NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 16, 2008
This bird came by for a visit. I think is a type of hawk or a falcon. Can anyone identify it for me? We have been trying but can’t seem to figure out what kid of hawk this is. In any case, it stopped by and perched on the bow just out of the blue when we were about 80 miles from shore. I wonder how it got here? Was it blown out to sea by a storm? Did it follow a ship looking for food? Is it lost? I hope it finds its way back.
It was foggy during the early morning and the ship had to blow its fog horn. I found out that ships use a code when they sail. One long blast means we are steaming ahead. One long and two short blasts means we have equipment such as nets in the water and cannot manuver as quickly. Listen by clicking here.
We found more spoon armed octopi. Can you see that one of the arms has a little spoon like object at the end? The male has an arm shaped like a spoon. Can you see it in this picture?
A sea anemone. This opens up and tenticles appear. They wave their tenticles in the water to collect food. When fish like Nemo, the clown fish, go into a sea anomone, it will sting the fish, so the clown fish backs in which helps it tolerate the sting.
Here is an interesting story: We were approaching a station where we were expecting to take a sample from the water with our nets. Do you see the note in the chart that says “Unexploded Ordinance?” (you can click on the chart to make it bigger). that means there are bombs from an old ship that may still be active! We decided to move our trawl to a nearby area. When we did, look what came up in the nets! Part of an old ship! The coordinates are Latitude: 42°27’23.65″N and Longitude: 68°51’59.12″E. Here is that location on Google Earth. What could have happened way out here? CLE students, tell me the story of that wreck. Be creative. Please print them out and leave them for me on Monday. Make them fun to read. I am bringing back what came up in the net for you to see. When I get back, we will see if we can do some research and find out what really happened!
Now lets meet Phil Politis, our Chief Scientist on board the Bigelow. I asked him to tell us about his job. Here is what he said:
The main job of a chief scientists is to meet the goals and objectives of the the scientific mission. In our case, that is, to pair up with the ship Albatross in as many stations as possible, following their route. My day to day job is to coordinate with the officers, and crew, setting the nets properly, make sure that the samples are processed properly and solving problems as they arise. Say we have an issue with the nets. It is the chief scientists job to decide what to do next. I can accept the tow, code it as a problem, or re-do the tow. I have to look at each issue individually. If we tear on the bottom, will it happen again? Is there time to re-tow? I also coordinate with the other vessel.
My title is fisheries biologist, but I am a specialist in the nets. My background is in trawl standardization. We have to ensure that our nets are constructed, maintained and that we fish same way each time. Small changes in nets can effect how the nets fish and that effects the study. That way we can compare this years catch to next years catch. Remember, this study is called a time series. Over time, you can see changes to fish population. The only way you can trust those numbers is if the nets are the same each time we put them in the water year after year, tow after tow. We have to document what we are doing now so that in the future, people know how and what we were doing. This way the time series remains standard. We have to standardize materials the nets are made of, way they are repaired. We inspect the nets each time we come on here. We train the deck crews in the maintenance and repair of our nets.
Mrs. Christie-Blick’s Class:
You asked some AMAZING questions. I’m so proud of you guys. Drl Kunkel was impressed as well. Here is what He told me:
You asked: What is your proof that these lobster shells are softer than other lobster shells? How do you measure hardness:
We have an engineering department at U Mass and one of the projects they have to do to become materials engineers is to test for hardness and they do an indentation test. Another way is to shoot x rays at shell and we can tell how hard it is by how the x rays scatter.
You asked: What is causing the harmful bacteria in the water?
We don’t know if they are harmful bacteria. My theory is that it could be the same normal bacteria that are on the backs of healthy lobsters. We think it is the weakness in the new lobster shells because of environmental influences south of Cape Cod that causes the trouble.
You asked: Can you get rid of the harmful bacteria?
It is possible to reverse the environmental conditions that have been created by us or by mother nature.
