Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 27, 2011
Science and Technology Log
If you looked at the Ship Tracker today (August 27th), you would see that NOAA Ship Oregon II is docked at Pascagoula, Mississippi. I am writing to you from Oklahoma to share how we made it back to port safely. The procedure for making that happen is called “Sea and Anchor” and it’s quite a sight to behold!
Over two weeks ago when we were leaving port in Charleston, I heard the Captain announce “Sea and Anchor.” During Sea and Anchor, every crew member is at his/her station. For example, the engineers are in the engine room, the deck crew is ready to drop anchor if needed, and all officers are on the bridge.
Not to mention, just to get ready for Sea and Anchor, the Captain must oversee a 4 page checklist of things that must be done before going to sea. Sea and Anchor detail is done not only as the ship is going out, but also as it is coming in to port. This is what I got to observe on the bridge as we came into the channel in Pascagoula on August 24, 2011.
But let me back up to the first of the 2 page checklist to get ready for Sea and Anchor as the ship is taken through the channel and docked at the port. The 1st thing that must happen is the Officer of the Deck transits the ship from the last station to the Pascagoula Ship Channel. Our last station was north of Tampa, about 300 miles from port. We steamed at 10 knots/hour. (1 knot is roughly 1.15 miles per hour.) At this rate, how many hours did it take us to get to port from our last station?
One day prior to arrival, the Captain must call the port and talk to the Pascagoula Port Captain, Jim Rowe. When he calls, he verifies that line handlers are available at the pier as well as the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of the ship. Thirty minutes before arrival at the channel sea buoys, the Captain must wake all hands up to prepare for Sea and Anchor.
He then calls the pilot/port for vessel traffic. According to the Captain, traffic is extremely important. The channel at Pascagoula is 500 feet in width. There are buoys at either side of the channel. NOAA Ship Oregon II is 34 feet wide. If a ship goes outside the buoys, it will run aground. Outside the buoys the depth of the channel ranges from only 13-18 feet. NOAA Ship Oregon II has a 15 foot draft. The larger ships can draw almost the entire depth of the channel which is 40 feet! Many will also take up most of the width of the channel, thus there is no way for 2 large ships to get through the channel at the same time without one running aground.
After traffic is checked, the propulsion and steering is tested, then the crew must ready an anchor to let go in case of an emergency. Next the call signs/flags are hoisted.
The deck department breaks out mooring lines for port or starboard side docking. (We docked on the starboard side, so the deck hands got all the lines to that side.) At this point the Captain pipes (announces), “Set Sea and Anchor detail.” The engineers go to the engine room, the deck hands are all on deck, and the officers are on the bridge.
As I mentioned, the Pascagoula Ship Channel is 500 feet in width. Toward the beginning of the Channel, the Barrier Islands (Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, Ship Island, and Cat Island) must be navigated, as well as the entire channel.
So how does this happen? I got to stay on the bridge to find out. The Captain and the 4 officers are all on the bridge and all have a part to play in this procedure. The Captain designates what duty each officer will do. This changes from port to port. He also serves as an overseer. If at any time he needs to jump in and help any of the officers, he will do so.
Here are the jobs of the officers: 1. Having the Conn- This officer conns/manuevers the ship in to port. 2. On the Helm- This officer steers the ship into dock. 3. On the pitch- This officer controls the throttle. It is also known as being on the “sticks and log.” 4. Doing navigation- This officer advises the Conning Officer when to make turns in the channel.
Now that everyone is at their stations, at the mouth of the channel the Captain calls the port on the radio. This time into port, this is what he said, “Research Vessel NOAA Ship Oregon II inbound at buoys 7 and 8.” Over the radio a friend of the Captain’s exclaimed, “Welcome back, dude!” (NOAA Ship Oregon II had not been here at home port for about a month.)
After the Captain makes a securite (pronounced “securitay”) call to the Port Captain over the radio to broadcast or alert any other vessels that the ship is heading in, the ship can then enter the channel. This was amazing to watch as all the officers and Captain worked together like clockwork to get through the channel. Here is an example of what you would hear: Conn to Helm: 3-2-0, Helm to Conn: 3-2-0. Conn: Very Well. . . Conn to Pitch: 4 feet ahead, Pitch to Conn: 4 feet ahead, Conn: Very well. This is done all the way through the entire channel until the ship is safely docked.
I already had a great amount of respect for the responsibilities of Commanding Officer- Master Dave Nelson, Executive Officer- LCDR Jason Appler, Operations Officer- LT Sarah Harris, Junior Officer- ENS Larry V. Thomas, and Junior Officer- ENS Brian Adornato, but now I have even a greater respect than I did. While standing on the bridge during the Sea and Anchor detail, I was honestly in awe. I had NO idea what went into getting a ship to dock. It was absolutely a highlight of my trip to see how they make that work so smoothly. Cap told me, “I have done this Sea and Anchor procedure hundreds and hundreds of times, but I never take it lightly. I am in charge of all the lives on board and it’s my job to get you home safely.” Thank you Cap, and your entire crew, for getting this Oklahoman to her “home on the range!”
