This week, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program. Join us as we look back at the history and accomplishments of this groundbreaking program.
Since 1990, more than 850 teachers have sailed aboard NOAA research ships. They serve as valued crew members, conducting hands-on research and learning more about the science that informs our conservation and management efforts.
This unique professional enhancement opportunity is made possible by the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. For three decades, the Teacher at Sea program has helped teachers participate in annual NOAA research surveys conducted by our scientists. Teachers from around the country embark on a two to three week expedition at sea. They gain invaluable on-the-job experience and communicate their journey through a series of blogs and lesson plans.
After their research cruise, teachers take their newfound knowledge back to their classrooms and hometowns. Teacher at Sea alumni have worked with more than 500,000 students and 3 million other people at conferences and other outreach events. The Teacher at Sea Alumni Association was created in 2011 to provide a way for teachers to continue learning and network with others who’ve had the same experience.
Teacher at Sea Program Manager Jennifer Hammond said, “Teachers at Sea are great ambassadors for NOAA science. We accept Pre-K through college-level teachers in all subject areas who demonstrate they can communicate the science back to their classrooms, whether they’ve taught for one year or 20 years. The original goal of the program was for teachers to get an opportunity to see how we conduct at-sea research and introduce them to NOAA careers, specifically NOAA Corps and at-sea science.”
History of the Program
The program started in NOAA’s Office of Marine Aviation Operations in 1990. NOAA Corps Officer Lt. Ilene Byron placed the first Teacher at Sea, Debora Mosher (pictured right), on the NOAA Ship Oregon II to help conduct an Atlantic scallop survey.
Mosher said the experience allowed her to see “…the reality of scientific research—the expertise, the planning, the time, the effort, the dangers, the data, the equipment, the cataloging and computing of numbers, the frustrations. But most importantly, I saw the information and careful analysis would help us understand the natural world.”
Experiencing Real-World Science at Sea
By doing the science, the teachers gain a greater connection to the science. They see firsthand how our surveys translate to the real-world and they learn how to communicate the experience to their students. They also become an integral part of the research team. “The teachers learn that problem-solving and team-building are a much bigger component of science than they thought. You have to rely on each other and the equipment you have at-hand,” Hammond said.
Some of these teachers have never had a real-world research experience before. Their first trip out to sea can be intimidating regardless of background and skill level. The Teacher at Sea program puts teachers squarely in the shoes of their students, who encounter new and complex lessons every day at school. For many teachers, their experience at sea reminded them what it felt like to be a student. It allowed them to change their teaching habits to more effectively reach students who feel overwhelmed by new class material.
Program Benefits Teachers—and Scientists
It’s not just the teachers and students that benefit from the program. NOAA scientists are eager to work with Teachers at Sea. “Teachers are suited for sea,” Hammond said. “They stand up all day long, they get no lunch break, rare bathroom breaks, they’re constantly adapting to their class and lesson plans. They’re prepared for rapid change, they work long days, and they tend to be a group that doesn’t sleep much. Scientists find them hard working, energetic, motivated, and appreciative of the experience. They’re such a wonderful contribution to the research team. This is why more than 70 NOAA scientists request Teachers at Sea to join their surveys each year.”
Although we could not send teachers to sea this year, the program continues to support the educational community through the Teacher at Sea Alumni Association.
7th and 8th grade students from Haydock Academy of Arts and Sciences in Oxnard, California, along with elementary students from South Carolina, decorated Styrofoam cups that Peter and I took with us on the Shimada. We brought these cups to show our students the amazing power of underwater pressure. The depths at which the ROV and CTD Niskin Rosette traveled during the voyage were much further than a human body could physically handle without being in some sort of pressurized submersible. Human bodies currently experience air pressure when we are at sea level, though we don’t feel the pressure because the fluids in our bodies are pressing outwards with the equal amount of force. However, once you start traveling underwater, the greater the pressure of the water pushing down on your being. As one NOAA website states: “For every 33 feet (10.06 meters) you go down, the pressure increases by 14.5 psi. In the deepest ocean, the pressure is equivalent to the weight of an elephant balanced on a postage stamp, or the equivalent of one person trying to support 50 jumbo jets!” (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pressure.html)
To illustrate how powerful the water pressure is in the deep ocean, Peter and I used Styrofoam cups to demonstrate this concept. First, we stuffed paper towels into the cups so that they would retain their shapes during a dive down to the bottom of the ocean floor. Next, we attached the cups to the CTD Niskin rosette. The crew launched the CTD into the ocean and it plunged downwards to a depth of 550 meters. As the cups descended deeper and deeper, the increasing water pressure compressed the air out from between the Styrofoam beads that make up the cup. What was left was a significantly shrunken version of our cups. Here are the before and after pictures:
The CTD Niskin rosette also collected data as it traveled downwards. Water filtered through the machine and sensors gathered information about temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen levels. The tubes on the CTD could also be programmed to collect water samples at certain depths, which they did on the return trip to the surface. This allowed the scientists to collect the water to test for different water quality factors at a later date.
Today, the scientists and Shimada team were joined by media crews from the LA times and the Santa Barbara Independent, along with some of NOAA’s education outreach specialists. The reporters took a tour around the Shimada and they interviewed the scientists about their important work. From Peter Etnoyer, and his team’s work on Lophelia and ocean acidification, Branwen Williams’ research on deep-sea coral, Laura Kracker and team’s mapping of uncharted Sanctuary regions, to the MARE team’s innovative ROV technology, the media had quite a bit to report about!
The reporters were even able to watch the ROV take its final dive of the trip to collect one last acanthogoria sample. One of Branwen’s and Peter’s goals is to be able to determine the ages of these beautiful organisms through the work they do. If they are able to create baseline data for how old an acanthogoria is, based on size and height, then there will be less of a need to collect these specimens in the future. Instead, they will be able to determine age based on looking at the footage during an ROV dive and using the laser measurements on the ROV camera to decide how old the coral is.
Until next time….
My journey on the Shimada finally came to a close today. NOAA sent out their local research vessel, the Shearwater, to meet us in the waters off Santa Cruz Island. Many of the scientists, along with the MARE team and myself boarded the Shearwater and watched as the Shimada became smaller and smaller in the distance. It was very sad to say goodbye, but Chris Caldow and the sonar team will continue on the Shimada with their important mapping of the Sanctuary for the next several days.
Being able to explore the seldom-visited parts of our sanctuary with the scientists and NOAA crew was a once in a lifetime experience. The research these scientists are doing to uncover the hidden depths of the sanctuary is also helping to illustrate how our actions on land have a direct impact on our oceans.
When we learn more about these rarely seen regions of our Sanctuary and about the deep-sea organisms that make their home there, these places and creatures become something that we grow to love and care about. This exploratory research is so important, because as someone on the trip said; “we cannot protect what we don’t know is there.” This is especially relevant for myself and the students from Haydock, because the Channel Islands truly are our backyard; we can see the Islands and Sanctuary from the shores of our city of Oxnard. When we feel a greater connection to a place such as the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, we are more likely to take part in the stewardship and protection of it for our future generations.
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children” (unknown)
To learn more about the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, click on the following link:
The visiting sonar technician left this afternoon on NOAA’s Shark Cat boat after working diligently to fix the ship’s sonar system throughout the past few days. As of now, the ME 70 sonar is up and running. This equals exciting news for the sonar team that has been waiting patiently to begin their projects. The Shimada actually has two sonar machines; one works with a single beam, while the other, the ME 70 has multiple beams that can cover a much greater amount of territory in the same amount of time.
How does sonar work?
Sonar technology is a way for us to create images of what is below the surface of the ocean. The sonar system, which is attached to the bottom of the ship, sends out an acoustic signal towards the ocean floor and then measures how long it takes for the sound to bounce back to the boat. By measuring this, the sonar creates a picture of the depth of the ocean floor in that area.
A secondary measurement that is also occurring when the sonar machine is running is called backscatter. Backscatter measures the intensity, or loudness, of the sound as it echoes back to the ship. The softer the sound when it reflected back means the softer the type of surface it is bouncing off of, such as sand. The louder and more severe the sound is equates to a harder surface floor, such as rocky ledges. As Andy explained to me, think about bouncing a ping-pong ball on a carpet vs. hardwood floor. The ping-pong ball will have a much stronger bounce off of a hard surface v. a softer one. Will also explained that based on the backscatter sound we can determine fine details such as whether the sand is fine or coarse.
