Amy Orchard: Day 1, 2 and 3 – Cool Scientists, Multibeam, Setting Traps, Cetaceans, September 16, 2014

NOAA Teacher At Sea
Amy Orchard
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 14 – 27, 2014

Mission: Fish Tagging
Geographical area of cruise: Riley’s Hump: Tortugas Ecological Reserve South
Date: September 14, 15, 16, 2014

Weather: September 16, 2014 20:00 hours
Latitude 24° 30’ 30’’N Longitude 83° 09’ 9’’W
Few clouds, clear.  Humidity 10%.
Wind speed 7 knots.
Air Temperature: 28° Celsius (83° Fahrenheit)
Sea Water Temperature: 30.4° Celsius (86.7°Fahrenheit)


Getting to Know the Nancy Foster

Scott Donahue, Science Coordinator for Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Chief Scientist for this cruise, brought me aboard and gave me a tour of the Nancy Foster early in the day.  Also there was Tim Olsen, Chief Engineer, who I had met on the plane from Atlanta to Key West.  I was overwhelmed with the capacity of the ship.  It is huge and fully equipped for a wide variety of scientific endeavors, diving, mapping, surveying, launching large equipment etc.  I feel lucky to be a part of what is going on.

Click on these two photos for more information

Short Jaunt into Key West

After taking some time to see Key West, I headed back to the ship where I met Cammy Clark from the Miami Herald who will be with us for one week reporting on our experience. Cammy and I spent the night on the ship awaiting the science team to arrive early tomorrow morning.  The ship is in dock so I can’t yet be sure if I will suffer from sea sickness.  However, I hear that there is 100% survival rate if it does occur!

Click on these two photos for more information


Meeting the Scientists

During the two weeks aboard, I will be working with 10 scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), 7 NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary scientists and 2 ROV pilots from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  I am excited to be a part this interagency collaboration.  Seems like an efficient way to communicate and share experiences.

Guess which photo shows the scientists I will be working with…

Answer:  PHOTO ON THE RIGHT.  FWC scientists from left to right: Mike McCallister, Jeff Renchen,Danielle Morley, Ariel Tobin (in front), Ben Binder, Paul Barbera.  Not as reserved or stodgy as you might picture a group of scientists, but they are incredibly knowledgeable and dedicated to their work.  They are unbelievably cool people!  They have amazing stories to tell, are easy-going and love to have a good time.  I want to be like them when I grow up!

Preparing to Do Science

One of the many things we will do this week is tagging fish.  To do this, we will travel away from the ship on small boats to set fish traps.  Once the right fish are contained, the dive team will surgically insert an acoustic tag which will allow them to monitor the fish’s movements throughout different reaches of the sanctuary.  This information is important to see the effectiveness of protected areas vs. non-protected areas.

The divers perform this surgery underwater (usually at depths of 95-110 feet) in order to reduce stress on the fish and to avoid air bladder expansion.

Today the divers went out to practice their diving skills before the intense work begins.  I got to travel with them in the small boat.  Even though I am certified to SCUBA dive, only American Academy of Underwater Sciences divers and other divers with official reciprocity are allowed to dive off NOAA ships.  (reciprocity is the word of the day – look it up!)  The diving these scientists do is much more technical than the recreational diving I do in Mexico, but they enjoy it just as much.

Best note of the day:  No sea sickness!  (yet)

dive boat being lowered
The 4 small boats sit on the back deck of the ship and are lowered over the side with a large crane. Once the boat is on the water, we climb down a rope ladder (which is swinging ferociously in the waves!)
me on the small dive boat
The Nancy Foster has four small boats. Three for dive operations and one reserved as a rescue boat. It was exciting to have a different perspective and to see the Nancy Foster out at sea from the small boat. Photo by Linh Nugyen


Multibeam Sonar

Last night was the first night I slept on the ship while it was out to sea.  I had a really hard time sleeping as I would awaken every half hour feeling as if I were going to roll over and fall out of my top bunk!  This movement was due to the fact that science is being done aboard the Nancy Foster 24 hours a day.  During the night time, Nick Mitchell and Samantha Martin, the Survey Technicians, are running the Multibeam Sonar which determines ocean depth and creates a map of the sea floor contours.  Using 512  sonic beams, sound is emitted, bounces off the sea bed, then returns to the ship.

See these videos for more information:

The ship would travel out about 3 miles, then turn 180° to make the next pass.  Cruising at about 1 mile every 10 minutes (walking speed) we were turning about every 30 minutes, explaining my rockn’ night!

More on MSB in upcoming posts.

Click on these two photos for more information

Setting Fish Traps

I joined the divers on the small boat to set out the first two traps.  We used cooked and peeled shrimp as bait.  The traps were still empty late afternoon.  Let’s hope they take the shrimp so the tagging can begin!

modified chevron trap
Here sits the modified chevron trap Ben and I will be deploying from our small boat. Divers on a second small boat will follow us, dive down and be sure the trap sits on the ocean floor upright and will set the bait.
trap over board
I am making sure the rope which attaches the float buoys to the trap doesn’t get caught on the boat as the fish trap is deployed into the water. Photo by Nick Mitchell
Here Ben Binder & Survey Technician, Nick Mitchell, record the exact Latitude and Longitude where the trap was set.  Can you figure out the general GPS coordinates for the Tortuga South Ecological Reserve?
Here Ben Binder & Survey Technician, Nick Mitchell, record the exact Latitude and Longitude where the trap was set. Can you figure out the general GPS coordinates for the Tortuga South Ecological Reserve? Need help? Go to

We are focusing on two species during this trip: the Black Grouper and the Cubera Snapper.  These two were selected because they are commercially and recreationally important species.  The FWC’s aim is to monitor the seasonal movement of these species to better understand how the fishes are utilizing the protected areas, as well as those outside of the reserve, so they can make the best management decisions.

I will attach photos of each species that will be taken from the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in my next blog since this one is getting long…

Challenge Your Understanding

Identify this animal.

I took this photo and video on day 1.  We have seen them each day since!

cetaceans jumping
Am I a porpoise, dolphin or vaquita?

The species in my photo/video is part of the Order Cetacea and the suborder Odontoceti (or toothed whales) which includes the porpoises , dolphins, vaquitas, narwhals and killer whales (to name only a few – there are 67 species in this suborder.)

Go to this website to help you find the correct answer


Bonus Points – make a COMMENT and share some information you have found about the VAQUITA.

Cool fact – all members of Odontoceti can echolocate.

Junior Docents – add that to your bat interpretations!

