Scott Sperber, July 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Sperber
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
July 9-17, 2009 

Mission:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time series Station; Albert J. Plueddemann, Chief Scientist
Geographical area of cruise: Central Pacific, north of O’ahu
Date: July 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 22.64 C
Humidity: 80.6%

Science and Technology Log 

I am up very early today, 0530, the last full day at sea.  I did not make a log entry yesterday it was a very busy day. The day totaled a full 12 hour hard work day for me.  The day started out a about 0545 with the initial recovery of the old buoy.  The acoustic (sound) release mechanism was triggered and the glass balls cam up to the surface with the rope attached.  The glass balls were in a large cluster once onboard and had to be untangled.

Glass balls coming onboard (left) and popped glass ball (right).
Glass balls coming onboard (left) and popped glass ball (right).

Five of the glass balls have imploded at some time and the glass that had remained had turned into a fine white powder.  After the glass balls were brought onboard and untangled and put into their boxes the chore of bringing the 5 miles of line and cable began.  I started out in the box to flake (lay the rope down) the line as it came in.  After quite a while and a lot of rope the capstan (the vertical winch) broke. It was the only break I had since we began. A break when the brake broke. LOL. The line was cut and placed on the main winch to complete the process.  This slowed the whole procedure down because once the rope was on the winch; we had to unwind it all into its storage boxes. This had to be down 2 times and it set the whole recovery procedure behind about 2 hours. If you remember the procedure of deploying the new buoy, one chain link section at a time with the sensors attached, this procedure was now reversed for the recovery.

Scott in the box (left) and Scott on deck (right).
Scott in the box (left) and Scott on deck (right).

When the sensors came up each one was taken into the lab, photographed, videoed and a narrative was taken on to the condition of the sensor including what type of marine (ocean) growth had taken place over the year. I was given the task of taking the sensors into the lab, hanging them for photographic purposes and then bring them back outside.  A dirty job but some one had to do it. This process from start to finish, recovery of the buoy to the end of documenting the condition of the sensors took 10 hours.  After this the real fun started, cleaning the sensors. Now we are talking dirty. We had to clean off all marine growth from the sensors so Jeff could then start recovering data. 

Personal Log 

Well today I was able to put on my new steel toed boots. I should have broken them in a couple of times before this; my feet ached at the end of the day, wore a hard hat all day, a safety vest, got to climb into a box with miles of rope, got to smell like an old aquarium.  All and all a great day. Sure didn’t need to ride the bike, Carly passed on it too.

Jeff and the sensors in the lab (left) and dirty sensor with goose barnacles (right).
Jeff and the sensors in the lab (left) and dirty sensor with goose barnacles (right).

All this said and done I would really like to take the time to thank all the people who made this possible. I have done many things in my professional career to broaden my professional knowledge and this has got to be one of the best experiences of all.  First and utmost I would like to thank the NOAA Organization.  Without their desire to stress the importance of Science education through increasing the knowledge base of the educators of the world this would not have been possible. Thank you to Dr. Al Plueddemann, Chief Scientist, Dr. Roger Lukas and Dr. Fernando Santiago, both of the University of Hawaii. Not only did they share their wealth of knowledge with me but guided me through the practices of this WHOTS project and confirmed in me my beliefs of the importance of long term research in science.  Thank you to the rest of the Science Party. You all put up with me and showed me how to do what you needed.  Thank you to the Captain and the crew of the R/V Kilo Moana.

The R/V Kilo Moana (left) and Dr. Plueddeman, Paul Lethaby, Sean Whelan and Dr. Roger Lukas (right).
The R/V Kilo Moana (left) and Dr. Plueddeman, Paul Lethaby, Sean Whelan and Dr. Roger Lukas (right).

What a great experience. Thank you to my principal, Robert Weinberg, at Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and to my students. Keep it up kids, it is you that make SOCES number one.  I would also like to thank my wife.  Without her encouragement and enthusiasm towards our profession, she is also a teacher, I don’t know if I would have applied.  She is my inspiration.  Thank you one and all for allowing me to participate in this career and life enriching experience.

I see skies of blue….. clouds of white Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world

~ Louis Armstrong

Folks on the ship take in the beautiful Hawaiian sunset…
Folks on the ship take in the beautiful Hawaiian sunset…

Scott Sperber, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Sperber
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
July 9-17, 2009 

Mission:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time series Station; Albert J. Plueddemann, Chief Scientist
Geographical area of cruise: Central Pacific, north of O’ahu
Date: July 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 23.66 C
Humidity: 76.34%

R/V Kilo Moana
R/V Kilo Moana

Science and Technology Log 

Today is another slow scientific day today. So today I am doing some other type of scientific learning, some local marine biology.  Today I am learning about how to fish in the local Hawaiian Islands style.  Breeze Simmons, research associate student level 1, is showing me all of his riggings for various types of fish and fishing conditions.  He is even rigging up something for me so I might have an opportunity to try to catch something later today or tomorrow. I have learned that Mahi has eyes like humans and they can see up to the surface.  They are a very strong food source in the ocean the world record is close 86 pounds and that only took about 18 months of growth. Mahi mahi is also known as the dolphin fish, not to be confused with “Flipper” of dolphin fame, also known as Dorado.  Ahi is tuna, Ono is Wahoo. There are also Marlin and Aku, a member of the mackerel family.

Breeze setting up gear for fishing
Breeze setting up gear for fishing

I am also sharing the Pacific Ocean with Hurricane Carlos. It’s a big ocean out here and I have not felt any effect from it and we don’t plan to.  Carlos is still off the coast of Mexico now. This is so cool to be on board this ship with all these experts and to be adding to my knowledge. The meteorologists on board say that if Carlos comes close to Hawaii its strength will die out (lose its energy). The weather balloon launches are continuing on schedule every 4 hours with Tom and me taking the 0700 and 1100 launches. Tomorrow promises to be a very hectic day aboard ship.  We will be recovering the old buoy.  Everything will begin at a 0600 and continue all day.

Mahi mahi
Mahi mahi

Personal Log 

Since today is such a mellow day I have taken this opportunity to catch up on some reading, sun, listening to music and continue by bike riding.  It has now become a bit of competition between, Carly, one of the very young interns, 25 years young from the University of Hawaii, and me as to who is riding the most miles each day. Today she rode more.

The ship has an onboard DVD system where movies and such are piped into each berth (room) along with scientific information.  I was in my berth and I put on one of the channels and what did I see that someone had put on in the main lounge? It was an episode of National Geographic and who was on the episode but my good friends from UCLAs’ Marine Biology Department, Dr. Bill Hamner and his wife Peggy. Small world, Peggy wrote one of my letters of recommendation for this expedition. They are part of the reason I am so involved in Ocean Sciences.

Today’s Task 

Look up and find a picture of all the fish that were mentioned above. 

Me and Carly
Me and Carly

Scott Sperber, July 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Sperber
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
July 9-17, 2009 

Mission:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time series Station; Albert J. Plueddemann, Chief Scientist
Geographical area of cruise: Central Pacific, north of O’ahu
Date: July 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 24.13 C
Humidity: 72%

Kuhio setting up for fishing
Kuhio setting up for fishing

Science and Technology Log 

The ship moved to the location of the old buoy last night. Visually, what a difference between the two. This one is certainly not the bright yellow color of the new one launched just 3 days ago. Yesterday I mentioned that the two thermometers on the new buoy were not reading identical temperatures and that they were about 0.4 degrees difference.  After asking a few questions I came to be informed that the importance of this particular series of expeditions, WHOTS, is that it is the accuracy of this longevity study that gives it its validity.  NOAA’s value of this study is that the study is an ongoing study not one that collects data brings it back to a lab and analyzes it and that is the end of it.

Science is not a one shot deal.  This is something I have tried to stress with my students over the years.  Good science, good data, is done with multiple sampling, either longevity study or many samples over a shorter period of time.  Any data can happen once but for it to be valid it needs to be substantiated.  For a number of years now the WHOTS study has not only brought back this type of data but has been able to note the small changes in this particular environment.  It has shown how these micro changes, shown over time, have an overall affect on a macro scale. This is the credence of this study is.  The fact that small changes do over a long period of time do show an effect.  The simple fact that the ship stayed on station for 3 days to calibrate the measurements with the new buoy, and then moved to the location of the old buoy shows the effort to make sure that even the most infinitesimal piece of data is made constant and notable.

Fresh Mahi mahi
Fresh Mahi mahi

Today, at this second location, there is being made shallow casts (samplings) with the SEABIRD at depths up to 200m every 4 hours.  These depths are the same depths as those of the instruments on the buoys.  Sometimes during the course of a years study the sensors will have a tendency to drift (change) or jump in their data.  These casts, engineering calibration casts, close to the buoys standardize the CTDs again reading temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and then calculating density. These calibrations of any drifts serve as a comparison over the course of the year and are used to recalibrate the data.  With the recovery of the old buoy, one year worth of data will be downloaded and the similarities of all data with past weather conditions will be analyzed.  Again the sensors that are on the buoy are; MICROCATS, acoustic Doppler current meters and vector measuring current meters.

Personal Log 

Kuhio gave a shot at fishing this morning. Because the old buoy has been in the water for a year it has become a floating reef. So far Kuhio has hooked into and rough aboard 4 Mahi mahi. YUM, fresh fish tonight. I have been told that all over the old buoy and its sensors will be organisms of all types.  Jeff has asked be if I would help scrap off the old sensors.  OH BOY. Dirty smelly job I am sure. 

Scott Sperber, July 11-12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Sperber
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
July 9-17, 2009 

Mission:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time series Station; Albert J. Plueddemann, Chief Scientist
Geographical area of cruise: Central Pacific, north of O’ahu
Date: July 11-12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 24.2 C

Bringing in the SEABIRD CTD
Bringing in the SEABIRD CTD

Science and Technology Log 

Compared to yesterday today is a very slow scientific day.  After releasing the WHOTS buoy, things really calmed down.  Let me take this opportunity to tell you a bit about some of the instrumentation on the buoy itself.  The overall goal of the project is to collect data about the ocean and atmosphere over a long period of time.  These data will serve to help answer questions about such things as global warming and its impact in the tropics. On the buoy itself, pictured in a previous log, there are instruments that measure temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind direction and speed. A GPS unit keeps track of the buoy’s location at all times. On the buoy there is also an antenna which transmits data to satellites. Each of the two buoys [explain why there are two in the ocean for this 4-day comparison period] in the water has enough slack in the lines to allow for an approximate 2-mile radius circle.

Profile of CTD on shallow casts
Profile of CTD on shallow casts

The weather balloon launching continues every four hours with teams of two or three taking each launch in shifts. Some CTD casts have been done with the small package SEABIRD CTD.  This is set over the side, lowered down by crane and yo-yoed up and down for about four hours.  During this time, data are sent directly to an onboard computer and collected by the scientists. These data include temperature and salinity. This is important information to assess changes going on in the crucial air/sea interface.

These particular locations, ones where temperature and salinity difference vary worldwide, the thermocline and halocline are dependent on variables such a currents and air temperature.  On the final assent collection bottles are closed to collect water samples for further analysis. With all of this sophisticated instrumentation onboard surface water temperature samples are still taken with the old fashioned method of lowering thermometers into the water several times to take an average reading. Some things never change. The information collected by both the oceanographic crew as well as the meteorological crew aboard is truly showing the links, the association between the interaction of the air and sky, in the crucial air/sea interface.

I found out today that the temperatures on the two thermometers on the WHOTS-6 buoy are not matching. They are off by about 0.4 degrees C; that is the level of precision necessary for this research.  The scientists are looking into which one is closest to the temperatures read on the ship before we move off to the old buoy’s location tomorrow. Apparently, this is not something that can be reconfigured so the scientists need to know which thermometer they can rely on for information. There are two of just about every instrument on the WHOTS buoys. This serves as a backup and a comparison for the same location and enables the greatest accuracy in the data.

Profile of weather balloon sonde
Profile of weather balloon sonde

Personal Log 

I’d like to share a bit more about my onboard life. I have gotten acclimated finding my way around the ship (sort of). Well, at least I don’t get lost going to the mess hall anymore.  I am in a berth on an upper bunk with Jeffrey Snyder, one of the primary researchers from the University of Hawaii. The berth is quite comfortable as berths can go since it has been years since I was in a bunk bed. Various alarm clocks go off at anytime at night so the crew can go on their watch.  There is even a ghost alarm that goes off at 01:15 that Jeff and I cannot locate.  Food is not at a shortage. It seems that every time you turn around it is time to eat, and what great food it is too.  There is fresh salad lunch and dinner, fresh fruit, at least 3 entries to choose from each mea and desserts. LA Fitness here I come. I received what I consider a gift today from Fernando Santiago, one of the principle scientists, a DVD of the procedures that are used on the Hawaii Ocean Time-series Project.

July 12, 2009 

Had some down time today after setting off another weather balloon and a great fruit and yogurt breakfast. Took a 7 mile bike ride. You may ask where in the middle of the ocean you can take a 7 mile bike ride.  They have a nice little fitness room on board.

Words of the day: Mahimahi, calibration, dissolved oxygen, interface, thermocline, conductivity, temperature, depth.

Scott Sperber, July 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Sperber
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
July 9-17, 2009 

Mission:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time series Station; Albert J. Plueddemann, Chief Scientist
Geographical area of cruise: Central Pacific, north of O’ahu
Date: July 10, 2009

The crew readying the glass balls for deployment
The crew readying the glass balls for deployment

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature:  23.83 C

Science and Technology Log 

This morning will be when the WHOTS-6 buoy will be deployed. Via the A-frame on the aft deck, the buoy will be hoisted and placed into the water. This process is done after 40m of chain and MicroCats are lowered into the water. These serve as a keel for the buoy prior to attaching the balance of the chain instruments and then thousands of feet of line which is belayed out by tension and hand over hand from many volunteers, the 80 glass balls that provide for floatation and then the massive anchor weights (air weight of 9300 lbs) to hold the whole thing down to a final depth of 4720m. Each individual section of chain with instrumentation has to me attached prior to releasing the buoy. Note the instrumentation on the top along with the large flat white “tail” to keep the buoy set with the wind.

The WHOTS-6 Buoy. Note the instrumentation on top and the wide white fin.
The WHOTS-6 Buoy. Note the instrumentation on top and the wide white fin.

Along with the oceanographic research and data collecting going on there is also atmospheric data being collected with the use of weather balloons. These helium filled balloons are to be launched every 4 hours for the entire expedition. The balloons are filled to 500 psi (pounds per square inch) of helium, the tanks of which are on board, attached to a calibrated sonde (sensing) device which reads data, temperature, air pressure and humidity and transmits the data back to the ship.  Under the careful and watchful eye of Ludovic Bariteau of CIRES and the University of Colorado, at 0730, I was able to successfully set up and launch the fourth balloon of the study. Thomas Dunn and Julie Kelly, also from the University of Hawaii research team aboard, were there to assist.

Preparing the weather balloon for launch
Preparing the weather balloon for launch

Personal Log 

I got to launch a weather balloon.  The thrills and new experiences never stop. I am very anxious to take my experiences and new knowledge back to school. I also had to practice putting on a survival suit during our safety drill. Will the fun never end?

Words of the Day: acoustics; Doppler shift; calibrate, psi

Here I am launching a weather balloon! Donning my survival suit
Here I am launching a weather balloon! Donning my survival suit
Donning my survival suit
Donning my survival suit

Scott Sperber, July 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Sperber
Onboard Research Vessel Kilo Moana
July 9-17, 2009 

Mission:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time series Station; Albert J. Plueddemann, Chief Scientist
Geographical area of cruise: Central Pacific, north of O’ahu
Date: July 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 23.9 c

The WHOTS-6 buoy getting prepared to be placed on the ship
The WHOTS-6 buoy getting prepared to be placed on the ship

Science and Technology Log 

As a first log I would like to explain a little about this project. Much of what you will be reading will be directly from correspondence I have received from NOAA themselves prior to the expedition.  The following is the cruise plan that the chief scientist, Al Plueddemann sent me before the cruise:

Overview 

The R/V Kilo Moana (KM) will participate in mooring operations associated with the WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS) project. The primary intent of the WHOTS mooring is to provide long-term, high-quality air-sea changes and upper ocean temperature, salinity and velocity at a specific location in the central Pacific Ocean.

Receiving tower for the weather balloon information
Receiving tower for the weather balloon information

The first WHOTS mooring was deployed in August 2004, and the site has been continuously occupied since that time by means of annual mooring service cruises. The KM will depart from the UH Marine Center at Sand Island on 9 July 2009 to the WHOTS site. The cruise will include participants from WHOI, U. Hawaii, NOAA ESRL, U. Colorado CIRES, and possibly a NOAA Teacher at Sea (ME). The WHOTS moorings are a design utilizing wire rope, chain, nylon and polypropylene line. The surface buoy is a 2.7-meter diameter foam buoy with a watertight electronics well and aluminum instrument tower. Instruments are attached to the mooring line in the upper 150 m. An acoustic (sound) release is placed above the 9300 lb anchor, and 80 glass balls above the release provide backup flotation. 

These receive information from the sun. The temperature skimmers.
These receive information from the sun. The temperature skimmers.

Two meteorological systems will be deployed aboard the KM in addition to the ship’s standard sensors. The first system is one developed at WHOI to meet the need for more accurate meteorological observations from volunteer observing ships. The configuration on Kilo Moana will include five main components: a splash-proof housing with sensors for AT/RH (Atmospheric temperature and relative humidity), SWR (short wave radiation) and LWR (long wave radiation), a second housing with a BP (barometric[atmospheric] pressure sensor and central data logger, a rain gauge, a wind sensor, and a GPS) global positioning system) logger. Data are made available in real-time using a computer kept temporarily in the ship’s chart room.

Cruise Plan 

Staging/Destaging: Preparation of the WHOTS-6 buoy and mooring equipment will take place at the UH Marine Center during 1-6 July. Loading and staging of scientific equipment on the KM will be done on 7 July (or earlier as the situation permits). As part of the preparation, the two meteorological systems described above will be mounted on the KM. One will be mounted on the bridge mast. Others will be installed on a 30′ high tower on the port bow, and the instrumentation and computers for theses will be kept on the port (left) side of the ship There will also be an installation along the railing for a boom that will support a sea surface temperature skimmer device and mounted on the port side of the bridge.

Operations: The cruise involves four principal operations, as listed below. These operations are expected to require 9 ship days.

1. Deployment of the WHOTS-6 mooring. The buoy will be deployed through the A-frame, after which the ship will proceed slowly ahead. The remainder of the mooring will be deployed over the stern using the mooring winch, capstan, air tuggers, and crane as necessary.  Acoustic ranging from three stations will allow the mooring anchor position, to be determined by triangulation.

2. Sensor comparison period. During a period of approximately 4 days between release of WHOTS-6 and recovery of WHOTS-5, the KM will establish and hold position, with bow into the wind. During the comparison period satellite transmissions from the buoys will be monitored using equipment supplied by the scientists. A series of shallow (200 m) CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) casts will be done at approximately 4 hr intervals using a CTD and rosette supplied by the science party.

3. Recovery of the WHOTS 5 mooring. The WHOTS-5 mooring is presently on station at another location not far from the new buoy. The WHOTS mooring release will be fired and recovering of the old buoy will begin with the glass balls (lower end) and proceed to about 50 m below the buoy while the ship moves ahead slowly. The work boat will be used tograb the glass balls and pass a leader line to the KM. The work boat will be lowered again and used to connect a line to the buoy and pass the line to the stern of the ship. The buoy will be recovered through the A-frame. Recovery operations will use the A-frame, the mooring winch, capstan, air tuggers, and crane as necessary.

4. Deep CTD casts and CTD Survey. At certain times during operations,several deep (1000 m) CTD casts will be made. The fifth WHOTS WHOI-Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Site (WHOTS) buoy was deployed from the Kilo Moana at 03:24:39 UTC June 5, 2008.

The R/V Kilo Moana will be deploying the WHOTS-6 mooring and will for a number of days be used in the comparison of real time data between the new mooring, the WHOTS-5 mooring and that of the ship.  After which the WHOTS-5 mooring will be recovered via the A-frame on the stern.

Real Time Data 

Hourly averaged meteorological data for the current deployment of the WHOI Hawaii Ocean Time Series Station are received via Service Argos four times daily. Hourly averages are also being transmitted for an engineering study using the Iridium Satellite service. Preliminary data is displayed in unedited form as time series plots, and is available for download as ASCII files.

Personal Log 

Wow. That is a lot of scientific jargon and acronyms which I will try to clear up in the next week. As for my responsibilities they will include but not be limited to:

During this expedition I will try to match the NOAA goals of which are:

Short-term Goals 

I will:

  1. Understand how NOAA oceanic and atmospheric research is linked to National Education Science Standards and Ocean Literacy Principles.
  2.  Understand the education and training paths that lead to NOAA-related careers.

Mid-term Goals 

I will:

  • Use NOAA data and resources in classroom activities. (oh boy)
  • Use NOAA-related career information in classroom activities, when mentoring students and when working with colleagues.

Why am out here in the middle of the ocean?

The vision of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is to be NOAA’s main provider to teachers of opportunities to participate in real-world scientific research and maritime activities.

Assembling the long line of sensors
Assembling the long line of sensors

Tasks and Responsibilities 

I will have a defined set of tasks and responsibilities before, during, and after the mission. During the mission, I will be under the ultimate command of the ship’s Commanding Officer. AYE, AYE CAPTAIN. However, I will also be considered a member of the science party, And will also be under the direction of the mission’s Chief Scientist and will be expected to take part in the tasks assigned by the Chief Scientist.

MICROCat sensor to be located at 155 meters
MICROCat sensor to be located at 155 meters

Everyone here is very accommodating of the new guy. I am going to quietly sit back and observe for a while, there is so much going on I do not want to get in the way.  From my berth window, I look directly out on the A-frame, great cautious way to observe the deployment without stepping on anyone’s toes. I am watching the crew assemble the line of MICROCat and other monitoring devices. Lengths of chain, shackles and hitches are laid over the deck in what seems like a chaotic mess but I have been assured that it will all flow out nicely when the deployment of the system begins. You can see how the MicroCATs are labeled with their respective depths.. There is also another device, the Seabird, that will be the one that bobs (yo-yo’s) up and down for daily data regarding, temperature, conductivity and depth.

Words of the day: deployment, winch, capstan, crane, acoustic, triangulation, comparison, bow, stern, A-frame 

Dena Deck, July 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dena Deck
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 20, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Because of their remoteness, the largely uninhabited, and dynamic ecosystems of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are often thought of as pristine environments. A more accurate term is “near-pristine,” because this isolated archipelago acts as a giant filtering comb in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, picking up debris that float from afar. Signs of trouble are not immediately apparent to the casual observer, but a closer look reveals ghost nests (discarded or lost fishing nets) caught on the reefs, debris of all sorts on the beaches, and plastics inside the skeleton of albatrosses. Even here, pollution has left its mark. But it is not an indelible mark, and there are devoted groups working hard to erase it from the map of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The majority of the debris that accumulates on these islands is fishing gear, and lots of it. In addition to destroying the coral upon which it settles, derelict fishing gear can also cause entanglement for the highly endangered Hawaiian monk seal, the threatened green sea turtle, fish, invertebrates, and seabirds.

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are in the path of the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, which stretches from Japan to the West Coast of the US. This zone is a large, shifting line that is the product of ocean currents and wind interactions where areas of the surface waters meet. The convergence of different water masses result in the aggregation of trash, being carried by each water mass and deposited along this zone. The subtropical convergence zone can actually be observed from a thousand feet in the air as a semi-continuous line of trash, earning its nickname as “East Pacific Garbage Patch.”

