Jennifer Fry: March 20, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 20, 2012


Pictured is our NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette.

Life on the ocean aboard NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette

There were four decks or levels to the ship which include:

  • Flying Bridge Deck: observations take place as well as storage


  • Bridge Deck: Navigation can take place from the bridge or the trawl house. The trawl house

faces toward the stern of the ship and is used to control the ship during “fishing.”

  • Boat Deck: Officers’ & Chief Scientist’s staterooms. A stateroom is where you would sleep

on a boat or ship. Your bed is called a “rack.” Most staterooms on the Oscar Elton Sette have

bunk beds. The boat deck is where the small launches/rescue boats are stored.

  • There is a FRB, Fast Rescue Boat, and two small launches.
  •  Quarterdeck/ Main Deck: Ship’s store, survey officers’ staterooms and the back deck, used

for fishing. *The term quarterdeck was originally, in the early 17th century, used for a

smaller deck, covering about a quarter of the vessel. It is usually reserved for officers,

guests, passengers. It is also an entry point for personnel.

  • Lower/ Galley Deck: Crew’s and scientists’ staterooms, library, two lounges, galley, where everyone eats their meals.
  • Hold: Gym for exercising and engineer’s storage area.
  • Communications, Oscar Elton Sette maintains a Web site titled Student Connection (, which provides semi-weekly communication between students and the ship. Students can follow the vessel’s daily operations through regularly posted pictures and write-ups through this site.

For more information about the Sette go to:

The NOAA Corps (

NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers are a vital part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric

Administration (NOAA). Officers provide

support during NOAA missions ranging

from launching a weather balloon at the

South Pole, conducting hydrographic or

fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys

in the tropical Pacific, flying snow surveys

and into hurricanes.

NOAA Corps celebrates its 205th


this year.

Find out more about the Corps, its mission and history from the “About the Corps” link.

Pictured here is the entire science party aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette.

Here are some ship terms to remember…

Stairs are ladders

Stairwells are ladderwells

Ceilings are overheads

Floors are decks

Bathrooms are heads

Halls are passageways

Big halls are companionways

Pointy end is the bow (pronounced like  “wow”)

Stubby end is stern

And liberty, which is shore leave — time off on shore (enlisted get liberty & officers get shore leave)

Who’s Piloting the Ship?

A steer is what you BBQ

You steer a car

You pilot a ship

The person on the wheel of the ship is the helmsman

The wheel is called the helm

You steer a course

You pilot a ship

Wishing you fair winds and following seas

 Student Questions:
Q: Have you seen any butterfly fish?
A: The most interesting butterfly fish was a juvenile.  It was about the size of a marble and it had horns. It was certainly one of the most interesting specimens we caught.
This is a juvenile butterfly fish. It is the size of a small marble and has horns.
The butterfly fish is rather rare and this made the scientists very happy to see one.

Q:  What do you do when there IS a fire?

A:  While onboard the NOAA ship Sette we had several fire drills.  The scientists and I were to report to the “Texas Deck” which is just behind the bridge where the captain pilots the ship.  During the “Abandon Ship” drill, I learned to put on a big orange “Gumby Suit” also known as a  survival suit.  When worn it keeps you afloat and warm while in the water, and since it is orange, it is very visible.

Teacher at Sea, Jennifer Fry and crew member James McDade muster on the Texas Deck during an Abandon Ship drill aboard NOAA ship Sette.

Jennifer Fry: March 19, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 19, 2012

Here I am processing fish samples.
The small boat dangles beside the NOAA ship Sette before it is deployed into the ocean. Pictured here, skilled fisherman,Mills Dunlap and Teacher at Sea, Jennifer Fry
The small boat SE6 is being deployed.

Small Boat Operations

Today I switched from the night shift to days.  Joining the crew on the small boat operations was a real treat.  The two 10-meter small boats are used for a variety of scientific study such as fishing, plankton tows, researching protected species, cetacean acoustic studies, and A.U.V. autonomous underwater vehicle maneuvers.  Today we will be fishing the ledge of  2% Bank for snapper fish.  When deployed the boats are raised and lowered off the side of the 200-foot Oscar Elton Sette for each fishing excursion. This is no easy feat, taking synchronized orchestration of all hands.

First, everyone involved has a safety briefing to discuss rules, procedure and safety tips, including the ship’s captain, scientists, crew members, and the 2 coxswains , Mills Dunlap and Jamie Barlow, drivers of each boat.

Once all the gear is loaded onto the boat such as fishing gear, the day’s water supply, ice chests filled with ice to keep fish cold, lunches, and personal belongings(sunscreen, hat, and windbreaker), we carefully step into the boat which hangs beside  the ship approx 8 feet above the surface of the ocean. The small orange boat hangs by one strong metal hook connected through a large metal eye which secure four  fabric straps at each corner of the boat. The boat dangles from the side much like a clock’s pendulum ticking each minute of time.

Crew member Doug Roberts, the ship’s boatswain or bosun, is operating the crane today.  The boat is then lowered taking its passengers to the ocean’s surging surface. Keeping our eyes on the large yellow metal hook, our life line to the Sette,  the small orange boat descends.

Once the boat hits the water, it becomes a bobbing cork, undulating with each approaching swell, frequently banging into the hull of the NOAA Ship Sette.

“Boom, Bang, Bash” as the small boat hits the hull of the great hulk.

Quickly pulling the hook out of the eye, the coxswain Mills Dunlap speeds away to find the daily fishing position using the boat’s G.P.S., Global Positioning System.  The scientists hope to catch a nice variety of snapper species and further their study on growth patterns of fish in American Samoa waters.

The small boat is deployed and retrieved in much the same manner, using a large hook and crane to lower and lift the boat in and out of the ocean.
Safety is paramount when deploying and retrieving NOAA small boats. All hands wear a PFD, Personal Floatation Device and a hard hat.

The seas were milder in the morning with swells of 6-8 feet which gradually made way for windier afternoon conditions producing choppy seas and blustery winds.

I was on the boat with  NOAA oceanographic scientist Ryan Nichols and  Mills Dunlap, skilled fisherman.  They both patiently taught me how to fish.  Wave conditions ranged from 4-6 feet which made for being a bit unstable on my feet.  Ryan has perfected his fishing technique, tying 4 fish hooks on each line, looking like a Christmas tree with each hook being a colorful ornament.   This allowed us to catch multiple fish on each line. Today’s operation was to fish as close to the Bot Cam, a remote underwater camera as possible.  Scientists hope to use the video tape fish behavior in the benthicpelagic range which is 100-200 fathoms deep/600-1200 feet.

