NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
April 19 – May 1, 2014
Mission: Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Southeast Regional Ecosystem Assessment
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS)
Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 7 knots
Swell Waves: 1.3 feet
Air Temperature: 68.5ºF
Seawater Temperature: 67.6ºF
Science and Technology Log
Today was our third day at sea. We again were very fortunate to have had beautiful weather. We are continuing to “mow the lawn” and are creating the seafloor map.
Since it was a relatively quiet day, the crew decided to practice launching and running two of the dive boats. As they were lowering the first dive boat into the water one of the guide ropes snapped. The crew worked quickly to reattach a new rope. Once the boat was under control, the passengers boarded and they sailed away to practice marking dive locations. A few minutes later the crew launched a second dive boat. The boat was lowered into the water with no problems and the passengers boarded. Right before they unhooked from the crane, the line carrying the hydraulic fluid on the crane popped off. Hydraulic fluid shot all over. (The hydraulic fluid is biodegradable so it is safe, but a mess to clean up).
The engineers were able to work quickly to repair the crane. Meanwhile, both dive boats went on their practice missions. The second boat was the first to return and was reloaded onto the Nancy Foster without any problems. The first boat, however, did not return on its own. It ended up having engine problems. The Nancy Foster had to stop mapping the seafloor and go retrieve the dive boat and its passengers. What was supposed to be a quiet morning turned into an eventful one, but fortunately no one was injured. The only causality was a boat.
We are now down to only two dive boats. This means that a third of the planned worked might not be able to get accomplished. Chief Scientist Sarah Fangman had to revise the mission’s plans to try to accomplish as much as we can with only two boats. She first had to prioritize the different projects. It was determined that the Fish Acoustics and Telemetry projects would be completed first. The Fish Acoustics study involves two divers going to 6 specific sites. One diver will identify and record the fish species that are present. The other diver will be filming the animals seen. The Telemetry teams will be replacing the receivers that are currently positioned throughout the sanctuary. These receivers record information from micro chipped fish that swim past. New receivers will be placed in the water and the old ones will be brought on board and the data will be uploaded onto a computer. While these projects are being conducted, the divers will also be looking for sea turtles and Lionfish. Data will be gathered about the sea turtles and photos will be taken. If Lionfish are located, they will be speared and brought on board the Nancy Foster where information such as length and weight will be gathered. Lionfish are an invasive species and need to be removed from the ecosystem. For a detailed description of Lionfish, please visit the Mission’s Website at: http://graysreef.noaa.gov/science/expeditions/2014_nancy_foster/welcome.html Once these projects are complete, the Marine Debris Survey will begin.
Today we did prep for the different missions. Sarah and I organized all the supplies that will be used. This included filling a dive bag with the receivers and tools needed to secure the receivers under water as well as tools to remove the current receivers. Yesterday we had prepped the receivers. Sarah replaced the batteries and then we wrapped the receivers in electrical tape and then placed them inside nylon stockings. This is to protect the receivers and to keep them clean. When they are under the water different organisms will start to grow on them. When we retrieve the receivers, we can cut away the stockings removing any organisms growing there and then unwrap the tape and the receivers will look brand new.
We also gathered the supplies for the Lionfish removal. These included dive bags to hold the lionfish, gloves for removing the fish, and placing the spear guns into the dive holsters (designed by a GRNMS member made out of PVC pipes). We copied all the dive logs onto waterproof paper and organized the paperwork for the dives. We also prepared all the underwater cameras. Hopefully we are all set for when the divers arrive tomorrow.
Today’s lesson was flexibility. It is so important to be flexible. On a ship, no plan is going to work out perfectly. There are many uncontrollable factors such as the weather or mechanical issues. It is important to always have backup plans and be able to adjust if problems arise.
Did You Know?
You can identify sea turtles using the scales on their neck. This pattern is unique to each individual sea turtle. Just like how fingerprints can identify humans.
Animals Seen Today
Hammerhead Shark – spotted from the bridge; estimated to be 10-12 feet long; it is very uncommon to see one in GRNMS (sorry no picture)
I am truly having a wonderful time on this trip. I am meeting so many amazing people and learning a lot from everyone. The crew and all the scientific party are really nice people with many interesting stories.
Every day Keith Martin, the Electronics technician, makes Cuban coffee. I was teasing him today about the cups he uses to pass out the coffee. Cuban coffee is incredibly strong so you do not drink it like typical coffee. You drink only a tiny amount. Keith was using coffee cups to pass out the coffee. I asked him where are the tiny cups (plastic cups about the size of the paper cups you use at fast food restaurants to get ketchup)? He said that you can only find them in Miami. That led to a conversation about Miami. It turns out that he is a graduate of Miami Palmetto Senior High. (Ms. Evans taught him Biology, Coach Delgado was his Drivers Ed teacher, Mr. Moser taught him weight training, and he was a member of TVP). It really is a small world!
I do not know if I will be posting tomorrow, so I want to give an early shout out to my Seniors. I hope that you have a wonderful time at Grad Bash. Make sure to ride the Hulk for me (I prefer the 1st row). Have fun!!