Melanie Lyte: May 29, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melanie Lyte
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
May 20 – 31, 2013

Mission: Right Whale Survey, Great South Channel
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic 
Date: May 29, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 12.8 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit)
Surface water temperature: 11.8 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit)
Wind speed: 21 knots (25 miles per hour)
Relative humidity: 100%
Barometric pressure: 1023.5

Science and Technology Log

Right whale I saw on 5/28
Photo Credit: NOAA/NEFSC/Peter Duley under Permit #775-1875

We finally had a right whale sighting today! It was a juvenile and was quite close to the ship. It was exciting to see it frolicking.  

Allison Henry, chief scientist, recently told me that over 70% of the right whales they see have entanglement scars. The scars are due to entanglement in fishing lines.

Right whale with entanglement scars.
Photo Credit:; Mavynne under Permit # EGNO 1151
Right whale with entanglement scars.

Sometimes teams of scientists with special training attempt to disentangle a whale. It can be dangerous work. The video below shows a team working to remove fishing lines from a whale in 2011. The scientists first need to attach the small boat to the whale with lines so they can stay with it while it swims until it exhausts itself.  Only when the whale is tired, can the team work to cut away the entanglement.

Watch  this video of a whale disentanglement.

The other hazard is that whales tend to rest and feed near the surface of the water in the shipping lanes, and can be hit by ships.

During the day, from 7am-7pm, the scientists take turns on watch. This means we watch for whales using “big eyes” which are giant binoculars. We spend 30 minutes on left watch, 30 minutes in the center, and 30 minutes on the right watch.  At the center station we record sightings and update the environment using a computer program designed for this purpose.

The big eyes
photo credit: Barbara Beblowski
Recording data
phot credit: Peter Duley

I visited the Wheel House on the ship today. This is also called the bridge, and is the control center of the ship (similar to the cockpit of an airplane). The wheel house has many controls that the crew needs to know how to use, and it takes years of training to be able to command a ship. I spoke with Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Taylor and Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Michael Levine about the workings of the Gunter.

Wheel or helm of the ship
Wheel or helm of the ship
Auto Pilot
Auto Pilot

This is the wheel or helm of the ship. The Gunter is one of the last NOAA ships with this type of helm. The newer ships have a helm that looks more similar to that which you find in a race car. Although the helm is still used to steer the ship at times, especially when docking, the steering is left to the auto pilot  the majority of the time.

ARPA radar
ARPA radar

I know some of you were concerned about how the officers could see to steer the boat in the fog. The ship has an ARPA radar system that shows where other boats in the area are in relation to our ship. The radar also shows the course our ship is taking and alerts the crew to anything that may be in the path of the ship.

Throttles
Throttles

The throttles control the speed of the ship. The maximum speed of ship is 10 knots which is about 12 miles per hour. The ship uses diesel fuel and it takes about 1,200 gallons of fuel to run the ship for a 24 hour period. At night they will sometimes shut down one engine which makes the ship go slower, but which saves about 400 gallons or $1,600 a day. This is one reason why we anchored for 3 days during the bad weather. The weather made surveying whales impossible so it didn’t make sense to run the ship during that time. The cost of running the Gunter is $11,000/day on average. This includes everything to do with sailing including salaries, food, etc.

Personal Log

I know that some of my first graders have been asking about where I sleep and eat on the ship. Below are pictures of my stateroom and the galley of the ship. Two very important places!

Stateroom (sleeping quarters)
Stateroom (sleeping quarters)
Galley on the Gordon Gunter
Galley on the Gordon Gunter

Melanie Lyte: May 26, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melanie Lyte
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
May 20 – 31, 2013

Mission: Right Whale Survey, Great South Channel
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: May 26, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: 

Air temperature: 15.5 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit)
Surface water temperature: 12.01 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit);
Wind speed: 10 knots (12 miles per hour);
Relative humidity: 85%;
Barometric pressure: 1005.5

Science and Technology Log

Here we are on Sunday afternoon and we’ve been anchored off Provincetown since Thursday evening to wait out bad weather and unworkable conditions. When the fog cleared, the view of Provincetown was quite pretty from the ship, but I have seen enough of it, and am ready for some adventure . Luckily, we set sail this evening and will begin our watch for right whales again tomorrow morning. While Monday looks to be quite windy, Tuesday shows promise as a good day for whale sightings. All the scientists aboard are anxious to get back to work!

During our down time I was able to interview two people aboard with very different jobs – Peter Duley, one of the NOAA scientists, and Margaret Coyle, the ship steward.

Peter Duley NOAA scientist
Peter Duley NOAA scientist

Peter has worked for NOAA for 10 years, and has also worked for The National Science Foundation. He has literally been to the ends of the earth doing research. He did his under graduate work at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor Maine . Upon graduation  Peter did field work in Belize banding birds. While his first love was birds, he became interested in marine mammals and has done research work studying harbor porpoises in the Gulf of Maine, pilot whales in the mid Atlantic to the Gulf of Maine, bowhead whales in Alaska, right whales along the East Coast, and even spent time in Antarctica studying leopard seals. He now spends his summers on right whale survey cruises, and his winters doing aerial surveys of right whales.

While interviewing Peter I was struck by the passion and excitement he has for his work. It is obvious that he loves what he does and is very dedicated to saving the “giants of the sea”. All of the whales Peter studies are endangered and it is imperative  that scientists have a handle on the populations of these endangered whales so they can determine if the number of whales is rising or falling over a period of time, and what factors are influencing their survival. These scientists are so familiar with some of the right whales that they can identify the whales that have already been cataloged when they see them. They are cataloging all the whales using a number system that includes the year the whale was first seen, and another number that matches their mother if she is a whale that has previously been cataloged.

