Nichia Huxtable: Life on board, you won’t be bored!, May 6, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Nichia Huxtable

Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

April 28-May 9, 2016

Mission: Mapping CINMS                                                                                                           Geographical area of cruise: Channel Islands, California                                                 Date: May 6, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 2-3 ft swells; storm clouds over land, clear at sea

Science and Technology Log

Dismantling the REMUS 600 AUV for its trip home
Goodbye, AUV. Until we meet again.

The AUV is no longer my favorite thing on Shimada. As I write this, it is being dismantled and packed into shipping boxes for its return trip home to Maryland. To keep a long, sad story short, the AUV had a big electrical problem that was fixed, but when the scientists turned it on for a test run, a tiny $6 lithium battery broke open and oozed all over the motherboard. Game over for the AUV. So now my favorite thing on Shimada is the ice cream.

Personal Log

Enough about science and technology for now. I bet you’re really wondering what it’s like day in and day out on board Shimada. Well, my intrepid future NOAA crew members, this blog post is for you! We’ll start what’s most important: the food.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the same time everyday. The food is prepared in the galley and everyone eats in the mess. Beverages, cereal, yogurt, fruit, snacks, the salad bar, and ice cream are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to ever be hungry. Not all ships are the same, however. In one of the many anecdotes told to me by master storyteller Fabio Campanella, an Italian research ship he once worked on served fresh bread and authentic pizza everyday…sign me up for that cruise!

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Unlike the AUV, the ice cream freezer never disappoints

Next, you’re probably wondering where everyone sleeps. Sleeping quarters are called staterooms and most commonly sleep two people, although larger staterooms might sleep four. Each stateroom has its own television and a bathroom, which is called a head. As you can see in the photo, the bunks have these neat curtains that keep out the light in case your roommate needs to get up at 1 a.m. for the night-shift.

"Working
Working in the Acoustics Lab on Shimada

The Shimada has lots and lots of work and storage rooms, each serving a different function. There is a wet lab, dry lab, chem lab, and acoustics lab for doing SCIENCE (woohoo!), as well as a tech room for the computer specialist (called an ET), storage lockers for paint, cleaning supplies, and linens, plus other rooms full of gear and machinery. There’s also a laundry room, so you can take care of your stinky socks before your roommate starts to complain!

Trash on board is separated into recyclable bottles and cans, food waste, and trash. The food waste is ground up into tiny pieces and dumped in the ocean outside of the sanctuary, while the trash is INCINERATED! That’s right, it’s set on fire…a really, really, hot fire. Ash from the incinerator is disposed of onshore.

"<em
Shimada‘s incinerator

Another important part of the ship is the bridge. Operations occur 24 hours a day, so the ship never sleeps. Officers on the bridge must know what is happening on the ship, what the weather and traffic is like around the ship, and they must make sure to properly pass down this information between watches. The bridge has radar to spot obstacles and other ships, a radio to communicate with other ships, and a radio to communicate with the crew and scientists.

"Looking
Looking for wildlife on the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
"Bride
Bridge on the Shimada

Last, but not least, is the lounge that comes complete with surround-sound, a big screen TV, super-comfy recliners, and about 700 movies, including the newest of the new releases.

"Lounge
Wish this was my living room!

Did you know? 

A female elephant seal was once recorded diving underwater for two continuous hours (they usually stay underwater for 1/2 hour); the deepest recorded dive was by a male and was 5,141ft.

Stay tuned for the next post: Multibeam? You Mean Multi-AWESOME!

Nichia Huxtable: AUV, Why Won’t You Work? May 2, 2016

REMUS 600 onboard Shimada

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nichia Huxtable
Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
April 28-May 9

Mission: CINMS Mapping
Geographical area of cruise: Channel Islands, California
Date: May 2, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 17-20kt winds; clear skies; 0-1ft swells

Science and Technology Log:

DSC_0746
Preparing the AUV for deployment

There is a lot of amazing equipment on board Shimada, but my favorite, by far, is the REMUS 600 AUV. Really, it should be everyone’s favorite. What other piece of equipment can you release in the middle of the ocean, have it swim around for a few hours collecting data, then have it ready and waiting for you in the morning? I’m pretty sure my laptop wouldn’t be able to do that if I threw it overboard (although, on a few occasions, I’ve been tempted to try).

On Shimada’s mission, the AUV is used when scientists need detailed, high-resolution imaging of deep water areas or areas of special interest. The ship’s ME70 multibeam sonar can map the seafloor up to 350m deep, whereas the AUV can map as far down as 400m. Now remember, this is an AUTONOMOUS Underwater Vehicle; this means that you are literally dropping it off the side of the boat, leaving it to propel itself along a pre-programmed route, then, hours later, returning to a set location with the hope of seeing your million-dollar robot pop back up to the surface to be retrieved.

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The programmed route of the AUV, including satellite and GPS call points (circles) and return location (yellow square)
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The AUV has returned to the Shimada!
 

There is a lot that needs to go right in order for this to happen. In the REMUS 600, there are three separate systems that must all function correctly in order to successfully complete its mission. The navigational system includes an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for pitch, roll, and heading compensation, a Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) for speed over land measurements, GPS for location, and processing software. The communication system includes a micromodem to receive status messages while AUV is up to 1500m away, an Iridium satellite communications system, and, of course, Wi-Fi. The sensors include multibeam sonar, obstacle avoidance sonar, a depth sensor, and a CT (conductivity, temperature) sensor to analyze sound speed for beam formation.

 

Troubleshooting the AUV
Troubleshooting the AUV

If these systems aren’t working correctly, there’s a good chance you’ll never see this AUV again (which would make a lot of people very unhappy). Basically, all these systems ensure that the AUV stays at a specific height above the seafloor (around 75m), runs a specific course that you programmed, and collects data for you to analyze when it returns. Every hour or so while it’s running its course, the AUV rises to the surface, makes a satellite phone call to check in with Shimada, then goes back down to continue its data collection. When it’s done with its course, it runs in circles (think underwater donuts) until the ship returns and the scientists call it back up to the surface where it can be retrieved.

 

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The inner workings of the REMUS 600
Remember how I said that all the systems must be working correctly in order for the AUV to successfully complete its mission? Well, this first launch and retrieval went off without a hitch, but it turns out something went wrong with the data collection (as in, there were no data collected after the first 45 minutes). The scientists are once again on the phone with customer support to try to figure out what went wrong.

 

On the bright side, there are far worse things that could have gone wrong: the AUV successfully ran its course, checked in with the ship, and came up to the surface at the time and place it was supposed to. That doesn’t always happen, which is why the AUV has an “If found, please call this number” sticker right on top of it. Just like what’s written on your retainer case…except your retainer didn’t cost one million dollars.

Personal Log:

Even though it seems like the hours are filled with troubleshooting and problem solving, there are still many things going our way. The ME70 and EK60 have been successfully running all day, the weather is fully cooperating with calm seas and beautiful skies, and, last but not least, dolphins decided to play right next to the ship. Bring on tomorrow!

Dolphins around San Miguel Island
Dolphins around San Miguel Island. Always a crowd pleaser!

Words of the DayAUVs and ROVs. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles are pre-programmed and complete their mission without supervision. Remotely Operated Vehicles are connected to the ship by a cable and are directly controlled by a human operator.

Heidi Wigman: Underwater Acoustics, June 4, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heidi Wigman
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 27 – June 10, 2015


Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico (26°33.512’N 083°43.064’W)
Date: June 4, 2015

Weather: 82° @ surface, NE winds @ 5-10 knots, seas 0-2 ft, chance of showers and Tstorms, average depth 75m

Science and Technology Log:

The science behind underwater acoustics play a huge role in the operations of the Pisces.  Each of the five survey types (CTD, camera rig, sidescan, bandit reels and AUV) need accurate data about the depth and contours of the ocean floor.  Most people are familiar with the idea of how radar sends out a “ping” and waits for a return in order to determine a distance of an object.  This is not a new, or even a human invented design — bats, dolphins, and some whale classes use “echo location” to get information on food sources and predators.  As a pulse is emitted from the transmission source, it travels through the water at a certain speed, and as it encounters objects, returns as an echo.

ping transmit and return
“ping” transmit and return provided by C. Thompson

 As data is received, it can be read as a function of voltage output to time in seconds, but this type of information generally is not useful for operational purposes.  This two-way travel data needs to be converted to provide a graphical representation of the contour of the ocean floor, and the location of objects in the water. An algorithm turns all of this into usable data, that gives the viewer a depiction of what is under the vessel, and at what depth.

sonar imagery provided by Charles Thompson
sonar imagery provided by C. Thompson
echosounder depth measurement, provided by C. Thompson
echosounder depth measurement, provided by C. Thompson

In order to get depth (Z), you need to know about how fast sound travels (c) – and this can vary with environmental factors such as temperature, salinity, depth, turbidity, etc. The third variable is the time (t) in seconds that it takes from ping to return. The formula that is used to calculate the depth is Z = c*t/2.

speed of sound graphDuring our cruise, the sound speed value we are using (1540 m/sec) is the mean value of the measured sound speed vs. depth profile, with slight margin of error on the minimum values.  Therefore, any miscalculations based on the constant will provide a reading more shallow, rather than more depth.