You are right about these sources of pollution. Good thinking. And yes, Dr. Kunkel believes that one or more of these factors may be hurting the lobsters. The problem area is south of Cape Cod. Look on a map today and count the number of cities between New York and Boston. Is this an area with a lot of people and pollution or is this an area that is sparsely populated?How would you expect this area to compare to areas where the lobster population is healthier off of Maine and Nova Scotia? Do the problem areas for the lobster and the pollution occur in the same area? If they match, scientists say there is a correlation between the two and they wonder if one is causing the other. What do you think?
Hag fish did gross me out a little. Interestingly, there is no way to determine the age of this fish as there are with others, so I’m not sure we can even tell you how long they live.
Several of you asked about the red dots on the lobster. They are a disease. It is called shell disease.
The lobster on the right is healthy. I just love this picture so I thought I would share it.
SR, the water temperature is about 16 degrees C last time I checked.
MF, nice to meet you. It is really cool to be a Teacher At Sea.
DTR, my favorite thing about this trip is working with you guys from the middle of the ocean.
MR, Snuggy and Zee are having loads of fun touring the ship.
CF: I will try to count the teeth of a fish and tell you what I find. Sometimes they are hard to see. I do not know if I am going back next year, but I hope so. I like being at sea. The truth is, I like being on land too. Both are nice. Thanks for writing.
BS: No, we find mostly adults, but some babies. Many creatures are small as adults.
BV: We have seen lots of jellyfish. We had so many we had to hose down the lab at the end of our session the other day. They were everywhere.
GS: We will continue to take samples here.
TL and Many Others asked how long we put the cups down for: We put the cups down for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it takes to lower the CTD to the bottom. When it gets to the bottom, it comes right back up. Thanks all for writing.
AS: Right you are!
Good job calculating all those who got 984 feet!
MM, I love the adventures I’m having here and the people I am meeting. It has been fun. I like being on land too.
JS, Dr. Kunkel took samples from some lobsters so he could help cure the disease.
KF: Could the hag fish bit us? Yes, Mel Underwood, our Watch Chief was very careful as she held the bag and backed her hands up when the fish got close to her hands. Mel is very experienced working with sea life and I have never seen her back off the way she did with this thing.
HRF: Go for it! It is a cool job!
CF: Good question. No, your bones are a lot stronger than styrofoam, so you would have to go down many miles to hurt yourself, and you could not swim that far without gear. When divers get hurt from pressure changes, it is usually something different called the bends. This happens when you are swim up to fast and certain gases in your blood stream expand as the pressure increases and form bubbles that can hurt you. Divers have to swim up slowly (the usual rule is don’t go up faster than the air bubbles next to you) in order to avoid getting the bends.
DC: Good questions: The dots are not bacteria on the lobster, they are the result of the bacteria eating away parts of the shell. The actual bacteria are too small to see. Good question about he temperature relating to growth. It is a bit more complex than that. There are many factors at work. The factor that may be causing more bacteria are chemicals like fertilizers from land getting into the water.
Dr. Kunkel came on board to study lobsters. He is a biologist, not a medical doctor. There are many scientists on board working with us, and me with them.
The quadrent is an old invention. People have been able to find their way with the stars for thousands of years. It is an ancient art. It was fun to practice it here.
SF, VF and others: The fish stayed in the bag. We made sure of that. From the bag, we put it back in the sea.
SD, sorry, I can’t help you there. I don’t think a pet skate would survive the trip back to NY.
Several of you have asked if I have gotten sick. No, I have not.
How many lobsters have we caught so far? Lots!
SS, sleeping on a boat if fun. If the waves are small, they rock you to sleep. If they are huge, however, they throw you out of bed!’
CP: bacteria infect the shells of the lobsters. This destroys the protection that the lobster should have. They grow weak and die of other causes. Good question!
Why do we work at night? Because ships work 24 hours a day so that no time is wasted. I ended up on the night shift. Why do we wear suits? To stay warm and dry on deck.
The hagfish eat shrimp and small fish, though they are scavengers and can eat large creatures as well.
Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class, you guys are doing some great work. I check on the skates for you. Some skates have protection, like thorns or spikes. They also have some interesting fins that look almost like feet. They use these to “walk” along the bottom searching for food. I know you asked about skates, but I have to mention the ray I worked with yesterday. It is related to the skate and could shock with an electrical charge for both protection and for hunting prey. Cool!