Amie Ell: A Whale of Tale, July 13, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
July 7 – July 11, 2013

Mission: Alaska Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 13, 2013

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 57.21N
Longitude: 152.32 W
Ship speed:   10.7 kn

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 11 degrees centigrade
Surface water temperature: 11 degrees Centigrade
Wind speed:  7.14 kn
Wind direction: 90 degrees
Barometric pressure: 1018 mb

Science and Technology Log:

The CamTrawl being attached to the net.

The CamTrawl being attached to the net.

The scientists on the Oscar Dyson are using several different types of cameras and sensors.  I have already mentioned the CamTrawl.  This camera is attached to the trawl net and takes pictures as the net is being dragged behind the ship.  The pictures are time stamped.  These pictures help to identify at what time and depth things were entering the net.  This is very helpful if you have a haul with a variety of different fish.  Also attached to the net is the FS-70 Netsond sensor, also known as the third wire.

A CamTrawl Picture with pollock and capelin.

A CamTrawl Picture with pollock and capelin.

This third wire uses sound and its echo to see what is entering the net.  One more sensor attached to the net reads temperature and depth this is the SeaBird Electronics SBE-39 Bathythermograph.

Preparing to lower the Drop Cam.

Preparing to lower the Drop Cam.

From left to right: DropCam, winch, CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth),

From left to right: DropCam, winch, CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth),

Sometimes sensors and cameras are dropped from the side of the ship.  These are not attached to a net.  Instead, these are on frames that are dropped over the side and lowered using thick cable wire on a winch.  The CTD sensor measures water conductivity, temperature, and depth.

The Drop Camera also is dropped from the side of the ship and lowered using a winch.  This also has a depth sensor and takes time stamped pictures.  This device can help scientists identify fish present in areas that they are not able to trawl in.

An octopus captured by the DropCam.

An octopus captured by the DropCam.

The compilation of information gathered from these sensors, cameras, and haul data will help scientists get a good picture of what type and how many fish are present in different areas around Alaska and in varying ocean conditions.  The analysis of this data will be used to help determine the quota for commercial fishermen looking for the Alaskan walleye pollock in different areas.

There are sensors on the hull of the ship that are always gathering information.  On the NOAA website Ship Tracker you can see some of this information in real time.

Depths recorded and graphed for this trip.

Depths recorded and graphed for this trip.

A flatfish captured by the DropCam

A flatfish captured by the DropCam

Personal Log

Yesterday was an excellent day for whale watching.  We spent our afternoon and evening surrounded by a pod of Humpback whales.  At times they were so close that I could hear them breathing.  They were much closer and more plentiful than the first whale sighting.  Last night in the mess hall I got up to look out the porthole (window) and a whale came up less than 50 feet from me.  It was amazing!

We continue to trawl pulling up on average 2 to 3 hauls an evening.  In our hauls the majority of the fish are pollock.  This week I have also seen, more capelin, rock fish, and lumpsuckers.  We have also pulled up dog salmon, arrow tooth flat fish, krill, cod, and a spiny lumpsucker.

A sunset trawl in progress

A sunset trawl in progress

From bottom: Dog Salmon, Arrow Tooth, Pacific Ocean Perch (POP)

From bottom: Dog Salmon, Arrow Tooth, Pacific Ocean Perch (POP)

I was given a tour of the engine rooms below by the Chief Engineer.  It was very loud.  There is a lot of machinery on board to make the ship self-sustainable while at sea.  One of the machines is called the “water maker”.  This takes salt water and heats it to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  The machine then captures the steam, leaving behind salt and other non desired items in the water.  The steam is then condensed to make all for the fresh water for the ship.

