Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 24, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 24, 2010

Our last full day in Samoa dawned cloudy and somewhat cooler. Or perhaps we are beginning to get used to the heat and humidity. Yesterday was about 90 with a heat index of 105 and today was predicted to be similar but turned out to be cooler without the sun. The few times the sun did come out, it got steamy.
A rainy morning
A rainy morning
A quiet Sunday in Apia means not so much traffic and streets you can simply wander around on without anyone hawking Lava Lava’s, local potato chips, or veggies.
Another common resident of the town
Another common resident of the town
It was just us and the pigs. This little porker is a Number 1 Pig, or a small size. We never saw one but some of the crew mentioned Number 6 Pigs that they saw about town.
Flowers and fog
Flowers and fog
We actually didn’t do much either, not just because the town was shut down, but because it was a very rainy day. Tomorrow we begin out journey back to Montana. We will try to post something tomorrow, if not our next post will be from Montana.
A great home away from home
A great home away from home
Thank you for joining us on this adventure and a special thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program and the Officers and Crew of the good ship Ka’Imimoana for making this possible.

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 23, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 23, 2010

Wow! The Captain’s Luau was something else. We all got on a bus to Aggie Gray’s Resort at 5:30 in a tropical downpour and drove for about an hour through the Samoan countryside. As we drove we passed many small villages where it seemed everyone would wave at us. Once we got to the resort we took a look around and then we were seated for the luau, which included roast pig, fish, chicken, sweet potato, rice, noodles, coleslaw, and a variety of desserts.
View from the resort
View from the resort
While we were eating we were entertained by local music and dance.
A cultural experience
A cultural experience
…and for the finale the fire dance.
Fire dancers!
Fire dancers!

Saturday is market day in Apia. While there are vendors pretty much everywhere in Apia, there is also a central market where local goods crafts and other items are sold.

Art with the harbor in the background
Art with the harbor in the background

The main market is made up of many stalls, similar to a flea market. Some of the vendors have only Lava Lava’s (the local wrap skirt) and some have woodcarvings and other stalls have designs on the locally made Tapa Cloth.

Goods at the market
Goods at the market

Tapa is made from tree bark, and from listening to the tour guide at the Robert Lewis Stevenson home in Samoa; typically the paper mulberry or the breadfruit tree is used.

Art galore!
Art galore!

The grocery stores are very different than those we are used to in Montana. They are fairly small but have goods similar to those available to us. It is not uncommon to see small open air restaurants that sell fish “n” chips, chicken and other Samoan fair. The one pictured here is right next to the Samoan Central bank.
Fish n ChipsChurches are quite an influence here. We passed many villages, churches and church schools on our trip to Aggie Grays resort yesterday evening. Some of the churches located in the countryside were as large as the one pictured below (located on the main street of Apia).

A local church
A local church

By about 2PM everything in town was shutting down in preparation of Sunday so we began to head back to the ship. The after noon gets a little warm and humid, and even the dogs like to find a shady spot to cool and recharge. Not a bad idea in the tropics.

Dogs are a common sight in town
Dogs are a common sight in town

Once we have a chance to do the same we plan on joining some of the crew for dinner at one of the local restaurants that is close to the ship. Maybe even the rainforest restaurant, which looks like a rainforest inside and out.

A delicious dinner spot
A delicious dinner spot

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

FedEx Friends_2Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 22, 2010

The first thing that needs to go in the Blog is a Big Thank You to the great folks at the Apia FedEx Office. They were very helpful and without them (and NOAA) Rick would have had a big headache getting the 300 plus shrunken cups back to the USA. His students don’t know how lucky they are to have such great friends in Samoa. Today began early with an invitation from Bob to join him on a drive about this part of the island.

We first hit the city center where the only McDonalds in Samoa is found (we actually avoided this American tradition in favor of the local fare). For lunch we stopped at a roadside café and had fish and chips for $6.50 Tala (or about $3.00 US) a heck of a deal, and it was fresh and cooked to order.

Being a tourist
Being a tourist

While we had a rental car, private car ownership is relatively rare (or has been until recently) and the more common forms of transportation in Apia are taxi’s and buses.They are like weeds and they are everywhere.

Valima_2 After a brief stop at a market to get some water and snacks were off for the Robert Lewis Stevenson (author of Treasure Island, The strange case of Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde, and many other books) Museum. The grounds of this estate are lush with plants of vibrant tropical color. It was also nice to be a little higher in the mountains where the air is cooler and the wind a little fresher.
Vibrant colors
Vibrant colors
Time in the small boat
Time in the small boat 
While we were on our way back to the ship we were fortunate to see a man fishing in his outrigger on one of the many lagoons around the island. Tonight we head off for a special luau that the Captain is giving for the crew. We will hopefully have a full report tomorrow.

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 21, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 21, 2010

Science Log

During our journey to Samoa we have had very nice accommodations and entertainment facilities. There are two lounges each with a big screen TV and plenty of movies to watch. The only live TV channel available by satellite is FOX news (go figure!).
Lounge where we watch TV and relax
Lounge where we watch TV and relax
In addition to movies, there is also a fully equipped gym with weights, cross-trainer, elliptical, and treadmill. When exercising you can listen to your favorite tunes or watch your favorite video.
Samoa at last! We started smelling land just about dawn today and slowly, it seemed slow anyway, made our way toward the mouth of the Apia harbor. The closer we got to the harbor the easier it was to make out the mountains and the city itself.
The onboard gym
The onboard gym
Once we got to within a couple of miles of the harbor, we were joined by a pilot boat and two Samoan harbor pilots came aboard the KA to make sure we got into the harbor safely.
The mountains in the distance
The mountains in the distance
Once under their guidance we made our way in and proceeded to secure the lines and set the gangway so the customs officials could come on and clear us to go ashore.
Approaching the port
Approaching the port

Once the gangway was down the customs officials board the ship and check our passports against the customs form that we were required to complete before disembarking. The whole process was very easy and only took about an hour. At that point we were then given the OK to disembark and explore the town.

Customs boards the ship
Customs boards the ship
Apia looks to be a city of about 50,000 so it between Helena and Billings in size. Tomorrow we will do some exploring and see what Apia and Samoa have to offer.

Tying up the ship
Tying up the ship
Passport proof!
Passport proof!

Stay tuned for more!

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 20, 2010

Science Log

Steaming and dreaming, that was the order of the day. We had the opportunity to spend a little more time on the bridge today. Here you can see three of the Ensign’s standing watch. While on the bridge we learn about how the radar works.
Learning about radar on the bridge
Learning about radar on the bridge
Most people in Montana are familiar with the concept of radar since that is the basic method used to measure our speed.What do you think is similar about the radar on the ship? What is different?
Radar screen
Radar screen
We also took a look at the ship’s wheel.Like most people we envisioned the wheel to be like one you would see in an old movie or perhaps like those on the tall ships of old. The wheel of the KA is smaller than the average steering wheel, but it gets the job done.
Steering the ship
Steering the ship
 We participated in several meetings to prepare us for our stay in Samoa.One presentation, made by Joe our Electronics Technician was focused on customs and taboos that we need to be aware of as guests and representatives of the US government. Joe has a unique and useful understanding of Samoa since his wife is from Western Samoa and he has lived here so he knows what we can and can’t do.
Laundry at sea
Laundry at sea
We also decided we better do laundry today! The washers and dryers will be secured tonight for our arrival in Samoa tomorrow morning. While the crew visits the island, the engineers will need to purge the sewage system of gray water – water from cooking, showers, toilets etc. The ship will also take on water from the port at Apia, Samoa were we are docking. The ship has great laundry facilities and also very nice exercise equipment. Even though we are seeing the pacific, we still have to take of our chores!
Joe, the electronics technician
Joe, the electronics technician
Land tomorrow! Until then happy sailing and calm seas.

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 19, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Art with the line gun
Art with the line gun

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 19, 2010

Science Log

Safety Drills and an island on the horizon were the highlights of the day.Today we had quite the rainstorm, it came in gray sheets that pounded the deck and boiled the sea surface, like we were running the ship through a car wash back home..We also had gusts that cooled the air for the first time in several days. It was pleasant while it lasted but when the sun came out the air was steamy.
Fixing a pipe
Fixing a pipe

Safety is a big issue on a ship. We have regular weekly drills including Man Overboard, Abandon Ship and Fire Drills. In addition, today after lunch we participated in what is called a safety stand down where we observed several safety demos including using a line gun. You can see Art prepping the gun under the watchful eye of Chris the Chief Bosun and Rick firing the gun. The line gun uses 3000 psi of air pressure to shoot a small rocket with a line out to 750 feet. This tool is used when it is necessary to get a line to another ship or land facility when the ship can’t be close enough for a safe hand toss. After our time on the firing line we learned about fixing ruptured or leaking pipes and how to shore up a sagging upper deck with telescopic metal vertical braces.

When a safety drill is called, a general alarm bell (see picture) is rung notifying all of the ships’ crew, scientists and others to muster (or go) to their assigned stations. The stations are different positions on the ship such as the buoy deck (man overboard station), the top deck by the RHIB (abandon ship) and the mess – cafeteria (fire). The positions in parentheses are my stations for this cruise – they differ for other participants. When practicing the drill for abandon ship, we are shown where the inflatable life boats (see pictures for life boats) are stored and to know to bring as much water as possible from the water locker.

Fire alarm
Fire alarm

We have begun a series of video interviews of the different NOAA corps crew. We began yesterday with the three new Ensigns. Today we interviewed the oiler, Mike Robinson and the Lieutenant Commander Helen “Doc” Ballantyne (Ship’s Nurse/PA ). Our tour of the engine room was fascinating in addition to being very noisy and very warm. This area can really be considered the heart of the ship. The diesel engines, generators, propulsion mechanism, sewage disposal system, and filters for producing fresh water are all located here.  L

t.Cmdr. Ballantyne or “Doc” is not only a nurse who takes care of sick crew members but is also responsible for procedures for handling and storing hazardous materials, disaster care, and other safety related issues. NOAA is always looking for good nurse practitioners, so if you want adventure on the high seas, give NOAA a call!

DSC02156

As we were on deck for the man overboard we passed Nassau a small island in the Cook Islands located close to 11 degrees 40 minutes South and 165 degrees 24 minutes West. Another day of sailing and we should be close enough to see the Samoan Islands.
Small island in the Cook Islands chain
Small island in the Cook Islands chain
Touring the engine room
Touring the engine room
DSC02158

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 18, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 18, 2010

Science Log

Painting in the morning, painting in the afternoon.We had a time change this morning, we set our clocks back (retarded) them one hour so we are now four hours earlier than Montana or 11 hours earlier than GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) or Zulu. This means that we are almost half way around the world from the Prime Meridian that runs through Greenwich England.

Ensigns onboard
Ensigns onboard
You might notice that it looks like Rick is in a fog, well he is. The difference between the inside of the ship and the outside of the ship in regards to temperature and humidity is huge. The ship is generally around 21 degrees c or close to 70 degrees F with low humidity and outside has been close to 31 degrees c or about 87 degrees F with high humidity. When you bring something like a camera outside from the cooler interior of the ship the moisture in the humid outside air condenses on the camera and instant fog.
More buoy maintenance
More buoy maintenance
We painted the international yellow on the top half of the four tolroids and now all the buoys will be the new color scheme, no more orange and white top half’s anymore.
Hitch hiking onboard
TAS Rick hitch hiking onboard
You may have noticed that the sky is gray and the sea is fairly calm. We are in the Doldrums, an area of low pressure and often very little wind. This area is also known as the “Horse Latitudes”. Do you know why?
Small cups
Small cups
While we were waiting for the paint to dry we watched Alen refresh the sonic releases that connect the anchor to the nylon anchor line. Each of these releases costs about $12,000 and it is essential to use them over and over so replacing the battery, the rubber “O” rings and filling them with argon is a must after they are recovered with the anchor line Nilspin and nylon, pretty much ever thing that can be re-used is reused in order to minimize the cost of the project. Because we are able to use the acoustical releases only the iron anchor and some chain are left on the bottom of the ocean where they rust away eventually. It is hard to see but just before the releases are approved for re-deployment Argon is put into the body of the refreshed unit to provide and inert environment for the electronics. By removing the air, the risk of oxidation to the components is reduced.

Cleaning up the lab
Cleaning up the lab
After lunch the paint was dry enough that we taped in prep for painting the black waterline and we put the TAO on the donuts.Now these are ready for deployment on the next two legs of the cruise. We also had some time today to interview some of the crew on the KA. Today we chatted with three of the four young Ensign’s who are stationed on this ship. We asked them a variety of questions about life in NOAA and the types of degrees that they have and their interests. We discovered that one of the Ensign Rose (white shirt) is from Wyoming and that Rick went to school with one of her uncles and that she is distantly related to his wife through a cousin. Weird how small the world really is.

DSC02155
Two days ago, on 1/16/10, we conducted the last deep CTD at about 3,000 meters (about 2 miles). Rick had about 130 cups to send down and Art ran an experiment with control for Rossiter School in Helena. Just to review, this operation sends down a large, round instrument with tubes that collect water samples at different depths up to 3,000 meters. The intent of this procedure is to measure the salinity, Temperature and Pressure at different depths of the Ocean. As the depth of the ocean increases, so does the pressure of the water. An experiment that we can do to see the strength of the pressure is to attach a bag of Styrofoam cups to the CTD instrument. As the instrument sinks, what do you think would happen to the Styrofoam cups? Look at the picture of the cups before being sunk into the ocean depths and after. How would you describe the pressure of the ocean waters at 3,000 meters?
The batch of cups, back from the depths
The batch of cups, back from the depths

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 17, 2010

Science Log

Today was not all that physically demanding which is good since it was 30.5 degrees Celsius by 9:30 AM ship time.My students should be able to figure out the temperature in temperature units they are more familiar with.While it was still fairly cool this morning Art and Rick helped Alen paint the anti fouling paint on the bottom of each of the three tolroids that needed it. Once the deck crew flipped them back to top side up, Alen discovered that one of the buoys had been hit and was cracked and so he needed to do some grinding and patching before painting the yellow. So we are going to finish the paint job early tomorrow after the patch has time to cure.

TAS Art painting
TAS Art painting
Land Ho! Later in the day we sighted land for the first time since we lost sight on Hawaii on the 6th. We came upon Tautua Island, which is part of the Cook Islands. If you take a look on Google Earth around 9 degrees: 13 minutes South and 157 degrees: 58 minutes West you can see the

island and the village on the island. We weren’t very close, so we couldn’t actually see the village, but it was nice to see land after 10 days of the vast expanse of the Pacific in every direction to the horizon.

Rick painting the buoy
Rick painting the buoy
Tautua
Tautua

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 16, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

flipping_2
Donut buoy

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 16, 2010

Science Log

Today was a day of odds and ends.We had planned to paint first thing after breakfast and Art and Rick got started masking off the water line on one of the orange and white buoys that needs to be painted. This one was chosen to do first because it only needed a coat of yellow and not a complete repaint. The other three buoy floats need the rust colored anti-fouling paint and the yellow. Just about the time we got the tape on, it was determined that all the buoys

would have the anti- fouling paint first so we had to wait while the tolroids or “donuts” were

flipped. In the process of turning them we discovered that a couple of the buoys were partially full of water and Alen had to drill them out to allow the water to pour out. While these were draining and drying we were put on hold for painting until tomorrow. Alen had to carefully look over the donuts and fix any cracks in the fiberglass hull and reseal the mounting brackets where they pass through the hull.

ThroughtheDonut_2

Since painting was sidetracked for a day, we got to participate in one of the necessary, but less exciting aspects of scientific research…inventory. As we mentioned yesterday, science is hard work and hopping a buoy or working on the fantail doing fairings with the ocean breaking over the deck has an element of risk and can be exciting. In order to do the exciting parts of the research safely and efficiently means that you have to have the right equipment and the right number of parts to make the instruments work and the science happen.

Flipping the buoy
Flipping the buoy
So today we counted bolts, and paintbrushes, screwdrivers, nylon zip ties and even pencils and post-it notes, everything that allows us to do the science. Today was a reminder that even the most exciting job in the world, like climbing up a swaying mast on a ship, might have to be done because you need to get the serial number off an antenna, an antenna that allows you to communicate the fruit of your research back to those who can use it to understand the world’s climate a little better.

Doing inventory
Doing inventory
About 4:30 pm today we approached a TAO buoy that needed to be visually checked for any damage. Prior to this check, the ship makes several close passes to the buoy for examinination and more importantly so the crew can fish! Six long lines were in the water as we past the buoy on four separate occasions. No one caught any fish. However, Alen speculated that this was because the buoy had been deployed fairly recently and there was not enough time for it to form a food chain of small microorganisms that eventually attract top level carnivores like Ono, Tuna and Mahi Mahi. Bummer!
Searching for the antenna serial number
Searching for the antenna serial number
The last order of business today was to deploy the last deep (3000 meter) CTD at 8 South on the 155 West Longitude line. Rick sent the remainder of the Styrofoam cups from his school, cups for Art’s wife’s school in Helena (Rossiter Elementary) and a couple for his grand kids plus two extras he had for the Ensigns down in mesh bags attached to the instrument.
Deploying the CTD
Deploying the CTD

Soon we say farewell to the 155 West line as we make our way toward Apia, Samoa and the end of our experiences aboard the Ka’Imimoana.

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 15, 2010

Science Log

We have our last buoy of the 155 West line in the water and the anchor is set. Today began with a ride for Rick over the old buoy where he was responsible for removing an old loop of rope in order to put on the shackle and line that the tow line would be attached to.

Readying to retrieve the buoy
Readying to retrieve the buoy
You would think that cutting a three-eights nylon line would be pretty easy, and you would be right if that line wasn’t attached to a rocking, slime covered buoy floating in the middle of an ocean that is over 5000 meters deep.
Teamwork is essential
Teamwork is essential
It would also have helped if my knock-off Leatherman had a sharper blade.Anyway, Al and I went out the buoy on the RHIB and got a pretty good spray here and there as you can see from the water drops on some of the images.
Reeling it back in
Reeling it back in

Once we were on the buoy Al removed the ‘Bird” and handed to the support crew in the RHIB.If it weren’t for these men and women we (the scientists) would not be able to collect the data.This is science on the front lines and it takes a dedicated and well-trained crew to make the endeavor of science one that produces meaningful, valid, and important data.

Barnacles and all!
Barnacles and all!

Once the ‘Bird’ is off the buoy and the towline is attached it is time to go back to the KA to pick-up the towline so that the buoy can be recovered and the next phase of the process can begin, deployment of the new buoy that will replace this one.

Zodiak returning to the ship
Zodiak returning to the ship
During the recovery Art and Rick often work as a team spooling the nylon because it takes two people to re-spool the line in a way to prevent tangles, one person to provide the turning and another to be the ‘fair lead’.
The fair lead actually has the harder job because they have to keep constant eye on the line as it spools.With seven spools of nylon all over 500 meters and the 700 meters of Nilspin recovery is a team effort by everyone.
KA from RHIB_1
Like the recovery, the deployment is a team effort and many hands make the work easier for everyone.But at this point of the cruise Art and Rick can pretty much handle the nylon line individually, but work as a team to move the empty spools and reload the spool lift with full spools. Deployment of this buoy ended just about 4:30 PM with the anchor splashing and some deck clean up then it was out of the sun and into the air-conditioned comfort of the ship for some clean clothes and good food.
Deployment is also a team effort
Deployment is also a team effort

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 14, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Making fish lures
Making fish lures

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 14, 2010

Science Log

After the buoy deployment yesterday, I spent the afternoon, contributing to our blog, setting up my online courses for this semester and building fishing lures. Yes, building fishing lures. I mean we are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – why not fish? This type of fishing is very different from what we typically think of when fishing in the rivers and lakes of Montana. Most of the fish are big and require heavy tackle. I had the opportunity to help Jonathan and Doc (Helen) build a lure using multicolored rubber skits tied onto a large metal head.

These lures are then attached to a nylon line that is about 200 feet long and attached to the rear of the boat.
Fishing off the back of the boat
Fishing off the back of the boat
Catch of the day
Catch of the day

The prized fish is the yellow fin tuna (Ahi) that the crew likes to make Sashimi and Poke (Sushi). Other fish caught include Whaoo (Ono) and Mahi Mahi (Dorado). The Chief Stewart even deep fat fried the Ono to produce delicious, firm chunks of fish to supplement on of our dinner meals and tonight we had Ono baked in chili sauce that Rick said was…Ono, which is Hawaiian for ‘good’. After lunch today I launched the Rossiter/MSU Atlantic Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) drifting buoy. These buoys collect surface sea surface temperature and air temperature data and send this information to the Argos satellite system. The data is downloaded and used by agencies such as the National Weather Service to produce models that are used to predict weather patterns. The satellites also track the AOML buoy’s drifting path. These buoys will collect this data for approximately the next three years. You can track the Rossiter/MSU drifting buoy as soon as the information from the deployment is registered with the proper agency.

