NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4-19, 2013
Mission: Juvenile Walley Pollock and Forage Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Friday, September 6th, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge (for Sept 6th at 5:57 PM UTC):
Wind Speed: 42.65 knots
Air Temperature: 11.8 degrees C
Relative Humidity: 81%
Barometric Pressure: 987.4 mb
Latitude:57.67 N Longitude: 153.87 W
Science and Technology Log
As you can see from my weather data section, the wind speed this morning was up to 42.65 knots. We had waves near 18 feet and thus the Oscar Dyson ran for cover and tucked itself in an inlet on the North side of Kodiak Island called Spiridon Bay. The Oscar Dyson’s location can be viewed in near real-time using NOAA’s Shiptracker website. The screenshot above was taken from the Shiptracker website when we were hiding from the weather. The weather forecast from NOAA’s Alaska Region Headquarters shows that the winds should diminish over the next few days. I’m thankful to hear that!
Since the Dyson has been in safe harbor in Spiridon Bay for the last few hours, I have had some time to catch up on some blogging! Let’s backtrack a few days to Wednesday, September 4th, when the Dyson left Kodiak to begin its journey in the Gulf of Alaska. We headed out after 1PM to pick up where the last cruise left off in the research grid. We reached our first station later in the afternoon and began work. A station is a pre-determined location where we complete two of our surveys (see map below). The circles on the map represent a station location in the survey grid. The solid circles are from leg 1 of the cruise that took place in August and the hollow circles represent leg 2 of the cruise, which is the leg on which I am sailing.
The first step once we reach a station is to deploy a Bongo net to collect marine zooplankton and the second step is to begin trawling with an anchovy net to capture small, pelagic juvenile pollock and forage fishes that are part of the main study for this cruise. Pelagic fish live near the surface of the water or in the water column, but not near the bottom or close to the shore. Zooplankton are “animal plankton”. The generic definition of plankton is: small, floating or somewhat motile (able to move on their own) organisms that live in a body of water. Some zooplankton are the larval (beginning) stages of crabs, worms, or shellfish. Other types of zooplankton stay in the planktonic stage for the entirety of their lives. In other words, they don’t “grow up” to become something like a shrimp or crab.
Before we reached the first station, we conducted a few safety drills. The first was a fire drill and the second was an abandon ship drill. The purpose of these drills is to make sure we understand where to go (muster) in case of an emergency. For the abandon ship drill, we had to grab our survival suits and life preservers and muster on the back deck. The life rafts are stored one deck above and would be lowered to the fantail (rear deck of the ship) in the event of an actual emergency. After the drill I had to test out my survival suit to make sure I knew how to put it on correctly.
On the way to our first station, we traveled through Whale Pass next to Whale Island, which lies off of the northern end of Kodiak Island. While passing through this area, we saw a total of 4 whales spouting and so many sea otters, I lost track after I counted 20. Unfortunately, none of my pictures really captured the moment. The boat was moving too fast to get the sea otters before they flipped over or were out of sight.
A lot of people have emailed to ask me if I have been getting seasick. So far, things haven’t been that bad, but I figured out that I feel pretty fine when I’m working and moving about the ship. However, when I sit and type at a computer and focus my attention on the screen that seems to be when the seasickness hits. For the most part, getting some fresh air and eating dried ginger has saved me from getting sick and fortunately, I knew about the threat of high winds last night, so I made sure to take some seasickness medication before going to bed. After what we experienced this morning, I am sure glad I took some medication.
Everyone on board seems very friendly and always asks how I am doing. It has been a real pleasure to meet the engineers, fisherman, NOAA Corps officers, scientists, and all others aboard the ship. Since we have to work with the crew to get our research done, it’s wonderful to have a positive relationship with the various crew members. Plus, I’m learning a lot about what kinds of careers one can have aboard a ship, in addition to being a scientist.
So far, I’ve worked two 12-hour shifts and even though I’m pretty tired after my long travel day and the adjustment from the Eastern Time Zone to the Alaskan Time Zone (a four hour difference), I’m having a great time! I really enjoy getting my hands dirty (or fishy) and processing the fish that we bring in from the trawl net. Processing the haul involves identifying, sorting, counting, measuring the length, and freezing some of the catch. The catch is mainly composed of different types of fish like pollock and eulachon, but sometimes there are squid, shrimp, and jellyfish as well.
One of the hardest parts of the trip so far is getting used to starting work at noon and working until midnight. We have predetermined lunch and dinner times, 11:30 AM and 5:00 PM respectively, so I basically eat lunch for breakfast and dinner for lunch and then I snack a little before I go to bed after my shift ends at midnight. As the days go by, I’m sure I’ll get more used to the schedule.
Did You Know?
During one of our trawls, we found a lanternfish. Lanternfish have rows of photophores along the length of their bodies. Photophores produce bioluminescence and are used for signaling in deep, dark waters. The fish can control the amount of light that the photophores produce. Lanternfish belong to the Family Myctophidae and are “one of the most abundant and diverse of all oceanic fish families” (NOAA Ocean Explorer).