Both of these sonar features create an image of what the ocean floor looks like, its physical features, habitat types and any potential hazards that may exist below the surface. This is critical for creating nautical charts and it is also important for the navigation of the ROV, so it doesn’t stumble upon any unexpected obstacles while traveling underwater.
Another feature that sonar is used for on this ship is to measure fish abundance. The sound waves travel down and bounce off of the fishes’ swim bladders. Swim bladders are gas filled bladders found in many fish that helps them stay buoyant. Using this method, scientists could use sonar to gauge fish populations, instead of catching fish to see what is out there.
So far in the trip, Laura Kracker and her team (Mike Annis, Will Sautter and Erin Weller) have been using the working sonar to map fish populations in the area. Tonight, however, they will use the ME 70 for a test run to map out areas of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary that have never been mapped before! This data could be used to create brand new nautical maps, to help scientists have a better idea of what the hidden part of our sanctuary looks like and to determine which regions might be best habitats for fish or coral. Tomorrow, the ROV team will send the ROV to the sites that were mapped the previous night to check out features that were discovered on the seafloor and to explore the newly mapped regions.
Life at Sea
When setting out on this journey, students asked me what life would be like living on a ship. I spoke with several of the crew members on the ship about what it is like to be out at sea for days at a time. So here is an image of what it has been like so far, from the perspective of some of the crew and from my own experiences:
The Bell M. Shimada is an enormous ship, over 200 feet in length. I have been here for four days now and still have not explored the entire place! The ship is approx. six stories tall, though on the ship they refer to the different levels as decks, not stories. The Shimada is run from a platform on the third deck, known as the bridge. The steering of the ship takes place from the bridge and there is always an assigned lookout person, whose job is to look out the windows to see what is going on around the ship. The bridge is also equipped with radars that can detect boat traffic or other obstacles.
A lot of communication goes back and forth between the scientists in the ROV command room and the bridge. The bridge must ensure that the ship stays steady and follows the ROV during its dive. If the ship moves too much it can yank the ROV around or the cables from the ROV could get caught or damaged under the ship.
The areas where we sleep on the ship are called staterooms. Almost all of them consist of bunk beds and have a toilet and shower area. I am rooming with Erin, one of the scientists working on the sonar mapping project. Erin and her team work during the night after the ROV runs, so typically she is going to bed shortly before I wake up for the day. We have both been working hard to stay quiet enough to let each other catch up on our sleep!
The Shimada has many features that I was not expecting on a ship, such as an exercise room equipped with treadmills and weights. We even have Internet access here! Another unexpected feature is the lounge/ theater room that is across the hall from my stateroom. It has plush reclining chairs, a huge flat screen TV, and all the DVDs you could ever hope to watch, including the newest movies.
When talking with the crew about what they love most about their jobs, many of them referred to how being part of a NOAA boat allows them incredible travel opportunities. One person I spoke with has been to 52 different countries throughout his career with NOAA! Another benefit of a maritime career such as this is that NOAA pays for part of your education. It requires special schooling and credentials to be able to be an engineer or commanding officer on a ship, and NOAA helps offset those costs. One of the biggest challenges of the job, however, is being away from family and friends for such long periods of time. Some of the crew explained to me that they may be out at sea for 30 days at a time, sometimes even longer.
One great perk to life aboard is the food. Two chefs prepare all of the meals on the Shimada for us. Similar to our lunch time at school, the meals are served at the same time each day in what is called the mess hall. If you oversleep and miss breakfast, not too worry; there is cereal and other snacks available around the clock. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner on the ship, and we have even had the treat of fresh salads and homemade desserts!
The ship stays running smoothly thanks to the help of the engineers and crew members. They work behind the scenes around the clock to keep the ship afloat.
My absolute favorite location on the ship is called the flying bridge. It has 3 tall chairs that look out over the ocean and an almost 360 degree view of the sea. The chairs have been used on previous excursions for scientists to sit and count marine mammals as part of their survey. It is a great place to watch the sunset from.
Happy Pi Day everyone! The second day on the ship was productive and incredible. The weather was fantastic throughout the entire day, with hardly any wind and a sheet glass ocean. The stillness of the water made it easy to spot wildlife, and during the day we saw multiple pods of dolphins, sea lions, and a variety of sea birds such as cormorants and brown pelicans.
The beautiful weather also made for smooth conditions to launch the ROV. The ROV took three dives today at different locations and depths each time. Peter and his team picked the locations around the Islands, staying true to spots they had visited in previous years. Part of their research involves looking at the same coral beds over the course of many years and recording what they observe and noting any changes that may have occurred. They are observing how the coral, specifically the species Lophelia pertusa, reacts to changes in pH levels and temperature. This information is important in finding indicators for how our ocean is being affected by warmer temperatures and ocean acidification.
So what exactly is ocean acidification?
As humans, we release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and have been doing so in large quantities since the Industrial Revolution. Carbon dioxide is released during combustion, when we drive our cars, power our houses and factories, use electricity, burn things, cut down trees, etc.
The ocean acts as a sponge and absorbs about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, as levels of CO2 rise in the atmosphere, so do the levels of CO2 in the ocean. This is not great news for our ocean or the organisms that make their home there. When CO2 mixes with seawater, a chemical reaction occurs that causes the pH of the seawater to lower and become more acidic. This process is called ocean acidification.
Even slight changes in pH levels can have large affects on marine organisms, such as fish and plankton. Ocean acidification also reduces the amounts of calcium carbonate minerals that are needed by shell-building organisms to build their shells and skeletons. The damage to these shell-building organisms, including many types of plankton, oysters, coral, and sea urchins, can have a negative ripple effect throughout the entire ocean food web. An important part of the mission of this trip is to see how ocean acidification is affecting different types of deep-sea coral, such as Lophelia pertusa, that use calcium carbonate minerals to build their skeletons.
The scientists and the MARE team conducted three ROV dives throughout the day. The first dive brought up an outstanding Lophelia sample, and along with it a bizarre deep-sea creature called a basket star. Basket stars are a type of invertebrate that are related to brittle stars. Even though they feed mostly on zooplankton, they have long spindly arms that can reach to over a meter in length. It was astonishing to be able to see this alien looking creature alive and moving!
Day 3: Sunday 3/15/15
After long hours and a late night, the MARE team was able to get the manipulator arm on the ROV up and running, after having technical difficulties with it during the first half of our trip. This was perfect timing for the first ROV dive of the day in the waters between Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands. The goal of this dive was to find scientist Branwen Williams a type coral known as Acanthogorgia. This coral is incredibly beautiful; tall, fan-like and golden in color.
Bombs Away: Branwen hoped to collect samples of this coral to take back to her lab for testing. She and her team of students and scientists will use these samples to ascertain how old the corals are, how fast they grow and what are they eating. Branwen explained to me that coral, similar to trees, have growth rings that can be used to determine age as well as other factors. She mentioned that when looking at age, she looks for the pattern of the “bomb curve” within the coral rings and that provides scientists with a relative date of how old the corals are. The “bomb curve” is a concentration of radiocarbon (14C) that is found in corals in every ocean in the world. The concentration of radiocarbon is a direct product of the bomb testing that took place starting in the 1950’s and produced large amounts of this radiocarbon into the atmosphere. The ocean absorbed that particular type of carbon, and in turn it was absorbed by the corals, who are suspension feeders. Suspension feeding means that corals eat by stretching their tentacles out to catch tiny particles that are floating by. So scientists identify the start and peak of the bomb testing in the radiocarbon stored in the coral skeleton to determine growth rates and then the ages of the corals. This was very shocking to me that corals in every ocean have this radiocarbon in their bodies, and clear evidence of how much human actions impact the entire globe.
Diving Deep: The ROV was dispatched into the water and soon sunk to around 200 meters. As it cruised along the ocean floor the team watched as a variety of rockfish scuttled by. The ROV has two sets of lasers that shoot out in front of it, each spaced 10 centimeters apart. This gives the scientists an idea of the size of objects or organisms that pass in front of the camera.