Rick had a fairly relaxed day today, preparing the
next batch of cups for the 3000 meter CTD cast at 8S: 155W and doing odd jobs on the buoy deck getting ready for our recovery-deploytomorrow at 5S: 155W and future deployments scheduled later in the cruise.

With the drifter buoy
With the drifter buoy
Cups ready for the depths
Cups ready for the depths
Continuing south
Continuing south
As you can see by the GPS, at 4:54 Hawaiian Standard time (7:54 Mountain Standard Time) we continue to move south toward our next buoy recovery and deployment at 5 latitude South and 155 West longitude.
Stay Tuned for More!

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

At the controls
At the controls

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 13, 2010

Science Log

Bronc Buoy Day! By 8 this morning ship time we were running out the Nielspin and slapping on the fairings from the recovery yesterday.Some of these were pretty clean, but the majority of them, the ones that the teachers got to help with were pretty slimy and even had barnacles stuck to them. The fairings are added to help the reduce shake on the wire that can be produced by currents close to the equator.

We put these airfoil shaped fairings on the first 250 meters, after that it was smooth sailing.Because the Bronc-Bobcat buoy at 0: 155W is a TAO-CO2 buoy it needed a little extra weight on the anchor, 6200 pounds of steel. Once the anchor was off the fantail and sinking we noticed that there was a ship close to the location of the buoy. The science crew commented that this must be a new record for fishermen finding one of the buoys. It seems that fishermen love the TAO buoys since they attract fish.One of the scientists said, “A buoy for these guys is like having your own private fishing hole”. It will be interesting to see if this ship leaves, or just steams away and waits for us to be clear of the area and then comes back.

Broncs buoy deployed!
Broncs buoy deployed!

Around 12:15 today, actually Rick and Art were just finishing up lunch when the call came from Survey, “Teacher’s at Sea report to the CTD deck”. The first order of business was to lower an Argo buoy over the side of the ship and then to release the buoy using a quick release. According the home page for Argo, Argo is a global array of 3,000 (3199 on Jan 13) free-drifting profiling floats that measure the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean.

These buoys are unique because the sink to between 1000 and 2000 meters and then on regular intervals, generally 10 days the Argo returns to the surface to transmit and the data it has collected. This allows, for the first time, continuous monitoring of the temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean, with all data being relayed and made publicly available within hours after collection. Once the Argo was on its own a call was made to the bridge for the crew to help with the deployment of the Bronc Buoy. This AOML drifter’s data will be available in a few days from the Adopt-A-Drifter website. It will be interesting to follow the Bronc Buoy and see where it goes over the next several years.

Our afternoon will be spent sailing south, in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time this trip and devoted to teardown of the old 0: 155W buoy and set-up of our next buoy.

After the deployment of the new CObuoy we crossed the equator and entered the southern hemisphere. Our new position put us in the southern hemisphere and we officially went from the winter to the summer season. Currently (at 6:15 pm MST) we are approximately 28.5 miles (at 6:19 MST) miles south of the equator.
Minding the lines
Minding the lines
Reeling it in
Reeling it in

Those of you in Montana today experienced temperatures ranging from 30 to 40 degrees while the temperatures around the equator (regardless of north – winter or south- summer) are staying at about 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Quite a warm temperature when considering the area north of the equator is technically in the Winter season. Regardless, of your position just north or south of the equator, the deck work required to recover and deploy TAO buoys is demanding. An air temperature of 84 degrees seems mild but is really very hot when working on a deck that is painted dark gray. Everyone has to be careful to make sure they drink enough water to stay hydrated. This operation is certainly a team effort. Everyone works together to make sure the job gets done by checking to make sure those participating in deployments or recoveries are safe. This means checking for life jackets, hardhats, application of sunscreen, the need for water etc. Higher education could take a lesson from the way that this crew collaborates and works together!

The anchor sinks to the depths
The anchor sinks to the depths
Decorative spirit
Decorative spirit
The team
The team
How the buoy gathers and sends data
How the buoy gathers and sends data
Crossed the equator!
Crossed the equator!

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Sunrise
Sunrise

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 12, 2010

Science Log

We are almost there! We are holding station at 0 degrees 3 minutes North and 154 degrees 58 minutes West while we conduct out second deep (3000 meter) CTD. This cast began at 9:13 AM ship time (19:13 Zulu) and made it to depth at 10:10 AM ship time. The depth is 4650 meters at this location.

This cast has significance to Rick’s students (and his Daughter) because this is the first cup cast the cruise.
Rick spent about 30 minutes making sure that the mesh bags with 172 cups (a record for a single cast on the KA) and the bag with the Styrofoam head were attached on the instrument cage securely and in a way that would not interfere with the operation of the instruments on the CTD. As you can see from these pictures the results were profound.
CTD ready to go
CTD ready to go

When Rick returns to the classroom he will return all the cups to their rightful owners. The kids will then recalculate the volume, mass, height and diameter (if they can) and determine the rate of compression for the styrofoam cups. And of course the famous shrunken head his Daughter provided.

After recovery of the CTD Rick and Art spent about a 45 minutes getting the mesh bags off the CTD, untied and for a few of the cups that had nested, carefully pulling them apart so that they would dry as individual “mini-cups”. As soon as this task was completed we moved to the TAO-CO2 Buoy that we are going to replace.The new buoy will be the Bobcat-Bronc Buoy and will be deployed tomorrow since the recovery started around 2 PM and wasn’t complete until just about dark. Tonight we will remaining on station through the night, making five mile loops around the position of the new buoy so there is a very good chance that we will cross the equator 10 or more times tonight.

Cups returned from the depth
Cups returned from the depth

As Rick wrote, today we recovered a buoy designed to measure the amount of COin ocean water in addition to typical data (i.e., temperature, wind speed, humidity, rain and salinity). During the recovery I had the opportunity to ride the RHIB out to the CO2buoy to help the Chief Scientist remove some equipment before pulling the buoy onto the ship. Our ride to the buoy was phenomenal! We were told by the Coxswain to “hold on tight” to the ropes surrounding the top of the RHIB. As we pushed through the indigo waves of the ocean at the equator, I felt like a Montana bull rider holding on for dear life. While Brian was removing the anemometer and the rain gauge, I attached a short rope with a coupling to one leg of the buoy that a larger rope could be attached and bring the buoy aboard the ship. While on the buoy, I realized that the only other thing in site for miles was our mother ship, the Ka’Imimoana!

Out in the zodiak
Out in the zodiak
The RHIB returned to pick us up and then went back to the ship to retrieve the rope that would be attached to the buoy. After some concern that the anchor did not release, the buoy was hauled aboard and stowed for future use. Tomorrow the new CObuoy will be deployed.

This morning we were at 3 minutes North (3 nautical miles) of the equator, about a half hour ago we were only 3/10th of a mile North, we are really getting close. On to the Southern Hemisphere!

Retrieving the buoy
Retrieving the buoy

gettingclose_2

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Successfully deployed
Successfully deployed

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 11, 2010

Science Log

“Science isn’t pretty…” Dexter from the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory tells his sister. What he really needs to say is that science is hard work, work that takes a team of scientists, technical specialists, and in this case the dedicated crew from the NOAA ship Ka’Imimoana. Yesterday was our first real taste of what it takes to get the data needed to understand the role of the tropical ocean in modifying the world’s climate. We began out day with a shallow cast of the CTD at 6N:155W that ended around 7AM. A shallow cast still goes to a depth of 1000 meters (how many feet is that?) and takes about two to three hours to complete. The Survey Technician, a couple of the deck crew and several officers worked though heavy winds (35knots) and seas of around 18 feet and intermittent downpours of rain to make the data from the TAO Buoy array more solid.

Mahi mahi
Mahi mahi

Once the CTD was back on the ship and secured we headed toward our first recovery/deploy at 5N:155W. Our next task was to recover a TAO buoy that had been sending climate data for the past 8 months. The recovery began with a pass by the buoy to make sure that everything was still attached and that the buoy would be safe to “hop” and then come aboard. During these “fly-bys” or passes to view the condition of the old buoy the crew had an opportunity to fish. The Doc caught a nice Mahi Mahi as you can see in the image. Two Ahi (Yellow fin tuna…fresh poke and sashimi…yum) were caught, a Wahoo or Ono, and a small Galapagos shark that was released back in to the ocean.

After our successful fishing the RHIB was sent over to the buoy to secure the ‘bird’ (how we refer to the anemometer) and attach a line for hauling in the buoy to the ship. Once the winch line is attached the RHIB was brought back onboard and we started the recovery.Retrieving the buoy produced a steady rhythm of line in, filling spools, and switching to empty spools.Even the Ensign’s got in on the deck action running in a spool and scraping the barnacles off the old buoy.

Recovering the buoy
Recovering the buoy

Once the buoy was completely recovered (about 4 hours) we set the deck for deployment of the new buoy and broke for dinner. After dinner we began the deployment which took about 3 hours and ended in the dark around 8PM. Deployment of buoys is basically the opposite of the recovery process: Nielspin, plastic coated steel cable, with its sensors attached are then attached to the buoy with its electronics.

This line along with thousands of meters of braided line feed out into the water until the buoy’s anchor position is reached.Once the buoy was anchored in the water we waited for about a half an hour then swung by the buoy to check that it was operational. Once the buoy was confirmed as successful, the crew began to prepare for the 5N CTD and our first drifter buoy deployment.

Rick helped with this CTD to continue his training for his solo CTD’s coming in a day or so.The 5N CTD, like the 6N was a shallow cast and took about 2 hours and once the CTD was stowed Rick, the Survey Technician and two Ensign’s bid farewell to the first drifter and the day was pau (“done”) as the Hawaiians say.

Reeling in the line
Reeling in the line

Today was our opportunity to take it a little easier as compared to yesterday’s long day of buoy recovery and deployment that did not end until after dark. We had an opportunity to catch-up on some email and work on an article that is due on the 15th of January. Nothing like being under a time crunch to get you motivated. The day is filled with sun and winds are “fresh” as it is called by some. The first order of business was to help with the 3N: 155W shallow cast CTD. It is still had to grasp that shallow is over 3000 feet down into the ocean. When the pressure of the water increases the equivalent of 1 atmosphere each 10 meters that is a lot of pressure when something goes down 1000 meters like the shallow CTD does. When we make our deep cast (3000 meters) at the equator the pressure on the instruments is staggering. What would it be in pounds per square inch? Once the CTD was back on the ship and we resumed our course south along the 155W longitude line we worked on getting the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) drifter prepared for its deployment as the Bronc Buoy at the Equator along the 155W line.

Hard at work
Hard at work

If followers look back to a post from October they can see the stickers that the students at Billings Senior High Freshman Academy prepared for the drifter they were adopting through NOAA’s Adopt-A-Drifter Program. If you are interested in adopting a drifter you can find information about the program in the “links to learning a little more” area of this Blog. After lunch we helped the Brian, Jim and Alan to put together a specialized TAO buoy that collects information about the amount of dissolved Carbon Dioxide in the ocean in addition to the typical temperature, salinity, humidity and rain data that is gathered. These buoys appear to be easy to build.

On the lookout
On the lookout

However, standing on top of a TAO buoy anchored to the ship’s deck while trying to hold on with one hand and attach electronic sensors with the other can be daunting as the ship pitches to and fro considering the seas we had today. One gains a whole new perspective and respect for the power of the Ocean and the scientists who routinely build these buoys so that good data can be collected to help mankind. One added benefit of working on the buoys is that occasionally we have the chance to do a little personalizing. Art painted MSU CATS on one side since he works at MSU and since I just graduated from Bozeman last May. On the other side Rick put in a plug for Billings Senior Broncs. So now the Broncs and the Cats will be part of the TAO array at 155W at the equator for the next year.

We also had our first fresh sashimi and poke.Rick for one can’t wait! It is great that we have a crew with diverse skills and hobbies. Deck crew who prepare top notch sashimi and a doc who makes poke with his help.

Adopted buoy
Adopted buoy

BroncCO2Buoy_1MakingPoke

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 9, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 9, 2010

Sunrise
Sunrise

Science Log

Today was a busy day. We were up before dawn so we could check on an existing buoy close to the location of our new deployment. We made what was called a ‘fly-by’. The ship closed on the buoy and at about a mile it was vaguely visible in the early dawn. The first buoy deployment of our mission began about 7:30 AM and we had the anchor in the water about 11AM and everything went smooth. The new generation TAO buoy was deployed at 155 W longitude and 8 N latitude in a depth of 5200 meters(about 3.2 miles deep!). The TAO buoys, also called moorings, are anchored to the ocean floor using plastic coated steel cable and heavy rope. We have a drawing of the standard buoy to give you some idea what the whole package looks like, at the surface as well as below. The adjacent image is of the actual buoy that we deployed today.As you can see the color scheme has change to a solid International Yellow above the waterline.

Buoy mooring up close
Buoy mooring up close

During the initial deployment electronic sensors are placed at specific depths on a special coated steal wire. These sensors are designed to by induction and send information about conductivity (salinity), temperature and sometimes depth to the instrument tube in the buoy.This image shows two of the science team placing one of these sensors on the line.

The information provided by these sensors, and those on the buoy that measure surface conditions, help climate scientists better model the behavior of the ocean atmosphere interface and understand what patterns are more representative of El Nino, La Nina, or Neutral conditions.

In addition to the deploy of this first buoy on our trip, the ship was also engaged in the deployment and recovery of the first deep CTD. This 3000-meter (about 9750 feet or slightly over 1 3/4thmiles down) cast went fairly smoothly until it was on its way back to the surface. The winch

controller overheated and the CTD had to rest

for about one hour while the instrument package sat at 2000 meters.After the control circuits had a chance to cool we were able to continue the recovery of the CTD and resume or course south on the 155 W to our next station at 7N for a 1000 meter CTD cast. There is a good chance that we will do the CTD later this evening since it will take about six hours for the ship to transit one degree depending on sea conditions.

Deployment
Deployment
Sensors monitor the ocean conditions
Sensors monitor the ocean conditions
CTDs being deployed
CTDs being deployed

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 7, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 7, 2010

Cups heading to the depths
Cups heading to the depths

Science Log

Today was a day of transit. We did a lot of work on the buoys, preparing them for deployment and Rick, with the help of Tonya our Chief Survey Technician, got about half of the cups that his students decorated for ‘shrinking’ into the mesh bags to attach to the deep CTD when we do one . The CTD is a rosette of bottles that are sent to depth, in this case 3000 meters (how many feet is that and how many atmospheres of pressure?) where water samples and a record of the Conductivity (salinity), Temperature, and Depth are taken. These CTD’s will help provide a double check for the electronic data that our buoys collect and add to the data used to model El Nino/La Nina. One of the side activities of the CTD is to send down the cups to be squeezed by the pressure. We also have a cup of similar size that will be used as a control so that students will be able to see the changes that the cups undergo. Rick also has brought along a Styrofoam wig head from his daughter Teri to see the effect on a larger scale.

In addition to our work on the buoys we had our first at sea drills including an abandon ship drill.But since we had a similar drill in port we only were required to muster to our stations with our exposure suits, long sleeve shirt, head cover, and long pants and wear our personal flotation device.

Ship safety drill
Ship safety drill

A wee bit rocky today.We have a swell that seems to be coming from the starboard (right) aft quarter, which gives the ship a strange movement that has made some of the folks a little queasy.Ships tend to roll (movement around an imaginary line running bow to stern) pitch (movement up and down around an imaginary line running 90 degrees to the direction of roll) and yaw (movement left or right of the imaginary line running bow to stern).Today the KA is doing all three at the same time which is why we are encouraged to take Meclizine HCL (Dramamine) for a few days prior to the trip and for the first few days at sea. Taking this makes it easier for the crew to function in an environment that has un-natural motion without getting ‘seasick’. Even with the weird motion of the ship, we still have work to do and for us “newbies” things to learn before we are allowed to do them, like learn how to set the ‘painter line’ for the RHIB so that we will stay attached to the ship in the advent that the engine of the RIHB doesn’t start or other various bad things that can happen to a little boat in a big ocean. We didn’t actually ride in the RHIB today, we simply learned how to enter the boat, where to sit , where the emergency items are located, and how to start and steer the boat.

Out on the deck
Out on the deck

One of the tasks that needs to be done prior to the deployment of our first Buoy at 8N:155W is to determine (as close as possible) the ideal position for the buoy’s anchor. To do this it is essential to know the true depth of the ocean and the topography (collectively called bathymetry) of the area within a few miles of the target latitude and longitude for the buoy.Brian, our Chief Scientist, will determine the depth and location for the anchor by using both satellite sea surface heights and actual sonar depth data from ships that have been in the area. In reality, there really isn’t much hard data, physical sonar tracks, for much of the ocean and much of the depth is determined by the actually height of the sea surface as measured by satellite. These measurements take into account variables, such as orbit of the satellite, atmospheric effects on radar, and tides and compare the computer result to a mathematical ellipsoid model of the Earth’s shape. Sounds pretty complicated, and it is, but we can use this calculated sea surface to help determine the depth of the ocean since the surface mirrors the actual topography of the ocean floor. For Academy students, you will have the opportunity to do two activities from the American Meteorological Society (AMS) that will help you understand what it is that we are attempting to do.

Bathymetric map
Bathymetric map
Catch of the day!
Catch of the day!

 

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 6, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 6, 2010

Science Log

The KA is under her own steam, well actually diesel and electric, and we are making 10 knots (you should figure out how fast that is in miles per hour) at a heading of 173 degrees. The KA uses diesel generators to create the current to drive here electric propulsion motors. She is a vey quit ship because of this configuration which was part of her original deign…to be quite. The KA is a former Navy antisubmarine warfare ship and needed to be quiet to play her role listening for submarines that might have been lurking around the oceans. Now that quiet nature makes it nice for those of us about to have our first night at sea.

Our current position was 157degrees 51 minutes and 7 seconds west longitude (157:51:07 W) and 22 degrees 55 minutes and 8 seconds north latitude (22:55:09N) at 19:30 lcl on the 5th of January. At that time we had been at sea for about five hours and have many more to go on our way to work the 155 W Buoy line. Sunset was fantastic, but very short. It seems to take almost no time to go from day to night here in the tropics. You can see how it looks behind some of the “birds” (anemometers) that will measure windspeed and direction on the buoys. We are now (09:10 lcl) about 40 nautical miles south of the Big Island and can just see it in the distance. It will be some time before we see land again.

Since we are running a little slow on the internet I will simply post a few images from our first day rather than a video. I will attempt to post a video or two later on but currently we are limited on our bandwidth to about 128K.

For two days I have been overwhelmed as I observed all of the aspects of the crew’s preparation for the TAO mission to Samoa. I am fascinated with everything about this operation – watching the crew load the ship, observing the ship being fueled, viewing the massive nuclear submarines located in Pearl Harbor, and assembling the sensors that collect climate data from each of the buoys we will deploy. Yesterday, in preparation for our voyage, we continued to calibrate instruments and assemble sensors.Last night was our first night at sea, I slept like a baby -the gentle rocking of the boat was like being in a giant cradle.

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 5, 2010

Science Log

The ship has been in port at Pearl Harbor most of the day. We got underway about ten to ten this morning to transit to the fuel pier. We have been loading fuel and getting the various instruments ready for deployment. One of the more memorable things for me was passing by the USS Arizona Memorial and thinking about all the history that has gone on here. It makes one pause and think of the value of our freedom and the price paid for that freedom.

One of the more mundane, but important tasks today has been to check all the sensors and to make sure that the electrical connections are all correct. I even had the opportunity to crawl under the test bench to make sure the connections for the long wave and short wave UV sensors were connected to the correct test leads.

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 4, 2010

The ship is underway
The ship is underway

Personal Log

Art and I arrived at Pearl at 7AM today at the Visitor Check-in and ID office. We were a half hour early and were still 12th and 13th in line. The process was pretty slow, but we got picked up by one of the science crew (James) when we got our passes around 8:15AM. We then went the ship and came on board durning the first of three drills for the day. Within in a few minutes of getting to the ship we were already involved in the ship board fire drill. Both Art and I were shlepping fire fighting equipment to the “fire scene”, I had a ventilation hose and Art a really big, and nasty looking, pry bar. It looked like a pry bar on steroids. After the fire drill it was the abandon ship drill, where we all put on our “gumby” suits ( I wish I had thought to have my camera ready first thing) and exchanged our old whistles for new ones without cork balls. After the abandon ship drill, it was man overboard and then we were able to stand down by about 10AM. Once the drills were done it was time to get with moving the equipment to the ship and setting up the instruments. The process of meeting the crew, loading the equipment and stores, and setting up the science stuff took until almost 6PM.

