Kathleen Brown: This Week at Sea! June 12-14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Brown
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 7 – 18, 2011

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Dates: June 12-14, 2011

June 14, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 3:32 PM
Winds 13.0 KTs
Air Temperature: 10.78 degrees C
Latitude 41 40.26N Longitude 068 19.96W

Science and Technology Log

Basket of Scallops

Basket of Scallops

Today I have been thinking about sampling. On this leg of the Scallop Survey, we may dredge up to 150 times. Each dredge is called a station. The stations on the trip are generally selected at random, from the places along the bottom of the ocean that scientists expect to find scallops. Once in a while we stop at a non-random station. This is a location that scientists have been studying for a number of years. By selecting the same location over and over again, scientists can see how the scallop population is changing. One scientist uses the data collected at the non-random stations to age the scallops. Scallop shells have rings that scientists can count to see how old the scallop is. (This is similar to the way that a scientist might tell the age of a tree.)

Every time the net is hauled onto the table, we sort every item that has been pulled up from the ocean. Of course sea scallops are the species that are being studied, but we count all the fish as well. The scallops are placed in orange baskets, similar in size and shape to a round laundry basket. Once a basket is filled to the top, we grab another basket. On some tows, there are no sea scallops. On tows where scallops are abundant, there have been as many as 30 baskets full of scallops. If we have collected a few baskets of scallops, we will measure the length of each animal. However, imagine trying to measure and count every scallop in thirty baskets. (My fellow scientist Aaron and I have found that we typically measure 250-300 scallops per basket.) It would not be practical, especially in locations where stations are close to each other. There just wouldn’t be enough time. In those cases, the Crew Chief will select, randomly, the baskets that will be sorted and measured. Usually, it is one fourth of the total sea scallop catch. This is called a sub-sample. Scientists can use the data to extrapolate (estimate) the size and character of the catch.

Smaple a scallop

Sampling a scallop

Scallops that come up from the tows vary in ways other than in size and age. Some of the oldest sea scallops that have been dredged up have been covered with small ecosystems. Barnacles, sea sponges, and algae are firmly attached to the shell. Many of the sea scallops have been so crusted that we had to remove the colonies of barnacles before we could measure them.

We have not been able to see any stars at night, as it has been overcast the whole trip. I had hoped to see a brilliant night sky. Last night I was able to count three other vessels out on the water – small lights bobbing off in the distance.

Personal Log

The day crew has developed a great bond. We have fun joking and telling stories. Before we head out on deck, we each guess the number of species that we might see in the tow. The friendly competition makes us laugh. In the galley, there is a satellite television. If the ship is traveling in a certain direction, we can receive a signal. Can you imagine being 200 miles out in the ocean and watching the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks play in the Stanley Cup finals? Go Boston!

Question of the Day

In areas where American sea scallops are abundant, what other marine animals would scientists expect to find?

 

June 12, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 12:50 PM
Winds 18.7 KTs
Air Temperature: 11.33 degrees C
Latitude 41 18.20N
Longitude 066 49.56W

Science and Technology Log

The Chief Scientist, Kevin, shared some information with me this morning that helps to put our work into perspective. NOAA conducts an annual sea scallop survey, which covers an area from Cape Hatteras to Georges Bank. I am traveling on the second leg of the 2011 survey. Over time scientists and fisherman use the data to track the distribution of the sea scallops. The scallop catch is reported in numbers and disaggregated (broken down) by the size of the animals. Catches are categorized by the size of the scallops’ shell height: less than or equal to 90 mm, greater than 90 mm, and greater than or equal to 100mm. (Notice how scientists use the metric system of measurement to report their results.)

To be sure that the information being compared is valid, scientists use the same type of equipment and the same procedure on every tow and on every trip. According to Kevin, fifteen-minute tows are made at the speed of 3.8 KTs. That means that the dredge is pulled behind the boat for the same time and at the same speed. The dredge (think big, square fishing net) is called a modified 8-foot New Bedford type scallop dredge and it travels along the bottom of the ocean floor to get the sample. It is made of chains linked together and has a liner made out of nylon rope that helps to keep the small scallops in the dredge. Nate, the Crew Chief on my watch, and Sam, a graduate student studying scallops, share with me their experiences on a commercial scallop boat. Those vessels typically have two dredges, each one approximately fifteen feet wide. Imagine the numbers of scallops those ships can catch!

