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

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

Meg Stewart: Getting Ready for an Adventure in Alaska

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meg Stewart

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 8 – 19, 2019

Mission: Cape Newenham Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 25, 2019

Introduction

I am so excited about my upcoming experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I will be on the NOAA Ship Fairweather from July 8 to 19 and will be participating on a hydrographic research cruise, one that is mapping the sea-floor in detail; more about that soon. We will embark from and return to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is part of the Aleutian Islands. If you are my current or former student, or you are a friend or colleague of mine, or you are an admirer of the Teacher at Sea program, I hope you will follow along on this ocean adventure as I post about my experiences while at sea.

Meg on catamaran
This is me on a catamaran off the coast of Barbados.

A little about me

I am originally from California. I went to the beach often to body surf and splash around, maybe sunbathe (I don’t do THAT anymore).   It was in California where I got interested in geology. I was pretty young when I experienced the 1971 San Fernando 6.5M earthquake and after that, earthquakes were a regular occurrence for me. When I moved to Hayward, California, in early 1989 to complete my bachelor’s degree in geology at California State University East Bay, I was living off-campus and had the “pleasure” of rocking and rolling through one of the longest earthquakes I every felt when the 6.9M Loma Prieta earthquake hit.  I moved on from there to the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, to earn my Master’s in Structural Geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I didn’t feel any earthquakes in Nevada, but I did do my research on an active fault in southwestern Utah. I like to think of myself as a “boots-on-the-ground” kind of scientist-educator.

Meg teaching
Teaching graduate students about digital mapping.

My work and life experiences are such that for five years after grad school, I was a staff geologist at a large environmental consulting company. I loved that job and it took me all around the U.S.  One of the assignments I had was to manage a mapping project involving data from New York and New Jersey harbor area. From that experience I became interested in digital mapping (known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS) and switched careers. I went to work at a small liberal arts college as the GIS support person within the instructional technology group. In addition to helping teach professors and college students how to work with the GIS software, I helped teach about use of social media in teaching, use a mobile devices for data collection, integrating alternative assessments like using of audio and video, and I maintained two computer labs. While I was involved in those two different careers, I gained some adjunct teaching experiences at several different colleges and grad schools, teaching geology, environmental science and GIS.

Meg at University of the West Indies
At the University of the West Indies, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies

Another professional experience that I’ve had that I am most proud of is I was a Fulbright Scholar in 2009-2010 to Barbados. My family and I lived in Barbados for a year while I was worked with the University of the West Indies, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) I taught GIS to graduate students, I worked with some of the students on research projects, I traveled to Belize as a field assistant on a field studies trip with faculty members and CERMES students, and I had the privilege of working on a marine-based, community-driven mapping research project with a then PhD student (who has since earned her degree). My part of the project was to take the spatial data, organize it and create a user-friendly Google Earth KML file. She and I got to travel around St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, teaching community members about the work, the available data, and how to access the Google Earth project file. 

New York state fossil
Behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History, checking out the official state fossil of New York, Eurypterus Remipes.

In 2015, I re-tooled yet again and was accepted into a challenging yet rewarding education program at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In 15 months, I learned how to teach with artifacts, took graduate courses in all manner or earth and space subjects, of course, had classes in pedagogical approaches, had two in-residence teaching experiences at area schools, all the while in the amazing AMNH, home of Night at the Museum. 

Meg and students at AMNH
These are two of my ninth graders checking out a piece of kimberlite with a diamond sticking out. We’re at AMNH in the Hall of Planet Earth.

Now as a public high school educator, teaching Earth Science to 9-12 graders in the Bronx, I have a strong foundation in the solid earth topics like plate tectonics, rocks and minerals, and geologic time. But Regents Earth Science class in New York also involves oceanography, meteorology, climate science and astronomy. 

Meg snorkeling
Yes, this is me, actually in the sea at Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau Island in the Grenadines.

