Amanda Peretich: Sad Times With This, My Final Blog, July 22, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: July 22, 2012

Water collection bottles with samples from CTDs throughout the cruise.

Location Data
Myself: airports, airplanes, and Maryland
Oscar Dyson: Crowley pier in Dutch Harbor, AK

Science & Technology Log
On July 17, as we were “cruising” around 12 knots back to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, I had one more GREAT tie in to chemistry class that I just wanted to share because it was that cool to me! Every few CTDs, a water sample would be collected to later be tested for levels of dissolved oxygen. At the end of the cruise on our way back, Bill allowed me to watch him test those samples using a Winkler titration.

Why do we care how much dissolved oxygen is in the water in the first place? Dissolved oxygen levels provide an excellent indication of the underwater biological activity. If levels are extremely low (2 mg/L or lower), animals fail to survive during this “hypoxia”. If there is no dissolved oxygen at all (0 mg/L), this is known as “anoxia”, meaning without oxygen. Areas that are hypoxic or anoxic are known as “dead zones”. Luckily there aren’t really any reported dead zones around Alaska, but knowing the level of dissolved oxygen is important to the scientists as another piece of data to analyze from this cruise.

How does the Winkler titration work and why did I find it so cool? First off, in chemistry class, we use a buret to add a titrant manually drop by drop into a solution containing a phenolphthalein indicator that turns from clear to pink to signify the endpoint of the titration. On board, the actual titration is automated and there is no indicator! It was nice to see chemistry in action, and even nicer to see the process automated, removing any human error in the actual titration.

Winkler titration
Set-up for the Winkler titration on the Oscar Dyson.

Steps to performing the Winkler titration on the Oscar Dyson:
1. Collect water sample during CTD and add manganese chloride (MnCl2) and sodium iodide/sodium hydroxide solution (NaI/NaOH) to sample. Stopper and mix well.
2. Store all water samples for testing at the end of the cruise (this is how it’s done on the Oscar Dyson to test all samples at once, although you could test them each individually after collection).
3. When ready to test all samples, remove stopper and add magnetic stir bar and 1mL of sulfuric acid (H2SO4). Mix well. If precipitate does not completely dissolve, add more sulfuric acid.
4. Titrate and record results!
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each sample 🙂

Winkler titration bottles
(a) The addition of excess manganese, iodide, and hydroxide ions added to each water sample forms a precipitate (solid), which is then oxidized by the dissolved oxygen in the water sample.
(b) and (c) A strong acid acidifies the solution and converts the iodide ion (I-1) into an iodine molecule (I2), causing the precipitate to dissolve (b) and the solution to turn brownish-orange (c).
(d) The solution is put on top of a stir plate and titrated with a thiosulfate solution. The titration is complete when the solution is neutralized, or there are no more ions remaining in solution. This is determined by measuring the conductivity of the solution because ions allow conductivity so when the solution is neutralized, there will be no conductivity. You can see the conductivity probe in the top of the solution on the right and the thiosulfate being added into the solution through the tube on the left.

Personal Log
My final days/adventures in Dutch Harbor? Enjoy the brief descriptions and photos below!

July 18
– arrived in Dutch early morning to beautiful blue skies all day and I watched as the Dyson docked at Crowley pier
– another Alaskan water adventure when Brian and I donned arctic survival suits, got in Captain’s Bay, and yelled up drafting readings of the water level from various points on the outside of the ship to Neal (while Chelsea took photos)
– went for a run over to Unalaska to see the Russian Orthodox church, walk along the beach, go to Memorial Park, check out some gravestones, and jog around town
– hung out in Dutch with some people off the Dyson, where Brian turned into Billy Idol, Chelsea got a new ‘do, and Kevin got a haircut

July 18: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 18: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

July 19
– the day started off looking bleak, and I got covered in mud running back into Captain’s Bay to check out the gigantic oil rig barge
– then it turned into another afternoon of beautiful blue skies to allow me to hike with Brian to the back of Captain’s Bay and up to a really pretty waterfall
– hung out in Dutch with some locals I’d met the night before, including an Aleut with the nose ring and face tattoo

July 19: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 19: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

July 20
– was supposed to fly out this afternoon but lo and behold, the skies turned gray, the fog rolled in, all flights in and out of Dutch were cancelled for the day, and I headed back to the ship
– hung out in Dutch with some people off the Dyson and celebrated Patrick’s birthday

July 20: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 20: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 21: Anchorage airport
July 21: Anchorage airport

July 21
– attempted to get on flights from standby multiple times throughout the day, and finally got on a flight at 8:45pm that got me to Anchorage after midnight, where I slept on a bench in the airport until about 4am

July 22
– no flights out of Anchorage available until almost 9pm! luckily I called Delta, got on standby for a 6am flight where enough people took a later flight (and everyone on standby ahead of me was in pairs) that I got out of Anchorage and to Minneapolis, where I had about 35 minutes to get on standby for another flight that I was able to get on as well; the flight goddesses were with me today
– arrived home to Maryland about 20 hours after leaving Dutch, happy to be back but sad this adventure is officially over

I’d just like to say one last time how AMAZING this adventure was on the Oscar Dyson and how incredibly BLESSED I was to meet such great people and learn some many new and EXCITING things. I owe a huge amount of thanks to plenty of people:
* Thanks to the chief scientist Neal along with Bill and Anatoli for all of the fun science and fish stuff I learned during my shift
* Thanks to the rest of the science party (Scott, Denise, Carwyn, and Nate) for more science and technology that I learned and for the card games I played after my shift and to Kathy for doing her survey tech thing (and helping me find my luggage and get to the airport on time)
* Thanks to the CO CDR Mark Boland for allowing me to be on the OD in the first place and for always seeming to have a smile on your face when I was around
* Thanks to the XO 1M Kris Mackie for all of his help in getting me to the ship, for never sugar-coating life, for a great espresso machine in the galley, and for life lessons, knowledge, and personal growth he probably doesn’t even know he taught me

* Thanks to the OPS LT Matt Davis for reading and approving all of the blogs and for the vast amount of knowledge I gained from him in multiple aspects of ship life
* Thanks to ENS Libby, Kevin, and Chelsea for plenty of information, stories, good laughs, and great memories
* Thanks to LTJG Dave for recommending thought-provoking movies and answering all my questions
* Thanks to the engineering crew (Brent, Tony, Vincente, Garry, Robert, Terry, Joel) for all of their hard work that kept the ship running during the entire trip and for everything you guys taught me
* Thanks to Vince for keeping the internet up and running so I could update my blogs, get on facebook, and let my parents know I was still alive with the VOIP
* Thanks to the stewards Tim and Adam for some of the best cooking I’ve had in a long time and for “encouraging” me try things I didn’t think I liked but wound up enjoying because you made them so delicious
* Thanks to the deck crew (Willie, Patrick, Deeno, Jim, Brian, and Rick) for putting up with my incessant chatter, photo taking, curiosity, and questions, for letting me crash your table at mealtimes, and for every little thing that you’ve each taught me, even if you didn’t know you were teaching me something at the time
* Thanks to GVA Brian for all the photos he took whenever I asked, for the awesome headphones he let me borrow most of the trip, for the knowledge he shared about everything he knew related to boats and fishing, and for adventures kayaking, taking draft readings, and hiking in Dutch
* Thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program for providing this incredible opportunity in the first place
* Thanks to everyone that has been reading (and sometimes commenting on) my blogs

NOAA Oscar Dyson in Captains Bay, Dutch Harbor, AK
NOAA Oscar Dyson in Captains Bay, Dutch Harbor, AK

Amanda Peretich: Meet My “Mates”, July 19, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: July 19, 2012

Location Data
Crowley pier, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Personal Log
Today’s post is going to be about all of the people on board the Oscar Dyson for leg 2 of the pollock survey as I’ve spent the entire cruise with them. You’d think that being on a ship this size, I’d see all of these people all the time, but due to different shifts (the ship operates 24/7), sometimes I wouldn’t see people for days. I’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know everyone, and hope that all of my questions and photos weren’t too annoying. This is a great group and I was absolutely blessed to spend 19 days on board with them. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could and am extremely grateful for this amazing adventure. WARNING: this is a long post! There are 32 people on board (including myself), with so many good stories to tell and not enough time to tell them all.

Just a quick background on a few things:

Rankings and abbreviations in NOAA Corps (which are also the same as in the Navy)
ADM (admiral)
CAPT (captain)
CDR (commander)
LCDR (lieutenant commander)
LT (lieutenant)
LTJG (lieutenant junior grade)
ESN (ensign)

A somewhat incomplete flowchart showing the relationship between various organizations and departments related to NOAA

A somewhat incomplete flowchart showing the relationship between various organizations and departments related to NOAA

Now, onto the “bios” and fun facts, stories, or lessons learned …

1. CO (Commanding Officer): CDR Mark Boland
The CO is originally from Rapid City, South Dakota where he attended the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to earn his degree in Electrical Engineering. He also earned a master’s degree in Engineering Management from the University of Anchorage, Alaska. Commander Boland joined NOAA Corps in 1990 and has worked his way up to the Commanding Officer over the years. When I first arrived in Dutch Harbor, I was out to dinner one night, had never met him, and he tells me that he’s found an article in one of those tourist magazines just for me. Okay, so I may not have had on an Alaska Ship Supply sweatshirt like everyone else, but I didn’t think I stuck out that much! He then tells me he’s the CO and I said “Oh, I’m the Teacher at Sea Amanda” to which he responds that he already knew that. The article? The difficulty of retaining teachers in rural areas of Alaska. A good read and sad truth.

2. XO (Executive Officer): 1st Mate Kris Mackie
Kris (often referred to as Mackie) has been on the OD since March 2011, following 13 years on the Miller-Freeman. He was born and raised in Ketchikan, AK, which is predominantly a fishing and logging community. He worked some odd jobs (like painting little Indian sculptures that were made in Korea and later sold as “authentic Alaskan totem poles”) and then worked at Alaska Ship and Dry Dock as a journeyman painter and sand blaster before working on the Miller-Freeman. The thing Mackie most misses is relationships (they are pretty hard to have when you spend so much time at sea) and says he will probably drive a boat another 15-20 years. His most memorable experience? Working in ice in the Alaskan waters. For students, Mackie recommends NOAA Corps because you can retire after 20 years or becoming an engineer because you can have both land and maritime assignments, both with good pay.