The EK60 echosounder emits a frequency of 18kHz, with most of the power in an 11° conic sector directed downward(see diagram).  In order to find the area covered by the pulse, we first need to find the diameter (d) and the vertical depth (Z) or the max beam range (R).

sonar effective area; provided by C. Thompson
sonar effective area; provided by C. Thompson

Math question of the day: What is the area covered by one sonar ping from the Pisces? If you know that your vertical depth is 75m, and the bisect on the beamwidth (11°) angle, use some trigonometry to help find your radius. [Tan 5.5 = r/75].  Once you have the value of r, use the formula for area [A=3.14(r*r)]

Previous Answers:

Trigonometry of Navigation post: 18 m/s @ 34°SE

Bandit Reels post: about 14.6 nautical miles

The STEM of Mapping post: layback = 218m, layback w/ catenary = 207m

Coming soon . . . A trip underwater – A closer look at NOAA dive tables

Heidi Wigman: The STEM of Mapping Operations, June 2, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heidi Wigman
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 27 – June 10, 2015


Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico (28°58.91’N 085°29.87’W)
Date: June 2, 3015

Weather: 82° @ surface, SE winds @ 5-18 knots, seas 1ft, chance of showers, average depth 72m

Science and Technology Log:

So far, I’ve talked about the daytime ops aboard the Pisces, and the different ways in which sample sites are surveyed, but once the sun goes down, something else happens.  After the daytime series of drops of the CTD, camera rig, and bandit reels; a different deployment commences.  During the evening, mapping operations are underway utilizing the technology of the sidescan sonar towfish.  This little guy does exactly what it says – it gets towed and uses its sonar to scan laterally and map the ocean floor.  The acoustic imaging can be used for mapping of geologic features, hazard surveys (for pipeline and cables), archaeological sites, sunken ships and downed aircraft. It can be deployed from the surface (via Pisces) or incorporated on a remote AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle).  By mapping a predetermined feature, or area, in a linear transect array, the sidescan relays data from 20% above the depth of the ocean floor.  So, if we are at 87m, the sidescan would be at an altitude of about 70m (210ft).

Science and deck team getting ready to test the AUV
Science and deck team getting ready to test the AUV
AUV being lowered into the blue
AUV being lowered into the blue
the AUV on it's maiden voyage
The AUV on its maiden voyage
the side scan towfish
The side scan towfish

Math at Sea: One of the tasks of the scientists is to determine the amount of “layback” or distance between the tow point and the lateral distance of the towfish from the vessel – making sure that this is in the range of the shipboard GPS transmission.  Typically line is laid out at 3 times the depth at which the towfish will be cruising.  By looking the diagram below, you can see that all three points create the vertices of a right triangle . . . get ready for some real-life applications of the Pythagorean Theorem. Sidescan Math Question of the Day: If the Pisces is cruising at 5 knots @ 96m above the ocean floor, what is the measure of layback? An extension to this problem has to do with “catenary” (red parabolic line) or the amount of bend in the tow cable due to the speed of the vessel, cable length and the drag of the towfish/cable. Usually this is determined by subtracting 5% of the layback value.  Based on the problem above, what is the total amount of layback in ft, to account for the catenary in the tow cable? Previous Answers: Trigonometry of Navigation post: 18 m/s @ 34°SE Bandit Reels post: about 14.6 nautical miles Coming soon . . . Now Hear This! Underwater Acoustics

Jennifer Petro: Diving into the Deep, July 10, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Petro
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 1 — 14, 2013 

Mission: Marine Protected Area Surveys
Geographic area of cruise: Southern Atlantic
Date: July 10, 2013

Weather Data
Air temperature: 28.4°C (81.5°F)
Barometer: 1010.20 mb
Humidity: 76%
Wind direction: 103°
Wind speed: 1.5 knots
Water temp: 27.5° C (81.5°F)
Latitude: 32 81.67 N
Longitude: 78 12.95 W

Science and Technology Log

The most integral piece of equipment on board is the ROV.  A Super Phantom S2 to be precise.  The ROV is operated by the team of Lance Horn and Glenn Taylor from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW).  Dubbed by me as the “ROV Guys”, Lance and Glenn have almost 50 years of combined experience working on and operating ROVs. The Super Phantom S2 is part of UNCW’s Undersea Vehicle Program which currently consists of 2 ROVs and 1 Autonomous Underwater Vehicle or (AUV).  In the fall they will be adding a third ROV to their fleet.  The ROV set-up is quite impressive and centers around one key component….communication.  The ROV is tethered to the ship by an umbilical.  During each and every dive the ROV operator is in constant contact with the ROV deck.  The umbilical is either payed out over the side or brought back in according to the dive depth and that needs to also be communicated to the wench operator.  The ROV deck is constantly watching the direction and tautness of the umbilical so that it does not get overstretched or goes into the boat’s prop.  All the time the ROV driver is in contact with the bridge.  So, there is a lot of communication and it is integral in every aspect of ROV operations.

Not only are all of the people involved in ROV ops communicating but the ROV and boat are communicating

as well.  The ROV uses an integrated navigation system to provide real-time tracking of the ROV and ship to the ROV operator and the Pisces bridge for navigation.  Ship and ROV positions with ROV depth, heading and altimeter reading are logged for each dive and provided to the scientist in an Excel file. Geo-referenced .tif files can be used as background files to aid in ROV and support vessel navigation.

The vessel has a machine shop which allowed the ROV guys to fox the transducer early in the cruise.
The vessel has a machine shop which allowed the ROV guys to fix the transducer early in the cruise.
The front of the ROV showing spot lights and camera arrays.
The front of the ROV showing spotlights and camera arrays.

The ROV can go to a depth of approximately 305 meters (1000 ft).  Our deepest dive on this cruise is 200 meters (650 ft) which is 20 atm of pressure! What does that mean? At sea level, the weight of all the air above you creates one “atmosphere” (atm) of pressure equivalent to 14.7 pounds pressing on each square inch.  In the ocean, the pressure increases very rapidly with depth because water is much denser than air. For every 33 feet  (10 meters) of depth, the pressure increases by 1 atmosphere.  So at 20 atmospheres there is a lot of pressure pushing down on all sides. It is the increase in pressure that makes it difficult to do manned deep water dives and one of the reasons why the use of ROVs is so important.

As an experiment we sent styrofoam cups that we had decorated in a bag along with the ROV down to a depth of 170 meters 550 ft.  The cups shrink due to the increased pressure of the water.  The deeper you go the more they will shrink.

Styrofoams cups.  Before and after being sent down with the ROV.
Styrofoams cups. Before and after being sent down with the ROV.

Data collection:  Data is collected during each dive by the means of video recording and still camera photos.  Each camera is in a special pressure rated, water proof housing.  There is special attention given to the 7 target species (5 of which we have recorded this cruise) as well as any new or interesting species that we have seen.  This data is analyzed back in the lab.  So far we have approximately 64 hours of video and 2400 still photos.  Needless to say reviewing the data is time-consuming but a very important aspect in confirming what we see during the actual cruise.

Still photos taken with the ROVs Nikon CoolPics camera.