After we docked, the XO, Chief Scientist, and myself did a Skype interview from the bridge of NOAA Ship Oregon II with NewsOn6. I appreciate the XO’s help in getting permission for us to do the interview as well as our Electronics Technician for setting up the equipment!
After the interview some of the scientists and I headed to Rob’s BBQ On The Side. It was wonderful! Next we were off to the Gulfport airport. I had a layover in Atlanta. There I was fortunate to meet and eat dinner with 2 AirTran Airways pilots, Vince-Captain, and John-First Officer.
It turns out, while I was in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, they were flying over it. I thought you’d enjoy their vantage point, so I included a couple of pictures that Vince took.
I asked them how important math and science were to their jobs. They both said that numbers were their world. They eat, breathe, and sleep numbers.
On my flight from Atlanta to Tulsa I sat next to Don, Project Engineer-NORDAM Necelle/Thrust Reverser Systems Division. So for over an hour we had a great conversation about the importance of math and science. Here is what he said: “Math and science are important to my job (and to any engineer) because they are the basis of everything we do. An understanding of math and science allows aerospace engineers to understand why things work the way they do, and more importantly, that knowledge allows us to develop better products that can be used in the aerospace industry. This is possible because at some time or another, some boys and girls were sitting in class and really enjoyed learning about how things work. Math and science work together to explain those things in a logical manner. Their desire to continue learning led them down a road to more advanced classes in high school and eventually to math, science, and engineering degrees in college, allowing them the opportunity to get good jobs and to be a part of developing the next great airplane.”
People often ask me how I meet so many interesting and intriguing people. Do you want to know how? I take the time to talk to them. Each of these people I met will now play an integral part in my classroom. Some will visit my classroom, others will answer our questions via email, and yet others will Skype or call our class during our classroom meetings.
In my classroom I have a sign that has 3 simple words: Find The Time. I take the time to tell my students the importance of budgeting their time and using it to the fullest each and every day. Every day is only what you make it. Remember to find the time to always keep learning and sharing what you know with others. It makes the world a better place to live.
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 22, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 27.56 N
Longitude: 83.73 W
Wind Speed: 5.95 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 30.50 C
Air Temperature: 31.60 C
Relative Humidity: 66.00%
Science and Technology Log
Okay, so I admit, I can’t learn enough. I just THOUGHT I was doing my last post, but I have to share with you some more information I learned toward the end of our journey. So if you want to learn some “cool facts,” today’s post is for you!
Cool Fact #1: Sargassum– This is a type of seaweed we saw in the ocean today alongside the ship. It mats together in large clumps and serves as a refuge for larval fish. It also is a type of “floating community” with lots of fish, such as mahi mahi, congregating around it. Newly hatched sea turtles find refuge in sargassum.
Cool Fact #2: Shark skin samples and fin clips — All week long I have seen shark skin samples and finclips taken, but today I found out from two of the scientists on our survey, Dr. Trey Driggers and Adam Pollack, what is done with these. The skin sample is done so the shark can be identified down to the species. For example, there are 3 species of smooth dogfish in the Gulf of Mexico. They all look the same externally. Keep in mind, the smooth dogfish shares the same genus (Mustelus), but the species differs. One of the ways to tell them apart is to look at their skin sample under a microscope. For this reason, every shark that is caught has a small sample of skin taken that is placed in alcohol for preservation.
When it gets to the lab, the scientist looks at the dermal denticles (scales) under a microscope. If the denticle has 1 point, its species is either canis (common name– smooth dogfish) or norrisi (common name–Florida smooth dogfish). If it has 3 points, its species is sinusmexicanus (common name- Gulf smooth dogfish).
The fin clip is collected and archived and later a DNA analysis is performed. They are compared to fish of the Gulf of Mexico to tell if they are genetically different or similar. This information is used for stock management.
Cool Fact #3: Otoliths– I have been assisting the scientists this week in getting the otoliths from various fish, such as red grouper, yellowedge grouper, and blueline tilefish. Today I got to take the otoliths out myself. By “myself,” I mean with the help of skilled scientist, Adam! It was neat! So what are otoliths? They are the ear bones of fish. They tell the age of the fish, much like the annual rings of a tree trunk do. These are collected and put in an envelope with the identification number in order to be observed under a microscope in the lab.
Last night after our shift ended at midnight, by the light of the moon we watched a pod of about 25 dolphins chase flying fish and play in the wake of the boat. I sure will miss all the sights the sea has to offer. I will especially miss the people.
I mentioned in an earlier post that NOAA Ship Oregon II is like a city. It has everything needed on board to run smoothly. There are people with numerous kinds of backgrounds. Each and every one of these individuals is needed in order to successfully complete a NOAA mission, whatever it may be.
So now I’m talking to you kids. Have you ever thought about what you want to be or do when you grow up? How about starting now? How about you adults, have you ever thought about trying to do something new and exciting? I have a question for you (and I would like for you to put your answer in the poll): If you could choose any job on this ship, what would it be?
