Frank Hubacz: Ice in the Bering Sea, May 7, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Frank Hubacz
Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson
April 29 – May 10, 2013

Mission: Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Mooring Deployment and Recovery
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea
Date: May 7, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge (0500):
N wind 10 to 25kt. Partly cloudy.
Air Temperature 0.8C
Relative Humidity 90%
Barometer 1019.80 mb
Surface Water Temperature 2.30 C
Surface Water Salinity 31.96 PSU
Seas 4 to 9ft

Science and Technology Log

Remember that in my last blog you were left with a question…

Did you figure out what this was?

Did you figure out what this was?

If you still have not guessed what this is then here is a hint…

 

You are correct!  This is a Marine Assessment Monitoring and Prediction (MARMAP) Bongo tow with two 20cm and two 60 cm ring openings!  The 60 cm ring has a 500µm mesh net and the 20 cm ring has a 150µm.  I knew that most of you would guess the correct answer.  These nets are towed through the ocean to collect zooplankton samples. Plankton are important members of the ocean food web converting energy from the primary producer level into a form that is useable by animals in the upper levels of the marine food web. The word plankton is derived from the Greek word planktos, which means wandering.  Plankton drift, or swim weakly, traveling wherever the ocean takes them.  Phytoplankton are able to produce their own food (autotrophic), as the name suggests, via the process of photosynthesis. Zooplankton are heterotrophic and eat the primary producers in the ocean food web, the phytoplankton.  Zooplankton are the most numerous consumers in the entire ocean with nearly every major animal group being represented.   The most abundant, accounting for 70% of individuals, are copepods (crustaceans).  You are all probably most familiar with the organism within this group known as krill.  They are very abundant in the waters of the Arctic.

Krill

Krill

These shrimp-like marine organisms grow no larger than 4 to 6 cm and serve as food for baleen whales, penguins, seals, fish, sea birds, and many other predators.  80(+) species of krill have been identified in oceans around the world. Their habitats range from abyssal depths (5,000 m) to near shore kelp beds (10 m), and from warm tropical seas to the freezing Antarctic Ocean. (http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/02quest/background/krill/krill.html)

Marine scientist use bongo nets to catch these small creatures and study them. The net size is selected to catch zooplankton as opposed to smaller phytoplankton.  The bongo net has a flow meter installed in each net to calculate the volume of water sampled.   Plankton tows can be done at any depth or time of day and the samples are caught in a small rigid container, the codend.

Basic Bongo tow

Detailed Bongo schematic

 

Cod-end of  Bongo tow net

Codend of Bongo net where the sample is collected

Our night shift deploying our Bongo net

Our night shift readying our Bongo net

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Deploying the Bongo net in dark icy waters of the Bering Sea

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Retrieving the net after the tow

Matt washing the contents of the codend into a straining sieve

Matt washing the contents of the codend into a straining sieve

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Capturing all of the sample

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Krill!

A closer look!

A closer look!

The Bongo tow used on this cruise also has attached an SBE-19 SEACAT system which measures salinity, depth, and temperature.

SEACAT System attached to Bongo tow

SEACAT System (on right) attached to Bongo tow

Additionally deployed on this cruise were drogue drifters.  Drogue drifters help determine the flow of ocean currents using a sort of “message in a bottle” approach, the drogue drifter, which is connected to a surface buoy.  The buoy communicates its location to an ARGOS satellite system producing a map of its path.  The drogue portion is really a “holey-sock” that flows below the surface to indicate subsurface ocean currents.

Drifter Schematic

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Complete drifter package

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Bill preparing the drogue drifter for launch
Drogue
Drogue drifter entering the water with attached satellite buoy

World map of current drifter locations

 

Overnight on the 7th we turned north-north-west hoping to sample water near the edge of the ice sheet.  We found ice much earlier than hoped and at approximately 0630 a decision was made that we could travel no further!  Upon collecting a sample at this station we turned south to sample along the 70 meter line for several miles.