The team located the Acanthogorgia habitat and got to work collecting samples using the manipulator arm. The manipulator arm reminds me of the claw game found in most arcades. Andy remotely operated the arm, while Dirk worked simultaneously to control the ROV. Together they were able to collect three exceptional samples, including two Acanthogorgia corals attached to hefty rocks. Each time the manipulator arm reached towards a coral, the whole crew of the Shimada held in their breath in suspense. Would the arm be able to grasp its target? The live footage from the ROV is now being streamed throughout the entire ship; in the lounges and staterooms too, so Andy and Dirk had a quite an audience cheering them on!
The samples made it back to the ship safely. Branwen prepared the coral to take back to the Keck Science Department of the Claremont College where she and her students will conduct their research about this little known species of coral.
Thinking about the effort it takes to research deep-sea coral, involving ROVs and commissioning ships to reach their remote locations, it’s no wonder we know little about them and so much more about their shallow water relatives.
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, my home away from home for the next six days!
Today marks my first official day aboard the Shimada as part of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. My name is Sarah Raskin and I am an educator at Haydock Academy of Arts and Sciences, a public middle school in Oxnard, California. For the next week, I have the opportunity to join NOAA scientists from across the United States on a deep-sea science expedition in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. I am hoping to bring back what I learn to the students at Haydock and to paint a picture of what it is like to work on real-life science out in the field.
The location for our expedition is in the waters off of the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in Southern California. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) covers 1,470 square miles of water surrounding Santa Barbara, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands and is home to a large amount of diverse species. On this expedition, scientists will use an ROV (a remotely operated underwater vehicle) to examine deep-sea coral and the water chemistry around those coral beds. One of the most surprising facts for me before beginning this journey was to learn that coral grows in cold water deep-sea habitats, having only previously associated coral with warm water environments.
During this expedition, scientists will also look at how the corals are affected by ocean acidification. It will be interesting to see what their findings are: how do our actions on land affect organisms, such as coral, that live in the deep sea?
The scientists will collect live samples of the coral to take back to their labs for further ocean acidification testing. Throughout this trip, scientists will also use sonar to map the ocean floor. The information gathered from the sonar will help provide direction for where to send our ROV. The new images generated from the sonar could also be used to bring up-to-date sea floor maps of the Sanctuary, many of which have not been updated since they were created in the 1930s! Another feature of the sonar is to map out locations and quantities of fish populations in the area. This information is vital to sanctuaries and marine protected areas, as it contributes important information about why these areas are important to protect.
Science in the field is much different than science in a laboratory setting. There are so many factors to take into account: weather, ocean conditions, the working conditions of the equipment and many more unforeseen circumstances. The scientists and ship crew must each do their parts and work closely together as a team to make the research possible. During the first day aboard the researchers have faced quite a few challenges… Maybe because we set sail on Friday the 13th?
The morning began with impromptu safety drills. Similar to the fire drills that we have at our school, the ship also conducts regular drills. Today we had both a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. The abandon ship drill prepares the crew for an emergency event that would require us to leave the ship immediately. It also involved donning a safety suit, a giant red neoprene wetsuit that is designed to keep you warm if you needed to jump into the ocean.
Later in the afternoon, the team took the ROV out for its first outing of the trip. Chris Caldow (the expedition lead) and the scientists from Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE) chose a spot on the ocean floor that was sandy and flat with few physical features to snag on for its initial run. The ROV, which is named the Beagle, is an amazing piece of machinery. It is designed to be able to function in depths of down to 500 meters. It is also equipped with a high definition video camera that will take footage of what is going on under the sea. If the scientists see something of interest, the Beagle ROV has a manipulator arm to collect samples. The arm feature is also used to deploy different types of sensors that will keep track of information, such as temperature, over a longer period of time.
The launch of the ROV was exciting. Most of the crew gathered around to watch its release, and as it made it’s way down to the sea floor, it began streaming video footage to monitors inside of the laboratories on the ship. It was pretty incredible to be able to see the bottom of the sea floor with such clarity. So far, we have spotted multiple species of rockfish and an egg case of a skate. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!
Back to one of our challenges: the key sonar machine is currently out of order. When things break on a ship, it can be a bit tricky to fix. It’s definitely not as simple as running to the nearest hardware store to pick up a new piece of equipment. When something is not working out here, it can involve scuba diving under the ship to fix something or sailing back to the mainland if there is a real issue. So tomorrow there will be a boat coming out to meet our ship and bringing with it equipment and a trained sonar technician to hopefully solve our problems. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
Update: Science in the Field
The Beagle ROV journeyed into the depth once more last night. This time the mission was to find deep-sea coral beds, in particular one species called Lophelia pertusa, and bubble gum coral.
The MARE team (Dirk Rosen, Andy Lauermann, Steve Holz and Rick Botman) worked with scientists Peter Etnoyer, Leslie Wickes, Andrew Shuler and Branwen Williams to locate a coral bed that they had visited previously in 2010 and 2014. Using GPS coordinates, the MARE team was able to locate the exact site of the coral bed that Peter and his team had worked with in earlier years. There were quite a few high-fives and cheers of excitement in the lab when the ROV made its way to the familiar patch of bright red bubble gum coral.
The team dropped a temperature gauge at that location that will take and record a temperature reading every five minutes for the next six months. After that, Peter and his team will return on a second expedition to retrieve the device. The temperature gauge is tied to a rope attached to a lead weight and a flotation device covered with bright reflective tape. Andrew explained that the reflective tape would stand out in the headlights of the ROV, making it much easier to spot when they return for it half a year later.
The Beagle also retrieved its first coral sample of Lophelia pertusa, which it brought to the surface. Picking up samples from the deep in no easy feat. Andy and Dirk control the ROV from the deck with controls that look similar to something you would find on a video game consul. Sitting along side them, scientists Peter, Leslie and Branwen direct them to which coral specimens look the best for their sample. Then using either the manipulator arm or a shovel like feature on the boat, the ROV controller works quickly to scoop the organism into a basket attached to the front of the machine.
Once the ROV safely made it back on board, the scientists worked quickly to get the coral and its little inhabitants, such as deep-sea brittle stars and crabs, into cold water tanks as fast as possible. While the coral doesn’t seem to mind the pressure difference between the deep-sea and surface, it does not handle the temperature differential as well.
The team also took water samples from the water near the coral sites, which they will test later for pH. They are hoping to find out whether coral changes the composition of the water surrounding it. In order to collect the water samples, Branwen Williams (a scientist and professor from Keck Science Department at Claremont College), Leslie, and Andrew retrieved water samples using a CTD-Niskin rosette. They took water samples at the depth of the coral beds (approx. 290 meters) and then every 25 meters up from there. Once they filled bottles with the water, it was important to immediately “fix” the water samples. This means putting a poison, such as mercuric chloride into the water sample to kill off any living organisms, such as zooplankton or phytoplankton, that might be photosynthesizing or respiring and changing the pH levels of the water samples. This gives the scientists a snapshot of what the water chemistry is like at a particular place and time.
Ms. Raskin will be joining NOAA scientists on a research expedition in the waters around the Channel Islands. NOAA scientists will be using ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles) to look at deep-sea coral and water chemistry and the effects of ocean acidification.
The water pressure in the deep sea is very strong… which makes for a fun science activity! Students in Ms. Alstot’s Environmental Science class decorated styrofoam cups which Ms. Raskin will take with her on the boat. Those cups will go down in the ROV and when they return to the surface, the extreme pressure will have shrunken the cups! Stay tuned to see how it turns out.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow September 23 – October 4, 2013
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic Date: October 1, 2013
Science and Technology Log
A few hours into our shift midnight we get the word we have been expecting for several days – government shutdown. Our mission will be cut a few days short. That reality means the Bigelow has 24 hours to return to its homeport of Newport, R.I. It takes us 10 hours and we dock around 1 in the afternoon. With our fisheries operations suddenly declared over comes clean-up time, and we spend the next 6 hours of our shift cleaning up the on‐board fish lab. It is a time consuming but important process. The lab needs to be spotless and “fish scent” free before we can call our work finished on this cruise. The lab is literally solid stainless steel and every surface gets washed and suds downed so there is no residue remaining.