The question from my last post about the relationship between Tucson and the Sea of Cortez could be answered with all of the first four answers.  Glad NO ONE chose the last answer!  The sea is an integral part of our lives no matter how far we live from it.

Steven Frantz: Loose Ends at Sea, August 7, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Steven Frantz
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 27 – August 8, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic off the coast of Florida
Date: August 7, 2012

Weather Data From the Bridge:
Air Temperature (degrees C): 28.4
Wind Speed (knots): 8.62
Wind Direction (degree): 183
Relative Humidity (percent): 080
Barometric Pressure (millibars): 1015.41
Water Depth (meters): 43.4
Salinity (PSU): 35.660

Location Data:
Latitude: 3040.46N
Longitude: 08011.74W

Loose Ends at Sea

We are getting close to wrapping up this first leg of a four-leg survey. Speaking of wrapping things up, one very important skill you must know when on a ship is how to tie a knot. Not just any knot, but the right knot for the job, or things might not turn out. Got it?

There are three knots, which we used every day. The Blood Knot (sometimes called the Surgeon’s Knot), the Double Overhand Loop (sometimes called a Surgeon’s End Loop), and the Locking Half-Hitch on a Cleat.

The blood knot is used to tie two ropes together. When we return a longline, it has to be tied back on to the main spool. Watch Tim and Chris demonstrate how to tie this knot.

Blood Knot courtesy Google Images
Blood Knot courtesy Google Images
Blood Knot courtesy Google Images
Blood Knot courtesy Google Images

The double overhand loop is used, as the name implies, to put a loop on the end of a line. It is used at each end of the longline to secure the highflier.

Double Overhand Loop courtesy Google Images
Double Overhand Loop courtesy Google Images
Double Overhand Loop
Double Overhand Loop

The locking half hitch knot is tied on to a ship’s cleat in order to secure the mainline after it has been sent out. This gives us the opportunity to tie a double overhand loop on to the end in order to clip on the highflier.

Locking Half Hitch on a Cleat
Locking Half Hitch on a Cleat
Releasing the Highflier
Releasing the Highflier

We have also been seeing some more different animals during the past couple of days. We saw a green sea turtle surface twice. The first time was right in front of us on the starboard side of the ship. The second time was several minutes later at the stern. Just when I thought I would not get a picture of a dolphin, a trio of Atlantic spotted dolphins followed along the Oregon II as we let out the longline. Dolphins and all sea turtles are protected.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

We have also been catching more sharks. Again, the most common species caught has been the sharpnose shark. We finally caught a silky shark, Carcharhinus falciformes on our shift. The ridge that runs along their back and the smooth, silky look to their skin can be used to identify them.

Taking the hook out of a Silky Shark
Taking the hook out of a Silky Shark
Silky Shark's ridge on its back
Silky Shark’s ridge on its back
Silky Shark
Silky Shark

A 93.6 kilogram nurse shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum was caught and brought up using the cradle. These are bottom-feeding sharks and have an unusual texture to their skin. It feels like a basketball!

Nurse Shark on the line
Nurse Shark on the line
Nurse Shark in the cradle
Nurse Shark in the cradle
Getting a fin clip from the Nurse Shark for DNA studies
Getting a fin clip from the Nurse Shark for DNA studies
All data collected, tagged, and ready for release
All data collected, tagged, and ready for release

It is always nice when you witness the rare or unusual. Such was the case with the next shark we caught. Many photographs were taken in order to document this rare occurrence. After releasing the shark, it was identified as a Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi. Mark Grace, who started this survey 18 years ago, believes this is only the third Caribbean reef shark ever caught on the longline survey! Rare indeed! Unbelievable–the very next longline we caught a second Caribbean reef shark!

Carribbean Reef Shark: Measuring Length
Caribbean Reef Shark: Measuring Length
Caribbean Reef Shark: Notice salt water hose to keep oxygen to the gills.
Caribbean Reef Shark: Notice salt water hose to keep oxygen to the gills.

Caribbean Reef Shark
Caribbean Reef Shark
Carribbean Reef Shark
Caribbean Reef Shark

Another first for the first leg of the 300th mission was a dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus. This is another rare shark to be found. This one was even bigger than the nurse shark weighing in at 107.3 kilograms! We keep the larger sharks in the cradle while data is collected before releasing them.

Dusky Shark
Dusky Shark
Dusky Shark
Dusky Shark

While cleaning up, this little remora was found on the deck. It is easy to see the suction disc on the top of its head. This is used to hold onto a larger fish and tag along for the ride, cleaning up bits of food missing the mouth of the host fish.


This amazing journey is winding down and coming to an end. I would be remiss not to thank the crew and scientists of the Oregon II. Their hospitality, professionalism, friendly dispositions, and patience (LOTS of patience) have made me feel more than welcome. They have made me feel as though, for a brief moment, I was a part of the team. Thank you and may the next 300 missions be as safe and successful as the first 300.


Christopher Faist: Introduction, July 14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Faist
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 20 — August 1, 2011

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 14, 2011

Personal Log

My name is Chris Faist and I am a NOAA Teacher At Sea participant for the 2011 field season aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.  I teach middle school life science in southern California at Carmel Valley Middle School.  In a few days I will be traveling from Rhode Island to the coastal waters off the east coast to experience the North Atlantic for the first time.

I have been assigned to a cetacean (whale and dolphin), sea turtle and seabird survey cruise in the North Atlantic.  The cruise objectives are to:
1) determine the distribution and abundance of cetaceans, sea turtles and sea birds within the study area;
2) collect vocalizations of cetaceans using passive acoustic arrays;
3) determine the distribution and relative abundance of plankton;
4) collect hydrographic and meteorological data;
5) when possible, collect biopsy samples and photo-identification pictures of cetaceans.

Chris Faist with a Gray Whale
Chris Faist with a Gray Whale

As the trained observers look for animals, my job will be to record their observations in a computer system.  They will be reporting what species they see, the approximate number and location of the animals which I will then input into the ship’s computer.  These observations, as well as the recordings taken from our underwater microphone, or hydrophone, will allow scientists back in the lab to estimate the number of animals that live off the east coast of the United States.

All of my previous boat trips have been in the Pacific Ocean, so this cruise will give me an opportunity to see whales, like the North Atlantic Right Whale, that I have never seen before.

Wish me luck!

Jeannine Foucault, November 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 16, 2009

Survival suit for safety
Survival suit for safety

Science Log

Today we were ported in Jacksonville, FL. It was load up and set up day for the additional scientists and the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle).

