With our stations complete, we headed home a bit early on Saturday, and with the approaching nor’easter on Mother’s Day, it was probably a good decision. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and value the efforts, hard-work, professionalism and teamwork that make an undertaking of such enormity a valued and fun endeavor. The camaraderie of the team will be forever cherished.
We came back through the Cape Cod Canal late in the evening, on our return to Newport, RI. We spotted joggers with head lamps running along the path of the canal. Perhaps a local road race?
It was interesting feeling in my kitchen rocking and rolling all day Sunday …. dock rock or kitchen rock??? That was a fun sensation!!
It was nice to see my students this morning, Monday, all welcoming me home and curious about my trip. On Sunday, I had prepared a slide-show of many of my photos and projected my blog on the “Smartboard” to share with my classes. They had a wide range of questions from what did I eat, was I seasick, what fish did we catch, did you dissect any fish, did you see any whales, how old do you have to be to go out on the ship, to what will the scientists do with the samples that were saved. They were impressed with my pictures of the goosefish, (who wouldn’t be impressed with such a fish!) and laughed at how the scientist I worked closely with nicknamed me a “Fish Wrangler” as I had caught, in midair, some slippery, squirming, flip-flopping Red Fish as they had managed an attempted escape off the scale when a big wave hit. I’ll wear that tag with pride!
Thank you to NOAA and their staff that prepared me for the journey. Thank you to all the wonderful people I met on the ship. A “Teacher at Sea” is a monicker of which I will be always proud … as well as “Fish Wrangler!”
Underbelly of the Sea Raven
Wolffish on the scale
The skate has a very interesting expression.
A very small Skate
Setting the CTD
CTD being hauled back up.
Glen with a large crab.
Closeup of the crab
Eggs of a female lobster
Another lobster with a lot of eggs
Female with eggs and a notched fin indicating it had previously been caught and released.
Henry B Bigelow tied to dock in Newport
Working on the nets
Scientist weather gear
Ready to sort
At muster station
A lot of hard work in getting the net back onboard with the catch
Tony measuring Dogfish
Wet Room all clean
Nearly time to be home. Wet Room clean and conveyor dismantled
Cute logo on the wet weather gear
In the stateroom the life suit storage container is luminescent.
Emergency and Fire Drill
Beautiful clouds in the welcome blue skies
One lone squid
Grey sky and shimmering seas
Just in case!
Picked up a few passengers outside of Boston
These fish “buzzing ” feeling when placed on your hand.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada May 27 – June 10, 2015
Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast Date: June 3, 2015
Air Temperature: 13.3°C
Water Temperature: 14.8°C
Sky Conditions: Partly Cloudy, I could still see some stars
Wind Speed (knots/kts), Direction: 5.5 kts, NNE
Latitude and Longitude: 43°29’84”, 124°49’71”
Later on Monday, once all the night-shifters had risen from their beds and were beginning to get ready for the bongos and mid-water trawls, I took a tour of the engines with marine engineer and NOAA crewmember, Colleen. We started in the control room. With up to four engines operating at any one time, Colleen says it’s a relief that computer systems help to automate the process. As part of her four-year degree program at Seattle Maritime Academy, she learned how to operate the engines manually as well, but I think we can all agree computers make life easier.
Before moving on to the actual engine room, Colleen made sure I grabbed some ear protection. For a one-time visit they’re probably more for my comfort than to protect from any real damage, but because she’s working with the engines every night, it’s important to protect against early-onset hearing loss. Once the plugs were in, we were basically not going to be able to talk so Colleen made sure that I knew everything I was going to see before we proceeded.
First, we made our way past the fresh water tanks. I was really curious about how we get fresh water on the ship, since we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Shimada produces freshwater using two processes. Reverse osmosis produces most of the water, using high pressure to push the seawater across a membrane, a barrier that acts like a filter, allowing the water molecules to pass through but not the salt. This is an energy intensive process, but the evaporators use the excess energy produced by the engines to heat the seawater then pass it through a condensing column which cools it, and voilá, freshwater!
Next, we came to the four diesel engines. Four engines. These four engines are rarely all on at one time but never will you find just one doing all the work. That would put too much strain on and probably burn out that engine. While they burn diesel fuel, like a truck, instead of using that energy to turn a piston like the internal combustion engine of that same truck, they convert that energy to electricity. That electricity powers the two motors that ultimately make the ship go.
A ship the size of the Shimada requires a lot of power to get moving, but Colleen tells me it gets decent mileage. Though the ship’s diesel tank can hold 100,000 gallons, there’s only about 50,000 gallons in the tank right now and the ship only needs to refuel every couple of months.
After a quick pass by the mechanics for the rudder, the fin-shaped piece of equipment attached to the hull that controls the direction the ship is traveling we arrived at our last stop: Shaft Alley. Those two motors I told you about work together to turn a giant crankshaft and that crankshaft is attached to the propeller which pushes water, making the ship move. When I was down there the ship was on station, where it was holding its location in the water, so the crankshaft was only turning at 50 RPM (rotations per minute).
It was a pleasure getting a tour from Colleen!
Throughout the night, the Shimada revisits the same transect stations that it visited during that day, but uses different nets to collect samples at each station. To the right, you can see a map of the stations; they are the points on the map. Each line of stations is called a transect. Looking at the map it’s easy to see that we have a lot of work to do and a lot of data to collect.
Why does this have to happen at night? At night, the greatest migration in the animal kingdom takes place. Creatures that spend their days toward the bottom layers of the ocean migrate up, some as far as 750 m (almost 2,500 ft)! Considering they’re tiny, (some need to be placed under the microscope to be reliably identified) this is relatively very far. And they do it every day!