The Bot Cam uses a tethered camera that is later released to float to the surface, and using acoustics a.k.a. sonar readings, scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center , Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow , Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will collect samples of fish at selected sites during the cruise.

The Botcam is being deployed off the side of the Sette with the help of Dr. Kobayashi and crew members Kelson and Johnathan.

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Scientists are researching fish behavior, competition, species interactions, throughout the water column.  Specifically they are looking at the bottom fish society, scientists refer the it as the “complex” and how they relate to each other socially, behavioral, clues into their social structure,  eating behaviors, predator/prey avoidance, response to fishing gear presence.  Looking at dominate and non-dominate fish behavior. Bottom fish snapper species and predator fish, Jack, a very dominate fish.  The Bot Cam reminds me of the behavior when you set up a bird feeder.

The fish were certainly biting.  The two small boats caught approx. 40 fish that day.

So far, it has been a very productive trip, and they have  caught  many snapper fish:

Four species of  snapper have been collected which include:

genus Pristipomoides,  Aphareus rutilans (long jaw job fish/lehi)

Furca (rusty jobfish)

Etelis (ruby snapper/onaga(Japanese)

two  species of tuna  in the Scombridae family

yellow fin tuna, and dog-tooth tuna

four species of grouper:

Total number of catch: 224

Teacher at Sea, Jennifer Fry examines and measures fish onboard NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette
Teacher at Sea, Jennifer Fry measures and processes fish off the coast of American Samoa.

Once on the Sette I joined the scientists as they processed today’s catch.  Forming a production line we worked to measure each fish including:

    • weight in kilograms
    • length using centimeters
    • determine if the fish is male or female by extracting the fishes’ gonad organ
  • harvest the odilith, ear bone, that helps determine the fish’s age. Extracting the ear bone helps scientists determine the fish’s age by reading the rings much like a trunk of a tree.

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All in all there was “Lots of sun and tons of fun and many fish.”

New Vocabulary:

cox·swain (k k s n, -sw n ). n. 1. A person who usually steers a ship’s boat and has charge of its crew

Boatswain or bosun (both /ˈbsən/): A non-commissioned officer responsible for the sails, ropes, rigging and boats on a ship who issues “piped” commands to seamen.

 small boats – A NOAA vessel used for a variety of scientific study such at fishing, plankton tows, researching protected species, cetacean acoustic studies, and A.U.V., autonomous underwater vehicle maneuvers

Tropical Birds Seen:

Red footed booby


Stormy petrols


Fairy duster

Jennifer Fry: March 25, 2012 Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 25, 2012


The plankton net is towed alongside of the ship. Scientists have collected what appears to be synthetic material in the tows. These are examined by scientists using a microscope.
The 1 meter oblique plankton net collects marine debris that is analyzed in the lab.

Microplastics Operations

NOAA scientist, Louise Giuseffi  heads the microplastic study aboard  the Sette.  She is monitoring plastics in the waters of American Samoa by conducting trawls both on the surface and at depth using several types of plankton nets:

  • The Manta Net is a smaller unit that collects plankton and plastics at the surface.
  • The Issacs Kidd is a larger surface net that filters greater volumes of water.
  • The 1-meter ring oblique net collects throughout the water column down to approximately 230 meters.

She hopes to conduct qualitative studies on plastics asking the question, “Are plastics present in the South Pacific Gyre?” Back in the lab, she plans to analyze each sample to conduct quantitative studies asking, “How much plastic is in the ocean?” In addition, she’s also looking to answer the question, “Are fish consuming plastic?” She will answer these questions by collecting plankton tow samples and analyzing stomach contents of fish caught in American Samoan waters.  Back in lab, she will determine if fish are in fact consuming plastics as part of their diet.

The theory is that different plastics have different densities depending on their chemical composition. If the plastic is less dense than salt water, it will float in the ocean. If the plastic is denser than salt water, it will sink. In this way, plastics are not necessarily at the surface. Plastics photodegrade and break into smaller pieces from sunlight and the elements.  It is important to note that plastic will never breakdown into its original chemical components.  Plastic will not biodegrade.

She hopes to find if there is a presence of plastic in the South Pacific Gyre, and bring awareness to the world-wide problem of plastics in our oceans and in our food chain. “To date we have found synthetic debris in nearly every sample using visual analysis.   There are pieces of debris that appear to be plastic, however this will need to be confirmed by  further investigation in the lab,”  says Louise.

Louise’s studies are on the cutting edge, and she is forging a new path in marine microplastics  studies.  To date, there is very little information on debris in the water of the South Pacific Gyre and Louise is attempting to expose the presence of plastics in the oceans as a world-wide problem.

For more information about marine plastics and debris go to:

NOAA’s Marine debris site:

Five Gyres Institute :

Charles Moore website:


Animals seen:

hatchet fish


These sculpin fish and other deep water fish were caught in the Cobb net deep water trawl conducted in the early morning hours.

tang fish

Silver lancet fish

This silver lancet fish was caught during small boat fishing in the waters off American Samoa.
This lancet fish was caught today during small boat operations.

Personal Log:

My time on NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette has been such an incredible learning experience for myself  personally, and for what I will bring back to my students.   My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team, NOAA Corps, and crew aboard the  Sette  for all they have taught me.

Wishing you fair winds and following seas.

Jennifer Fry: March 24, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012


Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 19, 2012

CTD data collection graphs

These charts show levels of salinity, temperature, density of the waters of American Samoa.
Teacher at Sea, Jennifer Fry, Survey tech, Scott Allen, NOAA scientists, Evan Howell, Megan Duncan, Aimee Hoover work on the CTD operations performing 8 casts in the day.
5.Once the crane operator lifts the unit out of the water, scientists guide the C.T.D. onto the deck.
6. The C.T.D. unit is safely back on the deck. Scientists collect an array of data including density, temperature, and conductivity using the C.D.T. unit.
4. Using a crane to lift and a hook to grab, the C.T.D. unit is guided onto the deck.
2. The C.T.D. is ready to be deployed into the ocean. Using a team of scientists, a crane, and crane operator the heavy unit is carefully guided into the water.
3. Once is determined safe, the doors on the side of the ship are opened to deploy the C.T.D. unit into the water.
1. The ocean’s depth is always checked prior to a C.T.D. operation to know how deep the unit can be deployed.

