Heather Diaz, July 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 5:30am. We caught 4 blues and 2 makos.  We also caught one pelagic ray.  They set a shark line out around 7:45. We were hoping to be able to finish one last set before going into port. We were scheduled to be in port around 3.

Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.
Teacher at Sea, Heather Diaz, holds up a Blue shark.

Dr. Russ Vetter explained what the different computers are used for in the aft lab.  There is one called at EK500/EQ50 which uses a split beam transponder to create a “map” of the ocean floor, so the scientists can use the data to find high spots, which sometimes are better for fishing. It also works as a sort of “fish finder” and the different things in the water show up in scale and color, so that you can see the approximate size of the animal/plant in the water.  He also explained the Navigation computer, which digitally shows the charts (with soundings), topographical features (like islands and coastline), and our course. It also provides information on other vessels that are nearby, and when available, that vessel’s name and number…the same navigation computer they also use on the Bridge. The Nav. Comp. also provides information like our latitude and longitude and our speed.

There is another computer which monitors wind speed and direction, temperature of the water (under the boat), barometric pressure, and salinity of the water.  All of these are real-time, and provide important information to the scientists.  There is also an ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) computer which displays a constantly changing graph of current velocity relative to the ref layer.

The very last set of this leg was a bit slower than most, which may have been a good thing, since most people were starting to get a bit tired.  We had 2 blues and 2 makos. We were very pleased to find out that we had, during the entire leg, managed to capture 80 blue sharks (78 were measured, sexed, and released), 63 mako sharks (61 were tagged and released), 23 pelagic rays (23 were released, none were tagged), 3 molas (3 were tagged and released), and 1 lancetfish (which was released but not tagged).  Everyone seemed very pleased with the results, and now Dr. Suzy Kohin (Chief Scientist) and Dr. Heidi Dewar will head back to their lab at Southwest Fisheries to analyze the data.

Personal Log 

Last night the sky was very clear, so we were able to see a lot of stars, including the Milky Way, which was very easy to see last night.  The view from the Flying Bridge (the very top of the ship) is amazing, and we felt like we could see every star in the universe, even though we know we couldn’t. We could also see the far away glow of Los Angeles, a reminder that we will soon be back in port and that our trip is nearly over.  Nearby, there was a large tanker and a container ship, which also looked neat in the dark.  The container ship was still nearby this morning when we woke up.

The sunset this morning was amazing.  There were a few wispy Cirrus clouds in the sky, which reflected the glow of the sun long before the sun made its first appearance in the sky. It was truly a beautiful sunrise, and a great way to start off our last day!  This morning after the set, everyone was a bit disappointed that we have not caught a swordfish this trip.  But, Dr. Heidi Dewar said she would consider doing another swordfish study in the future.

Everyone is busy packing and getting their gear ready to go home.  Everyone, including me, is excited to be going home to see family and friends, but I think most people will be a little sad, too. For me, this has been an absolutely amazing experience!  I have learned so much, and I have seen more in the past week than I ever could have from reading books or watching documentaries.  There is just something so special about being able to feed a sea lion, touch a shark, or come within inches of a mola to feel the power of nature and the beauty of the ocean. I am awe struck in so many ways.  The people aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN could not have been kinder, and everyone has gone far out of their way to make me feel like part of the DSJ family.  Everyone from the captain and the officers, the boatswains, the stewards, and everyone in engineering has been friendly and helpful. I will surely miss everyone on board.  As for the scientists, they did an outstanding job of helping me to learn things and to make me feel like I was a real part of their crew. I will miss the lapping of the waves, the rolling of the ship, the camaraderie, the food, the animals, the scenery, the sunsets, and the sunsets.  And, although I cannot take any of them with me, I will have the memories of them all forever.

I want to sincerely thank Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, the amazing crew of the DAVID STARR JORDAN, Dr. Suzy Kohin, and her wonderful team of scientists for a fantastic experience!  I never imagined it would be this incredible!  I will be grateful to you all for a long, long, long time!  Thank you for allowing me to share these past 10 days with you, and I wish you all safe travels and many more beautiful sunsets at sea to come!

Heather Diaz, July 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 14, 2006

The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph.  The information is used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.
The Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler is hooked up to a computer so that the information can be converted into a graph and then used to identify the thermoclines, and to determine where most of the animals will be found in the water near the ship.

Science and Technology Log 

I had the opportunity to interview Jason Larese who is aboard for this cruise.  He works for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, which is part of NOAA Fisheries Program.  For the past 5 years he has been working with marine mammal studies, especially with dolphins.  Recently, he has been working on an albacore tuna tagging project. He analyses data from special tags that record light, depth, and temperature variations which help them to track where the tuna migrate and where/what they eat.  Since they know at what depths the tuna feed, they can narrow down the possibilities of what they are eating (since things tend to stay in predictable positions relative to the thermocline in the ocean).  He has enjoyed working with the Shark Abundance Survey, but he hopes to return to marine mammal research soon.

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am. We caught 4 makos, 14 blues, and 6 pelagic rays.  We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 3 makos and 2 blues.  During our first shark set today, a small blue shark died on the line. When they did the dissection of his stomach, they found the vertebrae and jaws of a Lizardfish, and several squid beaks. It was very interesting to see what this shark had for breakfast before we caught him. I was able to keep them to share with my class.

We did our second shark set around 2pm.  Dr. Heidi Dewar showed me how to take a temperature reading using the Seabird Temperature/Depth Profiler. It is a small processor in the water-tight tube, which lowered over the side of the boat very slowly, to a depth of about 150 meters.  Then, it is raised very slowly. The water-tight tube is then opened in the lab and connected to a computer.  The information is then downloaded and imported into Excel, where it is translated into a graph.  They use this information to locate the thermocline, since many sea animals are restricted to the thermocline and above where there is a mix of warm and cold water (usually as a result of wind and waves). And, there are fewer animals in the colder temperatures below.

