Jennifer Fry: March 18, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 18, 2012

This juvenile lobster was found in the Cobb trawl net.

Pictured here is a copepod (right) and a jelly (left) found in the plankton net.

Pictured here is a copepod (right) and a jelly (left) found in the plankton net.

Scientists, like John Denton, often get hungry during late night trawls. Here he is tempted to eat his recent catch. Tafito Aitaoto, American Samoan scientist, looks on.

Scientists, like John Denton, often get hungry during late night trawls. Here he is tempted to eat his recent catch. Tafito Aitaoto, American Samoan scientist, looks on.

The cookie cutter’s mouth can be very destructive. While biting its victim, it rotates its mouth taking a “chunk” of flesh.

cookie cutter shark

While biting their victim, the cookie cutter shark then turns their mouth to take a deeper bite of flesh. This leaves a large gash making it more difficult to heal

Two cookie cutter sharks came up in the Cobb trawl net. The scientists onboard the Sette were very excited to view these rare fish.

The stewards/cooks on the Sette are Clementine Lutali, Jay Egan, and Jeffrey Falini.  They have created the most amazing fare including traditional Samoan dishes.  Clem, the Head Cook, told me that the Sunday meal  in American Samoa is very important and she was right. Families in American Samoa gather in the morning for church, and then meet with the entire extended family for a large mid-day meal, followed by a nap.  This includes everyone; grandparents all the way down to babies.  In the afternoon families might take a walk to the beach for some family time and then have an afternoon tea with home-baked bread.

Our Sunday evening meal aboard the Sette consisted of turkey gravy and dressing, roast beef and au gratin potatoes, and green papaya salad with roasted garlic and peanuts. We finished with a lovely dessert of Puligi Keke, a Samoan coconut cake served with Crème Anglaise.

Some other Samoan dishes we’ve had onboard are:

Savory dishes:

Faálifu:  boiled and cooked in coconut milk and caramelized onions

Faalifu Kalo: taro in coconut milk

Faalifu Fai: green bananas in coconut milk

Faiai Feé: Octopus with coconut milk

Faiai Pilikaki: Can of mackerel with coconut milk

Faiai Eleni: Can of tomato mackerel with coconut milk

Oka: Samoan raw fish, tomatoes, and onions marinated in fresh coconut milk

Mochiko lehi: a Hawaiian method of frying fish (lehi, a type of snapper) Mochiko can be done to chicken too.

Ulu/ breadfruit

Another wonderful way to serve breadfruit is fried with a touch of salt. Yum.

Breadfruit is a starchy staple of the American Samoan diet.

There are many kinds of ulu/ breadfruit  in American Samoa including: máafala, uluvea, puuoo, aveloloa, ulumanua. Breadfruit is used as a starch in the American Samoan diet, including:

  • potato salad substitute,
  • Uluwua: unripe ulu is baked on banana leaves in a traditional Samoan oven, served dipped in coconut milk

Method of cooking:

Much of Samoan cooking is done outside in an oven called an umu.

  • Umu: Samoan Oven.  American Samoans use a traditional outdoor oven. It starts with a roaring fire set in a brick oven.  After the firewood has died down, hot, smooth rocks are layered over the burnt wood.  Cooking continues using the hot rocks as the heat source.
  • Suaia: Fish chowder with fresh coconut milk
  • Kale Faiai: curry with coconut milk


  • Puligi keke: steamed cake with white cream sauce
  • Panikeke: deep fried donut cake
  • kake: Samoan cake
  • Suali: a banana pudding similar to tapioca
  • Paniolo: (Hawaiian cowboy bread) cornbread with pineapple and coconut milk
  • Fáausi Taro: Raw pounded taro shaped into balls like hush puppies.  Sauce: Caramelized sugar and coconut milk.

An American Samoan delicacy, Fáausi Taro is raw pounded taro shaped into balls served with caramelized coconut sauce.

Panipopo:  buns made with fresh coconut milk served with a fruit glaze.

9 cups flour, divided use
3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
You’ll need two 8 1/2-inch-by-11-inch baking pans for this recipe.
Set aside 3 cups of flour. Mix 6 cups flour and yeast. Heat milk, butter, sugar and salt until warm and butter is just melting (about 120 degrees). Add this to the flour and yeast mixture. Mix for 30 seconds on low speed; then mix for 3 minutes on high speed.
With wooden spoon, add the rest of the flour; knead for 6 to 8 minutes. Place dough in a large greased bowl; flip once to grease both sides of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

While dough is rising, prepare coconut sauce:
4 cans (14 ounces) coconut cream
2 cups sugar

Mix well in bowl with whisk. Set aside.

Make a fist and punch down middle of dough to collapse dough.
Divide dough into 2 parts; let rest on lightly floured surface for 10 minutes. Roll out into a rectangle about 16 inches by 9 inches. Brush top of dough lightly with coconut sauce.

Roll dough tightly into a long roll. Cut into 9 pieces. Place in baking pan. Repeat with second half of dough. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes. Pour 3 cups of coconut cream over each pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 18 buns.

This giant salp was caught in the trawl net.

This giant salp was caught in the trawl net.

NOAA Scientists Evan Howell, Ryan Nichols, Tafito Aitaoto, Jamie Barlow all enjoy a great Samoan meal in the galley aboard the Sette

After dinner, we watched fishing off the longline pit.  As fish were caught using long lines, we were treated to an Hawaiian island delicacy by NOAA officer Justin Ellis, Hawaiian Shave Ice: fluffy ice, sweetened condensed milk, assai beans, your choice of syrup (coconut, pineapple, passion fruit), vanilla ice cream.

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The fishing ventures were successful bringing in 2 fish: a rare Sickle Pomfret and an orange fish.

I went to bed early since I would join the small boat operation in the morning.

Small shrimp (too many to count)

The crustaceans are sorted into a tray and then counted, measured volume(ml), and weighted (g).

Student Questions:

Q: Do you eat the fish you catch?

A: Yes, the stewards (cooks) on board prepare the fish that is caught everyday.  The snapper and tuna have been made into many tasty Samoan dishes.

The bite from this cookie cutter shark can be very painful.

Q: Have you seen any sharks?

A:  Yes, the most interesting shark we caught in the net was the cookie cutter shark.  Its bite is very unique.  As it bites its victim it turns its mouth taking a deeper piece of flesh, which makes the healing process slower.

Jennifer Fry: March 15, 2011, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry

Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette

March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 15, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

Science and Technology Log:

Nighttime Cobb Trawling : Day 4

We began the trawling around 8:30 p.m.  The data we collect tonight will replace the previous trawl on day 2 which was flawed in the method by which the experiment was collected. The Day 2 experiment was when the winch became stuck and the trawl net was left in the water well over 2 ½ hours, long past the 1 hour protocol.

Here’s is what the science team found.

Tonight the trawl nets went into the ocean and were timed as all the other times.

During the sorting we found some very interesting species of fish which included:

  • Pyrosomes: chordate/Tunicate
  • Two Juvenile cow fish (we placed them into a small saltwater tank to observe interesting species caught in the net.)

This is a great place to make further observations of these unique animals.

The data collected included:

Name of fish: Numbers Count Volume (milliliters) Mass (grams)
Myctophids 120 700 650
Non-Myctophids 148 84 115
Crustaceans 77 28 40
Cephalopods: 16 64 50
Gelatinous zooplankton 71 440 400
Misc. zooplankton n/a 840 900

The Cobb trawl net was washed, rinsed and the fish  strained through the net. They were then brought inside the web lab for further sorting.

The white-tailed tropic bird is a regular visitor to the South Pacific islands.

We were close to finishing the sorting, counting, and weighing when suddenly we heard something at the back door of the lab.  Fale, the scientist from American Samoa went to the door and proceeded to turn the latch, and slowly opened the door.  There huddled next to the wall, near some containers was a beautiful black and white Tropic bird, a common bird of this area.  Its distinctive feature was the single white tail feather that jutted out about 1 foot in length.  He looked just as surprised to see us and we were of him.  He did not make a move at all for about 10-15 minutes .  We took pictures and videos to mark the occasion, yet he still didn’t budge or act alarmed.

With a bit more time passing, he began to walk, or more like waddle like a duck. His ebony webbed feet made it difficult to maneuver over the open slats in the deck.  He attempted flight but appeared to get confused with the overhanging roof.

I quickly found a small towel and placing it over his head, gently carried him to a safe spot on the aft deck where he would have no trouble flying away.

The time was about 2:00 a.m. when we were distracted by the ship’s fire alarm, and  we quickly reported to our muster stations.  Luckily, there was no fire and  we returned resuming our trawl data collection.  Upon reaching the wet lab, we noticed at the stern of the ship, our newly found feathered friend had flown off into the dark night.

It was a great way to end our night with  research and early hour bird watching.  How lucky we all are to be in the South Pacific.

Animals Seen:


Pictured here is a Pyrosome which many came up in our Cobb net.

Cow fish

Our trawl net caught three juvunile cow fish specimans which were quickly placed in our observation tank for further study.

Tropical bird

The Tropic bird, with its distinctive long tail feather, is common in the South Pacific.

Heather Haberman: Introduction July 1, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Haberman

Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 5 — 17, 2011 

Mission: Groundfish Survey
Geographical Location: Northern Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, July 1, 2011

Heather Haberman

Heather Haberman, Science Teacher at Scottsbluff High School in Nebraska

Pre-cruise Personal Log: 

Allow me to introduce myself.

My name is Heather Haberman and I have been a science teacher at Scottsbluff High School in Western Nebraska for the past six years.  I LOVE being a teacher and sharing my passion for science with others.  Everyday brings a new adventure and there is rarely a dull moment.

Zoology and Environmental Science have always been my primary interests which motivated me to obtain a degree in Biology.  This degree allowed me to pursue positions such as a Research Assistant with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, an Animal Caretaker with the US Department of Agriculture, a Forest Protection Officer with the US Forest Service, as well as a Zookeeper and Education Curator for Riverside Zoo.  As an Education Curator, I realized how much fun it was to teach science so I decided to go back to college and earn my Education degree.  These real world experiences have helped me make science more fun and applicable to the lives of my students.  This is one of the reasons why I am so excited about being selected to participate in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program.

Oregon II

NOAA's research vessel the Oregon II

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a federal agency focused on the condition of the oceans and the atmosphere.  Next week I will begin working alongside NOAA scientists on a groundfish survey in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the Oregon II.  Their primary summer objective is to determine the abundance and distribution of shrimp by depth. Other objectives include obtaining samples of commercially important fishes, such as red snapper, and crustaceans.  This data enables scientists to predict population trends which allows government officials to regulate the fishing industry in a more sustainable fashion.  It is also important to collect weather (meteorological) data and physical ocean (hydrographic) data to look for climatic trends and to assess the health of the ocean.  Plankton samples will also be collected since they play a key role in the oceanic food web and are good indicators of ecosystem change.

The Mississippi watershed drains approximately 40% of the Unites States, including Nebraska.

I am excited to be a part of this scientific research team collecting data about the health of our fisheries and oceans.  I hope that bringing back real scientific stories about research at sea will help my students from the Great Plains feel more of a connection to their watershed and the oceans of our planet.  Being over a thousand miles away from an ocean makes it easy to dismiss the fact we rely on the sea for so many of our resources, and how our actions impact the marine environment.

I will be posting updates on this blog three to four times a week.  I would like to answer as many of your questions as possible while on my mission. What would you like this sea-faring teacher to inform you about? Would you like to know about the ship; the jobs of my co-workers; marine life; ocean chemistry; my duties aboard the ship; science at sea; etc?  Leave me a message by scrolling to the bottom of the blog post and select “Leave a Comment”.  I can’t wait to hear from you.

Linda Depro, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge caught a monster lobster today.  The scientists seemed to think it was more than twenty years old. When held up it was the size of an adult’s length from shoulders to knees, and two hands were needed to hold it!  A spiny dogfish (looks like a shark) was also caught. I held it to have my picture taken and I plan to hang it on my classroom door! Otherwise the catches were the usual—some with lots of rocks, some with sand, others with many star fish or skates.  All these fantastic sea creatures that I have only seen in books have become part of my life here on board the ALBATROSS IV.  The star fish and hermit crabs are my favorites, skates are cool to look at and pick up by the tail and put in the bucket, goosefish (known as monk fish in the grocery store) have a face that “only a mother could love”, and the scallops, even though I’ve seen thousands of them are each a little different.

Personal Log 

Sunset was beautiful again tonight and the moon is spectacular.  With my binoculars the craters were very clear. A lone seagull followed us for a while; his white body against the black sky would have inspired me to write a poem if I were a poet.  Hard to believe the adventure is coming to an end, and what an adventure it was.  The crew has been super, very kind, and willing to talk and answer questions.  The scientists have an important job collecting and recording data; they are an interesting group to work with.  Thanks to all for making my time on the ALBATROSS IV the adventure of a lifetime.