CTD Operations: Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth

The CTD Operations onboard the Sette are conducted by Evan Howell, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Megan Duncan, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, and Scott Allen, NOAA survey tech. The CTD platform, which resembles a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, contains multiple instruments that can measure water characteristics including pressure, temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and chlorophyll concentration.

Jennifer Fry, Scott Allen, Evan Howell, Megan Duncan, and Aimee Hoover stand behind the CTD.

It takes 30 readings per second as it sinks towards the seafloor.

The CTD records data as it sinks and ascends, but only data from the downcast is used, insuring the instruments are recording data in an  uninterrupted “profile” of the water column.  All data collected helps capture ocean characteristics. The acquired data will be shared with the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources scientists and compared with the data they have collected previously.

Using prior data, current CTD data, and acoustic Doppler current profiler, a  type of sonar detecting water currents, scientists can determine patterns in the oceans of American Samoa and compare them.

Animals Seen:

Short-finned Pilot Whales

Dolphins, possibly Pacific Spinner

Jennifer Fry: March 18, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 18, 2012

This juvenile lobster was found in the Cobb trawl net.
Pictured here is a copepod (right) and a jelly (left) found in the plankton net.
Pictured here is a copepod (right) and a jelly (left) found in the plankton net.
Scientists, like John Denton, often get hungry during late night trawls. Here he is tempted to eat his recent catch. Tafito Aitaoto, American Samoan scientist, looks on.
Scientists, like John Denton, often get hungry during late night trawls. Here he is tempted to eat his recent catch. Tafito Aitaoto, American Samoan scientist, looks on.
The cookie cutter’s mouth can be very destructive. While biting its victim, it rotates its mouth taking a “chunk” of flesh.
cookie cutter shark
While biting their victim, the cookie cutter shark then turns their mouth to take a deeper bite of flesh. This leaves a large gash making it more difficult to heal
Two cookie cutter sharks came up in the Cobb trawl net. The scientists onboard the Sette were very excited to view these rare fish.

The stewards/cooks on the Sette are Clementine Lutali, Jay Egan, and Jeffrey Falini.  They have created the most amazing fare including traditional Samoan dishes.  Clem, the Head Cook, told me that the Sunday meal  in American Samoa is very important and she was right. Families in American Samoa gather in the morning for church, and then meet with the entire extended family for a large mid-day meal, followed by a nap.  This includes everyone; grandparents all the way down to babies.  In the afternoon families might take a walk to the beach for some family time and then have an afternoon tea with home-baked bread.

Our Sunday evening meal aboard the Sette consisted of turkey gravy and dressing, roast beef and au gratin potatoes, and green papaya salad with roasted garlic and peanuts. We finished with a lovely dessert of Puligi Keke, a Samoan coconut cake served with Crème Anglaise.

Some other Samoan dishes we’ve had onboard are:

Savory dishes:

Faálifu:  boiled and cooked in coconut milk and caramelized onions

Faalifu Kalo: taro in coconut milk

Faalifu Fai: green bananas in coconut milk

Faiai Feé: Octopus with coconut milk

Faiai Pilikaki: Can of mackerel with coconut milk

Faiai Eleni: Can of tomato mackerel with coconut milk

Oka: Samoan raw fish, tomatoes, and onions marinated in fresh coconut milk

Mochiko lehi: a Hawaiian method of frying fish (lehi, a type of snapper) Mochiko can be done to chicken too.

Ulu/ breadfruit

Another wonderful way to serve breadfruit is fried with a touch of salt. Yum.
Breadfruit is a starchy staple of the American Samoan diet.

There are many kinds of ulu/ breadfruit  in American Samoa including: máafala, uluvea, puuoo, aveloloa, ulumanua. Breadfruit is used as a starch in the American Samoan diet, including:

  • potato salad substitute,
  • Uluwua: unripe ulu is baked on banana leaves in a traditional Samoan oven, served dipped in coconut milk

Method of cooking:

Much of Samoan cooking is done outside in an oven called an umu.
  • Umu: Samoan Oven.  American Samoans use a traditional outdoor oven. It starts with a roaring fire set in a brick oven.  After the firewood has died down, hot, smooth rocks are layered over the burnt wood.  Cooking continues using the hot rocks as the heat source.
  • Suaia: Fish chowder with fresh coconut milk
  • Kale Faiai: curry with coconut milk


  • Puligi keke: steamed cake with white cream sauce
  • Panikeke: deep fried donut cake
  • kake: Samoan cake
  • Suali: a banana pudding similar to tapioca
  • Paniolo: (Hawaiian cowboy bread) cornbread with pineapple and coconut milk
  • Fáausi Taro: Raw pounded taro shaped into balls like hush puppies.  Sauce: Caramelized sugar and coconut milk.
An American Samoan delicacy, Fáausi Taro is raw pounded taro shaped into balls served with caramelized coconut sauce.

Panipopo:  buns made with fresh coconut milk served with a fruit glaze.

9 cups flour, divided use
3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
You’ll need two 8 1/2-inch-by-11-inch baking pans for this recipe.
Set aside 3 cups of flour. Mix 6 cups flour and yeast. Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt until warm and butter is just melting (about 120 degrees). Add this to the flour and yeast mixture. Mix for 30 seconds on low speed; then mix for 3 minutes on high speed.
With wooden spoon, add the rest of the flour; knead for 6 to 8 minutes. Place dough in a large greased bowl; flip once to grease both sides of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

While dough is rising, prepare coconut sauce:
4 cans (14 ounces) coconut cream
2 cups sugar

Mix well in bowl with whisk. Set aside.

Make a fist and punch down middle of dough to collapse dough.
Divide dough into 2 parts; let rest on lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. Roll out into a rectangle about 16 inches by 9 inches. Brush top of dough lightly with coconut sauce.

Roll dough tightly into a long roll. Cut into 9 pieces. Place in baking pan. Repeat with second half of dough. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes. Pour 3 cups of coconut cream over each pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 18 buns.

This giant salp was caught in the trawl net.
This giant salp was caught in the trawl net.
NOAA Scientists Evan Howell, Ryan Nichols, Tafito Aitaoto, Jamie Barlow all enjoy a great Samoan meal in the galley aboard the Sette

After dinner, we watched fishing off the longline pit.  As fish were caught using long lines, we were treated to an Hawaiian island delicacy by NOAA officer Justin Ellis, Hawaiian Shave Ice: fluffy ice, sweetened condensed milk, assai beans, your choice of syrup (coconut, pineapple, passion fruit), vanilla ice cream.