On selected tows, random scallops are studied. On one tow, Aaron and I work together to sample five scallops. First we scrub the outside of the scallop really well, using a wire brush. When we measure and weigh the scallop, we will work to get as accurate a result as possible. Once we have collected data on the exterior of the scallop, I cut it open. Immediately we can tell if the scallop is a male or a female. If the scallop is a male, the gonad is white. If a scallop is a female, the gonad is red. We weigh the gonad and then we weigh the “meat.” The meat is the part of the scallop that most people eat. It is the muscle of the animal. Finally, we save the shells for the scientist back on land who has requested the data.

I have been taking lots of photographs of everything that we have been studying on the cruise. I will upload them when I return to land because of the limited Internet connection on the ship.

Personal Log

I have been sleeping really well on this ship. It doesn’t take very long, once I get to my cabin and climb into my bunk, for me to fall asleep. Working twelve hours in the salt air can make a body tired! Once in awhile, the ship will rock back and forth in a way that wakes me up. I look at my wristwatch and return to sleep. What a great feeling to wake up rested in the morning.

Question of the Day
What does by-catch mean? Why is it important that scientists measure the number and size of the by-catch in each tow?

Dave Grant, November 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 13, 2008

Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab

Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: AM Calm; PM 5kts
Seas: 5’
Precipitation: 0.0
Pressure: 1016

Science and Technology Log 

Big whirls have little whirls That feed on their velocity, And little whirls have lesser whirls And so on to viscosity. (L.F. Richardson)

This little imitation of Jonathon Swift’s ditty helps illustrate the parallels between the atmosphere and ocean. Just as in the atmosphere, but much slower because of the increased density, turbulence in the water is expressed by meandering currents, and vortices. Good examples of this are observable when an oar is dipped into the water to push a boat, or a spoon is drawn across a bowl of soup. One of the mysteries of the SEP (South East Pacific) region is the presence of large oceanic vortices (Eddies), the mechanisms that generate them, and the length of time they persist as identifiable entities slowly spinning in the surrounding waters.

Dave holding the UTCD

Dave holding the UTCD

In a number of coastal areas fishermen and oceanographers have discovered that some important fish species can be found associated with these so-called mesoscale water structures, like upwelling areas, meandering currents and eddies. Such links are fairly well known and heavily exploited in the vicinity of the boundary currents off eastern North America (Gulf Stream), California (California Current) and Japan (Kuroshio Current); for tuna, swordfish, sardines and anchovies. The coast of Peru and Chile is swept by the northward flowing Humboldt (Peru-Chile) Current and the area is famous for the upwelling that brings deep,  cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface (and every 5-7 years when it doesn’t, El Nino conditions). Exposed to sunlight, phytoplankton utilize the nutrients to form the base of the world’s largest industrial fishery for fish meal and oil. The area also supports a large commercial tuna fishery.

UCTD Data

UCTD Data

Poorly understood is the role of eddies that spin off the major current; vortices averaging about 50-Km (30-miles) wide (i.e. mesoscale). These may be either cold or warm water eddies that may last offshore for months, and move as discrete masses to the west. In general these vortices have more energy that the surrounding waters, circulate faster; and are important because they transport heat, masses of water and nutrients to less productive regions towards the mid-ocean. The eddies also transport marine life and the mechanisms for this are also poorly understood, however the outcome is not. Moored buoys out here collect and support masses of fouling organisms like goose-neck barnacles that must be cleaned off periodically, along with other routine maintenance of the batteries and recording instruments. Servicing these buoys is also part of the mission of the Ron Brown.

Chasing “Eddy”

CTD Data

CTD Data

Tracking these “cyclones in the sea” requires interpreting daily satellite images that measure water temperature and by data collected by the UCTD (Underway Conductivity Temperature Depth) probe. This is a torpedo-shaped device cast off the stern of the Brown while we are underway. It rapidly sinks to several hundred meters. Then, like a big, expensive ($15,000.) fishing lure, it is retrieved with an electric motor that winds back over 600 meters of line. The whole process takes about 20-minutes (including the 2minute plunge of the UCTD).

The information acquired is phenomenal, and if collected any other way, would involve stopping the ship and repeatedly lowering Niskin or Nansen bottles; and adding weeks or months to a cruise schedule. Once back onboard the ship, the data is downloaded and plotted to give us a continuous picture of the upper layers of the ocean along our sailing route. All of this hourly data allows the tracing of water currents. The procedure is not without trials and tribulations. Lines can tangle or break, and there is always the possibility that the probe will bump into something – or something will bump into it down in the deep, dark ocean. However, any data retrieved is invaluable to our studies, and each cast produces a wealth of information.