What compelled me to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is what motivates me throughout my other life decisions: I wanted to push against my boundaries and my limitations. I have always had a healthy respect for the sea, which was mixed in with a little fear. I saw the movie Jaws when I was young and impressionable, so I never really wanted to venture too far into the water beyond the waves. I didn’t even want to swim in lakes for fear of what might be traversing through the murky unknown. As I’ve aged, I’ve certainly grown less fearful of the water. I’ve traveled on sailboats and catamarans, I’ve snorkeled in the Caribbean, I’ve jumped into waters with nurse sharks and stingrays! But as a teacher who feels like she’s missing some key knowledge of her curriculum – oceanography – I want to challenge myself to learn-while-doing as I have the privilege of being selected to be a Teacher at Sea. I cannot wait!

Tom Savage: The Physical Geography of the Aleutian Islands, August 16, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 16, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude  68   38.8 N
Longitude – 166  23.8  W
Air temperature: 10 C
Dry bulb   10 C
Wet bulb  8.9 C
Visibility: 8 Nautical Miles   (8.8 miles)
Wind speed: 26 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1007  millibars
Cloud Height: 2 K feet
Waves: 6 feet

Sunrise: 6:33 am
Sunset: 11:51 pm

Physical Geography of Aleutian Islands

The Aleutian Islands are a product of a subduction zone between the North American and the Pacific Plate and known as the Aleutian Arc. Along this boundary, the Pacific Plate is being subducted underneath the North American Plate due to the difference in density.  As a result, the plate heats up, melts and forms volcanoes.  In this case the islands are classified as volcanic arcs.  As a result of this collision, along the boundary the Aleutian Trench was formed and the deepest section measures 25,663 ft!  For comparison purposes, the deepest point in the ocean is located in the Mariana’s Trench at 36,070 feet (6.8 miles)! Through the use of radioisotopic dating of basalt rocks throughout the Aleutians, geologists have concluded the formation of the island chain occurred 35 million years ago. (USGS). Today, there are 14 volcanic islands and an additional 55 smaller islands making up the island chain.

ConvergentBoundary

The Aleutian Islands – yellow line indicates subduction boundary (Courtesy of US Geologic Survey)

On the map above, the Aleutian Islands appear small. However, they extend an area of 6,821 sq mi and extend out to 1,200 miles!  In comparison, North Carolina from the westernmost point to the Outer Banks is 560 miles, half of the Aleutian Islands.  It takes roughly ten hours to drive from Murphy NC (western NC)  to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Since this region of the North American plate and the Pacific Plate are both oceanic plates, Island Arcs are formed.  This is the same classification as the Bahamas, located southeast of Florida.

North American and Pacific Plates

Convergence of North American and Pacific Plates – Image courtesy of US Geologic Survey

 

Oceanic-OceanicPlate

Convergence of two Oceanic Plate – Image courtesy of US Geologic Survey

The image above depicts a cross section of the geological forces that shaped the Aleutian Islands.  As the two plates collide, the oceanic crust is subducted under the lithosphere further offshore thus generating the island arcs.  Unlike the west coasts of Washington, Oregon and California,  there is an oceanic/continental collision of plates resulting in the formation of volcanoes further on the continental crust, hundreds of miles inland.  Examples are Mount Rainier, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helen’s which erupted in 1980.

Alpine Glaciers are prevalent throughout the mountainous region of Alaska. What about the Aleutians Islands? Today there are a few small alpine glaciers existing on Aleutian Islands. Alpine glacier on the Attu Island is one example, which is the western most island.

 

Personal Log 

One truth about being at sea is don’t trust the wall, floor or ceiling. Sometimes, the wall will become the floor or the ceiling will become the wall 🙂 Lately, the seas have become this ongoing amusement park ride.  Although the weather has been a bit rough, data collection continues with the ship.  The weather outside is more reflective of fall and winter back in North Carolina, though we have not seen any snow flakes.  After surfing the waves yesterday while collecting data, today the hydrographers are processing data collected over the past few days.