Ice flow...picture taken at 0300

Ice flow…picture taken at 0300

Ice all around

Ice all around

 

Ice as seen from the bridge(Photo courtesy of Matt Wilson)

Ice as seen from the bridge(Photo courtesy of Matt Wilson)
Saying good bye to the ice!

Saying good bye to the ice!(Photo courtesy of Matt Wilson)

Personal Log

Sampling continues around the clock now that all of the moorings have been deployed.  I continue to collect nutrient samples from each CTD launch, usually 5 to 7 per draw, assist with washing the Bongo nets, and helping wherever I can .  Our midnight to noon shift goes by quickly.  After my shift I have been relaxing by reading and then going to bed by 0300 before waking at 2300.  Now that we are heading south our satellite “issues” have been resolved and so the internet works great.  Keep those questions coming.

We had an abandon ship drill today and I finally was able to “slip” into my Survivor Suit!  You will get to meet the science crew in my next blog!

Slipping into my survival suit

Slipping into my survival suit

Heading for the life boat station

Heading for the life boat station

Arriving at the WRONG station!

Arriving at the WRONG life boat station! (Port is left)

Frank Hubacz: Our First Day at Sea, April 29, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Frank Hubacz
Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson
April 29 – May 10,  2013

Mission: Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Mooring Deployment and Recovery
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea
Date: April 29, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Partly cloudy, Winds 10 – 15 knots
Air temperature: 4.0 C
Water temperature: 5.3 C
Barometric Pressure: 1014.14 mB
 

Science and Technology Log

The primary mission of this cruise is to deploy and recover moorings in several locations in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea.  These moorings collect data for a group of scientist under the auspices of the Ecosystems & Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (EcoFOCI) which is a joint venture between the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), and the NOAA Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC).  Participating institutions on this cruise include NOAA-PMEL, AFSC, Penn State, the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML), and the University of Alaska (UAF). This interdisciplinary study helps scientist better understand the overall marine environment of the North Pacific.  This understanding will lead to a better management of the fishery resources of the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea.

To ensure that time at sea is maximized for data collection, a day or so before leaving Seward, Alaska, the science crew begins assembling their various monitoring instruments under the directions of Chief Scientist for this project, William (Bill) Floering, PMEL.

William Floering, Chief Scientist

William Floering, Chief Scientist.

Dan Naber from University of Alaska

Dan Naber from University of Alaska.

Some of the equipment that will be deployed includes an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), which measure speed and direction of ocean current at various depths.  This data helps physical oceanographers determine how organisms, nutrients and other biological and chemical constituents are transported throughout the ocean.  Argos Drogue drifters will also be deployed to help map ocean currents. Conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) measurements will be conducted at multiple sites providing information on temperature and salinity data.  Additionally, “Bongo” tows will also be made at multiple locations which will allow for the collection of zooplankton.  The results of this sampling will be used to characterize the netted zooplankton and help to monitor changes from previous sampling events.  In future blogs I will describe these instruments in greater detail.

The furthest extent of our mission into the Bering Sea is very much weather and ice dependent with much variation this time of the year in the North Pacific Ocean.  Current ice map conditions can be found at http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/ice.php.

Operation Area

Cruise Area

Cruise Area

Personal Log

As I rode in the shuttle bus from Anchorage to Seward, Alaska on Friday, April 27, and then onto the pier where the Oscar Dyson was docked, I was immediately impressed by its size and overall complexity.

Traveling to Seward, Alaska.

Traveling to Seward, Alaska.

Oscar Dyson in port.

Oscar Dyson in port.

Upon arrival I was met by Bill Floering, Chief Scientist on the cruise.  He gave me a tour of the overall ship and then I settled into my room, a double.  Just like being back in college myself, and being the first to the room, I had my choice of bunks and therefore selected the lower bunk (I did not want to fall out of the top bunk if the seas turned “rough”).  Arriving early provided me time to become oriented on the vessel given that I have never been aboard such a large ship before. I also had the opportunity to walk into Seward, AK, with a member of the science team, for a dinner downtown with extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains.

My stateroom!

My stateroom!

Seward

View from Seward, Alaska.