We hauled in the set around 6pm.  During this haul, we caught 3 blues and 9 makos.  One mako was badly tangled in the line, and he was not going to survive.  So, the shark (now that he has died) will be taken back to a lab at SCRIPPS Institute of Oceanography where an MRI study will be conducted to examine the shark’s anatomy and physiology.  (This is not Russ’ study but one of some scientists at SCRIPPS and UCSD Medical school.)

Personal Log 

One interesting thing that happened during the first shark set, as we were setting the line, we saw loads of dolphins in the area. They appeared to be circling up fish and then eating them.  Several of them were quite close to the ship.  We estimated that there were at least 30 dolphins in the area surrounding our ship.  We were concerned that they would try to eat our bait and end up getting hooked, but none of them did.  It is extremely rare for dolphins to get hooked since they can detect the hook in the bait and avoid it.

We discovered a large mola floating near the ship, and several people tried to catch him with a fishing rod in order to try to tag it with a satellite tag.  They weren’t able to catch him.  Everyone is very interested in the molas, and the scientists here are collaborating on a research study to monitor their behavior and movements.  I found out that the mola (an ocean sunfish) actually eat jellyfish.  They don’t actually eat our bait, so when we catch one, it’s always been because the hook got caught in their fin by accident.  They are fascinating creatures, and it’s amazing to see a fish that is that huge!

I helped wrangle a few sharks this afternoon, but the last one that I did was very strong and I had a hard time holding on to him.  At one point, he whipped his head to the side and he yanked on my arm so hard I thought he would break free.  It was truly awesome to see just how strong these sharks are, without really even trying.  I also spent some time with Natalie Spear who was doing data recording during the second set.  I’m amazed at how many pieces of data have to be recorded, and how many things the data recorder has to do at once. It is definitely a more difficult job to do, and with all the commotion of the scientists who are processing the animal and are requesting different things all the time, it takes a very level-head to keep everything straight, especially since accuracy in recording all the different tag numbers is essential.  I have been very impressed with all my fellow scientists and their ability to keep up with all the demands of that position.  And, they manage to still have fun while doing it!

Heather Diaz, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

They did a swordfish set last night around midnight.  We hauled in the set around 6am.  We caught 4 makos, 9 blues, and 3 pelagic rays.  One of the mako sharks that we caught during this set actually was brought up to the side of the ship and tied off with a leader rope. But, while we had him waiting at the back of the boat to be processed, he chewed through the monofilament line and disappeared.  Another interesting thing about this set was that at some point during the night, our line was severed.  We hauled in most of the line, but our flag was about ••• mile away from where the first part of the line ended.  We steamed ahead and caught up with it, then hauled the flag over.  João Alves, Lead Fisherman, was able to reattach the line so that we could use it again.  We aren’t sure why the line was severed, but there were several boats in the area, so one of them may have run it over in the dark.

We did our first shark set around 8am.  We hauled in the set around noon. We caught 1 mako shark and 1 blue shark. We did our second shark set around 2pm.  We hauled in the set around 6pm.  We caught 3 mako sharks and 8 blue sharks.

I asked permission to go to the Bridge, and there I met up with Commanding Officer (CO) Alexandra Von Saunder as she was beginning her watch. She has been an officer in the NOAA Corps for 14 years, and she has been a captain for the past year.  The DAVID STARR JORDAN is the only ship for which she has been Captain. She actually resides in Seattle, but most of the year (sometimes up to 300 days out of 360 days) she spends most of her time at sea and away from the ship’s homeport.  She said that the things that she loves best about being at sea are being able to see the sights (animals, sunsets, scenery) and the uniqueness of every day, since it is much more interesting than being at a desk all day.  She said that the ship’s crew is like a family and that they are all very close, especially since they all eat together and spend most of the year together.  I have observed while aboard the DSJ that everyone is very friendly and on a first name basis with each other.  I have yet to see anyone who was unhappy with their job. Like Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder, everyone I have spoken with says they love being aboard the DAVID STARR JORDAN and that they would rather be here than on land.

David Starr Jordan from the skiff.  Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with Commanding Officer Saunder explained that the black shapes hanging from the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”.  This means that DSJ has gear in the water, such as when we are setting or hauling the longline, and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted.  At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way
David Starr Jordan from the skiff. Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Von up with CO Saunder explained that the black shapes on the forward mast are called dayshapes, which signal that the ship is “restricted in her ability to maneuver”. This means that DSJ has gear in the water and that we have the right of way over vessels that are not restricted. At night, a series of different colored lights on the mast alerts other boats in much the same way

While on the bridge, CO Von Saunder also showed me all of the instruments and the charts that they use on the Bridge to run the ship.  It was very interesting to see how they can monitor everything from that one room, even how much oil is in the engines!  They have a neat computer system that plots where they are and radars that keep track of every other vessel in the area.  Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal explained to me that even small sailboats show up on their computer, and if they have been registered, their boat registration number and even the boat’s name will come up on their computer.  That way, if they need to hail the vessel, they can actually call them by name over the radio.

There are also many cameras around the ship, so that safety and security can be monitored at all times.  CO Von Saunder also showed me how they steer the ship, and control the speed.  She said that the ship will go about 10 knots at its fastest, but that when we are setting or hauling lines, the ship is only going a few knots.  She also said that the DAVID STARR JORDAN was launched in 1965, so it is due to be replaced in 2009. She wasn’t sure what the name of the new ship would be yet, but I can only hope it will be DAVID STARR JORDAN II. She said that a ship like this would probably be sold once it is retired, and that “She has a lot of life left in her.”  It is clear that when Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder speaks about her ship and her crew, she is talking about her very own family.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Junior Officer David Gothan.  He is fairly new to the NOAA Corps, but he hopes to retire from the NOAA Corps in 20 years.  He echoed Lieutenant Commander Von Saunder’s reasons for loving his work on the DSJ, as he said that what he enjoys the most about being at sea are seeing all the animals/scenery, meeting different people, and being able to go to different places all the time.  I get the impression that all of the NOAA officers on board truly love their job, and they are dedicated to being stewards of our oceans.