Photos taken by the still camera of the UNCW Super Phatom ROV.
Photos taken by the still camera of the UNCW Super Phantom ROV.
Dive 2246 064 08 56 40
Hogfish

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Driving the ROV is much like playing a video game, only you have many more screens you have to monitor.  I did get an opportunity to drive it over sand!  According to Lance it takes about 20 hours of training to learn to drive effectively drive the ROV.  There are no simulations, all of the drive time is hands-on and in the water.

Lance Horn giving me pointers on how to keep the ROV level and on course.
Lance Horn giving me pointers on how to keep the ROV level and on course.

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Personal Log

While I was in the Acoustics Lab speaking with the folks that do the multibeam mapping, I looked down at the probes that they use and a single word jumped out at me: “Sippican”.  I know this word from my childhood.  We used to visit my Aunt Carol and Uncle Al in Marion, Massachusetts which sits on Sippican Harbor off of Buzzards Bay.  Sure enough the probes are made by Lockheed Martin Sippican, Inc. located in Marion, MA.  This struck me as so apropos.  My Uncle Al was a marine biologist and started a research lab in Falmouth, MA.  I would go to the lab with him and count flounder larvae for hours on end.  He was very instrumental in developing my love for marine science and I was overjoyed to have a connection, albeit small, to a man whose work I admired very much.

Rita Salisbury: Winding Down, April 29, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 29, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: 79°F / 26°C
Dewpoint: 68°F / 20°C
Humidity: 70%
Pressure: 29.98 in (1015 mb)
Winds: S 10.4 mph (S 17 kph)

Science and Technology Log:
This has been an amazing voyage for me; I have learned about science process and technology in a real world application that I can take back to my classroom and incorporate throughout my curriculum. Real science on this cruise involved using multiple survey methods to determine the population and of Bottomfish species in a prescribed area. Acoustics, video recording by BotCam, AUV, and ROV, fishing by professional fishermen, and fishing from the side of the research vessel were all techniques employed in this study. These different methods will be compared and, eventually, a process will be formulated that will probably combine several of the methods in order to compile data to help regulate the bottom fisheries.

Some of the methodologies, such as the BotCams, have been compiling data for five or more years, so there is a sizable amount of information upon which to base decisions. Adding to the general knowledge base is an important part of scientific research; without data it is impossible to make informed decisions.
After the last deployments of the AUV and ROV yesterday, we all pitched in to help pack equipment to get ready for today’s end of the cruise.  We cleaned floor mats, vacuumed, mopped, wiped down counters, and also cleaned our staterooms, heads, and common rooms. Even though this is a scientific research cruise, the scientists are considered guests on the ship and it only makes sense to help clean up. You never know when you’ll be back on the ship for more research and you sure want to be welcomed back!

Personal Log:
My mind is racing like a runaway train, thinking of ways to integrate what I’ve seen and learned on this cruise into my curriculum when I get back to Delaware. I cannot wait to sit down with my co-teachers, Dara Laws and Kenny Cummings, and brainstorm ways to make the science standards I am required to cover more meaningful and engaging to our students. We teach in a project-based, technology-rich environment and the possibilities to “amp up” the lessons and make them more rigorous, as well as captivating, are enormous. In addition to a fresh insight into science process, environments, populations, communities, and the overarching ecosystem, I now have real people I can contact to act as experts and representatives of their fields of study. I cannot thank NOAA, the Teacher at Sea program, Dr. Donald Kobayashi, Chief Scientist, or the Officers and Crew of the Oscar Elton Sette enough. Their openness and willingness to host another Teacher at Sea will make a difference to countless students in the years to come.

Not only did I make new contacts, I made new friends. I’m looking forward to making Clementine’s Chicken Curry for my family and friends and staying in touch with my new friends. I only wish every teacher I know could take advantage of such an amazing opportunity.

Rita Salisbury: Popika, April 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 26, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Wind: NE 3KT
Pressure: 1017.1 mb
Air Temperature: 74 F (23C)
Water Temperature: 78 F (25 C)

Science and Technology Log

Jamie Barlow and Bo Alexander getting ready to deploy the BotCams
Jamie Barlow and Bo Alexander getting ready to deploy the BotCams

I was extremely fortunate to be invited to ride along on a day-long BotCam deployment aboard the Huki Pono along with IT Scott Wong. Dr. Kobayashi got approval for it and before I knew it I was descending down a rope ladder and on my way in a small boat to rendezvous with the Huki Pono to work with scientists Jamie Barton, Chris Demarke, and Bo Alexander.

The BotCams are designed to descend to the sea floor, attract fish with bait, and video record the fish that are in range of the camera. The BotCam is then retrieved, the video uploaded, and then the BotCam is deployed again until the mission is completed. The videos are saved and someone then reviews them and classifies the fish by species and counts how many there are of them. The results are added to a multi-year study of the fisheries in the area.

The BotCams are heavy and deploying and retrieving them takes a lot of skill, so I stayed out of the way while that was going on. However, there were things I was able to do, and the three scientists walked me through them.

Throwing the grappling hook to catch the buoy line
Throwing the grappling hook to catch the buoy line

The first thing I got to do was to throw the grappling hook to retrieve the buoys for a BotCam. Captain Al of the Huki Pono skillfully brought the boat up next to the buoys at a good angle and I was able to snag the buoy line with my first throw every time. Then I got out of the way so the hundreds of meters of line that attached the buoys to the BotCam was pulled on board. Once the BotCam was pulled to the surface, a cable from the winch on the back of the ship was attached to it and the BotCam was pulled to the back work area and pulled on board. The video was retrieved, the bait renewed, and the BotCam was ready for deployment again. On this day, the crew was working with two BotCams, but they had a third one on board that they also use, depending on the requirements of the day. (The Bluejay is my school mascot and came along for the ride.)

Setting the buoys to mark the location of the BotCam. Uli Uli Manu is along for the ride.
Setting the buoys to mark the location of the BotCam. Uli Uli Manu is along for the ride.
Slinging line as the BotCam drops to the sea floor
Slinging line as the BotCam drops to the sea floor

Once re-baited, and with new video plugs, the BotCam was ready to be dropped at a pre-determined spot. The dropsites have already been entered into a GPS unit so the captain navigates from one site to the next using a handheld GPS. The depth of the new location determined how much line would be attached. When the captain said it was time, the scientists triple-checked everything, including each other’s work, and swung the BotCam off the deck and into the water. The line that attaches the BotCam to the buoy is quickly fed out after the weighted BotCam and then the buoys are tossed out last, which are the other two jobs I was able to do. Then it’s time to go the next location and either retrieve or deploy another BotCam. This went on all day long, without any breaks. Lunch was eaten while traveling from one BotCam location to another.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Don Kobayashi
Photo courtesy of Dr. Don Kobayashi

While I was onboard the Huki Pono, the Sette deployed the AUV for a lengthy mission. I was able to see some of the video footage when I returned to the Sette and the clarity was amazing! The AUV’s path was blocked by a large outcropping for a while and it was really interesting to watch the video while the AUV worked its way free of the rock.

An AUV capture of almaco jack, a type of kahala. Photo courtesy of Dr. Don Kobayashi
An AUV capture of almaco jack, a type of kahala. Photo courtesy of Dr. Don Kobayashi

The AUV was deployed again yesterday, and it is just as exciting to watch now as it was for the first mission. I know that it has a few failsafe procedures built into it, such as dropping the weights that help keep it down and aborting the mission, but it is still thrilling to watch the last line removed that tethers it to the ship and see it descend on its own power. The bright yellow skin makes it visible for many meters under the surface, but eventually it goes so deep that it cannot be seen any longer. The scientists monitoring the acoustics can “see” where the AUV is in relation to the position of the ship. They have named the AUV “Popoki” which is Hawaiian for cat.

Second Assistant Engineer (2AE) Megan keeping an eye on the control readout
Second Assistant Engineer (2AE) Megan keeping an eye on the control readout

The Chief Scientist, Dr. Don Kobayashi, arranged a tour of the engineering department of the ship. Chief Engineer Harry Crane met us in the forward mess and explained what we would be seeing. After handing out earplugs to protect our hearing from the 115 decibel environment, we were off. We were able to see the 600 amp 600 volt motor for the bow thruster used to maneuver in tight quarters or to make minor adjustments of the ship’s position. Then we were shown the sewage system next to the laundry room. The waste is collected and then cleaned by running electrical current through it before it is discharged. It holds about 6,000 gallons of waste, which is roughly what a tractor-trailer tanker holds. The giant Caterpillar diesel engines spin generators to provide electric power to run the propulsion motors, making the Sette a hybrid of diesel electric power. The water that is used to cool the engines is the same water that is used, as waste energy, to help run the evaporators that create the ‘fresh’ water needed for the ship. We also saw the halon and CO2 fire suppressant system, the main control room, and the shafts the turn the propellers (or screws), and the hydraulic system used to turn the rudder. One of the things that struck me the most about the whole tour was how very clean all of the areas were. Anyone who works around machinery knows it can be a messy environment with leaks and spills, but the Oscar Elton Sette was clean as a whistle.

