NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 2 – 25, 2004
Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 8, 2004
Time: 1820 (I’m late today)
Lat: 18 12 N
Long: 158 26 W
Sky: beautiful day; blue sky with scattered cumulus
Air temp: 25.9 C
Wind: 70 degrees at 6 knots
Relative humidity: 52%
Sea temp: 27 C
Depth: 3571 m
Scientific and Technical Log
The longline brought in just two escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum), an oily tuna (not ones we keep for eating) that tends to live rather deep. It is a dark colored fish unlike the shallower water tunas and mahi we have brought up which are nicely (sometimes brilliantly) colored. Its eye is very large and reflective like a cat’s eye though silvery. It is quite striking. So anyway, a bit of excitement there, and I got to see a species new to me. I don’t think I gave any description of the longline retrieval yet. The ship maintains a course to keep the line perhaps 30-40 degrees off port side. The line comes up midship over a pulley at the spool and is wound onto the spool. As leaders come up they are unclipped at the pulley and passed to others who remove bait and return hooks, leaders and clips to storage barrel. If a fish comes on, the spool is stopped until it is landed and removed from the retrieval area. It is a challenge for crew on the bridge to maintain the proper course for the ship with respect to the line. Because the ship is moving slowly during the process and the process must be stopped for fish or entanglements, recovery of the line takes much longer than the set. I don’t think we’ve done it in less than 2 hours. Nothing came up by trolling today and no plankton tows were done. Tonight we are south of Cross Seamount (at 2000 we are at 18 08 N, 158 27 W) to set the line. Again we are not at Cross because of another boat’s presence. I’m the starter on the bait box tonight. I hope I can fulfill the duties, after all I’m a rookie and used to coming in only as the closer so far. I guess they’ll try anything to change our luck.
After completing my log last night at about 2030 I went to an upper deck where we have strung a hammock. I was a beautiful starry night — the clearest we have had. A warm gentle wind blew over a sea rolling under us as one foot swells. The bright orange waning gibbous moon rose 20 minutes later a cast its long shimmering light across the water as it rose higher. The Big Dipper was easily apparent pointing toward Polaris only 18 degrees or so above the horizon. As new constellations took their place above the eastern horizon a couple of meteors streaked by. I was reluctant to leave the scene for my cabin. I made the mistake of telling folks about it today; there could be some competition for that hammock tonight!
In preparation for upcoming editions of the log I spent an hour or so with Kerstin discussing her work with vision in these pelagic fishes. Wow! I’ll be sorting that out for awhile — very interesting stuff. I finished a book, The Great Biologists, written in 1932. Obviously many more recent greats are not included, but I enjoyed reading about the men included from a 1932 perspective. It is of interest to me to learn more of the impact of particular work at its time in history and of the personalities of the men themselves. It adds some new dimensions to teaching of biology that might captivate a few students as bits and pieces can be appropriately included. We had a small group of dolphins leaping high as they passed the boat. Flying fish are a common sight; crewmen report that often they are found on deck in the morning. We have a pair of birds, a type of booby I believe, hitching a ride with us. They are leaving their mark all over the bow which is not pleasing the crew and have thus been dubbed “John’s nemesis”. But for those of us who don’t have to swab the deck, it is neat to have them around and to watch them feed. From their perch they seem to spot a fish leap from the water and take off. They follow the fish 10-20 feet over the water as it swims and at an instant make a fast dive for it and quickly take flight again. Many of us had our supper on the deck tonight — my first mid-ocean picnic. A clear horizon at sunset gave me another view of the green flash. Venus (I think) set about 2135 just as set of the longline finished. And as predicted, there is a crowd gathering on the bow for moonrise.
There is no “south pole star” as we think of Polaris as our “north pole star”. How can you use the Southern Cross to point you in the direction of the south pole?
Off to join the bow party,