Chris Imhof, November 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 19, 2009

Science Log

After 3 days and many hours in front of computer screens and monitors I almost forgot I was on a boat. Tonight is my last night on the Pisces, and although at times it has been rough, I have started to get used to the rocking of the ship and know every crew member by name. I ran about the ship when I have had a second, to take in things knowing I will have chance tomorrow . I will miss looking across the open sea and having opportunities to catch a glimpse of a shark fin near the side of the ship and a huge sea turtle making its way across the waves. I will miss talking to the crew and the scientists, and working with Jeannine Foucault the other Teacher at Sea. I’ll probably write another log tomorrow to sum up the experience, but its hard

to rally up for a science log when you are tired and many of have to pack to disembark at Jacksonville tomorrow morning. As for the Pisces and her crew, they will make their way back to Pascagoula for the Holidays.

Jeannine Foucault, November 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 19, 2009

Seafloor ROV images
Seafloor ROV images

Science Log

Our last day of ROV dives and it was definitely worthwhile. PISCES held off the coast of South Carolina at the Edisto MPA (Marine Protection Area). We were able to get in four dives with the ROV. The scientists paid close attention to the marine habitat within the ecosystems of all four dives. The interesting conclusion was that all four dives had very different habitats. What is even more interesting is that these differing habitats affect the number of animals that live there. Some of the areas we saw were smooth sandy bottom and interspersed on the smooth bottom are rugged rocky outcrops.

The rocky reefs range in height from some being really short to some being very tall. Some of the rocky reefs can even be in a small area the size of a dinner plate and others are hundreds of square miles.

Rocky reefs from the ROV
Rocky reefs from the ROV

The important fact of the matter is that the rugged hard bottom is favored by many species of animals including corals, sponges, and other invertebrates. Scientists find that sunken ships or other debris that ends up at the bottom of the ocean becomes perfect habitat for animals. These areas protect fish species during spawning and from predators. Today’s discovery is that the most fish species we have seen was found not in the smooth sandy bottom but in fact in the rugged rocky outcrops and rocky reef ranges.

Things I have seen today:

hammerhead shark
sea turtle
sea cucumber
spotted goat fish
lobster
pencil urchin
banded butterfly fish
sand tilefish
sea biscuit

Question of the Day

What is a TED?

Jeannine Foucault, November 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 18, 2009

Instrumentation
Instrumentation

Science Log

Lionfish and more lionfish…..the South Atlantic coastline is getting overtaken by these funny little creatures. Scientists find that they are competing with the Grouper and Tilefish throughout the coastline and unfortunately winning. Speculation has it that at one time dive charters brought this species of fish to the coast for tourist purposes while other speculation tells that people who own aquariums once owned the lionfish kept them so long that they grew so big they had to get rid of them. What better way to get rid of them was to dump them into the South Atlantic Ocean? Nevertheless, they are here and destroying the populations of Grouper and Tilefish.

Seafloor images
Seafloor images

Since 2004 NOAA scientists have been working on this MPA (Marine Protected Area) project to gather data to identify the significant changes in species populations of the lionfish, grouper, and tilefish. Each year they come out to the same plotted MPA’s to check the habitat populations. Unfortunately, the lionfish numbers are increasing and the grouper and tilefish populations are decreasing. So what happens now? Do the grouper and tilefish relocate? Do they become endangered? Do we capture the lionfish and relocate them? There is no real answer to the problem at hand, but this is one example of the many ways NOAA scientists work on protecting marine life.

Today I was able to work hands on with launch and recovery of the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle). Yep, hardhat and all! My job was to make sure the tether line didn’t get tangled and was being fed in and out of the ocean properly. Launch and recovery of the ROV can be a very dangerous operation if everyone is not communicating and alert.

I was also able to drive the ROV from inside the ship across the ocean floor about 223ft in depth. Driving was not as easy as it looked. Maneuvering the ROV in the direction to which the scientists need as well as not to tangle the tether. Once the end of the tether is near I had to radio up to the bridge to move the ship in whichever direction the scientists needed to explore next.

Finally, as the day was winding down acoustics lab was testing their equipment from the ship. The mammal biologists were able to identify sounds from several playing dolphins! I was able to listen to their playful audio for a while before they dissipated into the ocean.

What did I eat for dinner? Fresh sushi, of course!

Chris Imhof, November 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 18, 2009

Science Log

NOAA’s mission is to “protect, restore and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources.” The way NOAA does this is through science – a voyage like this may seem like moving from point to point and placing a really cool piece of technology in the water to see what’s on the bottom – but these are all tools that are being used to be able to carry out the tenets of protect, restore and manage.

We have visited half our sites now and have surveyed different environments in and out of Marine Protected Areas. Different environments, yet with commonalities – all the sites are near exposed “hard-bottom” or exposed limestone on the shelf bottom. There may be miles of sand waves and algae – but theses exposed, complex and bio-encrusted features are “oasis’s” for all sorts of ocean life – especially fish. As the ROV maneuvers across the sandy waves, it is usually the glint of a school of fish or reflection of a fish eye that provides a beacon to a feature. If these features are “oasis” habitats then they should be protected. Granted, these limestone blocks can do more damage to fishing line and gear, evident in the amount of line found in the high relief areas – but in the case of some of the North Florida MPA, we encountered the fragile deep water Occulina Coral which is vulnerable especially when nets are being dragged across these areas.

Another commonality noticed is the growing presence of the beautiful Lion Fish (Pterois volitans) – this native of Pacific waters was released intentionally or unintentionally in the early 1990’s around Florida and have since spread to areas above North Carolina and south to the Caribbean, especially along reefs and rocky outcrops. They join an infamous ranks of other invasive species including the European Green Crab, Asian Eel and Zebra Mussel. The Lion-Fish, besides having an array of venomous spines. has a keen strategy of “corralling” prey with their fins and eating them in one gulp. This will impact the small fish and crustaceans in these habitats as well as the added competition with indigenous or native predators such as snappers and grouper fish – which are currently commercially fished. This is where “manage” comes in – here is a “new” invasive species in that is growing in population and spreading geographically, impacting the habitat by out-competing, in some cases, the established predators – how can it be managed.

Especially when the Lion-fish has few natural enemies. The Lion Fish is a tricky one – as an invasive species, missions like this one help to understand the long-term impact the Lion-Fish is having on these habitats. Using technology like multi-beam mapping and ROV technology can provide data for scientists and in turn give councils, commissions and government the knowledge to manage these areas through smart-solution-based policy.

References:

coastalscience.noaa.gov/documents/factsheet_lionfish.pdf

http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag135.htm

Jeannine Foucault, November 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 17, 2009

Taking a first look at the data
Taking a first look at the data

Science Log

What an exciting day! The first time we launched the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) into the ocean at our first MPA (Marine Protected Area) in North Florida. The amount of manpower and communication that goes into something like this is just extraordinary. The deckhands must be available and working with the crane to gradually place the ROV into the water, the crew must be on the bridge communicating with the scientists and the deckhands to maneuver the ship where needed, and finally the scientists have to be working gathering data and making sure the ROV is placed where the MPA site is located. Even before the ROV is launched something called a CTD (Conductivity Temperature and Depth) is lowered into the ocean to gather water temperature, salinity, and depth. This CTD device is lowered twice in one day, once at the beginning of the day and once at the end of the day to give the scientists some raw data of the waters.

The ROV will usually “dive” for about an hour while the scientists record live footage. One scientist is actually driving the ROV from inside the ship. The ROV has four propellers that run from an electric motor supplied by the electricity source provided by the ship. It almost looks like he’s playing a video game when he is driving. It’s got two joysticks and a monitor that he follows.

Fish on the screen from the ROV
Fish on the screen from the ROV

Another job is where a scientist is keeping track of the 37″ TV monitor. He or she records the species of fish seen along with longitude, latitude, depth, and floor surface. Yet another scientist is working taking still and video photographs from the ROV while providing audio narration to aid in video analysis when reviewing back in the lab.

All the above is going on and still don’t forget the communication between the bridge and the scientists. If the scientists want to move the ship just about 400m due East then he will radio up to the captain on the bridge and the ship will move 400 m due East being very careful not to run over the ROV or cause any other safety concerns. Safety is NOAA’s biggest concern!

Take a look at the animals I have seen today:

Amberjack fish
Red snapper fish
Yellow tail snapper fish
Lion fish
Toad fish
Hog fish
Shark
Ramora fish
Reef butterfly fish
Soldier fish
Black coral
Goliath grouper!!!
Scamp fish
Moray eel
Sea turtle
Barracuda fish

Look these up and send me a photo….. I’ll let you know if that’s what I see!

Chris Imhof, November 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 17, 2009

Science Log

We sailed last night to our first “station” – The North Florida Marine Protected Area – and by 7:00 am this morning the ROV pilots Lance Brown and Glenn Taylor were going through the “pre-flight” checklist on the ROV; Lance working the controls in the lab, Glenn outside taking care of the deployment and extraction of the vehicle on the starboard weather deck. Soon they were meeting with the Lead NOAA scientist Andy David to talk through the operations of the deployment and extraction and more specifically the methodology of what they were trying to accomplish at this site.

The North Florida MPA area has been protected since 2004 – meaning no sailing or fishing occurs in this area. Some of the area has been mapped by multi-beam sonar – so what scientist then do with ROV technology is “Ground-Truthing” in which after examining the multi-beam maps – choose features to explore and check visually how they compare with their maps. Since the ROV sends real time video feed to the lab, the scientist watch and note the features, the animals that are present or not present in the habitat. They also perform a down shot every 2 minutes, or stop the ROV – point the camera down and take a picture – later in the lab they quantify the habitat by gridding the photograph and counting the number of species. Todays North Florida site tested sites inside the Marine Protected Area as well as sites/features outside the MPA for comparison as well as to help make future decisions of extending possible areas into the protective zone or even species.

After the scientists met, the Pisces crew and captain Jeremy Adams met on the weather deck to talk through the operation – sync their communications and what if scenarios. In all, there were 3 ROV dives which went extremely smooth, mainly due to the organization and communication of everyone involved.

The highlights of the dive were the spectacular features of the exposed limestone near the drop offs and the amazing habitats – for all my preparation the diversity of fish was overwhelming – I could identify a few featured fish like the Lionfish, barracudas and Moray Eels – I was unprepared to see a real sea turtle hanging out by some rocks or a Goliath Grouper which came out of nowhere. I learned many new fish which I hope to be able to call out from the monitor tomorrow like the Reef Butterfly, Squirrel Fish, Amberjack, Scamp, Soldier fish, Purple and Yellow Tail Reef Fish. I was helpful in identifying some of the Occulina deep coral species, the sponges (which you couldn’t miss) as well as pick out old fish line, a bottle and and an old anchor jammed into the rocks near the edge.

I’ll let the pictures and video slices tell most of the story. We are cruising all night again to our most northern site Edisto – off South Carolina and then work back from there.

Jeannine Foucault, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

Survival suit for safety
Survival suit for safety

Science Log

Today we were ported in Jacksonville, FL. It was load up and set up day for the additional scientists and the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle).

The ROV is similar to a traveling robot that will be lowered down onto the ocean floor and will be remotely operated from the ship while recording ocean life at each MPA (Marine Protected Area) that we visit. Since PISCES is a brand new ship she wasn’t equipped for all the hardware and software needed for the ROV; therefore, all the engineers, deckhands, scientists, and crew were involved in a speedy setup. The scientists also loaded a fish trap just in case we need extra data in addition to the ROV.

We set off to our first MPA in North Florida to do our first ROV trial testing in the morning to get some live data. I am so anxious to see how the ROV works and what sort of data we will receive. I know I will sleep well tonight because I was working right along side everyone. Remember all those measurements I have you take and then convert them from English to metric units? That’s what I had to do today. We had to measure how far the equipment was in respect to the size of the ship, etc. You want to know how you will use what you learn in ‘real life’? Well, here it is!

I did see a dolphin today, but too quick for a pic! SRRY 🙂

Also, I was able to watch the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

Chris Imhof, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

NOAA Ship Pisces in port
NOAA Ship Pisces in port

Science Log

We arrived late last night back in Jacksonville, Florida docking at the Atlantic Marine Docks – taking on 8 scientists who will leading the ROV operations – over the next few days. The next morning was a flurry of activity as the science crew began to unload their equipment and the crew of the Pisces operated the cranes and prepared the the sides of the ship and the winches for deployment of the ROV.

While Jeannine stayed aboard to help running cables and rigging the GPS equipment needed for pinpointing the position of the ROV relative to the ship – I chose to join the scouting party inland; myself, Lieutenant Dunsford, Engineer Tony Assouad and Lead Scientist Andy David made contact with local at the village of “Walmart” and acquired much needed supplies.

AtlantisGear was stowed and the equipment set up, the science party met for their safety briefing, followed by a larger conversation of what we will be accomplishing over the next couple of days. We plan to take the “Deep Ocean ROV” to at 3 sites – testing in and outside the MPA or “Marine Protected Area” about sites a day. We will be running mostly day time operations and transitioning to next station at night as well as doing some multibeam mapping – using the same type of technology I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. When the Pisces arrives in an area it will begin to “mow the lawn” – doing transects back and forth to create a map of the ocean floor below so the scientists can better choose targets or areas to avoid during the daytime ROV operation. For the most part we are assisting the scientists with the launching and retrieval of the ROV as well as monitoring what the ROV sees from a TV in the Dry Lab on the Pisces.

ROV equipment
ROV equipment

Like a lot of science the ROV will be recording a ton of data which will be more carefully evaluated over the next few months after the voyage. Many of the places we document in and out of the MPA will be explored again to see changes – so in a way this study sets a baseline for future missions. I am excited to see how they launch the ROV, which will give me some ideas for when my Innovation Technology Seminar launches their little rovers in a few weeks. The operator/pilot of the rover will be inside the dry lab talking through a headset to another rover scientist outside monitoring the 900 feet of cable – talking to a deck crew member operating a winch. We are hoping not only for calm waters on the surface for deployment-but quiet currents below so ROV has the opportunity to explore, rather than ride the current.

A few porpoises rolled along side the ship enough to enjoy, but too quick to get a good picture. Only the gray pelicans on the dock would stand still to pose. Before we pulled out of Jacksonville we climbed to the top of the Flying Deck to watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in the distance. Even though we didn’t do much today it was still a pretty great day. 🙂

Jeannine Foucault, November 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 15, 2009

Crew in safety gear
Crew in safety gear

Science Log

If you have been using the ship tracker you would be able to follow that last night we cruised around the bottom tip of Florida out of the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic Ocean. The waters were a bit rough with wind gusts up to 40 knots. It was a rocky night. Not to mention a very sleepless night with the greenish way I was feeling :)! Needless to say I haven’t had much to eat today except for some dry Captain Crunch cereal. The head chef on the mess deck suggested it would be a good stomach filler. We will see and I will let you know!

Once I got my sea legs back I was anxious to see what everyone else was doing. The crew as well as the scientists were very busy; therefore, I stayed pretty much out of their way for a while. The crew was trying to get us an arrival in Jacksonville, FL and the tech crew was busy trying to get us online since the internet signal went down. Talking to the captain he says that with a new boat there are always kinks that have to be ironed out …that’s why we call these sea trials.

Lab equipment aboard the ship
Lab equipment aboard the ship

The mammal scientists were working on their equipment trying to get their equipment calibrated correctly. They explained to me that PISCES is equiped with many sensors (transducers) and these sensors are connected to different pieces of equipment to help pickup the ocean ecosystem. For instance, the mammal scientists are using the echo sensors on the computers (see below) that operates seven echo sound frequencies. Then the scientists can use this realtime data for analysis of targets, concentrations, the layers of ocean, etc. This provides a broad scope of marine acoustic survey from plankton to large schools of fish.

While I was on deck watching the waves I noticed a bunch of birds that flew into the water but never came up. I watched a while longer and again, but this time these creatures came up from the water and flew across it into a huge dive back into the ocean. These were not birds…..these were ‘flying fish’! They are C.melanurus common to the Atlantic. They are silly little fish always flying from a predator under water.

Chris Imhof, November 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 15, 2009

Science Log

Rough winds and big choppy waves coming around the Keys and into the Gulf Stream last night kept many awake and few of us with a taste of sea sickness. We make port in Jacksonville tonight and take on the ROV and more scientists. While making the first leg of this voyage it has been good to get to meet most of the crew and learn what they do and where they work on the Pisces; these include NOAA engineers, electrical and computer technicians, deck crew, stewards, and the NOAA Core officers. Since this is a maiden voyage, many of these people have worked on other NOAA ships – bringing their expertise and skills to get the Pisces up and working smoothly. Many of this crew will stay with the Pisces – operating the ship for NOAA scientists who come aboard to run experiments or do research in the months to come.

When I boarded the Pisces last Wednesday, the mammal scientists Tony Martinez and Lance Garrison were already on board testing equipment for an expedition this coming January – for detecting concentrations of sperm whale prey – from small fish to squid – acoustically and visually. Two pieces of technology they use are the EK60 Echosounder and ME70 Splitbeam:

1) The EK60 Simrad Echo-Sounder: This piece of technology uses a devices called a transducers that are located on the bottom of the Pisces to detect organisms. The Echo-Sounder operates on 4 frequencies – split beams of 200 and 120 khz (kilohertz) for shallow water detection – giving good data on zooplankton and small schools of fish, and the 18 and 38 khz frequencies which can detect fish, mammals and squid much deeper. The transducers issue a ping at each frequency every .5 seconds which bounce back creating a picture or vertical scatter. The scatter shown is a reflective signature – which the scientist use to identify what is below.

2) The ME70:  The ME70 is brand new technology that uses a single high frequency – but based on amplitude reverberates from 80 transducers in a fan or swath -like shining a spot light down the water column. This gives another kind of visual image of what is below – especially the characteristics of the concentrations of zooplankton and nekton or schools of fish.

Tools and technology like this help scientists conduct surveys of marine species in deep and shallow waters, they can improve the way we estimate fish stocks – and the more it is used and tested can be a passive way to identify species in their habitats through their acoustic signatures.

An interesting aspect of this technology is the growing study of “swarm behavior” – understanding why schools of fish glide in precise synchronous movement. This field of study is becoming more important as we learn that self-organizing coordinated systems like schools of fish are extremely resilient and efficient. Mammal studies conducted by Tony and Lance aboard the Pisces may have larger implications in the future when looking at the behavior of crowds, or traffic on a highway, or how people move in a work place.

Jeannine Foucault, November 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 14, 2009

Science Log

Of the many things I have learned so far there are three things that are standing out in my mind right now that I can share…..1) there is so much ionization in the ocean (salinity) that if it’s not neutralized it can cause many rusting/electrical problems on the ship 2) water on the ship is purified by passing through a UV light before it is sent for drinking and using on the ship 3) plank owners are called the very first crew members on a new ship!

When I went on the tour of the engine room or should I say rooms. The engineer pointed to a sign that read “cathode”. Well, I know my physical science students remember that a cathode is an electrode where an electric current flows out of a polarized electrical device. Anyway, the ship has all this salt water flowing in (lots of NACL) that has an electric charge so it has to be neutralized using the cathode so the water doesn’t cause any high electrical charges that can be dangerous with so much high voltage already running on the ship. Cool, huh?

Then the engineer explained the process of making water. The ship goes through about 1800 gallons of water per day. Through the process of purifying the water at the final stage is a tiny box with a long rectangular tin attached to a long thick wire. Above this box water flows through another tube flowing across the rectangular box. It reads ‘CAUTION: UV radition light’. As the water flows across the UV light it is emitting short wavelengths of ionizing radiation to rid of any living microorganisms in the water making it suitable to drink.

Finally, another crew member discussed the aspect of the ‘plank owners’. This is an individual who was a member of the crew of a ship when that ship was placed in commission. So since PISCES was commission on November 6, 2009 and the entire crew that is with me now on the ship was a member of the crew then they are all the plank owners of PISCES and I am the office plank owner Teacher at Sea!

Chris Imhof, November 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 13, 2009

Science Log

Safety is a priority aboard the Pisces – without a sense of safe operations and knowing what to do in a situation – it would be very hard to run effective science missions – everything from knowing where a safe place to stand, when and where to wear a hard hat and what to do in an event or situation. Within hours of leaving port we assembled with the science team for a briefing and learned where we would muster in case of a drill. A muster station is a place you have been assigned when there is an alarm and/or the ship’s horn is blown to communicate to the crew an emergency, situation or event. Once assembled in the designated area, an assigned person calls the bridge to inform that everyone in that station has been accounted for.

