Noah Doughty, September 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard Research Vessel Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 22, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Good
Wind direction and speed: ESE at 7kts
Swell direction and height: NW at 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 56.4
Sea level pressure: 1013.3 millibars
Cloud cover: 8/8

NOAA Teacher at Sea Noah Doughty with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) R/V WESTERN FLYER in the background.
TAS Noah Doughty with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute R/V WESTERN FLYER in the background.

Science and Technology Log 

Dr. Rock and Kristof Richmond of Stanford University left the ship late yesterday afternoon, wrapping up the image collection for the photo-mosaic.  Leaving with them was John Geoghegan, a writer for the Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine and the Naval History Magazine. Joining the expedition are Scott Rayder, NOAA Chief of Staff, Richard G. Van Treuren, representing the Naval Airships Association, and Tim Thomas from the Maritime Museum of Monterey.

Today’s activities were devoted to groundtruthing side-scan sonar anomalies located away from the two main debris fields. This is accomplished by simultaneously moving the ROV and the WESTERN FLYER from site to site, a process that would take the better part of an hour depending on the distance being traveled. The transition provided me with an opportunity to briefly operate the “Science Cam”, the seat were you get to operate the zoom, angle and focus of the HDTV camera.  Most of the anomalies were shallow depressions in the muddy bottom with two large sonar hits turning out to be old fish traps.  We did find one large artifact resembling an imploded fuel cell quite a ways from the main debris fields. 

Today is the last day of the expedition and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Program, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing experience.  Finally I would like to thank the ROV Pilots of the Tiburon and the crew of the WESTERN FLYER for providing insightful answers and explanations to a number of questions.

NOAA Chief of Staff (left), Scott Rayder, and TAS Noah Doughty
NOAA Chief of Staff (left), Scott Rayder, and TAS Noah Doughty

Noah Doughty, September 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard Research Vessel Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 21, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge
Visibility: Good
Wind direction and speed:  NWxW 24kts
Swell direction and height: NW 6’-8’
Seawater temperature: 55.7oF
Sea level pressure: 1019 millibars
Cloud cover: 2/8

Science and Technology Log 

Work at the USS MACON wreck site continues, alternating between mosaic work and survey work depending on water conditions at the bottom.  Today’s log will profile two members of the expedition whose jobs provide a context for the information being gathered.

Erica Burton works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and is responsible for operating VARS, which stands for Video Annotation and Reference System.  VARS is a database that allows screen images to be captured, logged, and georeferenced with annotated notes. For the MACON expedition these notes list the possible identity of the artifacts. In addition to the captured image, VARS also records the time stamp in the video and a geographical location. All the images and video captured are archived at MBARI (the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and later, in conjunction with the National Marine Sanctuary Program, staff will process and interpret to produce a final photo-mosaic poster that will be made available to the public. Burton, who has a background in marine biology, also notes that the USS MACON wreckage provides an artificial hard-bottom habitat in an otherwise soft-bottom habitat, and the organisms observed are primarily soft-bottom fishes with occasional encrusting organisms on the wreckage.

Erica Burton, on the left, operates VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System), and works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lee Murai, on the right, is the expedition’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst, and comes from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
Erica Burton, on the left, operates VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System), and works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lee Murai, on the right, is the expedition’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst, and comes from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

Lee Murai is a Geological Oceanography student at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and is the GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst.  Through GIS software he is able to spatially organize the data collected on this expedition and compare it to the 1990 and 1991 expeditions. Types of data collected in the past include side-scan sonar, multi-beam bathymetry, and waypoints collected by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and manned submersibles.  For this expedition he is working closely with the Stanford University team to assist with the photomosaic collection procedure. The GIS map posted on day 1 was provided by Murai. Compare that to the low-resolution image tiles posted today.  While the use of GIS is relatively new to the field of marine archeology, it is generally used in marine environments to provide geologic and biologic habitat characterization maps.

This image, created with low-resolution copies of the image files, shows a Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk (plane #4 in the GIS map on the Day 1 log).  High-resolution tiles will be fused into the final photo-mosaic.  The nose of the plane is in the lower left.
This image, created with low-resolution copies of the image files, shows a Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk (plane #4 in the GIS map on the Day 1 log). High-resolution tiles will be fused into the final photo-mosaic. The nose of the plane is in the lower left.

Jenny Holen, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 2 miles off Keauhou, Hawaii
Depth: 77.75 m or 233 feet
Water Visibility: Clear & gorgeous
Water Temperature: 26.61 C
Salinity: 34.59 PSU
Wind Direction: 223.02, south-west
Wind Speed: 4.01 knots
Air Temperature: 26.5 C
Cloud Cover: rain clouds in distant above islands hills

Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise aboard the SETTE.
Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise.

Science & Technology Log

Yesterday, the routine was very similar to Monday. The NOAA ship was 45 miles out, performing plankton tows from 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m. We did not catch much billfish larva or eggs, but we did catch a lot, I repeat, a lot of little fish.  We were even catching baby tropical fish that must have got caught on the giant seaward current that runs offshore of the big island. Unfortunately, I got very sea sick “again” mid afternoon, and wasn’t able to do much but take photographs of the plankton.  I did how ever, get some “killer” microscopic photography shots and some very cool, short videos of live plankton species in action.

OSCAR ELTON SETTE traveled through the night and we finally got back to the Kona coastline, about 1-2 miles offshore, where it was calm. I, finally, got to sleep that night without being seasick! In the morning, the island rose out of the mist and exposed beautiful hues of tropical greens against the dashing blue sky and crystal clear turquoise waters. Today, sadly our last day, we are performing plankton tows amongst the coastal “slicks.” Now what is a slick you ask?  Well, according to Russell, one of the lead scientists with us from La Jolla, California, the slicks are formed due to wind currents coming off the island that gently push down on the water’s surface forming a glassy phenomenon amongst a rippling environment.  Here, due to the stillness and protection, millions of larva fish and some human trash harbor.  The fishermen who are catching baitfish usually troll their nets through here.  The interesting aspect that Russell talks about behind these slick communities is that they “are aged.”  Some are very young because the spot has been recently open, and some are more mature and older because nothing has bothered them.

TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net
TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net

Today, we hunt through these slicks in hopes of finding billfish marlin eggs and larva. We hit one slick that gave us a bunch! Then we spent the rest of the day getting nothing, and hunting for that original slick. I got many more photographs with my Olympus Mic-D microscope of which both Bob and Russell got copies. One fun thing the scientist and I did today was “pose” in the laboratory for National Geographic pictures taken by David the author of Archapelago. We were still searching for eggs in the newly caught plankton and doing our work, he just made the station and set-up look good.  It would be SO cool to end up in an article of National Geographic. That I’ll have to show off and frame!  At 3 p.m., I left the ship in view of waving hands and smiling faces from all the crew.  It was sad, but what an unforgettable experience I have had these past four days.