The ROV is similar to a traveling robot that will be lowered down onto the ocean floor and will be remotely operated from the ship while recording ocean life at each MPA (Marine Protected Area) that we visit. Since PISCES is a brand new ship she wasn’t equipped for all the hardware and software needed for the ROV; therefore, all the engineers, deckhands, scientists, and crew were involved in a speedy setup. The scientists also loaded a fish trap just in case we need extra data in addition to the ROV.

We set off to our first MPA in North Florida to do our first ROV trial testing in the morning to get some live data. I am so anxious to see how the ROV works and what sort of data we will receive. I know I will sleep well tonight because I was working right along side everyone. Remember all those measurements I have you take and then convert them from English to metric units? That’s what I had to do today. We had to measure how far the equipment was in respect to the size of the ship, etc. You want to know how you will use what you learn in ‘real life’? Well, here it is!

I did see a dolphin today, but too quick for a pic! SRRY 🙂

Also, I was able to watch the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis.

Clare Wagstaff, September 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
September 11 – 18, 2009 

Mission: Florida Keys coral reef disease and condition survey
Geographical Area: Florida Keys – Dry Tortugas National Park
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2009

Contact Information 
Clare Wagstaff Sixth and Eighth Grade Science Teacher Elmwood Franklin School 104 New Amsterdam Ave Buffalo, NY 14216

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 12 noon) 
Weather: Sunny with scattered showers with thunder storms
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 4
Wave Height (feet): 1
Sea Water Temp (0C): 30.6
Air Temp (0C): 30

Science and Technology Log 

Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and numerous Sergeant Majors (Abudefduf  saxatilis)
Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) and numerous Sergeant Majors (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Today I am with a new survey group. As the days go by and each of the scientists gets more dives under their belts, there is some fatigue starting to set in. So on a rotation basis, the divers are taking rest days to catch-up on sleep, emails and data entry. This morning I am with Lauri, Lonny and Sarah. The first dive site is about 33  feet deep and although I can see the bottom from our small boat, the water is extremely green and doesn’t allow me to see anything in real detail when I snorkeled. A little disappointed at the clarity of the water, I am definitely perked up by the next site, CR03. At just 8 feet deep, I can see much more and the water appears less green.

A lobster hiding in the coral
A lobster hiding in the coral

This site was something special! Even from above the water, we could observe large and impressive Acropora palmata. It looked like a large underwater forest. There was a massive diversity of fish specie present that appeared to be supported by the micro-ecosystem that the Acropora palmata created by its large lobes that fan out across the ocean floor. They provide plenty of nooks for green moray eels and multiple lobsters I saw to hide in. This coral grows approximately 10cm a year, but as with all coral species, this growth can be affected by various factors including the most recent hurricanes.

We were surveying in an area known as a Sanctuary Preservation Area or commonly a “No Take Zone”, yet a small boat located within the marking buoys appeared to be spear fishing. The Coxswain on our boat noted that the group brought numerous fish up into their boat while we were underwater. Within a short distance we also observed two other lobster pot buoys located within this zone. Lauri, called this into the Nancy Foster and asked that the Chief Scientist report this to the Marine Law Enforcement office, so that they could send a patrol boat out to investigate. This activity is not permitted in this zoned area.

Coral identification 

Diploria strigosa
Diploria strigosa

Today, I tried to indentify all the different varieties of coral I had photographed. Dr. Joshua Voss, the ship’s expert of coral identification looked over my attempt at scientifically naming 30 different photos. Much to my delight, I got 28 correct! Now I just need to remember them when I am underwater! My greatest difficulty seems to be differentiating between Montastraea spp.annularis, faveolata and franksi, as they have quite similar morphotypes. I just have to keep practicing and asking for help when I’m not sure. What makes me feel a little better is sometimes even the pro’s have trouble distinguishing between certain corals, particularly if they are trying to identify a hybrid which is a mixture of two different species.

Personal Log 

Diploria clivosa
Diploria clivosa

I am always amazed at how resourceful divers can be. Somehow duct tape comes in useful wherever you are. Today was no exception! Geoff, who forgot his dive booties (a type of neoprene sock that you wear inside you fins) has made himself a pair out of another team member’s white socks and a few lengths of duct tape. He does look very entertaining, but they do seem to be working!

Acropora palmata
Acropora palmata

I am feeling very privileged to be surrounded by so many intelligent, passionate and brilliant people. Not only are most of people on the survey teams volunteers and so not getting paid, they are also embracing each part of the cruise with a great sense of humor and consistent high spirits. Even though they are all tired (to date they have accumulated 133 dives between them this cruise), they still banter back and forth with one another in a lighthearted way. All but myself and Mike Henley are returning for their third, fourth, even 13th time, to help collect this vital data. Even though diving has many hazards and is dangerous work, these folks are real experts and I truly feel lucky to be around such inspiring people. I have been diving for five years, but I don’t think I will ever look at a reef in the same way again. They have opened my eyes, and now my job is to go back to chilly Buffalo and develop a way to get this across to my 6th and 8th grade science classes. If I can inspire even just one child, like Joshua’s science teacher did for him as a teenager, then perhaps they too will go on to become a marine biologist, who study some of the smallest, yet most important creatures on our planet.

 Montastraea annularis
Montastraea annularis

As 7pm draws close, the science group gather on the front deck to watch the sunset. It is a beautiful sky, but just to make the evening more special, along come three dolphins riding the wake of the bow of the Nancy Foster. I leap up like a child and run to the edge of the ship to get a closer look, having never seen dolphins in the wild before! They are so graceful and as we all lean over and cheer as the breach the water and splash their fins, you start to wonder, if they are actually watching us as much as we are watching them. Such grace and natural beauty brings another day aboard the Nancy Foster to an end. I’m just not sure how each day keeps topping itself, and with two left to come, who knows what adventures may become this team!

“Animals Seen Today” 

Three bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) riding the wake of the Nancy Foster 

Bottlenose dolphins riding in the Foster’s wake
Bottlenose dolphins riding in the Foster’s wake

Justin Czarka, August 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II (tracker)
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Date: August 14, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Sunrise: 6:29 a.m.
Sunset: 2033 (8:33 p.m.)
Weather: patchy mist
Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind direction and speed: Northwest 10-15 knots (kt)
Visibility: unrestricted, reduced to 1-3 nautical miles (nm) in mist
Waves: northwest 3-6 feet
Air Temperature: 17.50°C
Water Temperature: 17.63°C

Science and Technology Log 

Today I rotated to a new job assignment. I have been working with the CTD water samples, storing nutrient samples, and preparing chlorophyll samples.  Now I work with Jay Peterson, researcher from Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon, deploying, retrieving, and preparing live samples from the vertical net and bongo net on a cable.