Our work is inspected by a member of the crew. If it were the military, the officer would have had white gloves on I believe, just like in the old movies, rolling his finger over a remote spot looking for the dust we missed. But this is a shining stainless steel fish lab so there are two simultaneous inspections going on at once – the one with the eyes and the one with the nose. It takes us twice to pass the visual inspection as small collections of fish scales are spotted in a few out-of‐the way areas. It takes us one more pass to clear the smell inspection. Up and down the line we walk, we can all smell the faint lingering perfume of “eau de fishes,” but we are having trouble finding it. We keep following our noses and there it is. Hiding under a black rubber flap at the end of the fish sorting line we find a small collection of fish scales revealed when the flap is removed for inspection. With that little section cleaned up and sprayed down the lab is declared done! There is a smile of satisfaction from the team. It is that attention to detail that explains why the lab never smelled of fish when I first boarded the ship 10 days ago nor has it smelled of fish at any time during our voyage. There is a personal pride in leaving the lab in the same shape we found it. Super clean, all gear and samples stowed, and ready for the next crew to come on board – whenever that turns out to be.
The abrupt and unexpected end to the cruise leaves me scrambling to change my travel plans. Like the ship, I have a limited amount of time to make it home on my government travel orders. The NOAA Teacher at Sea team goes above and beyond to rebook my flights and find me a room for the night.
On the serendipitous side, the change in plans gives me a little time to see Newport, a town famous for its mansions and the Tennis Hall of Fame. My first stop is the Tennis Hall of Fame. My father was a first class tennis player who invested many hours attempting to
teach his son the game. Despite the passion in our home for the great sport we never made it to the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. Today I get the chance to fulfill that bucket list goal. I still remember being court side as a young boy at The Philadelphia Indoor Championships watching the likes of Charlie Pasarell, Arthur Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. There was even a picture of the grass court lawn of the Germantown Cricket Club from its days a USTA championship venue before the move to Forest Hill, NY. I grew up playing on those tennis courts as my father belonged to that club. Good memories.
There was also a “court tennis” court, the game believed to be the precursor to outdoor tennis. Court tennis derived from playing a tennis type game inside a walled‐in court yard. Using the roof and the wall and the open side windows to beat your opponent is all part of the game. I played court tennis as a young teen. It’s a very unique game that is only played in a few spots now. There are only 38 court tennis courts in the world and Newport has two of them. If you like tennis, give court tennis a go if you ever get the chance.
Thoughts of a leisurely stroll evolve into a brisk walk as I head toward the ultimate and most famous Newport mansion: The Breakers, the 100,000 plus square foot summer home of the Vanderbilt family. This house has to be toured to understand the conspicuous consumption as a pastime of the then super rich. My 2000 square foot home would fit entirely inside the grand hall of the Breakers. In fact you could stack my home three high and they would still be below the Breaker’s ceiling. A ceiling inspired by Paris, a billiard room with walls of solid marble overlooking the ocean, a floor of thousands of mosaic floor tiles all put down by hand one by one, a stair case from Gone With the Wind, and 20 bathrooms to choose from all speak to the wealth and pursuit of elegance enjoyed by the Vanderbilt clan. It is a lifestyle of a bye–gone era often referred to as the “Gilded Age.” It is an apt description.
After sightseeing, it’s off to the bus stop for my shuttle to the Newport Airport where I take off at dawn the next morning to head for home. I’m leaving so early that the complementary coffee isn’t out yet! After an uneventful flight comes the end to an amazing adventure. Nothing left now except laundry and memories. And lots of great ideas for lesson plans to work into my classes. Thank you NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me the learning experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait to get back and share the experiences with my students.
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic Date: September 27, 2013
Science and Technology Log
It’s going to be a busy night trawling and processing our catch. Yippee. I like being busy as the time passes more quickly and I learn about more fish. A large number of trawling areas are all clustered together for our shift. For the most part that means the time needed to collect data on one trawl is close to the amount of time needed for the ship to reach the next trawling area. The first trawl was a highlight for me as we collected, for the first time, a few puffer fish and one managed to stay inflated so I had a picture taken with that one.
However, on this night there was more than just puffer fish to be photographed with. On this night we caught the big one that didn’t get away. One trawl brings in an amazing catch of 6 very large striped bass and among them is a new record: The largest striped bass ever hauled in by NOAA Fisheries! The crew let me hold it up. It was very heavy and I kept hoping it would not start flopping around. I could just see myself letting go and watching it slip off the deck and back into the sea. Fortunately, our newly caught prize reacted passively to my photo op. I felt very lucky that the big fish was processed at the station I was working at. When Jakub put the big fish on the scale it was like a game show – special sounds were emitted from our speakers and out came the printed label confirming our prize – “FREEZ – biggest fish ever “-‐-‐the largest Morone Saxatilis (striped bass) ever caught by a NOAA Fisheries research ship. It was four feet long. I kept waiting for the balloons to come down from the ceiling.
Every member of the science team sorts fish but at the data collection tables my role in the fish lab is one of “recorder”. I’m teamed with another scientist who serves as the “cutter”, in this case Jakub. That person collects the information I enter into the computer. The amount of data collected depends on the quantity and type of fish caught in the net. I help record data on length, weight, sex, sexual development, diet, and scales. Sometimes fish specimens or parts of a fish, like the backbone of a goose fish, are preserved. On other occasions, fish, often the small ones are frozen for further study. Not every scientist can make it on to the Bigelow to be directly part of the trip so species data and samples are collected in accordance with their requests.
Collecting data from a fish as large as our striped bass is not easy. It is as big as the processing sink at our data collection station and it takes Jakub’s skill with a hacksaw-‐-‐yes I said hacksaw-‐-‐to open up the back of the head of the striped bass and retrieve the otolith, the two small bones found behind the head that are studied to determine age. When we were done, the fish was bagged and placed in the deep freeze for further study upon our return. On the good side we only froze one of the six striped bass that we caught so we got to enjoy some great seafood for dinner. The team filleted over 18 pounds of striped bass for the chef to cook up.
More Going On:
Processing the trawl is not the only data collection activity taking place on the Bigelow. Before most trawls begin the command comes down to “deploy the bongos”. They are actually a pair of closed end nets similar to nets used to catch butterflies only much longer. The name bongo comes from the deployment apparatus that holds the pair of nets. The top resembles a set of bongo drums with one net attached to each one. Their purpose, once deployed, is to collect plankton samples for further study. Many fish live off plankton until they are themselves eaten by a predator farther up the food chain so the health of plankton is critical to the success of the ecological food chain in the oceans.
Before some other trawls, comes the command to deploy the CTD device. When submerged to a target depth and running in the water as the ship steams forward, this long fire extinguisher sized device measures conductivity and temperature at specified depths of the ocean. It is another tool for measuring the health of the ocean and how current water conditions can impact the health of the marine life and also the food chain in the area.
On a personal note, I filleted a fish for the first time today – a flounder. Tanya, one of the science crew taught me how to do it. I was so excited about the outcome that I did another one!
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic Date: September 25, 2013
Science and Technology Log
I was told that the first 12 hour night watch shift was the hardest for staving off sleep and those who spoke were right. Tonight’s overnight shift seems to be flying by and I’m certainly awake. Lots of trawling and sorting this evening with four sorts complete by 6am. One was just full of dogfish, the shark looking fish, and they process quickly because other than weight and length there is little request for other data. The dogfish were sorted at the bucket end of the job so determining sex had already been completed by the time the fish get to my workstation. Again I’m under the mentorship of Jakub who can process fish faster than I can print and place labels on the storage envelopes. The placement of the labels is my weakness as I have no fingernails and removing the paper backing from the sticky label is awkward and time consuming. Still tonight I’m showing speed improvement over last night. Well at least I’m getting the labels on straight most of the time.
In addition to the dogfish, we have processed large quantities of skate (the one that looks like a sting ray to me), left eyed flounders, croakers (no relation to the frog), and sea robins of which there are two types, northern and stripe. The sea robins are very colorful with the array of spines just behind the mouth. And yes it hurts when one of the spines goes through your glove. Sadly for me sorting has been less exciting tonight. With the big fish being grabbed off at the front of the line there has been little left for me to sort. I feel like the goal keeper in soccer – just don’t let them get past me. To my great surprise, so far I’ve experienced no real fear of touching the fish. The gloves are very nice to work with.
