Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 15, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Last night I was invited to attend an early morning session in the oceanography lab with oceanographer Candy Hall. Like most mornings on this cruise, she and colleague Liz Zele were collecting water samples from 1000 meters and up with a device known as the CDT (Conductivity, temperature with depth).  These samples are used to test things like  nutrient, salt, and chlorophyll levels. Candy also runs a primary productivity test on the samples.  This test will identify the rate at which phytoplankton grow.

After a short nap, I was off to the flying bridge.  Due to the fact that the sun was shining (a first in over 2 wks) and the seas were calm, it felt like a promising day.  There was the typical early morning fin whale sighting, followed by a lull.  During this let-up it must have been decided that our time would be best spent fishing for albacore (as several trawlers were within sight). Almost as soon as the fishing lines were tossed over a blue whale appeared not far from the boat.  The sun on the whale’s back made for a beautiful sight in and out of the water.  It did not take long to get the small boat launched and on the trail of the whale for a biopsy and photographs.  The time between mammal sightings was spent watching birds. My highlight today was observing a flock of arctic terns headed to Antarctica. This I am told is the longest migration of any animal.  Today became more fruitful when four adorable Dall’s porpoises flirted with our bow for several minutes.  To top it all off…as we were beginning to enjoy our first visible sunset and the rising of a nearly full moon, observers found spunky dolphins engaging in acrobatics worthy of gold medals near the horizon.  It was not long before they graced us with their playful presence. Several of us took turns in the bow chamber and caught some underwater glances as well as auditory treats!  Smiles all around.

Yesterday, Monday, a somewhat elusive whale species showed itself despite the horrid weather. Two Baird’s beaked whales appeared around the boat for several surfacings.  Luckily, the photographers were able to get a few good head shots. And, like most days, there was the morning fin whale sighting! Due to poor visibility, observers went off effort a bit early.  Sunday also supplied us with less than perfect condition, but a fin whale was recorded before noon. The JORDAN picked up a worn-out, far from home hitchhiker in the afternoon.  The deck of the ship hosted this cowbird for the evening. She hasn’t been seen since.

Saturday’s conditions were similar to Sundays, but it was even colder.  The only sighting was…you guessed it, a morning fin whale. When there are few sighting to report and animals to observe, the members of the JORDAN become curious about floating objects. During these “slow times” the ship has collected a few things, three buoys to be exact. Two of them are your standard orange plastic fishing buoys (probably headed for the dumpster).  These buoys provided bonus entertainment because they had lines attached to them and thus “things” attached to the lines. The other buoy is a much more prized and sought after glass fishing buoy once used by Japanese fishermen.  It was given to the captain.

Tomorrow is our last full day of the cruise.  Currently we are about 60 miles from the coast. Due to our position and course, tomorrow has the potential to be an outstanding day for observing marine mammals and birds.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

 

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 14, 2005

Drew Barth

Profile of More Crewmembers 

Name: Drew Barth
Age: 20
Home: Billings, MT
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Wiper–engine room
Years of experience: 1
Favorite part of job: Traveling to different places
Favorite cruise: Shark cruise
Favorite port: Yet to be discovered
Memorable experience: Dolphins bow riding while in the small boat
Continents visited: 1

 

 

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Jason Larese

Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
College: UC-San Diego and University of Washington
Major: Undergrad—chemical engineering; Graduate—Marine Policy
Job: Biological Technician
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Independent observer
Number of months at sea this year: 1
Highlight of job: Stimulating, exposure to interesting things
Memorable experience: First stranding—deceased juvenile gray whale; bow-riding dolphins in bioluminescence
Favorite species: Risso’s dolphins
Concern: Apathy
Continents visited: 4

 

 

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Mike Sapien

Name: Mike Sapien
Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 2nd cook
Years of experience: 2
Previous experience: In port support for DAVID STARR JORDAN and deck crew
Favorite part of job: Star gazing
Favorite cruise: Clipperton Island
Favorite port: Acapulco, Mexico
Memorable experience: An 8′ sand shark brought up in bottom trawl net
Other boats in NOAA fleet: ALBATROSS IV and DELAWARE
Continents visited: 1 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 13, 2005