I would go to my muster station in the case of a man-over-board -this is communicated with 3 prolonged blasts of the ship’s horn. If I was on deck and saw a person go overboard- I would yell “man-over-board!” and point over the side until I was relieved by an officer – and at the same time be throwing everything under the sun that could float to leave a trail for the ship to follow as it slowed and turned around.

It wasn’t more than an hour after our meeting, while exploring the ship that a drill was issued. As we made our way up 3 decks to our mustering station, we passed crew skillfully and methodically going through the procedures of extinguishing an imaginary “fire” on the starboard deck.

After a few minutes the captain had everyone assemble on the deck where the drill took place and with the XO led a discussion of how it went. What was impressive was the nature of the discussion in which crew members in different departments brought their knowledge and experience to consider other dimensions of the situation – glass windows, machinery or nearby materials that could cause furthers complications or additional measures etc. This type of collaboration builds the cohesion of a ships’ crew as well as the security and safety aboard the ship.

Following the briefing the crew was dismissed and within a short amount of time the ship’s horn blared 6 short blasts and a single long blast – indicating an abandon ship – in this situation/drill we mustered on a side of the ship – bringing with us a life vest, hat and immersion suit. The Pisces is equipped with self-inflatable life rafts on each side of the ship – each sides’ rafts hold more than 60 crew – this is in case one side of the ship cannot be reached or rafts are unable to be used-all ships have this in place today largely due to the Titanic disaster. Following this we learned how to quickly and efficiently put on our immersion suits. This tight fitting, insulated survival suit protects you not only from the elements but the brightness alone increases your chance of rescue. The suit fits snug leaving very little of your skin exposed, it is equipped with an additional flotation device behind your neck and a whistle.

Safety is science – it is also such an important part of how the Pisces runs – how the officers, crew and scientist work, and how the ship is built, runs and operates – as a Teacher at Sea who is staying just a brief time, it has heightened my sense to be more aware of everything around me not just the sea and the science but also how things aboard the ship operate and how each person works and fits into the big picture.

Chris Imhof, November 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 12, 2009

Science Log

After playing tourist in Jacksonville for a day I jumped at the chance to fly to Gulf Port Mississippi and join the Crew, Marine Mammal Scientists, and a fellow Teacher at Sea on the 3-day shakedown maiden voyage of the NOAA ship Pisces into the Gulf of Mexico up the Florida Strait back to Jacksonville. When I arrived Wednesday, most of the crew were gone enjoying the holiday before we would ship out. I stowed my gear in my stateroom and began to explore the ship. Fortunately, I ran into Christopher Flint, a Port Engineer who oversees the design, construction and refit of much of the NOAA fleet. Mr. Flint took me through the galley, weather deck, bridge, flying deck the winch and engine room, fish labs and even the ships’ sanitation area called the “Domestic Equipment Room” on a whirlwind tour that pretty much did me in for the night.

The Pisces is the 3rd of 4 new Fisheries Survey ships built for the NOAA Fleet – It is a beautiful state-of-the-art ship 208 feet long and 49.2 feet wide or breadth – it can travel a steady 14 knots. Each of the class of NOAA ships is built for different scientific purposes but all the ships of the fleet carry out a mission “to protect, restore and manage the use of living marine, coastal, and ocean resources through ecosystem management.”

When I woke early this morning, the crew were moving about in a well-practiced sequence of procedures to get the Pisces underway. I met more members of the crew on my aimless search through up/down ladders to the Main Deck where I knew contained the galley and thus coffee. The fact many of the crew have come on this maiden cruise from other NOAA ships and work efficiently and seamless was amazing.

The Pisces can carry a crew of 6 commissioned NOAA officers, 4 engineers, 11 crew and 15 scientists. Of the crew I talk to, many have spent over 10 to 20 years with NOAA and have served on many ships; many have fondness for a certain ship or area, all carry a sense of pride for what they contribute to the overall mission. Although I have spent little more than a day on the ship, the more I watch and talk to people aboard the Pisces – the crew, the officers, and the scientists- everyone knows that they need to depend, respect and trust each other to do a good job.

Making my way to smell of breakfast and coffee in the galley I finally meet Jeanine Foucault, another Teacher at Sea. Jeannine was accepted to the Teacher at Sea Program a few years ago – after she and her Seventh-grade students from Sacred Heart School in Southaven Mississippi were selected to name the newest NOAA ship the Pisces. Over the past couple of years Jeanine and her students have seen the keel laying ceremony and the launch of the Pisces. Her team of students are now juniors in different high schools, but still follow the progress of the Pisces – one student even attended the commissioning ceremony a week ago. Many cruises and types of work are offered to Teachers at Sea – from working in the Bering Sea to Hawaii or the Caribbean – Jeanine is just as excited as I am to be here and share this experience with her students – out of all the different adventures she could of have gone on – she has waited a long time to be just on the Pisces!

Chris Imhof, November 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 10, 2009

Science Log

Ida has impacted things somewhat – the wave height at the offshore buoy at Pisces’ departing port rose to 18 to 22 feet in an hour – eventually the port was closed. The latest is the Pisces will go to sea in the next day or so. This will probably delay the arrival of the ship here by a day.

While waiting this out I’ve taken some walks along the St. John River, which runs through downtown Jacksonville to the ocean. Essentially it is a large estuary that mixes freshwater and sea – creating an environment for all sorts of interesting creatures including the Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris).

These creatures fall under the Order Sirenia – which goes back to Greek mythology and the Sirens – beautiful women who would lure sailors and ships onto the rocks and reefs with their songs – apparently after a long voyage across the Atlantic sailors mistook these creatures as beautiful women or mermaids and the name stuck – Maybe this explains the success of the Sturbucks logo. Even early scientists who first began to study the manatee saw them as a close relative to of the walrus – makes sense – actually the closest relative to the manatee is the elephant! One really wonders to connection to Ariel?

I asked around where I might see one of these creature here? I walked to an area away from main part of town – along the river where I was told manatees sometimes come to feed – the waves were choppy and murky so I could’nt see much, but no surprise manatees do spend 6 to 8 hours a day eating up to 200 pounds of vegetation along the bottom of these areas – grinding up grasses and other vegetation using 24 to 32 flat surface molars in the back of their mouths. Grinding that much ruffage a day has its toll, not just on one’s lower intestine – manatees have adapted by growing new teeth constantly – over a lifetime can grow up to 60 new teeth. Manatees take care of their teeth as well – after eating they clean their teeth using stiff grassy plants like a tooth brush – they even roll small rocks in the mouths to loosen plant debris.

Unfortuneatly, there are less than 2000 Florida manatees left – they are often the victims motorboats, cold water stress and destruction of habitat. While I was looking, people I talked to were proud to talk about the efforts to protect the manatee along the St. John River –

So today I didn’t see a manatee, but maybe my problem was – I was looking for that mermaid on the side of my Starbucks cup. 🙂

Chris Imhof, November 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 8, 2009

Science Log

Yesterday, at the Deep Sea Corals Briefing we took a trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences “Wet Lab.” This off-site lab -Prairie Ridge-was once a 38-acre cattle pasture – and is now being used by the museum to restore the original Piedmont ecosystem and for outdoor education. The “wet lab” is located on site and is where many of the samples collected by scientists studying the deep coral reef ecosytem – go to be “processed” and “curate” the research.

The lab contains microscopes, hand lenses, lots of jars, species identification field guides. Specimens – usually fish come to the lab where they are identified and classified- placed in jars of 70% ethanol for long-term storage. Some specimens however are stored in 95% ethanol for potential DNA research.

Why are keeping specimens important? – Specimens classified here are entered on a global data base so scientists have access to them from anywhere-global diversity. Scientists study the specimens to compare with other species, morphology (the branch of biology dealing with the form and structure of organisms), compare age and growth, and understand over time where animals lived and are living geographically.The oldest specimens of fish were collected in the 1840’s – this gives scientists a chance to tell how species have changed over the past 150 years. Scientists also use specimens to develop “dichotomous keys”-a key for the identifying organisms based on a series of choices between characteristics.

The lab itself was pretty cool – The collection here contains over 800,000 specimens – one of the top 5 in the US – like a warehouse though it felt like Raiders of the Lost Anchovy – and strangely like the beginning of every zombie movie. Like expeditions to the Amazon – nearly every trip to the deep water coral habitat scientists have discovered a new species – hopefully this voyage will add another piece to the global bio-diversity puzzle. 🙂

Chris Imhof, November 7, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 7, 2009

Science Log

Today I attended the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences – NOAA workshop on Deep Water Corals a few blocks from the North Carolina State Capital. Scientists, Professors, Teachers, Museum personnel and Management specialists met to discuss research, current understanding, methodology, protection and management of the deep water coral reef which exists on the edges of the planets’ continental shelf and slopes. Most people are aware of the warm water shallow reefs that occur worldwide – most people however are unaware of the corals and the reefs that exist nearly 1000′ feet beneath the surface of the ocean. Actually, only with the availability and technology of submersibles and remote operated vehicles (ROV’s) in recent years have scientists really begun to understand this unique ecosystem and the potential threats.

Awareness of these corals – dominated by the species of deep stony corals (Class Anthozoa) Lophelia pertusa – was made primarily by fisherman who pulled these branching corals up with their nets. An interesting fact is the Lophelia species itself may have been classified by the creator of the system of classification himself – Carolus Linneus. It was easily a couple of hundred of years from the time of Linnaeus classification to the moment a human saw these corals in their natural habitat. One of the scientists at this meetings was Sandra Brooke – Director of the Coral Conservation Center – who discussed the differences between shallow and deep corals. Whereas many know about the significance and threats to shallow water corals – the need to recognize the significance of deep water corals is even more vital. This is what I hope to convey through this site and my trip. Deep water corals provide a diverse – if not more diverse ecosystem as shallow corals. Lophelia and other deep corals provide the eco-framework for thousands of species – essentially a rainforest of the deep sea. These corals have already begun to provide extracts to fight cancer, Alzheimers and viral infections. Since all things in the deep cold waters take so long to grow – Lophelia and other species can be hundreds to thousands of years old ( A Golden Coral colony recently harvested for jewelry was found to be 4000 years old).

Corals have growth rings not unlike trees, in the corals scientists can see a window into the ocean’s past – determine ocean temperatures, salinity, heavy metals and other trace elements in the corals can indicate volcanic eruptions and even Saharaan dust storms. So not only do these corals provide a home and place on the food chain for thousands of species-contain a potential wealth of medicines – like a Rainforest – they are like our Redwoods and Bristlecones and ice cores – providing a window into the planet’s paleoecology. I hope to discuss more about what I learned at this briefing to set the stage for my voyage next week- including the technology and methodology scientists use to explore the deep seas- what specimens and data scientists collects, what happens to these specimens and how and what scientists learn from these specimens. The species of animals that lives on the deep water reefs and how scientists, the government and private sector work together to manage these ecosystems into the future.

Clare Wagstaff, September 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Key West
Date: Saturday, September 18, 2009

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
cwagstaff@elmwoodfranklin.org

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 12 noon) 
Weather: Sunny Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 0 (in port)
Wave Height (feet): <1
Sea Water Temp (0C): 30.4
Air Temp (0C): 32

Science and Technology Log 

Right: Black-band Disease on Montastraea annularis. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley
Black-band Disease on Montastraea annularis. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley

With the last dive of the cruise over, the group has completed 175 dives, which equates to 7.5 days underwater! Most of the planned coral reef sites have been surveyed even with our lack of a third small boat. The weather has stayed relatively calm and has been surprisingly supportive of our cruise. The mad rush is now to input all the remaining data before we disembark the ship later today.

An area that I have only briefly referred to in previous logs, are the types of coral diseases present and being studied. Chief Scientist, Scott Donahue, commented to me that there has been a trend over the last decade of decreasing coral coverage. This is believed to be related to anthropogenic stresses such as water quality and climate change. By comparing spatial and temporal patterns against trends in coral reef disease, over different geographic regions and reef types, it is hoped that a greater understanding of how these patterns are related to different environmental conditions. The team was specifically looking at ten disease conditions affecting 16 species of Scleractinian corals and Gorgonian sea fans. Although I tried to identify some of the diseases, it was actually quite difficult to distinguish between individual diseases and also other causes of coral mortality.

White-band Disease on Acropora cervicornis. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley
White-band Disease on Acropora cervicornis. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley

Black-band Disease is a crescent shaped or circular band of blackish material that separates living material from white exposed skeleton. It is caused by a cyanobacteria in combination with a sulfide oxidizing bacteria and a sulfur reducing bacteria. White-band Disease displays a margin of white tissue decay. It can start at the base of a colony or in the middle. It affects branching corals and its cause is currently unknown. Corals have a pretty tough time living out in the ocean and have many problems to overcome. If its not a boat’s anchor crushing it could be any number of the following; a parrot fish (predator) eating it; deterioration of the water quality; a hurricane; an increase in major competitors like algae or tunicates, and to nicely top it all, it can always get a disease too!

Most of the scientists on the Nancy Foster are volunteers, giving up their own free time to be part of the trip. Kathy Morrow is a Ph.D. student who has extensively studied the ecology of cnidarians for the past 9 years. She is currently researching her dissertation on the community structure and stability of coral-algal-microbial associations based on studies conducted off the coast of Summerland Key, Florida and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. On one of the last dives of the trip Kathy takes time to collect mucus samples (she refers to this fondly as coral “snot”), from a site she has previously visited numerous times over the last few years. The objective is to collect mucus samples so that they can be studied later for their bacteria composition.

Morrow collecting coral mucus. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley.
Morrow collecting coral mucus. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley.

Once Kathy has collected these samples she must process them so that they can be stored until she has the opportunity back in the lab, to analyze them. Although I was not present when Kathy was collecting the samples, I did help her in the wet lab with the final stages of storing her collection of samples. Having collected multiple mucus samples from each of the preselected coral species in syringes, the samples were then placed into a centrifuge to extract the bacteria present. This material is denser, so sinks to the bottom ad forms a darker colored pellet. My job is then to remove the excess liquid, but preserve the bacteria pellet so that it can be frozen and stored for later analysis. Back in the lab at Auburn University, Kathy will chemically breakdown the bacteria to release their DNA. This DNA is then replicated and amplified allowing for Kathy to perform analysis on the bacteria to identify the types present in the corals. Kathy will spend the next year studying these bacteria samples and many more she has collected.

Personal Log 

Here I am helping Kathy Morrow preserving coral mucus specimens. Photo courtesy of Cory Walter
Here I am helping Kathy Morrow preserving coral mucus specimens. Photo courtesy of Cory Walter

So here we are back in port after an amazing time on the Nancy Foster. I was initially concerned about being out at sea with people I did not know, studying an area of science I really knew very little about, in an environment I knew would probably make me sick, but didn’t thank goodness! But everything turned out to be a thousand times better than I could have imagined. I have had seen so much and learnt an amazing amount that my head is spinning with all the ideas I have to use with my classes back at school. Yet, there are things that I just rang out of time to look more closely at and part of me wishes we had been out at sea longer. My second time as a Teacher At Sea, has left me with some wonderful memories of the most professional and dedicated scientists and crew you could wish for, but also of how amazing corals are and how much we still have to learn. Thank you everyone who was involved in making this a truly remarkable and memorable experience.

The 2009 coral research team and Teacher At Sea, Clare Wagstaff on board the Nancy
The 2009 coral research team and Teacher At Sea, Clare Wagstaff on board the Nancy Foster

Clare Wagstaff, September 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Dry Tortugas National Park
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2009

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
cwagstaff@elmwoodfranklin.org

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 12 noon) 
Weather: Sunny with scattered showers with thunder storms
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 4
Wave Height (feet): 1
Sea Water Temp (0C): 30.6
Air Temp (0C): 30

Science and Technology Log 

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and numerous Sergeant Majors (Abudefduf  saxatilis)
Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and numerous Sergeant Majors (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Today I am with a new survey group. As the days go by and each of the scientists gets more dives under their belts, there is some fatigue starting to set in. So on a rotation basis, the divers are taking rest days to catch-up on sleep, emails and data entry. This morning I am with Lauri, Lonny and Sarah. The first dive site is about 33  feet deep and although I can see the bottom from our small boat, the water is extremely green and doesn’t allow me to see anything in real detail when I snorkeled. A little disappointed at the clarity of the water, I am definitely perked up by the next site, CR03. At just 8 feet deep, I can see much more and the water appears less green.

A lobster hiding in the coral
A lobster hiding in the coral

This site was something special! Even from above the water, we could observe large and impressive Acropora palmata. It looked like a large underwater forest. There was a massive diversity of fish specie present that appeared to be supported by the micro-ecosystem that the Acropora palmata created by its large lobes that fan out across the ocean floor. They provide plenty of nooks for green moray eels and multiple lobsters I saw to hide in. This coral grows approximately 10cm a year, but as with all coral species, this growth can be affected by various factors including the most recent hurricanes.

We were surveying in an area known as a Sanctuary Preservation Area or commonly a “No Take Zone”, yet a small boat located within the marking buoys appeared to be spear fishing. The Coxswain on our boat noted that the group brought numerous fish up into their boat while we were underwater. Within a short distance we also observed two other lobster pot buoys located within this zone. Lauri, called this into the Nancy Foster and asked that the Chief Scientist report this to the Marine Law Enforcement office, so that they could send a patrol boat out to investigate. This activity is not permitted in this zoned area.

Coral identification 

Diploria strigosa
Diploria strigosa

Today, I tried to indentify all the different varieties of coral I had photographed. Dr. Joshua Voss, the ship’s expert of coral identification looked over my attempt at scientifically naming 30 different photos. Much to my delight, I got 28 correct! Now I just need to remember them when I am underwater! My greatest difficulty seems to be differentiating between Montastraea spp.annularis, faveolata and franksi, as they have quite similar morphotypes. I just have to keep practicing and asking for help when I’m not sure. What makes me feel a little better is sometimes even the pro’s have trouble distinguishing between certain corals, particularly if they are trying to identify a hybrid which is a mixture of two different species.

Personal Log 

Diploria clivosa
Diploria clivosa

I am always amazed at how resourceful divers can be. Somehow duct tape comes in useful wherever you are. Today was no exception! Geoff, who forgot his dive booties (a type of neoprene sock that you wear inside you fins) has made himself a pair out of another team member’s white socks and a few lengths of duct tape. He does look very entertaining, but they do seem to be working!

Acropora palmata
Acropora palmata

I am feeling very privileged to be surrounded by so many intelligent, passionate and brilliant people. Not only are most of people on the survey teams volunteers and so not getting paid, they are also embracing each part of the cruise with a great sense of humor and consistent high spirits. Even though they are all tired (to date they have accumulated 133 dives between them this cruise), they still banter back and forth with one another in a lighthearted way. All but myself and Mike Henley are returning for their third, fourth, even 13th time, to help collect this vital data. Even though diving has many hazards and is dangerous work, these folks are real experts and I truly feel lucky to be around such inspiring people. I have been diving for five years, but I don’t think I will ever look at a reef in the same way again. They have opened my eyes, and now my job is to go back to chilly Buffalo and develop a way to get this across to my 6th and 8th grade science classes. If I can inspire even just one child, like Joshua’s science teacher did for him as a teenager, then perhaps they too will go on to become a marine biologist, who study some of the smallest, yet most important creatures on our planet.

 Montastraea annularis
Montastraea annularis

As 7pm draws close, the science group gather on the front deck to watch the sunset. It is a beautiful sky, but just to make the evening more special, along come three dolphins riding the wake of the bow of the Nancy Foster. I leap up like a child and run to the edge of the ship to get a closer look, having never seen dolphins in the wild before! They are so graceful and as we all lean over and cheer as the breach the water and splash their fins, you start to wonder, if they are actually watching us as much as we are watching them. Such grace and natural beauty brings another day aboard the Nancy Foster to an end. I’m just not sure how each day keeps topping itself, and with two left to come, who knows what adventures may become this team!

“Animals Seen Today” 

Three bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) riding the wake of the Nancy Foster 

Bottlenose dolphins riding in the Foster’s wake
Bottlenose dolphins riding in the Foster’s wake

Christine Hedge, September 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Chukchi Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 15, 2009

MST2 Tom Kruger and MST3 Marshall Chaidez retrieve a meteorological buoy on September 14.
MST2 Tom Kruger and MST3 Marshall Chaidez retrieve a meteorological buoy on September 14.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 730 22’N
Longitude: 1560 27’W
Temperature: 310F

Science and Technology Log 

The past few days have brought much change.  The depth of the ocean changed dramatically as we got closer to Alaska. The ocean went from depths of over 3500 meters to depths of less than 100 meters.  More birds are showing up and we are getting about 9 hours of darkness each day.  This morning at about 4 AM, the watch observed the Aurora Borealis and stars!!!  I am so jealous.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Why do you think we have more hours of darkness now? 

