Mission: Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey (HICEAS)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Hawaiian archipelago
Date: September 1, 2023
When referring to sailing knots, the bitter end signifies the end of the line (i.e. rope to non-seafarers). I thought this fitting, considering the conclusion of my rich time at sea! From interacting with the different deck crew, I learned different ways to tie knots—sometimes the same type of knot. For example, though I knew the bowline before I set sail, I didn’t have a process that stuck in my memory. With the aid of the crew, I solidified a process for myself. Exposure to different ways to tie a knot (or in the case of the mathematics classroom, different ways to approach a problem) gives the learner autonomy to choose a method that suits their learning. I also learned how to splice. See pictures below!
Science and Technology Log
In the final week, all science teams (birders, marine mammal observers, acousticians, plankton team) wrapped up and prepared to disembark the ship. Traveling a total distance of 4,819.2 km, Leg 2 spanned 28 glorious days at sea. The cetacean team tallied 90 visual sightings (visually identified 15 species) and 122 acoustic detections. The seabird side saw 37 species and 4,124 individuals. The plankton team completed 39 net tows on Leg 2 and totals 44 tows overall. The images below from the HICEAS Map Tour page detail the specific cetaceans sighted and heard. I also include some cetacean photos taken by the marine mammal observers (MMOs).
It was an incredible experience to witness science in action. I often referred to my time at sea as “Science Camp!” Cruise leader-in-training, Yvonne Barkley (featured in this previous blog post), briefly interviewed me for the HICEAS 2023 Map Tour. Aside from the science, she asked me what I’ll bring back home with me from this experience. I had to incubate on this question and after some reflection, realized that what I’ve gained are all the connections I made with my ship mates.
Gigantic mahalo to Fionna Matheson (Commanding Officer). We had many conversations during the Conductivity Temperature Depth operations and over meals. We bonded over being women in leadership positions, as well as sharing family stories. Thank you for a smooth cruise!
My true purpose on the ship was to create crossword addicts. I love collaborating on crosswords, so I brought a book of Monday-Friday New York Times (NYT) crosswords on the ship. The book mostly stayed up on the flying bridge where someone “off effort” (someone not currently observing) would read clues for the marine mammal observers on effort. In many of our jobs, listening to music, audiobooks, podcasts, etc, help us focus on the work at hand; similarly, pondering crossword clues helped the MMOs concentrate on searching for mammals. By the end of the leg, Andrea Bendlin (MMO) printed out a clipboard full of more NYT crosswords, and both Suzanne Yin and Paul Nagelkirk (MMOs) made their own crosswords that incorporated both the science and the science team members. I’d say I left my legacy!
Alexa Gonzalez (Acoustician) was one of my roommates! A Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at University of Hawaii, Manoa initially brought Alexa from sunny California (Santa Clarita! We’re practically neighbors.) to sunny Hawaii. During her time at school, she volunteered for the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) doing data entry and some monk seal responses for the Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program. She also participated in outreach and marine mammal response for the Protected Resources Division of NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office. After graduation in 2018, Alexa had a fun job working on a tour boat wearing many hats as a deckhand, snorkel guide, and bartender. In 2019, she worked on monk seal population assessment efforts at the Hawaiian monk seal field camp at Holoikauaua/Manawai (Pearl and Hermes Atoll). Right after, she was recruited by the Science Operations Division to fill the role she’s in now, Biological Science Technician. She participates on different research projects at PIFSC as a diver, small boat operator, acoustician and lab tech. Below, you can see a photo of Alexa as a small boat operator on Malia.
Pizza and Mexican food top Alexa’s favorite food list, so what’s better than the fusion of the two at one of her favorite restaurants Asada Pizza in Sylmar, California. She loves to get the nopales pizza, topped with jalapeños and cilantro. Yum!! In my time with Alexa, I’ve come to learn the meaning of a quiet sort of connection. We didn’t have to converse much to enjoy each other’s company whether we were decorating Styrofoam cups to crush, playing guessing games in the acoustics lab, or doing crosswords! The lengthy down times made me very thankful for Andrea’s nail polish. Alexa and I had a spa night in the forward mess with Jason Dlugos (3rd Assistant Engineer) and Paul Nagelkirk (MMO).
While most of us keep aurally busy while we work with our hands, the acousticians keep their hands busy while listening for cetaceans! Jennifer McCullough (Lead Acoustician) brought a never-ending supply of pipe cleaners to build objects. See some of the creations below!
Food and Career Blog
I will really miss the meals aboard the Sette as well as all the conversations shared. Mahalo to all the stewards and friends who made sure I was fed, especially during teaching hours!
As mentioned before, I tried to do one small thing that I did not do the day before to break up the routine. This week’s major routine-break involved Hawaiian shave ice, put on by Verne Murakami (1st Assistant Engineer)!! Though I recognize that sweets can taste good, I generally prefer savory, sour, or spicy foods. Regardless, I had a blast making shave ice for others. In particular, Zack High (General Vessel Assistant–GVA) and Paul Nagelkirk (MMO) allowed me to make their shave ices. First, a scoop of ice cream, then some ube. Shaved ice fills the cup, coming to a mound above the lip. Flavored syrups like mango or blueberry color the ice. Finally, a sprinkle of ling hing mui accents.
Zack went to maritime school at Mid-Atlantic School in Norfolk, Virginia. Afterwards, he completed an internship on a vessel with the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command. He learned basic CPR, safety and training, completed his Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping. One of his professors sent his resume to NOAA and a year later, Zack started working in Nov 2021 on the Sette! Though he started in the deck department under Chris Kaanaana (Chief Boatswain/Bosun), two months later, he transferred to the engineering department for a different career opportunity. As part of his role as a GVA, he goes on watch, does rounds, goes down to the main control room to take readings, goes up to the main deck to record temperatures of freezers, look for leaks or other signs of disrepair. He hopes to become a licensed engineer with aspirations to go into private industry or another federal branch. Zack is a big fan of weight lifting and loves fishing with Verne, catching big tuna and mahi mahi. He calls himself a gearhead because he likes working on cars and going to car shows. He also enjoys going to see live music; his last show was an underground punk concert in Seattle. He would like to start hiking. Zack likes boxing and he even gave me a little lesson on the ship!
Paul went to Michigan State University and majored in environmental biology and zoology. He became a fisheries observer in the Bering Sea and then later worked in oil and gas mitigation in the Gulf of Mexico to reduce environmental impacts due to noise pollution. In 2013, he started both ship and aerial surveys with NOAA. In the aerial surveys, the plane follows transect lines 600ft over the water.
Paul has also conducted aerial surveys of the North Atlantic Right Whale through the New England Aquarium. The New England Aquarium is the pioneer and premier research institution for the Right Whale. They run the individual ID catalog for the North Atlantic Right Whales (see https://rwcatalog.neaq.org/#/). They know the whales’ relationships to each other since they perform year to year tracking for conservation efforts. Climate change alters the whales’ prey locations, causing them to move farther north towards Canada. Further, they are susceptible to entanglements from the lobster and crab industry as well as collisions from ship traffic because they tend towards the coast. The number of North Atlantic Right Whales left is disturbingly low, about 350, landing them on the endangered species list.