Profile of Another Crewmember 

Name: Laura Morse
Age: 36
Home: Portsmouth, NH
College: SUNY Buffalo, NY
Majors: Biology and anthropology
Job: Field Biologist (specializing in marine mammals)
Position on the DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer
Years of experience: 11
Months at sea this year: 9 (including work with river dolphins in Cambodia)
Best part of job: Travel, being on the ocean, and the freedom and flexibility the job offers|
Concerns: Coastal pollution and fisheries interaction
Favorite species: North Atlantic right whales
Continents visited: 7 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 12, 2005

Working in the lab
Working in the lab

Science and Technology Log

Since I last checked in, several days and a lot of water have passed by.  I wish I could say the same for marine mammals!  For quite some time we have been in international waters between 200 and 300 miles off shore. Some time last night we made a turn that put us at a heading of about 105 for most of today.  The turn of the boat also seems to have brought a turn of good luck for the observers.  Up until today the sightings have been very sparse. Tuesday only one sighting of sperm whales was recorded and observations were delayed due to uncooperative weather. We did manage a successful fire-and- abandon-ship drill.  At about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday a sperm whale was sighted and the decision to launch a small boat for photos and biopsy was made.  Luckily for me, it was my turn in the rotation to take a ride. Despite using a directional hydrophone we were not as successful as we had hoped in tracking the whale while it was submerged.  The closest we were able to get was about 30 yards away.

Whale sighting
Whale sighting

Oddly enough, in our pursuit of the sperm whale we stumbled upon a fin whale and had good luck pursuing him/her.  The small boat returned to the JORDAN about at 6:30 p.m.  It was quite a unique and thrilling experience to get that close to a such a gigantic animal!  I am told that under normal circumstances, vessels must be at least 100 yards away from the whales or risk a hefty fine. Due to special permits we are allowed a more intimate experience.  Wednesday evening I assisted with the oceanography chores, including the bongo net tow. Thursday was a slow sighting day. It was not until the afternoon that a sperm whale was sighted. Shortly after dinner we passed by a weather buoy.  This excited the crew because often fish will hang out by buoys and other floating objects.  The observers took a short break and the boat made a few slow circles around the buoy.  To everyone’s dismay, no fish were caught.  By Thursday evening we had reached our western most position.

Today, Friday, was a relatively busy day for sightings.  In total, nine animals were observed. Most exciting was a blue whale that passed within a good viewing distance from the ship. Cameras were clicking away! One other blue whale was sighted and the small boat was launched. In addition to the blue whales, sperm whales and fin whales were added to today’s list.  Due to equipment failure and malfunction in the oceanography lab, I stayed away today!

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Using the hydrophone to track whales

 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

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Jose Coito

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 9, 2005

Profiles of Four Crewmembers 

Name: Jose Coito; Age: 52; Home: San Diego; Position: Lead Fisherman–Deck department; Years on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 12; Previous experience: 22 years as a tuna fisherman; Favorite part of job: Working with different people, going different places, getting close to the whales in the small boat; Favorite port: “All good. Most every port we have a good time…eat, drink, have fun.” Most enjoyable cruise: Southern shark cruise; Number of continents visited: 4

Name: Annie Douglass; Age: 29; Home: Olympia, WA; College: Evergreen College, WA; Major: BA Science; Job: Mammal Biologist at Cascadia Research Collective;

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Annie Douglass

Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer/Mammal Photographer; Years of experience: 8 years; Months at sea this year: 6 months; Best part of job: Getting close to the mammals in a small boat; Memorable sighting: Observing 12 killer whales attack a stellar seal lion in the Olympic  Coast Sanctuary; Concerns for marine mammals: Run-off contaminants effect on coastal animals and under water noise pollution impact on whales; Favorite species: Blue whales and humpback whales; Continents visited: 3;

 

 

Thomas Staudt

Name: Thomas Staudt; Age: 56; Home: Tucson, AZ; College: University of Iowa; Major: Psychology; Job: Seasonal/Transient Employee; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Bird Observer; Years of experience: 30; Months at sea this year: 4; Memorable sighting: The first North American sighting of the Hornsby’s storm petrel off the DAVID STARR JORDAN last week! Concerns for seabirds: Loss of breeding habitat; Favorite species: Penguin; Continents visited: 7