Yesterday was whale day!  Early afternoon, humpbacks were spotted from the port side of the ship (left side).   As the afternoon went on, humpbacks were spotted all around the Fairweather, at distances of 0.5 miles to 5 miles.  Humpbacks are considered the “Clowns of the Seas” according to many marine biologists.  Identifying whales can be tricky especially if they are distances greater than a few miles. Humpbacks are famous for breaching the water and putting on a show,  Yesterday we did not witness this behavior, however they were showing off their beautiful flukes.

Humpback whale fluke

Humpback whale fluke, photo courtesy of NOAA

 

Question of the Day:    Which whale species, when surfacing, generates a v shape blow?

Until next time, happy sailing!
Tom

Heather O’Connell: Misty Eyed for Misty Fjords, June 12, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Heather O’Connell

NOAA Ship Rainier

June 7 – 21, 2018

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Seattle, Washington to Southeast, Alaska

Date: 6/12/18

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude and Longitude: 55°33.1’ N, 133 °16.1’ W
Sky Condition: Overcast
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Wind Speed: 23 knots
Sea Level Pressure: 1008 millibars
Sea Wave Height: 2 feet
Sea Water Temperature: 8.9°C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb: 12.8°C, Wet bulb: 9.6°C

Science and Technology Log

After discussing geology with resident expert Amanda Finn, I developed the following understanding of the geology of Alaska. Alaska accreted, or merged with the larger continent, from the Pacific Plate colliding with the North American plate. These shifting tectonic plates created catastrophic earthquakes and many of the rock formations that you see in Alaska today. The three thousand foot metamorphic rock mountains in Misty Fjords were most likely formed from these collisions. Initially, there were sedimentary rocks that were changed from heat and pressure into metamorphic rocks. Because the sedimentary rocks were altered, the original age of these rock structures cannot be determined.

While tectonic plates created the landmass, glaciers contributed to the structure of the mountains in Southeast Alaska, creating fjords. A fjord is a narrow inlet of the sea created by a glacial valley with steep cliffs. Seventeen thousand years ago, Misty Fjord was covered in ice. As the ice melted, long narrow inlets were created that filled with ocean water. Mineral springs and volcanic activity still exist around these areas where they are closer to fault lines. It was determined by NOAA scientists in 2013 that Misty Fjord has a sunken cinder cone volcano that must have formed after the glaciers created the fjords thirteen thousand years ago. As Amanda explains, “The disappearance of all the pressure from the overlying ice caused Earth’s crust to bounce back in the area, uplifting rock and carrying magma chambers closer to the surface, causing the volcano to form. This added traces of igneous rocks to the metamorphosed sedimentary rock in the form of quartz deposits. As more ice melted and the water level rose, the cinder cone was eventually submerged underwater.”

 

Sources 

Alaska Geology

Connor, Cathy. Roadside Geology of Alaska.

Adjusting a Compass

I met a compass adjuster who was picked up in a launch from San Juan islands who learned his skill from an apprentice. He carried a wooden box with his equipment and seemed like he arrived from another time period. I was fortunate to witness this annual ritual that compares the direction of the ship according to the magnetic compass with true magnetic North in a process known as swinging the compass  A compass adjuster observes the difference between the ship’s compass and the four cardinal and four intercardinal directions to determine the difference. Since North and South were only one degree off, the magnets on the compass did not need to be adjusted. If there were a larger discrepancy between the two values, then magnets would be moved around until the directions came into alignment.

Captain Keith Sternberg swinging the compass from the flying bridge

Captain Keith Sternberg swinging the compass from the flying bridge

A compass functions based on the Earth’s inner molten iron core which generates a magnetic field around the Earth. The needle in a compass points towards the magnetic pole, which is not necessarily the same as the geographic pole. This difference between magnetic North and true North is known as magnetic variation. In addition to magnetic variation, each ship has a magnetic fingerprint that alters the magnetic compass slightly. If welding were done with metal, especially iron, this would change the magnetic signature of the ship. The combination of compass deviation and magnetic variation alters the true bearing of the ship and must be considered when viewing the bearing of the compass.