Personal Log 

I saw many different animals today, including dolphins and a few whales off in the distance. We also saw a few a sea lions who were basking in the sun.  When they do this, they kind of lie on their back and stick their flippers up out of the water.  They are so cute. One of them came quite close to our ship while we were de-baiting the second set, and people tried to throw him fish.  We nicknamed him “Eddie”.  He hung around for a while, but got bored and left the area after about 10 minutes.

It was truly a pleasure to speak with Lieutenant Von Saunder, Ensign David Gothan, and Lead Electronics Technician Kim Belveal.  And, I am excited to be able to share more of their insights about being a part of the NOAA Corps with my class!

Heather Diaz, July 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 12, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish, set done last night because of our excursion to Catalina Island.  Instead, we set our first line (shark line) at 6am.  We hauled in the line around 10am.  We caught 10 makos, 4 blues, 1 lancetfish, 3 pelagic rays, and 2 molas.  I had the opportunity to videotape the entire haul, which turned out to be one of our most productive.  1 mako died today during the haul because it had swallowed the hook and most likely suffered an internal injury. He was measured, weighed, and dissected for further research.  One of the makos we caught during this set was among the largest three we caught during this entire leg, and it was really interesting to see such a large shark, so close! We set our second line at around 12 noon.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 7 makos and 2 blues.  Two of the makos we caught during this set were among the largest three we caught during this entire leg.

This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other.  If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don't have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!
This Mako shark didn’t survive being on the longline. The coloring of the shark is truly beautiful, and their skin is very smooth in one direction, and like sandpaper in the other. If you look closely, you can see little spots on his nose, which are actually part of his hunting and defense mechanism, and he is able to “detect” things in the water from a long way. Makos don’t have a protective “eyelid”, unlike Blue sharks. Karina and João have helped to preserve the jaw, and I cannot wait to show it to my students!

Personal Log 

With our first set, things started off right off the bat with several makos.  Then, we got 2 humongous Sunfish (mola-mola)…and I mean they were huge! Then, we got a huge mako.  He was almost 2 meters long.  It was as long as the cradle itself! I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone was super excited and at that point. During the whole commotion, one mako was pulled over the side nearly dead.

We also had a lancet-fish which they hauled over the side while we were dealing with the monster mako in the cradle….and that was very much alive.  It was flipping all over the place.  Sean picked him up, took the hook out, and tossed it overboard. After we were all done and all the animals had been processed, we went over to look at the mako that they had brought on deck.  Although the mako was near death, it appeared to be still breathing a little, though it might have been a lingering reflex reaction.  After examining him on the deck, they weighed him and then started to dissect him. I have most of the dissection on tape.  It was very interesting to see where all the internal organs are located and to see how their muscle tissue is designed. Dr. Heidi Dewar explained how they use their muscle tissue design to actually preserve body heat. It was really fascinating.  I am excited to show my students her “lecture” on the muscles, and to share with them the dissection video, so that they can see what a shark looks like on the inside.  I think they will enjoy it.

During the second set, I was allowed to get down on the platform with the first two sharks…the first one, Dr. Suzy Kohin, Chief Scientist just explained everything.  The second one, I was able to get in there and actually do the stuff!  I collected the DNA sample of his dorsal fin…I put the tag in his dorsal fin…and, I gave him a shot of OTC in the ventral area. I also got to take its length measurement, which was freaky because I had to grab its tail and pull it straight. I don’t think the shark appreciated that much, and he squirmed a bit.  He was also bleeding. Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, said that he was bleeding a bit because he had swallowed the hook.  I opted not to do the spaghetti tag (which involves shoving this metal tip into their skin) and I opted not to cut the hook out of its mouth,.…it just seemed really, really, really REAL…and I didn’t want to mess up and come out of it missing a hand or something…or worse, having unintentionally hurt the animal.

Anyhow, I gave my kneepads over to Daniele who jumped in and finished the haul for me on the platform while I did the gangions.  Which, turned out to be too bad, since we got some really huge makos on this haul…everyone was very excited about them.  I think the largest was about 197cm.  They put special tags in the really large makos, which they called a PAT (Pop-Up Archival Tag).  They explained that these tags, which look more like turkey basters, are used to report data on temperature, depth, and even longitude so that they can better track the makos and learn more about their behaviors. They are especially looking for information about diving behaviors and their temperature and depth preferences.  I would love to see what they find out from these fish!

They also use a SPOT (Smart POsition and Temperature) tag.  This is almost translucent and is bolted the dorsal fin (only on larger sharks).  It looks a little like a computer mouse and is oval shaped. This tag sends radio signals to a satellite whenever the animal is near the surface, and they can use this information to track precisely where the animal is in the ocean.

Heather Diaz, July 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.
This is a view of Avalon on Santa Catalina Island, CA.

Science and Technology Log 

They set a swordfish line at around midnight, and we hauled it in around 6am. We caught one blue shark and one pelagic ray. We then set the first shark set at around 8am.  We hauled in the line around noon.  We caught one blue shark and 6 mako sharks, though one of the makos escaped with the gangion, leader, and hook still attached.

After that set, we headed for Santa Catalina Island where we would have liberty ashore.  We were taken over to the port at Avalon by João Alves on the skiff, I went over with Natalie Spear, Karina De La Rosa-Mesa, and Chico Gomez.  Everyone, except those on watch, was allowed to go ashore. Even the CO, Alexandra Von Saunder was able to make a quick visit to Avalon.  Most people shopped and/or had dinner in a restaurant.  A few people even went swimming at the beach!  Everyone had to be back aboard the ship by 11pm.  Karina De La Rosa-Mesa and I went back to the ship with Sean Suk and João Alves on the skiff at 9:45pm.

Personal Log 

Again, sea lions and dolphins were playing nearby today.  I tried to get pictures/video of them, but it doesn’t come out well on tape.  I love watching them…they are so graceful, and they really look like they are having a great time playing!  One sad thing happened today during our sets…one shark got away.  Someone dropped the leader line in the water and he took off. We can only hope that he is able to work the hook out on his own, soon.