3. OPS (Field Operations Officer): LT Matt Davis
Matt (originally from Michigan) earned his B.S. in aerospace studies from Embry-Riddle in Arizona and his M.S. in math from Eastern Michigan. After joining NOAA Corps, he was assigned to the Miller-Freeman, based out of Seattle, WA. After 3 years, his land assignment was in the Channel Islands (off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA) to be in charge of operations for 2-3 small contractors. The OD is his second boat assignment and he has been here since January. Fun fact: Matt and Dave (see below) hiked in Akutan, Alaska during the last in-port between Leg 1 and 2 of this Pollock survey. They flew there in the amphibious “Grumman Goose”, which is an eight-seater sea plane that lands in the water and then goes right up on the dock because Akutan does not have a landing strip due to the steep terrain. Matt taught me an incredible amount of information during this cruise and I’m very much appreciative of everything I learned.

4. SO (Safety Officer): ENS Dave Rodziewicz
Dave grew up in the western suburbs near Chicago. He started off in the Coast Guard Academy for 2 years studying mechanical engineering before transferring to the University of Chicago Illinois to study Finance and Economics. After spending two years in an office analyzing stock, he joined NOAA Corps and actually wanted his ship billet in Alaska because it’s been “one big extended adventure”. In the future, he may do something with economics and an environmental focus, but for now he’s preparing for his shore duty (land billet) in Boulder, Colorado. Dave is very outdoorsy and most misses climbing. His favorite BOTC (Basic Officer Training Class) experience was “circumnavigating Manhattan” in small boats and his best adventure was hiking Grand Teton in Wyoming. Fun fact: Dave and Matt hiked in Akutan, Alaska right before we left for this leg of the survey (see more above with Matt Davis). During the trip, Dave actually got some sun and has a nice resulting farmer’s tan on his arms. Dave has also seen a large portion of the movies on board, tends to go for more of the thought-provoking movies (in my opinion), and is very knowledgeable about cinematic pictures.

5. Navigation and Medical Officer: ENS Chelsea Frate
Chelsea is originally from Connecticut and went to SUNY Maritime Academy in NY where she earned her B.S. in environmental science. She then went to BOTC and has been on the OD since December for her first ship assignment. She chose NOAA so that she could “sail on [her] license and utilize [her] major”. On board, she does medical, navigation, and environmental compliance. She most misses summer, even though she wanted to be in Alaska. She also misses tanning, but said that the highlights here are super cheap! The hardest part of her job is when the internet is slow and Facebook won’t load (and that she really does love her job). The one thing she does not want to ever do is dive school. Before we left Dutch, Chelsea invited me to go kayaking and she even joined me and Brian Kibler jumping in the freezing Alaskan waters at the end of our kayaking trip (for a very brief minute)!

6. JO (Junior Officer): ENS Libby Chase
Libby (who totally reminds me of my awesome friend Lesley) is fresh out of BOTC, just arriving on OD at the same time as me (although she’ll be here much longer than I will). She’s originally from “Bahh Haaabar” (Bar Harbor) and was appalled that I didn’t know that was in Maine. She has two dogs that she absolutely loves and totally misses. Libby is former Navy, having served 6 years on active duty (stationed in Oahu, Hawaii). During her next four years in the reserves, she went to Maine Maritime Academy and earned a B.S. in marine biology. She plans to stay in NOAA Corps until she retires (especially since she already has 7 years in with her Navy time). As a JO, she works 4 hours on the bridge, 4 hours off watch (where she reads manuals, standing orders, SOPs, etc.), 4 more hours on the bridge, and 12 hours off. Her favorite sea creature is the octopus (which is way better than any sort of crustacean according to her), and one of the other guys on board has nicknamed her Bright Eyes. I’ve also had plenty of fun on various scavenger hunts for EEBDs and fire extinguishers with Libby and plan to mail her a homemade otolith necklace as thanks when I get back to Maryland!

7. ENS Kevin Michael
Kevin is also straight out of BOTC (he was in the same BOTC class with Libby) but he’s originally from Arkansas. He went to Arkansas Tech University, where he has an associates in nuclear technology and a bachelors in mechanical engineering with a minor in math. After graduating in May 2011, he started a NOAA Corps application in June and then work as a nuclear engineer at Arkansas Nuclear One in August until he began BOTC in February 2012. Kevin is on OD for Leg 2 of the Pollock survey as a survey tech and should be working up on the bridge for Leg 3 before heading to Newport, Oregon to work at MOC-P (Marine Operations Center – Pacific) to await a final ship assignment. He’s a super hard worker and constantly doing something on board! Kevin didn’t see the ocean until he was almost 13 when he went to Padre Island, he drinks whole milk regularly, and he uses funny terms like “son of a bache” (Alexander Dallas Bache was important in NOAA Corps history). He’s also been enjoyable company in the fish lab during a majority of my shift and during meal times.

8. CME (Chief Marine Engineer) Brent Jones
Brent is from Kentucky but just recently moved to Delaware, where his wife lives while he’s at sea. He has worked for various companies over his lifetime, including Exxon shipping and then MSRC (Marine Spill Response Corporation), which is basically like the “firefighters” for an oil spill (such as the Exxon-Valdez incident). He then worked for Harrah’s Casino as their chief engineer. Harrah’s uses all in-house wiring, so it was a high stress job to keep everything up and running 24/7. Even though they worked 14 days on, 14 days off, they worked in 12 hour shifts and had to do 50 hours of unpaid community service (concerts, fights, etc.) each year. If there was a meeting on your off days, you still had to go in for it. Brent just came to the OD from the NOAA Pisces and stays very busy down in the engineering rooms. He also showed me all about the incinerator on board that they use to burn our trash. It can reach temperatures above 1200°C (2192°F) and will burn aluminum and such down to nothing but a little ash. Brent has been a USCG (U.S. Coast Guard) licensed chief marine engineer for 34 years. During his career, Brent has worked from Greenland to Punta, Chile and has seen 72 countries!

9. 1AE (1st Assistant Engineer) Tony Assouad
Tony is originally from Lebanon but went to school and college in Dubai. He worked for an oil company there for over 26 years, where he worked his way up from 3rd to 2nd to 1st and chief engineer. He has worked on LPG (liquid pressurized gas), crude oil, benzene, natural gas, and chemical ships. Fun fact: liquid pressurized gas is the same thing in lighters – think about how they work! Around 1990, he almost joined the army, but since the army couldn’t work it out for his wife to come from Dubai to live on base with him, he never signed on the dotted line. He’s been with NOAA for 6 years on 14 or 15 ships, where he goes to fill in for a missing 1AE or chief engineer position. His favorite part of ship life is when things are made easy. The coolest place he’s ever been is the south of France on one of the oil ships because it was near Monte Carlo, Nice, and the border to Italy.

10. 2AE (2nd Assistant Engineer) Vincente Fernando
Vincente is from the Philippines where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation with a marine engineering major. He has been on the OD since December 2011 after briefly working on the Pisces and Okeanos Explorer. He’s fairly new to NOAA after spending 20 years with the Norwegian JJ Ugland Company. Vincente actually has four engineering licenses: one in the US, one in the Philippines, one in Panama, and one in Norway! His job as the 2nd AE is to be in charge of fuel, generators, separators (water & fuel), boilers, and the noon reporting (of fuel consumption over the past 24 hours). He has a wife that lives in Pennsylvania and two kids that are a nurse practitioner and pharmacist.

11. 3AE (3rd Assistant Engineer) Robert Purce
Robert is always running around the ship on the opposite shift from me, so I didn’t get a chance to sit down and interview him. However, I did enjoy the conversations we’d have in the hallways and engineering spaces. You could always find him with a smile on his face.

12. EET (Engineering Electronics Tech) Terry Miles
Terry is another member of the engineering crew that is always running around working. He has two kids in their twenties, he’s incredibly smart, and he knows a ton about the OD. He’s always been that person to investigate how and why things work, so his job on board is right up his alley.

13. JUE Garry Guice
Ah yes, another engineer that was always moving around and hard to get a hold of on board. Garry is a great guy, fun to talk to, always looking out for people, and a hard-worker. He’s also a great pool player!

14. GVA (General Vessel Assistant) Joel Gabel
Joel (who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan) served 6 years active duty in the Navy where he was discharged as a disabled American veteran. He worked in the automotive manufacturing plants for 18 years before heading back to college. He was hired in the engineering department in July 2011 as a general vessel assistant (GVA) on the OD and he is currently working towards a rating test for QMED (qualified member of the engineering department). The GVA position on NOAA ships is an entry level position in general (like a working apprentice for all departments aboard a ship). There are three departments a GVA can work in: deck, engineering, or steward, all with the potential to move up in rating and pay scale. On the Dyson, Joel is under the direction of a licensed engineer where he cleans the ship’s engineering spaces, fabricates items needed on occasion for the ship, makes rounds in all engineering spaces for anything out of place, and takes care of the ship’s sewage problems if they arise. Joel also employs some chemistry by treating the sewage with chlorine dosage tablets and measuring the pH level to determine if the effluent is good to pump overboard. He most misses being away from family and seeing his grandchildren grow up so quickly. He loves to take them out fishing on their lake and see the brightness in their eyes, but at least all of the kids and grandkids have wonderful stories of Joel working on a ship and fishing with them as a family. Joel is looking forward to taking off about two months after we arrive back in Dutch to go back home and see his family. He also plans to go back to college and finish a mechanical engineering degree.

15. Chief Scientist Neal Williamson
Neal said he was going to let me interview him before we got back to shore, but it never happened. Neal has been coming on the Dyson for the hydroacoustic research for quite some time. He taught me a ton about the scientific research going on and never hesitated to answer my million questions. Fun fact: I have taught Neal how to “Dougie” even if he didn’t approve our Shore Party to St. Matthews! It’s okay though because he’s been an amazing person to work under during this adventure J

16. Scientist Bill “Jackson” (name has been changed to protect his identity)
Bill is from Oregon and has been working in fisheries for more than 30 years. He actually works in field operations at both PMEL and AFSC and has been coming on the OD for quite some time. His best experience onboard was when he was on a Korean boat and his most interesting “find” was a kilo of hash off the east coast in a trawl (on a different ship). Bill likes to pass time sleeping, eating, playing cribbage, avoiding photos, and making a Steamboat Willie “woot woot” sound with the hand motion. Bill also tried to hide from me on multiple occasions, but I always found him!

17. Scientist Scott Furnish
Scott is originally from Spokane, WA but has lived in Seattle for 22 years. He is part of the midwater assessment half of MACE and serves as an IT specialist (and really also an electronics guy). His electronics training comes from his time with the Air Force reserves. After studying aviation maintenance at a community college, he worked as an aircraft mechanic for a few years. He joined NOAA in 1990. Scott typically comes on about 4 cruises a year and has plenty of side projects when he’s not working on the acoustics lab computers, hydrophones, transducers, cameras, and everything else. He most misses his family (wife and two kids) and his golden retriever. Scott is also pretty great at playing cribbage and does an excellent job of explaining things.