If you will notice from my posts, I did not just cover the science end of this ship. There are so many other careers going on to make these surveys work. It’s a team effort. Under the leadership of Cap Nelson, that’s exactly what you have here on NOAA Ship, Oregon II: a team effort. And that’s what makes this ship a model for any team to follow.
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 20, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 26.87 N
Longitude: 83.99 W
Wind Speed: 10.86 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 30.30 C
Air Temperature: 28.90 C
Relative Humidity: 72.00%
Science and Technology Log
Checking in with the Bridge . . .
We’ve been catching fish all week and I was curious how the Officer of the Deck (OOD) was always able to get one nautical mile of line out successfully and reel it in without getting it snagged on the propeller. After all, without this function, the survey wouldn’t happen. When the Commanding Officer heard I wanted to know the process, he called me up to the bridge to show me how the procedure works. Brian, Junior Officer, was also on the bridge. Between the two of them they gave this teacher a great lesson in navigation. So let me walk you through the deployment of gear. Future captains, officers, pilots, or any of you that like to figure out how to chart a course, this is for you!
The first thing that must be determined is the direction and rate that the ship is being pushed by the seas. We want the wind and current to push us off of the longline when we are retrieving it. This is figured out by doing a drift test.
The OOD declutches the engine and allows the ship to drift for 5 minutes while monitoring which direction and how much the ship is pushed. When I was on the bridge the ship was being pushed to the Northeast, and the current was 0.5 knots. Knowing this the OOD wants to situate the ship so that the seas hit the Starboard side, pushing the ship to port and away from the line. For this, the Cap has a little bit of a trick. He puts a model ship in the middle of the 360 degree compass to visualize where the boat will drift. Talk about hands-on learning at its best!
After the angle of the ship is determined, the OOD moves the ship in that direction and signals the Field Party Chief (FPC) that all is clear. While the crew is on deck setting or hauling, the bridge is monitoring all actions to make sure everyone has their life vests on and hard hats when needed for the crane operation. In addition, the OOD watches the radar for incoming vessels.
Checking in with the scientists . . .
One of the scientists on board, Bianca, was taking blood samples from various sharks. I found it very interesting so she was kind enough to walk me through the process of gathering blood. After she draws the blood from the shark it is kept cool until she is ready to process the samples.
First she takes a hematocrit reading by filling a capillary tube with blood, plugging one end of the tube and centrifuging the tube. The centrifuge separates the red blood cells from the plasma.
After it is taken out of the centrifuge, a reading is taken in order to see the percentage of red blood cells (hematocrit). Finally Bianca centrifuges the rest of the blood and freezes the plasma. She will conduct further analyses on the plasma when she gets back to her lab.
It is hard to believe my trip at sea is almost over. The day before I left on my voyage, I met a man, Pauly, who was a captain in the Pacific. He said, “While at sea, be a sponge. Soak up everything you can.” I took his advice. Two full journals later, I am one educated student about the workings of a NOAA Shark Longline Survey. It is true, I have learned so much in the field of science, but of equal importance I have learned some valuable life lessons. Read on to find out some of them.
That I finally have gone one whole day without hitting my shin on a “knee knocker.”
That it is crucial on a ship to be a team player. You can actually put yourself at risk with an “I” mentality.
That on a ship when an engineer asks, “Is your head working okay?”, they are actually referring to your restroom and not your noggin.
That it will take a while to get used to anyone calling me anything other than “Teach,” “Jen,” or “Oklahoma.”
That the OOD doesn’t have to remind me anymore to put on my hard hat when the crane is being operated.
That I have a strong preference to baiting the head of an Atlantic mackerel over the tail and I still struggle with baiting the middle of one.
That I will miss all the day shift stories during our set out and haul backs.
That I will miss hanging out in the dry lab and wet lab.
That I have heard some great sea stories AND I have learned how to tell one.
That I have a greater sense of empathy for students who can’t quite “get” a concept. I have been that student that needs “extra help” for the past 2 weeks at sea.
That I will miss the adrenaline rush of catching and tagging a shark. Mark, our Chief Scientist, wonders what there’s left for me to do that will give me that much of an adrenaline surge. He is right. I am hooked.(pun intended).
That in 14 days I have not texted one time and I have only made 6 calls on my cell phone to my family, all in a matter of 1 hour when we had cell service. I actually learned how to survive and thrive without my cell phone.
That I will miss my curtain around my bed to keep out the morning light.
That I will have to get used to not having to hook the doors to stay open.
That I will REALLY miss all the fine cuisine cooked up by Walter and Paul.
That every time I hear keys clank together, it will remind me of the 100 number hooks.
That there are some really cool jobs out here in technology, engineering, science, fishing, and navigating. I can’t wait to talk to my students and others about all the opportunities NOAA has to offer!
That I have gained 30 lifelong friends. I cannot thank them all enough for sharing with me their depth of knowledge and love for what they do.