Peter’s favorite marine mammal is  the leopard seal.  He told me a story about the most dangerous situation he has been in while doing field work. He was in Antarctica in a small inflatable boat called a Zodiac and a leopard seal swam right up to the boat. He and his colleagues were excited and started taking pictures when the seal jumped out of the water and came down with its mouth on the side of the boat. The seal put a large hole in the boat. Fortunately, the boat had several different air compartments so the entire boat didn’t deflate in the frigid Antarctic waters, but Peter and his colleagues got back to shore as quickly as possible. My next question was, “What was your best research experience?” Peter said smiling, “The time the leopard seal put a hole in the boat!”

The other person I interviewed is Margaret Coyne, the ship steward. She  probably is one of the most important people on the ship because she keeps us all fed! Not only does she make three meals a day for everyone on board, we actually eat like we are at a 4 star resort. There is always an amazing variety of delicious food at every meal.

Margaret Coyle Ship's Chief Steward
Margaret Coyle
Ship’s Chief Steward

Margaret and her 2nd cook Tyrone  Baker, work 12 hour days from 5:30-6:30 with an hour break during the day. The galley is always buzzing with crew and scientists enjoying meals, snacks, leftovers, or anxiously awaiting for the homemade soup of the day to be brought out. There are always plenty of choices for all types of eaters – Margaret makes vegetarian options for each meal. She also makes her own yogurt, soy milk,  fresh salad, ice cream,  and a delicious dessert daily.

Lunch menu
Lunch menu
Spinach lasagna roll, squash and onions, black eye peas, and roasted potatoes
Spinach lasagna roll, squash and onions, black eye peas, and roasted potatoes
Spaghetti with meat sauce, pesto grilled chicken breast , squash and onions, and  a garlic bread stick
Spaghetti with meat sauce, pesto grilled chicken breast, squash and onions, and a garlic bread stick
Blueberry cobbler with whip cream
Blueberry cobbler with whip cream

Personal Log

I will be happy when we start moving again and get back to the mission of surveying right whales. It has been difficult to be stationary for such a long time, but luckily, the scientists and crew are all so friendly that there is always someone to talk to. It is really interesting to learn about other people’s lives, and what brought them to where they are today. Hopefully I will remember this experience because of all the amazing whales I will get to see, but if not, I know I will carry fond memories of all the people I met.

Dana Tomlinson: Day 9, March 9, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Saturday, March 9, 2002

Lat: 5°N
Long: 110°W
Seas: E/NE 2-5 ft.
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: partly, occasionally mostly cloudy
Sea Surface Temperature: 78-82°F
Air Temp: 87-76°F

Today, we did our first recovery/deployment of a buoy. What a fascinating 6 hour process. I was very impressed by the way the entire crew worked together as a team to make this complicated, and potentially dangerous, process happen.

At first light, two scientists (Brian and Nuria) motored out to the buoy (which was about 10 miles from where it should have been) from the Ka’imimoana in a small craft. They tied the buoy to a rope which was winched up back on deck. The buoy was then pulled to the ship and carefully hoisted aboard (in 6-8 ft swells with about 15 knot winds). It was placed over a hole in the deck so that Raye could scrape the barnacles off from below. (more barnacle talk tomorrow) It was missing its anemometer – lost at sea! Then the scientists started to winch in the wire which holds, at regular intervals, the thermometer pods, or Thermisters, which have been on this buoy for the past year collecting temperature data. After those are cut off, all of the 500 m (one spool) of wire is spooled. (We found a mass of fishing line that was snagged on the wire. This probably helps to account for why the buoy was 10 miles off. The fishing boat that was attached to the line probably pulled it.) Then comes 5-6 spools of white nylon rope to pull up. Then, there’s another 50 m of nylon rope, at the end of which is an acoustic coupler – a device that automatically releases the anchor line from the anchor by remote. Done with recovery!

To deploy the new buoy, it’s not exactly a reverse process because the buoy goes in first, followed by the line and then anchor last. The buoy (with anemometer!) gets hoisted over the side by crane and released with the wire on board attached to it. The wire starts getting released and the Thermisters are attached to the line at their intervals, then the rest of the wire is released and then the many spools of nylon rope. Then the acoustic coupler is attached and finally the anchors are carefully placed into the water. The ship then motors back to the buoy, which has floated over a mile away, to make sure it has ended up in the correct location and is floating properly upright. The scientists have purposefully deployed the anchor at a certain location knowing that the anchor will pull the buoy back some, but not all of the way. The barnacle talk will wait for tomorrow since the buoy explanation took so long! Stay tuned!!

Question of the Day: 

At the end of the url for this website and on every buoy we recover and deploy, it says “TAO.” What does TAO stand for?

Answer of the Day: 

Mr. Whitham’s class in San Diego was the first to respond with the correct answer. To change Celsius into Fahrenheit, one must take the Celsius number, multiply it by 9/5 and then add 32. C x 9/5 + 32 = F So, 27.6C is about 81F. (A hint that an Australian friend of mine told me is, if the Celsius number is in the 20’s or higher, just multiply the Celsius number by 3 and you’re close enough. In this case, pretty darn close!!).

Til tomorrow,
🙂 Dana