NOAA Teacher at Sea
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
Latitude: 39.29 °
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.
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
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.
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?
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:)