NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 2 – 25, 2004
Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 21, 2004
Lat: 19 25 N
Long: 156 54 W
Sky: Overcast today. A bright unthreatening sky but clouds thick enough to prevent casting of shadows.
Air temp: 26.3 C
Relative humidity: 70%
Wind: 146 degrees at 14 knots
Sea temp: 26.5 C
Depth: 4738 m (at 1645 hrs)
Sea: Rolling today with 3-5 foot swells but not uncomfortable. Much calmer this evening now that we are nearer the Kona coast.
Science and Technology Log
We began our retrieval of the longline at 0600 today; usually we begin at 0800. This change was made in light of the fact that we have been catching swordfish in this area and that they are dead when we get to them. These are animals (when alive) that we would like to tag. The thought is that if we get to them sooner we will have live animals to work with. I hate to see any of them dead, but it was especially hard to accept the loss of that big guy yesterday.
Did it work? Well, we didn’t lose any swordfish today, but then we didn’t catch any either. It was a very poor catch — several escolar (apparently the most abundant fish in the sea), one snakemackeral, and, the only thing worth getting up for (personal commentary), a bigeye thresher shark. This one was tagged by Rich who harpooned the pop up into its back with one swift and well aimed lunge. He was then cut free of the line — another mobile laboratory.
Tonight we are again off the Kona coast for the line set. I don’t know why the decision was made to come here as opposed to staying over one of the seamounts.
Yesterday I had a tour of the engine room. I thought I’d mention a couple things going on below deck and perhaps a few other tidbits about our floating city of 30-40 people. In an earlier log, I think I mentioned that we make our own fresh water. Waste heat from the engine cooling water heats sea water held in a partial vacuum where it can boil at less than 100 degrees C. then be recondensed to yield our water supply.
Our waste water treatment system is a Class 2 type according to chief engineer, Frank. All human waste and gray water goes to a holding tank. From there it is pumped through a unit to macerated solids. The slurry then passes through an electrical cell that completes the purification process before discharge to the sea.
Our little city generates its share of trash as well. Bins around the ship are marked as to the specific kinds of refuse we may put into each. Here’s is what I understand concerning disposal of sewage and trash. Within 3 miles of shore everything must be held although I think if sewage is treated, as ours is, it is OK to let it go even there. Plastics are never to be dumped. From 3-12 miles out, we can dump trash and food waste ground to less than an inch, but no packaging and such that floats. At 12-25 miles, food wastes can go but again the floating debris is prohibited. Beyond 25 miles, I think all can go but the plastics. Cardboard boxes and paper trash go over the side out here and untreated sewage can be flushed.
And, of course, we have to eat. Todd and Susan are our stewards. Todd insisted that I write that “the second cook (in this case Susan) has the hardest job on the ship.” Susan agrees. For a typical 24 day cruise, Todd (chief steward) spends $5000-$6000. To mention just a few of his purchases for this trip he packed on 48 gallons of milk, six cases of juices, a case being containing 4 three-liter bottles of 4-1 concentrate, and over 80 loaves of bread. Whatever he buys is supplemented by our catch. He noted too that in different areas, crews have different likes. For example, in Hawaii he packs on lots of fruits. In cold Alaska, crews like to have soup everyday whereas here it’s not as welcome because of the heat.
Well, that diversion got me (and you) away from fish science for today. Sorry if anyone is disappointed.
I think the early start jolted everyone’s biorhythms or perhaps just mine. I liked being done with the line by 0830, but I did feel kind of lazy all day afterwards. Perhaps that along with the humid, overcast sky and an antibiotic the doc gave me for an infected finger combined to make napping the desired task of the day for me. So aside doing this log, soaking my finger and a bit of reading that’s about all that happened for me today.
Perhaps this should have preceded yesterday’s questions. The Hawaiian Islands are some of the most remote island in the world. How did they originally (before the hands of humans) become inhabited by plants, animals, fungi? What are some of the mechanisms that permit dispersal of life to such isolated places as these?