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The fishing ventures were successful bringing in 2 fish: a rare Sickle Pomfret and an orange fish.

I went to bed early since I would join the small boat operation in the morning.

Small shrimp (too many to count)

The crustaceans are sorted into a tray and then counted, measured volume(ml), and weighted (g).

Student Questions:

Q: Do you eat the fish you catch?

A: Yes, the stewards (cooks) on board prepare the fish that is caught everyday.  The snapper and tuna have been made into many tasty Samoan dishes.

The bite from this cookie cutter shark can be very painful.

Q: Have you seen any sharks?

A:  Yes, the most interesting shark we caught in the net was the cookie cutter shark.  Its bite is very unique.  As it bites its victim it turns its mouth taking a deeper piece of flesh, which makes the healing process slower.

Jennifer Fry: March 17, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

These crustaceans are sorting into a tray then measured for length (mm), volume (ml), and mass (g).

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 17, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Cobb Trawl Day 6

Location: Wet Lab

Poetry into the Wee Hours of the Night

Here’s the data from Cobb Trawl Day: 6.1                                                                                        Total mass of trawl: 490 g

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 124 140 150
Non-Myctophids 58 80 75
Crustaceans 14 negl negl
Cephalopods: 10 30 30
Gelatinous zooplankton 59 104 100
Misc. zooplankton n/a 60 97

Animals seen:

Lizard fish

Light fish

Mantis shrimp

Ctenophore/ comb jellies


This coronet fish, in its larval form, was found in the Cobb trawl net.
The snipe eel is one the longer fish we caught measuring 150 mm.
The snipe eel mouth is shown close-up.
Scientists sort the nightly catch after each Cobb trawl. Trays are used to divide into each catagory: myctophids, non-myctophids, crustaceans, cephalopods, gelatinous zooplankton, and misc. zooplankton

Cob Trawl Day 6.2 :Total Mass 1035 g

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 385 300 232
Non-Myctophids 51 60 70
Crustaceans 17 6 7
Cephalopods: 32 26 55
Gelatinous zooplankton 122 400 405
Misc. zooplankton n/a 240 225

Animals seen:

Trumpet / coronet fish

Snip eel


Balloon squid

Fulmar bird

This fulmer bird landed on the deck of the ship during nighttime Cobb net trawling.

Poetry into the Wee Hours of the Night: A collaborative effort:

“The Cobb Trawl Net” / With my week nearly over working  on the Cobb Trawl Net, I asked the scientists to join me in writing some scientific poetry about the operation.   The Cobb Trawl Net operation is overseen by John Denton and Aimee Hoover. The net is brought out of the water twice during the wee hours of the night, using a large noisy winch which certainly disturbs the slumber of those light-sleepers on the ship.  Coinciding with the Cobb Trawl Net activities are  nightly Plankton Tows.

 “I Wander Lonely as a Plankton” and “Plankton Mother”  honor the various types of plankton and microplastics that Emily Norton and Louise Giuseffi are studying.  We have been towing in different regions of American Samoan seas.  One area is called 2% Bank.  The other banks are called Northwest Bank and  Southbank.

“Myctohpids” / Since most of the bio-mass of the ocean is taken up by the little myctohpid fish, they are represented with an acrostic poem.  The poems show a passion for science and the research being conducted here in American Samoa.  I truly thank these scientists, John, Aimee, Emily, and Louise for their teachings, patience, and sheer enthusiasm for their scientific projects.

The Cobb Trawl Net

inspired by” The Fog” by Carl Sandberg

The trawl net comes in on thundering howl

The great black maw

Grinding and snarling brings in its folded catch,

The ocean’s toothy offering from the liquid, teeming abyss.

I Wander Lonely as a Plankton

Inspired by “I Wander Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

I wander lonely as a copepod

That floats high and low in the sapphire blue water column ofAmerican Samoa

When all at once I saw a school

A host of dog tooth tuna

Along the 2% Bank

Beneath the NOAA ship OscarElton Sette

Thunniform undulation and escaping through the gently rolling waves.

Plankton Mother


Meticulously, she guards her catch

A treasure trove of tiny beasts

Carefully each dish is filled for observation.

Peering through the powerful microscope the

Blinking, pulsing Cephalopods, the cobalt Copepods, and spiral, conical Pteropods

So fragile to the touch

Tweezers carefully coax each delicate specimen into position

Checking for morphological traits

Does it have…

…Mysterious dark organ on its tiny body?

…Pointy sword-like structure on its rostrum?

The newly found charge is preserved in a viscous solution

Our link to plankton’s DNA

 transcriptome: all our DNA used to make proteins,

the building blocks of life

life’s basic units for construction



 Multitudes of  photophores, cup-shaped light emitting organs of epidermal origin.  Many many  millions of  blinking dots

Yellow irises look  with dreamy eyes like a  glazed over donut.

Clues to many different species found in the mesopelagic layer of the deep, ebony ocean.

The ctenoid scales possessing sharp, spiky spines

Out of the obsidian shoots the silver sprites, the beautiful slender fish

Prickly long-tailed myctophids with their stern-chasers, supracaudal/infracaudal luminous organs

Hungry for krill, small crustaceans, copepods and other planktonic creatures


Densly packed balls of gleaming, pulsing Actinopterygians A.K.A.  Actinops

Schooling,  synchronistic swimmers, tiny voices of light circumgloabally distributed around the world, cosmopolites.

A collaboration by:

John Denton, Emily Norton, Aimee Hoover,  Megan Duncan, Louise Guiseffi, and Jennifer Fry

Jennifer Fry: March 23, 2012 Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 23, 2012

Pictured here is a copepod (right) and a jelly (left) found in the plankton net.
Copepod comprise approximately 85 % of the plankton population
Copepod comprise approximately 85 % of the plankton population.
These copepods images taken with a high-powered microscope with an internal camera.

 Plankton Net Operation

11:00 p.m.

Learning how to work with the plankton net was so interesting.  It required careful, meticulous, and orderly work.  Emily Norton, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Biological Oceanography, is conducting daytime and nighttime tows targeting plankton.  She’s particularly interested in collecting and studying copepods, a type of small crustacean which comprise ~80-90% of the plankton. Plankton is a name for a variety of plants and animals that live in the water column and are found throughout the world’s oceans.  Plankton are important because they are an integral part of the food chain, and they can help scientists better understand currents and transport in the oceans.  Helping with the plankton tow is Megan Duncan, oceanography participant, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii.  Together we deployed the net starting around 11:00 p.m.  Due to migration patterns known as diel vertical migration, plankton can be collected more easily at night.