Chief Engineer Harry Crane, Chief Scientist Don Kobayashi, Jessica Chen, and me touring the engineering department of the ship
Chief Engineer Harry Crane, Chief Scientist Don Kobayashi, Jessica Chen, and me touring the engineering department of the ship
Uli Uli Manu keeping an eye on things
Uli Uli Manu keeping an eye on things

Personal Log

This ship is like a large, extended family in many ways. The mess and the kitchen are central to the community with 3 wonderful meals served every day. But just like home, the kitchen is always open for anyone to make a snack. The other evening, one of the stewards, Allen Smith, stayed late to help me find the ingredients I needed to make a cake as a thank you to everyone on board. It was served as desert the next evening and the medical officer, “Doc” Tran, who really enjoys cooking, asked for my recipe and said that anytime they serve it from now on, they will call it the Rita Cake. Like I said before, everyone on this ship is very nice and they go out of their way to make me comfortable.

Did You Know?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. A GPS device is an electronic unit that determines a location within a few feet, displaying coordinates in latitude and longitude. The handheld GPS receives signals from geosynchronous satellites. It only needs signals from 3 satellites to calculate a location, but a signal from a fourth satellite can fix the altitude of the location and the exact time. The more signals that are received from satellites, the more accurate the reading.

One of my duties has been to find out information about everyone on board for blog entry. The Chief Sci and I talked about it and decided to borrow an ice-breaker that we use at my school from time to time called “Two Truths and a Lie.” It has been interesting, to say the least, to start to gather the statements from different people on board. I cannot wait until I have enough data to publish it, but the best thing has been getting to know people even better.

Additional Section

I finally saw a humpback whale breaching while I was on the Huki Pono! It was about a quarter of a mile away, so I didn’t get any good pictures, but it was still exciting.

I also was able to see some kawakawa (False Albacore) off the bow of the ship. They are quite lovely fish, with a brilliant blue hue and a streamlined appearance. There were about a dozen of them and they would race in one direction and then change course, often breaking through the surface of the water to appear as if they were flying. I was disappointed when they finally wandered off.

One thing I have wondered about is the lack of seagulls around here. I just assumed that anywhere there was salt water, there would be seagulls. Jamie Barlow said they simply are not part of the ecosystem here. There might be an occasional one that shows up on its way somewhere else, but they don’t stick around. That surprises me, especially when you consider the Taape, or Bluelined Snapper. They are an introduced species that was introduced in the mid-1950s because Hawaii did not have a shallow water snapper. The species has flourished in these Hawaiian waters so why doesn’t the seagull show up and start competing in a niche?

Rita Salisbury: More on the Mission, April 23, 2013

CDTs record conductivity, depth,  and temperature
CDTs record conductivity, depth, and temperature

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date:
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Science and Technology Log

CDT being lowered over the starboard side
CDT being lowered over the starboard side

A few days ago we dropped the CDT, an apparatus that collects data on the conductivity, the depth, and the temperature of the sea water in which the acoustic survey is taking place. All of these three things impact how quickly sound travels underwater. The scientists collect the information and then use it to figure out an accurate rate of speed for the sound waves. Once they have that information, they can determine how far a target is from the ship.I was able to ride along in a small boat to Maui to pick up parts for the AUV. While in the Maui harbor, I had the opportunity to visit the Huki Pono, a small boat working on this survey that is using BotCams to survey the fish population. The palu, or bait, that I help make every day is frozen and then transferred to the fishing boats. It is frozen in a shape that fits into a cage on the BotCam located near the camera. As the bait breaks up, fish are attracted to it and come close enough to the BotCam to be visually recorded. There is a lot of video to go through so Dr. Kobayashi says they won’t have the data from the BotCams for a while.  But the other three fishing boats assigned to this project turn their survey information in every evening and I get to add it to a spreadsheet to help keep track of what section the boats were in and what they found while they were there.

BotCam on the deck of the Huki Pono
BotCam on the deck of the Huki Pono

Chris Demarke, Jamie Barlow, and Bo Alexander retrieving a BotCam aboard the Huki Pono with Maui in the background
Work continues with the ROV and AUV. The scientists are always working on them, trying to make them run as smoothly as possible. We worked on calibrating the acoustics again this morning for the same reason. The better the information you have when you start a project, the better chance you have of having a successful outcome.

As I mentioned before though, not everything we are doing is high tech. We fish off the side of the ship in the evenings, dropping our lines all the way to the bottom so they are on the sea floor. The scientists running the acoustics tell us if they see fish and then we do our best to catch a representative sample.  Here are two of the fish I caught off the bottom: an opakapaka and a taape. The observers that ride in the small boats every day spend the night on the Sette. That way, they can turn their logs in and I can record the data. As a bonus, a few of them are expert fishermen and are a huge help to us as we fish from the ship.

Opakapaka and ta'ape
Opakapaka and ta’ape

Personal Log
I’m really enjoying my time on the Sette. In addition to learning new things that I can apply in my classroom, I’m making new friends. Everyone is exceptionally friendly and they go out of their way to explain things to me. Most of them call me “Teach” or “Taz” and almost all of them have sailed with a Teacher at Sea before.

Did You Know?
You can tell the age of a fish by their otoliths? The picture has the otoliths from an opakapaka, an ehu, and a hogo. Otoliths are a fish’s “ear bones” and they have growth lines in them much like a tree has growth rings.

Otoliths
Otoliths

Additional Section

Why are these bottom-dwelling fish red?

Red fish?
Red fish?

Rita Salisbury: Robots and Sound Waves, April 19, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 19 2013 

Weather Data from the Bridge
Partly cloudy, winds ENE 10-15 knots, sunrise 603, sunset 1846
77 degrees F (25 degrees C)
Humidity 85%
Barometer 30.09” (1019.5 mb)
Dewpoint 72 degrees F (22 degrees C)
Heat Indes 78 degrees F (26 degrees C)
Visibility 10 miles

Science and Technology Log

We have been calibrating the acoustic equipment for a few days in order to be ready for our survey of bottomfish. It was a long process, but necessary. Four of us worked on moving a small titanium sphere under the boat by maneuvering it to different positions. A scientist working in the e-lab (electronics lab) used different frequencies from the transducers to locate the sphere and record the results. Graduate students and NOAA scientists worked until 1:00 in the morning to get the job done.

The ROV on it's first deployment
The ROV on it’s first deployment

While we were working on the acoustics, other scientists were working on a test run of the ROV. The currents were very strong when they deployed the ROV but it performed well and was successfully retrieved. Operating it is a lot like the controls to a video game, only the stakes are much higher. 

The AUV was deployed on Wednesday. The first step was to do a rehearsal of the procedures for deploying and retrieving the AUV. Everyone had a job to do and it was made clear who would be doing what and when. While it was obvious that certain people were in charge, they asked that if anyone thought they had a better idea of how to do something, or had a question, to speak up.  At one point, the captain, CO Koes, asked everyone who was not actually part of the procedure to move to one of the side of the deck so she could see who was  actually supposed to be working.

After the walk-through rehearsal, the AUV was lifted off the deck by a large crane and placed into the water off the fantail of the ship. At first it was tethered to the ship, but after awhile it was released and became independent of the ship. The scientists want to be as sure as they can be that the AUV will operate properly before letting it go so they run through a checklist. If everything is working correctly, they release the AUV.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The AUV being deployed.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The AUV going solo!

The AUV is pre-programmed for the mission so it is important to know about the underwater geography of an area. The AUV needs to be within 30 to 35 meters of the ocean floor in order to know where it is. Other than that, it follows the pattern that the scientists created. If the AUV doesn’t return to the ship, it’s a big deal. It’s very expensive and difficult to replace. The scientists designed it with that thought in mind.