Everyone was very excited to be given liberty ashore tonight in Avalon.  There are several people who have had the chance to come to Catalina before, so they are especially looking forward to this excursion. Catalina has changed so much since I was there 25 years ago!  There are many more houses and condos now near the harbor. Though, the town and the touristy areas are pretty much the same.  We enjoyed shopping and walking through the tiny streets.  And, seeing the golf carts everywhere was very amusing.  The Wrigley Mansion, which sits above the harbor is very beautiful, and many of the homes on the hill over the harbor are just fantastic. The moonrise was amazing, as it came over the hill…I think it was a full moon. Everyone in town seemed to be having a great time, and it was nice to be walking on land for a change (though, it did feel like the whole island was still moving with the rolling of the waves, even though I know it wasn’t!). I am looking forward to finding the pictures we took of the island when I was a child to compare them to today…I bet a lot has changed!

Heather Diaz, July 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 10, 2006

This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged.  You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin.  After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform.  Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.
This is one of the Mako sharks that we tagged. You can see the “spaghetti” tag and the OTC tag on his dorsal fin. After we released him, he came back to see what we were doing on the platform. Mako sharks will usually dive down deep once we release them from the cradle, but this little guy wanted to come back for one more look.

Science and Technology Log 

One team of scientists set a swordfish line at 3am.  We hauled in the swordfish longline at 6am.  We caught one pelagic ray. We set the first shark line at around 8am, and hauled it in around 12pm. We caught one blue shark.  We set the second shark line at around 2pm.  We let it soak an extra hour, and hauled it in around 6pm.  We caught one Blue shark, four mako sharks, and one pelagic ray.

I had an opportunity to take a tour of the engine room with 1st Engineer Chris Danals. We first visited the aft work room. Chris is crafting a wooden boat by hand! It is very neat looking. He said that he builds boats for fun. He showed me the rudder room, and it’s amazing to see how huge these two rudders are. They control the rudder from the Bridge.  In front of the aft work room is the engine room, which you have to climb down a ladder to get into. The noise is so loud that it is deafening, even with earplugs in.  He explained that there are two main engines, which are White Superior engines.  The port side engine is used to power the winch, which we use when we set/haul in the lines.

The starboard engine is the one we use to power the ship.  He said that the engines are diesel engines, and they get about 1 mile to the gallon.  Chris also explained that even though the computers monitor everything in the engine room, they still have to monitor all of the engines in person during each watch.  The engines are huge, each one being at least 6 feet tall and at least 15 feet long.  But, as Chris explained, it takes a lot of power to move a ship this large through the water! The ship’s top cruising speed is 10 knots, but he said we often travel only a few knots, especially when we are setting a line or hauling a line. And, there are times when we are not moving but a few feet per hour, while the longlines are soaking.

Another thing that Chris explained was how the ship makes water.  Since they can only bring a finite amount of water with them to sea, they have to rely on other methods to get fresh water once they are at sea. He said that they pump sea water in, then they use heat to separate the fresh water from the salt.  The only problem is that sometimes we aren’t moving, and the engines need to be hot in order to make water.

Personal Log 

This morning we were kind of between 4 islands: Santa Cruz/Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and Catalina. I think we are headed west today.  You can’t see land anymore, and the waves have become much more intense…several stomach dropping waves this morning and last night. It is very foggy today, and it is quite cool outside.  It actually looks like it might rain.

Everyone was a bit disappointed when our first two hauls yielded only 1 animal each.  But, the last set was better, and everyone is looking forward to seeing if the blocks farther out might have better luck.

The real treat today was a California sea lion (which has been named Eddie).  He was following us after the last haul, eating the mackerel that we were discarding.  Eddie followed us for about 15 minutes, he was quite happy and kept coming up to the surface to look at us and blow water out of his nose. He was so cute! Of course, since we had been having bad luck with the sets, I did not bring my cameras downstairs, so I missed getting a picture of the whole thing!  I am hoping that “Eddie” will come back tomorrow!

During the night, they had to sound the fog horn several times to alert other boats that we were in the area. I thought it was the general alarm at first, but then I realized that it was just fog.

Heather Diaz, July 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 9, 2006

A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank.  Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.
A Scorpion fish waits to have a DNA sample taken in the onboard tank. Dr. Russ Vetter caught the bottom-dwelling fish today and is doing research on Rockfish.

Science and Technology Log 

There was no swordfish set done last night, so everyone got up at 6am to do the first of the shark sets for the day. We hauled in the first set at around 10am.  We caught one mako.  We set the second line at around 12pm.  We hauled it in around 4pm. We caught 2 pelagic rays.

Personal Log 

We were just off the coast of Santa Cruz and Anacapa.  It was such a beautiful sight to see! Anacapa is very rugged, with lots of canyons and steep drop offs. I don’t think my pictures will do it justice!

A brown pelican decided to hang around today, so I got some good pictures of him. We tried to find him mackerel, but they were too big for him, and he just spit them back out.  Everyone was a bit disappointed into today’s turnout. But, Dr. Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist said that this block was not a very good spot for them during the last leg either (they repeat the survey in 2 different legs so that they get a better sampling).  We all hope that tomorrow we are able to catch more fish!  Dr. Russ Vetter fished between sets. He caught several Rockfish, most of which were orange colored. He said that these were bottom fish, and he is doing an independent research study on them.  He also caught a Halibut and a Scorpion fish.   He took DNA samples from them, then they were prepared as part of the barbecue!

Sean Suk caught a Sanddab this afternoon, but he threw it back in.  There were lots of boats….sailboats and motor boats around us while we were near the port…they kept coming by to check us out.  I’ve seen lots of big container ships while we’ve been in this area, as well. We went past an offshore oil rig this afternoon, and it was interesting to see just how close it is to the coastline of California!  I have seen oil rigs in Wyoming, but the offshore ones are very different. It was neat to be able to see one in person.

