Melissa Fye, April 12, 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 12, 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

Buoy maintenance
Buoy maintenance

Science and Technology Log

The ship arrived overnight near Tern Island in the Northern Hawaiian Island Chain. The AHI research boat was deployed early this morning again today to continue survey lines with its sonar equipment. Aboard the AHI were scientists Scott Ferguson, Joyce Miller, and Rob O’Connor. They returned to the HI’IAKALAI at approximately 1 PM to trade personnel, swapping Scott and Rob for Scientist Emily Lundblad and Jeremy Jones.  The lead scientists are in the process of training the new scientists on how to use the sonar equipment aboard the AHI, and schedule people for half day trips at this time for training.

Meanwhile, back on board the ship, data from the multibeam sonar equipment continued to be edited in the computer lab.  The edited swaths of data will then be compiled to form maps of the ocean floor. It’s an ongoing process that will continue until the end of the cruise and back at labs on dry land. Scientist Kyle Ferguson, Joe Chojnacki, Rob O’Connor and I then boarded the HI#1 10m Speedboat, with BGL Keith Lyons in control, to drive out to the CREWS (Coral Reef Early Warning System) buoy that was installed on the reef just east of Tern Island yesterday.  The scientists finished anchoring it permanently, using wire cutters and other tools to secure it, then basic plastic ties were added to the top of the buoy, near the measurement equipment, placed sticking up, to keep birds from roosting and defecating all over the buoy, which could make it ineffective for transmitting data through satellite systems.

After completing the task at hand, we were given permission to explore the ecosystem under La Perouse Pinnacle nearby.  We snorkeled to discover white tip reef sharks, giant green turtles, chum fish, and coral acropora (table coral) below the water’s surface at the rock outcropping. We returned to the ship some 15 minutes later without incident.  While we were gone the ship continued survey lines NW and SE of the French Frigate Shoals and practiced the weekly fire and safety drills.

Exploring the reefs
Exploring the reefs

Personal Log

After breakfast today, I was invited to attend a trip to the CREWs buoy installed yesterday by Scientist Kyle Hogrefe.  Plans got changed and we were delayed, not leaving until 1:00. The seas were much calmer than my previous trip on Monday (seas were only 1-2 feet this day) and we boarded the speedboat. When we arrived at the buoy location, the 2 divers worked on securing the line while scientist Rob O’Connor and I looked on and snorkeled around them. The water there was not very deep (maybe 15 feet) but the current made it fairly cloudy, difficult to see through, and I was amazed and how strong the pressure was on your ears as soon as you dove down.  You have to be careful when you dive or you can get a bloody nose from diving too deep.  I got used to the snorkeling mask and at the end of the work we took turns getting on the CREWS buoy for pictures.

Once back on board the HI#1 speedboat, we were told over the radio that we could go snorkeling at La Perouse Pinnacle, only a couple miles away in the distance.  What a great treat! We jumped in and immediately saw a thriving ecosystem below our feet.  The underwater current wasn’t nearly as severe in this location and it was almost protected from the rock outcropping towering above. La Perouse Pinnacle is a volcanic rock about 122 feet high and 60 yards long that is used by sailors as a landmark around the atoll. It is nearly inaccessible because it is so steep and rugged and its guano-coated (bird poop coated) outline resembles an old brig ship with billowing sails from a distance.

Mrs. Fye snorkeling
Mrs. Fye snorkeling

As soon as we dove in we saw 2 white tip reef sharks about 15 feet below. After being reassured they wouldn’t bother us, I got comfortable and snorkeled around! The sharks were no more than about 6 feet in length and just swimming below. There was also a giant green sea turtle resting on the reef below and millions of fish and coral systems.  Several rare table coral (coral acropara) were noticed and I took pictures of everything intermingling in this ecosystem. An underwater cave was the main habitat of the shark, and two of the scientists swam in and out to see it. Fish darted in and out and the colors of the coral here were brighter and easier to see because of the lack of strong current. It was a fantastic experience! An adventure I didn’t think I would ever get to do, and was pleasantly surprised! My students wanted to know if I was going to swim with the sharks while on this cruise and now I can tell them I sure did!

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students: The white tipped reef shark was one of the animals I discovered today in the coral reef ecosystem I was snorkeling in. Using a reference source:  1) list 3 facts about this shark 2) list the name of the reference source you used 3) draw a food chain for the shark like this example:  white tipped reef shark—-(eats)-> __________–(eats)—->________

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’S QUESTION (Log 8): A barometer measures sea level pressure. The barometer reading from that log was 1017.9 (high).  High pressure brings good weather, low pressure usually indicates a storm.  The barometer reading is one of the most important pieces of equipment on the ship’s bridge, and is checked every hour because if the measurements begin to indicate a change, the captain can prepare for a storm coming.

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