To collect data on these organisms, three types of nets are used, two of which are not used during the day. Along with the surface-skimming neuston (which is used during the day), the bongo net, so named because it has two nets and looks like a set of bongo drums, and the Cobb trawl which is a very large net that needs to be deployed off the stern (back of the boat).
The operation of the bongo net is similar to the neuston, it is lowered off the starboard (when facing the bow, it’s the right side) side of the boat. Dropping down to 100 m below the surface and then coming back up, the bongo is collecting zooplankton, phytoplankton and fish larvae. The samples are poured from the cod-end into a strainer with a very fine mesh and since the water is full of those tiny bits, the straining can take a bit of time and some tambourine-like shaking.
These samples are then fixed (preserved) in ethanol and they will be analyzed for diversity (how many different species are present) and abundance (how many individuals of each species is present). The bongo is the net of choice for this survey because once scientists go to process the data, the double net provides a duplicate for each data point. This is important for statistical purposes because it ensures that the area that is sampled by one side of the net is similar enough to the area sampled by the other side of the net.
Below you can see video of the bongo net after it’s been hauled back. Scientists are spraying it down to make sure all organisms collect in the cod-end.
Once the bongos are done, comes the real action of the night shift. The mid-water trawls take 15 minutes. I’ve become really great at communicating with the bridge and survey technicians who are operating the nets so that I can record data for the beginning and ending of the trawls. Once the catch is on deck, the survey technicians empty the cod-end into a strainer. The scientists prepare to sort, count and measure the species of interest. If the catch is large or particularly diverse, this can be a significant task that requires all hands on deck.
With four trawls a night, some with 30-50 minutes transit time with nothing to do in between, fatigue can set in and make the work hard to finish. To make it through the night, it takes great senses of humor and playful personalities. A little theme music doesn’t hurt either. The scientists of the night shift, under the direction of Toby Auth, a fisheries biologist with Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission working as a contractor to NOAA and Chief Scientist Ric Brodeur, are Brittney Honisch, a marine scientist with Hatfield Marine Science Center, Paul Chittaro, a biologist with Ocean Associates working as a contractor to NOAA, Tyler Jackson, a fisheries science graduate student, and Will Fennie.
The data collected during these trawls provides a snapshot of the ecosystem. This data will help NOAA Fisheries Service understand the health of the ocean ecosystem as well as how large certain populations of commercially important fish are such as hake and rockfish.
In the meantime, it provides for some late night fun. Over the course of the nights that I’ve spent in the wet lab, we have uncovered some bizarre and fascinating creatures.
Clockwise from right: Mature hake, young lanternfish, King-of-the-Salmon, curlfin turbot, poacher.
A Leptocephalus larvae of deep sea eel.
A heteropod (Pterotracheoidea sp.)
A tiny larval octopus (Octopus sp.)! I will call him Squishy and he will be my Squishy.
Will holds a Pacific mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus)
A Medusafish (Centrolophidae sp.)
Krill (Euphausiids) with phytoplankton in their stomachs (green).
The flat ones are larval Pacific sanddabs (Citharichthys sordidus) and the long skinny ones are larval anchovies (Engraulis mordax).
Shortbelly (Sebastes jordani) and canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger), actual rockfish! In juvenile form.
A Praya siphonophore.
Moon jelly (Aurelia labiata)
But in my opinion the real star of the trawls was the young female dogfish. A dogfish is a type of shark. I know what you’re thinking and no, she did not try to bite us. But dogfish do have two spines, one at the base of each dorsal (back) fin. We all fell in love, but, ultimately, had to say goodbye and return her to the sea.
Thank you for your patience as I’ve gathered the images and video to make this and future posts as informative as possible. Stay tuned for Episode 5 coming soon!
First off, a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to the first 8th grade class at Village Leadership Academy. I wish I could be there when you walk across that stage on June 4th.
Little did I know when I started hanging out with the scientists of the night shift that it would become a way of life. Each night I managed to stay up later and later and finally last night I made it through all four catches and almost to 0800, the end of the night’s watch. After dinner (some call it “breakfast”), I slept a full eight hours, and it felt completely normal to be greeted with “Good Morning!” at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Speaking of the night’s watch, I’m really grateful that someone was able to get one of my favorite TV shows last Sunday. And Game 7! The Blackhawks are in the finals! Even though I can’t call anyone back home to discuss my theories or that amazing goal by Seabrook in the third period, I can email and it feels like I’m missing less.
The only person I can’t email is my cat, Otto! I can’t wait to snuggle him until he scratches me.
Question of the Day:
Comment with answers to these questions and I’ll shout your name out in the next post!
What is your favorite animal we have seen so far?
Thanks to Paul Chittaro for assisting in the use of iMovie for this post!
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic Date: September 27, 2013
Science and Technology Log
It’s going to be a busy night trawling and processing our catch. Yippee. I like being busy as the time passes more quickly and I learn about more fish. A large number of trawling areas are all clustered together for our shift. For the most part that means the time needed to collect data on one trawl is close to the amount of time needed for the ship to reach the next trawling area. The first trawl was a highlight for me as we collected, for the first time, a few puffer fish and one managed to stay inflated so I had a picture taken with that one.
However, on this night there was more than just puffer fish to be photographed with. On this night we caught the big one that didn’t get away. One trawl brings in an amazing catch of 6 very large striped bass and among them is a new record: The largest striped bass ever hauled in by NOAA Fisheries! The crew let me hold it up. It was very heavy and I kept hoping it would not start flopping around. I could just see myself letting go and watching it slip off the deck and back into the sea. Fortunately, our newly caught prize reacted passively to my photo op. I felt very lucky that the big fish was processed at the station I was working at. When Jakub put the big fish on the scale it was like a game show – special sounds were emitted from our speakers and out came the printed label confirming our prize – “FREEZ – biggest fish ever “-‐-‐the largest Morone Saxatilis (striped bass) ever caught by a NOAA Fisheries research ship. It was four feet long. I kept waiting for the balloons to come down from the ceiling.
