DJ Kast, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, May 31, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 19 – June 3, 2015

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast
Date: May 31, 2015

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

“National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ship Henry B. Bigelow is the second of five new fisheries survey ships to be built by NOAA. The ship is named after Henry Bryant Bigelow (1879-1967), a Harvard-educated zoologist whose work helped lay the scholarly foundation for oceanography as a scientific discipline. He was an internationally known expert on the Gulf of Maine and its sea life, and on the world’s jellyfish, corals, and fishes” (NOAA NEFSC).

Henry B. Bigelow and his goat Buck. PHOTO BY:
Henry B. Bigelow and the WHOI Mascot goat Buck. Photo by: NEFSC NOAA

Legacy of the name:

Henry B. Bigelow (1879–1967) was an American oceanographer and marine biologist. Bigelow described numerous new species to science, 110 of which are recognized today according to the World Register of Marine Species.  In addition, some 26 species and two genera (Bigelowina, stomatopods in family Nannosquillidae, and Bigelowiella, protists in family Chlorarachniophyte) are named after him. The Henry Bryant Bigelow Medal in Oceanography is awarded by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institute to honor “those who make significant inquiries into the phenomena of the sea”. Bigelow was the first recipient of the medal in 1960. He was honored by the naming of  NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.

Mission of the ship:

NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow will support NOAA’s mission to protect, restore, and manage the use of living marine, coastal, and ocean resources through ecosystem-based management. Its primary objective will be to study, monitor, and collect data on a wide range of sea life and ocean conditions, primarily in U.S. waters from Maine to North Carolina. The region includes Georges Bank, one of the world’s best known and most productive marine areas. The region is also home to the nation’s top-valued port, oldest commercial fisheries, and rare large whales and sea turtles. Data are used by a range of scientists who study variation in ocean conditions and sea life in order to better inform the nation’s decisions about both using and sustaining the ocean’s bounty.

“Henry B. Bigelow will also observe weather, sea state, and other environmental conditions, conduct habitat assessments, and survey marine mammal and marine bird populations. Henry B. Bigelow is a state-of-the-art research ship with multiple science mission capabilities. Foremost among these capabilities is the ship’s “quiet” hull, a design feature that minimizes sound made by the ship underwater. This allows scientists to use hydroacoustic methods for surveying marine life, and significantly reduces changes in the natural behavior of animals owing to the ship noise. In addition, the vessel can collect a variety of oceanographic data while marine life surveys are underway, resulting in both richer and more efficiently collected data.” (NOAA NEFSC)

Ship Details:

The ship! Photo from:
The ship! Photo from:

Take a virtual Ship Tour here! :

Levels: 2 (staterooms, gym, laundry), 1 (Mess Hall), 01 (Lounge), 02, Bridge, Flying Bridge


Side view of the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow. Photo by:
Side view of the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow. Photo by:–_side_plan.gif

Most of the main deck is reserved for mission functions. The aft working deck provides 145 sq m of open space for fishing and other over-the-side operations, with an additional 33 sq m of deck space at the Side Sampling Station. Space and support connections are provided for a laboratory van on the aft working deck.

Large, easily reconfigurable laboratories are designed to accommodate the varied needs of individual scientific cruises:

  • Fish/Wet Laboratory 56 sq m (602 sq ft)
  •  Chemistry Laboratory 27 sq m (290 sq ft)
  •  Dry Laboratory 14 sq m (150 sq ft)
  •  Hydrographic Laboratory 9 sq m (96 sq ft)
  •  Scientific Freezer 19 sq m (204 sq ft)
  • Preservation Alcove 5 sq m (54 sq ft)
  •  Acoustic/Computer Laboratory 46 sq m (495 sq ft)

“Underwater radiated noise has been shown to influence fish behavior, and sonar self-noise can limit the effectiveness of hydroacoustic surveys and other functions. The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has established a standard for ships’ underwater radiated noise in order to effectively employ hydroacoustic stock assessment techniques. Henry B. Bigelow has been designed and constructed to meet this ICES noise standard. This reduced noise signature will improve NOAA’s ability to accurately assess fish stocks and to compare standardized data with the international fisheries scientific community. Examples are the propulsion motors, which are specially constructed and balanced to reduce noise and vibration, and the diesel generators, which are mounted on double isolated raft systems. The hull form and highly skewed, five-bladed propeller were carefully designed and tested using U.S. Navy quieting techniques. Pumps, motors, ventilation and piping systems are all designed for low noise, with some critical systems resiliently mounted in the ship. Hull structure is treated in critical areas with special acoustic damping tiles. Airborne noise has been reduced throughout the ship for personnel safety and comfort.”

To summarize that, this ship is so quiet I cannot tell when we are slowing down to 2 knots for bongo or going 11 knots to steam to the next station. It’s amazing.


The bridge is equipped with numerous dedicated systems including:

  • Hydrographic ES60 SONAR system, and ME70 multibeam system
  • Dynamic positioning and auto pilot system
  • X- and S-band Sperry Bridge Master RADARs
  • Transas ECDIS Navigation system
  • DGPS receiver
  • GMDSS communications suite including weather fax, satellite telephone, MF/HF and VHF radios
  • MTN internet communications system
  • SCS remote console and master clock display
  • Doppler speed log and depth sounder
  • Sperry primary and secondary gyro compass

Nearly all of these systems are solely controlled from the bridge, allowing scientific and operational systems to be totally independent. All scientific and fishing systems can be monitored from the bridge via remote consoles or SCS interfaces.

Layout of the bridge. Photo by DJ Kast
Laura Gibson charting on the navigational chart. Photo by DJ Kast
Laura Gibson charting on the navigational chart. Photo by DJ Kast
Depth Profiler. Photo by DJ Kast
Multi-beam bottom sounder. Photo by DJ Kast


Gibson letting me steer the ship. That is fear in my eyes. Photo by Laura Gibson
Starboard steering Console that lets you control the ship while the bongos or CTDs are deployed from the side sampling station. Photo by DJ Kast
Radar with four contacts! Photo by DJ Kast
Electronic Chart Photo by DJ Kast
LT Gibson checking on operations in the bridge. Photo by DJ Kast
Control and status indicator of watertight doors. Photo by DJ Kast
Navigation Light switches. Photo by DJ Kast


Cool Events on the Ship

Care Package Delivery:

The XO's friend that is "Rowing for Peace" to Turkey. The XO delivered ice cream, ship hats, and a pineapple. Photo by DJ Kast
The CO’s friend that is “Rowing for Peace” to Turkey. The CO delivered ice cream, ship hats, and a pineapple. Photo by DJ Kast

Emergency Drills:

The Bigelow values safety and to make sure that everyone knows what to do in an emergency they do quiet a few surprise drills to keep everybody on their toes.

Door sign with information on where to go for each person during each of the type of drills that occur on the ship. Photo by DJ Kast
Station card with information on where to go for each person during each of the type of drills that occur on the ship. Photo by DJ Kast

The first one was a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship Drill on Wednesday May 20th, 2015.

Photo of me in a survival suit after the abandon ship drill was announced. Photo by Megan Switzer
Photo of me in a survival suit after the abandon ship drill was announced. Photo by Megan Switzer

Practicing the PLT gun (Pneumatic Line Throwing Gun): This is a gun that is used to help rescue people who have fallen overboard and it is also used to pass lines to other boats. It has a projectile connected to a long line that can travel far distance and connect an overboard victim to the boat.

Here is a video of it being shot:

A picture of me preparing the PLT gun for launch. Photo by Dennis Carey
Photo by Marjorie Foster.
Photo by Marjorie Foster.
Photo by Marjorie Foster.
Photo by Marjorie Foster.

Hydrophoning Acoustic Buoys!

While we were on the southern part of Georges Bank, the boat used a Hydrophone and geometry to pick up an Autonomous Multi-Channel Acoustic Recorder (AMAR) mooring in Lydonia Canyon. The ship sent signals to it with the hydrophone and the signals it received back were indications of where to send the boat next.