The group charged with the removal of these pieces from these remote atolls and islands is the Marine Debris Project, part of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, under the NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. The group recently completed a large-scale project over the course of the last five years (which just ended in 2006) to remove as much of the derelict fishing gear in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as possible. Going out on missions stretching up to four months at a time, two liveaboard mother vessels would carry eight divers each. As the seasons change, the subtropical convergence zone can be observed performing an annual dance in the North Pacific Ocean ballroom. When in the winter this line shifts south and passes the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands around January and February, the large, fractured atolls become a giant comb, trapping these floating debris from all around the North Pacific rim. During the summer, this convergence zone shifts north again.

After reaching a predetermined location, the Marine Debris Project has two methods for covering an area. In shallow reef areas, they snorkel, with the boat nearby. In deeper areas, they do “towboarding,” which involves a small board attached to the boat, which is running on average of between 1-2 knots. Inhaling deeply, and with a quick maneuver of the board, the free diver pairs can then go to the bottom, covering it in a serpentine fashion. Each diver covers a transect of 7.5 meters apiece, checking both sides of this transect while staying within visual range of the divers on either side. The distance among divers varies according to the visibility, but it’s never more than 15 cumulative meters, or approximately 45 feet, between the combined diver pair.

One of the initial efforts undertaken in 1999 at Lisianski Island and Pearl & Hermes Atoll recovered 14 tons of derelict fishing gear. Most of this gear came from trawl netting, followed by mono-filament gillnet, and maritime line. This effort also showed this gear to affect the coral reef ecosystem of the Hawaiian Archipelago (Donnohue et al., 2001). To ensure that the whole swath is observed, divers take a daily visibility measurement by placing a small piece of net underwater, and determining from how far away this net can be seen. Surveys are then conducted, with a slight overlap among each swath to ensure full coverage. When derelict debris is found, they release the board, go to the surface, and raise their hand. At this point, the towing boat turns back, obtain latitude and longitude with a GPS unit, and help the diver retrieve the fishing gear.

The Marine Debris Project, having completed their focused clean up activities on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, has now entered into a maintenance phase. This will help them estimate the accumulation rates at repeated zones, which will allow them to determine the frequency of future clean up efforts, and the amount of funds needed. All of this to ensure that trash does not become constant stain in an otherwise vibrant and healthy environment. Since 2002, about 200,000 lbs of net have been recovered this way each year. Many of these pieces can be retrieved by one or two divers, but occasionally a particularly large net is found. One particular net had a weight in excess of 5,000 lbs, and took all divers working together to cut it into sections and pull it out of the water. Over the years, the group has found sharks, sea turtles and monk seals trapped in these nets. One even had a portion of a whale’s spine, apparently having caught the animal in the high seas.

Patricia Greene, July 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Greene
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 17, 2006

Spinner dolphins in the lagoon around Green Island at Kure Atoll, State Wildlife Refuge.
Spinner dolphins in the lagoon around Green Island at Kure Atoll

Science and Technology Log

The first creatures we experienced at Kure Atoll were the spinner dolphins. These creatures delight in playing in the wake of our bow; doing somersaults, spins, and jumps; crisscrossing fearlessly in front of our boat, then losing interest when we slow down. Scientists are not sure what make spinner dolphins exhibit this type of behavior. Interestingly, scientists have observed that spinners in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have a different social structure than those around the main Hawaiian Islands. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, dolphins demonstrate group cohesion and typically stay together in the same group socializing in the lagoons or when they feed offshore. In the main islands a spinner dolphin may join a different feeding group every night; scientists have dubbed this behavior “fission-fusion,” since groups form and split repeatedly.We observed mothers with calves at their side; the babies easily keeping up and enjoying the sport as much as the adults. During the day the dolphins are relatively inactive and take group naps but at night they leave the atoll to forage and feed.

Cynthia Vanderlip and her team conduct spinner dolphin surveys in the lagoon around Green Island at Kure Atoll.
Cynthia Vanderlip and her team conduct spinner dolphin surveys in the lagoon around Green Island at Kure Atoll.

We observed a large group of spinner dolphins at Kure; approximately 70, although they swam so rapidly they were difficult to count. Other pods or groups have been identified at Pearl and Hermes and Midway. Typically, crossover between these groups in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is rare. Recently we visited Southeast Island at Pearl and Hermes and interviewed NOAA Fisheries monk seal researchers; Hugh Finn, Jessie Lopez, and Kennedy Renland regarding their spinner dolphin research. Basically, the dolphin research is done at the same time as they do the atoll counts for the monk seals; approximately every third day if the weather cooperates. If winds exceed 15 knots, safety becomes a concern and researchers will not go out in the small boats. During an atoll count day the researchers leave camp at 9:00 am and return at approximately 4:00 pm. For safety reasons, only two researchers go out in the boat at a time; one person remains on shore and monitors the radio in case assistance is needed. During an atoll count they will visit North Island, Seal Kittery, Grass Island, and various sand spits to assess the population.

Majestic Hawaiian spinner dolphins in the clear lagoon waters of Kure Atoll, State Wildlife Refuge.
Majestic Hawaiian spinner dolphins in the clear lagoon waters of Kure Atoll, State Wildlife Refuge.

Dolphins at Pearl and Hermes Atoll usually travel in groups or pods of 50 to 60. Mothers with calves are often seen at this time of year. Researchers explained that the age of the calf can often be estimated by the existence of “fetal folds.” The female dolphin has a 12-month gestation period and while inside the mother the calf develops creases in its body.  These “fetal folds” will exist until the calf is two or three months of age.Dolphin surveys involve taking digital photographs of as many dolphins as possible. This year the Pearl and Hermes Atoll researchers have taken approximately 2,000 photographs to date. These digital images will be forwarded to Dr. Lezek Karczmarski at Texas A&M and fed into a database for his research. Individual dolphins usually have distinctive cuts, scars or marks that help identify them. Researchers also take small biopsy samples from the dolphins. This is accomplished by using a crossbow type instrument with a dart that removes a tiny piece tissue from the skin.

During a dolphin survey, researchers record the start and end times, initial and final GPS coordinates, swell, water depth, water temperature and bottom type. They assess the numbers and ages of any calves observed and record the numbers of juveniles and adults.  Total number of digital images taken and any ID ratio is also recorded. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands spinner dolphin pods have a habitat relatively free from typical human interference. Threats to dolphins in more populated areas include collisions with vessels, entanglement in fishing nets and other marine debris, and acoustic disturbances. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands few of these threats exist. Spinner dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Exact population numbers worldwide are unknown.Spinner dolphins have a wide range; found in tropical waters, subtropical, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They feed on mesopelagic fish, squid, and shrimp. The females reach sexual maturity at 7 to 10 years, and give birth to a single calf every other year. Calves are weaned at seven months. Spinner dolphins may have a life span exceeding 20 years.

Special thanks to the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Interior for access to Southeast Island and an opportunity to spend a day with the NOAA Fisheries biologists to learn more about the spinner dolphin research they conduct during their field season.

Patricia Greene, July 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Greene
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 16, 2006

The ornate butterflyfish (Chaetodon ornatissimus) is one type of butterflyfish that is also a coral predator.
The ornate butterflyfish (Chaetodon ornatissimus) is one type of butterflyfish that is also a coral predator.

Science and Technology Log

When you think of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and predators, the first thing that comes to mind may be the apex predators; tiger sharks, Galapagos sharks and species of huge fish such as the jacks. Corallivores (an animal that feeds on corals) may include fish, sea stars or mollusks.  Generally, two types are recognized; obligate corallivores; those that feed only on corals and facultative corallivores; which feed on corals, algae, sponges, and mollusks.However, while snorkeling the Kure Atoll, I was reminded that there is another group of predators here; the corallivores. I observed a crown of thorns that appeared to be feeding on the coral and upon further research I discovered and recognized a variety of Northwestern Hawaiian Islands creatures that I have seen that also specialize in feeding on corals.

The crown of thorns feeds by inverting its stomach through its mouth, and then digests the corals externally. Human attempts at controlling populations of crown of thorns have been relatively unsuccessful and causes of these population spikes or outbreaks have been a topic of debate. Some believe they are natural occurrences and occur in cycles while other scientists believe they are due to human causes such as increased sedimentation and pollution.The crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci) has cryptic coloration and toxin-filled spines.  It prefers to feed on rice corals (Montipora), lace corals (Pocillopora), and cauliflower corals (Acropora). Ironically, the crown of thorn eggs and larvae are often fed on by the stony corals. Other natural enemies of the crown of thorns is the harlequin shrimp and the fireworm. This little shrimp does not kill the crown of thorns, but merely creates a small, open wound. This is known as “facilitated predation.” The larvae of the fireworm then enter the cavity, reproduce, and the offspring eat the crown of thorns from the inside out; eventually causing death.

The crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci) is a major predator of coral reefs.
The crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci) is a major predator of coral reefs.

We have also observed a variety of butterflyfish on the reefs; all that are also coral predators. The ornate butterflyfish (Chaetodon ornatissimus), the oval butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus), the fourspot butterflyfish (Chaetodon quadrimaculatus), and the multiband butterflyfish (Chaetodon multicinctus), are all obligate corallivores. Other butterflyfish that eat both corals and invertebrates include; the threadfin butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga) and the teardrop butterflyfish (Chaetodon unimaculatus).

We have also identified the spotted pufferfish (Arothron meleagris) hiding in the corals of Kure Atoll’s lagoon. This unique creature has a beak-like mouth with sharp frontal teeth for removing pieces of substrate and flat teeth in the back for grinding. They feed on a variety of organisms, including the stony corals and calcareous algae. They have a unique adaptation that allows them to lodge their bodies into a crevice or hole and then puff up so it is impossible for a predator to dislodge them. Their tissue is relatively toxic to humans.The shortbodied blenny (Exallias brevis) is an obligate corallivore. It prefers the lobe (Porites lobata) and finger coral (Porites compressa). The spotted color of these fish blends nicely with the colonies of coral. Removing tiny bites these fish have little impact on the health of the corals. The coral colony is able to regenerate new polyps and fill in he bite marks.

The shortbodied blenny (Exallias brevis) is an obligate corallivore, which feeds on coral.
The shortbodied blenny is an obligate corallivore, which feeds on coral.

The blue-eye damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon johnstonianus) inhabits the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands coral reefs. It feeds only on coral, preferring the lace, antler, cauliflower, finger and lobe corals. These small fish are very territorial and will defend their nests, hiding in the corals that also serve as food. Most of the coral predators do not pose any major threats to the coral reefs. They are natural inhabitants of the reefs and do little damage. The crown of thorns can cause mass devastation; during major outbreaks at other Pacific Ocean locations the coral cover was reduced from 78% to 2%. In 1970, approximately 26,000 crown of thorns were destroyed off the southern coast of Moloka`i. However, during all of dives in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands we only observed two crown of thorns, which is good news for this remote region.

Dena Deck, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dena Deck
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Dolphins from the large Kure Atoll pod.
Dolphins from the large Kure Atoll pod.

One of the great joys of being in a place as remote as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is that it offers the possibility of exploring… and discovering. It is the joy of coming to this place with a mission agenda, and have unexpected additions to it. Last week, when we were at Kure Atoll, the discovery of a sailing vessel wrecked for more than 100 years brought to us the sudden thrill and excitement of exploration. This newly found vessel had it all – magnificently preserved structures, records of its rescue mission, a link to Hawaiian history in the late 1800s, and a peculiar story of its serendipitous discovery while we were in the area.
It turned out that no one had seen it before. She notified the maritime archeologists onboard the NOAA launch HI-1, who quickly checked out the site, and concurred in that it was a site even new to them. The archeologists then invited the educators to check out this previously undiscovered site.Cynthia Vanderlip, an experienced field researcher who has spent many years returning to the atoll and conducting dolphin counts over time, was conducting surveys with the pod living in Kure’s lagoon, which includes more than a hundred members. On July 2, 2004, waters were calm with excellent visibility. Her team had followed the dolphins to the opening of the atoll. When looking down in the mirror-like waters, Cynthia’s brother Brad, a volunteer for the state, noticed a large wreck laying under their small boat, a wreck that even Cynthia had not seen before.

 Large metal structures, showing the inside of the bottom hull section of the ship.

Large metal structures, showing the inside of the bottom hull section of the ship.

We felt extremely fortunate to be able to dive on a wreck the second day after it was discovered, after 120 years under the sea. Our group of educators reached the wreck site just a few hours after the maritime archeologist had seen it for the first time since 1886. And the magnitude of the wreck was enough to leave a lasting impression on novices like us, only recently introduced to the field of maritime archeology. Normally, you see archeologists study at length the significance of many small pieces that litter a wreck site. It is only their experience and combined work that can bring all those numerous pieces together in a cohesive picture, a drawing that they arduously put together after many hours of painstaking labor underwater. It is only in this drawing, which they do on a page several feet long, that the rest of us can see all of the significant details. But this wreck was a bit different. It laid there, in the seafloor in all of its immensity, in a manner that fully displayed its former sailing glory. The Dunnottar Castle was a large ship – almost 260 feet in length – and was built in 1874. Home ported in Scotland, it was bound from Sydney, Australia to Wilmington, California, with a load of coal.

Another large section of the Dunnottar Castle, now home to a lively marine ecosystem.
Another large section of the Dunnottar Castle, now home to a lively marine ecosystem.

Because it struck the reef at full speed, it lodged itself securely on the outside of the Kure Atoll. When free diving this wreck site, resting at a depth of about 25 feet, we could see much of the structures still mirroring the original layout of the ship. Large metal frames rested on the bottom of the seafloor, stretching for over a hundred feet of us. More than a century after its aquatic burial, the anchor, one of the most emblematic pieces of any ship, was found laying upright on the sea floor.

Watching these metal pieces encrusted by corals and home to fish, it is easy to not think about the historical context of the ship, and the wreck. But every wreck has a story, and the wreck of the Dunnottar Castle story has links to the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Seven of the crew members, including its Chief Officer, took one of the surviving boats and sailed, for 52 days, to Kauai. Upon being informed of the tragedy, the British Commissioner in Honolulu organized a rescue mission. But Hawaiian officials feared that the British might take the opportunity to claim Kure Atoll, and offered to pay for part of the rescue mission, also sending a commissioner to claim it for Hawaiian Kingdom. The concern over a British claim of Kure in relationship to theDunnottar Castle wreck adds meaning to its discovery on July 3, the day before America celebrates its independence.

Standing upright on one of its flukes, the anchor of the Dunnottar Castle seems to have been carefully positioned on the seafloor.
Standing upright on one of its flukes, the anchor of the Dunnottar Castle seems to have been carefully positioned on the seafloor.

When free-diving this wreck, we felt the thrill of seeing a ship larger than the one which is now our home at sea, the NOAA ship Hi`ialakai, laid on the ocean floor as if it had been arranged by careful museum curators. A Galapagos shark was seen later on the wreck area, reminding us that this is no museum. This is Kure Atoll, part of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that still offer much left to explore.The rescue mission came back to Honolulu with the same amount of people it had sailed out with. No survivors were found on the atoll, except for two fox terriers and a retriever.  Maritime archeology, unlike the terrestrial counterpart, almost always involves a tragic event. But there was no further tragedy on theDunnottar Castle. All of the survivors had been picked up earlier by a passing vessel and were on route to Chile. Upon arrival, on September 20, 1886, Kure Atoll was claimed for the Kingdom of Hawai`i by James Boyde. To help future castaways, this rescue mission built a structure and left water and supplies, and also planted coconuts, kukui trees, monkey pod trees, and others. Concerns about introducing alien species did not run very high back then.

Patricia Greene, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Greene
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 13, 2006

Old fishing nets get piled up on the pier on Green Island at Kure Atoll waiting for the marine debris crew to pick up
Old fishing nets get piled up on the pier on Green Island at Kure Atoll waiting for the marine debris crew to pick up

Science and Technology Log

One reason the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are so unique is that they contain some of the most isolated, pristine, and genetically pure coral reefs in the world.  Kure Atoll is approximately 1,200 miles from the main Hawaiian Islands. It represents one of the last intact, predator-dominated reef ecosystems. It is a critically important habitat to a wide range of species including seabirds, sea turtles, monk seals, and sharks.  The earliest creatures arrived on these islands by swimming, flying, or floating for thousands of miles and then with the passage of time, evolved into genetically different species. These species are referred to as ‘endemic’ meaning they are unique to that area.

Historically, man’s greatest impact on the ecosystems of NWHI has taken two major venues; importation of terrestrial alien or exotic species and mass slaughter or over-harvesting of existing endemic species.  Understanding the past can help us protect the future of the NWHI.Hawai`i has a very high incidence of marine endemism due to the age of the islands (Kure Atoll is approximately 28 million years old) and the relative isolation from other coral reefs. The prevailing currents generally run from east to west; keeping larvae from other reefs from reaching Hawai`i. Also, the waters here tend to be cooler and the wave action intense, deterring foreign species from colonizing. The marine ecosystems have been far less impacted by man than the terrestrial ecosystems. Only 11 aquatic invasive marine invertebrate, fish, and algal specifies have been identified in the NWHI.  The magnitude of the problem of aquatic invasive species is far greater in main Hawaiian Islands than in NWHI. Endemism and diversity in the NWHI has reportedly been higher than the main Hawaiian Islands for some corals and other reef species. However, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands have not been free from human influence.

Early influence of man can be traced back approximately 1,000 years ago when Polynesians were the first to change the natural ecosystems of the islands. They brought to the main Hawaiian Islands animals such as boars, dogs and rats. However, the first documented evidence of mammals being introduced to the NWHI occurred in 1894 when entrepreneurs from a rabbit canning industry released rabbits that literally devoured all the vegetation on some islands; Laysan, Lisianski, and Southeast Island at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Other alien or exotic plant and insect species (those that have been brought from other areas) drastically changed the existing ecosystems by destroying or out-competing many of the native endemic species. Until very recently the exotic Polynesian rats were major predators on Kure Atoll; eating the bird eggs and killing chicks. Today all the NWHI are completely rat free.

An old Coast Guard anchor sits deep within the Verbesina, a bright yellow flowering plant in the sunflower family that is an exotic, invasive plant on many of the atolls.
An old Coast Guard anchor sits deep within the Verbesina, a bright yellow flowering plant in the sunflower family that is an exotic, invasive plant on many of the atolls.

The Verbesina encelioides that we viewed on Kure Atoll; a bright yellow flowering plant in the sunflower family, is an excellent example of an exotic, invasive plant. This weed has literally suffocated and killed native plants as well as engulfed open space used as  nesting sites. Without weeding efforts by researchers, scientists and volunteers the birds would no longer have “runways” to allow the fledgings to run, take-off, and try their wings. Approximately 312 plant species have been identified on the NWHI. Thirty-seven species are indigenous, 12 endemic, the other remaining 267 are alien or exotic species.

Of the 485 species of insects and spiders found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands over 300 of them have been introduced by accident. Only 100 out of 485 are indigenous and another 80 are endemic. It is estimated over 20 new species of insects are introduced accidentally to mainland Hawai`i every year. This is just one reason why strict regulations are in place to minimize the introduction of new species to the NWHI. Exotic insects have devastating effects on the natural ecosystems. Ants on Kure Atoll have plagued the seabird chicks, who are relatively immobile during their early years and stay in the same nest area. Ants also displace native insects and can have such a major influence on ecosystems that they invade, or are introduced to, that they are called “ecosystem busters.”

In addition to the biological invasions, man has also brought other contaminants to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Even though the area is thousands of miles from human inhabitation the islands remain impacted by man’s past military occupation. Kure Atoll is still recuperating from the remains of a Coast Guard station, LORAN tower and unlined dump site on the island. Contaminants may include elevated levels of copper, nickel, lead and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s). Midway contamination from military operations include; petroleum, DDT, PCB’s, and heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. Over 75 million dollars were allocated by the Department of Defense for extensive clean up efforts on Midway Atoll just prior to the Naval Air Facility’s transfer to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The remoteness of the area does not protect the islands from the prevailing ocean currents and man's trash.
The remoteness of the area does not protect the islands from the prevailing ocean currents and man’s trash.

During the Navy’s tenure at Midway,  in an effort to protect their pilots and aircraft, they would permit the deaths of thousands of albatrosses which are large enough to cause a danger to aircraft during landing or takeoff. In the short period 1957-58, over 36,000 birds were slaughtered and unknown thousands in subsequent years in an attempt to keep a major runway clear of albatross on Sand Island. When dead albatrosses began piling up on Midway, the commanding officer ordered them dumped at sea. However, with poetic justice, the prevailing currents carried an entire barge’s contents of rotting bird carcasses back to the beach at Midway and sailors had to pick them up and bury them.In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands were exploited and ravished by seal hunters, whalers, feather hunters, pearl divers and guano miners. Seals, sea turtles, seabirds, sharks and whales were slaughtered en mass. In 1824 the ship Gambiamay have taken as many as 1,500 seals. The ship’s log of the Ada (1882) reported taking 103 sea turtles in just three days. Japanese feather hunters slaughtered thousands of seabirds. In the period from 1904 to 1915 counts of 284,000, 64,000, 119,000 and 200,000 dead birds and literally tons of feathers, were confiscated from Japanese poachers. These numbers represent only a fraction of the slaughter; only those who were caught poaching; many hundreds of thousands of bird deaths went undocumented and undetected.

The black-lipped pearl oyster (Pinctada margarifera) is one of the most obvious examples of the devastation man’s exploitation may cause. Masses of oyster beds were discovered at Pearl and Hermes in 1927. Within only three years of discovery estimates of over 200,000 oysters or 150,000 tons had been harvested and the oysters almost eliminated. An act was passed in 1929 making it illegal to take pearl oysters in Hawaiian waters. Later, in 1930, an expedition was sent to determine the extent of the damage to the oyster beds; only 480 oysters were found. By 1950 only six oysters were observed, and in 1969 only one oyster was found. More recent surveys in 1969, 1996, and 2000 found only a few oysters while a comprehensive 2003 NOAA study documented sightings of over 1,000 individual oysters. However, while the latter study suggests the oyster population may be starting to recover, almost 80 years have passed and the numbers do not begin to compare to the pre-exploitation levels. The pearl oyster clearly demonstrates the damage a coral reef can sustain from over-harvesting and the inordinate length of time it may take to recover even under full protection.

Fortunately, the entire reef is partially protected from many human influences by location and strict State and Federal restrictions. Existing in such a remote location the atolls and islands do not have the typical issues of coastal pollution and eutrophication from human inhabitation, tourism, development or agriculture like the main Hawaiian Islands. For the most part, the only humans to visit this isolated wilderness are researchers and scientists and they must sign and adhere to strict government permits and quarantines. All clothing or soft goods must be frozen for 48 hours to help prevent alien insects or seeds from going ashore. All dive gear must be soaked in a bleach solution after each use. Many varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables are forbidden on the islands.

However, the remoteness of the area does not protect the islands from the prevailing ocean currents and man’s trash. Currents in the North Pacific carry plastics and marine discards to the island shores. A portion of this debris may be terrestrial in origin while much of it obviously originates from fishing ships. As we walked along the shores of Kure Atoll we observed thousands of articles of domestic or household origin and items that were clearly from marine origins such as floats, nets, and other equipment connected with the industry. Based on past and current marine removal operations it is estimated that over 1,000 tons of debris has accumulated in the NWHI. Yearly accumulation rates are estimated at 40-80 tons. These amounts will continue indefinitely unless we educate and reduce the sources.