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 18, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 26.05 N
Longitude: 84.05 W
Wind Speed: 5.20 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 30.30 C
Air Temperature: 31.20 C
Relative Humidity: 67.00%
Science and Technology Log
Living in the landlocked state of Oklahoma, I am unfamiliar with sharks. Thus today, with the help of the scientists, I’m going to give some basics of sharks that I have learned this week. Class title: Shark 101. Welcome to class!
Let me start by telling you the various sharks and amount of each we have caught this week in the Gulf of Mexico. We have caught 7 nurse sharks, 2 bull sharks, 4 sandbar sharks, 73 Atlantic sharpnose sharks, 15 blacknose sharks, 5 blacktip sharks, 5 smooth dogfish, 2 silky sharks, and 4 tiger sharks. For those of you that took the poll, as you can see the correct answer for the type of shark we have caught the most of is the Atlantic sharpnose shark. The sharks ranged in size from about 2 kilograms (Atlantic sharpnose shark) to 100 kilograms (tiger shark). Keep in mind a kilogram is 2.24 pounds.
In addition to the sharks caught we have also caught yellowedge, red, and snowy grouper, blueline tilefish, spinycheek scorpionfish, sea stars, and a barracuda.
From the last post you now know that we soak 100 hooks at a time. Throughout the survey we have had as little as no sharks on the line in one location and up to 25 on the line in other locations.
When a shark is brought on board, it is measured for total length, as well as fork length (where the caudal fin separates into the upper and lower lobes). The sex of the shark is also recorded. A male shark has claspers, whereas a female shark does not. The shark’s weight is recorded. Then the shark is tagged. Lastly, the shark is injected with OTC (Oxytetracycline) which can then be used to validate the shark’s age. It should be noted that for larger sharks these measurements are done in the cradle. For perspective, I had Mike, fisherman, lay in the cradle to show the size of it. Also on this trip, some of the scientists tried out a new laser device. It shoots a 10 cm beam on the shark. This is then used as a guide to let them know the total length. Thus, the shark can actually be measured in the water by using this technique.
Here are some things I learned about each of the sharks we caught.
1. Nurse shark: The dorsal fins are equal size. They suck their food in and crush it. Nurse sharks are very feisty. See the attached video of Tim, Lead Fisherman and Trey, Scientist, holding a nurse shark while measurements are being taken.
The skin of nurse sharks is rough to touch. Incidentally, all types of sharks’ skin is covered in dermal denticles (modified scales) which is what gives them that rough sandpaper type feeling. If you rub your hand across the shark one way it will feel smooth, but the opposite way will feel coarse.
2. Bull shark– These are one of the most aggressive sharks. They have a high tolerance for low salinity.
3. Sandbar shark– These sharks are the most sought after species in the shark industry due to the large dorsal and pectoral fins. The fins have large ceratotrichia that are among the most favored in the shark fin market.
4. Atlantic sharpnose shark– The main identifying characteristic of this shark is white spots.
5. Blacknose shark– Like the name portrays, this shark has black on its nose. These sharks are called “baby lemons” in commercial fish industry because they can have a yellow hue to them.
6. Blacktip shark- An interesting fact about this shark is that even though it is named “blacktip,” it does not have a black tip on the anal fin. The spinner shark, however, does have a black tip on its anal fin.
7. Smooth dogfish– Their teeth are flat because their diet consists of crustaceans, such as crabs and shrimp.
8. Tiger shark– Their teeth work like a can opener. They are known for their stripes.
9. Silky shark- Their skin is very smooth like silk.
Another thing I got to see was shark pups because one of the scientists on board, Bianca Prohaska, is studying the reproductive physiology of sharks, skates, and rays. According to Bianca, there are 3 general modes of reproduction:
1. oviparous– Lays egg cases with a yolk (not live birth). This includes some sharks and all skates.
2. aplacental viviparous – Develops internally with only the yolk. This includes rays and some sharks. Rays also have a milky substance in addition to the yolk. Some sharks are also oophagous, such as the salmon shark which is when the female provides unfertilized eggs to her growing pups for extra nutrition. Other sharks, such as the sand tiger, have interuterine cannibalism (the pups eat each other until only 1 is left).
3. placental viviparous– Develop internally initially with a small amount of yolk, then get a placental attachment. This includes some sharks.
Yet another thing that scientists look at is the content of the shark’s stomach. They do this to study the diet of the sharks.
Anyone who knows me realizes that I appreciate good food when I eat it. Okay, on NOAA Ship Oregon II, I have not found just good food, I have found GREAT cuisine! I am quite sure I have gained a few pounds, courtesy of our wonderful chefs, Walter and Paul. They have spoiled us all week with shrimp, steak, prime rib, grilled chicken, homemade cinnamon rolls, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and the list goes on! Just talking about it makes me hungry!
Walter is a Chef de Cuisine. I want to share with you two of the wonderful things, and there are many more, he has prepared for us this week. The first is called ceviche. On our shift we caught some grouper. Walter used these fish to make this wonderful dish.