The application of the Pythagoreon Theorum in terms of acoustic sound distances to the buoy to help during retrieval. Oh the applications of MATH! Photo by DJ Kast
The application of the Pythagorean Theorem in terms of acoustic sound distances to the buoy to help during retrieval. Oh, the applications of MATH! Photo by DJ Kast
Geoff Shook sending out messages on the hydrophone. Photo by DJ Kast
Geoff Shook preparing to send out messages on the hydrophone to not only find it but also cause it to release to the surface since it was hundreds of meters down. Photo by DJ Kast
Successful retrieval of the acoustic buoy. Photo by DJ Kast
Successful retrieval of the acoustic buoy. Photo by DJ Kast


The back of the shirt that the crew and chief Scientist Jerry gave me. Photo by DJ Kast
The back of the shirt that the crew and chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso gave me. I’m having everyone sign it so that I can hang it up when I get home.  Photo by DJ Kast

All of the crew have been absolutely amazing and have definitely made this the trip of a lifetime. Thank you all so much. -DJ

Last selfie of the trip. Photo by DJ Kast
Last selfie of the trip. Photo by DJ Kast

Emily Whalen: Making Plans, April 20, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Preparing to Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: April 20, 2015

Personal Log

Next week I will be boarding the Henry B. Bigelow to participate in the Spring Bottom Trawl Survey as part of the NOAA’s Teacher at Sea (TAS) program.  Before I leave, I am frantically working to assess my student’s work, plan projects for them to work on while I am gone, spending time with my family and also planting seeds in my vegetable garden so that I will return to lovely little green seedlings!   Although this is my first time participating in TAS, it is not the first time I will be headed off to sea for an adventure on a boat.  After graduating from college, I spent several years living and working on sail training vessels where my job was to take kids out sailing and get them excited about the ocean.  One of my favorite things was setting a trawl net and hauling it in by hand so that we could teach kids about whatever fish, invertebrates or plants  we caught.  I always loved the moment the net reached the surface and I could catch a first glimpse at what was inside!

Getting ready to teach kids about a giant sea hare, something we will NOT catch during the bottom trawl survey!
Getting ready to teach kids about a California Sea Hare, something we will NOT catch during the bottom trawl survey!

It was on one of these boats nearly ten years ago that I first heard of the Teacher at Sea program.  I was sailing with a group of high school students from Brooklyn, and one of their teachers had just returned from his TAS trip in Alaska.  At the time I was considering becoming a teacher, but one of the things I was struggling with was the thought of being indoors all day, every day, year after year.  Hearing about his trip made me realize that becoming a classroom teacher didn’t mean I would literally have to stay in the classroom all the time!  In the years since then, I went to graduate school, got married, moved to New Hampshire, taught middle school science for a few years, and most recently started teaching high school science at Next Charter School in Derry, NH.

Spring skiing at Mount Sunapee!
Great spring skiing is one of the perks of living in New Hampshire!

One of the great things about teaching at my school is that we spend lots of time outside the classroom.  I have been able to take kids hiking, running, snowshoeing, to museums and exhibitions, on the T into downtown Boston and even on overnight trips to an island!  In fact as I am typing this, my hands are muddy from taking our students to a state park and building a log bridge as part of an earth day initiative.  As a staff, we are constantly pushing our students to step outside their comfort zone and interact with new people, visit new places and try new things.  Hopefully they realize that this is exactly what I am doing when I head out to sea next week!

Ice skating with some of the students at Next Charter School!
Ice skating with some of the students at Next Charter School!

When I leave, I will be spending two weeks on board the Henry B. Bigelow, which is a 208-foot research vessel that was built in Mississippi and launched in 2005.  The boat has a sophisticated equipment on board that allows scientist to track, study and measure marine mammals, fish and other sea creatures.  The hull of the boat is designed to reduce noise, which allows for more accurate measurements and also prevents the animals that scientists are attempting to student from getting scared away.  I’m looking forward to learning more about the ship’s technology and how it allows us to build rich and robust picture of the species of the North Atlantic.

NOAA Research Vessel Henry B. Bigelow
A glamorous shot of the Henry B. Bigelow. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Another cool thing about this boat is that the name was chosen by a group of high school students from my home state of New Hampshire as a prize for winning a regional NOAA contest.  When I mentioned this to my friend Forrest, who has spent lots of time on the water up and down the east coast, he suggested that the boat may have been named after the same Bigelow as Bigelow Bight, which is a geographical feature several miles east of the New Hampshire coastline.

My daughter Harper and my husband Jared looking out at Bigelow Bight from Portsmouth, NH
My daughter Harper and my husband Jared looking out at Bigelow Bight from Portsmouth, NH

After doing a little more research on my own, I learned that Henry Bryant Bigelow was a world renowned marine biologist from Massachusetts who spent his life making great contributions to the field of oceanography.  Aside from a NOAA ship, and marking on a nautical  chart, there are also over two dozen species of algae and protists as well as medal of achievement in oceanography that are named after him!

