Phil Moorhouse: The Rest of the Story, September 22, 2019

airport meal

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Phil Moorhouse

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

August 27, 2019 – September 15, 2019


Mission: Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations.

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak – Aleutian Islands)

Date: September 22, 2019


Weather Data from Richmond, Virginia

Latitude: 37 44.36 N
Longitude: 77 58.26 W
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wind Direction: 195 degrees
Air Temperature: 31 C
Barometric Pressure: 1018 mBar
Sky:  Clear

Conclusion

Wow, it’s hard to believe that my time on the waters of Alaska aboard the Oscar Dyson are over.  It was an experience I will never forget.  I just hope that I can instill in my students the idea that all kinds of things are possible when you follow your interests. 

It has taken me several days to reacclimatize to life on land.  Standing in front of my class, I have caught myself swaying.  It also took several days to readjust my sleep schedule.  (I don’t get rocked to sleep anymore and my hours are completely different.)

There were so many things I will miss and never forget: all of the unique experiences and sights I got to see, starting with my side trip to Barrow and swimming in the Arctic Ocean before the start of the expedition, getting to explore some of Kodiak before we left port, all of the open sea and species that were part of the random samples, the little coves we snuck into when storms were approaching, getting a “close-up” of the Pavlof volcano, and getting to explore the native land around Dutch Harbor where we were able to watch Salmon spawning and Bald Eagles doing their thing. 

It was also interesting talking to and learning from the ship crew.  There are some interesting stories there about how they got to NOAA and what they have experienced since then.

At the top of the list though would have to be the connections I made with the scientists I spent almost three weeks with.  Being able to go out into the field with them and talking about what they have seen and learned over years of research has really reenergized my love for science in general.  Starting my shift looking forward to seeing what each Bongo station would bring up or what each trawl would bring to the sorting table, made for an expedition that went much too quickly.  It was interesting listening to my fellow scientists comparing how the numbers and ages of pollock caught at the various stations compared to what they had found in the Spring and in previous years. 

airport meal
The science crew all had the chance for one last meal together at the Anchorage airport before parting ways. I am very thankful for being accepted so well and for everything I have learned.

Overall, this has been an experience I will never forget.  I have learned so much about Alaska, the ocean, marine species, global warming, and scientific technology.  My time as a Teacher at Sea aboard the Oscar Dyson is something I will never forget and hope I can pass the excitement and experiences on to my students.

Meg Stewart: Aleutian Islands, Bald Eagles, Wildflowers, and Bunkers, July 8, 2019

Bunker Hill bald eagles

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meg Stewart

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 8 – 19, 2019


Mission: Cape Newenham Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea

Date: July 8, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 54° 59.104 N
Longitude: 166° 28.938 W
Wind: 21 knots SE
Barometer: 1006.6 mb
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Temperature: 53° F or 11.5° C
Weather: Partly cloudy, no precipitation

Science and Technology Log

Today, we left the port at Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska and headed toward Cape Newenham. The mission for the Cape Newenham project is to gather detailed ocean depth data in order to knit together a comprehensive and highly detailed surface chart of the seafloor near Cape Newenham. I will talk about that process in my next post.

view of Dutch Harbor
A view of Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. The surrounding hills are volcanic, with just a thin layer of soil, and not a tree to be seen.

Dutch Harbor is a small town with a relatively deep port. The Ship Fairweather has a draft of 15.5 feet. “Draft” is the vertical length between the surface of the water and the bottom of the ship, which is called the hull. A ship’s draft determines the minimum depth of water a vessel can safely navigate and dock at a port. However, though the Fairweather has a 15.5 foot draft, the crew prefers a 20 foot depth of water at a port.

Map of Bering Sea
This overview map shows where Dutch Harbor is in relation to Alaska, the Pacific Ocean, the Aleutian Islands, the Aleutian Trench and Russia. The A-B line is shown for the cross sectional line in the next figure. Cape Newenham is out next destination.

Dutch Harbor is part of Unalaska Island, which is one of the string of Aleutian Islands. The Aleutian Islands are part of the notorious Ring of Fire that marks the edge of the Pacific tectonic plate. As the Pacific Plate moves and grinds past some plates (like along the North American Plate at the San Andreas Fault) or pulls away from other plates (like the Antarctic and Nazca plates, creating the East Pacific Ridge) or plunges beneath other plates (like the Philippine and Indian-Australian plates, where we get deep ocean depressions called the Mariana Trench and Tonga Trench, respectively), we see active volcanism (which is the “fire”) but also lots of earthquakes. The Aleutian Islands are volcanic in origin – the island chain is a volcanic arc – and are a result of oceanic crust of the Pacific Plate being subducted under the oceanic crust of the North American plate. The deep depression at this tectonic boundary – also called a subduction zone – is called the Aleutian Trench.

Aleutian Trench
Referring to the A-B line shown in the overview map above, this cross section shows the mechanics of the subduction zone at the Aleutian Trench at Unalaska Island.
Aleutian Trench tectonic map
This is a tectonic map of the Aleutian Trench area (the symbol shown as a dark black curved line indicates a subduction zone). The map shows the relative motion of the Pacific and North American plates. It is clipped from the New York State Earth Science Reference Table

Looking at a schematic drawing of the side-view, or cross section, of the Aleutian subduction zone, we can visualize what this looks like beneath the surface. The older and more dense oceanic crust of the Pacific Plate is plunging under the younger oceanic crust of the North American Plate – the more dense material sinks down or subducts – and the less dense material stays floating on top, and this process is all due to gravity. With time, as the oceanic material is drawn deeper into the subduction zone, it becomes hotter, starts to melt and then comes back up to the surface as volcanic material and a string of volcanoes forming parallel – and in this case, forming an arc – to the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate.

Personal Log

Arriving at NOAA Ship Fairweather
Arriving at NOAA Ship Fairweather

I arrived at Dutch Harbor on July 6, after 14 hours and three legs of air travel. Fortunately, I made all my connections and my luggage arrived at the tiny Dutch Harbor airport. I was picked up by welcome smile for a nice person from the Ship Fairweather, got to the port and settled in to my stateroom. The “stateroom” is my sleeping quarters or room. I have it all to myself, it is very comfortable with a sink, a small bed, drawers and a closet to fit all my stuff, and there’s a TV that I haven’t yet figured out how to work.

My stateroom
My stateroom or sleeping quarters. Caution: panoramic photos make everything look larger than they really are.

Did You Know?

On my second day in Dutch Harbor, I went out with some new friends from the ship on a lovely hike on nearby Bunker Hill. I saw so many beautiful wildflowers along the trek and an enormous number of bald eagles. I had no idea that bald eagles would be so plentiful here, but they were everywhere. It was amazing! But the other interesting thing about this hike were the bunkers.  In June 1942, Dutch Harbor was bombed by the Japanese Navy (six months after Pearl Harbor) during World War II. At the time of the raid, Alaska was a U.S. territory, and following the bombing, the bunkers of the now-known-as Bunker Hill were built to help defend not only Alaska but the west coast of mainland U.S. And here I thought Dutch Harbor was only known for Deadliest Catch!

Quote of the Day

“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.” Sylvia Earle

Lee Teevan: The Unexpected Happens, July 13, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lee Teevan

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 1-10, 2018

Mission: Acoustic Pollock-Trawl

Geographic Area of Cruise: eastern Bering Sea

Date: 13 July 2018

View of the Oscar Dyson on our last morning in Dutch Harbor, AK
View of the Oscar Dyson on our last morning in Dutch Harbor, AK

 

Weather Data from Norfolk, VA

Latitude: 36.8508° N

Longitude: 76.2859° W

Tide Heights: 2.76 ft & 3.35 ft

Wind Speed: 19 km/h

Wind Direction: NE

Air Temperature: 28°C, 82°F

Barometric Pressure: 1028.1 mb

Sky: Clear

Humidity: 76%

“If you’re awake at 6:00 a.m., you’ll get to see the Oculus as I prepare it to glide around in the Bering Sea!”  With this promise from Dr. Chris Bassett, I made sure I was ready at the appointed time on our last day on the ship.

Dr. Chris Bassett preparing the Oculus.
Dr. Chris Bassett preparing the Oculus.

The launching of the Oculus was not on Chris’ schedule for that day beforehand; our expedition was ending earlier than expected.  That setback, however, did not diminish the drive to pursue science.  The resilience and perseverance of the science team to readjust was apparent.  Through the mist of  disappointment, the scientists continued to do as much as possible to continue our mission of the pollock survey.

 

Science and Technology Log

Developed at Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in partnership with the University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean and the University of Washington Seaglider Fabrication Lab, the Oculus is an ocean glider which samples abiotic factors in the ocean such as temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen at different depths.

Inner component of the Oculus which regulates buoyancy.
Inner component of the Oculus which regulates buoyancy.

After setting the Oculus upright, Chris connected it via the Internet to a computer operated by a scientist at the University of Washington.  This scientist is going to be sending coordinates to the Oculus and guiding it at various depths in the Bering Sea.  Chris explained that the Oculus has the ability to adjust its buoyancy quickly and is able to carry out a more reliable survey than other gliders.  Through the data remotely sent by the Oculus, scientists can gather a more accurate picture of ocean dynamics such as water column layers and ocean mixing.

Unfortunately, I was not able to observe the launch of the Oculus as I had to leave for the airport.

Personal Log

View from dock in Dutch Harbor, AK.
View from dock in Dutch Harbor, AK.

The week I spent on the ship was a whirlwind of experiences. I was just hitting my stride being completely awake for my 4:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. work shift and efficiently measuring the length of the pollock in each trawl.

Pollock and jellyfish in trawl.
Pollock and jellyfish in trawl.

At the end of the last trawl, I held a pollock, out of its element of water. Its dense, streamlined body shimmered with iridescence.  One eye stared, unfocused on the strange surroundings.   I too would be out of my element were it not for the 208.6 ft. boat on which I was standing.  Being on the boat was a constant reminder that my species is alien to this ocean habitat and that to explore it, we have to use technology such as the Oculus, underwater cameras, and acoustic technology as well as physical trawls.  Together, these different means of exploring combine information so that we can evaluate our interactions with the ocean and its inhabitants.

The view of the horizon from the deck of the Oscar Dyson.
The view of the horizon from the deck of the Oscar Dyson.

At times, the ocean had a disorienting effect.  When on the deck, I looked out from all directions and saw nothing but ocean capped by a dome of stratus clouds.  Under this lid of heavy clouds, the sun gave no clue to discern our direction or time of day.

Marine Careers

Karla Martinez, Junior Unlicensed Engineer, on duty on the Oscar Dyson.
Karla Martinez, Junior Unlicensed Engineer, on duty on the Oscar Dyson.

With her philosophy of focusing on the positive, Karla Martinez enjoys her time on and off duty on the Oscar Dyson.  As a Junior Engineer, Karla is responsible for ship upkeep and repairs.  On our last day of the trip, I spoke to her as she changed air filters in all of the staterooms.  Karla began working as a NOAA Junior Engineer three years ago after seven years in the U.S. Navy.  Since working for NOAA, she has traveled extensively and makes sure she visits each place the Oscar Dyson docks.  Karla is on the ship for at least 7-8 months of the year, and she makes the ship feel like home by getting to know people.

Karla Martinez, Tourist, off duty in field of flowers, Unalaska, AK.
Karla Martinez, Tourist, off duty in field of flowers, Unalaska, AK.

For young people who are interested in a career like Karla’s, she advises asking many questions and studying technology as much as possible. In high school, students should take the ASVAP test before entering the military.  Once admitted to the military, students should get trained. Karla states that students should talk to their counselors and find out all they can.

Lacee Sherman: Teacher Grudgingly Back On Land, June 29, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

 NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

 

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 29, 2018

 

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Weather Data from the Bridge of the California-based whale watching boat Islander on 7/2/18 at 08:29

Latitude: 34° 13.557 N

Longitude: 119° 20.775 W

Sea Wave Height: 2 ft

Wind Speed: 5-10 knots

Wind Direction: NW

Visibility: 15 miles (seems a little off to me, but that is what I was told)

Air Temperature: 65° F (ish)

Water Temperature: not recorded

Barometric Pressure:  not recorded

Sky:  Grey and cloudy

leaving Dutch Harbor
View from the plane leaving Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Personal Reflection

Wow! What an incredible experience! When I was first accepted into this program I knew that it would be great and I knew that I was going to be working on research, but I feel like I ended up getting way more than I had expected. While filling out my application for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program we were given the opportunity indicate a preference for locations and types of research. I indicated that I would have been happy with any of them, but I was honestly hoping to be on a fisheries cruise, and my first choice of location was Alaska. That’s exactly what I got! I could not have picked a more perfect match for myself.

When I first received my specific cruise offer to join NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson it was pointed out to me that 23 days at sea was a LONG cruise, and I was a little bit worried about being at sea for that long when I had never even slept on a ship like that before. What I didn’t realize, was that the hardest part of this research cruise, would be leaving at the end of it. Saying goodbye to the scientists and friends that I had worked closely with for the past 3+ weeks was pretty tough.

 

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The natural beauty of Alaska, and Unalaska specifically, is breathtaking. I kept saying that I can’t believe that places like that existed in the world and people weren’t tripping over themselves to live there. This is a part of Alaska that very few ever see. I loved getting to explore Dutch Harbor and see some of the beaches and do a little hiking while in port, and seeing the different islands and volcanoes while at sea. I also was incredibly excited to see all of the wildlife, especially the foxes, eagles, and of course, whales.

 

Video of a whale swimming and then diving in the distance.

From the moment that Sarah and Matthew picked me up from the airport, I knew that I was in great company. They immediately took me in and invited me to join the rest of the science team for dinner. Bonding happened quickly and I am so happy that I got to work with and learn each day from Denise, Sarah, Mike, Nate, Darin, Scott, and Matthew every single day. I looked forward to (and now miss) morning coffee chats, and dancing in the fish lab together. I have so many positive memories with each of them, but here are a few: sitting and reviewing and discussing my blogs with Denise, taking photos of a stuffed giraffe with Sarah, go pro fishing (scaring the fish) with Mike, watching Scott identify and solve problems, listening to Darin play the guitar, fishing with Nate on the Bridge, and exploring on land with Matthew. These are just a few of the things that I will remember and cherish about these wonderful people.

I know that it happens in all workplaces eventually, but it’s weird to think that the exact same group of people on the ship will never again be in the same place at the same time because of rotations and leave, and whatnot. I feel very grateful that I was on the ship when I was because I really enjoyed getting to know as many people on the ship as possible, and to have them teach me about what they do, and why they do it.

Not only did I learn about the Scientific work of the MACE (Midwater Assessment and Conservation Engineering) team, I learned so much about the ship and how it functions from everyone else on the ship. Every single time that I asked someone a question or to explain how something works, I was always given the time for it to be answered in a way that was understandable, and meaningful. I learned about: charting and navigation (thanks Aras), ship controls (thanks Vanessa), The NOAA Corps (thanks CO and Sony), ship engines and winches (thanks Becca), fancy ship knots (thanks Jay), water data collected by the ship (thanks Phil)… I could go on and on.

After landing back in port in Dutch Harbor, I got off of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and turned and looked at it, and my perception of it had changed completely from the beginning of the cruise. It sounds totally cliché, but it wasn’t just a ship anymore, it was somewhere I had called home for a short time. As I looked at the outside of the ship I could identify the rooms behind each window and memories that I had in that space. It was surreal, and honestly pretty emotional for me. On the last day, once we got into port, my name tag was taken off of my stateroom door and it was replaced with the names of the new teachers heading to sea.  It was sad to realize that I really was leaving and heading home.  It’s weird to think that the ship will continue on without me being a part of it any longer.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson in port in Dutch Harbor, AK

A valuable part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program was me stepping back from being a teacher, and actually being reminded of what it feel like to be a learner again. I was reminded of the frustrations of not understanding things immediately, and also the exciting feeling of finally understanding something and then being able to show and explain it. I loved learning through inquiry and asking questions to lead to newer and better questions.  These are the things that I am trying to implement more in my classroom.

While on the ship I was able to come up with 3 new hands on activities that I will be trying out in my classes this year.  This is in addition to the one that is directly related to my research.  The new labs that I have created will help me to focus my efforts and give my students the skills that they will benefit from in the future.  I am also even more excited to go and pursue my Master’s Degree in the near future than I was before, even though I am more confused on what to go back to school for.

I love being able to participate in research in addition to teaching.  I really feel like it makes me a better teacher in so many ways.  It really reminds me what is important to try and teach my students.  In the world of Google searches and immediate information, learning a bunch of facts is not as practical as learning skills like how to test out a question, collect data, and share knowledge learned.  I am so grateful for this opportunity and I really hope that I am able to continue to find other research experiences for myself in the future.  I would love to be able to further my research experiences with MACE by visiting them in Seattle, and I would be happy to hop back on the Oscar Dyson, or another NOAA ship, at any time (hint, hint, wink,wink).  Thanks for the memories.

 

Video of TAS Lacee Sherman on the deck of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
[Transcript: Ok so right now it is 9 o’clock at night and the sun is still way up in the sky. It will not go down until like almost midnight. And that’s why they call it the midnight sun!]

 

TAS Lacee Sherman
TAS Lacee Sherman with her dog, Chloe after getting back home

Lacee Sherman: Teacher on Land and Teacher Leaving Port June 7, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lacee Sherman

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 6, 2018 – June 28, 2018

Mission: Eastern Bering Sea Pollock Acoustic Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Bering Sea

Date:  June 4, 2018

Unalaska Sign
A sign hanging in the airport when I landed in Dutch Harbor.  If this is where I started and my most recent coordinates are below, which way have I been traveling?

Weather Data from the Bridge on June 7th, 2018

Latitude: N 55° 22.897

Longitude: W 164° 20.546

Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Wind Speed: 13 knots

Wind Direction: 270 degrees

Visibility: 8 knots

Air Temperature:  7.5° C

Sky:  Grey and Cloudy

NOAA Ship, Oscar Dyson
Photo of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson at port in Dutch Harbor, AK.

Science and Technology Log

On this leg of the Research Cruise in the Eastern Bering Sea I will be helping a team of NOAA scientists collect data about a fish species called Pollock.  The datum (plural of data) that are collected will help to set the limits for how much pollock the fishing boats are allowed to catch. The data also allow scientists to track the populations of the pollock to look for patterns.  For additional information on Pollock, visit the NOAA fisheries website here.

During the survey, acoustic (sound) signals will be sent into the water by transducers at different frequencies and these acoustic signals will bounce off of the objects in the ocean and bounce back to the ship where the echoes will be picked up by the transducers. The data collected from each echo is presented visually to the science team.  When we reach a spot where a lot of the acoustic signals returning to the boat indicate the presence of fish, a trawl sample will be taken at that location. A trawl survey includes putting a large net into the water and scooping up a sample of all of the living things in that location. Once the trawl haul is brought onto the boat, it is taken to the fish lab where the fish are identified and measured.  