Linda Depro, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a small world here on the ALBATROSS IV.  Chad Meckley is a 1996 Wilson High School graduate. Wilson is in Berks County and I live in Lancaster County, less than forty minutes away.  If you want to talk to Chad, look on the bridge.

Chad earned a geography/environmental science degree from Shippensburg University and moved to Colorado to be near the mountains.  After working several years in sales, Chad happened to be talking to a friend who knew about the NOAA Corps.  He applied, was accepted, and began training in February 2006.

We are on Leg 2 of the Sea Scallop Cruise and it is Chad’s third cruise with NOAA.  He enjoys being on the ocean and plans to continue his NOAA career.  Chad has two goals: to become Officer of the Deck (so he can command the ship) and to experience his first winter at sea.

It is evident that Chad enjoys what he’s doing; you can see it in his smile.  Best Wishes, Chad!

Last watch was not quite as busy as the night before.  We had two stations that were mostly Brittle Stars, very interesting little starfish.  They are a tannish color about the diameter of a coffee mug, with long thin arms that visibly move. When they were shoveled into laundry size baskets each time we had two baskets full, and that’s a lot of Brittle Stars!

Personal Log 

Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous day on the ocean.  The sun was out and the water was calm.  Whales were sighted, but in the distance.  I did see them surfacing and took pictures. Imagine a 4×6 all bluish-green and a fourth-inch dot of black. Sunset was working on spectacular, but just as the sun reached the water it went behind a layer of clouds. We are almost at full moon and the night time was just as beautiful in its own way.

Linda Depro, August 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was quite a day—many stations, lots of scallops, and BIG rocks.  I am amazed that the trawl net liner was not damaged.  Last night, though, a rock the size of a small car was hauled onto deck—that one did tear the liner.  It’s interesting to watch the winch drop it in the ocean.

My new special position (I’m still sorting, shoveling, and measuring) is taking the inclinometer, or bottom contact sensor, reading.  To you landlubbers, it’s a device attached to the trawl that gathers data and tells the scientists whether the net was parallel to the bottom of the ocean. So when the net comes up with very little the information from the inclinometer is helpful.

Here’s what I do. I have an optic shuttle (about the size of a hot dog) that I secure in the inclinometer located on the trawl.  Each part has sensors and when put together properly the inclinometer sends the data to the optic shuttle (like a zip) and when all information is received and a little green light flashed I take in into a computer and transfer the data onto the hard drive. It’s an important piece to the mission.

What I have been doing here is an example of how important hands-on learning really is for understanding and transfer. I could have read all about this experience (like you are with this journal), but until I held the fish, scrubbed the scallops, cut into a Monk fish to discover the ovaries, etc., I had no real understanding.  Amazing!

Personal Log 

The weather remains beautiful, the people are great, and the food is delicious.

Linda Depro, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 4, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

If you are observant you will notice that I’m on my second Friday in a row.  Time is a hard thing to keep track of here on the ocean.  Last watch, Thursday I think, we entered Canadian waters. I was looking for a sign the said “Welcome to Canada”, but I must have missed it.

I am a scallop scrubber!  With each haul five scallops are chosen at random to gather in-depth data on (all other scallops are weighed and measured only).  The shells are scrubbed clean so the scientists on shore can determine the age.  Scallop shells are a little like a tree trunk. Age is determined by growth rings.  The larger scallops can be five years and older. The scallop is measured for length and weighed individually then opened. The sex is entered into the computer next.  Male scallops have a white gonad and females have a pink gonad.  The gonad is weighed, and then the muscle (what we would call the “scallop”) is cut out and weighed.  The shell is dried and numbered to match the data, bagged, and frozen.  Some scallops are very clean, but others can have barnacles, “weeds”, sponges, and/or slime (don’t know the scientific term!) growing on their shells. As a shell scrubber you get to know these things and the best way to remove them!!  Finally the whole station is hosed down for the next haul.

Personal Log 

The noise of the engines and the rocking of the ship are becoming second nature.  The weather has been kind and swells small.  I am really, really hoping that is stays this way.  Laundry is my goal for the morning.  The washer and drier are behind a metal door called a hatch. There are six dogs (big metal latches) that must be closed when the ship is at sea. I have opened and closed those six dogs so many times I’ve given them names: King, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Lady, Spot, and ToTo!  So many things to learn.