Sherie Gee: The Flying HabCam, June 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea
Sherie Gee
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 26 — July 7 

Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:  June 27, 2013 

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude:  40  23:09 N
Longitude:  072:34.42 W
Relative Wind Speed:  11.4 Knots
Air Temperature:  23:50 degrees C
Humidity:  84%
Surface Seawater Temperature:  21.8354 degrees C
Surface-Sea water salinity:  31.1071 PSU

Science and Technology Log:

Two methods were used by these scientists to determine population numbers and trends.  They can use the HabCam which stands for Habitat Mapping Camera System  which takes pictures of the organisms on the bottom of the seafloor and they can use the dredge to collect specimens off the bottom of the seafloor to physically count.  We started out using the Habcam which is a towed vehicle that has to be carefully lowered into the ocean by the skilled crew members.  Since it is a towed vehicle, it must use a fiberoptic, winch-controlled wire to tow HabCam, and it is this wire that we pay in and out via the remote control winch box at the pilot station.  It is very similar to the video games that I have seen the students play.  The HabCam takes six pictures per second of the organisms on the ocean floor. The scientists can see these organisms being photographed on the computers.   One computer is used to monitor the organisms and tabulate the number of several species.  In the beginning, we counted scallops, fish, and convict worms.  Then later we counted fish, skates and convict worms.  On another computer, a scientist  controls the HabCam with a remote control joy stick.  The screen shows the bottom contours which is actually a side-scan sonar which pings out 50 meters to the left and right of the vehicle.    The joy stick controlled the wire cable that the HabCam was hooked to.  That is what raised and lowered the HabCam.  Both shifts monitored and controlled the HabCam for about twenty hours and a total of 126 miles.  I will describe and discuss the dredging process on the next blog.

The HabCam on Deck

The HabCam on Deck

Chad Flying the HabCam

Chad Flying the HabCam

Sara identifying and tabulating sea scallops, skates and convict worms

Sara identifying and tabulating sea scallops, skates and convict worms

Brittle stars and a blenny on the seafloor

Brittle stars and a blenny on the seafloor

Organisms Seen:
sea scallops
sand dollars
skates
various fish
stingrays

Did You Know:

  • One nautical mile (nm) is equal to 1.2 miles.
  • The amount of data that the HabCam collected was about one terra bite.

Personal Log:

I really enjoyed maneuvering the HabCam; I can’t believe they actually trusted me to drive it.  I am so impressed at all the technology that is involved in this type of research.   I also enjoyed tabulating and identifying the various organisms on the floor.  It goes by very quickly so you have to keep your eyes on the screen at all times or you will miss collecting the data.

Well, twelve hours has a new meaning for me.  The time working actually went by fairly quickly but the sleeping twelve hours went by double time.  There really is no down time because a person is either working the twelve hours or sleeping the twelve hours. The only time for some interaction amongst us is when we are in the dry lab waiting to rotate on the computers.  I have enjoyed working with these other scientists and our chief scientist Nicole.  They are all so knowledgeable, helpful and wonderful.  They answered all the questions that I had for them.

Nicole - Chief Scientist

Nicole – Chief Scientist