Every member of the science team sorts fish but at the data collection tables my role in the fish lab is one of “recorder”. I’m teamed with another scientist who serves as the “cutter”, in this case Jakub. That person collects the information I enter into the computer. The amount of data collected depends on the quantity and type of fish caught in the net. I help record data on length, weight, sex, sexual development, diet, and scales. Sometimes fish specimens or parts of a fish, like the backbone of a goose fish, are preserved. On other occasions, fish, often the small ones are frozen for further study. Not every scientist can make it on to the Bigelow to be directly part of the trip so species data and samples are collected in accordance with their requests.
Collecting data from a fish as large as our striped bass is not easy. It is as big as the processing sink at our data collection station and it takes Jakub’s skill with a hacksaw-‐-‐yes I said hacksaw-‐-‐to open up the back of the head of the striped bass and retrieve the otolith, the two small bones found behind the head that are studied to determine age. When we were done, the fish was bagged and placed in the deep freeze for further study upon our return. On the good side we only froze one of the six striped bass that we caught so we got to enjoy some great seafood for dinner. The team filleted over 18 pounds of striped bass for the chef to cook up.
More Going On:
Processing the trawl is not the only data collection activity taking place on the Bigelow. Before most trawls begin the command comes down to “deploy the bongos”. They are actually a pair of closed end nets similar to nets used to catch butterflies only much longer. The name bongo comes from the deployment apparatus that holds the pair of nets. The top resembles a set of bongo drums with one net attached to each one. Their purpose, once deployed, is to collect plankton samples for further study. Many fish live off plankton until they are themselves eaten by a predator farther up the food chain so the health of plankton is critical to the success of the ecological food chain in the oceans.
Before some other trawls, comes the command to deploy the CTD device. When submerged to a target depth and running in the water as the ship steams forward, this long fire extinguisher sized device measures conductivity and temperature at specified depths of the ocean. It is another tool for measuring the health of the ocean and how current water conditions can impact the health of the marine life and also the food chain in the area.
On a personal note, I filleted a fish for the first time today – a flounder. Tanya, one of the science crew taught me how to do it. I was so excited about the outcome that I did another one!
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic Date: September 25, 2013
Science and Technology Log
I was told that the first 12 hour night watch shift was the hardest for staving off sleep and those who spoke were right. Tonight’s overnight shift seems to be flying by and I’m certainly awake. Lots of trawling and sorting this evening with four sorts complete by 6am. One was just full of dogfish, the shark looking fish, and they process quickly because other than weight and length there is little request for other data. The dogfish were sorted at the bucket end of the job so determining sex had already been completed by the time the fish get to my workstation. Again I’m under the mentorship of Jakub who can process fish faster than I can print and place labels on the storage envelopes. The placement of the labels is my weakness as I have no fingernails and removing the paper backing from the sticky label is awkward and time consuming. Still tonight I’m showing speed improvement over last night. Well at least I’m getting the labels on straight most of the time.
In addition to the dogfish, we have processed large quantities of skate (the one that looks like a sting ray to me), left eyed flounders, croakers (no relation to the frog), and sea robins of which there are two types, northern and stripe. The sea robins are very colorful with the array of spines just behind the mouth. And yes it hurts when one of the spines goes through your glove. Sadly for me sorting has been less exciting tonight. With the big fish being grabbed off at the front of the line there has been little left for me to sort. I feel like the goal keeper in soccer – just don’t let them get past me. To my great surprise, so far I’ve experienced no real fear of touching the fish. The gloves are very nice to work with.
And let us not overlook the squid. There have been pulled in by the hundreds in the runs today. There are two types of squids, long fin (the lolligo) and short fin (the illex). What they both have in common is the ability to make an incredible mess. They are slimy on the outside and inky on the inside. They remind me of a fishy candy bar with really big eyes. And for all the fish that enjoy their squid treat the species is, of course, (wait for it) just eye candy. The stories about the inking are really true. When upset, they give off ink; lots of ink. And they are very upset by the time they reach the data collection stations. If you could bottle their ink you would never need to refill your pen again. They are also very, very plentiful which might explain why there are no requests to collect additional data beyond how long they are. I guess they are not eye candy to marine scientists. However, there vastness is also their virtue. As a food source for many larger species of marine life, an absence of large quantities of squid in our trawling nets would be a bad sign for the marine ecosystem below us.
When the squid are missing, our friend the Skate (which of the four types does not matter) is glad to pick up the slack on the “messy to work with” front. As this species makes it down the sorting and data collecting line the internal panic button goes off and they exude this thick, slimy substance that covers their bodies and makes them very slippery customers at the weigh stations. It turns out the small spines on the tails were placed there so that fisheries researchers could have a fighting chance to handle them without dropping. Still, a skate sliding onto the floor is a frequent event and provides comic relief for all working at the data collection stations.
There was new species in the nets tonight, the Coronet fish which looks like along drink straw with stripes and a string attached to the back end. It is pencil thick and about a foot long without the string. We only caught it twice during the trip. The rest of the hauls replicate past sorting as dogfish, robins, skates, squid, croakers, and flounder are the bulk of the catch. I’ve been told that the diversity and size of the trawl should be more abundant as we steam along the coastline heading north from the lower coast of New Jersey. Our last trawl of the shift, the nets deployed collect two species new for our voyage, but ones I actually recognized despite my limited knowledge of fish – the Horseshoe Crab and a lobster! I grew up seeing those on the Jersey shore. We only got one lobster and after measuring it we let go back to grow some more. It only weighed in at less than two pounds.