  1. The net consists of a 1 meter metal ring with a fine mesh (200 um) net attached to collect the plankton.
  2.   At the end of the long, conical net is a collection filter tube or “codend.”  This is the final collection point for all of the specimens funneled into the mouth of the net.
  3.   The flowmeter is then connected across the diameter of the metal ring, which measures the amount of water flowing past it.
  4. With a crane operator’s help the net is lowered into the sea with 230 feet wire out which calculates to approximately 200 feet deep.  This is called an “oblique tow” method.
  5. The net remains in the water for 30 minutes.
  6. Once brought to the surface, the net is rinsed with sea water multiple times to ensure all of the plankton are completely  flushed down  into the cod end.
  7. The next step is filtering the plankton-rich seawater through a very fine sieve.
  8. The plankton are either observed under a microscope or immediately preserved using an ethanol solution, 95% ethanol 5% water.
  9. Labels are then placed inside the jar written in pencil on waterproof paper, and outside the jar using indelible marker.
  10. The plankton will be processed at a later date in the lab for quantitative analysis.
  11. In the lab, scientists study the plankton further, making observations and studying the DNA, Deoxyribonucleic Acid using PCR, Polymerase Chain Reaction, and sequencing.  Similarities and differences (i.e. mutations) in the DNA sequences are used by scientists to determine how closely related populations of copepods are.  This helps scientists infer how currents affect connectivity in the ocean.

Animals seen:



Baby giant squid

juvenile fish, various species


 Q:What fish have you had the most interest in and why?

A: The most common fish caught in the net is the lanternfish or myctohid.  They represent nearly 85%  of the ocean’s biomass.  One interesting feature is their photophores which produce light that emit from their bodies.

The myctophid pictured on the top is seen with its scales, compared to the bottom that shows them rubbed off due to being in the Cobb trawl net.

This tray of myctophids or lantern fish make up nearly 85% of the ocean’s biomass. They were the most common fish in our night Cobb Trawl nets.

Q: Have you gone scuba diving?

A:  No, I didn’t do any S.C.U.B.A. (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving on this trip.  There are NOAA ships that focus on research that require diving as their method of collecting data.  We visited the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai that researches the coral reef biome in the American Samoa waters.

The NOAA ship Hi’ialakai conducts S.C.U.B.A. operations researching the coral reefs of American Samoa.

Jennifer Fry: March 16, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 16, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Science and Technology Log:

The day began on the Oscar Elton Sette with the small boat going  Pago Pago harbor to re-fuel and collect supplies.  That’s about the time I went to sleep. My own day started by waking up at 5:00 p.m. to rougher seas and unfortunately feeling a bit queasy.  I took a walk outside hoping to get a bit of fresh air and relief. A gently rain fell as I peered over the ship’s railings.  Thankfully the strong wind on my face helped my uneasiness.

Midwater Cobb Trawl 5.1

Animals Seen:


Trigger fish juvenile

Morey eel larvae

Pyrosome, various sizes

Puffer fish juvenile

Mola  (sunfish)  juvenile

Data collected Trawl 5.1

The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 118 120 135
Non-Myctophids 81 46 60
Crustaceans 5 Negl Negl
Cephalopods:. . 14 32 60
Gelatinous zooplankton 51 114 85
Misc. zooplankton n/a 160 185

Data Collected  Trawl 5.2

The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 168 200 254
Non-Myctophids 209 130 125
Crustaceans 14 6 17
Cephalopods: 14 200 230
Gelatinous zooplankton 58 38 35
Misc. zooplankton n/a 366 365

The first trawl began a 9:00 p.m. and the second at approx. 1:30 a.m.

Some very interesting specimens were in the net including:

  • A variety of  squid: the largest measuring approx. 12 inches with out the tentacles,
  • one  juvenile trigger fish
  • 350 mm viper fish
  • Pyrosomes of various sizes
  • One juvenile puffer fish
  • Several Morey eel juvenile
  • Two juvenile sun-fish, Mola

While retrieving the trawl nets a light, warm rain sprinkled on us.  We worked very hard, yet had an amazing amount of fun.  Researchers Emily Norton and Louise Giuseffi joined during the tow.  I think the saying goes, “The more scientists the merrier.” 

While we measured, weighed, collected data, and examined our catch,  songs emanated from the iPod  playing in the wet-lab.  As lengths and weights were recorded, voices sang along  to the tunes into the wee hours of the morning.  The theme  song for tonight was Green Day’s  “Hope you Had the Time of Your Life.”

I certainly am.

Everyone teacher needs to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea to experience first hand the amazing work scientists do each day.

It is now 11 :59 a.m. and time for sleep.

 So much excitement, so many fish, so little time.

Scientist, Aimee Hoover is ready to input data from the midwater Cobb trawl which includes temperature and depth.

Pictured are American Samoan scientist, Sione "Juice" Lam Yuen and a squid found in the Cobb trawl net. Sione is ready to weigh and measure the squid.

Jennifer Fry: March 14, 2012, “Pi Day” 3.14, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 14, 2012

At Sea: Pago Pago, American Samoa

Science and Technology Log:

My current assignment aboard ship is helping the scientists with the “Nighttime Cobb Trawling”  We conduct two trawls in the night, the first one beginning around 9:00 p.m. and the second one at 1:30 a.m..  After each trawl which lasts 2 hours, the nets are brought up and we sort the catch.  The scientists are looking for migration patterns and types of sea life in this region.  Not much data has been collected  in American Samoa.

There are 3 other  scientists working on this project.

John Denton, is from the Natural History Museum in New York.

Aimee Hoover works for University of Hawaii.

Sione “Juice” Lam Yuen and Faleselau “House” or “Fale” Tuilagi are from the Fisheries Dept .in American Samoa.

The two trawls exaimine five species of fish:

  1. Myctophid fish
  2.  non-myctophid fish
  3.  crustaceans
  4.  gelatinous zooplankton
  5.  cephalopods

During one of the trawls the other night, they think they found a new species of myctophid fish. These fish have photophores which make them glow in the dark.  They are anywhere from 4-5 inches to very tiny, 1 inch.