Personal Log 

After being sick for the last 2 days, barely being able to walk through the ship to my room, let alone type on a computer, I finally took some Bonnie medicine from the ships nurse, Sarah. After three days out at sea, doing the same thing every day, every hour, I start to realize the required monotony and dedication of scientific research. In order to accomplish a desired goal of finding out a particular question, such as which billfish eggs and larva turn into which adult species; a lot of repetitive analysis and trials must be done in order to come to a clear consensus or even obtain part of an answer to the overall question. Having been a tall ship sailor for two years, my mind wonders to historical maritime scientific expeditions, such as the three-year voyage of H.M.S. Challenger in the 1800’s; John Steinbeck’s journey through the Sea of Cortez; Darwin’s five-year Galapagos voyage on the H.M.S Beagle; and even to Nathanial Bowditch grasping celestial navigation with no background experience out at sea.  These men not only had to endure environmental changes of heat, wind and rain while trying to collect scientific samples, but also had to compensate research time versus sailing obligations when seas became rough, or duty called. Imagine, instead of simply taking pictures of the plankton found (with your Mic-D microscope), you had to literally draw each organism with only a magnifying glass as an aid.

It is just incredible how far we, as mankind, have come towards uncovering the mysteries of the ocean within only the past 200 or so years.  Yet, it is even more astounding to know how much we have yet to still uncover.  Imagine a plate showing only a 10% sliver of a colorful picture underneath. There is no way we would be able to guess what the picture is displaying. This is our world’s ocean knowledge.  There is so much work to be done and to discover that it is essential for the next generation and the one after that to know that they can still be a Jacques Cousteau or a Charles Darwin, discovering and revealing secrets only the giant whales can see.  Imagine marveling at a newly discovered specimen in admiration of the diversity of the sea.  As with all maritime sailors, ocean goers, and even pirates, the ocean is our home.  I had an opportunity on the NOAA ship OCSAR ELTON SETTE to simply look closer at it and view its secrets for just a brief moment along the great span of time.

TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.
TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Question of the Day 

“How does a Hawaiian sunset make a green flash?”

According to Karl Mangels the Commanding Officer of the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE, a green flash is due to an angle refraction of light from the sun as it is setting.  Only to be seen in the tropics during clear skies, the angle at which we are positioned on the earth compared to where the sun is creates a light refraction where we see a green spot were the sun just set. Kind of like the colors of rainbow’s and rain.  In accordance with Hilo’s Bishop Museum, “as our atmosphere bends the sun’s rays, they are also dispersed or broken up into different colors.” Green flashes are thus the result of “colored arcs of light above and below the bright orange disk of the sun.”

Noah Doughty, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Fair
Wind direction and speed: calm
Swell direction and height: WNW 8-9’
Seawater temperature: 56.1oF
Sea level pressure: 1023.0 millibars
Cloud cover: 8/8

Principal Investigators, left to right: Chris Grech (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell (NMSP).
Principal Investigators, left to right: Chris Grech (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell (NMSP).

Science and Technology Log 

As the mosaic work continued on the sea floor I was able to briefly pull the three Principal Investigators (PI) away from the action to ask questions regarding the history of the MACON and the eventual plans for the wreck site. The three PI’s are Chris Grech, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer, West Coast Regional Maritime Heritage Program Coordinator based out of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell, a Senior Archeologist for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program.  Their answers are summarized below:

Question 1: Has the condition of the wreckage changed since the first visit in 1991? 

GRECH: Yes.  There is more sediment on the bottom than before.  Some of the smaller pieces of debris are no longer visible. Meaning they have been moved, covered up, or corroded. Overall the major features are still there, the Sparrowhawk’s and the Maybach’s engines.

Question 2: What technology is being employed this time that wasn’t employed before? 

GRECH: We are using a High Definition camera and HMI lights on the Tiburon. The

Underwater image of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 port wing.  Note it is still possible to make out the Navy Star painted on the wing fabric.
Underwater image of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 port wing. Note it is still possible to make out the Navy Star painted on the wing fabric.

HMI lights are high-powered underwater lights.  We know the position of the Tiburon relative to the WESTERN FLYER through the use of USBL (Ultra Short Base Line) technology. Central to the effort is the Stanford Control System, which provides computer aided ROV control enabling us to create the site photo-mosaic. At the same time we are using GIS (Geographical Information System) technology to create a map tied to geographical coordinates. The Stanford Control System and GIS software is run separately but their use is closely linked. Finally, the WESTERN FLYER is able to maintain her position through Dynamic

Positioning, a system where a GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinate is set and the ship is automated to maintain that position.

Question 3: What might eventually happen to the wreck site in terms of protection policy? 

TERRELL/SCHWEMMER:  The MACON already has the ultimate protection regimen.  The wreckage is within the boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary has a clearly defined mandate to protect archeological resources.  The US Navy still owns the MACON and the Navy has its own legislation to protect submerged vessels and aircraft.  Last, the wreck site is within State of California waters and so is protected by state law.  From the data gathered on this cruise we will do three things. First is to generate a report on the project that will go to the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, who provided much of the funding.  Second will be an archeological assessment that will go to the National Marine Sanctuary Program and to peers.  This assessment will include management recommendations regarding the values and needs of the wreck site. Third will be to begin the process to nominate the MACON to the National Register of Historic Places.  This is a one to two year process. 

Noah Doughty, September 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 19, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Poor
Wind direction: Variable from the northwest
Wind speed: Light airs
Sea wave height: 3-5’
Seawater temperature: 56.1o F
Sea level pressure: 1022 millibars
Cloud cover: 7/8

Dr. Steve Rock (left) and Ph.D student Kristof Richmond (Right), from Stanford University.
Dr. Steve Rock (left) and Ph.D student Kristof Richmond (Right), from Stanford University.

Science and Technology Log 

Today the photomosaic team from Stanford University, Dr. Steve Rock and Ph.D. student Kristof Richmond, stepped up to direct underwater operations.

Currently there are two known debris fields. The larger field contains the Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk airplanes, five of the eight Maybach Engines and remnants of the galley.  The second debris field contains the bow end of the MACON with identifiable artifacts from the officer’s quarters and the mooring mast receptacle.  A third debris field, containing the tail section, is speculated to exist but has never been found.  In spite of some challenges we managed to mosaic both of the known fields.

The photo-mosaic will be created using a control system designed by the Stanford team to pilot the Tiburon along a series of parallel transect lines, a pattern playfully called “mowing the lawn.”  As the ROV travels above the seafloor along its transect line, a High Definition Camera periodically captures images that are assembled to create the photo-mosaic.  Due to the low light and at times murky conditions, the camera can’t be more than a few meters off the sea floor. Imagine trying to create a picture of your local soccer or football field by walking the entire field holding a camera at arm’s length facing straight down.

Tomorrow we will continue the photo-mosaic efforts!