Legally, acts have been passed since the early 1900’s in attempts to protect the fragile creatures of the NWHI. Earliest efforts by Teddy Roosevelt (1909) attempted to protect the seabirds from the feather hunters by establishing the Hawaiian Islands Reservation. This reservation granted protections from Nihoa to Kure Atoll (minus Midway Atoll which at the time was owned by the U.S. military).  Since sea turtles travel from the NWHI to feeding grounds throughout the main Hawaiian Islands full protection did not occur until 1973 with the Endangered Species Act. Wild dolphins are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, while the Hawaiian Monk Seals are protected under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The NWHI are of critical importance to monk seals and the sea turtles. The majority of the monk seals in existence live in the NWHI. Over 90% of green sea turtles depend upon the French Frigate Shores for their breeding grounds.  Researchers take surveys and collect information on the life cycles of the animals in an attempt to aid recovery of the populations and ensure that any of these species will not become extinct. Data is collected on monk seals, spinner dolphins, seabirds, and turtles by researchers in the NWHI.

Most recently, President Bush changed the designation of the marine area from a coral reef ecosystem reserve to include the islands as a Marine National Monument to effect more immediate change. By doing this the eight fishing permits that currently exist for the area will be phased out in five years and the entire Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will fall under more stringent long term protection.

However, legislation and presidential actions will not stop the debris that is carried from thousands of miles by ocean currents and deposited on the shores of these islands or correct some of the more subtle impacts of man that remain. We need to look deeply into the past, reflect upon our trespasses, and learn from our mistakes. Only education, protection and careful scrutiny of our environment and natural resources will accomplish this and provide future protection. Prevention is a better solution than attempts to clean-up. History tells us we must be better care-takers of our fragile coral ecosystems.

Dena Deck, July 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dena Deck
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 12, 2006

A map integrating backscatter map with bathymetry, showing the seafloor in rich detail
Integrating backscatter with bathymetry, showing the seafloor in rich detail

Science and Technology Log

When soldiers from Napoleon’s army found the Rosetta Stone, it was a breakthrough discovery. Carved in ancient Egypt, it contained pieces of a message in known languages and also a language that had been dead for centuries. Without any link to other known languages, historians had been unable to decipher this language until the stone was found, which provided the necessary clues to translate it. Modern day ocean mappers are looking for their own Rosetta Stone that will allow them to link backscatter data to other ecological information.

A backscatter map, indicating substrate characteristics. Dark areas represent a harder seafloor, while lighter areas are indicative of a soft, sandy bottom.
A backscatter map, indicating substrate characteristics. Dark areas represent a harder seafloor, while lighter areas are indicative of a soft, sandy bottom.

Our ship, the NOAA ship Hi`ialakai, has a set of three sonars that, when used in conjunction, can provide accurate data about the seafloor. When emitted by a sonar, a “ping” comes back bringing two pieces of information with it: travel time and strength. The two-way travel time (the time it took from emission, bouncing off the seafloor and return back to the ship), coupled with the measured velocity of sound in the specific water location where the ship is traveling in, gives mappers a bathymetric view of the seafloor, revealing the depth of each of its points. (See “Painting the Seafloor” article.)

A second piece of data obtained from each ping is the strength of the signal. When sound hits a surface, above water or below, some of it is absorbed and the rest bounces back in what we experience as an echo. The strength of this echo depends on the hardness of the material that the sound is bouncing from. This is a very convenient fact of nature that is used when mapping to compliment the bathymetric map that provides the depth. The acoustic hardness of a substrate, or ocean bottom, affects the strength of the ping coming back to the sonar. In a real sense, the loudness of the echo changes if it is bouncing off sand or rock. Sand, being soft and full of small holes in between grains, will absorb quite a bit of sound. A more solid surface like a rock will provide a bigger echo for each ping that hits it.

A diver armed with a camera is towed from a boat, obtaining many pictures that will be used to groundtruth mapping data.
A diver armed with a camera is towed from a boat, obtaining many pictures that will be used to groundtruth mapping data.

This strength of the signal coming back is called “backscatter” and provides mappers with a second view of the seafloor. While bathymetry is a measure of the depth, backscatter gives us a clue about the nature of the seafloor being mapped. Since coral reefs, with their calcium carbonate, provide a much harder surface than a sandy sea bottom, the two will appear differently in the backscatter map. Values of intensity range from low intensity, showing up as white and representing soft, sandy bottom, to high intensity, represented as dark areas for harder substrate in the backscatter gray scale map.

When the backscatter map shows up binary data – white and black – it is easy to infer on the type of substrate being mapped. The challenge is presented with all of the gray areas in the map. Does light gray represent coarse sand? Is dark gray indicative of sand over rocks, or thousands of coral polyps? Or maybe just rock covered by sand? Every shade of gray has a value that can indicate a type of substrate.

Mapping
Mapping

Backscatter alone cannot give you these answers. With so many variables present in the mapping process, data needs to go through a “ground-truthing” process, or compared to visual observations of the sites. To do this, researchers collect video, photographs and perform actual dive observations of many of the sites that are mapped. These video and images need to be analyzed by a person. It’s a tedious process that cannot be automated – it requires having a person able to classify types of substrate from watching hour after hour of video data or many photographs. And all of these data needs to be “geo-rectified,” or coupled with GIS information to know exactly where each video segment and photograph was taken. Sometimes the payoff for “groundtruthing” backscatter is unexpected: wrecks or rich coral beds can be discovered.

We do not have yet a backscatter “signature” for each type of substrate, or sea bottom, yet. This would be the Rosetta Stone of mapping, a development which will allow mappers to correctly identify some of the ecological characteristics of each area mapped. For instance, mappers are working towards refining their backscatter analysis to allow them to tell apart live coral from bleached ones.

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program has built a pilot data set from the French Frigate Shoals, consisting of large amounts of video footage, observations, and other data. They are in the process of compiling all of this information with their backscatter maps they have for the area, and study how they relate, trying to find meaning to each gray area in these maps.

When mapping, additional and unexpected discoveries can take place. Sometimes what we think of as featureless terrains are revealed to have rich topographies. In 2004, an ocean area off the island of Oahu in Hawai`i, thought to be featureless and plain, was discovered to have sand dunes and ridges, providing important habitat to the marine fauna. Interpretation of backscatter data has improved in quality over the years, and when combined with videos and photographs, remote characterization of sea floor habitats becomes possible.

Dena Deck, July 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dena Deck
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 2, 2006

A NOAA ship using the sonar system.
A NOAA ship using the sonar system.

Science and Technology Log

The first part in appreciating what we have is to know exactly what we have to begin with. Biologists conduct species census in both terrestrial and marine environments, and spend a great deal of time studying each species. But to gain a fuller understanding of an ecosystem, it is also necessary to know the physical characteristics of the environment that provides the foundation for these ecosystems. This is one of the main reasons why we map the seafloor.

The primary goal, as far as mapping is concerned, is to have 100% of all shallow coral reefs mapped. The group mapping the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is a large team comprised of staff from NOAA Fisheries Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, and the University of Hawai`i. They have an exemplary set of tools at their disposal to do their work. Aboard the NOAA shipHi`ialakai, they employ two sonar systems. Used in conjunction, these sonar systems are slowly giving us a detailed account of the submerged geological features that make up the Hawaiian archipelago.

A bathymetry map showing a 15-meter drop off from several angles. Colors indicate relative depth
A bathymetry map showing a 15-meter drop off from several angles. Colors indicate relative depth

The primary objective of this mission is to produce benthic (sea bottom) habitat mapping of Kure and Pearl & Hermes Atolls. We are filling in a doughnut-shaped gap on both Kure and Pearl & Hermes Atolls, finishing a painting of the seafloor that started several expeditions ago. Coral reefs around the world are receiving increased attention because of the many threats that they face (coastal development, overfishing, climate change), and the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force has produced a number of goals and mandates relating to these ecosystems in America. Among these goals is a call for better management of these resources, and to learn more about them. Mapping all U.S. coral reefs puts Hawai`i at the center stage of this effort with its large chain of islands and atolls stretching across vast distances and volcanic islands found at every stage of geological development, from birth to eventual demise.

The research vessel Ahi operating in Kure atoll. Note the AC cabin to operate the computer equipment required for the sonar.
The research vessel operating in Kure atoll.

The two sonars that we have aboard the ship perform the same task, but each is best suited to work in different conditions. That is because they employ different frequencies which have different rates of penetration. Let’s go back to the analogy of painting a wall. If you have a large wall to paint, you can use a broad brush (or even better, a roller), to cover large areas at every stroke. But within this wall you also have edges that need to be painted more carefully. Let’s say there is a light switch placed in the middle of the wall. Using a painting roller will invariably leave white spaces in between (either that, or you end up also painting the light switch!). So for this light switch, you would use a smaller brush, allowing you to carefully get close to it, eventually covering the entire surface of the wall without painting over it. In this analogy, each light switch in the wall represents an atoll of the archipelago.When a ship maps the ocean floor, it needs to slowly cover swath areas under it. The process is very much like painting a wall with a brush. A wall cannot be painted all at once, of course. The painting is accomplished one stroke at a time, where each passing of the brush needs to slightly overlap the previous one, as to not leave any white spaces in between. When mapping the seafloor, the ship, with its sonar as a giant brush, needs to carefully cover every bit of seafloor surface, as to not leave any area between passes, or swaths, blank and unmapped.

A recently completed bathymetry map superimposed with satellite imagery of Kure atoll. Red indicates lowest depth, and blue deepest. Satellite image has white around edge indicating the exposed reef ring.
A completed bathymetry map superimposed with satellite imagery of Kure atoll. Red indicates lowest depth, and blue deepest. White indicates exposed reef ring.

I am going to use the example of sunlight traveling through water to illustrate the way that the ship’s sonar works, both light and sound are waves.  Sunlight has many frequencies, frequencies that readily break out into all colors by raindrops or a prism. Red color has the highest frequency and, much like the 3002 kHz sonar, is the first absorbed by water. The color red is the first one to disappear underwater. Take anything cherry-colored down a few meters of water, and it will quickly loose all its brilliance, turning into a dull-looking color, an effect that is magnified with the scarcity of light at nighttime. Fish also know this very well. Many fish which are active at night tend to have a red color. Soldierfish, with their large eyes and flame-red color, are perfectly suited for the night environment.Painting over a light switch would mean running the ship into the reef! So mappers have a set of “ paint brushes” in the form of three sonars that allow them to carefully map each area. There is one low-frequency sonar (using a 300 Kilohertz (kHz) frequency) that has a long wavelength that can map between 100 meters (about 328 feet) and 4,000 meters (about 13,421 feet) – this is the ship’s big roller. There is another, high-frequency sonar (using a frequency of 3002 kHz) that can map when the seafloor is less than 100 meters (about 300 feet) from the surface – this is like a mid-sized brush. There is a third sonar, mounted on a smaller, 25-foot research vessel Ahi (which stands for Acoustic Habitat Investigator), with a sonar working at an even higher frequency, which can get really close to the reef – up to places which are 10 meters in depth (quite shallow, at 30 feet). This little boat is like the small brush used to cover areas right at the edge of what needs to be mapped.

Blue, at the other end of the visible light spectrum, has a low frequency. Its large wavelength is the last one to be absorbed by particles in the water, and penetrates deep in the ocean. If you are able to go down deep enough, say 100 meters (328 feet), all around you will look blue. I once went on a submarine ride with my sister, and when we reached 45 meters (150 feet) in depth, the entire inside of the submarine was bathed by blue light. I took her picture and, with no camera tricks, it showed how everything had acquired a sapphire hue (see picture).

When the pings return back to the ship from their very quick trip to the ocean floor, the sonar measures (or “listens”) to how long it takes for them to return, and how strong their signals are. To do this accurately, there are over 100 arrays of receivers in the sonar on the bottom of the ship, each carefully calibrated to listen carefully to each echo of a new ping. The pings coming back carry with them two bits of important information: how long they take (known as the “Two-Way Travel Time”) and the strength of the signal. The time it takes for the ping to return depends on how far it needs to travel (of course!) and how fast sound is traveling in the water.Now, how exactly does sonar work? The sonar unit emits sound, actually given the descriptive term of “ping.” This ping can be at either the low or high frequency described above. After the ping is emitted the sonar unit “listens” for it to come back. Sonar, therefore, has two essential components: the first one that emits the ping, and the second one that listens for it coming back from the seafloor. This is because when sound hits a surface, some of it is absorbed while the rest bounces back. (If you have many large walls around you, you can hear almost all of your sound coming back at you, this is the echo you hear.) The denser, and flatter the surface, the more of the sound that bounces back.

Adding a bit of complexity to this process, the speed of sound is not immutable like the speed of light. In water, it depends on the temperature of the water, its salinity, and depth (all of them affecting the density of water), so careful and constant measurements need to be taken regularly. A large array of devices, collectively known as CTD, are routinely lowered from the main ship into the water. Armed with this information, and by carefully measuring the time it took for the ping to complete its travel, we can know how far each ping had to go. If you do this many times over, you have something called “bathymetry,” a picture of the seafloor.

Putting together shallow and deep water mapping, we soon end up with a seafloor that has been completely painted, full of colors representing depths. An accurate map is essential as a base layer upon which other information can be overlaid, such as bottom cover type – coral, rocks, sand, etc. Mapping, combined with bottom characterization allows us to monitor long-term trends and changes in the marine habitat. This long-term observation is an essential tool for management of the resources. It can serve as one of the indicators for the effectiveness of the conservation efforts, allowing us to make “sound” management decisions.

Patricia Greene, July 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Greene
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log

The majority of the Hawaiian monk seals are found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands from Nihoa Island to Kure Atoll with a small number on the main Hawaiian Islands.  Traditionally Monk seals have been killed for food by early sailors.  The species was declared depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1976 following a 50% decline in beach counts.  Monk seals were also classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species act in 1976.  Undersized female pups from the French Frigate Shoals were rehabilitated and released on Kure from the 1980’s until 1995 in an attempt to re-establish populations.

Most pups are born between February and July with the peak in April and May.  The newly born pup is totally black and weighs approximately 20 to 30 lbs.  By the time they are weaned (30 to 40 days) they will increase their weight to over 100 lbs.  Monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands tend to wean their pups sooner at approximately 30 days, while seals on the Hawaiian Islands tend to nurse longer; as many as 60 days. Northwestern Hawaiian Island pups tend to be smaller in size as a result.  Females give birth on beaches with shallow water to protect their pups from sharks.  A female will not give birth until they reach five to ten years of age.  By the time the researchers arrive on Green Island most female seals will have already pupped.Approximately 90% of the monk seals remain at the island where they were born for life.  During our recent visit to Green Island, I interviewed monk seal researchers Tracy Wurth and Antonette Gutierrez from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Tracy and Antonette have been in the field on Green Island since May 16, 2006 collecting data on the monk seal population.

Field researchers from the National Marine Fisheries Service on all the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands keep careful track of each seal in the colony; identifying individuals with applied tags and bleach marks as well as natural markings or scars.  Every seal is photographed by taking photos of all sides and flippers and are documented in a digital photo library.  New pups are tagged as soon as they are weaned at 30 to 40 days.  Plastic “temple” tags are applied to each rear flipper and injected with a micro-chip pit tag.  Flipper tags are color specific to each island; Kure uses grey tags, while Pearl and Hermes uses light blue tags.  The letter assigned will tell researchers what year the pup was born.  One pup with a bleach mark “Z26” swam close enough to our boat for us to read his marks.  Later the researchers knew exactly what seal we had seen and told us it was a “weaner;” a pup born is this year that had already weaned.Tracy and Antonette conduct seal patrols on Green Island on a daily basis.  They walk the beach collecting information on each seal observed.  Approximately every fourth day they conduct an atoll count, which is a standardized seal patrol that is time sensitive and basically captures a “snapshot” of the population at a given time.  For their atoll counts the seal team start their survey on Green Island at 1:00 pm and when finished take their boat to Sand islet and conduct a survey there.  Atoll counts take the researchers approximately three hours.

Researchers also collect marine debris such as nets on shore or in shallow water and move it to a secure location to be picked up at a later date by the National Marine Fisheries Coral Reef Ecosystem Division.  The collection of marine debris is extremely important because monk seals can become entangled in the nets.During the field season information is collected on injuries, wounds, illnesses, abnormalities, as well as deaths/disappearances, births, and any unusual events.  If a dead seal is found a necropsy is performed and samples from organs and tissues are collected.  Researchers also collect specimens of scat and spew (vomitus) in an effort to analyze the monk seal’s diet.  Tissue plugs are taken from tagged pups for DNA analysis to determine maternity.  Priorities for the Kure researchers include all of the above, while male aggression and shark predation mitigation is not a significant problem here at Kure Atoll.  However, researchers are concerned about the future seal population due to low juvenile survival.  As the current breeding females get older or die there will not be younger seals to take their place in the breeding population.

At Kure Atoll, the adult seal population in 2005 was 86 individuals with 23 pups born.  The population at Kure has been slowly decreasing over the last several years.  One major factor is the low juvenile survival rate due to lack of nutrients and resulting emaciation.  However, this year their numbers show an increase in juvenile survival with a re-sight rate of over 60 percent.  In the past the re-sight rate has been closer to only 30 percent.

While on Kure Atoll, the researchers enter their data in the field database system. When the researchers return from their assignment they will file their final report.  This information will be summarized in published papers and used by various institutions such as the Hawaiian Monk Seal Recovery Team.

The future of the protected monk seal is unclear. Today, researchers estimate the total monk seal population in existence is approximately 1,300 to 1,600 seals. Researchers are concerned if the population continues to decline the total number could fall below 1,000 within the next five years. Scientists and researchers work together to find solutions to aid the recovery of the Hawaiian monk seal.

Patricia Greene, July 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Greene
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 6, 2006

Science and Technology Log

We arrived on Green Island at Kure Atoll and observed thousands of Laysan Albatross, (Phoebastria immutabilis),chicks and fledglings.  As we walked the island we noted dead birds among the living.  To some extent this may be a natural occurrence.  Only one egg is laid and both parents nurture the chick.  In the early stages the parents return often with frequent feedings.  As the chick matures and becomes older the feedings become less frequent; at this age perhaps just once a week.  The parents may travel hundreds, even thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean far as the Aleutian Islands to forage.  Meanwhile, the chicks wait close to their hatching spot for a parent to return.

In a perfect world untainted by man, our chick’s diet would consist of fish and fish eggs, squid, and octopus.  Yet in our world and the “age of plastics” the chick will likely be fed some amazing indigestible, synthetic products. The parent albatross has a perilous journey.  On the way one or both of parents may fall victim to long line fishing or nets, power lines, planes, sharks or other predators.  If one parent is killed, the other parent will probably not be able to provide enough food to sustain the chick; the chick will sit and wait for the parents; eventually starve to death, or if it is old enough and ready, it may try its wings and fledge.

Although a chick may be fed plastics, once they reach fledgling age they are usually able to regurgitate the indigestible material and cleanse their bodies of the plastic.  However, if the pieces are too large or in this case, large, sharp and piercing, the bird may die an agonizing death; totally impacted and/or the lining punctured.  As we walked the paths of Green Island we observed many young dead albatross.  After viewing this incredible necropsy we contemplate how many of these young birds may have met a similar fate to the one we necropsied.  Our specimen was chosen at random, selected only because we realized it had died within the last few hours.On July 1, 2006, Cynthia Vanderlip conducted a necropsy of a chick that had expired a few hours previous.  The “chick” had a wing spread of 5 to 6 feet and weighed approximately 5 lbs.  The contents of the bird’s stomach amazed and shocked the teachers and scientists.  The dead chick was severely impacted and literally full of plastics.  Some pieces were approximately 6 inches long and several were sharp and jagged.  We could conclusively state this bird was killed by the plastic debris because of the observed puncture in the lining of the proventriculus.  We removed the plastic from our bird and counted an excess of 306 pieces of plastic!

Typically, Laysan Albatrosses have a larger volume of ingested plastic than any other seabird because their favored food, flying fish eggs, are attached to floating debris, and in our modern world most of this debris is plastics, where it used to be wood or pumice.  Floating is one of the properties of plastics.  The most recent research that we had available to us on the island regarding plastics and albatross chicks was published in 1995.  According to this research by Auman, Ludwig, Geis, and Colburn: “ingested plastic probably does not cause a significant direct mortality in Laysan Albatross chicks, but likely causes physiological stress as a result of satiation and mechanical blockage.  Resulting problems may include; starvation, suppressed appetite, reduced growth rate, lower fledgling masses, obstruction of the gut, and decreased fat deposition.”

Interestingly, much of the plastic found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is of Japanese origin.  As we walked the beach we observed many plastic articles with Japanese writing on them.  In the boli from chicks we observed Japanese cigarette lighters and in our specimen there was a piece of plastic with Japanese writing on it.  Some of the debris may be from Japanese fishing boats or perhaps from the warm Kuroshiro current that flows from Japan.Research suggests there is an upward trend in the volume and mass of plastics found in the Laysan Albatross chicks.  In 1966, 74% of 91 chicks contained some plastic, with 8 pieces being the greatest number found and the average mass only 1.87 grams.  In the 1994/1995 study 18.1 grams and 23.8 grams respectively.  From our recent experience, we could only imagine what the numbers look like now in 2006.

In a few days, our bird will be gone; devoured by the decomposers and scavengers.  At night the ghost crabs will come out of their burrows and feast on him; beetles and fly larvae will clean up the remains.  Soon the bird will be reduced to just a pile of feathers but the plastics we found will remain for years.Another concern is when the albatross eats burned or melted plastic parts.  These are especially toxic because of release of organochlorines; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) and phospholipid foams, which can be absorbed and harmful to both the adult birds and their chicks.  Many pieces of burnt plastics were observed on the island and in the chick Cynthia conducted a necropsy on.

Chris Harvey, July 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 2, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“The older I get, the less I know what I want to do.” -Huntley Brownell

Over the last two days I have been thinking about how to adequately end this journey in words. And I know that despite how eloquent I try to make it seem, words fall short in comparison to the experience that has become a part of me. And again I fall back on the idea of perspective, and the value it has come to hold in my life. The older I get, the more I realize how big this world is. And though I’ve made a point to explore one small piece of it at a time, I realize in moments of earnestness- ever so infrequent, and always at a time when I am unable to capture the essence of this great mixture of thought and feeling- that I will never know it all. The more I think about this world, and the six plus billion people who now occupy its lands, the more I feel backed into a corner. And yet, I am unafraid of being so small. For in being so small, there is Being. And with Being, a lifetime ahead of me.

I have quoted a man who will perhaps never be quoted in anything more than this, my final entry from sea. But I have found that my discussions with Huntley on the ship have broadened my perspective and given more meaning for my own life. It is ironic that Huntley turned twenty six just days ago, adding another year onto his age and perhaps taking a little more direction from his life’s compass. But there is a second half to this quote: “The more you travel, the more open doors you see. And you know that you can walk through any of them.”

I walked through a door that led me into the classroom at the age of twenty-three, and in a year and a half since walking through that door, have found so many other doors open before me. For instance, here I am typing on the computer and staring out the window at yet another setting sun. And in walking through this door, I have learned so much about Life and Love and Everything Else that I almost cannot take it all.

Where have these people come from, that I have shared such close quarters with over the last twenty-eight days? Where will they go? In a matter of weeks we were all brought here together, and in a matter of hours we will all be free to spread ourselves out again. Carole, my friend from France, will return to her last year of graduate school at the College of Charleston. Amee is headed to a small island north of Vancouver to study whale migrations for several months, then on to Boston to do acoustic work with a research vessel there, and then quite possibly off to Antarctica. Logan will battle his way through the end of his undergraduate degree, working towards something he has longed to finish well. Eric and Aris will finish their undergrad degrees shortly hereafter and be scattered into the world. Justin is also nearing the end of his degree and is debating whether he wants to go directly back to school, or to work for a couple years and narrow down his options for postgraduate study. I will return home to prepare for another challenging year at school.

Some of the crew have been with this ship for years, and will be here many more years into the future. Others have just arrived, and still others will be leaving shortly hereafter. Time has brought all of us close together, and Time will take us apart. Most of us will never see each other again. And while it seems rather sad to speak this way, it is something that I have been reminded of on this cruise. Someone left these words upon my heart, however unintentional, and I must accept them with the part of me that loves this life of leaving: “Being a nomad carries along the awful truth that most meetings come to an end.”

I have enjoyed my time out here for all of the reasons you have read about over the last few weeks. I have met my share of struggles- physically, mentally, and spiritually- and have come through them one way or another. Am I a better or worse man for their outcomes? I am not the judge of that. All I can say is that I am changed, and I will leave it at that.

I have seen things that have angered me to the point I had to walk away and be by myself for a time, and have also seen things that have made me wish I had another set of eyes with which to share the view. I have worked my way through routine, day after day. And have cherished the little idiosyncrasies that have come up at random intervals along the way. I have been a scientist, student, teacher, and friend. And have been both great and terrible at each at times.

In all, this has been a wonderful experience. And though this is just another cruise for some, it is another life experience for me. As Jack Kerouac would attest, any chance to gain life experience and adventure is another chance to make a story. This story may have seemed ordinary to some, but it is another chapter in the Story of My Life. The longer I live, the grander this story becomes. The longer I live, the more I see that my life is just a knot into which relationships are tied (yet another Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote). Have you enjoyed this bond with me? Has it in some way enriched your life?

I have two weeks on the Hawaiian Islands before I return home to a family I have grown to miss, a puppy and kitty I perpetually miss, friends whose summer stories I will have to catch up on, and kids who will be walking into my classroom unaware of all the changes their teacher has undergone this summer. In that time I am sure I will look back on all of this and consider myself fortunate to be one of the few to have such an experience. But I will also take the time to enjoy the simple things in life: a walk along a sandy beach, a nap under the shade of a palm, and an ice-cold beer. Life is meant to be serious when we are serious, and relaxed when we are. May you find yours as such–a little of One and a bit of The Other, but never too much of either.

Dena Deck, July 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dena Deck
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Seabird Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 2, 2006

A Laysan Albatross fledgling practices how to take flight
A Laysan Albatross fledgling practices how to take flight

Science and Technology Log

Early the sun arose, with our group preparing to band Laysan Albatross on Green Island in the ring of Kure Atoll.  Cynthia Vanderlip, Dept. of Land and Natural Resources Field Camp Leader along with Jacob Eijzenga a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, and his wife Heather a volunteer, instructed our group in the proper protocol for banding fledgling albatross.

The chicks were hatched in January. Their parents are diligent caregivers, with both doting parents providing endless warmth to their single egg.  The caregivers balance the egg on the tops of their feet and tucked in the brood patch to keep it warm. As we walked in single file to the banding area, our path was alive with young albatross fledglings holding wings out that would soon find their way to the sky.  The young chicks accepted our group into their flight training area.  They seemed to be interested in objects as we set up to band. I set my wide brimmed hat on the ground and set to capture a bird for banding. When I went to recover my hat, one of the inquisitive chicks was playfully pulling at the brightly colored band around my hat.

One of the many "hair-dos" of the Laysan Albatross chicks. We call this one the Abe Lincoln.
One of the many “hair-dos” of the Laysan Albatross chicks. We call this one the Abe Lincoln.

After he lost interest I donned my gloves and began to team up to accomplish the morning’s task. The chick hatchling arrives, and the parents start the long and tedious job of feeding their down covered chick.  Both parents contribute countless hours of flight time to collecting meals for their young.  Unknowing they will likely return with a gullet full of misplaced plastics that may cause a slow and painful death, providing little nutrients to the young chick.  Albatross mortality is higher when the chicks are younger.  There are various reasons, one being that they may have lost a parent and aren’t getting enough nutrition or their nest cup is too deep in a shrub that the parent has a hard time relocating them to feed. Albatross chicks also succumb to heat, dehydration or a failure to digest food due to the ingestion of plastics.  Parents looking for their chicks in the dense, alien verbesina plants  may succumb to the heat, leaving the chick with just one parent to care for it to fledging. Generally, the parents locate their chick by the high-pitched squawking sounds and whining whistles.  The chicks do some bill clacking and foot stomping while waiting up to two weeks for food delivery.

The bands are now made of stainless steel, identified by number, and logged with a facility in Maryland.  The stainless steel is expected to last at least 40 years, which should provide some good data over a long period of time.  In conversation, Cynthia commented to us that maybe the longline fishermen would believe that these birds were of a greater value if someone had taken the time to band them.Each albatross personality is augmented by the down wear off, almost a haircut of sorts.  The Abe Lincoln look or the Mohawk cut is fashionable.  We laughed as we walked down the old paved airstrip of the island.  Cameras were clicking continuously for over two hours of our evening stroll.

Claire practices her technique of bird banding on Green Island
Claire practices her technique of bird banding on Green Island

Laysan Albatross are very tame, seemingly heedless.  To band you must quickly take your left hand to the bird’s head, while your right hand frames the wings.  A gentle hold will keep the bird docile for another team member to band the right leg.  The birds need to be held with great care as to not damage the primary and secondary under wing feathers.  In some instances, their feathers get a little ruffled, but nothing they can’t shake out easily.

The importance of banding birds helps us understand migration patterns and the longevity of the species.  Cynthia believes that the albatross, the largest of the seabirds, live between 40-50 years and possibly even to 60 years old.  From previous banding efforts we also now know that Laysan Albatross are a species that mate for life.On this particular day, we successfully banded 93 Laysan albatross.  Each bird having its own attitude when the banding was complete.  Some walking away unfazed, others lounging aggressively, clapping their beak.  The Kure Atoll team plans to band nearly 300 Laysan Albatross this season on this particular area of the island.  That way they have a small plot they can track the return of the albatross over time.  Before our arrival, they had banded over 2,000 Black-footed Albatross before they fledged.  Apparently the Black-footed Albatross are more feisty and put up a bigger fight when getting banded.  We weren’t nearly as challenged with the somewhat docile Laysan Albatross.

It is truly an open ocean bird with a mastery of gliding flight.  They rarely approach land, only to breed on isolated, remote islands, such as Green Island in Kure Atoll. The fledglings will return in 4 years to the same location or within meters of their original nest cup, which is where they were born.  At four years of age albatross are able to mate, but have little success.  However, by the age of seven, the success rate increases with viable eggs.

After our banding activity, we pulled out some of the invasive verbesina weeds to clear a “runway” for the fledglings.  The greatest joy of this activity was seeing my banded bird attempt to take flight.  Somehow it seems right to have a full runway left on Green Island by the Coast Guard in 1992.  It serves as “real” flight training site for the albatross.

Chris Harvey, June 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 30, 2006

Science and Technology Log

“Finish well.”

-Terry Harvey, my mother

-Larry Harvey, my father

(Strange they both offer the same advice!)

Everyone’s spirits seem to be up this afternoon, for good reason. The work is finally done and we are on our way back to Honolulu! The last two days I have risen from my sleepless sleep before sunrise to drink a cup of tea before work. Recently the sunrises have paled in comparison to the sunsets, and have been followed by an inundation of rain at the same time we were set to begin hauling traps. Yesterday there was lightning and thunder so heavy that some people were actually hesitant to go outside. I cooed a gentle sigh at the sign the thunderstorm, as it was a friendly reminder of summer back home in Jacksonville. It rains hard every day for about an hour around 4-5 in the afternoon, and I usually find a way to curl up in bed and listen to the storm outside. After that, the skies clear and life goes on.

We worked through the rain both mornings. From my position yesterday as a cracker I was forced to wear foul weather gear to keep me warm and dry underneath. Again, images of an orange Gumby come to mind. But it worked and, despite the rain, we finished on time. Today I ran traps between the crackers and the stackers, though I accepted the cool rain as refreshment instead of something to be avoided.

Being on the subject of finishing, I always use the quote, “Finish well” near the beginning of the semester to try to get my kids focused on the idea of completing a task to the best of their ability. I find from my own experience, as my mother constantly reminds me, I have always struggled with the idea of finishing well. Usually I find that the last part of any given task is the hardest. Most commonly, this final segment of work is the cleaning up part. And who likes to clean up anything?

It is fun to start projects. Everyone loves a fresh chance to earn good grades, do well in an athletic season, or learn how to perform well at a new job. But very few of us enjoy finishing a semester that we did not do particularly well in, participating in an athletic event that does not matter whether we win or lose, or finishing up those last two weeks after we have put in notice of quitting a job.

Those tend to be the hardest moments, in my opinion, because our heart is no longer in whatever we are doing. If we are finishing a mediocre semester of school, our mind is either on the break between semesters or on the next semester already. If we are playing in that last sporting event and we have no chance of going into the postseason, we are probably thinking about how much free time we will have available to us or how we will begin preparing for the next season. In quitting one job, most of us would already have our minds set on our next job, or at least be thinking about how to make ends meet in the time between jobs.

So I remind my kids at the very onset of the semester, especially in the fall when they are beginning their first year of high school, to finish well. Although they have four months between the first and last day of class, each day in between contributes to whether or not they finish the semester well. Franklin Covey would tell you to “Begin with the end in Mind.” In either case, it is good to think about how you plan to finish a particular task. If you plan on finishing poorly, what is the point of even beginning the undertaking in the first place?

We are nearing the end of this cruise and have completed most of the hard work. However, there are still three days separating us from land and there are still the tasks of cleaning up and packing. Already I have found myself in denial of the fact that we still have to clean up. Kenji, our chief bosun, blasted an air horn when we hauled in the last buoy. Everyone in the pit let out their own sigh, or scream, of relief at having finished our hauling for the trip, and then cleaned up and went to lunch. I was content to let this cruise be finished, and to take these last three days as the beginning of my summer vacation. Yet as I sat in the galley eating lunch, the sound of my mother’s voice came to my head. “Finish well,” she said.

We have agreed to take the rest of the afternoon off and finish cleaning everything up tomorrow. That is good because no one is in the mood to work now anyway. The sun is finally shining outside and I think I will go take a nap in its rays, listening to my music, and thinking about nothing in particular.

Patricia Greene, June 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Greene
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 28, 2006

Science and Technology Log

We awoke with anticipation at approximately 5:30 a.m.  Today we were scheduled to arrive at Kure Atoll and with any luck would have our first snorkel experience in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  We have been in transit twenty-four hours a day for six days onboard the NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai.  We have covered a distance equal to traveling from Houston, Texas to Reno, Nevada.

Our snorkel gear is placed on deck near the loading area at 6:45 a.m. and after a quick breakfast we go up on deck with anticipation of our first view of Kure’s Green Island.  Two shade trees are in the middle of the island and appropriately a rainbow drapes the north end.  Birds; albatrosses, terns, and frigate birds fly out to greet us, while spinner dolphins play in the spray at the bow of our ship.  What an awesome welcome!

At last we are instructed to load and we pull away from the Hi’ialakai, excited and anxious to see this underwater realm that we have all been reading, researching and immersed in the last six days while transiting.At 7:30 a.m. the dive and snorkel team meet on the fantail and receive one last safety meeting from the Chief Boatswain and Dive Saftey Officer, Mark L. O’Conner.  Protocol on the ship is that the Maritime Archeology dive boat, the H1, is loaded first with supplies and people then lowered by crane into the ocean.  Next the research vessel Ahiwith the University of Hawaii and NOAA mapping crew will enter the water, also by hydraulics.  Lastly our snorkeling boat, an inflatable zodiac with a 50hp 4 stroke will be placed in the water.  The only difference is our boat is not loaded so therefore we pass supplies into the boat and then we will need to climb down a Jacob’s ladder on the side of the Hi’ialakai in order to enter the boat.

Our first reward is the sight of a Hawaiian monk seal on one of the sand spits.  Ordinary Seaman, Jason Kehn, our coxswain, is careful to take the boat far around the area so as to not disturb this rare, endangered species.  The monk seal is apparently oblivious to our presence and only when we see a flipper move and his head rise, are we sure he is not dead.

After last minute safety instructions and advice to “look predators in the eye,” we are ready to enter the reefs.  The water around us is a collage of vibrant shades of blue and turquoise.  We open our eyes and are surrounded immediately by a huge school of chubs; seemingly curious and unafraid of us.  The visibility is phenomenal, probably 80ft.; the water crystal clear with no turbidity.Jason competently maneuvers to our dive site; we are grateful that he knows the area because our GPS is telling us we are still 21 miles from the site! We tie up to a CREWS (Coral Reef Early Warning System) buoy; one that transmits temperature, turbidity, and other environmental data that can detect significant impacts to the coral reef ecosystem.

Fishes are numerous in Kure Atoll’s lagoon. Smaller species dominated our survey area. This may be explained by the coral reef habitat.  Coral cover was around 80 percent, with finger coral (Porites compressa) being the dominant species.  Living finger coral provides many hiding holes for the juveniles and adults of smaller species, and this may be the reason for the great abundance of smaller species of fish.

Ellyn, our naturalist from Hawai`i, observed that overall there is greater diversity in the fish species in the NWHI than on the main Hawaiian Islands, however, in general the fish were smaller in size for their species.  Patty, our Teacher-at-Sea from the Florida Keys noted that overall the coral appeared much healthier that many of the reefs in the keys and noted the absence of the soft corals and brain coral so common in the keys. Finger coral may be an endemic species and is quick growing, often out competing other coral species for space.  Massive continuous heads created yards of living reef on our survey site.  We observed that the sheer weight of the massive heads often forced large pieces of living reef to break off and form rubble fields below the living reef.  These rubble fields provide highly desirable substrate onto which other species of corals recruit and create many tiny hiding holes, very desirable homes for larval fish to recruit into from the water column.  Homes for the adults, homes for the recruiting juveniles…what a perfect place to live!

Chris Harvey, June 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 27, 2006

Science and Technology Log

“It is only when we become conscious of our part in life, however modest, that we shall be happy.”

Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’ve just returned from outside, after spending the evening playing guitar and watching the twilight sky fade into a charcoal background. Of course the sunset was spectacular. Nobody was really paying attention to it. But I pointed out a waterfall of clouds to Carole, who stopped drawing for a moment and gasped at the view. A ring of cumulus clouds in the shape of a flattened oval enclosed a portion of the red sky. In the middle of the oval, a vertical stream of wispy clouds seemed to fall down into the sea. Carole ran to get her camera to take a picture. But I knew that images like this don’t turn out the way we want them to on film. So I just watched the waterfall of clouds until darkness seeped in from all directions and swallowed us.

I am starting to get peculiar emotional twinges inside of me that leave me somewhat sad. It always happens to me at this point in any journey, when the end is of closer proximity than the beginning. We will be at sea for another week- three days of work and another four in transit back to Honolulu- and yet one week does not carry such excitement as it did three weeks ago when the adventure was first begun. Granted, I have not enjoyed every moment of the cruise. But I have become used to waking up and walking outside and having the sea in all directions. I know that there will be a dozen albatross following behind the ship, searching for their breakfast in our wake as I eat my own. And that the swells will be gentle in the morning until the wind picks up later in the afternoon. I know when the crew will change shifts and who I can expect to see working in various locations throughout the day. I can tell you what job I did yesterday, what I will be doing today, as well as what my job tomorrow will be. Everything has become so comfortable. Everything has become so familiar. Everything has become Reality- one that will change again in another week.

As I reflect back on my journal entries from my expedition across the United States immediately before this cruise, I can see how my perspective changes in this moment. Things begin to make more sense. All of the ideas that I have been tossing around in my head for the last three weeks begin to tie together. The good experiences and the bad experiences synthesize to create a whole experience. Even the things that I once disagreed to now seem to have their place in my mind as necessary at the time.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have become more mature in this experience. Although the purpose of this cruise was for me to gain exposure to science in action (which I have in abundance), I feel as though a side purpose has been to stretch me in ways I have not been stretched before. Old ideas, once tested, have been brought back to be tested again. New ideas, rich in energy and perspective, displace old ideas that have failed the test of mind. I have become a collection of ideas that has changed me into the man that I am today- so much different from three weeks ago, and much more different from what I will be when I return home in three more weeks time.

And have you ever seen a thunderstorm so far out to sea? For some reason I never thought lightning possible out over open water before- though I remember last summer I sat on the upstairs porch of a hotel in La Ceiba, Honduras looking out over a Caribbean storm that seemed to be displacing large amounts of electrical energy on the sea. The air was warm and humid, and I recall looking down onto the street corner at a man, our security guard, pacing back and forth with a cigarette in his mouth and machete in hand, completely unaware from where he was that the sky was opening up in the distance. Tonight was no different for me as I sat up outside the bridge and watched the lightning tear apart the night sky. The sun had long since set, and black appeared black across the horizon until the lightning lit up the night. Miles and miles away, the faint lights outlined layer upon layer of clouds between me and the obscure infinite beyond- defining the night in terms of different shades of black and gray. It was remarkable to see. As most things out here seem to be.

As for the science today, we caught more lobster today than we have on any other day. I was in the lab processing the lobsters. Usually being in the lab is great because there are not too many lobsters to measure, so you get a lot of free time to read or talk or sit or whatever you want to do. Bob is still in the lab entering the data for today, so I do not know the exact numbers. But what I do know is that the only break we had today was for lunch. Every other minute of the day, between 8:10 when the first trap was hauled over the side and 2:15 when we measured the last lobster, was filled with measuring lobster. Offhand, I would have to say that we probably averaged about 6 or 7 lobsters per trap. Adding all of the traps together, that’s between 960 – 1120 lobsters, all of which I had to hold in my hands and measure! Talk about a productive day.

Tomorrow I am back in the pit cracking traps. This does not thrill me very much. In fact, it does not thrill me at all. But one of the things that I have learned from reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery is that fulfilling one’s duty in life provides all of the satisfaction that one should require from it. Maybe this will make the mundane things in life more meaningful to me. I have particular duties and responsibilities in life that I have committed myself to fulfilling. In serving these obligations, not only am I demonstrating myself as a man of character, but also I am contributing to the satisfaction of my soul in ways I may not understand until the entire task is complete.

Bob thanked me tonight for my work in the lab today. As I mentioned, it was rather stressful work for all of us involved. Yet we each did our duties to the best of our abilities and the task was completed successfully. Bob knows that I have particular reservations against my work, and his gratitude for my hard work today dismissed my reservations- however necessary and/or proper they seem to be to me- and demonstrated the greater purpose of my time out here. He is dependent upon me working hard on this cruise, as I agreed to in the beginning, and if I give anything less than my best -solely because I feel that I should not work as hard because I do not agree with all of it- then I am not living up to my duties. There are ways to be happy, even when you feel unhappy about what you are doing. If you can somehow seek the sense of duty of it all, the importance of your work to the big picture- whatever that might be- then perhaps work will provide that sensation of “happiness” that seems altogether elusive to most people in the world. Just some thoughts.

Dena Deck, June 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dena Deck
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 26 – July 30, 2006

Mission: Seabird Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 27, 2006

Science and Technology Log

In maritime archaeology, as well as in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. Whereas in the towns and cities we use roads to locate a house, when studying a shipwreck, maritime archeologists use a method called “trilateration.” Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Pacific Islands Region Maritime Heritage Program Coordinator, explains “trilateration is the technique we use to record the precise position of artifacts and their distribution on a wreck site. It’s a hands-on, relatively simple method for divers to map out these artifacts on the bottom.”

A shipwreck, much like a car accident, is often the product of a violent event. And once a ship is on the ocean’s bottom, wood decomposes and metals rust. The remains of a ship are scattered by currents and inhabited by animals. It often takes many years, hundreds of years sometimes, before these remains are seen again. A shipwreck no longer resembles its original shape, and its many parts are found far from the original structure, and some are never found again. How would you locate all these remnants?

For objects within 3 meters (approx. 10 feet) of this baseline, a single transect line is used, placed at right angles to the baseline. For objects which are farther away, two transect lines are placed, each beginning at different points on the baseline, forming a triangle. This triangle can be relocated on graph paper, plotting each artifact’s position with accuracy. For small objects, only one reference point is required (one triangle). For larger objects, such as an anchor, two reference points are used to have an idea of the size and orientation of the artifact, each point requiring two transect lines and yielding two triangles. For each transect line, the distance from the baseline is measured and drawn, underwater, on water-proof paper. At the end of a dive, all measures and drawings are combined into a single diagram of the wreck. What can you find at a shipwreck? Cannons, anchors, boiler pieces, fasteners, and rigging.First, start with a baseline. A baseline is a temporary line, a reference for the position of all artifacts in its vicinity. It consists of a measuring tape placed temperately at the bottom of the sea floor near the wreck. Once this baseline is set, transect tapes are used to measure the distance to every artifact.

Because the amount of artifacts related to a wreck are large, and bottom time is limited, marine archaeology teams often cannot fully catalog an entire site on a single cruise, and often have to come back to it several times. When dedicated teams of scientists return to the neighborhood to continue work, they grow more familiar with the area and artifact, a site of past human history and tragedy under the waves. It’s all about location, location, location.Find, locate, measure, draw. It might sound simple enough, but when you are working with a team of people underwater, communication is limited. Everyone on the team has done this before, but not together. Dr. Van Tilburg mentions the importance of team practice by noting that “Some of [the] team is from Florida, some from the West coast, but it’s good for us to practice this because we all have our tricks and gimmicks and we want to make sure we are on the same page of who’s doing what underwater, because you do this these things on dry land, it all seems very simple, but as you well know, when you get on the water, everything gets twice as difficult.

Chris Harvey, June 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 25, 2006

Crew Interview: Huntley Brownell, Deckhand

“Rather than defining my life by working a job, what will define me is the relationships I form along the way.”

The most remarkable thing about Huntley is that he was born in the backseat of a Greyhound bus heading down Highway 41. Since then it seems he has been on the move, discovering this world one place at a time. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Huntley left home after a year in college and set out to explore the world. Although his mother was not in full approval of his decision to leave, his father–a biologist working for NOAA–knew that he needed a bit of time out in the world before attending college.

After working several small jobs, Huntley put in his application with NOAA and then forgot about it for several months until one day he received a call asking if he was still interested. “Can you start work in 2 days,” the voice on the other end asked. Huntley accepted the offer and was at sea on the COBB between Seattle and Alaska almost immediately. After 3 months of working, he found out about an opening on the SETTE, based out of the tropics instead of the arctic, and has been working onboard the SETTE for the last two years.

Only planning on spending a summer or so working on the SETTE, Huntley found himself quickly addicted to the fix that traveling to remote parts of the world offered. “It is a good way to travel and see places you wouldn’t normally see as a tourist.” And sure enough, one cruise to Samoa turned into another to Marianas. Like most travelers, it was always the thought of the next trip that kept him going cruise after cruise.

While at sea, Huntley is an avid reader, crediting The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, as one of his favorite, life-changing books. (I also agree, as a fellow journeyman, that this is one book not to be missed.) He is also teaching himself guitar and studying for his private pilot’s license. Flying when back in Oahu is one of the things that have opened Huntley’s perspective of life.

Although he cannot recall his favorite memory onboard the SETTE, as he says there have been so many, he narrowed down the years of past experience to two: the time that the fishermen were catching big tuna right and left and it was fun to be a part of that, even though he hadn’t earned his fishing spot yet, and the first time he came to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and saw a part of the islands that most people never get to see.

Huntley loves the sea, but senses the urge inside of him to travel again. He has no immediate plans of where he might move on to, but with a strong feeling that it is nearing time, his options are unlimited: “The older I get, the less I know what I want to do. The more you travel, the more open doors you see. And you know you can walk through any one of them.”

