Elizabeth Warren, July 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 10 2010

Another day.. more and more

Footage from the Camera Array

Footage from the Camera Array

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Water: 30.3 ℃ (which is 86.5℉ ) Air: 29.6 ℃
Wind: 2.55 knots
Swell: .2 meters
Location: 27. 51° N, 93.18° W
Weather: Sunny, Humidity 62%, 25% cloud cover

Science/Technology Log:

Chip from Temperature Depth Recorder

Chip from Temperature Depth Recorder

Each time we drop the camera array at a site attached to the aluminum case is a little device called a Temperature Depth Recorder or a TDR. It measures exactly that. As the camera array sinks to the bottom it records the temperature and depth. When the camera array is brought back on board the ship one of the scientists unclip it and bring it into the lab. To get the information off you hit it once with a magnet that communicates with the chip inside telling it you want to download the information. Then the scientist places a stylus on the device and it downloads the information to the computer. The data is saved under the name of the site and then the information is entered into a spreadsheet that converts the information to the psi to meters. To clear the TDR you hit it four times with the magnet and when it flashes red it is clear! This is a picture of Kevin explaining to Anne Marie and I how to work the TDR.

At every site a CTD is also dropped into the water. A CTD (Conductivity Temperature Recorder) gives a hydrographic (use your Greek roots) profile of the water column. The CTD is attached to the bottom of a rosette or carousel that also contains water sampling bottles. Attached to the rosette is also a conductive wire that sends information to the lab. Mike, the survey technician, comes into the lab after every camera array is dropped and runs the CTD process. The CTD is placed in the water and allowed to acclimate for 3 minutes before they begin taking readings. The CTD is dropped to the bottom of the seafloor and Mike monitors from the dry lab. Also, once a week Mike also uses the water bottles. To take a sample they use a remote from inside the dry lab to trigger the bottles to close them. The thing that kept sticking in my mind is that at one point all of this was done by hand, someone had to do the math and all of these tests!


Data from the CTD

Data from the CTD

In the morning Kevin goes through the video footage from the previous day and for each site he identifies what is on the bottom of the seafloor “sandy flat bottom”, “rock shelf” and then he identifies briefly any fish that he sees. When he is doing this process being in the lab is necessary because he will call us over anytime he sees a neat fish and explain how he can tell what the species is. Today, we dropped the camera array in 8 different sites within Bright Bank sites. The two chevron fish traps brought up a whole lot of nothing. On the bandit reel we caught one fish. It was a sand tile fish (Malacanthus pulmieri). Anne-Marie weighed and measured him and then we threw him back. I was really proud of her because she doesn’t really like fish, but she put gloves on and did everything! Today was a little frustrating it even got Kevin a little down.
Frustrated Kevin

Frustrated Kevin

Personal Log:
Chief Steward Jessie Stiggins

Chief Steward Jessie Stiggins

Kevin calls living on board being “lovingly incarcerated” beacuse you are stuck here but you are well taken care of. For instance, Ohhh, the food! The Chief Steward, Jessie Stiggins is keeping us well fed. Every morning the meals are posted in the mess for everyone to see. We learned from Captain Jerry that food on the ship is very important and is actually a part of the contract. In the contract it states that lunch and dinner must include a prepared dessert. “Plain cake shall not constitute a prepared dessert but a cake with icing shall.” We have had dessert with every meal! Some of the desserts are Coconut Crème Pie, French Silk Pie, White cake with fluffy whip-cream frosting and strawberries, cookies, and pecan pie to name a few. Plus there is a freezer full of ice cream which oddly enough I haven’t gotten into yet. Right now, I’m in seafood heaven… we have had halibut, calamari, and catfish. Throughout the trip it has just gotten more impressive! We’ve had stuffed chicken breasts, rack of lamb, filet mignon, lobster, a taco bar, the amberjack that Ryan caught, and pulled pork. Jessie is saving the menu’s for us so we can show them off when we get back.
Me piloting the ship

Me piloting the ship

A few nights ago, Captain Jerry let Anne Marie and I drive the ship. He explained that we were driving a 52 million dollar vessel with 30 lives on board, as if I wasn’t nervous already. We were moving to the next days work area so the bridge would be driving there all night. Anne Marie went first and I listened as Captain Jerry and Ensign Kelly Schill explained how to drive and the proper language. Everywhere you go on the ship there is certain etiquette for the way you talk and the way you dress. (No tank tops in the mess and closed toe shoes everywhere but your stateroom.) When you are steering you are following a set course with a gyroscopic compass as well as a digital heading reading, you are steering the rudder by degrees. You state the heading in single digits so 173 would be one seven three. We were driving in the dark so they had all the lights off and they even had red flashlights so they wouldn’t ruin their night vision. Anne Marie and I both got a chance to turn the ship in circles. Anne Marie even did a Williamson turn, which is done when there is a man overboard. You turn 60° to the left and then an equal amount to the other side so you are back on your course but turned around to pick up the person who is overboard. When she was doing this, the ETA to the next way point changed from 6:10 am to NEVER. We both laughed pretty hard! Dynamic Positioning system that is the automatic pilot is called Betty, she talks to the crew on the bridge and is extremely polite. The Captain promised to show us how to turn the DP on and off. Everything on the bridge is electronic. You can click a button and see how much fresh water is on board, how much fuel, which engines are working and even wake someone up! I’m consistently in awe of how much technology goes into running a ship of this magnitude. Tomorrow Chief Engineer Garett is giving us a tour of the engine room. In fact he told me he is going to make us espresso and then take us down! I’m really, really, having a great time!

The water here is so blue! It’s a different shade of blue than the Pacific or Puget Sound. It’s bluer than green that’s the difference, there is no green. Even the seaweed isn’t green it’s a brownish yellow color, it’s called sargassum. The exchange intern Jose used a line and a hook to catch some so I could bring it back to show off. Looking over the side you often spot giant fish swimming along because the visibility is so high. This made me think of a lot of questions to ask Kevin tomorrow: Are there algae/plankton blooms in the Gulf? If so where do they happen? Does the temperature vary depending on the time of year or is it always warm? What do hurricanes do to the sea creatures? Have you noticed a rise or fall after a hurricane?

Being on board a ship makes me feel like I’m 7 years old again and I don’t want to go to bed because I’m sure my parents are making me miss whatever fun thing they are doing at night. I don’t want to go to my stateroom, I wish I could be everywhere at once, on the bridge talking to the Captain and asking questions, listening to the stories of the crew, watching them fish, talking to the birders up on the flying deck, sitting in the lab and listening to the scientists joke or explain how to identify a fish or a coral or an algae. I wish I were able to be out here longer although, I have to say having a shorter cruise does make me appreciate every minute.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s