Jenny Holen, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 18, 2006

Weather Data From Lab 
Location: 40 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii
Depth: 4099 meters or 12,297 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.21 C
Salinity: 34.77 PSU
Wind Direction: 335.29 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 11.54 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.6 C
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.
NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.

Science & Technology Log 

The plankton tows have not been as successful as the chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, would have liked. Few billfish larva and eggs have been found, and more are needed to generate a genetic analysis sample.  Bob believes this might be due to an eddy that is forming about 45 miles off shore, swooping the plankton out there. As we slowly start to migrate offshore, we are still obtaining plankton samples every hour until sunset.  Today, instead of helping to look for billfish eggs, I took microscopic plankton photographs with my Mic-D microscope given to me by NOAA’s South East Plankton Monitoring Network program, in South Carolina.  These individual plankton species photographs will be a get asset to the lesson plans I am generating from this research expedition of which could ultimately be used by teachers all over the world through NOAA’s website.

The plankton samples that we got today were almost the same as they were yesterday, nothing too new. However, I did get some background information on why this particular study is so crucial to the future survival of large billfish, such as Marlin.  Currently, some scientists believe that blue Marlin may be migrating between Hawaii and South America, but others are still not sure. Hawaii is a nursery ground for the larval and probably juvenile stages. Adults are migratory and apparently have a magnetic sense that allows them to migrate across to South America where there may be higher food nutrients. The importance behind obtaining this knowledge is to help conserve the declining population due to commercial and sport fisheries. If we knew where the mothers primarily spawn and if there are resident verses transient populations, than we could gain a better grasp of their overall ecology, life cycle, and habitat range. Unfortunately, the farther away from the island you go to get this valuable data the less protected you are from wind and large waves. Hence, at about lunchtime I got extremely seasick and was out of commission for the rest of the day.  I hope enduring all of the rocking and rolling will give rise to better plankton samples tomorrow!

Recommended books:

G. Wrobel & C. Mills.  1998. Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates.

Monterey Bay  Aquarium Publisher, California.  (ISBN0-930118-23-5)

D.L. Smith.  1977. A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine

Invertebrate Larvae. Kendall/Hunt Pub.  Company, Iowa. (ISBN0-8403-1672-0)

Personal Log 

Once again, I am amazed to witness and be part of a science research expedition that portrays through every member of the ship, from the cooks to the deck hands and Bridge Officers, the enthusiasm and positive attitude for the current research at hand.  Everyone here is extremely helpful, especially when I got sea sick and ending up hurling in a bucket in the kitchen. The professionalism is evident by everything they do, which gives an air of importance towards the research being done.  I wish more people, teachers, and high school to college students could participate in an experience like this.  It takes the illusion of scientists being a far away myth to being a regular Joe who cares about the environment and the conservation efforts towards the animals it holds.

Another cool thing about this trip is that the author from the acclaimed book Archipelago (the North West Hawaiian Islands) is here on the ship taking photographs of all the unique plankton we are catching for a National Geographic article.  I think that is amazing to know that not only is this research voyage being documented by NOAA scientists, but that the world will get to see and learn about plankton through journal media.  Education is the key to conservation.

NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations (less seawater) which will be viewed underneath microscopes aboard the SETTE.
NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations which will be viewed underneath microscopes.

Interview for the Day 

Today I interviewed one of the head scientists of the plankton cruise.  His name is Michael Musyl working with NOAA through the University of Hawaii in Oahu in conjunction with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR).  Michael had always had an interest in fisheries ever since he was a kid, fishing from a fishing pole. He took his education career after high school to Northern Illinois where he got his B.S. in zoology. After which, Mike did a five-year masters program in fisheries Biology from the University of South Dakota, to then go on and get his PhD from New  England in Freshwater fish population genetics.  He then used his knowledge and experience with the Arizona Fish and Game department for two years and then taught college biology and ecology for one year at the University of New Orleans.

Mike decided to go get a post doctorate from South Carolina in molecular genetics of blue fish tuna and ended up working with NOAA on electric tagging of pelagic fish and sharks through the University of Hawaii.  Mike is currently studying the post release  survivability of these fish through archival tagging which broadcast the information to satellites. He is also studying the post release mortality of fish captured in long line nets, to see how long they live after being rescued.

A typical year of work for Mike is answering emails, collaborating with fellow scientists around the world, developing and maintaining research projects, analyzing data obtained from research expeditions, writing about four to five papers for journal publications, and spending about 50% of his time on ships like OSCAR ELTON SETTE obtaining project data. Life as a scientist is busy, as well as exciting!

Noah Doughty, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 18, 2006

The science crew in the Control Room of the WESTERN FLYER as we watch video from the Tiburon.
The science crew in the Control Room of the WESTERN FLYER as we watch video from the Tiburon.

Greetings from the sunny coast of California!

Today aboard ship we began to survey the wreck site of the USS MACON, a US Navy Dirigible and its Sparrowhawk airplanes. The MACON, a rigid airship referred to as a “flying aircraft carrier,” sunk off the coast near Big Sur, just south of Monterey, on February 12, 1935. The goal of the survey is to create a photo-mosaic image of the wreckage.  To accomplish this we are using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called the Tiburon. Much of today’s operations centered on getting the ROV into the water early with the camera at a 45-degree angle to capture as many images of the wreck area as possible. Plus it enabled the scientists and historians on boat to get a feeling for the condition of the wreckage.  Altogether we found all four of the airplanes, each in a different state of decomposition, but some parts remarkably well preserved (we could make out part of a star painted on one wing). One of the things the scientists did was to make a GIS map of the wreck site.

The real work begins tomorrow when researches from Stanford University begin a two-day project to create the photo-mosaic of the area.

GIS map of the MACON wreckage, see the next page.  Outlines indicate approximate location of various objects.
GIS map of the MACON wreckage. Outlines indicate approximate location of various objects.

Jenny Holen, September 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 17, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 4 miles out, between Kailua-kona and Keahou
Depth: 1266 meters or 3798 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.15 C
Salinity: 34.62 PSU
Wind Direction: 270 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 6.69 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.9 C
Cloud Cover: Hazy

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast

Science & Technology Log 

Anything short of “amazing” would not justify the unique beauty and wonder which ocean plankton hold.  Working side by side with professional scientists, Erick, Michael, Bob, and Ryan, brought the prospective of importance and dedication we all must exude in the hunt for rare billfish eggs and larva mixed among the ocean’s nursery.  In a jar, surface plankton simply resembles muck from the bottom of your toilet.  Up close however, the characteristics, colors, and movements planktonic organisms portray immediately demand the respect of awe and wonder. Are they microscopic aliens floating around silently in the vast ocean realm?