Since a magnetic compass differs from a true bearing, NOAA Ship Rainier has two gyrocompassses that are actually used for navigation. Each of these have a wheel spinning a gyroscope which is parallel to the Earth’s center of rotation, and do not rely on magnetism but depend on the Earth’s rotation and gravity. The spinning gyroscope, based on inertia, will always maintain its plane of rotation. Since these gyrocompasses are not altered by the magnetic signature of the ship and provide a true North reading, they are utilized in navigation. The NOAA Corps navigator plans the track lines of the course of the ship based on the true North reading of the gyroscope compass and is the bearing that is observed from the bridge of Rainier. The magnetic compass acts as a backup if the vessel were to lose power.

Gyrocompass

Gyrocompass on Rainier

Sources

http://www.skysailtraining.co.uk/compass_variation_deviation.htm

https://www.marineinsight.com/marine-navigation/gyro-compass-on-ships-construction-working-and-usage/

Personal Log

As I was relaxing in the lounge about to watch Black Panther yesterday evening, a call came in requesting my presence on the Bridge. When I entered the fresh air, granite mountains with ridges full of melting snow waterfalls and a breathtaking view welcomed me. To say I was awe inspired would be an understatement. We were in Misty Fjords within the Tongass National Forest, part of the nation’s largest forest about 22 miles west of Ketchikan. Observing a sliver of this almost 17 million acre temperate rainforest with evergreen trees amongst misty clouds for a brief period of time includes a moment that I will treasure. I was happy to share this experience with other crew, survey technicians and NOAA Corps members who weren’t currently on shift. While appreciating  this beauty, I thought of a Japanese saying, “Iche-go Ich-e,” which means this moment only happens now. Observing the still glassy water reflecting the cloudy sky against green islands and three thousand foot mountains touched my soul. The enormity of the steep granite humbled me as I appreciated it in its untouched state. This pristine environment existed from a landscape formed ten thousand years ago by a massive glacier that created this geological phenomenon. Luckily, this Tongass National Forest was claimed to be a protected zone in 1978 by the president. I’m grateful for this natural beauty that invites a tranquil, peaceful feeling. When a blow spout of a whale appeared off the port side of the vessel, my elation couldn’t be contained and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Observing Misty Fjords in the Inner Passage

Misty Fjords in the Inner Passage

 

Did You Know?

Lookouts use a coordinate plane-like reference for directions. If you are standing at the center of the Bridge, similar to the origin of a coordinate plane, then the y-axis would be dead ahead. The x-axis, or 90 degrees to the right would be beam starboard, while to the left would be beam port. To the right forty five degrees would be broad off starboard, while to the left forty degrees would be broad port. If you count the three equidistant points leading up to forty five degrees on the right hand side of the ship, you would command one off, two off or three off starboard respectively.

Cindy Byers: Mud Volcanoes at Sea? May 6, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Cindy Byers

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

April 29 – May 13, 2018

 

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: May 6, 2018

Weather from the Bridge

Latitude: 57 43.3 N
Longitude: 133 43.3
Sea Wave Height: 0
Wind Speed: 2 knots
Wind Direction: 202
Visibility: 8 Nautical Mines
Air Temperature: 14 C
Sky: High Cirrus Clouds   

 

Science and Technology Log

When I first learned that I would be on NOAA Ship Fairweather, one of the possible sites, I was told, was a survey including a mud volcano.  I did not know anything about mud volcanoes.  I knew about ice volcanoes on moons in our solar system,  but not about mud volcanoes. NOAA Ship Fairweather found evidence of the methane seeps coming from mud volcanoes, while surveying the Queen Charlotte fault last season.  A seep is where gases from below the surface comes out. The area surveyed the first week I was on the ship was just north of the seeps. I wanted to know more so I could share this information. Here is a little background.

