Linda Tatreau, MARCH 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
DAte: March 2, 2010

BRIDGES

The BRIDGES of Farallon de Mendinilla and the Oscar Elton SetteWe lost half of the science team in Saipan. The fun work of surveying fish populations is over so the AUV, BotCam and BRUV teams have headed for home. A tsunami at sea is not felt by ships, but the tsunami warning came while we were still at the dock. We were alert and ready to depart, but fortunately for us and the entire Pacific, the tsunami didn’t materialize.

Me checking out the pings
Me checking out the pings

We are now mapping the seafloor around the island of Farallon de Mendinilla. The ship goes back and forth over a given area much like “mowing the lawn,” in fact they frequently refer to it that way. We will be doing this for about 12 days. The data comes into the ship’s computers and the clean-up work begins. Two or three people work at the computers day and night cleaning the data. The sonar sends out 3 or 4 pings per second. Each ping has 101 beams. Every beam of the multibeam sonar makes a dot on the computer screen. Some of the dots lie outside the target area and must be zapped. This is time consuming, tedious work. I am learning and I cleaned three paths yesterday. I am incredibly slow and have to stop frequently to get additional instructions. (That’s me on the left, hard at work.)

The BRIDGE of Farallon de Mendinilla (or is it a tunnel? or a cave? )
The BRIDGE of Farallon de Mendinilla (or is it a tunnel? or a cave? )
The island is small (1.6 miles long by 0.25 mile wide) with only grass and shrubs―not even one coconut palm. There are a lot of birds: frigates, boobies, terns, and other species. We’ve seen whales on three occasions. The ones that were close enough to identify were humpback whales.
The island is small (1.6 miles long by 0.25 mile wide) with only grass and shrubs
The island is small (1.6 miles long by 0.25 mile wide) with only grass and shrubs
The BRIDGE of the Oscar Elton Sette is where the officers drive the ship, plot courses, handle navigational concerns and communications. I’ve had two tours of the bridge and am amazed by the electronics and complexity of each system. Rather than a description, I’ll just give you a few pictures.

Eric showing one of the ship's many charts.
Eric showing one of the ship’s many charts.
The steering wheel is considerable smaller than I expected.
The steering wheel is considerable smaller than I expected.

Chart table used for plotting the course. GPS is also used, but charts are kept in case the power fails.
Chart table used for plotting the course. GPS is also used, but charts are kept in case the power fails.
The iridium phone works via satellite. The crew can use it for personal calls during non-business hours (East Coast to Hawaii). That doesn't leave much time but it is also available on weekends.
The iridium phone works via satellite. The crew can use it for personal calls during non-business hours (East Coast to Hawaii). That doesn’t leave much time but it is also available on weekends.
Mike is reflected in the radar. The red triangle just right of center is Farallon de Mendinilla.
Mike is reflected in the radar. The red triangle just right of center is Farallon de Mendinilla.
This sign on the bridge lets the skipper know that there are fishing lines off the stern.
This sign on the bridge lets the skipper know that there are fishing lines off the stern.

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