The vertical net gets rinsed off after the tow.
The vertical net gets rinsed off after the tow.

The nets collect all types of plankton, both plants and animals.  As with all the sample collections occurring aboard the McArthur II, communication is the backbone of the operations, or “ops.” For the vertical net and bongo net, two people manually place the nets over the ship’s starboard side, while a winch operator deploys and retrieves the nets from the ocean, and the bridge navigates the ship. For vertical nets, the goal is to take the net to 100 meters (m) depth and then hauled up vertically. The purpose is to catch organisms from the entire water column up to the surface.  It is the same depth for the bongo net, but the goal is to have the cable at a 45° angle with the ship moving at a steady 2 knots (kt). Both nets have flowmeters to determine the volume of water that goes through the net. Once back on the deck, the nets are rinsed from the top to the bottom so that everything in the net can be analyzed. The samples are placed in jars or buckets to observe under microscope.  We find euphausiids (krill), copepods, Tomopteris, Chaetognatha (arrow worms), fish larvae, Phronima, and even bird feathers!  You have to check out these animals online, as they all have fascinating features. More importantly, while small in size, they are an essential part of the food web. Without them, many species would struggle to find food.

Personal Log 

Today we a day of plenty in terms of sighting marine mammals and other species as well!  The day started out near shore at Newport, Oregon and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.  The McArthur II travels roughly in a zigzag approach near shore to off shore and back for this mission.  Getting ready for the day watch, I saw some whales off the port (left side facing forward on a ship). That was just the beginning. As we headed due west on the Newport transect line (44 39.1′ N latitude) we spotted brownish and reddish jelly fish, albatross following along the starboard side during bongo tows, sea lions skirting by the stern, and a shark fiddling with driftwood presumably looking for small fish that were utilizing the log as a habitat. Later in the day, we navigated near breaching humpback whales on the starboard side. Towards evening, a group of 5-6 pacific white-sided dolphins followed along for 10 minutes or so.

A Doliolid, which feeds on plankton, was caught in the vertical net before being released into the ocean.  Note the pinkish lines, the muscle bands, and blimp-like shape.
A Doliolid, which feeds on plankton, was caught in the vertical net before being released into the ocean. Note the pinkish lines, the muscle bands, and blimp-like shape.

Being out here witnessing the wildlife in their environment is fascinating.  You start to internalize the ocean planet as more than a vast emptiness.  There exists a tremendous amount of species diversity living above and below the surface. Yet sadly, since few of us spend regular time away from our land habitats, we tend to neglect the essential nature of the ocean.  The ocean truly sustains us, whether providing the majority of our freshwater (through evaporation and, consequently, rain), supporting our nutritional diets, and driving the weather we experience daily.  Teacher at Sea really reinforces this revelation since I get to spend an extended amount of time away from my terrestrial existence learning to appreciate the ocean’s influence on our lives.  May we gain enough understanding to ensure the sustainability of the ocean ecosystem.

Animals Seen 

Humpback whales
Albacore tuna
Sea lion
Pacific white-sided dolphin

Bryan Hirschman, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles
Wind: 14 knots
Wave Height: 2 ft
Wave Swell:  5-6 ft
Ocean temperature: 14.40C
Air Temperature: 16.00C

Science and Technology Log 

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Today, John Pohl, one of the fish biologists showed me the VPR (video plankton recorder). The camera is attached to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth), which is operated by Steve Pierce, a physical oceanographer, and Phil White, chief survey technician, who work the night shift. The CTD is a large apparatus which has room for many additional sensors and attachments. The CTD onboard the Miller Freeman has a dissolved oxygen sensor in addition to the VPR.

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Each night Steve sends the CTD down to the seafloor (about 7 times) to collect data. He is most interested in determining the differing densities of water at different depths (depth is based on pressure, which the CTD measures). He then calculates the densities using conductivity and temperature. By measuring conductivity (how easily electric currents pass through the water sample being tested), Steve can get a measurement of that water sample’s salinity.  Density of water is then calculated from measurements of salinity, and temperature. An equation is used which relates the measurements so that density can be found if these other two values are known. Steve records all the data each night, and will use this information to study currents and their movements.

The VPR is a camera which records video as well as still pictures as it descends to the sea floor. The data are recorded, then uploaded to an external hard drive. The file is very large, as it takes about ten minutes to transfer all the data. The pictures and video will be used by biologists (not on board presently) to identify and determine the percentage of plankton (plankton consist of any drifting organisms) floating throughout the water column. Each time before we set out the fish nets, two people go to the bridge to look for marine mammals. If any are present the nets won’t be put into the water. A few tows have been cancelled due to the presence of marine mammals. This is a great step in keeping them safe. It is always special when I see dolphins or whales.

Here I am holding a sleeper shark.
Here I am holding a sleeper shark.

The only fish tow of the day (no marine mammals present) consisted of mainly Humboldt Squid and some Pacific Hake. Today we used a load cell to get a total mass; this is a device which hooks up to the net and crane. The load cell gives a mass of the entire haul. The majority of the load was released back into the water while a smaller sample was retained. The weights of the Hake and squid were then determined using bins and a balance. The scientists can use the subsample data to determine the data for the entire load.  Bycatch, defined as living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear, are occasionally found in the net. Today a rougheye rockfish was caught, and yesterday a sleeper shark were accidently caught. The scientists do a very good job of limiting bycatch using their acoustic data.

Personal Log 

A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish
A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish

I am enjoying the long hours of work, and have gotten into quite a rhythm. I also enjoy spending time with the hardworking and intelligent staff here on board. We work together as a team, and everyone enjoys their jobs. NOAA has chosen a great group of officers who set a very positive tone and make the ship a great workplace. I would love to take a sabbatical from teaching and work on a NOAA ship. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a bunch. I will take back a lot of positive experience to share with my students, family, and friends.

I have also learned to appreciate the smells of a load of fish. As we move the fish from the holding cell, to small baskets for weighing we are constantly splashed in the arms, face, mouth, eyes, etc. I find it pretty amusing every time I get splashed, or even better, when I splash John, Melanie, or Jake. It never grows old. The hardest portion of my day is determining what movie to watch while running on the treadmill (I finally mastered the art of the treadmill on a rocking boat and can leave the elliptical trainer alone). The boat has close to 800 movies to choose from.