And let us not overlook the squid. There have been pulled in by the hundreds in the runs today. There are two types of squids, long fin (the lolligo) and short fin (the illex). What they both have in common is the ability to make an incredible mess. They are slimy on the outside and inky on the inside. They remind me of a fishy candy bar with really big eyes. And for all the fish that enjoy their squid treat the species is, of course, (wait for it) just eye candy. The stories about the inking are really true. When upset, they give off ink; lots of ink. And they are very upset by the time they reach the data collection stations. If you could bottle their ink you would never need to refill your pen again. They are also very, very plentiful which might explain why there are no requests to collect additional data beyond how long they are. I guess they are not eye candy to marine scientists. However, there vastness is also their virtue. As a food source for many larger species of marine life, an absence of large quantities of squid in our trawling nets would be a bad sign for the marine ecosystem below us.
When the squid are missing, our friend the Skate (which of the four types does not matter) is glad to pick up the slack on the “messy to work with” front. As this species makes it down the sorting and data collecting line the internal panic button goes off and they exude this thick, slimy substance that covers their bodies and makes them very slippery customers at the weigh stations. It turns out the small spines on the tails were placed there so that fisheries researchers could have a fighting chance to handle them without dropping. Still, a skate sliding onto the floor is a frequent event and provides comic relief for all working at the data collection stations.
There was new species in the nets tonight, the Coronet fish which looks like along drink straw with stripes and a string attached to the back end. It is pencil thick and about a foot long without the string. We only caught it twice during the trip. The rest of the hauls replicate past sorting as dogfish, robins, skates, squid, croakers, and flounder are the bulk of the catch. I’ve been told that the diversity and size of the trawl should be more abundant as we steam along the coastline heading north from the lower coast of New Jersey. Our last trawl of the shift, the nets deployed collect two species new for our voyage, but ones I actually recognized despite my limited knowledge of fish – the Horseshoe Crab and a lobster! I grew up seeing those on the Jersey shore. We only got one lobster and after measuring it we let go back to grow some more. It only weighed in at less than two pounds.
The foul weather suit we wear to work the line does not leave the staging room where they are stored as wearing them around the ship is not allowed. After watching others, I have mastered the art of pushing the wader pants over the rubber boots and thus leaving them set-‐up for quick donning and removal of gear throughout the shift.
While the work is very interesting on board, the highlight of each day is meal time. Even though I work the night shift (which ends at noon) I take a nap right after my shift so I can be up and alert in time for dinner. My favorite has been the T-‐bone steaks with Monterey seasoning and any of the fish cooked up from our trawling like scallops or flounder. The chef, Dennis, and his assistant, Jeremy serve up some really fine cuisine. Not fancy but very tasty. There is a new soup every day at lunch and so far my favorite has been the cream of tomato. I went back for seconds! Of course, breakfast is the meal all of us on the night watch look forward to as there is no meal service between midnight and 7am. After 7 hours of just snacking and coffee, we are ready for some solid food by the time breakfast is served.
Seas continue to be very calm and the weather sunny and pleasant. That’s quite a surprise for the North Atlantic in the fall. And the sunrise today was amazing. The Executive Officer, Chad Cary, shared that the weather we are experiencing should continue for at least four more days. I am grateful for the calm weather – less chance to experience sea sickness. That is something I’m determined to avoid if possible.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow September 23 – October 4, 2013
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic Date: September 24, 2013
Science and Technology Log
Today is my first full 12 hour shift day. I’m on the night crew working midnight to noon. Since we left port yesterday I’ve been trying to adjust my internal clock for pulling daily “all night”ers. On Monday, after we left port, safety briefs for all hands occurred once we made it out to sea and I got to complete my initiation into the Teacher at Sea alumni program – the donning of the Gumby suit as I call it. It is actually a bright red wet suit that covers your entire body and makes you look like a TV Claymation figure from the old TV show. In actuality it is designed to help you survive if you need to abandon ship. Pictures are of course taken to preserve this rite of passage.
The Henry B. Bigelow is a specially-built NOAA vessel designed to conduct fisheries research at sea. Its purpose is to collect data that will help scientists assess the health of the Northern Coastal Atlantic Ocean and the fish populations that inhabit it. The work is invaluable to the commercial fishing industry.
Yesterday, I learned how we will go about collecting fisheries data. Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Peter Chase, has selected locations for sampling the local fish population and the ship officers have developed a sailing plan that will enable the ship to visit all those locations, weather permitting, during the course of the voyage. To me its sounds like a well-‐planned game of connecting the dots. At each target location, a trawling net will be deployed and dragged near the bottom of the sea for a 20 minute period at a speed of 3 knots. Hence the reason this voyage is identified as a bottom trawl survey mission. To drag the bottom without damaging the nets is not easy and there are five spare nets on board in case something goes wrong. To minimize the chance of damaging the net during a tow, the survey technicians use the wide beam sonar equipment to survey the bottom prior to deployment. Their goal is to identify a smooth path for the net to follow. The fish collected in the net are sorted and studied, based on selected criteria, once on board. A specially designed transport system moves the fish from the net to the sorting and data collection stations inside the wet lab. I’m very excited to see how it actually works during my upcoming shift.
Work is already underway when our night crew checks in. The ship runs 24/7 and the nets have been down and trawling since 7pm. Fish sorting and data collection are already underway. I don my foul weather gear which looks like a set of waders used for British fly fishing. There is also a top jacket but the weather is pleasant tonight and the layer is not needed. I just need to sport some gloves and get to work. I’m involved with processing two trawls of fish right away. I’m assigned to work with an experienced member of the science team, Jakub. We will be collecting information on the species of fish caught on each trawl. Jakub carries out the role as cutter, collecting the physical information or fish parts needed by the scientists. My role is recorder and I enter data about the particular fish being evaluated as well package up and store the parts of the fish being retained for future study.
Data collection on each fish harvest is a very detailed. Fish are sorted by species as they come down the moving sorting line where they arrive after coming up the conveyer belt system from the “dump” tank, so named because that is where the full nets deposit their bounty. Everybody on the line sorts fish. Big fish get pulled off first by the experienced scientists at the start of belt and then volunteers such as I pull off the smaller fish. Each fish is placed into a bucket by type of fish. There are three types of buckets and each bucket has a bar code tag. The big laundry looking baskets hold the big fish, five gallon paint buckets hold the smaller fish, and one gallon buckets (placed above the sorting line) hold the unexpected or small species. On each run there is generally one fish that is not sorted and goes all the way to the end untouched and unceremoniously ends up in the catch-‐all container at the end of the line. The watch leader weighs the buckets and then links the bar code on the bucket to the type of fish in it. From there the buckets are ready for data collection.
After sorting the fish, individual data collection begins “by the bucket” where simultaneously at three different stations the sizing, weighing, and computer requested activities occur. By random sample certain work is performed on that fish. It gets weighed and usually opened up to retrieve something from inside the fish. Today, I’ve observed several types of data collection. Frequently requested are removal of the otolith, two small bones in the head that are used to help determine the age of the fish. For bigger fish with vertebra, such as the goose fish, there are periodic requests to remove a part of the backbone and ship it off for testing. Determining sex is recorded for many computer tagged fish and several are checked stomach contents.
Of the tools used to record data from the fish, the magic magnetized measuring system is the neatest. It’s rapid fire data collecting at its finest. The fish goes flat on the measuring board; head at the zero point, and then a quick touch with a magnetized block at the end of the fish records the length and weight. Sadly, it marks the end of tall tales about the big one that got away and keeps getting bigger as the story is retold. The length of the specimen is accurately recorded for posterity in an instant.
Flying into Providence over the end of Long Island and the New England coast line is breath taking. A jagged, sandy coast line dotted with summer homes just beyond the sand dunes. To line up for final approach we fly right over Newport where the Henry B. Bigelow is berthed at the Navy base there. However, I am not able to spot the NOAA fisheries vessel that will be my home for the next two weeks from the air.