18. Scientist Denise McKelvey
Denise grew up in Oregon and has been working with NOAA “forever and a day”. She is a fish biologist with MACE in Seattle and completes about 4 ship trips during a season. She originally wanted to be an oceanographer but learned about tuna fishermen and decided she wanted to do some sort of science to help keep the fisheries going instead of just “research for research’s sake”. Denise has done a little bit of everything throughout her life and has an incredible thirst for knowledge. She always seems to be in a great mood, so you can’t help but smile around her. The first day I arrived in Dutch Harbor, she really wanted to go watch some locals fishing and find out all about their fish and what they were catching (which we did). She works on the opposite shift from me doing the same thing that Neal does during my shift so unless I stay up late, I don’t get to see her all too much. While on board, Denise most misses blueberries and straight from the market fresh produce.

19. Scientist Carwyn Hammond
Carwyn (who is also my awesome roommate that I rarely see because we are on opposite shifts on board) is originally from Brooklyn, NY but then moved to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and has been in Seattle for 11½ years. She has done a little bit of everything and knows a ton about everything it seems. She came out west as part of AmeriCorps to research salmon habitat restoration and continued with contract field work in salmon spawning surveys (snorkeling in glacial-fed rivers) and in electrofishing surveys. She works in conservation engineering on both NOAA ships and commercial vessels as part of her job and travels about 2 months a year for work and 1-2 months for fun. She specializes in fishing gear research, using camera and sonar to look at fish behavior in relation to gear and she would love to get on a boat someplace warm. Carwyn most misses her own bed and true free time when on board. She also has an amazing music selection on her iPod!

20. Scientist Anatoli Smirnov
Anatoli is from the Russian city of Vladivostok, where he is the head of the Pollock lab in the Pacific Scientists Oceanography and Fisheries Center. He spends about 3-5 months at sea, depending on the year, and will be on OD for all three legs of the Pollock survey this summer. In Russia, they do research on the other side of the International Date Line. Anatoli has been married for 34 years and has one daughter. His English skills are improving daily as he walks around with his Russian-English dictionary! His hobbies include fishing on the river for salmon and other freshwater fish and hiking. He’s also taught me a few phrases in Russian and how to properly sex pollock.

21. Science Intern Nate Ryan
Nate is originally from Iowa and is getting ready to start his fourth year at Lawrence University (population about 1,400) in Appleton, Wisconsin (which is apparently the home of cranes) where he is working to get his bachelors degree in biology. As part of an alumni placement program at Lawrence, Nate’s mentor (Anne Hallowed, the head of stock assessment and a senior scientist) landed him a summer internship at AFSC in Seattle, which is what allowed him to be on the OD for this leg of the pollock survey. Although school keeps him incredibly busy, Nate likes to read and hang out with friends. The coolest place he’s ever visited is Iceland (which, did you know, is not covered in ice). In the future, he might go to grad school, wants to go to China, and eventually “settle down someplace at some point”. I’ve definitely enjoyed playing both cribbage and rummy with Nate, even when I was losing. He also told me to make up something fun for his bio, so fact or fiction: Nate is an amazing scrapbooker!

22. Science Teacher at Sea Amanda Peretich
This whole blog is about me, so hopefully you’ve figured out who I am J If not, check out my first post on who I am!

23. Senior Survey Tech Kathy Hough
Kathy grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA and went to the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Pursuing her interest in marine science, she earned her B.A. in Human Ecology and moved out west pretty much right after graduation. She worked on a bottlenose dolphin project in Monterey Bay, CA and then began working with NOAA in 1998. She originally worked for the Protected Resources Division under SWFSC where she began as a marine mammal observer. The coolest species she has seen is the North Pacific right whale outside of Kodiak because they are so endangered. While on board, she most misses her cat. Kathy is the Senior Survey Tech on the Oscar Dyson, so she makes sure all of the data going into the scientific computing system is working properly and assists the science party with any and all of the survey equipment.

A mercator plot showing lines of longitude

24. CB (Chief Boatswain) Willie Sliney
Willie is originally from Miami, FL but has been fishing in Kodiak since 1980. He has been on the OD for 8 years as a plank owner. This means that he’s been on the ship since it was christened. The OD is the first of five in the FSV (fisheries survey vessel) class, and it is FSV 224. In 5th or 6th grade, Willie wrote a report on Kodiak, Alaska and decided he wanted to go there. So he joined the Coast Guard, which has an air station in Kodiak, and was able to travel all over Alaska for four years before he started in the fishing industry. Not only did Willie graciously allow me to operate the oceanic winch for a CTD and “shoot the doors” during a trawl, he also taught me one morning a little more about some major lines of longitude, also known as meridians.

The lines of longitude run up and down from the north to south pole on a globe. The degrees are related to the Greenwich mean time, which is at 0º. The international dateline (IDL) is at 180º. If you look on the map below, we started near 54ºN 166ºW. This standard map that we are most familiar with is called a Mercator projection because it has 0º in the middle and 180º on either side. Oh, and there are different maritime certificates and line crossing ceremonies that occur for things like crossing the equator (Order of the Shellback), crossing the Arctic Circle (Order of the Blue Nose), and crossing the IDL (Golden Dragon). They are scheduled to cross the IDL on the next leg of this survey!

25. LF (Lead Fisherman) Patrick Kriegh
Patrick grew up in Philadelphia and joined the Coast Guard for four years so he could get to Alaska. Now he calls Kodiak home and has been on OD for 5½ years. He knew the ship’s namesake Oscar & Peggy Dyson and was able to come on board as the lead fisherman. Before NOAA, he worked in commercial fishing and construction. Commercial fisherman will get their “cut” based on the size of their catch versus NOAA ships where you get paid a set amount regardless of any of that. Patrick thinks the show Deadliest Catch should really be called Dumbest Catch because it’s all drama and pretty unrealistic (a common idea on this boat). He’s also really into snowmobiling. Patrick showed me a good number of breathtaking photos from all of his outdoor adventures, and I am incredibly jealous of all that he’s been able to see. In line with some song, Patrick says “I’ve seen everything on the bottom of the sea because I dragged it across the deck and sorted it!” Patrick also celebrated his birthday during this in-port!

26. AB (Able Bodied Seaman) Rick Lichtenhan
Rick is an extremely hard worker and was on the noon to midnight shift. Although I never formally sat down to interview him, I was able to talk with him during mealtimes when I’d crash the “deck crew” table.

27. SF (Skilled Fisherman) James Deen aka Deeno
Deeno is from Seattle and has been aboard the OD since July 2011. His dad is a fisherman so he’s been on boats since he was 11 and started working as a deck hand when he was 13 or 14. After high school, he went to Seattle Maritime Academy to become an able bodied fisherman (or AB). Following his 90-day sea term internship on the OD, he stayed on as a SF. Deeno has two brothers (one older, one younger) and likes to play Xbox. People refer to him as Deeno, which makes me think of Dino the dinosaur from the Flintstones (only based on the name, not because he looks like a purple dinosaur)! He’s pretty quiet but that’s because he’s such a great listener. After this leg, he’s taking some vacation to travel around Denmark, Norway, and more with his girlfriend. Deeno was definitely a very enjoyable meal companion on the multiple occasions I crashed his table.

28. SF Jim Klapchuk
Jim is on parole from Michigan and has been on the OD for 2 years. This is more of a second career for him as he used to be a forest firefighter and worked in the Florida Everglades during the winters and in Fairbanks (the “Golden Heart” of Alaska) during the summers. In Florida, he would catch alligators that were in campgrounds and around people and transport them to different locations, similar to what is often done with black bears in the Smoky Mountain National Park in Knoxville, TN (where I’ve been living the past 6 years). They would also catch a lot of exotic animals when people would get them as pets and release them into the wild for one reason or another. He saw mostly pythons but some anacondas and more. They would take them to the park biologists to dissect and determine what they were eating and if their presence may be disrupting the natural ecosystem. Jim has also fished on the Great Lakes and first worked on the NOAA Fairweather (out of Ketchikan, AK) for 2 years. Oh, and completely kidding on him being a parolee – that’s what he had planned to tell me to mess with me, but decided against it J

29. GVA Brian Kibler aka Kibbles
Brian is from Seattle, WA and went to Seattle Maritime Academy with Deeno to get his AB after high school. He has only been on the OD for two months but after 90 days, he will have his AB. Brian grew up on boats and used to go fishing with his dad a lot. He’s very much into the outdoors, so he enjoys wakeboarding, camping, mountain biking, rocking climbing, snowboarding, surfing, and anything adventurous. He’d much rather take a girl indoor skydiving than to dinner and a movie for a first date, although he said the hardest part of ship life is that there are no women. Even though he says there’s not much in Dutch Harbor, the coolest place he’s ever been is Pyramid Peak (in Dutch). Someone told him that Dutch had a pretty girl behind every tree and when he arrived, he was like “where are all the trees?!” because there are truly only a handful of trees. Brian was one of the first people I met from the Dyson in the Anchorage airport while on standby on the way to the ship. Since our shifts overlapped for a large portion of time, I’ve definitely enjoyed hanging out with and getting to know him over the past few weeks.

30. ET (Electronics Tech) Vince Welton
Vince is originally from Oregon and he is the electronics tech on board. He literally deals with ANYTHING electronic: computers, radar, phones, internet, etc. He worked as a DOD employee for 13 years doing Doppler radar for the B1 aircraft in Oklahoma. He was also in active duty air force 4 years, mostly stationed in Carswell, TX, but having temporary duty in Guam as well. With NOAA, he works both on the boat and also on land (but communicating with someone else on board). He misses his wife of 14 years and hunting the most, but enjoys the solitude of ship life because it “fits [his] personality”. The best animal he ever killed was a 9-point rack elk. He also enjoys other outdoors-y things like gold panning and hiking. Vince also taught me why the internet on board is shoddy when we are travelling north between about 330º and 350º, which deals partly with the layout of the ship and partly with the curvature of the Earth that blocks the signal between the ship and the satellites. When it comes to communicating with others aside from online, we have access on board to MRSATB (data & phone), Iridium (just voice), and VOIP (voice over internet protocol). If you aren’t careful when dialing out on the VOIP, you could potentially call 911 from a Maryland number, but they can’t come help us in the Bering Sea!