The foul weather suit we wear to work the line does not leave the staging room where they are stored as wearing them around the ship is not allowed. After watching others, I have mastered the art of pushing the wader pants over the rubber boots and thus leaving them set-‐up for quick donning and removal of gear throughout the shift.
While the work is very interesting on board, the highlight of each day is meal time. Even though I work the night shift (which ends at noon) I take a nap right after my shift so I can be up and alert in time for dinner. My favorite has been the T-‐bone steaks with Monterey seasoning and any of the fish cooked up from our trawling like scallops or flounder. The chef, Dennis, and his assistant, Jeremy serve up some really fine cuisine. Not fancy but very tasty. There is a new soup every day at lunch and so far my favorite has been the cream of tomato. I went back for seconds! Of course, breakfast is the meal all of us on the night watch look forward to as there is no meal service between midnight and 7am. After 7 hours of just snacking and coffee, we are ready for some solid food by the time breakfast is served.
Seas continue to be very calm and the weather sunny and pleasant. That’s quite a surprise for the North Atlantic in the fall. And the sunrise today was amazing. The Executive Officer, Chad Cary, shared that the weather we are experiencing should continue for at least four more days. I am grateful for the calm weather – less chance to experience sea sickness. That is something I’m determined to avoid if possible.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009
Mission: Sea scallop survey Geographical Area: North Atlantic Date: May 15, 2009
Weather Data from the Bridge
True wind: 4.1 KT
Seas: 3-4 ft
Science and Technology Log
We’ve been at sea for seven days now and the daily sampling continues. Winds are not as strong as yesterday and we’re all glad. Skies are overcast and a thick fog surrounds us. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred today. By the time our shift ended we had completed 9 sampling stations. The majority of the dredges brought up were full of sand dollars. Lots of sand dollars mean slimy green secretions all over everything! Live sand dollars have a felt-like coating of fine spines. They shuffle through loose sand and feed on diatoms and microorganisms. Flounders and other bottom fishes feed on them. Their color is highly soluble and stains.
I’ll continue my conversations about my day shift crew. Larry Brady is a Biological Science Technician with the NOAA Fisheries Service. A former business manager with McGraw-Hill, he began volunteering with the Northeast Region Fisheries Services Sandy Hooks Lab in New Jersey. He found he really enjoyed what he did. One thing led to another and he has now been with the NOAA fisheries for 9 years. His responsibilities include maintaining the FSCS hardware and auditing data.
Dr. Shayla D. Williams is a research chemist at the Howard Marine Science Laboratory in Sandy Hook, New Jersey. She is researching fatty acid chemical tracers in two Northeast fisheries key resource species: Summer Flounders and Black Sea Bass. Fatty acids are a reflection of one’s diet. As Dr. Williams says, “You are what you eat.” Gary Pearson is on his first survey cruise. Formerly with the Massachusetts Military Reservation, 102nd Fighter Wing division, he has been with the NOAA Fisheries Service maintenance department for three years. Gary works with just about every physical aspect of this survey, except for data entry.
As the night shift came on duty tonight, “Doc” A.J. told me that he had sandwiched his head between pillows to keep from rolling around and slept just fine through the tempestuous day. So, once I finally got to my bunk I thought about what he said. I only had one pillow, but I did have my life jacket. So, I tucked myself between the life jacket and the wall. He was right! I didn’t roll either and slept all through the night!
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009
Mission: Sea scallop survey Geographical Area: North Atlantic Date: May 14, 2009
Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind: 18KTs
Science and Technology Log
We are at station 90 as I write, or try to write. A front has moved in and brought wind and wave action that has us rolling. As I sit in the wet lab, the wind data on the computer jumps from 20-24 KTs. I had to write this journal entry by hand first because it was too difficult to work on the computer! However work proceeds, we just need to secure anything that can fall or roll. So how do we get on “station”? Stations are a pre-determined number of sampling stratums identified by beginning and ending Latitudes and Longitudes. Stratum is defined by depth intervals. Sampling is done in the same stratums every year, but the actual stations may not be the same.
Last night I was out on deck and saw lights dancing in the middle of the darkness. I was told they were the lights from other vessels. I asked why there were fishermen here if this was a closed area. Turns out that some commercial fishermen have special access permits that allow them to fish in pass-by zones. They can only use these permits a certain number of times for a certain number of years. I also learned that they are monitored by a satellite system that can see who is there.
I have mentioned some members of my shift crew in my logs. I would like to talk a little more about who they are, what they do and why they are here, in my remaining logs. Chief Scientist Kevin has been with the Fisheries Service since 2002. He is responsible for the overall operations on the science side. He oversees the Watch Chiefs; is responsible for data auditing and cruise track planning; and maintains communication with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute about the progress of the survey.
Vic Nordahl is a Fishery Biologist at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole and is part of the senior staff of the group. He mentors and supervises the fisheries survey team and is out at sea two times a year with the scallop survey. He also does a triennial Surf Clam and Quahog survey. He is currently working on calibrating a time series between the NOAA Ship Albatross and the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp. The Albatross has been retired after 36 years of service. Shad Mahlum, our Watch Chief, is a Sea Tech with NOAA Fisheries Service. Before joining NOAA a year ago, he served 7 years in the Coast Guard. After the Coast Guard, Shad attended school in Bozeman Montana where he studied Zoology and Fresh Water fisheries.