In addition to the high-tech solutions programmed into the AUV, the scientists also included low-tech ideas into the equipment to retrieve the AUV in case something goes wrong and the AUV is submerged and unretrievable. There is a “drop weight” attached to a strand of zinc. Zinc corrodes quickly in salt water. Through testing the scientists have already determined how thick the zinc strand should be in order to corrode through in a given amount of time at a particular water temperature. The strand that they are using on this cruise is constructed to corrode through in 5 1/2 hours. Once it corrodes, the weight drops off and the AUV rises to the top of the water where it can be seen and picked up. The zinc strand is replaced and another weight is attached. All the weights are the same size and weight so they are interchangeable. Otherwise, the scientists would have to recalibrate the AUV every time they changed weights. I was really impressed to see that the scientists use a combination of high and low tech to make their AUV successful.

Heat-sealing the ground up squid and sardines for bait.
Heat-sealing the ground up squid and sardines for bait.

The scientists on the Oscar Elton Sette use some smaller boats to assist with their research. One thing that I do to help out is make bait for the small boats to use to attract fish. We take frozen squid and sardines out of the freezer a few hours before we need them and put them on a protected place on the deck. After they thaw, we put them in a commercial quality food processor and grind them up into marble-sized chunk. Then we put the chunky bait into plastic bags, seal them, and put them back in the freezer until they can be delivered to the boats that need them.

Personal Log

This ship is amazing! It’s big and packed with the scientific equipment. The “wet lab” has become the acoustics lab for this trip and the e-lab is above that. The mess is open 24 hours for snacks, (as long as you clean up after yourself), and serves three meals a day. The cooks are really talented and are always providing fresh new ways of serving something. Fortunately, there’s a gym a couple of decks beneath mine!

There’s a movie room, a laundry, a tv room with books and computers, and a ship’s store. There’s even a full-time medical officer on board. My stateroom is set up well. There are 6 spacious bunks, drawers under the bottom ones and lockers for everyone, built-in desks with ethernet access, and a large bathroom. Since everyone is on a slightly different schedule we do our best to be quiet and to keep the lights low.

Uli Uli Manu taking a break on my bunk.
Uli Uli Manu taking a break on my bunk.

 On Tuesday, we had emergency drills. Everyone has a specific place that have to go to when the alarms sound. If it’s a fire alarm or a man-overboard drill, I have to go to the Texas Deck. If it’s an abandon ship drill, I go to the boat deck and put on my orange gumby suit. That was a little tricky and very hot, but I’m glad they let us practice it.

One thing I’ve noticed on the ship is how everyone has a job to do, but they are always ready to pitch in and help someone else. Meals are really interesting. The mess is small and has several tables set up with 4 chairs at each table. People sit with different people all the time. It doesn’t seem to matter who is an officer, a crew member, or a scientist. Everyone sits with everyone else.

 The captain gave me a tour of the bridge on Tuesday. It was late and we ran out of time, so she has invited me to come back up and finish the tour

The Oscar Elton Sette as seen from a small boat off the coast of Maui.
The Oscar Elton Sette as seen from a small boat off the coast of Maui.

soon. I was impressed by the number of back-up plans in place. There didn’t seem to be one piece of equipment that didn’t have another piece doing the same job in a slightly different way. This allows the ship to continue working properly on the chance that something stops working. The bridge is the control center of the ship and has alarms and notifications for anything that might crop up–low fresh water levels, smoke, fire, and anything else you can think of.

Did You Know?

Sound is vibration transmitted through a solid, liquid, or gas. The speed of the vibrations, or how quickly they cycle, determines the frequency. Frequency is measured in cycles per second, or hertz (Hz). Humans can hear certain frequencies, while bats and dogs can hear others. Whales and dolphins hear even more frequencies.

The sound waves we are using on the Oscar Elton Sette will bounce off the fish and reflect back to the ship, allowing the scientists to locate the fish and determine their shape, size, and movement.

 

Animals I Have Seen

Whale fluke off Maui
Whale fluke off Maui

Seen off the coasts of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai:

Needlefish
I thought they were barracuda at first, but someone explained the difference to me
Humpback Whales
Dolphins–too far away to identify the species

Rita Salisbury: First Day at Sea, April 15, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rita Salisbury
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 14–29, 2013
 

Mission: Hawaii Bottomfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 15 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
77°F/25°C
Humidity 74%
Wind Speed Calm
Barometer 30.00 in (1015.7 mb)
Dewpoint 68°F (20°C)
Visibility 10.00 mi
Heat Index 79°F (26°C)

Science and Technology Log

NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette, known as Sette,  is a large ship, by my standards. It’s 224 feet long, which is more than ⅔ of the length of a football field. It is one of the ships in NOAA’s fleet of oceanographic vessels and like their other vessels, it supports NOAA’s mission to protect and manage the use of ocean resources through ecosystem-based management.

On this cruise, we will be surveying fish populations by deploying a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to gather information. The ROV is a small, unmanned submersible that is controlled from the Sette and attached by a cable. The AUV is also an unmanned submersible but its path is pre-programmed before it is deployed. Additionally, we will be using acoustics, or sound, to locate, identify, and estimate populations of fish. I met some of the scientists last night who are working with the submersibles and the acoustics. I think this might be one of those times that being good at video games could pay off!

The goal of the Hawaii Bottomfish Survey is to gain more information about the fish populations in the ocean around Hawaii. The survey will help scientists determine the effects of fishing and other factors on the overall health of different fish populations. By gathering information by non-lethal methods NOAA scientists are adding to their knowledge base without further reducing the fish population.

Personal Log

Yesterday, I met the Chief Scientist, Donald Kobayashi, PhD,  for the first time. Dr. Kobayashi is the man in charge of the scientific portion of our Hawaii Bottomfish Survey aboard the  Sette. Dr. Kobayashi took me to Ford Island so I could board the Sette prior to today’s workday getting ready for the survey.

I boarded the Sette and met the boatswain (pronounced bosun) and some of the science party. I also moved into my berth, or stateroom. It’s called the bunkhouse and has six bunks in it. I’ll be sharing it with four other scientists while we are out to sea. It’s important to be able to get along with other people and to be flexible when you are on a ship, just like it is in other situations. But on a ship, where you are in a confined space, it’s even more important to understand the hierarchy of the ship–the officers, the crew, and the science party–and the protocol (the proper way of doing things) so you don’t get in  someone’s way or make someone’s job more difficult. Knowing who is in charge, what the roles are, and the expectations for everyone will help make my adventure a success.

 

Did You Know?

The scientists can tell what type of fish they are tracking and how many of them there are by using sound waves? The scientist sends out a sound signal, or ping, from a transducer, an underwater device that emits sound waves. The Sette has several transducers to accomplish this. The density of the fish’s swim bladder is different than the rest of the fish so the sound, or echo, that bounces back from the fish to the ship can be recorded and interpreted by the scientists. They can tell what type of fish they are tracking, and how many of them there are. Dr. Kobayashi says the scientists can back up their interpretation by photography.

 

Teacher at Sea Rita Salisbury in front of the Oscar Elton Sette
Teacher at Sea Rita Salisbury in front of the Oscar Elton Sette

 

 

Sue Oltman: June 4, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge (Baltra Harbor, Ecuador)
Air temperature: 27.3 C / 81.1 F
Barometric pressure: 1010.22 mb
Relative humidity: 71.3
Precipitation: 0.3 mm
Wind speed: 12.7 knots, SE
Sea temperature: 25.01 C

Personal log

Everything was decluttered, packed, cleaned and mopped in the lab. We cleaned our staterooms and bathrooms to get ready for inspections by the captain.

Now that the work is done, a few of us have discovered the foosball table in the upper lab. It was great fun!  Playing foosball on a moving ship that is heaving, pitching and rolling puts a new dimension to the game.

Science ships are not the only ones that names cold storage areas for science needs, as my students can attest!
Science ships are not the only ones that names cold storage areas for science needs, as my students can attest to!

For our last dinner on the ship, wild game from South Africa was grilled. Not only was there kudu again (yum!) but we had ostrich and springbok.  Some type of squash was also grilled. All were tasty; the ostrich kind of sweet and surprisingly looked like steak, too.  I couldn’t decide which was more delicious, the springbok or the kudu.  It was fun to try some new foods, and I don’t know when I will get the opportunity to do so again. There was also some ice cream made from cheramoya, a Chilean fruit.