Fish Lab
Photo of the Fish Lab on NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

The area being surveyed is the Eastern Bering Sea and for this study is divided up into 28 different transects have been mapped out and are spread 20 nautical miles apart.  We will start at northern point of the first transect and travel south until we reach the bottom of it. Once we reach the bottom of the first transect we will travel 20 nautical miles west to the southern tip of the second transect.  We will then travel north along this second transect until we reach the top and then travel the 20 nautical miles west until we reach transect 3. This will continue throughout my time on the ship, and on the 2 other legs of this journey.  On this first leg of the research cruise, the aim is to survey and sample from 16.3 of the transects which will total a journey of 2627 nautical miles on the transect lines.

According to the NOAA National Ocean Service Website, “A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the earth, and is equal to one minute of latitude. It is slightly more than a statute (land measured) mile (1 nautical mile = 1.1508 statute miles). Nautical miles are used for charting and navigating.”

Map of Transect Lines
Map of transect lines for NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson over the 3 legs of the Eastern Bering Sea Pollock survey. Current location is shown by the yellow boat. Can you find it?  Hint:  It’s near the vertical lines on the right.  First transect is the farthest on the Eastern (right in this photo) side.

 

Personal Log

TAS Lacee Sherman on Oscar Dyson deck
Photo taken on the stern of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  Photo Credit:  Sarah Stienessen

It was a long trip getting to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, but it has already been worth it!  I am on the Island of Unalaska, which is a part of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The main port city is called Dutch Harbor, or commonly just “Dutch”.  This is such a beautiful place that I probably never would have seen otherwise. There are mountains filled with grasses, berry bushes, and wild orchids as well as snow-topped peaks and natural waterfalls.  There are bald eagles everywhere and foxes that are so fluffy they almost appear to be dogs from far away. Looking into the water you can see a few scattered otters floating on their backs and the occasional harbor seal.

 

OSI Morning photo
This photo was taken from the bow of NOAA ship Oscar Dyson at port in Dutch Harbor, AK.


As soon as I landed in Dutch, I was greeted by two of the scientists that I will be working with, Matthew and Sarah.  They took me to NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson to drop off my luggage before we all went out to dinner.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I actually had my own stateroom.  Due to the number of female scientists and us being on the same work shift, we were both able to have our own rooms.  The rooms are so much nicer than I had anticipated them to be! The mattresses are comfortable, I have a desk space, there’s a television (that I will probably never watch) and I have my own bathroom as well.  

      

After we had dinner and returned to the ship, I went on a mini hike with one of the members of the science team and we went to view this amazing natural waterfall.  You wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. There is so much more that you can do when the sun is up for most of the day. At 11:30pm (the latest i’ve stayed up so far) it is still light outside.  There are so many clouds that the sky looks pretty grey, and there are a ton of clouds, often hiding the tops of the mountain peaks.

 

Lacee Sherman Dutch Harbor Waterfall
Photo of TAS Lacee Sherman in front of a waterfall in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

 

The next morning I woke up and went for a nice long walk along Captain’s Bay and sat and had coffee on the rocks and just admired the incredible view.  It is so much more beautiful here than I had imagined. Later a few of us went for a drive around the island and a few people surfed in the ocean, but I wasn’t brave enough to get in the cold water this time.

Unalaska beach
Photo taken on Unalaska

Since we will be on the ship for a while (23 days) we stopped at the grocery store to bring a few things onboard that we want to have in addition to our regular meals prepared on the ship by the stewards.  I decided that I wanted to bring some fresh fruit, not realizing that I would be paying way more than I expected for them! Everything is expensive here!

Expensive fruit
$26 dollars worth of fruit in Dutch Harbor, AK.

Did You Know?

Even though we think of Bears and Moose being found all over Alaska, they are not found on the Island of Unalaska at all!  

Animals Seen

6/4/18 – Bald Eagles, Fox, Otters

6/5/18 – Bald Eagles, 4 Foxes, Otters, Harbor seal, Jellyfish (3 different species)

6/6/18- Bald Eagles, Jellyfish (2 species), Humpback Whales!!

 

Fox in Dutch Harbor
A fox spotted on 6/5/18 in Dutch Harbor

 

Bald Eagles on Crab Pots
These are crab fishing “pots” that are used by Alaskan Fisherman to catch crab.  How many bald eagles do you see in this photo?

 

Gregory Cook, The Dance, August 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Gregory Cook

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 26 – August 13, 2014

Mission: Annual Walleye Pollock Survey

Geographical Area: Bering Sea

Date: August 7, 2014

Science and Technology Log: Abiotic Factors in the Bering Sea

Ecosystems are made up of biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic is just another word for “stuff that is, or was, alive.” In a forest, that would include everything from Owl to Oak Tree, from bear to bacteria, and from fish to fungi. It includes anything alive, or, for that matter, dead. Keep in mind that “dead” is not the same as “non-living.”

Salmon and Black-Legged Kittiwake
The salmon and the black-legged kittiwake are both biotic members of the sub-arctic ecosystem.

“Non-living” describes things that are not, cannot, and never will be “alive.” These things are referred to as “abiotic.” (The prefix a- basically means the same as non-). Rocks, water, wind, sunlight and temperature are all considered abiotic factors. And while the most obvious threat to a salmon swimming up river might be the slash of a bear’s mighty claw, warm water could be even more deadly. Warm water carries less dissolved oxygen for the fish to absorb through their gills. This means that a power plant or factory that releases warm water into a river could actually cause fish to suffocate and, well, drown.

Bering Panorama
A 90 degree panorama of the Bering Sea from atop the Oscar Dyson. I’d show you the other 270°, but it’s pretty much the same. The sea and sky are abiotic parts of the sub-arctic ecosystem.

Fish in the Bering Sea have the same kind of challenges. Like Goldilocks, Pollock are always looking for sea water that is just right. The Oscar Dyson has the tools for testing all sorts of Abiotic factors. This is the Conductivity Temperature Depth sensor (Also known as the CTD).

CTD Deployment
Survey Technicians Allen and Bill teach me how to launch The Conductivity Temperature Depth Probe (or CTD).

The CTD sends signals up to computers in the cave to explain all sorts of abiotic conditions in the water column. It can measure how salty the water is by testing how well the water conducts electricity. It can tell you how cloudy, or turbid, the water is with a turbidity sensor. It can even tell you things like the amount of oxygen dissolved in the ocean.

To see how abiotic factors drive biotic factors, take a look at this.

Thermocline
The graph above is depth-oriented. The further down you go on the graph, the deeper in the water column you are. The blue line represents temperature. Does the temperature stay constant? Where does it change?

I know, you may want to turn the graph above on its side… but don’t. You’ll notice that depth is on the y-axis (left). That means that the further down you are on the graph, the deeper in the sea you are. The blue line represents the water temperature at that depth. Where do you see the temperature drop?


Right… The temperature drops rapidly between about 20 and 35 meters. This part of the water column is called the Thermocline, and you’ll find it in much of the world’s oceans. It’s essentially where the temperature between surface waters (which are heated by the sun) and the deeper waters (typically dark and cold) mix together.

OK, so you’re like “great. So what? Water gets colder. Big deal… let’s throw a parade for science.”

Well, look at the graph to the right. It was made from another kind of data recorded by the CTD.

Fluoresence
Fluoresence: Another depth-oriented graph from the CTD… the green line effectively shows us the amount of phytoplankton in the water column, based on depth.

The green line represents the amount of fluorescence. Fluorescence is a marker of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are plant-like protists… the great producers of the sea! The more fluorescence, the more phytoplankton you have. Phytoplankton love to live right at the bottom of the thermocline. It gives them the best of both worlds: sunlight from above and nutrients from the bottom of the sea, which so many animals call home.

Now, if you’re a fish… especially a vegetarian fish, you just said: “Dinner? I’m listening…” But there’s an added bonus.

Look at this:

CTD Oxygen
Oxygen data from the CTD! This shows where the most dissolved oxygen is in the water column, based on depth. Notice any connections to the other graphs?

That orange line represents the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water. How does that compare to the other graphs?

Yup! The phytoplankton is hanging down there at the bottom of the thermocline cranking out oxygen! What a fine place to be a fish! Dinner and plenty of fresh air to breathe! So here, the abiotic (the temperature) drives the biotic (phytoplankton) which then drives the abiotic again (oxygen). This dance between biotic and abiotic plays out throughout earth’s ecosystems.

Another major abiotic factor is the depth of the ocean floor. Deep areas, also known as abyss, or abyssal plains, have food sources that are so far below the surface that phytoplankton can’t take advantage of the ground nutrients. Bad for phytoplankton is, of course, bad for fish. Look at this:

The Cliff and the Cod
The blue cloud represents a last grouping of fish as the continental shelf drops into the deep. Dr. Mikhail examines a cod.

That sloping red line is the profile (side view of the shape of the land) of the ocean floor. Those blue dots on the slope are fish. As Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko, a visiting Pollock specialist from Vladivostok, Russia, puts it, “after this… no more Pollock. It’s too deep.”

He goes on to show me how Pollock in the Bering Sea are only found on the continental shelf between the Aleutian Islands and Northeastern Russia. Young Pollock start their lives down near the Aleutians to the southeast, then migrate Northwest towards Russia, where lots of food is waiting for them.

Pollock Distribution
Alaskan Pollock avoid the deep! Purple line represents the ocean floor right before it drops off into the Aleutian Basin… a very deep place!

The purple line drawn in represents the drop-off you saw above… right before the deep zone. Pollock tend to stay in the shallow areas above it… where the eating is good!

Once again, the dance between the abiotic and the biotic create an ecosystem. Over the abyss, Phytoplankton can’t take advantage of nutrients from the deep, and fish can’t take advantage of the phytoplankton. Nonliving aspects have a MASSIVE impact on all the organisms in an ecosystem.

Next time we explore the Biotic side of things… the Sub-arctic food web!

Personal Log: The Order of the Monkey’s Fist.

Sweet William, a retired police officer turned ship’s engineer, tells the story of the order of the monkey’s fist.

William and the Monkey's Fist
Sweet William the Engineer shows off a monkey’s fist

The story goes that some island came up with a clever way to catch monkeys. They’d place a piece of fruit in a jar just barely big enough for the fruit to fit through and then leave the jar out for the monkeys. When a monkey saw it, they’d reach their hand in to grab the fruit, but couldn’t pull it out because their hands were too big now that they had the fruit in it. The monkey, so attached to the idea of an “easy” meal wouldn’t let go, making them easy pickings for the islanders. The Monkey’s Fist became a symbol for how clinging to our desires for some things can, in the end, do more harm than good. That sometimes letting go of something we want so badly is, in the end, what can grant us relief.

Another story of the origin of the monkey’s fist goes like this: A sea captain saw a sailor on the beach sharing his meal with a monkey. Without skipping a beat, the monkey went into the jungle and brought the sailor some of HIS meal… a piece of fruit.

No man is an Island. Mt. Ballyhoo, Unalaska, AK
No man is an Island. Mt. Ballyhoo, Unalaska, AK

Whatever the true origin of the Order is, the message is the same. Generosity beats selfishness at sea. It’s often better to let go of your own interests, sometimes, and think of someone else’s. Onboard the Oscar Dyson, when we see someone committing an act of kindness, we put their name in a box. Every now and then they pull a name from the box, and that person wins something at the ship store… a hat or a t-shirt or what have you. Of course, that’s not the point. The point is that NOAA sailors… scientists, corps, and crew… have each other’s backs. They look out for each other in a place where all they really have IS each other.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

Kacey Shaffer: Preparing for an Adventure, July 16, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kacey Shaffer

(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 26 – August 13, 2014

Mission: Annual Walleye Pollock Survey

Geographical Area: Bering Sea

Date: July 16, 2014

Hello from beautiful Southern Ohio! My name is Kacey Shaffer and it is an honor to be an NOAA Teacher at Sea for the 2014 Field Season. I am thrilled to be sharing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with you. In a few days I’ll be flying across North America to spend nineteen days aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson. Our mission will be to assess the abundance and distribution of Walleye Pollock along the Bering Sea shelf.

Next month I’ll begin my eighth year as an Intervention Specialist at Logan Elm High School in Circleville, Ohio. I teach Biology and Physical Science resource room classes and also co-teach in a Biology 101 class and Physical Science 101 class. Three summers ago I was able to participate in Honeywell’s Educators at Space Academy, held at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. That experience enabled me to bring a wealth of information and activities back to my students and colleagues. Because I had such a wonderful experience at Space Academy, I knew I would soon be seeking out other opportunities to perform hands-on work and gain knowledge not available in my geographic area. I was very excited when I found the NOAA Teacher at Sea program and applied immediately. When the congratulatory email arrived I acted like a little girl on Christmas morning, jumping up and down and squealing!

For our first team mission, I served as CapCom. I was the communication link between Mission Control and the shuttle.
In 2011, I attended Honeywell’s Educators at Space Academy. For our first team mission, I served as CapCom. I was the communication link between Mission Control and the shuttle. (Photo credit: Lynn of Team Unity)

Not only do I love adventure that is related to my teaching career, I love adventure in general! Two summers ago I had the privilege of joining one of Logan Elm’s Spanish teachers and four of her recent Spanish 4 graduates on a nine day tour of Spain. We were immersed in culture and history in several cities from Madrid to Barcelona. It was a wonderful experience and I really hope to travel abroad again. Last month the same Spanish teacher escorted four more recent graduates to Puerto Rico for a five day stay. Thankfully she felt I had behaved well enough in Spain to be invited on this trip! Our trip to Puerto Rico was very different from our travel in Spain. We were able to go ziplining in La Marquesa, hiking in El Yunque (which happens to be the U.S. National Park Service’s only tropical rain forest), and kayaking in Laguna Grande near Fajardo. The most amazing experience was kayaking at night in Laguna Grande. Why would you kayak at night? Because that is the home of a bioluminescent bay! You can learn more about this ocean phenomena here. I am very thankful to be able to travel as much as I do!

Last month I kayaked in a bioluminescent bay near Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I shared a kayak with my friend Megan, right.
Last month I kayaked in a bioluminescent bay near Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I shared a kayak with my friend Megan, right. (Photo credit: Luiz, our tour guide)

If I were driving to the Oscar Dyson, it would be about a 5,000 mile trip one way! I’m really glad the journey will be via airplane. I’ll be meeting the ship in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Does that name sound familiar? Dutch Harbor is the home base of the Discovery Channel’s “The Deadliest Catch.” It is a very small town on one of the many islands that are collectively called the Aleutian Islands. From Dutch Harbor we will sail into the Bering Sea and begin our work. From the information I’ve read, we’ll spend our days gathering information about Walleye Pollock. Through my preparations I’ve gathered this is important because Walleye Pollock is one of the largest fisheries in the world. Why would Walleye Pollock be important to me or my students? This fish is often used in imitation crab or fried fish fillets. We could be eating this species the next time we have fish sticks for supper! For greater detail on Alaskan Walleye Pollock check out the NOAA’s FishWatch page here.

pollock
This is a basket of pollock from a previous survey. (Photo courtesy of NOAA files)

Goodbye Oscar Dyson!
See you in Dutch Harbor, Oscar Dyson! (Photo courtesy of NOAA files)

 

The next time I write to you I’ll be aboard the mighty Oscar Dyson. In the mean time I’ll continue to gather warm clothes and search for a box of seasickness medicine. As I’m packing I may need some advice. If you were leaving home for three weeks, what is the one item you wouldn’t leave without? Remember, I’ll be at sea. My cell phone will be rendered useless and my access to the internet will be limited.

 

Mary Murrian: Getting Ready to Fly to Alaska, July 1, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Mary Murrian

(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 19- July 22, 2014

 

Mission:  Annual Pollock Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 1, 2014

Personal Log

Greetings from Dover, Delaware, the first state to ratify the United States Constitution!  My name is Mary Murrian and I teach math and science to a wonderful group of fifth grade students at William Henry Middle School.  My journey will begin early in the morning on Wednesday, July 2, 2014.  My son, Robert–an upcoming junior at the University of Delaware, is driving me to the Philadelphia airport at 3:00 am in the morning.  After transferring planes in Chicago, Illinois and then again in Anchorage, Alaska, I will finally make land at my final destination, Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

disney trip 2014 009

If you are a Deadliest Catch fan you will recognize Dutch Harbor as the home base for the popular television show on the Discovery Channel.  I will be aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship.  I have the wonderful opportunity to work  with the crew and scientists aboard the Oscar Dyson to research and determine the abundance and health of walleye pollock, one of the largest fisheries in the world.  If you have ever eaten fish sticks or imitation seafood, most likely you have tried pollock!

Thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I am afforded this wonderful opportunity to work hands-on, learning the science involved in research aboard a NOAA ship. I currently teach a unit on ecosystems, where my students learn about the ecosystem around them and the interrelationships between organisms in an environment focusing on food chains, food webs, and environmental factors that play a role in an ecosystem. This experience will enhance my knowledge of marine ecosystems and the important role the fish play in supporting a healthy and sustainable environment.  I look forward to learning and growing through my participation with experts in their field.  I want to gather as much information as possible, in order to bring it back to my classroom and share my real life experience with my students this upcoming school year and years to come.  What a wonderful way to bring real-life data and experiences to my students.

I have been asked numerous times if I am scared or nervous to be aboard a ship sailing on the Bering Sea.  My response, NO!  I am thrilled.  I cannot wait for my journey to begin.  I have cruised to Alaska before, however not as far north as the Dutch Harbor area and I was on a recreational cruise ship. It was beautiful and the scenery was amazing.  I never saw ice as blue as I did when we crossed Tracy Arm fjord.  A fjord is a typically long, narrow valley with steep sides that are created by advancing glaciers (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/estuaries/media/supp_estuar04_fjord.html).  The trip, although freezing, was amazing.  I also found out that glacial ice often appears blue because of years of compression gradually making the ice denser over time, forcing out the tiny air pockets between the crystals.  When glacier ice becomes extremely dense, the ice absorbs a small amount of red light, leaving a bluish tint in the reflected light (http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/glaciers/quickfacts.html).  Super cool!

Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm, showing the very blue ice.  Photo provided by personnel of the NOAA ship John N. Cobb
Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm, showing the very blue ice.
Photo provided by personnel of the NOAA ship John N. Cobb

I look forward to my upcoming experience, a trip of a lifetime.  There is more to come, I hope you will continue with me on my journey across the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea!  Watch out Alaska, here I come!

Avery Marvin: Brown bears, fish guts, WW2 bunkers and fossils, OH MY! Adventures in Kodiak, Alaska, August 6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Avery Marvin
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 8 — 30, 2013 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 8, 2013

Current Location: 57° 47’ 35” N, 152° 23’ 39” W

Personal Log:

My Teacher at Sea experience ended on the island of Kodiak where the Rainier docked for a few days to stock up on supplies and give the crew a much-needed rest. They departed Kodiak 3 days later to begin the next 2-3 wk leg of their survey season. I had the good fortune of staying on the island for 4 days to explore its unique natural landscape and rich cultural history.