Water Maker distills salt water to make fresh

Water Maker distills salt water to make fresh

Amie Ell: Deadman’s Bay, July 11, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
July 7 – July 11, 2013

Mission: Alaska Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 11th, 2013

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 56.56 N
Longitude: 152.74 W
Ship speed:   11.3 kn

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 10.7 degrees Centigrade
Surface water temperature: 8.6 degrees Centigrade
Wind speed:  18 kn
Wind direction: 250 degrees
Barometric pressure: 1016 mb

Science and Technology Log:

Nets on Spools

Nets on Spools

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Full net on deck

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Pollock from a bottom trawl

So now that you know what we do with the fish after they are caught, let’s go back and see how the fishermen trawl.  There are two large nets at the stern of the ship.  Today we used both nets for the first time.  The scientists, crew, and fishermen all work together to catch the fish.  In the acoustics lab Paul is reviewing and scrutinizing the data he receives from the echo locators mounted on the hull of the ship.  There are many factors he must evaluate in order to have a good trawl.  There are places in our area that have been marked as “untrawlable”.  This is usually due to a sea floor that is rocky.  Trawling in these places may ruin the nets.  We have completed at least one trawl a day since we have been out to sea.  Today we completed two during my watch.  The first was with a larger net and was not sent all the way to the bottom.  The second trawl was sent to the bottom with a smaller net.  The bottom trawl brought up the largest pollock I have seen so far.  The longest pollock was 75 cm.  We also brought up a salmon, cod,   rock fish, and a whole lot of herring.

Crane lifting the net to be dumped into the bin.

Crane lifting the net to be dumped into the bin.

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The CamTrawl being removed after a trawl.

The nets are both on large spools and are released or returned with the help of a very large winch.  Before the net is released into the water the CamTrawl is attached to it.  This is a camera that takes pictures that help the scientists see at what point in the trawl fish were entering the net.

Example photo from the CamTrawl.  A Salmon Shark caught on the first leg.

Example photo from the CamTrawl. A Salmon Shark caught on the first leg.

The time that the net is in the water depends on the information about the amount of fish coming from the acoustics lab.  Scientists watch the echo information to determine how much time the net should be in the water to catch enough fish to sample.  We must have at least 300 pollock to make a complete survey.

The fishermen bring the nets back to the trawl deck and wind them back onto the spools.  They then will use a crane to lift the catch and dump it into a bin.  From the fish lab we can lift this bin to dump the fish onto the conveyor belt.

Personal Log

Me in my survival suit

Me in my survival suit

Entering Deadman's Bay

Entering Deadman’s Bay

On Monday, we had our weekly fire and abandon ship drills.  After the drills I practiced putting on my survival suit.  This suit is designed to keep you afloat and warm in the event that you have to go into the water.

Deadman's Bay

Deadman’s Bay

On Tuesday, we surveyed up into Deadman’s Bay.  It was a beautiful sun shiny day and the scenery was amazing.  We were very close to the shore on both sides.  I sat out on the trawl deck and scanned the hillsides with my binoculars.  I was told that it is common to see bears here, but I did not see any.

Amie Ell: Fireworks, Fish, and Flukes, July 6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
June 30 – July 21, 2013

Mission: Alaska Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 6th, 2013

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 55.29.300 N
Longitude: 156.25.200 W
Ship speed:   10.7 kn

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 8.6 degrees Centigrade
Surface water temperature: 8.6 degrees Centigrade
Wind speed:  14 kn
Wind direction: 210 degrees
Barometric pressure: 1008.5 mb

Science and Technology Log:

The Oscar Dyson is equipped with several labs to accommodate the researchers on board.  In this blog post I will describe to you what is happening in the wet/fish lab.  This is where I have experienced quite a bit of hands-on data collection.

Pollock being separated on the conveyor belt.

Pollock being separated on the conveyor belt.

Basket full of pollock.

Basket full of pollock.

After a trawl, the crew dumps the load of  fish into a bin.  Inside the lab we can raise or lower this bin to control the amount of fish coming onto a conveyor belt.  Once the fish are on the belt the scientists decide how they will be separated.   We separate the pollock according to age into baskets.  They are categorized by size; under 20 cm (age 1), under 30 cm (age 2), and any larger than 30 cm

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A lumpsucker

A basket full of small squid

A basket full of small squid

At this time we also pull out any other sea creatures that are not pollock.  So far we have pulled up quite a few jelly fish, la lumpsucker, shrimp, squid, eulachon, and capelin.  These are also weighed, measured, and in some cases frozen per request of scientists not currently on board.