In addition to the grouper, the ingredients he used were lemon juice, vinegar, onions, jalapeno, kosher salt, and pepper. He mixed all the ingredients together. The citric acid cooks the raw fish. It has to be fresh fish in order to make it. Instead of lemon juice, apple juice or orange juice can be substituted. All I know is that since I arrived on NOAA Ship Oregon II, I heard from the entire crew about how great Walter’s ceviche was and it did not disappoint!
Another thing Walter is famous for on board NOAA Ship Oregon II are his macaroons. These are NOT like ANY macaroons you have ever tasted. These truly melt in your mouth. Amazingly, he only has 4 ingredients in them: egg whites, powdered sugar, almond paste, and coconut flakes. They are divine!!
On another note, I would like to give a shout out to my 5th grade students in Jay Upper Elementary School! (I actually have not had the chance to meet them yet because I am here as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I would like to thank my former student, Samantha Morrison, who is substituting for me. She is doing an outstanding job!!)
Jay 5th Grade: I cannot wait to meet you! Thank you for your questions! We will have lots of discussions when I return about life at sea. Several of you asked if I have been seasick. Fortunately, I have not. Also, you asked if I got to scuba dive. Only the dive crew can scuba dive. We are not allowed to have a swim call (go swimming) either. As you can see, there is plenty to do on board! Also, you may have noticed that I tried to include some pictures of me tagging some sharks. Lastly, this dolphin picture was requested by you, too. Dolphins LOVE to play in the ship’s wake so we see them every day.
Enjoy the view!
I LOVE the scenery out here! I thought I’d share some of it with you today.
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 16, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 25.15 N
Longitude: 82.48 W
Wind Speed: 2.09 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 29.20 C
Air Temperature: 30.10 C
Relative Humidity: 69.00%
Science and Technology Log
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been on this trip it is that both science and technology are crucial for doing a shark survey. Keep in mind NOAA Ship Oregon II’s mission is not to fish for sharks, rather it is to survey them. In other words, it is to find out how the sharks are doing and where they like to hang out in the ocean. Thus, the ship doesn’t ONLY go to the “shark hot spots” so to speak. Instead, there are various locations the ship stops at to perform a survey. These are called stations. The stations vary greatly in depth, temperature, dissolved oxygen, etc. It would be similar to marketers taking a survey to see what restaurants people prefer.
With that being said, there is a certain science to performing a survey of the sharks. Here is how it is done. There is much preparation before leaving port to do a survey. NOAA Ship Oregon II cannot leave port without Atlantic mackerel, and lots of it. This is the bait that is used to catch the sharks. The hook of choice is a circle hook. The fishing line is monofilament and extremely strong. These are the basic items needed, but there are numerous other tools needed such as the cradle for larger sharks, tagging tools, vials for samples, and the list goes on. Suffice it to say, once the ship leaves from port, everything has to be on board in order to have a productive survey.
Anyone who fishes knows there are numerous ways to catch a fish. So how do you catch a shark? If you’ve ever seen the movie, “The Perfect Storm,” then you have a good idea. The method used is called longlining. As the name claims, this method makes use of a long line. The line must first be prepared. In order to do this the circle hooks are baited with Atlantic mackerel. There are 100 hooks in total to put on the line. The hooks are part of a unit called a gangion. A gangion consists of a leader, a monofilament line, and a circle hook. These are placed in a barrel. There are 50 gangions with bait per barrel, for a total of 2 barrels per fishing set.
Incidentally, there are 2 shifts: day shift (noon until midnight) and night shift (midnight until noon). I am on the day shift. Thus there are stations being worked 24 hours a day. The bridge will announce when we are coming on another station. Also, it is posted on the dry lab door so we can all be prepared for the next station. Knowing this, the shift gets the mackerel ready by thawing it out, then cutting it up to bait the
Once the ship is to the station, everyone gets in their places, and the OOD (Officer of the Deck) disconnects the engine. At this point the drift test begins. This takes into account both the wind and the current to determine what direction to set the line. If there is too much current, determined by the Field Party Chief and the OOD, the station is either canceled or moved closer to shore. Next the ship slowly moves forward (4 knots) and the line is fed from the ship. The line, which is 1 nautical mile, is let out at the stern (back) of the ship. The fishermen are responsible for feeding it through blocks (pulley) system. The 1st thing on the line is a high flyer. This is an orange flotation device put at the end of the line.
The next thing put on the line is a weight. This sinks the line to the bottom. At this point, the first of 50 baited gangions are handed to the fishermen to clip to the line, each being evenly distributed. It should be noted that each gangion has a hook number so that an accurate record can be kept. The hook numbers are taken off a line and clipped on the gangion as the bait is being fed over the deck to the fisherman. After the 50th gangion, another weight is put on the line, followed by 50 more gangions, another weight, and lastly, a high flyer. While all of this is going on, one person on the team records data on the computer which is instantly uploaded with such things as the latitude and longitude and real time of when each hook is deployed.
