Virginia Warren: The Beginning of Life at Sea, July 11, 2013


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Virginia Warren
Aboard the R/V Hugh R. Sharp
July 9 – 17, 2013

Mission: Leg 3 of the Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Great South Channel, near Nantucket
Date: July 11, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: SW winds 10 to 20 knots, seas 3 to 6 feet, widespread rain and scattered thunderstorms

Science and Technology Log:

The first part of the mission has been to tow the HabCam down the Great South Channel, around Nantucket, and then up part of Georges Bank. If you remember from my previous post, the HabCam stands for Habitat Camera Mapping System, which allows scientists to study the animals’ natural habitat. There are only two HabCams that have been built; the V2 which is an early prototype, and the V4 which is what we are using for this survey. This piece of equipment cost over 1.5 million dollars to design, develop, and build. One of the people on our science crew is the engineer that helped to design the frame built around the equipment to keep it safe. The HabCam has four strobe lights that enable the two cameras to be able to take 6 images per second. Not only does the HabCam have the capability of taking quality underwater images, but it also has sonar and several other data collectors that are capable of testing the water’s salinity, conductivity, pH, and more.

HabCam on the Hugh R. Sharp

HabCam on the Hugh R. Sharp

The scientists call the HabCam a vehicle. While the HabCam is deployed in the water, there are two people from the science crew that are always ‘flying’ the HabCam. They are called the pilot and co-pilot. The vehicle is tethered to the ship with a thick, fiber optic cable that also sends data information to the ship’s lab. The pilot uses a joy stick to fly the vehicle. Flying the HabCam vehicle can be a very tricky job because to fly it, the pilot walks a very fine line between having the vehicle close enough to the bottom of the ocean to get clear images and keeping the vehicle from crashing into huge boulders and underwater sand dunes. Pushing the joystick up allows the winch to let more cable out, which sends the vehicle closer to the bottom of the ocean. Pulling the joystick down, shortens the cable and brings the vehicle closer to the ship.

HabCam and Sonar View

The HabCam screen is on the bottom. The screen on top that looks like a desert is the sonar.

My job for the first half of the trip has been to take turns with the other day shift science crew members piloting and co-piloting the HabCam vehicle. The pilot keeps the vehicle at the correct depth, usually around 1.8 to 2.5 meters from the bottom of the ocean. The co-pilot annotates the images as they come from the HabCam. Annotating HabCam images entails quickly identifying objects in the image, such as a fish, crab, or scallop. This sounds easy enough, except that new images are flashing on the screen every second. Eventually the images will be color corrected on shore and annotated in greater detail.

Example of HabCam images strung together to make a larger view of the bottom of the ocean.

Example of HabCam images strung together to make a larger view of the bottom of the ocean.

The HabCam vehicle is also equipped with side scan sonar. In the pictures below (the ones that look like a picture of the desert) you can see the sand waves on the ocean floor and previous dredging marks.

Dredge Marks on Left Screen

Dredge Marks on Left Screen

Dredge Marks on Right Screen

Dredge Marks on Right Screen

Personal Log:

I began my journey by flying from Pensacola, Florida at 6 a.m. Sunday morning into Atlanta, Georgia’s airport. From Georgia I flew into Boston, Massachusetts and landed by about 12:30p.m. (That is 11:30 in Mobile time because Boston is an hour ahead of Mobile.) I was very excited to fly into Boston because as all of my students should know, Boston is a very important city for the American Revolutionary War as it is where the war started. I was able to tour the Old State House, which is where the Boston Massacre occurred, as well as explore the beautiful architecture that Boston has to offer! On my return trip home, I hope to be able to learn more about the history behind the city of Boston!

I stayed Sunday night in a hotel so that I would be able to catch a bus from Boston to Woods Hole bright and early Monday morning. Woods Hole is where I would meet up with the R/V Hugh R. Sharp. Woods Hole is an amazing little research community that is part of Cape Cod and has only one main street with a charming high bridge for the sail boats to enter or exit Eel Pond. I spent most of the day walking around and taking in the beautiful scenery of Wood’s Hole. That afternoon I was able to meet up with some the scientists that participate or have participated in scallop surveys. I slept on the ship that night and was able to get to know the ship’s crew and explore the ship.

My first day at sea was really nice. The ship crew made several comments about the water “looking like glass” because it was so calm. The Hugh R. Sharp has a really awesome ship crew. They were very welcoming and were open to any questions that I asked. As we left woods hole, the ship crew went over the safety procedures to follow should an emergency happen while we are at sea. My students should be happy to know that we even participated in a fire drill. I haven’t had any seasickness to speak of so far, knock on wood. The rocking of the ship actually made for some very sound sleeping!

The science crew shifts are broken into 12 hours. The night shift works from 12 midnight till 12 noon. The day shift works the opposite, 12 noon till 12 midnight. I am on the day shift working with the chief scientist.

Question of the Day:

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