Teeth marks on a UCTD

Teeth marks on a UCTD

Personal Log 

Today’s weather is fabulous. Most mornings are heavily overcast, but we are still close enough to the coast to enjoy breaks in the clouds. So, everyone is taking their breaks in folding chairs on the foredeck at “Steel Beach” since we are never certain when we’ll again have a sunny moment, or how long it will last.

After lunch there was a bit of excitement; we saw other mariners. In the old days of sailing, ships passing each other at sea would often stop to exchange greetings, information and mail. This practice was known as gamming. We sighted our first ship of the cruise; a cargo carrier heading north and piled high with shipping containers. It was too far off for gamming or even waving (The scientists who are sampling air want to keep their instruments free of exhaust from any nearby sources)  so it would have been out of the question anyway. The bridge gave it a wide berth; so wide that even with binoculars I could not be certain of the ship’s flag, name or registry, other than oversize lettering on containers that spelled JUDPER. Presumably it was carrying agricultural goods from southern Chile or manufactured goods and minerals from the central part of the country. Chile is a major exporter of copper; and the smelters, factories and vehicles in this upscale corner of South America (And the sulfur and particulate matter they spew into the sky) are a interesting land signatures for the atmospheric scientists and their delicate instruments. So the only gamming today is in the narrow passageways throughout the Brown. There is no wasted space on a ship, so in many areas there is “barely enough room to swing a cat.” (The cat being the cat-o-nine-tails once used to flog sailors. “The cat is out of the bag” when someone is to be punished.*)

Group watching a ship on the horizon

Group watching a ship on the horizon

I am still not certain what the proper ship’s etiquette is in passageways and stairways, but I am quick to relinquish the right-of-way to anyone who is carrying something, looks like they are in a hurry or on a mission, or in uniform (obviously) or kitchen staff in particular. Because the ship is always rocking, I’ve found that I tend to lean against the right wall while moving about. By lightly supporting myself leaning with a hand, elbow or shoulder (depending on the how significant the ship is rolling, pitching or yawing) I slide along the wall, and probably look like a clumsy puppy scampering down the hall, but it works…except for a few bruises here and there. Often I come face-to-face with the same shipmates repetitively during the day. (How many times a day can you say “Hello” to someone?) Everyone is polite and considerate, especially when moving about the ship, and in spite of repeatedly passing the same people many times every day. So generally, since everyone is busy for most of their shift, when meeting in the hallways, you resort to awkward routines like: muttered Hey, Hi, Yo or What’s-up; tipping your hat or a dumb half-salute; or a nod…or if from New England, what is known as the reverse nod.

*Flogging: There was a science to this horrible practice, not only with the number of lashes imposed, but what they were administered with: a colt (a single whip) or a cat (They varied in size from “king size” to “boy’s cats”).

Although the U.S. admirals reported that “it would be utterly impossible to have an efficient Navy without this form of punishment” Congress abolished flogging on July 17, 1862. And the last official British Navy flogging was in 1882 – although the captain’s authority remained on the books until 1949. (To politely paraphrase Winston Churchill, the British Navy was bound together by…*#@#&!, rum and the lash.)

One Final Note 

We discovered stowaways onboard…two cattle egrets. Egrets are wading birds that feed in shallow ponds and marshy areas; and the cattle egret regularly feed along roadsides and upland fields where cattle or tractors stir up insects. Even when threatened, they tend to fly only short distances, so it is odd to see them so far from land. However, in the 1950’s a small flock of these African birds crossed the South Atlantic to Brazil and establish a breeding colony. I remember spotting them for the first time on the Mexican border near Yuma in the 1970’s and today they have managed to thrive and spread all the way across the warmer half of North America.

Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal, 
Of unnamed heroes in the ships – of waves spreading and spreading  
As far as the eye can reach, 
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing, 
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations… 
(Song for All Seas, All Ships – Walt Whitman)

Stowaways – cattle egrets

Stowaways – cattle egrets

Mary Cook, December 12, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 12, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°46.24’S, Longitude 85°30.89’W
Time:
7:00 am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 145.06
Relative Humidity (percent) 80.68
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.22
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.32
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1014.64
Wind (knots) 13.76
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 6.53

Question of the Day

Why are the water and the air temperatures nearly the same?

Positive Quote for the Day

Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. Albert Einstein, Evolution of Physics

Science and Technology Log

Today’s the big day! The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists will begin bringing the old Stratus 4 buoy onboard the RONALD H. BROWN. They’ve enlisted the help of just about everyone on the ship. At 6:00 this morning, the sky was dark blue and overcast. As daylight began to creep in, we all gathered in the main lab to prepare for the day’s work. First of all, the scientists triggered the acoustic release at the bottom of the ocean which is about 4400 meters deep. This released the buoy and array of instruments underneath it from the anchor. The 9000 pound anchor was left on the ocean floor. Then we waited.

