NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 8-28, 2017
Mission: MACE Pollock Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 21, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 55 15.0 N
Longitude: 160 06.7 W
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: VAR
Wind Speed: LT
Sea Wave Height: <1 foot
Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars
Sea Water Temperature: 9.8°C
Air Temperature: 7.0°C
Science and Technology Log
We have been surveying transect lines (sometimes we fish, sometimes we don’t). During the times that we aren’t fishing, I find myself looking out at the ocean A LOT! During these quiet times on the ship, I am reminded of how large the oceans are. I found a quiet window to sit by in the Chem Lab and enjoy watching as the waves dance off of the side of the ship.
During some of these times when we are not collecting data from fish, identifying species from the DropCam, or preparing for the next haul, I find myself reading, which is a luxury all in itself. A friend of mine lent me to book to read and as I was reading the other day, the author quoted Jules Verne, author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Verne said, “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” I found this to be fitting for what I am doing on this survey, for the three weeks that I am a Teacher At Sea. Though I am surrounded by trained and educated professionals, I have realized that mistakes still happen and are something to be expected. They happen regularly. Often, actually. And, it’s a good thing that they do. They are important for learning. When humans make mistakes, hopefully, we can adjust our actions/behaviors to reduce the chances of that same “mistake” from happening again. When applied to science, the same idea is also true. When we can collect data from something that we are studying, we learn about the ways that it interacts with its surroundings. Through these findings, we not only learn more about what we are studying, but then take measures to protect its survival.
We had a real experience like this happen just the other day. For days, the “backscatter” was picking up images of fish that the scientists didn’t think were pollock on the bottom of the ocean. Backscatter is what the scientists use to “see” different groups of fish and quantify how many are in the water. The ship uses various echosounders. Several times, the science team decided to collect fish samples from these areas. Every time that they decided to “go fishing”, we pulled up pollock. The team was baffled. They had a hypothesis as to why they were not catching what they thought they saw on the backscatter. They thought that it was rockfish that were hanging around rocks, but the pollock were being caught as the net went down and came back up. Finally, after several attempts of not catching anything but pollock, they decided to put down the DropCam and actually try to see what was going on down there.
At that point, the Chem lab was filled with scientists. Everyone wanted to see what was going to show up on the monitor. The NOAA Corps Commanding Officer even came to see what was going to show up on the monitor. The room will filled with excitement.
Abigail steers the DropCam and watches the monitor simultaneously.
We see rockfish!
It was just as they predicted! The rockfish were hanging out in the rocks. It was a moment of great satisfaction for the scientists. They were able to identify some of the fish on the backscatter that was causing them so much confusion! Yay, science!
Later in the day, we went fishing and collected the usual data (sex, length, weight, etc.) from the pollock. There are usually 4 of us at a time in the Fish lab. We are getting into a routine in the lab and I am getting more familiar with my responsibilities and duties. I start by controlling the door release, which controls the amount of fish released onto the conveyor belt. After all of the fish have been weighed, I separate the females and males. Once that has been done, I take the lengths of a sample of the fish that we caught. When I finish, I assist Ethan and Abigail in removing and collecting the otoliths from a selected fish sample. Then, its clean-up time. Though we all have appropriate gear on, I somehow still end up having fish scales all over me. Imagine that!
Every time that we “go fishing”, a “pocket net” is also deployed. This is a net that has finer mesh and is designed to catch much smaller marine life. On this haul, we caught squid, age “zero” pollock, and isopods.
In the evening, we headed towards Morzhovoi Bay. There, we were greeted by a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins. They spent some time swimming next to us. When they discovered that we were not that interesting, they swam off. They did leave us though with a great sense of awe and appreciation (and a few great pictures!).
Happy Summer Solstice! Today is the longest day of the year! We have had some spectacular days. We were all excited as we got up this morning to welcome the rising of the sun. We woke up and were holding position in front of Mt. Pavlof. We saw the sunrise and went up to the Flying Bridge to do some morning yoga. After a wonderful breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese, salmon, Larrupin sauce, and Slug Slime, I went back up to the Bridge to get a full 360 degree view of the bay. There I saw a humpback whale swimming around. This will definitely be a summer solstice to remember!
Did You Know?
A humpback whale is about the size of a school bus and weighs about 40 tons! They also communicate with each other with songs under the water.
sidenote: I know I wrote in my last blog that I was going to discuss the fishing process today, but there were so many other amazing things that happened that it is going to have to wait until next time. Sorry!