NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
March 13-18, 2015
Mission: Channel Islands Deep-Sea Coral Study
Geographic Area: Channel Islands, California
Date: March 18, 2015
Day 6: 3/18/15
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:
To learn more about MARE and the ROVs check out their website: http://www.maregroup.org/
For more information about Peter Etnoyer’s work, click the following link:
For more information about Branwen Williams work, use the following link: