Susan Kaiser: Ready, Set, SCIENCE!! July 29, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Kaiser
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 25 – August 4, 2012

Mission: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Coral Reef Condition, Assessment, Coral Reef Mapping and Fisheries Acoustics Characteristics
Geographical area of cruise: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Date: Friday, July 29, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude:  24 deg 36 min N
Longitude:  83 deg 20 min W
Wind Speed: 5.8 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 29.5 C
Air Temperature: 29.5 C
Relative Humidity: 67.0%

Science and Technology Log

Marine Scientist, Danielle Morley, ready for the signal to dive and retrieve a VR2.
Marine Scientist, Danielle Morley, ready for the signal to dive and retrieve a VR2.

Science is messy! Extracting DNA, observing animals in their native habitat or dissecting are just a few examples. On board NOAA Ship Nancy Foster it may even be stinky but only for a little while. That is because the divers are retrieving the Vemco Receivers also called VR2s for short. These devices have been sitting on the ocean floor quietly collecting data on several kinds of grouper and snapper fish. Now it is time to download the VR2s recorded information and give them new batteries before placing them at a new site. So, why are they stinky? Even though the VR2s are enclosed inside another pipe, sea organisms have begun to grow on the top of the VR2. They form a crust that is stinky but can be scraped away with a knife. Any object left in the ocean will soon be colonized by sea creatures such as oysters, algae, and sponges to name a few. These organisms will grow and completely cover the area if they are undisturbed. This crust smells like old seaweed drying on an ocean beach.

VR2 ready to download data and replace batteries.
Clean VR2 ready to download data and replace batteries.

Really, it isn’t too bad and after a while you don’t notice it so much. Besides this is the only way scientists can get the numbers out of the VR2. These numbers tell scientists which fish have been swimming by and how often. Some of the VR2s have collected over 21,000 data points but most have fewer. This information alone helps scientists understand which areas of the ocean floor each species of grouper and snapper prefer as their home or habitat. These data points can even paint a picture of how these fish use the habitat space over the period of an entire year.

Have you been wondering what the VR2s are listening for? You may be surprised to learn it is a signal called a ping from a tracking device that was surgically implanted while the fish is still underwater! The ping is unique for each individual fish. The surgeries were completed when the study began in 2008. First, the fish are caught in live traps. If the trap is in deep water (>80ft) divers descend to perform the surgery on the ocean floor. The fish’s eyes are covered and it is turned upside down. Then a small incision is made in their abdomen and the tag is inserted below the skin. Stitches that dissolve over time are used to close the incision. Once the fish has recovered a bit it is released. An external tag is also clipped into the dorsal fin so other people will know the fish is part of a scientific study. Fish caught in the upper part of the water column may be brought up to the surface slowly and kept in a holding tank while the surgery performed on the boat. Scientists have noted the fish are less stressed by being caught, handled and tagged using this method.  This is a factor for collecting enough data to gain a real understanding of these fishes behavior.

Scientists at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are able to conduct this study with support from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant. They have also worked with other agencies on this research including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS)  the area where the VR2s are positioned. Since 2008 they have learned a great deal to better understand how grouper and snapper use habitat. Both fish are good for eating and are found on the menu in many restaurants around the world. They are commercially harvested and fished by recreational fishermen like you and me. Fishing is a big industry in all coastal locations and especially in Florida. In fact, commercial fishing alone accounts for  between 5-8% of total income or jobs in the local economy of the Florida Keys.  Knowledge gained from this study will help FWC and FKNMS guide decisions about fishing and recreation in the FKNMS and be aware of negative impacts to these fish populations in the future. Stinky air is small sacrifice to help preserve populations of groupers and snappers.

Jeff Renchen describes the features of the ROV.
Jeff Renchen describes the features of the ROV.
Mrs. Kaiser wearing the virtual reality glasses. Photo by Jeff Renchen
Mrs. Kaiser wearing the virtual reality glasses. Photo by Jeff Renchen

You can see that exploring marine habitats takes time, trained people and resources. Luckily a device has been developed to help scientists explore the ocean floor in an efficient and safe way. This little gem is called a Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV. It is a cool science tool operated with a joy-stick controller.  The ROV can dive and maneuver at the same time it sends images back to the operator who is using a computer or wearing virtual reality glasses. Yes, I said virtual reality glasses! The operator can see what the ROV can “see” in the depths of the ocean. I had the opportunity see the ROV in the lab and then ride with the ROV team as they tested the equipment and built their skills manipulating this tool in dive situations. The beauty of the ROV is that it can dive deeper than is allowed for a human diver (>130 feet) and it can stay down for a longer period of time without stopping to adjust to depth changes like a human. If a dive site has a potential risk due to its location or other factors, the ROV can be sent down instead. Scientists can make decisions based on the ROV images to make a plan for a safe live dive and save time and resources. Science is messy, sometimes, but it is cool too!

Personal Log

The weather has been simply amazing with calm crystal clear seas and very smooth sailing. Still, spending the day in the sun saps your energy. However, that feeling doesn’t last too long after a nice shower and a trip to the mess to enjoy a delicious meal prepared in the galley. There Chief Steward Lito Llena and 2nd Cook Randy Covington work their magic to cook some terrific meals including a BBQ dinner one evening on the upper deck. They have thought of everything, especially dessert! I will be paying for it later by running extra laps when I get back home but it will be worth it.

Mrs. Kaiser's stateroom on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.
Mrs. Kaiser’s stateroom on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.

My stateroom is a cozy spot with everything one would need and nothing more. A sink is in the room but showers and toilets are down the hall a few doors. One item that is missing is a window. It is so very dark when the lights are off you can’t see your hand in front of your face. It is easy to over sleep! Surprisingly noise has been minimal since the rooms are very well insulated. I share this space with three female scientists but we each have a curtain to turn our bunks into a tiny private space. I enjoy climbing up in my top bunk, closing my little curtain and reading my book Seabiscuit, An American Legend before being rocked to sleep by the ship.

NOAA Ship Nancy Foster officers and crew have been wonderful hosts on this cruise. All have patiently answered my questions and helped me find my way around to do what I need to do. I am curious about their life at sea and the opportunities it affords them to see new places, meet new people and engage in new experiences too. I hope to learn more about their careers as mariners before this voyage ends. The ship truly is a welcome place to call home for these two weeks.

John Schneider, July 18-20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 18-20, 2009

Position
Shumagin Islands, in transit to Dutch Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System:
(July 18th) Low system approaching from the South
(July 19th) Fog, gusty wind in the morning, clear afternoon, but getting windier; Wind: southwesterly at 4-6 kts; Sea State: 1-2 feet

Weather System:  Projected for the July 20-21 overnight
Barometer: falling rapidly (a warning sign of unsettled weather) Wind: sustained at 30-40 kts, gusting to 55 kts (This would qualify as a “gale”)
Sea State: Predicted wave height next 24-36 hrs – 18 feet!

Andy and lunch—a nice halibut!
Andy and lunch—a nice halibut!

Science and Technology Log 

On the 18th and 19th, the launches went out (including me on the 19th) to clean up some holidays and get more near-shore data.  When we got back on the 19th, we found out that a major low pressure system was building to the south and expected to be in our area within a day and a half.  A major low system can reach out a couple of hundred miles and the CO decided that we would leave the Shumagins about 18 hours earlier than originally planned.  I discussed this with him (he is remarkably approachable) and he reiterates to me what I had already believed: his responsibilities are in three priorities – 1. His crew.  2. His ship.  3. The mission. Our research in the Shumagins does not represent life-or-death, it represents the continuing quest for knowledge and the expansion of our understanding of the Earth.  I’m sure you’ve realized it already, but Captain Baird and his officers have earned my highest regard.

We are in the center of the radar screen and two other ships described below – with their courses projected from the boxes that represent them – are behind us. The green line is our track ahead.
We are in the center of the radar screen and two other ships described below – with their courses projected from the boxes that represent them – are behind us. The green line is our track ahead.

On board the Fairweather is a phenomenal array of electronics.  Our positioning equipment is able to determine our position with just a couple of meters and when we are on a course it can tell if the course error is as little as a decimeter! Operating in Alaska, where fog is a way of life, RADAR (Radio Direction And Ranging) is an absolute must, and we have redundant systems in the event one breaks down. Probably the coolest thing about the radar is the use of ARPA technology. ARPA (Automated Radar Plotting Aid) is a system that not only identifies other vessels on the water, but diagrams their projected course and speed vectors on the screen. It does this from as far as 64 miles away!

The filleted tail of the halibut and some crabs found in its stomach
The tail of the halibut and some crabs found in its stomach

By looking at the screen, you can see the lines of other ships relative to your own and navigate accordingly. Furthermore, the system includes ECDIS, which is an Electronic Chart Display and Information System that identifies other ships as to their name, size, destination, and cargo!  So when you see on the radar that you are in a situation where you will be passing near to another vessel, you can call them on the radio by name! This technology is essential, especially going through Unimak Pass.  Unimak Pass is about 15 miles wide and is a critical point in commercial shipping traffic between the Americas and Asia. As we were transiting Unimak Pass, We were passed by an 800 foot long container ship that was en route to Yokohama, Japan and going the other way was a 750 foot ship going to Panama.  This is a critical area due to what is called “Great Circle” navigation.  I’ll address this point when in Dutch Harbor next week.

Eat your hearts out!
Eat your hearts out!

Personal Log 

Last night, after the beach party, Andy Medina (who has been on board for almost 200 days this year) was fishing off the fantail and caught a nice halibut. The crew who hail from Alaska all have fishing permits and when the day is done, if we’re anchored they get to use their free time for fishing.  They even got a freezer to keep their filets in.  Earlier in the cruise, we actually had halibut tacos made with about the freshest Alaskan halibut you can find (less than 12 hours from catch to lunch!)  Of course, with me being a bio guy, I asked for two things: 1 – to keep and freeze the head (I For the last night of the leg before making port in Dutch Harbor  (home of the World’s Deadliest Catch boats) the stewards, Cathy Brandts, Joe Lefstein and Mike Smith really outdid themselves.  I sure hope you can read the menu board, but if you can’t, dinner was Grilled NY Strip Steak and Steamed Crab legs with Butter! 

We went through about 10 trays like this!!!
We went through about 10 trays like this!!!

After dinner, everybody secured as much equipment as possible in the labs, galley and cabins as possible in anticipation of the run ahead of the weather into Dutch Harbor.  We ran through the night and got to Unimak pass in the middle of the day on the 20th. About half way through the pass was an unusual announcement, “Attention on the Fairweather, there are a lot of whales feeding off to starboard!” It’s the only time whales were announced and it was worth the announcement.  For about 2 to 3 miles, we were surrounded by literally MILLIONS of seabirds and a score or more of whales.  Comments from everybody were that they had never seen anything like it. I kept thinking of the old Hitchcock film The Birds and the scenes in Moby Dick where Ahab says to “watch the birds.” We were all agog at the sight.

Fifteen minutes of this! Incredible!
Fifteen minutes of this! Incredible!

With the collective 200-300 years of at-sea experience, no one had ever seen anything like it. After 2.5 weeks that seems like 2.5 days, we approach Dutch Harbor and are secured to the pier by 1700 hours. Tonight we’ll head into town, but if not for the news in the next paragraph, this would be the worst time of the trip, however . . .

The Best news of the trip: I’ve requested and been approved to stay on board the Fairweather for the next leg! WOO-HOO!!!  It’s called FISHPAC and deals with integrating bottom characteristics to commercially viable fish populations!  I’m going to the Bering Sea!!!

Questions for You to Investigate 

  1. When did the Andrea Doria and Stockholm collide?  Where?  In what conditions?
  2. What was the D.E.W. Line in the Cold War?
  3. Why did the Japanese want bases in the Aleutians in WWII?
  4. Why did we pass a ship going from North America to Yokohama well over 1000 miles north of both ends of the trip?
  5. What are Great Circles?

Did You Know? 

That almost 10% of all commercial fishing catch in the United States comes through Unalaska and Dutch Harbor?

Approaching Dutch Harbor
Approaching Dutch Harbor

Taylor Parker, April 21, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 21, 2009

The crew does an incredible job of lowering these SAFE boats into the water with Kona coast in the background.
The crew does an incredible job of lowering these SAFE boats into the water with Kona coast in the background.

Weather Data 
Winds: 7-16 knots variable.
3-5 ft swells.
Water temp: 24 C.
Air temp: 70 F.

Science and Technology Log 

Oh man, I am so happy that we’re underway! The swells found us today and we’re finally rocking around – it is great! Today, the game-plan is that at 6am the 15ft SAFE boat runs out into the sapphire blue Hawaiian waters to study the slicks (areas of converging down-welling currents- the glassy parts in the ocean) while the 19ft boat tries to find juvenile bottom-fish. Good luck!

Retrieving the trawl
Retrieving the trawl

I, however, am helping three other scientists with trawling for billfish. We’re working with the Isaacs-Kidd trawl (I/K). This is a 10 meter long net with 5mm mesh that is connected to a detachable cod-end which collects the plankton. The I/K was named after the researchers from Scripps in La Jolla who developed the technology in the 60’s. We dropped the net bearing their names into the water by an A-Frame winch maintaining just below the surface for an hour. At this time the net is retrieved and the cod end is removed for study. It is replaced with a fresh end and the net is thrown back into the water for another hour.

The codend is replaced
The codend is replaced

The cod-end is brought into the hydro-lab and the contents are splayed out into a tray and analyzed. The marine organisms are then sorted, organized and labeled for any rare or special fish – my personal favorite is the long, skinny Lizardfish in the middle of the tray. The different fish in this photo are really interesting. The small one in the top left is a Slender Mola which as an adult lives in the open water, the longer Lizardfish lives on the bottom, the Blenny lives near shore in shallow water while the Lantern-fish grows up, lives in mid-water and develops light organs. As adults they grow into different sizes, scatter into different waters in the ocean and adapt accordingly. But as larvae they are all found together—in the slicks.

The contents of the cod-end are readied for analysis
The contents of the cod-end are readied for analysis

The target specimens for this trawl are Marlin, Swordfish and other billfish larvae. And you know what? We caught a couple; the one pictured is a baby Swordfish. From this photo it is hard to believe this creature grows up to be the extremely muscular fish in the same sub-Order as the one Hemingway writes about, but it is true. Not much is known about the life histories of these fish, that is why we’re here, but it is believed that it takes many years to reach adult. The specimen were photographed and then placed in a 32oz plastic jar with ethyl alcohol for further analyzing later. We repeated this process 6 times throughout the day.

Personal Log 

My personal favorite, the lizardfish
My personal favorite, the lizardfish

The I/K collects a lot of very small marine organisms. It looks like gumbo. Luckily, this isn’t our dinner; we’re fed a lot better looking— and definitely tasting— food on this cruise. We collected numerous jellies, shrimp, fish larvae, debris, eggs, nudibranchs and crabs. All of it is relatively transparent so you don’t notice it while in the ocean. The I/K concentrates the gelatinous biota and truly illustrates what is in the water. And considering the warmer waters of the tropics are less productive than colder waters, this isn’t everything that could be there. Just don’t think about this when you open your mouth underwater!

A baby swordfish
A baby swordfish

The trawl was fun and definitely a new experience. It is truly incredible the amount of life that is in the water. Until you see you it pulled out, you don’t believe it. This is one of the paradigm-shifting results from being on this ship that I am only now beginning to realize. This entire vessel is designed to study the ocean; every facet of this boat is geared toward understanding the marine world. The researchers and crew on the Sette are actively embracing NOAA’s mission of stewardship.

Question of the Day 

"Gumbo" from the trawl
“Gumbo” from the trawl

Why are the fish we catch the colors they are—orange, yellow, red, etc? This was one of the questions I asked some of the expert marine biologists over dinner the other day and I was told that one of the reasons is that the colors makes the fish invisible. Red absorbs the spectrum of light that gets down around 100 fathoms and makes the fish look grey.

New Term/ Phrase/ Word 
New words: Vog –volcanic fog. Here the marine layer is normal condensation coupled with volcanic particulates. Kai – Hawaiian for the sea; Nalu – Hawaiian for waves; Kuliana— Hawaiian for responsibility. This can be responsibility for anything: your job, your family, etc. But as Ensign Norris says, it is also responsibility for the environment and it reminds us to protect what we have.

Animals Seen Today 
We saw a Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) today zooming the boat. It is a beautiful bird that I’ve never seen before and its wings were truly massive. We also caught a few billfish and fish larvae so tiny they look like they are just heads!

Taylor Parker, April 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 19, 2009

Weather Data 
Calm winds of about 5 knots.
30% -50% Cloud cover.
80F degrees.

Science and Technology Log 

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Welcome to my ship logs!  On our cruise we are studying bottom fish in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. The purpose of studying bottom fish is because of their popularity by commercial interests. These animals are well fished by local boats and there is much to learn about them and their life histories for sustainable fisheries management. Better knowledge of life history traits, such as age, growth and size and age at maturity will help current efforts to assess the bottom fish fisheries in the main Hawaiian Islands.

This weekend was exciting. After our cruise being delayed about a week due to various generator problems, it was decided that we would begin some of the bottom fish research from the smaller SAFE boats. On Saturday, April 19th, two teams hauled two boats (a 15 ft and 20 ft SAFE boat) to a boat ramp near Diamondhead on Oahu. Both were deployed at approximately 8:00am with the smaller boat studying “slicks” for conductivity, salinity and temperature as well as phyto- and zooplankton. The other boat, the one I was on, studied the bottom fish we pulled up. The smaller boat concluded their operations around 2pm while our boat finished at 4:30pm. All together our boat spent about 8 ½ hours on the water; we ate several sandwiches, drank a lot of Gatorade and used about a bottle of sunscreen. The weather was incredible with very little wind and few clouds until 2pm. The winds around Oahu pick up in the early afternoon and create some challenging swells.

As for the work done on the boats, we studied “slicks” and bottom fish. Slicks are the visible trails created in the water due to converging water flow. This trail has less turbulence than surrounding current and many fish larvae are found within these mini-refuges. They are called slicks because of their resemblance to oil slicks and that is partially because of the accumulation of oils from the many marine species. The smaller boat worked with specially adapted collection devices and finished the day with a bucket worth of sample to analyze.

Our boat dropped lines in the water several times to depths ranging from 100 – 230 meters to hopefully catch different bottom fish species. The gear we used consisted of two motorized reels and several hundred meters worth of monofilament mainline on each reel. At the bottom of the mainline a “blood” line was connected. It is called so because of the red color of the stronger line. A “pigtail” connection is attached to the lower end of the blood line to easily connect the interchangeable hooks and weight.  Three or four hooks are then attached to an interchangeable line connected to the pigtail.

Finally, a two pound weight is attached to the end of the line of hooks to bring the whole rig to the bottom. The fish we are targeting remain at a depth of more than 100 meters on semi-hard to hard bottom (rock and crushed coral). Once an appropriate site was found, the coxswain maintained position while we fished. In total we caught 6 fish: 4 Ehu (Etelis corbunculus), a Gindai (Pristipomoides zonatus) and a kind of Large-headed Scorpion fish, Hogo (Pontinus macrocephalus). We released the scorpion fish because it is not part of the study and one of the Ehu because it was healthy enough to return after we took measurements.

Personal Log 

I’ve never caught fish before. The only challenge I had in applying for this position was in my ability to kill another animal but I believe in the importance of research and recognize the beneficial impacts this work has toward promoting better stewardship of our natural resources. Catching a few fish for this cause seems justifiable and studying these creatures and their physiology is fascinating. After pulling the Ehu and Gindai from the water and seeing their remarkable oranges, red and yellows contrast against the blue of the swirling Hawaii waters, it surprises me that we cannot see these fish at all swimming directly underneath us. If the waters were truly clear, visible to the bottom, I believe the amount of and variety of colors we would see would mystify us.

Speaking of mystifying: the behemoth Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) visited us on our day trip. Although it is late in the season for them –most are on their way to the plankton buffet outside Alaska – we saw several momma whales swimming with their calfs. One time, on the horizon, we saw two humpbacks slapping their pectoral fins on the surface and crashing around with each other playing.

Additional: New term/ phrase/ word 

I’m learning new Hawaiian words: Puka means a hole or divet of any size and Pau is a term that has traditionally meant dead but has come to mean finished.

Katie Turner, July 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 26, 2008

Rescue crew retrieves a dummy man overboard. It is a maritime custom to refer to the man overboard as “Oscar." This comes from an international regulation requiring the raising of the Oscar flag when a vessel is responding to a man overboard, warning other vessels to be on the lookout
Rescue crew retrieves a dummy man overboard. It is a maritime custom to refer to the man overboard as “Oscar.” This comes from an international regulation requiring the raising of the Oscar flag when a vessel is responding to a man overboard, warning other vessels to be on the lookout

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility:  3 miles
Wind Direction:  050
Wind Speed:  8 knots
Sea Wave Height:  0-1 foot
Swell Wave Height:  2-3 feet
Seawater Temperature: 7.8˚ C.
Present Weather Conditions: cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

After leaving Captain’s Bay early Friday morning, the trip to the rendezvous point with OSCAR DYSON took nearly 20 hours. During that time we had our mandatory fire, abandon ship, and man overboard drills.  For our fire drill the Captain staged a mock fire, with smoke reported from the acoustics lab.  The fire fighting team had to respond, find the point of origin of the fire and figure out how to treat it. A debriefing was held afterward so that responders could discuss strategies and learn from the experience.

The rescue boat is brought back aboard the MILLER FREEMAN
The rescue boat is brought back aboard the MILLER FREEMAN

The abandon ship drill is regularly performed so all crew are ready to respond to a severe emergency by mustering at their assigned stations and getting into survival suits to be ready to board life rafts. It’s a good way for new crew members, such as me, to make sure they know where to go and what to bring. We made our rendezvous with OSCAR DYSON late Friday evening in the Bering Sea and immediately moved into position to run the first side by side transect. We are working on a comparison study to determine whether acoustic estimates of pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) abundance made by MILLER FREEMAN and OSCAR DYSON are comparable.  Pollock may have different behavioral responses to these vessels during surveys due to the differences in the amount of noise each vessel radiates into the sea from its propeller, engines, and other equipment.  These behaviors could affect the acoustic estimates of abundance.  OSCAR DYSON is taking over the task of acoustic pollock surveys in the Bering Sea and has been built under new specifications that require a lower level of radiated noise. MILLER FREEMAN has been doing the Bering Sea pollock surveys since 1977.  This study is important because it will ensure that future biomass estimates will be continuous with those done in the past. During this cruise the two ships will continuously collect acoustic backscatter data while traveling side by side along a transect line where pollock schools are known to occur. The distance between the two ships is maintained at 0.5 nautical miles (nm), while they travel at about 12 knots. Every 50 nm along the transect, the vessels switch sides.

OSCAR DYSON from the bridge of the MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea
OSCAR DYSON from the bridge of the MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea

For this to happen one vessel will slow down and cross behind the stern of the other vessel, then catch back up on the other side. The beginning and end of each transect section must be carefully coordinated between the scientific team in the acoustics lab The remainder of our time on this cruise will be spent working with the OSCAR DYSON to cover as much of the study area as possible before returning to the port of Dutch Harbor.  After the study is complete, the acoustic data collected by each vessel will be carefully compared to see if there is any consistent difference between them. At the same time officers on the bridge are in constant communication to coordinate navigation and maneuvering of the ships.

The figure above shows the final transect path of MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea as straight lines in red. The parallel lines running nearly north and south were traversed from the east to the farthest westerly point. The zigzag red line across the parallel lines represents the path taken as we head back to the southwest on our return. Other colored lines on the map are depth contour lines.  Red lines indicate depths from -75 to -100 meters, yellow to -130 meters, green to -155 meters, and blue greater than  -160 meters.

Ship transect
Ship transect

Personal Log 

During these few days at sea the scientists onboard have taught me a lot about acoustic studies. It’s a complex science that requires both an understanding of the physical science of acoustics and the technology involved, but also the biology, behavior, and ecology of pollock.

One of the opportunities I have especially enjoyed has been watching and photographing the seabirds. They are an important part of this ecosystem and one that can be observed without acoustics. We have seen mostly northern fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis) and black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), but also an occasional long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus), and flocks of thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia). Northern fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis) exhibit a lot of variation in color from very light, to light, and dark versions, with gradations in between. These different color morphs all mate indiscriminately. They are gull sized birds with moderately long wings, a short, stout, pale bill, and a short rounded tail. A key characteristic is their dark eye smudge.  They are common in the Bering Sea but also in the northeast Atlantic.

Northern fulmar, light morph
Northern fulmar, light morph
Northern fulmar, dark morph
Northern fulmar, dark morph

Fulmars are well known among commercial fisherman for scavenging waste thrown off fishing boats, which explains why they have been nearly constant companions to the MILLER FREEMAN on this cruise. Fulmars are members of the family Procellariiformes, also known as the “tube-nose” birds, along with albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters. The term comes from the tubular nostril, a structure that looks like a tube on top of their beak.  Their beak, as you can see in the photo, is made up of many plates. This specialized nostril is an adaptation that enhances their sense of smell by increasing the surface area within to detect scent. They also have enlarged brain structures that help them process those scents. Learn more at the Cornell and U.S.G.S. websites.

Katie Turner, July 25, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 25, 2008

Bald eagles are abundant around the port in Dutch Harbor
Bald eagles are abundant around the port in Dutch Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 075
Wind Speed: 13 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3 feet
Seawater Temperature: 7.1˚C.
Present Weather Conditions: Cloudy, 9.3˚C, 94% humidity

Science and Technology Log 

After spending 3 weeks at the dock in Dutch Harbor, MILLER FREEMAN finally began the cruise with less than a week left to complete the study. We pulled away from the dock Thursday afternoon, 24 July, and sailed to nearby Captain’s Bay to calibrate the acoustic instruments.

A line diagram of MILLER FREEMAN showing the location of the centerboard below the hull
A line diagram of MILLER FREEMAN showing the location of the centerboard below the hull

Background 

Acoustics is the scientific study of sound: its generation, transmission, and reception.  Sound travels in waves at known rates, and the physical properties of the material the waves travel through affect the speed of sound.  These properties of sound waves enable their use in medical diagnosis, testing critical materials, finding oil-bearing rocks underground, and counting fish in the ocean. Sound travels through seawater of average salinity about 5 times faster than through air (~1,500 m/s, or about 15 football fields in one second).  Many animals that live in the ocean rely on sound more than vision for communication and survival. You are probably already familiar with echolocation and communication vocalizations in whales and porpoises.

Picture of the transducers in the centerboard, which is lowered when the ship is at sea. Lowering the transducer away from the hull reduces the noise interference of bubbles running along the hull while underway.
Picture of the transducers in the centerboard, which is lowered when the ship is at sea. Lowering the transducer away from the hull reduces the noise interference of bubbles running along the hull while underway.

The speed of sound in water increases as temperature and salinity increase.  It also increases with depth due to the increase in pressure.  Therefore, in order to know the speed of sound at a given location in the sea, you need to know the temperature, salinity, and depth. There are other factors that are important to consider as well.  As sound travels through seawater it loses energy because of spreading, scattering and absorption.  When sound waves strike bubbles, particles suspended in the water column, organisms, the seafloor, and even the surface, some of the energy bounces off or is scattered. When the sound energy is scattered at angles greater than 90 degrees it is referred to as backscatter.

Fish Assessment 

Scientists use acoustics to measure fish abundance in the ocean by emitting sound waves at specific frequencies and then measuring the amount of backscatter.  Different organisms and other objects will have a characteristic backscatter that is dependent on many biological factors as well as the physical properties of the medium. The most important biological factor is presence and the size of a swim bladder, but also the organism’s size, shape and orientation.  If scientists know the backscatter signature of the target species (which can be determined experimentally or by mathematical models), they can use sound to identify and measure certain fish populations in the ocean. Onboard the ship, sound waves are emitted from an instrument called a transducer, which is located in the centerboard of the ship. The transducer generates sounds directly beneath the ship into the water column below (pings).  When these sound waves are backscattered from the fish below back to the transducer, they are converted to an electrical signal that is sent to the scientist’s computer.  There, a profile can be created that represents the fish in a graphical image.

Chief Scientist, Patrick Ressler, attaches calibration spheres to the line that will be lowered beneath the ship.
Chief Scientist, Patrick Ressler, attaches calibration spheres to the line that will be lowered beneath the ship.

Before making any actual measurements during this study, it is necessary to calibrate the acoustic instruments on board the ship. Calibrations of instruments and other measuring devices are done by using a known standard to compare the output of the instrument. So for example, if I wanted to calibrate a stick as a measuring device, first I would compare its length to a known standard such as a ruler. We anchored in Captain’s bay, on both bow and stern to keep the ship from moving much, and spheres with known acoustic properties were suspended beneath the ship at a known distance below the transducers. Acoustic data were then collected on backscatter from the spheres. Knowing the distance to the spheres, their acoustic qualities (how they will backscatter the sound), and the physical qualities of the medium (seawater temperature and salinity) allowed the scientists to standardize their equipment.   While acoustic calibrations were performed by the scientists, the survey technicians collected seawater temperature and salinity. The way these properties are measured is standard practice on research vessels.  An instrument package called a “CTD” measures conductivity (which is converted to salinity), temperature, and depth.  Sensors for each of these make up the package, and are mounted on a metal frame called a rosette. The rosette is lowered into the water column by a crane, and the data collected is transmitted via a cable to a computer on board. Once the calibration and CTD measurements were completed, we pulled anchor and headed northwest into the Bering Sea to meet up with NOAA Ship OSCAR DYSON.  We expect to reach our rendezvous point by late Friday to begin our study.

Survey Technician Tayler Wilkins monitors the CTD data transmission while communicating with the crane operator as the rosette is lowered through the water column. The computer automatically produces a profile of temperature and salinity with depth.
Survey Technician Tayler Wilkins monitors the CTD data transmission while communicating with the crane operator as the rosette is lowered through the water column. The computer automatically produces a profile of temperature and salinity with depth.

Personal Log 

The long stay in Dutch Harbor made the departure that much more exciting.  I am looking forward to what little time is left.  The crew of MILLER FREEMAN have all made me feel welcome, and have been helpful in answering my questions and educating me on shipboard operations.

New Terms 

acoustics, calibration, backscatter, centerboard, transducer, CTD rosette

Learn more here 

Katie Turner, July 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 18, 2008

The ship
The ship

Science and Technology Log 

Where is the Bering Sea?
Where is the Bering Sea?

The Vessel 

NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN is a 215 foot fishery and oceanographic research vessel, and one of the largest research trawlers in the United States.  She carries up to 34 officers and crew members and 11 scientists.  The ship is designed to work in extreme environmental conditions, and is considered the hardest working ship in the fleet.

She was launched in 1967 and her home port is Seattle, Washington. MILLER FREEMAN has traditionally been used to survey walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) in the Bering Sea.  These surveys are used to determine catch limits for commercial fisherman.  In 2003 NOAA acquired a new fisheries research vessel, the NOAA Ship OSCAR DYSON. OSCAR DYSON is to eventually take over MILLER FREEMAN’s research in Alaskan working grounds, allowing MILLER FREEMAN to shift her focus to the west coast. OSCAR DYSON was built under a new set of standards set by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which reduces the amount of noise generated into the water below, while MILLER FREEMAN is a more conventionally-built vessel which does not meet the ICES standards.  The assumption is that marine organisms, including pollock, may avoid large ships because of the noise they make, thus altering population estimates.  It is therefore important for scientists to know the difference between population estimates of the two ships. This is done through vessel comparison experiments, in which the two ships sample fish populations side by side and compare their data.  The primary purpose of this July 2008 cruise is to complete a final comparison study of the two ships and measure the difference in the pollock population data they collect.  

Image of the eruption of Okmok, taken Sunday, July 13, 2008, by flight attendant Kelly Reeves during Alaska Airlines flights 160 and 161.
Image of the eruption of Okmok, taken Sunday, July 13, 2008,
by flight attendant Kelly Reeves during Alaska Airlines
flights 160 and 161.

The Location 

The Bering Sea covers an area of 2.6 million square kilometers, about the size of the United States west of the Mississippi.  The maximum distance north to south is about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles), and east to west is about 2,000 kilometers (1,500 miles).  The International Date Line splits the sea in two, with one half in today and the other in tomorrow. The area is also bisected by a border separating the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Russia and the United States. The EEZ is the area within a 200 mile limit from a nation’s shoreline; where that nation has control over the resources, economic activity, and environmental protection. More than 50% of the U.S. and Russian fish catch comes from the Bering Sea. It is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world.  The broad continental shelf, extensive ice cover during the winter, and the convergence of nutrient-rich currents all contribute to its high productivity. It is a seasonal or year round home to some of the largest populations of marine mammals, fish, birds, and invertebrates found in any of the world’s oceans.  Commercial harvests of seafood include pollock, other groundfish, salmon and crab.  The Bering Sea has provided subsistence resources such as food and clothing to coastal communities for centuries.

Aleutian Island volcaneos
Aleutian Island volcaneos

Repairs and Delays 

Anchorage high school teacher, Katie Turner, arrives at the pier in Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Anchorage high school teacher, Katie Turner,
arrives at the pier in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

While all aboard were anxious to begin this Bering Sea Cruise, the ship could not sail until crucial repairs could be made.  During the previous cruise a leak was discovered in the engine cooling system that brought the ship in from that cruise early.  The location of the leak was the big mystery.  After days of testing and a hull inspection by divers the leak was located.  It was in a section of pipe that runs hot water from the engine through the ship’s ballast tanks and into a keel cooler on the outside of the ship’s hull, where it is cooled before circulating back to the engine. This turned out to be a very labor intensive job and workers spent days draining and cleaning the tanks before the leak could be repaired.

In the meantime, a repair to one of the engine’s cylinders required a part that had to be shipped from Seattle via Anchorage (about 800 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor). To complicate the arrival of this part, a nearby volcano erupted, spewing ash 50,000 feet into the path of flights to and from Dutch Harbor.   Alaska has many active volcanoes. The Aleutian Island arc, which forms the southern margin of the Bering sea, comprises one of the most active parts of the Pacific’s “ring of fire”. This tectonically active area has formed due to the subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the North American plate. So far we do not have a definite departure schedule.  Each day spent at the dock is one day less for the scientific team to complete the goals of the cruise.  Meanwhile, OSCAR DYSON is completing its survey in the Bering Sea, and anticipates the arrival of MILLER FREEMAN to complete the comparison study.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Katie Turner, gets a tour of the bridge and quick navigation lesson from Ensign Otto Brown
NOAA TAS, Katie Turner, gets a tour of the bridge and quick navigation lesson from Ensign Otto Brown

Personal Log 

I arrived in Dutch Harbor on July 9th with a forewarning that repairs to the ship would be necessary before heading out to the Bering Sea, and that I would have some time to explore the area. I have managed to keep busy and take advantage of opportunities to interview the crew, hike, and find my way around town. The weather in Dutch Harbor has been exceptional with many sunny days. It’s uncommon for a NOAA research ship to spend so much time at the dock, and we attracted the attention of a newsperson from the local public radio station. Commanding Officer Mike Hopkins and Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler were interviewed by KIAL newsperson Anne Hillman while MILLER FREEMAN was delayed for repairs in Dutch Harbor. Unalaska Island has few trees and along with other islands on the Aleutian chain is known for its cool and windy weather. There are no large mammals such as bear on the islands but small mammals, such as this marmot, are common along with many species of birds and a wide variety of wildflowers, which are in bloom this time of year.

Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler explains how he uses acoustic equipment to study pollock in the Bering Sea.
Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler explains how he uses acoustic equipment to study pollock in the Bering Sea.
A marmot spotted on a ridge alongside the road up Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island
A marmot spotted on a ridge alongside the road up Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island
A Bald Eagle guards the crab pots stored near the pier
A Bald Eagle guards the crab pots stored near the pier
The view from Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island. Lupine, a common plant found on the island, is in bloom in the foreground
The view from Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island. Lupine, a common plant found on the island, is in bloom in
the foreground
Black Oystercatchers take flight over the harbor
Black Oystercatchers take flight over the harbor

Learn more about the Bering Sea ecosystem at these Web sites: 

http://www.avo.alaska.edu/volcanoes/aleutians.php http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/beringsea/index.html http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/alaska/preserves/art19556.html http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/europe/what_we_do/arctic/what_we_do/marine/bering/index.cfm

Dennis Starkey, July 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 29, 2006

“It Looks Like a Giant Milk Bottle” 

Science and Technology Log 

The MILLER FREEMAN’s next task was to aid two fisheries researchers conduct a trial attempt at catch and release salmon tagging.  A net system is employed to haze the salmon into the center of the net.  Salmon are fairly shallow surface feeders so the trawls would not be deep. In fact, our trolling regions were within two miles of Dutch Harbor.

What makes this trawl interesting is the device that gathers and stores the salmon at the end of the netting. It could accurately be described as a large old-fashioned milk bottle made of aluminum that serves as the retaining device and tank.  The flowing water and salmon are swept into a 724-pound portable live tank.  The ocean water is held in the confines of the tank with all kinds of surface fish and jellyfish.  After the fishermen crank it up, the back of the boat with a winch, we opened the door and had live salmon to measure, tag, take a scale sample, and sometimes put on a satellite-tracking device!

The need for such a device arose from the high mortality rate of netted, and hook and line tagging procedures. The more handling and scale loss incurred during a capture results in a dramatic decrease in immediate survival for the salmon.  The outcomes success rate and eventual retrieval of the tag becomes slim.  The scales on the sides of the salmon are a precious defense mechanism that needs to be retained to ensure a healthy immune system and this is why the “Box Trawl” device was made.  This tank system of netting was first developed by the Norwegians to further their studies of ocean fisheries.  This particular model was drawn up by the Biologists and manufactured locally in Dutch Harbor.

Unfortunately, the welder probably didn’t realize what the purpose of this device was.  It roughly built with sharp edges, aluminum slag pocking, and a heavy free-swinging fish door. After the first tow with these flaws, it was apparent modifications were needed to make this more fish “friendly”.  Fire hoses were slashed and wrapped to cover sharp edges as were rubber tubing to cover blunt surfaces.  A grinder was used to take the burs off the metal sheeting, and the door was removed to prevent added banging upon the fish.  Everyone on the fishing deck seemed to help out.  The results were amazing!  The first trawl saw some very banged up salmon with a high loss of scale coverage.  After the corrective measures, there was hardly a glitter from scale loss in the tank.

The six trawls over the two-day period resulted in an average capture of about 15 to 20 salmon per tow.  Other species of fish were caught as well.  Atka mackerel were numerous, and a 14-inch herring was in the tank as well.  The largest catch was estimated at having about 60 fish in it.  Fortunately, they all could be released unharmed due to the trawl tanks successful features.

The biologists, Jim and Jamal, are targeting Pacific King, Chinook, and Coho salmon for their study. They choose the highly commercial, or highly respected recreational varieties, because the success rate of a returned tag is higher for those particular types of salmon because of the desire for humans to obtain them.

Out of the Tank 

After the door was opened and we could see what we had caught, a hose with freshly pumped seawater was inserted into the tank to supply fresh water and oxygen.  Without this, fish in the tank would quickly use up their oxygen supply.  Then Jim brought over a fish hammock with two handles and a button that was about a meter long.  This was a “settling” device connected to a car battery.  The fish obviously don’t wish to cooperate when they are removed from the water, so they are zapped with some voltage that calms them for not more than a minute and a half.  Each fish is identified by species, measured for length, and plucked of a single scale sample.  A tag is then inserted by means of a hollow sharp probe that contains a small round red and white tag number and information on whom to return the tag to if found.  The tag itself is attached to a plastic bubble zip tie that holds the dime size tag in place.  About six of the fish were fitted with satellite tracking devices as well.  These state of the art clear plastic devices are about the size and shape of an average Lego block. Each one costs about $125. This technology allows the biologists to locate this particular fish for about 5 years.  These devices were installed in much the same way as the round tags.

Everyone on board enjoyed gathering around the big “milk bottle” to see what was in the tank. I especially enjoyed helping transport the fish out of the tank and helping measure them.  The most satisfying part of the process was taking them over to the side of the boat and releasing them!

Personal Log 

The scientific parts of my journey are now over.  We will head to Kodiak Island for the end of my stay at sea.  I have enjoyed the educational aspect of every mission I was able to observe and participate in. I also can appreciate the team effort that it takes to complete each mission.  The ship’s fishermen have to be versatile at all kinds of fishing techniques as well as be the deck hands. The ship’s officers are top-notch navigators and responsibility lingers in every decision they make.  The scientists visit the ship as a vehicle for their ideas and creations.  It becomes a portable platform for the fieldwork that is contrived in their offices. The mechanics and engineers man the power plant that gives the MILLER FREEMAN life and sustenance. The ship’s galley and the cooks give everyone a touch of home cook’n that we all miss out on when at sea.  A satisfied mind comes with a satisfied belly!

 

Dennis Starkey, July 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 21, 2006

Gathering Pollock Data and “Getting Slimed” 

The scale used to acquire data on the Pollock
The scale used to acquire data on the Pollock

Science and Technology Log 

My job on board is to work closely with the fisheries biologists to collect specific information from the sample of the fish we catch in our nets. The first step is to dress in boots and full rain-gear attire. They don’t call the area we process Pollock in the, “slime lab” for nothing! All the fish in the net are accounted for in some way.  Different species are separated at the sorting table first. Each kind of fish species we catch is also weighed and recorded even though they are not our target species. After separating the kinds of fish, we count off about sixty Pollock at a time into what look like heavy-duty laundry baskets. We then take them over to a scale that is networked with computer software program call FSCS. This program specializes in data collecting, coordinating, and reporting.  After the contents of the trawl are weighed, a workable representative of the sample is collected from the entire catch.  The biologists determine the amount of Pollock to be “worked up” based on the large or small volume of fish caught. The unneeded fish are deposited overboard to either swim away or return to the sea expired as potential energy for the food chain.

Roughly five baskets containing about sixty mature fish each are then checked for gender. We do this by making an incision into the abdomen and find either two yellow egg sacks on a female or a ribbon like vessel that is the testes on the male.  From personal experience, I’ll tell you this can get extremely difficult in the small immature Pollock.  The egg sacks almost become invisible and the testes become nearly non-existent!

The gender specific baskets are separated into separate containers and are moved over to the measuring device.  Again, this measurement technology is tied into the FSCS system for ease of data entry. We use a device called an Icthystick to enter this data.  It looks like a space aged metal tray that is about 90 centimeters long with blinking lights.  It works by using an electro magnetic current to mark the length of the fish in centimeters.  It has a stylus that attaches to a person’s finger that contains a small magnet.  When the stylus momentarily stops where you want it, at the fork of the fish’s tail, a tone is heard and the length is noted on the computer screen.  The software is set to record all of the males, and then the females, as we work toward processing them all.  At this point it may have taken an hour and a half to process about 400 fish.

Occasionally we catch different size and aged Pollock.  When this happens, a sub sample is collected.  This is pretty labor intensive because the three age classes are separated before being processed with the steps mentioned above.  “Ones” are first years, “seconds” are two-year growth, and “three” are mature and up.  Smaller fish tend to come in larger amounts and take twice as long to determine gender.  Each age class is also weighed to find a general ratio between ages found in the school.  When there are smaller fish it can take as long as three hours to perform all the required steps!

“Brain” Surgery 

After that, a representative number of fish of each age category are randomly selected to have their individual weight, length, gender, and age confirmed.  This is usually done by two people. One person weighs, determines length and gender, and then makes an incision on the top of the fish’s head near the brain to remove two otolith ear bones from each side of the brain.  The second person extracts them, washes them, and puts them in a capped vial. These two white half-crescent shaped bones are defining factors for determining the age of the fish.  Length of the fish is an estimated measurement for age.  The otolith bones are marked with microscopic growth rings that show if they are one or two years of age. After they are inserted into a specimen vial they are preserved with alcohol, and are brought back to a laboratory on land for final confirmation.  By this time the slime lab is very messy.  Scales and certain organ parts fall from the fish cavity during this process. Everything gets hosed off, even the “touch” monitors and people!  The sea birds that follow us love it when the big red fire hose comes out to blast the “slime lab” clean again.  They pick up tidbits and small fish when they get carried over the side of the ship.

Personal Log 

Our shifts are broken up over a twenty-four hour period.  I am ready to work from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.  It is not like I must work that entire time but I need to be ready to process the fish. Sometimes there is a catch ready at 4 .am. and other days there are back-to-back hauls. I actually had one day where we didn’t have a trawl at all. I try to take a nap right after supper and wake up to catch a movie. Then it’s right back to sleep. My sleeping quarters are warm, I rarely use any covers!

Did You Know? 

Since the MILLER FREEMAN was commissioned as a government work ship it has been watched continuously for years! What this means is that an officer is on watch any time the ship is in the water. That includes out at sea or at port. Even when repairs are needed and the ship is dry-docked, there is a responsible person to administer to the ship at all times. How would you like that babysitting job? Actually, it is an act of ultimate respect and security for the ship affectionately called “SALLY” by the office staff on board.

Dennis Starkey, July 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 18, 2006

“Way Out There!” 

Science and Technology Log 

We are now 529 nautical miles out into the Bering Sea.  I thought there would be an occasional sea bird of some kind.  I was mistaken.  There are tons of sea birds to see!  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also conducting a survey of the density of bird life in the Bering Sea. Tamara, our bird Biologist, spends daily shifts on the Captain’s deck recording the birds that she sees in a 300-foot swath in front of the ship’s path.  She has been busy. She enters the species and numbers of birds on a computer program that works in conjunction with the ship’s radar. Some of the common species are, Northern Fulmars, Murres, Kittiwakes, and my favorite, Puffins.  The results give an impression of the density, or how many of each kind in a specific section, for the Bering Sea area. Tamara informed me that the last survey of this kind was in the 1980’s.  The weather looks calm and “beautiful sailing” conditions prevail.  There is a stratus cloud cover, but the sun has peeked out on occasion.  The temperature is currently 8 degrees Celsius.  The overall temperature range has been a bit warmer than this and has been comfortable to dress in a sweatshirt.

“How Do You Know There Are Fish Down There?” 

You see, we are not catching tons of fish. We do this on purpose.  In the past, fishermen would report catch amounts and that information would be analyzed and that was about all. This left speculation as to many variables that were not consistent.  Reports were not always accurate, locations were not disclosed, and weights weren’t reliable.  By having a research vessel conduct the survey, the results can have reliability and consistency measures.

To go out into the Bering Sea and drag nets all over the place does not make economic sense. A better solution is to find traditional fishery areas in the Bering Sea and survey those areas. Those areas happen to be along the continental shelf.  This is a comparatively shallow area of the ocean where currents of warmer and cooler water converge and circulate, allowing ideal conditions for life to flourish.  This is an area rich in phytoplankton (plants or algae) that are producers of food, which can feed lower end primary consumers (krill), that feed secondary and tertiary consumers and so on.  The Pollock find this area a favorable habitat for this reason.

So, you can’t catch them all, especially with one or two boats, so what do you do? Use technology! The computers, program software, and technology devices used make the survey possible. Echo sound is proving to be a fantastic way to find and quantify data.

Consider this scenario: It works sort of like this: You are in your bedroom reading when you hear a truck outside. You think, “It’s a big truck,” based on the type of sound and your experience listening to sounds. You knew it was a truck even though you never saw it. In order to confirm what you were hearing was a truck, you tell your mother to look out the window and let you know if it is a truck.  She might yell back, “It’s a fire truck at the neighbor’s house next door!” After she physically sees it, she can provide you with the details by providing color, length, and function of the truck.  The echo-scientists can’t exactly see each individual fish as we go by at 12 knots, but what they can do is be reasonably sure that different sound frequencies bounce back to the sonar equipment in a predictable fashion based on species. I’m informed that the fish’s swim bladders are the telltale sign. They do see a mass of colors and bunches on the computer monitor, but you can’t measure that information yet until confirmed.  Even jellyfish have their own particular patterns as do krill, and whales for that matter. The next step is to have a system to indeed find out for sure that the fish are there.

This is the part where mom is your eyewitness.  Fisheries scientists then return to the site by using satellite technology to where the characteristic patterns are detected.  Then a trawl net is lowered and dragged. What is caught is recorded.  My experience here in four trawls has shown 100% accuracy each time!  We take the collected specimens and put them on a 10ft x12ft x10-inch table for sorting.  We sort by species, gender, weight, and other collectable characteristics requested by the lead biologist. We now have the specifics of the truck, and the Pollock for that matter, based on circumstantial and physical evidence. Sounds a bit like CSI doesn’t it? A sample of less than four hundred fish is desired to make the data collection a success.  Often we get more.  The sorted data is entered in the computer and the information is combined with the cumulative data of the survey to demonstrate trends and density results for the Walleye Pollock.

Personal Log 

The MILLER FREEMAN doesn’t turn off the engine.  This diesel-powered ship runs all the time!  As we transect the grid course day in and day out, the boat maintains a rate of about 12 knots. The only time it slows is during trawl operations.  Trawling occurs when the chief scientist feels it would be good to get a sample of what she sees on the four sonar frequencies. The result to your ears is comparable to a commercial jet airliner from inside the coach.  I’d say the crew is totally used to it.  It actually seems to help me sleep!

I have participated in four Pollock hauls now.  They have all been successes!  It takes about two, to two and a half hours to conduct the scientific processing of a catch.  It is pretty slimy business!

Did You Know? 

British Scientists are researching the slime found on fish to develop a drug that would defend the body against diseases. The hope is to replicate the protection properties that fish provide to trout on our bodies. Could you imagine your roll on slime dispenser? I’m sure that’s not what they have in mind!

Dennis Starkey, July 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 17, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We made a krill trawl today to check the sonar equipment.  It was a check on one of the primary food sources of the Pollock and it helps the echo-integration specialists hone their skills at identifying Pollock versus other schools of marine organisms.  The trawling device was designed to catch a small bucket of krill of which it did. The specimens were weighed and then photographed on a scanner for later base study analysis. The greatest thing about the cruise so far is the warm, helpful welcome I received on board and the willingness of everyone to spend some time with me to share conversation, and bring me up to speed on what is taking place.

Members of the fisheries biology staff begin to count out and weigh the Walleye Pollock from the sorting table.
Members of the fisheries biology staff begin to count out and weigh the Walleye Pollock from the sorting table.

Personal Log 

I had a few days to visit Dutch Harbor while the scientific staff rotated and the ship restocked. The most impressive observation for most people living in the lower forty-eight states must be the abundance of our national bird, the Bald Eagle.  They congregate here for the free fish that spill overboard at one of the many fishing plants. They are rather like pigeons here. The harsh climate does not suit trees well so the eagles perch on the hillsides and, more often, on the store rooftops and streetlights right in town.

Living on the 205ft MILLER FREEMAN takes some getting used to.  I am not accustomed to the small living quarters on board yet.  I am rooming with the two Russian scientists in a “cozy” 54 sq. ft. bunkroom. I sleep on the top bunk and have been pleasantly lulled to sleep by the drone of the engine the past two nights.  The sea has been calm but overcast.  I have had the chance to see Minke whales, Dall’s porpoises, fur seals, and incredible amounts of sea birds!  I have been getting used to the many hatches, decks, and stairways. I still find myself laughing out loud when I come to a dead end or the wrong deck just trying to get to my room.

Dennis Starkey, July 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 16, 2006

“On Land to Off Shore” 

Executive Officer Sean Cimiculla oversees the operations of an on-board firedrill. The sailing crew trains regularly for fire scenarios on the ship.
Executive Officer Sean Cimiculla oversees the operations of an on-board firedrill. The sailing crew trains regularly for fire scenarios on the ship.

Science and Technology Log 

Hello to all!  I welcome you, and myself, aboard the good ship MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea. I am a sixth grade classroom teacher from Wildhorse Plains, Montana. I will be aboard the ship from July 16 to August 4.  This is the MILLER FREEMAN’s third tour this summer of 2006 surveying the Walleye Pollock. My goal is to keep you informed of the importance of this scientific endeavor and share with you the experience of being a “land lover” at sea while drawing observations of the uniqueness of spending time in a self-contained salt-water vessel, also known as a ship!

The NOAA task is to survey the density and population of a very valuable commercial fish called the Walleye Pollock.  The results of this survey will be forwarded to fishing regulatory agencies that will look at the data collected to make decisions that may affect the catch limit, areas that are fishable, and length of the walleye Pollock season.  You may have never have heard of the walleye Pollock, but I bet you have tasted it!  This fish is commonly used in the United States as a generic fish entry.  Frozen food companies often use this species as the main ingredient in fish sticks, imitation crab, and fish sandwiches. Fast-food chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King offer it in their fish selections on the menu.  Other countries also have high stakes in the profitability and abundance of this fish in Bering Sea waters.  Japan, and especially Russia, both have a great interest in the success of the catch and population trends for these cold-water schooling fish.  Russian fishermen harvest the Pollock from the waters in their coastal territory along the Bering Sea as well.

Near the end of this leg of the survey, the MILLER FREEMAN is scheduled to cross into Russian waters to continue the study to get a truly encompassing sample of the entire cross-section of the Bering Sea.

International and Domestic Implications 

Aboard the ship are two Russian Biologists that are working in conjunction with the NOAA fisheries biologists to record the sampling results of our work here.  They hope to use this information in their country to relay the same boundaries and limits as mentioned above. The success of the Pollock harvest in northern Bering Sea has the potential to make or break the profitability of the small family owned fisheries as well as the larger corporate fishing plants. A large part of the annual harvest is exported to counties all over the world. You might say this species is the “bread and butter” of the annual fishing season. The location and prediction of a sustaining population of Pollock in the Bering is paramount to the livelihood of many stakeholders.  Nearly 72 percent of all the schooling groundfish taken from this area in 2004 were Pollock!

Survey Update to July 16, 2006 

Leg I and Leg II 

The preliminary findings have been consistent in finding the Pollock thus far.  The MILLER FREEMAN has been systematically plotting a course that has traditionally been a good source for Pollock harvest and study. The technology survey instruments and sampling devices have worked well, and the density of Pollock has been measured.

Leg III 

The MILLER FREEMAN speeds out to sea to pick up where it left off doing the study.  It is stocked with fisheries biologists setting up and checking instruments.  It will take us a full day’s and a night’s travel to reach our starting point. As of July 16, formal permission has not been granted to enter the international waters of Russia. The crew is hoping this can be rectified or alternative studies and revisions will need to be incorporated on this third leg.

As of July 16, The Ship OSCAR DYSON remains at port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  This other NOAA vessel is similarly equipped to study Pollock but is undergoing some repairs on its generating plant.  It is hoped that it will meet up with us in the Bering Sea to coordinate some surveys maneuvers with the MILLER FREEMAN.

Susan Just, June 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 144 ◦
Wind speed: 2.5
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 28.0
Sea level pressure: 1013.2
Cloud cover: 3/8 Altostratus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had stormy weather around us during the night.  This caused the moon, if any, and the stars to be obscured and increased the intensity of darkness both above and below the surface. This may have been a factor which contributed to the amazing catch we made shortly after sunrise.

When the net was pulled in, it was obvious that it was very full.  As it was lifted out of the water, it became clear that it contained many small fish, mostly Croker, approximately 4-5 inches in length. The unloaded catch was too much to be held in the fish box on deck.  When they came along the conveyor belt, there were no snapper to be seen and very few shrimp.  It appeared as if we had captured an entire school of fish.  The final catch weight was 985 Kilos. Out of this, there were approximately four gallons of shrimp, all varieties included.

Interview

Alonzo Hamilton:  Watch Leader for the Midnight to Noon scientific watch on the OREGON II summer fisheries survey of the Gulf of Mexico.

What is the title of your position?
Research Fishery Biologist

Were you a good student in school?
Average

In what school year did you make up your mind to become serious?
Community College

Did you go to College?
Yes.

What kind?
Two years at Community College then a BS in Biology at Jackson State University, Jackson Mississippi

Do you have any scientific degrees?
Masters Degree in Marine Environmental Science

Why do you enjoy about this work?
I like everything about it. I like the freedom of being out in the field and then I like the finished product that comes from what we do, in terms of data analysis.

What percentage of your work year is spent at sea?
125 days per year

When you are ashore, what kind of work do you do?
I’m analyzing data, editing data and being the Safety Officer at the laboratory. It’s a desk job

Is your family comfortable with this lifestyle?
They’re more comfortable with it than I thought they would be. Do they like when I’m away, no. But they also don’t like the disruption that I cause when I’m at home. So it’s a trade-off. I think they’ve adjusted to the lifestyle itself. They know that when I’m home I’m there and they know that when I’m away, I’m at work and they accept that.

If you could be anything you want, what would you be?
A fishery biologist.

What advice would you give to young people who are interested in this career path?
Do it because you enjoy it. Don’t do it for any other reason. Regardless of what you are doing, do it because you enjoy it.

Personal Log 

Today I worked at the beginning of the line instead of the end.  All this time I have been primarily looking for shrimp and the select species which, on this cruise, is mainly red snapper. However, when I dug into the sample rather than the full catch, I had a great time.  There were lots of terrific looking crabs that I’ve never seen.  There were some interesting fish. I was surprised that I am actually able to decipher the differences between the species.

Question of the Day 

Why are the conductivity, temperature and depth measurements important?

Answer: These pieces of data are used to compute salinity.

Susan Just, June 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 25, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 205 ◦
Wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 27.8
Sea level pressure: 1015.0
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

At this point in the survey, the stations are not far apart but they are up, down, in and out.   We are actually steaming back to one of the day stations in order to do the same area as a night station.  All of this activity is taking place in the general vicinity of Corpus Christi.  This area receives a great deal of fishing pressure year around, both commercially and recreationally.

Our last night catch pulled in a beautiful collection of shrimp.  The total for the catch was about 25 Kilos and we ended up with more than 18 Kilos of shrimp.  When you account for the trash that was included, that left a very small volume of fish other than the shrimp.  When the net came up and spilled out into the baskets it was a lovely golden color.

Question of the Day 

What do the letters CTD stand for?

Answer: Conductivity, temperature and depth.

Susan Just, June 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 153 ◦
Wind speed: 09
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2
Seawater temperature: 27.6
Sea level pressure: 1014.8
Cloud cover: 4/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This morning when we came on watch we were informed of a new procedure.  We will now be keeping one specimen or each type caught along with one species of skate. These will be placed together in a plastic bag and returned to the lab for further study. There is a relationship study being conducted between the species.

A Hemingway fish was waiting for us this morning too.  It is red all over and has big poofy cheeks. It is interesting to look at and this one was about thirteen (13) inches long.  The catches today were much smaller than the previous night.  By morning we were not catching many shrimp at all.

Personal Log 

I had a much better time today.  It was possible to get all the work done without rushing and we were also able to keep the baskets and the lab relatively clean. When the mud gets thick, the place takes on a bad smell that becomes oppressive.  It is important to maintain a constant vigilance on the fish odor to keep the bacterial buildup under control.

Question of the Day 

During what part of any twenty-four hour period can you expect to catch the most shrimp?

Answer: The dark time.  The shrimp hide in the mud during the day and come out to feed in the dark when the predators are not able to see them as easily.

Susan Just, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 23, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 300 ◦
Wind speed: 11
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.3
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This was a day when we were never able to catch up with the fish.  There were constantly fish on the deck waiting to be sorted. The trawls were frequent and close together.  Throughout the night and into the morning, the catch was mostly shrimp.  We had a wide assortment of shrimp.  All the commercial varieties—brown, white and pink—were well represented, as well as the several types of non-desirable species.

Personal Log 

Today was the day I “hit the wall.” I worked myself as hard as I could throughout the shift.  The only time that I relaxed at all was when I was watching the dolphin that had followed the net and that was attracting the attention of Brittany.  Otherwise, I was working as fast as my brain and body would allow.

Question of the Day 

What kind of shrimp do they use to make “popcorn shrimp?”

Answer: Trachypeneus similes! I know that’s a “trachy” question. Trachypeneus shrimp are not considered “commercially viable” at this time. Previously, brown shrimp were not considered to be marketable. As the demand for a product increases, so does its marketability.

Susan Just, June 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 21, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 105 ◦
Wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.7
Sea level pressure: 1012.8
Cloud cover: 2/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Things started out fairly normal this morning.  There were fish waiting on the deck when our watch began. We then steamed to a new location. This station went as planned. On the next station the trawl went out and things were going well. We were processing fish when we smelled something strange. We concluded that there was something burning and we went out onto the deck.

Yes, something was burning. It was a clutch. This was an engine part, not an actual fire. There was no need for a fire alarm to sound. The problem was recognized. Although we are now short one Power Transfer Output (this is what takes engine power and uses it for winches and other power tools) we can continue our mission.

Personal Log 

The engine problem was really no big deal. It was much like burning up a clutch in a car. The smell is pretty awful and there is a little smoke but no fire. The smoke comes from the rubbing together of the surfaces under pressure. It was great to see the various ship’s personnel work together so smoothly and quickly to discover and correct any problems.

After going off watch and showering, I made a mistake. I did not remember that we have weekly drills. So, there I was, fresh out of the shower standing in the middle of the room when the alarm sounded and my roommate came running in to gather survival gear and personal flotation devices. I jumped into the nearest clothing, my pajamas, and joined in the drills.

Question of the Day 

As part of the Commerce Department, what is the goal of NOAA science research?

Answer: To collect information which can be used to answer the scientific and policy questions which impact our shared environment.

Susan Just, June 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 20, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 023 ◦
Wind speed: 11.6
Sea wave height: 1-2
Swell wave height: 2-3
Seawater temperature: 27.8
Sea level pressure: 1012.5
Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Most of this watch will be spent steaming to the first southern station. Our ETA (estimated time of arrival) is 8:00 am.  We are planning to do a full station meaning CTD, Neuston, and a Trawl. It is midnight now and I am hoping to get an interview with our Chief Scientist prior to beginning the station.

The first Bongo is scheduled for noon. Dan Carlson, a graduate student at Florida State University, is aboard researching his master’s thesis. He is utilizing the water samples from the Bongo to learn more about the development and origination of red tides which bloom in the Gulf of Mexico.

I have just been put “in charge” of the Neuston for this station. That means I am responsible for seeing that the net is dragged for ten minutes, that the organisms which are gathered are washed down into the cod end and that the sample is then gathered are delivered to the plankton transfer table.

Personal Log 

The Chief Scientist has been actively engaged with data collection and correction activities. I understand that a server has failed and that all time/date information must be hand entered into all data sheets. This is time consuming but very necessary for the sake of accuracy.

Question of the Day 

What is red tide?

Answer: It is an organism, named Karenia Brevis, which produces a neurotoxin which, in turn, is toxic to virtually all sea life.

Susan Just, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 17, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 356◦
Wind speed: 11.1
Sea wave height: 0-1
Swell wave height:1-2
Seawater temperature: 28.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.7
Cloud cover: 5/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

This watch began, again, with fish waiting on the deck. We processed that catch just as we had all the others. While we were processing, another catch of fish were being collected. A CTD was also performed. When the fish catch has been processed, it is necessary to return the processed organisms to the sea. There is a shoot in the wetlab designed for this purpose. The shoot has not been working properly so far on this cruise. During our watch it backed up completely. Water was rising up through the drain in the floor. Clearing the blockage took several hours.

The catch was sitting on the deck and we had no reason to believe that we would get the shoot clear any time soon. The Watch Leader elected to process the catch “dry” so we separated and identified the species without the benefit of water to clean the organisms. Following this catch, the shoot was cleared and the lab was cleaned. We are now making our way south to assess the Texas Gulf Coast shrimp prior to the beginning of their season..

Personal Log 

What a mess! Each organism had to be dipped into water just so that we could be sure it was identified properly. We found hundreds of little shrimp that are not even harvested for food purposes.

Question of the Day 

Where do the shrimp live?  Answer: In the mud on the bottom of the sea.

Susan Just, June 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: nautical miles  8-10 (nm)
Wind direction: 205.5 ◦
Wind speed: 11.3
Sea wave height: 0-1
Sea swell height: 1-2
Seawater temperature: 28.7
Sea level pressure: 1016.6
Cloud cover: 5/8 Altostratus and cirus

Science and Technology Log 

Tonight we began with a Neuston. Now I know that a Neuston is a rectangular frame to which has been attached a “sock” style net with a round portion at the bottom known as the “cod end.” The Neuston drags at the surface and catches sargassum (sea weed) and also plankton. Why? I’ll need to find out.

Next we pulled in the Bongos. These are round shaped “sock” nets with cod ends. In the cod ends, plankton and other sea life are collected from either the bottom or a maximum depth of 200 feet. The “catch” from both the Neustons and the Bongos are placed into jars with formaldehyde as a preservative. Forty-eight (48) hours later they are transferred to alcohol. They are then shipped out for processing.

The CTD was performed to capture water samples and hydrological data. All of the information is assembled and accompanies the samples to the lab for processing. Finally, we weighed and sorted the catch. Each species is identified by its scientific nomenclature which means we hear a great deal of latin in the wet lab.

Personal Log 

OK, I’m not quite as confused now. I had a great night’s sleep. I am beginning to learn some of the scientific names and I have gotten my fingers onto the computers that record the data regarding the organisms we classify. I’ve started having intelligent conversations with people and I am beginning to make sense of the activities aboard the ship.

Question of the Day 

What is the purpose of collecting the organisms in the Neuston and the Bongos? Answer: Plankton data is part of a long-term study regarding trends in fish populations.

Susan Just, June 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Just
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
June 15 – 30, 2006

Mission: Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 15, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 147◦
Wind speed: 0.1
Sea wave height: 0
Swell wave height: 1
Seawater temperature: 28.6◦
Sea level pressure: 1015.9
Cloud cover: Light Haze

Science and Technology Log 

Our watch began at midnight.  When we arrived in the lab there were fish awaiting processing. All commercial quality shrimp were separated from the catch and a representative sample of the whole was reserved for sorting. The sort included many species which were identified, counted, and weighed.  Individual members of each species were measured and counted, up to twenty (20) per species.  Finally, Two hundred (200) brown shrimp were counted out, separated according to sex and then measured and weighed, individually. Bongo, Neuston and CTD samples were drawn but I was occupied with the fish catches. These catches were repeated constantly throughout the watch until noon at which time we were relieved. Bongo, Neuston and CTD samples were drawn but I was occupied with the fish catches.

Personal Log 

What have I gotten myself into?  I am on the night watch.  This means that my sleeping hours have changed, literally overnight, to between noon and midnight.  Dinnertime has disappeared. Lunch has become the big meal of the day.  I can best describe myself as confused.

So far my impression is that all members of the ship’s crew and the scientific party are professional, helpful and “nice.”  It is easy to recognize the ship’s officers because they are dressed in uniforms.  Everyone else is arrayed in their personal gear and, generally, there is a state of designed “disarray.”

Question of the Day 

What is the most important skill to be learned before becoming a field scientist? Common courtesy/etiquette (be polite!).