NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin C. Sullivan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
August 17 — September 2, 2011
I arrived into Kodiak Island late Wednesday night. I came in around midnight local time, which put my total travel time for the day somewhere in the 17-hour range! Coupled with a time difference of 4 hours from the East Coast I was surely in need of some downtime.
After some rest, the next day I was able to explore a bit of Kodiak Island until the remaining crew came into town. I went to the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center, as well as some local museums and other points of interest. Despite the rain and fog, I walked around and really enjoyed the opportunity to explore in seclusion. Later that evening, the rest of the scientific crew arrived into Kodiak, we all met up and grabbed some dinner and introduced ourselves and spoke of our future together.
Thursday was continued with more overcast, socked in pea-fog conditions, with visibility coming down to <.25 mile at times. Our trip was supposed to leave early in the morning this day which was delayed until 3:00 PM and then again delayed until 1:00 PM the following day (Friday the 20th). The delays were a result of having to wait for a specific part that the boat needed prior to leaving port. Due to the added delay, we decided to go investigate some intel from locals about Kodiak Bear spotting sites. Luckily enough, we found them taking advantage of pink and coho salmon spawns occurring. The Kodiak bear, in preparation for winter and hibernation, must gorge itself leading up to the cold winter months. The salmon spawns coinciding with this bear’s requirement are a perfect example of evolution and “nature’s clock” at work. It reminds me of the Horseshoe crab back in NJ wherein their eggs laid in the spring become the food for the migratory red knot bird coming all the way from South America. The timing is just perfect. The Kodiak seems to target the brains of the salmon as well as the belly of this fish where the eggs are located (you can see this in the picture I took below of the pink Salmon). This ensures that every bite is as most calorically packed as possible with the warmer days ending and winter approaching.
Friday morning all scientists and new crew attended a meeting at 8:30 A.M. to discuss the logistics of the trip. Specifically, the lead scientist, Ed Farley, reviewed how the average day was going to unfold with the various investigations going on. The goal seems to be to get to three stations a day with each station consisting of acoustics studies, oceanography, zooplankton and lastly, a fishing trawl. Conducting this much research all on one boat in one trip is quite ambitious and unique in the marine world. I will be getting into the details of these activities as the trip gets underway. Lastly, the meeting included a debriefing on vessel safety.
So far, the trip has been eye-opening. It is amazing to be able to experience the amount of planning and logistics that must go into an expedition of this magnitude. Every corner I turn, there are crew-members busily working and focused on their duties. The ship itself is analogous to a bee’s nest and its crew members the bees themselves. They are all performing certain functions all for a common goal. It is also very inspiring to see how passionate these leading scientists and crew members are about the work they do. It is truly contagious and has reinvigorated my own passion for the sciences.