After dinner, which is served at 5, a group of us also were shown the crow’s nest above the bridge. We had to climb up a vertical ladder – no stairs – and pop out of a manhole to go into it and look out the windows, and only two people could fit at a time.  Part of the radar is housed here.  If you climbed up yet another ladder, there was the highest platform you could stand on, and the view was great!

From the platform above the crow’s nest:  me, Pamela, Magda, Eric, Jamie, Ursula, and Elsie
From the platform above the crow’s nest: me, Pamela, Magda, Eric, Jamie, Ursula, and Elsie

The sunset from here, and the full moon rising, was quite a sight. Still, there was no land on the horizon. Later in the evening, I went to one of the upper decks to just look at the stars. Even with the brilliant light from the moon, the clear view of the stars and the southern hemisphere constellations was breathtaking. In the morning, we would be in the Galapagos Islands.

Science and Technology Log

It’s a wrap!

The science team is ready to disembark and relax from working continuously for 14 days on the R/V Melville, not to mention the days working on the ground while the ship was in port. The data will be analyzed and soon the WHOI team will get ready for the next deployment and recovery in Hawaii. I will be back home, ready to begin my summer vacation from school!  I have really learned a lot from each member of this team.  It has been a privilege to work with them and know that they will go with me to my next students.

 The WHOI UOP group – Jamie, Jeff,Nan, Bob, me, Sean and Sebastien
The WHOI UOP group – Jamie, Jeff,Nan, Bob, me, Sean and Sebastien

If you hold fast to the stereotype that scientists are nerdy, introverted individuals with poor social skills and no outside interests, working with the WHOI group will quickly dispel this myth. While experts in their field, each person brings some personality to their work which adds up to a positive dynamic that anyone would enjoy being around. We have worked together for two weeks in the “main lab”- one big room on the main deck with ease, and had some laughs along the way.  In talking to everyone, each WHOI scientist has a unique story and set of skills that I wish I had the time and space to share in this blog.  I took the time to interview the Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert (Bob) Weller about his career in oceanography, and here is some of that conversation. (Italics are mine)

SO: When did you first become interested in oceanography?

RW: At first in college. I was a biochemistry major, but it seemed to be more memorization and not enough thinking skills. Also at the time, I was working for an Oceanography professor at Harvard, making deep sea pressure gauges, learning how to machine parts, very hands-on, and really liked that, so I changed to Engineering and Applied Physics to go into Oceanography.

SO: It’s such a broad field, how did you narrow your focus down to moorings?

RW: For graduate school, I went to Scripps Institute of Oceanography (part of University of California, San Diego) and my advisor was working in upper ocean physics. No one had had success observing the wind-driven or Ekman currents, and that became a goal. As part of work toward a thesis, I designed a new current meter capable of observing near-surface currents in the presence of wave motion.  This current meter was particularly needed for use on surface moorings, and is still in use. There was a lot of progress to be made in surface moorings – as of the mid 1970s the longest experiment using one was about 30 days, as one that was in the Gulf of Alaska did.  Meanwhile, at WHOI, after WWII, there were lots of resources and they were getting pretty good at sub-surface moorings (no surface float, the buoyancy is below the surface, away from wave motion). After grad school in the late 1970’s, I came to WHOI, and began to work on improving surface moorings and using them for studying the upper ocean. By the 1980’s, we were up to a surface mooring lasting 6 months.

SO: Have you been to all of the worlds’ oceans with buoys and moorings?

RW:  I have not been to the Arctic or the Southern Ocean, if defined as 45 beginning at South, but soon!

SO: Mistakes are something we like to avoid, but has there been some trial and error that has turned out helpful in the long run?

RW: We have made progress on changing the materials of buoy from aluminum to the materials we use now. There was a surface mooring near Iceland that did not last and the reason turned out to be a low-tech piece of forged metal hardware that failed from cyclical fatigue (flexing and bending, responding to tension changes) so we had to improve our mooring designs and the hardware we used.

Also, after that failure in 1989 the Navy funded work to improve how we design surface moorings for challenging locations.  This work continued as we prepared to deploy a surface mooring in the Arabian Sea in the mid-1990s.  That surface mooring survived the monsoon season so we knew we had improved our design.

With the Stratus project, we started out thinking that the cold water from upwelling was making its way out to the eastern tropical Pacific causing the cooler ocean temperatures. After studying this, we have found it was not the case, so we continue to look for the cause.

This year, we deployed the mechanical current meters deeper into the ocean to try to avoid the fouling by barnacles as well as the fishing line which causes them to stop working (gets into propellers) and also to get ocean currents over more of the water column.  What we found was that the battery life was shorter where the temperatures were colder at these depths, so we did not recover a year of data from them. We also tried some new current meters which worked really well.

SO: You are working on a small part of climate research, a very long-term issue and a big picture, what is the reward of your part of the research?

RW: Getting to go on cruises like this one, working in the field with great people like we have is very rewarding. Recovering one buoy and deploying another is a big accomplishment and it is great to be involved in this. (note: There are 3 such deployments each year.)

SO: WHOI maintains 2 other buoys; can you talk about the importance of these locations?

RW: The 3 buoys together occupy the trade winds areas. One is north of Hawaii, and there is a rising level of carbon dioxide there. We are seeing the ocean’s absorption of CO2 has been rising faster than the rate of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Also, over a decade, weather patterns have been changing near Hawaii and the ocean is becoming more salty due to less precipitation; the hydrologic cycle is changing which has practical implications, too. The trade wind regions are where tropical storms transit, strengthening with energy out of the ocean; we should know more about this.  The other location, near Barbados in the Atlantic, is where Atlantic hurricanes often transit.

SO: Can you tell me some more about the drifters we have launched?

RW: The drifters are an international program that NOAA is invested with, and first of all, they take sea surface temperature (SST) measurements. SST is measured worldwide by satellites, but this is through clouds and aerosols (atmospheric impurities) and is hard to get SST precise to a tenth of a degree. The satellites are calibrated using the SST provided by the surface drifters. The goal is to have 2 drifters per 5 degree (latitude and longitude) square which is a challenge.  In the southern ocean, they add barometers to the surface drifters to help predict storms.

The ARGO floats are also an international effort; the goal is to try to have one in every 3 degree square of ocean, to surface every 10 days to calibrate ocean models. This helps us understand rising sea levels, which happen as the ocean warms and expands as well as when polar ice melts. They go to 1,500 to 2,000 m to find the heat content of the ocean. They last about 4 years and there are about 3,000 of them worldwide.

SO: If you were to go into another area of ocean research, what would it be?

RW: We have seen that there is a warm salty layer and a fresher cooler layer below. It would be interesting to study what is causing the mixing between these layers and how the wind plays in.

SO: In what areas of Oceanography do you foresee a lot of career paths and job opportunities?

RW: In terms of locations, The National Science Foundation in international collaboration is looking to have a 25-year study including the Gulf of Alaska, Greenland, and off the Southern tip of Chile and Argentina. There is a lack in information about these important high latitude areas.

There is a growing demand for AUVs (Autonomous unmanned vehicles) which have many applications. Designing and applying AUVs as well as surveying the ocean floor.

Ocean acoustics is another field of growth.

Bathymetry and physics of the ocean as well as marine policy/ social science are other areas.  There are lots of applications of technology.

SO: What about in biology of the oceans?

RW: In studying fisheries, you quickly learn that you can’t study a species in isolation and that other factors such as the physical structure and variability of the ocean and local human activities that affect the habitat are important.

