NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
May 23 – June 10, 2009
Mission: Woods Hole and Hawaii Ocean Time Series
Geographic Region: Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 5, 2008
The old buoy came back on board today. First, an acoustic signal was sent to a device located just above the anchor, which released, severing the connection between the anchor and the 80 glass balls above. These glass balls (encased in yellow plastic) are buoyant, but they live deep underwater. They keep the bottom of the rope off of the sea floor and the anchor, and they aid in recovery. The balls come speeding up, but since they have such a long trip, it takes them 40 minutes or so. I guess sometimes balls get crushed on descent, and others on ascent, so the pile of recovered glass balls includes some that are destroyed. One is shown here. Then came miles of nylon and synthetic line, enough to refill those empty boxes, and then the instruments began coming aboard (CTDs and current meters). First came the deepest instruments, looking shiny and new. At slightly shallower depths, we began to see some biology – some nice clean mussel-ish thingies as big as your thumb.
Then the buoy itself came aboard. While it is floating, you can’t remove all the instruments below it or it becomes unstable, without that weight pulling it down. So before the last submerged instruments came up, the buoy came aboard. This was a rocking, dangerous, awkward event, with the buoy slamming against the ship. When I asked if this buoy recovery was typical, I was told, in the nautical style of curt understatements, that this was “not a good one”. The buoy itself was covered with barnacle-like things, crabs, slime and, on top, bird droppings. If you got sick in the zoo’s bird house, cleaning this baby is not a job for you. (Cleaning this baby was, by the way, a job for pretty much every science person on board, from chief scientists and technicians on down to lowly observers like me.)
After the buoy was on deck, we recovered the shallowest, and thereby most biologically covered instruments. These had critters and slime. The sticker on this one says “25 meters”. Can you read it? Can you find it? I was on watch until 4 am this morning, so I actually slept through the early stages of buoy recovery, specifically the glass balls ascending. I woke up for lunch (beef pot pie – the beef bearing significant resemblance to last night’s prime rib. I’m not complaining, leftover prime rib is a-okay with me!)
The area around the old buoy was fertile fishing ground, but the scientists require everyone to wait until everything is recovered before casting. This is to avoid tangling fishing lines around science tools. During the nearly daylong recovery operation, the fishermen aboard were salivating over the mahimahi and ahi they saw circling. Finally, they got two lines in and quickly caught two small ahi. Here’s Paul, who gets the award for catching the first.
He was a little embarrassed to strike a pose with a relatively small fish, so I promised him I’d throw this picture away once he catches a bigger one. As of press time, he’s had no such luck.