CynthiaByersHeadShot

Cindy Byers from the ship’s deck in Southeast, Alaska

In 2015 geologists found a 700 foot gas plume and a couple other active mud cones along the Queen Charlotte – Fairweather fault. Although this fault is not in a highly populated area, it is very active. In the area where the geologists were surveying, liquid natural gas plants and a busy port were close by.  They already knew of earthquakes along the fault and that an earthquake in the area today could cause a landslide and generate tsunamis on shore.  Older mapping done in the area showed past landslides. But the 2015 survey was looking for the “seeps.”

Scientists first noticed the methane plume coming from the area near the fault.  The seep was from an underwater mud volcano. A mud volcano does not have to be made of igneous rock like a traditional volcano.  It is formed from gases and mud creating a volcano shaped cone.

Geologists have questioned whether these mud volcanoes may provide a lubricant that could actually lessen the friction on the fault in the area. It would cause the tectonic plates of area to slowly creep along.

NOAA Ship Fairweather also found these seeps during a mapping of the ocean floor along the fault.  Below on the right are the plumes of gas rising from the sea floor. Look how high they are rising.  Also notice the fan shape on the right. That shows the width of the multibeam sonar at this depth. The colored area on the left are also from NOAA Ship Fairweather’s multibeam sonar with the blues being deeper areas of the seafloor and green to yellow to red getting more shallow.  The circled areas show where the seeps were found while the fault line was being mapped.

Seeps

Soundings from the Multibeam Sonar over a mud volcano.

 

Seeps

Datum from NOAA Ship Fairweather showing a seep.

Life under the sea?

At these seeps, geologists have also found animals that live off of the nutrients of chemosynthetic bacteria.  This is bacteria that, instead using the energy of the sun (photosynthesis,) to make energy, they use the materials that come from thermal vents in the ocean floor.

Mud vulcano

Mud Volcano Photo credit NOAA

 

What are other geologic wonders of the area?

First of all there are hot springs! I learned about these hot springs from several of the people on NOAA Ship Fairweather.  They report it to be a fun place to visit for a little well deserved time off. There are many hot springs in other areas of Southeast Alaska too.  It is a draw for tourists to the area. The hot springs are produced because water seeps down a crack in the Earth’s surface and gets heated, then the super-heated water rises to the surface.

The geology of rock types of the area are also a wonder.  It is actually quite complicated, the landscape and seafloor features have been influenced by glaciation, volcanism and plate tectonics, and these geologic influences are still present today. The surveying on NOAA Ship Fairweather is vital to the understanding of the geology that shaped the area.  The clues that are beneath the sea help geologist begin to understand southeast Alaska’s dynamic past, and help to predict the geologic future.

 

Personal Log

After one week on the ship I feel like I just might have to stay!  The surveying is really interesting and the views are amazing. When I first arrived I was confused by the passageways and ladder wells on the ship, but now it seems so easy!  

Stateroom

This is my room on NOAA Ship Fairweather

Mess

This is the” Mess” (where we eat.)

I have discovered a few of my favorite places!  I love my small room with its own port hole. I really enjoy all of the meals and having time to talk to everyone onboard.  People come from all over the US and do a variety of jobs on the ship.

Linda

Member of NOAA Corps marking our location on a chart.

 

Tomorrow I will have a chance to go off the ship on the small boats. That sounds like great fun!

 

small boat

These are the small boats used for mapping in places that the ship can not do safely.

 

Did you know?

We just got to a new area with glaciers.  The one we could photograph today is Sumdum Glacier.  It sounds like a really funny name. It is a Native American word meaning, the sound glaciers make when they are calving, which is what it is called when ice falls off of them.