The exciting thing about today was that we had a barbecue on the aft deck.  We had kabobs and burgers. It was great!  The weather was gorgeous, and everyone laughed and a nice time.  The crew said that they have a barbecue almost every Sunday and that it is kind of like a tradition. We went to Channel Islands Harbor near Port Hueneme, CA.  They had to pick up some gear for the engineers at the port there.  The weather became a bit cool after the sun went down…and I think I will have to close the door to my stateroom because it will probably be too chilly!  We enjoyed watching the sunset, and we are all looking forward to another week together.

After it got dark, we went down to the bow observation chamber, which is way down in the belly of the bow, below sea level. You have to climb down through 2 locks and down about 30 stairs, straight down. It’s kind of scary down there.  There are 4 portholes which look out from the bow of the ship, and we could see the phosphorescent critters in the water. They glow green. It was very surreal.  Jason Larese, Stephanie Snyder, Daniele Adrizzone, and I went down, then Ryan Harris joined us about half way through.  Climbing up was not as scary as going down was!  I made it out safely, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get anything to show up in pictures.

Heather Diaz, July 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 8, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we set a special line for the Swordfish Feasibility Study.  This study is actually being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar, who has been researching sharks and other aquatic species for more than 14 years.  The purpose of this study is to see if swordfish can be caught using the shark sampling gear and handled safely for biological studies, such as tagging and sample collection.  To do this set, we used the same basic setup as we did with the sharks, with a few differences. First, the lines are made of monofilament A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”.  Stephanie instead of steel. Second, Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught.  Third, the bait used is squid, and each is baited with two.  Fourth, the leader lines also have a “Chemilure” on them, which is basically a light stick.  We have used yellow and green light-sticks. These light-sticks are clipped on the line near the bait, since swordfish will be attracted to the light.

A group of volunteer scientists set the lines at 3 am.  Then, the whole crew got up to haul in the lines at 6am. We didn’t catch any swordfish, but we did catch 1 blue shark and 1 pelagic ray. Around 8am, we set the shark line. We hauled in that line around noon.  We caught 2 blues and 2 makos. We had our abandon ship and fire drills today. For the abandon ship drill, I had to get my survival suit from my room, along with my hat.  I was already wearing a long-sleeve shirt and pants, so I didn’t have to bring those. I also had to put on a life-vest. My meeting location was the second boat. During the fire drill, all the scientists had to meet in the aft lab. Afterwards, (he’s not an officer, but a civilian employee) 2nd Mate, Richard (Pat) Patana, gave us a speech about safety and he went over all the rules and procedures for both types of emergencies.  It was very interesting to hear.  All of the crew members are actually trained in fire procedures, and they wear the same gear that a fireman on land would wear. They are also trained in water emergency procedures, and they have been trained to “plug” and repair breeches in pipes and the hull of the boat, if there is ever a need.

Around 2pm, we set the shark line again. We hauled in that line around 6pm.  We caught 5 blues, 1 mako, and 2 pelagic rays.

A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC (oxytetracycline) which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the age of the shark once it is caught. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic, though that is not the intended purpose of it. Rand Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.
A Mako shark is being processed in the “cradle”. Stephanie Snyder injects a Mako shark with OTC which will act as a staining agent to help in identifying the  shark’s age. The OTC will also act as an antibiotic. Rand
Rasmussen covers the shark’s nose, mouth, and eyes to keep the animal calm, and to prevent injury. Dr. Russ Vetter (top left) holds down the tail of the shark to prevent the animal from thrashing.

Personal Log 

During our last set, we accidentally lost a buoy.  I think it came unclipped from the line.  So, Chief Boatswain, Chico Gomez and Ordinary Fisherman Ryan Harris got the skiff down to go and rescue it, of course they couldn’t do it until the entire line had been set!  So, around 3pm, they asked me if I would go with them.  YEAH! Actually, two other scientists were able to go with us (Karina DeLaRosa-Mesa and Daniele Ardizzone).  It was a little scary climbing down off the boat because the ladder was a bit crooked.  However, it was safe, and everyone was able to get down without much difficulty.  We were able to go about 2 miles out away from the ship…which looked like a tiny little boat from so far away.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring my camera because we all got really wet. On the excursion, we saw a mola up close, it was right off the bow of the skiff…I could have touched it, but when we got close enough to reach out for it, it dove under the water and out of sight. They are really strange looking.  After about 30 minutes, Chico Gomez spotted the buoy and I got to reach down and capture it and pull it aboard.  That was cool. We made it back to the ship just in time for dinner.

Unfortunately, our foam floated away before anyone could catch it.  They will need to go back and look for it later.  Dr. Rachel Graham was helping Dr. Suzy Kohin “process” the fish and accidentally smacked herself in the cheekbone with the bolt cutters.  It swelled up into a goose-egg. It looks like it really hurts.  The OOD, Sean Finney, came down to take a report. But, no medical report was filed after all since it was not a serious injury.  Dr. Rachel Graham is ok, but her cheek is bruised and she has a black eye.  She was able to laugh about it later, but everyone feels very badly that she got hurt.  We will all have to be extra vigilant to try to avoid further injuries.

After we finished our haul, the crew decided to go and look for the foam, which took us way, way, way off course. But, we looked until the sun went down and couldn’t find it.  I personally think that the trawler that was near us when we lost it picked it up.  At least, I hope so!

Two Baleen whales were playing not too far away from the ship today!  They hung around for about an hour, of course every time I got my camera out, they would go under the water. And, I don’t think I was fast enough to get a good shot of them.  It was very neat to see the plume of water blast out from the surface of the water, and then we could see them roll gently in and out of the water.  They are such graceful animals.  I would love to get to see them a bit closer!

The air is very crisp and it smells fantastic.  The gentle rolling of the ship over the waves is very relaxing, and everyone has said that they have never slept better than they have the last few days! I am looking forward to a nice sleep, and another exciting day with the sharks!