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Rougheye rockfish, Humboldt Squid, Pacific Hake, Albatross, Sheerwaters, and Murres.

Poem of the Day 
Squid ink, squid ink!
O! How you make me stink!
You stain my face, you stain my clothes;
I must wash you off with a fire hose!

You make me scratch, you make me itch,
You even turn Melanie into a wicked witch!
(which is a horribly difficult thing to do—
She’s as gentle as a lamb in a petting zoo!)

Why not John, allergic to your ink!
Torment HIM with your venomous stink!
But no–not ME! All I want are Hake.
So torment instead “almost” graduate Jake!

But once again, though our dinner hour,
Because of you I must shower!

So I beg you, O squid, to hear my plea:
In the future, stay away from me!
Does that sound good?
Do we have a deal?
If not, well then—you’re my next meal.

Answers to Last Question 
Ribbon Barracudina, Pacific Hatchetfish, Baby Humboldt Squid

Elise Olivieri, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 12.06 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1026 mb
Humidity: 89%

Here I am holding up a skate.
Here I am holding up a skate.

Science and Technology Log 

Sea Scallops’ number one predator is starfish.  Starfish are very strong. They pry open the shell and then push their stomach inside and devour it.  Starfish are very abundant in the Mid-Atlantic.  Many tows yield hundreds of starfish.  It would be too time consuming to count every one of them so sub-sampling is done to attain an estimate of starfish.  The entire catch is sorted but only a portion of the catch is measured.  This is a good method when there are many starfish and little substrate (trash). The substrate is then collected in buckets and volume can be determined.  The data is then entered into the FSCS computer system.  As I mentioned before FSCS is extremely advanced and is a one-ofa-kind biological data system.  Prior to 2001, Fisheries Surveys information was sent to federal prisons to be entered into a computer data base.  This took an extremely long time to process.  Inmates would get compensated as little as a penny per log sheet. This was dangerous and the data could have been destroyed or lost. Today all data is backed up on a server in three different locations to secure data entries. This long-term study about age and growth of sea scallops helps scientists see a trend in different area’s ecosystems.

I have met some intriguing scientists aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. Shayla Williams is a research chemist for NOAA.  She specializes in fatty acid analysis of Fluke.  A fatty acid analysis is like a fingerprint of what you eat. By studying fatty acid in certain types of fish she can make generalizations about the health of an area. Shayla has done research on NOAA cruises since 2006. She has sailed on the Hudson Canyon Cruise, the Fall Fish Survey, and the Spring Fish Survey to name a few.  It takes a whole crew to run a ship and the Hugh Sharp has a very sharp crew. Wynn Tucker is an Oceanographic Technician aboard the Hugh R. Sharp. She has worked for NOAA, EPA, and the Navy. She loves being out on the open water and I don’t blame her.  It is magnificent to look out and be surrounded by blue as far as the eye can see. A.J. Ward is another crewmember aboard the Sharp. He works the inclinometer which lets the scientists know of the dredge is in the right spot on the bottom of the ocean floor.

Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.
Using the FSCS to record data about a scallop.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day! It was beautiful weather and I got a chance to talk with some of the crew members on the Sharp. I saw a whole school of dolphins less than three feet from the boat.  It was incredible!  I ran up to the bridge to get a better look and saw a couple of Finback whales as well. It is extremely hard to get pictures because they surface for a few seconds and then dive back under water.  There are many fish in this area known as the Elephant Trunk. I can’t wait for tomorrow!  Another exciting day where I have the opportunity to be working with cutting-edge technology and incredible scientists.  For now I can’t wait to get some sleep.

Animals Seen Today 

Little Skates, Goose Fish, Gulf Stream Flounder, Sand Dollars, Sea Mice, Razor Clams, Surf Clams, Hermit Crabs, Sea Sponge, Red Hake, Monk Fish, Cancer Crabs, Sea Scallops, White Back Dolphins, Finback Whales, and Starfish.

Lollie Garay, May 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lollie Garay
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
May 9-20, 2009 

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: May 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 13.5˚ C
Wind: E-SE 8.9 KT
Seas: 3-5 Ft.

Science and Technology Log 

“Monkey Dung”
“Monkey Dung”

The seas have been favorable to us again and we begin work under sunshine skies. We are still sampling in the Elephant Trunk area.  At this writing we are approaching station #75. We have had a variety of different catches today; in fact most dredges are different. One might be full of starfish, another full of sand or mud and crabs, and others full of scallops – every one of them is different. The biggest dredge of the day brought up about 4000 scallops!

Starfish and crab are also sorted and counted at every third station. There are primarily 3 different types of starfish in this area. Researchers do a representative sampling to estimate what types are out here. So far the biggest starfish I have seen had arms about 24 cm long (Asterias vulgaris); the smallest about .5cm. (Asterias forbesi). Starfish are natural predators to scallops. I have noticed that when the catch has lots of starfish, the numbers of scallops goes down. I asked Vic Nordahl about this and he said that it may be possible that the number of starfish suggests the results of predation, or it could simply be that this area is not good for scallops. Crabs are counted to determine numbers and distribution. The majority of crabs in this area are from the Genus Cancer: Rock crabs (Cancer irroratus) and Jonah crabs (Cancer borealis).

A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!
A Robin Fish—look at those eyes!

Sulphur sponges, or Monkey Dung, also come up in the dredges. It‘s a yellow thick sponge with pores so small that there don’t appear to be any. It smells like sulphur and looks like monkey dung! Are sponges plant or animal?  There is still some question about whether a sponge is an individual or a colony of sponges. Sponges are the most primitive of multi-cellular animals, and lack organs or systems. What we see in the dredges is only a very small sampling of the variety and numbers of species that call the sea “home”. And every organism that comes up in the dredges validates the reason for conducting fishery surveys.

Personal Log 

The 12 hours of work we put in each day goes by fairly quickly. My shift crew members lighten up the long day with their sense of humors and laughter.  But make no mistake, they take their work very seriously. I am always asking questions (as usual) and they always respond patiently. I really feel like a contributing member of this team now, not just a visitor. The night was cold on deck, so I head to my cabin with a cup of hot tea at the end of my shift. Tomorrow is a new day!

Answer to the question: What’s the difference between a Deep Sea scallop and a Bay scallop? 

Unusual eggs—what kind are they?
Unusual eggs—what kind are they?

