Christopher Faist: It Happened, July 27, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Faist
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 20 — August 1, 2011

Mission: Cetacean and Seabird Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 27, 2011

Weather Data
Air Temp:  17 ºC
Water Temp: 17 ºC
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Water Depth: 4365 meters

Science and Technology Log

Well it happened.  This morning I was taking care of a few things before heading to the observation post and while I was below deck they spotted Killer Whales.  By the time I got to the deck the animals were gone.  Initially, I was disappointed but the day continued with another sighting of Killer Whales, some Risso’s dolphins, a pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphins, a couple of Sperm Whales, a group of Sowerby’s Beaked Whales and a couple of Basking Sharks.  This list of animals is long but keep in mind this was over the course of 11 hours of observation.

Marine Mammal Observers use a variety of strategies to keep themselves “fresh” and able to look for animals for long periods of time through every weather condition.  The design of their survey procedure allows each observer to take a 30-minute break during each 2-hour session.  This gives them time to rest their eyes, get out of the weather and get something to eat.  Some of the other techniques to stay sharp may go unnoticed but are important and can only be learned from experienced observers.

Observer with Fireball
Observer with Fireball

Standing for hours and looking through binoculars on a rolling ship is not for everyone.   After spending some time observing animals at sea I can pass along a few tricks.  The days can be long but playing music can help keep the time moving.  Talking to other observers keeps your mind engaged and helps to stay focused.  When you start to feel like you need a jolt to stay awake try an Atomic Fireball.  These small candies pack a spicy reminder that you need to stay alert.  In this picture, one of the observers is holding her Fireball in her hand because she was not able to handle the intense heat.

To get a job as a Marine Mammal Observer you need to withstand these challenges while maintaining your ability to tell the difference between a splash and a white cap from three miles away.  Once you do detect the animal you still need to identify the animal with only a quick glimpse of the animal.  Below are a few pictures taken recently for you to test your skills.  Can you use the links above to correctly ID the animals?

AtSp ID2
AtSp ID2

Personal Log

Now that I have overcome my run in with seasickness, life at sea is great.  We are so far out, over 200 nautical miles, that we have lost our satellite TV connection and that is fine with me.  I have seen a variety of species for the first time and I am enjoying being surrounded by people who share my passion for the ocean and marine mammals.

Thomas Ward, September 15, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Thomas Ward
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: September 15, 2010

At Sea

King Crab

The science is going forward with rigor here on the Miller Freeman.  If you get a chance you should go back to this link   so that you can see the area that we have covered. I also made an error in reporting that the seas that made me sick were 9 foot seas when they were actually 12 foot seas.  The forecast calls for flat seas, 2 feet, through Friday. I have received a few questions through the blog and I will try to address them here.

The first one is about the marine mammals that we have encountered while out at sea.  On board with us is a bird observer and his secondary function is to identify and count any marine mammals.  He reported to me the following list; Killer Whale, Humpback Whale, Harbor Porpoise, Dall’s Porpoise, Fin Whale, Minke Whale, Northern Fur Seal and Steller Sea Lion.  I was lucky enough to see the Humpbacks and even saw one breech, jump out of the water and land on its side. An interesting fact about the fur seal is that they will stay at sea for up to 8 months and only come to land to breed.

Another question that I received is regarding a picture that I have posted on my blog.  It was a picture of a volcanic mountain, Mount Shishaldin.   A description of this volcano is sufficient in understanding the characteristics of it but its majesty is truly appreciated viewing it in person.

Someone asked if the jellyfish could be petted?  We do handle them with gloves on.  They are not significant in our study at all.  We pull them out of our catch and throw them overboard.  They are relatively difficult to pick up and their tentacles are very stringy.  They are surprisingly heavy and of course jelly like.  While we have gear down and we are moving very slowly, 1-3 knots, at certain locations you can look down and see them swim by, pretty cool. E

We have been blessed here with good weather.  The website for the agency that operated my program can be found by going to this link  If you were to look around this site you may notice a function of NOAA is to forecast the weather.  I believe it is one of the most important factors in people’s lives.  When you have a dependable agency predicting weather people can make better plans for what they may want to do.  The site that I personally frequent is with in this link

To find Central New York’s radar, which shows precipitation, click on the link and mouse over Central New York and click.  The Montague radar should come up.  Montague New York, the town that received 8 feet of snow in one storm a few years ago.  It is no surprise though seeing that it is in the Tug Hill Plateau and orographic lifting happens to air masses coming off Lake Ontario here.  We call it lake effect snow. When on this site in the upper left corner is a grid with adjacent radars.  Most weather moves across our country with the southwest prevailing winds.  So if you click on the grid to the left, Buffalo radar for example you can see what is coming your way.