Underneath the microscope, in search for the rare billfish eggs and larva, the multitudes of diverse and crazy looking creatures emerge unfathomably from what seems an empty ocean of just water.  “What is this?” “What’s this called?” and “I’ve found a baby crab!” come jutting from my mouth like I was a small child seeing something for the first time.  The excitement of being up close to the species that up-hold the entire ocean food web was exuberating.

The research schedule for the day was simple, unlike what we were looking at: drop the large green plankton net into the water, go back to the “cold” lab and examine the last sample catch under the microscopes, reel in the plankton net, and begin again – all within one hour, every hour, from sunrise to sunset.  At dark, just to spice up things, we would throw over board a super bright light in hopes of attracting more crazy looking phototactic organisms.  Our results for the first night include a poisonous male box puffer fish with bright blue spots, some healthy squid, small larval fish and some crazy little crabs that swirled around the light faster than a merry-go-around.

This is the front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae onboard the SETTE.
The front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae

To compare the microscope analysis for the day revealed much more: salp larva, jellyfish, blue copepods, bright pink krill, hairy polychate worms, snail larva, a lot of circular golden diatoms, many clear gelatinous organisms, a never before seen crab larva with feathers attached to each leg elbow for swimming, shrimp larva with heads like hammerheads, clear fish eggs and larva, but no marlin or billfish eggs or larva. However, the other scientist did find some. It must be experience!

Personal Log 

I got picked up about 11 am on Sunday at the Honokohou harbor fuel dock. It was a beautiful afternoon with a light westerly breeze, shimmering turquoise toned tropical waters, and a warmth that felt like a Northface goose-down jacket in the winter. The small boat ride to the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE was bumpy and rough leaving my backside sore for the rest of the day. I met everyone aboard, all of whom generated a true aloha spirit and seem to love what they do.  I was put to work right away underneath a microscope looking at moving plankton on a rolling ship – talk about seasickness!  After working with the scientists and crew for just one day, I’ve realized that this particular research area is still vastly unknown and much help is needed in marine fisheries research.  This leaves many upcoming marine ecology students a big job in the search for plankton knowledge. Hence the age old saying, the ocean is our last undiscovered frontier.  I love this thought because it means there is still so much more work to done and many more people can join in the treasure hunt, which hopefully will inspire those students dreading their biology and chemistry classes.

TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab onboard the SETTE.
TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab

Question of the Day 

“How does one go about getting a job aboard a NOAA research boat?”

1) Small Boat Driver: applied two years ago when he was a full-time fisherman in Hawaii and didn’t get the job, then reapplied a year later and a position opened up for an experienced fisherman.

2) Assistant Scientist: Went to college and studied fish population counts and after working with a similar company for a few years applied when a job positioned open.

Possible NOAA Ship Positions: Bridge Officers, Engineering Officers, Deckhand and crew, Electronics department, Stewards (cooks), Survey department, Scientists, Teacher at Sea. (Note everyone works together and helps towards the success of the current mission).

Moral of the story: Be persistent, dedicated, and determined with a positive view and you can obtain anything you desire, including becoming part of a NOAA research study.

Jill Carpenter, September 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 14, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 180
Wind speed: 14 kts
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Swell wave height: 7 ft./9 sec. from 90o
Seawater temperature: 16.8oC
Sea level pressure: 1018.7mb
Cloud cover: PC

Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.
Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.

Science and Technology Log 

The trip is winding down and we will be in port in a few hours. I am writing this final log in the early hours of the morning of my last night shift.  We will soon be approaching Cape Cod Canal, and our time of arrival into Woods Hole is scheduled for 9:30 this morning. On last night’s shift, we passed the time taking CTD measurements and logging the events. Unfortunately, no trawls were completed since we didn’t come upon a location with an abundance of fish. Tonight we began with a trawl. As with the last trawl, the majority of our catch was redfish.  We also caught Atlantic herring, northern shrimp, anchovies, pearlsides, silver hake and red hake, short fin squid, several dogfish and a goosefish. The catch from the trawl was sorted by species, just as before.  The individual species were weighed and measured.  Again, we took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length. Additional information was again gathered on the herring including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data.

I was also able to interview a few more of the crewmembers on the ship. Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove (otherwise known as Captain) has worked his way up to his Commander position during his 17 years experience with NOAA.  Richard has a degree in Marine Biology and has loved the ocean from the time he was a child.  His extensive background experiences include being a satellite oceanographer for the NOAA Hurricane Center, working for the National Marine Sanctuary on oil spill cleanups, and serving the Peace Corps as a fisheries officer in Antigua.  As commanding officer of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II, his job involves overseeing the entire ship, supervising officers, and safely completing missions.  He claims the best part of his job is working with the crew, which he thinks of as his family at sea, although he admits it is still tough being away from his real family.  As one can imagine, the job of commanding officer comes with a great amount of responsibility.  Richard is in charge of a $12 1/2 million ship and a crew of 34 people.  Pretty intimidating!

Jill Carpenter in her survival suit
Jill Carpenter in her survival suit

He has a great deal of fond memories and stories of rough seas, though he recalls one humorous incident in particular.  He was once on board a ship off the coast of Alaska when the seas were 25-30 ft. It was so rough that all the crew could do was ride out the seas; the cooks weren’t even able to make a meal!  On a dare from the other crew members, Richard tried jumping up to touch his back to the ceiling, but mistimed his jump and ended up being slammed to the floor when the ship descended quickly and the ceiling pushed him down.  He was stunned, but otherwise okay.  This legendary stunt is still spoken of amongst Richard’s seafaring friends.  Richard recommends taking many classes in science and math if one is interested in commanding a ship.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois has experienced a lot of rough weather during his six years at sea aboard NOAA ships. He has many responsibilities aboard the DELAWARE II.  A lead fisherman splits a 24 hour shift with the boatswain, and their duties are to operate the machinery on deck, such as the nets, winches and crane.  Pete is responsible for the fishermen’s and scientists’ safety on deck while machinery is operating.  He also oversees the deployments and recoveries of scientific instruments such as the CTD sensor. Additional duties of a lead fisherman include general maintenance of the ship, such as loading and unloading stores and equipment.  Mr. Langlois also serves as third mate of the ship.  A third mate is in charge of the track lines of the ship and acts as a representative of the captain.

One of the first things that Pete recommends for future sailors is to try spending time aboard a ship to see if you like it.  It is also necessary to get your Able Seaman Certificate which is issued by the U.S Coast Guard. One path to pursuing your career is through a maritime academy, such as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  He claims there is a high demand for all positions aboard ships, and it is important to get experience at sea in order to get an Able Seamen or Captain’s license.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II

Personal Log

Although I am sad for the trip to be over, I am looking forward to returning home to my family, friends, and classroom and sharing my experience with them.  This trip has been invaluable to me in so many ways.  I have met many amazing people, I have participated in recording ocean data, and I have seen how much thought, effort and talent goes into a fisheries research vessel.  I am fortunate to have completed 3 mid-water trawls while on board. Being able to see and touch the fish that we are studying was amazing.  I gained hands-on knowledge and experience, and I began to see the species not as slimy and gross fish, but as a necessary tool for progressing our understanding of ocean species.