Chris Harvey, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 23, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“When both feet are planted firmly, you are stuck”

I can only think of one thing to write about today- or yesterday, or the day before, for that matter. That is, what day is today? Piglet would tell me that today is the day after yesterday, which does not help since I do not know what day yesterday is. And Pooh would tell me that today is the day before tomorrow, which makes more sense, but not enough. Eeyore would tell me that today is a bad day, while Rabbit would tell me that today is however many days past the first of the year it so happens to be (as he calculates how many days have passed since then!). Owl would tell me that today is just a state of pondering what today really means. And Christopher Robin would tell me that today is today, of course! I was thinking that today must be close to July. Days just seem to pass out here. And it seems we are much closer to being back in port than to being out to sea. And yet a container of milk said June 14 for the expiration date. So I think to myself, are we in some kind of time warp, or am I drinking milk that is two weeks past expiration? Pooh says expiration dates don’t matter anyway, as long as you put some honey in the milk. (Is it the sun, or salty air, or both that are getting to me?)

But low and behold, as I poured the crunchy ice-milk into my cup I realized that my rationality, what the sun and sea have not taken from me, had been undermined by a piece of modern technology called a freezer! God bless the freezer! We have been eating “fresh” fruit and vegetables for over twenty days now, and I have had no complaint on the freshness of the food. Scurvy has stayed clear of the Oscar Elton Sette!

Presently we are anchored off of Maro Reef, far enough out not to do damage to the reef, yet close enough that- with my mega ultra 17 X super zoom lens (it’s not really that great!)- I can see waves breaking on the reef. Our friendly albatross has multiplied during the day, and all but disappeared during the evening. Have I mentioned how amazing these creatures are?

In terms of work, yesterday we averaged nearly six lobsters per trap, which was a substantial increase over past days in the NWHI. However today was back to normal. We are in our last rotation of jobs this week, which is bittersweet in that by the end of the week we get another break. Only this time the break is for good. I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt, I will not miss hauling and setting lobster traps.

However, having just observed the Pacific sunset (behind a big nasty storm, beautiful nonetheless) I am reminded of my joys while being here. And yes I still coo like a schoolgirl over her first crush when I see the stars at night. I’ve made it a point to spend several hours a night lying underneath them. I have come up with my own constellations, since the other ones seem to be rather old and archaic. There is the Hippopotamus, the Wishbone, the Giraffe, the Arrow, the Sun to name a few (Yes, I know the Sun already exists. But I have found another one, much brighter than our own, but further away…Have I told you of the sun and salty air and what it does to the mind?)

As for the quote of the day. When both feet are planted firmly, one would think they would be on stable ground. This is good for some, and bad for others. I am of the kind that likes to think that two feet planted implies immobility. Although it does not quite rule out two feet firmly planted while running in some direction. Still, I always think of my life- the few times I think of my life in terms of footsteps- as having one foot on the ground, and one foot in the clouds. But that might also be because the more I think about planting myself anywhere, the more I want to get up and go somewhere else. In fact, I think that at this very moment I shall quit my teaching job and find a job as a deckhand in Honolulu! (That is the foot in the clouds speaking!) Of course this is not sensible, but can you imagine the stories I would be able to tell you then!

My friends Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, and Christopher Robin want me to mention that, if you get the chance, you should read The Tao of Pooh. For those of you who know me, you will find that the cover of the book somewhat resembles a piece of artwork tattooed to my right leg (or rather, the artwork on my right leg somewhat resembles the cover of the book). Either way, the book is wonderful in that it brings about a simpler perspective of life. I have been reading it in the time I have been out here, savoring the pages for the perspective that I gain from them.

Other than that, life goes on like Groundhog Day. Did I mention the effect of the sun and the salty air on the mind? Oh, thanks Pooh, I see that I have. Well it makes one love the sea and all of the Beautiful experiences that one experiences out here. Absolutely amazing!

Chris Harvey, June 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 22, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“If your mind and heart are true, the world is good.”

I have quite taken to the idea of including a quote at the beginning of every journal entry. Although it is rather reminiscent of my warm up assignment for my kids in class each day (yes, I did vow not to speak of class again on this trip), I find that if I start my day with a good quote, it helps to keep my thoughts a little clearer throughout the rest of the day. For this reason I drink a cup of green tea in the morning, and tend to heed the advice of the little slip of paper attached to the tea bag.

This morning was different, however, since I did not get out of bed until 12:30 in the afternoon! I messed up my routine with my daily quote and my hot cup of tea with breakfast, but the chance to sleep in was one I knew I must take advantage of. This is my summer vacation after all!

We had drills almost immediately after I woke up. This meant that the general alarm was sounded, ensuring that I was in fact awake, and we had to muster on the boat deck until our fake fire was extinguished. In this drill, I got to hold a fire hose and spray water out into the ocean. I think when I get back I am going to be a fireman instead of a teacher! We also had our “abandon ship” drill, which required us to muster at the lifeboats with our safety jacket, long sleeve shirt and pants, and our exposure suit (My favorite part of this drill came on our first day when we actually got to try on the exposure suit. I looked like a sunburned Gumby!). I always look at the people who are supposed to be on my lifeboat as potential meals when the dry rations run out. (This is, of course a joke. I am finding that my humor on the ship is often a bit too witty for the crew. And so my journal entries are becoming my outlet for my release of humorous energy.)

After drills I watched a couple of movies. The first is one I know my mother would enjoy on a Friday night, wrapped up in her four kittens with a bowl of popcorn and a wine spritzer (can I say wine spritzer in a journal entry?!) It is a British fairy tale of sorts, upon Amee’s insistence, called Nanny McPhee. Amee was confident that I would not be able to sit through the whole thing. Not only did I watch the movie from start to finish, but also I found myself with moistened eyes at its happy ending! (We watched Hotel Rwanda yesterday and I was in full-fledged tears. Do not expect happy feelings from that one.)

We then put in Madagascar, one of my new cartoon favorites! I have to say that if I were a kid again, which I am still at heart but not in outward appearance, most of the humor would have gone right over my head. As it is, the humor settled perfectly on my level and I am now in a rather cheerful mood. This is partly due to the fact that it brought back memories to a very positive classroom experience for me.

One of my students, a “favorite” if a teacher is allowed to have “favorites,” brought in the movie and asked me to show it in class one day. Unfortunately I did not have the creative capability to find a way to incorporate it into my curriculum (Boss, if you are reading this, can you find the creative capability to incorporate it into my curriculum?!). But she wanted to share with the class a song that best described her personality and outlook on life. Yes, even as a science teacher I dared step into the realm of exploring my student’s personalities and modes of expression. She shared with us the song “I like to move it, move it,” which is really very basic in terms of its lyrics. But put into the context of the movie, I found it to be very descriptive of this child.

The particular student, call her Sue for the sake of simplicity, had one of the biggest hearts that I have ever had the fortune to come in contact with. She struggled very hard with my class, but always came into my room with a smile on her face and asked me what she could do for me. I always told her she could teach the class for me so I could sit in the back and take a nap, and she always laughed (even though there wasn’t much funny about that comment). I would ask my students to keep track of what I call their “List of 5’s and 3’s,” which was a list that we would make every Monday at the beginning of class that would address 5 positive things and 3 negative things that the students did to/for themselves, and 5 positive things and 3 negative things that the students did to/for other people. I always stressed the things that we did for other people, which was always the hardest for most of the students. However, Sue never had any problems with her list because her life was so full of helping other people who each time she did something good for someone else, she was doing something good for herself. She asked me if it was OK for her to have both lists contain the same thing. I looked at her and smiled as I said that it was, because inside of me I had a particular jealousy over the fact that she could have such a heart.

In all my traveling I look for friendly faces in time of need. Whether I need directions to a particular location, or a place to sleep at night, I find that- although many times they are few and far between- friendly faces always emerge at just the right time to help me out of the situation. Finding a child like Sue in my very own classroom was a blessing to me because I did not have to go out and seek that friendly face among strangers. She made it a point to be so brilliantly kind and generous to every one of her classmates and teachers, that it was hard to have complaints after having her in class, even if it wasn’t the best of days. It is strange now to speak of a child with such high regard, but as I tell my students at the end of every semester before I let them go into the world, a teacher can learn a great bit more from his students than his students can learn from him, if he pays attention to them and takes the time to get to know them.

I say that I am hesitant to think about school while on my summer vacation, but it warms my heart to think about all of the positive things I have seen in and around my classroom as a result of my kids. Too often I find myself grumbling about how terrible and destructive students are for themselves and for others. And though I am reminded by others, especially my mother who is not only a great parent but also a colleague at school, that “children will be children,” and that I was no worse than they were when I was their age, I take great comfort in watching my kids progress through the months that they are in my classroom.

I spoke earlier on this trip with Amee about a similar idea, and mentioned in some way that “kids these days” are… (I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the … could be filled in by pretty much anything). She smiled and looked at me and repeated what I said. At that moment I realized that, perhaps for the first time, I was a “Grown-Up.” I had made the discrimination between myself and a younger generation, and I realized that I have moved onto a new phase in my life where I am often viewed with the same contempt by some of my students as I held some of my teachers. And on the other side of things, I remember how well I respected and adored some of my teachers for their instruction and for the way they seemed to care about me. This has been a truly revolutionary moment in my life, as an adult and teacher, because I see now how much of an impact I have on my kids- whether positively, or negatively.

So I think about the song from Madagascar and it makes me smile. I think about Sue and how she has probably filled her summer with chances to make the world a better place. And it leaves me out here in a moment of solitude and reflection, as I take in the scenery around me, wondering what the world would be like without such friendly faces among strangers.

Chris Harvey, June 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“Accept something you cannot change, and you will feel wetter.” -Taoist principle, modified

While working in the pit the last three days, I have noticed a peculiar anticipation out of which two Taoist principles emerge:

  1. Do I look behind me in constant fear that the next swell will be the one that crashes over the side and drenches me?
  2. Do I avoid getting wet at all costs, holding onto the comfort of dry boots and clothing for as long as possible?

A quick reminder of what the “pit” is. Along the port side (left) of the ship about halfway between bow and stern (right in the middle) there is a section of the ship designed for hauling in lobster traps and the catch from long line fishing. It is between 5 and 10 feet above the waterline and, at parts, very open to approaching waves. Depending on how much the ship rolls on the swells (rocks back and forth on its sides), and how large the swells are that day, it is possible to take large quantities of water into the pit.

Our first few days were very uneventful in that the ship did not roll very much because there were small, if any, swells in the Pacific. In such conditions, one could expect to remain rather dry and comfortable while working in the pit. However, since the swells have picked up, thus causing the ship to roll quite a bit, working in the pit has meant inevitable inundation from the sea. Herein lie the principles at hand.

1. The question of constantly turning one’s head in attempt to see whether the next approaching swell is large enough to get one soaking wet is really an issue of accepting the inevitable in a prescribed situation. When you consider the conditions that you are 1) working on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2) hauling in lobster traps from the bottom of the seafloor, 3) closer to the swells than anywhere else on the ship, you must accept the fact that at some point in the 8-9 hour day, you will be soaking wet. Yet some of us, myself included, find the temptation to look over our shoulders at times too much. It is not enough to see our partner’s eyes, which are facing the oncoming waves, grow larger and larger as a wave approaches. We must then turn ourselves to see what fate we, in fact, cannot change. I have saved a bit of advice from a fortune cookie that I opened once in June 2001 (Yes, I remember the date because the advice has proven that important over time): “Accept something you cannot change, and you will feel better.” In this case I think the fortune should read, “Accept something you cannot change, and you will feel wetter.”

2. The question of avoiding getting wet at all costs is a simple extension of the first question. It is inevitable that one will be drenched by the end of the day when working in the pit. This is one fate, as reluctant as one might be, that is best admitted at the onset of work. It is true that wet boots are known for causing wrinkly toes. But if you seek the good in wrinkly toes, whatever that may be, then the anxiety of having them will be extinguished. One can then proceed to crack open traps with the peace inside that salt water can be the cure for the common soul, in addition to being the cure for the common scrape or cut. In fact, I find it quite a relief to stomp around in the seawater like a child dancing in the rain. Others might consider this childishness irrelevant to the job, when in fact remaining a child at heart is one of the best, if not the best, remedies for any ailment or anxiety.

As you can probably tell, I am at a loss of things to write about. Still I am known for finding obscure trivialities and then elaborating on them until they seem important! In any case, we have hauled in the last of the lobster traps at our Necker Island location, and are now underway further north and west towards Maro Reef. It is supposed to take us two days to get there, in which we are given a chance to get some solid rest and sleep. The last two weeks have been rather full of activity and I think it will be nice to have some time off.

Chris Harvey, June 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 20, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Today has been rather uneventful in the world of lobster fishermen. I was in the pit as a cracker for my last day for a while. That is good because dead fish are no fun to play with. Except that I made friends with “Albert the Albatross” with the help of Amee. She would get on one side of the boat and whistle at Albert (who she incidentally named, very creative that girl is!) and I would wait on the other side for him to fly away from her. Then I would toss him a fish and he would be happy. And I would be happy watching him be happy. Then the sharks below him would be happy because they would think that they had a nice feather-filled snack (if sharks could think, this is what they would think). Then Albert would try to take off. The goofball that he is, he would flap his wings and then kick his feet along the top of the water as though he was running a marathon. (I tell you what, if I had a dozen Galapagos sharks underneath me fighting over who was going to get a nice bite out of my rear end, I would be running on top of the water too!) Albert would get away and we would both be happy once again. It has been a very happy day for pretty much every party involved. Except of course for the mackerel that we use as bait. They have been very unlucky for a long time. At least since they were caught and frozen and shipped from Taiwan several weeks ago. Before then I am sure that they were as happy as a school of mackerel could be!

I have found myself in the middle of a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince. He had an amazing life, short as it was, and kept track of his adventures and stories along the way. In the story I am reading now, Wind, Sand, and Stars, he recounts his first years as a French airmail pilot back in the 1920s and 1930s. Talk about amazing stuff. The guy seemed to crash a plane every few weeks! And he walked away from all but one (the one in the middle of World War II that was responsible for his disappearance forever). I am also reading a short book of his quotes on the side. He was a very insightful human being- full of love and compassion and optimism for the human potential. So as you can imagine, I am paying close attention to the things he has said.

Many of the passages in The Little Prince and in Wind, Sand, and Stars that have stood out in my reading of them have been included in this short book of quotes. Also, since I am borrowing Huntley’s copies of the books, I find that Huntley has also dog-eared the corners of the book in the same places. And I reflect back on an experience I had just recently, at the end of my cross-country drive just days before leaving on this cruise.

My friends and I ended up in Yosemite National Park near the border of California and Nevada and were surprised at what we found. Thinking that this park would be similar to the parks I have visited around the world, I was sure that we would find our own part of the park away from everyone else and be able to get off the beaten trail and do some hiking. As it turns out, thousands upon thousands of visitors enter the park each day. Not only this, but the park has several places where you can eat prepared food (including a huge grocery store), stay in resort hotels, and take tour busses throughout the park. We were even able to purchase gasoline inside the park (at the rate of $3.85/ gallon!).  This was not what I imagined of Yosemite.

What is more, the park is HUGE. We had no idea where to begin. And since we only had one day to visit as many parts of the park as we wanted we followed the handout that the rangers gave us and every other vehicle to enter the park that day. By the way NEVER give yourself one day for Yosemite, give yourself at least a week.

Those of you who know me well know that I would rather take the long way around a crowd, than to find myself mixed up in one. In Yosemite we did not have an option. We were part of the crowd everywhere we went. So we crawled our way up to Glacier Point, at the top of the park looking down upon Yosemite Valley, behind a long line of cars headed to the same place. Once there, we rushed out of the car excited about what we were going to see.

What we saw were hundreds of people standing around in the afternoon sun eating ice cream bars and taking pictures of each other with the valley in the background. But I forced myself to look beyond the people for a moment, and into the valley. What I saw was absolutely amazing. And of all of the mountain views I have seen in my life, this one was perhaps the most remarkable. I stood at the edge of a 2,000-foot ledge and looked down into the valley where cars moved like ants below us and thought about how special the moment was for me, regardless of how many other people were around.

Moments later, when the astonishment of the scenery had calmed a little inside of me, I took to watching other people enjoying the view. At some point during this time I had a revolutionary thought that I never thought myself capable of thinking before: Some things are great by their essence, and that is what draws people together around them. Crowds cannot take away the essence of something Beautiful. They may distract you from it, or ruin the “perfect photograph,” but the Beauty still remains beneath it all.

In Yosemite I was in a crowd of people all desiring to admire the Beauty of the park for whatever reason each of us had. For some, it was a checklist of things to do in the United States. For others, it was a weekend trip from the city. And for us, it was the realization of all of our effort in driving across the country in the week before. Whatever our reasons, we all shared the same awe and admiration for something that is truly spectacular in its essence.

In reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and any other author for that matter, and recognizing quotes from his stories in other places, I find myself comforted in the fact that others recognize the same Beautiful things that I do. So often I give up on humanity still appreciating the simple, Beautiful things in life. And when I experience Yosemite as I have, and read A Guide for Grown-Ups as I am now, it warms my heart and makes me optimistic for those of us who find Beauty in the simple things.

I have leant Huntley one of my favorite Hermann Hess books, Narcissus and Goldmund, and he has told me that he has the same experiences in reading it as I have had in reading his. Is this not the goal of any author, that his readers would find agreements among each other as to the Beauty of his prose? It is, for me, something that I strive for as I teach myself to write from all of the experiences I have gained thus far in life. Will people look back one day and find words that I have shared with them to have truly moved them to feel something? To do something? To be something?

“True freedom lies only in the creative process. The fisherman is free when he fishes according to his instinct. The sculptor is free when carving a face.”

Chris Harvey, June 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 19, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We are back within eyesight of Necker Island, after spending the last few days fairly far off to the southeast. I have issues with backtracking when traveling. I remember returning to Dublin eleven days after I left it several years back. I hitchhiked around the entire country of Ireland, filling the time with wonderful tales of adventure and company I met along the way. And when I revisited Dublin in order to catch a flight to Brussels, the city remained the same- but I had changed.

Necker Island feels the same to me now as Dublin had then. Both were spectacular in their own respect. And both were markers in the timeline of Christopher Harvey’s life, in a sense that they both stirred his heart to the point that traveling has become as essential as breathing. Yet this time the waters around Necker Island are rough, clouds surround us here, and we are constantly plagued with the chance that we might get rain at any moment. This is just the physical change I have noticed.

Emotionally, I have been run through the ringer- having performed each job on the line, having conversation with many crew members that have allowed me to know them and myself better, having read many more words from books that have taken seed within my heart, and having survived a two-day cold (Thus the reason for no entry yesterday. I was sick in bed for 16 hours!) . I shouldn’t try to be any more poetic than any other person who has ever noted the effect of time on a soul, but I will because I cannot help myself:

“Time is the only factor that moves us, even when we don’t want to move. It brings us into hard times, and out of them all the same. It gives us the room to look back and laugh or cry at the things that we have done, and the hope to look forward to the good things ahead. It prods us. It changes us. It befriends us, even when we push It away. It is, and so we must be- with It or without It, Time moves on.”

I have made Time my friend on this cruise. Even though routine is wearing me thin- especially now that the sleep is not as good as it used to be- I find myself grateful for the time aboard the ship. I know that as soon as I step foot off of the Oscar Sette and venture into the world of Honolulu, I will look back on the sunsets I have seen here and be grateful for each of them. I will be sad to leave my new friends behind, though like always, they will remain with me in memories and email (for as long as distant friends can remain friends). I will be forced into a new world- exciting nonetheless- in which the only thing that remains constant in my life will be Time as my friend.

Hopefully we have all found some way to befriend Time. How many of us know how long she will be here with us? How many things have you thought of doing, “if only I had more time”? For me there are too many.

I have had conversations with Huntley, perhaps my closest crewmember friend on the ship, and his story has moved me to embrace the time I have. I hope to write about him so you too can know him better. But he is hard to write about. A friend once told me that the reason she never took a picture with me was because I was too dynamic for a still picture. I have carried those words in my heart, because some of us slow down to the point that a picture might capture our essence. Some of us become predictable. We become easily captured in a photograph. Huntley is one of those people who is too full of life to describe in words, though I will try sometime. He has given me great thoughts of the world out there- of the people that he and I are supposed to meet someday- and I cannot help but wonder if I am becoming inactive in my life. Am I settled down already? Will I read about Huntley’s adventures one day and tell everyone that I could have done the same, if only I had more time?

Amee received some of the best news a marine biologist/traveler could receive at 7 am today. She has been accepted into a program in which she will be working on a German research vessel in the waters surrounding Antarctica. While this may sound boring to some, I find it to be extremely fascinating. You may not know how hard it is to visit Antarctica, but it is not like traveling to Europe or South America. And as one of the seven continents that I have made it a goal to visit in my lifetime, Antarctica holds a special place in my heart. In Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, I had a dream of the mysterious continent. It was one of the most peaceful scenes I can recall- the stillness at the end of the world. I’ve asked Amee to take as many pictures as she can while she is there in hopes that one of her pictures might recapture this dream for me.

Will I make it to Antarctica someday? Should Time continue to be my friend, I imagine so. Will I take to the wind and wisp myself around the world? I cannot decide right now. What I do know is that we are midway through our cruise and Time is both an ally and an enemy to many of us. Many of the crewmembers have family back at port that they are anxious to see. Many have already been at sea for some 250 out of the past 365 days and just want a break from life at sea. Still others have plans of traveling the mainland and visiting friends and familiar places. Time seems an enemy to some- it keeps them from the things they have come to love the most. But I imagine they all have hearts for the sea- for what else could bring them out here but a love of the ocean, joy in the sunsets, and some sense of satisfaction that what they are doing here is what they are supposed to be doing with their lives.

We scientists are but transient visitors. We invade the space and privacy of those who make the Sette their home for two-thirds of the year. We often get in the way, or ask stupid questions, and sometimes even make faulty inferences based on our limited knowledge of life at sea. But we are doing our best to become family out here. And even if it seems that there might be conflict or drama evolving, we all recognize the need to remedy the problem immediately. My friends out here are good friends. We have to be. On July 4th we might become strangers again. That is the reality of life on shore. But life on the ship is different, and friends are either the easiest or the most difficult to come by.

I know that I said I would be observing the dynamics of individuals more than I have been. But it seems sometimes this task is a bit too much at times. And on the other end, the science of the ship is becoming routine. We rotate jobs each day, and the catch rate is remaining just about on par of what it has been in the past. We have not had any extraordinary days in terms of how our catch went. But as I have already mentioned, Time is doing some peculiar things to us out here- rather, Time is giving us the opportunity to do some peculiar things. Some fuses are growing shorter. Some fuses are remaining the same. No fuses seem to be growing longer. I sometimes feel unwelcome for I am a bit too honest about some things I have noticed. I have learned in life to be wary of passing judgment and I avoid doing this as much as possible. Still I haven’t figured out how to walk on water yet, unless I’m pulled behind a ski boat, and I know that I am probably contributing equally to the shortening of fuses as anyone else out here. We have fifteen more days at sea- as many left as we have put in already- and I wonder how they will go. Will we grow into better friends? Or will we tear away from each other and come in contact only when we have to? As the proverbial “They” say, “only Time will tell.”

Back to the classroom for a minute (I just gave myself the shivers in mentioning the word “classroom” while still early into my summer vacation!). The Hawaiian Islands are the result of what geologists call a “hot spot,” Essentially this is a pool of magma under the earth’s crust that is waiting to rise up wherever it can due to density differences between materials. Every now and then a crack will form in the crust, and this pool of magma is able to seep out.

To complicate matters, the Earth’s tectonic plates are geologically active, meaning that they are continuously moving in one direction or another. For instance, the Pacific plate, cradling the Pacific Ocean, is moving generally in the Northwest direction. Once upon a time, some millions of years ago, a hole opened up in the Pacific plate. As a result, this hot spot magma flowed through the crust and formed a series of undersea volcanoes. Over time the volcanoes built up and up and up until they broke the surface of the ocean. At this point we would call the volcano, and the exposed land around the volcano, an island.