31. CS (Chief Steward) Tim Ratclif
Tim, originally from Indiana, is an amazing chef (which is not to be confused with a cook). He went to Coast Guard cooking school in Petaluma, CA and cooked in the Coast Guard for 9 years. After that, he spent 10 years all over the place from Indiana to Las Vegas, in restaurants, hotels, casinos, and more. He’s been working with NOAA for the past year and has delighted ship crew with his delicious cooking on the Delaware, Okeanos Explorer, Ron Brown, and now Oscar Dyson. He makes scrumptious food “with buckets of love” and has taught me the big three seasonings: salt, pepper, and garlic. His clam chowder is also to die for. He really likes the show 24 and Dexter (amongst others), has a Harley-Davidson and a house in Myrtle Beach, Virginia, and doesn’t have a favorite meal. But if he was on death row, he’d request his last meal to have “local fresh grown asparagus because it takes three years to grow!” (yep, it does – I checked it out online) and a grilled steak. On board, he most misses his part chow, part Australian Sheppard dog Buffy (named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Tim is super sarcastic, but in a good way, and his cooking (and nagging/encouragement to try tons of food) ensured that I visited the gym on a regular basis!

32. 2nd Cook Adam Staiger
Adam could always be seen helping Tim out in the kitchen, washing dishes, or cleaning up in the galley. Between meals, you could often find him in the TV lounge either watching a movie or taking a nap.

blog crew photo
Photo with the Oscar Dyson crew and scientists on Leg 2 of the Pollock survey of the Bering Sea in July 2012

Amanda Peretich: My First Love (Chemistry and Other Stuff), July 16, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 16, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 58ºN
Longitude: 175ºW
Ship speed: 10.2 knots (11.7 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 8.2ºC (46.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 6.4ºC (43.5ºF)
Wind speed: 9.9 knots (11.4 mph)
Wind direction: 221ºT
Barometric pressure: 1022.6 millibar (1.01 atm, 767 mmHg)

Chemistry Lab
Chemistry Lab on the Oscar Dyson

Science and Technology Log
Throughout some of my previous posts, I’ve hinted at the amount of science on board the Oscar Dyson. Of course, I got super excited any time I saw something more on the chemistry and physics side of things versus the biology side, mostly because although I love biology, chemistry is definitely my first love. Thus today’s science and technology log will be to share just a few of the gazillion ties to chemistry that I’ve found in the past few weeks.

  1. Cathodic protection system
    Seawater is more corrosive than freshwater and will corrode the steel on the ship, so the Cathelco seawater pipework anti-fouling system on board works to prevent that corrosion from happening. Cathodic protection controls corrosion by making the metal surface the cathode of an electrochemical cell.

    Cathelco cathodic protection system to prevent ship corrosion.

    Fluorometer and TSG on the Oscar Dyson.
  2. Fluorometer
    The fluorometer on the Oscar Dyson is used to measure both chlorophyll and turbidity (cloudiness) of the sea water using fluorescence technology. There is an intake on the keel of the bow that pumps water aft into the chemistry lab where it first goes through a debubbler to remove any excess air and then it goes through the fluorometer and TSG (see next point). Measuring the amount of chlorophyll is a good indication of plant life and thus the amount of phytoplankton and other species in the food chain. This data is also stored on the SCS and available for scientists to use.
  3. Thermosalinograph (TSG)
    Another device that the sea water passes through from the underway system is the TSG. This measures both temperature and conductivity (how much electricity passes through) in the water. There is a fancy mathematical equation that is then used to determine salinity in PSUs, or practical salinity units.
  4. Needle gunning and more
    When we aren’t letting out a net or hauling back in a net, the deck crew work on various things for upkeep around the ship. One day at dinner, they were discussing something called needle gunning. Never having heard of this, I was immediately intrigued, to which Deeno kept telling me “it’s nooooot really that exciting”. Wrong! It’s basically this pneumatic device (something using compressed air) that has a bunch of little rods (needles) in a circular pattern that, when turned on, seems to feel like a jackhammer as the needles press against the surface at quick speeds. They use it on various ship surfaces to clean off rust and corrosion. Following the needle gunning, they can then apply a layer of corroseal rust converter which reacts with any rust (iron oxide) to oxidize and convert it a more stable substance (magnetite) that turns black. After this, they are free to add primer and 2 part paint (different than the paint you’d use at home) to keep things on board looking great and not corroding away.
Needle Gunning
Needle gunning (left) and preparing for painting (right) on the Oscar Dyson.

Personal Log
I’ve been working on my last blog coming up on all of my ship mates since almost the first day on board the Oscar Dyson. Be sure to check it out in a couple days! But before that, I’d like to share some of the fun things I’ve learned or taken note of since we left Dutch Harbor that didn’t really fit nicely anywhere else.

Lingo I’ve Learned

Hawse Pipe
The hawse pipe, through which the anchor is raised and lowered, on the Oscar Dyson.

* hawse pipe: someone who has worked their way up on a vessel, from deck crew to the bridge (1st mate, 2nd mate, executive officer (XO), etc.); this is in reference to the pipe on a ship through which the anchor chain is fed – for example, XO Kris Mackie worked his way up the hawse pipe to get to where he is today
* ringknockers: someone out of NOAA Corps BOT-C (basic officer training class)
* scuttlebutt: rumor or gossip on board; this comes from the idea that a butt (cask) of water that has been scuttled (deliberately “sunk”) so that water could flow, similar to a water fountain, was a place around which people would convene to gossip

Dog All Dogs
Dogging the door.

* dogging the door: handles on various doors on board are fastened to seal it

* leeward: the side of the vessel that is not facing the wind, which changes sides based on wind direction
* windward: the side of the vessel that is facing the wind

Kenny reminding you to use the leeward side when opening doors

(wet and dry bulb temperature readings are taken on the bridge hourly on the windward side)
* fantail: another name for the aft deck
* “wagging the tail”: used when the person on the bridge is adjusting various things on the ship to evenly wrap the chains onto the reel when hauling in a trawl
* “alls balls”: refers to midnight, which is 0000 in military time
* head: bathroom/toilet

Weird Facts/Thoughts That Don’t Fit Anywhere Else
– I remember I’m on a male-dominant vessel when the toilet seat in the community head outside the fish lab is always up (there are 3 community heads: one right near the fish lab, one in the gym, and one outside medical – these are used so you don’t have to disturb your roommate while they are sleeping in the room)

– The above fact is okay because the head has the BEST green hand soap in the world with moisturizing beads and a wonderful aroma – sometimes I just go wash my hands in there for the sake of it, which is fine because there are also signs everywhere reminding you to wash your hands

– It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if I walk into the TV lounge, I will more than likely sit down and watch part of whatever movie is on

– Still in dealing with the TV lounge, the rule on board is that once you start a movie, you have to let it go all the way to the end, because some people on board have TVs in their room hooked up to the movie channels and may be watching it

– There are three movie players: 2 “tape decks” with these 8mm cassette tapes and 1 special DVD player for the NAVY movies and close to 1,000 movies to choose from!

– I’ve watched more movies since I’ve been on board than I probably have watched in the past year combined (although some were parts of movies that I walked in on after they’d started or had to leave early from to fish)

– The internet works via a signal from a geostationary satellite (GE23 at 172 degrees E on the equator) so as we are travel, the receiver on board must look south for signal such that when we are traveling north-northwest, the mast and stack of OD get in the way of the signal and we have no internet

– I could actually make short phone calls using VOIP (voice over IP), but this slows down the internet and you had to limit your calls to 10 minutes or so – it also shows up on the receiving end as a Maryland phone number because that’s where NOAA is located

– My favorite place to just go relax is actually up on the flying bridge – rarely do people go up there (it’s super windy) but when it’s nice outside (also a rarity), it is a beautiful view of nothing but the Bering Sea (and plenty of birds) – just have to make sure to let the officer on deck (OOD) know you’re going up there

Fun with KNOTS
One day, Brian and ENS Kevin attempted to teach me how to tie a bunch of different knots. I have a good idea how my students feel when they don’t understand a concept that seems so easy to me because both guys were just like “you do this this this and this and you’re done” and there I was, back on the first step, completely lost.

I did learn the bowline (which is not pronounced “bow-line” like you’d think, but rather more like “bo-lin”) and the one-handed bowline. Kevin even taught me the dragon bowline, where he tied a bowline knot and dragged it on the floor – get it? 🙂

Some of the knots I learned to tie on board.

Some other knots I learned: figure 8, square, clove hitch, timber hitch, daisy chain, and becket. Could I repeat those for you today? Possibly, but probably not.

Scavenger Hunt
One of the jobs of the safety officer is to check the Ocenco EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) on board to make sure they have not expired. ENS Libby (who just came to the Oscar Dyson on this leg of the pollock survey from NOAA Corps BOT-C) and I went on a scavenger hunt one night to find all of these EEBDs around the ship (aside from the ones inside staterooms). Some of the folks that have been on here for a while laughed a little because I was so excited to go on this little adventure – but it teaches a good lesson: things will only be as exciting as you let them! I also decided to make Libby a scavenger hunt for other random things with clues to the room they were in. She only found one of the three, so no prize for her this time. We also plan to go on a scavenger hunt for fire extinguishers soon!

Hunting for EEBDs (left) with ENS Libby (right).
Good times with cribbage.

Two of the guys in the acoustics lab, Bill and Scott, were constantly playing this card game with a red, white, and blue wooden board that looks sort of like a race track. They would lay out cards, count random numbers, and move these pegs in a fashion that I totally did not understand, no matter how long I sat and watched them. Finally, I stayed up later after my shift one night and Carwyn (my roommate) taught me how to play cribbage (she’d taught the science intern Nate to play the previous night). All of the other scientists are really good at this game, so Nate and I started playing each other as the newbies. We are both getting much better at it (although I ultimately came up with the winning record by the end of the cruise)! One of these days, I hope to be as quick with the counting as Bill and Scott. I even taught Libby how to play last night, although she much prefers rummy, which she then taught me how to play.

Animal Love
Two new animals I’ve seen recently: the crested auklet (this little guy landed on board and stuck around a little over a day near the bow of the ship) and a whole lot of Pacific herring that we caught in the net the other day (which I’ve renamed Vegas fish because they are so sparkly and glittery like Vegas lights).

Crested Auklet
Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella)
Pacific herring
Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Amanda Peretich: Awesome Acoustics, July 13, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 13, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 59ºN
Longitude: 174ºW
Ship speed: 11.7 knots (13.5 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 7.3ºC (45.1ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7.6ºC (45.7ºF)
Wind speed: 4.3 knots (4.9 mph)
Wind direction: 12ºT
Barometric pressure: 1010 millibar (1.0 atm, 757.5 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log

How sonar works: energy (sound) waves are pulsed through the water. When it strikes an object, it bounces back to the receiver. (from
How sonar works: energy (sound) waves are pulsed through the water. When it strikes an object, it bounces back to the receiver. (from

Before stepping onto the Oscar Dyson, I wasn’t quite sure about much of the science going on. Did they just put the nets in the water every so often and hope to catch some fish? Carefully lean over the side of the ship saying “here fishy fishy” with the hope that the pollock would find their way into the net? Neither of these scenarios is correct (good thing I’m not actually a fisherman!). So today’s lesson is going to be all about what the chief scientist actually uses to find fish: hydroacoustics (hydro meaning water and acoustics meaning sound). This also involves SONAR, which is short for SOund Navigation And Ranging.