The crew of the DELAWARE II has been nothing but welcoming and accommodating to me.  I appreciated all of their care, time and patience with me as I learned about life on board a scientific research ship. Their sincere good natures and the humorous spirits will always be remembered by me.  I can now better understand the wisdom shared by our Chief Scientist, Bill Michaels, about how people and teamwork are to be greatly appreciated. People are such a large part of what make a job enjoyable.  It is easy to see that the entire crew of the DELAWARE II enjoy their jobs and each other’s company. They make an unbelievably great team. Thanks to all of the crewmembers of the DELAWARE II. I will never forget you or my experiences on board.  My students will surely benefit from my gained knowledge for years to come.  Thanks again for sharing a slice of your lives with me.  I’ve been inspired by all of you.

Jill Carpenter, September 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction:  60 degrees
Wind speed: 17 knots
Sea wave height: 5 feet
Swell wave height: ~ 1f
Seawater temperature: 17.3oC
Sea level pressure: 1029.1 mb
Cloud cover: PC (partly cloudy)

TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Science and Technology Log

On Sunday, the DELAWARE II steamed out of the Great Harbor.  Our first stop was Cape Cod Bay, and then we continued to the Gulf on Maine. It’s great to be at sea! My first night on the night shift felt very productive to me.  I worked with fisheries biologists Dr. Jech and Karen to rig up the monofilament (fishing line) so we could attach the copper spheres beneath the hull in order to complete calibrations of the acoustic system.  As explained in an earlier log, calibrations are required for each survey to ensure data quality and to verify that the equipment is working properly. We were mostly successful, but a few events slowed our progress, such as having to reposition the ship because of fixed gear (lobster traps) in the water near us.  Once we located the copper spheres in each of the remote-controlled downriggers in order to move the copper sphere in all directions within the beam.  After we worked out all the bugs during the first calibration, the system worked smoothly for the two remaining frequency calibrations.  When we finished, we disassembled the downriggers and put away the gear.

We finished our first shift by deploying a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) sensor and keeping track of it in the Event Log book and computer program.  A CTD is an instrument that is equipped with devices which measure the salinity and temperature of the water and the depth of the instrument.  Connected to a cable and winch system, it is lowered into the water within meters of the ocean floor, all the while taking measurements and sending data to computers on deck.  A profile of salinity and temperature is taken at the end of each transect, or path, that the ship makes and also before a trawl is completed.

TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Deploying a CTD is a joint effort on the part of the officers on the bridge, the fishermen and the scientists. Communication takes place via walkie-talkies to synchronize the deployment time.  While the officers on the bridge maintain the location of the ship and watch out for traffic, the fishermen are deploying the CTD instrument and the scientists are logging the event, recording information such as time of deployment and the latitude and longitude of the deployment. My second night on the night shift was also very eventful.  We had begun a series of transects, which basically means that the ship zigzags back and forth across the ocean in order to take CTD measurements and locate large schools of fish for the purpose of trawling, or catching fish for biological sampling. Twice during the night, in the middle of parallel transects, we completed trawls.  The High Speed Midwater Rope Trawl (HSMRT) is a funnel-shaped net attached to wires, also known as trawl warps, which are spooled onto winches located on the aft deck of the ship. The HSMRT is used to collect biological samples.  The decision on where to trawl rests with the scientists as they interpret acoustic data, so if the acoustic system shows that there is a large collection of objects (hopefully fish) below the surface, a trawl may be completed.  Trawling is also a group effort between the officers, the fishermen, and the scientists.  The net is set out and retrieved by the fishermen who control the depth of the net and monitor its performance.  The officers on the bridge work with the fishermen during the trawl to ensure its success.

The catch from the trawls is sorted by species. Then the individual species are weighed and measured.  The catch from our first trawl included redfish, Atlantic herring, lumpfish, and northern shrimp.  We then took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length.  Because herring is the primary focus of this survey, additional information was also gathered on this species including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data. This is done by using a stylus to press the buttons on the computer screen to enter the catch information.  The scales used for weighing the fish and the measuring boards automatically send their information into the computer system.  The data is saved and later will be analyzed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught with a mid-water trawl for the Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught for the Herring Hydroacoustic Survey

Personal Log

I apologize for not writing in a few days. As I predicted, the shift work is taking a bit of a toll on me, and I haven’t been sleeping well during the day due to slight seasickness.  It is such a strange feeling to be lying in bed and rocking back and forth. Sometimes the boat pitched so much that my stomach got butterflies, just like when you ride a roller coaster and go down a steep hill. I had to keep getting up and sitting on one of the decks so I could see the horizon and get some fresh air.  Our stateroom has no windows, so there is no way of telling what the conditions are outside.  I had to laugh at myself when I went up to the bridge, expecting to see a ferocious storm and high sea swells, only to find blue skies and slightly choppy waters. A combination of Dramamine, ginger root tablets, and Saltine crackers also helped to calm my stomach.

This past night of sleeping (rather, day of sleeping) went much better.  I seemed to be used to the motion of the ship, and I fell asleep right away.  It helped to wedge myself in between the wall and my bag to keep from rocking back and forth so much.  I feel rested and much more confident to handle the seas.  It was forecasted that Hurricane Florence would make our ride a bit rough, though she is passing several hundred miles from our location and seas have been much calmer than expected, which is fine with me!  Even so, I can now see why we had to spend time tying down equipment so it wouldn’t slide or roll. When the ship was docked, it was hard to imagine it moving so much to necessitate securing items so well, but the need was evident to me after this shift.  Several times during the night, the ship rolled side to side so much that even heavy items fell over and off tables.  The chairs we were sitting in kept sliding back and forth, and we had to hang on to the tables to keep from moving around! It was wild. I loved it! I tried to get a picture, but I had to hang on instead!

Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.
Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.

I was proud of myself when we completed our trawls and I had to handle the fish. It was rather disturbing to see the eyes and stomachs of the fish bulge out because of the change in pressure. We had to be careful when picking up the redfish because of the prickly spines sticking out of their fins. I was a little apprehensive to feel the fish through my gloves, and I was very grossed out at the thought of picking up a slimy, dead fish, but I tried to put that aside so that I could be of some help, at least.  The biologists I was working with jumped right in and weren’t squeamish at all.  After all, this is part of their job and the focus of their research. I tried to be brave and handle the fish confidently and without shrieking just as they did, but I still looked a bit wimpy.  The important thing, though, is that I tried something new and walked away with an invaluable learning experience. Cutting apart a herring to examine its insides was a little over my limit, but I tried it anyway and now I am glad that I did. I figured that it’s not every day that I have the chance to dissect a fish in the name of research.