Before I had even opened my eyes, I felt the ship rolling. Winds from a front that moved in are churning up the seas which make simple things like showering a real challenge. I know that while we are towing the dredge the ship moves slower so I waited in bed until I felt us slow down. Then I jumped up and raced into the shower hoping I could make it through getting dressed before we picked up speed. I almost made it! During one of our last stations a HUGE wave crashed all the way across the stern. I was in the wet lab processing scallops when I heard and saw the action. Wish I had had my camera ready! I think we work harder during these wave events because it’s just so hard to do anything without straining those sea legs and arms to maintain your balance! Hope we have a calmer day tomorrow.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow October 5 – 16, 2008
Mission: Survey Geographic Region: Northeast U.S. Date: October 14 2008
Dr. Joseph Kunkel from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is investigating a mystery on board our ship. In the last few years, fisherman and biologists have all noticed that lobsters are disappearing from waters south of cape cod near shore. This includes Narragansett Bay and our own Long Island Sound. Why? Thats’ what Dr. Kunkel is trying to find out.
He and other scientists have found that the lobsters are infected with a bacteria. Dr. Kunkel has a hypothesis. He believes that some lobsters get the bacteria because their shells are not as strong as other lobsters and don’t protect them as well. He is here collecting samples to test his hypothesis.
He has even made a discovery. He and another scientist, named Dr. Jercinovic, discovered that this shell fish actually has boney material in certain places in the shell. The boney material helps make the lobster strong enough to resist the bacteria. Effected lobsters may not have as much bone, so their shells are weaker. Why are the shells weaker? There may be a few reasons. The water South of Cape Cod is warmer than it normally is. Climate change may be to blame. The water has a lot of pollution from cities like New York and Boston. There are many streams and rivers pouring into the area that are Affected by acid rain. All of these things may effect the lobsters in the sea. They may effect other creatures in the sea as well. Can you think of things that are happening in our neighborhood that may contribute to this problem? Post your ideas on the blog and I will share them with Dr. Kunkel. What does shell disease look like? Can you see the red spots on the photo on the right? That is shell disease. It can get much worse. Thanks Dr. Kunkel for sharing your work and your photograph.
The art teachers, Mrs. Bensen in CLE and Mrs. Piteo in WOS had groups of students decorate Styrofoam cups for an experiment on the ship involving technology, water pressure in science and perspective in art. You probably have felt water pressure. When you swim to the bottom of the deep end of a pool, you may have felt your ears pop. This is water pressure. It is caused by the weight of the water on top of you pushing down on you. Well, a pool is only 10 or 12 feet deep. Just imagine the pressure at 600 feet down. We wanted to do an experiment with water pressure. Since Styrofoam is has a lot of air in it, we wanted to see what happened when we sent the decorated cups to the bottom of the sea. Click here for a video and see for yourself. If you decorated a cup, you will get it back when I come in next week.
Here are some more interesting creatures that came up in our nets overnight. We have been in deeper water and some some of the creatures have been quite interesting.
This is a sea-hag. It is a snake-like fish that has some amazing teeth. We put one inside a plastic bag for a few minutes to watch it try to eat its way out. Take a look at this video to see what happened.
Here are three Spoon Arm Octopi. Each octopi has three hearts, not one. One pumps blood through the body and the other two pump blood through the gills. There are three octopi in this photo. How many hearts to they have in all?
This redfish are also an interesting criters. When they lay eggs, you can see the babies inside. They live in deep water. We caught this one at a depth of 300 meters. How many feet is that?
Here is a bobtail squid and a sea-start. The squid looks like an octopus, but it is not.
This skate case had a baby skate inside. Here is what it looked like as the tiny creature emerged.
Finally, the red on the underside of this crab are the eggs. Biologists call them roe.
Zee and Snuggy paid a visit to the ship’s hospital to take a look around. The hospital is amazing. They are able to treat a wide variety of injuries and ailments without having to call for help. They can even put in stiches if they need to. In cases of serious injury, however, the Coast Guard would have to take the patient to land with the helicopter or fast boat. Zee and Snuggy had a great time touring the hospital, and all three of us are just fine.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow October 5 – 16, 2009
Mission: Survey Geographic Region: Northeast U.S. Date: October 11, 2008
Greetings from Canada, my son Nicky’s favorite place! We are now in Canadian waters. We have crossed the international boarder. More amazing things keep coming up in our nets. Today we had some interesting sea-stars. Take a look. The larger ones are called Sun-Stars. Do they look like the sun to you? Sea stars are scavengers. They will move around the bottom looking for whatever food is laying around. The legs of the sea star have small tentacles that push food towards the mouth in the center.
Did you know that squid can change color? Often male squid change color to attract a mate or to scare off other males who are competing with them. If there are two males near one female, they able to turn one color on the side facing the female, and then turn another color on the other side facing the male.
We had more dolphins circling the ship last night. We think our lights may be attracting certain fish or squid, then the dolphins come to eat that. They are not with us during the day at all. One of the benefits, I guess, of being on the night watch. I cannot shoot still photos due to the low light, but have wonderful video. The sounds that you hear on the video were recorded with the ship’s hydrophone. This is a special microphone that can record sounds underwater. The sounds were recorded as the dolphins swam around the ship. You can hear the sound of them swimming by as well as the sound of their sonar as they locate fish to eat. Click here to watch and listen. Thanks to survey technician Pete Gamache for recording this for us. Click here to see the video. Don’t miss it!
We drove past some seaweed called sargasum weed. It normally grows in an area towards the middle of the Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. We are well west of the Sargasso, but this seems to have drifted our way. Sargasum Weed grows on the surface of the water. These huge mats of seaweed support an entire ecosystem of sea creatures. Many come to seek shelter in the weeds. Many more come to feed on smaller creatures hiding there.