Because the Pacific Plate is moving northwest and the hot spot remains stationary underneath the crust, as the Pacific Plate moves, a series of volcanoes form over the hot spot. Over time these volcanoes form what geologists call “island arcs.” In the case of the Hawaiian Islands, those islands farthest from the hot spot are the ones farthest northwest. The newer islands are closer to the hot spot, which is currently located near the Big Island, or Hawaii. I say “near” because there is a new island in the making that is slightly southeast from Hawaii. However, the island of Hawaii is still very active.

Necker Island is one of the older volcanic islands, believed to at one point been made up of two cone volcanoes. What has happened to Necker Island over time is that its weight has actually pushed the island further and further below sea level. When I first arrived I was very surprised to find that Necker Island was more of a “rock” than an “island.” But looking at nautical charts of the depths around Necker Island, where we have been doing all of our lobster trapping, it is very easy to see the borders of what used to be a rather large island. We are dropping traps in about 15 fathoms of water (15 times 6 feet), and almost immediately to the other side of the ship where we drop traps the water drops down in some cases to about 1,365 fathoms (1,365 times 6 feet)! I wish that I could attach a topographic map of the island and the waters around the island, but without Internet on the ship it is hard to find.

Eventually Necker Island will do what the islands to the northwest are doing, and it will completely sink down into the sea. When this happens it will be called a “seamount” and will be subject to erosion by the oceans currents. Literally, mountains are tumbling to the sea. Kind of cool huh!

Chris Harvey, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 17, 2006

Science and Technology Log  

I just woke up from a wonderful 2-hour nap, reminding myself of something I have meant to write about for days but have forgotten. Since the swells have come along, the ship bounces around quiet a bit at night, making sleep difficult if not entirely impossible at times. So I have modified my sleeping patterns somewhat to adjust to the situation.

I take a short nap immediately after work, whether at 1:30 or at 6:30 (short to me is anywhere between 1-3 hours). This is the only sleep that I can guarantee myself that day, so I cherish the fact that my stateroom has no windows and thus can become completely dark and the fact that after work I know I will be entirely exhausted. (I think back now to how excited I was on my first night into Honolulu when Bob told me I would be working, not observing. What a fool I was!) I usually wake up just in time for a quick bite for dinner and then I make my way outside to enjoy the last remaining hours of daylight. Once the sun has set, I either take my laptop up to the bridge and sit out on the side deck where there is no obstruction to the star-filled sky, or I return inside and write if the clouds cover up the stars. Either way, I have been spending a good but of my time in writing inspired by the scenery around me. I write until I am once again completely exhausted (the only guarantee for sleep), which is usually around 11:30 or midnight, and I head back to bed for a few hours until it is time to get up for work again.

Having just awakened from my nap, I have a whole new day in front of me- one that requires no work from me! So I will begin this new day by telling you about a book I have just finished reading upon the recommendation of Huntley, a well-read traveler. I do this because nothing much happened today worth describing- although it has been confirmed that the NWHI are now the largest marine sanctuary in the United States, and that our mission is not so much invalidated, but will be used for other purposes. NOAA will still be in charge of the area on the federal level, so our data on lobster catch will take on meaning in a different way. Also, Amee said, “please” today for the first time on the cruise. So my inferences are correct, she is not of royal English ancestry. Go figure!

Back to “The Little Prince.” If you can read French, buy the book in French. I am sure that a lot of meaning is “lost in translation” (which is also a good movie by the way). But if you are like me, an English-only reader, then you can still enjoy the book for its simplicity. The author, Antoine de Saint- Exupery, speaks to us as an adult who encourages us to keep a child’s perspective in life for all of the naiveté and simplicity doing so would retain. It would not surprise many of you to know this is a chief goal of mine (inherited through my Peter Pan of a father, to the chagrin of my mother! Thanks Dad!), though I often try to imitate the wisdom of the sage- making a wonderful fool of myself in the long run. By the end of the story I was left with moistened eyes (tears fall infrequently from my eyes), and the feeling that it was time to create Something Beautiful.

So I am in attempts now to create the first of (hopefully) many Beautiful things in my life. I have an idea for a children’s story that came to me suddenly, with such great passion that I probably irritated Bob by my slowness in work today. I tried clinging to each new thought I had, as if it were my last, in hopes that each thought that came my way was some integral piece of that Something Beautiful (Incidentally, the story has a working title of “Something Beautiful.”) As it turns out, in looking back after a refreshing nap, the thoughts I have recorded do not seem as full of potential as they did before. But maybe that is because the stars are still waiting for someone to turn out the light tonight, so they can have their way with my heart. On the surface, I am still a scientist/resident Teacher At Sea with scientific obligations to achieve. But in my heart, I am a man on a journey to become the artist he believes himself to be, willing to take in every experience as a piece of the story that will mean the most to him- the Story of His Life.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– The Fox from “The Little Prince”

Chris Harvey, June 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 16, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

There is talk today that the President has made the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) a national monument, whatever that means.  Bob informed me this morning and I am inclined to think he is the resident expert on the matter since he has the most riding on the line (i.e., his job is on the line). From my understanding, the NWHI would become like Rocky Mountain National Park or Yosemite National Park, and would be completely off limits to commercial fishing.  This would have a HUGE impact on the fishing industry out here, since many companies are awaiting Bob’s findings about whether or not the NWHI can sustain commercial lobster fishing or not.

Regardless of the rumor, we continued work today as normal.  So did the trade winds. So too did the swells. I was in a great position as a stacker to watch my fellow scientists cracking the traps against the threat of one breaking wave after another.  At one point I thought we would lose Aris, the little one, to a swell that must have been about 15-20 feet from trough to crest.  I was relieved to see that he was still cracking away after the water had subsided, and could only laugh at the great luck I had not to be a cracker today!  (That said, I think I can sense my waxen wings beginning to melt.)

We finished late again today. And other than fighting the rough seas, nothing much happened. I have taken to watching the swells- as my old man taught me- but from the surfer’s point of view instead of the scientist’s point of view.  I anticipate great waves in the distance while everyone else is “ooo-ing” and “awww-ing” at the ones near the ship. And it is always these distant waves that turn out to be trouble.  I see the swells in sets, unpredictable of when, except that I know that they will come.  And when I see a large face of a wave, I think to myself, its time to start paddling or else I’m going to miss it.  But I catch myself, sadly, when I remember that I am on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where I would not have a chance of catching a wave anyway–there is no bottom for the swells to catch.  One hope for me is that someone will catch the waves, when they touch ground and build into beautiful things.  Some surfer on the North Shore is doing exactly what I am doing, watching the set and waiting, because the swells I see today will be the surf he rides tomorrow.

Chris Harvey, June 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I have lost track of time out here, both the date and the day of week, and am only reminded that it is the middle of June by the changing of the date on each of my new journal entries. It is kind of nice to forget about time for a while.  All I know of time is that I wake up each morning and go about the routine of hauling the traps in the morning and setting the traps in the evening. It has truly become Groundhog Day out here.  Regardless of what day it is, there is one thing I know I will be doing: waking and working. At least the scenery is nice!

The trade winds have continued to blow at a consistent 20 knots from the east, bringing with them long, deep swells and choppy surface waves.  It was much rougher today, and is still much rougher tonight, than it was on any other day.  So long, quiet Pacific.  As I stood on the bow of the ship to watch the sunset I thought about the fact that these trade winds have already come across my little Honduran island and have long since left.  The same winds, at some point, helped carry tropical storm Alberto across the Atlantic Ocean and towards my home in Jacksonville.  Of course, the energy and direction of the winds have fluctuated indefinitely over the time it takes them to wrap around the world, but they are essentially still the same. And I go back to my island in the Caribbean and think of how wonderful the trade winds are for keeping the mosquitoes and sand flies away during the summer time.  And how they inspired me to do anything and everything.  And now they make me sit outside long into the night to keep fresh air in my lungs and brain, and to keep a horizon of sorts on level ground for the sanity of my inner ear.

Many of the scientists have already given up the fight and have retired long before dinner. I, a fighter of nearly everything, have continued the battle against seasickness and am waiting for the trade winds to clear the clouds from the evening sky so that I might take in their beauty once again.  I am yet to miss a sunset on the ship, or a moment of utter awe at the night sky above me. And I doubt I will miss either the rest of the trip, even if I am ailing from the increased swells that can be anticipated from strong wind across a large section of water over a long time.  The view out here is definitely not something I get to see every day back home.

Work today was difficult with the waves splashing over the side of the ship.  I was a stacker today and found, at times, that stacking traps on the fantail was like climbing a mountain and dragging the traps behind. I would watch and wait for the ship to tilt bow up, so I could pull the traps “downhill” across the fantail in the rear of the ship.  Sometimes there was no “downhill” or “uphill” for that matter.  Sometimes we just bounced back and forth and rocked in almost every direction at the same time.  I guess my offerings of respect and love for the Pacific were not accepted.

In addition to having difficult trap drags on the deck, it took us much longer to move from the site where we hauled the traps to where we set them than it normally does.  (That sentence took a long time to write, not only because it seems grammatically deficient, but also because I had to sit and watch the mouse slide back and forth across the desk, dragging the curser on the screen along with it!  Talk about entertainment onboard a rocking ship!) In short, I ate a small dinner before I set the traps tonight.  So we were not done working until around 6:45 or so.  Long day. Plus I managed to get a nice sunburn.

I am again envious of our resident albatross.  I watched him soar back and forth and up and down, along the tips of the crests of waves up to the outline of the bottoms of clouds, without moving his wings once.  It was truly remarkable to watch him soar so freely without expending energy. A friend has informed me that only information can break the laws of physics. I think this albatross has come pretty darn close today.

Also, I will attach the “biographies” of two of the ship’s crew who have become good friends of mine. In an attempt to “practice” my creative writing and character development of stories, I am interviewing as many of the crewmen as possible and then writing a “fun” biography for the ships records.  Knowing how well I am at starting projects, and how poor I am at finishing them, these will probably be the only two I complete during the cruise.  But I am going to try to get everyone done before July 4, when we pull back into Honolulu. I make reference to many different people in my journal entries, and I have not done an adequate job of describing them.  I will try to fill you in on their characters and personalities, but no promises that you will be able to relate to my experiences out here any more or less as a result.

As you will read, Sarah is a junior officer on the ship and a peer of mine through age and life experience. She has taught me many things about the bridge and how the boat functions, as well as how the ship acquires weather data that it sends back to the National Weather Service every few hours, and of course, the Beauty of the evening sky and the many constellations that occupy its space.  We have a similar background that makes conversation easy and, as always, this conversation carries meaning for me because it constantly stretches my mind and perspective on how things in the world operate.

Bruce is the first of the crew that I met, and immediately struck a note with.  He is native Hawaiian, born in the house in the Oahu hills that his parent’s still live in today.  He has a wonderful laugh that makes me laugh every time I hear it, even if I do not hear the punch line of the joke or story he has just told.  He is about the happiest-go-lucky person I have ever met, with an outlook on life that is enviable.  I have been told that he can be mean at times.  But I haven’t seen that part of him.  And those times are so few and far between that his demeanor is positive in an almost excessive amount.  (When has positive attitude and behavior ever been excessive?  Certainly not in this world!)  He is one of those people who you can’t help but to hope that everything good happens to him in life- just because he is not expecting it to, and he is not demanding that it does.  I am learning a lot on this cruise from Bruce.

All quiet other than that. I thought of school today and made myself sick with worry.  So I stood up and walked to the very rear of the ship and watched the “screws” (props) churn up sky-blue water. I don’t like thinking of school.  There are so many things that I know I will have to do- so many things to worry about.  This is the last time I will mention it.  Worry is not for me.  Especially not here.

ENS Sarah Harris 

Junior Officer/Scientist

Sarah always wanted to be a professional clown when she grew up, but her feet were not large enough to fit into the shoes of a clown, and so she was turned down from the National Clown Academy upon her completion of high school.  Instead, she attended Long Island University in South Hampton, New York and earned a degree in marine biology. Upon completion of her degree, Sarah had a difficult time finding a job as a marine biologist.  Instead, she spent the better part of the two years after college working “stupid jobs” in order to make ends meet.

One day, working as a server in a Moroccan restaurant and as a bodyguard in a girls’ home, Sarah had an epiphany of sorts.  Memories of a Marine Ecology class came to mind.  She had used NOAA data in one of her class projects and had the sudden revelation that she should apply to become a NOAA officer. Sidestepping pressure to join the Air Force or Navy, she attended courses through the Merchant Marine Academy and within three months was qualified to begin work with NOAA onboard several ships.

In an interview for placement aboard a NOAA ship, Sarah commented that she would prefer to be on a Hawaii-based ship. She knew that the OSCAR ELTON SETTE had the best crew, and by far the best meals of any NOAA vessel.  As fortune revealed itself to Sarah, none of the other NOAA officers applied for Pacific ships, and she was given a position aboard the SETTE, based out of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here she is at twenty-four years of age driving the SETTE through the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Her unofficial capacity as an officer aboard the SETTE is to “drive the dang boat.” (As it would be, you can put a boat on a ship, but you CANNOT put a ship on a boat!). However, her official job description is to “help coordinate scientists and crew to accomplish the ship’s mission.”  (Proper use of the term “ship,” and might I add as an objective interviewer, very well stated!)

Sarah focuses daily on her short-term goal, which is to not jump overboard during the shark feeding frenzy that takes place on lobster cruises each afternoon.  In the long run, she hopes to use the GI Bill to help her earn her masters degree in the coming years.  She also aspires to become a treasure hunter and, if that does not work out, a pirate!

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys riding her beach cruiser.  Of course she cannot do that while at sea, so she also takes up the wonderfully entertaining hobby of reading.  Her fondest memory aboard the SETTE was the first day setting sail in January of 2006, when she earned the affectionate nickname of “Princess Spew Wog” for putting on a wonderful demonstration of what a hangover will do when mixed with Pacific swells and a moving ship.

Sarah carries a line with her everywhere she goes, whether out to sea or on land:

“Desire is Desire wherever you go. The Sun with not bleach it, or the Tides wash it away.”

Bruce Mokiao 

“Decky”

“Always look for the good in people.”

If there is a friendly face to know aboard the SETTE, and the warmest laughter to accompany a welcoming smile, it belongs to Bruce.  He has been a decky aboard the SETTE since it was commissioned on January 23, 2003.  Before that, he worked in the same capacity aboard the recently decommissioned NOAA vessel, the TOWNSEND CROMWELL.  Even further back than that, one might recognize Bruce’s voice in the song “Wipe Out.”  The royalties for the song have since run out, so Bruce takes to the sea to do what he has come to do very well.

Spending much of his time before NOAA as a commercial long-line tuna and marlin fishermen, he stumbled into his current position almost by accident.  A friend of his working on the Townsend Cromwell had given him an application many years back, which he held onto for two years before finally submitting it to NOAA.  Like many of us, he only knew NOAA for the National Weather Service, and not for its marine research.

On June 11, 2006 Bruce passed his five-year mark with NOAA, an accomplishment that he is very proud of. He has no real plans of leaving the ship any time soon, although he is finishing up testing with the Coast Guard when the ship is at port.  As long as tuna are being caught in the trolling lines and he has first dibs on a freshly beating tuna heart, Bruce will always be found aboard the SETTE.

Some of Bruce’s hobbies on the ship include making fun of the Teacher at Sea, and storytelling, both of which he does with such clear evidence of god-given talent it is amazing!  While the ship is not as sea, Bruce heads back to his parents home to spend time with them.  He has great love and respect for his mother and father, who make frequent appearances in his stories, and he strives to model their example in his own life for his daughter (21 years old) and his son (19 years old).  Bruce was recently married in January 2006 and takes great pride in his wife as well.

Some of the best advice that Bruce has to offer surrounds him, much like the quotes at the top and bottom of this page.

“I like to be happy every day.”

Chris Harvey, June 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 14, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Some of you are about to begin your day, and mine is dragging on for a little while more.  Today was a bit more full of wind and rain than yesterday. In fact, the seas have heightened to the point that we are in a continual state of bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball (or a rag doll, if you prefer the cliché). That would be ok if we were in fact a ping-pong ball. Instead, we are a 240-foot steel sailing vessel. The Pacific has definitely had her way with us today. Although we are all still healthy and the Sette continues to push back on the waves crashing at the bow just as hard as they are pushing on Her. Tomorrow is bound to be substantially worse than today according to preliminary weather reports from the bridge (remember, we are NOAA, the weather source!). As the French say… Yeah I caught myself before I quoted the French! The only French person worth quoting is Napoleon, who himself claims that he was not French! (I am only harassing France because Carole, one of our researchers, is French and I have not given her a hard time in my journals yet! I was treated very well by the French when I was in France, and I am also hoping to one day work with a man whose last name is Cousteau, so I better be kind to the French!)

I got to sleep in a little longer as the “runner” today than the last two days when I was a “cracker” and bait cutter.  Having this job didn’t keep me any drier than the crackers. Nor did it keep me very far away from the smell of day old festering mackerel. But it was a nice change. Tomorrow I go back to my favorite job- that of a stacker. Being a stacker keeps me as far away from the science of this mission as possible. It puts me on the fantail with good music and good crew to keep me company. If you can’t tell, these two things have become some of my favorite aspects of the cruise. But now I am sounding redundant of past entries.

Today we lost eight more traps to the coral reef below.  Good for it! Except that those traps will be there for some time. It is kind of ironic the way this mission and the next will work out for the Oscar Sette. On the next cruise, the Sette will be hosting scientists specializing in coral reef protection. Perhaps we should have their chief scientist and our chief scientist talk next time before anyone goes out to sea. Then maybe we wouldn’t tear down the bridges that they keep building!

Bob says that fishermen have a saying about losing gear to the sea: If you put it in, do not expect to get it back. I’ve thought about it all day long, a kind of sailor’s koan, and have only been able to conclude that fishermen who think this must have very little respect for the sea. But that is not my position to say. As a wise man has advised me, some battles are best not fought. The sad reality of this trip is that despite how much effort we put into protecting any or all species of marine animals, someone in some part of the world is doing his part to remove as many of those animals as possible to put as much money in his pocket as possible. Again, no negativity. Only reality.

On the lighter side of things, I found enjoyment in two particular marine species today.  The first was a monk seal that passed by the port side (left side) of the ship between hauling strings of traps. It didn’t stop to give us much of a show, which is good because that is not its purpose in life. Instead it just dipped itself into the waves and moved on past the stern (rear) of the ship and out of sight.

The second was an albatross that didn’t seem to mind the fact that the wind picked up to about 30 knots today. In fact, it took advantage of this wind to perform some acrobatic maneuvers that I am sure any pilot would love to imitate in any aircraft. At times I swore that its wing tips were in the crest of a wave as it raced about just above the waves. It couldn’t have been more than six inches above the water at times. Which is remarkable because the waves were so sporadic an unequal in size that I expected it to wipe out at any point. Just when it seemed the albatross was going to crash into the water, it would tilt itself upwards and rise into the sky cutting the sky into two pieces as quickly as a warm knife through butter. The flight was so graceful and perfect in its form. As cliché as it sounds, I thought of how wonderful it must be to be that albatross today. It didn’t seem to be scavenging for food or drink. And it never seemed anxious that it was lost. It was just playing in the wind and waves, perhaps taking a day off of the trials of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow. Perhaps it too can say mooo!

Chris Harvey, June 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Today was the longest day of hauling traps since we have been out here.  I guess that is partly due to the fact that the wind picked up this morning and made the ocean very choppy. We have been experiencing swells of around 5 feet for the last few days.  But with the wind cutting into them, the waves smashing into the boat have the strength of the swells but the misdirection of a thousand firecrackers.  It made navigating the ship very difficult for the bridge. If our winch (Yes, the Captain corrected me on my use of the word “wench” in a previous entry. A “wench,” he said was a servant girl of the Dark Ages. A “winch” is a machine used to haul lines up and down.) receives the trap strings at angles larger than about 30 degrees to the ship, it is very difficult to use.

A second reason why we had such difficulty hauling the traps this morning is that we set them on coral heads at the bottom of the ocean.  The traps are made of sturdy, yet flexible plastic and are connected to each other with rope about a half inch in diameter.  Further, there is a fair amount of rope between each trap, which is left to float and dangle in the current, frequently catching itself in the coral and making our job of hauling the traps to the ship extremely difficult.

Twice today the coral won decisive battles against us, and forced the rope to break.  We lost a total of 7 traps to the ocean. Bob says that this is a minor loss. I wonder what is to become of the traps once we are gone.  Yesterday we lost 9 traps while setting them because instead of attaching a float to the end of a string of eight, a crewmember attached a ninth trap. Instead of having a buoyant float to mark the string of eight traps, nine traps sank quickly to the ocean floor. There was talk this morning of diving the site to retrieve the floats.  Then there was talk that the traps were expendable, and that the risk of shark attack was slightly too high. So after today, there are 16 traps on the bottom of the Pacific, full of bait, lobster, sharks, hermit crabs, eel, or anything else that had the misfortune to crawl inside.

I am still greatly enjoying the people. And the sunsets here have been some of the most amazing things that I have ever seen. Even the “full” moon rising the last few nights has left me in pure awe of the world and all its wonders.  Last night, while sitting on the deck outside of the bridge, Sarah, an Ensign officer, showed me the Southern Cross rising in the horizon.  She also pointed out several other series of constellations that I had never been aware of before.  My father warned me about the beauty of the stars in the open sea.  He was certainly right. Constellations that I could never begin to see back home in Jacksonville stuck out in the night sky like the ancient sailors’ visions of old. But even with all of the constant beauty of nature around me, I still wake up each morning with apprehension over what my work will bring.

I must move forward, regardless of how I feel towards the science–or rather methodology of the science.  And maybe that is what I am supposed to learn through practice over the next three weeks. Usually when I run into something that tastes bitter at first bite, I back away from a second bite. I cannot back away from future bites in this situation. So I will be forced to move into a new realm of patience, perseverance, understanding, and personal growth. I have already given up on the thought of eating fish and lobster anytime soon. Lobster has never been a favorite of mine, but after spending the last four days staring into their fearful little eyes while I pull them from traps, or spread them across a table to take measurements, I have come to love the lobsters for their simple, yet perfect existence.

I hate reaching this point, where I feel as though I am guilty for being part of the human race. I am not about to make such a leap as in Walden, and presume that humans are supposed to act in such a small part in nature as everything else.  I know that there is something special about us that gives us the right, perhaps out of desire rather than necessity, to remain at the “top” of the food chain…for now (I say “top” because as soon as I fall into the water during shark feeding time, I guarantee I am NOT at the top of the food chain anymore!).  Still I feel as though part of this mission is to see how the lobsters live without the interaction and interference of man in their natural habitat.  Then we come along in our ship with our traps and our scientific instruments and rip them from their homes, probe about them for a while, throw them into a bucket with so many of their likes that they would probably not have ever come across on the ocean floor had we not caught them in our traps, toss them back into the sea in a different location from where we pulled them, and then expect them to grow and multiply.  I am sorry for the analogy, but in the tradition of practicing perception from different perspectives on this cruise, as I was probing lobsters in the wet lab yesterday I kind of felt like I was an alien in a space ship scooping up human beings, performing horrific torture on them as I took my measurements, and then throwing them back down. In a sick kind of way, I hope that aliens do come along some day (if they haven’t come already) and abduct some of our scientists. I don’t mean them any harm, but sometimes I feel very guilty for our egocentric belief that we can are supposed to analyze and break down everything in order to “fix” nature.