As I walked around downtown, perused the storefronts and enjoyed a latte at Harborside Coffee and Goods, one thing was very clear to me: this town is centered around fish, not tourists. Shelikolff drive is an entire street lined with fish processing plants. Trident Seafood, housed inside an old ship sprawls out on the other side of town.  The harbor itself is home to over 1000 fishing vessels, ranging from huge 125 foot crab boats to 18 foot set net skiffs.  Xtra Tuff fishing boots are the preferred footwear by all the locals and smelling of fish is a natural occurrence.

Kodiak fishing vessels
Kodiak fishing vessels

Crab pot parking spot!
Crab pot parking spot!

Trident seafoods
Trident seafoods

Fish tackle
Fish tackle

Avery next to a recycled fish
Avery next to a recycled fish

Avery at the NOAA Kodiak Fisheries Research Center
Avery at the Alaska/NOAA Fisheries Research Center in Kodiak where a lot of important shellfish research is conducted.

Reindeer (Caribou) sausage sandwich
Reindeer (Caribou) sausage sandwich–The MOST delicious sauauge I have ever tasted!

When I was in the coffee shop, I noticed a young women in her late twenties with a toddler next to her, writing a letter to her husband who presumably was out at sea fishing. The letter had pictures of her son taped onto it and lots of hearts and colorful doodles–a gentle reminder that living in Kodiak is not for the faint-hearted. The life of a fisherman is physically demanding and maintaining relationships can be trying.

Kodiak has always been an industrious port and its people have always had a strong connection to the ocean.  The first people of Kodiak, the Aleut from Kamchatka, inhabited the island 10,000 years ago and lived off the nutrient-rich waters for 7,500 years.  They were true “nature engineers” using resources around them for fishing, clothing, dwellings and other needs. Nothing was wasted. Fishing with nets made of nettle fiber and sinew (tendon). Catching bottom dwellers with seaweed line and bone hooks. Using whalebone for door frames and sod for walls. Lighting the way with whale and seal oil lamps. Dressing in mammal skin and intestines.

I had the chance to see many original Aleut artifacts at the Baranov Museum in Kodiak. The most interesting piece was the Kayak splashguard made of mammal skin, the predecessor of the modern nylon kayak skirt used today. The translucent thin waterproof jackets made of mammal intestines also fascinated me. They looked very delicate but were actually strong and flexible when wet. Suspended from the museum ceiling, was an actual seal skin kayak or Bairdarka used by the Aleuts.  They wrapped seal skin around a wood frame, tied the seams with sinew and then added a layer of seal oil for waterproofing. Aleut craftsmanship at its finest!

Avery in front of the Baranov Museum
Avery in front of the Baranov Museum (I am waving in the back right.)

Bairdarka splashguard
Baidarka splashguard made of mammal skin

Aleut waterproof jacket made of mammal intestine
Aleut waterproof jacket made of mammal intestine

Aleut kayak or Bairdarka
Aleut kayak or Baidarka

The Aleuts clearly adapted well to their island home, making use of all that surrounded them but never exploiting these resources. Sadly in 1784, this peaceful existence was abruptly terminated by the Russians who, armed with muskets and cannons, took the island by force.  Having already decimated both the sea otter and native Aleut population around the Aleutian islands, the Russians under the command of Grigory Ivanovich Shelikhov established a permanent settlement in Three Saints Bay on Kodiak to capitalize on the remaining otter population in North Pacific waters.  Following the success of the fur trade industry on Kodiak, the Russians expanded their colonization on the Alaska mainland, establishing several subsequent fur trade centers.

Russian conquest was bittersweet. They brought with them diseases and modern necessities such as flour, tea, tobacco and sugar. They built several structures for their needs including fur warehouses, a school, a hospital, a stone quay, a saw mill and an ice making plant. They forced the Aleuts to be their skilled craftsmen and otter hunters. Between old world diseases, murder and abuse, many Aleuts lost their lives and those left standing witnessed the slow demise of their ancient seafarer culture.

The 126-year Russian occupation of Alaska finally came to an end when tired and poor from the Crimean war with France and England, they sold the territory to the U.S. for 7.2 million (2 cents per acre) in 1867.  With high-powered firearms, the Americans continued to slaughter the otters at an unsustainable rate. Teetering on the brink of extinction, an international treaty banning the killing of otters was signed in 1911. Post otter years, Americans tried their hand at other industries including trapping, whaling, clamming, cattle ranching, fox farming and gold mining.  Salmon fishing though proved to be the most reliable and profitable natural resource so the U.S. quickly established several salmon processing plants around Kodiak. Wooden dories replaced Baidarkas and by the end of the 19th century, Kodiak had transitioned from a fur-trading hub to a fishing mecca.

Things progressed unchanged until World War II, when Kodiak seen as a strategic waypoint between Asia and the North American west coast, was transformed into a military town.  The population went from 400 to several thousand in a short time. A huge self-sufficient navel base was built along with new roads around the island. In preparation for a Japanese attack, several concrete bunkers and underground bomb shelters were constructed. With all of this new infrastructure came indoor plumbing and electricity to the island. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941 followed by Dutch Harbor on June 3, a Japanese attack on Kodiak seemed imminent but surprisingly the emerald isle went untouched.

Avery in WW2 bunker
Avery in WWII bunker

Today Kodiak remains an important fishing port with a wide variety of crab and fish species (salmon, cod, halibut, Pollack) caught and processed.  Modern fishing equipment and boats have replaced older, more natural gear but many of the fishing methods are still the same. Similarly, the factories along Sheikolf Drive have become more automated, with less human hands along each assembly line. Also, the fish industry as a whole on Kodiak has become much more regulated.

Kodiak is a fascinating place to explore because you can see several remnants of its past interspersed around the island: concrete WWII bunkers at Fort Abercrombie, Russian Orthodox church in downtown, old WWII ship anchors lying around, a 200 year old fur warehouse (now the Baranov Museum). Unfortunately, many historical landmarks were destroyed in the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The tsunami that followed the earthquake wreaked more havoc, killing 106 Alaskans and a family of 4 camping at Beverly Beach State Park near Newport, Oregon.

Besides a rich cultural history, Kodiak Island is full of natural beauty and an assortment of cool creatures.  Rosalind and I got the chance to explore fossil beach on the south-eastern side of Kodiak where we collected many unique fossils. My top finds were a snail fossil and a shale rock with encased petrified wood.

Avery finds a cool fossil at Fossil beach
Avery finds a cool fossil at Fossil beach

Rosalind at Fossil Beach
Rosalind at Fossil Beach

After Rosalind left, I was blessed by another Teacher at Sea, Katie Sard, who spent the day with me on a spontaneous adventure around the island. We did all sorts of fun things like tide pooling, checking out WWII bunkers at Fort Abercrombie and eating Greek food at sunset at Monashka bay.

TAS's Avery and Katie Sard :)
TAS’s Avery and Katie Sard 🙂

Fly fisherman in Kodiak Bay
Fly fisherman in Kodiak Bay

One of the highlights of my entire Alaska trip, was the float plane trip I took to the Kenai Peninsula on the mainland to see Brown bears.  These are the 2nd largest bears in the world (next to Polar Bears), living off a rich diet of berries and salmon. I had never been in a float plane before and was impressed by how soft the landing and take off were. The aerial views were also incredible. I spotted 2 Humpback whales on the way over to the peninsula from Kodiak and on the way back another passenger spotted a pod of about 45 Orca whales! The pilot was just as excited as we were, and circled around this giant pod for about 10 minutes giving us all good views of their movement and sheer numbers. Incredible!

Avery in the cockpit with the pilot
Avery in the cockpit with the pilot

Bear tour seaplane
Bear tour seaplane

Wading over to the beach
Wading over to the beach

We landed about a football field away from the peninsula, and waded in hip deep water to the beach. The scenery was beautiful with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop and wild flowers and meandering streams in the foreground. This was perfect bear country! Within about 3 hours we saw the Brown bear Trifecta: Brown bear trying to catch salmon, Brown bear mother with 2 cubs and to cap it all off, Brown bears mating. All of these sightings were of different bears and within a stones throw away.  I was surprised at how okay the bears were with our close presence. As I learned from my guide, human safety is ensured by the ability to read nonverbal bear clues which can be very subtle. For example, if a bear turns its back to you, it is saying “Please leave me alone.” You also never make eye contact with a bear or walk directly towards it. You want the bear to feel like he/she has plenty of surrounding space and an escape route if need be.  Jo, our guide said that in the 20 years of leading bear tours, she has only had to get out her bear spray 3 times. And one of these times involved a naïve group of students eating Subway sandwiches in front of the bears!

Mama and cubs crossing the river
Mama and cubs crossing the river

Mama and cubs
Mama and cubs

Cub staring contest
Cub staring contest

Brown bear in search of salmon
Brown bear in search of salmon

Brown bears mating
Brown bears mating

The last day of my Kodiak stay was spent touring several fish factories where I got to experience the real backbones of this city. At all 3 factories, it was Pink salmon processing time which meant the machines were in full swing, with humans at various checkpoints along each assembly line.  The machines did everything from decapitating each salmon to cleaning out its guts to skinning it. Each factory processed about 200,000 pounds of Pink salmon per day.  In peak season with several different fish species being processed at once, the factories can see around ¾ million pounds of fish processed per day! At one factory, I learned that the big money comes from making surimi (ground fish) which is used as imitation crab all over the world. The most common fish used in surumi is the Alaska Pollock which is very plentiful in Kodiak waters. I am glad to hear that imitation crab is actually fish and not some other protein filler.

Check out these videos to see the factory process in action. It’s fascinating!!!

Avery gets her hands fishy!
Avery gets her hands fishy!

Avery at the fish factory
Avery at the fish factory

Frozen salmon
Frozen salmon

Frozen aisle at fish factory
Frozen aisle at fish factory

As you saw from the above videos, the most hands on section of the whole process is in the production of roe (salmon eggs).  This is because the roe must be gently handled and graded (1-3 scale) in preparation to be sold to Japan. At $50 per pound, roe is a delicacy in Japan and often eaten raw over rice or in sushi. Also Pink and Chum salmon produce the most desirable roe called ikura or red caviar. This roe is about the size of a pea and is sold as individual pieces. In contrast, the smaller eggs of Coho and Sockeye salmon produce sujiko, which is roe still connected in the sac. Throughout each of my fish processing plant tours, I was curious to know HOW the roe was graded. To my surprise, none of the factory managers could tell me how and I unfortunately could not communicate with the highly skilled Japanese roe technicians.

So I looked it up and it turns out roe is graded using the following criteria: size (larger is better), salt content (lower is better), drip (zero is best), firmness (firm is better but not so firm the egg breaks), color (bright, red-orange outer color with a center the color and consistency of honey), luster (eggs should be shiny and slightly transparent).

It was fitting to end my Kodiak stay with some down and dirty fish factory tours as this is the lifeblood of the city (and Alaska) and a good representation of the Kodiak spirit. These factories operate 24/7 with workers on their feet for 12 hour shifts. From the Aleuts to now, the Kodiak people have always been a hardy bunch with an incredible work ethic, and the ability to adapt to one of the most challenging environments in the world. This is the ring of fire: weather and natural disasters are unpredictable.  So why do people stay?  It’s the sea.  Beautiful. Vast. Mysterious. Full of life. She calls them back day after day, year after year. Welcome to Kodiak life.

Fun Factoid: The infamous Kodiak brown bear, the sole species of bear on the island of Kodiak, is a sub-species of the Alaskan mainland Brown bear population. Hunters come from all around the world to hunt this sub-species, paying thousands of dollars per expedition.

Marla Crouch: Checking Out the Fish! June 12, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marla Crouch
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 8-26, 2013 

Mission:  Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 12, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: as of 2300
Wind Speed 12.30 kts
Air Temperature 6.10°C
Relative Humidity 98.00%
Barometric Pressure 1,009.6mb

Latitude:  54.22N   Longitude: 164.65W

 Science and Technology Log

Here I am all decked out in my rain gear in the wet lab, ready to sort the catch of our first bottom trawl.  Quite a fashion statement, don’t you think?

Me in my slime gear.
Me in my slime gear.

Walleye Pollock (latin name Theragra chalcogramma), a fish that lives both on and above the seafloor, is the main target of the Pollock survey, but information about other sea life is also collected.  When we start sorting the catch from this bottom trawl, the primary population is Pacific Ocean Perch (POP, Sebastes alutus).  The POP is a member of the Scorpaenidae or scorpionfish family and has poisonous spines.  When handling the fish I have to be really careful of the very sharp spines to avoid injury.  Fortunately, the POP’s teeth are not as formidable as their spines, so I can grab them by the mouth to safely move them around.

After we sort the catch the total weight of each species is recorded.  We collect additional biological data on the POP, by first sorting them by “Blokes” or “Sheilas.”  I’ll let you figure out what characterizes Blokes and Sheilas.   After the sorting, each fish in the sample is laid on an electronic measuring board (mm) to determine and record the length of the fish.  In this survey the length of the fish is measured from the tip of the mouth to the center of the “v” in the tail, this is know as the fork length.

Other populations being sampled are plankton and the jellyfish that were collected in a Methot trawl.  Here Abigail McCarthy is sorting two types of zooplankton krill (also called euphausiids) and jellyfish that were collected.  Once the sorting is completed, then the quantity and weight of the krill and the jellyfish is recorded.  One of the areas Abby is investigating is if there is a correlation between the krill population and the location of baleen feeding whales.  Abby wonders how far away the whales can smell or sense dinner?  Who can tell me which species of whales are baleen feeders?

Sorting krill and jellyfish
Sorting krill and jellyfish

Another tool the scientists use to collect data is a tethered stereo camera that takes 10 pictures/second. Using the pictures I am counting and sorting fish by species.  Look at the pictures and you’ll see a Gorgonia sea fan and a basket star.  The camera has a stationary photo length, so objects closer to the camera appear bigger.  In the picture with the sea fan, you are also seeing krill.  You can use the pairs of images from the stereo cameras to measure the size of the organisms that appear in the images.

The two cylinders in the center are the cameras and the four other cylinders are strobe lights.
The two cylinders in the center are the cameras and the four other cylinders are strobe lights.

The sea fan is a member of the soft coral family.
The sea fan is a member of the soft coral family.  Krill can be seen in front of the sea fan.  Picture provided by NOAA.

The basket star is a type of sea star.  Here the basket star is open waiting for dinner to drift by.
The basket star is a type of sea star. Here the basket star is perched on top of a sea sponge open waiting for dinner to drift by.  Picture provided by NOAA

Personal Log 

When the Oscar Dyson sailed from Dutch Harbor we head west to the Islands of Four Mountains, a cluster of volcanic isles.  On one isles is Mt. Cleveland, which on May 5th was actively spewing lava.  As we pass, Mt. Cleveland is quietly shrouded in dense cloud cover.  Darn, cannot check eruption off my “Want to see” list.  I don’t think I’ll see an aurora either as the cloud cover has been thick.

This is the south side of Onalaska.  Dutch Harbor is on north side facing the Bering Sea.
This is the south side of Unalaska. Dutch Harbor is on north side facing the Bering Sea.

Science aboard the Oscar Dyson runs 24/7.  Both the Dyson’s crew and the science team work in twelve hour shifts.  For the Dyson’s crew the day is broken into two shifts, from midnight to noon and noon to midnight.  The science team shifts are from 4 a.m. (0400 hrs.) to 4 p.m. (1600 hrs.) and 1600 hrs. to 0400 hrs. I am on the 1600hrs to 0400hrs shift; morning and night run all together.  A note here, when the scientists collect data the time stamp is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  GMT is eight hours ahead of us here in Alaska.

Did You Know?

I’ve discovered that you can slosh in your berth.  Check out the next blog for “Surf Your Berth.”

Marla Crouch: Hello Dutch Harbor, Alaska, June 8, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marla Crouch
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 8-26, 2013

Mission:  Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:  Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 8, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge: as of 1900
Wind Speed 9.57 kts
Air Temperature 6.84°C
Relative Humidity 81.00%
Barometric Pressure 1,030.5 mb

Latitude:  53.52N   Longitude: 166.34W

Science and Technology Log

The Oscar Dyson is harbored in Captains Bay and there is much to do aboard before we set sail on our cruise.  Some equipment needs to be off loaded and stored while other equipment needs to be loaded and secured.  The Science Team checks their berth (room) assignments, drop off their gear, and begin the task of readying the equipment.

“What are the properties of sea water?”  Are you thinking liquid?  There are three properties that scientists routinely check, they are temperature, salinity and density.    The Dyson’s crew deploys an instrument referred to as the CTD.  The CTD contains sensors which continuously measure the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth of the water. The CTD is sent to the bottom to create a profile of the temperature and salinity (as measured by how well the water conducts electricity or its ‘conductivity’) and then is brought back to the surface.  On the way back up water samples are collected at per determined depths, in the grey bottles. The collected water samples are measured to calibrate the sensors on the CTD.  This information is then used to calibrate the sonar.

There are five grey water sample bottles on this CTD.
There are five grey water sample bottles
on this CTD.

Sonar uses sound waves called pings that bounce off objects creating echoes.  The echoes are recorded and used to create pictures of the sea floor and other object, such as schools of fish.  To calibrate the sonar a round shiny ball that reflects the pings is submerged beneath the ship. The scientists know the expected strength of the echo from the sphere given the water temperature and salinity, allowing them to calibrate the sonar. Sometimes fish interfere with the calibration process. Fish are curious creatures and want to investigate the shiny sphere, getting in the way of the pings and slowing down calibration.

When the calibrations have been completed we set sail.  As the Dyson sailed out of Captains Bay, we encountered dolphins jumping out of the water and whales surfacing. Perhaps they were feeding on the large school of fish seen in the sonar.

The sonar shows the sea floor, the band of blue, yellow and red. The schools of fish are the pink groupings.   The water depth is 123.23m.
The sonar shows the sea floor, the band of blue, yellow and red. The schools of fish are the pink groupings.
The water depth is 123.23m.

Personal Log 

Before leaving Seattle, I was told my luggage might not be on the same flight as I was on into Dutch Harbor.  The airport in ‘Dutch’ has a short runway and is serviced by turbo prop aircraft that seat 33 passengers.  When I checked in, I was asked for my weight and any carry-on.  The airline uses the total loaded weight of the aircraft to calculate how much runway is needed to take off and how much fuel is needed to reach the next refueling point.  Upon boarding the plane, the passengers were told that 87 pounds of luggage would not make the flight and more than likely the bags would be on tomorrow morning’s freighter– weather and volcanic activity permitting!  I kept my fingers crossed that my bag was in the cargo hold.  A little over an hour into the flight, we landed in King Salmon for refueling.  Shortly after landing, we were once again airborne for the 1 ½ hour flight to Dutch Harbor.  In route along the volcanic chain of Aleutian Islands, you can see peaks visibly venting steam and Mt. Pavlof’s snowy surface is blackened with fresh ash.  The Oscar Dyson will sail past several of these active volcanoes.  Looks like I’ll be adding a volcanic eruption to my list of “want to see” while aboard the Dyson. I am also hoping to see the Aurora Borealis and pods of Humpback and Orca whales.  Landing at Dutch Harbor I realized why weather is a crucial factor for safe touch downs.  A section of Mt. Ballyhoo has been blasted away to make room for the runway.  Peering out the window, one gets the feeling that the tip of the wing is barely whisking past the face of the cliff.  On the other side of the runway is the water of Iliuliuk Bay.  Good news, my luggage and I landed at the same time!