A deep sea scallop is orange or cream colored, is a larger scallop and has a larger meat (adductor muscle).  The shell is not as concave and lacks the ridges of the bay scallop shell. They are distributed in depths from 20 meters to 150 meters.  A Bay scallop is smaller in size and has a smaller meat in proportion to the shell size. The shell is ridged and usually mottled colored in shades of red, white, brown and tan.  They tend to be distributed in depths from right at shore to 20 meters.  They occupy different habitats.

New Question of the Day 
What is the connection between false Quahogs and the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts?

Animals Seen Today 
Razor clams, Ocean Quahogs, False Quahog, Pod of Dolphins (racing around the ship again!), Cragmon shrimp, Red spiked Sea Urchin, Storm Petrels, Sheer water gulls, and Common gulls.

Elise Olivieri, May 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elise Olivieri
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp 
May 9 – 20, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwest Atlantic
Date: May 11, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 11.83 Degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1021 mb
Humidity: 83%

The dredge
The dredge

Science and Technology Log 

There were 5 tows today on my  shift. I discovered open areas have far fewer sea scallops in each tow compared to closed areas.  In the open areas each catch was mostly starfish and cancer crabs. In the closed areas there were many sea scallops and various fish collected. Five scallops from each basket collected were processed for weight, length, gonad weight, and meat weight.  The sex of each sea scallop is also identified and all data is entered into the FSCS computer system.  The sea scallop shells were labeled and stored away for further identification.  If the sea scallops rings are clear and visible, lab tests can be done to identify its exact age and health. The Nordic Pride which is a commercial vessel contacted us today. The Nordic is working its way through the areas the Hugh R. Sharp already sampled.  The Sharp will compare tows with the Nordic. The Nordic surveyed with NOAA research vessels before and is taking this opportunity to survey with NOAA again. In the next few days we expect to see the Nordic Pride a few miles away. 

Personal Log 

A scallop opened up—the bright orange thing is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (they’re white in males).
A scallop opened up—the bright orange is its gonad and indicates it’s a female (white in males).

Today I feel much more confident about the tasks at hand. I have a lot of support from the crew and the Watch Chief. I am always up for new assignments and am very confident I can complete them correctly. Around 5:30 AM I saw about 12 white-sided dolphins. It was incredible. They are curious and fast animals.  They swarmed around the Hugh Sharp for a while until they got bored with us and continued on their way. Not long after the dolphins appearance 2 Finback whales surfaced. What an incredible night. I hope to see more dolphins and whales and hopefully get a picture of them.

Animals Seen Today 

Starfish Sea Scallops, Horseshoe Crabs, Hermit crabs, Cusk-eels, White Sided Dolphin, and Finback Whale.

Sea stars and sea scallops!
Sea stars and sea scallops!

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3624.8888 N Longitude: 12243.8013 W
Wind Direction: 261 (compass reading) SW
Wind Speed: 8.0 knots
Surface Temperature: 16.385

Figure indicating migration of different genetic stocks of Pacific leatherback turtles.
Figure indicating migration of different genetic stocks of Pacific leatherback turtles.

Science and Technology Log 

Turtle Genetics 
Peter Dutton is the turtle specialist on board, having studied sea turtles for 30 years.  His research has taken him all over the tropical Pacific to collect samples, study behaviors and learn more about Dermochelys coriacea, the leatherback turtle. Mitochondrial DNA (is clonal=only one copy) is only inherited maternally (from the mother), so represents mother’s genetic information (DNA), while nuclear DNA has two copies, one inherited from the mother and the other from the father .By looking at the genetic fingerprint encoded in nuclear DNA it is possible to compare hatchling “DNA fingerprints”, with their mother’s and figure out what the father’s genetic contribution was. This paternity (father’s identifying DNA) analysis has produced some intriguing results.

Peter Dutton looking for turtles with the ‘big eyes’.
Peter Dutton looking for turtles with the ‘big eyes’.

An analysis of chick embryos or hatchling DNA indicates all eggs were fertilized throughout the season from the same dad. It is thought that the female must store sperm in her reproductive system. Successively, throughout the nesting season, a female will lay several clutches, one clutch at a time.  Females come in to the beach for a brief period (leatherbacks – approx 1.5 hrs) every 9-10 days to lay eggs for the 3 or 4 month nesting season (they lay up to 12). Sometimes it is the same beach; sometimes it is a beach nearby. Research done on other sea turtles is showing some species have actually produced offspring with other species of sea turtle. One example is of a hawksbill turtle with a loggerhead turtle in Brazil. In this case, the phenotype appeared to indicate one species, while the DNA analysis indicates the animal was a hybrid, with a copy of DNA from each of the two different species. At some point geneticists may need to re-define what constitutes a “species”.

The last few eggs most of the leatherback turtles lay are infertile, yolkless eggs.  No one is certain about the function of these eggs, although several theories have been suggested. Many unknowns exist about these turtles. Scientists have not yet found a means to determine the age of individual sea turtles, so no one knows how long-lived they are. The early genetic research on leatherbacks showed some information that surprised the scientists.  It had been thought that all leatherbacks foraging off the northwestern coast of USA originated in the eastern tropical Pacific, from nesting beaches in Mexico.  Careful DNA analysis, however, found that animals at California foraging grounds are part of the western Pacific genetic stock recently identified by Dutton and colleagues. Both Peter and Scott have emphasized that there is still much to learn, and they have just begun, however, much has also been learned during the past six years, including the origin of leatherbacks that utilize California waters.

Personal Log 

Yesterday the sun came out and it was a glorious evening.  A group of us watched the sunset from the flying bridge, and then later watched the moon rise.  It was spectacular, and with the ‘big eyes’, it was possible to see many of the moon’s craters.  The stars were also magnificent!  Today has been cloudy with a layer of fog eventually drenching the boat.  This weather has made yesterdays blue skies all the sweeter.

Words of the Day 

Mitochondrial DNA: DNA found within the mitochondria – originates from the mother; Clonal: identical to the original; Clutch: a single batch of eggs, laid together; Hybrid: one gene from one species and the second gene from a second species; Species: an organism that can mate with another of its own kind and produce fertile offspring.

Animals Seen Today 

Common dolphin Delphinus delphis, Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, Black-footed Albatross Phoebastria nigripes, Moon jellies Aurelia labiata, Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens, and Common dolphins Delphinus delphis.

Questions of the Day 

  1. Geneticists are beginning to obtain new tools to figure out how similar animals are related to each other. What are some questions you have related to leatherback turtle genetics?
  2. Scott’s turtle map shows that leatherbacks nesting in the Western Pacific migrate across the Pacific to the coast of North America, while leatherbacks that nest in Costa Rica only migrate to waters off the South American coast.  Why might some populations stay in the same region, while others cross the Pacific Ocean?
Sunset over the port side
Sunset over the port side

Alex Eilers, August 27, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 27, 2008

Everyone! Here’s the latest from my adventures at sea.