Paul and I became fast friends. I affectionately call him my “worstie”, but he really is a “bestie”. We shared his favorite food (Detroit-style pizza) at Pizza Mamo in Honolulu–I highly recommend! His other hobbies (some of which we share) include Wordle, biking, hiking, and disc golf.
A very special mahalo to Cruise Leader 💞Marie Hill💞. Marie’s charm brought much energy to the science team. Her vibrant character will be missed!
Regrettably, my career highlights lack comprehensiveness. Give me another month, Teacher at Sea Program 😉, and I could feature everyone. I include some visual shout-outs in the images below!
Did you know?
You may be familiar with the duality of the word “aloha”, embodying both a greeting and a farewell. My exposure to new meanings of “aloha” through Chef Chris’s Aloha Kitchen: Recipes from Hawai’i cookbook by Alana Kysar inspired me to learn more. According to the Hawai’i Law of the Aloha Spirit,
“‘Aloha’ is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence. ‘Aloha’ means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”
Mission: Pacific hake (Merluccius productus) Survey (Leg 3 of 5) Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean off the Northern California Coast working north back toward coastal waters of Oregon. Date: July 24, 2023
Weather Data from the Bridge
Sunrise: 05:46 | Sunset: 20:51 Current Time: 8:30am Pacific Standard Time (0830) Lat 42 06.5819 N, Lon 124 58.5931 W Visibility: less than 1 nautical mile Sky condition: overcast, Present weather: fog Wind speed: 10 knots Wind direction: 115° (east southeast ESE) Barometer: 1017.5 mbar (millibars), approx. 30 hg (inches of mercury) Sea Wave height 1 ft | Swell 260°, 3-4 feet in height Sea temp 15.2°C (59.36°F) | Air Temp 57.38°F Course Over Ground (COG): 359.2° Speed Over Ground (SOG): 11.3 knots (13 mph)
Science and Technology Log
Let’s break down the weather and navigation data that you may not be familiar with:
What is a nautical mile as compared to a “regular” mile? Nautical miles are used to measure the distance traveled through the water. A nautical mile is slightly longer than a mile on land, equaling 1.1508 land-measured (or statute) miles. A nautical mile equals exactly 1,852 meters or approximately 6076 feet. The nautical mile is based on the Earth’s longitude and latitude coordinates, with one nautical mile equaling one minute of latitude. (Source: NOAA)
What are knots? One knot equals one nautical mile per hour. A knot is a unit of speed that ties directly into the global latitude and longitude coordinate system. Aviators and sailors find knots are easier to navigate due to their relationship with degrees of latitude. Land-based miles per hour do not share a relationship with latitude and longitude. A knot is equal to about 1.15 land-based miles. Knots are tied (pun intended) to nautical miles traveled. The origin of measurement comes from a piece of wood tied to the ship with a piece of knotted rope, with the crew members then counting the number of knots between the ship and the piece of wood after a certain amount of time.
What is a millibar? A unit of atmospheric pressure equal to ¹/₁₀₀₀ bar or 1000 dynes per square centimeter. Wait, what’s a dyne? This is a physics concept. A dyne is a force that acts for one second and produces a change in velocity of one centimeter per second in a mass of one gram. When I blow on the surface of my peppermint tea to cool it off I am exerting the force of my breath and changing the velocity of the tea’s surface.
The air around you has weight and exerts pressure on everything it touches. Press lightly with your fingers on the back of your other hand to feel more noticeable pressure. Gravity is pulling on the air as well, just like it is keeping you anchored to Earth.
Atmospheric pressure is an indicator of weather. It’s obviously a windy day down in the land of peppermint tea when (my) wind is blowing. When a low-pressure system moves into an area, it usually leads to cloudiness, wind, and precipitation. High-pressure systems usually lead to fair, calm weather.
Barometers gauge pressure. Hg represents inches of mercury in a classic barometer. One inch of mercury is the pressure exerted by a 1-inch high column of mercury at 0°C (32°F ) Millibars is a metric measurement while inches of mercury (hg) is the English unit of measurement.
What is a heading? The direction in which a vessel’s bow points at any given time. It is the angle between North and the bow of the boat.
What is Course Over Ground? Course Over Ground is the actual direction of progress of a vessel, between two points, concerning the earth’s surface. The vessel’s “heading” may differ from the Course Over Ground (COG) due to the effects of wind, tide, and currents.
How do you read wind direction in degrees?
NOAA works with a multitude of contractors that are associated with other entities such as Oregon State University (OSU) and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC). The science crew on leg 3 includes three individuals associated with OSU concerned with marine mammals and birds (Nick Metheny, Chris Hoefer, and graduate student Jake Marshall), one fisheries technician (Liz Ortiz, with PSMFC), two independent contractors (Ethan Beyer, Wet Lab Lead; Samantha Engster, environmental DNA sampling), and two NOAA employed scientists: Steve de Blois (Chief Scientist, Acoustics), and Julia Clemons (Acoustics).
The lesson here is that you can be contributing to NOAA’s Fishery work but not necessarily receiving your paycheck from them, as is the case with contractors. NOAA also welcomes ocean enthusiast volunteers, which is true both of myself and second-year graduate student Jake. Jake’s focus is to examine how proposed wind farms off the Oregon Coast, along with rising sea temperatures, may impact the migratory patterns of hake. His undergraduate degree is in applied math.
Career trajectories are well represented within the science crew. Liz represents an entry-level position, while Steve represents a senior scientist with many surveys under his belt.
Tour of Hatfield Marine Science Center Campus
On Friday, July 21st I had the opportunity for a brief tour of buildings on the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) campus. The general public is limited to the Visitor Center where a Giant Pacific Octopus is on display along with numerous educational exhibits.
My guide was Alicia Billings, a Fishery Biologist who specializes in engineering (such as underwater cameras) and database management for NOAA Fisheries. She is currently working on a Master’s in Data Analytics at Oregon State University. Truly a renaissance woman, who crafts all sorts of contraptions for expeditions, she also serves as a point of contact for the TAS program.
I met her at a cafe just inside the new Marine Studies Building. It’s the newest structure on campus and allegedly designed to withstand a magnitude 9.0+ earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It’s touted as a vertical evacuation structure and contains a community cache with emergency supplies. An imposing stairway leads to the upper floors and is lined with an art installation that imitates portholes on a ship. Alicia pointed out an Innovation Lab on the main floor which appeared to have many interesting mechanical devices to experiment with. A bulletin board at the entrance announced summer and fall classes: Food From the Sea, Phycology (micro & macroalgal biology), Aquaculture Lab.
The next stop was the OSU Guin Library, which I couldn’t resist peeking into. An impressive whale skeleton hangs near the entrance. Marilyn Potts Guin was the first librarian for HMSC. Under her “exuberant guidance,” she convinced the HMSC director at the time that the site needed a real library. The education building had room so Guin started filling it.
HMSC is an academic research field station that evolved into a multiagency research campus. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department along with its federal counterpart are all partners on campus. When the EPA provided funding for a new library building, Guin provided guidance on the design. Sadly, she passed away from breast cancer at age 45 while construction was underway.