Fishfinding Basics
Fishfinding basics.

If you’ve ever been on a smaller boat, yacht, fishing vessel, or the like, you may have seen something called a fishfinder. The basic concepts are the same as what is happening on the Oscar Dyson. An echosounder sends a pulse of energy waves (sound) through the water. When the pulse strikes an object (such as the swim bladder in fish), it is reflected (bounced) back to the transducer. This signal is then processed and sent to some sort of visual display.

Swim Bladder
Swim bladder in a fish.

The Oscar Dyson uses acoustic quieting technology where the scientists can monitor fish populations without altering their behavior. The Scientific Sonar System and various oceanographic hydrophones (underwater microphones) are raised and lowered through the water column beneath the ship on a retractable centerboard. This is important so that the transducers can be lowered away from the flow noise generated by the hull, which in turn will improve the quality of data collected. In addition, there is a multibeam sonar system located on the forward hull. Ultimately the hydroacoustic data is all used as one piece to the puzzle of measuring the biomass of fish in the survey area.

OD acoustics
The different sonar signal transmitter/receivers (transducers) used on this leg of the pollock survey and their location on the ship.
Neal at work
Chief scientist Neal working away in the Acoustics lab. The second screen from the left on the upper row is showing the information from the ME70 multibeam.

So how does this all work when we are looking for fish? The chief scientist (Neal on the 0400-1600 watch) or another scientist (Denise on the 1600-0400 watch) will spend a lot of time analyzing the various computer screens in the acoustics lab, which has been affectionately termed the “cave” (no windows). They are looking at the information being relayed from both the multibeam and the EK60.

What is a multibeam? The Oscar Dyson has the Simrad ME70 scientific multibeam echosounder. It is located on the hull (underside) of the ship on the front half and sends 31 sonar beams per second down to the bottom of the sea floor.

Multibeam echosounder.

Aft of the multibeam (on the centerboard) are the five Simrad transducers. It may seem confusing, but hopefully I can walk you through a teensy little bit of how it works when we are looking to trawl for fish.

EK60 Transducer
Information from the EK60 transducer at 18kHz (top) and 38kHz (bottom).

Information from the EK60 echosounder is displayed on the far left screen in the acoustics lab while information for the ME70 multibeam is displayed on the next screen. The darker patches are showing that there are fish in that area. When the scientist first starts to see a good amount of fish, they will “mark” it and keep watching. If the screen fills up with fish (as in the EK60 image), the scientist will call upstairs to the bridge and tell them where to head back to on the transect line to start trawling. Depending on the location of the fish in the water column, it may be a bottom trawl (83-112 net), a midwater trawl (AWT net), or a methot trawl. Side note: the 83-112 midwater comparison trawl that I’ve mentioned before is done almost immediately after an AWT midwater trawl to compare the fish caught in a common area.

ME70 Multibeam
Information from the ME70 multibeam. You can determine the sea floor depth and there are five narrow beam slices from the mid-section of the multibeam (of the 31 different beams that span 120 degrees) displayed on screen.
Neal on bridge
Chief scientist Neal up on the bridge.

Then the scientist will head upstairs as the deck crew is preparing the net. One of the many sensors attached to the net is called the FS70 fishsounder or “the turtle”, and it is only used during trawls (because it is attached to the headrope). The scientist can “watch” the fish swimming under the ship using the EK60 information combined with the information from the fishsounder. The yellow “turtle” on the right in the image shows how the FS70 is flying in the water. You want minimal pitch and roll and for the front of it to be facing the back of the ship. This way, we can “see” the fish as they are going through the net. The officer of the deck and lead fisherman or head boatswain can adjust various things to keep the turtle in the right orientation. The middle image below is constantly changing on the screen in the bridge as the sonar is sweeping back and forth, so you can almost watch the individual fish enter the net. It was interesting to watch the delay between when you would see the fish from the EK60 (on the left) and when you saw them with the FS70 (middle).

Trawl Fishsounder
Display screens on the bridge used during a trawl.

Once the scientist is satisfied that enough fish have been caught for a sufficient sample size, the net will be hauled back and the acoustics work is done for just a little bit (giving Neal some time to grab some well-deserved coffee and the rest of us time to get our rain gear on to process the fish).

So some of the questions I had asked (that don’t really fit nicely in the information above):

Why do we use different frequencies in the acoustic studies?

Frequency Wavelength
Relationship between frequency and wavelength. (from

This ties right back in to chemistry (and other sciences) with an equation and the relationship between frequency and wavelength (yay!). Basically there is an inverse relationship which means that at a high frequency there is a smaller or shorter wavelength (wavelength is the distance for peak to peak of a wave). At a low frequency, there is a higher or longer wavelength.

At a low frequency, you will see only see things that are larger, like pollock, whereas you will see very small things like krill and zooplankton at higher frequencies. Having information from both types of frequencies is necessary to complete the scientific research on the Oscar Dyson.

Single Fish
Traveling at 1 knot, showing single fish from EK60 sonar.

Is it possible to see a single fish?
Yes! From sunset to sunrise, the Oscar Dyson doesn’t actually travel the transect lines. This is because the pollock behave differently during darkness than during the day. So instead of traveling between 11 and 12 knots (which is what happens between trawls), it’s almost like the boat is just sitting around for a couple of hours. But during this time, since the boat isn’t moving along quickly, it’s possibly to see individual fish on the sonar as shown in the image.

Hydroacoustic surveys can involve any number of different types and locations of the transducers. (from

Personal Log
Today is Friday the 13th but it was far from unlucky – I finally saw something out in the water other than fog: a boat! Again, all good sightings seem to come from up on the bridge, so I’m thankful for Lieutenant Matt for allowing me to ask a billion questions while I’m up there and teaching me more than I ever thought my brain could hold. He has all of the qualities of a great teacher, which is nice to see.

The ship we saw up on the bridge this morning from about 5 nautical miles away (left), on the sonar (middle), and through the binoculars (right).
Dancing in the fish lab on the Oscar Dyson
Neal and I dancing while waiting for the fish!

Highlight from the other day? Chief scientist Neal finally dressed out in his Grundens (rain gear) and came to help process a catch in the fish lab! While waiting, he even took a quick second to dance in the doorway (we were “Dougie”-ing) to my music that was playing over the speaker system.

NOAA Oscar Dyson flier
NOAA Oscar Dyson Ship Electronics Suite
HTI Sonar
Wikipedia: Sonar

Amanda Peretich: More Trawling Treasures, July 11, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 11, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 58ºN
Longitude: 173ºW
Ship speed: 11.7 knots (13.5 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 7.9ºC (46.2ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7.3ºC (45.1ºF)
Wind speed: 10.7 knots (12.3 mph)
Wind direction: 323ºT
Barometric pressure: 1007 millibar (0.99 atm, 755 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
In a recent post, I talked about how one of the things we are doing on board the Oscar Dyson is trawling for fish. The video from that post showed what happens in the fish lab during a midwater trawl. Remember that there are two nets we have been using for a midwater trawl: first, the normal Aleutian Wing Trawl, or AWT, which catches plenty of pollock, but also the 83-112 to which adjustments are being made to use this bottom trawl net for midwater fishing. But what about using the 83-112 for its original purpose: bottom (or benthic) trawling?

Bottom Trawl

83-112 Bottom Trawl Net
The 83-112 net used for bottom trawls (and comparison midwater trawls on this ship).

I’ve been lucky enough to see two bottom trawls on this cruise, although neither of them were actually during my shift. My wonderful roommate Carwyn, one of the other scientists on board, came to tell me about the bottom trawls so I could see all the neat creatures from below! A bottom trawl is used when the pollock are swimming much lower in the water column for one reason or another, but in trying to catch them, there are always many more “trawling treasures” that find their way onto the fish table. The process is basically the same as a midwater trawl, except the 83-112 net is lower down in the water towards the bottom of the sea floor (hence the term bottom trawl). The net is also much shorter in length than the AWT using in midwater trawling.

DYK?: How do the scientists know exactly how far down the net is in the water column? One of the sensors attached to the net is called the SBE (Seabird) 39. This will measure the depth and temperature during the trawl and determine the average head rope depth (which is the top of the net) and average temperature during the trawl between EQ (equilibrium – start of the trawl) and HB (haul back – end of the trawl). The sensor is then uploaded on the computer and the data is used by the scientific party.

Headrope Haul 76
This plot is used to determine the average head rope depth and temperature during the trawl (between EQ and HB). Depth is measured in meters and temperature in degrees Celsius on the y-axis versus time on the x-axis.
Field Guides
Field guides to classify various species found in the Pacific Ocean.

I attempted to classify all of these great bottom trawl treasures, and discovered that this was way easier said than done. There are some books in the fish lab with photos and descriptions just of the species that may be found around the Alaskan waters, and it was incredibly difficult to nail down a specific species for most of the finds!

In the bottom trawl, we found things such as the Oregon hairy triton, an unidentified pretty purple star fish, pink shrimp, basket stars, sheriff’s star, halibut, crabs, pacific cod, sculpin, Pribilof snail, sea anemone, scallop, sponge, sea pens, arrowtooth flounder, flathead sole, chiton, and seaweed.

Enjoy the slideshow below with photos of the bottom trawl treasures (and an interesting fact or two about some of them) or click on the link to open it in a new window!

Bering Sea Bottom Trawl Treasures

Methot Trawl

Methot Net
Methot trawl net.

The other trawl we’ve done outside of the normal AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl) midwater and 83-112 midwater comparison trawl is something called a methot trawl. This uses a completely different net because the others have mesh that is much too large to catch something so small. The methot net has very fine mesh and a hard square opening with a fixed height. The cod end (very end of the net) is actually a small white container because the organisms collected are so small. A methot trawl is done to collect euphausiids, otherwise known as krill. Sometimes other microscopic (small) organisms are collected as well, including jellies, salps, and amphipods, which must then be carefully sorted out.

DYK?: Krill are part of the phylum Arthropoda, which includes species with an exoskeleton and jointed legs such as spiders, crabs, insects, and lobsters. They are an important part of the ecosystem because these small, reddish-orange animals are a source of food for many larger animals.