The longline is allowed to soak for 1 hour before it is brought back on board on the starboard (right) side of the well-deck, just aft of the bow (front). During this time the deck and buckets are cleaned up and the CTD is deployed (Conductivity Temperature Depth).
The CTD takes many measurements including temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll, depth, and dissolved oxygen. These measurements give the scientists valuable information for the habitats of the sharks. For example, any level of dissolved oxygen 2.0 mg/liter or lower is considered apoxic and causes physiological stress on an animal. Most animals live in an area between 2-7 mg/liter of dissolved oxygen. A reading of 7 would only be found in very cold water such as the Arctic.
In addition to the CTD readings, the scientists report the water color along with the current weather conditions.
After the line has soaked, the team meets at the bow to haul in the line. The fishermen unclip the gangions from the line and hand it off to a scientist who records the hook number and the condition of the bait. If a fish is caught, it is brought aboard and morphometric (total length, fork length, sex, and weight) data is collected.
In the event a larger fish is caught, it is placed in the cradle.What are the benefits of doing a longline survey? It gives the scientists presence/absence data from looking at what was caught and was not caught. It gets samples from the Gulf to compare with other areas.
One word: WOW! Let me say it backwards: WOW!!! This week is DEFINITELY making my “Top Ten Life Experiences” list!! Shark Week has absolutely nothing on this NOAA crew! It is evident they eat, sleep, and live sharks and other fish all year long. NOAA Ship Oregon II needs to have a camera follow them for a reality show called “Shark Year.” If they aren’t catching it, they are studying about it. I am amazed at the depth of knowledge of the entire crew, including each and every member on board, of the ocean. What impresses me even more is their enthusiasm and patience in teaching this teacher how it all works.
Now for your questions. . .
One of you asked about shark finning. According to the scientists and fishermen on board it is not a big problem off the coast of the United States like it is in Asia. Here it is regulated. In fact, when commercial fishermen bring in their sharks, the fins have to be attached, so that cuts down on this practice.
Another question that came up was in regards to tagging. On this ship the scientists mainly use passive tagging techniques. This requires the fish to be recaptured after it has been tagged. The tag has a phone number to call when the shark is caught as well as an identification number. Another method of tagging is active tagging, for instance satellite tags. Satellite tags are attached to animals to study migration. These are very expensive, ranging from $3,000-$5,000. They are set to pop off the animal at a predetermined time and date and transmit data to a satellite in order to plot the shark’s course. Many shark species are migratory so this type of tag is beneficial to see their migration patterns.
Also, a question was asked about how deep it needs to be to safely navigate. According to Cap, the draft for the ship is 15 feet. The ship can safely sail in 30 feet of water. That’s unbelievable for a ship of this size, huh? It makes Orgeon II a great vessel to do the shallow water surveys. Most other ships can’t go that shallow.
By the way, great job class on last blog’s poll! The correct answer was 70! You all aced the quiz!
I also have to share a picture of my son, Hayden. His 1st day of school was Monday. I can’t believe he is already in 6th grade! Hayden is a shark enthusiast and is following my blog at home with my parents. Cap has already told me he is welcome on the ship. Someday he can come study sharks, just like his Mom!
Shark Gallery Pictures
The next blog will be a lesson on specific sharks, but for now, enjoy the pictures!!
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 13, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 26.02 N
Longitude: 80.02 W
Wind Speed: 9.18 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 29.20 C
Air Temperature: 30.30 C
Relative Humidity: 70.00%
Science and Technology Log
The crew of NOAA Ship Oregon II are adamant about safety. Because of this, drills are performed in order to be prepared. First we did a fire drill. The alarm sounds then the Captain makes an announcement as to where the fire is located. I am in the scientist party, thus we went to the dry lab. In the event of a real fire, the fire box on the bridge would tell the Captain what area of the ship was in danger. Two of the crew members, Tim, Lead Fisherman, and Walter, Chief Boatswain, don their fire suits and go to the area to contain the fire.
Next we did a “man overboard” drill. When the alarm is sounded, everyone on board grabs their survival suit and life vest and heads to the bow. They must be put on in one minute or less.
The diving crew also did a proficiency dive and hull inspection. The proficiency dive is done in order to stay familiar with their gear in the event they need to go beneath the ship to fix something. For example, the longline could get entangled in the screw/propeller. During the hull inspection the diving team checks the intakes for growth of algae, etc.
The Captain announces that divers will be in the water, then the RHIB (Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat) is lowered. After they are in place, the divers can now get started. After the dive, the gear is brought back on board with a crane.
There are multiple safety features on the bridge as well. AIS (Automated Identification System) is a tool to help identify other ships. Any ship that is 300 gross tons or more must register their ship. NOAA Ship Oregon II is 729 gross tons. Another important tool is the radar. The radars are $80,000/each. This ship has two. Commanding Officer, Master Dave Nelson, said he tells his crew, “This box is our world.” Whenever it is dark or there is severe weather this is their only “eyes” to tell them what is in their path.Another device used on the bridge is the fathometer. (Captain calls it the “fatho.”) This tells the depth of the water.
