NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 7 – 20, 2012
Mission: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Summer Groundfish (SEAMAP) Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Tuesday June 12, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sea temperature 28 degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius, building seas.
Science and Technology Log
Today I want to discuss the neuston net. This is a very large net made out of finely woven mesh which is deployed (shoved off the side of the boat) in order to catch plankton. There are three types of plankton: phytoplankton (plants and algae), zooplankton (animals), and ichytoplankton (baby fish). The neuston net rides along the surface of the water for ten minutes scooping up any organisms which are near the surface. After the ten minutes are up, the deck crew uses a crane to pull the net out of the water and bring it up to the point where someone can wash it down with a hose. This is necessary because not all of the plankton ends up in the cod end (the place where the collection jar is located) so we have to use a hose to get all of the loose stuff washed into the end of the net. After the net is washed down, the cod end is carefully removed, placed in a bucket and taken to the stern (back) of the ship where it is processed.
To process the sample you must first empty the contents of the cod end into a filter which will allow the water to run out but will keep the sample. Then you transfer (move) the sample from the filter into a glass sample jar. Sometimes the sample smoothly slides into the jar and other times you have to wash down the filter with some ethanol. Once all of the sample is in the jar it is topped off with ethanol, a tag is placed inside the jar, and another tag is put on top of the jar. This sample is stored on the boat and taken back to the NOAA lab where it will be cataloged.
Today is our fifth day at sea and I’m feeling fairly comfortable with my duties on the ship. I was assigned to the night watch which runs from midnight till noon the next day. I’ll admit I didn’t make it the entire time the first day. We got done early and despite my intentions to stay up until my shift, I would have ended I falling asleep. The second night was better. I was beyond exhausted at the end, but I did manage to make it through the entire shift. At this point my mind and body have adjusted to the shift and I can easily drift to sleep at 3 pm and get up at 11:15 pm. Students, this is a great example of what it means to be responsible. If I was given the choice, do you think I would have chosen these crazy hours or to work twelve hours straight? No of course not but I really wanted to come on this expedition and this work assignment is part of the trip. So I’m doing the same thing I would expect you to do in a situation like this: accept it and get the work done.
Now I don’t want you to think that the trip is just about hard work. It’s also about seeing new places and getting to know some interesting people. I started out this trip in Pascagoula Mississippi, a city and state I never planned on visiting before this assignment. However, the people there were so helpful and friendly that I would gladly go back to see more of this region. All of you from the Kokomo area know that the major employers are automobile companies. Well, Pascagoula also has a major industry: ship building. So despite the distance between Kokomo and Pascagoula–about 900 miles–each town depends on an industry for their survival and both towns are incredibly proud of their contribution to society.
I have been introducing you to parts of the ship, and today I’m going to tell you about the bridge. Now this is not the type of bridge that crosses a river, but rather the command center of the ship. The crew on the bridge is responsible for the safety of all personal on board and for the ship itself. There is a vast array of technology on the bridge which the crew uses to plot our course, check the weather, and to do hundreds of other things which are necessary for the ship to function.