Today the crew was busy testing equipment.  We tested both long-line fishing gear and box trawl netting!  Both

tests were successful and we are looking forward to the real thing – more to come on this subject later. The picture below shows Scott Benson holding the box trawl net “catch.”  Although it looks like group of eggs, they are actually members of the jellyfish family know as ctenophores or “comb jellies.”


We had a successful observation session today.  I’ll introduce you to some of the “stars” of the day.

Common Dolphins were everywhere.  We saw over 100 riding the waves on the bow of our boat.  They move with great speed – especially when you are trying to take a picture of them.

Common dolphins
Common dolphins

Risso’s Dolphins – This is an unusual looking dolphin with a rounded head – unlike the traditional dolphin we all know. These creatures have numerous scratches and scars over their body from other Risso’s and from the squid they eat.  They are gray when born and gradually become white with age.

Fin Whales – OK – I must admit – We didn’t actually see the Fin Whale but we did see the whale spouts from the three that we spotted.

Jelly Fish – We were excited to see so many Jellies – a favorite food of the Leatherback.  Most looked like “Moon Jellies” but without catching them we cannot be sure of the type since there are many species.

To Do… Research one or more of the animals highlighted above.

Nancy McClintock, June 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 10, 2006

Kevin Joy and Craig Bussel, ROV crew navigator  and pilot, install one of the cameras in preparation  for ROV deployment.
Kevin Joy and Craig Bussel, ROV crew navigator and pilot, install one of the cameras

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  Excellent
Wind direction:  SSW
Average wind speed: 15 knots
Wave height: 4-6’ with higher swells
Air temperature:  73oF
Sea temperature:  79 oF
Cloud cover: 20%
Barometric pressure:  1010 mb

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled approximately 121.4 miles north toward the coast of North Carolina during the night of June 9. Operations for the morning were delayed due to the reporting of strong winds and currents in opposite directions and a tropical storm forming in the Yucatan/Honduras area and moving toward the western coast of Florida.  Predictions are that the storm will cross the peninsula and track along the northeastern coast in our direction.  If this occurs, Captain Exell wants to be back at Port Canaveral on Monday, which means shortening our cruise.  Andy, NOAA Principal Investigator, has decided to scrap the North Carolina site, a man-made reef called the Snowy Wreck.  The FREEDOM STAR traveled 50 miles from North Carolina to the South Carolina Site A.  Today’s operations began at 1100 and Options 1 and 3 were successfully completed along with 2 camera arrays, 2 fish taps, 1 CTD, and 3 ROV deployments.  However, Option 2 was scrapped due to lack of time.  The ROV continues to record excellent images of the ocean floor and the species that inhabit it.  Today’s dives yielded the greatest diversity of species and a larger number within a species.  ROV dive #1 revealed several scamp (a type of grouper), soap fish, puffer fish, tattler fish, a field of sea urchin, and several lion fish.  The lionfish is native to the colder waters of the Western Pacific and is thought to have been intentionally released in the Florida area.

Craig, ROV pilot, monitors the ROV transect as Stacey Harter, NOAA scientist, identifies and records species, and Freshteh Ahmadian, ROV crew, pilots the ROV.
Craig, ROV pilot, monitors the ROV transect as Stacey Harter, NOAA scientist, identifies and records species, and Freshteh Ahmadian, ROV crew, pilots the ROV.

Personal Log 

I awoke this morning feeling great and looking forward to another busy day. Hearing the news of the tropical depression has put a somber overtone on the morning.  Andy, the Principal Investigator, is rethinking our cruise plan and working out the best possible alternatives. There is talk about shortening the cruise and returning to Port Canaveral two days earlier. The weather outside is gorgeous, warm, very sunny, and it is hard to believe that such a big weather change is a possibility. Our workday began late because we scrapped the North Carolina Site and moved 50 miles south to South Carolina. It is nice to sit in the sun, interview the scientists and crew while waiting for our arrival.  Speaking of the crew, they are great guys who love to fish and have fun by kidding around. However, they work very hard and are always there when needed and know exactly what to do. We are all settling into a routine and the deployment and retrieval of equipment is going very smooth. I get to help with almost everything and feel like I am playing a very important role in the name of science.  Seeing a moray eel on the ocean floor is just awesome.  It is amazing to watch these creatures moving in their habitat and not just as a picture in a book.

Steve Matthews, NOAA scientist, and Nancy McClintock, NOAA Teacher at Sea, celebrate the success of another ROV deployment.
Steve Matthews, NOAA scientist, and Nancy McClintock celebrate the success of another ROV deployment.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: There are many answers to this controversial question. If the MPAs designated on this cruise were established in the future, over fishing of five species of grouper and 2 species of tilefish might be prevented.  Hopefully, this would protect them from endangerment or, possibly, extinction.  Whenever one part of the “Web of Life” is affected, the entire “Web of Life” is affected.  The designation of MPAs is a very controversial topic. Today’s question: How does the introduction of a non-native species of fish affect the biodiversity of the ocean ecosystem?

Interview with the ROV TEAM 

Marta Ribera, NOAA scientist, records habitat description and fish species on a laptop as observed on ROV monitors.
Marta Ribera, NOAA scientist, records habitat description and fish species as observed on ROV monitors.

Craig Bussel 

NURC (National Undersea Research Center), ROV Pilot Craig spent most of his early years in Missouri and became a certified scuba diver at the age of 16. While in the Army, he learned about hydraulics and was assigned (via the Army) to a Navy ship with a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) on it.  This piqued his interest in ROVs and he went to work in California for a ROV manufacturer.  After forming his own company repairing and operating ROVs, Craig began working for the National Undersea North Atlantic and Great lakes Center.  The Hela ROV (formerly Phantom ROV) used for this cruise was originally built in 2002 by Deep Ocean Engineering.  In 2005 Craig helped to redesign it to carry HD-TV (high-definition) and it was renamed Hela.  “The best thing about my job is that I get to see things first and go places no one has ever been – it’s cool!  We are professional explorers.”

Kevin Joy 

NURC, ROV Navigator Kevin grew up in the New England area and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in Environmental Design.  He received a Master’s Degree in Geography from the University of Connecticut where he became proficient in GIS.  He worked at a Consulting Firm in GIS that contracted with NURC (National Undersea Research Center) to build and maintain a GIS system.  He is now an IT Group Leader at NURC and designs databases, websites, and programs using a long-range wireless network. In other words, he wears many hats.  “The best thing about my job is that I never do the same thing twice.”

