NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
May 7 – 22, 2014.
Mission: EX 14-03 – Exploration, East Coast Mapping
Geographical Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean, U.S. East Coast
Weather Data from the Bridge – Tuesday, May 20
We are at: 36⁰N, 074⁰W
Weather: Few clouds
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind : 12 Knots from 270⁰ (use your 360⁰ compass)
Temperature: Water is 15⁰ Celsius, as is the air.
Our present location can also be found at: (http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/).
Science and Technology :
“We’ll start the first plankton tow around 1:30 or 2,” said Chris Taylor (NOAA Fisheries scientist). Note to self – make sure I have sunscreen… Then Chris added – “a.m. not p.m.” – new note to self- forget sunscreen, instead buy travel mug at ship store.” Ever since our plankton tow net was damaged in Florida, Chris has been on his computer and conferring w/ his office, the CO and Derek Sowers, the Expedition Coordinator on how to get another net. Thanks to a lot of people’s flexibility, a net was found. So, like taking an early morning run to 7-11 for a gallon of milk, we took a run into Cape Canaveral and met a charter boat with net and frame.
After searching for samples on the west side of the Gulf Stream, we are now crossing it and going fishing on the east side of this “river” that moves more water per second than all the world’s rivers combined. (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/gulfstreamspeed.html )
There are many different ways to do plankton tows, each for a different purpose. An underwater sled is hauled behind the boat called a “Continuous Plankton Recorder” that is like a conveyor belt and does what the name implies. Our method was to use a frame about the size of a hockey net (GO BLACKHAWKS!) attached to a fine screen net. The tapered net was about 18 feet (6 meters) long and was towed off the side of the ship. The trick is to have the net rise and fall at the surface and down to 60 feet below the surface. Tyler Sheff (Chief Boatswain) found every available weight to attach to the frame and cable that held the net. After a few trials and adding about 200 pounds to the net it worked like a charm.
By 4 a.m. we were pulling in our first haul. Amongst the Sargassum plants were FISH! Chris and I meticulously washed the net with salt water and then he separated out all the plankton (phytoplankton are the plants and zoo plankton are microscopic animals). He then put each tow’s sample in alcohol for preservation to send to the lab for genetic analysis to see if some of the many fish larvae and eggs were indeed Atlantic Bluefin Tuna.
Did you know?
First – find the differences in these two pictures :
We have spent a large amount of time on the Stetson Mesa on the Blake Plateau. Why the name “Blake Plateau”? Short answer is that it is named after a ship that was named after a man. The ships above both were ships designed to explore. The urge to explore and answer questions brought about from those explorations is timeless. NOAA’s origins were during President Thomas Jefferson’s administration. This branch of the country’s uniformed service will continue to evolve. America’s 21st century premier exploration ship, the Okeanos Explorer, is following in the footsteps of the 19th century’s premier exploratory ship – the George S. Blake. That ship was named after the man who saved the Constitution. (and you thought it was Nicholas Cage) But that’s a story for another time and can be found at:
And one loose end – speaking of finding the differences in photos- and kudos to TAS Denise Harrington & Kalina’s dad for finding the difference in my second blog’s mystery photo challenge of the fact that because of rough seas, the rails on the tables in the mess can be raised to prevent food from sliding to the floor.
Everyone’s nose has turned toward home. Some of the crew have been out to sea since February and the missing and euphoria for terra firma and the lap of family is thick. The same for me with Mollie, Sophie, Izzie and Owen, I miss them tremendously. I’m so anxious to see the best fifth graders ever and my other friends and family. We really don’t need a quote to send it home but Frank Herbert’s words hit the nail on the head.
“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
The Okeanos Explorer will get a facelift in North Kingston and head out in August.
I’ll come back for 3 glorious days with my class, forever changed by the privilege of getting a view into other people’s lives.
Saying thank you for this experience is a must.
- I have to thank NOAA for selecting me for this opportunity. So many others more deserving, but I’m glad someone was asleep at the bridge last winter and allowed me to sneak in.
- Expedition leader- Derek Sowers for his constant humor and patience at having to rewrite my drafts so as not to incur costly and lengthy litigation and Chris Taylor for not getting mad that I bungled the salinity #’s.
- Commander Ramos and his Officers Pralgo, Rose, Begun, and Pawlenko for their tolerance with the interns and me constantly seeking permission to enter the bridge. They also shared with me a wealth of knowledge and career opportunities in NOAA for my students. Gracias to the other crew- TR, Pedro, and James and Head and Second Engineers Vinnie and Nancy, and Chief Boatswain Tyler for their willingess to answer questions and give me time and not complain when i was standing in exactly the wrong spot.
- The mapping interns, Danielle, Kalina, and Sam for their appetite for hilarity, work and meals.
- To Vanessa and Jackie for always being quick to laugh or answer my questions.
- To my mom and sister for taking care of business and Lil’ Sebastian.
- To Mrs. Steinman, Mrs. York, Mrs. Helminski, Dr. Scarpino, Char, Diane and my students for allowing me this time away.
- And most of all to Mollie, Sophie, Izzie , Owen and Jacqui for going full sail during the windiest month of the year.