Britta Culbertson: Hiding Out During Rough Seas, September 6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Britta Culbertson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4-19, 2013

Mission: Juvenile Walley Pollock and Forage Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Friday, September 6th, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge (for Sept 6th at 5:57 PM UTC):
Wind Speed: 42.65 knots
Air Temperature: 11.8 degrees C
Relative Humidity: 81%
Barometric Pressure: 987.4 mb
Latitude:57.67 N          Longitude: 153.87 W

Science and Technology Log

Weather Advsisory

The weather advisory for the Gulf of Alaska and around Kodiak Island (screen shot from NOAA Alaska Region Headquarters)

Spiridon Bay

Spiridon Bay (screenshot from Shiptracker.noaa.gov)

As you can see from my weather data section, the wind speed this morning was up to 42.65 knots.  We had waves near 18 feet and thus the Oscar Dyson ran for cover and tucked itself in an inlet on the North side of Kodiak Island called Spiridon Bay.  The Oscar Dyson’s location can be viewed in near real-time using NOAA’s Shiptracker website.   The screenshot above was taken from the Shiptracker website when we were hiding from the weather. The weather forecast from NOAA’s Alaska Region Headquarters shows that the winds should diminish over the next few days.  I’m thankful to hear that!

…GALE WARNING TONIGHT….TONIGHT…S WIND 45 KT DIMINISHING TO 35 KT TOWARDS MORNING. SEAS 23FT. PATCHY FOG..SAT…SW WIND 30 KT DIMINISHING TO 20 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. SEAS15 FT. PATCHY FOG..SAT NIGHT…W WIND 15 TO 25 KT. SEAS 8 FT. RAIN..SUN…SW WIND 20 KT. SEAS 8 FT..SUN NIGHT…S WIND 25 KT. SEAS 8 FT..MON…SE WIND 25 KT. SEAS 13 FT..TUE…S WIND 30 KT. SEAS 11 FT..WED…S WIND 25 KT. SEAS 9 FT.

Since the Dyson has been in safe harbor in Spiridon Bay for the last few hours, I have had some time to catch up on some blogging!  Let’s backtrack a few days to Wednesday, September 4th, when the Dyson left Kodiak to begin its journey in the Gulf of Alaska.  We headed out after 1PM to pick up where the last cruise left off in the research grid.  We reached our first station later in the afternoon and began work.  A station is a pre-determined location where we complete two of our surveys (see map below).  The circles on the map represent a station location in the survey grid.  The solid circles are from leg 1 of the cruise that took place in August and the hollow circles represent leg 2 of the cruise, which is the leg on which I am sailing.

The first step once we reach a station is to deploy a Bongo net to collect marine zooplankton and the second step is to begin trawling with an anchovy net to capture small, pelagic juvenile pollock and forage fishes that are part of the main study for this cruise. Pelagic fish live near the surface of the water or in the water column, but not near the bottom or close to the shore.  Zooplankton are “animal plankton”.  The generic definition of plankton is: small, floating or somewhat motile (able to move on their own) organisms that live in a body of water. Some zooplankton are the larval (beginning) stages of crabs, worms, or shellfish.  Other types of zooplankton stay in the planktonic stage for the entirety of their lives. In other words, they don’t “grow up” to become something like a shrimp or crab.

Station Map

Station map for leg 1 and leg 2 of the juvenile pollock survey. I am on leg 2 of the survey, which is represented with hollow circles on the map.

Before we reached the first station, we conducted a few safety drills.  The first was a fire drill and the second was an abandon ship drill.  The purpose of these drills is to make sure we understand where to go (muster) in case of an emergency.   For the abandon ship drill, we had to grab our survival suits and life preservers and muster on the back deck.  The life rafts are stored one deck above and would be lowered to the fantail (rear deck of the ship) in the event of an actual emergency.  After the drill I had to test out my survival suit to make sure I knew how to put it on correctly.

Life Jacket

Britta Mustering for Abandon Ship Drill on Oscar Dyson

survival suit

Britta models a survival suit – they even found a size SMALL for me!

On the way to our first station, we traveled through Whale Pass next to Whale Island, which lies off of the northern end of Kodiak Island.  While passing through this area, we saw a total of 4 whales spouting and so many sea otters, I lost track after I counted 20.  Unfortunately, none of my pictures really captured the moment.  The boat was moving too fast to get the sea otters before they flipped over or were out of sight.

Whale Island

A nautical chart map for Whale Island and Whale Passage

Personal Log

secure for sea!

Last night’s warning about high seas in the early morning of September 6th.

A lot of people have emailed to ask me if I have been getting seasick.  So far, things haven’t been that bad, but I figured out that I feel pretty fine when I’m working and moving about the ship.  However, when I sit and type at a computer and focus my attention on the screen that seems to be when the seasickness hits. For the most part, getting some fresh air and eating dried ginger has saved me from getting sick and fortunately, I knew about the threat of high winds last night, so I made sure to take some seasickness medication before going to bed.  After what we experienced this morning, I am sure glad I took some medication.

Everyone on board seems very friendly and always asks how I am doing.  It has been a real pleasure to meet the engineers, fisherman, NOAA Corps officers, scientists, and all others aboard the ship.  Since we have to work with the crew to get our research done, it’s wonderful to have a positive relationship with the various crew members.  Plus, I’m learning a lot about what kinds of careers one can have aboard a ship, in addition to being a scientist.