I arrive a day prior to sailing so I have half a day to see the sites of Newport, Rhode Island and I know exactly where I’m headed – the Tennis Hall of Fame. My father was a first class tennis player who invested many hours attempting to teach his son the game. Despite the passion in our home for the great sport we never made it to the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. Today I fulfilled that bucket list goal. I still remember being court side as a young boy at The Philadelphia Indoor Championship watching the likes of Charlie Pasarell, Arthur Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. Also in the museum, to my surprise, was a picture of the grass court lawn of the Germantown Cricket Club from its days as a USTA championship venue. I grew up playing on those grass tennis courts as my father belonged to that club. After seeing that picture, I left the museum knowing my father got as much out of the visit as I did.
What Is NOAA and How Can You Get Involved?
NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and is part of the United States Department of Commerce. NOAA is involved around the world and there are many different avenues one could become involved with. For example, some people are involved in forecasting the location of the next hurricane strike, which means that you could be responsible for saving the lives of people living in those areas. If climate change is of a particular interest, you could aid in the monitoring of global weather systems to make climate predictions for the future. If ecological studies suit you, a job with NOAA could involve collecting data from costal environments to continue efforts of preserving healthy ecosystems. Perhaps your studies and data analysis would aid in the critical decision making processes of businesses around the world, such as creating and enforcing policies for the fisheries industry to maintain its resources for the future. Mapping is equally important and part of your experience with NOAA could involve creating or enhancing navigational data to aid in the protection of ships and prevent potential accidents. Finally, perhaps you are interested in commanding a NOAA ship or piloting a NOAA aircraft. In that case, you could become part of the NOAA Corps.
The primary mission of the Oscar Dyson is the Walleye Pollock survey, which consists of conducting Acoustic Surveys and Fishery Survey Trawls. The acoustic survey relies on sonar waves that are powerful enough to detect fish at different depths. Once the fish is located on the sonar screen, the trawl net is then accurately deployed to a specific depth depending on where the targeted fish species are located. This depth can range from 16 meters from the surface all the way down to 3 meters from the bottom. The net is then hauled onto the ship’s aft deck and the contents are spread on the table in the lab for sorting and identification. Different species, such as the Walleye Pollock, will be measured for size, sex, and age before being released overboard. Some other species like Pacific Cod and Arrowtooth Flounder will be collected for additional studies.
Monday, July 19th appeared to be a rare, sunny day in Dutch Harbor for most of the afternoon. We were scheduled to leave Dutch Harbor at 1500h but due to baggage problems for those who recently arrived in Dutch Harbor, we were delayed until the next day. Because of the short airstrip in Dutch Harbor, the sizes of the airplanes are smaller than those of regular airports. Currently Pen Air uses SAAB Turboprop airplanes. These planes are small and hold about thirty passengers. They are typically used for small air carriers for short commutes. Another critical factor involved with flights is weight. For every passenger, think of the additional weight of all the bags each person has. Most people fly with one or two bags, each weighing 50lbs or less and in our case, some people also had additional bags carrying scientific equipment.
Weight in an airplane causes the plane to use more fuel and smaller airplanes cannot carry as much fuel as the other airplanes, such as Boeing 737 aircraft, commonly used for longer commutes by larger airlines. Because of the distance between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, full flights generally need to make a stop in the small villages of King Salmon or Cold Bay to refuel. Other difficulties faced by the airport in Dutch Harbor are that the airstrip is a “daylight only” landing zone and the weather can be quite hazardous. Winds reaching up to 90 mph are not uncommon and in the summer, low fog becomes a visibility issue. If the pilots do not have a specific range of visibility, they cannot land. Therefore, the necessity of refueling in Cold Bay or King Salmon is critical because many times when the plane reaches the airport and hazardous weather conditions are preventing a safe landing, the airplane must have enough fuel to circle the airport in hope for a sliver of time when landing conditions are safe and, if necessary, enough fuel to fly all the way back to King Salmon or Cold Bay. Again, weight is an issue in the fuel consumption of an airplane and therefore, on full flights, the airplane must sometimes “bump” bags, which means that sometimes your checked bag will not make it on the flight you are on and will be scheduled on a later flight. This of course isn’t a bad plan except that the weather in Dutch can change from one extreme to the next in a matter of fifteen minutes. In our case, to add to the difficulty of getting our bags, it was explained to us that because the air had become warmer, it lessened the lift on the airplane which was another reason why the planes did not carry very many bags that day. With all these important technicalities, one could maybe understand why flying into Dutch Harbor can be difficult. Therefore, some people have successful flights and others experience the “flight to nowhere” which involves flying part or the entire three hours to Dutch Harbor, circling or waiting in Cold Bay, and then flying back to Anchorage. One could say that you are not a local until you have experienced this situation a few times!
My first day on the boat proved to be interesting as I quickly learned my way around the ship. I sometimes make the analogy of myself being like a rat in a maze trying to find the cheese. In a way it is accurate because the cook on board has made some fantastic dinners and I’ve been successful at finding the mess hall by simply following my nose! For supper on Monday night, we had a buffet-style dinner and I was pleasantly surprised with the menu as I helped myself to prime rib and king crab legs!
On Tuesday, we were able to get underway at approximately 1300. Before pulling away from the dock, we needed to test our FRB (Fast Rescue Boat) to make sure it was functional in the possible event of an emergency. Once we knew the FRB was functional, we hauled it back onto the boat. As soon as we began to move, I went to the flying bridge (the highest deck on the ship) to catch a glimpse of Dutch Harbor and to watch the local birds sitting on the water. Most of the birds I saw were tufted puffins. I always find them amusing because if you get near them when they have eaten too many fish, they try to fly away but their belly is too heavy. Therefore they simply skim over the water, wings flapping intensely, and bellies dragging over the top of the water!
Some advances in healthcare that I am extremely excited about is that I have found a seasickness medication that does not knock me out in under 5 minutes and that works for a long period of time. Thank you Meclizine!
Currently we are underway and have approximately 381 miles northwest to travel before we make our waypoint which will take approximately 28 hours. As of right now, my job has been to get acclimated to the ship. Work will begin Thursday at sunrise, about 0700). My current shifts will run from 0400h to 1600h each day. I cannot wait to begin the first part of my assignment!
Animals Spotted By Me Today:
Something To Ponder:
Regarding NOAA fish surveys, such as the Pollock Survey I’m participating in, what impacts would the scientific information collected have on the fishery industry regarding revenue and long term success?
NOAA Teacher at Sea Nicolle Vonderheyde Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces June 14 – July 2, 2010
Nicolle von der Heyde NOAA Ship Pisces Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Dates: Monday, June 21
Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 0800 hours (8 am) Position: Latitude: 28º 09.6 minutes N Longitude: 094º 18.2 min. W Visibility: 10 nautical miles Wind Direction: variable Water Temperature: 30.6 degrees Celsius Air Temperature: 27.5 degrees Celsius Ship’s Speed: 5 knots
Science Technology Log
Atlantic Spotted dolphins are the graceful ballerinas of the sea. They are just incredible! The Gulf of Mexico is one of the habitats of the dolphin because they live in warm tropical waters. The body of a spotted dolphin is covered with spots and as they get older their spots become greater in number.
Because Dolphins are mammals they breathe air through a single blowhole much like whales. Dolphins live together in pods and can grow to be 8 feet long and weigh 200-255 pounds. Like whales, dolphins swim by moving their tails (flukes) up and down. The dolphin’s beak is long and slim and its lips and the tip of its beak are white. They eat a variety of fish and squid found at the surface of the water. Since dolphins like to swim with yellow fin tuna, some dolphins die by getting tangled in the nets of tuna fishermen.
Newborn calves are grey with white bellies. They do not have spots. Calves mature around the age of 6-8 years or when the dolphin reaches a length of 6.5 feet. Calving takes place every two years. Gestation (or pregnancy) lasts for 11 1/2 months and babies are nursed for 11 months.
While watching the dolphins ride the bow wave, Nicolle and I wondered, “How do dolphins sleep and not drown?” Actually, we found that there are two basic methods of sleeping: they float and rest vertically or horizontally at the surface of the water. The other method is sleeping while swimming slowly next to another dolphin. Dolphins shut down half of their brains and close the opposite eye. That lets the other half of the brain stay “awake.” This way they can rest and also watch for predators. After two hours they reverse this process. This pattern of sleep is called “cat-napping.”
