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

Patricia Schromen, August 20, 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 20, 2009

Ensign Heather Moe coming aboard the Miller Freeman in Port Angeles, Washington
Ensign Heather Moe coming aboard the Miller Freeman in Port Angeles, Washington

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet with swell 6 feet at 10 seconds
17 degrees Celsius
Areas of fog

Science and Technology Log 

The Miller Freeman docked in the Port Angeles harbor two days earlier than scheduled. Repair was needed on the trawling net reel. Then the bow thruster wasn’t cooperating on Tuesday so departure was delayed until Wednesday. Once at sea, the ship must be self reliant 24 hours a day seven days a week.  Everyone and everything work together.  Team work and cooperation are critical. Many different careers are on board.  Smooth operation of the Miller Freeman relies on each department performing specific assignments.  Some of these departments are:

  • NOAA Corps- commissioned officers who pilot the ship
  • Scientists-oceanographers, fisheries biologists and data analysts
  • Deck Dept.-maintain the ship and launch the survey equipment
  • Engineering Dept.-operate all ships mechanical systems
  • Steward Dept.-prepare meals
  • Electronics Technician – manages ship’s computers and network
  • Survey Department – assist the scientists with data collection and equipment

Some people have PhDs while others may have acquired skills from on the job training.  Most people seem to like the challenge of solving problems like how to weld an extra guide stick with the materials on board or how to map the course to the fishing transects. The opportunities seem as endless as the vast waters of the ocean.

Personal Log 

During our safety drill, I grab these essentials from my stateroom and muster, or go to the upper deck.
During our safety drill, I grab these essentials from my stateroom and muster, or go to the upper deck.

Learning my way around the ship is one of my first tasks and everyone has been so very helpful. There are many hatches and steep ladders (stairs) to the different decks. Safety includes knowing how to exit quickly and how to put on a life suit in less than one minute.  Like a fire drill at school we will have a fire or abandon ship drill sometime today. When I hear the ship’s alarm I must go to my stateroom, grab 4 things:  my life preserver, bag with life suit, long sleeve shirt and hat then muster to the lab deck. There I slip off my shoes, shake the suit out of the bag, lay it out, sit in the middle, wiggle my legs in, kneel down, put in my left arm, pull up the hat, put in my right arm, arch my back and zip it up to my nose. With clear “how to” directions and practice given by my chief scientist, Larry Hufnagle, I’m ready for the mandatory drill.

Question of the Day 
Why would you rather load a ship at high tide?

Something to Think About 
When I departed the ship in the evening I had to walk down the gang plank but when I returned the next morning the gang plank was level.  I only had to walk straight across to board the ship.  The ship was at the exact same dock and no one moved the gang plank. What variable made the angle of the gang plank change?

Deck crew preparing to load gang plank Tuesday afternoon, 3:30 pm
Deck crew preparing to load gang plank Tuesday afternoon, 3:30 pm
This life suit looks like a good fit for me.
This life suit looks like a good fit for me.

Christine Hedge, August 20, 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 20, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Lat: 80.570 N
Long: 151.320 W
Air Temp: 29.210 F

Science and Technology Log 

The science computer lab is where the data is observed. Processors clean the data of all the extraneous noise and spikes. Not every beam is returned and some take a bad bounce off a fish, chunk of ice or a bubble.
The science computer lab is where the data is observed. Processors clean the data of all the extraneous noise and spikes. Not every beam is returned and some take a bad bounce off a fish, chunk of ice or a bubble.

The Healy is collecting bathymetric data on this trip.  Bathymetric data will tell us how deep the ocean is and what the terrain of the ocean floor is like.  Less than 6% of the floor of the Arctic Ocean has been mapped.  So, this data will help us to learn about some places for the very first time.  The word bathymetry comes from the Greek – bathy= deep and metry = to measure.

NOTE TO STUDENTS: If you learn Latin/Greek word parts you can understand almost any word! 

How Do We Collect This Data? 

There are two main devices the Healy is using to measure the depth to the seafloor.  One is called the multibeam echosounder. It sends a beam of sound, which reflects off the bottom and sends back up to 121 beams to a receiver. By measuring the time it takes for the sound to return the multibeam can accurately map the surface of the sea floor.  This allows the multibeam to “see” a wide swath of seafloor – kilometers wide.  The other device is bouncing a single beam off the bottom and “seeing” a profile of that spot. This one is called a single beam echosounder or sub-bottom profiler. The single beam actually penetrates the sea floor to show a cross-section of the layers of sediment. Both are mounted on the hull of the ship and send their data and images to computers in the science lab.

What Does Mrs. Hedge Do? 

This screen shows the multibeam bathymetry data.  Depth is measured over a swath about 8 kilometers wide on this particular screen.  Purple is the deepest (3850 m) and orange is the most shallow (3000 m).  You can see that for most of this trip we were on flat abyssal plain and then we hit a little bump on the sea floor about 450 meters tall.
This screen shows the multibeam bathymetry data. Depth is measured over a swath about 8 kilometers wide on this particular screen. Purple is the deepest (3850 m) and orange is the most shallow (3000 m). You can see that for most of this trip we were on flat abyssal plain and then we hit a little bump on the sea floor about 450 meters tall.

The science crew takes turns “standing watch”. We have 3 teams; each watches the computers that display the bathymetry data for an 8-hour shift. My watch is from 8 am until 4 pm.  We need to look at how many beams are being received and sometimes make adjustments.  Traveling through heavy ice makes data collection challenging. We also need to “log” or record anything that might impact the data collection such the ship turning, stopping, heavy ice, or a change in speed. When we are going over an interesting feature on the seafloor, our job is engaging. When the seafloor is flat, the 8-hour shift can seem pretty long!

How Did People Do This Before Computers? 

Until the 1930’s, the depth of the ocean was taken by lowering a lead weight on a heavy rope over the side of a boat and measuring how much rope it took until the weight hit the bottom. This was called a lead line.  Then the boat would move and do this again, over and over.

Another bear was spotted from the Healy. Photo Pat Kelley.
Another bear was spotted from the Healy. Photo Pat Kelley.

This method was very time consuming because it only measured depth at one point in time.    Between soundings, people would just infer what the depth was.  Using sound to measure depth is a huge improvement compared to soundings with a weighted rope.  For example, in 100 meters of water, with a lead line 10 soundings per hour could be obtained.  With multibeam at the same depth, 1,500,000 soundings can be obtained per hour.  Mapping the ocean floor has become much more accurate and precise.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you think of other areas of science where improvements in technology lead to huge improvements and new discoveries? 

Personal Log 

When a polar bear is spotted, the deck fills with hopeful observers.
When a polar bear is spotted, the deck fills with hopeful observers.

Last night, there was an announcement right after I went to bed that polar bears had been spotted.  I threw on some clothes and ran outside.  There was a female and cub 2 kilometers away.  With binoculars, I could see them pretty well.  The adult kept turning around and looking at the cub over her shoulder. I suspect, the cub was being told to hurry up!  When a bear is spotted, the deck of the ship fills up with hopeful observers no matter what time of day it is.

FOR MY STUDENTS: I heard that the old polar bear at the Indianapolis Zoo died recently. Will there still be a polar bear exhibit at the zoo?  What are the plans for the future? 

Rita Larson, August 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 10 – 27, 2009 

Sunset over Kachemak Bay
Sunset over Kachemak Bay

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise: Kasitsna Bay, AK
Date: August 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 59° 28.339′N Longitude: 151° 33.214′W
Sea Water Temperature: 10°C (50°F)
Air Temperature: Dry Bulb: 11.1°C (52°F) Wet Bulb: 10.0°C (50°F)
Visibility: 5 miles

Science and Technology Log 

A launch from the Rainier
A launch from the Rainier

I would like to give a very brief explanation of how surveying becomes a nautical chart. When all the surveying launches return to the Rainier, a debriefing meeting takes place in the wardroom. All the hydrographersin-charge or “Hicks” give a short discripition of the successes and complications they had during surveying for the day. At least one night processor attends these debriefing meetings to have a good understanding of what to expect as they process this data. Some of the things the night processors are looking for are:  How many CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) casts were made from each launch? Were there any data problems, such as noisy data or gaps in coverage? Then, the night processors collect the Hypack and Hysweep data from the launches and transfer the surveys to the ship’s computers where they will process it with CARIS. The night processors use the program CARIS to convert the “RAW” information from the launches into processed data. This processed data has correctors such as tide and SVP applied to it. This is completed in the plotting room on board the Rainier. The data is then cleaned and examined for problems.

Polygons regions
Polygons regions

This process produces a smooth image depicting the water depth over the area surveyed for the sheet managers. When this is complete, the sheet manager sets up for the next day’s acquisitions and polygon plans for all of the launches. Then, this information is sent to the Pacific Hydrographic Office to further examine the bathymetric data. After that, cartographers use this information to create nautical charts. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, as well as civilian mariners use nautical charts worldwide. This entire process may takes up to a year to complete.

These are various images of data completed during night processing. (Pictures taken by Nick Mitchell.)
Various images of data completed during night processing. (Pictures by Nick Mitchell.)

Personal Log 

I am so amazed in the way the professionals from NOAA work together and share the responsibilities for the purpose of creating safety for others. By creating these nautical charts, it makes the waters of the world a safer place to be. Everyone on the ship has a meaningful purpose and it is clear to me that they take great pride in what they contribute in the mission of the Rainier. I feel like I belong here after such a short time.

Animals I Saw Today  
A bald eagle in a tree using the large binoculars nicknamed, “big eyes” from the Rainier. I also saw a sea otter.

Nautical chart of the geographical area the Rainier is surveying at this time.
Nautical chart of the area the Rainier is surveying at this time.

Christine Hedge, August 19, 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: August 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge   

Brittle star
Brittle star

LAT: 810 23’N
LONG: 1560 31’W
Air Temp: 28.27 0F

Science and Technology Log 

My fellow teacher at sea, Jon Pazol, and I wonder, “What kind of brittle star is this?”  We think it is a Gorgonocephalus cf arcticus.
My fellow teacher at sea, Jon Pazol, and I wonder, “What kind of brittle star is this?” We think it is a Gorgonocephalus cf arcticus.

There isn’t much biology to be done on this cruise.  Our mapping mission is the main focus.  But, living things find a way of working their way into the picture.  We have a marine mammal and a community observer on board looking for whales, seals, polar bears, sea birds and other Arctic animals. Yesterday, a small Arctic Cod found its way into the seawater pipe in the science lab. And a few days ago, when the HARP instrument was pulled up, there was a brittle star attached to it. Jon Pazol (the ARMADA Teacher at Sea) and I are both biology types and we got excited about the opportunity to identify this creature from the Arctic Ocean.

