He had to keep reeling in the line until he pulled a wahoo on board (ono in Hawaiian, meaning sweet). It had unbelievable colors of green and blue and was shiny with stripes. It had a cigar-shaped body, pointed head, and triangular teeth, with a long dorsal fin separated into 9 segments. Nemo brought it into the shade, pierced its neck, and then returned to the fantail where he caught two beautiful yellowfin tuna – WOW! They were shaped like a football, were beautifully iridescent with yellow, gold and blue across their bodies and fins tinged with yellow. The fins were very long. We feasted on sushimi tonight at dinner, raw tuna fillets with wasabi and soy sauce – scrumptious! We also had baked ono (wahoo) with spices. YUM! Thanks, Doug and Nemo!
We then all worked to prepare the nilspin (cable closest to the buoy) for the next buoy deployment by placing fairings on the cable. Fairings are plastic sleeves that are rectangular and slide onto the cable to provide more friction with the water. This alleviates great movement of the cable that usually happens due to strong ocean currents at this latitude. We are so close to the equator that the equatorial countercurrent makes a huge difference in the movement of the subsurface line. It was like an assembly line with me lifting each fairing out of a garbage can, handing each one to Dave who opened it and slide it onto the cable. Then, Paul used a mallet to secure it on the line while Jon held the cable in place so it didn’t drift off the boat. We must have placed hundreds of them on the line while it was being pulled out to sea by the new buoy that we just deployed (see photo log for pictures of the buoy retrieval and deployment). In the end, it took about 3 hours for the nearly 5000 meters of nilspin cable and nylon cable to be unrolled and pulled by the buoy out to sea. The buoy was floating about 4 km away from the ship by the time the cable was unraveled. You could just see it on the horizon. The crew then dropped two massive anchors (old railcar wheels) into the sea, which sunk and pulled the cable down while pulling the buoy into place above. The entire procedure is a real sight to see because of the crew’s efficiency…truly impressive.
Before dinner, John and I sat down and completed the script for tomorrow’s broadcast, however, things might change because we will be starting the science on board at the same time our broadcast is supposed to air live (9:00 AM ship time). We may have to change the show’s schedule if something exciting is happening on the ship that might be of interest to all of you. Flexibility is key to it all, I’m told.
After a workout, shower, and dinner, John shot some footage of me on the bridge deck summarizing my experiences thus far, and describing what’s yet to come during this next week. The sunset was outstanding again. There were many clouds and they created these streaming rays of bright yellow light from the setting sun down to the Pacific. I could easily watch this every night.
I’m going to finish my logs and head straight to bed. This was truly the most outstanding 24 hours of the entire trip. I am so lucky to be here and can’t believe that we’re heading to the equator tomorrow!
Question of the day:
What does TAO stand for and what is the goal of the project?
My favorite day of the trip so far…