Heather Diaz, July 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 7, 2006

Boy Scout Troop 271, from San Diego, CA, arrives aboard the ship. Chief Boatswain Chico Gomez and Dr. Russ Vetter are also aboard the skiff. The Boy Scouts were participating in an oceanography course on Santa Catalina Island, and the troop was able to take a tour of the ship

Science and Technology Log 

This morning everyone woke up ready to catch some more sharks.  We set the first line at 6am. It soaked for about 4 hours. Then, we hauled in the line around 10am.  During the first set, we caught 7 blue sharks. Unfortunately, we also had one blue shark which died on the line. They think it must have become tangled up on the line, and it died.  It was not a very large animal.  They dissected it and researchers will use the samples to discover more about these incredible creatures. The afternoon set started around 12pm.  We hauled the line in around 4pm.  This time, we caught 1 blue, 1 mako, and 1 pelagic ray.

In the afternoon, we picked up another scientist, Dr. Russ Vetter, at Twin Harbors on the coast of Catalina Island. He will be helping us process the animals and tag them, along with Suzy and Rand. We also had 18 Boy Scouts from Troop 271 from San Diego, CA join us. They were brought aboard by Chico, who shuttled them over on the skiff from their campsite on Catalina Island. They had just finished taking a week long course on oceanography and they came aboard to see what our ship was doing.  I heard one of them say, “This is awesome, I can’t wait to be able to do this when I grow up!” I think there may be some future NOAA Corps officers in the making! They all seemed genuinely excited to learn about the sharks we are studying, and many of them said they wanted to come back and see more.  They all left with big smiles on their faces, and the camp “mom” was very excited to see what an impact the visit had on the boys.

Personal Log 

The sunrise this morning was gorgeous!  California sea lions and dolphins played alongside the ship all day, and we had a wonderful time watching them and enjoying the sunshine. The scenery is also gorgeous, with a great view of Santa Barbara Island not too far off in the distance.

Oh, one thing that happened during this set which was kind of sad is that we caught 1 blue shark that had gotten tangled up in the line and died, so when we hauled it in, it was dead. So, the pulled it on deck and dissected it.  I was able to get some video of it.  They are so cute when they are so small like that!  They took some DNA samples and some other body parts from it.  I didn’t stick around to see what they did with the rest of it.  Someone had asked for the jaw (a scientist from Long Beach Aquarium), but if they get another one, I will try to get a jaw.  It’s truly amazing to see how their jaw protrudes.  Also, I noticed that their teeth are almost translucent.  Very interesting!

The bait smelled particularly bad this afternoon.  But, we were off the coast of Catalina Island, so the scenery was gorgeous! I saw several dolphin playing, and even a few sea lions playing in the water nearby.

The sunset was equally as gorgeous tonight as it was yesterday, and we finished the evening off near Catalina Island. It was great to see the Boy Scouts come aboard as everything about the ship was exciting to them.  I wanted to spend more time talking with them, but they had to go back to shore so that we could move to our next block.  I hope that some of them continue to pursue their interest in science!  Perhaps someday they will be the Chief Scientist or CO of this cruise!

I am looking forward to seeing more of the Channel Islands!  I have only ever seen one of them, and I can’t wait to see Anacapa, as I have seen many photographs of this beautiful little island.

Heather Diaz, July 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heather Diaz
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 6 – 15, 2006

Mission: Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: July 6, 2006

California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port for the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey.
California sea lions catch a nap on a buoy marker in San Diego Harbor as the DAVID STARR JORDAN leaves port

Science and Technology Log 

After everyone boarded the ship and we were underway, the OOD, Junior Officer Sean Finney held a short welcome aboard meeting.  He explained the expectations of the scientific crew and regulations while aboard the ship.  Afterwards, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Suzy Kohin, held a meeting to explain our mission and to show us how the longlines would be set.

The mission of our cruise is to complete the second leg of the Juvenile Shark Abundance Survey, which is done annually. The first leg was completed last week. During this leg, we will resample the same blocks, so that the data can be compared.  Data will then be analyzed from the last 10 years to see if there have been in changes in the mako and blue shark populations. The primary targets for this survey are the juvenile pelagic sharks, the mako and blue sharks. Any other animal that is caught will be measured and that data will also be recorded.  Sharks will be tagged and released.  If there happens to be a shark that is no longer alive or who is too unhealthy to be released, they will be dissected and specific parts will be preserved for further research.  We are hoping that this will not happen.  We will also be taking a DNA sample from each shark that is caught.  At the end of each set, temperature and latitude and longitude will be recorded.  Primary and Secondary Blocks have been predetermined (as these have been the same for the survey over the past 10 years); however, there are a few days in which we may do sets in areas where the temperature of the water or slope of the ocean floor appear to be optimal for catching sharks to tag.

In addition to the primary survey, we will also be doing a Swordfish Feasibility Study, which is a project being conducted by Dr. Heidi Dewar.  She is looking to see if it is possible to catch swordfish in this area using a longline set, similar to the one we are using for the Shark Survey. They are also looking at whether or not it would be possible to control the fish well enough to be able to tag its dorsal fin.

Following our meetings, we practiced putting on our “gumby gear” (survival suit), which is made of neoprene and is intended to be worn only during abandon ship situations.  It is called “gumby gear” because it covers a person from head to toe in bright red neoprene.  Crew members aboard the ship are expected to keep their abandon ship gear close by in case of an emergency, and we have abandon ship drills and fire drills once a week.  Every stateroom is equipped with two survival suits and two life jackets.  Man overboard drills are conducted once every month or so.

The first longline, which we set at 4pm, was considered a practice set.  Setting the longline is comprised of several jobs.  The first job is done by Rand Rasmussen.  He begins the process by preparing the bait. For the shark sets, we use frozen mackerel.  Rand Rasmussen counts out the frozen mackerel and thaws them in 2 coolers using sea water. The mackerel are not baited completely thawed and are actually easier to bait if they are still a little frozen.