Guin’s exuberance echoed long after her departure when a 2014 remodel was assisted by the sale of her house, which she had left to the university. The library continues to adapt to the ever-changing information landscape but maintains its core focus on materials related to marine fisheries and mammals, and information specific to the Northeast Pacific Ocean. A ‘new books’ display included: Tales of the Sea Cloud, Coastal and Deep Ocean Pollution, Seaweed Biotechnology, and (appropriate to the survey) Advances in Fish Processing Technology.
A myriad of bookish treasures presented themselves: color plates of tropical coral fish from the Indo-Pacific, a glass-enclosed case of old tomes like Eniwetok Marine Biological Laboratory Contributions 1955-1974. Then, lo and behold, a modest collection of children’s books! All non-fiction science as far as I could tell. Rounded shelf marker stickers announced: Oceanography! Zoology! Sharks! On the way out I noticed a whiteboard asking, “What Are You Excited About for the Summer?” See the gallery images below for how I answered.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, there was a shelving cart labeled “Free Books.” I’m not sure that my elementary students will be as excited about a withdrawn copy of ‘Proceedings of the West Coast Squid Symposium (February 1983)’ as I was, but perhaps I can use it to introduce them to the word “symposium” and to use as scientific realia during a lesson on squids.
Following the library tour, we walked over to NOAA’s Barry Fisher Building #955. In one room, otoliths (ear bones from which a fish’s age is determined) from previous legs of the hake survey were being processed. Other items of note in the building included a -80°C freezer for fishy samples awaiting transport. For example, gonads are processed in Seattle, not in Newport. Another freezer was filled with labeled crates: Big Skates & Black Skates, Deepsea Skates & Starry Skates.
Offices belonging to many of the science crew joining me on leg 3 were upstairs. This is where I first met Liz Ortiz, meticulously counting otoliths. One year is equivalent to an opaque ring (feeding activity) and a translucent one (lean times in the mess hall). The feeding cycle has to do with a pattern of upwelling, which produces elevated nutrients, and downwelling: “Hey! Who took away the salad bar?” Liz was looking at walleye pollock at the time and had recently counted 88 rings. The oldest fish on record are upwards of 200 years old. Hake are shorter lived with 15-20 years being the top end of the grumpiest specimens.
Alicia also showed me a room that houses a host of technology components. One of the items was a broken underwater stereo camera she attempted to fix. Unfortunately, it will not be ready for leg 3.
The final part of the tour was a preview of the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. In the wet lab, Alicia pointed out her contributions. Alicia’s knowledge of electrical engineering is self-taught (most NOAA tech is DIY). She used Python to create a software called CLAMS–Catch Logger for Acoustic Monitoring Survey. Data from the wet lab is added to the software and is backed up to a database (the mother CLAM, if you will) that lives in the acoustics lab. Alicia wired something together called the ‘electronic back deck’ where the fish data initially goes prior to being backed up to the Mother CLAM. There are four separate networks on the ship, but all data is shared among them. The old system used isolated spreadsheets… welcome to the 21st century!
Technology Remember the ship tracker technology from blog post 1? Here’s a look at the AIS equipment on the bridge. Additionally, there are two radar screens in the suite of instrument panels available to navigators. One uses an X band for short range and the other an S band for long range. A gyroscope is used for maintaining orientation, and an analog compass serves as a last resort if redundancies in backup power fail more contemporary instruments. Two pedestals on the exterior bridge deck contain the gyro bearings.
Taxonomy of Sights Day 1. An albatross (observed by OSU marine mammal observer), a pod of humpback whales feeding last night near sunset (observed by fisheries technician with PSMFC).
Fog has impeded observations on day 2 of our leg.
Day 2. Several whale “blows” during our marine mammal watch prior to trawling. If mammals are within 500 meters of the ship we wait until they move off before dropping the net.
You Might Be Wondering… Where exactly is this survey taking place? We steamed south from Newport to a transect off the California coast– #35 in the image below. We’ll follow those lines similar to mowing the lawn, a back and forth to case the continental shelf for hake. The goal is to complete all transects through 57. A transect is simply a straight line along which observations, measurements, and samples are taken. The first hake survey on the West Coast occurred in 1977. In 1992 a partnership with Canada was formed, and in 2003 the FEAT Team started conducting biennial surveys.
Like any industry there are acronyms that can get confusing.
The FRAM division is Fishery Resource Analysis and Monitoring Division.
The FEAT Team is Fisheries Engineering and Acoustic Technologies Team (not to be confused with Fishery Ecosystem Analysis Tool).
The Bell M. Shimadaflies the NOAA Service Flag along with the flag of the United States (National Ensign) and the POW/MIA flag of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. In port she also flew a Union Jack pennant from the bow mast.
Government Nesting Dolls: The Department of Commerce is one of 15 departments in the federal government. View an organization chart here. See where NOAA falls under the 13 arms of the Department of Commerce here. NOAA has multiple branches as well. Our survey is made possible by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), including NOAA Corps, working together. Notice the nautical theme on the Department of Commerce emblem in the image below.
The Road from Portland to Newport
I woke up with the birds on Friday, July 21st to travel via personal vehicle to Newport, Oregon from my home in Portland. Hwy 18 crosses the Willamette Valley in a south-westerly manner when originating from the north. The view out the window is something like an advertisement for “Made in Oregon.” A cornucopia of agricultural goods beckon: orchards of walnuts, hazelnuts, apples, pears. A combine parked under a tree made me think of my Dad, retired from the agricultural community, but driving a combine “for fun” for a farmer friend. Just the day before he had driven the behemoth machine onto the Buena Vista Ferry in Marion County crossing the Willamette River—which dumps into the Columbia, which runs into the Pacific, which is where I was heading.
Many years back, during the Ice Age floods, a rock came to rest on an improbably flat spot in what is now Yamhill County. An unassuming brown sign marks the road you turn down to view it. Unremarkable looking except for its size and location. This glacial erratic serves as an example of the power contained in collective molecules of H2O. The Valley (as locals call it) is fertile in part due to the rich silts washed here by ancient floodwaters (our apologies to Eastern Washington—here’s a glass of merlot from Siltstone Winery for your troubles). Farmer John’s Market boasts peaches, strawberries, apricots, raspberries, smoothies, shortcakes, and milkshakes—the latter of which do not grow on bushes or trees. After passing the sign for Wetzel Winery you get a few more grass seed fields, some fallow, some with boxes for bee colonies. The landscape then begins to transition into the foothills of the coast range. Queen Anne’s lace and Himalayan blackberry fill in the gaps between the field and road.
Yamhill is traded for Polk and the fir trees start to get serious, accompanied by ocean spray (the bush also called ironwood or Holodiscus discolor), vine maple, and rhododendron. The flower clusters of ocean spray are reminiscent of lilac, except these are a peachy off-white. At a distance, the multi-toned green of trees on distant hillsides illustrates staggered replanting after a patchwork of clearcut harvests. As Hwy 22 East merges with 18, I think about childhood trips to the beach. Our family most frequently traveled 22 to 18 to Lincoln City which sits 25 miles north of Newport. We made a pilgrimage about once a year, sometimes in the off-season to avoid crowds. A series of billboards still promote businesses that we patronized in the 1980s and 90s. Undersea Gardens—which is no more—was of particular interest to me. I was captivated by “Armstrong,” the Giant Pacific octopus who entertained visitors by interacting with a diver in his tank. The name made an impression on me, signifying that this was a creature to be respected. Our family stayed at The Inn at Otter Crest, Pelican Shores, and other establishments whose names are lost to me. Mo’s Chowder was a frequent stop, where I delighted in the chewy clam pieces floating in cream. I admit that as an adult I find the chowder a bit too rich, a bit too heavy in butter. Or maybe it’s just me that’s heavy!