A dolphin, one of six (a pod), swims along  the FREEDOM STAR and frolics in the wake created by the bow.
A dolphin, one of six (a pod), swims along the FREEDOM STAR and frolics in the wake created by the bow.

Freshteh Ahmadian 

NURC, ROV Fresteh is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada – Reno and is a Hollings Scholar, a scholarship program sponsored by NOAA.  She has always been interested in robotics and is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  This summer she is completing a 10-week internship with NURC.  This is her first time being on a ship like the FREEDOM STAR. “This cruise has been very educational and I am learning lots of new things.”

ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) 

The original Phantom ROV cost $80,000.  The redesigned Hela ROV is now valued at $250,000. It has 3 cameras (capable of 4), video fiber optic, scanning sonar, acoustic tracking system, and 4 ••• horsepower horizontal thrusters.  It is rated to 1,000 feet depth with 1,500 feet of fiber optic cable. There are two daylight quality lights on the front.  The pictures and videos taken by the ROV are archived and then given to the scientists for three years.

Melissa Fye, April 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 10, 2005

Location: Latitude: 23*36.3’North, Longitude: 164*43.0’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10
Wind Direction:90
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Wave Height: 5-7 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.8
Cloud Cover: 2/8 Cu, As, Si
Temperature outside: 24.4

Dive expedition at Lincoln’s Head
Dive expedition at Lincoln’s Head

Science and Technology Log

The plan of the day was to arrive back at Necker Island around 8:00 AM. (We were traveling back forth often between the middle of the island chain). Around 8:30 AM the AHI research boat was deployed to run survey lines around the more shallow areas.  9:00 AM brought the deployment of the HI #1 speed boat into the sea. The purpose of its voyage was to replace a SST buoy (Sea Surface Temperature buoy) and anchor an ODP (Ocean Data Platform) at Mokumanamana.  I came along to photograph the work put in to these diving operations.  The transport was rough as it was as warm as normal, and the seas were very choppy.  We arrived at the rock outcropping, and using GPS navigational systems, located the coordinates for where the ODP was to be located on the sea floor. Divers prepared themselves (Scientist Jeremy Jones, Kyle Hogrefe, and Joe Chojnacki, along with ENS Sarah Jones) and all 4 descended about 75 feet under the water to find the device. After 30 minutes they resurfaced unable to find the ODP. They came aboard and regrouped.

A school of dolphins encircled our boat while tactics were being discussed. In effort to conserve air and because the current was strong and pulling them under the water, they decided to only send 2 divers to try to locate the ODP a second time.  Joe Chojnacki and Jeremy Jones resurfaced again after the second try only to be frustrated. The pinger was losing and gaining pings erratically and was found to be useless.

In a last attempt the driver of our boat, Keith Lyons, decided to drive the boat over top of the boat’s GPS coordinates, instead f referring to the diver’s handheld GPS, and asked the divers to put the pinger right into the water to see of they picked up any signal.  The pinger again was unreliable. Finally, Joe Chojnacki stuck his head over the boat, and looking through his snorkeling mask saw the ODP right below us!  Kyle Horgrefe and ENS Sarah Jones scrambled to gear up and went below to tie off a buoy to the ODP so they could resurface and know its location.  The last dive required 3 of the divers to replace the ODP with a new data platform.  An ODP gathers information but that information can only be used once its been retrieved from the ocean’s bottom; unlike a Sea Surface Temperature Buoy which can relay information in real time because it stays on the surface and satellites receive the information all the time. The divers connected a bag, like balloon, to the new ODP to move it into place and reposition it over the former data platform.  The dive was completed but air tanks were low so we drove back to the HI’IALAKAI and exchanged air tanks, dropped off ENS Sarah Jones, and myself. The 3 divers continued on to replace a SST buoy. I didn’t stay aboard for the remainder of the dive because of the rough seas and I was freezing because I didn’t have a wet suit.

Lincoln’s Head (volcanic rock) near dive site
Lincoln’s Head (volcanic rock) near dive site

Personal Log

I awoke and ate breakfast. I then began to prepare to go on a dive operation with 3 scientists and ENS Jones this morning.  I slathered on SPF and a bathing suit, shorts, and a rash guard (thin shirt often worn by surfers as protection from salt water irritation).  I donned a hard hat and life vest and borrowed a snorkel and fins from members onboard in case we were in shallow enough waters to snorkel and so I could see the divers working.  We loaded the HI #1 speed boat with tons of equipment and were lowered to the ocean on a pulley system.  The sea was extremely rough and the boat finally broke free from the ship to the rock outcropping where the dives were to be performed. The rock outcropping is nicknamed Lincoln’s Head because the side view looks like Lincoln’s profile. We arrived and performed the diving operations aforementioned in the science log. It was exciting to see the work being done and how precarious diving can be.  It requires a lot of equipment and effort, especially when weather conditions are less than ideal.

Dolphins swam right up to the boat at one point and the divers saw sharks down below. They assured me they were just curious and not very big sharks! Other than that the divers said we were in too deep of water to snorkel and the water was churning because of underwater currents. I couldn’t dive so I sat onboard and photographed the trip and proceeded to get wet from sea spray. Tern birds flew overhead the entire time biting at the buoy, lines, antennae on the boat, and the air bubbles that surfaced from the divers.  The birds mistake anything out of place for food.  Because I wasn’t doing the dive work I got very cold and decided to return to the ship when we dropped off ENS Sarah Jones.

I didn’t get to snorkel this day but hopefully I’ll have another chance in the next 2 weeks. I spent the evening trying to warm myself and recover from the bumps and bruises incurred from getting on and off the HI#1. Everything is very slippery on those boats and it’s easy to lose you balance. Plus, every time we ride up next to the ship, we get doused with water coming out of the bottom of the ship.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  The 2 devices (the SST buoy and the ODP) are put in the ocean by divers so that scientists can gather information about the conditions in the ocean over a long period of time.  By now, in class, you are beginning to learn about different ecosystems in science class. Cause and effect: What are some examples of conditions that could change in the ocean ecosystem that could be discovered from the data being collected by these buoys (name at least 3)? Try to think how weather or man can affect an ecosystem. Here is an example to get you started ……

  1. ocean temperatures could gradually be getting warmer…….. killing the coral reef……..loss of habitat for fish
  2. (hint: salinity (saltiness))
  3.  (hint: ocean water currents)