Melissa Fye, April 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 10, 2005

Location: Latitude: 23*36.3’North, Longitude: 164*43.0’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10
Wind Direction:90
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Wave Height: 5-7 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.8
Cloud Cover: 2/8 Cu, As, Si
Temperature outside: 24.4

Dive expedition at Lincoln’s Head
Dive expedition at Lincoln’s Head

Science and Technology Log

The plan of the day was to arrive back at Necker Island around 8:00 AM. (We were traveling back forth often between the middle of the island chain). Around 8:30 AM the AHI research boat was deployed to run survey lines around the more shallow areas.  9:00 AM brought the deployment of the HI #1 speed boat into the sea. The purpose of its voyage was to replace a SST buoy (Sea Surface Temperature buoy) and anchor an ODP (Ocean Data Platform) at Mokumanamana.  I came along to photograph the work put in to these diving operations.  The transport was rough as it was as warm as normal, and the seas were very choppy.  We arrived at the rock outcropping, and using GPS navigational systems, located the coordinates for where the ODP was to be located on the sea floor. Divers prepared themselves (Scientist Jeremy Jones, Kyle Hogrefe, and Joe Chojnacki, along with ENS Sarah Jones) and all 4 descended about 75 feet under the water to find the device. After 30 minutes they resurfaced unable to find the ODP. They came aboard and regrouped.

A school of dolphins encircled our boat while tactics were being discussed. In effort to conserve air and because the current was strong and pulling them under the water, they decided to only send 2 divers to try to locate the ODP a second time.  Joe Chojnacki and Jeremy Jones resurfaced again after the second try only to be frustrated. The pinger was losing and gaining pings erratically and was found to be useless.

In a last attempt the driver of our boat, Keith Lyons, decided to drive the boat over top of the boat’s GPS coordinates, instead f referring to the diver’s handheld GPS, and asked the divers to put the pinger right into the water to see of they picked up any signal.  The pinger again was unreliable. Finally, Joe Chojnacki stuck his head over the boat, and looking through his snorkeling mask saw the ODP right below us!  Kyle Horgrefe and ENS Sarah Jones scrambled to gear up and went below to tie off a buoy to the ODP so they could resurface and know its location.  The last dive required 3 of the divers to replace the ODP with a new data platform.  An ODP gathers information but that information can only be used once its been retrieved from the ocean’s bottom; unlike a Sea Surface Temperature Buoy which can relay information in real time because it stays on the surface and satellites receive the information all the time. The divers connected a bag, like balloon, to the new ODP to move it into place and reposition it over the former data platform.  The dive was completed but air tanks were low so we drove back to the HI’IALAKAI and exchanged air tanks, dropped off ENS Sarah Jones, and myself. The 3 divers continued on to replace a SST buoy. I didn’t stay aboard for the remainder of the dive because of the rough seas and I was freezing because I didn’t have a wet suit.

Lincoln’s Head (volcanic rock) near dive site
Lincoln’s Head (volcanic rock) near dive site

Personal Log

I awoke and ate breakfast. I then began to prepare to go on a dive operation with 3 scientists and ENS Jones this morning.  I slathered on SPF and a bathing suit, shorts, and a rash guard (thin shirt often worn by surfers as protection from salt water irritation).  I donned a hard hat and life vest and borrowed a snorkel and fins from members onboard in case we were in shallow enough waters to snorkel and so I could see the divers working.  We loaded the HI #1 speed boat with tons of equipment and were lowered to the ocean on a pulley system.  The sea was extremely rough and the boat finally broke free from the ship to the rock outcropping where the dives were to be performed. The rock outcropping is nicknamed Lincoln’s Head because the side view looks like Lincoln’s profile. We arrived and performed the diving operations aforementioned in the science log. It was exciting to see the work being done and how precarious diving can be.  It requires a lot of equipment and effort, especially when weather conditions are less than ideal.

Dolphins swam right up to the boat at one point and the divers saw sharks down below. They assured me they were just curious and not very big sharks! Other than that the divers said we were in too deep of water to snorkel and the water was churning because of underwater currents. I couldn’t dive so I sat onboard and photographed the trip and proceeded to get wet from sea spray. Tern birds flew overhead the entire time biting at the buoy, lines, antennae on the boat, and the air bubbles that surfaced from the divers.  The birds mistake anything out of place for food.  Because I wasn’t doing the dive work I got very cold and decided to return to the ship when we dropped off ENS Sarah Jones.

I didn’t get to snorkel this day but hopefully I’ll have another chance in the next 2 weeks. I spent the evening trying to warm myself and recover from the bumps and bruises incurred from getting on and off the HI#1. Everything is very slippery on those boats and it’s easy to lose you balance. Plus, every time we ride up next to the ship, we get doused with water coming out of the bottom of the ship.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  The 2 devices (the SST buoy and the ODP) are put in the ocean by divers so that scientists can gather information about the conditions in the ocean over a long period of time.  By now, in class, you are beginning to learn about different ecosystems in science class. Cause and effect: What are some examples of conditions that could change in the ocean ecosystem that could be discovered from the data being collected by these buoys (name at least 3)? Try to think how weather or man can affect an ecosystem. Here is an example to get you started ……

  1. ocean temperatures could gradually be getting warmer…….. killing the coral reef……..loss of habitat for fish
  2. (hint: salinity (saltiness))
  3.  (hint: ocean water currents)

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