Cathrine Fox: Issue Ten: Red King Crabs, a twenty word synopsis

JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 7, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 57.33° N, Longitude: 152.02° W
Air Temperature: 10.6° C
Water temperature: 9.3° C
Wind Speed/Direction:8.25kn/338.45
Barometric Pressure: 1017.59
Partly cloudy (35%) and sun

Personal Log:

First things first: we have left the dock! We are surrounded by sea!

Being at sea is lovely. Pulling out of Women’s Bay a few of us went up above the bridge to the “flying bridge” (aptly named, as you are up in the air with the birds) for a view. In the mouth of the bay, sea otters swam through bull kelp forests and a humpback whale breached right off of the bow. Although horned puffins were more numerous by the Coast Guard pier, the farther we got offshore, the more tufted puffins there were. Pelagic (?) cormorants used the buoys as platforms to dry their wings and later, when we tested the net reels, Northern fulmars and black-footed albatross sailed in to see if we were pulling in fish: as if they were classically conditioned. The movement of the ship makes me feel sleepy when I am without a porthole; other than that, I haven’t felt any adverse effects at all. I love it.

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 10
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 10

I also feel really lucky to be working with such an interesting group of people. One of the scientists, Dr. Jodi Pirtle (now at the University of New Hampshire) studied juvenile Red King Crabs for her dissertation at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Science, Juneau. It is because of her and requests from three of you out there in cyber-land that Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 10 explores the natural history of these interesting organisms. I hope you enjoy Red King Crabs, a twenty word synopsis. (Cartoon citation 1. Hint: the twenty word synopsis starts with “I bite.”)

Science and Technology Log:

    Oscar Dyson's multibeam echo sounder
Oscar Dyson’s multibeam echo sounder

I came on shift this morning at 4am and immediately was able to take part in some really interesting work. Jodi (the scientist that shared her juvenile crab research) is working on mapping habitats in untrawlable places of the ocean floor using acoustic and other methods. During the night, the ship will be driven in tight transects over areas that she has identified as being potentially “untrawlable:” rocky ledges, areas with lots of pinnacles, or other areas with un-level bottoms. The ship’s multibeam echo sounder broadcasts and receives signals, providing an acoustic map of the floor. Three times during the trawl, Jodi will lower a camera down to the bottom to get live feed on what the habitat looks like.

This morning we tested the stereo video camera and lowered it 78.81 meters down. Watching it was like being able to control a live feed on the Discovery Channel! Euphausiids (krill) swarmed the lights, a huge burgundy colored halibut swam along the silty bottom, flat fish, pacific cod and a sturgeon poacher perused the camera and mushroom-like anemones called Netridium farcimen swayed with the currents.

In last summer’s cartoon series (Pura Vida Adventures, Issue 2), I quoted Stephen Sharnoff: The eye often cannot see what the mind does not already know” to explain how difficult it was to see lichen diversity until you knew what you were looking for. I think the reverse is true for life on the ocean floor. I know that the ocean is very alive. Seeing it 80 meters down in the pre-dawn light as if it were a bustling city is an all together different experience.

In the future, I will try to capture a few stills directly from the live video feed. For now, I will leave you with a few other images of science, technology and shipboard life.

Until our next adventure,

Lowering the stereo-video-camera.
Lowering the stereo-video-camera.
Jodi "drives" the lowered stereo-video-camera, watching the live feed.
Jodi “drives” the lowered stereo-video-camera, watching the live feed.
Darin Jones brakes while Jodi drives.
Darin Jones brakes while Jodi drives.
Dawn in Kalsin Bay, Kodiak.
Dawn in Kalsin Bay, Kodiak.
Deploying the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT): click here to find out more
Deploying the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT): click here to find out more

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