Dutch Harbor attracts many bird watchers, as bald eagles, puffins, rock ptarmigans and other birds are abundant here.  Juvenile bald eagles are dappled brown and white and blend into the rocky shore and crags of the steep cliffs.  This time of year, signs warning of nesting eagles are also abundant.  As birds tend to use me for target practice I am very mindful of the warnings.

Thankfully, I was not dive bombed by any eagles or other birds!
Thankfully, I was not dive bombed by any eagles or other birds!

At least 3 eagles are in this picture one adult  and two juveniles.  Can you find all three?
At least 3 eagles are in this picture one adult
and two juveniles. Can you find all three?

Before boarding the Oscar Dyson I visited the Museum of the Aleutians.  The exhibits feature information about life and culture in the Aleutians and how WWII impacted the people.  One of the displays featured several handmade parkas constructed from the gut (intestine) of seals and walruses.  The material is both light weight and water proof.

Parka made of gut.
Parka made of gut.

Just south of the museum is Bunker Hill towers above Dutch Harbor, and one can still see the zigzag pattern of the WWII  trenches etched into the landscape.  There is a trail to the bunker atop the hill; I think I’ll go for a walk.  Almost to the top of Bunker Hill about 700 feet above Dutch Harbor the panoramic vistas of Captains Bay, Dutch Harbor and the City Unalaska are spectacular.

Taken about half way up Bunker Hill.
Taken about half way up Bunker Hill.

Bunker atop Bunker Hill
Bunker atop Bunker Hill

Dutch Harbor with Mt. Ballyhoo in the background.

Did You Know?

The Gulf of Alaska helps to generate much of the seasonal rainfall along the west coast of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon.  The strong surface currents, as high as 1.7kph (1.9mph) in the southern reaches combine with the cold arctic air to create these weather systems that affect our weather and climate.

Amanda Peretich: Sad Times With This, My Final Blog, July 22, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: July 22, 2012

Bottles
Water collection bottles with samples from CTDs throughout the cruise.

Location Data
Myself: airports, airplanes, and Maryland
Oscar Dyson: Crowley pier in Dutch Harbor, AK

Science & Technology Log
On July 17, as we were “cruising” around 12 knots back to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, I had one more GREAT tie in to chemistry class that I just wanted to share because it was that cool to me! Every few CTDs, a water sample would be collected to later be tested for levels of dissolved oxygen. At the end of the cruise on our way back, Bill allowed me to watch him test those samples using a Winkler titration.

Why do we care how much dissolved oxygen is in the water in the first place? Dissolved oxygen levels provide an excellent indication of the underwater biological activity. If levels are extremely low (2 mg/L or lower), animals fail to survive during this “hypoxia”. If there is no dissolved oxygen at all (0 mg/L), this is known as “anoxia”, meaning without oxygen. Areas that are hypoxic or anoxic are known as “dead zones”. Luckily there aren’t really any reported dead zones around Alaska, but knowing the level of dissolved oxygen is important to the scientists as another piece of data to analyze from this cruise.

How does the Winkler titration work and why did I find it so cool? First off, in chemistry class, we use a buret to add a titrant manually drop by drop into a solution containing a phenolphthalein indicator that turns from clear to pink to signify the endpoint of the titration. On board, the actual titration is automated and there is no indicator! It was nice to see chemistry in action, and even nicer to see the process automated, removing any human error in the actual titration.

Winkler titration
Set-up for the Winkler titration on the Oscar Dyson.

Steps to performing the Winkler titration on the Oscar Dyson:
1. Collect water sample during CTD and add manganese chloride (MnCl2) and sodium iodide/sodium hydroxide solution (NaI/NaOH) to sample. Stopper and mix well.
2. Store all water samples for testing at the end of the cruise (this is how it’s done on the Oscar Dyson to test all samples at once, although you could test them each individually after collection).
3. When ready to test all samples, remove stopper and add magnetic stir bar and 1mL of sulfuric acid (H2SO4). Mix well. If precipitate does not completely dissolve, add more sulfuric acid.
4. Titrate and record results!
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each sample 🙂

Winkler titration bottles
(a) The addition of excess manganese, iodide, and hydroxide ions added to each water sample forms a precipitate (solid), which is then oxidized by the dissolved oxygen in the water sample.
(b) and (c) A strong acid acidifies the solution and converts the iodide ion (I-1) into an iodine molecule (I2), causing the precipitate to dissolve (b) and the solution to turn brownish-orange (c).
(d) The solution is put on top of a stir plate and titrated with a thiosulfate solution. The titration is complete when the solution is neutralized, or there are no more ions remaining in solution. This is determined by measuring the conductivity of the solution because ions allow conductivity so when the solution is neutralized, there will be no conductivity. You can see the conductivity probe in the top of the solution on the right and the thiosulfate being added into the solution through the tube on the left.

Personal Log
My final days/adventures in Dutch Harbor? Enjoy the brief descriptions and photos below!

July 18
– arrived in Dutch early morning to beautiful blue skies all day and I watched as the Dyson docked at Crowley pier
– another Alaskan water adventure when Brian and I donned arctic survival suits, got in Captain’s Bay, and yelled up drafting readings of the water level from various points on the outside of the ship to Neal (while Chelsea took photos)
– went for a run over to Unalaska to see the Russian Orthodox church, walk along the beach, go to Memorial Park, check out some gravestones, and jog around town
– hung out in Dutch with some people off the Dyson, where Brian turned into Billy Idol, Chelsea got a new ‘do, and Kevin got a haircut

July 18: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 18: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

July 19
– the day started off looking bleak, and I got covered in mud running back into Captain’s Bay to check out the gigantic oil rig barge
– then it turned into another afternoon of beautiful blue skies to allow me to hike with Brian to the back of Captain’s Bay and up to a really pretty waterfall
– hung out in Dutch with some locals I’d met the night before, including an Aleut with the nose ring and face tattoo

July 19: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 19: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

July 20
– was supposed to fly out this afternoon but lo and behold, the skies turned gray, the fog rolled in, all flights in and out of Dutch were cancelled for the day, and I headed back to the ship
– hung out in Dutch with some people off the Dyson and celebrated Patrick’s birthday

July 20: Dutch Harbor, Alaska
July 20: Dutch Harbor, Alaska

July 21: Anchorage airport
July 21: Anchorage airport

July 21
– attempted to get on flights from standby multiple times throughout the day, and finally got on a flight at 8:45pm that got me to Anchorage after midnight, where I slept on a bench in the airport until about 4am

July 22
– no flights out of Anchorage available until almost 9pm! luckily I called Delta, got on standby for a 6am flight where enough people took a later flight (and everyone on standby ahead of me was in pairs) that I got out of Anchorage and to Minneapolis, where I had about 35 minutes to get on standby for another flight that I was able to get on as well; the flight goddesses were with me today
– arrived home to Maryland about 20 hours after leaving Dutch, happy to be back but sad this adventure is officially over

THANKS THANKS THANKS
I’d just like to say one last time how AMAZING this adventure was on the Oscar Dyson and how incredibly BLESSED I was to meet such great people and learn some many new and EXCITING things. I owe a huge amount of thanks to plenty of people:
* Thanks to the chief scientist Neal along with Bill and Anatoli for all of the fun science and fish stuff I learned during my shift
* Thanks to the rest of the science party (Scott, Denise, Carwyn, and Nate) for more science and technology that I learned and for the card games I played after my shift and to Kathy for doing her survey tech thing (and helping me find my luggage and get to the airport on time)
* Thanks to the CO CDR Mark Boland for allowing me to be on the OD in the first place and for always seeming to have a smile on your face when I was around
* Thanks to the XO 1M Kris Mackie for all of his help in getting me to the ship, for never sugar-coating life, for a great espresso machine in the galley, and for life lessons, knowledge, and personal growth he probably doesn’t even know he taught me

* Thanks to the OPS LT Matt Davis for reading and approving all of the blogs and for the vast amount of knowledge I gained from him in multiple aspects of ship life
* Thanks to ENS Libby, Kevin, and Chelsea for plenty of information, stories, good laughs, and great memories
* Thanks to LTJG Dave for recommending thought-provoking movies and answering all my questions
* Thanks to the engineering crew (Brent, Tony, Vincente, Garry, Robert, Terry, Joel) for all of their hard work that kept the ship running during the entire trip and for everything you guys taught me
* Thanks to Vince for keeping the internet up and running so I could update my blogs, get on facebook, and let my parents know I was still alive with the VOIP
* Thanks to the stewards Tim and Adam for some of the best cooking I’ve had in a long time and for “encouraging” me try things I didn’t think I liked but wound up enjoying because you made them so delicious
* Thanks to the deck crew (Willie, Patrick, Deeno, Jim, Brian, and Rick) for putting up with my incessant chatter, photo taking, curiosity, and questions, for letting me crash your table at mealtimes, and for every little thing that you’ve each taught me, even if you didn’t know you were teaching me something at the time
* Thanks to GVA Brian for all the photos he took whenever I asked, for the awesome headphones he let me borrow most of the trip, for the knowledge he shared about everything he knew related to boats and fishing, and for adventures kayaking, taking draft readings, and hiking in Dutch
* Thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program for providing this incredible opportunity in the first place
* Thanks to everyone that has been reading (and sometimes commenting on) my blogs

NOAA Oscar Dyson in Captains Bay, Dutch Harbor, AK
NOAA Oscar Dyson in Captains Bay, Dutch Harbor, AK

Story Miller, July 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 20, 2010

Time: 1240
Latitude: 53°51N
Longitude:166°34W
Wind: 7 knots (approx. 8.055mph)
Direction: 202° (SW)
Sea Temperature: 9.22°C (approx. 48.596°F)
Air Temperature: 9.82°C (approx. 49.676°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1023.8

Scientific Information

Figure 1: View of the low fog, clouds and sunset in Dutch Harbor the night of the delay.

What Is NOAA and How Can You Get Involved?
NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and is part of the United States Department of Commerce. NOAA is involved around the world and there are many different avenues one could become involved with. For example, some people are involved in forecasting the location of the next hurricane strike, which means that you could be responsible for saving the lives of people living in those areas. If climate change is of a particular interest, you could aid in the monitoring of global weather systems to make climate predictions for the future. If ecological studies suit you, a job with NOAA could involve collecting data from costal environments to continue efforts of preserving healthy ecosystems. Perhaps your studies and data analysis would aid in the critical decision making processes of businesses around the world, such as creating and enforcing policies for the fisheries industry to maintain its resources for the future.  Mapping is equally important and part of your experience with NOAA could involve creating or enhancing navigational data to aid in the protection of ships and prevent potential accidents. Finally, perhaps you are interested in commanding a NOAA ship or piloting a NOAA aircraft. In that case, you could become part of the NOAA Corps.

The Mission

The primary mission of the Oscar Dyson is the Walleye Pollock survey, which consists of conducting Acoustic Surveys and Fishery Survey Trawls. The acoustic survey relies on sonar waves that are powerful enough to detect fish at different depths. Once the fish is located on the sonar screen, the trawl net is then accurately deployed to a specific depth depending on where the targeted fish species are located. This depth can range from 16 meters from the surface all the way down to 3 meters from the bottom.  The net is then hauled onto the ship’s aft deck and the contents are spread on the table in the lab for sorting and identification. Different species, such as the Walleye Pollock, will be measured for size, sex, and age before being released overboard. Some other species like Pacific Cod and Arrowtooth Flounder will be collected for additional studies.

Delays, Delays!

Monday, July 19th appeared to be a rare, sunny day in Dutch Harbor for most of the afternoon. We were scheduled to leave Dutch Harbor at 1500h but due to baggage problems for those who recently arrived in Dutch Harbor, we were delayed until the next day. Because of the short airstrip in Dutch Harbor, the sizes of the airplanes are smaller than those of regular airports. Currently Pen Air uses SAAB Turboprop airplanes. These planes are small and hold about thirty passengers. They are typically used for small air carriers for short commutes.  Another critical factor involved with flights is weight. For every passenger, think of the additional weight of all the bags each person has. Most people fly with one or two bags, each weighing 50lbs or less and in our case, some people also had additional bags carrying scientific equipment.

Figure 2: A typical foggy day in Dutch Harbor, Monday, July 19th, 2010

Weight in an airplane causes the plane to use more fuel and smaller airplanes cannot carry as much fuel as the other airplanes, such as Boeing 737 aircraft, commonly used for longer commutes by larger airlines. Because of the distance between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, full flights generally need to make a stop in the small villages of King Salmon or Cold Bay to refuel. Other difficulties faced by the airport in Dutch Harbor are that the airstrip is a “daylight only” landing zone and the weather can be quite hazardous. Winds reaching up to 90 mph are not uncommon and in the summer, low fog becomes a visibility issue. If the pilots do not have a specific range of visibility, they cannot land. Therefore, the necessity of refueling in Cold Bay or King Salmon is critical because many times when the plane reaches the airport and hazardous weather conditions are preventing a safe landing, the airplane must have enough fuel to circle the airport in hope for a sliver of time when landing conditions are safe and, if necessary, enough fuel to fly all the way back to King Salmon or Cold Bay. Again, weight is an issue in the fuel consumption of an airplane and therefore, on full flights, the airplane must sometimes “bump” bags, which means that sometimes your checked bag will not make it on the flight you are on and will be scheduled on a later flight. This of course isn’t a bad plan except that the weather in Dutch can change from one extreme to the next in a matter of fifteen minutes. In our case, to add to the difficulty of getting our bags, it was explained to us that because the air had become warmer, it lessened the lift on the airplane which was another reason why the planes did not carry very many bags that day. With all these important technicalities, one could maybe understand why flying into Dutch Harbor can be difficult. Therefore, some people have successful flights and others experience the “flight to nowhere” which involves flying part or the entire three hours to Dutch Harbor, circling or waiting in Cold Bay, and then flying back to Anchorage. One could say that you are not a local until you have experienced this situation a few times!

Personal Log:

My first day on the boat proved to be interesting as I quickly learned my way around the ship. I sometimes make the analogy of myself being like a rat in a maze trying to find the cheese. In a way it is accurate because the cook on board has made some fantastic dinners and I’ve been successful at finding the mess hall by simply following my nose! For supper on Monday night, we had a buffet-style dinner and I was pleasantly surprised with the menu as I helped myself to prime rib and king crab legs!

Figure 3: Me in front of the Oscar Dyson, Monday, July 19th, 2010 (notice the extreme weather change!)

On Tuesday, we were able to get underway at approximately 1300. Before pulling away from the dock, we needed to test our FRB (Fast Rescue Boat) to make sure it was functional in the possible event of an emergency. Once we knew the FRB was functional, we hauled it back onto the boat. As soon as we began to move, I went to the flying bridge (the highest deck on the ship) to catch a glimpse of Dutch Harbor and to watch the local birds sitting on the water. Most of the birds I saw were tufted puffins. I always find them amusing because if you get near them when they have eaten too many fish, they try to fly away but their belly is too heavy. Therefore they simply skim over the water, wings flapping intensely, and bellies dragging over the top of the water!

Figure 4: Lead Fisherman Dennis Boggs and Skilled Fisherman Mike Tortorella testing the FRB

Some advances in healthcare that I am extremely excited about is that I have found a seasickness medication that does not knock me out in under 5 minutes and that works for a long period of time. Thank you Meclizine!
Currently we are underway and have approximately 381 miles northwest to travel before we make our waypoint which will take approximately 28 hours. As of right now, my job has been to get acclimated to the ship. Work will begin Thursday at sunrise, about 0700).  My current shifts will run from 0400h to 1600h each day. I cannot wait to begin the first part of my assignment!

Animals Spotted By Me Today:
Blackfooted Albatross
Tufted Puffin
Seagull
Sea Otter
Fur Seal

Something To Ponder:
Regarding NOAA fish surveys, such as the Pollock Survey I’m participating in, what impacts would the scientific information collected have on the fishery industry regarding revenue and long term success?

Allan Phipps: Teacher from South Florida to Test the Waters in Alaska! June 29, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Allan Phipps
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 23 – August 10, 2012

Mission:  Alaskan Fisheries Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise:  Bering Sea Shelf
Date:  June 29, 2012

Introductory Log

Greetings from Washington, D.C. and from South Florida!  My name is Allan Phipps and I am a teacher from South Plantation High School’s Everglades Restoration and Environmental Science Magnet Program in Plantation, Florida (part of the greater Fort Lauderdale metropolis area).  I teach Advanced Placement Environmental Science, a course entitled Solar & Alternative Energy Honors, and serve as a senior research advisor.

Allan Phipps at Capital Building in DC
Einstein Fellow Allan Phipps at the Capital Building in DC

This year, I have had the distinct pleasure to serve as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow here in Washington, D.C. at the National Science Foundation.  While at the NSF, I have worked with both the Noyce Scholarship Program and the Math Science Partnership, both of which focus on improving the quality and quantity of highly qualified new STEM teachers in high-needs school districts across the country.  It has been a wonderful experience working at the NSF and with pre-service teachers.  I have also worked with the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math & Science Teaching program that is operated through the NSF.  As a former PAEMST awardee, it was great to be able to work behind the scenes to reward outstanding teachers!  A highlight of my experience here in D.C. was when I spoke at the White House Environmental Education Summit!  I discovered the NOAA Teacher at Sea opportunity while here in Washington, D.C. working with the Einstein Fellows.

Solar Knight III racing at the Texas Motor Speedway

At South Plantation High, I am the sponsor of our Solar Knights Racing Team that has won 1st place in the nation twice in the past six years at the high school level Solar Car Challenge (see video below)!  We have been building and racing solar cars at the high school level for six years!  Two of the races we have competed in were cross-country, the latest of which went from Fort Worth, Texas to Boulder, Colorado over 7 days in July 2010.  Last year’s race was a track race at the Texas Motor Speedway.

Here I am with students helping deploy reef balls in south Florida.

I also sponsored our school’s Project ORB (Operation Reef Ball) and deployed thirty 500-1,500 lb concrete reef balls off the coast of

South Florida to encourage coral colonization and propagation to offset some of the damage done to our beautiful South Florida coral reefs.   Recently, I had the privilege of presenting a poster session about our Project ORB at the European Geophysical Union conference in Vienna, Austria!

One of my students, Carson Byers, takes the solar kayak out for a test drive.

One of my favorite senior projects was a solar-powered kayak, which would improve accessibility to the Florida Everglades as well as other coastal environments for persons with disabilities.  I really enjoyed this project as it blended my passion for alternative energy with my love for getting out on the water.  This project won the WOW Award at the Florida Solar Energy Center’s Energy Whiz Olympics!