Sumdum Glacier

Sumdum Glacier

 

View from the ship

This is the view from the place the ship is anchored

Some information from:

“Active Mud Volcano Field Discovered off Southeast Alaska.” Eos, 30 Nov. 2015, eos.org/articles/active-mud-volcano-field-discovered-off-southeast-alaska.

Kelly Dilliard: Introduction, May 3, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kelly Dilliard
(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

May 14 – June 5, 2015

Mission: Right Whale Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: May 3, 2015

Personal Log

Hello from South Dakota! My name is Kelly Dilliard and I am a college professor at Wayne State College (WSC) in Wayne, NE. Wayne State College is one of three schools with the Nebraska State College System and it is located in northeast Nebraska. I actually live in Vermillion, South Dakota, due north of Wayne and commute to school every day. My husband, Mark Sweeney, is an Earth Science Professor at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. We are located about 45 minutes northwest from Sioux City, Iowa and about an hour south of South Falls, South Dakota.

Map of locations.

Map of eastern Nebraska and parts of Iowa and South Dakota showing locations of where I am coming from.

Photo of me at Malibu Beach.

Me at a cove beach near Malibu, California in July of 2014. Taking lots of photographs and videos to use in my teaching.

I teach all sorts of Earth Science courses at WSC including Introduction to Geology, Environmental Geology, Historical Geology, Rocks and Minerals, Oceanography, and Introduction to Meteorology. I try to create a hands-on experience for my students, but teaching in Nebraska has its drawbacks. We are far from some of the best geology sites and from the ocean, so instead of taking my students to the rocks or the ocean, I try to bring the rocks to my students in the form of specimens, photographs, and videos.  I believe that my students benefit from exposure to these samples and from the experiences that I bring into the classroom.  I hope this experience out at sea will help me bring more of the ocean to them.  As I teach mostly to future science teachers, I also hope this experience will open them up to taking similar opportunities to gain useful experiences to use in their own classroom.

Family at Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

My husband, Mark, myself, and our puggle, Penny Lane, at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado, July of 2014.

As a youngster I had an interest in two sciences… geology and oceanography. I spent time in Hawaii when I was in fourth grade and fell in love with volcanoes and humpback whales. When it came to deciding on a major in college, I decided on geology and I have been actively engaged in researching and teaching about the Earth for the past 20 years. I am originally from eastern Pennsylvania, but through my graduate and professional career have lived in various states across the United States. I have three degrees in Geology, including a PhD from Washington State University.

Me and my brother in front of sign

My brother and I in April of 1986 standing by the map of the “Save the Whales” walk we took part in.

While I have an interest in oceanography and teach an oceanography class, I have never actually taken a formal oceanography course. I applied to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Teacher at Sea (TAS) program to gain some ocean research experience and to bring that experience back into my classroom. The Teacher at Sea program is celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary this year and is, as I am finding out, a wonderful program (link to TAS program)! I was selected to take part in a Right Whale Survey off the Northeast Coast on board the NOAA ship the Gordon Gunter (see the ship’s website for information and photographs). I never dreamed that I would also be getting exposed to a “what could have been” experience, that is, if I had decided to study oceanography and whales 20 years ago as an undergraduate.

So let me tell you a little about what I have learned so far about the North Atlantic Right Whale.  The North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis) is an endangered species and is protected under both the U.S Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Right whales were heavily targeted by whale hunters, being prized for their high blubber content, the fact that they float when killed, and their relative sluggishness. They were the “right” whale to hunt. Right whales are baleen whales like the humpback whale, but feed mainly by skimming through prey at or near the surface of the ocean. Right whales are recognized by their callosities, or rough skin (white in color due to whale lice!), on their heads. For more information on Right Whales check out the NOAA Fisheries article on them.

Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Whales. You can see their callosities. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Next week I will be flying to Boston, Massachusetts and meeting up with the Gordon Gunter at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. But before then, I have to finish off the semester, participate at the WSC graduation, put in my garden (hopefully), and pack for my trip. The next time you should hear from me, I should be aboard the Gordon Gunter.