The other members of the science team bring varied backgrounds that have transferred well into oceanographic research. Their college degrees were not all oceanography, but their skills and knowledge are helpful in their jobs. Some of their former experience includes computer programming, biology, finance, data analysis, and mechanical design. Two attended the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and one Florida State, before coming to Woods Hole. There are yet more WHOI folks behind the scenes, back in Cape Cod, supporting this research cruise in other ways. Not everyone is needed (or cares to participate) in a hands on, 24/7 research cruise.  The team collaborates with other nations and with the global science community of oceans and climate research not only by sharing data, but by lending their expertise in a hands-on way. Jeff will be traveling straight to Australia to support a project there before he even goes home to Cape Cod. Some of our others include a biology graduate student, who works on the biological changes at the Mt. St. Helen’s volcano with Washington State University; international participants in the cruise are studying topics such as oceanography of the fjords in southern Chile and phytoplankton in the Pacific Ocean.  By working with these folks, I have seen that the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (at University of California San Diego) and WHOI are two of the USA’s preeminent institutions in preparing for ocean science careers.  Both have excellent outreach to schools, not only by supporting the Teacher at Sea program, but by providing web based educational resources and student activities.

Enjoying one of our last sunsets: Keith (Scripps), Bob Weller (WHOI), me, Jamie Holte (WHOI), Ursula Cifuentes (Concepcion), Sebastien Bigorre (WHOI), and front, Pamela Labbe also fromChile
Enjoying one of our last sunsets: Keith (Scripps), Bob Weller (WHOI), me, Jamie Holte (WHOI), Ursula Cifuentes (Concepcion), Sebastien Bigorre (WHOI), and front, Pamela Labbe also fromChile
This is my UCTD watch – Sebastien, Ursula and I held down to 8 watches and launched hourly UCTDs to gather salinity, temperature, and salinity data.
This is my UCTD watch – Sebastien, Ursula and I held down to 8 watches and launched hourly UCTDs to gather salinity, temperature, and salinity data.

WHOI’s mission statement reads – “The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution mission is to promote research and education to advance understanding of the ocean and its interaction with the Earth system and to communicating this understanding for the benefit of society.”  I have been enriched and am very grateful to have had a part in carrying out this mission.  Thank you, NOAA, WHOI and Scripps!


Linda Tatreau, MARCH 5, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
DAte: March 5, 2010

YouTube: AUV, BRUVs and BotCams

Mike Marino, an officer on the ship, made a great little movie showing the work done during the first two weeks of this expedition.You can find it at

Linda Tatreau, FEBRUARY 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
Date: February 28, 2010

 

Old Dog, New Trick

What is the most exciting, most awesome, most unusual event of the expedition? These are the most common questions I have received from students following the blog. The whole trip has been exciting and awesome. It’s also been unusual as I don’t normally spend a lot of time at sea.
Unexpectedly for me, on February 23rd came the most exciting,most awesome and most unusual event of this trip. By then, I was familiar with the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle. I had read about it, talked about it, written about it and taken dozens of pictures. What I didn’t know was that Chris (see Meet the Science Team) was working to teach the AUV a new trick. AUVs run a preprogrammed route for about 4 hours and then return to the surface. It’s not until the AUV is back in its cradle on deck that the cameras can be retrieved. Only then can the photos be seen. Chris spent the trip devising a method whereby the AUV can send pictures to the ship while still underwater.
Seven miles of cabel used by the Remotely Operated Vehicle Jason II.
Keep in mind that the AUV is not attached to the ship. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are attached to the ship via cables and can send pictures and receive instructions from the control room on the ship. On the AUV’s last dive, Chris’s program worked―underwater pictures on his computer. He got 13 photos at about 20 minutes each. The information is sent to the computer in small bits that must be assembled. HE DID IT! I wanted to break out the champagne in celebration, but there is none onboard so we had to settle for enthusiastic applause. I still get chicken skin (goose bumps) just thinking about the magnitude of his success.
AUV, no cables.

In the following paragraph, Chris talks about AUVs and communication.”Wirelessly communicating with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) is very difficult―the type of wireless communications that we rely on in our day-to-day lives does not work underwater. Most wireless systems, like WiFi or mobile phones, rely upon high frequency electromagnetic waves―millions or billions of cycles per second. Underwater, high frequency signals are attenuated, or blocked, over short distances. That is part of why when you are snorkeling or SCUBA diving everything looks blue―the higher frequency red light has been blocked out. To communicate with SeaBED AUVs, we rely upon sound waves, which use only around 12 thousand cycles per second. Echoes, other noise, and a number of other challenges presented by the ocean result in us having a very slow connection to the robot. Also, like using a walkie talkie, only one person can be talking at a time. If we are sending commands to the robot, it can’t be sending us information. Finally, sound travels slowly through the water, so it takes time for the message to even get to the boat (this is called latency). That all means we have to heavily compress images so that they are very small on disk before we transmit them, and we don’t get all the pieces in the right order. Putting together the image ends up being like putting together a puzzle―you have to make sure you have all the pieces, and then put them together in the right order. The compression means that the images look pretty rough, but they still give us an idea of what the robot is doing, and an early glimpse at the seafloor. For the rest, you have to wait until it comes back up! SeaBED AUVs can take over a thousand images every hour! ”

OK, me again. Chris will continue working on this project. He wants to make it easier and faster. With this new trick, the scientists will know, while the AUV is still below, that all systems are working and the AUV is taking quality photos.

Linda Tatreau, FEBRUARY 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
Date: February 22, 2010

 

Rota

Rota
Rota

This is day #3 working off-shore of the beautiful island of Rota. While working at Galvez Bank we could see Guam at a distance of about 14 miles, but it was just a big bump on the horizon. While working in this location, we are close to shore and can enjoy the view of tropical vegetation, white sandy beaches and carbonate cliffs. The work in Rota has included BRUVs, multibeam and the AUV.

Linda, Viv and Tony with Rota in the background.

The AUV work has gone smoothly. Launching occurs each evening about 8:00 with recovery at midnight. The AUV has 2 cameras, one facing downward to photograph the geography and one facing forward for better fish identification (it’s difficult to identify a fish from the top, looking down). At night the AUV takes only still photographs. A strobe illuminates the scene every 5 seconds and the cameras shoot in synchronicity. A 4-hour trip produces more than 2,500 photographs with each camera. Processing that many pictures is a time consuming job. The AUV also has a CTD and records data for future analysis. Chirs (see Meet the Science Team) is working on a program that will allow the AUV to send pictures to the ship in real time. To date, this has only been accomplished when a ship is directly over the AUV. Chris is very close to success―maybe tonight.

Linda cutting bait for the BRUV bait bags.
BRUV boys loaded up and ready go.
The BRUV team says this trip has been the easiest BRUV work ever. In the next breath, they say this trip has been the most difficult BRUV work ever. The easiest―Galvez Bank where launch and recovery were from the ship. Launching was accomplished by simply tossing them off the stern. They were brought back aboard using an electric winch. The most difficult―Rota where the work is close to shore and the ship can’t go. Now they are using a small boat. With all the equipment piled on the boat, there is barely space for 3 people―the driver and 2 to handle the BRUVs. They have 4 BRUVs nestled on the little boat along with all the associated lines and buoys . Add bait, bait bags, lunch and drink and there is not much working area. Once rigged, the BRUVs are tossed over the side in 100 to 150 feet of water. Recovery is accomplished using a hand winch―at 150 feet deep, that is a lot of manual turns of the handle. Difficult as it may be, yesterday they managed 13 BRUV drops in 8 hours.

OK, every entry in this blog has been mostly science. For me, that’s the greatest fun. For the next entry, I’ll try for some of the non-science fun onboard a ship.

Linda Tatreau, FEBRUARY 17, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
Date: February 22, 2010

Daily Routine

Sparky cutting bait

The days are settling into a routine. As the sun rises, the multibean sonar is lifted and secured or Eric turns off the echo sounder he uses for locating schools of fish. By 7:30 A.M., the camera teams are ready with the 2 BotCams and 8 BRUVs. The deployment depths have been determined so each rig is set with the appropriate length of line. The camera batteries have been charged over night (10 rigs make for a total of 20 cameras). The bait has been cut and stuffed into the bait bags. Deployment of all 10 sets takes about 1.5 hours. Each set of cameras runs for just over an hour so as soon as the last cameras are deployed, the first are ready to be retrieved. Retrieval is more time consuming. Each camera set is marked by 2 orange buoys. The ship must approach with the buoys on the lee side (sheltered from the wind ). A crew member then throws a line with a big 4-pronged hook to snag the line between the buoys. If the ship is too close, it runs over the buoys―too far away and they have to come around for another try which can take up to 30 minutes. Generally, the morning cameras are back on board in time for lunch. Afternoons are a repeat of the morning and the cameras are back on board just in time for dinner.