Myctophids are among the most numerous fish in the sea. They have specific light producing organs called photophores.

After 4 days on the  night shift, I’m getting into the groove.  Going to sleep at 6 a.m. and waking up at 1:00 p.m.

It’s crazy.  Last night we did 2 trawls for fish.  We caught a huge fish, approx 4 feet in diameter, called a Sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus or Sunfish.  The scientists and crew were able to  free him and let him go back into the ocean. Click here to see the exciting video of the release of the Mola: Releasing the  Sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus/ Sun-fish

During tonight's Cobb trawl a sharp-tailed mola was caught in the net. The crew and scientists aided in freeing the fish allowing him to swim away. Mola can reach 100 years old.

When conducting a scientific experiment it is very important to maintain the same procedure or protocol.  This allows the scientist to measure only that which he/she is interested in, keeping all constants the same.

Here is the procedure or protocol for each Midwater Cobb Trawl:

1. Secure the TDR and Netminds tracking devices to  the trawl net Let out the trawl net, timing for 30 minutes at 350 meters of “wire out.”

2.  Ask the bridge and trawl net operator to raise the net line to 100 meters “wire out.”

3.  Time the trawling for additional 30 minutes.

4.  Once the trawl net has been hauled in:

5. Cut away the TDR and Netminds tracking devices: Their data is read on the computer.   Helping scientists determine temperature, depth   for each trawl.

6. Working together, scientist and crew members collect the specimens caught is the Cobb net.

7. The fish collected are taken to the wet lab and strained into a net that is in turn poured into examining trays.

8. Scientists then collect data including: weight (volume & mass), length (centimeters) ,  and count the number of each species recording the

minimum and maximum lengths.

9.   The scientists preserve each group of fish in ethanol/ ethyl alcohol  which eases transportation and preserves the fish for further study back in the lab.

Personal Log:

I’ve switched to working the night shift, tonight being the third night.  It’s getting a little easier, although we all still get punchy around 3-4 a.m.  I am scheduled to work nights until next Monday.  We will continue counting the fish, setting the trawl nets out, imputing the data, preserving the fish.  All very interesting work.

Animals Seen:

Sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus fish

Moorish Idol fish

Two Moorish Idol fish were caught in the Cobb Trawl net. Their colors were brilliant including their unique dorsal filament.

Jennifer Fry: March 13, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 13, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa 

Science and Technology Log:

The Teacher at Sea program in the South Pacific is going swimmingly.

Nighttime Midwater Cobb Trawls:

I’m on the night watch for the first week of our time at sea. Our research day starts at 8:30 p.m. The scientific team of 7 is trawling for bioluminescent fish, myctophids throughout the night.  We trawl at several different depths then bring the net up to the surface.  We sort the catch into five categories.

1.  Myctophids

2.  Non-Myctophids

3.  Cephalopods: octopus/squid

4.  Crustaceans: shrimp/lobster/krill

5.  Gelatinous zooplankton: salps/jellies

5.  Misc. zooplankton

Then we weigh measure and record all the contents of the net, Last night was our first attempt. The first trawl began at 9:00 p.m.   With the NOAA crew members’ help, the net was lowered into the water after securing several tracking devices, TDR and Netminds, at different places on the net, which measured the longitude, latitude, water’s temperature and depth.   The clock started and the net trawled with 350 meter line out from the ship.  The trawl lasted for 30 minutes at which time the winch operator brought the line into 100 meters where the clock started for another 30 minutes.

In all, the net was positioned at 350 meter from the ship for 30 minutes and at  100 meters for  another 30 minutes.

The second trawl attempt occurred around 1:30 a.m. The winch stopped, appearing to overheat, and couldn’t bring the net up to the surface.  When it finally was retrieved, the time factor was no longer a constant, but became a variable. The total trawl time exceeded the 30 minutes.   The scientists took very careful notes and  made sure to record that the second net had been in the water for much longer that the first experiment/ attempt/ round.  Scientists refer to each experiment as “replicate”  By running many experiments in the same manner, ensures accuracy and careful data collection. They want to keep  the constants and variables all standardized.

We got to bed around 4:30 in the morning.

Safety First aboard at all times:  I was just awakened to a false alarm fire drill, which got my heart pumping, that’s for sure.  It’s a good thing we have these drills for practice and accuracy.

The day was spent sleeping and acclimating to the new nighttime schedule.

The team of scientists working the Night Cobb Trawls re-convened at 8:30 p.m.  We began the first trawl around 9:00 p.m. and continued the second at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Midwater Cobb Trawl #1  Tow #1   The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 173 300 310
Non-Myctophids 296 85 75
Crustaceans 67 16 20
Cephalopods: 19 44 30
Gelatinous zooplankton 7 24 40
Misc. zooplankton n/a 80 110


Jennifer Fry: March 12, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 12, 2012

Pago Pago Harbor

Personal Log

The governor's house is situated high on a hill, overlooking the pristine waters of Pago Pago Harbor.

The Oscar Elton Sette departs  in the morning.  The ship has been readied with the necessary supplies  for the next two weeks at sea.  The view of Pago Pago harbor from the ship is breathtaking, the  multi-layered  variety of green, lush tropical plants cover the steep hills that envelope the harbor. The sapphire-blue colored  seas are so striking and luckily are very calm. Only  a gentle rolling motion is felt as we  slowly amble to our destination offshore.

Soon the emergency drills begin calling us to “muster” to our emergency stations.  Out on the deck we met at our predetermined emergency station.  There are three very important emergency drills:

Fire /Emergency drill where we all meet on Texas deck after hearing the ship’s bell/general alarm for 10 seconds.

The second drill is a Man Overboard.  That is heard as 3 prolonged blasts of the ship’s general alarm. Each blast is 4-6 seconds in length.

In the event that you see the person who falls overboard, it is extremely important not to take your eyes off the victim.

The steps during a Man Overboard drill consists of:

1. Tell someone nearby to notify the bridge that someone has gone overboard.

2.  Throw something that floats overboard, such as a life ring,  to mark the location.

A cove in Pago Pago.

3. Keep pointing to the person overboard, this will help in the recovery process.

The third drill is the  Abandon Ship Drill.  This consists of 7 short blasts followed by 1 prolonged blast of the general alarm.  During this drill we are instructed to bring our survival suit, life jacket, a hat, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, and wear closed-toed shoes to the drill.