Map of home and WHOI

Map indicating where I live/work and where I will be leaving from for the Right Whale Survey.

Jessie Soder: Geology on Georges, August 17, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weather Data
Time: 12:00
Location:  41°19.095 N, 71°03.261
Air Temp:  22°C (°F)
Water Temp:  21°C (°F)
Wind Direction: South
Wind Speed: 7 knots
Sea Wave height:  0
Sea Swell:  0

Science and Technology Log

Gulf of Maine: Including Georges Bank

So far, we have spent this entire trip on Georges Bank.  This famous geographical location off the east coast of the United States is something that I had only heard about before this trip.  After several tows over the past week I have been able to see a variety of materials brought up from the ocean floor of Georges Bank.  I have seen loads of clams, empty shells, sand, mud and clay, and smooth polished rocks.  We have even pulled up a few boulders that must have weighed a couple of hundred pounds.  It was the smooth polished rocks that caught my attention. How would a rock from the bottom of the ocean become smooth and rounded?  It probably meant that Georges Bank must not have always been the bottom of the ocean.

During the Wisconsin Glaciation the ice reached its maximum around 18,000 years ago.  The Laurentide ice sheet paused in the area of Georges Bank and Cape Cod and left behind a recessional moraine that created these landforms.  This ice also had several meltwater streams flowing from it and these streams were responsible for the polishing the rocks and cutting some of the canyons found on the seafloor today.  The Northeast Channel off the northeast side of Georges Bank was the principle water gap for most of the meltwater.

Smooth Polished Rocks From the Ocean Floor

Georges Bank is a huge oval-shaped shoal bigger than Massachusetts that starts about 62 miles offshore.  It is part of the continental shelf and its shallowest areas are approximately 13 feet deep and its deepest areas 200 feet.  In fact, thousands of years ago Georges Bank used to be above water and an extension of Cape Cod.  About 14,000 years ago the sea rose enough to isolate this area and it was home to many prehistoric animals such as mastodons and giant sloths.  Today, traces of these animals are sometimes found in fishing nets!  These animals died out about 11,500 years ago when the sea level rose further and submerged the area.

Georges Bank is a very productive fishing area in the North Atlantic.  (The Grand Banks is more productive, but not as geographically accessible as Georges Banks.)  Why is Georges Bank a prime feeding and breeding area for cod, haddock, herring, flounder, lobsters, and clams?  It has to do with ocean currents.  Cold, nutrient rich water from the Labrador Current sweeps over the bank and mixes with warmer water from the Gulf Stream on the eastern edges of Georges Bank.  The mingling of these two currents, plus sunlight, creates an ideal environment for phytoplankton, which is food for the zooplankton.  In fact, the phytoplankton grow three times faster here than on any other continental shelf.  All of this plankton feeds the ecosystem of fish, birds, marine mammals, and shellfish that flourish on Georges Banks.

Personal Log

Yesterday we left Georges Bank for stations off the coast of Rhode Island.  After dark, I stepped out on the back deck and Jimmy pointed out the lights of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.  We were in sight of land for the first time in a week.  It wasn’t long before people had their cell phones out and were making calls.

A few times during this trip I have thought about sailors in the past and how they would leave for months, and even years, at a time and not have contact with their families and loved ones until they returned.  I have had email contact this entire time, yet I am really excited to go home to see those that I miss.  I can hardly imagine what it would be like to be gone for a year with no contact at all.

Throughout this trip I have been getting to know others on this cruise.  I have learned that several of them have families and young children at home.  Many of them are at sea for many weeks, or months, a year.  After being on this cruise, I have gained a lot of respect for people who choose to work on the ocean for a living.  It takes a certain type of person who can work hard, maintain a positive attitude, and live away from their home and loved ones for extended periods of time.  It has been an honor to work with these people.