I am afraid that I am getting a little deep in my thought, and it’s not yet time for sunset (my drug of choice for inspiration while onboard the ship).  I think that there are a lot of things in nature that we can seek to understand.  But I think that we should take hint after hint from Mother Nature as she continues to bombard us with hurricanes in the Atlantic, volcanoes in Indonesia, and the melting of the icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica (and so on, and so forth of course!). Yes, it is truly wonderful to be a human being instead of a fat moo-cow!  Do not get me wrong about that!  But maybe a fat moo-cow doesn’t suffer so much as it goes about its life because it never thinks that it can control the type or amount of grass it eats, the temperature in which it lows each night, the cleanliness of the water that it drinks, and so forth.  It just does what it is created to do, and offers its life as a perfect sacrifice to the Great Beyond by doing this most simple task to the best of its ability.

Chris Harvey, June 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 12, 2006

Science and Technology Log

The hardest part of this job, aside from waking up around 6:30 in the morning, is keeping track of the events of the day through my journal entries.  Yesterday I didn’t feel like writing much, so I skipped an entry just to make it harder on myself today.  I’ve been told that I don’t need to write about everything each and every day, but I know from all of the journals that I have kept during my travels, writing is as much for me to look back on as it is for those of you keeping up on my experiences here.  So this entry is a bit of a hodgepodge, smorgasbord, or mishmash of sorts.

I have read through my last entry a half dozen times and I am still amazed at the experience. It seems premature of me to say that I’ve had my turning point in this trip already. But it sure feels that way.  It is a struggle to work now.  I feel like a man on a great pilgrimage to some Holy Land who has found Enlightenment midway through his journey, and so longer needs to travel–but does so for the sake of sharing his experience along the way. And on a ship at sea, one does not really have the luxury of turning the ship around and going home.  That’s how I know that there is quite a bit more in store for me.  And so I will go another day, awaiting what will be.

A common theme of the voyage is the regular showing of “Groundhog Day” at 8 PM each evening.  I have not taken to watching it yet, but I love the idea of showing it again and again. I was warned, after the ship left the harbor of course, that the lobster cruise becomes Groundhog Day after a few days.  And so far, this must be true.  Yesterday I was back in the wet lab measuring lobster all day.  Nothing much happens there, and I am in the air conditioning rather than in the sun, so I should be grateful for that.  However, I am starting to wonder if the costs involved in this research expedition are worth the results that we are getting.

I have been asked by some of you to share the results of our catch.  I don’t have all of the numbers next to me right now, but the general trend is that the lobster catch in the NWHI really sucks. We are pretty much right on par for the last few years of data, which for the most part averages less than one lobster per trap.  In some cases, such as today, the catch rate is much, much lower than that.  Which leads me into explaining part of the reason for this mission to exist.  I will do my best to explain this, as it has been related to me thought my prying and probing.

Part of NOAA’s purpose for existence, as an extension of the US Department of Commerce, is to conduct surveys to promote the use of sustainable fisheries for the US.

What this means is that the US government has recognized that fisheries provide the economy a fairly sizable chunk of change, employment opportunities, and the likes, and would like to continue to improve the industry.  The Hawaiian Islands are some of the most protected land areas in the United States, governed by up to three different organizations. Since the year 2000, commercial fishing of lobster in the NWHI has been completely eliminated.  Commercial bottom fishing is still permitted, but on a very restricted basis. There were concerns that, for the 100+ years that commercial lobster fishing was legal in the NWHI, the lobster population was suffering a serious blow and was unable to recuperate itself year after year.  For this reason, various government agencies, particularly during the end of the Clinton era, gained a greater control over the environmental protection of the NWHI and the waters surrounding them.

We are here now as part of a study to document the growth, or lack thereof, of two types of lobster native to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands: the Slipper Lobster and the Spiny Lobster. Scientists have been interested in the growth rates of these two lobsters because, for the most part, growth has been very, very slow over the last few years.  Determining the age of lobster is extremely difficult, as is left to best estimates based on size.  Over the last few years, thousands of lobsters have been tagged, and we are on the prowl for such lobster so we can document their growth over time.

The best place to see what is going on in the lobster community is to spend time in the wet lab measuring the specimen with Bob, the Chief Scientist of the ship, who has spent over thirty years working out of Hawaii. Although he probably gets tired of my probing, most of what I have come to know about our mission has come from the last two days I have spent in the wet lab. There we take measurements of each lobster, and after we are through, Bob crunches the numbers and spits out data for us to compare to previous years. As I said before, we are right on par for last year’s numbers.  Perhaps slightly higher, at best.

If we are not catching more than one lobster per trap, and the lobster that we are catching are only slightly larger than the year before, if that, can we open the waters to commercial lobster fishing again?  Think about that for a minute, and then come back to me…The answer seems to be, no.

As scientists, we must move further into the issue and ask ourselves why aren’t the lobsters growing?  In a time where every scientific question seems to be answered with “Global Warming,” we must take into consideration many other factors as well.  Water temperature and salinity may be changing over time.  But there is also the issue of food supply for the lobsters. Is the quantity or quality of food decreasing?  What about predators?  There are many times more white tipped reef sharks present in these waters now than ever before. Could this be influencing lobster growth (how is the marine food chain in the NWHI changing?)?  Are the lobster stressed for other reasons? Are the coral heads in which the lobsters take shelter growing, or dying?

With so many variables, we must do our very best to keep our constants in this investigation constant. Such constants include: location of traps, type and amount of bait, and measuring points on the lobster.  Bob has done a very good job of keeping these things constant over the last few years, despite how easy it would be to change any of them at any other time.  If he were to do that, he would essentially be throwing out years and years of previous work.

So what are we doing here?  I ask myself that every day!  We are here to make evaluations of the sustainability of the lobster fishing industry–not quite as “treehugging” of a mission as I had first anticipated, but important nonetheless, if the Hawaiian Islands’ fisheries are to significantly contribute to the US economy.  Whether or not we are justified in spending the time and money we are spending is still up in the air for me, but maybe that is why I am just an “observer,” and “scientist,” rather than head of some government agency.

Today I switched jobs and became a “cracker.”  Yeah, according to some of my students I already am a “cracker.”  But in this use of the word, I was paired again with Amee in opening the traps as soon as they were hauled onto the ship.  I tell you, the only thing worse than smelling dead mackerel is smelling dead mackerel that have been sitting at the bottom of the ocean for a day growing more and more putrid.  I was very reluctant to begin the job today. I have resigned myself to simply stacking traps.  This gets me away from the lobster, shark, crabs, and dead fish of the traps and allows me to listen to music on the fantail while small-talking with the crew about anything and everything.  As I have made reference to already, I am very undecided about my involvement in the research we are conducting. Since I signed up for the job, I will do it to the best of my ability.  But it is already difficult for me to do jobs, such as cracking, because I see some things that do not sit well in the stomach.

Amee and I sang Disney songs all day long to pass time, to the chagrin of the others around us. In all, we were finished rather early.  I threw the bait overboard to the waiting sharks (one of my undecided arguments), and took a nap (never an undecided argument!).  I am about to head outside to watch another Pacific sunset, followed immediately by the task of setting out bait to thaw overnight.  Tomorrow is an early morning, since I have to wake up at start cutting bait by 6:30 if I want to eat breakfast (another undecided argument, breakfast is NOT to be missed!).

Not to be forgotten, last night was another first for me.  Doc, Amee, and I were sharing conversation over a cup of tea on the weather deck when the moon rose like a flame over the ocean. For a moment I thought we were drinking hallucinogenic tea.  But we were all having the same trip.  I pointed out what looked to be an island on fire, perhaps a volcanic eruption. Amee said it was a Viking ship of old.  Doc said it was the moon.  I didn’t believe any of us, so I ran towards the bridge to ask more experienced sailors what it could be. Then the fire spread into the sky, outlining the shape of a mushroom.  So this is the end! The Nuclear Holocaust has begun, and Honolulu is gone! My love story with the sea would soon turn into one of survival, with no one left to read about it!

Then the curve of a red/orange moon nudged itself above the clouds.  And with each passing second I could see Her rise, red and rich as fire.  And full.  I trembled at the sight of a red moon and thought of any nautical expressions that might predict the outcome of such a sight. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.  No, that wouldn’t work! It doesn’t say anything about red moons!  And that was the only nautical expression I knew! In my trembling, I eventually grew comfortable at the sight of something amazing.  I stood there in silence for the next hour as I watched the blazing moon shed its color as it rose into a darkened sky.  The few stars that were bright enough to hold their own light in its presence seemed to glow red and orange in its reflection.  Rising still into the night, I went to bed again truly impressed at whatever forces allowed this moment to be…again.  When I thought I had seen it all, something like this comes along. What a Beautiful life!  Have I said this before?

Chris Harvey, June 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 10, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Have you ever wanted to create something so Beautiful, but didn’t know where to begin? I have. It happened last night just before sunset, and lasted until about midnight when I finally closed my eyes.  I tried to capture the moment with my words and with my camera, but both failed in every attempt.  Here are the words anyway.  Pictures will have to wait.

“I don’t know if I have ever seen anything as Beautiful as the sunset tonight.  I can’t describe it in words. Nor should I even try. They wouldn’t do it justice.  All I can do is try to describe myself right now, incredibly inspired to live in this one moment–and take back every other one, just to remain here now.  A nearly full moon arises as the sun retires for the evening. White cumulus clouds of different shapes and heights scatter themselves across the sky and then fade into colors as they meet on the horizon.  Every color exists right now. And with the setting sun, a flash of green to outline the furthest clouds. The depth my eyes perceives exceeds the depth of the ocean.  Dolphin dance quietly in the waters around us to the sounds of Coltrane to make the evening complete. If I don’t wake tomorrow, I know where I shall be–forever in this moment.  Remove the people. Remove the steel from this ship.  Remove my pen and paper and camera and lenses. Leave nothing but me in a dinghy to drift about through this lovely sea and sky.  And let me go here in quiet moments, if I wake in the morning and this is no longer real. And let my soul reside in solitude among the gentle rolling swells and mirrored moon upon their hills and valleys. Keep me here, where I know that Everything that belongs here is in its right place. Let me sing along in wordless song to the music in my heart.  Let my senses overwhelm me.  I am here, right now.  Not dreaming.  Or am I?  Will I wake tomorrow morning worn and weary, awaiting another breath, wishing and wondering when I–if I–should ever see a moment so still as now? Unimaginable. Love. Beauty. Life. All the same right now.  All in front, behind, beside, within me.  Love and Beauty and Life, forever in this moment.  Until I close my eyes, and wake again…”

I would have painted the moment for you if I could paint.  Or I would have sung it to you, if my voice could describe the colors, depth of perception, taste of salt in the air, and slightest feeling of air pressed from the wind against my skin.  Not even Monet could paint it though.  Nor could a church choir reach the solemnity of such a peaceful moment.  And I fail with my words again and again.  So I’ll stop.

I spent a good part of the morning recounting the evening with everyone on board.  Many of the crew agreed that they have never seen such a night before.  All of us scientists, who are just along for the ride this one time, believe much the same.  Last night was incredibly spiritual–on so many levels.  I expect them to peel away from me over time, like layers of an onion.

The anchor was broken this morning, so we did not begin work until about 9:30.  In the meantime, I sat on the fantail of the ship watching the sun change the colors of the sky from pastels to brighter primary and secondary colors.  Joe put some Grateful Dead on the PA, and we sat in silence for a good while taking in the scenery around us.  Except for Necker Island, we are entirely surrounded by water and clouds and blue sky.  The Pacific remains so calm, and keeps the crew knocking on wood at every mention of Her stillness. It is becoming taboo around here to speak of the gently rolling swells.  Though not quite as comparable as the Great Nor’easters that menace sailors off the coast of New England in a matter of minutes, the Pacific is known for turning on a dime and changing such silence into a terrible mess.  I have grown to respect her Peace with us.  I pray for it each morning in my own stillness.  The birds also welcome such moments and offer their best unto the sea and sky with their graceful flight throughout the clouds. Everything is truly in its right place.

As for work, I was inside the wet lab today measuring lobster.  I saw a side of science that did not seem to fit my picture of what it should be. Not that it was bad, per se.  It just was not what I expected it to be. Though I should know from traveling time and time again, my expectations of what should be will never fully match up with what really is.  I am constantly reminded of this.  And I constantly forget it.  And my heart has been stirred, to say the least, to consider the nature of science and all of its implications.  I am still a scientist.  But I am learning that perhaps I am not a scientific researcher.  Perhaps I will remain on the other side of science for a while, until I can sort out the disparity between my heart and my head in this matter.

It was an easy day, full of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting.  I saved my skin from an ultraviolet beating, and kept myself fully hydrated.  I didn’t even break a sweat, and almost started feeling bad about it later in the day when I saw how exhausted everybody else seemed to be.  Then I reminded myself how spent I had been the last three days, and how I would be again on Monday when I left the lab and returned to the deck of the ship. I have trouble slowing myself down sometimes, and feel as though I should be thoroughly involved in anything and everything that happens.  So I intentionally withdrew myself after work into the Rec Room to watch a video with some of the other scientists.  I need the down time.  I need the break from reality.  I take everything so seriously all of the time. And I wonder, shouldn’t I? Can I afford to take these breaks? There is always something that I can do, something that I can write, some song that I can play. And there is always that drive in me to create something so Beautiful, and to begin doing it sometime soon…

Chris Harvey, June 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I actually woke up on time for work today (though my muscles, or lack thereof, were extremely sore)!  I dreaded the idea of stacking again today, though yesterday I thought I would volunteer my services as a stacker for the entire trip.  Due to the tremendous amount of physical labor in the sun, I thought that working as a stacker would be great for me to get back in shape (what shape that is, is yet to be determined!) and give me a chance for a good tan. As it turns out, one must first know what shape they would like to be, before they can pursue getting back into it.  For example: Homer Simpson would prefer to be in the shape of a beer, so he practices by drinking beer.  Presently, I am in the shape of a Dunlap. That is, my belly is so big it “dun lapped” over the rest of me!

I stacked again today, though we were much more efficient as an entire ship.  The bridge (control part of the ship) seemed to get us to our strings of traps in a timely manner, and our trap-hauling assembly line was wonderfully efficient.  We finished our strings of eight early enough to have a full hour for lunch (yesterday it was only about 20 minutes), and our twenties were out of the water by 1:30. We continued on and re-set the traps in their new locations and were completely finished swabbing the deck by 3:30.  All in a day’s work!

Some highlights of the day were: feeding the sharks again (or course!  I don’t know if that will ever get old!), throwing a small white-tipped shark out of a trap and into the water where the larger Galapagos sharks consumed it in a matter of seconds (yes, sad but incredibly fascinating to watch.  Sharks seem to me to be a nearly perfect species–aside from the fact that they eat dead animals, have a brain about the size of a walnut, and do not have opposable thumbs! They are incredibly agile and flexible–being made of cartilage and not bone–very swift, strong, and efficient in their use of energy.  Plus they look very sleek, unless they are trying to bite your arm off, in which case I am assuming they look extremely frightening!), catching a decent number of lobster, crab, eel, and other such marine life that is fun to see up close, and not having to work with Amee.

The Pacific has been eerily calm these last few days.  Today we had some gentle swells, but nothing I couldn’t handle. My “sea legs” seemed to have turned into “S legs,” because when I try to walk a straight line with the ship rocking, my line looks more like a curved “S”! We have been dancing around Necker Island, never staying further away than eyesight. She stills looks like a Dragon at times, and a Sperm Whale at others.  But she is company in this voyage.

I had some incredibly insightful thoughts while meditating earlier this morning.  Thoughts come much clearer when you are surrounded by such beautiful scenery.  One of my favorite things these days, besides trying to count the different shades of blue between the open sea and sky, is looking off in the distance where the clouds meet the sky. In places they seem to gently “bubble” up out of the sea.  Joe says that this is where the world ends. I asked him if we could go there, but he says that it is an insurance liability thing with NOAA.  I asked if I could take a life raft and check it out myself, since I enjoy life on the edge. He said “No!” I’d still like to know if it’s the end of the world or not. Whatever it is, it is one of the many things that I am noticing at sea that I have never noticed about the world before. Strange, this recent talk of perspective–my entire journey is from a different perspective.  I am growing so much every day.

I have come across two ideas that I hope to expound upon over the coming weeks.  The first is the human condition, and how hard it is to diagnose, treat, and remedy the human body, mind, and soul.  Lots of people are making lots of money off of books and videos and CD ROMs that promise to do just that.  However, I have good reason –via the scientific method and the perspective of science I am gaining out here–to argue against such media.

The second is the human element in science.  Science is our way of understanding the world around us. Ever since someone had a question about something natural–from astronomy to gravity to cells to atomic particles–someone else has come up with a process of answering that question through science.  That is why I love science so much. I have so many questions about the world around me; I know that science is the only way to learn how to answer my questions. But science is no living creature.  It is no solid set of information, or database with solutions to every riddle.  Humans have invented “science” as a process through which we ask questions, design controlled experiments, collect data, and interpret that data.  There is a whole lot of room for error there.  Especially since the first word in that sentence is “humans.”  (I hope that I do not offend anyone by saying that humans, whether by nature or by nurture or by neither, have a tragic flaw instilled in their perspective that tends to cause error of some degree in nearly everything. Call it “Original Sin,” “human nature,” or what have you- the one thing we are great at doing is screwing something up.)  I don’t mean to sound pessimistic; just realistic. And again, I will return to this idea later.

On the drama side of things, some tension has been created between Eric, a student at the university, and myself.  He wanted to help us set traps yesterday afternoon and I asked him to leave the deck so I could finish the job.  I didn’t mean to offend him by asking him to leave.  It is just that I worked hard from the beginning of the job, and I wanted to see the project through to the end. I am terrible with finishing things well.  So I am continually trying to practice this when I can. It is kind of ironic, but we were partners today in the stacking job. I don’t think he said 10 words to me all day.  But we seemed to get along all right, and the work was done well.  I am not the kind of guy to go and ask him if I offended him.  And he is not the kind of guy to tell me if I did.  So as long as this lack of communication between us does not create any future problems, it will be all right for each of us to remain the type of people that we are.  Otherwise I will come forward and address the issue. Everyone is working far too well together for conflict.

Chris Harvey, June 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 8, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

A splash of water on my face, a trip to the head, and a brief breakfast before work…that is all I wanted as I laid in bed at 7:15. I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune today.  I wasn’t even looking for a penny on heads. All I wanted was a nice day full of sunshine and subtle rocking, and maybe a little “scientific work” on the side.

But today I officially became a man!  At least, I’m going to put in my application now to become a man!  I was interrupted from my breakfast of a sausage patty and fresh fruit by Garrett, one of the more experienced scientists onboard, to tell me that I had a meeting to attend. I was previously told that work began at 8 AM sharp, so my intentions were to enjoy my breakfast and then begin work at 8 AM sharp.  Instead, I skipped the rest of breakfast, lubed up in suntan lotion, and hit the fantail of the ship for the first part of a very long day.

We set 160 traps around Necker Island yesterday afternoon.  And after leaving them overnight, our task was to haul them up in the morning, take our catch to the lab to be scanned, weighed, and measured, re-bait the traps, and then stack them on the fantail to be set in new locations later in the day. Each scientist had a different job on the SETTE assembly line.  There were 1) the “crackers,” who opened the traps, removed any catch, and then re-baited the trap; 2) the “runner,” who brought the empty trap down the line and dropped off the bucket with the catch at the intermediary wet lab; 3) the intermediary wet lab, who took the fresh catch into the wet lab for examination, and brought the measured catch back to a trash can filled with salt water to act as a holding pen until the catch could be re-inserted where they were taken from at the bottom of the ocean (our scientists took great care to ensure that each lobster was returned very close to where it was taken from by dropping them to the ocean floor in a cage with a quick release. Rather than just tossing them overboard, where predators could eat them on the way down, the lobster are securely released in their natural habitat.);  4) the wet lab scientists, who took the catch and performed the required measurements on them; and 5) the stackers, who took the empty, re-baited traps and stacked them on the fantail to await being reset.

I was a stacker today, and will be again tomorrow until my rotation is up.  Stackers have the most difficult job because they have to stack the traps four high and then maneuver them across the deck and arrange them in a way so as not to clutter the deck.  Then, when everyone else’s job is done for the day, stackers are responsible for maneuvering the same traps across the same deck in order to be set later in the afternoon.  In addition, stackers have the joy of “swabbing the deck,” as I say in a not-so-good attempt to speak Pirate (Cakawww! My sister!  Cakawww!). Yes, that means we get to scrub the fish blood and any other acquired nastiness from the deck with our toothbrushes!  (Just kidding about the toothbrushes. We still use them to brush our teeth.  We got to use regular, long-handled brushes for this task.  But that doesn’t mean it was any easier or any more fun!)

We set 10 lines of 8 traps and 4 lines of 20 traps for a total of 160 traps in the water yesterday.  So from 8 AM until about 1:30 PM we hauled in the traps.  The hardest part of this was actually waiting for the ship to reposition after each string of traps.  If we had one string of 160 traps, the job wouldn’t have taken so long.  But we had to reposition the ship 14 times!

About 15 minutes after I stacked the last of the traps, I was given the order to begin setting them again.  Talk about government work!  Dig one hole, then turn around and fill it with sand! We set traps from about 1:45 until 4:00, with 20 minutes or so to clean the deck. I think the hardest part of the job was actually watching the deck go from being entirely empty, to entirely full, and then right back to being empty again.  That makes you feel like you haven’t done a thing at all, and you are so darn tired at the end of it all.

But a rewarding thing, aside from the collection of great scientific data, was that we got to throw all of the old bait over the side of the ship.  What do you think would take joy at the sight (or rather, smell) of rotten, dead fish?  That’s right boys and girls, sharks!!!!  In a matter of minutes we had about a dozen Galapagos sharks, raging from about 6 to 10 feet in length, fighting each other for the old mackerel.  The entire ship, crew and scientists, gathered around the side to watch the sharks fight it out about 8 feet below.  That was pretty cool! I offered to throw Amee overboard, but she didn’t want to go.  She said only if I went first. So I took a diving knife in my teeth, in the style of a true Pirate, and jumped over board to wrestle with the sharks!  (Can you tell it’s been a long day? Of course, I didn’t wrestle with the sharks.  But I did offer to throw Amee overboard!)

After the long day of stacking and resetting the traps and swabbing the deck, I ate a brief dinner and watched the end of a movie.  At this point I was notified that people were bottom fishing again outside.  Those of you who know me know that I cannot turn down a chance to bottom fish, even if I am exhausted!  So I headed outside to participate in the action.

But rather than fishing myself, I watched everyone else fish for a while.  One thing that I have learned over the years is to enjoy enjoyment. When other people have an opportunity to enjoy themselves, sometimes it is best for me just to sit back and let them.  So rather than fight my way into the fishing rotation, I let my colleagues fish away.  Believe it or not, some of them have never gone fishing before!  We used hydraulic wenches to fish anyway. And that didn’t seem like true fishing to me.  But since our goal was to catch fish in about 100 fathoms (600 feet) of water, you can count me out of fighting a fish all the way to the surface.

About midway through our fishing expedition, the sharks started showing up again.  Kenji, one of the ship’s crewmembers, caught a very nice sized snapper, but only managed to bring in a very nice sized head.  A shark got the rest of the body! He later landed a good-sized grouper. It seemed strange at first to fish from the ship.  But with scientific permits, we are able to collect specimen for measurements and population density studies. And after the fish have been chilled, the scientists cut into them and look for certain parts that tell them certain things (I don’t have a great memory of what parts they look for, and although I am a fan of eating fish, cutting them up has never been my favorite thing so I stay away from it as much as possible.).