And waited. And waited some more. It was about 45 minutes in all. We were waiting for the floats to come to the surface. The floats are big glass balls covered in yellow plastic hulls. They’re about the size of a medicine ball. And they are heavy, too. Wouldn’t you think a float would be lightweight? After the floats popped up out of the water, David, Phil, Jason and I went out on the RHIB to hook onto them and tow them to the ship. Once again the RHIB ride was awesome!

Pulling the floats onto the ship began the whole process of reeling in the old Stratus 4 mooring. This took all day. First they reeled in all the cable connecting the surface buoy to the anchor. At the beginning the buoy was a little speck near the horizon but as the cable got shorter, the buoy got closer and bigger until it was just behind the ship. That alone took several hours. When the instruments began coming in, we had to log and photograph each one. Then another RHIB ride was in order!

This was the RHIB ride of my life! Jeff, Diane, Jason, Phil and I went barreling across the swells and hit a wave that bounced Jason into midair for a second or two! I was hanging on with all my might and waves came over the edge right into my face. When we arrived at the buoy the guys hooked onto it and we towed it back to the ship. Then the crew on the ship hauled it aboard with a crane. While they were hauling it in we stayed out in the RHIB and pitched and rolled. That’s when I started to feel a little bit green. Fortunately, we were soon retrieved but on the starboard side of the ship…home, sweet home. We then watched the final removal of subsurface instrumentation. Wow! The Stratus 4 buoy was covered in amazing barnacles! Big ones and little ones. Long-necked barnacles are bizarre looking creatures. They attach themselves to anything in the water, just like suction cups. It’s like they’re stuck on with Super Glue. Once everything and everyone was safely onboard we had a barnacle scraping party. All available hands scraped those little rascals off and threw them back into the ocean. It was a mess but with everyone pitching in things got nicely cleaned. Tomorrow, we get everything ready for the deployment of the new and improved Stratus 5 buoy!

Personal Log

I am so tired.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Jane Temoshok, October 18, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jane Temoshok
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 2 – 24, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: October 18, 2001

Latitude: 20º S
Longitude: 85º W
Air Temp. 21.0º C
Sea Temp. 19.0º C
Sea Wave: 2 – 3 ft.
Swell Wave: 3 – 4 ft.
Visibility: 10 miles
Cloud cover: 5/8

Science Log

What lies beneath?

This is our third day “on station” at 85 W. Since successfully retrieving the mooring yesterday most of the scientists on board have been taking apart all the scientific instruments that came up with it. Their hope is that data was recorded all year long and that now they can transfer it to their onboard computers to bring home.

Along with that many people are preparing for tomorrow’s deployment of the new buoy. There are many things to consider, such as the length of rope (4400 meters!) and the depth order in which the instruments are to be attached. Each instrument must be placed along the rope so that it hangs precisely at a certain depth. Furthermore, the barnacles that were attached to the instruments that were brought in yesterday really made it difficult to get at the sensors. So today many of us are painting the instruments with a special paint that barnacles and other sea life don’t like. It’s called “anti-foul” paint. It’s used a lot on the bottoms of boats and such and it smells really bad! Hopefully it will make the buoy unattractive to barnacles.

The most important thing to consider though is where to put the mooring. X may mark the spot on a map, but it doesn’t work in the ocean. Just like the land around you has hills and mountains and valleys and plains the ocean floor is not smooth. In general the depth of the ocean in this part of the world is 4000 to 5000 meters. But if you needed to sink something to the bottom it would be important to know that it’s not going to land on an underwater mountaintop or be pulled down into a deep valley. The Ron Brown has a type of radar called the “sea beam” that looks straight down to the bottom of the sea and sends out acoustic signals. It measures how quickly those signals bounce off the bottom and return to the ship. This tells the computer how deep it is right there. It keeps doing this so the computer can form a picture of the bottom of the sea. It actually forms a map so the scientists can “see” where to drop the anchor.

Travel Log

MYSTERY PACKAGE

Shortly after completing our “web cast” while I was still on the bridge, the ensign on duty reported seeing an object in the water. We all took up binoculars and sighted a bright orange rectangular shaped object, about the size of a shoebox, that was floating off the starboard side. The captain quickly called the crew on deck and told them to prepare to retrieve the item as the ship approached. Of coarse everyone crowded around to see it being brought on board and was speculating as to what it might be. Drugs! Money! Perhaps a love letter! Because of its bright orange wrapping it was obviously meant to be discovered. Some speculated that it was just a piece of safety equipment that had fallen off a ship. The first thing we all noticed when it was lifted on to the deck was the barnacles attached to its underside. From this we inferred it had been in the water for several months, but because of the small size of the barnacles, probably less than a year. The captain came down and used a knife to cut it open. Alas, nothing but Styrofoam inside. We felt so let down!