As we head home to Barrow, the science party is busily completing their “Cruise Reports” and making sure that their data is stored safely for the trip home.  Much has been accomplished on this trip:

  • 132 XBT deployments (measures temperature, depth)
  • 8 CTD deployments (measures conductivity, temperature, depth)
  • 5 Dredge operations and hundreds of pounds of rock samples collected and catalogued
  •  1 Seaglider deployed and retrieved
  • 2 HARP instruments retrieved and 3 deployed
  • 3 Ice buoys deployed
  • 8 Sonobuoys deployed
  • 9585.0 lineal kilometers of sea floor mapped
  • 1 METBUOY retrieved (meteorological buoy)

Coast Guard Marine Science Technicians  

MST3 Marshal Chaidez operates the winch during a dredging operation.
MST3 Marshal Chaidez operates the winch during a dredging operation.

Science parties come and go on the Healy, each doing a different type of research.  A constant for all the scientific cruises is the good work done by the Coast Guard MSTs (Marine Science Technicians). Running the winch, taking daily XBT and weather measurements, working the dredge, and helping to deploy buoys are just some of the many tasks these technicians do. The scientists could not get their experiments done without the assistance of our team of MSTs.

MST3 Daniel Purse, MST2 Daniel Jarrett, MST3 Marshal Chaidez, MST2 Thomas Kruger and Chief Mark Rieg have done a masterful job of helping the science party accomplish their goals. I asked them to tell me a little about their training for this job. Each MST attends a 10-week training school in Yorktown, VA. Most of their training involves how to clean up oil spills and inspect cargo ships which means they are usually stationed at a port. Being assigned to a ship is not the norm for an MST.  But, because the mission of the Healy is specifically science, a team of MSTs is essential.

MST2 Daniel Jarrett rigging the crane.
MST2 Daniel Jarrett rigging the crane.

Personal Log 

My commute to work is different lately. We have about 9 hours of darkness each day. It gets dark around midnight and stays dark until about 8:30 in the morning.  So, walking the deck to the science lab is a bit of a challenge at 7:45. It will be strange to drive to work in a few days! On September 16th, we will depart the Healy via helicopter if all goes according to plan.  It will be strange to be on land again.

We will be back in Barrow, AK on September 16th. I cannot believe that our expedition is almost over.  I have learned so much from the members of the science party and the crew of the Healy. They have been very gracious and patient while I took their pictures and asked questions. Now comes the task of sharing what I have learned with folks back home.  I know one thing for sure; the Arctic is no longer an abstract idea for me. It is a place of beauty and mystery and a place some people call home.  I hope to convey how important it is that we continue to study this place to learn how it came to be and how it is currently changing.

Jon Pazol and I next to the bowhead whale skull in Barrow. When we return to shore the bowhead hunting season will have started.
Jon Pazol and I next to the bowhead whale skull in Barrow. When we return to shore the bowhead hunting season will have started.

Thanks to the folks at NOAA Teacher at Sea, Captain Sommer, and chief scientists Larry Mayer and Andy Armstrong for allowing me to take part in this cruise.  You can be sure that I will be following Arctic research and the adventures of the Healy for many years to come.

Clare Wagstaff, September 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Dry Tortugas National Park
Date: Saturday, September 15, 2009

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
cwagstaff@elmwoodfranklin.org

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 12 noon) 
Weather: Partially sunny, with scattered showers and thunder storms
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 2
Wave Height (feet): 1
Sea Water Temp (0C): 30.6
Air Temp (0C): 30

Science and Technology Log 

I am starting to get used to the scientific names of the corals, but it is taking a while. I keep wanting to refer to them by their common name which is generally descriptive of their physical appearance, but makes little to no reference to which other coral it is more closely related to Dr. Joshua Voss, one of the scientists on board pointed out that the common names could vary depending on who is identifying them, yet the scientific name remains the same. Hence why the whole team refers to the scientific names when referring to the corals.

So what are corals? 

Parts of a coral (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/ corals/media/supp coral01a.html)
Parts of a coral

Corals are members of the Animal Kingdom and are classified in the Phylum Cnidaria. People often mistake    these creatures for plants, because they are attached to the rock, show little movement, and closely resemble plants. Corals consist of a polyp, which are a cup-shaped body with one opening, which is its mouth and anus.

Zooxanthellae (zoo-zan-thel-ee) are single cell plants (photosynthetic algae) that grow within the polyps’ tissue. It forms a mutalistic symbiotic relationship with the polyp. The algae gets a protected environment and the compounds it requires for photosynthesis, whilst the algae provides the polyp with the materials necessary to produce calcium carbonate, which is the hard “shell” that surrounds the polyp.

So why is this cruise surveying corals? 

Clare Wagstaff, Teacher At Sea, snorkeling
Clare Wagstaff, Teacher At Sea, snorkeling

There has been a decreasing trend in coral coverage over the last decade. One theory is that this is due to anthropogenic stress related to water quality and climate change.  Coral’s require certain environmental factors to be within sensitive boundaries, such as water temperature, salinity, clarity of water, and water movement. Although most species only grow a few centimeters each year, they are the backbone to a massive underwater ecosystem, hence their extreme importance to the success of our oceans. By studying the trends in species distribution, size and disease over various geographic regions, their corrolations can be desricbed in better detail.

Personal Log 

Palythoa spp. observed covering most of the reef at station RK02 and Watercress Alga (Halimeda opuntia). Polythoa is not a coral and in fact competes with coral for space in the reef.
Palythoa spp. observed covering most of the reef at station RK02 and Watercress Alga (Halimeda opuntia). Polythoa is not a coral and in fact competes with coral for space in the reef.

This morning I once again join Team C that composes of Dr. Joshua Voss, Kathy Morrow and Mike Henley to survey three dive sites called RK01, RK02 & RK03. We have now got into a comfortable routine and everyone seems to work well together. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for the boat, NF4! During our last dive on Monday, the boat started to leak oil and is now out of commission for the rest of the cruise. Instead we are on the much smaller and less luxurious, NF2, which also happens to be much slower! However, after the usual dive brief we set out for a day of adventures upon the open sea. The second dive site today proved to be the best for snorkeling and I was able to observe a large variety of plants and animals from on the surface.

“Did You Know?” 

Here I am pointing to the waterspout
Here I am pointing to the waterspout

Waterspouts are simply tornadoes over water. They are common in tropical areas where thunderstorms regularly occur, such as the Florida Keys! Today we saw a prime example of one within a few miles of the NANCY FOSTER.

“New Term/Phrase/Word” 

Anthropogenic – caused or produced by human activities such as industry, agriculture, mining, and construction.

The final survey site, RK03 was very shallow at around 8 ft. The dive team decided to make their observations snorkeling rather than diving. Unfortunately, Kathy was so engrossed in her work that she did not see a moon jellyfish swim right into her face! She put on a very brave front and we quickly returned to the NF2 and back to the NANCY FOSTER. The medial treatment for such a sting is to drench the area in vinegar, which neutralizes the nematocysts that may still be clinging to the skin. Luckily, Kathy made a quick recovery, even if she did smell a little like vinegar for the rest of the day!

Christine Hedge, September 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Chukchi Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 14, 2009

Dr. Hall standing by the hovercraft before it is inflated
Dr. Hall standing by the hovercraft before it is inflated

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 720 46’N
Longitude: 1580 24’W
Temperature: 350F

Science and Technology Log 

Doing science in the Arctic is challenging.  The weather is difficult, the ice is ever changing, and the expense of operating an icebreaker, aircraft, or helicopter is quite high.  So, how else can people get out onto the ice to study the ocean and the geology of the seafloor? One interesting project uses a hovercraft (think air hockey), which skims over the ice on a cushion of air. Using a hovercraft to study the most inaccessible places in the Arctic is not a new idea. But, Dr. John K. Hall, a member of our science party has taken this idea and run with it.   John has a long history of polar exploration under his belt. Including 13.5 months floating around the Arctic on a 90 square kilometer, 60-meter thick ice sheet known as Fletcher’s Ice Island (T-3) during the 1960’s. His latest project has been to purchase and equip a hovercraft to go where icebreakers cannot (areas of VERY thick ice).

Norwegian students parked on the ice doing research. The white tent protects the scientists while they collect data through a drill hole in the ice.
Norwegian students parked on the ice doing research. The white tent protects the scientists while they collect data through a drill hole in the ice.

The hovercraft was completed in 2007.  She is called the R/H Sabvabaa, which is the Inupiaq word for “flows swiftly over it.”  This hovercraft was designed specifically for doing science in Arctic conditions. It is equipped with all the comforts of home and all the latest technology.  From this research platform scientists have access to echosounding and seismic equipment to study the sea floor.  They can also park the Sabvabaa easily on a floe, get out on the ice to drill, photograph, and collect samples from under the ice.  This small 40-foot vessel (it fits in a semi-truck container) has great potential as a way for scientists to collect data in heavy ice conditions.  For more information about the Sabvabaa check out this website.

Classroom on the Ice 

Could you imagine being one of the first people to ride the hovercraft over the pack ice?  Since 2008, 16 lucky Norwegian high-school students have had that honor.  A competition was held as part of the Norwegian International Polar Year (IPY) program.  This competition set out to find Norwegian students ages 14-18 who are interested in careers in polar geophysics. A pair of students and a pair of researchers worked from the Sabavaa for one-week intervals. During their time on the Sabvabaa, the winning students participated in geophysical, geological, and oceanographic studies on drifting ice. They also had 4 encounters with polar bears!  What a great opportunity for these students. If you are interested in the student blogs from these trips (which are written in Norwegian) do a Google search for Sabavaa and have Google translate them.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Remember, not all scientists work in labs wearing white lab coats!  Many researchers lead exciting and adventurous lives. 

Paul Henkart teaching Nikki Kuenzel and Christina Lacerda.
Paul Henkart teaching Nikki Kuenzel and Christina Lacerda.

Personal Log 

As an educator, one of the best parts of this expedition has been to watch the mentoring that goes on. The scientists and professors in the science party have decades of research experience to share. It is not unusual to find one of these veteran Arctic explorers sharing their expertise with graduate students from the University of New Hampshire. Not only do these “mentor scientists” have great technical expertise. They are also really good at explaining complex ideas in a very simple way.   This has been wonderful for me since my background is in biology – so geophysics has been a challenge. The graduate students on board are not only learning science from the masters – they are hearing great adventure stories about past polar adventures before we had helpful technologies such as GPS and multibeam echosounders. Everyone on the Healy is in “learning mode”.  The Coast Guard crew, teachers at sea, scientists, and students are constantly asking questions and sharing expertise.

Christine Hedge, September 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Chukchi Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 720 44’N
Longitude: 1560 59’W
Temperature: 350F

A Seasonal Ice buoy with a thermistor chain is deployed from the Healy. This buoy starts in open water and later may
A Seasonal Ice buoy with a thermistor chain is deployed from the Healy. This buoy starts in open water and later may freeze into the ice. This instrument collects ocean and air temperature data, barometric pressure data, and location data.

Science and Technology Log 

Buoys and Moorings And Gliders, Oh My!!! 
Exploring the oceans has a lot in common with exploring space.  NASA can send manned or unmanned missions into space.  Sending manned vehicles into space is more complicated than launching a probe or a telescope. The same is true for exploring the Arctic Ocean.  We can collect data on an icebreaker, manned with Coast Guard and science personnel or use instruments that can send back data remotely.  On this mission, many instruments have been deployed to send back data about the conditions in the Arctic. These instruments continue to do their work after the crew and scientists from the Healy have moved on.  Ice buoys, which float or freeze into ice floes, are one example.  The HARP instruments (High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package), which sit on the sea floor, are another.

A United States Navy team, under the supervision of Navy Commander William Sommer, has launched a very interesting instrument from the Healy called the Seaglider. We have been tracking its movements since it was launched on August 8th. The Seaglider collects information about the salinity, temperature, and optical clarity of the ocean. The Navy is interested in how sound travels through the oceans and this glider is an important tool for doing just that.

CDR Bill Sommer, AG1 Richard Lehmkuhl, and MST3 Marshal Chaidez deploy a Seaglider from the Healy in the Chukchi Sea. Data from the Seaglider will improve the performance, and aid in the evaluation, of the effectiveness of the ocean models in the Arctic. Photo courtesy of PA3 Patrick Kelley, USCG.
CDR Bill Sommer, AG1 Richard Lehmkuhl, and MST3 Marshal Chaidez deploy a Seaglider from the Healy in the Chukchi Sea. Data from the Seaglider will improve the performance, and aid in the evaluation, of the effectiveness of the ocean models in the Arctic. Photo courtesy of PA3 Patrick Kelley, USCG.

What makes the Seaglider unique is that instead of just drifting, it can be driven.  In fact, this instrument is directed via satellite from a computer lab in Mississippi!  The glider moves up and down in the water column and like an air glider it uses this up and down motion to move forward. It has a GPS and a radio so that it can communicate its location. The Seaglider deployed from the Healy in August was picked up today.

Final check of the Seaglider before it was launched.
Final check of the Seaglider before it was
launched.
The green dots indicate the path of the Navy Seaglider as it collected data in the Chukchi Sea.
The green dots indicate the path of the Navy Seaglider as it collected data in the Chukchi Sea.
Coast Guard and Navy personnel work together to retrieve the Seaglider on September 13.
Coast Guard and Navy personnel work together to retrieve the Seaglider on September 13.

Clare Wagstaff, September 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Dry Tortugas National Park
Date: Saturday, September 13, 2009

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
cwagstaff@elmwoodfranklin.org

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 12 noon) 
Weather: Sunny with scattered showers and thunderstorms
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 14
Wave Height (feet): 1-2
Sea Water Temp (0C): 29.8
Air Temp (0C): 32

Science and Technology Log 

Hermit crabs at Fort Jefferson
Hermit crabs at Fort Jefferson

Today the dive plan was to survey some of the deeper sites in the FKNMS (Florida Keys National Marine Sancturay) Tortugas Ecological Reserve, referred to as Sherwood Forest. The dive depth varied between 65 to 80 feet. That meant that snorkeling would probably result in me observing very little. My slightly sunburned forehead, needing to get some of my logs composed in more detail, as well as the diving situation, gave me a prime opportunity to stay on the boat for the majority of the day.

So this morning after the dive brief I waved off the team and set out to do some exploring of the ship and do a little more research about what happens before the team actually gets into the water.

The survey teams are planning on making two separate dives on each site to complete the whole of the radial arc transect. The amount of gas each diver requires, depends on a number of variables, including depth, level of physical fitness and amount of activity undertaken in the water. Scuba diving is also limited by a number of factors such as available air, blood nitrogen level, etc.

What is scuba diving? 

Scuba is an acronym for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. The first commercially successful scuba was developed by Emile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, in 1943 and is now widely used around the world as a recreational sport. Sports divers are normally restricted to 130ft, where as technical deep divers can reach depths much greater. During this trip the maximum dive site depth will not exceed 80ft.

Dive brief – Safety First! 

The Wet Lab on the Nancy Foster
The Wet Lab on the Nancy Foster

Before each dive the cruise’s Dive Master, Sarah Fangman gives the scuba divers a brief run through of the priorities for today’s diving. As usual, this means safety is the top priority and Sarah highlights important factors, such as watching your air consumption and making sure that each diver returns with at least 500psi, that each team goes over their dive plan (how deep, for how long, what they will do during the dive), check that all equipment is functioning correctly, and that all the dive data is being recorded. This means prior to the divers getting into the water, their tanks air pressure, Nitrox percentage, name, and time of entry into the water must be logged. Once the dive has ended and the divers are back on the boat, they must once again record their tank air pressure (must be more than 500psi), their bottom depth and sometimes time in the water. Even after the dive is done, the whole team is responsible for each other and has to monitor everyone’s condition for at least the next 30 minutes.

What do the divers breath? 

The divers are breathing Nitrox. Regular scuba has a very specific ratio of nitrogen to oxygen; it tries to mimic the air found on the surface of the Earth as closely as possible. Nitrox diving, on the other hand, tweaks this mixture to maximize bottom time (i.e., the diver’s time spent underwater) and minimize surface intervals (i.e., the time the diver must stay on the surface before diving back in). Before each dive, the individual diver must check his or her own tank for the gases composition and record the oxygen content on their tank. This is because at depths oxygen can actually become toxic.

Science Data Processing 

wagstaff_log3b
A coral species count and bleaching data sheet showing the tally of Montastraea annularis

There are two main areas on the Nancy Foster designated for the science research, the wet lab and the dry lab. The dry lab is where the computers for data entry and processing are located. It is here that the survey team meetings happen every morning and afternoon to discuss which dives site will be surveyed and how the data entry process is going.

Lauri MacLaughlin is the ship’s resident expert on each dive site and gives a detailed map of each site. This includes compass bearings relating to certain underwater features and the GPS coordinates. The wet lab, is just as the name suggests, wet! This is where any experiments can be carried out and also where the scuba tanks are refilled with Nitrox.

Data entry 

wagstaff_log3cEach of the scientists has to transcribe all the data they observed at each dive site. Underwater, the two scientists that are recording data each have a clipboard with the relevant waterproof data forms attached. These forms have a standardised and detailed table, which they then write on using a regular pencil. The data collected on three sheets refers to coral disease, coral bleaching count (for quantity of each species and percentage of bleaching) and coral measurements.

Tally charts and acronyms are a plenty, making it difficult for me to understand the hand-jotted notes of the various scientist. Each of them describes the species of coral by its scientific name. However, my limited knowledge is based upon the common name for most species. I did help Lauri input some of her data today. The tally charts of the number of observed specie are simple enough that I can read and enter the data, along with the size of the first ten individuals of each species. However, after that, the real experts need to get involved! This data must be entered after each dive into a spreadsheet database so that all the information can be collaborated and processed by the end of the cruise.

Personal Log 

Geoff Cook entering data from his dive onto a central database in the dry lab.
Geoff Cook entering data from his dive onto a central database in the dry lab.

This evening our group had the chance to go for a night snorkel around the sea wall of Fort Jefferson. This use to be a fort during the civil war and in more recent years it has been a prison. The objective of the snorkel trip was to hopefully witness the coral spawn. Scientists’ observations indicate a strong connection between the coral spawn and seasonal lunar cycles. Though the polyp release cannot be guaranteed to happen on an exact date, approximately three to ten days after the full moon in late August, early September, the majority of corals in the Caribbean spawn in the late evening. Spawning is when the male and female polyps release their gametes (sperm and eggs). This synchronizing means that there is a greater chance of fertilization. Clues that spawning may take place are swelling that appears at the polyps mouth/anus, where the gametes are released from, as well as brittle stars and fire worms gathering in readiness for a feeding frenzy!

Clare Wagstaff barely visible behind two Caribbean Reef Squid. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley.
Clare Wagstaff barely visible behind two Caribbean Reef Squid. Photo courtesy of Mike Henley.

Unfortunately, we did not witness the spawning but we did observe a green moray eel, two Caribbean reef squid, a conch, a scorpion fish, and multiple sea urchins, sea stars, and moon jellyfish. Perhaps one of the most unusual sights of the night was witnessed on our way back to the dock after our snorkel. We observed a tree trunk covered in hundreds of hermit crabs, varying in size.  They made a horrible crunching sound as they climbed over each other on their way up the tree and as we accidentally stepped on them in the dark!

One of my lasting memories of the evening will be the night sky. It was the most brilliant picture I have ever seen. With no light pollution for miles and a clear evening sky, it made the most perfect picture. It looked like there wasn’t a clear inch in the sky for any more stars to fit in it. It was just beautiful and a great way to end the day!

 

Clare Wagstaff, September 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Dry Tortugas National Park
Date: Saturday, September 12, 2009

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
cwagstaff@elmwoodfranklin.org

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 12 noon) 
Weather: Sunny with scattered showers and thunderstorms
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 10
Wave Height (feet): 2
Sea Water Temp (0C): 30
Air Temp (0C): 30

Science and Technology Log 

Mike Henley, Kathy Morrow and Dr. Joshua Voss, the survey team aboard NF4.
Mike Henley, Kathy Morrow and Dr. Joshua Voss, the survey team aboard NF4.

With another early start under our belts, the science team and I are up, breakfast eaten, briefed on today’s mission, and ready to embark on another day of coral surveying. The ship deployed three v-hulled small boats for us to reach our dive sites. The divers have been split up into three teams and I get to go along with Joshua, Kathy and Mike on the NF4. Out of the boats, this is the newest and fastest, much to the delight of our science team! Having done the practice run yesterday at the QA site, the divers seem keen and eager to get into the water and identify the coral.