The bridge also has a radio system which is vital for communication. Channel 10 and 16 are working channels for marine travel ships. To speak on the radio you must have a license through the Federal Communications Commission. On the radio is a distress button. There are 5 different places which have distress buttons. In addition, there are 4 EPIRBs (Emergency Positioning Indicating Radio Beacon) on board. If the ship is in trouble, the Captain can activate it. It would then send signals with NOAA Ship OregonII‘s position and name. If there isn’t enough time to activate the EPIRB, water pressure will activate it once it submerges. The Captain and his officers also keep track of the ship’s heading in degrees: 0000 is North, 090 is East, 180 is South, 270 is West.
Captain Dave Nelson calls me “Teach” and I call him “Cap.” I got to spend time this morning for a tour of the bridge with him. It was fascinating! In addition to all I learned above, he showed me the wheel and the engine controls which houses the pitch indicator (a.k.a. gas pedal).
Cap also told me the ship follows MARPOL Regulations. For example, food scraps can be dumped in the ocean as long as it’s 12 miles from the shore.
We have been steaming 25 miles out but moved within 3 miles of shore to get out of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream flows from south to north. We’re headed south. Today it is moving at 3.5 knots. (It averages 4 knots.) Water is very powerful. Going into a current with 1 knot is the same as going into a 20 knot wind. Now that you know this, try to solve the question below.
In reference to the question on my last blog “How many gallons of diesel does NOAA Ship Oregon II hold?” The correct answer is 70,000 gallons! According to Sean, Chief Engineer, we will get to Mississippi with about 30,000 gallons remaining.
On another note, It was so neat to get to be close enough to the shore line to see Fort Lauderdale and Miami!
Captain’s Corner: Stories from NOAA Ship Oregon II
If only NOAA Ship Oregon II could talk . . . she would have some stories to tell of her journey in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. We will let Commanding Officer (CO), Master Dave Nelson, tell the stories. Here is one he shared with me today.
It was about six years ago and they were headed north to do a survey on the east coast. The only individuals on board were those in the crew; 19 in all. They were in the Gulf Stream and it was rough. The seas had 15 foot waves. Because it was so rough, NOAA Ship Oregon II was being run slower than normal. At that time, Cap was the XO and he was at the bridge steering. A call came through from the Chief Engineer alerting the Captain to get to the engine room immediately. When he arrived he found the Chief Engineer standing in water that was now up to his belly button. He explained that a saltwater intake pipe, which funnels salt water in to cool the engines, had burst. Because the area was flooded, he still could not find the valve to shut it off. He continued searching, determined to find it. His diligence paid off because he found it and shut it down. Had he not found it, the ship would’ve lost power in 6-7 more minutes. A ship without power is bad news. The captain would’ve had to call “abandon ship.”
This story just goes to show that it is crucial to know your job and know it well. Clearly the Chief Engineer knew his job. He saved many lives that day at sea.
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 12, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 29 03.78 N
Longitude: 080 32.183 W
Wind Speed: 9.76 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 29.20 C
Air Temperature: 29.88 C
Relative Humidity: 84%
Barometric Pressure: 1012.55 mb
Science and Technology Log
NOAA Ship Oregon II is like a city. This 175’ research vessel has the capability of making potable water, processing sewage, and making its own power. Yesterday I followed around the engineers as they prepared for us to go to sea so all these things would run smoothly.
Because there are so many fluids on board (such as lubricating oil, hydraulic oil, waste oil, and diesel), it is very important to know their levels in order to be able to balance the ship. The Captain runs stability tests before going to sea. The engineers measure these fluids. How do they do it? They take tank soundings. If the engineer is measuring how much diesel is in the tanks, it is called innage. If the air space in the tank is measured, it is ullage.
The lid to the tank is taken off first. Next a stainless steel measuring tape with a plumbob (weight) is lowered down into the tank. (Stainless steel and brass are used to prevent static electricity.) When the plumbob hits the buckler plate at the bottom, the tape is reeled in to see the level of the diesel. On this ship the readings are done in feet and inches. Some ships use the metric system. Either way, it is crucial that the measurements are read accurately. After the readings are taken, they put the numbers into a sounding table to calculate how many
gallons still remain in the tank. There are 9 diesel tanks for NOAA ship Oregon II. Can you guess how many gallons of diesel the ship holds?
After soundings are taken for diesel, hydraulic fuel, and lubricating oil, a sounding is done for waste/dirty oil. All ships have to keep an oil record book to account for proper disposal of the dirty oil. In the event there is an oil slick on the ocean, the record book will show where all the oil for the ship went. NOAA is very cautious with the oil. One drop of oil can contaminate 100,000 gallons of water!
Another task to perform before going to sea is cleaning the strainers. Salt water is used to cool the engines; however debris comes in, too. The strainers stop the debris. When they get full the engines will overheat if they aren’t cleaned. According to the engineers, the strainers are much fuller in Pascagoula than in Charleston.