Now, I am incredibly excited about the opportunity to sail aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska!  This will officially be the furthest north I have ever traveled!  As we experience climate change, particularly in areas near the poles where the effects of climate change are more dramatic, it is important to study these changes and how they affect economically important species such as the Alaskan or Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalcogramma).  Walleye Pollock is said to be the largest remaining supply of edible fish in the world, and is the fish used in high quality breaded and battered fish products, fish sticks, and surimi (also known as “imitation crabmeat”).  Many fast food restaurants commonly use Walleye Pollock in their fish sandwiches.  It is important that this fishery be monitored and maintained so that harvest remains sustainable.  I hope that I may enlighten my students about their impacts on the environment when they decide what they will eat so they may become more conscientious consumers.

What’s Next?

I am getting ready to head out to sea and am really looking forward to working with the scientists on board the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson!  While my blog will be geared towards my AP Environmental Science students, I hope that people of all ages will follow me along my journey as I learn about the science behind maintaining a sustainable fishery.  I also hope to inspire my own students, and others, about the career opportunities in STEM associated with NOAA.  Stay tuned!

Lindsay Knippenberg: A Tour of the Oscar Dyson, September 8, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 8, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 54.14 N
Longitude: -166.57 W
Wind Speed: 27.33kts
Wave Height: up to 17 ft
Surface Water Temperature: 8.4 °C
Air Temperature: 7.7 °C

While hiding from the storm in Dutch Harbor for the past two days, I had plenty of time to explore my new home onboard the Oscar Dyson. The Dyson is 209 ft in length and is like a small city. Everything that I would need during my two-week cruise, including a laundry room, would be available to me onboard. To show you what life is like onboard a ship, I decided to go on a little tour of the Dyson and take some pictures of the different areas of the ship. If you are interested in  more in-depth specifications of the ship, check out the Oscar Dyson’s website.

Science and Technology Log

Let’s start in the scientific areas of the ship. I have been spending most of my time working with the fisheries team in the fish lab. When we are done trawling and the fishermen bring in the net, they dump our catch onto a large conveyor belt. As the conveyor belt slowly moves, we sort our catch by species. Once we are done sorting, we also process the catch by weighing, measuring, and taking samples of the organisms. To learn more about this process, see my blog post from September 4th.

The Fish Lab. This is where the fish are brought in and processed.
The Fish Lab. This is where the fish are brought in and processed.

Next to the fish lab is a wet lab. A lot goes on in the wet lab. Some scientists are identifying plankton under microscopes, other scientists are dissecting fish stomachs to see what the fish are eating, and some scientists are filtering water from different depths of the ocean looking for chlorophyll.

The Wet Lab. Scientists study the ocean water, use microscopes, and dissect fish stomachs in this lab.
The Wet Lab. Scientists study the ocean water, use microscopes, and dissect fish stomachs in this lab.

When you pass through yet another door, you end up in another lab called the dry lab. There are several computers and other pieces of machinery that control the instruments that are lowered over the side of the ship at our sampling stations. This room is where a lot of the oceanography data is collected. I will talk about what they do and the data that they are collecting in another blog.

The Dry Lab. Jeanette is watching the data come in from one of the instruments.
The Dry Lab. Jeanette is watching the data come in from one of the instruments.

The last lab is across the hall and it is called the acoustics lab. This room is mostly composed of computers and lots of large screens to track where the fish are underneath the boat. Stay tuned for more on acoustics later.

The Acoustics Lab. Paul is using acoustics to watch the fish swim under the boat.
The Acoustics Lab. Paul is using acoustics to watch the fish swim under the boat.

Personal Log

I know that many of you have been wondering…Where do I sleep? What do I eat? What do I do when I am not playing with fish? And do I get to take a shower after playing with fish all day? Hopefully these pictures will help you to get a better idea of what life is like on the ship. It is no cruise ship, but I’m not “roughing it” by any means.

Let’s start with my room. The rooms are actually a lot larger than I thought that they would be. Everyone has a roommate and I am sharing a room with the Chief Scientist, Ellen Martinson. Each room has two bunks, a desk with an internet connection, two lockers for storing gear, a refrigerator, drawers for more storage, and a bathroom.

Mine and Ellen's room.
Mine and Ellen's room.

Ahh…the bathroom. Each room has its own bathroom with a sink, shower, and toilet. Before I got here I had imagined having one large bathroom for each floor or group of rooms, so this was a pleasant surprise. Even better was that it was much larger than any bathroom I have ever seen on a boat. The shower even has a bar to hold onto when you are trying to shower in rough seas, which I have found quite useful.

My Bathroom...it's so huge for a boat.
My Bathroom...it's so huge for a boat.

So what do I eat? It is more like what have I not eaten. The food has been excellent and there is always a variety of choices to choose from. Breakfast is from 07:00 – 8:00 and consists of eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes or french toast, oatmeal, and today there was even quiche. I’m not a big breakfast person so I have been eating cereal and fruit for most breakfasts. Lunch is from 11:00 – 12:00 and is my favorite meal of the day. The cook makes amazing soups and there is usually a good sandwich to pair it with. If you don’t want soup and sandwich, there is usually burgers, quesadillas, or chicken fingers to choose from. If you don’t think that you can make it until 17:00 (or 5pm) when dinner is served again, don’t worry. There are usually fresh-baked cookies in the galley at around 15:00. If you still are hungry at dinner time, then you are in for a treat. So far for dinner I have had pork chops, spaghetti, leg of lamb, steak, and chicken ala king. Of course you would have to finish dinner with dessert and coffee. How about homemade chocolate cake and a scoop of ice cream? And you can’t just serve a regular cup of coffee. How about a mocha latte made from the espresso machine in the galley?

The Galley. Lots of good food can be found here.
The Galley. Lots of good food can be found here.

What happens if you eat too much and get sick? Don’t worry, the ship has a medical officer and infirmary if you need medicine. We have had some pretty rough seas during our cruise so it is nice to know that there is somewhere that I can go if I am feeling sick or if I need more medicine.

Not feeling well. Don't worry, the ship has a medical officer and infirmary.
Not feeling well? Don't worry, the ship has a medical officer and infirmary.

What do I do when I’m not playing with fish in the fish lab? Well, there are lots of things to do to keep yourself busy. You could workout in one of two workout rooms. You could choose from over 500 movies to watch in the lounge. You could clean your fish-smelling clothes in the laundry room. My personal favorite is to go up to the bridge and check out what is going on outside. From here you can see for miles and there are usually lots of seabirds to see and if you are lucky you can even see a whale or porpoise passing by.

Wash your dirty clothes at the ship's laundry room.
Wash your dirty clothes at the ship's laundry room.

Relax in the lounge and watch a movie.
Relax in the lounge and watch a movie.

Eat too many cookies today? Work off those extra calories in one of the ships two workout rooms.
Eat too many cookies today? Work off those extra calories in one of the ships two workout rooms.

Check out the bridge to look for sea birds and whales.
Check out the bridge to look for sea birds and whales.

Lindsay Knippenberg: I Made It! September 3, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lindsay Knippenberg
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4 – 16, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: September 3, 2011

Weather/Location Data for Unalaska, AK
Latitude: 53°54’0”N
Longitude: 166° 32′ 36″ W
Wind Speed: Calm
Air Temperature: mid 50’s°F

Personal Log

It was a long day of traveling. I flew from Washington DC to Seattle to Anchorage to Cold Bay to Dutch Harbor.
It was a long day of traveling. I flew from Washington DC to Seattle to Anchorage to Cold Bay to Dutch Harbor.

Whew…I made it to Unalaska. After an entire day of sitting on airplanes and running through airport terminals, I am finally here. I can’t believe how beautiful it is here. The surrounding mountains are a stunning green color and there have even been some sightings of blue sky between the normal grey clouds. I am also amazed at how warm it is. It almost got up to 60°F today, but I was told that the weather can change here pretty quickly. We have already heard of bad weather coming our way next week. The National Weather Service issued a Gale Warning with predictions of wind gusts of up to 50 knots and waves above 20 feet. I had better take my seasickness medications.

The beautiful town of Unalaska.
The beautiful town of Unalaska.

We don’t ship out until tomorrow, so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and explore Unalaska. Unalaska is much bigger than I thought that it would be. It is a major international fishing port and is one of the larger cities in Alaska with about 4,000 residents. Life in Unalaska revolves around fishing. Most residents are either commercial fishermen, work in the processing facilities, support the fishermen through stores and other services, or work in the ship yards where the seafood is shipped to all parts of the world. The name of the harbor where all of this is going on might be familiar to you. It is called Dutch Harbor and is where the show “Deadliest Catch” is filmed about the commercial crab fishermen. Crab is not the only type of commercial seafood coming out of Dutch Harbor. Pollock, Cod, Halibut, Rock Sole, and Mackerel are just a few of the other commercial fisheries in Dutch Harbor.

A World War II bunker on top of Bunker Hill in Unalaska (Photo Credit: Jillian Worssam).
A World War II bunker on top of Bunker Hill in Unalaska (Photo Credit: Jillian Worssam).

For those of you interested in history, Dutch Harbor also has historical significance from World War II. Dutch Harbor was the only land in North America, besides Pearl Harbor, that was bombed by Japanese Zeros during World War II. In our exploring around the island today, we saw evidence of Armed Forces’ bunkers, Quonset huts, and barracks still visible amongst the green hills of Unalaska. The National Park System opened a WWII National Historic Area and Visitor Center in 2002 in Unalaska and I hope to have time to visit it either before or after my cruise.

Enjoying the beach at Summer Bay in Humpy Cove. In 1997 this was the site of a 47,000 gallon oil spill.
Enjoying the beach at Summer Bay in Humpy Cove. In 1997 this was the site of a 47,000 gallon oil spill

What’s the best place to go on a beautiful, sunny day in Unalaska? The beach, of course. We didn’t go to the beach to get sun tans or to go for a swim. We went to check out the tide pools. I love tide pools! It is amazing how resilient the little creatures are that live in the tide pools. When the tide is in they are completely submerged under water and then six hours later they are above the water level when the tide goes out. To make life even harder, they are also smashed by huge waves crashing on them as the tide goes in and out. It is a tough life, but there was such a diversity of life that they must be pretty tough and have some helpful adaptations. As I explored amongst the rocks, I found sea anemones, barnacles, mussels, and lots of different types of seaweeds. On our way back to the van, we also found a stream leading back to a brackish lake and the salmon were running. They are amazing creatures to watch too. The amount of energy that they exert and the sacrifice that they make to reproduce is incredible.

I am now a member of the female dominated science team onboard the Oscar Dyson.
I am now a member of the female dominated science team onboard the Oscar Dyson.

Unfortunately we couldn’t spend our entire day exploring. The plan for the rest of the day is to get settled onboard the Dyson, have a science team meeting to discuss the science that we will be doing and the logistics associated with the different stations and sample sites, and have a safety meeting with the crew of Dyson to discuss life onboard the ship and emergency situations. I am so excited to go out to sea tomorrow and actually start fishing.

Kevin Sullivan: Bering Sea Bloom, August 28 – September 2, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin C. Sullivan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
August 17 — September 2, 2011

Mission: Bering-Aleutian Salmon International Survey (BASIS)
Geographical Area:  Bering Sea
Date:  August 28 – September 2, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude:  56.95N
Longitude: 162.93 W
Wind Speed:  10 Knots
Surface Water Temperature: 10.5 C
Air Temperature:  55F
Relative Humidity: 97%

Science and Technology Log:

Well, at this time tomorrow, the Oscar Dyson will be tied up in port at Dutch Harbor.  This is our end destination for Leg I of the BASIS survey.  I will write-up a summary/conclusion either at that time or shortly after getting back into town.  For now, I will fill you in on some material that I promised.  As noted in earlier blogs…I have been intentionally writing in a trophic bottom up approach.  That is, I started my first blog entries with descriptions of the primary producers, the Phytoplankton.  I covered this extensively and correlated it to the oceanographic work that has been going on aboard this ship.  It seemed logical to work from the base of the food chain and work my way up the trophic levels to the more complex consumers.

However, before I close the chapter on Phytoplankton take a look at the picture I took below.  When I stepped outside and saw this, I thought I had been transported to the Caribbean.  Clear skies, calm seas, tropical blue waters are not typical descriptions for the Bering Sea.  If you look closely enough, you can even see the shadow of the clouds on the surface of the sea.   Science is the field of making observations, forming hypothesis, designing and conducting experiments and drawing conclusions about the natural world we live in.  So…what would you make of this observation?  What has caused this temporary “mirage” of tropics?  Clearly something is going on here.

Coccolithophores
Coccolithophores 08-28-11

Well, although not 100% certain, the most likely explanation is what would be called a Coccolithophore bloom.  These are single-celled algae which are characterised by special calcium carbonate plates as seen in photo below under magnification.

Coccolithophore
Coccolithophore

Under certain conditions, (some speculate that wind pattern changes fail to mix the water column favoring cocolithophore blooms as opposed to other plankton) coccolithophores can create large blooms turning the water brilliant shades of blue pending on the species of coccolithophore blooming at the time.  Ed (Chief Scientist) was telling me of a major bloom that had occurred back in the late 90’s.  I researched it a bit and the following picture is of this bloom in the same general vicinity where we are now.  Amazing to think of how microscopic plants can influence a region on the scale of an entire sea and be seen from space. *Note: this is not a false colored Image

Coccolithophore Bloom 98 Bering Sea
Coccolithophore Bloom 98 Bering Sea

There is also some speculation that these types of blooms may be linked to sub-average runs of salmon (and even impact seabirds negatively in the area).  Some hypothesize that this may be due to the idea that salmon prey heavily upon euphausiids (see picture I took below on 08-28-11 and the one centered beneath for a closer look taken from NOAA) and the euphausiids have difficulty subsiding on the extremely small coccolithophores.  Remember what I was saying about visualizing the flow of energy as a pyramid and the effects of taking out a few or many blocks that make up the base of the food chain.

euphausiids 08-28-11
euphausiids 08-28-11

Euphasiid
Euphasiid

Ok, to make this easier for the reader, I am going to stop this blog here and start a new one dedicated to the zooplankton…..I got a little sidetracked with the whole coccolithophore bloom event…….

Personal Log

Earlier this morning we were greeted with some higher winds and consequently some larger seas.  As my friend back East says conditions got “Sporty.”  Here is a picture from where we launch the CTD.  Winds were out of the SW gusting to 30 knots and seas were in the 10′ range with some larger swells thrown into the mix to keep things interesting.

Bering 09-01-11
Bering 09-01-11

Caroline Singler, August 31, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean
Date of Post: 31 August 2010

Back to School – Tuesday 31 August 2010

Midnight in the Arctic Ocean
Midnight in the Arctic Ocean

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 31 August 2010 Time of Day: 00:00 (12:00 a.m. local time); 07: UTC
Latitude: 76 º 37.6 ‘ N Longitude: 138 º 31.2 ‘ W
Ship Speed: 8.7 knots Heading: 197 º (SSW)
Air Temperature: 0.19 ºC/ 32.3 ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1009.0 mb
Humidity: 98.8 %
Winds: 6.3 knots W Wind Chill: -5.3 ºC/ 22.4 ºF
Sea Temperature: -0.3 ºC Salinity: 25.32 PSU
Water Depth: 3666.9 m
This is a special message for my new Earth Science students, members of the class of 2014 who are participating in 9th Grade Orientation at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School today. I am sorry that I cannot be there with you. I am excited to be your teacher this year – you are important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you when I return. You are in the caring and capable hands of Mrs. Iskandar during my absence. Please be respectful of her and thank her for agreeing to cover my classes for the next week in addition to her normal responsibilities in the Science Department.
As you can see, I am a bit too far north to get there on time. I am currently in the Arctic Ocean on board the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The ship icon on the map below shows where I was at midnight on 31 August, which was 3 a.m. in Massachusetts. The red lines on the map show different places that we have been during the last month.

Map of Locations
Map of Locations

We left Dutch Harbor, Alaska (pictured on the right) on Monday 2 August, cruised North through the Bering Sea, and have been in the region of the Arctic known as the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin for the last four weeks. I am here participating in an oceanography research expedition as a representative of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. The research mission is called the Extended Continental Shelf Project. It is an international, multiyear effort between the United States and Canada to map the seafloor and the subsurface in the Arctic Ocean off the coasts of the two countries. Healy (pictured on right) and the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St. Laurentare both icebreaker ships designed specifically for scientific expeditions in the polar regions. We made it as far north as 82.5º North and are now moving south again. There is still ice around us now, but not as much as we saw just a few days ago. I have been taking a lot of pictures, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Here are just a few from the last couple of days.

USCGS Cutter Healy
USCGS Cutter Healy

Arctic ocean at night
Arctic ocean at night

Louis at Sunset
Louis at Sunset

A week from now, on Monday, 6 September, we will leave the Healy by helicopter at Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. I expect to be back at school on Friday, 10 September.

Ice
Ice

Breaking Ice
Breaking Ice

Before then, I hope you will take some time to look through my blog and read about some of the things I have seen and done. Then, I would appreciate it if you would send me a short email at this address: caroline.singler@healy.polarscience.net Introduce yourself to me and then either make a comment or ask a question about the Arctic, either based on something you read in my blog or just something you wonder about and would like to know. I will do my best to answer all your questions, and I will give you an extra credit homework grade for your effort.

Enjoy your first week of high school. Don’t get too overwhelmed by the size of the building or the crazy way the class schedule works. You will get used to it in no time. Have fun.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. I will see you soon.
Miss Singler

Caroline Singler, July,28 – August 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

The Journey Begins – 28 July to 1 August 2010

Approaching Dutch Harbor
Approaching Dutch Harbor

I left home at 5:30 a.m. on Thursday 28 July for what ended up being nearly 20 hours of travel. At the end of the day, I was exhausted but relieved to have successfully reached my destination, Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The trip from Anchorage to Dutch is 790 miles but required 2 refueling stops along the way and took more than 3 hours. It’s never a sure bet that a plane will be able to land, so we were fortunate to make a safe landing in the rain and wind.

View from Unisea Inn
View from Unisea Inn

While in Dutch Harbor, I stayed at the Unisea Inn. It’s not exactly luxury accomodations,and I couldn’t believe there was actually a hotel there when the shuttle driver dropped me off, but it was clean and there was lots of hot water, and my room looked out over the small boat harbor, which was much nicer than the nearby fish processing plants! I spent the last few days wandering around Dutch Harbor and Unalaska. The cool weather was a welcome relief after the hot, humid summer we’ve had back home. I did have to pull out the rain gear, but while it’s often cloudy, it rarely rains for long. The sky is constantly changing, and as the sky changes, everything around looks different as well. It’s been great to just be out walking around since I will be on a ship for the next 5 weeks. Here’s a view of Dutch Harbor from a hill near town.

View of Dutch Harbor
View of Dutch Harbor

Bald Eagles
Bald Eagles

Puffins
Puffins

When I woke up this morning, I realized it was the last time I’d wake up on land for a while. That was a strange feeling. Late this afternoon we boarded the Healy. I unpacked my bags and I’m ready to go, but we don’t leave port until tomorrow afternoon. I’ll post more after I’ve learned more about the ship’s computer system.Caroline

Caroline Singler, August 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

We’re Off! – A look back at Monday 2 August 2010

USCGC Healy
USCGC Healy

We left the port of Dutch Harbor on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy at 1500 on Monday, 2 August 2010. I first saw the Healy from a distance. While walking through Unalaska on Friday morning, I stopped to take some photos looking back towards Dutch Harbor across Iliuliuk Bay and I saw a red and white ship at a distant dock. I couldn’t read the writing on the side, but a local fisherman stopped to talk to me and told me that I was looking at an ice breaker, so I knew it must be Healy. We boarded the ship on Sunday afternoon, and it is much more impressive up close.