So how do they actually survey the area? 

Each group works in a team of three, surveying a radial arc belt transect. Each of the sites has already been previously marked, normally with a large metal or PVC pipe inserted into the area to be surveyed.

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 11.57.12 AM

Mike is the line tender, which means that his job is to hold the ten meter line straight out from the post, just a few feet above the coral. He slowly moves the line around the pole in an arc. The line is marked at eight and ten meters. At each of these lengths a short marker hangs down to signal the two-meter survey area. The objective is then for Kathy and Joshua to observe the coral and note the number of species of coral present, their size and how they interact with each other, while also recording the presence of disease (type and percentage cover) within the 113.1m2 area.

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 11.58.01 AM

Chief Scientist, Scott Donahue showed me some of the months of paperwork that was required for this mission to happen. Scott stated that he started work on preparing for this trip nearly four years ago, first requesting time aboard the Nancy Foster and then proceeding with recruiting scientists and permits. Today we are required to have a ‘Scientific Research and Collecting Permit’ for the surveys in Dry Tortugas National Park.

Personal Log 

Survey team of Kathy Morrow (top, middle), Mike Henley (top, left) and Dr. Joshua Voss (bottom, right) surveying site LR6.
Survey team of Kathy Morrow (top, middle), Mike Henley (top, left) and Dr. Joshua Voss (bottom, right) surveying site LR6.

What a great day! I am starting to find my feet and get more comfortable with how the ship works, getting to know the science team, and learning more about the actual coral. I haven’t been sea sick, which seems pretty remarkable to me considering my past history with boats! The sun has been shining and the water is clear and reasonably warm at around 30 oC.

Even though the water may sound warm, I am still wearing my wetsuit, much to the amusement of some of the other divers who are complaining that they are too warm in the shorty wetsuits (only to the knee and elbow). I classify myself as part of the “wimp divers” association. I was quite content and comfortable in my 3mm, full body wetsuit and had hours of enjoyment snorkeling around. However, wearing a full wetsuit does let you forget that there are some parts of your body that still get exposed to sunlight. The tops of my hands are bright red and are nicely sunburned from being in the water most of the day with no sunscreen on them! Oh well, I’ll remember next time.

“Did You Know” 

Being a novice at coral identification, Blade Fire coral (Millepora complanta) looks similar to Fused Staghorn coral (Acropora prolifera). However, they are actually very different. Fire coral is a hydroid and is in fact more closely related to the Portuguese Man ‘O’ War than other classes of coral! Hydrozoans usually consist of small colonies of polyps that are packed with stinging cells called nematocysts on the tentacles of the polyps. Watch out though, it can give you a very nasty sting and rash!

For more information: http://www.reef.edu.au/asp_pages/secb.asp?FormNo=18 

“Animals Seen Today” 

Long-spined Urchin (Diadema antillarum) and Boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis)
Long-spined Urchin (Diadema antillarum) and Boulder star coral (Montastraea annularis)

The variety of marine wildlife observed was much greater today than previous dives. The dive sites were much shallower, which meant that as a snorkeler I could really observe much more and in more detail. At only eight to ten feet in depth and with good visibility, this made for a great and interesting dive. One of the science team commented that it was good to observe these echinoderms in the coral reefs. They eat algae that can negatively compete with the coral. So there presence is excellent news for the coral.

Clare Wagstaff, September 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Key West
Date: Saturday, September 11, 2009 (Day 1)

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216
cwagstaff@elmwoodfranklin.org

Weather Data from the Bridge (12 noon) 
Weather: Overcast early am and sunny pm
Visibility (nautical miles):  10
Wind Speed (knots):  2
Wave Height (feet): <1
Sea Water Temp (0C): 30.4
Air Temp (0C): 27.5

Science and Technology Log 

“The first few days are always a settling in period,” commented one of the scientists this morning. It seems as if there is so much to do and already there may not be enough time!  The majority of the science crew and I arrived yesterday afternoon into the warm and sunny Key West. A pleasant change to the cold, Autumnal weather I had been experiencing in Buffalo, NY. We boarded our new home for eight days, the NOAA ship Nancy Foster. The objective of the eight-day research cruise is to survey multiple preselected coral reef sites and study the coral for its condition and the presence of disease. The assessment of each dive site will be done by a group of NOAA qualified SCUBA divers who are also trained scientists, mainly marine biologists. This study has been performed for the last 13 years and has so far amassed a large quantity of data that has produced technical memorandums, peer review papers, and an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) publication based on the data from cruises 1997 through to 2002 cruises.

I have been kindly invited along as a Teacher At Sea to witness the science team in action and serve as part of the project’s outreach messaging service. The objective is to give the general public a broader understanding of the cruise’s mission.

The science team on board the Nancy Foster is made up of the following people:

Scott Donahue – Chief Scientist NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Interesting Fact: Scott’s main inspiration to study lobsters early on in his academic research, was partially based on the fact that he loves to eat them! Scott commented that there are always a few lobsters leftover after a study, but that they never go to waste!

Geoff Cook – Co-Principal Investigator George Mason University, Virginia. Interesting fact: Geoff is currently writing his dissertation for his Ph.D. on comparing bacterial communities associated with diseased and apparently healthy corals.

Lauri MacLaughlin – Co-Principal Investigator NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Interesting Fact: Lauri has close to 2,000 dives logged and has personally mapped the majority of the coral reef sites this cruise is studying. She has a special rapport with the ocean and corals, knowing individual coral heads and jokingly referring to them as her “babies!”

Josh Voss, Ph.D. – Co-Principal Investigator Robertson Coral Reef Program 

Lonny Anderson – Survey Team Member NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida. Interesting Fact: Lonny used to help his parents with their commercial spear fishing business, catching grouper and red snapper off Daytona Beach. Now Lonny is working to protect the things he used to kill!

Paul Chetirkin – Videographer Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary 

Mike Henley – Survey Team Member Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park, Washington D.C. Interesting Fact: Mike is interested in all invertebrates and will happily skip the panda bear exhibit at the zoo in preference to watching the cutle fish!

George Garrett – Survey Team Member City of Marathon 

Sarah Fangman – Cruise Dive Master and Survey Team Member NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary 

Interesting Fact: Originally from Minnesota, as a young child Sarah went to the Grand Cayman on vacation. She became so captivated with the underwater life there that even when she got extremely sunburned she still wanted to snorkel and was only allowed to fully clothed! Sarah has also ventured 10,000 ft down in the submersible ALVIN in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kathy Morrow – Survey Team Member Auburn University, Alabama. Interesting Fact: Kathy is actually studying coral “snot” as part of her Ph.D. program. Strangely enough, she is extremely passionate about it and has had a great interest in marine biology since she went to Sea Camp in 6th grade!

Cory Walter – Survey Team Member Mote Marine Laboratory’s Tropical Research Lab, Florida. 

Day one begins with a 7am breakfast followed by a gear check and a brief meeting with the science team. The ships Operations Officer and Chief Scientist go over the day’s dive plan. The objective today is to ensure that all the divers are identifying the correct species of coral, correctly estimating their size, and identify any coral disease present.

The dive teams quickly collected all the necessary dive gear and prepared to board two small boats borrowed from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. These take us from the Nancy Foster to the shallower dive sites. The first location today is set within the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary and is located near to one of the 5 lighthouses in the area that mark the shallow reefs. Certain areas have been marked off with buoys that signal a “No Take Zone”, where extractive activities are not allowed (e.g. fishing, collecting coral, catching lobsters).

Each of the dive sites that we will be surveying has a unique name. The sites to be surveyed were originally randomly generated by a computer program when the research first began in 1997. The first dive site we visit today is called Sand Key Reef also referred to as SK01. This is the location for QA/QC dive survey, which stands for quality assurance/quality control. The objective is for each diver to assess the same area of coral and identify each species over 10cm in diameter (except Agarica (all species) and Dichocoenia stokesii which are measured if they are over 5cm). This site is always used to establish a baseline in identification. Inter and intra quality assurance takes place, checking not only each diver against each other, but also against themselves by each diver repeating the surveying process of surveying this site twice.

Where are we? 

A map of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
A map of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

The Florida Keys is a chain of islands at the southern most tip of Florida. About 100,000 years ago the area was under the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and existed as a string of living coral reefs at the edge of the continental shelf. The sea level was 25 feet higher then than today. As the last glacier period (the Wisconsin) began, the ocean receded and the sea level dropped, exposing the coral reefs. The combination of various environmental factors killed the coral, but left bedrock of limestone exposed as land. As the climate and sea level changed over the preceding years, the lower elevation limestone has partially resubmerged and allowed living corals to attach and grow again, forming a new coral reef “highway”, 4 to 5 mile offshore. The science team will be surveying coral reef sites inside the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Dry Tortugas National Park.

Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis), in the same family as the Elkhorn (Acropora palmata)
Staghorn Coral (Acropora cervicornis), in the same family as the Elkhorn (Acropora palmata)

On the third dive site for the day, Lauri MacLaughlin pointed out multiple Elkhorn Corals (Acropora palmata) whose appearance is just as its name suggests! Lauri noted that these were relatively young corals, perhaps just a few years old due to their size. She also stated that they had reproduced through sexual reproduction because there was no fragmentation of their flattened branches, which would happen in asexual reproduction. This coral is on the United States Endangered Species list and classified as threatened.

Because we departed early this morning on board the sanctuary boats, the science team missed the safety drills that are performed within 24 hours of each ship departing port. Instead the Operations Officer, Abigail Higgins gave us a run down of the safety procedures. We were also required to try on our survival emersion suits.

Personal Log 

The science team and Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff (right) in their survival suits
The science team and Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in their survival suits

Well here I am at last! My second attempt at being a NOAA Teacher At Sea! In May of 2008 I was on board the JOHN COBB studying harbor seals when the engine crankshaft broke just a few days into the mission. The JOHN COBB was not only the smallest, but also the oldest ship in NOAA’s fleet. With a crew of just eight, everyone knew each other well and lived in very close proximity. However, the NANCY FOSTER is very different. At 187ft in length it is nearly doubles the size of the JOHN COBB. In fact, the NANCY FOSTER has it beaten on almost all fronts regarding scale. Built originally as a Navy yard torpedo test (YTT) craft, she was outfitted in 2001, to conduct a variety of oceanic studies along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts and within the Caribbean Sea. It is crewed by 21 people and can accommodate 15 scientists. It seems quite strange to be at sea again on a NOAA ship, but in such very different circumstances. I keep comparing it to the JOHN COBB and I still feel a little sad that I was on the JOHN COBB’s last mission before it was decommissioned.

I am sharing the smallest room with one of the ships crew, Jody Edmond.  Jody is a Mate in Training. It is a simple, yet comfortable room, with two bunks, a small wardrobe, a desk and a sink. However, for two people to both standup in the same space let a lone get dressed or brush your teeth, it is very difficult due to the cramped conditions! Jody is living on the boat full time and so has a lot more “stuff” than I, so I am trying very hard not to take up too much room. Because the ship needs to be constantly manned 24 hours a day, the crew on the bridge is on a shift system working 12-4 (am and pm), 4-8 (am and pm), or 8-12 (am and pm). Some of the crew even work a schedule of 12 hours on and then 12 hours off, a pretty long day! Jody is on the 12-4 shift, which means during the majority of the time I am a wake she is sleeping. This isn’t uncommon so everyone on the ship has to be respectful of the noise level and keep relatively quiet during all hours of the day near the sleeping berth areas.

One of the many barracuda that would circle around snorkelers
One of the many barracuda that would circle around snorkelers

Unfortunately, although I am a qualified NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) scuba diver, I am not certified by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to dive. This means that during the dives I will only be able to snorkel and so I must watch from above what the scientists are doing below. I thought this would lead to some frustration on my part, as I would love to be working side by side with the science team 30 feet below the surface.

However, while the divers survey the area, I snorkel around on the surface watching them. I am not alone though! I am surrounded by moon jellyfish and one rather large barracuda that seemed to take quite a liking to me. I am very careful to avoid swimming into the jellyfish, which can cause a nasty sting and keep my hands close to my body incase the barracuda thinks my fingers might be dinner!

“New Term/Phrase/Word” Hyperplasia – is a general term referring to the proliferation of cells within an organ or tissue beyond that which is ordinarily seen. This can be seen in coral species such as symmetrical brain coral (Diploria strigosa). Geoff Cook described this as a coral looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger or a coral having Botox!

A brain coral
A brain coral

Coral Mucus or “coral snot”– secreted by the coral. When too much dirt (sediment) collects on the sticky mucus layer, the coral sloughs it off and makes a new one, acting as a replaceable defense mechanism. Some corals also use it to catch food and it is loaded with microbes, not unlike our skin.

“Who are they?”

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary 
Established in 1990 it was done so to protect a spectacular marine ecosystem. It encompasses 2,800 square miles. It is the only sanctuary that completely surrounds a community, that of all the Florida Keys.

NOAA 
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Formed in 1970, it is a Federal agency focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere. It encompasses, daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce.

 “Did You Know?” Key West got its name after the Spanish conquistadores reportedly found a beach in the southern most islands stern with the bleached bones of the Native Americans. They called the key, Cayo Hueso (pronounced KY-o WAY-so) or “Island of bones”. Bahamian settlers pronounced the Spanish name as Key West!

Flamingo Tongue on a common sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina)
Flamingo Tongue on a common sea fan (Gorgonia ventalina)

“Animals Seen Today” 

Among many different species of coral and other animals, was a personal favorite of mine Flamingo Tongues. These are a variety of snail that are predators that feed on gorgonians (sea fans). 

Christine Hedge, September 9-11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Chukchi Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 9-11, 2009

Positions 
From Latitude: 790 6’N/ Longitude: 1550 47’W
To Latitude: 780 3’N/ Longitude: 1590 41’W

Alex Andronikov labels and bags rock samples for further study.
Alex Andronikov labels and bags rock samples for further study.

Science and Technology Log 

Exploring the Unknown 
Geologically speaking, parts of the Arctic Ocean are some of the least explored areas on earth because they are often covered with thick ice. Geologists know there is an ultra-slow spreading center (where seafloor pulls apart) called the Gakkel Ridge.  They know where major features such as abyssal plains, plateaus, and ridges are, but the story of how this area formed is still the subject of much discussion. Where exactly are the plate boundaries in the Arctic?  Which direction are they moving?  Which forces formed the Arctic Basin?  These are great questions that geologists continue to investigate. In 7th grade we study plate tectonics.  Our textbooks contain maps showing where the plates are pulling apart (divergent boundaries), pushing together (convergent boundaries), and sliding past one another (transform boundaries). I had never noticed before this trip that clear plate boundaries are not shown under the Arctic Ocean.

FOR MY STUDENTS: There are some great animations showing plate movements at this site.

Looking Back in Time with Rock Samples 

Kelley Brumley and Alex Andronikov are geologists on board the Healy. They have been analyzing the data collected by the echosounding instruments to better understand the forces at work here. But what they have really been looking forward to is seeing what type of rock the seamounts, ridges, and plateaus below the Arctic Ocean are made of, and how these features were created.

Our first 2 dredge sites brought up muddy sediment and lots of:

  • Ice rafted debris: These are rocks that are frozen into ice that breaks from shore and carried out to sea. They can come from glaciers, or river deltas or any shoreline.  Some show glacial striations (scratches left behind by glaciers).
  • Coated sediments: These are crumbly, compressed mounds of sediment coated with a dark precipitate.
Dredge #2 was a muddy affair.  Using the hose, I helped separate the sediment from the rocks.  That’s me in the turquoise gloves!
Dredge #2 was a muddy affair. Using the hose, I helped separate the sediment from the rocks. That’s me in the turquoise gloves!

The next 3 dredges broke off rock samples from the steep slopes over which they were dragged. This was what the geologists were hoping for – samples of bedrock.  The rock samples that were dredged up show us that the geological history of the region is very complex.  Analyzing the chemistry and mineral composition of these rocks will help to answer some of the questions Kelley, Alex, and other Arctic geologists have about this part of the Arctic Ocean.  The rocks are cleaned, carefully labeled, and shipped to Stanford University, the University of Michigan, and the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for further study. Who knows, maybe the rocks that were collected today will help to clarify models for the geologic history of this part of the Arctic Ocean.

Personal Log 

On September 11, I was able to call my students in Indiana. Jon Pazol, (ARMADA teacher at sea) has an Iridium satellite phone that he graciously allowed me to borrow.  How fun to stand on the helicopter pad of the Healy and field questions from Carmel, Indiana.

Rock samples from a successful dredge operation
Rock samples from a successful dredge operation
Dredges sometimes bring up more than rocks and sediment. This arthropod came up with one of the dredge samples.
Dredges sometimes bring up more than rocks and sediment. This arthropod came up with one of the dredge samples.
Calling my students.  You can see in the background that there is much more ice than a few days ago.
Calling my students. You can see in the background that there is much more ice than a few days ago.

Christine Hedge, September 7, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 7, 2009

The empty dredge being lowered into the ocean.
The empty dredge being lowered into the ocean.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Latitude: 790 ’24N
Longitude: 1540 27’W
Temperature: 290F

Science and Technology Log 

Today we deployed our first dredge in hopes of collecting some samples of bedrock from the Arctic Ocean. A dredge is a basket made of metal chain link with a sharp edged bottomless tray on top. A wire cable connects this dredge to the Healy. Our echosounding instruments show us what the sea floor looks like. Maps reveal ridges, seamounts, flat abyssal plains, and raised continental shelves.  But, how did all these features form?  How old are they?  What type of rock are they made from?  What kinds of forces created this ocean surrounded by continents?  Where are the plate boundaries? Collecting rock samples will help us to answer some of these questions.

Sifting through the muddy sediment in search of rocks
Sifting through the muddy sediment in search of rocks

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you predict what type of rock we might find by sampling oceanic crust?  Continental crust? 

Here is how dredging works:

  • The dredge is deployed over a seafloor feature with a steep slope. Lowering the dredge takes a long time as the huge spool of cable unwinds.  The top speed for the cable is 50 meters/minute.  Today, the cable with the dredge attached rolled out 3850 meters before it stopped. The Healy then moves slowly up the slope dragging the dredge behind.  The metal plates at the top of the dredge catch on rock outcrops as it is dragged up the side of the slope.   Pieces of rock and sediment fall into the basket.  The dredge is pulled up by the cable and lowered back on to the deck of the Healy. The dredge is dumped and scientists pick through all the mud and find the rocks.
Full dredge is safely landed on the deck of the Healy.
Full dredge is safely landed on the deck of the Healy.

This first dredge brought back 400 pounds of mud and rock. Unfortunately, most was mud and only 10% was rock. Dredging is tricky business. Sometimes the dredge gets stuck and needs to be cut free.  Sometimes it collects only mud and no bedrock. We will be dredging at different sites for the next few days in the hope that good examples of bedrock will be collected.  The rocks we find will be catalogued and the chemistry of the rocks will be analyzed.  Hopefully, the rocks will help to answer some of the questions we have about the geologic history of the Arctic Ocean.

Personal Log 

Examples of rocks that were collected from our first dredge site.
Examples of rocks that were collected from our first dredge site.

When you work at a school, you get used to drills. Fire, severe weather, and intruder drills help to ensure that students and teachers will know what to do in the event of a real emergency.  The Coast Guard has drills each Friday to ensure the Healy will be ready to handle any emergency.  I have observed the crew practicing what to do in the event of fire, flooding, collision with another ship and various other scenarios. Last Friday, I was lucky enough to watch the crew in action.

The crew is suiting up for a Friday drill. Each member of the crew is trained to do many different jobs in case of an emergency.
The crew is suiting up for a Friday drill. Each member of the crew is trained to do many different jobs in case of an emergency.
Emergency medical situations are often a part of the training.  Friday’s drill included this mock-amputation of a crewmembers hand.  (Note the fake rubber hand)
Emergency medical situations are often a part of the training. Friday’s drill included this mock-amputation of a crewmembers hand. (Note the fake rubber hand)
If a compartment is flooded; the crew needs to do their best to contain the water.  This hatch is braced with wood and mechanical shoring.
If a compartment is flooded; the crew needs to do their best to contain the water. This hatch is braced with wood and mechanical shoring.

Christine Hedge, September 6, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 6, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Latitude: 760 51’N
Longitude: 1380 54’W
Temperature: 300F

Rachel is showing me how the data we collect is processed.
Rachel is showing me how the data we collect is processed.

Science Party Profile—Rachel Soraruf: Working For NOAA 

Are you the kind of kid who buys rocks when you visit a museum gift shop?  When you walk down the beach – is your head down searching for shells and stones?  If so, maybe you should consider studying geology in college.  Rachel Soraruf was one of those kids and now she works for NOAA. This year, NOAA sent her to the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC) at the University of New Hampshire.   (That’s a mouthful!!)  At CCOM, she is a graduate student learning about the latest technologies in ocean mapping.