The next time I write, I will be well underway on my trip!  Please comment below with any questions you have or topics you would like me to write about!

Joan Le, Packing Up and Ready to Go, July 28, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joanie Le
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
August 5 – 16, 2014

Mission: Deep-Sea Coral Research
Geographic area of the cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 28, 2014

Personal Log

At Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

Hello there! I am Earth Science teacher Joanie Le, from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. I couldn’t be more excited to join the Deep-Sea Corals research team in August, and spend two weeks on the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow out in the North Atlantic Ocean. My interest in the ocean started at James Madison University, where we studied the geology left by ancient inland seas. Standing next to giant shale formations, I would imagine how the whole area was once submerged in water and teeming with marine life. But if I’m going to be honest, I truly didn’t appreciate the importance of marine life until very recently. Squeezing in at the last minute from a packed wait-list, I was so fortunate to spend a week on the Chesapeake Bay learning from an exceptional group of educators through one of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation‘s Summer Immersion Courses, “Teachers on the Bay”. After spending days trawling, marsh-mucking, and breathing in the beautiful bay air, I am thrilled to take my studies even deeper into the Atlantic Ocean.

Beautiful morning view from Fox Island in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay.

However, my departure from my home in Washington, DC will be bittersweet, I’m afraid. While email correspondence works well for my husband, my two dogs never gained the knack for it. We’ve spent so much of the summer exploring local rivers and beaches together that it’ll be tough to leave them behind. They will just have to keep each other company, I suppose.

Walter and Reginald.

So that’s it. Next post will be from the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow in the Atlantic Ocean. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any specific questions, or would like me to highlight anything in particular. I’ll look out for your comments below, or through my classroom Twitter account, @TheScienceRoom. See you soon!

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, and my home for two week.

Beverly Owens: What Skills Are Important in Becoming a Scientist or Engineer? June 17, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beverly Owens
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 24, 2013

Mission:  Deep-Sea Corals and Benthic Habitat: Ground-Truthing and Exploration in Deepwater Canyons off the Northeastern Coast of the U.S.
Geographical Area: Western North Atlantic
Date: June 17, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 17.60 oC (63.68 oF)
Wind Speed: 13.41knots (15.43mph)
Water Depth of current dive: approximately 1800 m (5905 ft)

Science and Technology Log

I have been amazed in watching the Science Crew (scientists and TowCam engineers) operate this week.  With any challenge that is presented, they work as a team to make minor adjustments, troubleshoot, and correct any issues that may arise. That got me thinking…what skills or characteristics are important in becoming an engineer or a scientist?

I surveyed the Science Crew, and based on their responses, have developed a list of skills important for scientists and engineers:

  1. Have a positive attitude.
  2. Be an excellent student. Learn to think independently.
  3. Be a good writer.
  4. Communicate well with others.
  5. Develop analytical thinking skills.
  6. Volunteer or become familiar with resources, like labs, museums, or other scientific institutions.
  7. Develop strong math skills.
  8. Develop computer skills or computer programming skills.
  9. Perseverance: If you make a mistake you can’t get down about it. You have to pick yourself up and try again.
  10. Curiosity: If you are curious, you’ll be passionate about what you’re studying, and will be able to communicate that to others. If you’re passionate, you will persevere and work through the challenges.

Personal Log

During my Teacher at Sea experience, I have had the opportunity to observe the Science Crew during many different activities. Below are some skills or characteristics that I have seen exhibited by the scientists and engineers involved in this research expedition.

  1. Work as a team.
  2. Cooperate: Get along with others.
  3. Be tenacious and persevere; be steadfast, never give up.
  4. Look at things from different perspectives; think “outside of the box.”
  5. Listen to and respect other people’s ideas.
  6. Focus on the task at hand.
  7. Think things through before jumping in.
  8. Come up with hypotheses or solutions and test them. If the solution doesn’t work, try another one.

As science teachers, we try to instill these traits in our students in the classroom. Whether it is completing a group project, conducting a lab, or taking notes, there is always opportunity to improve our science and engineering skills.

Did You Know?

One feature of the deep ocean is that this region of ocean is subject to very high pressure due to the tremendous weight of the water above. So, how about a demonstration?

Take one Styrofoam cup, decorate it, and send it over a mile deep in the ocean. What happens to the Styrofoam cup?