Hwy 22 diverts from 18 just before Spirit Mountain Casino—operated by The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. CTGR puts on an excellent educator summit that happens annually. Oregon educators are compelled by the legislature to fulfill SB13, which promotes “Tribal History is Shared History.” It strives to share the stories of Oregon’s First Peoples with young Oregonians. Indigenous communities persist in our state and there are always a few students in my elementary school who declare tribal affiliations.
Among the other billboards are Chinook Winds, The Oregon Coast Aquarium (which broke ground in 1990), and one recommending, “Explore Lincoln City” with a sea lion balancing a glass float on his nose. When I was a child, the billboards were key in the escalating excitement of reaching the beach. The first glimpse of the Pacific was always a special moment in the car, often accompanied by celebratory mouth trumpets and squeals. The H.B. Van Douzer corridor and its whopping 760-foot Murray Hill summit is the last section of road to traverse before hitting Hwy 101. The coast range is fraught with landslides in winter and there are multiple patches of rough road. Cue the chorus of voices in a car full of children, “Ruh-ro!”
The sign for Tillamook County flashes by and the turquoise sky becomes populated with purple-hued clouds that have a misty edge, a tell-tale sign of marine influence. Lincoln County comes next and the sun is left behind at Slick Rock Creek. Speaking of rocks, the local news was all aflutter this past week with the tale of a cougar trapped by tides on Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Another recent story comes from an Australian sailor and his dog (!) rescued by a Mexican tuna boat after three months adrift at sea.
You know you’re really close when you see the white and blue sign proclaiming, “Entering a Tsunami Hazard Zone.” I will do my best NOT to think about the statistical probability of a Cascadia Earthquake during the next two weeks. D Sands was often the first stop during family trips of yesteryear. It’s adjacent to D River, claiming to be the world’s shortest. Depoe Bay is the next town south of Lincoln City. Between Newport and this charming and often congested whale-watching spot is Beverly Beach State Park. During a geology project in college, I was infamously caught on camera here discussing “sands of grain.”
I was equally tongue-tied when I entered the gated MOC-P facility where the Bell M. Shimada lives when in port. “I’m with the Teacher at She program!” To which I sheepishly told the security guard, “Um, yes, I’m a she, but I’m here to go to sea.” I am now, in fact, at sea. Over the course of the following blog posts, I’ll share more about what life at sea is like.
Librarian at Sea
“Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick or, the Whale
Day 1. 7:30pm As my stomach screamed over the yawning gulf it couldn’t quite reconcile what was happening and promptly evacuated its contents on the main deck about an hour after dinner. At which point I upgraded to scopolamine (prescribed slow-release patch behind the ear) over a cocktail of dramamine and meclizine. The lesson here: sometimes you can only learn through the school of hard knocks.
Hook, Line, and Thinker What’s a whale’s favorite phrase? Where there’s a whale, there’s a way.
Innovating on the spot is a hallmark of research excursions. Chief Scientist, Steve de Blois, shared an anecdote about a time in 2005 when an instrument pod fell off the hull-mounted centerboard of an older vessel, making acoustic data impossible to gather. Where there’s a whale there’s a way, and the team sprung into action creating a new apparatus from parts available, though the frame for the solitary transducer was made off-site. In contrast, the Bell M. Shimada has fancy watertight doors that open up to its instrument pod, which can be raised or lowered as needed. This allows easy access for cleaning and tinkering as needed. This improvement in ship design eliminates the need for NOAA Divers in this case, who previously could only work on instrument pods from beneath the surface.
A Bobbing Bibliography
The ship’s lounge is where movie nights occur, where the ship store is located (clothing, stickers, and swag), and where you can grab a game, magazine, or book to pass the time.
Mission: South East Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean, SE US continental shelf ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC (35°30’ N, 75°19’W) to St. Lucie Inlet, FL (27°00’N, 75°59’W)
On board off the coast of South Carolina – about 50 miles east of Charleston (32°50’ N, 78°55’ W) – after a slight change of plans last night due to the approaching tropical depression.
Date: July 24, 2019
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 32°50’ N Longitude: 78°55’ W Wave Height: 3-4 feet Wind Speed: 15 knots Wind Direction: Out of the North Visibility: 10 nm Air Temperature: 24.6°C Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb Sky: Cloudy
Science and Technology Log
Life and science continue aboard NOAA Ship Pisces. It seems like the crew and engineers and scientists are in the groove. I am now used to life at sea and the cycles and oddities it entails. Today we had our first rain along with thunderstorms in the distance. For a while we seemed to float in between four storms, one on the east, west, north, and south – rain and lightning in each direction, yet we remained dry. This good thing did indeed come to an end as the distant curtains of rain closed in around us. The storm didn’t last long, and soon gathering the fish traps resumed.
The highlight of yesterday (and tied for 1st place in “cool things so far”) was a tour of the engine room lead by First Assistant Engineer, Steve Clement. This tour was amazing and mind-blowing. We descended into the bowels of the ship to explore the engine rooms and its inner workings. I think it rivals the Large Hadron Collider in complexity.
I kept thinking, if Steve left me down here I would surely get lost and never be found. Steve’s knowledge is uncanny – it reminded me of the study where the brains of London cab drivers were scanned and shown to have increased the size of their hippocampus. (An increase to their memory center apparently allows them to better deal with the complexities of London’s tangled streets.) And you’re probably thinking, well, running a massive ship with all its pipes and wires and hatches and inter-related, hopefully-always-functioning, machinery is even harder. And you’re probably right! This is why I was so astounded by Steve’s knowledge and command of this ship. The tour was close-quartered, exceptionally loud, and very hot. Steve stopped at times to give us an explanation of the part or area we were in; four diesel engines that power electric generators that in turn power the propeller and the entire ship. The propeller shaft alone is probably 18 inches in diameter and can spin up to 130 rpm. (I think most of the time two engines is enough juice for the operation). Within the maze of complexity below ship is a smooth running operation that allows the crew, scientists, and NOAA Corps officers to conduct their work in a most efficient manner.
I know you’ve all been wondering about units in the marine world. Turns out, students, units are your friend even out here on the high seas! Here’s proof from the bridge, where you can find two or three posted unit conversion sheets. Makes me happy. So if you think that you can forget conversions and dimensional analysis after you’re finished with high school, guess again!
Speaking of conversions, let’s talk about knots. Most likely the least-understood-most-commonly-used unit on earth. And why is that? I have no idea, but believe me, if I were world president, my first official action would be to move everyone and everything to the Metric System (SI). Immediately. Moving on.
Back to knots, a unit used by folks in water and air. A knot is a unit of speed defined as 1 nautical mile/hour. So basically the same exact thing as mph or km/hr, except using an ever-so-slightly-different distance – nautical miles. Nautical miles make sense, at least in their origin – the distance of one minute of longitude on a map (the distance between two latitude lines, also 1/60 of a degree). This works well, seeing as the horizontal lines (latitude) are mostly the same distance apart. I say mostly because it turns out the earth is not a perfect sphere and therefore not all lines are equidistant. And you can’t use the distance between longitude lines because they are widest at the equator and taper to a point at the north and south pole. One nautical mile = 1852 meters. This is equal to 1.15 miles and therefore one knot = 1.15 miles/hour.