Rachel decided to major in Geology during her sophomore year at Mt. Holyoke College. According to Rachel, geology is a fun major because you get to “Do What You Learn”. In addition, there are lots of field trips that complement your lab and classroom work. Her next educational move was to earn a Masters Degree in Geosciences from the University of Massachusetts. By studying the geochemistry of a stalagmite for her thesis (final project) – Rachel was able to look back 5,000 years and determine climate changes that occurred over the centuries.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you ever gone caving?  Did you know stalagmites could reveal climate history? 

Ten-foot swells caused the ice floes to roll and bump. September 6th was the roughest ride of this trip.
Ten-foot swells caused the ice floes to roll and bump. September 6th was the roughest ride of this trip.

Rachel has always liked the idea of “science with a purpose” – and NOAA offers her just that.  Her job is to plan the field seasons for NOAA vessels as they update the Hydrographic Charts of the waters around the United States.  People’s lives depend on these charts.  In order to safely navigate an oil tanker, cruise ship or fishing vessel  – up to date charts are essential.  The work she does makes a difference.  It truly is science with a purpose.

Personal Log 

Today we are in an area with thin ice and 10-12 foot swells.  It is an amazing sight to see the ice on the surface of the Arctic Ocean rolling with the swells.  The Captain reminded us to tie down our possessions so that cameras and laptops wouldn’t go flying off our desks.  It was good advice! I had not closed my file cabinet drawers completely and they were opening and closing as the ship rolled with the swells. I brought seasickness patches and pressure point wristbands to help me in case of seasickness and used them both today.

Christine Hedge, September 5, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 5, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Latitude: 770 13’N
Longitude: 1370 41’W
Temperature: 290F

Science and Technology Log 

The two icebreakers are tying up side-by-side so that we can visit each other.
The two icebreakers are tying up side-by-side so that we can visit each other.

More Ways to Use Sound to See Beneath the Sea Floor 

Today we “rafted” with the Louis (the ships tied together side by side). I have been eager to see the science instruments that the Canadian ship is carrying. Once the ships were securely tied together we could just walk back and forth between them and tour the Canadian vessel.

The Healy has been breaking ice so that the Louis can have an easier time collecting data using seismic reflection profiling.  The goal is for the Canadian scientists to determine how deep the sediments are in this part of the Arctic Basin.  The sound waves their instrument sends out can penetrate about 1500 meters below the seafloor. Using sound they can “see” inside the earth – amazing!

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Remember your Latin/Greek word parts?  Look up “seism”. 

Seismic sled being hauled out of the water on the Louis. (Photo courtesy of Ethan Roth)
Seismic sled being hauled out of the water on the Louis. (Photo courtesy of Ethan Roth)

Here is how it works. The Louis steams forward at a low speed following in the path that the Healy has created through the ice. The Louis tows behind a weighted sled with 3 airguns suspended from the bottom.  This sinks about 10 meters below the water. Attached to the sled is a long tube filled with hydrophones (underwater microphones) called a streamer.  This streamer is about 400 meters long and stretches out behind the ship. It is best for the ship to move continuously so that the streamer will not sink or float to the surface.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Try to picture a 400-meter long “tail” on a ship. That is longer than 4 football fields. 

The airguns create a huge air bubble in the water.  When it collapses, it creates a sound pulse.  Two of the guns use a low frequency, which will penetrate deep into the sea floor but will create a low-resolution image.  The other gun uses a high frequency, which does not penetrate as deep but gives a high-resolution image.  The 16 sound recorders in the streamer record the echo created by these sounds reflecting from the sediment layers below the sea floor. The final product this instrument creates is an image of a cross section through the Earth. Scientists can look at these by observing this geologic history, the scientists are looking back in time. You can imagine that ice can cause lots of problems when a ship is towing a 400-meter long streamer behind it.  This is why we are working on collecting this data together.  One ship breaks, the other collects the seismic reflection data.

Steamer on deck of Louis. The blue steamer is out of the water and lying on deck when we visit the Louis.
Steamer on deck of Louis. The blue steamer is out of the water and lying on deck when we visit the Louis.

Personal Log 

The crew has been looking forward to the two ships tying up together for the entire cruise.  Everyone is curious about the other ship. What are the staterooms like?  What is the food like? How is their bridge different from our bridge? And of course there is shopping!! Both of the ship stores had their best Louis and Healy gear ready for the eager shoppers.

After learning about the science instruments aboard the Louis, it was nice to finally see the seismic sled, streamers, and the computer nerve center where the seismic images are received. The ships are pretty different in their appearance.  The Louis is an older vessel and has wooden handrails, panels cover the wires in the ceiling, and there are some larger windows with actual curtains.  The Healy was built to be a science research icebreaker and so has many large spaces for science and looks generally more industrial. The Louis was an icebreaker first and some of their science spaces have been added later and are less spacious.

The bubble created by the airguns on the Louis. (Photo Courtesy Pat Kelley USCG)
The bubble created by the airguns on the Louis. (Photo Courtesy
Pat Kelley USCG)

Shopping and tours were fun but the most anticipated events of the day were the evening meal, contests and games.  The ship’s officers exchanged gifts in a formal presentation and then we had an amazing buffet together.  Personnel from both ships enjoyed scallops, halibut, salmon, shrimp, lobster, pork, beef, cheese, salads, and desserts. This was an exceptional meal and a great social event.  The idea of having Teachers at Sea (TAS) was a new one for most Canadians I spoke with and as we talked they seemed to think this TAS would be a great idea to stimulate interest in young Canadians about maritime careers.  The evening concluded with some friendly competitions between the crews and the science parties.  This entire event was a lot of work for the Coast Guard crews.  The science party really appreciates all the hours they put into planning this event!

Behind the wheel on the bridge of the Louis S. St. Laurent.
Behind the wheel on the bridge of the Louis S. St. Laurent.

Christine Hedge, September 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 4, 2009

Sometimes kittiwakes follow the ship.  I caught this one as it passed by the Healy.
Sometimes kittiwakes follow the ship. I caught this one as it passed by the Healy.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Latitude: 780 12’N
Longitude: 1360 33’W
Temperature: 290F

Science and Technology Log 

Part of NOAA’s mission is to conserve and manage marine resources. To this end, the Healy has a Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) on board. Our MMO is Justin Pudenz. He collects data on any interactions we might have with marine mammals during our voyage.  Both the Louis and the Healy have observers on board.

Using a field guide to identify the Yellow Wagtail
Using a field guide to identify the Yellow Wagtail

Justin spends his time on the bridge of the Healy, binoculars in hand, notebook near by, always on the lookout for life on the ice or in the air. He lives in southern Minnesota when he is not on a ship. Justin tries to spend 6 months at sea and 6 months at home. He has been a fisheries or marine mammal observer since 2001. The company he works for is MRAG Americas.  NOAA hires observers from this company when they are needed. While on board the Healy, Justin spends hours each day watching for marine mammals and recording his observations.  The data he collects goes back to NOAA.

Justin has traveled to many bodies of water as an observer including the Pacific near Hawaii and the Bering Sea for fisheries observation.  His next mission will be on a crabbing vessel in mid-October. If you can picture the television show “DEADLIEST CATCH” – that is the type of vessel he will sail on. On a fisheries trip Justin will collect data on the species of fish caught, their sex, weight, length and other information NOAA needs, to understand the health of ocean ecosystems.  Justin grew up enjoying the outdoors and always knew a desk job was not for him.  He has a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and has been lucky enough to find a job that gets him outdoors and is ever changing. 

A yellow wagtail has been seen from the ship in the past few days.  I wonder what this bird is doing so far out to sea - ideas?
A yellow wagtail has been seen from the ship in the past few days. I wonder what this bird is doing so far out to sea – ideas?

FOR MY STUDENTS: How are your observation skills?  Would a job at sea be a good match for you? 

I asked Justin what he has seen from the Healy. Our “trip list” follows. The farther away from land we get, the fewer species of birds we see. Most of these bird species were spotted before we hit the heavy ice.

The Marine Mammal Observer has seen these birds since we departed Barrow, AK: Pacific loon, Northern fulmar, red phalarope, long-tailed jaeger, Ross’ gull, Arctic tern, spectacled eider, pelagic cormorant, parasitic jaeger, glaucous gull, black-legged kittiwake, yellow wagtail.

The Marine Mammal Observer has seen these mammals since we departed Barrow, AK: bearded seal, ringed seal, Arctic fox, polar bear.

Personal Log

Many people have asked about the living spaces inside this ship.  It is an amazing vessel when you think about all that happens here.  The Healy is truly a floating city with 120 people on board.  Any function that your town does – this ship needs to do.  A city needs to clean water, sewage treatment, trash pick up, recycling, electrical power, food, shelter, and recreation.  All of these are provided for on the Healy. I have attached a few pictures of life on the Healy below.

Our bunk beds have curtains to keep out the 24-We each have our own desk and filing cabinet and hour sun. Note the stuffed polar bear. This was most important a porthole window! Notice the color a gift from Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Taylor. outside – we are getting a few hours of twilight in the early morning hours.
Our bunk beds have curtains to keep out the 24-We each have our own desk and filing cabinet and hour sun. Note the stuffed polar bear. This was most important a porthole window! Notice the color a gift from Mrs. Campbell and Mrs. Taylor. outside – we are getting a few hours of twilight in the early morning hours.
This is the place where the science party relaxes,  plays cards, and watches movies.
This is the place where the science party relaxes, plays cards, and watches movies.
We each have our own desk and filing cabinet and most important a porthole window! Notice the color outside – we are getting a few hours of twilight in the early morning hours.
We each have our own desk and filing cabinet and most important a porthole window! Notice the color outside – we are getting a few hours of twilight in the early morning hours.
 The main library has computers for the crew to email friends and family and plenty of reading material.
The main library has computers for the crew to email friends and family and plenty of reading material.

Christine Hedge, September 3, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 3, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge   
Latitude: 780 34’N
Longitude: 1360 59’W
Temperature: 290F

Science and Technology Log 

Ethan Roth shows me the inner workings of a sonobuoy.
Ethan Roth shows me the inner workings of a sonobuoy.

Low-Impact Exploring 

Some of my previous logs have talked about sound in the Arctic Ocean.  Sounds made by seals, whales, ice cracking and ridges forming, bubbles popping, wind, waves – these are the normal or ambient noises that have always occurred. As governments, scientists, and corporations explore the Arctic their presence will have an impact. Ships breaking ice and the seismic instruments they use to explore, add noise to the environment.  We call this man-made noise, anthropogenic noise.  Will these additional sounds impact the organisms that live here? Can we explore in a way that minimizes our impact on the environment?  The marine wildlife of the Arctic has evolved in an ocean covered by ice. But the ice is changing and the human presence is increasing.

Studies of other oceans have shown that more ship traffic means more background noise. In most regions of the Pacific Ocean the background noise has increased 3 decibels every 10 years since the 1960’s. The scientists on the Healy and the Louis are interested in minimizing their impact as they explore the Arctic Ocean.

Do No Harm – Step 1 Collect Data 

I am tossing the sonobuoy off the fantail of the Healy.
I am tossing the sonobuoy off the fantail of the Healy.

One of the ways we are listening to the noise that our own instruments make is with sonobuoys. These are devices that help us listen to how sound propagates through the ocean.  While the Louis is using airguns to collect seismic data – scientists on the Healy are throwing sonobuoys into the ocean to listen to the sound waves created by the airguns. Knowing how the sound waves from airguns travel through the water will help us to understand their impact on the environment. Sonobuoys are self-contained floating units. They consist of a salt-water battery that activates when it hits the water, a bag that inflates with CO2 on impact, a 400-foot cable with an amplifier and hydrophone (underwater microphone).

The data acquired through the sonobuoy are relayed to the ship via radio link. A receiving antenna had to be placed high up on the Louis in order to collect this data. Like many of the devices we are using to collect information, the sonobuoys are single use instruments and we do not pick them up after their batteries run out. After 8 hours of data collection, the float bag burns and the instrument sinks to the bottom. They are known as self-scuttling (self-destructing) instruments. The more we know about the sounds we make and how these sounds are interacting with the animals that call the Arctic home, the better we will be at low impact exploring.

Personal Log 

The float inflates as the sonobuoy floats away.
The float inflates as the sonobuoy floats away.

I’ve had lots of questions from students about the weather. For most of our trip, the air temperature has been around 270F and the visibility has been poor. A log fog has prevented us from seeing the horizon. We have also had quite a few days with snow and freezing rain.  Some of our snow flurries have coated the decks with enough snow to make a few snowballs and prompted the crew to get out the salt to melt the slippery spots. 

This past week we had some seriously cold days.  On September 1st, the air temperature was 160F with a wind chill of -250F. These cold days brought blue skies, sparkling snow, and beautiful crystals forming on the handrails, ropes and many other surfaces on the deck.

Ice crystals on a valve
Ice crystals on a valve

FOR MY STUDENTS: Why do you think it is foggier on warmer days? 

As we travel south we are starting to get some sunsets and sunrises.  There are a few hours of twilight between the times that the sun dips below the horizon – but no true night sky.  One of the things I miss the most is seeing stars.  I look forward to seeing the Indiana night sky in a few weeks. But until then, the gorgeous sun over the Arctic will have to do.

As the seasons change and we travel south, the sun gets lower in the sky

Arctic snowball
Arctic snowball

Christine Hedge, September 1, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 1, 2009

The path of the Healy through the ice with the Louis S. St. Laurent from Canada following (See it way in the distance?)
The path of the Healy through the ice with the Louis S. St. Laurent from Canada following (See it way in the distance?)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 800 26’N
Longitude: 1370 16’W
Temperature: 20

Science and Technology Log 

Why Are Two Icebreakers Traveling Together? 

All of the countries that have a coastline on the Arctic Ocean are trying to collect data to determine where their extended continental shelf (ECS) ends. One of the types of data needed is called seismic data.  Collecting this information involves towing a long (a kilometer or more) streamer behind the ship. It is difficult to do this well in ice-covered water.  So, the Canadians and the Americans are collecting data together. One icebreaker leads and breaks a path for the second following with the seismic streamer being towed behind.  For most of our trip together, the Healy has broken ice for the Louis S. St. Laurent. We are both collecting data – just different types with different instruments.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you name all the countries that have coastlines on the Arctic Ocean? Of which country is Greenland part? 

Why Do We Care Where Our Extended Continental Shelf Is? 

Close-up of the Louis S. St. Laurent collecting data behind the Healy
Close-up of the Louis S. St. Laurent collecting data behind the Healy

The oceans and ocean floors are rich with natural resources.  Some countries obtain much of their wealth from mining the oceans, drilling for oil or gas in the oceans, or from fish or shellfish obtained from the oceans.  Currently, a nation has the right to explore for and harvest all resources in the water and everything on or below the seafloor for 200 nautical miles beyond its shoreline. One nation can allow other nations to use its waters or charge oil companies for the right to drill in its seafloor and thus make money. But what if we could use resources beyond that 200-mile limit? That would add to a country’s wealth. If a country can show with scientific data that the continental shelf extends beyond those 200 miles they can extend their rights over:

 

1) The non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil (minerals, oil, gas)

2) The living resources that are attached to the seabed (clams, corals, scallops ) An extended continental shelf means a nation has rights to more natural resources.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Look at a map of the oceans. Can you find the continental shelf marked on the Atlantic coast of the United States? What types of resources can you think of that we get from the ocean and the seafloor? 

Where Exactly Is the Healy Going? 

The red line shows where the Healy has been. The yellow waypoints show where we might be after September 1, 2009.
The red line shows where the Healy has been. The yellow waypoints show where we might be after September 1, 2009.

Our trail looks random to the untrained eye but it does have a purpose.  We have been helping the Louis get good measurements of the thickness of the sediments on the seafloor.  You see there are certain features of the seafloor that help a nation identify its ECS.  One is related to depth. Another is related to the thickness of the underlying sediments.  Another is related to the place where the continental slope ends (the foot of the slope).  We have been following a path that takes us to the 2500-meter contour (where the ocean is 2500 meters deep) and following a path to measure the thickness of the sediment in the Canada Basin.  I was surprised to think that there was thick sediment on the seafloor in this area.  But, the Arctic is a unique ocean because continents surround it. It is more like a bowl surrounded by land.  As rivers have flowed into the Arctic over millions of years – layers and layers of sediment have covered the Canadian Basin.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Look at your maps again.  Find rivers, bays, fjords, that flow into the Arctic Ocean.  For More Information About The Extended Continental Shelf

Personal Log 

Erin Clark, Canadian Ice Services Specialist has been working with us on the Healy.
Erin Clark, Canadian Ice Services Specialist has been working with us on the Healy.

The U.S and Canada have been sharing personnel as well as sharing a science mission.  Coast Guard personnel and science party personnel have been traveling between the two ships via helicopter to share their expertise.  As the Canadian visitors come through our science lab and eat meals with us – we have had plenty of time to discuss science and everyday life. There has also been a longer-term exchange of personnel.  A scientist from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been sailing on the Louis since they left Kugluktuk, Northwest Territories. Dr. Deborah Hutchinson is on the Louis to provide USGS input to scientific decisions made during the cruise.

My roommate, Erin Clark, is a Canadian Ice Services Specialist.  Erin hails from Toronto, Ontario and is staying on the Healy to exchange expertise with the American ice analysts.  It has been interesting getting to know Erin and hearing the story of her career path.  She was one of those kids in school who just couldn’t sit still in a structured classroom environment.  Erin is a visual learner – and often had a hard time proving to her professors that she understood the material as she worked on her degree in Geography.  Where other students used multi-step equations, Erin used diagrams and often didn’t “show her work”.  NOTE TO STUDENTS: Do you know how you learn best?  What is your learning style?

Matthew Vaughan a Canadian geology student from Dalhousie University shows us pictures of the seismic gear on the Louis
Matthew Vaughan a Canadian geology student from Dalhousie University shows us pictures of the seismic gear on the Louis

Erin was lucky enough to have instructors that worked with her and now she is one of about 20 Marine Services Field Ice Observers in Canada. Luckily, she has found a career that offers lots of opportunities to move around. Some of her time is spent analyzing satellite photos of ice on a computer screen, some ice observing from a ship, and some ice observing on helicopter reconnaissance trips.  She communicates what she observes about ice conditions to ships; helping them to navigate safely in ice-covered waters.

FOR MY STUDENTS: What kind of skills do you think an Ice Specialist would need to succeed in their career? 

Christine Hedge, August 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 29, 2009

Science Party Profile – George Neakok 

George Neakok (left) and Justin Pudenz watch for marine mammals from the bridge of the Healy.
George Neakok (left) and Justin Pudenz watch for marine mammals from the bridge of the Healy.

George Neakok is on board the Healy as our Community Observer from the North Slope Borough. A borough is like a county government.  Except, since Alaska is so huge, the North Slope Borough is roughly the size of the state of Minnesota.  George acts as the eyes of the Inupiat (native people of the North Slope) community while on board the Healy. The Inupiat people are subsistence hunters. They live off the animals and plants of the Arctic and have a real stake in how other people are using the same lands and waters they depend on for survival. George spends hours on the bridge each day looking for life outside the Healy and noting any encounters the ship has with wildlife in general and marine mammals in particular. He is a resident of Barrow, Alaska (one of the 7 villages in the Borough) and has acted as an observer for 2 years traveling on 5 different expeditions. George says he was selected for the Community Observer job because he is a good hunter and has good eyes.  He is too humble.  His life experience has endowed him with fascinating knowledge about the ice, animals, and the Arctic world in general.  George can see a polar bear a kilometer away and know how old it is, how healthy, and what sex.

I asked George to share a little about his life and the kinds of changes he has observed in the Arctic. He has always lived in Barrow except for 2 years when he went away to Kenai Peninsula College to study Petroleum Technology. His dad died while he was away and so he returned home to help his mother.  He has worked in the natural gas fields near Barrow and expects to work in the new field southwest of Barrow in the future.  George has 7 children ranging in age from 20 years to 9 months.  His youngest daughter is adopted, which he says is very common in his culture. There are no orphans.  If a child needs a home, another family will take that child in.  Although his children are being raised in a world with cell phones and snowmobiles – they are still learning to live the way their ancestors have always lived.

Erosion on the coast of Barrow, Alaska is an ever increasing problem.
Erosion on the coast of Barrow, Alaska is an ever increasing problem.