After mustering on the Texas Deck,  we don our survival suit, a bright orange suit known as a  “gumby suit”  made of neoprene, which is easily seen during any emergency and acts as a floatation device.

Pictured during abandon ship are Jennifer Fry with crew member James McDade.


The NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette is named for Dr. Oscar Elton Sette. Dr. Sette was a pioneer in the development of fisheries oceanography and according to many fisheries scientists, is the father of modern fisheries oceanography in the U.S. He is recognized both nationally and internationally for many significant contributions to marine fisheries research. Oscar Elton Sette replaces Townsend Cromwell.

Oscar Elton Sette supports the scientific missions of NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service Pacific Islands Science Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. The ship normally operates throughout the central and western Pacific, and conducts fisheries assessment surveys, physical and chemical oceanography, marine mammal projects and coral reef research. It collects fish and crustacean specimens using bottom trawls, longlines, and fish traps. Plankton, fish larvae and eggs are also collected with plankton nets and surface and mid-water larval nets.

The ship routinely conducts scuba diving missions for the Honolulu Laboratory. Ample deck space enables Oscar Elton Sette to carry a recompression chamber as an added safety margin for dive-intensive missions in remote regions. The ship is actively involved in NMFS Honolulu Coral Reef Restoration cruises, which concentrate scientific efforts on the removal, classification and density of marine debris and discarded commercial fishing gear from fragile coral reefs.

For more information about NOAA aboard the Oscar Dyson Sette, go to:

Science and Technology Log:

The ship is very spacious with a lot of  lab space.  They include:

  • Two E-Labs where the acoustics computers and weather computers are housed  Scientists collect and download  data in these spaces during experiments
  • Two wet Labs where fish are collected , analyzed, and processed
  • Hydro Lab where scientists prepare and process chemicals as part of  the C.T.D.  Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth experiments

Birds seen:

Frigate bird: A large tropical bird related to the pelican.  Its wing span exceeds two meters.

A frigate bird was seen from the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette as it left the Pago Pago harbor.

Jennifer Fry: March 10, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 10, 2012

Pago Pago

Personal Log:

The Rotary Club of Pago Pago, American Samoa was chartered in 1969

When we first arrived in town I met up with family friend, Steve Watson who had emigrated  to  Samoa 35 years ago.  When I met up with Steve,  he  invited me to join him at the monthly Rotary International Club of Pago Pago.

After a lovely lunch we listened to the business at hand presented by the members.  Rotary International is a philanthropic organization that helps local groups in need.  Current projects that the club is working on include helping build the school playground at the local Montessori School,  an annual scholarship given to a deserving senior in high school , and  donating to   relief efforts in the Philippines after their recent devastating earthquake.

The rotarians’ guiding principles are included in the Four-Way Test.

The Four-Way Test

The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

While listening to the various speakers, Steve leaned over and asked, “Do you want to be a guest speaker?” I nodded and found myself in front of Pago Pago’s businessmen and women excitedly talking about the upcoming NOAA research vessel’s scientific experiments being conducted offshore in American Samoa.  Included in my brief presentation was the variety of scientific research including:

  • Studies of microplastics
  • A variety of fishing with the aid of fishing reels and tackle and trawl nets
  • Plankton studies and collection
  • Photographing  and data collection of fish species for later research

Everyone was so supportive and welcoming.

Here’s a bit about Rotary International of Pago Pago.  The chapter began meeting in October 1969.

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

For more information about Rotary International go to:

Jennifer Fry: March 15, 2011, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry

Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette

March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 15, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Science and Technology Log:

Nighttime Cobb Trawling : Day 4

We began the trawling around 8:30 p.m.  The data we collect tonight will replace the previous trawl on day 2 which was flawed in the method by which the experiment was collected. The Day 2 experiment was when the winch became stuck and the trawl net was left in the water well over 2 ½ hours, long past the 1 hour protocol.

Here’s is what the science team found.

Tonight the trawl nets went into the ocean and were timed as all the other times.

During the sorting we found some very interesting species of fish which included:

  • Pyrosomes: chordate/Tunicate
  • Two Juvenile cow fish (we placed them into a small saltwater tank to observe interesting species caught in the net.)

This is a great place to make further observations of these unique animals.

The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 120 700 650
Non-Myctophids 148 84 115
Crustaceans 77 28 40
Cephalopods: 16 64 50
Gelatinous zooplankton 71 440 400
Misc. zooplankton n/a 840 900

The Cobb trawl net was washed, rinsed and the fish  strained through the net. They were then brought inside the web lab for further sorting.

The white-tailed tropic bird is a regular visitor to the South Pacific islands.

We were close to finishing the sorting, counting, and weighing when suddenly we heard something at the back door of the lab.  Fale, the scientist from American Samoa went to the door and proceeded to turn the latch, and slowly opened the door.  There huddled next to the wall, near some containers was a beautiful black and white Tropic bird, a common bird of this area.  Its distinctive feature was the single white tail feather that jutted out about 1 foot in length.  He looked just as surprised to see us and we were of him.  He did not make a move at all for about 10-15 minutes .  We took pictures and videos to mark the occasion, yet he still didn’t budge or act alarmed.

With a bit more time passing, he began to walk, or more like waddle like a duck. His ebony webbed feet made it difficult to maneuver over the open slats in the deck.  He attempted flight but appeared to get confused with the overhanging roof.

I quickly found a small towel and placing it over his head, gently carried him to a safe spot on the aft deck where he would have no trouble flying away.

The time was about 2:00 a.m. when we were distracted by the ship’s fire alarm, and  we quickly reported to our muster stations.  Luckily, there was no fire and  we returned resuming our trawl data collection.  Upon reaching the wet lab, we noticed at the stern of the ship, our newly found feathered friend had flown off into the dark night.

It was a great way to end our night with  research and early hour bird watching.  How lucky we all are to be in the South Pacific.

Animals Seen:


Pictured here is a Pyrosome which many came up in our Cobb net.

Cow fish

Our trawl net caught three juvunile cow fish specimans which were quickly placed in our observation tank for further study.

Tropical bird

The Tropic bird, with its distinctive long tail feather, is common in the South Pacific.

Jennifer Fry: March 11, 2011, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry

Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette

March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 11, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

A brief history of American Samoa is rich and varied.  The highlights include:

  •  The islands of American Samoa have a total land area of 76 square miles.

