NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude/longitude: 4234.645N, 6946.914W
Temperature: 15.4ºC, 60ºF
Barometer: 1011.48 mb
Speed: 9.4 knots
Science and Technology Log:
Plankton is everywhere throughout the ocean, so how are the stations chosen and mapped?
Scientists first decide on a specific region or strata that they want to sample. Then within this strata a specific number of stations is determined for sampling. NOAA has developed a computer program that then randomly selects stations in the strata. After these stations are generated, scientists play “connect the dots” to find the best route to get to all the stations. Once the route is generated adjustments are made based on time, weather and the team’s needs. These are plotted on a map and sent to the ship to see if further adjustments will need to be made.
When the ship receives the map from the science party, they plot all the stations and make a track line to determine the shortest navigable route that they can take. Frequently the map that is originally provided has to be adjusted due to weather, navigation issues (if there is a shoal, or low area, the route may have to be changed), or ship problems. Once they come up with a plan, this has to be re-evaluated on a daily basis. For example during our survey we left four days later than planned, so many of the stations had to be taken out. Furthermore a large storm was coming in, so the route was changed again to avoid this weather. The Operation’s Officer onboard (Marc Weekley on the Gordon Gunter) speaks with the science party on a daily basis to keep the plan up to date and maintain a safe route throughout the survey.
Ship Technology: The Gordon Gunter and all other NOAA vessels use many types of equipment to navigate the ship. They have an electronic Gyro Compass which is constantly spinning to point to True North (not magnetic north). This is accurate to a 10th of a degree and allows for other navigation systems on the ship to know with great accuracy what direction the ship is pointing. It also is used to steer the ship in auto pilot. When needed they can switch to manual control and hand steer the ship. They also have a magnetic compass onboard, if all electronics were to go out on the ship. Also on the bridge are two radars, which provides position of all boats in the area and is used for collision avoidance. Underway, the Captain requires the ship to stay at least 1 nautical mile from other vessels unless he gives commands otherwise.
Once a station is reached the ship has to position itself so it will not go over the wire that is attached to the survey equipment. Taking into consideration all of the elements, which includes the wind speed, current weather conditions and the speed of the current, they usually try to position the boat so that the wind is on its port side. In this way the wind is on the same side as the gear and it will not hit the propellors or the hull. The ship’s sonars determine the depth of the ocean floor and the scientists use this information to lower their equipment to a distance just above this depth.
Bow – front of the ship
Stern – back of the ship
Port – left of bow
Starboard – right of bow
Brrr… it’s cold! To avoid the big storm we headed north to the Bay of Fundy that is located between Maine and Nova Scotia. Seas were fairly calm, but was it cold at 9º C (48ºF), but with the wind chill it was probably closer to 5.5ºC (42ºF)! We are now heading south so it is starting to warm up, but luckily it won’t be as hot as Arizona!
Trying to take photos of animals in the ocean is very difficult. You have to be in the right place, at the right time, and be ready. Today we saw several sightings of whales, but they were in the distance and only lasted a second. During this trip, there was also a sighting of a shark attacking a Loggerhead turtle, but by the time I got to the bridge we had passed it by. Lately we have seen a great variety of sea birds including: shearwaters, puffins, sea gulls, and about twenty fiver other types. Even though it can be a little frustrating at times, it is still very calming to look out over the ocean and the sunsets are always amazing!
I can’t believe that there is only one week left for the survey. Time has gone so fast and I have learned so much. Tomorrow we are doing a boat exchange and some people are leaving while others will come onboard. I will miss those people that are leaving the ship, but look forward to meeting new people that will join our team.
Did you know? The ratio of different salts (ions) in the ocean water are the about same in all of the world’s oceans.