On Saturday, April 27, the rest of the science crew arrived and my roommate, Matthew Wilson, moved in.  Matt is from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) based in Seattle, Washington.  That evening we traveled into town again for another great dining experience…halibut salad with views of Resurrection Bay.

Matt Wilson from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Matt Wilson from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Sunday, April 28, was a busy day of sorting and setting up various instruments for deployment.  Winds were very strong, with snow blowing over the peaks of the mountains, glistening in the brilliant sunshine.

Scott McKeever from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center

Scott McKeever from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Scott at work on an ADCP buoy.

Scott at work on an ADCP buoy.

Installing instruments

Here I am helping to install instrumentation.

View of Seward Harbor.
View of Seward Harbor.

Monday, April 29, our day began with a safety meeting followed by our science meeting.  At that time we were assigned to our work shift.  I will be working from 12 midnight to 12 noon each day during the cruise.  Once the ship sets sail, the science crew is working 24 hours per day!

Science team meeting with Bill and crew.

Science team meeting with Bill and Survey Tech Douglas Bravo.

At 1500 hours we set sail!  The Journey begins!

Releasing tie lines.

Releasing tie lines.

Off we go!

Off we go!

Related articles

Eric Heltzel, October 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Heltzel
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 25 – October 22, 2005

Sailing through the Canal

Sailing through the Canal

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Panama Canal
Date: October 2, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve been in port at Panama City.  The whole idea of sailing from the Atlantic basin across part of the continent to the Pacific basin seems rather amazing. Seeing the locks in operation was fascinating. A tug helped us get into the correct position then four cables were attached, two forward and two aft. These cables were each fed out from a winch on railroad switch engines which were on tracks on either side of the lock.

The engines moved with us and kept tension on the cables so our ship stayed in the center of the lock.  The locks are 1000 feet long so our 274’ vessel could fit in with another ship. Once we were in, the lower gate closed and water started to flow in from the base of the sidewalls of the lock. I was surprised at how rapidly the lock filled with water.  The water largely flows in by gravity so little has to be pumped.  Once we finished going through the three locks we were lifted to the level of the natural lake that acts as a critical part of the passage. This lake, which is filled by the abundant rainfall, provides water to fill the locks and has a navigable channel dredged across. On the western side is the infamous cut.  Here the canal looks like it is a river going through a canyon although it has no current and the canyon is man-made.  The ship descended through locks on the Pacific side and we docked at Panama City.

A closed lock inside the Panama Canal

A closed lock inside the Panama Canal

When I awoke on Saturday the deck crew and engineers were preparing to take on fuel.  This is a ticklish business that requires a lot of attention.  It’s the same principle as pulling into the local gas station except the hoses are 8” in diameter and get bolted together then bolted to the ship. We took on 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel which we will need for the next leg of our voyage to Arica, Chile.  The RON BROWN can hold about 120,000 gallons of fuel. I was pleased that this wasn’t billed to my account.

This morning I went out for a walk around the compound where our ship is docked. This is a military compound with nicely kept grounds but around the edges the indigenous vegetation is showing itself.  There were several pathways up into the trees where I got a sense of what the forest in Panama is like.  “Green” and “busy” are two operative descriptors. In areas along the edge there were several beautiful plants in bloom. I also got to watch leaf-cutter ants carrying there booty back to their nests. These guys travel back and forth along the same path from the tree they are carving leaves from to their residence.  It always reminds me of a safari through the jungle. I also saw an Agouti in an opening. I had only seen photos of this large rodent and I was excited to see one in the field. It was in the 80’s and very humid so I returned to the ship very damp.

Tropical flowers

Tropical flowers

We are preparing to depart on the next leg of the cruise.  We expect to pull away about 17:30 after the Pilot comes on board.  Twelve more members of the scientific team arrived yesterday so we now have our full complement.  I have assigned my first “watch” tomorrow from 08:00 to 12:00.  We will be trained on deployment of drifters and ARGOS buoys this evening.  I also will be helping the meteorological team by launching weather balloons. We’re going to begin the scientific research tomorrow.  Wow!

Things to pursue: Design of the Panama Canal, History of the Panama Canal, and Plants and animals of Panama