Kate DeLussey: Underway and Under the Sea, July 7, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kate DeLussey
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 3 – 18, 2012

Mission:  Deep-Sea Corals and Benthic Habitat:  Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast
Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from  Newport, RI
Date:  Monday, July 7 , 2012


Here I am on the bridge of Henry B. Bigelow.  ENS. Zygas put me to work looking up changes for navigational charts.

Latitude:  39.29 °
Longitude: -72.25°

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Air Temperature: 23.40° C
Wind Speed: 15 Kts
Relative Humidity:  90.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,011.99 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 23.66° C

Science and Technology Log

At 7:00 pm last night the Henry B. Bigelow left Pier 2 from the Newport Naval Base.  Narragansett Bay was crowded with sailboats, yachts, and even a tall ship, but once we passed under the bridge, we knew we were really on our way.  Now that we are at sea, everyone onboard will begin his or her watch.  I will be working 12 am to 12 pm along with some of the scientists.  Even though I never worked night work before, I was excited to learn about my jobs!

One of our jobs is to keep track of the “TowCam” when it is in the water.  Every ten minutes while the TowCam is deployed (sent underwater) we log the location of the ship using Latitude and Longitude. We also have to keep track of other important data like depth.  The information is logged on the computer in a spreadsheet and then the points are plotted on a map.  A single deployment can last 8 hours.  That is a lot of data logging!  These documents provide back up in case something were to happen to the data that is stored electronically.   I will have other jobs also, and to get ready for those duties, Lizet helped me get to know the TowCam better by explaining each component.

Students:  See if you can find each part Lizet showed me on the picture of the TowCam in my last blog.


The camera on TowCam faces down to capture images in the deep ocean

Camera– The camera is the most important part of the TowCam.  You need a very special camera that will work in cold deep water.  When the TowCam is close to the ocean floor this digital camera takes one picture every 10 seconds. The thumbnails or samples of the pictures are sent to computers on the ship by the data link. The camera operator described the thumbnails like the picture you see when you look at the back of your camera. When I look at the thumbnails I don’t usually see much in the picture.  The scientists know what they are looking for, and they can recognize hard bottom on the ocean floor and corals.  They see fish and other sea creatures too, and when they see a picture they like, they will ask the ship navigator to “hold the setting” so they can take more pictures.  Remember, the scientists are trying to find corals, or places where corals might live.  If they have a picture, they have proof that these special animals live in a certain habitat that should be protected.

Strobe light– There are two strobe lights on the TowCam.  The deep ocean does not have

Strobe light illuminates the darkness of the deep ocean

natural lighting because the sunlight does not reach down that far.  The strobe light flashes each time a picture is taken.  If the TowCam did not have these special lights, you would not be able to see any of the pictures from the camera.  These lights are tested every time the TowCam is deployed.

The CTD measures Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth

      CTD- The CTD is an instrument that has sensors to measure Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth in a certain water column.  It is attached to the TowCam and the information from the CTD is sent to the computers through the datalink.  This information gives the scientists a better understanding about the ocean water and the habitat for the creatures they are looking for.  Look for more components on the TowCam.  How do you think the TowCam gets its power?


Personal Log

I am getting adjusted to life at sea.  For the first few days, when we were still on the dock I did not have much to do.  ESN Zygas gave me a job and let me find updates for the navigational charts that are stored on the bridge.  The charts are maps of the oceans and waterways that help the NOAA Corps team steer the boat, and these charts get updated when markers like buoys are moved or when the water depths and locations change.  Up-to-date charts keep the ships safe.  I was glad to do a job that helped keep us safe.  Now that we are at sea, I have been working my watch.  The work varies.  We have hours of watching TowCam on the bottom of the sea and charting the positions of the ship. Then we have the excitement when the camera comes on-board with pictures and samples that need to be processed.

One of the best things about this experience is that I am the student just like my students at Lowell.  I am excited to learn all of the new things, but I am frustrated when I don’t understand.  Sometimes I am embarrassed when I have to ask questions.  Yesterday I was working with some of the images and I was looking for fish. All I had to do was write “yes” there is a fish in this photo.  Well, I had to ask Dave (one of the scientists) for help.  I had to ask, “Is this a fish?”  Can you imagine that?  A teacher like me not knowing a fish!  It was like finding the hidden pictures in the Highlight magazine!

So instead of being frustrated, I am open to learning new things.  I keep practicing and try not to make mistakes, but when I do make those mistakes, I just try again. By the time we go through the thousands of pictures I may not be a pro, but I will be better.  I can see that I am improving already.  I can find the red fish without zooming in -the red color probably helps!

Next time:  Wait until you see who went to the bottom of the ocean on TowCam.  You won’t believe what they brought back with them.

Until next time:)


11 Replies to “Kate DeLussey: Underway and Under the Sea, July 7, 2012”

    1. You just would not believe the creatures we have seen on the sea floor. I am convinced that we need to learn more about our planet. Write your congressperson! How can we appreciate the gifts of the earth if we don’t even know what happens in the oceans?

  1. Sounds like they sure are keeping you busy! Glad that your getting a little chance to experience what my life is like (the wonderful night shift). Can’t wait to hear more about the jobs you are taking on as well as who went to the bottom of the ocean on the TowCam (was it you???)

    1. You will just have to read the next blog to find out who went down with TowCam. Hint: It was not a teacher.

  2. This whole experience sounds so amazing. I hope that you are enjoying every second of it and know how proud we are all of you. Your having to ask if something was a fish made me laugh. I hope that you are not too seasick and enjoying the salt water air.

    1. Thanks Erin,
      I’m feeling fine. I am lulled to sleep with the sound of power drill or tool of some type, (I really haven’t identified it, and I may have to ask Dave), and the gentle rocking of the ship. To be honest the 9ft seas gave me an opportunity to catch up on some things. ( I did my wash.) The work is on and off amazing, but when it is good, it is very good. By the time the mission is finished there will be around 50,000 pictures of the ocean floor. Try putting them in the album! It is a good thing they are time stamped! See you soon.

    1. Thanks Shellie,
      Wait until you see the sea creatures in the next blog posting! Super beautiful!

  3. You are soo oo o brave! Asking questions, open to new experiences and learning! Putting yourself out their is never easy. However, If I had to choose someone for the job, it would be you Mrs. DeLussey!!! From what I can see, you are doing an EXCELLENT job! Where will this experience take you next????

    1. Zowee!!!!
      How nice of you to think I am brave. I am not! I like thinking and asking questions, it is fun. Asking questions IS learning. Try this at home: Find something you might be interested in and ask more questions. Find some answers. It is Soo oo o much fun.

      🙂 You know… I have a lot of questions about what is happening in the solar system and beyond…hmmmmm. I wonder…

  4. Hi Kate,
    Hope this finds you both happy and sad – happy to be returning home and sad to leave this fabulous experience. I think the gift you were given was the opportunity to grapple with the learning process….this is always an important reminder for teachers because sometimes we forget that! We will have to meet for lunch so I can see the excitement on your face.
    Thanks for sharing,

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