It shrinks! Why? Pressure in the ocean increases about 1 atmosphere for every 10 m increase in depth. The increased pressure compresses the air inside the Styrofoam, and the cup condenses. It’s the same reason why your ears start “popping” when you drive to an area of higher elevation, like the mountains, or fly in an airplane. In that case, increase in altitude means a decrease in pressure

Increased pressure at the bottom of the ocean caused the Styrofoam cup to shrink.
Increased pressure at the bottom of the ocean caused the Styrofoam cup to shrink.

Beverly Owens: Getting ready to Cruise! June 7, 2013

The Dragon, Crest Middle School's Mascot
The Dragon, Crest Middle School’s Mascot

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Beverly Owens
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 24, 2013

Getting ready! I’ll be headed to Rhode Island, and leaving on the NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow very soon. Today, I showed my 8th grade students a picture of the ship and told them about the research that would be taking place. I brought a bandana to school and asked all of the my students to sign it. Our school’s mascot is a dragon, so I will be bringing Dewey the Dragon along with me on my Teacher at Sea trip. Dewey will be wearing the bandana my students signed (as seen in the photo). I will be taking pictures of Dewey during the trip, so that students will be able to see him in the lab, and will provide some idea of scale in many pictures.

I am looking forward to this research experience, and am excited about the opportunity to share this information with my students, school, family, and local community. What an exciting adventure awaits!

Barbara Koch, October 2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude 41.31
Longitude -71.40
Speed 6.50 kts
Course 192.00
Wind Speed 11.29 kts
Wind Dir. 246.00 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.81 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.87 PSU
Air Temperature 15.90 ºC
Relative Humidity 57.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1014.52 mb
Water Depth 35.81 m
Cruise Start Date 10/2/2010

Stacy Rowe, of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center
Stacy Rowe, of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Science and Technology Log

Stacy Rowe, of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts is the Chief Scientist for our cruise. I had a chance to talk with her about her background, experiences, and job while we were waiting to leave port today.

When working onshore, Rowe is responsible for pre-cruise preparations, such as ordering supplies for the trip and coordinating the collection of special samples for in-house and out-of-house scientists. She also works on testing a new version of FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System), which is the system we are using to collect data about the fish populations.

During the cruise, when serving as Chief Scientist, Rowe shoulders a lot of responsibility. She schedules the watch teams, works with both watch teams, and acts as a liaison between the scientists and the ship’s personnel on the bridge (the room from which the boat is commanded). Although the sampling stations are randomly selected via computer before the cruise, Rowe works with the bridge to determine in which order stations will be sampled. On this cruise she has consulted with the bridge often because the weather has impacted our travel so much. Rowe relates that the job of chief scientist is mentally tiring because she is really on call the entire cruise. After the cruise, Rowe works with post-cruise management. She makes sure the samples collected are distributed to the scientists, and she audits data to make sure there were no errors in data collection.

Rowe grew up in Florida and attended the University of Florida where she earned a BS in Natural Resource Conservation with a minor in Wildlife Ecology. During her undergraduate program, she studied sampling, and uses this information extensively in her job now. After she graduated from college, Rowe joined the Peace Corps. She spent over one year working in Congo, Africa on a fresh water project. Then, she spent two years on Palau in Micronesia working in marine resource management. Rowe has been with NOAA for eight years, now. She goes on five to six research cruises a year, which adds up to about sixty days for the entire year. She serves as Chief Scientist on the majority of her cruises, but still enjoys the rare cruise when she works as a scientist processing catches.

Rowe has some advice for young people thinking they might like a career like hers. First, get a degree in any science area. A marine science degree isn’t really necessary. Work experience is the really important key. Second, volunteer as much as you can. Volunteering to work on research cruises not only builds a resume, but it allows students to try it out early on in their school career to see if they like it.

Stacy Rowe has strong interpersonal and organizational skills that are important for her leadership position, and I’ve enjoyed working as a volunteer scientist under her direction.

Personal Log

Newport, Rhode Island is a great place to visit. It was a center for shipbuilding and trade during colonial times, and is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Some of the United States’ wealthiest families built summer homes overlooking the bay, and these homes are open for tours today. I spent a nice afternoon on the “Cliff Walk” which is a trail that skirts around the edge of the estates just above the water. I had been there twenty five years ago, so it was fun to revisit the area.

Narragansett Bay
Narragansett Bay.