I spoke with Mrs. Nelson the other day, and she said I have a bright group of fifth graders awaiting my return.  I can’t wait to show all of you my pictures and share this incredible learning experience with you.

Question of the Day

When weighing fish on board the ship, it is necessary to “tare” the scale.  This means that if a fish is being weighed in a bucket, we must first put the empty bucket on the scale, and then we need to reset the scale so it measures to zero kilograms.  After that, we place the fish in the bucket and put it back on the scale.

Why do you think it is important for scientists to tare a scale when weighing objects that are in containers?

Jill Carpenter, September 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 9, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 240 degrees
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: no swell
Seawater temperature: 19.4 degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure: 1016.2 millibars
Cloud cover: hazy skies 1/8

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck

Science and Technology Log

Today, the DELAWARE II left the port and steamed out into the waters of Vineyard Sound for the day. It was exciting to finally get underway.  While out at sea, the AFTV underwent additional testing and troubleshooting. I was able to work the joystick which controls the video camera on the front of the AFTV and enter information into the Event Log program to document the beginning and end of the AFTV deployment.  We steamed back to Woods Hole for the evening, and our scheduled time of departure is tomorrow at noon. Once we leave tomorrow, we should be out to sea for the remainder of the cruise. Additionally, I was able to interview two other members of the crew. The Chief Scientist aboard this mission is Fisheries Research Biologist Bill Michaels.  He has worked for NOAA and been a chief scientist for 27 years. He started as a co-op student at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Bill’s parents knew he would grow up to be a scientist when they saw him spending his time collecting feathers and examining flowers as a six-year old. He has extensive training in marine and fisheries biology and has been in charge of the National Marine Fisheries acoustic program working on advanced sampling techniques for almost 10 years.  Bill has logged over 2000 days at sea and has been a part of many different research boats in many different countries! Bill believes that by incorporating advanced technologies into cruise operations, we will be able to provide more accurate, cost-effective and timely scientific information in order to meet NOAA’s goals. 

Mr. Michaels says the best parts about his job are the diversity associated with the work and the teamwork involved.  Because of these, he has enjoyed every day of his career.  Although he loves working with new technologies such as his new Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle, he has come to enjoy working with people more and more, especially with scientists from other countries. Bill shared with me that he once went overboard during winter temperatures, though he wouldn’t say if it was by accident or on purpose!  Some of his more challenging voyage experiences include being out to sea with 25 ft waves, having to sleep in a fish bin, and being on a foreign boat that was infested with cockroaches.  Bill’s advice to someone who would like to become a scientist is to focus on all subjects, not just biology and math.  He says that you can’t be a good biologist by studying only biology.  He advises future biologists to understand people, value teamwork, appreciate different cultures, learn new technologies, and study from a variety of disciplines, ranging from geology to English and foreign languages.

TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board
TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board

I also spoke with my roommate and NOAA Program and Management Analyst, Jeannine Cody. She works in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Management and Budget in the Program Planning and Budget Formulation Division.  She serves a liaison to NMFS’ Office of Science and Technology, the Ecosystem Observations Program, and the Climate and Ecosystems Productivity Program.  She also tracks all of NMFS’ research and development activities at their six Science Centers. Each year, the President of the United States submits a budget request asking Congress for money to support NOAA activities. It’s kind of like asking for an allowance and then telling your parents the reason why you need the money.  In Jeannine’s line of work, telling the reasons why money is needed is called a budget justification. Each fiscal year (Oct 1 through Sept 30) she works on budget justifications for NOAA’s fisheries research programs.  This involves talking to a scientist to understand his/her plans for research in the upcoming year and writing a summary about the need for the activity, the cost of the activity, and the benefits to the country. She says that although her job description changes day to day, she spends much of her time responding to questions from the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget and from Congressional staff. 

I found it interesting that Jeannine first became interested in working in marine biology while watching Jacques Cousteau’s TV show as child.  Later, she volunteered to work with National Museum of Natural History curator Dr. Clyde Roper after watching a Discovery Channel program on giant squid.  She’s proud to say that one of her reference letters for graduate school had a giant squid at the top of the letterhead!  Ten years later, Jeannine’s back where she started as a research collaborator in the Museum’s Division of Fishes.

Sunset from Cape Cod Bay
Sunset from Cape Cod Bay

She says the best part of her job is when her efforts are successful in getting funding for NMFS’ programs. “It’s nice to know that you’re a part of a larger effort to understand the oceans and marine life,” says Jeannine.  To prepare for a NMFS career in program planning and budget formulation, Jeannine recommends a biological degree, such as one in fisheries science, marine biology, environmental biology, or environmental policy.  You should be comfortable working with numbers and asking a lot of tough questions. Jeannine spends a lot of time writing, creating slideshow presentations, designing websites and talking to different groups, therefore good communication skills will help as well. Internships, fellowships and volunteering on NMFS cruises are also great ways to know how NMFS works.

Personal Log

What a beautiful day! It was a wonderful experience to be steaming on board the ship.  It was a warm, sunny day, although it was considerably cooler when we got away from land. Today was the first day that I was able to get weather and sea measurements from the bridge. I am hoping to become independent in reading the instruments that take these measurements by the time we return.

On the return trip, I was able to sit up on the flying deck (which is the top level deck) and watch as we pulled back in to the harbor at Woods Hole. The view was incredible and made me feel so far away from Virginia!  Don’t worry, I am still planning on returning to school on the 18th! I am sure once we begin with the more intense work load that comes with trawling and completing biological sampling, paired with the overnight (6 PM to 6 AM) watch that I have been assigned to, I will be looking forward to returning to my own bed soon enough!

Question of the Day

A seafaring riddle for you: What is alive without breath, As cold as death, Never thirsty, never drinking, All in mail but never clinking?

Jill Carpenter, September 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 8, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.
Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was spent on last minute performance testing to verify that the ship’s instrumentation is working properly.  Crewmembers finished tying down equipment, the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle was tested and adjusted with minor protective modifications, and the Scientific Computer System was finished being set up.  The DELAWARE II is scheduled to depart tomorrow at noon. I was also able to interview several of the crewmembers on board the ship.  Each person has such an interesting story and so much knowledge to share. The first person that I had a chance to interview was Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych.  He has many duties on board the ship.  As a navigation officer, he is responsible for all the charts used to navigate the ship. He starts the navigation process by creating a route on the computer, then transfers and double checks the route on the paper charts. Mark is on his first sea tour which has mostly been in the northern Atlantic Ocean.  His favorite part about his job is that he gets to draw on big pieces of paper and that he has the opportunity to see some wonderful sunsets. Navigation Officer Frydrych has additional duties on board the DELAWARE II as well. Another title he holds is Junior Officer where he inventories and periodically checks the safety equipment like the fire extinguishers and escape hatches.

TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.
TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.

