Jill Bartolotta: All Aboard, Shipping Out, May 30, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019

 

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: May 30, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 24° 47.7 ‘N
Longitude: 080° 20.2’W
Wave Height: 2-3 feet
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: 114
Visibility: 10 nm
Air Temperature: 28.2°C
Barometric Pressure: 1013.5 mb
Sky: Few clouds

 

Science Log

Today we depart Key West. The days in port have been spent readying equipment, training mission crew, and exploring the beauty that is Key West. We say our final goodbyes to terra firma and head out to sea.

Ship sign board showing departure date
Departure time!
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
Home for the next two weeks.

The ship we are aboard, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, is managed by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps commands and operates the ship in combination with wage mariners. Equipment on board is managed by NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research (OER) in collaboration with the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration.

If you visit OER’s website, you will see in their mission that they are the “only federal organization dedicated to ocean exploration. By using unique capabilities in terms of personnel, technology, infrastructure, and exploration missions, OER is reducing unknowns in deep-ocean areas and providing high-value environmental intelligence needed by NOAA and the nation to address both current and emerging science and management needs.” The purpose of OER is to explore the ocean, collect data, and make this data publicly available for research, education, ocean management, resource management, and decision-making purposes.

One of OER’s priorities is to map the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) at depths of 200 meters or greater. This is some deep stuff. The EEZ distance from shore is dependent on a variety of factors such as proximity to territorial waters of other countries and the continental shelf. If you want to learn more about how EEZs are established visit the United Nations Oceans and the Law of the Sea Website https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/oceans-and-law-sea/. Within the EEZ a country has exclusive rights to various activities such as fishing, drilling, ocean exploration, conservation, and resource management.

Map of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the United States. We are mapping in the Southeast Region (lime green). Photo Credit: NOAA

We are currently en route to our mapping area so we can map previously unmapped areas. The mapping that will occur on this mission will be used to help inform dive locations for the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) mission that will take place after our mission. Mapping allows us to understand sea floor characteristics and learn more about deep sea ecosystems that can be later explored with an ROV. An ecosystem of interest for this mapping mission is deep sea coral habitat. The area where we will be mapping is thought to be the largest deep sea coral habitat in US waters and it is largely unmapped. As data is collected, it is cleaned (more on this at a later time) of noise (unwanted data points). Products such as multi-beam geospatial layers are made available to end users on land roughly 24 hours after data is collected. End users could include other researchers, educators, ocean policy and management decision-makers, and more specifically those who will be joining the ROV mission happening in two weeks.

If you want to follow Okeanos Explorer and her crew on our mission, see the live feed available through this link https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/livestreams/welcome.html.

Personal Log

We have just left port. The dolphins are jumping, the sea is the most perfect turquoise blue, and the wind blows on our sun-kissed faces. I have left port many times on my various trips, but today was magical. I think what makes this departure from port so magical is the journey that lies ahead. I am nervous and excited all at the same time. It is slowly settling in that I am able to participate in this once in a lifetime experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be aboard an ocean exploration vessel. Wow! Just Wow!

View of Key West from shore
Fondest farewell Key West.

So far everything is good. Dabbled pretty hard in the seasickness world today. I tried to get on my computer too early and it went down swell from there. However, some wind on my face, ginger soup, and bubbly water made everything better. Many people have told me it is important to embark on a task to get my mind off feeling unwell. I have taken this to heart and have been meeting all the wonderful people on the ship, learning more about them and their role on the ship. In the coming two weeks, I plan on learning about every facet that it takes to operate an exploration mission. From what makes the ship move forward to the detailed intricacies of mapping the sea floor to those who make it all possible.

I hope I will be able to share my experience with you so it feels like you are with me on the ship. Using words and pictures I will try to make you feel as if you are aboard with all of us. I will do my best to show you the blue hues we encountered today and explain what it is like to be out to sea with land many miles away. But I still encourage you all to try it for yourself. Words and images will only give you half the story. You need to feel the rest firsthand.

Blue water out of Key West
Bluest of blues. Words and images fail me here. The blue hues we saw today are the most spectacular colors I have ever seen.

Sunset is upon the horizon so I leave you for now. Stay tuned for more about our grand adventure.

