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: Sunday, July 8, 2012
Latitude: 38.9580 °
Longitude: -72.4577 °
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 24.60° C
Wind Speed: 4.5 knots
Relative Humidity: 88.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,010.30 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 24.49° C
Science and Technology Log
Look who went to the bottom of the ocean on TowCam. No you silly students…not me! TowCam is exploring the deep ocean between the twilight zone and the midnight zone, and it is not possible for people to travel in deep water without very special equipment.
Our mascot Lowell Lion accompanied TowCam as it was deployed for Tow 2.
At this location, TowCam reached a depth of over 1900 meters below the surface of the ocean. That is more than one mile-straight down! It was a good mission. The camera was sending some very interesting images back to the ship. As I was doing my job logging, I was watching these first images. I was able to see hard bottom- the best habitat for corals. I also saw fish and sea stars, and then I saw the corals! They looked like little fuzzies on the rocks. The scientists had the ship hold position right over of the corals so they could take lots of pictures. The TowCam operator used controls on the ship to raise and lower TowCam to get close to the corals without touching the cliffs where the corals were living.
Students: Can you imagine using remote controls to move the TowCam? I bet you would be good at it. Perhaps the video games you play will help prepare you to fly TowCam when you finish college.
Well, when TowCam came back on the ship, Lowell was very wet, but he handled the cold, dark high pressure very well. Thanks to Greg and Lizet, Lowell stayed on the TowCam Sled!
Once TowCam was secured on the deck. We went out to take care of TowCam. What a big surprise to find other creatures hitchhiking on TowCam. Lowell the Lion must have made some friends.
The first deep sea visitor was a spiny orange sea star.
The orange sea star was found on TowCam deployment #2.
Isn’t it beautiful? We all rushed to see it. Dr. Nizinski carefully examined and measured the sea star. She used her tweezers to pick up a tiny sample the sea star leg, and she put the sample into a little bottle with a label. She will use the sample to test the DNA to help classify the sea star. She will find the sea star’s “family.”
It was exciting to find the sea star, but when we looked further one of the scientists saw a piece of coral tucked in a hiding place on TowCam. Dr. Martha took care of the coral also. The coral will become a permanent record that reminds us that this type of coral lives here.
Do you see how carefully the sample is documented? Some of the things we do in school like labeling and dating our illustrations and our work prepare you to be a scientist.
Many years from now someone can look at the coral in this picture and see that the sample was collected on the Bigelow TowCam #2, on July 8th. The ruler in the picture helps everyone know the approximate size.
One of the components on TowCam we have not talked about yet is the slurp.
Try to find the Slurp on TowCam.
The “slurp” is really an underwater vacuum cleaner that sucks up water, sediment, and sometimes small creatures. When TowCam is in deep water, the scientists watch the images to decide when it is a good time to trigger the slurp. They have to choose carefully because the slurp can be done only once on each trip to the bottom.
The scientists used the slurp on Tow #2. The collection container looked like it just had “mud” and water. It was emptied through a sieve to separate the “mud” and other things from water. The scientists carefully examined what looked like regular mud but tiny organisms like bivalves, gastropods, and small brittle stars were found in the sieve. These animals were also handled very carefully.
This brittle star was found with mud and sediment slurped from the ocean bottom.
Can you find any other living things in this picture?
You never know what is hiding in the mud. I bet we could do this kind of exploring right in our school’s courtyard. What do you think we could find if we examined our mud?
I think we should talk about the ocean today. Many of us have had some experience with the ocean. Maybe you have been to the beach, and maybe you have even seen some of the cool creatures that can be found on the beach. I have seen crabs, horseshoe crabs, clams, and plenty of jellyfish, but the scientists on Bigelow are working in a very different part of the ocean.
If you visit the beach, you are only swimming in a teeny tiny part of the ocean. Maybe you are allowed in the ocean up to your knees to a depth of 20 inches (about 1/2 a meter), or maybe you are brave and are able to go in the ocean with an adult up to your waist to a depth of 30 inches (about 3/4 a meter). Even if you have been crabbing or fishing in the Delaware Bay where the average depth is 50 feet (15.24 meters) you have been in only the most shallow part of the ocean. TowCam has been down as far as 1.2 miles (2000 meters). That is not even the deepest ocean! The ocean is divided into zones according to depth and sunlight penetration. I learned about the top three zones.
- The sunlight zone– the upper 200 meters of the ocean are also called the euphotic zone. Many fish, marine mammals like dolphins and whales, and sea turtles live in this band of the ocean. At these depths there is light, plants, and food for creatures to survive. Not much light penetrates past this zone.
- The twilight zone– this middle zone is between 200 meters and 1000 meters and is called the disphotic zone. Because of the lack of light, plants cannot live in this zone. Many animals like bioluminescent creatures with twinkling lights do live in this zone. Some examples of other creatures living in this zone includes: crabs, gastropods, octopus, urchins, and sand dollars.
- The midnight zone– this zone is below 1000 meters and is also called the aphoticzone has no sunlight and is absolutely dark. At these depths the water pressure is extreme, and the temperature is near freezing. 90% of the ocean is in the midnight zone.So you can see that when you are at the beach, you are never in the “Deep Ocean.” You are still in a great place to find many amazing creatures. Keep your eyes open! Be curious! Make sure you do some exploring the next time you visit this important habitat. Then write and tell me about the things you find. Try to draw and label the three zones of the ocean. Be sure to draw the living things in the correct zone.
- Next time: Someone will be working on deck getting TowCam ready for deployment. Hint: It will not be Lowell. : )