So far, I’ve worked two 12-hour shifts and even though I’m pretty tired after my long travel day and the adjustment from the Eastern Time Zone to the Alaskan Time Zone (a four hour difference), I’m having a great time!  I really enjoy getting my hands dirty (or fishy) and processing the fish that we bring in from the trawl net.  Processing the haul involves identifying, sorting, counting, measuring the length, and freezing some of the catch.  The catch is mainly composed of different types of fish like pollock and eulachon, but sometimes there are squid, shrimp, and jellyfish as well.

One of the hardest parts of the trip so far is getting used to starting work at noon and working until midnight.  We have predetermined lunch and dinner times, 11:30 AM and 5:00 PM respectively, so I basically eat lunch for breakfast and dinner for lunch and then I snack a little before I go to bed after my shift ends at midnight.  As the days go by, I’m sure I’ll get more used to the schedule.

Did You Know?

During one of our trawls, we found a lanternfish.  Lanternfish have rows of photophores along the length of their bodies.  Photophores produce bioluminescence and are used for signaling in deep, dark waters.  The fish can control the amount of light that the photophores produce.  Lanternfish belong to the Family Myctophidae and are “one of the most abundant and diverse of all oceanic fish families” (NOAA Ocean Explorer).

lanternfish

Lanternfish caught during a trawl. Note the dots along the bottom of the fish, these are photophores that emit bioluminescence.

Lanternfish
Photo of bioluminescing lanternfish (Photo Credit: BBC Animal Facts http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/blueplanet/factfiles/fish/lanternfish_bg.shtml)

 

Rebecca Kimport, JULY 10, 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 10,  2010

Weather Weather Everywhere!

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1400
Latitude: 59.12 N
Longitude: 174.02 W
Cloud Cover: 5/8
Wind: 17 knots
Air Temperature: 8° C/ 46° F
Water Temperature: 7° C/ 45° F
Barometric Pressure: 1006.9 mb

Aside from weather helping you decide what to wear for the day, weather is critical on board a research vessel. Each hour the bridge collects the same data that is then input into the AMVER Sea system and sent to NOAA Weather. Some of the information included is: time, latitude, longitude, cloud cover, air and water temperatures, wind, barometric pressure, visibility, and swell height. This helps determine our exact location (check out NOAA Shiptracker for more information) as well as the weather at sea and also weather inland. It is not uncommon for marine weather systems to move inland. This information also helps us understand long term climate changes, precipitation, and ocean currents.

Exactly where are we?
The latitude and longitude help determine the position of the ship and the time is recorded to understand how the ship is moving and in what direction. This allows the scientists to follow the transects to conduct their research. If I told you at 1500 hours (3pm) our mark was 58.00N and 171.48W, you would be able to pinpoint our location on a map. Our latitude so far on this trip (July 7th) has been in the range of 56.12N-58.69N depending on the transect that we are following and the longitudes’ range is between 170.01W-171.48W.

Map of ship route

Map of ship route

It’s cloudy again?

Clouds from the deck

Clouds from the deck

It tends to be quite cloudy and foggy here in the Bering Sea and cloud cover is measured in eighths of the sky. For example, on July 6th the cloud cover at 1500 hours was 7/8 which means that 87.5% of the sky was filled with clouds. Cloud type and location can help predict the type of weather. The majority of our days have been 8/8 or 100% cloud cover with stratus clouds and lots of moisture in the air.

This is definitely not the heat wave they are getting back home!
This brings us to air temperature and wind. The temperature is always taken on the windward side of the ship because this is the side of the ship in the stream of air fresh from the sea that has not been in contact with or passed over the ship. There are two types of thermometers in each case on the deck in front of the bridge. The dry bulb measures the air temperature and the wet bulb has a muslin wick which absorbs heat from the thermometer. The temperature difference between the two, called the depression of the wet bulb, can help determine what the percent humidity is by referring to the humidity chart. Wind can affect these readings which is why there are thermometers on either side of the bridge. The wind direction is logged as the same direction from which the sea waves are coming. Average temperature through July 7th for Leg II has been 5.680C/420F with winds averaging 10.29 knots. The weather mentioned has been the trend for Leg II; however, this could be changing by the end of the week…stay tuned!

Wet Bulb-Dry Bulb

Wet Bulb-Dry Bulb

Hold on tight!
It’s July 10 and we are still waiting for the big seas to hit us. (not that I am complaining about calm weather!) The swells have gotten larger and the wind definitely picked up yesterday. The strongest wind recorded yesterday was 26 knots while on my shift. There is still a chance for NW sustained winds up to 25 knots and 10 foot seas before the weekend is up. Part of the reason for calmer seas yesterday was that we were so far north and the low pressure system was to the south of us. It was actually the farthest north I have ever been, and we will go even farther north before it is time to head back to Dutch Harbor.

Word of the day
guile: deceit

New Vocabulary
barometric pressure: the downward force that the atmosphere exerts per unit of a certain area.
swell height: measure of wind waves generated locally; vertical distance between trough and crest
muslin wick: plain woven cotton fabric
humidity: the amount of moisture in the air
gale force winds: strong winds between 28-47 knots