Adam Renick, Heading Out and The Science Begins, June 13, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adam Renick
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12th – June 26th, 2013 

Mission: Kona Integrated Ecosystems Assessment
Geographical area of cruise: The West Coast of the Island of Hawaii
Date: June 13, 2013

The Oscar Elton Sette in port.
The Oscar Elton Sette in port.

Personal Log       

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The ocean brings us life.

 I arrived in beautiful Honolulu, HI, where I prepared myself to sail on the Sette. In what seemed like no time at all I was aboard and operations were underway. Meeting the team of scientists and the crew of the Sette has been a very welcoming experience and I look forward to getting to know them all better. I will interview and write some biographical sketches for them later. Mahalo, thank you.

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Heading out of Pearl Harbor

Heading out to sea on Wednesday was a great way to get our sea legs under us. Leaving beautiful Pearl Harbor past the picturesque Honolulu skyline butted up against Diamond Head could hardly get any better. That is, until our first wildlife sighting – a green sea turtle breached the surface right next to our boat to wish us a safe journey.

Once we left the calm of the harbor the sea started rocking and rolling almost immediately. Without the islands to protect us, the wind picked up and waves started tossing the boat all around. I quickly transitioned from enjoyment of the beauty to holding on to my lunch. The seasickness lasted through the safety drills and well into the night as we sailed southeast to Kona, our research destination.

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Research Site off the Kona Coast

I spent the afternoon trying to identify my sensations as they were occurring. Was I pitching or rolling, or both? Pitch is when the front of the ship, the bow, goes up and down. Roll is when the ship leans left and then right from its center of axis. Once my stomach settled down it actually became quite fun to lie in my bunk as everything around me got thrown into the air. My dreams of being able to fly were coming true. No worries though, by sunrise the seas had calmed and the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise began our first day of scientific operations.

 Science and Technology Log

Jessica at the Active Acoustics ELab

Science operations began just before sunrise with two very important tasks. The first, called active acoustics, will be ongoing 24hrs/day for our entire two-week cruise. This important task uses the ship’s hull-mounted echo sounder to locate layers of marine animals that cetaceans such as whales and dolphins might like to eat.  These layers of animals are composed of small fish, shrimp, and squid that tend to group together in a layer at specific depths at different parts of the day and night. We use the sonar to track that layer of creatures, which allows us to drop down nets to that specific ocean depth to catch some of them in a process called a trawl. These trawls will be conducted twice each night to sample these layers and to learn more about their composition.

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Me taking care of the CTD after its deployment.

The other ongoing scientific procedure that was begun today is the conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) casts. A CTD is a tool (pictured) that is lowered deep into the ocean and allows us to measure some of the most important physical and chemical characteristics of the water, which are depth, salinity, dissolved oxygen and temperature. Additionally, the CTD has a fluorometer attached to it that tells us the amount of phytoplankton, or chlorophyll, that is in the water. As the CTD is being pulled back up it also collects 10 samples of water in tanks for us to analyze in the lab. We try to determine the size and structure of the phytoplankton and zooplankton community, the amount of nutrients and the amount of chlorophyll in the water at different depths. This data will help the scientists make connections between the physical properties of the water and its biological productivity.

So much more to write about, but that is all for today…

Adam Renick
NOAA Teacher at Sea

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