Sun sets over the ocean
First sunset at sea

Did You Know?

You can use sonar to learn more about the organisms living in the water column. For example, sonar has the ability to show you the migration of zooplankton and their predators to the surface at night and back down when the sun rises. This phenomenon is called vertical diurnal migration.

Ship Words

Different terms are used to describe items, locations, or parts of the ship. As I learn new words I would like to share my new vocabulary with all of you. If there is a ship term you want to know more about let me know and I will find out!

Port: Left side of ship

Starboard: Right side of ship

Bow: Front of ship

Stern: Back of ship

Mess Deck: Where we eat

Head: Restroom

Scuttlebutt: Water fountain (and gossip)

Bulkhead: Walls

Overhead: Ceilings

Deck: Floor

Rack: Bed

Aft: Towards the back of the ship

Forward: Towards the front of the ship

Animals Seen Today

One dolphin

Hundreds of flying fish

Dozens of various seabirds

Rebecca Bell, August 19, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4000.7 N Longitude: 6931.5
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 114m

The Delaware’slatest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank
The Delaware’s latest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank

Science and Technology Log 

We are heading east out to sea, right now at 4005 N latitude, 6942 W longitude. (Pull out those atlases). We will begin a turn north towards Georges Bank. Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Georges Bank is (was) one of the most productive North Atlantic fisheries (Grand Banks being the most productive). “Legend has it that the first European sailors found cod so abundant that they could be scooped out of the water in baskets. Until the last decades of this century these banks were one of the world’s richest fishing grounds… (Source: AMNH web site below).

This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.
This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.

Northeastern fishery landings are valued at approximately $800 million dockside, of which a large proportion is produced on Georges Bank. Recently, scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have undertaken an effort to document direct interactions between physical environmental factors and the abundance and distribution of fishery species. (Source: USGS below). This means that the water chemistry, temperature and other factors affect how many fish there are, how many kinds of fish there are, and where they are. The article from USGS explains that the sea floor sediments that form Georges Bank came from the time when glaciers scoured the area. Since that time, sea level has risen, covering the glacial sediments, and tides and currents are eroding the bottom. When this erosion happens, small sediment particles are winnowed out by tides and currents leaving larger gravel-sized sediments on the floor. This kind of surface is good for scallop larvae and other small animals so they can settle on the bottom and not get buried by sand. Thus, the type of sediment on the ocean floor helps determine what kinds of animals can live there.

This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Interestingly enough, politics and international relations have affected our trip to Georges Bank. We have been waiting for clearance through the U.S. State Department working with the Canadian government, to get permission to go into Canadian waters. As Wikipedia explains below, part of Georges Bank is “owned” by the U.S. and part is “owned” by Canada. Our route is to take us through the eastern part of Georges Bank, the part owned by Canada. Unfortunately, due to the speed of processing the request, we just this morning found out we got clearance to go there. If the request had been denied, we would have had to sail around the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to avoid Canadian waters. Fortunately, we are now good to go.

From Wikipedia: 

“During the 1960s and 1970s, oil exploration companies determined that the seafloor beneath Georges Bank possesses untold petroleum reserves. However, both Canada and the United States agreed to a moratorium on exploration and production activities in lieu of conservation of its waters for the fisheries.

The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) in the late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank and resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishermen from both countries who claimed the fishery resources for each respective nation. In recognition of the controversy, both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the question of maritime boundary delimitation to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands. Following five years of hearings and consultation, the IJC delivered its decision in 1984, which split the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out to the 200 NM limit, giving the bulk of Georges Bank to the United States. Canada’s portion of the Gulf of Maine now includes the easternmost portion of Georges Bank.”

American Museum of Natural History http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/biobulletin/biobulletin/story1208.html (easy to medium to read)

USGS http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/georges-bank/ (more difficult to read) The map above is also from the USGS website.

Personal Log 

It’s been a very quiet day today. We had several station samples this morning. At the first one, around 6:30 a.m. one of the crew members spotted two whales. They were too far away to see what kind they were. I, unfortunately, was inside the ship at that time and missed it. However, we are heading north so maybe we will have a chance to see some.