Steps to process a methot trawl in the fish lab:
1. Dump contents of the hard cod end container into a large gray bin.
2. Remove any large jellyfish (and weigh those separately).
3. Rinse contents from the gray bin into the sieve to remove any water.
4. Using tweezers, sort through the small microscopic organisms on the sieve and remove anything that isn’t krill.
5. Weigh krill sample.
6. Collect a random subsample in a scoop and weigh it.
7. Count all of the krill in the subsample (yes, this is as tedious as it sounds!).

Processing a Methot
Processing a methot trawl: removing water with the sieve, sorting through all of the krill and pull out any amphipods, salps, or jellies with tweezers (to weigh separately).

Personal Log

Heading down to check out the bowthruster on the Oscar Dyson!

It continues to be a little slow on the trawling during my shift, but that’s okay, because I was lucky enough yesterday to get a tour of some of the lower bridge levels from the 1st Assistant Engineer, Tony.

DYK?: There are 8 levels on the Oscar Dyson. They are numbered, starting from the topmost deck, as follows:
O4 – flying bridge
O3 – bridge
O2 – staterooms (CO, XO, chief scientist)
O1 – staterooms (scientists), CTD winch, FRB (fast rescue boat), Peggy D (boat), liferafts
1 – galley, labs (acoustics, chem, dry, fish)
2 – engineering (machinery, centerboard, oceanic winch, trawl winch, and more), staterooms (deck crew and then some)
3 – engineering (machinery, bilge/ballast, workshop, and more)
4 – bowthruster, transducer, fuel oil tanks, ballasting tanks

I plan to share some of the facts I learned related to chemistry and biology from this tour (and other things on board) in one of my next blogs, so be sure to look for all of the info on the generators, sea water purification, MSD, cathodic protection system, and more.

We did have two trawls yesterday (July 10) – the first was an AWT midwater trawl that had caught so many fish it was actually a “splitter”! In a splitter, there’s an extra step between hauling in the net and getting it to the table in the fish lab. The cod end of the AWT net is opened over a separate splitting crate, where there is another net underneath that will only take about half of the fish to release on the table. The rest are then returned to the water.

Splitting an AWT midwater trawl that collected too many pollock.

We also had drills yesterday (these are required once a week) and after gaining permission from the bridge, I checked in to my muster station (which is in the conference room for the science party, away from all of the action) and then went and watched what everyone else on board does. When we have fire drills in school, the alarm sounds, we walk outside, and wait for the “all clear” before heading back in. When they have fire drills on the Oscar Dyson, they use a smoke machine to produce smoke, there is an on-scene crew (first responders), there may or may not be a “victim” involved, the hose team actually dresses out (with the help of another person on the alpha or bravo firefighting teams), and the fire hoses are actually used. It may seem like old hat to everyone else on board, but I found it incredibly interesting to watch!

Fire Drill
Fire drill (smoke in the oceanic winch room) on board the Oscar Dyson.

Following the fire drill, there was an abandon ship drill, where everyone on board grabs their survival suit, PFD, and heads to one of three life rafts (there are actually 6 on the ship). The CO had me stay up in the TV lounge so that my life raft (#5) wouldn’t have a “full muster” until they sent out a search party to find me. Just as there are two people on hose team in both alpha and bravo for the fire drill, people must go in pairs for the search party, so Patrick and Rick came and found me. I think some people thought I’d actually not heard the alarm (I was wearing headphones), but I was instructed to be up there! We will have one more day of drills before we get back to Dutch Harbor, so maybe I’ll actually don my bright orange survival suit, which other Teachers at Sea in the past have affectionately called the “gumby suit” (even though Gumby was green).

Animal Love
In yesterday’s AWT midwater trawl, we had a new visitor in the fish lab. Introducing the lumpsucker!

Me (left) and ENS Libby (right) showing some love for a lumpsucker (middle).

The lumpsucker is in the family Cyclopteridae, which is derived from Greek words that mean circle and fin in reference to their round-shaped pectoral fins. There is a sucker on the bottom of them, so when we put this little sucker in some sea water while we were processing the fish, he stuck himself to the bottom of the container! Lumpsuckers are poor swimmers, so they are mostly benthic, meaning they stay at the bottom of the sea floor. However, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of swimming (especially since this one was caught during a midwater trawl). We took some photos and tossed this little guy back to sea, so hopefully he makes it!

Amanda Peretich: CTD and XBT – More Acronyms? July 8, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 8, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 57ºN
Longitude: 172ºW
Ship speed: 11.2 knots (12.9 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 6ºC (42.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7ºC (44.6ºF)
Wind speed: 2.5 knots (2.9 mph)
Wind direction: 156ºT
Barometric pressure: 1020 millibar (1.0 atm, 765 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
Today’s post is going to be about two of the water profiling devices used on board the Oscar Dyson: the CTD and XBT.

CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. It’s actually a device that is “dropped” over the starboard side of the ship at various points along the transect lines to take measurements of conductivity and temperature at various depths in the ocean. On this leg of the pollock survey, we will complete about 25-30 CTD drops by the end. The data can also be used to calculate salinity. Water samples are collected to measure dissolved oxygen (these samples are analyzed all together at the end of the cruise). Determining the amount of oxygen available in the water column can help provide information about not only the fish but also other phytoplankton and more. Although we are not doing it on this leg, fluorescence can also be measured to monitor chlorophyll levels.

From left to right: getting the CTD ready to deploy, the winch is used to put the CTD into the water, the CTD is lowered into the water – notice that the people are strapped in to the ship so they don’t fall overboard during deployment

DYK? (Did You Know?): What exactly are transect lines? Basically this is the path the ship is taking so they know what areas the ship has covered. Using NOAA’s Shiptracker, you can see in the photo where the Oscar Dyson has traveled on this pollock survey (both Leg 1 and Leg 2) up to this point in time.

Transect Lines
Using NOAA’s Shiptracker, you can see the transect lines that the Oscar Dyson has followed during the pollock cruise until July 8. The ship started in Dutch Harbor (DH), traveled to the point marked “Leg 1 start” and along the transect lines until “Leg 1 end” before returning to DH to exchange people. The ship then returned to the point marked “Leg 2 start” and followed transect lines to the current location. The Oscar Dyson will return to DH to exchange people before beginning Leg 3 of this survey and completing the transect lines.
Deploying the CTD
I was lucky enough to be able to operate the winch during a CTD deploy. The winch is basically what pulls in or lets out the cable attached to the CTD to raise and lower it in the water. Special thanks to the chief boatswain Willie for letting me do this!

The CTD can only be deployed when the ship is not moving, so if weather is nice, we should just stay mostly in one place. The officers on the bridge can also manually hold the ship steady. Or they can use DP, which is dynamic positioning. This computer system controls the rudder and propeller on the stern and the bowthruster at the front to maintain position.

Here is a video from a previous Teacher at Sea (TAS) about the CTD and showing its “drop” into the water: Story Miller – 2010. Another TAS also has a video on her blog showing the data being collected during a CTD drop: Kathleen Harrison – 2011.


The thermocline is the area where the upper isothermal (mixed) layer meets the deep water layer and there is a decline in temperature with increasing depth.

XBT is the acronym for the eXpendable Bathymetric Thermograph. It is used to quickly collect temperature data from the surface to the sea floor. A graph of depth (in meters) versus temperature (in ºC) is used to find the thermocline and determine the temperature on the sea floor.

DYK? Normally, temperature decreases as you go farther down in the sea because colder water is denser than warmer water so it sinks below. But this is not the case in polar regions such as the Bering Sea. Just below the surface is an isothermal layer caused by wind mixing and convective overturning where the temperature is approximately the same as on the surface. Below this layer is the thermocline where the temperature then rapidly decreases.

The MK-21IISA is a bathythermograph data acquisition system. This is a portable (moveable) system used to collect data including ocean temperature, conductivity, and sound velocity and various depths using expendable probes (ones you can lose overboard and not get back) that are launched from surface ships. The depth is determined using elapsed time from surface contact and a known sink rate.

There are three different probes that can be used with this data acquisition system:
1. XBT probe – this is the probe that is used on OD, which only measures water temperature at various depths
2. XSV probe – this probe can measure sound velocity versus depth
3. XCTD probe – this probe measures both temperature and conductivity versus depth

On the XBT probe, there is a thermistor (something used to measure temperature) that is connected to an insulated wire wound on two spools (one inside the probe and one outside the probe but inside the canister). The front, or nose, of the probe is a seawater electrode that is used to sense when the probe enters the water to begin data collection. There are different types of XBT probes depending on the maximum depth and vessel speed of the ship.

XBT Canister and Probe
This shows a sideview (left) and topview (middle) of the canister that houses the probe (right) released into the water during an XBT.

There are really four steps to launch the XBT probe using the LM-3A handheld launcher on board:
1. Raise contact lever.
2. Lay probe-containing canister into cradle (make sure to hold it upwards so the probe doesn’t fall out of the canister!).
3. Swing contact level down to lock in canister.
4. Pull release pin out of canister, aim into ocean, and drop probe.
Important: the wire should not come in contact with the ship!

Launching an XBT
“Launching” an XBT probe from starboard side on the Oscar Dyson. There is no actual trigger – you just make a little forward motion with the launcher to allow the probe to drop into the water.

Be sure to check out the video below, which shows what the data profile looks like as the probe is being dropped into the water. An XBT drop requires a minimum of two people, one at the computer inside and one outside launching the probe. I’ve been working with Scientist Bill and ENS Kevin to help out with the XBT launches, which also includes using the radios on board to mark the ship’s position when the probe hits the water.

Personal Log

Quickest Route?
We’ve been taught in school that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line, so you’d think that the red voyage would be the fastest way to get from Seattle, Washington across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. But it’s actually a path up through Alaska!

It’s been a little slow on the trawling during my shift recently, so I’ve had some extra time to wander around the ship and talk to various people amidst researching and writing more blog posts. I think one of my favorite parts so far has been all of the great information I’ve been learning up on the bridge from the field operations officer, LT Matt Davis.

DYK? When looking at the map, you’d think the quickest route from Seattle, Washington to Japan would be a straight line across the Pacific Ocean. But it’s not! Actually, ships will travel by way of Alaska and it is a shorter distance (and thus faster).

View from the Bow
View from the bow of the Oscar Dyson.

Vessels  use gnomonic ocean tracking charts to determine the shortest path. Basically a straight line drawn on the gnomonic projection corresponds to a great circle, or geodesic curve, that shows the minimum path from any two points on the surface of the Earth as a straight line. So on the way to Japan from Seattle, you would travel up through Alaskan waters, using computer software to help determine the proper pathway.