USCGC Healy
USCGC Healy

It’s such a huge ship that I hardly noticed a change in sound or movement when they fired up the engines. Standing on one of the weatherdecks looking over the bow of the ship, I was unaware that we were moving until I walked around to the starboard side and realized that the space between us and the dock was increasing. I wandered around taking photos as we made our way towards open water. Dutch Harbor is located on a small island called Amaknak Island – the peak on the right is Mt. Ballyhoo.

Dutch Harbor
Dutch Harbor

As we made our way into more open water, I took a photo of a prominent sea stack which someone told me is Priest Rock, a landmark often referred to on “Deadliest Catch”.

Priest Rock
Priest Rock

I spent the first day learning my way around the ship and attending various briefings. I quickly realized that when I’m inside, I have no sense of direction. My stateroom is on the port side of the 02 deck, right across from Sick Bay (which I hope I will not need) and not far from the Science Conference Room, so I can orient myself if I can find my room. So far, the only sign that we are at sea is a gentle rocking motion and the occasional sound of the fog horn. Here’s the view from my stateroom, taken a few hours after we left port.

View from Porthole
View from Porthole

An important part of the first briefing was learning about what to do during a ship emergency. If we were to ever have to abandon ship, each person on the boat must don a survival suit, affectionately referred to as the Gumby suit. It looked pretty easy when demonstrated by one of the “Coasties”. However, watching and doing are certainly two different things, so anyone who had never tried one on before was required to do so. I cannot explain the eerie feeling of getting into one and zipping it up and realizing that in an emergency, my ability to do that again might mean my survival. It was much more difficult than it looked, and I definitely needed help finding all the straps and attachments. I hope it is the last time I’ll ever have to do that. Here I am in my suit together with Jerry, another member of the team. It’s a stylish look, don’t you think?

In our Gumby Suits
In our Gumby Suits

Now that we are underway, I will begin to learn about the science on our mission and will write about it in my logs. I’m going to switch to the more formal log format recommended by the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. Feel free to comment or email if you have any questions about my log, if you are curious about life at sea, or if you just want to say hello.Caroline

Story Miller, July 27, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 27, 2010

Time: 1940 ADT
Latitude: 60°28N
Longitude:177°51W
Wind: 8 knots (approx. 9.2 mph or 14.8 km/h)
Direction: 270° (W)
Sea Temperature: 9.2°C (approx. 48.6°F)
Air Temperature: 9.1°C (approx. 48.4°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1007
Swell Height: 1 foot (about 30.5 cm)
Wave Height: 0-1 foot (about 30.5 cm)

Scientific Log: 

Me with a pollock
Me with a pollock

There are many different groups of people working aboard the ship, Oscar Dyson – Scientists, NOAA Corps officers, Deck Hands, Engineers, Survey Technicians, and Cooks. Within the science department, there are 12 members aboard and two Teachers at Sea which totals to 14 souls. For this third leg of pollock surveys, the chief scientist is Taina Honkalehto. Her job aboard the ship is to plan the scientific activities and make the decisions on how best to carry out that plan. Of the scientist crew, there are two Russian scientists that are conducting their own research in collaboration with NOAA.

This pollock survey, which focuses on determining abundance and distribution, is an important component of the fishing industry in the United States. According to The Bering Sea Project, “The largest concentrations of pollock occur in the eastern Bering Sea,” and more specifically, “Walleye pollock support the largest single commercial fishery in the U.S., producing the largest catch of any one species inhabiting the 200-mile US Exclusive Economic Zone.” Additionally, the pollock industry is incredibly important to the people living in Dutch Harbor and Unalaska because pollock is one of the main fishes processed there and has helped classify Dutch Harbor as America’s #1 fishing port in the USA for fish landed (NOAA, 2009).

View of a spread out group of pollock as seen from
the computer screen. Notice in the far right corner a
red spot. That shows that at that location,
the fish are densely packed. The red, yellow,
and green-blue line represent the seafloor.

There are two summer surveys being conducted to estimate the Bering Sea pollock population: Acoustic-Trawl Survey and the Bottom-Trawl Survey. Currently on the Oscar Dyson we are conducting the Acoustic -Trawl Survey. After we catch the fish, we combine the acoustics, fish samples, and CTD deployment data, to draw conclusions that help us estimate population size and ecological factors of pollock. Remember, in order for pollock to live where they do, they need food and so when we extract stomach samples, we are looking for what pollock prey upon (mostly krill). Besides, food, other important aspects of their habitat must be in place for their survival. The CTD data –  water temperature, salinity, nutrients, oxygen, and chlorophyll – help us understand how the distribution of pollock has changed in past years and may also provide information about how it could change in the future.

However, not all of the scientists on board are collecting data related to pollock. Currently we have two other subgroups with one observing seabirds and the other observing marine mammals. The crew observing seabirds have a goal of observing species seen during the tour to determine seabird species distribution and abundance. The marine mammal observers are working to obtain current data on cetacean species distribution and abundance.

The Teachers At Sea (TAS), which currently include Obed Fulcar (New York, New York) and myself (Dutch Harbor, AK) have an important role of working under the scientists and other crew members to learn about the research being conducted in an attempt to bring real science into the classrooms.

A large group of fish scattered about from the perspective of the transducer.

Because acoustics is a major tool used in pollock survey, I feel it would be beneficial to provide a few details on how it works. Remember, referring to Blog #2 “the ship has Transducers that send pings of sound energy down through the ocean and when they hit some object, such as the bottom of the ocean or a fish, in this case they are hitting the swim bladders of the fish, some of the energy in the sound ping is returned to the ship and received by our echo sounding system in the acoustics lab of the ship.” It is important to note that the acoustics under the water are different than in the air because the pressure in each location is different. Inside the acoustics lab there are many different screens that display the pings at different frequencies of sound waves. We know that jellyfish tend to show up the best from the low frequencies. Acoustics is a good tool to use to study pollock because pollock is the primary fish species inhabiting the middle-waters of the Bering Sea shelf. For example, bottom fish are difficult to see because the acoustic signals from the seafloor are too strong and tend to hide the bottom fish signals. Acoustic signals that we see on the computer screen rely on the actual physiological make-up of the fish. Also, the behavior of pollock plays a role in how we can see them acoustically. For example, salmon do not swim in large schools like pollock. When we see large schools of pollock on the acoustic screens, density determines the color – blue usually is reflecting a couple fish whereas red represents a high density of fish – and the shape of the schools tend to be typical of pollock. Through acoustics, we are able to survey pollock over a wide area and gain information regarding their distribution and population.

Prior to fishing, we consistently monitor the screens as the ship travels up and down the rectangular transects you can see when you view the ship’s path on ShipTracker. When we observe schools of fish, we need to decide whether they are large enough to sample the fish with the trawl. Because we also want to target certain ages of fish, it is important to be able to estimate their size.

We can estimate size through a method using additional measurements from the acoustic data. We draw a box around an area that is not densely packed with pollock so it is easier to distinguish an individual acoustic image of a fish. The software we have gives us the average intensity of the acoustic pixels. We call this intensity target strength which translates to the size of the echo. Because the size of the swim bladder is proportional to the size of the fish, we can use the intensity of the echo off the swim bladder to estimate the size of the pollock. In short, target strength depends on the size of the swim bladder and features of the swim bladder can be used to predict fish size.

Acoustic image from the bridge. The bottom blue streak is a large group of fish that ducked under the net. The horseshoe shape is the net. The blue inside the horseshoe are the fish.

We can use an equation for calculating decibels to help us estimate the size of the fish in the school we might target.  For my friends and students who are math gurus, the equation is TS = 20Log(length cm) + b20. The b20 variable is different for different fish species and so for Walleye Pollock in the Bering Sea, b20 is -66. Therefore, the equation for Walleye Pollock is TSpollock = 20Log(length cm) – 66.

To provide an example of how the equation works, lets say that the average length of a two year-old pollock is 25 cm and that is the size we want to target. We take that 25 centimeters and “plug it” into the section of the equation that stands for length in centimeters. Scientific calculators are wonderful devices for logarithms as they have the Log function already installed, and if you plug in 20Log(25) – 66 into the calculator, the answer -38.4 translates into the target strength that would show up on the screen. So if we find schools of pollock and see that the target strength is close to -38.4, then we know the echosounder is observing two-year old pollock.

Once acoustics have determined that we need to fish, they send the coordinates they want the Officer of the Deck (OOD, a.k.a. the NOAA Corps officer on watch on the bridge) to follow and the officers drive the ship to the location. On the bridge of the ship, the scientists are able to see the acoustic screens and are able to keep an eye on the location of the fish, relative to the transducer underneath. From there the Lead Fisherman or Chief Bosun operates the machinery required to put the trawls in the ocean. After the large mesh net is placed in the ocean, the crew put on a sensor that measures water depth and temperature. They also install a tool, called a headrope unit, that is similar to a mini transducer which makes an image of the mouth of the net and allows the scientists to watch fish entering the net from the bridge.

Senior Survey Technician, Kathy Hough, and Ordinary Seaman, Frank Footman, installing the head-rope unit.

Once the fish are caught, the deck crew will draw the nets back onto the boat using hydraulics. From the stern (back of the boat), the fish go into the fish lab on a conveyer belt where we sort, sex, measure, and extract stomachs and otoliths. Since being on the ship, during my shift we have been averaging two trawls per day.

How is the information we collect used?
On the ship, we are collecting raw data, entering into our computers, and analyzing what we see. From there, we can draw conclusions based on what we have observed from our samples. However, there are other scientists at work here. For example, perhaps you are interested in working with computers and want to be involved with wildlife. Some of the scientists help design the computer programs we use and maintain them. Perhaps boat life is not your “cup of tea.” All the stomach and otolith samples we collect need to be sent into a lab to be analyzed by a stomach or otolith expert. The data they compile from the samples we collect get added into our publication at the end of the survey. There are also scientists that compile our conclusions about what we saw on the ocean and they create models to show population trends and predict future abundance. From that information, a council of scientists, industry representatives, and others of interest, get together and determine things such as fishing quotas. Also, don’t forget that there are teachers, like me, aboard who take some of the scientific information or scientific processes and educate students about real science in the real world.
If you want to obtain a job working in the sciences department of NOAA, some courses of study that will increase your chances of becoming involved include but are not restricted to: Marine Biology, Chemistry, multiple levels of mathematics, Computer Science, Writing. Versatility is another key factor to consider for any job you may want to pursue as the more background information you have, the more information you can “bring to the table.” For example, perhaps you love music. An understanding of decibels and how sound is carried at different frequencies is incredibly useful in acoustical sciences. Foreign Language is always beneficial as you will continually work with people from all over the world and remember, there are two scientists currently on the ship who are from Russia! Therefore, in my opinion, don’t forget about your electives when choosing your courses because the more rounded you are, the greater your chances are for success!
Personal Log:

My morning started off fantastic as I was able to launch an XBT into the water again. By the time I was beginning to type this blog we passed over a school of pollock and decided that we needed to turn around and go fishing. Approximately two hours of sorting commenced before I was able to return. I learned that acoustics is a very difficult concept to explain as there are many factors in mathematics and physics that are complicated to translate into layman’s terms. I ended up spending a lot of time reading a textbook on the research the theories of using acoustics on wild fish. Please do not hesitate to ask in the comment box below this post if you have questions!!!

Overall, there was a good assortment of fish today and I stayed fairly busy in the fish lab collecting pollock sample data!

Me giving the fish a layer of water so that they slide down the
chute and onto the conveyor belt easier.

Animals Seen Today:
Walleye Pollock
Silver Salmon
Northern Fulmar
Parakeet Auklet
Short-tailed Shearwater
Least Auklets
Tufted Puffin
Thick-billed Murre
Northern Fur Seal

Something to Ponder:
Life at sea can be an amazing experience but there are many things people may take for granted when living on land. For example, consider the possibility of becoming hurt on the job, or developing a medical condition such as a rash or appendicitis. From the middle of the ocean, it is very difficult to reach a doctor to get a diagnosis. On board the ship, we have some medical supplies but typically there is not a licensed doctor on board the ship. Would you know how to respond to an emergency if it were to happen? If you have taken a First Aid or CPR class, do you remember what you need to do? How would you react? What would you do to reach help? Who could respond to your call?
For the Oscar Dyson we have the following protocols:
1. Contact the medical officer on board for an initial diagnosis.
2. If the condition requires advanced medical care, he or she will contact the medical officer on call at the NOAA Marine Operations Center.
3. In the case of an emergency and when the Marine Center cannot be contacted, he or she will contact the Maritime Medical Assistance (MMA).
4. If needed, we will arrange for a medevac (medical evacuation) which could involve the US Coast Guard and/or head back to port.

Obed Fulcar, July 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date:  July 20,2010

SCIENTIFIC INFO
Date: Tuesday July, 20, 2010
Time: 1240 pm
Latitude: 53.51 North
Longitude: 166.51 West
Wind: 7 knots (aprox. 8.055 mph)
Direction: 202 (south west)
Sea Temperature: 9.22 C (aprox. 48.596 F)
Air Temperature: 9.82 C (aprox. 49.676 F)
Barometric Pressure (millibars): 1023.8
ANIMALS ONSERVED
Bald Eagles

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

PERSONAL LOG:
Whoever said that “getting there is half the fun”? On Saturday July 17,2010 I took a Jet Blue flight from JFK airport bound to Seattle, Washington. We landed at about 6pm Eastern time, and connected to Anchorage, Alaska on Alaska Air. I had to stay overnight to catch the next day a plane to Dutch Harbor, mi final destination. It was very estrange that night since the sun was out up until about 12 midnight, so I had to trick my body into going to sleep by closing all curtains and darkening the room.
The next day I flew on Penair, a commuter airline that uses small Saab turboprop planes. After stopping over King Salmon island for refueling we flew to Dutch Harbor,in the Island of Unalashka. I was amazed at the beautiful bay surrounded by glacial carved mountains and a snow covered peak volcano. I was picked up at the airport by Story Miller, my fellow teacher at sea, who lives in Dutch Harbor. We drove around a kind of frontier town,surrounded by fishing boats, crab pods, and cannery factories.
The smell of fish tells you that fishing is the biggest industry and is part of the general culture around here. Finally upon entering a cargo entrance leading to a comercial pier,there she was:the Oscar Dyson.
This NOAA ship was named after a fioneer comercial fisherman who championed sustainable fisheries in Alaska for many years. After setting up my gear in my stateroom, I was invited to take a short hike up what was going to be a 1,200 feet mountain known as “Ballyhoo”with, with one of Dyson’s junnior NOAA Corps Officer Ensign Dave Rodziewicz. Upon reaching the summit, in about hour and half, which left me with sored legs, I was met with a 360 degree view of Dutch Harbor.

Me at the summit of Ballyhoo
Me at the summit of Ballyhoo

The mountain was covered with moss and flowers and I decided to call it a day and just below the clouds were passing by. All this surreal and wonderful view made me forget my aching legs. It was all worth it. Afterwards we came down the mountain and just when the sun was coming down around midnight I fell asleep in my bunk bed. Good night!
El pasado sabado 17 de Julio viaje en Jet Blue de NY hacia Anchorage, Alaska con escala en Seattle, Washington para el siguiente dia tomar un vuelo en un avion turbo-helice de la linea Penair hacia Dutch Harbor. Tan pronto llegue al barco de la NOAA Oscar Dyson deje mis cosas en mi cuarto y me fui a una caminata de campo. Lo que no me imagine era que iba a subir por una loma de cas 1,200 pies, con una vista increible en la cima. Lo mas raro fue el acostumbrarme a la luz solar de casi 24 horas, pues he tenido que cerrar las cortinas de my camarote para poder conciliar el sueno. Bueno nos vemos luego, Ciao!

Michele Brustolon, July 14, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 14, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 57.34N
Longitude: 173.35W
Cloud Cover: 2/8
Wind: 10 knots
Air Temperature: 8.50 C/ 470 F ater Temperature: 8.10 C/ 470 F arometric Pressure: 1021.4 mb

Science and Technology Log

Wish you could join the Oscar Dyson on its next journey? There are a number of ways you could come aboard:

  • Join NOAA Corps – NOAA Corps partake in officer training and complete years of service to earn officer ranks (such as the CO, XO, Operations Officer, etc). Unlike other military branches, NOAA Corps are required to hold a bachelor’s degree and have significant course work in math, science and/or engineering. (http://www.noaacorps.noaa.gov/index.html)

    Ensign Amber Payne
  • Become a Deckhand/Fisherman – NOAA employs wage mariners for their deck crew. The Oscar Dyson has both a deck and fishing crew to help keep the boat in order and to support the scientific research (moving the net, bringing the CTD in and out) (www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/wagemarine.pdf)

    Deckhands/Fishermen
  • Become a specialist – Beyond the deck crew, the ship needs specialists to help it run smoothly. We have a crew of amazing engineers, two great survey techs, and a Steward department that keeps us well fed (the food is delicious here!) (www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/wagemarine.pdf)

    Survey tech Robert Spina on watch
  • Work for the National Marine Fisheries Service – most employees join a trip to complete field research and to ensure data collection and processing for those back in the lab. The Oscar Dyson works primarily with scientists from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/)

    Chief Scientist, Neal Williamson
  • Work for another marine life service – As mentioned before, there are also birders (from the Fish and Wildlife commission) and mammalian observers (from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory). In addition, we are hosting two Russian scientists who are also studying pollock.

    Birder Nate Jones at Summer Bay
  • Serve as a NOAA Intern – NOAA has a variety of internship opportunities for graduate, undergraduate and even high school students. You can check out more information here: http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/internships_opps.html

    Intern Katie Wurtzell
  • Be like me and join a cruise as a Teacher At Sea – If you work in education (as a K-college teacher/administrator, an adult education teacher or a museum curator), you can apply to serve as a Teacher At Sea. Trust me, its awesome. (more information and application information can be found here: http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/

    TASs Michele & Rebecca

Personal log

Today was our last day of rising for our 0400 hour shift. The echo sounder was already in the water and the readings were being recorded. We were able to do a Methot early in the morning and it allowed us to see isopods and copepods along with the usual critters. It was a gorgeous day as the fog lifted early and the sun was out until the fog rolled back in around 2100 hours.

The perfect day!

While we didn’t use the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl) at all today, we made up for it yesterday since we fished a marathon- 3 times! Although a part of me wanted to fish one more time before this adventure begins to wind down, it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. With the sun out and the calm seas, the cetacean observers got their day. We saw everything from Dall’s porpoises, to fin whales, killer whales, and the new sighting of the day; sperm whales! I didn’t dare move to get my camera and I am glad I didn’t or I would not have seen its fluke gracefully come out of the water before it dove. After the excitement was over, it was time for dinner and the next entertainment of the evening; Taboo. It has been an ongoing competition between generations this entire leg.