For anyone interested in becoming an officer aboard a NOAA ship, Mark recommends pursuing a scientific or engineering degree.  He says that computer experience and math classes would also be helpful.  Mark would eventually like to be trained as a NOAA Corps pilot. The other person that I was able to speak with was fisheries biologist Karen Bolles.  Her research involves using morphometrics (analysis of shape) to examine body shape differences among Atlantic herring spawning groups in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (stock discrimination).  This will help improve the accuracy of our herring stock assessments and harvesting strategies. Using computer programs, Karen analyzes differences among groups of herring, using characteristics such as mouth length. Because herring spawning groups mix during non-spawning time, these findings can be used to determine proportions of different spawning stock herring that may constitute research and commercial catches.

Karen’s research has taken her from mid-Atlantic waters north to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. She has also been a scientific member on research vessels operating off Iceland and in the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia. Karen has survived some challenging voyages at sea, including a two-week cod survey trip around the island of Iceland that took place during extremely rough winter weather where nobody on board spoke English!

TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

When talking with Ms. Bolles, it is very evident that she is passionate about her job. She says that she loves the feeling of helping to improve fisheries management and stock assessments.  She especially enjoys using digital image analysis systems to measure morphometric characteristics, but her main passion is working with fishermen to gain knowledge and to fine-tune her fish sampling designs.  One thing about the field of marine biology that was surprising to her in the beginning was the amount of math and statistics that is used to analyze biological data.  Karen’s advice for individuals pursuing experience in the marine science field is to get involved with volunteer opportunities, independent studies, and internships that come your way.  She stresses the importance of hands-on experience, understanding how to work with large data sets and spreadsheets, and good writing skills.

Personal Log

I am very excited to get out on the open water and begin to use the equipment to conduct surveys and take measurements.  I am also a little anxious to put to use all that I have been learning; I hope I can remember how to enter all the information accurately.  See, even teachers get worried before a test! I am enjoying talking with each of the crewmembers.  I feel fortunate to be on a cruise with such a good group of people!

Question of the Day

The fish that the DELAWARE II will be studying are classified as pelagic fish, which means that they live in the top layer of the ocean away from the seashores or ocean floor.  1. Why do you think that most of the oceans creatures live in the top layer of the ocean?  2. Research to find what percentage of sea life lives in this zone.

Jill Carpenter, September 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 7, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a very exciting day aboard the DELAWARE II. Scientists and crewmembers worked together to deploy the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV) into the water for the first time in order to complete initial testing.  The AFTV was delivered to the NOAA pier yesterday and loaded on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.  Chief Scientist Bill Michaels explained to me how he designed the AFTV in collaboration with Deep Sea Systems International.  This new piece of scientific research equipment utilizes the latest underwater technology to improve measurements in support of NOAA’s strategic goals (e.g., Essential Fish Habitat, Stock Assessment Improvement Plan).  The AFTV is presently configured for verification of acoustic targets in the water column during NOAA’s Herring Acoustic Survey (RV DELAWARE II cruise DE200615). The AFTV provides a universal platform in which acoustical, optical and environmental sensors are integrated. The AFTV electronics convert these data to ethernet signals that are transmitted through the 2000 m of fiberoptic cable to a laptop providing network ready information.  For example, real-time underwater video images during cruise operations can be viewed from a computer on land provided satellite transmission.  The advantage of this towfish is that new technologies, such as newly developed sensors, can be readily plugged into the towbody’s ethernet-based electronics to accomplish various cruise objectives.  The AFTV can be reconfigured during future cruises for marine habitat classification (video mosaics and acoustic classification of the seafloor).

Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.
Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.

We also had the chance to learn how to use the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). This computerized system is used for electronically recording data from the biological sampling that will be completed on board.  Nancy McHugh, a fisheries biologist and FSCS administrator from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, showed us how to operate the system and record our information accurately.  In the past, data had to be hand-recorded, and errors were not caught until months later.  Nowadays, using the FSCS allows us to digitally record measurement data, such as lengths and weights, in real time and gives us the advantage of computer-audited data which flags the scientists for potential errors.

Afterwards, Dr. Jech explained the ship’s Scientific Computer System (SCS) located on the bridge of the ship. This PC-based system continuously collects information from more than a hundred sensors on board. Information about the ship’s location and route, weather conditions, ocean conditions and biological sampling is gathered, recorded and synchronized on these computers.  We also practiced entering data into computers using the SCS Event Log program which documents all operational events, such as each time the scientists lower sensors into the water or collect fish samples.

Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow

Personal Log

It was great to witness the experimental launching of a new piece of scientific equipment.  I think my fifth graders would be really excited to witness firsthand this underwater vehicle being placed in the water. It looks like a large yellow plastic box with metal pipes that make up the frame.  Attached to the back are “wings” that help to stabilize it, and in the front are spotlights and video equipment to take pictures of fish. It is controlled by joysticks and computers on board the ship. It is like an underwater robot.  Very cool! I think it is also an invaluable learning experience for me to see the process of scientific experimentation happening right here on board the ship. Between the calibrations, setting up the Scientific Computer System, and launching the AFTV, I have witnessed scientists and crewmembers informally using various scientific methods to find better solutions and problem solve when the unexpected arises.

Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.
Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.

It is exciting to see science experiments happening every day, with real people in a real-life context, instead reading about it from a worksheet or having that intangible image in my mind of a mad scientist in a white lab coat stirring a beaker of something bubbling.  Science is accessible to everybody!  You don’t have to be in a fancy laboratory or have the latest equipment.  It can be done inside or out, on a boat or in your backyard. Science encompasses so many fields and is available to anyone with a curious mind.  I am excited to share this realization with my students and make science more real to them.

Question of the Day

Two words that I am using aboard the ship are “starboard” and “port”.  What do these two words mean?  Where do they come from, and why are they important to use when on board a ship? 

Jill Carpenter, September 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 6, 2006

The Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.
The AFTV is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Science and Technology Log

It has been a busy day aboard the DELAWARE II as we are preparing to get underway on Friday or Saturday. The uncertainty about our departure date is due to the set-up and system testing of the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV). The AFTV is a recently constructed submersible vehicle that is designed to use acoustical and optical sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.  Because the AFTV has not previously been set up on the ship, performance tests may require more than one day.  The ship will remain in Woods Hole until the AFTV system is ready.

This morning, we began with a continued effort to calibrate the hydroacoustic systems using the copper sphere attached to the downriggers with fishing line. We were successful in placing the copper sphere in the hydroacoustic beam, but again had to postpone our efforts due to seaweed interference.  We now plan on completing the calibrations in Cape Cod Bay. The remainder of the morning and afternoon was spent helping to load and organize additional supplies on board.  A lot of thought goes into securing items on the ship in order to prevent them from falling or rolling around when we are at sea.