Our ship is shadowing another NOAA ship, the Albatross. Why? The Albatross is an old ship and will be replaced by the Bigelow in the years to come. At this point, the ships are trawling in exactly the same place to see if they get similar results in their surveys. Making sure the vessels measure the same thing the same way is called calibration. Right now we are doing calibration with the Albatross.
Now some answers to your questions:
RM – No we did not see Nantucket yet. We were too far out to sea. We may see it on the way back. Thanks for writing.
T – I love Block Island too. Thanks for the warning about rough seas. I am glad you and your mom are both enjoying the blog as much as I enjoy writing it for you. I’m used to the 12 AM shift now. I that I finally got 8 hours of sleep.
AR – There were TONS of skates in the water.
Hello to Mrs Eubank’s Class. Its great to hear from you. Great questions. Now for answers:
— Amanda, I think fish can get smaller pieces of plastic confused with tiny plankton, but our buoy is too large for that. I don’t think it will hurt fish. I think they will stay away from it.
–Tiffany, this is a tough question and a very good question. I guess over time, our buoy will stop working and will become floating trash. The truth is all science effects the environment you study. The trick is to do more good with your work than harm. Our buoy will help us understand our environment better so that all of us will do less harm in the future. Our ship also burns fuel as we study the ocean. That pollutes a little, but hopefully through our work, we do more good than harm to what we study.
Weston, It felt like the drifter weighs about 35 pounds or so.
Bryce, we use a large net to scoop along the bottom. The opening is about 4 meters wide.
Luke, we have not, nor do I expect to find new species. Our purpose is to learn more about the species that we already know about.
Bryce, we were about 140 miles from the nearest land the last time I looked.
RJ, some scientists made our drifter.
Weston, there are about 1000 drifters right now in the open sea.
I enjoyed your questions. Thanks for writing.
Mr. Moretti’s class, I’m not sure what killed the whale, but remember, all things the live also die. We cannot assume that something human beings did killed that whale. With all the pollution we create, we cannot assume, however, that we did not hurt it. We should stop polluting just to be sure we do not hurt other living things.
Many of you have are working hard to figure out our math question from the other day. Here is how it works. If we are going 8 knots for 24 hours, we multiply 8 times 24 and get 192 knots in a day. If we want to convert that to miles, we multiply again by 1.15 because each knot is 1.15 miles. We get 220.8 Congratulations to all who got this correct. It was a tough question.
Several of you have asked how long I would be on the ship. I will be here until the end of next week. I leave the ship on Friday October 17th.
LP – I enjoy the show Deadliest Catch very much. I think it is cool that scientists sometimes do that same kind of exciting work.
SD, there is no way for me to videotape under that water, but tomorrow I will show you how our sonars (we call them echosounders) work. That is one way to see under the water.
DT from SOMS dont’ worry, there is no light pollution out here. I am on the back deck of a working ship, so right where I am there are lights. I need them to do my job. I just have to go to the upper decks to get away from it or ask the bridge to shut them down for a bit.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow October 5 – 16, 2008
Mission: Survey Geographic Region: Northeast U.S. Date: October 10, 2008
Did you figure out the answer to yesterday’s question? Those creatures were the real cast of Sponge Bob Square Pants TV Show. We saw a sponge, like Sponge Bob, and sea stars like Patrick, plankton, like Sheldon Plankton, some squid like Squidward, a crab like Mr. Krabs next to a sand dollar (because Mr. Krabs loves money), a lobster like Larry the Lobster and a snail like Gary. All the creatures in the program actually exist in the sea, except for squirrels, and we have seen them all on this adventure. Amazing creatures keep coming up in our nets day after day. Let’s take a look at a creature called a skate. The skate makes those funny black rectangles that you find on beaches. Take a look at where those rectangles come from and what is inside of them. Click here for a video!
Skates also have interesting faces. They live along the bottom of the sea. Their eyes are on top of their head to spot predators and their mouthes are below to eat what is on the bottom. They have two nostril -like openings above their mouth called spiracles. They look just like eyes but actually help the skate breathe. Here are a few interesting skate faces.
This sea robin uses three separate parts of its pectoral fin, called fin-rays to move, almost like its walking along the bottom of the sea as it looks for food. This helps is move very quietly, making it able to sneak up on prey unobserved.
These two baby dog-fish show different stages of development. This one is still connected to an egg sack. The other has broken loose from it, but you can still see where it was attached just below the mouth. Usually in this species, just like most fish in the shark family has eggs that develop inside the mother’s body. She gives birth to the pups when they have hatched from their eggs and are ready for the open sea.
Many people have asked me about garbage. Here is some of what we have found so far. We caught part of someone else’s fishing net. Here is a Styrofoam cup and here is a plastic bag, which we caught 140 miles from the nearest land. How do you think it got here?
Finally, we were visited by some dolphins last night. They were eating smaller fish and as they came in for their attack, you can see the smaller fish jumping straight out of the water into the air to try to avoid being caught. Click here for a video.
Snuggy and Zee decided to visit the kitchen today. Here are Zee and Snuggy with our chief Steward Dennis M. Carey and our 2nd cook, Alexander Williams. The food here is fantastic. See how large the kitchen is? We have a lot of people to feed on this ship, and the cooks here work hard. You have seen a few of the many different jobs that people can do on a ship like this. You have seen the scientists at work in the labs, you have seen the engineers who make the engine go. You have been to the bridge where the NOAA Corp officers run the ship. You have been to the kitchen where the cooks keep us so well fed. Tomorrow, you will see how the deck crew trawl our sample nets through the water. Keep checking the blog this weekend. There will be lots to see.
Now, some answers to your questions and comments:
Hi to KD and to Derek Jeter. We are staying safe. Thanks for writing.