Dolphins maintain a deeper sleep at night and usually only sleep for two hours at a time. This method is called “logging” because in this state dolphins look like a log floating in the ocean.
The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) prohibits the hunting, capturing, killing or collecting of marine mammals without a proper permit. Permits are granted for the Spotted Dolphins to be taken if it is for scientific research, public display, conservation, or in the case of a dolphin stranding. The maximum ffor violating the MMPA is $20,000 and one year in jail.
The best part of this trip is all the marine life I see in the Gulf. In the past few days, dolphins have been swimming up to the boat and riding the bow wave of the ship. They are so graceful and playful in the water. In addition to the Tiger Shark seen feasting on the dead Sperm Whale, I have seen quite a few sharks swimming in the water near our ship. One, called a Silky Shark, took the bait as some of the crew was fishing from the stern of the boat (shown to the left). It was hauled up so the hook could be taken out and released back into the water. The second was a baby shark swimming near the bow of the ship as I watched the dolphins in the distance. I also saw a shark swimming near the starboard side of our ship while the deckhands were hauling up one of the camera arrays.
The fourth shark was the most exciting. As the crew was working at the stern of the ship to release a line that was caught in the rudder, I looked over the stern to see a large shark very near the surface swimming toward the starboard (right) side of the ship. I hurried to look and to my surprise it was a giant Hammerhead! I never expected to see one of these in its natural habitat. Unfortunately, by the time I got my camera out, the Hammerhead was too far away and too deep to get a clear shot, but what a sight to see!
I often mistake the fish shown on the left for sharks. Actually they are Cobia, also known as Lemonfish. Once in a while thefish approach the boat as we are hauling fishup on the bandit reel. I have also seen bojellyfish in the water as we are working on the starboard side of the ship and I spotted a brief glimpse of an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) from the bridge of the ship as I was talking to our Commanding Officer (CO). I wish I could have seen this fish up close. They are the largest bony fish in the oceans and as someone on the ship described, they resemble a giant Chiclet swimming in the water.
The smallest living things I have seen while at sea are the tiny creatures that live in the Sargassum, a type of seaweed that floats freely within and on the surface of the Gulf waters. The Sargassum provides a habitat for tiny creatures that are the foundation of the food web, even providing food for some of the largest animals in the sea like whales. The picture below on the left shows a giant patch of Sargassum, while the picture on the right shows some of the creatures that live within it including tiny shrimp, krill, and very small crabs.
Seeing all this life has been reassuring as the oil continues to gush into Gulf waters off the coast of Louisiana, however I can’t help but think what the overall impact of this spill will be for the future of the Gulf. Will we see the negative environmental impact spread to the Eastern Gulf? Are microscopic droplets of oil and chemical dispersants infecting the food chain beyond the area that we visibly see being impacted? These questions will be answered as NOAA scientists continue to collect and analyze the type of data that I am helping gather on this SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this scientific endeavor.
Economically, sea scallops are an important species; in 2008 the scallop harvest was about 53.5 million pounds and was worth about $370 million. The population is not currently considered to be overfished and has been above minimum sustainable levels since 2001. Formal management began in 1982 with the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fisheries Management Plan. The management plan includes limiting new permits, restrictions on gear and on the number of crew on a boat. Since about 2000, the biomass of scallops has been increasing. Biomass is estimated by using the weight of scallops per tow on cruises like this one. Combinations of biomass estimates and estimates of the commercial catch are used to update and adjust the management plan.
Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are filter feeders. They can live up to 20 years and begin reproducing at about 2 years, with maximum fertility reached at 4 years. A single female scallop can produce up to 270 million eggs in her life. This high reproductive capacity has helped the scallop population recover relatively quickly. Gender can be determined by the color of the gonad; females are orange while the male gonad is white. Adult scallops average between 6 and 7 inches from hinge to tip (called height) but can be as big as 9 inches. Age can be estimated by counting the rings on the shell. Scallops can “swim” by opening and closing the two shells. This is a useful adaptation for escaping from predators, including flounder, cod, lobsters, crabs, and sea stars. Scallops are harvested for the adductor muscle (the one that opens and closes the shell). There is no commercial aquaculture of scallops in the US as of August 2009.
A storm moved through beginning on Wed. evening (day 2) and stayed with us most of Thursday. By the end of shift on Wednesday, we were working on deck in full foul weather gear and life jackets. Thursday we had an 8 hour steam between dredge sites and by the end of shift on Thursday, the seas had begun to smooth out. Friday was quite nice, weather-wise.
I am learning to shuck scallops, though I am about half the speed of many on the boat. I am also learning to tell the various types of flounder and other fish apart as well. It’s not always obvious which type of founder or hake is which.
Goose fish (aka monk fish), several more varieties of flounder, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eel pout, some very large skates, 3 types of sea stars and 1 type of brittle star.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Richard Chewning Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson June 4 – 24, 2010
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor) Date: June 15th, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Position: eastern Bering Sea Time: 1530 Latitude: N 55 47.020 Longitude: W 165 24.970 Cloud Cover: overcast Wind: 14 knots Temperature: 6.4 C Barometric Pressure: 1003.7 mbar
Science and Technology Log
In addition to researchers on the lookout for seabirds, the Oscar Dyson is also hosting researchers hoping to catch a glimpse of some the world’s largest animals: marine mammals. Either ocean dwelling or relying on the ocean for food, marine mammals include cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and dolphins), manatees, sea lions, sea otters, walrus, and polar bears. Although marine mammals can be enormous in size (the largest blue whale ever recorded by National Marine Mammal Laboratory scientists was 98 feet long or almost the length of a ten story building laid on its side!), studying marine mammals at sea can be challenging as they spend only a short time at the surface. Joining the Dyson from the NMML on this cruise are Suzanne Yin, Paula Olson, and Ernesto Vazquez. As a full time observer, Yin spends most of the year on assignment on various vessels sailing on one body of water or another and only occasionally is to be found transitioning through her home of San Francisco, California. Paula calls San Diego, California home and spends most of her time when not observing at sea working on a photo identification database of blue and killer whales. Ernesto is a contract biologist from La Paz, Mexico and has been working on and off with NOAA for several years. Ernesto has worked with several projects for the Mexican government including ecological management of the Gulf of California Islands.
Paula keeping an eye on the horizon
Yin, Paula, and Ernesto undoubtedly have the best view on the Oscar Dyson. Working as a three member team, they search for their illusive quarry from the flying bridge. The flying bridge is the open air platform above the bridge where the ship’s radar, communication equipment, and weather sensors are located. One observer is positioned both on the front left and front right corners of the flying bridge. Each observer is responsible for scanning the water directly in front to a line perpendicular to the ship forming a right angle. Two powerful BIG EYE binoculars are used to scan this to scan this 90 degree arc. These binoculars are so powerful they can spot a ship on the horizon at over ten miles (even before the Dyson’s radar can detect the vessel!). The third person is stationed in the middle of the flying bridge and is responsible for surveying directly ahead of the ship and for scanning the blind spot just in front of the ship that is too close for the BIG EYES to see. This person is also responsible for entering sightings into a computer database via a lap top computer. The three observers rotate positions every thirty minutes and take a thirty minute break after one full rotation. One complete shift lasts two hours. Yin, Paula, and Ernesto start soon after breakfast and will continue observing until 9:30 at night if conditions allow.
Weather can produce many challenges for marine mammal observers as they are exposed to the elements for hours at a time. Fortunately, Yin, Paula, and Ernesto are well prepared. Covered from head to toe wearing insulated Mustang suits (the name come from the manufacturer), they are pretty well protected from light spray, wind, and cold. Although a certain amount of the face is always exposed, a shoulder high wind shield helps deflect most of the spray and wind. In addition to wind chill and wind burn, a strong wind can also produce large rolling waves called swells that make viewing through the BIG EYES next to impossible. Sometimes reducing visibility so much that the bow can barely be seen the bridge, fog is undoubtedly a marine mammal observer’s greatest adversary.
So far during the cruise, Yin, Paula, and Ernesto have spotted many blows on the horizon and have identified several species of marine mammals. A common sighting is the Dall’s porpoise. Your eyes are easily drawn towards these fun marine mammals as they produce characteristic white splashes by repeatedly breaking the water’s surface exposing a white stripe on their side. Blows from fin whales have also been regularly observed. Other sightings include killer whales, humpback whales, Pacific white sided dolphins, and a rare sighting of a Baird’s beaked whale.
