NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 2 – 25, 2004
Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 24, 2004
Lat: 20 09 N
Long: 156 15 W
Sky: Bright and sunny
Air temp: 26.5 C
Relative humidity: 57%
Wind: 60 degrees at 28 knots gusting to 35
Sea temp: 26.3 C
Depth: 1227.6 m
Sea: Its really rocking at the moment!
Science and Technology Log
This was the last roundup — and a rather disappointing finish. Four barracuda came up, an escolar and half of an escolar cleanly bitten in half by a shark. A blue shark and a blue marlin were on the line also but, unfortunately, dead. Trolling through early afternoon brought in a yellowfin tuna and a wahoo.
The main mission for the rest of the day is to make way for Honolulu.
In case some of you might be thinking about a Teacher at Sea experience, but wondering if longlining is for you, I thought I’d give you a bit of info related to other missions of the SETTE. Perhaps one of those operations would be of more interest to you. (Of course, there are other ships in other places doing other things for different lengths of time.)
The next cruise for the SETTE is a Protected Species Investigations cruise which takes the crew to the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. These are primarily resupply trips to take scientists and materials to and from temporary camps set up on these remote islands for the study of monk seals and bird populations. I read about these camps and found them quite interesting. For example, in an effort to prevent invasion of (more) exotics to these islands items going assure are placed in a freezer for a time to kill hitchhiking critters.
Debris cruises are another NOAA mission. Yep, that’s right, picking up trash from the island beaches and off of coral reefs. A crewman, John, related to me that the stomach contents of dead chicks are often clogged with plastics fed to them by their parents. He has even found plastic lighters, which to the birds might look like squids, in the stomach remains of these birds. It’s nice to know an effort is being made to reduce the hazards, but sad to note that the negative impact of humans strikes even in the most remote places.
Coral reef surveys are done to monitor health of those systems. Studies of benthic habitats are conducted as well as investigations of planktonic life. Later this year the SETTE will do a lobster cruise to assess those populations. John, our electronics technician, described to me that overharvesting of spiny lobsters which like relatively shallow water opened up their habitat to invasion by the slipper lobster. Slippers typically stayed deep to avoid the spiny, but now that the species are encountering each other a hybrid has developed.
John also pointed out that regardless of the mission of the science teams aboard, the SETTE is constantly collecting and filing data. Wherever the ship is, it is recording weather information and physical characteristics of the seawater and the seafloor. Perhaps you get the idea that this is a busy little platform sailing out here in the big blue sea.
At the time of my weather report we were passing through the channel between Hawaii and Maui. This is where we got blasted by heavy (much more so than today) seas on our first night out. I’m handling this well and would like to boast that I am now seaworthy enough to handle with ease forces as encountered on day 1. But then I don’t want to tempt the sea gods to challenge me with a new test of my endurance. The sea is very pretty in this state (something I was in no condition to say 3 weeks ago). White-capped waves, snow white on a navy blue backdrop and fleeting rainbows of color as wind blown spray catches the light just right fill the gap between the island masses.
The sea calms dramatically as we pass between Maui and islands to its west. We are close enough now to Maui to see the green of the land with its black lava scars and the observatories perched atop 10,000 foot Haleakala glistening white in the late afternoon sun. To our southwest the surf crashes against the shear walls of the neighboring island, Kanoolaweu. Lenai and Molokai lie ahead and frame a beautiful sunset for our last night at sea as several of us enjoy it from the bow.
I will be doing my last edition of the log tomorrow (Tuesday). I think I lose my NOAA address as of tomorrow also. If you have any questions perhaps they will be forwarded to me through the Teacher at Sea website. I look forward to hearing from you.