I’ve also had some time to explore a few other areas of the ship I hadn’t been to before. I’ve learned some new lingo (look for this in an upcoming post) and plenty of random facts. One of the places I checked out is the true bow of the ship where, if I was standing a bit higher (and wearing a PFD, or personal flotation device), I’d look like I was Rose Dawson in one of the scenes from Titanic.

Animal Love
All of the time I spend on the bridge also allows for those random mammal sightings and I was able to see a few whales from afar on July 7!

Whale Sighting
Whale sighting from the bridge! You have to look really closely to see their blow spouts in the middle of the photo.

Amanda Peretich: Theragra chalcogramma, July 6, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 6, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 58ºN
Longitude: 172ºW
Ship speed: 11.4 knots (13.1 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 4.6ºC (40.3ºF)
Surface water temperature: 6.3ºC (43.3ºF)
Wind speed: 5.7 knots (6.6 mph)
Wind direction: 108ºT
Barometric pressure: 1016.5 millibar (1.00 atm, 762 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
Today’s lesson is all about the lovely object of FRV (fisheries research vessel) Oscar Dyson’s affection on the summer survey: Theragra chalcogramma, also known as pollock, walleye pollock, Pacific pollock, or Alaska pollock. However, the word pollock could actually refer to the Pollachius genus, which includes Atlantic pollock, but this blog is about the Pacific variety.

DYK? (Did You Know?): biological organisms are classified using a system created by Carolus Linnaeus. Theragra chalcogramma refers to the genus and species classification for Pacific Pollock, just as Homo sapiens is used to classify humans. This is known as binomial nomenclature. You will see this naming throughout the blog. One mnemonic device to remember the order of classification (Kingdom –> Phylum –> Class –> Order –> Family –> Genus –> Species)? King Phillip Called Out For Greasy Spaghetti!

What do they look like?

Alaska Pollock
Alaska Pollock

All pollock are part of the cod family Gadidae. They can grow to a maximum of over 3 feet (91 cm) but will be about 12-20 inches (30.5-50.8 cm) in length on average. Their speckled color pattern allows them to blend in with their surroundings to avoid predators.

This is the main area where pollock can be found.

Where do we find them?
Alaska pollock are a semipelagic schooling fish closely related to Atlantic cod, which means they mainly swim together in the middle of the water column. Alaska pollock are found throughout the northern part of the Pacific Ocean, most notably in the Bering Sea, but also can be found in the Gulf of Alaska.

What do they eat?
Juvenile (younger) pollock eat zooplankton and small fish whereas older pollock eat other fish including juvenile pollock. We have seen some very full stomachs when sexing the pollock this week!

Who studies them?
Scientists are constantly conducting various pollock surveys in the Arctic area. The Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) as well as the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are two places that will use both acoustics and midwater and bottom trawls to determine the relative abundance and more during a pollock survey. You can read more about the AFSC walleye pollock research here. This type of research allows for decisions to be made with respect to how much pollock can be harvested each year.

How are they harvested?

Westward Seafoods
The seafood processor Westward Seafoods in Captains Bay, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Pollock are harvested by trawlers. This means that the ship has a large net (see my previous blog on trawling) that is towed behind the vessel in midwater. Some vessels (not the scientific ones like the Oscar Dyson) are “catcher-processors”, which means that they will both catch pollock and process them at sea. Other ships are just “catchers” and will then transfer their loot to a shore-based processor or a “tramper” vessel. In Dutch Harbor and Unalaska, there are multiple seafood plants: UniSea, Westward, Alyeska, Icicle, Trident, and Royal Aleutian Seafoods. The “trampers” are most often foreign vessels that are not able to dock in the United States but will instead anchor in a place such as Captains Bay in Dutch Harbor and await a commercial fishing vessel to unload their catch. The tramper can then return back home to somewhere like South Korea with the seafood.

DYK? The two-tone color on the trampers is helpful to know how “full” the ship is – the less red you can see above the water, the more fish that are onboard!

This is a foreign “tramper” vessel, sitting in Captains Bay in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

In the United States, there is a 12-mile boundary from the shore that is marked on nautical charts to allow individual states to determine the fishing rules. They will dictate how many of each species can be kept, what months fishing can occur, and what size fish must be thrown back. Foreign ships can pass through these areas, but are not allowed to fish or look for resources (hence the “trampers”). Outside of this exists the exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, 200 nautical miles off shore. Permits are required to travel or fish through a foreign EEZ. For example, on Leg 3 of the Pollock survey, the Oscar Dyson is set to cross the International Date Line into Russian waters, which requires a permit.

Fun Fishy Facts
* You’ve actually probably eaten Alaska pollock and not even known it! It is used to make imitation crab meat (surimi) and fish sticks, amongst other things.
* Compared to Atlantic pollock, Alaska pollock has a milder taste, whiter color, and lower oil content.
* Alaska pollock is considered to be an eco- and ocean-friendly choice due to abundance and the fact that trawling does not cause significant habitat destruction.
* Alaska pollock is the largest fishery in the U.S. by volume and one of the best managed fisheries in the world.

Midwater Pollock Cam Trawl
This photo showing Alaska pollock is from a midwater trawl on the Oscar Dyson on July 6, 2012 using the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl) at about 100 meter depth.

NOAA Fishwatch: Alaska Pollock
Wikipedia: Alaska Pollock
New England Aquarium: Alaska Pollock
Assessment of the walleye pollock stock in the Eastern Bering Sea
– Scientists on board the Oscar Dyson 🙂

Personal Log

Pyrotechnics Demonstration
Pyrotechnics demonstration (aka shooting off expired flares after getting permission from a bunch of people) for the Fourth of July off starboard on the Oscar Dyson

I last posted on the Fourth of July, before our big “pyrotechnics demonstration” to celebrate the holiday. What a great ending to a beautiful day filled with blue skies!

I’ve finally gotten my “sea legs”, which I’ve been told isn’t how well you can walk in a straight line on board, but how well you can maintain standing position and move with the rolling, pitching, and yawing of the ship. I may not have mastered the treadmill yet, but I’m quickly learning to enjoy the elliptical again.

During the night shift on the Fourth of July, my wonderful roommate Carwyn came to tell me they were doing a bottom trawl if I wanted to come check it out. The lost hours of sleep were well worth the vast array of new critters and creatures that came up in the net! I plan to do a future blog on what we found, so be sure to look for that.

In adding to the awesome experience I’m having on board, I’ve gotten some great news online in the past few days. First, my amazing AP chemistry class earned all 3s, 4s, and 5s on the AP chemistry exam they took back in May (scores were just posted online for teacher access). Then I received an e-mail with a job offer to teach chemistry and honors biology at La Plata High School in La Plata, Maryland, after having a phone interview from the Anchorage airport the day I was flying out to Dutch Harbor. This helped relieve a little bit of stress from not having a full-time job offer after my big move to Maryland from Tennessee and helped to confirm that teaching high school is what I should be doing with my life!

Animal Love
I have been spending plenty of time on the bridge, up above that on the flying bridge, and looking out my stateroom window for something in the water other than birds. Today was the day I finally saw something (although this was thanks to ENS Kevin Michael coming to get me and show me)!

Introducing a Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli):Dall's porpoise

A Dall’s porpoise swimming next to the Oscar Dyson around 6am on July 6, 2012

They resemble a killer whale in coloring and have a very thick body and smaller head, ranging through much of the northern Pacific Ocean and nearby seas (like the Bering Sea). Lucky for me!

Amanda Peretich: Trawling for Fish, July 4, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 4, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 56ºN
Longitude: 170ºW
Ship speed: 12.5 knots (14.4 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 7.3ºC (45.1ºF)
Surface water temperature: 5.8ºC (42.4ºF)
Wind speed: 7 knots (8.1 mph)
Wind direction: 280.8ºT
Barometric pressure: 1011.5 millibar (1.0 atm, 758.6 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
For those that know me, I like to press snooze on my alarm clock. A lot. So this whole being in the acoustics lab at 0400 has been pretty hard for me, but I haven’t been late yet (knock on wood). On July 3rd, I was a little snooze-happy and didn’t climb out of bed until 0355. Now, I could have showered and been a little late down to the lab, but I’m so glad I decided to forgo smelling good in order to not be late. The night shift was processing our first trawl to catch fish and I was lucky enough to catch the “tail” end of it. We had three more fish trawls during my shift yesterday, too!

Stern View
View of the stern (back) of the Oscar Dyson, showing both trawl nets: midwater trawl on right, bottom trawl on left

So what exactly is a trawl? Trawling is used in fishing when you pull a net in the water behind a ship, with the net itself being called the trawl. There are two main types of trawling, based on where the net is located in the water column:
* bottom (or benthic) trawling – the net is towed along the ocean floor
* midwater (or pelagic) trawling – the net is towed above the benthic zone

Bottom trawling can have various negative impacts on the environment, most notably the fact that the trawl disturbs seabed habitats. It can also remix sediments with the water column so if there were any pollutants (like DDT) that had settled to the bottom, they could make their way back into the food chain and into the food we eat. However, there are also many positive things to be learned from bottom trawling, and it is necessary in scientific investigations. Some of the scientific research in this field involves adjusting various factors on the trawl to minimize habitat disturbance.

On the Oscar Dyson, the ship is large enough to have reels for both a bottom and a midwater net. The bottom net is called the 83-112 (83 ft headrope and 112 ft footrope) and the midwater net is called the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl). One of the side research projects that has been going on here: adjustments on a bottom trawl to allow for midwater fishing.

A basic trawl net looks like this:

Trawl Net
This is what a trawl net looks like!

The trawl doors help keep the net open at the front when the net is in the water and there are floats on the top of the net along with the headline and there can be weights on the bottom of the net along with the foot rope. There are other things attached to the net to collect data, such as something that knows how deep the fishing occurred and at what temperature and another device that measures the amount of light.

The chief scientist will be watching various things on the computer screens in the acoustic lab (more on this later) to know when they should put the net in the water. He will relay this information to the people on the bridge that will then have the deck crew get ready to fish. There has to be plenty of good communication onboard, that’s for sure! The chief scientist then goes up to the bridge and analyzes more screens to determine when he thinks we have caught enough fish to reel in the net and begin processing.

There are 7 main objectives for the Oscar Dyson DY1207 cruise, which is also how scientific research works – there is more than one “project” going on at a time to maximize productivity. These objectives are:

1. collect acoustic data and trawl data necessary to determine the distribution, biomass, and biological composition of walleye Pollock and other scatterers
2. calibrate the ER60 and ME70 acoustic systems
3. collect target strength data using hull-mounted transducers or a lowered transducer for use in scaling echo integration data to estimates of absolute abundance
4. collect physical oceanographic data (temperature, salinity, fluorescence, and oxygen profiles with associated water samples), and continuously collect sea surface temperature, salinity, fluorescence, and oxygen data with associated water samples
5. collect data on fish distributions and school characteristics using ME70 multi-beam echosounder
6. collect light intensity and penetration data
7. conduct midwater trawl and bottom trawl comparisons

When we go “fishing” we are working on the first objective most of the time. Why is this pollock survey even important? The data from this survey allows managers to adjust the amount of Alaskan pollock (or other types of fish from other surveys) that commercial fisherman can harvest without overfishing. This helps ensure the viability of pollock fishing for future generations. Check out this great article as NOAA scientists kick off surveys to collect data vital to success of Alaska’s fisheries!