Personal log 

Yoann, a student from France, enjoys his first corndog
Yoann, a student from France, enjoys his first corndog

I did not grow up in Indiana and have avoided eating a corndog until now.  Yoann Ladroit (from France) and I (from Connecticut) had our very first corndogs for lunch yesterday. We have enjoyed many different types of food on the Healy. Imagine stocking a ship with enough food for 120-130 people for months in the Arctic. When the Healy left Seattle they had a food inventory valued at $300,000. Ideally, this ship leaves port with enough food for a year. This is more than most Coast Guard cutters carry – but the Arctic is a unique place.  In other oceans, cutters can pull in to port and purchase fresh supplies. In the Arctic there are few ports and where there are ports – the food is VERY expensive. The Healy needs to be prepared to feed the crew, just in case they get beset (stuck in ice). So, they have staple foods ready for an emergency situation.

A forklift carries food supplies to the Healy
A forklift carries food supplies to the Healy

In Barrow, the Healy picked up many forklifts full of fresh produce and eggs. This will be the last fresh produce we get until September 16th when we return to shore. The Healy is one of the newest ships in the Coast Guard and has spacious facilities in the galley (kitchen) and the mess decks (dining room).  There are huge refrigerators, storage rooms and freezers for food. The gleaming stainless steel galley has computerized ovens with probes that sense when the food has reached the correct temperature and a huge and speedy dishwasher. As a newcomer to the ship we were warned about the powerful microwave oven, which heats anything in 10 seconds and garbage disposal (affectionately called the Red Goat) which grinds up all food waste instantly.

This area, called the mess, is where we eat our meals.
This area, called the mess, is where we eat our meals.

We eat in the mess decks.  Our mess decks are twice the size of those on other Coast Guard cutters.  Meals are served 4 times each day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the regular times.  Since people work 24/7, a fourth meal called Mid-rats (midnight rations) is served each night at 11pm.   One of the interesting features in the mess decks is the operating room set up over one of the tables. Although the Healy has a state of the art sick bay, what if the sick bay was unusable because of a fire or some other crisis? It seems that in a mass casualty situation, the mess decks doubles as a medical space, which would be used to tend to wounded personnel.

Christine Hedge, August 18, 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: August 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge   
Lat: 800 32’N
Long: 1540 04’ W
Temp:  28.720 F

Science and Technology Log 

Mrs. Hedge fills the weather balloon
Mrs. Hedge fills the weather balloon

Twice each day, AG1 (Aerographers mate 1st class) Richard Lemkuhl launches a weather balloon. Today, at 6 AM I assisted with the launch. The balloon is filled with helium and attached to a device powered by a 9-volt battery. The weather balloon sends back temperature, pressure, and humidity data along with GPS derived winds to a radio receiver on the bridge of the Healy. This profile of the atmospheric conditions can be injected into global weather models to help predict the weather. On the Healy we use this information for flight operations (the helicopter). Helicopters, ships, and planes all need current weather conditions to navigate safely.  Data from weather balloons can help determine if there might be icing, turbulence, wind driven ice or the possibility of thunderstorms.

FOR MY STUDENTS: All kinds of scientists use models to help explain, predict, and understand the world around them. Can you think of a model you have used in science? 

Radio Receiver on the bridge of the Healy
Radio Receiver on the bridge of the Healy

AG1 Lemkuhl works for the Naval Maritime Forecast Center in Norfolk, Virginia. He is part of a group of U. S. Navy personnel on board the Healy to better understand how to operate Navy vessels in the Arctic. The dynamic weather patterns he experienced as a child in Oklahoma sparked his interest in meteorology.  His very first weather balloon was launched in 8th grade under the watchful eyes of Mrs. Stevens, his science teacher in Clarksville, Tennessee. AG1 enjoyed learning about Earth Science as a middle school student, which lead to studying geography and climatology in college.  The Navy has added to his education and after a year of school he is currently an Assistant Operational Meteorologist.

FOR MY STUDENTS:  What have you studied in school that has sparked your interest? 

Personal Log 

AG1 Lemkuhl holding the weather balloon instrument
AG1 Lemkuhl holding the weather balloon instrument

Yesterday the sun came out and the sky was blue.  What a difference that blue sky made!  There isn’t much color in the Arctic – especially when it is foggy.  The inside of the ship is tan. The ice and sky are white. Blue sky brought more people out on deck just to enjoy the color change.  We also saw more seals out on the ice. Could it be that they like to bask in the sun as well?

Today, as we backed and rammed through 2.5 meters of ice, I saw my first fish!  They were small, about the size of my palm.  Could these be the Arctic Cod I have read about??

FOR MY STUDENTS: Look at my current latitude.  What day will the sun finally set at this latitude???

AG1 Lemkuhl shows Mrs. Hedge how to launch a weather balloon.
AG1 Lemkuhl shows Mrs. Hedge how to launch a weather balloon.
Blue Sky in the Arctic! This is the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent. The Healy is breaking ice for her.
Blue Sky in the Arctic! This is the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent. The Healy is breaking ice for her.

Justin Czarka, August 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Sunrise: 6:29 a.m.
Sunset: 20:33 (8:33 p.m.)
Weather: no significant weather (wx)
Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: north-northwest 20-25 knots; (kt) gusts to 30 kt
Visibility: unrestricted, reduced to 1-3 nautical miles (nm) in mist
Waves: north-northwest 6-9 feet
Air Temperature: high 18°C, low: 12°C
Water Temperature: 15°C

Science and Technology Log 

Wow! I stayed up past 2:30 a.m. this morning, but it was well worth it.  I witnessed one of the most spectacular displays of nature’s beauty.  There was a bioluminescent bloom, where patches of ocean glowed as if hundreds of Halloween glow sticks floated in the ocean.  While bioluminescence happens from time to time, this display of a glowing sea was unique.  Crew and scientists aboard the McArthur II, some who have been on ships for 30+ years, say that they have never seen a bloom like this.  As far as the eye could see (12 miles in every direction), for over four hours, there were huge patches of ocean glowing blue green. As you scanned toward the horizon, it became nearly solid green-yellow.   And to think that I almost missed it!

The turbulence in the McArthur II’s wake shines blue-green during a bioluminescent bloom 175 nautical miles off the Oregon coast.  The ship was lit up as if by lamps lit underwater.
The turbulence in the McArthur II’s wake shines blue-green during a bioluminescent bloom 175 nautical miles off the Oregon coast. The ship was lit up as if by lamps lit underwater.

Scientists ad crew were in the lounge watching a movie when the XO (Executive Officer) LT John A. Crofts rushed in saying, “You have to check this out! Come up to the bridge.” We thought it was some joke, but we hurried up the stairs three levels, entering the pitch-black darkness of the Bridge.  Looking out, you could see a panoramic view of hundreds upon hundreds of floating, glowing patches on wave crests. On top of this, it was a clear, dark night where you could see the entire Milky Way galaxy and star clusters never seen near any human settlement (due to light pollution). It was a fantastic, otherworldly experience, as if we had sailed into the sunset, entered dark, and found ourselves in a new universe.  Words are insufficient.

In scientific terms, what we were spectator to was a bioluminescent dinoflaggellate bloom. Dinoflagellates are a type of plankton. When the water is disturbed, it excites the dinoflagellates, causing them to emit the colors at night.  They are often seen close to shore, but not this far out in the Pacific. Or it could be that not many observers on a regular basis get out this far to see…

Personal Log 

Justin Czarka and Morgraine McKibben try on their survival suits during drills aboard the McArthur II.
Justin Czarka and Morgraine McKibben try on their survival suits during drills aboard the McArthur II.

I had a good talk with Linda Halderman, the wiper aboard the McArthur II. A wiper is a person who does many different tasks in the engine department.  She was talking to me about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  She mentioned that PPE has “become really big. I’ve just started learning about it while on the job, but it would be really good for students to learn from the start.”  It was a great conversation about safety equipment required for different jobs and the relevant cleanup. Safety has been of utmost important aboard the McArthur II. Alarms are tested daily.  Life jackets, safety harnesses, and hardhats are required during “ops” on the deck.  We even practice drills in the event that a fire would occur, someone fell overboard, or we would need to abandon ship. Everyone is delegated a role in the event of an emergency.

Vocabulary 

Dinoflagellate- a marine (ocean) plankton that propels itself with two flagella (bands around the organism) that provide propulsion and steering. Bioluminescence- “bio-“ meaning life; “-luminescence” meaning light.  An organism than emits light through an internal chemical reaction.

Did You Know?   

According to Bill Peterson, chief scientist, plankton (small plant and animal organisms in the ocean) are so prolific in quantity that the Long Island Sound is actually filtered completely every three days! In order to obtain nutrients from the ocean, these small organisms either pump water through their bodies or propel themselves through the water, and consequently the water through their bodies.  One doliolid filters about a liter of water every single day!  While small individually, these organisms truly play a significant role in the ocean ecosystem.  This is why the researchers are aboard the McArthur II.

Christine Hedge, August 16, 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 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
800 6.28’N 1400 33.69’W
Temp: 32.40F
Conditions: low visibility

Science and Technology Log

Blue sea ice with red reflected from the Healy
Blue sea ice with red reflected from the Healy

FRAZIL, NILAS, GREASE ICE, PANCAKE ICE, BRASH, AND SHUGA – These are just a few of the sea ice vocabulary words I have been learning. Ice observers and ice analysts are important people to have around while operating a ship in the Arctic. Depending on the situation and the ship, observations can be made by looking at the ice from the ship, from satellite imagery, from the air in a helicopter, or from actually walking out onto the ice and measuring the thickness. On the Healy, we are using ship-based and satellite imagery observations.

HOW THICK IS IT? 

The ice we are plowing through today is about 0.7 – 1.2 meters thick. In general, flat first-year ice is between 0.3 – 2.0 m thick, although it can get much thicker with ridging. Flat second-year ice can be up to 2.5 m thick. Multi-year ice is at least 3 m thick but can be more than 15 m thick.

WHY IS SOME OF THE ICE BLUE? 

Seawater is about 3.5% salt, but first-year ice has an average salinity of only about 0.5%.  As the sea ice grows it rejects most of the salt in the seawater from which it forms.  The ice with less salt reflects more light and air bubbles form as the ice ages.  This causes more light to scatter, producing a deeper blue color over time.

HOW IS ICE CLASSIFIED? 

Experienced ice observers look at 3 basic parameters:

1) Concentration – how tightly the ice is packed 

This is reported in tenths. Less than 1/10th ice is basically open water.  The higher the number, the more tightly packed the sea ice.  At 10/10ths the ice is considered “compact”.

2) Form – the horizontal shape and dimension of the pieces of ice 

These have specialized names and ranges of size.  For example, a brash is about the size of a bicycle. Pancake ice is circular pieces of ice, with raised edges that look like giant lily pads or pancakes.

3) Stage of Development – direct observation of the age and structural  characteristics 

The three major classifications are first-year ice, second-year ice, and multi-year ice. Structural characteristics can include things like thickness, color, ponds or melt water on top, ridges or hummocks.

WHY DOES ICE CHANGE AND GROW? 

sea ice with ponding
Sea ice with ponding

Classifying ice by stage of development is really interesting.  What sets the different classifications apart (first-year, second-year, multi-year) is the growth and aging of the sea ice.   Ice grows in the fall and winter during the freezing cycle.  Ice decays during the spring and summer during the thawing cycle. The amount of thawing that happens in the summer determines how much first-year ice survives to become second-year ice and how much second-year ice survives to become multi-year ice.

HOW IS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTING SEA ICE? 

Drastic changes in the condition and amount of Arctic sea ice have been observed over the past few decades. The least ice extent ever was observed in 2007.  This can mean more dangerous conditions for ships to sail in a region where variable and hazardous ice conditions still exist year round.

Personal Log 

Bundling up for the Saturday night movie
Bundling up for the Saturday night movie

Different movies play every day in the lounge spaces of the ship.  When the crew and scientists have time off they can kick back and relax with their friends.  On Saturday night, there are two special social events for morale boosters. There is bingo, and a movie on the big screen projected in the helicopter hanger. Everyone dresses in their warmest gear, camp chairs are set up, and popcorn, candy, and soda are provided. It is a kind of Arctic Drive-in experience.  Last night, we watched Star Trek. Of course, when the movie was over we walked out into bright daylight even though it was 10pm.

Justin Czarka, August 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 15, 2009

Weather data from the Bridge

This picture shows what happens to an 8 fluid ounce Styrofoam cup after experience water pressure at 1000 meters down. The colorful cup was sent down attached to the CTD
This picture shows what happens to an 8 fluid ounce Styrofoam cup after experience water pressure at 1000 meters down. The colorful cup was sent down attached to the CTD

Sunrise: 6:29 a.m.
Sunset: 20:33 (8:33 p.m.)
Weather: patchy mist
Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: north-northwest 15-20 knots (kt), gust to 25 kt
Visibility: unrestricted to 1-3 nautical miles in mist
Waves: northwest 6-9 feet
Air Temperature: 18°C high, 12°C low
Water Temperature: 17.5°C

Science and Technology Log 

Today we made it out to 200 miles off the Oregon Coast; the farthest out we will go. The depth of the ocean is 2867 meters (9,406 feet).  It is pretty interesting to imagine that we are on the summit of a nearly 10,000-foot mountain right now!  Last night the CTD was deployed 1,000 meters (3,281 feet).  Even at this depth, the pressure is immense (see photo, page one). When taking the CTD down to this depth, certain sensors are removed from the rosette (the white frame to which the CTD instruments are attached) to prevent them from being damaged.

Justin Czarka taking observational notes while aboard the McArthur II.  These notes preserve the knowledge gained from the NOAA officers and crew, as well as the researchers
Justin Czarka taking observational notes while aboard the McArthur II. These notes preserve the knowledge gained from the NOAA officers and crew, as well as the researchers

The crew aboard the McArthur II is such an informative group. Many possess a strong insight into NOAA’s research mission.  Today I spoke with Kevin Lackey, Deck Utility man.  He spoke to me about the cruises he has been on with NOAA, particularly about the effects of bioaccumulation that have been studied.  Bioaccumulation is when an organism intakes a substance, oftentimes from a food source, that deposits in the organism at increasing levels over time.  While sometimes an intentional response from an organism, with regards to toxins, this bioaccumulation can lead to detrimental effects.  For example, an organism (animal or plant) A on the food web experiences bioaccumulation of a toxin over time.  Imagine organism B targeting organism A as a food source. Organism B will accumulate concentrated levels of the toxin. Then, when organism B becomes a food source for organism C, the effects of the toxins are further magnified.  This has serious effects on the ocean ecosystem, and consequently on the human population, who rely on the ocean as a food source.

While aboard the McArthur II, Morgaine McKibben, a graduate student at Oregon State University (OSU), shared with me her research into harmful algal blooms (HABs), which potentially lead to bioaccumulation.  Certain algae (small plants) accumulate toxins that can be harmful, especially during a “bloom.” She is collecting water samples from the CTD, as well as deploying a HAB net, which skims the ocean surface while the ship is moving to collect algae samples.  She is utilizing the data in order to create a model to solve the problem of what underlying conditions cause the algae blooms to become toxic, since they are not always as such.

Personal Log 

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the flying bridge off the coast of Heceta Head, Oregon (N 43°59, W 124°35) a half hour later than two nights ago!
Sunset over the Pacific Ocean from the flying bridge off the coast of Heceta Head, Oregon (N 43°59, W 124°35) a half hour later than two nights ago!

The weather has cleared up allowing grand ocean vistas—a 360° panorama of various blues depending on depth, nutrients, clouds overhead, and so forth.  At first glance, it just looks blue.  But as you gaze out, you see variance. A little green here, some whitecaps over there. As the ship moves on, the colors change. Wildlife appears, whether it is a flock of birds, kelp floating by, or an escort of pacific white-sided dolphins. I wondered if the ocean would become monotonous over the course of the eleven days at sea.  Yet the opposite has happened. I have become more fascinated with this blue water.

It was interesting today to notice how we went back in time.  Two nights ago the sun had set at 20:03 (8:03 p.m.)  But because we went so far out to sea, last night the sunset had changed to 20:33 (8:33 p.m.).  While this happens on land as well, it never occurred to me in such striking details until out to see.

Animals Seen from the Flying Bridge (highest deck on the ship) 

  • Rhinoceros Auklet – closely related to puffins
  • Whale (breaching)
  • Common Murres
  • Western Gull
  • Hybrid Gull – We are at a location off the coast of Oregon where different species interbreed
  • Leech’s Storm Petrel – Mike Force, the cruise’s bird and marine mammal observer, found the bird aboard the ship by in an overflow tank.  It will be rereleased.

Did You Know? 

NOAA has a web page with information especially for students?

Rita Larson, August 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 10 – 27, 2009 

Beautiful Kachemak Bay
Beautiful Kachemak Bay

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise: Kasitsna Bay, AK
Date: August 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 59° 36. 952′N Longitude: 151° 24. 490′W
Sea Water Temperature: 9.4°C (49°F)
Air Temperature: Dry Bulb: 13.3°C (56°F) Wet Bulb: 12.2°C (54°F)
Visibility: 10
Wind: Light

Science and Technology Log 

I am deploying and retrieving the CTD. (Picture taken by Asst. Survey Tech. Nick Mitchell)
I am deploying and retrieving the CTD. (Picture taken by Asst. Survey Tech. Nick Mitchell)

The one unique feature I witnessed here at Kachemak Bay is a phenomenon called glacial flour, which was mixed in with a very strong tidal rip current. If you can imagine a grayish white top layer almost like foam on a good cappuccino and as soon as you motor through it, you could see the normal clear Alaskan water underneath in its wake. There was a definite line between the outgoing bay waters and the in-coming seawaters.  This was really awesome to see up close and for the first time! The Rainier uses specialized sonar systems and equipment, such as the CTD, which collects conductivity, temperature, and pressure samples.  This instrument collects the necessary correction factors to aid in the post processing of the sonar data in determining the bottom depth. One factor that is considered while collecting bathymetric data is that fresh water is less dense than salty ocean water, so it will float or suspend on the top of the ocean water. Because these differences in sound speed through the water can have a major impact on the accuracy of the soundings generated by the sonar.

Mid-summer melting from snow capped mountains.
Mid-summer melting from snow capped mountains.

The CTD cast is used to detect these differences and measures the sound speed at various depths to correct the sonar readings. Another influence while collecting bathymetric data is glacial flour. Glacial flour is known as clay-sized particles of rock, generated by glacial erosion. This material is very small and creates a suspended silty covering over the ocean waters. While collecting data in Kachemak Bay, which is located in Cook Inlet, we experienced a current shift during high tide, which was heavily emerged with glacial flour. More than likely, the flour came from the Kenai Fjords Glaciers, which are located north of Homer, Alaska. Normally, during mid-summer, it is expected to flood and have high standing water in glacial areas. When the glaciers melt, the glacial flour also mixes with glacier till and erodes into the oceans. Since the glacier mix is fresh water, this blanket of glacial flour suspends on top of the ocean water until it becomes sediment on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Less dense fresh water suspended over the denser salty ocean water.
Less dense fresh water suspended over the denser salty ocean water.
This is during high tide on August 15, 2009 with evidence of glacial till.
This is during high tide on August 15, 2009 with evidence of glacial till.
This is the same water; two hours later after the tides and currents had changed.
This is the same water; two hours later after the tides and currents had changed.

Personal Log 

While surveying, it is hard to ignore the beauty that is all around you. When the sun is shining and the wind on your face, Alaska is just breathtaking. It is still hard to believe I am working in Alaska for NOAA all the way from Woodbridge, Virginia. Every day brings wonderful first-time experiences and I am so glad to be a part of it. It is nice to have this opportunity to become the captain of your destiny and navigate towards your own TAS (Teacher at Sea) adventures.  

Here I am driving the launch! (Pictures taken by Seaman Surveyor, Steve Foye.)
Here I am driving the launch! (Pictures taken by Seaman Surveyor, Steve Foye.)

New Term/Phrase/Word 
Sailors use charts, navigational tools, and landmarks, to help find their way around the oceans. While surveying today, we came across a landmark called a “Lighted Day Mark” which signifies, on nautical charts, hazards or changes in the directions of channel patterns.

Did You Know?  
Did you know that there are eight active volcanoes around Cook Inlet, Iliamna, Redoubt, Double Glacier, Spurr, Hays, Douglas, Four Peaked, and Mt. Augustine? Today, while we were surveying, Mt. Augustine was venting or letting out steam, gases, and ash.  We were able to observe this volcanic activity through the binoculars.  If you would like to see it visit the website.

A “Lighted Day Mark” landmark which signifies a hazard or change in the direction of channel patterns.
A “Lighted Day Mark” landmark which signifies a hazard or change in the direction of channel patterns.

Justin Czarka, August 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Sunrise: 6:29 a.m.
Sunset: 2033 (8:33 p.m.)
Weather: patchy mist
Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: Northwest 10-15 knots (kt)
Visibility: unrestricted, reduced to 1-3 nautical miles (nm) in mist
Waves: northwest 3-6 feet
Air Temperature: 17.50°C
Water Temperature: 17.63°C

Science and Technology Log 

Today I rotated to a new job assignment. I have been working with the CTD water samples, storing nutrient samples, and preparing chlorophyll samples.  Now I work with Jay Peterson, researcher from Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon, deploying, retrieving, and preparing live samples from the vertical net and bongo net on a cable.

The vertical net gets rinsed off after the tow.
The vertical net gets rinsed off after the tow.

The nets collect all types of plankton, both plants and animals.  As with all the sample collections occurring aboard the McArthur II, communication is the backbone of the operations, or “ops.” For the vertical net and bongo net, two people manually place the nets over the ship’s starboard side, while a winch operator deploys and retrieves the nets from the ocean, and the bridge navigates the ship. For vertical nets, the goal is to take the net to 100 meters (m) depth and then hauled up vertically. The purpose is to catch organisms from the entire water column up to the surface.  It is the same depth for the bongo net, but the goal is to have the cable at a 45° angle with the ship moving at a steady 2 knots (kt). Both nets have flowmeters to determine the volume of water that goes through the net. Once back on the deck, the nets are rinsed from the top to the bottom so that everything in the net can be analyzed. The samples are placed in jars or buckets to observe under microscope.  We find euphausiids (krill), copepods, Tomopteris, Chaetognatha (arrow worms), fish larvae, Phronima, and even bird feathers!  You have to check out these animals online, as they all have fascinating features. More importantly, while small in size, they are an essential part of the food web. Without them, many species would struggle to find food.

Personal Log 

Today we a day of plenty in terms of sighting marine mammals and other species as well!  The day started out near shore at Newport, Oregon and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.  The McArthur II travels roughly in a zigzag approach near shore to off shore and back for this mission.  Getting ready for the day watch, I saw some whales off the port (left side facing forward on a ship). That was just the beginning. As we headed due west on the Newport transect line (44 39.1′ N latitude) we spotted brownish and reddish jelly fish, albatross following along the starboard side during bongo tows, sea lions skirting by the stern, and a shark fiddling with driftwood presumably looking for small fish that were utilizing the log as a habitat. Later in the day, we navigated near breaching humpback whales on the starboard side. Towards evening, a group of 5-6 pacific white-sided dolphins followed along for 10 minutes or so.

A Doliolid, which feeds on plankton, was caught in the vertical net before being released into the ocean.  Note the pinkish lines, the muscle bands, and blimp-like shape.
A Doliolid, which feeds on plankton, was caught in the vertical net before being released into the ocean. Note the pinkish lines, the muscle bands, and blimp-like shape.

Being out here witnessing the wildlife in their environment is fascinating.  You start to internalize the ocean planet as more than a vast emptiness.  There exists a tremendous amount of species diversity living above and below the surface. Yet sadly, since few of us spend regular time away from our land habitats, we tend to neglect the essential nature of the ocean.  The ocean truly sustains us, whether providing the majority of our freshwater (through evaporation and, consequently, rain), supporting our nutritional diets, and driving the weather we experience daily.  Teacher at Sea really reinforces this revelation since I get to spend an extended amount of time away from my terrestrial existence learning to appreciate the ocean’s influence on our lives.  May we gain enough understanding to ensure the sustainability of the ocean ecosystem.

Animals Seen 

Humpback whales
Shark
Jellyfish
Doliolid
Albatross
Albacore tuna
Sea lion
Pacific white-sided dolphin

Christine Hedge, August 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: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: August 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge   
800 3’N 1450 42’W
Temp: 310 F Light, fine snow

Science and Technology Log 

The coastline of Barrow (8/4/09)
The coastline of Barrow (8/4/09)

Some of you have asked what the ice looks like up here. Pull out your maps and I’ll tell you about the changing ice conditions.  When I got to Barrow on 8/4/09 there was no ice visible from shore. But this changes with the winds and currents. Just one day earlier, the coastline was lined with chunks of sea ice but it had blown out to sea by the time I flew in.

As we started sailing north from Barrow into the Chukchi Sea we saw some chunks of ice but mostly dark water. Our track line (the path we follow) took us back and forth, north and south as we tested our equipment and waited to meet up with our partner ship from Canada.  As we went south, there were more patches of open water. Traveling north brought us into more ice.

What looks like dirt is really a layer of algae
What looks like dirt is really a layer of algae

Sometimes there were large patches of open water and sometimes it looked like ice all the way to the horizon. The ice that appears blue has frozen and thawed over a period of time.  When it freezes, the salt is squeezed out leaving behind fresher, bluer water.  The dark lines on the ice are patches of algae that grow at the interface between the ocean water and the sea ice.  The sea ice of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas has retreated as far north as it will go generally by September.  We are traveling during the best open water time for this part of the world.

The Healy breaking through the ice
The Healy breaking through the ice

Now that we are traveling north, breaking a path for the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent we are seeing less and less open water. Yesterday, (8/13/09) the view from the deck looked like a white jigsaw puzzle spread out on a black table. Each day there is more and more ice.

Today, (8/14/09) when I look out over the ice it looks like a white landscape with black lakes or rivers meandering through.  We passed 800N today and there are more ridges and large expanses of ice. On board ship there are people who are experts in sea ice. Using direct observation and satellite imagery they help the crew know what the ice conditions are going to be. In fact, there is a whole field of study concerning ice. Who knew!  If you would like to learn more, visit the website of the National Ice Center (http://natice.noaa.gov). I’ll go into this topic in more detail after I learn more.

Personal Log 

More sea ice!
More sea ice!

My goal for next this week is to learn more about how ice is classified.  I found a little book “The Observers Guide to Sea Ice” which will be a good place to start. The many ice experts on board will also be a great resource. We are hearing the sound of ice against the hull of the ship more often now and that is a pretty powerful sound. I can’t imagine what it will be like when we hit thicker ice.

The list of Inupiaq words for snow and ice is long – which makes sense.  To someone from Indiana, (like me) there might appear to be 5 or 6 different consistencies and colors of ice.  There are 76 Inupiaq words to describe ice!  Some refer to its age, composition, position to land and a host of other factors.  For example, the word for thin ice that is too dangerous to walk on is sikuaq.  Slushy ice piled up on the beach is called qaapaaq.

For my students:  Do you have any questions about Ice? 

Bryan Hirschman, August 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 13, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 6 knots
Wave Height: 1 ft
Wave Swell:  1-2 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.20C
Air Temperature: 14.20C

Science and Technology Log 

This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner
This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner

Life at sea can be very unpredictable. One minute everything is working great, and the next minute problems occur. Last evening a problem occurred with the net reel. The net reel is a large bull wheel that the nets roll into and out of when lowered in the water. The reel is spun by a huge engine that pulls the nets in when they are loaded with fish. This net reel is anchored to the boat with 16 huge bolts and nuts. Four of the bolts were found last night to be weakened during one of the daily inspections of ship’s mechanical instruments. The crew is constantly inspecting each piece of equipment to ensure the safest working conditions. Once this problem was seen all fish tows were canceled. We will be heading into port four days early to fix the problem.

An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel

Once in port the entire net reel will have to be lifted by crane and all the bolts will be replaced. The reel will then be lowered back in place and locked in place with nuts. Even though we are not fishing, other work on the ship is still occurring. The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph) is deployed at regular intervals. This device sends depth and temperature data to a science laboratory to be recorded and used later (discussed in more detail in log 2).

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.
Toxin-producing phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.

The HABS (Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling) research is also still being completed by Nick Adams, an oceanographer with NOAA. He takes water samples approximately every 10 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles). After collecting the samples, he filters them for toxin and chlorophyll analysis. He also collects seawater for phytoplankton numeration and identification. His main focus is on toxin-producing genera, such as Pseudo-nitzschia and Alexandrium which are responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, respectively.  At the end of the cruise, Nick will be able to create a map of the concentrations and locations of toxin- producing phytoplankton. This will then be compared with data from years past to determine patterns and trends.

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton Alexandrium
Toxin-producing phytoplankton Alexandrium

The phytoplankton themselves are not harmful to humans, but as they accumulate in the food chain there can be human-related sickness. If we eat the organisms that are eating the plankton that produce toxins, we can become ill. Not much is known about the cause of the toxin producers, but with more research like Nick’s, scientists continually increase their understanding and ultimately hope to prevent human sickness from these phytoplankton.

Personal Log 

I am saddened to be cutting my journey earlier then expected, but I will leave the ship with fond memories of Pacific Hake, Humboldt Squid, and all the wonderful people who work on the ship. I am particularly grateful to the seven scientists who have gone out of their way to make me feel at home on the ship and have answered all of my questions. They are: the acoustic scientists: Dr. Dezhang Chu, Larry Hufnagle, and Steve de Blois; the fish biologists: Melanie Johnson and John Pohl; the oceanographers: Steve Pierce and Nick Adams. They are each extremely dedicated and passionate about their research and equally passionate about protecting our oceans and the organisms living there.

Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl
Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl

Challenge Yourself 
Volunteers play an integral role in supporting the environmental stewardship conducted every day by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Across the United States and its coastal waters, opportunities exist for volunteers to take part in research, observation and educational roles that benefit science, our citizens and our planet.

Visit this website to see where you can help

hirschman_log4g

Rita Larson, August 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 10 – 27, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise: Kasitsna Bay, AK
Date: August 13, 2009

RA-4 launch, one of the Rainier’s small boats
RA-4 launch, one of the Rainier’s small boats

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 59° 28.515′N Longitude: 151° 33.549′W
Sea Water Temperature: 9.4°C
Air Temperature: Dry Bulb : 14.4°C (46°F); Wet Bulb: 12.2°C (54°F) (Dew Point)
Visibility: 10 miles

Science and Technology Log 

The Rainer deploys launches or small boats such as the RA-4 that have different tasks assigned to them listed on the POD or the Plan of the Day. Today, our mission was to survey a section of the sea floor in Kachemak Bay. Once the survey has been completed, the raw data is processed and then is sent to other NOAA’s National Ocean Service divisions to create nautical charts of the sea floor for either updating for accuracy or created for the first time.

Each launch is equipped with multi-beam sonar devices. The crew is currently collecting bathymetric as well as backscatter data simultaneously. Backscatter data can be analyzed to categorize the bottom type of the sea floor indicating changing sediment types such as rock or mud. This information is of particular use to fisheries biologists, ecologists, and others who are interested in habitat mapping. The lead hydrographers are given a polygon region, which defines the area in which they are going to survey.  This is what ours looked like for today:

This was our chart at the beginning of the day.
This was our chart at the beginning of the day.
This is our chart after a hard days work!
This is our chart after a hard days work!

Can you see what we surveyed? Yes, you are correct if you said the purple and green-blue mixture. The first step that was taken was putting a cast in the water, which is called a CTD and stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. The CTD is used to see the changes in sound velocity all the way to the bottom.  This process is repeated at least every four hours for readings. This sound velocity data is used to correct the multi beam sonar data. The computer is able to translate the multi-beam sonar data in a 3-D image of the sea floor.

The CTD, which measures conductivity, temperature, and depth.
The CTD, which measures conductivity, temperature, and depth.

Personal Log 

I am getting used to my routine living on a ship. The main idea is respecting others and their space. Listening to others and following the rules. Asking lots of questions will help you transition easily. Following others advice. Enjoying the company you are with. Having fun on every adventure that is given to you. I am learning so much, and each day I am feeling more and more comfortable here in my new home on the Rainier. 

New Term/Phrase/Word 

Wow, I am a student here on the Rainier! I am learning new words and terms everyday. Just today I found out a FISH is not an animal, but an instrument that is towed behind a boat on a cable and “swims” through the water. One example is a Moving Vessel Profiler or a MVP. This apparatus collects the same information as the CTD; however, it collects the information in real time. It is smart to have the CTD and the MVP on the launch to compare the same data to make sure it is correct.

This is a screen that is read by the hydrographers that shows the 3-D sonar images of the bottom of the sea floor.  Today, some of our readings were more than 500ft deep. WOW!
This is a screen that is read by the hydrographers that shows the 3-D sonar images of the bottom of the sea floor. Today, some of our readings were more than 500ft deep. WOW!

When we survey a section of the sea floor that was previously surveyed that is called junctioning, or overlapping. Holidays are not the days on a calendar, but stands for “holes in the data”. That means after you survey a section of the sea floor, if there is a missed section on the computer screen you must go back and re-survey that area.

Christine Hedge, August 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: August 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Long: 14809.54199W
Lat: 78017.31641N
Air Temp: 31.08 0F

Science and Technology Log 

A CTD, above, is much bigger than an XBT, which I’m holding in the picture below.
A CTD, above, is much bigger than an XBT, which I’m holding in the picture below.

Sound waves travel at different speeds through different substances.  If you look up the speed of sound in air you will find it to be about 300 meters/second, in water 1500 meters/second.  But these numbers are not constants.  In water, the temperature, the amount of salt, and the pressure can all impact how fast sound waves travel.  In other words, all water is not created equal.  Our mapping mission depends on data collected from bouncing sound waves off the sea floor.  In order to get an accurate image of what the sea floor looks like and how deep it is – we need to measure precisely how fast the sound waves are traveling.  This means we need to have a handle on any variable that might change the speed of the sound waves.  Measuring the speed of sound in the water column is an important part of data collection for accurate mapping.

So, how does the Healy measure the speed of sound? Sometimes we use a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth instrument (CTDs).  The ship needs to be stationary to deploy these instruments so they don’t happen very often while we are cruising. CTD measurements record conductivity of the water, which gives us the salinity (how much salt is in the water), temperature, and the depth at which these measurements were taken. Four times a day instruments called Expendable Bathythermographs (XBTs) are deployed off the moving ship. These XBTs measure the temperature as the device travels through the water. As pressure increases, (the deeper you go) the speed of sound increases. As temperature decreases, the speed of sound decreases. Four times a day the Healy science crew gets new data so that they can determine more precisely the speed of sound and therefore interpret what the sound waves are telling us.

Here I am deploying the XBT into the Arctic.
Here I am deploying the XBT into the Arctic.

Today, MST-2 (Marine Science Technician) Daniel Jarrett let me participate in the deployment of an XBT. As the device travels through the water it sends back temperature data from different depths to a computer on board.

The data travels through a very thin copper wire attached to the instrument. A graph of this data is observed and that information is used to create a profile of the speed of sound in that part of the Arctic Ocean at that moment in time.

Personal Log 

All the things I do at home also have to be done on board ship. I eat, sleep, shower, exercise, and do laundry. The food is excellent so far. I love not having to cook or plan meals.  There is fresh fruit, a salad bar, and a huge hot breakfast every day. It will be a rude awakening when I return home and have to plan and cook meals again! My daily routine does not involve much physical activity and I worry about gaining weight while on board. In order to stay in shape, it seems everyone uses the gyms or runs on deck. I have been working out on the treadmill or elliptical every day faithfully to avoid a severe weight gain.

Was the data good? Did the deployment work?
Was the data good? Did the deployment work?

The laundry and all other facilities are really nice. I have a 25-year-old washer/dryer at home and was pleasantly surprised to find state of the art, low-water-usage, front-loading washers on board the Healy. From what I can see the United States Coast Guard is working hard to become a “green” organization.  Trash is separated and recycled when possible. People are encouraged to reduce their water usage. Extreme care is given to filtering and recycling wastewater and any kind of oil or lubricants. It is great to see the amount of thought and energy that is being put into helping the community on board the Healy to “walk lightly” on the Earth.

The Healy is very careful to treat the arctic with care
The Healy is very careful to treat the arctic with care

Christine Hedge, August 12, 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: August 12, 2009

Science Profile 

Scientist Georgette Holmes at her work station
Scientist Georgette Holmes at her work station

Most of us have never even heard of the many careers that exist today in science and technology.  I find it fascinating to learn about the career paths people take.  Georgette Holmes is a physical scientist with the National Ice Center (NIC).  Just how does a young lady from Belzoni, Mississippi end up in the Arctic analyzing ice on a Coast Guard vessel?  Georgette dreamed of becoming an architect as a child.  When the other kids were watching cartoons, she was watching “Hometime”.  In high school, Georgette says she was good at science and art and okay in math.   She attended Jackson State University, which unfortunately did not offer a major in architecture.  This meant that Georgette had to come up with a new major.  Growing up in a region prone to tornadoes, Georgette had what she called an “obsession with severe weather”. She was glued to the television when hurricanes were approaching or tornado warnings were posted. So why not put this fascination to good use and major in meteorology.  Note to Students: Discover your passions, your interests, even your fears.

We had lunch at the school’s restaurant. You can see both English and Inupiaq written above
We had lunch at the school’s restaurant. You can see both English and Inupiaq written above

Once she found her major, Georgette immediately began taking advantage of internships. Most students wait until their last 3 semesters to “try on” their careers but Georgette began interning during her sophomore year.  One of her internships was with NOAA.  Through this internship she was able to visit many different facilities and decide which type of work she would like best. Note to students: internships and “real world experience” are important. She gained lots of experience before even finishing college. In addition to interning, Georgette went to conferences and networked with people who worked in her field – another great way to learn about careers.

Georgette started her first job as a Sea Ice Analyst one week after graduating from college. She is currently finishing up a two-year internship with the National Naval Ice Center (NIC), an agency that supports the operations of the Navy, Coast Guard, and NOAA.  On the Healy, Georgette works with satellite imagery to help the crew and scientists know where the ice is and what type of ice is out there. Georgette credits her quick ascent through the internship program at the NIC to her questioning nature. Asking questions is the best way to learn new skills and gain information.  Note to students: ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS. Anyone involved in science and technology needs to be a life-long learner.  Georgette is no exception.  She is currently working on her Masters in Earth Systems Science at George Mason University with a concentration in Remote Sensing and Geospatial Information Systems.  In fact, she is missing her first few classes while working in the Arctic.  But, knowing her, she will ask lots of questions and catch up fast! Georgette was my roommate on the Healy until a few days ago when she boarded a helicopter and flew to the Canadian Coast Guard vessel, the CCGS Louis S. St. Laurent. Once again, Georgette will be gaining new skills as she works along side a trained Canadian Ice Observer helping our two countries map the sea floor of the Arctic Ocean.

Personal Log 

One of the school district's school buses
One of the school district’s school buses

I haven’t written much about my days in Barrow and in honor of the first day of school at Carmel Middle School (August 11), I’d like to share a little about this town and education. Barrow, Alaska is located 300 miles above the Arctic Circle (latitude 660, 34’). The native people of Barrow and the NORTH SLOPE are known as the Inupiat. Their language is Inupiaq. Inupiaq language and culture classes have

been part of the school curriculum since 1972.  This complicated language is written all over town and commonly heard spoken in everyday life. We ate at the local community college, Ilisagvik College, and each sign on every building was in both English and Inupiaq. There is also a beautiful Inupiat Heritage Center which helps perpetuate the Inupiat culture, history and language.

The history of how kids went to school in Barrow is a great tale of a community reclaiming its’ culture.  In the 1890’s missionaries established the first schools. In their efforts to teach English, some teachers punished their students for speaking Inupiaq. As is often the case when native cultures meet western influences, students were encouraged to adopt western ways and to abandon their culture.

Barrow High School was built in 1983. One of the strangest sights in town is the bright blue football field. The story of how Barrow obtained this field will have to wait for another day.
Barrow High School was built in 1983. One of the strangest sights in town is the bright blue football field. The story of how Barrow obtained this field will have to wait for another day.

During the 1950’s, the Bureau of Indian Affairs funded schools on the NORTH SLOPE and the Alaska state government operated them.  Until 1969, if a student wanted to continue their education past the 8th grade, they had to leave home and travel to boarding schools thousands of miles away.  In 1975, the NORTH SLOPE BOROUGH assumed the operation of the schools and built new schools in every village. Today, classes are offered from pre-school through 12th grade in every village. Technology has helped the high school to offer a variety of classes in every village. With interactive video distance learning technology – the teachers at Barrow High School can see and be seen by students all over the NORTH SLOPE. With the help of electronic tablets, computers, and fax machines – school can happen anywhere!

Quyanaqpak! (Thank you very much) 

Justin Czarka, August 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Sunrise: 06:25 a.m.
Sunset: 20:03 (8:03 p.m.)
Weather: isolated showers/patchy coastal fog
Sky: partly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: North 10-15 knots (kt)
Visibility: unrestricted to less than 1 nautical mile (nm) in fog
Waves: northwest 4-6 feet
Air Temperature: 17.3 °C
Water Temperature: 16.6 °C

Science and Technology Log 

Justin Czarka collects water samples to use in nutrient and chlorophyll research.  While on the deck during “ops” (operation) all personnel must wear a life jacket and hardhat.
Justin Czarka collects water samples to use in nutrient and chlorophyll research. While on the deck during “ops” (operation) all personnel must wear a life jacket and hardhat.

This log discusses the purpose behind the scientific cruise aboard the McArthur II. The cruise is titled, “Hydrographic and Plankton Survey.” The cruise is part of a larger study by many scientists to, in the words of chief scientist, Bill Peterson, “understand the effects of climate variability and climate change on biological, chemical and physical parameters that affect plankton, krill, fish, bird and mammal populations in Pacific Northwest waters.”  This specific cruise focuses on hydrology, harmful algal blooms, zooplankton, krill, fish eggs, fish larvae, and bird and mammal observations.

I will provide an overview of these aspects of the cruise. The McArthur II is set up with sensors for salinity, temperature, and fluorescence that provide a continuous monitoring of the ocean (hydrology) throughout the cruise.  In addition at various points along the transect lines (see the dots on the diagram of the cruise route on page 2), the CTD is deployed into the water column at specific depths to determine salinity (via measuring conductivity), water temperature, and depth (via pressure), and collect water samples (which we use to measure chlorophyll and nutrient levels at specific depths). The transects (predetermined latitudes that forms a line of sampling stations) have been selected because they have been consistently monitored over time, some since the late 1980s.  This provides a historical record to monitor changes in the ocean environment over time.

The dots represent planned sampling station. Due to sea conditions, these have been slightly modified.
The dots represent planned sampling station. Due to sea conditions, these have been slightly modified.

One scientist, Morgaine McKibben from Oregon State University, is researching harmful algal blooms (HAB). HABs occur when certain algae (the small plants in the ocean that are the basis of the food web) produce toxins that concentrate in animals feeding on them.  As these toxins move up the food web through different species, they cause harmful effects in those species, including humans.  Bill Peterson (NOAA/ Northwest Fisheries Science Center) and Jay Peterson (OSU/Hatfield Marine Science Center) are studying copepod reproduction. They are collecting data on how many eggs are laid in a 24 hour period, as well as how the copepod eggs survive in hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions.  Mike Force, the bird and marine mammal observer is keeping a log of all species spotted along the cruise route, which is utilized by scientists studying the species.

Personal Log 

Tiny squid collected in a vertical net and viewed under microscope on Crescent City transect line at 41 deg 54 min North.
Tiny squid collected in a vertical net and viewed under microscope on Crescent City transect line at 41 deg 54 min North.

Who said you never find the end of the rainbow? All you have to do is go out to sea (or become a leprechaun!). We have been going through patches of fog today, putting the foghorn into action.  When it clears out above, yet is foggy to the horizon, you get these white rainbows which arc down right to the ship. We have become the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Who knew it was the McArthur II! If you follow the entire rainbow, you will notice that it makes a complete 360° circle, half on top the ocean and half in the atmosphere near the horizon.

I enjoyed using the dissecting microscope today.

The water collected from the vertical net is stored in a cooler on the deck to be used in experiments.  I was able to collect a sample of the water, which contained a diverse group of organisms, from tiny squids to copepods to euphausiids.  These tiny organisms from the size of a pinhead to a centimeter long are critical to the diets of large fish populations, such as salmon.  Under magnification, one can see so much spectacular detail.  I have learned how essential it is to have an identification guide in order to identify the names of each copepod and euphausiid.  On the other hand the scientists tend to specialize and become very adept at identifying the different species.

Animals Seen Today 

Arrow worms (long clear, with bristles)
Shrimp Copepods
Tiny rockfish (indigo colored eyes)
Fish larvae

Rita Larson, August 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Larson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 10 – 27, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise: Kasitsna Bay, AK
Date: August 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 59° 28.515′N Longitude: 151° 33.54′W
Sea Water Temperature: 9.4°C
Air Temperature: Dry Bulb: 14.4°C (58°F); Wet Bulb: 12.2°C (55°F)
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind: 06

The skiff RA-8 being launched from NOAA Ship Rainier.
The skiff RA-8 being launched from NOAA Ship Rainier.

Science and Technology Log 

Last night (Aug 11, 2009) the P.O.D (Plan of the Day) was posted and I found out that I was assigned to work with the Survey Team. We would go out on the skiff identified as RA-8.  We had a special guest that came with us today, Mr. Randall, from the NOAA Headquarters located in Silver Spring, Maryland was in Homer Alaska, so we drove RA-8 to Homer, Alaska to pick him up. Then we proceeded to Bear Cove to complete our main mission, which was to observe the tides and complete the leveling of the remote tide gauge. NOAA uses tide gauges to verify long-term assessment of sea level changes and establishes the vertical datum, or frame of reference, for their nautical charts. Mr. Randall was retrieving a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit that was planted in Bear Cove the previous day to collect data.

Our crew consisted of Matt Abraham, our coxswain, was responsible for driving the open skiff (RA-8). Our hydrographer in charge was ENS Schultz; she surveyed Bear Cove and retrieved the data from the tide gauge. Manuel Cruz and Tony Lukach were responsible for holding the leveling rods to help complete the survey. My responsibility was to write the data given to me and record it on the leveling sheets and find the difference between each measurement. Mr. Randall also worked with us throughout the day. While surveying we used a three-wired level that sits on a tripod, level rods, measuring tape, turtles, pencil, and a calculator.

Personal Log 

Looking through a three wire level.
Looking through a three wire level.

I was so excited about this mission since it was my first one. I was very cold in the morning since we were a little bit wet from the spray of the ocean, even though I was dressed very warmly. By the afternoon I was only wearing a t-shirt and jeans. The scientists were telling me the last time they were at Bear Cove they actually saw a bear. So, I was looking around constantly to keep an eye out for them. At one point of the day I went with ENS Schultz to collect the initial tide measurements from the tide gauge and check the flow of the nitrogen gas to make sure it was operating smoothly. Little did I know that I had to climb a wooded hill to help collect this data. One has to be in great physical shape to perform these types of tasks. It was unbelievable to see such sophisticated equipment in such a remote area.

After observing these remarkable scientists doing their jobs in the middle of a mosquito-infested area, I applaud everything they do. I felt comfortable and I felt safe in their care. They are all so knowledgeable in their fields. One can really sense the teamwork that is needed for all the missions NOAA  expects from them. I am proud and honored to be a part of the project called Hydropalooza, which provides a deeper understanding of Alaska’s Kachemak Bay.

New Term/Phrase/Word:  Turtles in surveying are not animals. They are used as half way marks from the benchmark item to the surveyor. The ones we used were round and heavy with a silver handle on them. They are heavy for a reason, so they do not move once they are placed on the ground. Surveying is very important to this mission since the measurements must be within 2.5mm.

Animals Seen Today 
Puffins and Sea Otters

Collecting data from the tide gauge in Bear Cove
Collecting data from the tide gauge in Bear Cove

larson_log1e larson_log1d

As we were bringing Mr. Randall back to Homer we saw this glacier in the distance.
As we were bringing Mr. Randall back to Homer we saw this glacier in the distance.

Justin Czarka, August 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 11, 2009

Weather data from the Bridge

Sunrise: 6:25 a.m.
Sunset: 20:03 (8:03 p.m.)
Weather: partly cloudy
Sky: patchy fog
Wind direction and speed: Northwest 5-10 knots
Visibility: unrestricted to less than 1 nautical mile (nm) due to fog
Waves: 5-7 feet
Air Temperature: 15° Celsius
Water Temperature: 12.92 °Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

The McArthur II took about six hours from leaving port in San Francisco to reach our first station at Bodega Bay. We arrived at Bodega Bay around midnight.  Bodega Bay, along with the next three stations, Point Arenas, Vizcaino Canyon, and Trinidad Head, California, will be sampled at only one station location each as we move up the coast to reach our first transect line of nine stations off Crescent City, California (Latitude: 41 deg 54 min). Due to leaving port later than expected, the science team has dropped some of the sampling sites at the southern end of the cruise. Still we are sampling as we head north in order to get an enhanced survey picture along a north-south line. At the stations, we are dropping the CTD into the water column, using the vertical net, and the bongo net.

Jennifer Menkel and Lacey O’Neal observe the CTD deployment.  The left screen display depth sounds on three different frequencies, the middle screen creates graphs based on the CTD sensors, and the right screen shows live video feed of the CTD deployment on the fantail (back deck) of the McArthur II.
Jennifer Menkel and Lacey O’Neal observe the CTD deployment. The left screen display depth sounds on three different frequencies, the middle screen creates graphs based on the CTD sensors, and the right screen shows live video feed of the CTD deployment on the fantail (back deck) of the McArthur II.

While I did not participate in the first sampling at Bodega Bay, my shift (read more about shifts below) began sampling at Point Arenas and then Vizcaino Canyon. Upon entering the dry lab, Jay Peterson and Jennifer Menkel, both of Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center (OSU/HMSC) in Newport, Oregon, were observing the data stream for the CTD on the computer monitors with McArthur II senior survey technician Lacey O’Neal.  Communication is essential.  The scientists are looking at the TV monitors for the CTD deployment outside, altimeter (measures the CTD’s height above the seafloor), depth below the surface, and communicating with both the ship’s officers on the bridge, who are navigating the boat, and crew who are working the winches. Everyone has to work together to ensure that the CTD is deployed and retrieved safely. Otherwise, it could potentially hit the ship, causing damage to the ship, crew, and/or CTD sensors.  I am appreciating the emphasis on collaboration that occurs for the benefit and safety of the scientific research occurring on the ship.

I will discuss the sample collection technique for the chlorophyll.  The main purpose for measuring the chlorophyll is to determine the chlorophyll composition and suitability for single celled algae to develop. These single celled organisms are the basis of the food chain.  By determining the amount of chlorophyll, you can look at the probability of organisms to develop at that location, such as plankton. Plankton succeed where there is enough light to allow photosynthesis to occur. Deni Malouf, a marine science technician from the U.S. Coast Guard, and I put on waders, boots, life jackets, gloves and hardhats. We headed out to the CTD to collect water samples from specific depths. After filling up brown bottles (which prevent exposure to sunlight) with water, we transferred the bottles to the wet lab to pour 100 mL through a filter that collects chlorophyll on top while allowing the water to flow through by utilizing a vacuum.  This procedure is done while ensuring that the equipment, filters, and water samples avoid contact with your hands, thus contaminating the sample.  After the water has been filtered the filter is placed in a centrifuge tube (vial) with tweezers, covered to avoid exposure to light, and stored in the freezer for lab analysis at a later date.  The sample is covered to prevent exposure to sunlight.  If not, sunlight could cause more chlorophyll to develop, which would be an inaccurate reading for how much chlorophyll was actually collected at specific depths in the water column at a sampling station.

I am measuring a 100 mL water sample to collect chlorophyll on a filter inside the black cups in the wet lab.  These containers have a filter that at the bottom.  A vacuum draws the water through white tube, leaving the chlorophyll behind on the filter.
I am measuring a 100 mL water sample to collect chlorophyll on a filter inside the black cups in the wet lab. These containers have a filter that at the bottom. A vacuum draws the water through white tube, leaving the chlorophyll behind on the filter.

Personal Log 

The work conducted aboard the McArthur II, as well as other ships in the NOAA fleet, revolves around a schedule of watches (a watch is a shift).  Crewmembers work on the McArthur II in four or eight hour watches. The time of day and length vary for different crewmembers.  As for the science team, Bill Peterson, our chief scientist (cruise leader) from NOAA/ Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWSC), Newport, Oregon, arranged us into 12-hour watches.  There is a day watch and night watch. I am part of the day watch, which commences at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 7:00 p.m.   You muster (show up) about a half hour before your watch begins so that the previous watch knows you are ready to begin work, and to assist as needed with the end of the previous watch. My watch is comprised of Jay Peterson, Jennifer Mendel, and myself.  There is a lot of teamwork and cooperation within the watches.  Even this morning, Deni Malouf, who had been working the night watch, stayed on for a portion of the day watch to assist me with the protocol for filling up the water samples from the CTD, for preparing chlorophyll samples, and for setting up the Niskin bottles on the CTD to be deployed at the next station.

Vocabulary 

Dry lab- in the back of the O-1 deck (one of the floors on the ship above the waterline) where the computer equipment is situated.   Used to monitor CDT deployment.
Dry lab- in the back of the O-1 deck (one of the floors on the ship above the waterline) where the computer equipment is situated. Used to monitor CDT deployment.
Wet lab-an indoor lab in the back of the O-1 deck connected where water samples are tested.  Contains sinks, freezers, refrigerators, and science equipment.
Wet lab-an indoor lab in the back of the O-1 deck connected where water samples are tested. Contains sinks, freezers, refrigerators, and science equipment.
Vertical net- a net deployed vertically through the water column at one specific location.  Has a weight on the bottom of it to maintain its shape on the way through the water column.
Vertical net- a net deployed vertically through the water column at one specific location. Has a weight on the bottom of it to maintain its shape on the way through the water column.
Bongo net- a net for collecting organisms, that appears to look like a set of bongo drums. Attached to a cable and the J frame, deployed off the side of the boat, and collects samples as the boat trawls at a specific speed to maximize the collection.
Bongo net- a net for collecting organisms, that appears to look like a set of bongo drums. Attached to a cable and the J frame, deployed off the side of the boat, and collects samples as the boat trawls at a specific speed to maximize the collection.

Justin Czarka, August 9-10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II 
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Dates: August 9-10, 2009

Weather data from the Bridge

Sunrise: 6:26 a.m.
Sunset: 20:03 (8:03 p.m)
Weather: fog Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind direction: North
Visibility: less than 1 nautical mile (nm)
Waves: 9 feet

Science and Technology Log 

August 9 was a day for getting all the science gear aboard.  In order to conduct a research cruise at sea, you have to plan and pack all the materials you envision needing beforehand.  Once out at sea, there is nowhere to stop and pick up additional supplies.  Bill Peterson, the chief scientist from NOAA/ Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), and another member of the science team,

The McArthur II at port in San Francisco prior to the cruise. She is 224 feet long with a breadth (width) of 43 feet.
The McArthur II at port in San Francisco prior to the cruise. She is 224 feet long with a breadth (width) of 43 feet.

Toby Auth out of Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), up all the science equipment onto the deck of the McArthur. Some of the equipment we hauled onto the ship included bongo frames and bongo nets (used to collect specimen samples in the ocean), Niskin bottles (to collect water samples in the water column at various depths), dissecting microscopes, a fluorometer (to measure the amount of phytoplankton in the water), and crate after crate of sample jars.

In order to transfer all of the science equipment onto the McArthur II we laid out a cargo net flat on the pier that the crane dropped to us.  Then we hauled the equipment from the truck and placed it on the cargo net.  Next the cargo net holds were attached to the crane, which lifted the materials onto the deck of the ship. We unpacked the cargo net, conducted additional cargo lifts, and then stored all the equipment in the labs.  Using the crane sure beat hauling up all the equipment by hand!  The scientists have to get all the equipment placed in the labs, which is a lot of work.  I helped one of the scientists, Tracy Shaw, who studies zooplankton, set up the dissection microscope by securing it to the table.  On dry land, tables will not move around, but we had to tie it down to prepare for any possible rough seas.

This is me working to prepare the CTD for a practice launch in San Francisco Bay. We made sure that the Niskin bottle seals were in working condition.
This is me working to prepare the CTD for a practice launch in San Francisco Bay. We made sure that the Niskin bottle seals were in working condition.

August 10 we were to set sail in the morning. That has been changed until this afternoon, which gives the science team time to prepare some of the equipment before heading out to sea, along with conducting emergency drills and briefings. This morning the science team and NOAA crew worked together to prepare the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) probe. This involved cleaning the Niskin bottles and replacing cracked O-rings to ensure a secure seal around the bottle openings. If the bottles are not sealed properly, water and air (upon reaching the surface) can enter the bottle from the water column at an undesired location.  We also ensured that the lids close tightly, providing a vacuum seal.

Personal Log 

Living and working on a boat will be a new experience for me.  There are many unknowns in the process, but it is exciting to be learning something new nearly every minute.  I took a walk around the ship’s interior this afternoon, amazed by how much space is contained inside the McArthur II. The staterooms (where one sleeps) are large, containing a desk and a lounge chair.  They also have a sink, with a bathroom that is shared by the adjoining stateroom. The McArthur also has a fitness room for staying fit at sea, along with a lounge to for relaxing with movies, books, and even espresso!  The McArthur II surely will be home for the next nine or ten days.

I have been most impressed with the welcome I have received from both the NOAA crew and the scientists from NOAA, Oregon State University, the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Everyone is friendly, helpful, and full of cooperation. It is encouraging to observe the teamwork between people.  I appreciate having the opportunity to learn alongside the scientists and crew.  Being a teacher, I am used to being the one with the knowledge to impart or the activity to do.  It is exciting being aboard because now I am the student, eager to take notes, ask questions, and learn from those alongside me.  I have to say, each person has been an effective teacher!  So we are off to Bodega Bay for our first sampling and there’s a rumor going around that a Wii Fit competition might be getting under way!

Today’s Vocabulary 

Transect line- when conducting research at a predetermined latitude or longitude and continue to collect data samples along that line Niskin bottles- these containers have openings on both the top and bottom.  As it drops through the water column it fills with water.  At a predetermined depth both ends close, capturing water from that specific depth inside the bottle that can be brought back to the surface and analyzed. Water Column- a vertical section of water where sampling occurs

Robert Oddo, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 28.21oC
Relative Humidity 78.32%
Sea Surface Temperature 27.62oC
Barometric Pressure 1019.42 inches
Latitude 23 41.483 N Longitude 80 40.363 W

My last sunset from the Ronald Brown
My last sunset from the Ronald Brown

Personal Log 

I just finished watching my last sunset on the Ronald Brown and it is time that I reflect a little on this entire NOAA Teacher at Sea experience.  The cruise gave me a first-hand look at some of the important work that atmospheric scientists and physical oceanographers examine.  I discovered that the ocean system is huge and scientists around the world are compiling information about the ocean so we can better understand it.  This work is like putting one of those big 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles together. The more pieces that you are able to put together, the better you understand how the pieces fit into the entire picture.  Also because the system is so large, it takes the collaborative effort of many different scientists to really get some sort of understanding about what is happening. This cruise would never have been possible without the crew, the scientist and the NOAA Corp officers working as a team. There was science happening 24 hours and everyone did his or her part.

Sitting at my desk in the computer lab
Sitting at my desk in the computer lab

I feel particularly lucky to be selected as the Teacher at Sea on this cruise and I would like to thank everyone that made it possible.  The crew, the scientists, the NOAA Corp officers were friendly, helpful and always willing to explain things about the ships operation and the science that was happening on the ship. Thank you to the Teacher at Sea support staff that helped with logistics and information pertaining to the cruise.  Special thanks go to than Dr. Rick Lumpkin, the chief scientist, for coordinating the cruise, explaining the science, and reviewing sea logs and Field Operations Officer, Nicole Manning for reviewing sea logs and coordinating things.

Finally thank you to all the people that followed along with this adventure. It was always nice to see how many people were viewing the journal and photos. The questions were great and thanks for all the emails. The impacts that these experiences have on teachers and their students have implications that are far reaching. This has really been a special summer for me and thank you to everyone that made it possible.

Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Bryan Hirschman, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles
Wind: 14 knots
Wave Height: 2 ft
Wave Swell:  5-6 ft
Ocean temperature: 14.40C
Air Temperature: 16.00C

Science and Technology Log 

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Today, John Pohl, one of the fish biologists showed me the VPR (video plankton recorder). The camera is attached to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth), which is operated by Steve Pierce, a physical oceanographer, and Phil White, chief survey technician, who work the night shift. The CTD is a large apparatus which has room for many additional sensors and attachments. The CTD onboard the Miller Freeman has a dissolved oxygen sensor in addition to the VPR.

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Each night Steve sends the CTD down to the seafloor (about 7 times) to collect data. He is most interested in determining the differing densities of water at different depths (depth is based on pressure, which the CTD measures). He then calculates the densities using conductivity and temperature. By measuring conductivity (how easily electric currents pass through the water sample being tested), Steve can get a measurement of that water sample’s salinity.  Density of water is then calculated from measurements of salinity, and temperature. An equation is used which relates the measurements so that density can be found if these other two values are known. Steve records all the data each night, and will use this information to study currents and their movements.

The VPR is a camera which records video as well as still pictures as it descends to the sea floor. The data are recorded, then uploaded to an external hard drive. The file is very large, as it takes about ten minutes to transfer all the data. The pictures and video will be used by biologists (not on board presently) to identify and determine the percentage of plankton (plankton consist of any drifting organisms) floating throughout the water column. Each time before we set out the fish nets, two people go to the bridge to look for marine mammals. If any are present the nets won’t be put into the water. A few tows have been cancelled due to the presence of marine mammals. This is a great step in keeping them safe. It is always special when I see dolphins or whales.

Here I am holding a sleeper shark.
Here I am holding a sleeper shark.

The only fish tow of the day (no marine mammals present) consisted of mainly Humboldt Squid and some Pacific Hake. Today we used a load cell to get a total mass; this is a device which hooks up to the net and crane. The load cell gives a mass of the entire haul. The majority of the load was released back into the water while a smaller sample was retained. The weights of the Hake and squid were then determined using bins and a balance. The scientists can use the subsample data to determine the data for the entire load.  Bycatch, defined as living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear, are occasionally found in the net. Today a rougheye rockfish was caught, and yesterday a sleeper shark were accidently caught. The scientists do a very good job of limiting bycatch using their acoustic data.

Personal Log 

A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish
A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish

I am enjoying the long hours of work, and have gotten into quite a rhythm. I also enjoy spending time with the hardworking and intelligent staff here on board. We work together as a team, and everyone enjoys their jobs. NOAA has chosen a great group of officers who set a very positive tone and make the ship a great workplace. I would love to take a sabbatical from teaching and work on a NOAA ship. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a bunch. I will take back a lot of positive experience to share with my students, family, and friends.

I have also learned to appreciate the smells of a load of fish. As we move the fish from the holding cell, to small baskets for weighing we are constantly splashed in the arms, face, mouth, eyes, etc. I find it pretty amusing every time I get splashed, or even better, when I splash John, Melanie, or Jake. It never grows old. The hardest portion of my day is determining what movie to watch while running on the treadmill (I finally mastered the art of the treadmill on a rocking boat and can leave the elliptical trainer alone). The boat has close to 800 movies to choose from.

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Rougheye rockfish, Humboldt Squid, Pacific Hake, Albatross, Sheerwaters, and Murres.

Poem of the Day 
Squid ink, squid ink!
O! How you make me stink!
You stain my face, you stain my clothes;
I must wash you off with a fire hose!

You make me scratch, you make me itch,
You even turn Melanie into a wicked witch!
(which is a horribly difficult thing to do—
She’s as gentle as a lamb in a petting zoo!)

Why not John, allergic to your ink!
Torment HIM with your venomous stink!
But no–not ME! All I want are Hake.
So torment instead “almost” graduate Jake!

But once again, though our dinner hour,
Because of you I must shower!

So I beg you, O squid, to hear my plea:
In the future, stay away from me!
Does that sound good?
Do we have a deal?
If not, well then—you’re my next meal.

Answers to Last Question 
Ribbon Barracudina, Pacific Hatchetfish, Baby Humboldt Squid

Christine Hedge, August 10, 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: August 10, 2009

Science and Technology Log 

Christina with a CTD
Christina with a CTD

This trip is all about data collection.  In addition to our main seafloor mapping mission, each day there are buoys, sensors, or weather balloons deployed each collecting important data to help us understand the Arctic environment.  This ocean is a harsh place. The objects that are placed underwater to collect data (like the HARP instruments that were retrieved earlier this week) need to be able to withstand cold, salt, pressure, and for those on the surface, wind and waves. Designing such a device to work for long periods of time in the Arctic must take great engineering skills.

The pressure of the deep ocean is an amazing force.  If you have ever lost your goggles in the deep end of a pool – you know that water pressure increases with depth. Water is much heavier than air (about 1000 times heavier).  Any instrument sent to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean is under a column of water that literally squeezes it with massive weight.  In fact, the weight of just a 10 meter thick slice of ocean is equivalent to the weight of the entire atmosphere.  Of course there is a scientific name for this increase of pressure due to the weight of the water above you. It is called hydrostatic pressure.

A simple experiment to illustrate the type of forces these scientific instruments endure involves Styrofoam cups!  In fact, yesterday folks were encouraged to decorate a Styrofoam cup.  The cups were gathered into a mesh bag and sent down 3800 meters attached to a device, which measures the conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water as it descends (a CTD).

Styrofoam cups after their trip on the CTD
Styrofoam cups after their trip on the CTD

Styrofoam can be thought of as plastic netting filled with air.  This is why it is such a good insulator and so light.  If we squeeze it with our hands, we can make the netting tighter and the Styrofoam becomes tight balls of plastic.  If we lower the Styrofoam cups to great depths within the ocean – just think of the huge amount of hydrostatic pressure they are under!!!

The cups went to a depth of 3800 meters and shrank from about 4 inches to less than 2 inches!  The weight of the water above them squeezed the air from the Styrofoam and gave us teeny cups – the shape didn’t change much – just the size. When engineers build instruments to study the ocean – such forces must be considered carefully.

Something to Think About 

Besides diving into a swimming pool, can you think of another place in your world where pressure changes impact the environment?

Personal Log 

Sea ice
Sea ice

I’m getting used to the life on board a ship. The crew is very helpful. They point me in the right direction when I get lost (which happens a lot) and help me to find basic comforts such as ice, the gym, and the laundry.  I am amazed at how many doors I have to open and close to get from one place to another. The doors, designed to withstand water and fire, are heavy and take some upper body strength when we are in windy conditions.

They can also be very noisy and since someone is always sleeping on a ship that operates 24/7 we need to be considerate and move through them quietly.  The further north we go the calmer the water gets.  It is a real treat to walk out on deck and see the water smooth as glass, the blue and white ice chunks, and nothing but sky in front of us.

Robert Oddo, August 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 28.71oC
Relative Humidity 77.91%
Sea Surface Temperature 27.94oC
Barometric Pressure 1020.21 inches
Longitude 70 01.463 W Latitude 19 23.205 N

Everyone anxiously awaiting arriving in San Juan (left) and the Capital Building (right)
Everyone anxiously awaiting arriving in San Juan (left) and the Capital Building (right)

Personal Log 

After being on the ship for 25 days, people were happy to have a day in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the ship refueled. We pulled into the Coast Guard station in Old San Juan around 9:00 am and then had the next 24 hours to explore. I got a chance to roam around town sample the local cuisine and visit a few historic spots.  Visited the capital building, the Castillo San Cristobol, and San Fillipe de Morro Fort.

The narrow streets of Old San Juan (left) and Fillipe de Morro Fort (right)
The narrow streets of Old San Juan (left) and Fillipe de Morro Fort (right)

We pulled out of the harbor at approximately 4:00pm on 8/7 and now are steaming to our final destination Key West.  It is a bit quieter on the ship now since 9 of the scientists departed in Puerto Rico.  The rest of the scientists are staying on to help unload their equipment in Key West.

Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Christine Hedge, August 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
Geographical area of cruise: Barrow, AK, 71°18N 156°47W
Date: August 7, 2009

Weather Data 
Cloud cover: Overcast
Temperature: 450F
Winds: E, 17 mph

Science and Technology Log 

Bringing the HARP aboard
Bringing the HARP aboard
Bringing the HARP aboard
Bringing the HARP aboard

Although the primary mission of this trip is to map the ocean floor, there are also other scientists on board doing other research. Ethan Roth is doing just such research.  He is from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California.  Ethan’s specialty is ocean acoustics.  He planted two acoustic sensors on the seafloor in September of 2008 and today he retrieved both instruments.  This device is known as a HARP (High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package).  Basically, this instrument has been “listening” to the sounds of the ocean north of Barrow for almost a year.  The HARP sat at a depth of about 300 meters for all this time and today it saw daylight for the first time!  The seafloor frame sits on a steel plate, which act as ballast to keep it under the water and moored to the seafloor.  When Ethan wants it to surface, he sends it an acoustic signal to release the ballast and the HARP floats up to the surface.  A small rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) is used to retrieve the instrument and tow it back to the ship where it is lifted aboard.

An inside look at the HARP
An inside look at the HARP

You might be wondering why anyone would care what kinds of sounds are happening underwater in the Arctic Ocean. When the surface is frozen with sea ice, it is a very quiet place. The ice/water interface acts differently than the ice/air interface. The acoustic environment of the Arctic Ocean may be changing due to the disappearance of much of the multiyear sea ice.  In addition to losing the insulating quality the ice has for sound the amount of human activity is likely to change, as there is less ice. As the ice begins to disappear, shipping and exploration will likely increase, adding more sounds to the ocean. Less ice means more noise in the ocean environment AND less ice will mean more human activity and even MORE NOISE. It is unknown what effect this might have on marine mammals, such as whales that depend on sound for survival. Organisms in the Arctic have evolved in a certain acoustic environment.  They use sound as a tool to obtain food, migrate and communicate. If the Arctic becomes a much noisier place, how will this impact their lives?

The landing craft that took us to the Healy
The landing craft that took us to the Healy

In any science endeavor it is important to collect “baseline data”.  In other words, what were things like before one of the variables changed?  It is important data that these HARPs collect.  Knowing the acoustical environment today can help us to interpret changes in the future.

Personal Log 

Here I am in my mustang suit
Here I am in my mustang suit

The trip from Barrow, Alaska out to the USCGC Healy is usually accomplished by helicopter.  But Mother Nature was not cooperating with us. Our fresh food (delivered by plane) and the helicopter were both delayed because of weather conditions. There was heavy smoke around Fairbanks due to forest fires and fog elsewhere making flying just too risky. Being a group of problem solvers, the leaders of the science team started asking around and found a landing craft that would fit our luggage, the food cargo, and us. The Healy evaluated the plan and agreed. In a wonderful act of generosity, the Bowhead Transportation Company (a subsidiary of Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation) offered to take our science party and cargo to the Healy and bring the “old” science party back to shore. If we had traveled by helicopter, we would have transported a few at a time and had to make many repeat trips.  But, using the landing craft we didn’t have to worry about weight and the entire science party and cargo were able to travel at once.  Thanks to the crew of the Greta and the Bowhead Transportation Company for getting us to our destination.

Bryan Hirschman, August 6, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 6, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 6 nautical miles
Wind: light
Wave Height: <1
Wave Swell: 2-3 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.90C
Air Temperature: 15.50C

Science and Technology Log 

John and Melanie sexing and measuring the fish
Melanie sexing and measuring the fish

Today the day started with a fish tow at 8:00 am. The acoustic scientists, Steve, Larry, and Chu, predicted the fish would be mostly myctophids, and wanted to be certain. The fisherman sent the net out and about an hour later the net was brought back. As predicted the net was filled with mostly myctophids. This is an important step in being able to determine the fish type and numbers using acoustic data only. Scientists will then be able to acoustically count fish populations for most schooling fish (Pollock, Pacific Hake, anchovies, and mackerel to name a few), with out using nets. After the nets are brought in the fish biologists (and me) get to work. We separate all the organisms into their own piles. We then count and weigh them, and log this into a computer using their scientific names. It’s amazing how Melanie and John (the fish biologists) can identify and recall the Latin names of these organisms.

Question: Do we just fish in random locations?

Answer: No, the acoustic scientists choose to fish in locations that appear to be different from previous fishing locations. The parameters which make them different are depth, color intensity, or pattern of the markings on their computer screens. The scientists get real-time acoustic pictures as the boat travels along on a pre-determined path (called a transect).  The more they can relate the graphs on the computer screens to the actual catch in the nets the less fishing which needs to be done.

Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is the second tow consisting of Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid.
Here is the second tow consisting of Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid.

The second fish tow of the day produced Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid. We weighed all the squid first (then quickly returned to the ocean), and 10 were randomly selected for a stomach dissection. The stomachs contained pieces of squid, Pacific Hake, and other unidentifiable fish. Another purpose of this cruise is to determine the effects of the squid on the Hake, and by looking at the stomachs the scientists will be able to determine the relationship between the squid and hake.  The third tow of the day involved an open net with a camera. The camera could record for an hour. The scientists then view the footage to estimate the size and quantity of the hake passing through the net. This is another method the scientists are using to verify their acoustic data.

Here I am holding the delightful meal of tuna.
Here I am holding the delightful meal of tuna.

I also had the chance to launch an XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph). This device is launched at the back of the boat. The sensor is released into the water and is attached by a tiny copper wire. As the sensor travels down the water column it sends the depth and temperature data to the bridge. This data is saved and used by physical oceanographers to better understand temperature profiles found in the ocean.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day. The seas were calm, I slept well last night, and the food was great. I even got to exercise for 1.5 hours. The exercise room has a television hooked up to watch movies, and it made using the elliptical trainer and stationary bike much more enjoyable. I also had a great time working with the fish biologists. We were throwing and catching squid like the professionals who work at Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Best of all was dinner, freshly caught tuna, which I got to filet.

Animals Seen Today 
Dolphin, Mola-mola, Albatross, Sheerwaters, Slender Barracudia, Ribbon Barracudina, Blackbelly Dragonfish, Pacific Hake, Lanternfish (myctophids), Salps, Sunrise Jellyfish, Purple Cone Jellyfish, Wheel Jellyfish, Humboldt Squid, Black-eyed Squid, Pacific Hatchetfish, and Spiny Dogfish shark.

Question of the Day : Can you identify the animals in the photo?
Question of the Day : Can you identify the animals in the photo?

Answer to the last question: Lancetfish

John Schneider, August 4-6, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: FISHPAC
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 4-6, 2009

That’s 11:00 – PM!  Almost sunset
That’s 11:00 – PM! Almost sunset

Position
Bering Sea, AK

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Nice
Barometer: Steady (falling slightly on the 6th after we were already close enough to Dutch to not feel the unsettled weather.)
Wind: light and variable
Temperature: 8.6º C
Sea State: < 3 feet

Personal Note 

For about half an hour after the photo above, I just sat on E-Deck and watched the sun set. As I write this and look at the picture, I’m sadly realizing that this incredible month is rapidly drawing to a close. While I miss my sons and dog, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I wish it could continue.

Science and Technology Log 

Sunset on the Bering Sea
Sunset on the Bering Sea

While we were anchored up behind Hagemeister Island near Hagemeister Strait, I learned this island is named after Captain Leonty Andrianovich Gagemeister, a Russian Naval Commander in the early 1800’s. The island is undeveloped and has no permanent residents. It would have been fantastic to take a launch over to it, but there was a lot of work to be done on board the Fairweather. At 1400 hrs on the 4th, Dr. McConnaughey gave a one-hour briefing on the FISHPAC and EFH work his team has been working on. The briefing was voluntary, but as you can see, almost everyone on board was there.

The crew listens to Dr. McConnaughey’s presentation about the FISHPAC research.
The crew listens to Dr. McConnaughey’s presentation about the FISHPAC research.

Actually, Dr. McConnaughey could have finished in an hour, but the crew had so many questions – really good questions – that the ensuing discussions lasted another hour. Even afterwards, conversations at dinner were reflective of the seminar.  Once again, the collegial atmosphere on board the Fairweather was evident.  It was great to listen to and watch the physical scientists going back and forth with the biology folks in interpreting each others’ results and parameters. At 1000 hours on the 5th, we weighed anchor and got under way.  It took a few hours to get back to where we had ceased survey and sampling operations two days earlier and we picked right up where we left off. The weather was quite nice and we got the remaining samples done in just a couple of hours.