George and his community are a part of  both an ancient and a modern world.  With each season comes another type of food to hunt or collect. The Neakok family hunts caribou, bowhead whale, seals, walrus, beluga, and geese each in its’ own season.  They fish in fresh water and in the Chukchi Sea. They collect berries, roots, greens and eggs, storing them in seal oil to preserve them until they are needed.  Food is stored in ice cellars.  These are underground rooms that can keep food frozen all year round. The animals that are hunted are used for more than just food.  The Inupiat make boats from seal or walrus skin.  In Inupiat culture, the blubber, oil, tusks, baleen and meat are all useful in some way.  If one community has a very successful hunt, they share with their neighbors.  If a community has a bad hunt, they know that other villages will help them out.  Villages come together to meet, celebrate, trade and share what they have caught.  George says this is just the way it is.  People take care of their neighbors.

FOR MY STUDENTS: What can we learn from the people of the North Slope about community? 

A polar bear, spotted by George, travels over thin ice by spreading out his body weight.  (Photo courtesy of Pat Kelley USCG)
A polar bear travels over thin ice by spreading out his body weight. (Photo courtesy of Pat Kelley)

George has witnessed much change in his life.  He notes that the seasons are coming earlier and staying later. The shore ice used to start forming in late August but lately it has been forming in late September or early October. When there is less ice close to land, there are fewer animals to hunt.  Whaling off the ice is getting more and more dangerous. The ice is more “rotten” and camping on the ice during the hunt can be treacherous. In recent years, more and more hunters have lost their equipment when the ice gave way.

Erosion of the coastline is another recent problem.  Without ice to protect the shoreline the wave action eats away at the permafrost causing coastlines to collapse.  George has seen a coastal hillside where he used to sled – crumble into the ocean. Entire villages have been moved farther inland as the coastal erosion eats away at the land. George is hopeful that although the Arctic is changing fast, the Inupiat people and culture will handle these changes and continue to live and thrive on the North Slope of Alaska.    

Christine Hedge, August 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 28, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Latitude: 840 10’N
Longitude: 1210 30’W
Temperature: 290F

Science and Technology Log 

Sick Bay on the Healy
Sick Bay on the Healy

What Happens If You Get Sick? 

The Sick Bay (medical clinic) on the Healy is the largest and best equipped in the Coast Guard. It has to be, since we are so far from land for such long periods of time.  We have a digital x-ray unit and a cardiac unit for diagnosis, defibrillation, and pacing an irregular heartbeat plus everything needed to keep a patient stabilized and pain free until they can get to a hospital. The Healy is also the only cutter with a permanent Physician’s Assistant (PA) on staff. The most serious medical issues our current PA has had to deal with on the Healy are broken bones and deep gashes. If a patient did have a life threatening injury, they would be kept comfortable until an aircraft could get them to shore. I spoke with Lt. Jason Appleberry (Physician’s Assistant) and HS2 (Health Services Technician) John Wendelschaefer who staff this important part of the ship and asked them about their jobs and their training for working in healthcare on an icebreaker.

Prevention Is the Best Medicine 

HS2 Wendelschaefer shows me Mr. Bones in Sick Bay
HS2 Wendelschaefer shows me Mr. Bones in Sick Bay

The busiest times in Sick Bay are when new people come on board with new germs.  When the crew has time on shore or new crew or science parties join the Healy – colds and other minor inconveniences crop up. The Coast Guard has strict rules about vaccinations for anyone spending time at sea and a very visible strategy to help prevent the spread of germs.  There are hand sanitizer dispensers in the mess (cafeteria) and elsewhere.  Anti-bacterial wipes are available in the gym to wipe down sweaty equipment.  The medical staff inspects the cooks and the galley like a Health Inspector would at a restaurant.  Sick Bay also has an incubator used to test the drinking water for contamination.  And last but not least, every Saturday, everyone cleans!  Heads (bathrooms), staterooms (bedrooms), and the rest of the ship are disinfected and made ready for inspection.  So kids, you have to make your bed and clean your room – even on an icebreaker!!

Profile of the Medical Staff 

I asked Lt. Appleberry how he ended up in this job.  As a young man his career interests included, doctor, paramedic, firefighter and other jobs that combined adventure with a curiosity about science and medicine.  In his words, he wanted to be – “that guy who shows up during a disaster to help.” After a few years of college he spoke to the Coast Guard and thought Coast Guard search and rescue would offer adventure and medicine all in one career.  He enlisted in 1991, and since then has traveled all over the country learning and serving.  Lt. Appleberry earned a Masters degree through the Coast Guard and has been able to use his training in clinics in Kodiak, Alaska and Hawaii and on various ships.

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Have you thought about what kind of career you would like to have? What do you enjoy doing? What activities drain you? What activities invigorate you? 

Part of the mission of the Coast Guard is search and rescue. If someone is hurt on a fishing boat or a pleasure boat is lost at sea, the Coast Guard is there to help. HS2 (kind of like an EMT for civilians) Wendelschaefer has also received his medical training through the Coast Guard.  His experience has been that the Coast Guard is a great place to be a lifelong learner.  There are lots of choices for career paths, tuition assistance, and constant on the job training.  For both men, the Coast Guard has been a positive experience.  They have traveled to and lived in exotic locations, and should they decide to leave the military – they have very marketable skills for the civilian world.

Personal Log 

This is a screen shot of our path as we hit our northern most point. The red line indicates the 840 parallel.
This is a screen shot of our path as we hit our northern most point. The red line indicates the 840 parallel.

Today we hit our northern most point of the trip.  We were north of 840 and as they say, it’s all down hill from here!  This is the closest I will ever get to the North Pole.  Next week we will have a ceremony for all the folks on the ship who have crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time.  This summer I crossed the Tropic of Cancer (look that one up) when I went to Baja, Mexico and the Arctic Circle.  It was easy for me because I had air transportation.  Some animals make migrations like this every year!!!  The gray whale will swim from the Tropic of Cancer to the Chukchi Sea every year without the benefit of an airplane – AMAZING!

FOR MY STUDENTS: Look at a map. Follow 840 North and see where it goes.  Think of all the places you have traveled. How far north have you been?  Figure out your latitude. 

Christine Hedge, August 26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 26, 2009

Science and Technology Log 

This is what we see in the Science Lab of the Healy before the data is processed.  It is like a cross-section through the top 50-100 meters of the sea floor.  Here you can see it was flat and then climbed uphill.  The numbers represent round trip travel time in seconds.
This is what we see in the Science Lab of the Healy before the data is processed. It is like a cross-section through the top 50-100 meters of the sea floor. Here you can see it was flat and then climbed uphill. The numbers represent round trip travel time in seconds.

Is There a Bird in My Room? 

When I first got on the Healy, I thought there was a bird in my room.  Then I realized the chirp that I kept hearing every 9 seconds or so was not just in my room.  It got louder as I went down the ladders to the deepest part of the ship near the laundry. I found out that this chirp is the sound transmitted by the subbottom profiling system.  This instrument is being used on the Healy to collect data about the depth of the water and the nature of the sea floor. These subbottom profiler transducers are mounted on the hull of the ship. The “chirp” sound reflects (echos) off the bottom of the ocean and also reveals the sediment layers below the bottom.  This is one of the systems I watch on a computer screen when I am working.

Using Sound as a Tool to See Inside the Earth 

Sound is an amazing tool in the hands of a geophysicist, who is a person who studies the physics of the earth. The subbottom profiler uses a low frequency sound. Low frequency will penetrate further into the earth than the higher frequencies used by echosounders. This helps scientists to “see” about 50 meters below the surface, depending on the type of sediment (clay, sand, etc).  By looking at how the sound waves are reflected back to the ship, scientists can see layering of sediments, infer sediment type (REMEMBER SAND, SILT, CLAY???), and sometimes see evidence of channels under the sea floor.

The subbottom profiler data is processed and an image is generated for scientists to analyze.  This is an image from the 2005 Healy trip to the Arctic.  You can see the types of features the sound waves can “see” for us.
The subbottom profiler data is processed and an image is generated for scientists to analyze. This is an image from the 2005 Healy trip to the Arctic. You can see the types of features the sound waves can “see” for us.

FOR MY STUDENTS:  DO YOU REMEMBER STUDYING SOUND IN 6TH GRADE?  WHAT DOES FREQUENCY REFER TO?  

These pictures appear on many doors of the Healy
These pictures appear on many doors of the Healy

Why Is This Important? 

Geologically speaking, the Arctic Basin is poorly understood. We are not sure how some of the major features formed or even where the plate boundaries are.  When you look at maps of the tectonic plates, you might notice that they are not clearly marked in the Arctic. Understanding how the sea floor is shaped and what lies beneath will give us clues to understand the history of the Arctic Basin. From a practical standpoint, geology can tell us where important natural resources might occur. When companies are searching for natural gas or petroleum, they are using clues from the geology of the sea floor to decide where to look.

Personal Log 

More About Sound – From A Personal Perspective 

Lieutenant Commander Doug Petrusa wearing protective headset
Lieutenant Commander Doug Petrusa wearing protective headset

As far as I can tell there is no place on a ship where it is completely silent.  There are fans, air compressors, engines, doors opening and closing and of course on this ship ice breaking and chirping.  There are some places on the ship where we are warned to use ear protection because the machine noise could, over long periods, cause hearing loss.  Many doors on the ship have pictures reminding us to wear ear protection in certain areas to protect our hearing.   The crew spends time working in areas with high intensity noise – so they are often seen wearing protective headsets.

In addition, all over the ship, there are boxes of earplugs. These are available for people to use whenever they need them.  My first week, I slept with earplugs every night.  The constant chirping, the sound of the engines and the doors opening and closing were more than I could handle. I thought I would need to use earplugs for the entire journey. Now, I am sleeping like a baby even with the additional sound of us plowing through ice. I guess the human body can get used to just about anything.

Earplugs are found near every doorway that leads into an area with dangerous noise levels.
Earplugs are found near every doorway that leads into an area with dangerous noise levels.

Christine Hedge, August 25, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 25, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 30.150F
Latitude: 81.310 N
Longitude: 134.280W

Science and Technology Log 

This multibeam image of the new seamount is what I saw in the Science Lab.
This multibeam image of the new seamount is what I saw in the Science Lab.

A Day of Discovery… 

Today, our planned route took us near an unmapped feature on the sea floor.  A 2002 Russian contour map showed a single contour (a bump in the middle of a flat plain) at 3600 meters.  This single contour line also appeared on the IBCAO (International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean) map.  We were so close that we decided to take a slight detour and see if there really was a bump on this flat, featureless stretch of sea floor. 

The contour was labeled 3600 meters and the sea floor in the area averaged about 3800 meters so a 200 meter bump was what the map suggested.  As the Healy traveled over the area we found much more than a bump!  The feature slowly unfolded before our eyes on the computer screen.  It got taller and taller and excitement grew as people realized this might be over 1000 meters tall.  If a feature is 1000 meters or more, it is considered a seamount (underwater mountain) and can be named.  Finally, the picture was complete, the data was processed, and a new seamount was discovered. The height is approximately 1,100 meters and the location is 81.31.57N and 134.28.80W.

The colors on this 3-D image of the newly discovered seamount indicate depth.
The colors on this 3-D image of the newly discovered seamount indicate depth.

Why Isn’t the Arctic Mapped? 

Some areas of the sea floor have been mapped and charted over and over again with each improvement in our bathymetric technology.  Areas with lots of ship traffic such as San Francisco Bay or Chesapeake Bay need to have excellent bathymetric charts, which show depth of the water, and any features on the sea floor that might cause damage to a ship.  But in the Arctic Ocean, there isn’t much ship traffic and it is a difficult place to collect bathymetric data because of all the ice. Therefore, in some areas the maps are based on very sparse soundings from lots of different sources. Remember, older maps are often based on data that was collected before multibeam  echosounders and GPS navigation – new technology means more precise data!  

Personal Log 

This is the IBCAO.  (International Bathymetric chart of the Arctic Ocean)  It is a great resource for ships exploring the Arctic Basin.
This is the IBCAO. (International Bathymetric chart of the Arctic Ocean) It is a great resource for ships exploring the Arctic Basin.

It is still very foggy. We are about 625 miles north of Alaska and plowing through ice that is 1-2 meters thick.  This time of year it is the melt season.  Increased evaporation means more water in the atmosphere and more fog.  Even though we are usually in water that is 90% covered by ice (REMEMBER 9/10 ice cover?) we rarely have to back and ram to get through.  It is noisier lately and the chunks of ice that pop up beside the ship are more interesting to look at.  There are blue stripes, brown patches of algae and usually a thin layer of snow on top.

I cannot send a current sound file because of our limited bandwidth on the Healy. When we are this far north it is difficult to get Internet access. But, if you would like to hear what it sounds like when the Healy is breaking ice, click on this link  from a past trip through Arctic sea ice.

Sea Ice at 810N after the Healy has broken through
Sea Ice after the Healy has broken through

Christine Hedge, August 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 23, 2009

Weather Data 
Lat: 810 48’N
Long: 1420 16’W
Temp: 33.890 F

Science and Technology Log 

The nerve center of engineering shows off our advanced technology
The nerve center of engineering shows off our advanced technology

The official name of our ship is the United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy (USCGC Healy for short). There are 3 icebreakers in the Coast Guard fleet, Polar Star, Polar Sea, and the Healy. The homeport of all 3 icebreakers is Seattle, Washington. Healy is the newest icebreaker and because of her advanced technology, she can operate with half the crew of the Polar-class ships.  The Healy was specifically built to do science research in the Arctic.

Here are some facts about this floating science laboratory:

  • Length: 420 feet
  • Top speed is 17 Knots
  • 4 decks are dedicated to working and living quarters (berthing)
  • Each berthing deck has a lounge with computers, library, TV and sitting area
  • There are 2 workout centers, barber shop, helicopter pad, machine shop, and a laundry
  • The ship has 4 diesel electric generators putting out an astounding 6,600 volts
  • The fuel capacity is 1,220,915 gallons of diesel
  • There are 4,200 square feet lab space, deck spaces and electronic winches dedicated to science

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you convert knots to miles/hour?  How fast can the Healy go? 

Ensign Nick Custer shows us where the ship is refueled. Can you imagine pumping a million gallons of fuel!!!
Ensign Nick Custer shows us where the ship is refueled. Can you imagine pumping a million gallons of fuel!!!

On my tour of the ship I was struck by how much attention has been put onto safety and backup systems.  For example, we are currently running on 2 engines.  When ice is heavy we might need 3. But the Healy has 4 engines so that if one breaks down – the ship can still navigate safely through ice-covered waters. Another safety feature is that all the engineering functions are compartmentalized and separated with watertight and fireproof doors.  If something goes wrong in one area (flood, fire) – that area can be closed off and the rest of the ship can carry on.  Over the decades, ship builders have learned to design ships with such features to make life at sea safer for sailors.

Personal Log 

Last night, the science party prepared and served dinner for everyone on the Healy. We decided that Jennifer Henderson, from Louisiana, would have the best flair for developing a unique menu.  Our most excellent southern meal consisted of lentil soup, chicken and sausage jambalaya, shrimp and grits, okra and tomatoes, Caesar salad,

Engineer Officer Doug Petrusa takes us down a watertight hatch
Engineer Officer Doug Petrusa takes us down a watertight hatch

buttermilk cornbread and apple crisp. Christina Franco de Lacerda from Brazil came up with the Lentil soup and the apple crisp was my idea.  There is nothing like working in the kitchen together to build camaraderie!  The meal was delicious, the music was great, and a good time was had by all!

Today we sailed further north than I have ever been.  As I watch our track on the map and watch the latitude climb, I get more and more excited.  In the next few days we hope to travel even further north and hopefully see some multiyear ice and clearer skies.  With less melted ice, there is less moisture in the atmosphere and therefore less chance of fog.

My students sent lots of questions last week and I really enjoyed answering them.  Keep the questions coming!!! 

Master chef, Jennifer Henderson, keeps her eye on the Barbara Moore and Will Fessenden design the grits perfect Caesar salad dressing.
Master chef, Jennifer Henderson, keeps her eye on the Barbara Moore and Will Fessenden design the grits perfect Caesar salad dressing.
Barbara Moore and Will Fessenden design the perfect Caesar salad dressing.
Barbara Moore and Will Fessenden design the
perfect Caesar salad dressing.

Patricia Schromen, August 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 22, 2009

Bringing in the nets requires attention, strength and teamwork.
Bringing in the nets requires attention and teamwork.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet
17 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

In Science we learn that a system consists of many parts working together. This ship is a small integrated system-many teams working together. Each team is accountable for their part of the hake survey. Like any good science investigation there are independent, dependent and controlled variables. There are so many variables involved just to determine where and when to take a fish sample.

Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.
Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.

The acoustic scientists constantly monitor sonar images in the acoustics lab. There are ten screens displaying different information in that one room. The skilled scientists decide when it is time to fish by analyzing the data.  Different species have different acoustical signatures. Some screens show echograms of marine organisms detected in the water column by the echo sounders. With these echograms, the scientists have become very accurate in predicting what will likely be caught in the net. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) is responsible for driving the ship and observes different data from the bridge. Some of the variables they monitor are weather related; for example: wind speed and direction or swell height and period. Other variables are observed on radar like the other ships in the area. The topography of the ocean floor is also critical when nets are lowered to collect bottom fish. There are numerous sophisticated instruments on the bridge collecting information twenty four hours a day. Well trained officers analyze this data constantly to keep the ship on a safe course.

Here come the hake!
Here come the hake!

When the decision to fish has been made more variables are involved. One person must watch for marine mammals for at least 10 minutes prior to fishing. If marine mammals are present in this area then they cannot be disturbed and the scientists will have to delay fishing until the marine mammals leave or find another location to fish. When the nets are deployed the speed of the boat, the tension on the winch, the amount of weight attached will determine how fast the nets reach their target fishing depth.  In the small trawl house facing the stern of the ship where the trawl nets are deployed, a variety of net monitoring instruments and the echo sounder are watched. The ship personnel are communicating with the bridge; the deck crew are controlling the winches and net reels and the acoustic scientist is determining exactly how deep and the duration of the trawl. Data is constantly being recorded. There are many decisions that must be made quickly involving numerous variables.

Working together to sort the squid from the hake.
Working together to sort the squid from the hake.

The Hake Survey began in 1977 collecting every three years and then in 2001 it became a biannual survey. Like all experiments there are protocols that must be followed to ensure data quality. Protocols define survey operations from sunrise to sunset. Survey transect line design is also included in the protocols. The US portion of the Hake survey is from approximately 60 nautical miles south of Monterey, California to the US-Canada Border. The exact location of the fishing samples changes based on fish detected in the echograms although the distance between transects is fished at 10 nautical miles. Covering depths of 50-1500 m throughout the survey. Sampling one species to determine the health of fish populations and ocean trends is very dynamic.

Weighing and measuring the hake is easier with automated scales and length boards.
Weighing and measuring the hake.

Personal Log 

Science requires team work and accountability. Every crew member has an integral part in making this survey accurate.  A willing positive attitude and ability to perform your best is consistently evident on the Miller Freeman. In the past few days, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assist in collecting the data of most of the parts of this survey, even launching the CTD at night from the “Hero Platform” an extended grate from the quarter deck.

Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.
Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.

Before fishing, I’ve been on the bridge looking for marine mammals.  When the fish nets have been recovered and dumped on the sorting table, I’ve sorted, weighed and measured fish. For my first experience in the wet lab, I was pleased to be asked to scan numbers (a relatively clean task) and put otoliths (ear bones) into vials of alcohol. I used forceps instead of a scalpel. Ten stomachs are dissected, placed in cloth bags and preserved in formaldehyde. A label goes into each cloth bag so that the specimen can be cross referenced with the otoliths, weight, length and sex of that hake. With all the high tech equipment it’s surprising that a lowly pencil is the necessary tool but the paper is high tech since it looks regular but is water proof.  It was special to record the 100th catch of the survey.

Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.

Questions for the Day 

How is a fish ear bone (otolith) similar to a tree trunk? (They both have rings that can be counted as a way to determine the age of the fish or the tree.)

The CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) unit drops 60 meters per minute and the ocean is 425 meters deep at this location; how many minutes will it take the CTD to reach the 420 meter depth?

Think About This: The survey team directs the crane operator to stop the CTD drop within 5 meters of the bottom of the ocean.  Can you think of reasons why the delicate machinery is never dropped exactly to the ocean floor?  Some possible reasons are:

  • The swell in the ocean could make the ship higher at that moment;
  • An object that is not detected on the sonar could be on the ocean floor;
  • The rosetta or carousel holding the measurement tools might not be level.

Launching the CTD is a cooperative effort. The boom operator works from the deck above in visual contact. Everyone is in radio contact with the bridge since the ship slows down for this data collection.

Retrieving the CTD
Retrieving the CTD