    Coconuts grow everywhere in American Samoa and contribute to the daily diet.
  • Pago Pago or Tutuila contains about two thirds of the total area and is home to 95% of the 65,000 islanders.
  • American Samoa is located 14 degrees south of the equator, and 172 degrees meridian west, and is the center of Polynesia.
  •  Located 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,600 miles northeast of New Zealand, it forms a strategic midpoint on vital shipping and air routes.
  •  Samoan islands were “officially discovered” by Dutch Explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722.
  • Initial contact with the outside world came with the introduction of Christianity by John Williams of the London Missionary Society. .
  • Traditional Samoan society is based on a chieftain system of hereditary rank, and is known as the “Samoan Way” or fa’a Samoa way of life.
  • Local cultural institutions are the strongest single influence in American Samoa. The fa’a Samoa way of life stems from the aiga, the extended family with a common allegiance to the matai, the family chief who regulates the family’s activities.
  • Religious institutions are very influential in the community and the village minister is accorded a privileged position, equal in status to a chief or matai.
  • The Fa’a Samoa also reflects a communal lifestyle with non-public ownership and 90% of the communal lands controlled by the family matai.
  • American Samoa has been a territory of the United States since the signing of the April 17, 1900 Deed of Cession.
  • The Pago Pago Harbor area was the site of the coaling station and a naval base. During the War Years, the United States built roads, airstrips, docks and medical facilities exposing island residents to the American way of life.
  •  The government is divided into three branches, similar to the United States.
  • The Executive Branch is led by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor,
  •  the Legislative Branch is led by the local legislature, consisting of the House of Representatives, who are elected by popular vote and the Senate, who are represented by the village matai.
  • The judicial branch is part of the U.S. judicial system, and American Samoa has a non-voting representative elected to the U.S. Congress.

For more information about American Samoa and its history, go to:

Personal Log:

Since we arrived early, we were able to explore the island and its unique beauty.  We drove up to the National Park of American Samoa, Ma’Oputasi.  The vistas , beaches, flora, and fauna were breath-taking.  Here is a pictorial tour of the sites.

Pago Pago is home to the largest tuna cannery in American Samoa. Many islanders are employed here.
American Samoa celebrates 111th anniversary.

Jennifer Fry: March 9, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 9, 2012

Personal Log

Pago Pago

With the morning light, the island’s landscape came into view.  Looking back toward land was the single road, a variety of buildings, consisting of numerous churches, restaurants, schools, and hotels.  I have come to learn that each small village has its own church and outdoor meeting hall.  Behind the buildings the topography extended upward forming a steep hillside covered with green, lush tropical plants, including a variety of palms and fruit trees laden with mangoes and papayas.

After a hearty Samoan breakfast with ten of the scientists that will be on the research vessel, we met with representatives from the local marine sciences community at the American Samoan government building.  Chickens, chickens, and a small clutch of baby chickens happily pecked on the lawn in front of the building which put a smile on my face.

These chickens found their home in front of the Government Building of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Scientific Log

The chief scientist, Dr. Donald Kobayashi, began by introducing the team of scientists and gave a brief overview of the upcoming mission aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette.

The variety of investigations that will be conducted during these next 2 weeks which include:.

  1. Midwater Cobb trawls:  Scientists, John  Denton, American Museum of Natural History, and Aimiee Hoover, acoustics technician , Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, will conduct nighttime tows that will focus on epipelagic and pelagic juvenile reef fish and bottomfish species.
  1. Bot Cam: Using a tethered camera that is later released to float to the surface, and using acoustics–a.k.a. sonar readings–scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center , Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow , Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will collect samples of fish at selected sites during the cruise.
  1. CTD experiments: “Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth.”   At predetermined locations scientists Evan Howell, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Megan Duncan, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, will collect water samples called “profiles” taken of the water column at different depths.  This data is very important in determining the nutrients, chlorophyll levels, and other chemical make-up of the ocean water.
  1. Plankton tows:  Using plankton and Neuston nets, scientists Louise Giuseffi, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Emily Norton,University of Hawaii, Manoa, Biological Oceanography department, will conduct day and nighttime plankton tows focusing on plankton and microplastic marine debris.  Scientists will be  looking at a specific species of plankton called the copepod.  This study will also be collecting microplastic pieces, some of which are called “nurdles” which are small plastic pellets used in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately most plastic debris will never degrade and just break into smaller and smaller pieces potentially working their way into the food web, making this research and its findings very important to environmental studies.
  1. Handline fishing using a small boat, the Steel Toe: Scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will conduct daily fishing expeditions obtaining scientific data on bottomfish, grouper and snapper species.   They will be focusing on life history factors including age, growth, male/female ratios, length and weight.  This is very exciting research since the last data collected from this region was from the 1970s and 80s.

I am very excited and fortunate to be part of this important scientific research project, and the significant data collected by the scientists.

Did You Know?
American Samoa pronunciation: The first syllable of “Samoa” is accented.
Pago Pago (capital of American Samoa): The “a”  pronunciation uses a soft “an” sound as in “pong.”

Animals Seen Today
Frigate birds
Common Myna
“Flying Foxes” Fruit bats
Brown tree frog
Dogs, various
Chickens, various

Jennifer Fry: March 8, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette arrives in Pago Pago, American Sa'moa
A tropical beach and azure seas in Pago Pago, American Sa'moa.

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 8, 2012

Personal Log

Hawaii to Pago Pago

We arrived in Pago Pago yesterday around midnight.  A fierce storm had just passed through dumping rain everywhere, evidence of which still remained on the tarmac.  Exiting the plane came with a blast of hot, humid air like a furnace on full blast.

Through the thick air, we could barely make out a long string of lights illuminating the single road defining the island’s coastline.

As we queued up with our belongings, we were greeted by the Immigration & Customs agents of American Samoa.  All the officials greeted us with enthusiasm and welcomed us to their island.  Unlike our U.S.customs, each department wore a different colored uniform which consisted of a matching shirt and lava lava, which resembled a wrap around skirt.  Bags were inspected, questions were answered, and we were off to our next destination.

We arrived at Sadies by the Sea, a seaside hotel situated next to a shallow bay.

After settling into the room, I ventured out onto my little porch/ lanai to view the scene only to see giant “flying foxes” of the area. The enormous fruit bats that encircled overhead were common to the island.

I was lulled to sleep by soft lapping sounds of waves as they greeting the shore.  The excitement of the day soon turned to sleepy eyes and happy thoughts of what will come tomorrow and the next adventure.