This next part could double as a neato fact: the reason why this unit is called a “knot” is indeed fascinating. Old-time mariners and sailors used to measure their speed by dropping a big old piece of wood off the back of the boat. This wood was attached to some rope with knots in it, and the rope was spun around a big spool. Once in the water the wood would act kind of like a water parachute, holding position while the rope was let out. The measuring person could then count how many evenly spaced knots passed by in a given amount of time, thus calculating the vessel’s speed.
The scientists on board have been incredibly helpful and patient. Zeb is in charge of the cruise and this leg of the SEFIS expedition. Brad, who handles the gear (see morning crew last post), is the fishiest guy I’ve ever met. He seriously knows everything about fish! Identification, behavior, habitats, and most importantly, how extract their otoliths. He’s taught me a ton about the process and processing. Both Zeb and Brad have spent a ton of time patiently and thoroughly answering my questions about fish, evolution, ecology, you name it. Additionally, NOAA scientist Todd, who seeks to be heroic in all pictures (also a morning crew guy), is the expert on fish ecology. He has been exceptionally patient and kind and helpful.
The fish we’re primarily working with are in the perches: Perciformes. These fish include most of your classic-looking fish. Zeb says, “your fish-looking fish.” Gotcha! This includes pretty much all the fish we’re catching except sharks, eels, and other rare fish.
Plenty of exciting animals lately. Here’s a picture of those spotted dolphins from the other day.
The weather has been great, apart from yesterday’s storm. Sunrises and sunsets have been glorious and the stars have been abundant.
We found a common octopus in the fish trap the other day. The photo is from crew member Nick Tirikos.
I’m missing home and family. I can’t wait to see my wife and son.
That tropical depression fizzed out, thankfully.
Neato Facts =
Yesterday we caught a shark sucker in the fish trap. I was excited to see and feel their dorsal attachment sucker on top of their head.
Hold on. I just read more about these guys and turns out that sucking disc is their highly modified dorsal fin! That is the most neato fact so far. What better way to experience the power of this evolutionarily distinct fish than to stick it to your arm?! The attachment mechanism felt like a rubber car tire that moved and sealed against my skin. (Brad calls them sneakerheads).
NOAA Teacher at Sea Cassie Kautzer Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier August 16 – September 5, 2014
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical Area of Survey: Enroute to Japanese Bay Date: August 27, 2014
Temperature & Weather: 10.5° C (51° F), Cloudy, Rainy
Science & Technology Log
The past week/ week and a half, docked alongside the US Coast Guard pier in Kodiak – it was easy to see people settle into a routine. This morning, however, we are preparing to leave the Coast Guard base – there is something in the air. Without it being spoken, it is clear both the NOAA Corps officers and the wage mariners are excited to get underway. THIS is what they signed up to do!
The Rainier is 231 feet in length, with a breadth (width) of 42 feet. She cannot be run by a single person – it takes a team, a large team, to operate her safely. Aboard the Rainier there is a crew of NOAA Corps Officers, including Commanding Officer CDR Van Den Ameele (CO), Executive Officer LCDR Holly Jablonski (XO), Field Operations Officer LT Russ Quintero (FOO) and a number of Junior Officers. There is also a full staff of Surveyors, Stewards, Deck Hands, Engineers, a Chief Electronics Tech (ET) and an Electronics Eng. Tech (EET). All of the people on the Rainier’s nearly 50 member crew take on more than one job and help with whatever is asked of them. It takes a team of people to drive the ship, a team to deploy launch boats, a team to process survey data, a team level tide gauges, a team to keep the boat in good maintenance, etc…
This morning, in preparation for getting underway, all NOAA Corps officers met for a Nav (navigation) Briefing, to go over the Sail Plan, to make sure all necessary parties were prepared and informed. NOAA Corps is one of seven uniformed services in the United States. Its commissioned officers provide NOAA with “an important blend of operational, management, and technical skills that support the agency’s science and surveying programs at sea, in the air, and ashore.” (www.noaa.gov) The Sail Plan, prepared today by Junior Officer, ENS Cali DeCastro, includes step-by-step guidelines for sailing to our next destination. For each location or waypoint along the route, the sail plan gives a course heading (CSE), Latitude and Longitude, distance to the that point (in Nautical Miles), the speed (in knots) the ship will be cruising at to get to that point, and the time it will take to get there. Today we are headed to Japanese Bay, and our cruise to get there is about 98 Nautical Miles and will take us almost 9 hours.
It is important to note that nautical miles and knots at sea are different than linear miles and miles per hour on land. Nautical miles are based on the circumference of the Earth, and are equal to one minute of latitude. (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/nauticalmile_knot.html) Think about the Earth and what it would look like if you sliced it in half right at the Equator. Looking at one of the halves of the Earth, you could then see the equator as a full circle. That circle can be divided into 360 degrees, and each degree into 60 minutes. One minute of arc on the Earth is equivalent to one nautical mile. Nautical miles are not only used at sea, but also in the air, as planes are following the arc of the Earth as they fly. 1 nautical mile = approximately 1.15 miles. A knot is a measurement of speed, and one knot is equivalent to 1 nautical mile per hour.
It is also important to be aware of all the safety procedures on board. There is a lot to keep track of – but the Rainier is well prepared for any kind of emergency situation. Prior to departing the Coast Guard Base this morning, our emergency alarms and bells were tested. Emergency bells and whistles are used during a Fire Emergency, an Abandon Ship situation, or a Man Overboard situation.
In any situation, every crew member has an emergency billet assignment. This assignment tells you where to muster (meet), what to bring, and what to do – dependent on the situation. For fire and emergency, abandon ship, and man overboard each person has a different assignment. Within 24 hours of setting sail, the entire crew does safety drill practice (We did this in the early afternoon today!) For fire and emergency both the general alarm bell and the ship’s whistle will continuously sound for ten seconds; for an abandon ship situation, seven short blasts on the ship’s whistle and general alarm bell will sound, followed by one prolonged blast; and for a man overboard there will be three prolonged blasts of the ship’s whistle and general alarm.
Safety is not only a concern in emergency situations – it is at the forefront of all operations aboard the ship. Proper safety equipment is donned at necessary times, especially when working on deck or on the survey launches. Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) are worn anytime equipment is being deployed or handled over the side along with safety belts and lines for those handling equipment over the side. Every crew member is issued a hard hat and must be worn by everyone involved in recovery or deployment of boats and other equipment. Closed toed shoes must be worn at all times by all crew and crew must be qualified to handle specific equipment. Everyone is also issued an Immersion Suit (survival suit), affectionately nicknamed a Gumby Suit! The Immersion suit is a thermal dry suit that is meant to keep someone from getting hypothermia in an abandon ship situation in cold waters.
Believe it or not – I have made a lot of connections from the Rainier to my school. At the bottom of our daily POD’s (Plan Of the Day), the last reminder is, “Take care of yourself. Take care of your shipmates. Take care of the ship!” The environment here has not only made me feel welcome, but safe as well.
For my Students
Here is a wildlife update. I saw Whales today! I think there were Humpback Whale. I saw quite a few blowing out near the ocean service. I marked three in my graph because I only saw three jumping and playing in the water!
Some questions to reflect on…
Why is teamwork important? What can you do to be a good team member?
Can you make any connections between the mission and rules I am learning on the ship and the mission and rules you are learning at school?
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 27 – August 8, 2012
Mission: Longline Shark Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic off the coast of Florida
Date: August 7, 2012
Weather Data From the Bridge:
Air Temperature (degrees C): 28.4
Wind Speed (knots): 8.62
Wind Direction (degree): 183
Relative Humidity (percent): 080
Barometric Pressure (millibars): 1015.41
Water Depth (meters): 43.4
Salinity (PSU): 35.660
We are getting close to wrapping up this first leg of a four-leg survey. Speaking of wrapping things up, one very important skill you must know when on a ship is how to tie a knot. Not just any knot, but the right knot for the job, or things might not turn out. Got it?
There are three knots, which we used every day. The Blood Knot (sometimes called the Surgeon’s Knot), the Double Overhand Loop (sometimes called a Surgeon’s End Loop), and the Locking Half-Hitch on a Cleat.
The blood knot is used to tie two ropes together. When we return a longline, it has to be tied back on to the main spool. Watch Tim and Chris demonstrate how to tie this knot.
The double overhand loop is used, as the name implies, to put a loop on the end of a line. It is used at each end of the longline to secure the highflier.
The locking half hitch knot is tied on to a ship’s cleat in order to secure the mainline after it has been sent out. This gives us the opportunity to tie a double overhand loop on to the end in order to clip on the highflier.
We have also been seeing some more different animals during the past couple of days. We saw a green sea turtle surface twice. The first time was right in front of us on the starboard side of the ship. The second time was several minutes later at the stern. Just when I thought I would not get a picture of a dolphin, a trio of Atlantic spotted dolphins followed along the Oregon II as we let out the longline. Dolphins and all sea turtles are protected.
We have also been catching more sharks. Again, the most common species caught has been the sharpnose shark. We finally caught a silky shark, Carcharhinus falciformes on our shift. The ridge that runs along their back and the smooth, silky look to their skin can be used to identify them.
A 93.6 kilogram nurse shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum was caught and brought up using the cradle. These are bottom-feeding sharks and have an unusual texture to their skin. It feels like a basketball!
It is always nice when you witness the rare or unusual. Such was the case with the next shark we caught. Many photographs were taken in order to document this rare occurrence. After releasing the shark, it was identified as a Caribbean reef shark, Carcharhinus perezi. Mark Grace, who started this survey 18 years ago, believes this is only the third Caribbean reef shark ever caught on the longline survey! Rare indeed! Unbelievable–the very next longline we caught a second Caribbean reef shark!
Another first for the first leg of the 300th mission was a dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus. This is another rare shark to be found. This one was even bigger than the nurse shark weighing in at 107.3 kilograms! We keep the larger sharks in the cradle while data is collected before releasing them.
While cleaning up, this little remora was found on the deck. It is easy to see the suction disc on the top of its head. This is used to hold onto a larger fish and tag along for the ride, cleaning up bits of food missing the mouth of the host fish.
This amazing journey is winding down and coming to an end. I would be remiss not to thank the crew and scientists of the Oregon II. Their hospitality, professionalism, friendly dispositions, and patience (LOTS of patience) have made me feel more than welcome. They have made me feel as though, for a brief moment, I was a part of the team. Thank you and may the next 300 missions be as safe and successful as the first 300.
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 8.2ºC (46.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 6.4ºC (43.5ºF)
Wind speed: 9.9 knots (11.4 mph)
Wind direction: 221ºT
Barometric pressure: 1022.6 millibar (1.01 atm, 767 mmHg)
Science and Technology Log Throughout some of my previous posts, I’ve hinted at the amount of science on board the Oscar Dyson. Of course, I got super excited any time I saw something more on the chemistry and physics side of things versus the biology side, mostly because although I love biology, chemistry is definitely my first love. Thus today’s science and technology log will be to share just a few of the gazillion ties to chemistry that I’ve found in the past few weeks.
The fluorometer on the Oscar Dyson is used to measure both chlorophyll and turbidity (cloudiness) of the sea water using fluorescence technology. There is an intake on the keel of the bow that pumps water aft into the chemistry lab where it first goes through a debubbler to remove any excess air and then it goes through the fluorometer and TSG (see next point). Measuring the amount of chlorophyll is a good indication of plant life and thus the amount of phytoplankton and other species in the food chain. This data is also stored on the SCS and available for scientists to use.
Another device that the sea water passes through from the underway system is the TSG. This measures both temperature and conductivity (how much electricity passes through) in the water. There is a fancy mathematical equation that is then used to determine salinity in PSUs, or practical salinity units.
Needle gunning and more When we aren’t letting out a net or hauling back in a net, the deck crew work on various things for upkeep around the ship. One day at dinner, they were discussing something called needle gunning. Never having heard of this, I was immediately intrigued, to which Deeno kept telling me “it’s nooooot really that exciting”. Wrong! It’s basically this pneumatic device (something using compressed air) that has a bunch of little rods (needles) in a circular pattern that, when turned on, seems to feel like a jackhammer as the needles press against the surface at quick speeds. They use it on various ship surfaces to clean off rust and corrosion. Following the needle gunning, they can then apply a layer of corroseal rust converter which reacts with any rust (iron oxide) to oxidize and convert it a more stable substance (magnetite) that turns black. After this, they are free to add primer and 2 part paint (different than the paint you’d use at home) to keep things on board looking great and not corroding away.
Personal Log I’ve been working on my last blog coming up on all of my ship mates since almost the first day on board the Oscar Dyson. Be sure to check it out in a couple days! But before that, I’d like to share some of the fun things I’ve learned or taken note of since we left Dutch Harbor that didn’t really fit nicely anywhere else.
Lingo I’ve Learned
* hawse pipe: someone who has worked their way up on a vessel, from deck crew to the bridge (1st mate, 2nd mate, executive officer (XO), etc.); this is in reference to the pipe on a ship through which the anchor chain is fed – for example, XO Kris Mackie worked his way up the hawse pipe to get to where he is today * ringknockers: someone out of NOAA Corps BOT-C (basic officer training class)
* scuttlebutt: rumor or gossip on board; this comes from the idea that a butt (cask) of water that has been scuttled (deliberately “sunk”) so that water could flow, similar to a water fountain, was a place around which people would convene to gossip
* leeward: the side of the vessel that is not facing the wind, which changes sides based on wind direction
* windward: the side of the vessel that is facing the wind
(wet and dry bulb temperature readings are taken on the bridge hourly on the windward side)
* fantail: another name for the aft deck
* “wagging the tail”: used when the person on the bridge is adjusting various things on the ship to evenly wrap the chains onto the reel when hauling in a trawl
* “alls balls”: refers to midnight, which is 0000 in military time
* head: bathroom/toilet
Weird Facts/Thoughts That Don’t Fit Anywhere Else – I remember I’m on a male-dominant vessel when the toilet seat in the community head outside the fish lab is always up (there are 3 community heads: one right near the fish lab, one in the gym, and one outside medical – these are used so you don’t have to disturb your roommate while they are sleeping in the room)
– The above fact is okay because the head has the BEST green hand soap in the world with moisturizing beads and a wonderful aroma – sometimes I just go wash my hands in there for the sake of it, which is fine because there are also signs everywhere reminding you to wash your hands
– It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if I walk into the TV lounge, I will more than likely sit down and watch part of whatever movie is on
– Still in dealing with the TV lounge, the rule on board is that once you start a movie, you have to let it go all the way to the end, because some people on board have TVs in their room hooked up to the movie channels and may be watching it
– There are three movie players: 2 “tape decks” with these 8mm cassette tapes and 1 special DVD player for the NAVY movies and close to 1,000 movies to choose from!
– I’ve watched more movies since I’ve been on board than I probably have watched in the past year combined (although some were parts of movies that I walked in on after they’d started or had to leave early from to fish)
– The internet works via a signal from a geostationary satellite (GE23 at 172 degrees E on the equator) so as we are travel, the receiver on board must look south for signal such that when we are traveling north-northwest, the mast and stack of OD get in the way of the signal and we have no internet
– I could actually make short phone calls using VOIP (voice over IP), but this slows down the internet and you had to limit your calls to 10 minutes or so – it also shows up on the receiving end as a Maryland phone number because that’s where NOAA is located
– My favorite place to just go relax is actually up on the flying bridge – rarely do people go up there (it’s super windy) but when it’s nice outside (also a rarity), it is a beautiful view of nothing but the Bering Sea (and plenty of birds) – just have to make sure to let the officer on deck (OOD) know you’re going up there
Fun with KNOTS
One day, Brian and ENS Kevin attempted to teach me how to tie a bunch of different knots. I have a good idea how my students feel when they don’t understand a concept that seems so easy to me because both guys were just like “you do this this this and this and you’re done” and there I was, back on the first step, completely lost.
I did learn the bowline (which is not pronounced “bow-line” like you’d think, but rather more like “bo-lin”) and the one-handed bowline. Kevin even taught me the dragon bowline, where he tied a bowline knot and dragged it on the floor – get it? 🙂
Scavenger Hunt One of the jobs of the safety officer is to check the Ocenco EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) on board to make sure they have not expired. ENS Libby (who just came to the Oscar Dyson on this leg of the pollock survey from NOAA Corps BOT-C) and I went on a scavenger hunt one night to find all of these EEBDs around the ship (aside from the ones inside staterooms). Some of the folks that have been on here for a while laughed a little because I was so excited to go on this little adventure – but it teaches a good lesson: things will only be as exciting as you let them! I also decided to make Libby a scavenger hunt for other random things with clues to the room they were in. She only found one of the three, so no prize for her this time. We also plan to go on a scavenger hunt for fire extinguishers soon!
Two of the guys in the acoustics lab, Bill and Scott, were constantly playing this card game with a red, white, and blue wooden board that looks sort of like a race track. They would lay out cards, count random numbers, and move these pegs in a fashion that I totally did not understand, no matter how long I sat and watched them. Finally, I stayed up later after my shift one night and Carwyn (my roommate) taught me how to play cribbage (she’d taught the science intern Nate to play the previous night). All of the other scientists are really good at this game, so Nate and I started playing each other as the newbies. We are both getting much better at it (although I ultimately came up with the winning record by the end of the cruise)! One of these days, I hope to be as quick with the counting as Bill and Scott. I even taught Libby how to play last night, although she much prefers rummy, which she then taught me how to play.
Two new animals I’ve seen recently: the crested auklet (this little guy landed on board and stuck around a little over a day near the bow of the ship) and a whole lot of Pacific herring that we caught in the net the other day (which I’ve renamed Vegas fish because they are so sparkly and glittery like Vegas lights).
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 21-August 7, 2009
Mission: Summer Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Alaska Date: July 22, 2009
Weather Data from the Ship’s Bridge
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 288.27 degree (N, NW)
Wind speed: 20 knots
Sea wave height: 8-10 feet
Air temperature: 7.4 ˚C
Seawater temperature: 6.8 ˚C
Sea level pressure: 29.3 inches Hg and rising
Cloud cover: 8/ 8, stratus
Science and Technology Log
It will take about 2 ½ days of non-stop sailing until we reach the fish survey starting area. Before that research gets underway, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know my way around the ship and learning about life at sea. My favorite part of the ship to spend time has been the bridge, the navigation and operations base for the entire ship. From the bridge, I’ve been able to learn more about the weather and birds that live at sea. Every hour, the weather is recorded using the boat’s instruments. This weather is then relayed to NOAA’s National Weather Service. Using the Oscar Dyson’s data, the National Weather Service is better able to predict and model weather patterns, increasing their forecast’s accuracy for this remote region. As the waves kicked up a lot on Tuesday evening, I learned about the Beaufort Scale of Wind Force.
Using estimated wave speed and wave height, you can calculate the severity of the weather. On Tuesday evening, we were sailing through a Force 7 on the scale, a gale with wave heights of 13.5 to 19 feet and a wind speed of 28-33 knots (aprox. 35-37 mph) with gusts up to 45 knots (aprox. 50 mph) Luckily, the waves have calmed down a lot by Wednesday evening because the lower pressure system has passed us to the east.
In addition to fisheries research, there are two bird observers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For almost 16 hours each day, they observe and record information about the seabirds that they see flying within 300 m of the boat. Seabirds spend most of their lives living out on the open seas, looking for food. A lot is known about their cliff nesting areas by the water because these locations are relatively easier to access. Much less is known about their time spent at sea. The information gathered here helps scientists learn more about the birds that inhabit the Bering Sea. By looking at their data from prior years, they can sea how different birds are affected by human caused events (like oil spills, global warming, and commercial fishing) and non-human caused events like volcanic eruptions. All their research is part a bigger research program called the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP). As one seabird was flying close to the boat, I noticed it had a slender tube on top of its bill. It turns out that this bird was a Northern Fulmar, part of a group of birds called “tube-noses.” This tube enables the birds to drink saltwater, a cool adaptation to life at sea.
On Tuesday afternoon, as we left the protected bay of Dutch Harbor, we started sailing out towards the more open waters of the Bering Sea. It was a strange feeling to see the Fox Islands, a smaller part of the Aleutian Island chain, slipping out of sight. Our next chance of seeing land will be as we get closer to Russia. Even then, it might be too cloudy. It is strange to think that I might not see land again for over two weeks. By 9pm on Tuesday night, I was sick as a dog, “hanging over the rails” if you will. But with some sleep and seasickness medicine, I am feeling a lot better today. Seems I have found my “sea legs” as food seems appealing once more and the boats rocking is becoming more of a lulling motion than a lurching one. Around noon on Wednesday, we had our first fire drill and abandon ship drill. As part of the drills, we had to practice putting on our immersion suits. In case we had to abandon ship for any reason, these suits would keep us warmer and more visible. I felt a bit like Gumby!
Northern Fulmar Black Legged Kittiwake Tufted Puffin Horned Puffin Black-Footed Albatross Laysan Albatross Murre
Knots – units of speed, nautical miles per hour Nautical mile – 1.15 statute (regular) mile
The FOO (Field Operations Officer)’s quote of the day:
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” – William Shakespeare
Weather Log: Here are our observations at 0900 today: Latitude: 3°39.88’S (into the Southern Hemisphere!) Longitude: 140°00.36’W Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm) Wind direction: 100° Wind speed: 13 kts Sea wave height: 4-5′ Swell wave height: 6-8′ Sea water temperature: 27.1°C Sea level pressure: 1011.7 mb Cloud cover: 2/8, Cumulus, Cirrus
Hurricane Genevieve lives!
Science and Technology Log:
I stayed up until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore last night. I finished the script and lesson plan for today’s broadcast with my graduate students in the Atmospheric Environment class. When I awoke at 0600, I realized that the fish bite test was already in progress on the fantail of the ship. I quickly prepared for my morning broadcast and then went outside to see if I could help place fish heads (mostly red snapper) on the lines that were being tested. The objective of the test was to qualitatively determine the fish-bite protection of a new armored mooring cable. The current cable that is used, nilspin, is very heavy while the cable to be tested is much lighter, but has a greater diameter. The test cable consists of a polyester core wrapped with electrical wires with up to two layers of special cloth armoring with a PE jacket. The cable diameter is ~221 mm. The test consisted of towing three 100 m cables (no armor, single, and double) simultaneously from the stern while the boat moved at 1-2 kts. Fish heads were attached every 3 meters to each cable. I was asked to take notes on the procedure since it was a new experiment and to use a multimeter to ensure that the lines were actually measuring electrical conductivity in case of a fish bite. Occasionally, I managed to assist with the deployment of the lines by helping place mesh bags alongside the line, opening the bag and inserting a partially frozen and slimy head of a fish, attaching the bag to the cable with wire ties, and then placing electrical tape over the wire tie and ends of the bags to keep them attached. It took approximately 2-1/2 hours to prepare the fish lines and deploy them. I really enjoyed it. There’s something exciting about having a group of people working together toward a common goal, especially when science is involved.
We started the broadcast soon after the fish bite test was running and I had the opportunity to interview a number of people on board who hadn’t been highlighted in a past broadcast. They were great! This was a more scientific webcast mostly focused on El Nino and the research conducted on the ship. I loved every minute and learned a great deal in the process. The video is 51 minutes long and can be accessed at on our videos page. Check it out when you have time.
I asked Lobo, our Chief Engineer, how portable water is created on the ship. He provided a great overview of the process. Seawater is converted into fresh water by vacuum distillation. In the end, the water is used for drinking, as process water, and for domestic purposes. The seawater to be distilled evaporates at a temperature of about 40°C (very low temperature for evaporation to occur) as it passes between the hot plates in an evaporator on board. The evaporating temperature corresponds to a vacuum of approximately 93%, which is maintained by the brine/air ejector. The vacuum serves to lower the evaporation temperature of the feed water. Having reach boiling temperature – which is lower than at atmospheric pressure – the feed water undergoes a partial evaporation, and the mixture of generated vapor and brine enters the separator vessel, where the brine is separated from the vapor and extracted by the combined brine/air ejector. The vapors that are generated pass through a demister where any drops of seawater that are entrained are removed and fall to the bottom of the distiller chamber. The vapors continue to the condenser where they condense to fresh water as they pass between cold plates. The freshwater that is produced is extracted by the freshwater pump and led to the freshwater tank. We can store approximately 3000 gallons of water on board.
I conducted a CTD test by myself for the first time tonight at 7:30 PM. Everything worked and we decided to test zucchini, a green pepper, a potato, and a round loaf of bread to see what happens to it when it’s submerged to the extreme pressure at 1000 meters below the water surface. When we finished the CTD cast where we sampled water at 1000m, 800 m, 600 m, 400 m, 200 m, 150, 100 m, 60 m, 40 m, 25 m, 10 m, and the surface, we brought the sampling cylinders up with the food. The potato looked and felt the same, the zucchini was squishy, the green pepper looked exactly the same but it had a crack on the side and was full of water. It must have burst on the way down and filled with water. In this case, the pressure would have been the same from the inside to the outside so no change in size took place. The bread looked like pita bread. It had been placed in plastic wrap, 2 zip-lock bags, and another plastic sleeve, but still managed to get wet. Interesting experiment.
Just after the CTD returned to the surface, I went to the starboard side of the ship to throw in an AOML, a device that measures water currents across the ocean surface (more on this tomorrow). AOMLs float away into the distance but transmit their data on a realtime basis. They are occasionally retrieved, but usually remain in the Pacific forever.
I am receiving all of your emails – thank you! It’s great to hear that your first week of classes is going well. I will highlight several of your questions in tomorrow’s log!
Congratulations to Steve Osmanski who knew that the term “knot(s)” is a unit of maritime speed goes back to the days of sailing ships, when speed was measured by throwing a wooden device called a “chip log” over the stern of the ship. The chip log had a line attached with knots spaced along it. When the log was thrown overboard, a timing device (usually a 30-second sandglass) was turned and the number of knots that passed through the user’s hand as the line unreeled during the 30 seconds was the ship’s speed in nautical miles per hour. It was reported to the officer of the deck as so many “knots.” The distance between knots in a log line is calculated at 1.688 feet for every second in your timing interval; so a 30-second log line would have knots 50.64 feet (50 feet, 7 and 2/3rds inches, just about). Many of you answered this correctly, but Steve was first!
John and I played Yahtzee tonight in the third round of the match. I managed to win again so I move into the semi-final round.
Question of the day: How long is the Ka’imimoana? Check out Teacher at Sea web site for all the details.
Closer to land, but wishing I was further out to sea… Diane
Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 Lat: 8°S Long: 110°W Seas: 2-5 ft Visibility: unrestricted Weather: partly to mostly cloudy, possibility of rain showers Sea Surface Temp: 82-86°F Winds: 5-10 knots Air Temp: 85-74°F
Today was kind of bittersweet for me but I doubt the crew feels that way. Today, we recovered the buoy at 8°S 110°W and deployed a new one. This will be the last time I have to see the buoy operations, as it is the last recovery/deployment until after the Galapagos Islands – and that’s where I get off. The crew goes on to Manzanillo, Mexico, and then returns to Honolulu, their home base. The operations went perfectly on both ends today, and now the crew gets a chance to catch up on everything they can’t do when they’re doing buoy ops.
We are now in transit from the 110°W line directly east to the 95°W line. We will be in transit for several days. During that time, like I said, the crew will be getting their regular chores done and the scientists will be preparing for the buoy “fly bys” we’ll be doing on the 95°W line. A fly by is when we locate the buoy, the scientists go out to it in the RHIB to check on it, and then fix anything that needs fixing or calibrating with the instrumentation. This transit is a chance for everyone to catch their breath for this next round of operations.
Question of the Day:
The ship is traveling at about 12 knots. How long will it take us to get from the 110°W to the 95°W? Hint: you’re going to have to find out how many miles it is between degrees of longitude – Internet anyone?
Answer of the Day:
Once again, Brian R. of San Diego tells me that the Pacific Ocean, on the average, is 13,740 ft deep, or about 4188 meters deep. But does anyone know how deep it is at its deepest point??? Let me hear from you. 🙂