Hello to St. Mark School in Florida. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. I really enjoyed your thoughts about what these fish have in common. Great work. Here are some answers:
If a ship hit a drifter, the drifter would probably be broken. But the ocean is a big place, and that does not happen very often.
Can your school adopt a drifter? Of course! Take a look here: http://www.adoptadrifter.noaa.gov/. In the mean time, you are welcome to follow the adventures of our buoy. Keep checking this website!
I have Snuggy because some of my kindergarten classes asked me to take a bear with me to sea. So I did!
How heavy are the drifters? It weight 30 pounds or so, I would guess. Enough to make me work to pick it up.
I knew the whale was dead because part of it was decomposing. We could see it and we could smell it. Yuck.
Did any fish try to bite me? Yes. One scallop closed its shell on my finger. I had to be quick to get my hand out of the way in time. Other than that, no.
At 8 knots per hour, the ship could travel 192 knots, or about 220 miles in a day.
Congratulations to all who calculated correctly. The truth is that we have to stop for sample trawls every hour or two, so we seldom make our top cruising speed when we do work like this. So, we usually travel less than we could.
Oh, and to all those who asked, so far I have not gotten sick. Yet.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow October 5 – 16, 2009
Mission: Survey Geographic Region: Northeast U.S. Date: October 8, 2008
Today we started working. My shift is 12 midnight to 12 noon, so I slept for a few hours in the afternoon and then worked overnight and into the morning. It is hard to get used to staying up all night. It feels a little like I took an unexpected trip to Europe. Our first haul took the longest to sort out because many of us were learning how things were supposed to work, but after a full day, it started to feel routine. Here is a sampling of some of the amazing creatures that came up in our nets:
And finally, we saw whales!
On a personal note, this is a very comfortable ship. Zee and Snuggy will continue to show us around each day. Several of us watched the presidential debate on live satellite TV in the lounge tonight. Here are Snuggy and Zee having a quick meal.
Cottage Lane students, we are traveling about 8 knots per hour right now. Can you calculate how for we can travel in a day? Remember, the ship works all day and all night. How far can it go at that speed? Post your answers on the blog, then watch the video. Would you like to do this kind of work? Let me know.
I have enjoyed reading your comments very much. We are going to have a little delay in my responding to comments today as I get used to working the midnight shift. You are all correct when you say that the Bigelow has a LOT more technology than the Eagle. Consider this: I went on deck at about 4 in the morning to do some work and found that I could not see the stars because the electric lights on the ship were so bright! I guess we have to have a GPS when you reach that point! Celestial navigation just will not work on a ship with lights so bright!
A lot of you were focusing on what sailors then and now need to survive: Food and water, for example. Did you know old sailing ships had to bring their entire supply of fresh water with them in barrels. Today, our ship can take the salt out of seawater to make it safe to drink. Technology has changed the way we live on ships!
To my fellow TAS from the Delaware: Thanks for writing. We are doing bottom trawls and are looking to survey the entire benthic community here. Thanks for the sea-sickness tips. I may need all the help I can get if the weather decides to change.
Lynn: thanks for reading the blog. Zee is fine, and so far so am I. With luck, the weather will hold! If not, Zee may do better than I do. We could see Cape Cod earlier today. Beautiful!
Wednesday I spent time on the bridge, observing what happens when the ship is traveling at sea. My classes at James Monroe Elementary have participated in the GLOBE program, acquiring and sending weather data daily to be used to form a picture of conditions around the world. It was particularly interesting to me to learn that the crew of NOAA ships take much the same readings hourly and report them every 4 – 6 hours to the National Weather Service to help develop the predictions that help us all guide our day to day lives. I was especially impressed that the readings I saw were made using traditional instruments, not an automated electronic weather device.
One of the people in the pilot house logs weather every hour on the hour. There is an outside station on the starboard wall of the pilot house. This gives a temperature reading and allows them to calculate relative humidity. That is the difference between how much moisture is in the air, and how much total moisture the air is capable of holding. It may be expressed as a percentage, or decimal number. For hourly reporting, the relative humidity is not recorded and it is calculated automatically by when the “Big Weather” is submitted to National Weather Service. Both temperature of the air and sea water are read in ˚Fahrenheit and converted to ˚Celsius for reporting.
Wind speed is read from an anemometer mounted on the ship’s mast. This reading is a bit trickier if we are under way. When the ship is moving, the ship’s speed is subtracted from the anemometer reading to give a corrected wind speed. (Otherwise, the reading is like what you would get running while holding a pinwheel in front of you…much faster air movement than what is actually happening.) There is a wind vane mounted on the front of the ship and also an electronic gauge for reading wind direction.
The barometer (at left) is used for reading air pressure. It is located on the back wall of the pilot house and always gets a gentle tap before a reading is taken. This measurement is important because trends up or down in air pressure give clues to developing weather systems. The pressure is recorded in milibars. The ship’s barometer is shown at left. Some measurements involve using experience and personal judgment as well as instruments. These are the ones for wave height, swell height, cloud cover amount, cloud height, and visibility. The accuracy of these readings depends upon the experience and care of the person making them. The sea wave and swell can be estimated by careful observation, which seems to become second nature to the crew because they are exposed to them all the time. They are recorded in feet. The direction of the swell is always shown as the direction in which the swell is going. It can be measured using a device mounted on the deck outside the pilot house.