Larger squid.

Larger squid.

After organizing the pollock into appropriate age groups, we then measure and record their weight in bulk.  Scientists are using a scale attached to a touch screen computer with a program called CLAMS to record this information.  The pollock are then dumped into a stainless steel bin where their sex will be determined.  In order to do this the fish must be cut open to look for “boy parts, or girl parts”.   After the pollock are separated into female and male bins we begin to measure their length.

This is the tool used for measuring length of the fish.

This is the tool used for measuring length of the fish.

The tool used to measure length is called the Ichthystick.  This tool is connected to the CLAMS computer system.  The fish is placed on the Ichthystick and a pointer with a magnet in it is placed at the tail end of the fish.  There are three different types of length measurement that can be done: fork length, standard length, and total length.  When the magnetic pointer touches the Ichthystick it senses that length and sends the information to the CLAMS computer system.

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Northern shrimp

One of these bins of fish is placed aside for individual weighing, length measurements, and removal of otoliths.  You may recall that I mentioned otoliths in the last blog post.  These ear bones are sent to a lab and analyzed to determine the age of each of these individually measured fish.  The Alaska Fisheries Science Center has created a demonstration program where you can try to determine the age of different types of fish by looking at their otoliths. Click here to try it yourself! (I will add hyperlink to: http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/refm/age/interactive.htm)

Personal Log:

Ben and Brian in fire gear  with flares.

Ben and Brian in fire gear with flares.

One afternoon while waiting for the fishermen to bring up the trawl net, I watched a group of porpoises swimming behind the ship.  Another day I was able to see whales from up on the bridge.  These were pretty far out and required binoculars to see any detail.  I observed many spouts, saw one breach, and some flukes as well.

There is quite a bit of downtime for me on the ship while I am waiting in between trawls.  I get to read a lot and watch movies in my free time.  I have had the opportunity to talk with different members of the crew and learn about their roles a bit.  The chief engineer gave me a tour of the engine rooms (more about this with pictures in a future post.)

The 4th of July fireworks show on the Oscar Dyson was like no others I have ever experienced.  Two of our crew, Ben & Brian, dressed in official fire gear shot expired flares off the ship into the sea.  America themed music was played over the PA system.  I have attached a video of our fireworks display.  Happy Independence Day everyone!

Amie Ell: Out to Sea, July 3, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (NOAA Ship Tracker)
June 30 – July 21, 2013

Mission: Alaska Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Shelikof Strait
Date: July 3, 2013

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 154.35.3 W
Longitude: 57.65.65 N
Ship speed: 12  kn

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature:
Surface water temperature:
Wind speed: 13.01 kn
Wind direction: 271.17
Barometric pressure: 1,008.6 mb

Science and Technology Log:

Yesterday was the first day at sea for this 18 day research cruise.  You should now be able to follow the Oscar Dyson online by visiting the NOAA ship tracking website:  http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/shiptracker.html

ShipTracker Zoom in

The path the Oscar Dyson is taking through Shelikof Strait

The red triangle shows the location of the  Oscar (photo courtesy of NOAA)

The red triangle shows the location of the Oscar Dyson (photo courtesy of NOAA)

Here are some questions I’m getting from my students.

From Kathy H.:

Why is the Pollock so popularly used for our fast food meals and imitation crab? I am thinking it must be plentiful, dense, and mild.

You are correct Kathy! One reason Pollock is used for fast food restaurant and imitation crab is that it is a mild fish. Another reason would be that  when cooked it has the desired characteristics of being white, dense, and flakey.  Also, the pollock is higher in oil counts which make this fish more flavorful than others.

Pollock waiting to be measured.

Pollock waiting to be measured.

From Lorie H.: Do you know if the Pollock are fished in other areas besides Alaska?