Around sunset, I was given a chance to fish and, despite my focus on seeing a green flash (we saw one the first night at sea), I took over on the fishing wench.  As soon as my line hit bottom I had a fish on.  Huntley, another crewmember and now good friend of mine, told me to wait a couple more minutes to see if any more fish would take any more of the 4 baited hooks (we fished with 5 hooks in total).  I waited and it seemed as though I had at least another fish on, so I began to haul in the line.  Anyone who has ever fished knows that most, if not all, of the excitement of fishing comes from the anticipation of the catch.  The fishing line bridges the world above water to the world under water and, without singing the Little Mermaid song “Under the Sea,” I think it is our fascination with the unknown that makes this bridge so exciting.  In all my patience, I expected to have the largest and best catch. I am known for that sort of thing.  And about 30 or 40 feet from the surface, I felt my line jerk up and down really hard several times.  Had this occurred while my bait was on the bottom, I would have become very excited.  However, I knew exactly what that meant.  I hauled the line up to the surface and to my disbelief, the shark that took my fish also took my five-pound lead weight!  Jeff, the ship’s doctor and my fishing buddy, commented on the fact that some shark was going to be regretting its decision to swallow the weight. I laughed, but then thought about the countless Shark Week episodes I watched as a kid where they split open freshly caught sharks to examine their stomachs.  Sharks will truly eat anything.  Including nosy British girls who won’t stop staring over my shoulder as I type (Amee is standing behind me reading every word I write, making sure that I do not write poorly of her anymore!)

No green flash at sunset tonight.  But a beautiful “Miami Dolphin Sunset,” as I call it, when the sky is full of the Miami Dolphin’s shades of aqua and orange.  We are watching Groundhog Day tonight, and I am already late!  They say we are watching it because setting and hauling traps becomes one continuous blur of a day.  I believe them after a day like today.  Eight full, and much needed, hours of sleep will be immediately followed by a splash of water on my face, a trip to the head, and a brief breakfast before work…

Chris Harvey, June 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Necker Island came into view about an hour ago.  But alas! I was enthralled in Kurt Vonnegut’s latest (last?) masterpiece, “A Man Without a Country.”  It was rather hard to put down. Having the same critical side to me as Vonnegut, I have become a fan of his recently.  In this novel he comments on the times, and on the times ahead from a socialist/humanist standpoint.  I enjoyed most of it, though some parts struck a nerve.  It is strange to think that as a writer, some people think the same thoughts as I and are able to express them so much more eloquently.  We have stopped now to bottom fish in about 120 fathoms of water.  Good for us! For those of you who skipped Pirating 101, or Sailing Across the Atlantic 101, a fathom is 6 feet.  So you do the math!  I have a feeling I am spending a lot more time writing than it is intended.  But as the proverbial “they” say, practice makes perfect.  Or rather, as my high school basketball coach stressed, perfect practice makes perfect!

If you cannot tell, I have taken a peculiar fascination with Amee.  I have become a scientist of sorts on board this ship.  And she is a rather strange creature to study.  So I spend much time dissecting her horrible English accent, and injecting as much sarcasm as possible when we communicate.  Recently she commented on how nice my boots looked.  I thanked her and told them that they were called “Euro trekkers,” and that they were good for trekking Euro. They don’t really match my board shorts and t-shirt, but this is no fashion show!

By the way, on a semi-serious note: Amee is a police officer back in England, so we have had many stories to swap about our less-than-ideal work conditions.  I think that is why we get along so well. The other researchers onboard are just “kids,” as I have explained before. They are all undergraduate students with slightly less life experience than either of us. So I truly enjoy having a friend who can relate to my experience, especially one with a diverse perspective. We have debated the solution to all of the world’s problems from various angles, and I am continuing to see why perspective is so important to solutions.  (By the way, the solution to all of the world’s problems is Ahu, a little red snapper that dwells around Hawaii.  It is a pretty little thing, with big eyes and a fat belly.  Well, the solution is either Ahu, or Peanut Butter and Jelly.  You can never go wrong with that!)

I am often viewed as a complainer, because I tend to see the world through very critical eyes. But I also do my best to gain as much perspective in a situation as possible before opening my mouth.  This is something that I have learned through traveling time and time again. I remember very clearly the first time I spoke without perspective on my first journey. I was sitting in a lounge in a hostel in Dublin, Ireland having a conversation with a Canadian, a Kiwi (New Zealand), a Welshman, and a Pole (is that what someone from Poland is called?) about the politics of the war in Iraq. It had first broken out just days before my travel, and I was anxious about the reception that I would have in Europe.  In some cities there were riots and American exchange students were being spit on and beaten up in public. And here we were, a bad joke waiting to be told, trying to figure out the ethics, reasons for, and solution to the war in Iraq, each of us from a different standpoint. I started to open my mouth to say what I truly felt as an American who survived the 911 attacks and grew up under the protection of and respect for the military, which would have been brutally honest, when the Welshman cut me off and began ranting and raving about how terrible US politics were.  I was growing furious inside and if it weren’t for the good-natured Kiwi who spoke up before me, I would have said something rude and most likely provocative of a fight.  The Kiwi asked the Welshman if he had ever lived in the United States.  The Welshman said no.  “Have you ever visited the United States?” Again the answer was no. “Then what right have you to speak of the politics of the United States if you have never been there?”  Silence filled the room and suddenly I was aware of what perspective truly meant.

Had I opened my mouth to defend my country, I would have most likely ended up looking just as angry and ignorant as the Welshman for his point of view.  Instead, through patience and persevering through another person’s point of view, I was able to objectively understand the arguments from another person’s side of things.  I had NEVER been able to do this before. And at this particular moment, my life was forever changed.

Would we all take the time to get to know our neighbors and those people who we don’t seem to get along with, I am sure things would be much better in the world.  While I can only promote this notion on a small scale, I hope that others can see how important perspective truly is. EVERY time I travel I learn something new about myself.  Every time I stop and listen to the complaints of someone else about myself, I am able to see things in myself that I need to change.  Again, can I save the world? Most definitely not.  But can I learn enough to change a small part of the world through conversations with people such as Amee?  Certainly.  Should it be my purpose in life to listen and extend my perspective on various ideas and notions?  I believe so.  And not to sound preachy, or “teacher-ish,” as I like to refer to these moments, but do you ever wonder how much confrontation, stress, anxiety, and negativity we could avoid if we only took the time to stop and listen to another person’s point of view?

As Amee knows, I am ALWAYS right!  She has affectionately dubbed me the American Redneck. And to make the name stick, I have intentionally earned myself a farmer’s tan over the last day and a half. I am officially an American Redneck, and Amee is officially a Bloody Brit, but we are officially friends, and that makes a day for me…

We have “made a bed” for ourselves a short distance away from Necker Island.  For all of the huff and puff of reaching the island, I am a little disappointed.  It is definitely nothing more than a rather small island, or a rather large piece of rock, sticking out of the water just enough to attract several dozen birds.  Apparently there are some monuments engraved into the island, left over from primitive Pacific cultures.  Scientists’ best guess is that they were used for navigation, or small religious ceremonies, since the island is definitely not habitable.

It has been a long day today and I am grateful for the change in pace.  At 12:45 we were called into the wet lab, a laboratory set up on the inside of the ship where most of the science of the project will take place.  We, the novice researchers, were given instructions on how to set up and bait the traps, as we would be setting them in our first sites almost immediately.  Joe, one of the scientists and leading authorities on the North West Hawaiian Island (NWHI) lobsters, gave us the run through in Trap 101.  I can teach any of you Trap 101 upon my return to the mainland if you so desire.  He didn’t have certificates to print out, so my knowledge of lobster traps will be filed away under the “Important Once Upon A Time” folder inside my head that contains information such as: how to remove a tick from a dog’s rear end, how to speak Pig Latin, and how to cook microwave popcorn in a microwave.

By 1 PM we were all out on the fantail of the ship assembling, baiting, and locking 160 lobster traps. This again was a wonderful portrait of the unity that we have formed among us, with no instruction to cooperate as such.  To give you an idea of our working conditions, whenever fish blood was spilled on the hot, black deck, a filthy steam would rise into the air. I went through a gallon of water in the course of an hour or so.  And at times the sweat was pouring into my eyes so much that by the time I wiped my eyes with my shirt, more sweat was pouring in. (Remember, no pity parties…yet!)  Now take into consideration that there was many of us working together in a rather tight spot (after we have assembled 160 lobster traps, the deck is rather full) all requiring the same basic materials to complete our task, in such heat as I’ve just described.  I can count the number of times one of us complained by using a Goglesplotcha (That’s right, whatever that “word” is, it does not exist.  NO ONE complained once.).

By 2:30 we were setting traps in the water with the help of the more experienced ship crew. Although no specific jobs were assigned, we seemed to rotate the workload between us, ensuring that the job was done effectively and efficiently.  Again, coming from a business mind, I am thoroughly impressed with the way things went today.  Our boss was so confident in our working together that he stood on the next deck above us and drank a diet coke while we sweated away (I guess that is the reason we should all strive to become a boss one day!).  Nobody had to thank me for the work I had done.  Nor did I have to thank anyone else. We all knew that we had successfully completed the task. Had I a PhD behind my name, I might study our methods a little closer and try to coin a phrase to describe our cooperation and put it in a book!  I think, if somehow our faculty could cooperate the way we did today, there is no question in my mind we would become the best school in the district.  There were probably flaws along the way, and at times some of us may have been thinking that we were carrying more or less of the workload. But when it was all said and done, the job was done wonderfully and we will be rewarded by the data we begin collecting tomorrow.

That’s it for now. Life aboard the ship is peachy keen (or something cheesy like that).

PS- The “sea legs” have arrived, complete with a nice sunburn!  The only trouble I have now is closing my eyes in the shower to keep the shampoo out of my eyes.  When I do this, it seems my inner ear loses its balance and I bang my head against the showerhead.  Believe it or not, the methodical scientist that I am, it is not enough to have this happen once. I must try several times, testing variables such as water temperature, width of stance, and pace of head scrubbing.  In the end I get the same bruised noggin.  O’ the price I have to pay in the name of science!  (It may just be that I am clumsy.  I haven’t taken that variable into consideration yet!)

Chris Harvey, June 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 6, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I survived the night with ease! The only problem I had was after I woke up the first time (around 1:30 AM) and could not fully get back to sleep.  I am still struggling with this jetlag thing, although my “sea legs” are coming along well.  Knock on wood; I am already well adjusted in the inner ear, though I still get tossed around a bit when I try to walk. I can handle that though. It is the seasickness that I feared.

I ate breakfast with Amee and John, the Electronics Technician guy.  He handles all of the communications and electronics stuff on the ship.  We all traded past war stories and somehow ended up in a pseudo-philosophical discussion about science and technology and the future of our world. (I say “pseudo-philosophical” because none of us is trained in any way in philosophy!) Yeah, we are all science geeks!  But it was fun. I am learning that everyone on the ship is very kindhearted and friendly.  I guess you have to be if you are going to live in such close quarters together for so long.  I’ve begun to think of this ship in terms of reality shows (Not that I am a fan of them, but we are under a lot of the same conditions: many strangers with unique backgrounds put together in a strange situation, forced to share resources in close conditions, while attempting to complete a task or mission in a given amount of time.).  I will attempt to document the human element of this trip as much as the scientific.  After all, is observation not a key element to the scientific method?  So far we are drama-free, aside from losing Tonatiuh.  But there are still 30 days left.

On a more concrete note, we are headed towards Necker Island, to the northwest of Oahu.  Unofficial word is that we will be there by mid-afternoon.  Although I have also heard that we have another full day of transit.  When we arrive there, we will begin baiting and setting lobster traps. Our mission on the OSCAR ELTON SETTE is to trap lobster in the Hawaiian waters, take measurements of tagged lobsters, and keep track of the overall population density of lobsters in the given areas.  My colleagues are concerned that the number of lobsters in the area is remaining low despite the fact that the waters have been off limits to commercial fishermen since 1990.  They are hoping that, each time they come out here, there will be a sudden increase in the number of lobsters in the area.  Something must be keeping the population down, and through the data we collect, we will be able to contribute to determining the cause, and therefore be able to help scientists devise solutions to stabilizing the lobster population.

Until we reach Necker Island, it is smooth sailing across a gently rolling Pacific, upon my perch on the Marine Mammal Observation Deck, the highest deck set directly above the bridge and which is intended for use for scientists to search for whales, dolphins, and other such life. It is covered, with a nice breeze, and Garret, a fellow researcher, is playing his harmonica.  Life couldn’t get much better.

On that note: Bob, the Chief Scientist onboard the ship (my “boss” so to speak) has made it rather clear to me that when the time to work comes, I will be working hard alongside everyone else. “I don’t know what they told you about the Teacher at Sea program,” he told me over the phone when I first arrived in Honolulu.  “But you are not going to be just observing. You will be getting hands on and dirty.”  “Good,” I told him with a smile on my face.  “That’s why I am here.”  I imagine that when we arrive at Necker Island the pace of life will pick up rather dramatically.  Until then, I am going to work on learning the ropes and enjoy my time with good company.

We have stopped the ship so that we can take a CTD reading.  The CTD reading is a measure of Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth of a water sample between the surface and 500 meters below the surface.  I was very interested in this because 1) it is the first time we have stopped the ship since we made our run out of Honolulu and a change of scenery is great when you are on a ship; and 2) the information that comes back from a CTD is very relevant to the information that I cover in my Earth/Space Science class (Mother, you will have to find some answers to questions I will pose, since some of the data contradicted my thoughts of what it should be.)

The data we are collecting is part of a time series, meaning that we are taking the sample at a specific point that has been sampled in the past and will be sampled in the future.  Scientists can then use the data over time to make inferences about such things as an approaching El Nino or La Nina, suitable regions for supporting animal populations, and other such conclusions based on our basic oceanographic data.  In addition to temperature and depth, the CTD measures the amount of oxygen and chlorophyll in the water, as well as the ocean’s salinity. Why is this data important?  We’ll get to that in a minute.

The CTD is nothing more than a weighted contraption with sensors built into it.  It is picked up by a winch and then released at a rate of 60 meters per minute to a maximum depth of 500 meters.  For this trip, we are going to take four CTD readings.  It is a secondary mission for us, meaning the only reason we are doing it is because we happen to be in the area. As the CTD increases in depth, these are some things I would have expected to see:

1) Temperature should decrease (the deeper it goes, the further it is from sunlight)

2) Chlorophyll count should decrease (Chlorophyll is dependent upon sunlight as well. This is the same chlorophyll that is found in green plants on the solid earth, and is important because it is the most basic form of life for the aquatic food chain. Thus, the more chlorophyll, the greater the chance that an aquatic food chain could be established and supported in a given region of water.  No chlorophyll would indicate a region of water that would most likely not be able to sustain life- i.e.- without chlorophyll there would be no plankton.)

3) Salinity should increase (Saline water is more dense than fresh water, so more saline water should be found at greater depths than less saline water)

4) Oxygen should be found in greatest abundance wherever chlorophyll is in greatest abundance. (Remember from Biology 101, chlorophyll takes carbon dioxide and sunlight and converts it to oxygen)

What actually happened was this:

1) Temperature did in fact decrease with depth, though only slightly.  We were at a depth of over 4,000 meters and we only sent the CTD down 500 meters.  Imagine what would have happened if we sent it down further!

2) The chlorophyll count went from about zero to its maximum at 100 meters, and then returned back to zero by 200 meters depth. This makes sense since most of the sunlight is absorbed by 200 meters.

3) The salinity of the seawater increased at first, then decreased, and ultimately ended up about the same as at the surface.  This is the question I pose for you Terry (ask Marge for some assistance!): Why?  One of my colleagues, smartalec Amee, told me that it was because the Coriolis effect was stirring the ocean between depths of 0-500 meters.  Is this true?  (Remember, Amee is British so I must second-guess ANYTHING and EVERYTHING she says!)

4) Oxygen followed the same suit as I suspected and was at greatest concentration where the chlorophyll was at greatest concentration.

It was very interesting to conduct this investigation because the data that I use in class comes from surveys such as ours.  This was another exciting science-geek moment for me because I seem to forget quite often that I am on a NOAA research vessel conducting the research and acquiring the data that many science resources across the world become dependent upon!

On the sociology side of things, our reality show would never cut it back in the States.  It seems that we all just get along too darn well!  No matter what we seem to say or do to each other, everything seems to come out positive.  Imagine having classrooms with environments like this!  Imagine communities cooperating like we do!  Imagine entire cities or states or countries, or God-forbid, the entire world!  The words of John Lennon come to mind: “…Imagine all the people…”  I guess I am in a utopia of sorts, where life is different only for the time being.  But just imagine!

…you may say that I’m a Dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

Chris Harvey, June 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log: “Sea Legs”

I am having difficulty acquiring my “sea legs,” but it seems that I am not the only one.  I took my non-drowsy Dramamine an hour before departure and I have seen others among us landlubbers with seasickness-medicated patches behind their ears.  Amee, my British confidante in which I have already found similar humor, perspective on life, and taste for tea, has assured me that it is all inside my head.  “Stop thinking you’ll be sick,” she says in a Mary Poppins’ motherly sort of way. “And you won’t be sick…And stop drinking so much tea!”  Had she been a psychologist or a flight surgeon and not a marine biologist, I might have accepted her advice as truth.  As for the tea, I have fallen asleep by 7 PM both nights I have been in Hawaii and I have resorted to drinking caffeine tea to try to extend my waking hours.  Amee says that drinking too many fluids will make me sick.  I say, not drinking enough tea will make me fall asleep on the job.

And here it is 8:15 and I have already conceded defeat unto the Sea.  I have taken my drowsy Dramamine coupled with some Tylenol PM, Melatonin, and Gaba to ensure myself a good night’s sleep. Surviving the first night of rest is imperative to the success of the other 29. I think that sleep shall come swiftly and gently.

“The Head” I learned several things when I was young, most of which I learned from my father’s good example:

  1. Never pee into the wind. (Ladies, this does not really apply to you.  Guys, I hope you know this by now!)
  2. Buy a LOT of Girl Scout cookies when they are on sale.  Do not forget that you can always freeze them, and they are only on sale once per year.
  3. Chew with your mouth closed and come to the dinner table wearing a shirt.  (Again, ladies hopefully this does not apply to you!)
  4. Do not try to take a shower on board a moving ship unless you are prepared for water shortages, drastic changes in water temperature and pressure, a general inability to hold oneself upright without the use of one’s hands long enough to use one’s hands to scrub one’s back or hair without falling over, and the door to suddenly open, exposing you to your roommate to both of your dismay.  (Yeah, you are right. I did not learn this one until today.  Father, the veteran Navy sailor, should have explained these things to me years ago!)

Bathrooms are affectionately referred to as “the head” onboard a ship.  As so, I have not figured out why, nor had the inquisitive mind enough to research the reason.  But one thing that I did know about moving ships at sea, which my younger sister Lauren taught me in the Galapagos, is to sleep with a trashcan by your side.  That poor child slept curled at my feet by the toilet while she “popped” at intermittent intervals because we didn’t have a good trashcan in our room.  I have a great one by my side right now, double lined with Hefty bags, though I am hoping not to use it!

“Chow”: We had buffet-style dinner tonight that included salad (with ranch dressing!), spaghetti with shrimp, teriyaki chicken, and Hawaiian pig and roasted vegetables. I had a little of each, with a second helping of green vegetables.  I told Amee that I was worried about scurvy. She told me that I was dumb for worrying about scurvy.  I told her to re-read the history of the merging of her ancestors and mine through the long ship rides from England to what would become the United States; it is littered with failed attempts to colonize due to scurvy. She told me I was dumb and to shut up and eat.  I did. (Did I mention how well our personalities compliment each other?!)  We have to bus our own dishes after we are through eating.  That is better than having to bus everyone else’s dishes after they are through eating. (So long to the restaurant server life…for now.)

“Teacher at Sea”: I am treated somewhat like royalty here—in the sense that I have my own large room, I have to have my correspondence screened by the Commanding Officer of the ship, and everyone knows me as The Teacher at Sea. Being royalty makes life kind of nice.  It doesn’t make the rocking of the ship upon the sea any calmer (I think Jesus is technically the only person capable of such a feat!).  But it does give me an air of importance.  It’s strange, but I am looking up to these “kids” (being college students, they are “kids” to me, though several of them are actually older than me) for their experience and expertise as scientists, researchers, and specialists while it seems from conversation that they all look up to me for the same.  A mutual environment of respect will be important for the bonds we are to form over the next thirty days.

Also, when purchasing a souvenir T-shirt from the ship’s store today, I told the officer that I was a Teacher at Sea, and asked if he had any special deals for me.  “Yeah,” he said as he handed me a blue Oscar Elton Settee t-shirt.  “Fifteen dollars.”  “How much are they regularly?” I asked not really sure if this was a good deal.  “Fifteen dollars!” He replied with a smile on his face.  I handed him the money, returning the smile.  Most everyone seems to be good-humored here…at least for now.  Thirty days at sea is a lot of time together.  We will see how the rest of the days go.

Today was essentially a “get-acquainted-with-the-ship” day.  We will be charging ahead for the next day and a half towards Necker Island.  I hope to have acquired my “sea legs” by then. Breakfast is at 7 AM.  Maybe I will write more after breakfast.  Until then…

Oh yeah. There is talk of getting Tonatiuh back in a few days if his foot heals.  We are meeting up with a charter fishing boat to drop off some researchers around Necker Island.  He may come out on that boat and jump on with us.  It would be nice to have some company to talk to at night.  I am sleeping in a bunk bed like the good old times of sleepovers in my childhood, yet I have no friend above me with which to talk into the early hours of the morning.  Oh well for now.  Woe is me for being in such a terrible position as I am now, on a ship in the middle of the tropical Pacific with a place to sleep, good company, good food, and wonderful scenery.  There is no pity party for me!  Not yet at least!

Chris Harvey, June 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I was picked up at my hotel in downtown Honolulu around 12:30 PM.  Boarding the van with the other researchers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were mostly young undergraduate students, by appearance, about my age.  I am sure that they sighed the same relief to find that their Teacher at Sea was not some “old fart” science teacher from the mainland, but instead a bearded 24-year-old man on a similar quest as their own: to gain insight into the happenings of the science and research world.  It is a common misconception that teachers keep up with, and know all about the subjects that they teach.  This may be true for literature teachers, (When was the last time that Shakespeare composed a piece of literary art?) and even more so for mathematics teachers (I cannot tell you the last time a math story made the front page!).  But science- Wow!  is that a hard subject to master!  Even yesterday a volcano erupted in Indonesia.

This is the last thing I told my students at the end of May before they were released for summer break (and most of them just rolled their eyes because they have heard it so many times throughout the year): the Earth is truly a living thing, and there will be more signs of its life in the coming years as we advance our perception of it through the use of the same science and technology that we learn about in class.  Here I am, a Teacher at Sea aboard a NOAA research vessel, participating in the scientific studies that some of my students may get involved in on their own as college students and beyond!  I am amazed, and truly fortunate to have this opportunity to connect the science of the real world to the science of my classroom.

We are leaving Oahu now for 31 days (counting today).  Right now I am on the ship’s “boat deck,” the level of the ship where all of the life rafts and rescue boats are located, sitting in a chair watching the crew scurry about to send us on our way.  The port around us is full of freight ships loading and unloading cargo, and the airport behind me is active intermittently with an overseas arrival or departure.  The temperature is perfect for shorts and a t-shirt and a nice breeze keeps the air from becoming too hot and stale for comfort.  I am not going to lie, this is one heck of a good deal!  And until the Pacific swells become too much and I find myself keeling over the side, I cannot imagine a better way to spend my summer than on this ship.  Then again, you must remember that I am a science geek, and we geeks tend to get excited about this sort of thing!

On a low note, my bunkhouse mate and best friend so far on the trip, Tonatiuh, has been removed from the cruise due to an infection on his foot.  We have already had several great conversations and I was looking forward to working with him, as he has much graduate work experience that I have not.