Here’s a little video to walk through what happens in the fish lab to process the fish and collect data:

Personal Log

Rare sunny day in the Bering Sea
It’s a rare beautiful sunny day in the Bering Sea for the Fourth of July

I am lucky enough to be able to say I’m spending Fourth of July in the middle of the Bering Sea with some pretty great people! Last night was probably the roughest seas we’ve had so far, and lucky for me, I had taken some Dramamine right before heading to sleep because I still wasn’t feeling 100% myself. I was sliding around all over my bed and at one point thought we had gone headfirst into the water. Apparently this isn’t even really bad weather, so I’m definitely glad that I’m on a summer cruise with calmer waters.

Today the sun finally came out (I haven’t seen it since we were back in Dutch Harbor), and I was able to get a nice “Alaskan tan” (and a quick nap) on my face and hands up on the flying bridge with ENS Chelsea Frate for a little bit.

Flying Bridge Naptime
Enjoying a quick nap in the rare sunshine on the flying bridge of the Oscar Dyson

So far there are some things I’ve found challenging on board:
* showering (those handles are in there for a reason!)
* passing up on any of the delicious food (making the following thing difficult as well)
* using the treadmill (elliptical – ok, bike – ok, stair stepper – ok, treadmill – are you kidding me?!)
* staying awake during movies in the lounge off shift – those couches are just so comfy!

Animal Love
We caught a few extra critters in our fish trawl this morning, so here they are:
* Rock sole (Lepidopsetta bilineata), normally found in the benthic zone

Rock sole
This is a rock sole fish, which is a type of flatfish.

* Yellow Irish lord (Hemilepidotus jordani)

Yellow Irish lord
This is a Yellow Irish lord fish

* Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Pacific herring
This is a Pacific herring

Amanda Peretich: A Community Afloat, June 30, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: June 30, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 54ºN
Longitude: 166ºW
Ship speed: 11.5 knots (13.2 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 6.5ºC (43.7ºF)
Surface water temperature: 6.9ºC (44.42ºF)
Wind speed: 7 knots (8.05 mph)
Wind direction: 265ºT
Barometric pressure: 1011 millibar (0.998 atm, 758 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
Not much science to discuss yet since we just left port at 0900 and I won’t be working in the fish lab until my 0400-1600 shift tomorrow (that’s 4am-4pm for anyone unfamiliar with military time). More to come on the pollock survey in a later post.

However, I did have the opportunity to spend a few hours up in the bridge today and I learned A TON thanks to NOAA Corps Officers ENS (ensign) Libby Chase and LT (lieutenant) Matt Davis! The chemistry teacher in me was amazed by all of the conversions used. Just a few of the things I learned today on the bridge:

Main control panel on the bridge

* During the majority of transiting time, the Beier Radio Dynamic Positioning System is used. This is like an auto-pilot that controls the rudder to keep the Oscar Dyson on course using a gyro compass. They have nicknamed her “Betty” because she talks to you in a female voice, kinda like Siri on the new iPhone.

* A gyro compass is different from the magnetic compass that I am more familiar with using. The wind direction is measured in degrees true, which is based on true north being at 0º. Magnetic compasses have about a 9º variation, but things on the ship can also influence the deviation in the magnetic compass reading, so it is much better to use the gyro compass.

* You can drive the ship from multiple locations on the bridge. The main location looks to the bow/forward (front) of the ship. The starboard (right) location is used when the CTD is deployed (more on this later) and also whenever the boat is docked. The aft/stern (back of the ship) location is used when setting and recovering nets during a trawl. And the port (left) location is a ghost town that is rarely used.

* I learned the distance equation used in determining something called DR, or dead reckoning. This allows you to notice any set and drift while going along your course and tells where the current may or may not be pushing you to allow you to correct the course. The equation is as follows:

D = S x T
D is distance (in nautical miles)
S is speed (in knots)
T is time (in hours)

For example, if we were traveling at 11.35 knots, after 30 mins (or 0.5 hours), we should travel a distance of 5.7 nautical miles (D = 11.35 x 0.5). The bridge officers will plot this and see after half an hour if the ship has stayed on course based on the DR and the new coordinates after 30 minutes. Also, in case you didn’t know, 1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles.

* There is no common set of units for any given measurement, so everyone has to be familiar with how to do conversions. For example, when determining barometric pressure, you can use millibar, atmospheres, millimeters of mercury, torr, etc. (1 atm = 1013.25 mbar = 760 mmHg = 760 torr). For speed, you can use knots or miles per hour (1 knot = 1.15 mph).

Personal Log
What an adventure this has already been. Long story short, it took an extra day to get to Dutch Harbor due to weather conditions, giving me an overnight stay in Anchorage. I have come to discover that this is not an uncommon occurrence. It did give me a chance to meet plenty of people from the ship at the airport before we even arrived since we were all sitting around the terminal waiting on standby for flights. But I finally made it, had an exit row seat (see photo) and all of my luggage arrived with me!

Exit Row
On my second flight to Dutch Harbor, lucky enough to get in off standby AND get an exit row seat!

I had the entire day yesterday in Dutch Harbor to explore, so I ran the 3ish miles back to town, checked out the Museum of the Aleutians (history lesson!), did some shopping, and headed back to the Oscar Dyson.

DYK? (Did You Know?): Dutch Harbor was bombed by Japanese naval aircraft on June 3 & 4, 1942 during WWII (about six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor).

I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time eating a late lunch when the opportunity to kayak in Captains Bay came up. Four of us unloaded the ocean kayaks from the ship into the water, made our way down to the kayaks, and enjoyed breathtaking views while paddling against the current (doing it this way made our return trip much easier). This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and the people I was with were amazing. I plan to introduce everyone on board in a later blog so you can get to know them a little as well. I can also now say that I have swum in the freezing Alaskan waters because at the end three of us jumped in!

Kayaking in Captains Bay
Kayaking in Captains Bay in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

I was able to watch as we left port from the flying bridge (the highest bridge on the ship). Since there isn’t much to do until we are farther out to sea, today I have just done a lot of exploring and talking to people. Basically this is a little community afloat for the next 17 days. There are two things you really need to successfully live on board in such close quarters: you need to be flexible and able to work with others and you need to do your part around the ship, both on and off your shift. Our staterooms are nice (the mattress is actually extremely comfy), the bathrooms are good, we can keep our clothes clean in the laundry room, read books in the library/conference room, watch movies in the theater/lounge (we already have the Hunger Games and other new movies), the galley (where we have food access 24/7 but meals are served at 0700, 1100, and 1700) is amazing thanks to our incredible chief steward, and there are two gym areas on board to work off all the delicious calories! Check out the photos of these areas below:

Ship Spaces
Ship spaces (clockwise from top left): stateroom, bathroom, conference room, laundry room
Ship Spaces
Ship spaces (clockwise from top left): theater, galley, gym 1, gym 2

Animal Love
Before I arrived in Alaska, I thought of the bald eagle as a majestic creature that you rarely see in the wild and mostly see in zoos. Here, they have been fondly called “sky rats” by some people – they are EVERYWHERE: in the sky and on the ship. They are still gorgeous and I can’t help but take multiple photos every time I see them. Make sure to check out the link for the bald eagle and the root of its scientific name; it really makes a lot of sense! I’ve seen more eagles in the past two days than in my entire lifetime.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagles: the “sky rats” of Dutch Harbor

Amanda Peretich: Get to Know Me, June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 29 – July 17, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: eastern Bering Sea
Date: June 20, 2012

That's me and one of my loves: the periodic table!
That’s me and one of my loves: the periodic table!

My first post is supposed to be an introduction to me and what I’ll be doing for three weeks in the middle of the Bering Sea so here goes nothing! My name is Amanda Peretich, and I have been teaching biology, chemistry, and criminal science investigations (get it? CSI) at Karns High School in Knoxville, TN for the past four years. My route to teaching high school was probably not really traditional, but it’s provided me with plenty of adventures along the way, and if you know me, you know I love a good adventure!

I am so excited to arrive on the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson to participate in walleye pollock research in an acoustic trawl survey in the eastern Bering Sea (similar to this one from last summer) in a little over a week. You’ll hear plenty more about this research in the weeks to come. How am I able to do this? Well, NOAA (which is an acronym for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has a Teacher at Sea program that I had never heard of before last fall when I randomly found it in a Google search for summer teacher-y programs. Ahh, the wonders of the internet and technology! So I applied to the program (really kind of at the last-minute, which also hits on my procrastination problems), wrote some pretty good essays, had some amazing recommendations from people (shout out to Theresa Nixon and Anne Hudnall for what I can only imagine were the best letters ever!), and later found out I’d been selected as one of 25 teachers from across the U.S. for this amazing opportunity!

FUN FACT: Did you know that the Discovery show Deadliest Catch is filmed in the Bering Sea and that the operations base for the fishing fleet is in Dutch Harbor, Alaska where I will be leaving from? However, I think those rough seas on the show are due to filming during the fall and winter seasons, not summer. I’m sure I will update you in a later post about how crazy the waters are during July, but I will have to remember that it could be much more treacherous.

Not that I’ll be able to have so many photos in all of my blogs (being on a ship in the middle of the ocean = sporadic and slow internet access, thus less photos), but this little slideshow will hopefully tell you a little more about myself in picture form:

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Each of my posts (which are limited to about every other day or every 3 days) aboard the ship will include a science & technology log and then a personal log, but we are also able to add additional sections as well. Help me choose which ones to add below! (sidenote: I chose the “sunset” background for the poll because of the birds in it – I hear there are plenty of birds in Alaska – now the palm trees and sun, you’ll want to replace with other trees and clouds)

Did I forget to mention that this experience is also the beginning of a new chapter in my life? My wonderful husband Michael finished his PhD in chemistry at the University of Tennessee and accepted a civilian chemist position in the fuels lab with NAVAIR in Patuxent River, Maryland. I finished out the school year and sold our house in Knoxville while he has been training and traveling to fun places like Pensacola, Florida, but I will officially move up to Maryland the day before I get on a plane for Alaska! Didn’t I say how much I love adventures and the unknown?