Taboo: competition between generations

We started our transit into Dutch Harbor around 0400! It is going to take over 24 hours to get back into Dutch. Everyone that could, stayed up a little later with the excuse that breakfast isn’t until 0700 and we don’t have to get up for our shift at 0400! Helping out to make sure that everyone is ready to get off the boat and things are ready for Leg III is the focus. Robert scrubbed the wet lab for us so we just needed to tackle our foul weather gear and our boots. You have to remember that some people have been on the boat since early June and are going home while others just started with this leg and are continuing on Leg III. Once everything is ready for the next leg, I will probably take some time to swap pictures and contact information so I can keep in touch with people. Why is it that last weekend seemed like the end was never to be seen, but now I feel like I want to fish just one more time?

The long trek back to Dutch Harbor

New Animals Seen
isopods
copepods
sperm whales

Word of the Day
sagacious: having sound judgment

New Vocabulary- just as a reminder
CO: Commanding OfficerXO: Executive Officer

Michele Brustolon, July 7, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 7, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 56.30N
Longitude: 172.05W
Cloud Cover: 100% (8/8)
Wind: 16 knots
Air Temperature: 8.00 C/ 460 F
Water Temperature: 7.30 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb

Science and Technology Log

Where am I?
Life aboard a ship is difficult to comprehend until you have experienced it first hand. If you forget something, oh well, and you live with what you have for the duration of your leg. Planning ahead is huge for a mission to the Bering Sea! (Sound familiar students?!) Life at sea can be much slower than I think people believe it to be. On this particular type of cruise, much of the day is spent waiting, watching, and analyzing information. While everyone has their job, some of those jobs require patience and flexibility.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson anchored in Dutch Harbor

What happened?

Ever have that moment when a demonstration fails, the cool lab you worked so hard on doesn’t work, there’s a schedule change thrown into your day, or maybe that special dinner you were planning didn’t taste right? It happens on the boat too! You have to be prepared and understand that it is going to happen. Equipment failure, human error; they all happen on board. I arrived in Dutch Harbor on June 26th and we were scheduled for departure on June 27th. There was a broken crank shaft in one of the large generators so our departure from Dutch Harbor was an educated guess at best. Without the generator, we would be in short supply of fresh water for a ship holding 39 people until July 16th. There wasn’t anything that we could do so we took advantage of being in Dutch Harbor for a couple of extra days until we departed on June 29th. Maybe the copper wire was cut before it reached the bottom on an XBT or there was a hole in the trawl net that needed to be mended. That part of life on board is no different than any other environment.

It’s an albatross, an orca, a tree?

Talk about patience…the mammal observers have lots of it. They are on watch constantly looking along the horizon for blowholes and other signs of mammalian life. When observations are slow, anything in the water can become exciting. Earlier this week while I was on the bridge, the mammal observers called down from their observation deck to the bridge because there was an object in the water that we were getting closer to. You could feel the excitement from everyone growing as this magnificent object grew closer. We got our cameras ready because this could be “the” picture of the trip and positioned ourselves to take the shot of our lives. As we approached this rather large piece of unidentified matter, we realized that it was a piece of driftwood with murres hanging out on it. At this point, the adrenaline rushed out of me and laughter took over. None of us could believe how excited we became and how let down we were to find out it wasn’t a mammal at all. Back to the observation deck!

Looking toward the horizon through the “Big Eye”

You can’t force the fish!

My primary job on this boat is to help with the fish surveying. Using the acoustics helps decide when the trawl nets are deployed for fishing. In order for fishing to occur there needs to be at least 2-3 miles of pollock showing up on the transducer screens. Weather also plays a role on what we see on the transducers. We have been very pleased with the weather so far; although it has been foggy, that usually means calmer seas. Later in the week, the weather is supposed to get dicey. When this happens there is a chance that it will be too rough to fish even if we do see the pollock. Look for my journal on weather after the weekend! Since the start of our journey we have fished three times during my shift and deployed the Methot a few times. When we are not fishing we find other things to keep us busy. Some people are analyzing data, checking equipment, or if you are a teacher at sea, you may be documenting all of your experiences. I have never taken so many pictures! The down time gives me a chance to talk to others on the boat to see what other operations are happening. As my friends and family know, I have a hard time sitting still. This is the perfect place for me to be because I have no choice but to slow my pace! It’s REALLY hard, but I think I am doing a pretty good job!

What shift are you working?

Aside from the flexibility needed to work on the ship, you also need to be flexible and patient just to live on board. Remember, you can’t just leave the ship when you need a break! The boat runs 24/7 so there are lots of shifts on the boat. To give you an idea you may be on watch for 4 hours in the dead of the night, or you may be observing mammals from sunrise to sunset. I was lucky to land the 12 hour shift from 0400-1600, but the other fisheries crew comes on for the remaining 12 hours of the day. I say this because with a full crew of 39 people on board and with everyone working different shifts, there is etiquette on board a vessel. If you and your roommate do not have the same shift, it is the unwritten rule not to enter the room while they are sleeping. That means you need to take everything with you for that shift. Not everyone eats during the allotted times that the mess hall is open so food is often set aside so everyone can have their meals regardless of what shift they work. Taking showers need to be short because everyone would like to take a hot shower after 12 hours of working. Appropriate volume is important because there may be people sleeping in the stateroom next to you and you don’t want to wake them while they are trying to sleep when off shift (remember inside voices!). It makes you very aware of your surroundings. I absolutely lucked out because Rebecca (the other TAS) and I have the same shift and same schedule. We have it much easier than most people on the boat that have opposite shifts.

TAS shift- 0400-1600

TAS stateroom (where we sleep)

TAS stateroom (where we sleep)

Can anybody hear me?

Need time away from the hustle and bustle of life back on land? Need to take a break from your TV, cell phone, blackberry, I phone, and the internet…the Bering Sea is the place for you! Even though there is a phone on board that allows you to call off the ship, it is extremely expensive so it is definitely not for everyday use. Phones don’t work here so you can save the batteries in your cell phone or I phone for home. Most of them actually don’t even work on Dutch Harbor either. As far as the internet is concerned, that’s a little trickier. As you may have noticed, my journals took a while to be posted. It is very difficult to send information via internet from the Oscar Dyson. If we are traveling on a northern transect, we may not get internet the entire time. The transect itself could take 2 days to complete running at 12 knots! If we are turning or heading south, we may get lucky for a while. Therefore it takes time to get all the information and pictures sent just to be posted. It is very hard to be patient because I want everyone to know what’s happening and all the cool things we have been doing. Internet is sporadic at best, but keep the emails coming! It is nice to hear from everyone back home!

Transects for Legs I-III for 2010

Animals seen
murres
fulmars
brittle stars- Ophiura sp.
basket star
sand dollars
hermit crabs
2 types of cockles- Clinocardium sp. and Serripes sp.
Tanner crab
Aleutian moonsnail
Arctic moonsnail
jellies- Chrysaora melanaster
krill- euphausiids
amphipods
Dall’s porpoises
flounder- Kamchatka flounder
spiny lumpsucker

Basket star

Word of the day
Dupe: to deceive, fool

New vocabulary
Head: bathroom
Mess hall: cafeteria, where you eat your meals

Rebecca Kimport, JULY 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Rebecca Kimport
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2010 – July 19, 2010

Mission: Summer Pollock survey
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 1,  2010

Off to the Pribilofs

As a former student of community development (go fighting okra!), I am always interested in the social science aspects of communities and towns. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about Dutch Harbor/Unalaska and was very excited when I learned we needed to make a pit stop in St. Paul, the largest of the Pribilof Islands. I learned about the Pribilofs at the Museum of the Aleutians and was intrigued by the islands’ remote location, abundant wildlife and complex history. The islands were uninhabited until Russian fur traders forced Aleuts to relocate to the Pribilofs in the late 18th century to harvest fur seal. Many Aleuts endured centuries of servitude and continue to call the Pribilofs home. As reported on a sign at the edge of town, St. Paul is home to the largest Aleut community in the world.

St Paul Taxi
St Paul Taxi

Overnight, the Oscar Dyson had stopped to pick up an ice-flow sensor from a buoy and needed to ship it back to Seattle for another project. As we were close to St. Paul, the decision was made to send a small crew into port to transport the sensor to the airport. After expressing my enthusiasm for the Pribilofs (the fur seals! the reindeer! The “Galápagos of the North!”) to our CO (Commanding Officer Mike Hoshlyk), he allowed Katie, Michele and I to accompany Amber Payne and Joel Kellogg on their mission into port.

Off in the Zodiac
Off in the Zodiac

For our mission, we got decked out in our protective weather gear (complete with float coats – basically, a winter coat with a PFD inside). After days of bopping around the boat in regular clothes, it was exciting to get “dressed up” and go out on “official business.” The water was glassy and still as we rode on the small Zodiac through the fog into the cove on St. Paul’s.

We met a taxi at the dock and headed to the airport. Driving through town was an amazing experience as the dark volcanic soil, the rolling green mossy hills and the dense fog created the sense of another world. We were probably a surprising sight as well when the we arrived at the airport — imagine four women in full boat gear (Joel stayed back to watch the boat) hauling a heavy, silver box through the small, fog engulfed building.

Ghost Ship Oscar Dyson
Ghost Ship Oscar Dyson

Once we had secured shipment for the sensor, we headed back into the fog on our way back to the ship. The fog produced limited visibility as we rode out of the cove, although we were able to spot some sea lions. There was a moment when we were surrounded by fog and I was relieved when the ship appeared in front of us. It looked like an eerie ghost ship on the calm water.

Almost everyone was on deck when we returned, as of course they were eagerly awaiting our arrival to get back on course and continue our journey. While I am unlikely to visit the Pribilofs again, I am glad that I was able to see such a unique place.

Want more information about the Pribilofs? Check outhttp://www.amiq.org/aleuts.html

Animals Seen
Auklets
Murre (2 different types differentiated by bill type)
Puffins
Sea lions
(but no fur seals…not sure why as there should be several hundred thousand living amongst the islands but their numbers have been in decline. See here for more information)

Bonus picture: Katie, Michele and I in our full gear. Check out those rain pants!

Katie, Michelle and I in our full gear
Katie, Michelle and I in our full gear

Michele Brustolon, June 30th, 2010 part 2

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: June 30th, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1600 hrs
Latitude: 57.16 N
Longitude: 169.09 W
Cloud Cover: Dense fog
Wind: 11.56 knots
Air Temperature: 5.30 C/ 420 F
Water Temperature: 5.090 C/ 410 F
Barometric Pressure: 1005.02 mb

Science and Technology Log

Fishy Fish
Why Pollock?
Walleye Pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) is an important fish for Alaska (and the entire United States). Although you may not know it, you’ve probably eaten Pollock when you have enjoyed fish sticks, a fish sandwich at a fast food restaurant, or imitation crab meat. Walleye Pollock produce one of the largest catch of any single species within US waters and accounts for over half the groundfish catch in Alaska (see:http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/species/pollock.php for more information)

Acoustic Lab with Abigail McCarthy and Neal Williamson

How the Oscar Dyson helps? By surveying the Pollock populations within the Bering Sea, scientists can gather data on these important fish – including size, gender distribution, maturity rates, location, and diet.

How do we find the fish? Scientists work around the clock gathering data through acoustics to identify the locations of populations. The Oscar Dyson has five transducers located across the bottom of the ship on its centerboard. These transducers send out signals and the data are graphed on large computer screens in our Acoustics lab. While on shift, we eagerly await word that a fish population has been identified and await the trawl.

First trawl net to come up on Leg 2

Here I am getting ready to sort the first catch in my foul weather gear!

And the Trawl…
Luckily for me, fish were seen on my first shift and we conducted the trawl in the afternoon. The take varies based on the populations identified and the net may be out for two minutes or an hour. This first trawl was out for 45 minutes before the crew hauled it in. It was amazing how many seabirds were swarming around the net as it was pulled up and how many jellyfish were caught in the lines. The first task once the catch is brought on deck and placed in the fish table, is to sort the specimens. We had Pollock, Pacific cod, and 2 types of jellies. Once the catch was sorted, the fish were weighed and then sexed. After they were sorted into Blokes and Sheilas (males and females), the fish also had to be measured. A small sample was dissected to remove stomachs and otiliths (ear bones of Pollock that are used for aging the fish) for further study.

Abigail McCarthy and Kathy Hough taking samples of Pollock stomachs and otiliths

The wet lab

Personal Log

While this is a continuation of the first log (it was way too long!), it focuses on the why we are studying Pollock and how the first trawl went. No fishing was done until after lunch. When the net did come up, there were five of us in the wet lab where we processed the catch; Abigail McCarthy, Kathy Hough, Rebecca Kimport, Katie Wurtzell, and me. It was very interesting to see all the information that came from a sampling of Pollock: weight, length, sex, stomach contents, and otiliths (ear bones). This brought us to the end of our 12 hour shift at 1600 hours.

Exercise was next…running on the treadmill was by far the weirdest feeling as the boat is rolling you feel as though the incline is moving up and down on its own and you have to hold on at different times. This is with pretty calm seas too! Dinner was fabulous as always. We have been spoiled here on the boat with meals like king crab legs, salmon, prime rib, Jamaican jerk chicken. Now do you see why I have to try to exercise EVERYDAY!!! I think the hardest part right now is trying to get to bed early enough so when 0315 arrives, I can get up and going.

Workout room

Animals Seen on First Shift
Euphausiids
Jellies
Pollock!!!
Pacific Cod

New Vocabulary
Blokes: male Pollock
Sheilas: female Pollock
Otiliths: ear bones of Pollock that help age the fish (they have rings that are counted much like trees)

Michele Brustolon, June 30th, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey  
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)  
Date: June 30th, 2010  

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1600 hrs
Latitude: 57.16 N
Longitude: 169.09 W
Cloud Cover: Dense fog
Wind: 11.56 knots
Air Temperature: 5.30  C/ 420 F
Water Temperature: 5.090 C/ 410 F
Barometric Pressure: 1005.02 mb

Science and Technology Log

Time with Birds and Mammals
Once we finally left Dutch Harbor behind, I spent some time on the bow with birder, Nate Jones.

As I know very little about birds, I quizzed him on every flying specimen we encountered and used his binoculars to observe the birds up close. After a few sightings, I was able to identify the Fulmar by its unique wing movement (quick quick quick soar). We also saw tufted puffins and a black footed albatross. There are two birders on this leg who are responsible for scanning the horizon and counting and identifying the sea birds they observe from the bridge.  We were distracted from our bird watching by a call of orcas. I hustled up to the “flying bridge” to join the marine mammal observers. There are three “mammals” on this leg and they are constantly scanning the horizon with their “big eyes” to observe and identify cetaceans. I was able to observe two separate groups of orcas and heard that porpoises were also spotted.

Although I am technically on the fish shift, I hope to check in with the “birds” and “mammals” later in the cruise.

What’s in your water?
I began my shift this morning at 0400 and reported to the Acoustics Lab to meet with head scientist, Neal Williamson. In addition to Neal, my shift includes Abby McCarthy, a NOAA research fisheries biologist, Katie Wurtzell, awesome biologist and my fellow TAS Rebecca. We began the shift by observing our first CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth)  profiler which will be deployed approximately 10 times throughout our trip. The CTD measures conductivity, temperature, and depth (used to calculate salinity) and gathers samples to measure dissolved oxygen. In addition, fluorescence is measured to monitor chlorophyll up to a 100 m from the surface.

The CTD – measures Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth

After our first CTD, we completed our first Methot trawl. A Methot trawl is named after the scientist who designed the net used. A Methot grabs the creatures and collects them into a codend (to make it easier for us to process) at 30-40 m below the surface – our Methot collected jellies and euphausiids (also known as krill). My first duty was to sort through the “catch” to pick out jellies. Next, we measured the weight of the krill before counting a small sample. We also preserved a couple samples for use in larger studies.

Following our Methot, I observed the deployment of an XBT (eXpenable Bathymetric Thermograph). The XBT is used to measure quick temperature data from the surface to the sea floor. The data are graphed at depth vs. temperature to highlight the thermocline, which is where colder water meets water warmed by the sun. Here in the Bering Sea, the thermocline is not always noticeable as the water column is subject to mixing from heavy winds and shallow depths.

Methot – graphing temperature vs. depth – shift in graph shows thermocline.

Personal Log

As I approached Dutch Harbor, I began taking photos from the plane. It sounds crazy, but the landscape is like nothing I have ever seen. Once I was off the plane, my smile grew because of the crisp air and the smell of saltwater. After two days of travel I had finally made it to Dutch Harbor and my luggage made it with me! I was brought to the boat to drop off my bags and then into town to catch up with others on Leg 2. The Oscar Dyson was having work done on its large generator so we didn’t leave port until June 29 at 1430 hours. It actually gave me time to get to know a good portion of the people on this leg (the crew, scientists, “birders,” mammalian observers, and the stewards). I was also able to explore Dutch Harbor, Unalaska (we tried to find wild horses…no luck!), and take some walks from the Oscar Dyson. Some of the most common flowers and birds seen are the lupines, orchids, and bald eagles EVERYWHERE! They are incredibly loud too! They remind me of seagulls and squirrels back home because there are so many! Wednesday, June 30 was the first day of our 0400- 1600 work shift so we won’t see everyone until we are transiting back because of the different shifts. The Oscar Dyson has 40 bunks and we are occupying 39 of them-talk about a full ship! For information about what happens during our shift, take a look in the science and technology log. I am truly enjoying my time and there are plenty of people to make me laugh which is the best medicine when you are a tyro!

Dutch Harbor at low tide from the dock of
the Oscar Dyson

Dutch Harbor during a typical day

Animals Seen in Dutch Harbor

Bald eagles
Ground Squirrel
Sea Urchin
Sea Stars
Sea Cucumber
Pigeon Guillemont
Oyster Catchers
Mussels
Chiton
Limpets
Hermit Crabs
Snails
(but no horses…)

A Bald Eagle named “Charlie” sitting outside the Unisea Restaurant

Animals Seen in Transit

Orcas
Fulmars
Black Footed Albatross
Tufted Puffin

Animals Seen on First Shift

Euphausiids
Jellies
Pollock!!!
Pacific Cod

Word of the Day

Tyro: a novice or beginner

New Vocabulary:

CTD: (Conductivity Temperature Depth) A device used to measure conductivity, temperature and depth at specific locations within the Bering Sea

Methot: A net used for shallow trawls, named after the scientist

XBT: eXpendable Bathymetric Thermograph

Thermocline: the point when the temperature drops

Rebecca Kimport, JUNE 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Rebecca Kimport
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2010 – July 19, 2010

Mission: Summer Pollock survey
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 28,  2010

Dutch Harbor — Welcome to the Aleutians

After 14 + hours of traveling from the sweltering heat of DC to the snow capped mountains of Alaska, I finally arrived in Dutch Harbor late Friday evening and began to explore the town on Saturday. Due to some mechanical difficulties, our departure was delayed and we were given a couple bonus days in Dutch Harbor which I definitely used to my advantage.

