NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 23 – June 7, 2018
Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeaster Coast of U.S.
Date: May 30, 2018
Weather From Bridge
Latitude: 40° 42′
Longitude: 072° 35′
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Wind Speed: calm
Wind Direction: calm
Air Temperature: 15.5°C
Science and Technology Log
At Day 5, I am getting acclimated to life on the sea. Days are filled with data collection at randomly selected stations. One of the collections is of plankton, phytoplankton, zooplankton and ichthyoplankton. Plankton sampling has occurred since the early 19th century with simple collecting devices. In early ocean sampling, it was believed that plankton were evenly distributed throughout the ocean, so a sample taken anywhere would be a good representation for a large area. This idea is no longer supported. The belief is that there are large scale spatial variations in concentrations of plankton populations, which has lead to random sampling methods using bongo nets. Widely used since the 1970’s, bongo nets are named from their side by side configuration which makes them look like a set of bongo drums.
There are two sets of bongo nets the ship is using: a regular bongo with a diameter of 61 cm and 333 micron mesh and two different sets of baby bongos, 22 cm in diameter, and one set with 333 micron mesh and the other with 165 micron mesh for smaller organisms. As the station to sample is approached, the bridge announces “Ten minutes to Bongo!” and all scientists and crew get prepared to deploy bongos. They are lowered into the water with a crane and winch system and towed for 8 to 25 minutes, depending on the depth, at a speed of 1-2 knots There is an important communication between the bridge and the scientists during bongo deployment. The ship gets to the correct GPS and slows down for the tow. See video for deployment procedure:
A video of bongo deployment (no dialogue)
Bongos being lowered into the water
When nets are retrieved, the bongos are rinsed to collect all the samples to the cod-end of the net. The baby bongo samples are preserved in ethyl alcohol to be sent to the Narraganset Lab to look for fish eggs and larvae and to the University of Connecticut to get a census of marine zooplankton. The large bongo samples are preserved in formaldehyde to be sent to a lab in Poland to identify species and count numbers.
Samples collected in cod-end of bongo net
After nets are washed they are prepared for next station. The cod-ends are tied with the “Taylor” knot shown below. After many attempts and a very patient teacher, I finally learned how to tie this knot.
The “Taylor” cod-end knot
Washing out sieve to capture sample to be put into jar
Sample preserved and ready to be sent to lab to identify species
The questions scientists are trying to answer with the data from these samples are:
- What living plankton organisms does the sea contain at a given time?
- How does this material vary from season to season and year to year?
As scientist Chris Taylor reminded me, no sample is a bad sample. Each sample contributes to the conclusions made in the end. After samples are examined by the labs, I look forward to seeing the results of this survey.
I am enjoying every second of this cruise. We did hit rough seas but I had no effect due to wearing the patch. Hopefully, we will have calm seas as we head to the Gulf of Maine. The food is great. Chef Dennis prepares awesome meals. I am eating a lot!! Even had an ice cream bar set up last night. Life is very comfortable on the ship.
Chef Dennis prepare another great meal
INTERVIEW: Andrew Harrison and Maddie Armstrong
I choose to interview ship members Andrew Harrison and Maddie Anderson because they are in the process of earning their mariner licenses. Also, the perspective from a female in a male dominated career is of interest. I often get questions from students about opportunities in the marine science field. The marine science field has many paths to take. One path is research and another is earning a Merchant Mariner license. There are several ways to obtain a Merchant Mariners USCG license. The two most common paths are the hawsepiper and Maritime academy. The hawsepiper path begins with accumulating sea hours, taking training courses, completing board assessment and passing the USCG exam. This path can take up to 14 years to complete. In the Maritime college route, requirements for Merchant Mariner license can be complete in 4 years and earn a college diploma. The interviews below give some direction to pursuing a career on a ship.
Interviewees role on ship:
Andrew Harrison- assignment on ship- Crew Able Body
Maddie Armstrong –assignment on ship- student and science party volunteer
The connecting link between Maddie and Andrew is they both are affiliated with Maine Maritime Academy. Andrew graduated in 2015 and Maddie is presently a student. What interested me the most is that a Maritime degree could be granted through college studies. I had no idea this was an option for students interested in maritime careers. There are 7 Maritime academies across the US. https://www.edumaritime.net/usa/top-maritime-programs, each with their unique specialty. All programs are USCG approved and students earn license upon graduation through the US Coast Guard. From talking to Andrew and Maddie I feel attending college to earn a merchant mariners license prepares one better for life at sea.
What degree do you hold?
Andrew: I have a BA Vessel Operations and Technology and a 500 Ton license.
Maddie: I will graduate with double major BA in Marine Science / Vessel Operations and Technology. Presently I have a 200 ton license but the plan is to graduate with a 500 Ton and 3rd Mate license.
Where did your interest in marine science stem from?
Andrew: Since I was 14, I have been sailing and love the ocean
Maddie: Growing up in the middle of Maine, it was difficult to experience the ocean often. My parents would take me to the ocean as a reward or holiday gift.
What experiences do students at Maine Maritime Academy get to prepare for maritime license?
Maddie: The academy has a ship, The State of Maine, which is a moving classroom. Students practice navigation on the ship. There is also the Pentagoet Tug to practice barge pulling. Smaller vessels are available to practice to practice navigation on. At the academy you can practice on real ships.
Andrew: The Academy gives students a faster way to obtain license than a non collegiate Hawsepiper route. Through a maritime college you also earn a college degree and graduate with a license. The academy route is faster but also more expensive. To obtain a similar license without going to an academy would take up to 15 years. Plus the academy has connections to job opportunities after graduation.
What other ships have you worked on over the years?
Andrew: I was a deck hand on Spirit of South Carolina; worked on yachts out of Charleston; Space X barge AD- collected rocket after launch
Maddie: I have had some experience on a lot of different vessels through the academy. I started working on the Schooner Bowdoin and Brig Niagara for a summer. Then moved on to charter boats and small cruise ships.
What advice would you give a student who is interested in pursuing a Merchant Mariners license?
Andrew: Volunteer on ships as much as you can. Experience on a Schooner is invaluable. Be prepared to put in the time.
Maddie: You have to be self driven and want to be on the water. You also have to be self confident and willing to give it your all at a moments notice.
How much time can a merchant mariner expect to spend at sea each year?
Andrew: It varies with the vessel and cruise. It can be 9 months at sea and 3 months off; 60 days at sea; and 69 days off; 5-7 weeks on and 3-5 off. The bottom line is to be prepared to be away from home for long periods of time.
What are your interests and hobbies when you are on shore?
Andrew: Fishing, sailing, scuba, reading and video games.
Maddie: I like to read, hike and learn to play instruments. Now I am learning to play a didgeridoo- a wind instrument developed by indigenous Australians.
Where do you see yourself working in 10 years?
Maddie: Working on a research vessel with ROV exploration.
Andrew: In 10 years, I plan to be a 1600 Ton Master Captain working for NOAA or another cruise company.