The Alaskan Pollock that the scientists are studying here on the Oscar Dyson are commonly found in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and the Russian Sea of Okhotsk.  Another type of pollock is the Atlantic pollock. These are not fished at the same level as the Alaskan pollock.  While about 11 million pounds of the Atlantic pollock are fished each year around 1 million tons of Alaskan Pollock are fished in a year.      

Me waiting for the fish to come in.

Me waiting for the fish to come in.

Personal Log:

Since many of you asked to hear more about what it is like to live on the Oscar Dyson, the following will give you an idea of  some of the amenities on board the Oscar Dyson.

I get top bunk!

I get top bunk!

Head

The head (bathroom)

The Oscar Dyson has 21 state rooms.  I share this room with another scientist.  Our stateroom consists of a porthole (window), a set of bunks (I have top bunk), desk, telephone, refrigerator, and a set of lockers.  My roommate and I are on opposite watches.  The rooms are very small and quickly become crowded when just two people are in the room.   She works from 4 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, while I work from 4 in the afternoon to 4 in the morning.  Each stateroom has its own head (bathroom) with a toilet, sink, and shower.

There are several common areas as well.  Across the passage way from me is the lounge.  This is a very comfortable room with a couch, large chairs, many books, games, and a large screen TV with a DVD player. Another popular common area is the galley.  This popularity probably can be attributed to the fact that the stewards on the ship are excellent cooks.

The Galley

The Galley

Did You Know:

pollock_otolith

A pollock otolith

Fish have tiny bones in their heads known as otoliths.  This bone is found in the ear of the fish.  These bones have circular rings and can help scientists determine the age of a fish.   Do you remember learning about other rings in nature that can be used to determine age?  Reply below if you can think of one.

For Next Time:  The Labs on the Oscar Dyson

Amie Ell: Preparing for an Adventure, June 26, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amie Ell
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (Ship Tracker)
June 29 — July 18, 2013

Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, Alaska

Date: June 26, 2013

Personal Log

Amie Ell, NBCT Columbia High School White Salmon, WA

Amie Ell, NBCT
Columbia High School – White Salmon, WA

Hello everyone!  Thank you for visiting my blog.  I hope you continue to follow my journeys this summer.  Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amie Ell.  I am a teacher of sciences and mathematics at Columbia High School in White Salmon, WA. I live across the beautiful Columbia River in The Dalles, Oregon with my husband and two daughters.  I have taught for 10 years, 8 of them with my wonderful CHS clan!  I teach Physical, Earth, and Space Sciences as well as Algebra to primarily 9th graders.

This Friday I will fly to Kodiak to meet the crew of the Oscar Dyson and begin my adventure.  I was elated to learn that I had been chosen to be a part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program and assigned to the Oscar Dyson. I had hoped that I would be given the opportunity to visit Alaska.   I have traveled to and explored many tropical ocean waters, but this will be my first Alaskan experience.  The commanding officer tells me that “…This Gulf of Alaska Pollock survey is one of the best ways to see the remote coastline of Alaska and to experience one of its foundation industries from a research perspective…”

The NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (photo courtesy of NOAA)

The NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (photo courtesy of NOAA)

I have learned that I will be helping with a survey of the Alaskan walleye pollock.  The main source of fish for many fast food fish sandwiches,  fish sticks, and even your imitation crab meat is the walleye pollock.  It is very important for scientists to maintain a careful watch on these fish so that their populations are not decimated by overfishing.

Please leave questions and comments for me.  I would love to hear from you all.  I know I will be missing home, friends, family, and all “my kids” at Columbia High.  Check back often.  I will always try to investigate and answer any questions you have.  Let’s begin our communication with a little survey:

Did You Know?  NOAA’s Pacific Marine Operations Center is located in Newport, OR.  Nine ships are serviced here including the Oscar Dyson.  Many of you have visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.  Next time you are there, see if you can spot this NOAA hub.

NOAA Pacific Marine Operations in Newport, OR.  (photo courtesy of NOAA)

NOAA Pacific Marine Operations in Newport, OR. (photo courtesy of NOAA)