Thomas Ward, September 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date:  September 17, 2010

Getting into the Swing of Things

Deploying the grab

A routine has finally set in here for me and the cruise is almost over.  I have never been on a “cruise” before, Carnival, Princess, Disney, nothing like that for me.  Now I can proudly say that I went on a cruise with NOAA.  The day starts out for me with getting out of my bunk around 8am.  That is when breakfast formally ends but the galley always has cereal set out, bread for toast, and almost all the amenities you might find in your own kitchen.  So, if I do not get something from the cooks I throw something together myself.  I then go into an office like room that is called the data plot room.  It has a couple of computers for our use and a ton of equipment.  There are a few monitors that keep track of some of the ships vital statistics that are interesting to look at.  I work on my blog for usually around 3-4 hours here and by that time I am pretty close to my shift which starts at noon.  I eat lunch and go to the science lab to start my shift.  If we are moving to our next sampling station we prepare sample jars and such to get ready.  There is sometimes down time between stations to get other things done.  If I do step out of the lab for something it is kind of cool because I know when to report because you can feel the ship slowing down for the next sampling station.  We then assemble, put on our rain gear, float coats and hard hats and perform the three sampling stations that I mentioned in earlier blogs.  The bridge and the deck crew work together communicating over walkie talkies.  The bridge positions the ship directly over the sampling station and notifies the deck crew.  Then the deck crew deploys the gear while the bridge maintains the correct speed and bearing for the specific type of gear that is being used.  It is truly a coordinated effort between everyone.  Two stations are at the stern of the ship and the other is on the port side.

The benthic sled samples get washed down through a sieve and put into a jar and preserved.  The jars are the size of peanut butter jars and we have approximately  200, we are at station number 53. So that means we have stopped and sampled 53 times thus far.  Remember the sled is designed to capture plankton (he was reported to be stealing the secret formula) which are very small organisms.  The benthic grab collects substrate which is also sieved and one part frozen in gallon freezer bags and the other part in jars with preservative.  The beam trawl is your classic fishing net that gets dragged behind the boat.   This catch is dumped into a small kiddie pool and sorted.  This activity draws other people besides the scientists, everyone pitches in and asks a ton of question which are happily answered.  Remember this is a juvenile flat fish survey so we are mainly interested in fish that 1-3 inches long.

How many different organisms can you spot?

This process goes on and off for the duration of the shift, it is like clockwork.  Everyone on board knows the general mission and each individual has a task to complete that helps meet the mission.  As far as this on looker can tell, the mission is being very successfully accomplished.

Stay tuned, even though it is the weekend, I have been accumulating questions and will answer them soon.


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