NOAA Ship Oregon II also makes potable (safe to drink) water. This is done by the reverse osmosis machine. Essentially the water is squeezed through membranes. The government allows up to 700 parts per million (ppm) of salt, but on this ship it is kept to 150 ppm. Water is made 22 miles or more from the coast. This is due to the fact that there are more pollutants closer to shore. The ship can carry 7,000 gallons of potable water.
Charting is one of the many other things that must be done before sailing. This is done by the Junior Officer, Brian. He is responsible for laying down the track lines (the course the boat will take). At any given time, he has 3 days tracked. This is done electronically then it is logged on the paper chart. On the map, blue is shallow water and white is deeper water. For Charleston Port, blue is 18 feet and below and white is 18 feet or above. This differs from port to port.
NOAA Ship Oregon II has an entire crew of experts. Thanks to Brian, Electronics Technician, for fixing my laptop which had a virus. Had it been plugged into the network, it could’ve shut down the entire NOAA fleet! All the ships rely on the internet for weather, latitude and longitude, etc. Thank you, Brian for fixing the problem!
You may have noticed from the Ship Tracker that we left from Charleston rather than Mayport. This was a precaution taken because of Tropical Storm Emily. When I arrived at Papa Pier in Charleston, I was greeted by Commanding Officer, Master Dave Nelson. He told me to just call him “Dave.” He is extremely down-to-earth and eager to share what he knows with me. It is obvious he has earned the respect of the entire crew.
Over the course of the evening, I got to meet many of the crew members. They each were very helpful in getting me ready to sail. One of the fishermen, Cliff, greeted me and explained longline fishing. Right now, however, we are transiting, or steaming, down the coast for 3 days. They won’t start fishing until we round the Florida peninsula on Sunday. Suffice it to say, I’m having the time of my life! This crew is awesome!
I had two added bonuses for my trip to sea. My parents dropped me off at the airport. They said it reminded them of me going to my first day of kindergarten with my shorts, T-shirt, and backpack! I also got to see my sister and her kids on a layover in Dallas. My nieces made a card for me which I have in my locker. In it my niece Ellie asked, “What are you going to grow up to be?” I have to say, the very fact that she doesn’t think I’m grown up makes me smile. Robert Ballard said it best, “I am a lifelong learner . . . a kid who has never grown up.” So Ellie, in answer to your question, I want to be a kid when I grow up. I don’t ever want to stop asking questions and asking “why?” It’s what kids do best.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II August 11 — 24, 2011
Mission: Shark Longline Survey Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico Date: August 2, 2011
If you asked me 35 years ago, “Who is your hero?” My reply would’ve been, “Wonder Woman.” If you asked me the same question today, my answer would be “lifelong learners.” It is due to these people that solutions are being found for clean water, that animals are being saved, and that people are being educated at just how fragile our earth is right now. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is full of such people (Jennifer Hammond, Liz McMahon, Rob Ostheimer, Elizabeth Bullock, for starters). I have been in contact with each of these individuals. They have one thing in common: a passion about learning. To this end, NOAA has a Teacher at Sea program. This season over 30 were chosen out of the United States. Each of us will be on a different voyage. This is where I come in because I am a 2011 Teacher at Sea. So, who am I?
Speaking of mission, let’s get down to business: my NOAA Teacher at Sea assignment. Though I have been to the ocean, I have never sailed on a ship.
Take the poll to tell me if you have traveled on the ocean. I will be traveling aboard the Oregon II in the Gulf of Mexico, August 11-24th.
There are 3 main types of ships: 1. fisheries research ship, 2. hydrographic survey ship, and 3. oceanic and atmospheric ship. I am on the most physically challenging of all the cruises: the fisheries cruise. I, along with the crew, will be doing 12 hour work shifts. We will be doing a shark and snapper longline survey. I am privileged to be studying with Chief Scientist Mark Grace. His work precedes him. I have already been told he is top notch. He is the Shark Unit Leader. I cannot wait to learn from him! The crew consists of about 30 people, including officers, fishermen, deck crew, engineers, electronics crew, cooks, scientists, and 1 teacher (that would be me). NOAA Ship Oregon II, also referred to as “O2”, is headed by Commanding Officer, Master Dave Nelson. Again, I have heard rave reviews about him. I am anxious to meet him in person!
As for my travel plans, I will fly in to Jacksonville, Florida. I will then spend the night on my new “home away from home,” NOAA Ship Oregon II, in Mayport, Florida. We will depart on August 11th and sail around the entire coast of Florida. O2 will travel to Pascagoula, Mississippi, arriving on August 24th. You can follow us on the Ship Tracker.
While at sea I will be posting 2-3 blogs a week. Please join in on our polls, read along about our voyage, and post comments and questions. Let’s show NOAA that we are lifelong learners who value the importance of oceanic research. Besides, if you have read this entire blog entry, that makes you my hero.