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

The more I see scientists and crewmembers securing equipment, the more concerned I become about maintaining my balance on board the ship. In the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s “Manual for First-time Sailors,” the advice is to use your life preserver to “wedge” yourself against your bunk rail to avoid being tossed around when sleeping.  From the preparations I am witnessing aboard the ship, it looks like I will be taking this advice! My work day finished with helping Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech secure computer equipment to the ship. We did this by using wood boards, screws and tape to attach equipment to immobile objects.  I found it comical to tape down the computer keyboards.  This ship may be pitching more than I expect! I learned a bit of ship trivia that I found interesting.  A ship’s foghorn is used to communicate many messages.

The following are the meanings of some sound patterns of a ship’s foghorn: 1 prolonged blast = the ship is leaving the port; 1 prolonged blast every 2 minutes = the ship is steaming (traveling) through fog; 1 prolonged blast followed by 2 short blasts every 2 minutes = the ship is fishing in fog; 5 short blasts = danger, get out of the way! 1 prolonged blast followed by 3 short blasts = the ship is leaving the dock in reverse

Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.
Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.

Personal Log

It amazes me how much preparation and behind-the-scenes work goes into getting ready for a fisheries research trip.  Everyone is hurrying around the ship, completing last-minute duties and running tests on electronic equipment.  They have all been very friendly and patient with me; I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the entire crew of the DELAWARE II.

I spent the evening typing logs and adjusting the size of my digital pictures to fulfill space requirements on emails.  I find it challenging and somewhat time consuming to “translate” all of the scientific explanations into language that is more friendly to a room of elementary school students (and to myself as well!). I am grateful to several members of the crew for their input and suggestions on the wording of certain complex concepts. My evening ended with a walk into the village of Woods Hole.  I find Woods Hole such an interesting and charming little town.  Located on the southwest corner of Cape Cod, Woods Hole has developed into a world leader in marine and fisheries research.  This scientific community is the home of the world renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), each contributing great advances to the field of marine science research.

TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.
TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.

Don’t worry, Hutchison Farm Elementary, I haven’t forgotten about you! I am sure there is just as much hustle and bustle going on there during the first week of school!  I am anxious to see each one of you; I know I can expect a very mature and intelligent group of fifth graders.  Thanks so much for being on your best behavior for Mrs. Nelson! I have been sleeping like a rock on board the ship.  I am  appreciating these restful nights now because I don’t know if I can count on a peaceful night sleep once we are out to sea! The food is also very good, and I am becoming known for my big appetite. The chefs, Dennis and John, are excellent cooks.  I look forward to each meal they serve.  Looks like I won’t be losing any weight!

Question of the Day 

1. The NOAA scientists and crewmembers need to bring many materials on board with them when they go to sea. If they forget something, they will not be able to return to get it, and there are no stores in the middle of the ocean.

a. What would you bring to sea with you if you were going for a week?

b. What would you absolutely need to bring with you?

c. What if you could only bring 10 items?  What would they be?

d. What if you were only able to bring 5 items? What would they be?  Two items?

My stateroom, or bedroom, on board the DELAWARE II
My stateroom, or bedroom, on board 
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA

Jill Carpenter, September 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 5, 2006

NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

Weather Data from Bridge
Weather data not collected while in port

Science and Technology Log

I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday evening. After a short walk through town, I came upon the Northeast Fisheries Science Center building and NOAA pier where the DELAWARE II was docked.  For the next 10 days, this vessel will be completing part 1 of a 3-leg Hydroacoustic (water-sound) Survey, and I will be a part of it!  I will bring back the knowledge and experiences that I gain and share these with my classroom of fifth grade students in South Riding, Virginia. The DELAWARE II is a stern trawler ship, which means that it is designed to catch fish and other sea life in nets from the rear (stern) of the ship.  The ship was built in 1968, is 155 ft long, and displaces 600 tons of water.

Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.
Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.

The purpose of this survey is to estimate the number of certain species of northwest Atlantic pelagic (mid-water) fish.  The ship will use technologies such as multifrequency and omni (all) directional sonar to provide information about the fish.  We will also take select samples of certain species for biological data, such as weight, length, age, and prey items (stomach contents). 

After breakfast, my roommate and I helped research fisheries biologist Dr.Mike Jech and herring biologist Karen Bolles load equipment needed for the trip.  Some of the supplies loaded were computer equipment, tool boxes, life vests, and equipment for collecting and measuring fish, such as large plastic baskets, measuring boards, and waterproof labels.

About mid-morning, we shifted piers from the NOAA pier to the neighboring Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) pier.  The first goal, before getting underway, was to calibrate the sonar systems on board.  We needed to calibrate to make sure the system is working properly and to maintain consistency and standardize this survey to all previous hydroacoustic surveys. This helps scientists to find the fish they are researching and obtain important information about them such as behavior and size of the schools.

Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port
Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port

The calibration is accomplished by lowering a copper sphere, which is about the size of an orange, below the hull of the ship so that it is in the hydroacoustic beams.  The acoustic beam is shaped like a flashlight beam. This process should be performed at slack tide (when the water is moving the least) so we have the most control of the sphere. The copper ball will bounce an echo back to the ship, and the scientists can translate that data into information that will make sense to them. It took patience to calibrate the sonar system.  First, Mike, Karen and I worked to position the copper sphere so that it was in the sonar beams.  This was done by using downriggers (which are like large fishing reels) and fishing line to lower and adjust the copper sphere below the hull. We eventually had to postpone the calibration because of the high amount of seaweed that interfered with the echo from the sphere. I also had the opportunity to receive a tour of the fore deck of the boat.  Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych showed me around the bow and explained some of the equipment to me, such as the hawse pipe (the tube where the anchor chain drops down) and the wildcat (the drive that lifts the anchor chain and anchor. Also, I learned that rope on board a ship is called “line”.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.
Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.

Personal Log

When I first caught sight of the DELAWARE II, my new home for the next 10 days, I was in awe. It looked to me like a ship that you would see on the Discovery Channel!  It has so much technical equipment on board, and the ship seems so large when you are standing next to it on the pier. It was a different story when I got on board!  The hallways are more narrow than I am used to, and my room is only about 7’ x 10’ but sleeps 4 people!  I have quickly become used to the size of the interior of the ship and have learned how to maneuver quickly around the passageways.

I am most fearful of becoming seasick while on board.  I keep my motion-sickness medicine and wristbands with me at all times.  I am still a little worried, though, since I can already feel the ship rocking and we haven’t even let the port yet!

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.

I have been thinking of my students today and wondering how their first day of fifth-grade is going. I am looking forward to returning and getting to know each one of you!  I hope your year is off to a good start and I am eager to share my experience with all of you! Take care of Mrs. Nelson!

Question of the Day

1. How old is the DELAWARE II?

2. What does it mean to “displace” water?  Can you think of a time when you have displaced water?

3. I learned that lengths of chain are measured in “shots” instead of feet or meters.  A shot is 90 feet of chain. If 5 shots of chain are needed to be released in order for the anchor to touch bottom, how much chain will that be?

Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA
Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA