NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship KA‘IMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 11, 2010
“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.
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
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
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
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
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.