In my broadcast today, I said I would give a t-shirt to the first student who could identify the signal flags on the back of the shirt. Look at the photo carefully, and if you think you know the answer, send me an e-mail. Be sure to include your name and teacher’s name so I know how to contact you! Good luck.

Question of the day: Is it necessary to paint all the instruments that will hang along the rope with anti-foul. Should the ones hanging at 50 meters get the same amount as those that hang at 500 meters or 1500 meters? Why or why not?

Photo descriptions: This is my roommate Claudia and a scientist from Ecuador helping paint the instruments with Anti-Foul Paint.

Temoshok 10-18-01 paintinginstruments

This is a photo of the Sea Beam Radar that is mapping the floor of the ocean underneath the ship.

Temoshok 10-18-01 seabeam

Here are 2 photos of the mystery package that turned out to be nothing!

Look carefully at the signal flags on the T-shirt. Do you know what letter each flag signals?

Temoshok 10-18-01 tshirtflags

Keep in touch,
Jane

Jane Temoshok, October 17, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jane Temoshok
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 2 – 24, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: October 17, 2001

Latitude: 10º S
Longitude: 85º W
Air Temp. 19.2º C
Sea Temp. 18.6º C
Sea Wave: 2 – 3 ft.
Swell Wave: 3 – 4 ft.
Visibility: 10 miles
Cloud cover: 5/8

Science Log

Mooring Retrieval Day

Did you know that glass floats? Well it does when it’s round like a balloon and full of air. Try putting a holiday ornament in a bowl of water. Did you know that glass can be stronger than steel? Well it is. That’s why 80 air filled glass balls, each 17 inches in diameter, were attached to the anchor that was holding the mooring in place at 10S, 85W. They had to be strong enough to withstand the incredible pressure at 4000 m. below the surface. But when an acoustic signal was sent out to the hook that was holding the rope to the anchor, the hook released the anchor to the bottom of the sea and the balls floated to the surface in one big group. That was the first step in retrieving the mooring.

The big deal with getting the mooring on board the ship is that it all weighs so much. Just imagine the thick rope leading from the surface all the way down to the anchor. The rope alone weighs thousands of pounds! All along the rope there are science instruments that have been collecting and storing data about things like current, temperature, and salinity. So when the glass balls floated the bottom end of the rope, it allowed us to pull it in from the bottom up. A small orange boat called a RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) was sent out to hook onto the balls and guide them to the ship. They were hoisted onto the deck of the ship using a big winch. Take a look at all the simple machines in the photos! Pulleys, levers, inclined planes, wheels with axels, and so much more. Slowly the rope was brought in and wrapped along a big spool. Each instrument was carefully detached and catalogued. They will be carefully transported back to Dr. Weller’s laboratory in Massachusetts where the information will be studied. The instruments from lower end of the rope came up nice and clean. The instruments that were attached to the middle part of the rope had a few creatures stuck on to them. But the instruments near the surface were covered with crabs and mussels and barnacles! How did they get there? Remember that the food chain often starts off quite small. The barnacles that you see in the photo started off as really tiny “plankton” that drift around until it finds something to attach itself to (like the rope!). Then they start to grow, attracting other sea creatures to feed off of them. In no time at all there is a complete food chain living on and around the buoy.

When most of the rope was onboard the RHIB went back out to secure the mooring. This time I got to ride along! It was thrilling to be in such a little boat so far away from the RON BROWN. Even though the sea wave height was only 3 – 4 feet, the little boat got really knocked around! It was like an amusement park ride! You can see that I’m wearing my safety vest and hardhat and I’m holding on tight! We guided the mooring to the ship and then a big crane took hold of it and lifted it onto the deck. Finally the mooring was on board.

 

Travel log:

Today was a big day on board the RON BROWN. The mooring that was set out here a year ago was located and retrieved. To the uninitiated that may not sound like the biggest deal, but it really is an unbelievable undertaking that requires a lot of forethought, communication, equipment, and muscle. The safety aspects alone require so much preparation. Fortunately it was a successful retrieval and no one was hurt. Now we get to look forward to cleaning the instruments of all those barnacles!

Science fact: The “glue” by which a barnacle sticks (adheres) to something is one of the strongest adhesives known to man!

Keep in touch,
Jane