 

 

Name: Candy Hall; Age: 29; Home: Cape Town, South African and York, England; College: University of Cape Town; Major: BSc Honors in Oceanography (working on masters); Job: Student; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Oceanographer; Years of experience: 10; Months at sea this year: 4; Best part of job: Ship life; Memorable sighting: A pod of killer whales right next to zodiac–too close to get a photo (2001, Oregon coast); Concerns for oceans: Anthropogenic pollution and over population; Favorite species: Killer whale; Continents visited: 4

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 8, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Choppy seas have made observations a bit challenging today.  Observers were able to spot a fin whale and calf this morning and another fin whale this afternoon.  The day ended with sperm whale sightings.  Our current position is increasing the number and variety of bird sightings.

 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 2, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Due to a backlog of scheduled repairs, the JORDAN did not depart from its homeport, San Diego on July 30th as scheduled. On Monday August 1st, the ship headed into San Diego Bay so that adjustments could be made to its acoustic backscatter (somewhat like an echo sounder). While this was being done, cruise members not trained in small-boat operations were given a brief training.  After which, the Zodiacs were lowered into the bay and we spent part of the afternoon putting our training to use zipping around the bay.  Anchors were hoisted and the JORDAN left the bay about 5:00 p.m. Sightings since we left San Diego include the following: bottle nose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, short beaked common dolphins (which surrounded the boat by the 100s), two separate blue whale sightings, two separate sperm whale sightings (multiple animals each sighting),and a fin whale. Small boats were launched for the first blue whale and sperm whale sightings, and this allowed for photo identification and biopsies.  The two bird identifiers on board were thrilled to spot and photograph a Hornsby’s storm petrel.  This is the only documented North American sighting.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 1, 2005

David Starr Jordan
NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan

Cruise Information and Background 

The name of this west-coast cruise is Collaborative Survey of Cetacean (marine mammals) Abundance and the Pelagic (ocean) Ecosystem (CSCAPE). It is a collaboration between the Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the National Marine Sanctuaries Program. In addition to counting marine mammals, scientist hope to add to photo-identification stocks, collect biopsies, observe cetacean behavior, collect oceanographic-related data for ecosystems analysis, contribute to the leatherback turtle prey study, and collect data from sonobuoys.  There are a total of seven cruise legs, which will take the DAVID STARR JORDAN the length of the west coast and 300 miles off shore.  The ship will be following a predetermined grid pattern.  Each leg lasts 20 days. After the 20 days at sea the JORDAN will rest at various ports along the west coast for four days.

Scanning for marine mammals
Scanning for marine mammals

The boat has a regular staff of 16: four NOAA Corps officers, five engineers, five deck crew, and two cooks. For this cruise an additional 13 scientists take the total number to 29. The scientists fall under the command of the cruise leader.  She is responsible for directing nine animal observers, two oceanographers, and one Teacher at Sea. The mammal observers are on the flying bridge from sunrise (6:50) until sunset (8:45). The six observers rotate across three stations on the flying bridge, spending 40 minutes at each station.  During their watch two of the observers are scanning the waters with mega-binoculars referred to as big eyes (both on the port and starboard side of the ship), while the third observer mans a computer and enters in mammal data in the event a mammal is spotted. In addition to the three mammal observers, the two bird observers alternate in two-hour shifts. Last, but not least, each leg of the cruise has an independent observer.

Bongo nets sampling for chlorophyll
Bongo nets sampling for chlorophyll

The oceanographers spend the majority of their day sleeping–only because they are busy with operations before sunrise and deep into the evening hours. Daily, there are water samples taken before and after sunrise up to 1000 meters.  These samples allow the oceanographers to collect data about chlorophyll content, salt content, nutrient content, and primary productivity.  On a regular basis throughout the day they also collect surface-water samples for chlorophyll analysis and conduct regular water temperature tests.  Most nights after the sun has set, they also collect plankton in a bongo net tow.

When the members of the JORDAN are not working there is a lot of emailing friends and family, reading, sharing stories, watching one of 500+ movies, preparing professional reports, studying, working out and catching tuna off the aft deck.

Catch of the day!
Catch of the day!