Life aboard a constantly moving platform can take a little getting used to! I imagine if a person doesn’t live in an area frequented by earthquakes, one will easily take for granted the fact that the ground usually remains stable and firm underfoot (I know I did!). Over the last view days, steady winds from the south have conspired to create conditions ideal for rolling seas. Large swells (waves created by winds far away) make the Dyson very animated as we push forward on our survey transects. In addition to making deployments of gear more difficult, routine personal tasks soon assume a challenging nature as well. Whether you are simply getting dressed in the morning, trying to make your way to your seat with lunch in hand, or taking a shower in the evening, a constantly pitching and rolling deck will make even a seasoned deckhand wobble and stumble from time to time.
A piece of advice I have often heard during these conditions calls for “one hand for you and one for the ship”. Maintaining three points of contact with ship, especially when moving between decks, can save you from being tossed off balance. The crew is very considerate of these conditions and allows even more understanding than customary when you bump into shipmates. I have also learned the importance of securing any loose equipment and personal items after usage during rough seas as they might not be in the same place when you return. In addition to waking several times during the night and having a restless sleep, these conditions will also leave you feeling stiff and fatigued in the morning after a bumpy night of being tossed around in your rack. Once you muster the strength to get moving, your legs become surprisingly tired as you constantly try to keep your balance. Along with the rest of the crew, the Dyson also feels the effects of jogging through rough seas as you constantly hear the rhythmic sounds of the bow plowing though the next wave and of the ship’s superstructure groaning under the strain.
Did you know? Fog is essentially a cloud on the ground’s surface.
NOAA TEACHER AT SEA CATHRINE PRENOT FOX ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: October 25, 2011
What is the best birthday party you ever had? Let me set the stage for you to picture mine. It was a theme celebration: the guests came as a superhero or supermodel. Everyone was in costume. Balloons covered the floor. People brought so many flowers that I started putting them in washed out mayonnaise and pickle jars. The cake was homemade: I can’t now remember if it was chocolate oblivion or an upside-down fruit. I just remember that it was made from scratch. There were prizes for the best costumes. People danced for hours. I didn’t think that it could have ever gotten better. Until recently. Recently, I discovered lumpsuckers. For all of these years, I had no idea that my 29th could have gotten any better. Until now. Now I know that It’s not a party without a lumpsucker (Cartoon citations 1, 2 and 3).
I should explain why I chose a squishy dumpling with fins for the final cartoon of Adventures in a Blue World. It isn’t because my 29th birthday balloons should have been adorned by adorable fish (although admittedly they would have been grand). It is because, once again, I have found yet another inhabitant of our planet that I was ignorant of. As a biology teacher, I like to think that I have a fairly good handle on life, especially of our Animalia Kingdom. Who could have guessed, in their wildest dreams, that there were creatures like the lumpsucker that inhabit our oceans–our planet? With only 3% of the oceans explored, I can’t even fathom what else is out there. If we don’t explore, catalog and protect our oceans, we may never know.
I want to thank the Teacher at Sea Program of NOAA for an excellent and amazing adventure. In particular, the crew of the Oscar Dyson, the scientists of MACE, my fellow Teacher at Sea (rockstar) Staci DeSchryver and Elizabeth McMahon deserve special recognition. Thank you all so much.
Until our next adventure!
I wish you fair winds and following seas, a sailor’s farewell…
Perhaps you are sitting at your desk right now, contemplating finishing work that you probably should be doing, or putting the last touches on a college application, or wondering if anyone brought any treats to share that are sitting in the lounge waiting your attention. Maybe it is late at night, and you are wishing that your work tomorrow was just a little more exciting.
What if your work tomorrow looked like this? Why not choose a life at sea instead? Think of this: thousands before you have gone off to sea… …and while it isn’t as romantic as it once was with pirate attacks and years away from home, it is now a lot more comfortable. Perhaps you have always dreamed of becoming a commanding officer of a ship, or a boatswain, or an engineer… How does one do it? How do you get to live, work, and learn through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? Look no further friends, I have just the right reading material to get you started: So you want to be a scientist? (Cartoon citations 1, 2 and 3).
Of particular interest to me (not surprisingly) are the opportunities for science research and exploration. I was captivated by Dr. Edith Widder’s research about bioluminscence, interested in the 2004 Titanic Expedition, and humbled by the wealth of knowledge presented in interviews with people from a variety of ocean careers.
NOAA TEACHER AT SEA CATHRINE PRENOT FOX NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011
Late night television=brain torture. I think late night t.v. might be designed to shrink brain neurons: shopping networks, exercise shows, self help and reality programs. Some studies have even linked watching late night t.v. to obesity and sleep deprivation. I’d rather stab myself with a butter knife than be trapped on a couch watching a self help guru in the middle of the night… …On the Oscar Dyson, though? You couldn’t drag me away from the 4:30 a.m. screen, as it shows a live feed of the floor of the ocean 100 meters below us.
The camera drops were just one part of the night-time research aboard the Oscar Dyson. Dr. Jodi Pirtle, a post doctoral research associate at the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, utilized her lab hours to explore and document “untrawlable” portions of our survey area. Rocky bottoms, pinnacles, shelves… …all make it difficult to drop a net down to get an accurate reading of groundfish diversity and abundance without destroying the net.
Throughout the night the ship maneuvers tight turns to provide high resolution acoustic signals of the bottom. My fellow Teacher at Sea, Staci DeSchryver, describes the ship’s movements as akin to “lawn mowing.” My father, watching the NOAA ship tracker online after one of these sessions, asked if the captain had had one too many cocktails (absolutely not, by the way). These turns, in addition to making me sleep like a baby, provide an overlapping and highly accurate map of the ocean floor. Below is a multibeam image of a seamount (underwater mountain) mapped during the 2004 Gulf of Alaska Seamount Expedition.
After a night of intensive napping, I mean mapping, I go on shift at 4am. I know I have mentioned this before, but I have the best job in the world: my first task in the morning is helping with camera deployment. I am sure you will agree after checking out Issue 14 that several camera drops equal the best Late Night T.V. I have ever seen (Cartoon citations 1 and 2).
NOAA TEACHER AT SEA CATHRINE PRENOT FOX NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011
I have not always had the best morals when it came to eating seafood. I discovered the joys of sushi in San Francisco after I graduated college. There was one place that I would frequent so often that the sushi chefs would would create something for me when I walked through the door. I later learned from Ruth Reichl in her book Garlic and Sapphires that the phrase I was looking for was “Omakase.” Literally: I am in your hands. In their capable hands I tried unagi (eel), hon maguro (bluefin tuna), and hamachi (yellowtail) for the first time. And I fell in love.
A few years later, a friend mentioned to me that I might want to moderate my adoration of some fish. Never one to take someone else’s word, I did my own research. I read, with growing horror, that my delicious eel farms were not sustainable, and that bluefin tuna was declining worldwide. Evidently, there were so many others that shared my love of the cool simple taste of hon maguro that we were loving these and other species to death. I know, you probably don’t want to take my word for it. Do your own research and then come back: FishWatch and SeaFoodWatch.
Back? Did you see that Yellowfin tuna are being sustainably harvested? Yes, me too. One order of hamachi sashimi, please.
What is my point with all of this? I want to show you what data are used to make these determinations about sustainability. I assure you, it is not random or haphazard. In fact, the purpose of my time in Alaska was to provide data to fisheries managers (composed of teams of fishermen, scientists, and officials) to let them make educated decisions on the health of walleye pollock populations in the Gulf of Alaska. What data do we collect? How do we know what the fish are doing, and how many there are? It isn’t an easy job… there is no Walleye Pollock Facebook Status Page that you can just check… (Cartoon citations 1, 2, and 3). You have to get dirty and do some real science.
Until our next adventure,
p.s. Although my “real job” has severely impacted the amount of time I have to cartoon, I am still working on at least two more (and up to seven, if I find a way to get a hold of a Time-Turnerlike Hermione Granger) cartoons. Thank you for being patient!
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.