Stephen Tomasetti: Gone Fishin’, August 15, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Tomasetti
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
August 11 – 25, 2014

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
You can view the geographical location of the cruise here at any time:
Date: Friday, August 15, 2014

Weather Data from Bridge:
Air Temperature: 30.5 Degrees C
Water Temperature: 30.3 Degrees C
Wind Speed: 10.2 Knots
Barometric Pressure: 1015.9 Millibars

Science and Technology Log:

On this ship’s longline survey we are trying to examine fish, sharks in particular, to monitor trends in population abundance and examine distributional patterns. In order to do all of that, you first have to catch them. I figured for this blog I’ll walk us through the process of catching sharks (before tagging them and returning them to the water).

You start with prepping everything on the deck. We have two barrels filled with 100 hooks in total that are pre-connected to gangions which are twelve feet in length each and will eventually be connected to the mainline that goes in the water. The first step is to bait the hooks. In this case we use mackerel, cut in half, so that one mackerel is used as bait for two hooks.

Barrels of bait on hooks
Barrels of bait on hooks

Once all of the hooks are baited, the ship is maneuvered to the location where the data is to be collected. The first thing to come off the ship is called a “hi-flyer”. It is basically a buoy that marks the end of the fishing line.

Samantha deploying the hi-flyer
Volunteer Samantha deploying the hi-flyer

Next some weights attached to the line are tossed into the water in order to take the mainline to the bottom. Then the individual gangions with the hooks and bait are numbered with tags and attached to the mainline that continually extends as the ship moves forward.

Eloy attaching the baited line to the main line
Fisherman Eloy Borges attaching the gangion to the mainline

I love slinging bait. It’s basically the process of tossing the baited gangions off the side before connecting it to the mainline. There’s a rhythm to it, and a groove that you get with a little practice. You have to toss it far enough while making sure not to drop the line. You also try to keep up with the proper pace so that the hooks accurately correspond to a given distance in the water.

Once all of the hooks are in the water, more weights go in, the line is cut, knotted, and attached to the second hi-flyer which is tossed in the water. All the while someone is at a computer marking when each hi-flyer, weight and hook hits the water. That’s the process. Then it’s about an hour wait before hauling in your sharks!

For the next update we’ll talk all about sharks.

Tre and I handling a smooth dogfish shark
Scientist and Director of Animal Operations Andre Debose and I handling a smooth dogfish (shark)

Personal Log:

We’ve been fishing for two days out in the Gulf and I’m getting real comfortable out here. I work 12pm – 12am daily with sporadic breaks out on deck. Slingin’ bait. Taggin’ sharks. Data. Music. Laughs. Can’t complain.

Prior to arriving in the Gulf, we spent about two days cruising down the coast of Florida. This large ship can start to feel pretty small when you go two days without working. Many of us and the crew members speed through books (I just finished a book called Long Division…check it out), watch movies, and hang out on deck. The first night many of us watched the sunset together as dolphins played in the wake of the ship. It was fantastic.

On the second day we participated in our emergency drills. These drills consist of a fire drill, a man overboard drill, and an abandon ship drill where we get to don these mammoth survival suits called “immersion suits”.

Immersion Suit Success
Immersion Suit Success

I’m sure volunteer Sarah Larsen would agree it takes some muscle to fit into these. One tip to help put these on quickly is to save your strong arm and put that in the suit last. That way you can maneuver yourself through the suit with your strong arm before you zip up.

The Gulf waters have been surprisingly smooth out here, which isn’t always the case. And small flying fish zip across the surface leaving streaks that resemble those of a knife in a tub of butter. I know I should be taking more photos of moments like these but it’s hard to remove myself from the moment, dig through my bags, get the camera out, and finally take a photograph (which still won’t do it justice). I keep thinking about my students in Brooklyn, and how privileged I am to be able to have this experience, which really challenges me to find meaningful ways to share it with them. They deserve to be here and be a part of this.

Rachel Pryor
LTJG(sel) Rachel Pryor

Crew Highlight: Meet LTJG(sel) Rachel Pryor

Job: Navigation Officer

How did you get involved with NOAA: Rachel was interested in science from a young age. She heard about NOAA Corps while working for the Environmental Protection Agency, and found out more while being an observer in the Northeast.

What is your favorite part of the job: Rachel loves standing up on the bridge, looking out the window at the open ocean and driving the ship. There are times when the job can become tense, for instance in heavy ship traffic, but in those moments she says she takes a deep breath and reflects on how lucky she is to not be stuck in a cubicle.

Did you Know? The smooth dogfish has blunt teeth that really can’t harm a human. More on sharks next time!

Karen Rasmussen, June 28, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Rasmussen
Ship: R/V Tattoosh
Geographical area of the cruise: Olympic Coast NMS
Date: June 28, 2011
Cruise to: La Push
Crew: Rick Fletcher, Nathan Witherly, Karen Rasmussen
Time: Start 9:25 – End 16:00

The first part of mission is to conduct Multibeam mapping and to collect ground-truthings at the LaPush/Teahwhit areas of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. We will also service the OCNM buoy, Cape Alava 42 (CA42). The second week of this mission is to explore the Teahwhit Head moorings, ChaBa and sunken ships, and North and South moorings.

Weather Data

Wind 5 to 10 Knots
SW Swell 4 to 7’
Science and Technology Log

Seal Rocks
Seal Rocks

We began this morning at 8:00. We loaded the boat and filled the tanks with diesel. Rick completed the safety brief (Risk Factor 21 today). Then we went over roles and responsibilities, PFD’s (personal floatation devices), Immersion Suits (location of, and completed drill- all crew completed), Emergency Situations of fire, abandon ship, MOB (Maintain Lookout, Notify Skipper), and communication systems. We left Port Angeles at 9:25 with Rick and Nathan. Nancy is driving all of our supplies to Forks. We will be spending the next three nights in Forks, WA at the Olympic Suites.

Seal Rocks

The water was choppy today with swells of about 7 feet, which makes it difficult to write in a journal. Our first stop was off of Seal Rocks. We observed sea lions and many different seabirds. An airplane was flying low over and around the islands, which was a concern because there are distance parameters that are enforced for the sea life on and around coast islands. We also noted a small boat. I tried to take a picture of the plane for further reference. The plane and small boat turned out to be State/Federal wildlife resource people doing a mammal count on the islands.

Rick servicing the Cape Alava 42 buoy.
Rick servicing the Cape Alava 42 buoy.

Our next stop was at the Cape Alava 42 buoy. The “42” indicates meters in depth. Nathan piloted the boat and Rick put on protective raingear and boots. His job consisted of standing on the swim deck while Nathan maneuvered the boat as close as he could to the buoy. When we were in the correct position, Rick pulled the buoy up while I controlled the winch. He replaced the current meter which measures how fast the current is going in that area. The buoys in the Sanctuary are serviced about once every six weeks.

From Cape Alava we continued to travel south down the coastline to LaPush. We cleaned up, hosed the Tatoosh off, and packed up stuff. Nancy met us in La Push. We loaded up the car and headed to Forks for the night. Nancy and Rick continued the work from one of the hotel rooms on how to get the technology of this mission up and running correctly.

Personal Log

I had a great time today. I have to admit I was a little worried about traveling from Port Angeles to La Push in such a small vessel. We bounced a lot, but the weather was wonderful. I was very impressed with Nathan Withery’s ability to manipulate the Tatoosh in such swells. I also observed how Rick and Nathan can walk the deck with such ease. We talked a little about how much energy is used to be onboard a small vessel all day. We all are famished!
Rick servicing the Cape Alava 42 buoy.