Amie Ell: Out to Sea, July 3, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
June 30 – July 21, 2013

Mission: Alaska Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Shelikof Strait
Date: July 3, 2013

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 154.35.3 W
Longitude: 57.65.65 N
Ship speed: 12  kn

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature:
Surface water temperature:
Wind speed: 13.01 kn
Wind direction: 271.17
Barometric pressure: 1,008.6 mb

Science and Technology Log:

Yesterday was the first day at sea for this 18 day research cruise.  You should now be able to follow the Oscar Dyson online by visiting the NOAA ship tracking website:

ShipTracker Zoom in
The path the Oscar Dyson is taking through Shelikof Strait
The red triangle shows the location of the  Oscar (photo courtesy of NOAA)
The red triangle shows the location of the Oscar Dyson (photo courtesy of NOAA)

Here are some questions I’m getting from my students.

From Kathy H.:

Why is the Pollock so popularly used for our fast food meals and imitation crab? I am thinking it must be plentiful, dense, and mild.

You are correct Kathy! One reason Pollock is used for fast food restaurant and imitation crab is that it is a mild fish. Another reason would be that  when cooked it has the desired characteristics of being white, dense, and flakey.  Also, the pollock is higher in oil counts which make this fish more flavorful than others.

Pollock waiting to be measured.
Pollock waiting to be measured.

From Lorie H.: Do you know if the Pollock are fished in other areas besides Alaska?

The Alaskan Pollock that the scientists are studying here on the Oscar Dyson are commonly found in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and the Russian Sea of Okhotsk.  Another type of pollock is the Atlantic pollock. These are not fished at the same level as the Alaskan pollock.  While about 11 million pounds of the Atlantic pollock are fished each year around 1 million tons of Alaskan Pollock are fished in a year.      

Me waiting for the fish to come in.
Me waiting for the fish to come in.

Personal Log:

Since many of you asked to hear more about what it is like to live on the Oscar Dyson, the following will give you an idea of  some of the amenities on board the Oscar Dyson.

I get top bunk!
I get top bunk!
The head (bathroom)

The Oscar Dyson has 21 state rooms.  I share this room with another scientist.  Our stateroom consists of a porthole (window), a set of bunks (I have top bunk), desk, telephone, refrigerator, and a set of lockers.  My roommate and I are on opposite watches.  The rooms are very small and quickly become crowded when just two people are in the room.   She works from 4 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, while I work from 4 in the afternoon to 4 in the morning.  Each stateroom has its own head (bathroom) with a toilet, sink, and shower.

There are several common areas as well.  Across the passage way from me is the lounge.  This is a very comfortable room with a couch, large chairs, many books, games, and a large screen TV with a DVD player. Another popular common area is the galley.  This popularity probably can be attributed to the fact that the stewards on the ship are excellent cooks.

The Galley
The Galley

Did You Know:

A pollock otolith

Fish have tiny bones in their heads known as otoliths.  This bone is found in the ear of the fish.  These bones have circular rings and can help scientists determine the age of a fish.   Do you remember learning about other rings in nature that can be used to determine age?  Reply below if you can think of one.

For Next Time:  The Labs on the Oscar Dyson


18 Replies to “Amie Ell: Out to Sea, July 3, 2013”

  1. Thanks for the update Amie! The living conditions in the ship are much nicer than I imagined. I a m curious about what your job duties are and if you are looking forward to any particular job you have not done but will? Have fun and I will follow your trip from Spain!


    1. Yes, the amenities on board are very good! My job so far has been working in the wet/fish lab. All of the orange gear in the photo above is because it is pretty slimy in there! After each trawl I am covered head to toe in fish scales and guts. My next blog post (which I am currently working on) will describe in detail what we do in this lab. Stay tuned…….
      Have an awesome time in Spain, and tell the kids “Hi” for me.

  2. When you are “on watch” what are you “watching”? When you set the nets out to catch the pollock are there other species of sea animals that you are also seeing? Have you gotten sea sick at all? Are you going to eat some pollock??

    1. A lot of the time while I am “on watch” I am in what is called “the acoustics lab”. This is where they monitor the echo locator and ships progress. I will be talking more about this in a future blog. We do catch other stuff. I have lots of pictures to share about that as well. I did get a little queasy after the first night. Now I have a sea sickness patch behind my ear and it is working well. Except for some weird side effects (really dry mouth, and very blurry vision). There are plenty of options for a vegetarian so NO, I will not be eating fish!

  3. How are your sea legs? And how did you pull the night shift? Do you get enough daylight hours this time of year to see the Alaskan coastline like you hoped?

    1. I am getting used to the rockiness on board. It took me a few days. There are still some big waves every once in a while that catch me off guard though. The night shift has not been as hard as I though it would me. I think it is because there are so few hours of dark up here. We were able to see the coastlines the first couple of days that we were out here, but the last few days have been foggy. We are supposed to be traveling up some of the bays around the island of Kodiak in the next few days. Hopefully it will be clear enough to see some of these sights.

  4. Where do your shipmates originate from? How many crew members are there? Are all teachers?

    1. So far I have met crew members from all over the U.S. This ship sleeps 39 when it is full. I think we are pretty full or close to that. There is one other teacher on board. He is from the Coast Guard Academy and is not a part of the Teachers at Sea program. He is on the opposite shift as me so I do not see him very often. There is also a college student intern that is a part of our science team.

    1. There is a lot of reading, movies, games, and just visiting on our off times. Oh yeah, and eating!

  5. Have you seen other sea life (whales, dolphins, sea lions, etc.)? Are you close enough to the coastline to see bears? Will you stay on the ship the entire time or have an opportunity to explore onshore? How will you share this experience with your students back in the classroom? What a fantastic opportunity and experience!

    1. From the ship I have seen whales, porpoises, sea lions, and a lot of birds. We are not close enough to shore to observe any bears. It has also been very foggy and overcast which does not allow us to see very far. I will be on this ship the entire time. I did arrive a day early and got some time to explore Kodiak. I walked to Near island and hike some trails there. The town was fun, really nice people live there. I am not 100% sure how I will share this experience with students yet. I know I will be creating lessons with topics in research and careers.
      It has been a great experience so far. I would never have quessed I would be doing something like this.

  6. It is so fun to learn about your adventure and to see where you are living. What is the most unusual fact you have learned about your study? Do you think this trip will be the springboard for more?

    1. I think one of the strangest things I have witnessed is the pollock trying to eat each other. They are cannibalistic. It is very strange when they come down the conveyor belt and one has another pollocks entire head in its mouth. I will try to get a photo of this. Another strange thing is the eyeballs of the fish when they come up are bulging. This is because they are under pressure when they are at the bottom of the ocean and when you pull them out there is more less pressure outside than there is inside the fish so the eye is pushed out. Pretty weird looking!

  7. How are the fish caught? Are they being tagged and released? Are they killed, studied then eaten by the crew? What exactly is being researched?

    1. No. Darn it. The winter time is the best to see this. We only have a few hours of dark every day. Plus, it has been pretty cloudy and overcast most of the time.

  8. Sounds like quite a “cruise”. Keep wearing the orange suits, as it look like it comes in handy. I looked at the NOAA ship tracker website and it looks like you do a lot of zigzagging across the same area of water. Is that where you’ll spend most of your time at sea, criss-crossing the same stretch of water? How often do you get to land during your 18 days, or will it all be at sea?

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