The next step is that the deck crew members prepare the lines by taking part of the line and unrolling it from the main roll.  They then string it through a pulley that runs along the side of the ship. After the line is ready, the bridge positions the ship so that we are in line with where we should be setting the line.  Then, when everyone is in place, they toss the flag. The flag is a flag that is connected to a long pole.  The bottom of the pole has a float on it, so that it stands upright.  There is also a bright yellow bag that looks like a windsock (called a sea anchor), which is also thrown into the water.  This catches the current, and helps to keep that end of the line straight.

Then, one person will unclip the leaders. These are made up of a gangion clip at one end, about 3 fathoms (18 feet) of steel wire, and a stainless steel hook at the other end.  The gangions are kept in cans, with 2 rows on 4 sides to which the gangions are clipped.  The hooks are looped inside one end of the gangion to keep our hands safe and out of the way from hands that might reach into the can.  There are 2 cans of gangions/hooks, and we set around 200 hooks during each set.  Once the gangion is unclipped from the can, the hook is removed from the loop, and both ends are handed off to the baiter.  The baiter puts the hook into the mackerel’s mouth, then loops it out the underside of the mouth and is then pushed into the back, making a sort of loop around the spine with the hook.  The line is then pulled tight.

The baited line is then passed off to the “clipper”.  This person waits for a small crimp to pass by on the line as it comes through the pulley and goes down into the water (towards the flag). There are actually 2 small crimps on the line which serve two purposes.  First, they keep the gangions from sliding off the line or moving positions.  Second, it makes sure that the spacing is uniform on the line.  The spacing for this survey is about 25 feet between each gangion. The clipper grabs the line with one hand, and then clips the gangion into the “slot” with the other.  The line moves very quickly because the ship is actually moving forward the whole time at a few knots, so the clipper must be fast and accurate.

After 5 baited lines have been clipped, a buoy is clipped on in what would then be the 6th slot on the line. The buoy goes through 2 stages of preparation.  First, the buoy is taken from the port side of the ship, where they are stored while not in use.  Then, they are clipped on a line near the setting line.  One person takes a leader line of nylon rope (again, about 3 fathoms long) and they attach it to the buoy.  Then they pass it off to a buoy person, who counts the gangions as they go by and then passes the buoy off to the clipper at the appropriate time.

While the scientists are working with the line, the deck crew is also working with the line at the winch.  There are always at least 2 deck crew members on hand to supervise the set. One person runs the winch, and they can adjust the winch to run the line faster or slower as needed. The other person carefully watches the line, to make sure that everyone is being safe and that the line is moving along safely.  They signal the winch operator if the line needs to be stopped or sped up.  They also keep in constant contact with the bridge to tell them how the set is going.

The bridge can watch the set process through a camera, which they can maneuver so that they can see the line as it comes off the winch, as it is being baited, and as it is deployed in the water. In addition, they can see the line on a computer screen which shows them the “box” where they are trying to set the line.  The box is an area on the navigational chart that the scientists have determined as the area in which they would like to set the line. We aren’t concerned about keeping the entire set within the box once we start, but the start point is selected so that most of the line will be in the box.  The bridge is responsible for watching for any other boats/ships that might be in the area which could interfere with our line.

Once all the buoys and lines have been deployed, the deck crew disconnects the lines from the winch and attaches the line at the back of the ship.  The bridge then watches the line while it “soaks” to make sure it stays as straight as possible.  The standard length of soak time for this survey is 4 hours.  While we are soaking, the scientists usually take a nap, play a game, catch up on email or research, relax on deck or in the crew’s lounge, get a temperature profile, prepare tags for the haul, catch up on data entry from previous sets, etc.

When it is time to haul, all of the scientists and 3 deck hands are needed.  The set up is a little different when we haul in the line, because there are 2 main areas of activity instead of just one. At the very rear of the ship, there is the tagging/measuring area.  This is done on two levels. The top level, which is on the same level as the aft deck, is where the data recorders and the deck hand that is operating the platform/cradle lift are located.  They are on opposite sides of the ramp.  The bottom level is at the bottom of the ramp and is where the platform and the “cradle” are located.  Usually Suzy Kohin, the Chief Scientist, and 2 or 3 other scientists are down on the platform during the haul-in.  I will explain more about all these jobs below.

The area of activity nearest to the front (bow) of the ship begins with the deck crew members and the line.  Once the line is disconnected from the back of the ship, it is brought forwards so that it is in line with the winch.  It is threaded across a sort of pulley, and is reconnected to the winch. Two deck hands make sure the line is wound back on the main roll of line evenly.  To do this, one person operates the winch’s speed, and they can stop it if necessary, while the other person keeps pressure on the line by holding it with a special tool.  This makes sure the line winds correctly and does not get snagged.

Once the line is connected, the process is ready to begin.  The bridge gives permission for us to begin hauling in the line, and the first person, who stands near the pulley, unclips the gangion from the line.  That person then passes it off to one of two de-baiters.  These people pull the bait off the hook and drop it into the ocean.  They then put the hook into the gangion loop and pass the whole thing back to the clipper.  The clipper then clips the gangions back into their can (the exact reverse of the process when we set).  When buoys come up, the buoy line is handed over to a buoy person, who pulls up the leader line and disconnects the buoy from it. They then coil the leader back into its basket while another person takes the buoy to the other side of the deck and attaches it to a line where it is kept while not in use. If there is an animal on the line, everyone yells, “Shark!”, or whatever the animal is.  This alerts those at the rear of the ship that there is an animal coming to them.  The line that has the animal on it is unclipped, and then a “rope leader” is attached to it, which makes it possible to tie off the line to the ship if there are too many to be processed right away. Then someone “wrangles” the shark to the rear of the ship by literally walking the animal along the side of the boat until they reach the cradle.  It’s a very important job because they have to keep enough tension on the animal that the hook doesn’t slip out of their mouth, but they have to also be careful not to pull the animal up and out of the water, which could cause injury to the animal.