After two days in port, we are heading back out to sea. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and the waters are pretty calm. It’s hard to believe that we will be in rough waters once we leave Narragansett Bay. I’m riding up on the weather deck as we leave the bay, and I see many sailboats, two commercial cruise liners, Fort Adams (which has guarded Narragansett Bay since Colonial Times), Clingstone (a famous house built on a rock in the water), and the Newport (Pell) Bridge. I’m definitely putting Newport on my list of places to revisit.

In the Wet Lab

Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish
Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish
Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish
Processing an Atlantic Spicy Dogfish

We have processed Atlantic Spiny Dogfish in the lab this week. This fish isn’t very popular for food in the United States, but it is exported to Europe for “fish and chips.” In 1998, this species was overfished, therefore, there were limits placed on the numbers fisheries could catch. Since that time, catch levels have been rebuilt.

The Atlantic Spiny Dogfish lives a long time: females up to 40 years and males up to 35 years. Females are larger than males and give birth to between two and fifteen live pups. During gestation (18-24 months) the pups have a yellow sack at their necks called a “yolk.” The Spiny Dogfish, processed here by TK, was a female with six pups. You can see the yolk on the two pups in the picture at right.

Barbara Koch, September 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Me in Front of the Henry Bigelow
Me in Front of the Henry Bigelow

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude 41.36
Longitude -70.95
Speed 10.00 kts
Course 72.00
Wind Speed 19.19 kts
Wind Dir. 152.91 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.06 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.91
PSU Air Temperature 19.80 ºC
Relative Humidity 91.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1012.45 mb
Water Depth 31.48 m
Cruise Start Date: 9/27/2010

Science and Technology Log

I have the privilege of working with the science team on Leg II of the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow from September 27 – October 7, 2010. We left port on Monday, September 27 and have been conducting the survey in the waters of Southern New England.

Processing Fish
Processing Fish

Fisheries surveys are conducted every spring and autumn in order to determine the numbers, ages, genders and locations of species that are commonly caught by the commercial fishing industry. The surveys are also carried out to monitor changes in the ecosystem and to collect data for other research. The scientists working on this leg of the survey are from Alaska, Korea, and New England. This ship works around the clock, therefore, we are divided into a day watch and a night watch, and we are all under the direction of the Chief Scientist, Stacy Rowe. I’m on the day watch, so my team processes fish from 12:00 noon until 12:00 midnight.

In order to collect a sample of fish, our ship drags a net for twenty minutes in areas that have been randomly selected before the cruise began. After the “tow,” the net is lifted onto the boat, and the fish are put in a large area to await sorting. The fish move down a conveyor belt, and we sort the fish by putting the different types into buckets and baskets. Once, the catch has been sorted, we move the buckets onto a conveyor belt, which moves them to stations for data collection.

Measuring fish
Measuring fish

Two people work at a station. One is a “Cutter” and the other is a “Recorder.” The cutter measures the length and weight of the selected species of fish on a “fishboard.” This data is automatically entered into the computer system. Depending on the species, the cutter might also be required to take an age sample or a stomach sample. Age is determined by collecting scales or an otolith (sometimes called an ear bone), depending on the species. The cutter removes these and the recorder puts them in a bar-coded envelope to send back to the lab for later study. The cutter also removes the stomach, cuts it open, and identifies what the fish has eaten, how much, and how digested it is. All of this information is entered into the computer for later analysis.

The information gathered during this cruise will give NOAA and other organizations valuable information about the health of the fish species and their ecosystem.

Personal Log

I arrived the night before we left port, and I was able to spend the night on the boat. My stateroom sleeps two people in bunk beds, and each person has a locker in which to stow our belongings. The stateroom also has a bathroom with a shower. Right across the hall is the scientist’s lounge. It has two computers, a television, many books, and games. This is where we sometimes spend our time while we are waiting for a tow to come in.

We spent much of the first day waiting to leave port. Once underway, some tests were conducted on the nets, and my Watch Chief showed me pictures of some of the common species we would see, explaining how to identify them. We began processing fish today. The first time the fish came down the conveyor belt, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do with them. It worked out fine because I was at the end of the conveyor belt, so I only had to separate the two smallest fish, Scup and Butterfish, and Loligo Squid. After my first try at processing, I felt much more confident, and I even was able to tell the difference between Summer and Winter Flounders. One faces to the right and the other faces to the left!