The town of Dutch Harbor and the neighboring village of Unalaska are located on the island of Unalaska, the second largest island in the Aleutian Chain. It is referred to in some documents as the gateway to the Western Aleutians – containing an airport and a large commercial fishing operation. The majority of full year residents appear to live in Unalaska (which contains the school district and schools) while Dutch Harbor contains commerce to support the local processing plants and canneries. According to the local I quizzed, there are about 3000 full year residents of Dutch Harbor and Unalaska and several hundred more fishermen stopping through.

Unalaska was originally home to the Unangan people who survived for thousands of years off the fish and mammals found in the sea before the Russians arrived in the mid-eighteenth century. As described by the Museum of the Aleutians, the relationship was first hostile but evolved into something that was treasured. Many residents of Unalaska are Russian Orthodox and several have Russian surnames. The Russian Orthodox church was completed in 1825 and is one of the oldest in North America (here is a picture of the outside).

Church
Church

WWII Memorial
WWII Memorial

Unalaska became a United States territory in 1867 (as part of “Seward’s Folly”) and while there was some American presence – notably from fisherman seeking the bounty of the Bering Sea, there was not a great deal of contact until World War II. The US Military started fortifying Dutch Harbor in 1940 (building a variety of small bunkers known as pill boxes which were so embedded in the town, I didn’t even take a picture!). Japan must have been aware of this as the island was attacked on June 3-4, 1942. Numerous buildings were destroyed and dozens of people died. (Look up the “Battle of Dutch Harbor” for more information).

Although I would claim to have learned a great deal about World War II during the course of my education, I had no idea that a battle was waged on American soil after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (Check out the war memorial to the left). Further, I did not realize the cost of this battle to the native residents. Although there was a military base, the US government decided it was “too costly to secure and protect the residents” (according to a display at the Museum of the Aleutians) and instead, conducted mass evacuations soon after the attack. The residents were interred in camps in Southeast Alaska for the duration of the war. While visiting the Museum of the Aleutians, I watched a very powerful video on the untold story of this internment which included interviews from the survivors and told of harsh conditions and confusing information.

In addition to learning a great deal about the history of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, I also had a chance to see the sights and explore a bit:

I hiked until I hit the snow,

touching snow
touching snow

I checked out sea creatures at low tide with Katie and Michele,

Sea Cucumbers
Sea Cucumbers

I joined a search for wild horses which, although unsuccessful, led to some amazing vistas,

Summer Bay
Summer Bay

I saw more bald eagles than I could count (see how many you can spot in this picture) (to give the local cliché — they are like pigeons here),

How many bald eagles
How many bald eagles

And I tried to take some cool shots of local life.

Mountains and Clouds
Mountains and Clouds

Colorful Lines
Colorful Lines

Pioneer Patriot Spirit
Pioneer Patriot Spirit

Richard Chewning, June 23rd, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Chewning
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 4 – 24, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: June 23rd, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Bering Sea, east of St. George Island
Time: 0450
Latitude: N 56 38.000
Longitude: W 168 28.030
Cloud Cover: overcast with patchy fog
Wind: 14.0 knots from the east
Temperature: 5.8 C
Barometric Pressure: 1006.6 mbar

Science and Technology Log

Combining science, technology, and leadership, NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps provides skilled leaders for NOAA’s diverse programs. Numbering around 300 individuals, this group of dedicated professionals has a wide range of duties and responsibilities including operating NOAA’s ship and aircraft, managing research projects around the world, conducting diving operations, and manning staff positions on the shore. Officers are rotated every 2-3 years between ship-based and land-based positions. Before joining the Dyson as the Executive Officer for instance, Lieutenant Jeffrey Shoup worked with a satellite-based international search and rescue system as his NOAA shore assignment.

NOAA Corps emblem

All of these officers have completed rigorous training and have degrees in various fields of study relating to NOAA science such as physical oceanography, marine biology, chemistry, fisheries science, engineering, and meteorology. For example, the Dyson’s Commanding Officer, CDR Mike Hoshlyk, studied biology and geology at the University of Rochester.

Part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services of the United States. You are undoubtedly familiar with the other six: U.S. Public Health Service, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marines. During times of war or national emergency, NOAA Corps officers can assume duties with the Armed Forces. NOAA Corps officers have leadership and command positions on NOAA’s various vessels, aircraft, and instillations and manage programs and research efforts.

Personal Log

I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the NOAA Corps officers, crew, and scientists of the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson for their support of my Teacher at Sea experience. I greatly appreciate their time and efforts making my stay comfortable and informative. I recognize that they not only allowed me to observe and learn about their workplace, but they also welcomed me into their home.

Ensign Russell Pate performing a safety demonstration

I have been continuously impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the Dyson’s NOAA Corps officers. Ensuring a safe and successful cruise for all onboard, I am grateful for the many efforts of CO Mike Hoshlyk, XO Jeff Shoup, Field Operations/Acting XO Officer Sarah Duncan, Navigation Officer Nathan Witherly, Safety Officer Russell Pate, and Medical Officer Amber Payne. I credit the entire engineering and electronics departments for their hard work ensuring that the Dyson remained in fine working order throughout the cruise. Jerry, Fred, Jim, Bob, Walter, Dave, Terry, and Steve comprised the Dyson’s engineering and electronics departments. The deck crew deserves recognition for always being ready to fish anytime day or night and for keeping the Dyson in ship shape over the last three weeks. The deck crew included Willie, Dennis, Joel, Glen, Mike, and Buddy. Special thanks to the scientists for sharing their passion for maritime research and for welcoming me as a part of their team. Paul, Patrick, Darin, Rick, Misha, Bill, Liz, Patti, Yin, Paula, and Ernesto each demonstrated personal dedication to better understanding our world’s seas and oceans. Gathering data and assisting the deck crew during the Dyson’s many deployments, Kathy and Jonathan deserve recognition for their many efforts as members of the survey department. Finally, I wish to express a word of thanks to the Dyson’s two stewards, Rick and Floyd, for keeping the crew well fed.

LTjg Nathan Witherly working on a chart

I wish to say a final word of thanks to the NOAA Teacher At Sea staff whose many efforts on my behalf made this experience possible. NOAA’s TAS program director is Jennifer Hammond. Elizabeth McMahon is the deputy director, and Elizabeth Bullock is the program support specialist. Thank you for bringing this amazing experience to life for so many teachers and students around the country.

Richard holding a Chinook salmon

Kodiak and Dutch Harbor As my TAS experience draws to a close, I reflect on where our cruise began and will conclude. Kodiak and Dutch Harbor are regular stops for the Oscar Dyson as she conducts research in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Each community has a unique history and serves as a vital link to the outside world for the crew of Dyson.

St Paul Harbor, Kodiak, Alaska

Gray whale skeleton on display at Kodiak National Wildlife Refudge Visitor Center

Kodiak is the main city on Kodiak Island and is the home port of the Oscar Dyson. Carved by retreating glaciers during the last ice age, Kodiak’s most famous resident is the massive Kodiak brown bear. The Alutiiq called this area home for thousands of years before the Russian fur traders arrived in the early 1700s. Kodiak was the capital of Russian Alaska before becoming a US territory in 1867. In 1964, Kodiak suffered a devastating tsunami from the powerful 9.2 magnitude Good Friday Earthquake. Today Kodiak is a quaint commercial fishing community surrounded by beautiful untamed wilderness.

Priest Rock marking the entrance to Dutch Harbor

Church of The Holy Ascension, Dutch Harbor

Located on the on the island of Amaknak in the Aleutian Islands, Dutch Harbor is an industrial fishing outpost on the outskirts of the city of Unalaska. Dutch Harbor is a major industrial seaport serving fishing vessels of every description. Dutch Harbor is steeped in history. Hunting, fishing, and gathering for many generations, the Aleuts lived here long before Russian fur traders arrived in the mid 1700s. The Church of the Holy Ascension was built Dutch Harbor in 1825 and is the oldest Russian Orthodox church in the United States. Japanese and American military forces fought over the Aleutian Islands during the early months of the United States entry into World War II. Many concrete pill boxes and gun emplacements can still be seen along the surrounding hillsides. Dutch Harbor is defined by fishing and at one time was the largest fishing port in the US. Most people today recognize Dutch Harbor as the home of the crab fishermen portrayed in the Discovery Channel’s popular show, The Deadliest Catch.

Sunset in the Bering Sea

Laura Rodriguez, May 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Rodriguez
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 24 – June 2, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 20, 2010

Dutch Harbor/Unalaska

Bridge to Dutch Harbor

Fuel Pier View of Captain’s bay

Church of The Holy Ascension, Unalaska

Bald Eagles are like Pigeons here

The Oscar Dyson at dock in Dutch Harbor

Thursday morning I left Anchorage for Dutch Harbor. The flight was only 3 hours long, but we stopped to refuel in King Salmon. (Find the route on Google maps.) In Dutch Harbor, I was met by a junior officer of the NOAA corps, Ensign Amber Payne. Amber’s job is on the bridge piloting the ship. She is originally from Michigan, but went to college in Florida studying marine biology. Once on board, Amber gave me a tour of my home for the next 10 days.

After settling in, I took the “Liberty Van” to downtown Unalaska to sightsee a little.  A Liberty Van is simply a van that goes into town every hour to ferry people back and forth to the ship. In Unalaska, I saw the Church of the Holy Ascension, a Russian Orthodox Church built in 1826 by the Russian American Fur Company. I went down to the beach to touch the water; very cold!! The van driver, Kerri, estimated that the temperature is probably around 2°C or just a little above freezing; colder than I want to swim in. I also walked past the 3 schools in Unalaska, the community center and aquatic center. They are all beautiful new buildings. After the Liberty Van brought me back to the ship, I took a walk down the road the other way and saw many bald eagles, oystercatchers, harlequin ducks and black guillemots. I also spotted a bald eagle building a nest. The bald eagles around here are kind of like pigeons. They are everywhere.

When I got back to the ship, the scientists had arrived. We went into Dutch Harbor together to get dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant called Amelia’s. One thing on the menu I found very interesting was a Louisiana sandwich which was made with reindeer sausage. ( I don’t remember any reindeer in New Orleans during my Earthwatch trip.) The scientists all live in the Seattle area and are oceanographers or fisheries biologists. They work at the NOAA headquarters in Seattle.

Friday I woke early and went to the mess for a delicious cheese omelette breakfast. After breakfast, we spent the morning organizing the labs by moving crates and boxes from previous research cruises. We then went into town to do a little last minute shopping. I also got to visit the Museum of the Aleutians. The museum details the prehistory and history of the Aleutian Islands. Very Cool Fact – The Unangun or Aleuts made parkas from the guts and esophagi of any large sea mammal. Second Very Cool fact – The Japanese invaded Dutch Harbor during World War II. To learn more about the Unangans and the history of the Aleutians visit the museums website:http://www.aleutians.org/.

We shoved off from Fuel Pier in Captain’s Bay around 4PM and headed out to sea.

Now, I’ll answer some of your questions. If I don’t answer your question at this time, be patient I’ll try to answer all of them by the end of the cruise.

Kevin M and Kate – There are 27 people on board the ship for this cruise. There are the 4 scientists, me and 22 crew members.

Trisha – The crew all work together on the ship for each cruise. The group of scientists are different each cruise. The three oceanography/fisheries scientists work as a team and do this particular cruise each year. Tiffany, the IT specialist was hired by the team to help with this cruise. They work together in Seattle and seem to know each other well.

Devin and Becca – The sleeping quarters are very nice. I share a room with Amber Payne. We have bunkbeds. I have the lower bed which is usually Sara Duncan’s, but she’s not on board for this trip. We have a small head (bathroom) with a very small shower. (Lots of hot water, though and that’s important!!) Overall the ship is very comfortable. There is a large mess (dining hall) and a lounge area with a large screen TV. They have a collection of movies that you can watch in the lounge or on computer monitors in your room. Last night, Amber was watching Shrek in our room while I was reading through your blog entries. (I have to admit I watched some of it, too)

Bryant  and Lucas McC– The food so far has been delicious. I had an omelette for breakfast yesterday, today I had yogurt and fresh fruit (cantaloupe, papaya and strawberries.) For dinner last night, we had our choice of Cornish hens or spare ribs. I’ll keep you updated on the future cuisine. Yesterday, the last thing brought on board was the food, so we have some very fresh food. The food is kept in the galley, in large refrigerators and pantry areas.

Hannah D. – I asked Amber why she came up here after having lived in Florida where it is much warmer. She said that Florida was actually too warm and they have different, cooler (pun), marine animals up here. She wanted to see whales and sea lions, etc. You don’t get that in warmer waters. She also said that on her last cruise they saw killer whales or Orcas – very cool!

Ben – The water where we are sampling is on the continental shelf and doesn’t go much below 100 meters deep. We will always sample from at least 10 m off the bottom. Further off the islands (south) the bottom drops sharply to a trench. The deepest part of the trench is 7,679 meters (25,194 ft).

Chris – The Oscar Dyson is not an icebreaker, but it can go through ice to a point. On the last cruise they had to go through the ice pack to get a scientist to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. The XO, Jeff Shoup told me they could only go so far and then they had to back up. The bow is reinforced for ice, but not the keel which could be damaged if they went too far.

Now it’s your turn – Find out about the types of marine animals that live in the waters of the Aleutian Islands. Then, describe one kind of animal in detail – Include information such as where they are found, what they eat and/or what eats them, their importance to humans and anything else you find interesting.

 

Please remember to include the website URL of where you got your information. And write in complete sentences including as much detail as you can.

Kathy Schroeder, May 18, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Schroeder
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 5 – May 18, 2010

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 18, 2010

5/18 Goodbye Dutch Harbor

Wild Horses
Wild Horses

I was able to spend time on the bridge as we pulled into port. It was great seeing the officers work together to get us to Dutch Harbor safely. Today was my last night in Dutch Harbor.Amber and I spent some time running errands and later cutting out fish out of fire hose and spray painting them for the local middle school’s tour of the ship the next day. There are not a lot of options while in port, so we headed to the Airport.

Oscar Dyson bridge
Oscar Dyson bridge

I was able to see the Coast Guard helicopter practicing maneuvers.We made our way to the Grand Aleutian Hotel, and then to the UniSea for some pool and pizza.Ms. Miller is the middle school science teacher on Dutch, and she took us on a bumpy but beautiful ride to see the wild horses.

Bonfire
Bonfire

We ended up having a bonfire on the beach thanks to Amber’s coordination, not to mention all of the people that it took to get the fire started. It ended up being a fantastic evening at the end of our trip together! I enjoyed my experiences and everything I learned on the ship. I look forward to bringing back what I have learned into my classroom.
Thank you and goodbye Oscar Dyson!

Oscar Dyson in port
Oscar Dyson in port

Laura Rodriguez, May 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Rodriguez
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 24 – June 2, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 10, 2010

Getting Ready to go to sea

I leave for Dutch Harbor, Alaska in 9 days for my adventure on board the Oscar Dyson. I need to start getting ready. First I have to find out what the weather is like around Dutch Harbor. To help me, find the answers to the following questions and post in the comment section. 1. What is the latitude and longitude of Dutch Harbor, Alaska? 2. What is the average high and low temperature in May and June? 3. What is the average rainfall? 4. when will the sun rise on May 20th and when will it set?

Kathy Schroeder, May 6, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Schroeder
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 5 – May 18, 2010

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 6, 2010

Out at Sea!


We left Dutch Harbor at 9pm on May 5th. I went to the bridge (where the Captain pilots the ship), which is 4 decks higher than where I sleep, and watched us depart. On our way out through the pass we passed a volcano. A scientist, Brian, works on the bridge watching birds. He has great binoculars and let me borrow them. I got to see my first Puffin! The sunset at 1030pm was gorgeous! Woke up 7 hours later to get to work. My shift will change, but for now it will be 7a-7p or 9a-9m. Began the day with a fire drill! Got to put on my survival suit! Now it was time to get back to work. I put on my orange suit (called a float coat) and went on the starboard side of the ship to help with releasing the tows. The first is the Neuston tow. It looks like a rectangular metal box with a net attached and a cylinder tube at the end. It collects plankton from the surface of the ocean. The tow stays at a 45 degree angle for 10 minutes and then is pulled onboard. We take the collection and put it in a quart size glass jar. On average, it is not very full. We then add sea water and formalin to preserve the specimens. Then we release the Bongo nets. They look just like two pairs of bongo drums, one large and one small.There are four circles (two different sizes) attached to nets and then connected to the collection containers (cups at the bottom of the net). They go down 300 meters or 10 feet off the bottom, and are then pulled back up. This takes over 30 minutes. (During this time a Laysan Albatross came along side the ship, and just wanted to hang out with us!) Once the nets are pulled in, three containers are preserved. We take the last container and sift through it using tweezers to pull out any larval fish (mostly pollock) and put them in a glass petri dish on ice. They are then taken to the microscopes and looked at closely for classification. Some are flash frozen on slides, others are individually preserved in alcohol. My best find last night was a squid the size of a tic-tac! After 14 hours of work it was time for me to go to bed. It was great waking up to so many messages and emails. Keep them coming. And for the questions-NO! I have not been sick 🙂

Kathy Schroeder, May 5, 2010

Dutch Harbor 5/5

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Made it safely to Dutch Harbor yesterday. I have seen so many bald eagles I have lost count. They are so beautiful. Also saw an Arctic Fox today. We are leaving here tonight (a day early) at 9pm. There has been a lot of ice up north so we are hoping the ice has moved so the scientists can do their work. Saw a couple ships from the show “The Deadliest Catch.” There are so many crab traps everywhere you look. They are stacked and ready to go for next crab season. I spent the early afternoon tying down everything in the labs. Bill said there is a storm out there and we should have 30 foot waves. Still getting to know the ship. My room is on the lower deck. There are bunk beds that I am sharing with Amber. Her’s is the top! 🙂 I will spend a lot of time on my laptop on the desk in my room and in the science labs. I look forward to bringing back samples for everyone to see. Once we depart in 6 hours I will be at sea until May 18th. Thanks for all the messages! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Kathy Schroeder, April 27, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Schroeder
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 5 – May 18, 2010

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: April 27, 2010

Getting ready for Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Dutch Harbor on the map
Dutch Harbor on the map

Thank you for following me on my journey to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. I will do my best to post pictures as often as I can (hopefully daily), so check back often. 🙂 I begin my journey on the morning of May 3rdwhen I fly from Miami to Seattle and then overnight in Anchorage, Alaska. I have my morning free to sight see and then fly three hours to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

Yes, this is the Dutch Harbor where they film the show “The Deadliest Catch.” On board the ship the Oscar Dyson I will be working with 15 crewmen and 8 scientists. We will board the 208 foot ship on the morning of the 5th to go through Federal Inspection, fire drills, man overboard drills, etc. The ship will disembark the following morning and return the morning of the 18th. Talk to you soon, Love, Ms. Schroeder

John Schneider, July 18-20, 2009

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

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

Position
Shumagin Islands, in transit to Dutch Harbor

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

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

Eat your hearts out!