The cradle is a sort of half-tube that can be raised and lowered so that it is either closer or farther away from the water.  When an animal is brought around, the cradle is lowered so that it is in the water. One of the scientists takes the leader line and takes off the rope.  They then pull the animal into the cradle so that its head is facing the port side of the ship. The other scientist is waiting for the animal and he catches its mouth and eyes with one hand and covers the animal’s face with a wet cloth so that it can’t see and to help calm the animal.  He uses his arm and other hand to hold the animal down.  The scientist that lead the animal into the cradle also gets down on the platform and uses his arms to keep the animal still.

The first thing that is done is a DNA sample.  This is done by the Chief Scientist who uses hemostats to hold a small section of the animal’s fin (in the case of a shark, this is the dorsal fin). Then a small scalpel is used to remove a tiny section of fin.  This is held in the grip of the hemostat, which is then passed up to the data recorder on deck.  They put the sample into a small glass jar which is then labeled with the animal’s number and species. Most DNA samples collected were from makos because the researchers are trying to determine the population genetics structure of the shortfin mako shark in the North Pacific, though 3 other types of animals were also caught.

Once the DNA sample is done, the Chief Scientist inserts an ID tag, called a spaghetti tag, which is from NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Services) into the animal, just in front of the dorsal fin. This is done by making a very small cut with the scalpel, and then the tag is inserted with a long metal probe, which lodges the tag underneath the skin.  The tag information is recorded by the data recorder, who later completes a registration card which will identify the animal by the date caught, length, sex, and species.  The registration card is kept on file, so that if the animal is ever caught in the future, they can track where the animal has been.

After the spaghetti tag is done, they do another tag, which is placed directly on the dorsal fin. This is called a Roto tag. To do this, the Chief Scientist punches a hole in the dorsal fin with a punch tool. Then, the tag is lined up with the hole and is riveted together.  This tag number is also recorded by the data recorder.  On some animals, they also place satellite tags and pop-off archival tags, but I have to learn more about how those work.  We didn’t do any of those today. The Roto tag has a special tag on it with instructions for fishermen.  If the animal is ever recaught, they can send the tag and some of the animal’s vertebrae in for a one hundred dollar reward.  This is only done on animals which receive the OTC injection.

Once the animal has been tagged, they turn it on one side to get the sex.  This is also recorded by the data recorder.  Then, they inject the animal with OTC (oxytetracycline) which is supposed to stain the animal’s vertebrae, which can later help to determine the age of the animal (like the rings on a tree).  It also works as an antibiotic, though that is not its primary purpose.  This injection is given just about in the middle of what most people would consider the belly of the animal into the visceral cavity.  The dosage is based on the approximate length of the animal and is measured out of a small needle.  The Chief Scientist gives the injection and holds the tiny hole where the injection was given for a few seconds to prevent any of the OTC from leaking out.

Then, they flip the animal back onto its stomach so that they can remove the hook.  They record where the hook was located (either the jaw or if they swallowed it).  They usually have to cut the barbed end of the hook off with bolt cutters.  The line and the broken hook are then thrown up to the deck to be recycled and refitted with new hooks for use again.

Once the hook is out, the animal is pushed to the end of the cradle and the tip of its nose is lined up with the very edge of the cradle.  The side of the cradle has a measuring stick on it. They hold the tail out straight and measure to the very end of it along the tape.  Once they have a measurement, they lower the cradle down into the water, and gently push the animal out the end so that it can swim away.  Usually makos dive straight down, but blues tend to swim around a while on the surface before diving out of sight.

Everything happens very quickly, so those who are processing the animal must be quick and efficient. The entire process takes no more than a few minutes, which is intended to limit the amount of stress on the animal, and so that we don’t keep them out of the water any longer than absolutely necessary.

Personal Log 

When we pulled out of the harbor, I was standing on the fly bridge (the very top).  I could see all the other ships and the other boat yards.  One cool thing I saw was the Naval Dolphin Training Station. It just looks like a bunch of square cement rings.  I could see the dolphins in them, though I don’t know if the pix came out or not.  I also saw a pier that was loaded with sea lions. In front of that, we passed a buoy marker which had become the napping place for 2 sea lions…they were very cute.  Once we were at sea, I was able to get in my room (room 01-1) and put my things away.  Then, I hit the bed and fell sound asleep. While I was asleep Chico Gomez, Chief Boatswain, and Sean Suk caught some Bonita….very pretty fish!  I didn’t get to see them whole.  But, the meat was a gorgeous salmony-pink color.  They said they will smoke it tomorrow afternoon.  They said I can try fishing sometime this week.  I will give it a try in a few days.

Because this afternoon was our first set, everyone was very excited to do all of the jobs.  I chose to do baiting first, and then I switched to doing the unclipping.  Both were fun, and everyone talks and laughs, so it was fun.  I was really excited to finally be on board and to get to meet everyone.  Hauling in the first set was amazing, and I got to see so many sharks! After the set, I spent the time unpacking and getting things ready for the rest of the cruise.

We caught 11 blues, 3 makos, and 1 pelagic ray.  We also caught 1 mola mola, but I didn’t see it. I am looking forward to seeing a mola at some point.  I couldn’t believe how different it was to see sharks so close, and not in an aquarium!

Today I learned how to tell the difference between a mako and a blue shark…the makos have more streamlined noses, a more silvery color, and they have a more symmetrical tail. The blues have a definite blue color to them, and their tails are distinctively larger on top than on the bottom. Also, makos have a more “thick” area in front of their tail, kind of like the keel of a boat, whereas the blues are more streamlined.  You can also tell the difference by their teeth. Mako sharks have little, almost needle-like teeth, whereas the blue sharks have triangular teeth which are serrated on the sides (that is, if you happen to get close enough to see one with its jaws open!).  But, they are all very cute!

The ray was also very amazing to see…they are a kind of steely-grey color, and kind of “spaceship” shaped.  Very different than the rays I’ve seen around the waters near Florida. I can’t wait to see more sharks and other sea animals tomorrow!