Cloud cover is measured in eighths. The observer divides the sky, calculates by observation how many eighths of the sky are covered by clouds, and reports that fraction. Likewise, a person must be a careful observer to note the kind of clouds they are seeing and where they mostly appear in the sky. There is a cloud chart available that shows pictures of cloud types and tells the altitudes at which they are commonly formed. This is a great help. (The cloud chart is shown at the right.) When there are low clouds, and there is land nearby, the observer can check the elevation of a point of land and judge the elevation of the lowest clouds as they appear against that point. Another measurement that may sometimes have to be an experienced estimate is visibility. Again, if land is visible, the observer tells how far away she/he can clearly see according to landmarks and the distances on charts or the ship’s radar screens. It is a lot harder to make this judgment when the ship is at sea, with no landmarks to help. That is when experience is especially important. One aid in this case is that the known distance to the horizon, due to the curvature of the earth, is eight nautical miles. That means that if the observer can see clear to the horizon, visibility is at least 8nm.
This day I watched Able Bodied Seaman (AB) Jodi Edmond take weather readings and report “Big Weather” to the National Weather Service using the internet.
I am running about a day behind writing and submitting my logs. There is so much to do and see that I forget to spend enough time writing. I am using the personal journals that my students gave me at the end of the school year to record my impressions and thoughts every evening. Those act as memory-joggers when I sit down at the computer to do my formal writing.
Everyone aboard the RAINIER is very friendly and helpful. I am still making a few wrongs turns or selecting the wrong stairs to get to where I need to go. The officers and crew are great about pointing me in the right direction and giving me clues to help me remember how to find where I need to be when.
Every afternoon the orders for the next day are posted in several spots throughout the ship. These list the survey boats that will be going out, and their crews and assignments. The list also tells about responsibilities on board ship…both for the officers and the crew. These are called the Plan of the Day (POD) and are important for everyone to read when they are posted.
Question of the Day
How is wind direction normally reported: do we tell the direction from which the wind comes, or the direction toward which it is blowing?
Yesterday I spent time in the Plot Room learning about the technology used to survey the surface of the earth underneath the ocean (bathymetry). For each survey the computers must have accurate, real-time information about the behavior of the ship on the sea surface (pitch, roll, speed) because all of this can affect the accuracy of sonar readings. The sonar (sound waves) is beamed from the bottom of the survey vessel and spreads out in a cone shape to the undersea surface. Bottom features that stick up closer to the sea surface reflect sonar waves and return echoes sooner so they show up as more shallow spots. Echoes from deeper places take longer to return, showing that the bottom is farther away at those places.
The data from each day’s survey is downloaded into computers in the Plot Room. Survey technicians review the data line by line to be sure it all fits together and to “clean up” any information that is questionable. They use information about the temperature and conductivity of the water where the survey was taken to understand how fast the sonar waves should be expected to travel. (This information is critical for accuracy and is collected every 4 to 6 hours by a device called the CTD. The CTD is lowered from the ship and takes readings at specified depths on its way down through the water.)
When survey work is in deep water, it is done from the ship using equipment that can cover a wider area in less detail. The launches are used for shallow water work where it is more important to navigation to have finer detail information on water depths and underwater features of the earth surface. Bonnie Johnston, a survey technician, spent about an hour explaining how the system works and showing me how they clean up data before it is sent off for the next stage of review, on its way to becoming part of a navigational chart. Computers used have two screens so survey technicians can see a whole survey line of data and look closely at information on tiny spots at the same time without losing their place on the big screen. This helps to judge whether changes of depth are accurate according to trends on the sea bottom, or spikes that show an error in the echoes received by the sonar. The software also allows them to see data as 2-D, 3-D, color models, and to layer information to give more complete pictures.
Tomorrow we are scheduled to begin our actual survey work in the Shumagin Islands. In between making new surveys the technicians are kept very busy working with the data they have on hand. There are many steps to go through to insure accuracy before data is ready to use for charts.
My first two days aboard the RAINIER have been a swirl of new faces and places. The only name I knew for sure before I arrived was Lt. Ben Evans who had exchanged email with me about the gear I would need. I was met at the Seward RR station by and welcomed onto the ship by Ensign Megan McGovern. She gave me a quick tour of the ship, including where to put my gear. I felt like a mouse in a maze: up and down steps, around blind corners, and through doorways. It has been much easier so far to find my way than I thought it would be. Reading books that use nautical terms has helped give me a background to understand port, starboard, fore, aft, head, galley, bridge, fantail, and flying bridge. Now I just need to remember where they all are.
Monday was taken up with a safety briefing, checking out equipment such as my flotation coat, personal flotation device (life jacket) for use in survey boats, hard hat, and immersion suit. I spent several hours reading Standing Orders that all persons aboard must read before being allowed to stay. I talked with the medical officer, and discovered where to eat and the times meals are served. Tuesday we had a Fire/Emergency Drill at about 1030 (10:30 am) for which I reported as fast as I could to my assigned station on the fantail. We were checked off on a list and some crew members practiced with fire fighting equipment.
Just as we finished that drill, the Executive Officer called an Abandon Ship Drill. Everyone rushed to quarters to get immersion suits, hats and any assigned emergency gear before reporting to muster stations. Again we were checked off and all accounted for before anyone could return to what they were doing before. These drills are an important part of shipboard life. They are required once a week and always within 24 hours of the ship sailing from port.
I am sleeping and eating well. The food is like camp and so are the bunk beds. So far I have seen lots of salmon: the stream in Seward was full of migrating Coho (silvers); the sea at Twin Bays was alive with jumping Pinks. Monday night one crew member, fishing from the fantail while we were anchored, caught and released a 4.5’ dogfish (shark). The next day someone caught an 8 lb. silver. There are sea lions, otters, gulls, eagles, puffins and dolphins to watch. I hate to close my eyes to sleep because I know I will miss seeing something wonderful.
Question of the Day
What is the speed of sound through air? Does sound travel faster or slower through water?