Mills with a mahi mahi

We have a couple of fishing enthusiasts on board. They put out troll lines whenever they get the chance, usually at sunrise or sunset when the captain kicks up the speed to about 10 knots to reach the next study location. There has not been much time for fishing but we have eaten a few mahi mahi. This makes everyone happy―the fishermen of course, and the rest of us for the fillets.

Night time operations with the AUV

After dinner, the AUV team prepares the vehicle for deployment. The AUV is the most time consuming project. They spend hours with the electronics and hours more getting it ready to go underwater. When the communications work, the AUV follows a pre-programmed path about 4 hours in duration. When communications cannot be established, they have to bring it back on board and try again the next night. They have been so busy that we have not yet been able to see their pictures. Soon, I hope. It will be interesting to see the differences between daylight and night time activities on the sea floor.

Linda Tatreau, FEBRUARY 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
Date: February 22, 2010

A HAPPY Valentine’s Day

Deploying the BotCam from a crane
Deploying the BotCam from a crane

The camera team got spectacular results with the BotCam and the BRUVs. I got to watch just a bit of the footage this morning. Everyone is talking about the great shot from the BotCam showing the stern of the ship and the propeller as the camera descends, then fading and picking up the sea floor. (You can see this video clip here.) The BotCam filmed lots of fish and a spotted eagle ray too.

Steve and Sparky preparing the BRUV for deployment.
Steve and Sparky preparing the BRUV for deployment.

The BRUV footage is beautifully clear. I watched only a short section and saw a white tip reef shark, grey reef shark, barracuda, red snapper (Lutjanus bojar), grouper and dogtooth tuna. Also seen were unicornfishes, groupers, Tanguisson wrasses and lots of tangs and butterflyfishes. The depth of the cameras was about 200feet.

Earlier today, the AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) was deployed. It travels the sea floor following a pre-programmed path for about 4 hours . It keeps itself about 8feet off the bottom. Unfortunately, it was not communicating with the ship, so it had to be retrieved for repairs. In 5 minutes they will deploy the TOAD. I’ll be back. Well, that was great fun and it worked perfectly. The TOAD (Towed Optical Assessment Device) lets us watch the video as the camera is towed above the sea floor. The ship was just drifting at a good speed for the camera. One of the scientists works the controls to keep the TOAD just a few feet off the bottom. This gives great video of the bottom cover, but the fish seem to shy from it. We did see some triggerfishes, jobfishes and a beautiful ray. We spent two hours watching the sea floor starting in an area about 90 feet deep with a lot of coral. We passed through a large sand flat and then dropped off the edge. It got deep so fast that the camera could not be lowered fast enough to keep sight of the bottom. The crew is bringing the TOAD back aboard and soon we will be working with the multibeam sonar to complete the map of Galvez Bank.

Lisa Hjelm, August 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Hjelm
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 28 – 15, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: August 12, 2008

Chief Boatswain outlining the day’s work to crewmember
Chief Boatswain outlining the day’s work to crewmember

Science and Technology Log 6: Looking Ahead 

The weather started getting rough, the tiny ships were tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crews the data could be lost. 

We’re into our last two work days before Rainier begins the transit back to Homer, AK. The weather has indeed changed. The skies are shifting, shades of gray, and this afternoon the winds may kick up to 15 knots. Spits of rain hit your face when you venture on deck. It could be a rough day on the launches. A few people picked up seasickness medication on the way to the morning meeting on the fantail. After fifteen days of work the faces of the crew of the Rainier are taking on determined, tired looks.  These are the final days of the 2008 season in the Pavlof Island area.

Even with an end in sight no one is gearing down. There is still plenty to do. The crew is preparing the ship for an upcoming inspection and an open house during “Hydrapalooza”, a gathering of hydrographers in Homer, AK. The officers are preparing for the 36-hour return transit. The survey technicians are putting finishing touches on their final survey sheets and reports for this area. There is activity and some excitement everywhere. Perhaps due to the extended period of fine weather, work is ahead of schedule. Today, the launches are surveying a new sheet that wasn’t scheduled until 2009. They’ve named this one SNOW: white uncharted territory.

Okeanos Explorer, image courtesy of NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration
Okeanos Explorer, image: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration

After three days working evenings on Night Processing, I am still learning the procedure. There are many steps involved in processing the sonar data. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on SNOW data. It was exciting to be the first person to see the bathymetry of uncharted seafloor. It is amazing to think that only 1% of the world’s oceans have been mapped. The future for aspiring hydrographers looks bright. And that brings me to the topic of my final Teacher at Sea Science log: what’s in store for the future. Talking with the crew, observing and listening to stories, two projects that people on the Rainier are or will be involved with captured my interest: Okeanus Explorer and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, (AUVs).

In 2008, NOAA will commission an ocean exploration ship, Okeanos Explorer. It’s currently in Seattle, WA which is, coincidentally, the homeport of the Rainier. Rainier’s Chief Steward suggested that I read about the Okeanos Explorer because it has an interesting educational mission. That seemed like a great idea, and I discovered that the Chief Boatswain from the Rainier will be moving to the Okeanos Explorer when it is deployed. So, I looked it up at, “Okeanos Explorer: A New Paradigm for Exploration”, where I found the following information. The Okeanos Explorer will be dedicated to exploring the world’s oceans with a threefold mission: deep water mapping; science class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operations; and real-time ship to shore transmission of data. Scientists, educators, students and the Chief Boatswain from the Rainier will be participants in ocean exploration in much the same way that I was part of project SNOW (see above).

AUV PUMA
AUV PUMA

Through ship personnel there is also a connection between NOAA Ship Rainier and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). Recently, I talked with a visiting Survey Technician who was programming as he spoke. The keyboard seemed an extension of his fingers. His regular job in Silver Spring, MD turned out to be in research for developing and improving AUVs. AUVs are unmanned, underwater robots that can use their sensors to detect underwater mines, objects of archaeological interest or for mapping the seafloor. This was fascinating to me, and I asked many questions.  Last summer, 2007, I had followed the day-by- day log of the Icebreaker Odin in the eastern Arctic Ocean. On this expedition two AUVs, named PUMA and Jaguar, were used to explore and map below the ice on the Gakkel Ridge. In part their mission was to search for hydrothermal plumes or vents. AUVs and their potential are probably as interesting to ocean explorers as the Mars Rover is to NASA scientists. I found out more about NOAA’s role in exploration with AUVs at “AUVfest 2008: Navy Mine-Hunting Robots help NOAA Explore Sunken History”.  

Personal Log 6: Back on the Bridge, Headed Home 

An AUV demonstrates its ability to sense and respond to its surroundings.
An AUV can sense and respond to its surroundings.

As we transit from the survey area to Homer, AK, I have time to reflect on what I will take away from this experience. Again, I am pleasantly interrupted by trips to the Bridge to look at whale spouts and the endless display of volcanic mountains, islands and sea. We’ve made a stop en route for the anglers aboard, and I periodically race back to the fantail for photos of fish, and fishermen and women. But, my thoughts keep returning to, how to make an experience like this real for students. I believe that a research experience and interaction with scientists can make an impression on a student that will last a lifetime. I want students to ask questions and be able to find the resources to answer them. On this voyage I have learned how scientists map the seafloor, and like NOAA I am interested in finding even more ways to use the data.  The Hydrography branch of NOAA recognizes that seafloor maps are a valuable resource that can have multiple uses in addition to producing nautical charts for safe surface navigation. They are looking for ways to, Map It Once: Use Many Times. I had in mind something catchier like, Hydrographic Survey: Ocean Window, but the thought is the same. I like the idea of something called Hydrographic Survey Highlights.

Students could see seafloor discoveries or mysteries from the most recent surveys, and then use NOAA resources to discover what they are or what seafloor features they represent. A good example would be the images of the volcanic plume surveyed by the Fairweather in Dutch Harbor, AK this summer. Another question I have had while surveying the seafloor around Pavlof Volcano is, “Is it glacial, or is it volcanic?” Perhaps I will use one of those topics for a lesson plan when I get back.

I want to close my Teacher at Sea logs by saying that I have had the time of my life, and am willing to come back again if the Rainier ever needs me.

Here are some resources for looking at hydrographic survey data:

hjelm_log6e
Lisa Hjelm