Karah Nazor: Cool Catch Highlights, June 2-7, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Karah Nazor

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

May 29 – June 7, 2019

Mission: Rockfish Recruitment & Ecosystem Assessment

Geographic Area: Central California Coast

Date: June 2-7, 2019

June 2, 2019 Game Plan and Trawling Line: 5 hauls in the Piedras Blancas Line near San Simeon, CA. Piedras Blancas is known for its Northern elephant seal colony, M. angustirostris. Hauls were conducted outside of the marine reserve and we did not encounter seals.

Catch Highlights: The night started off with excitement when Keith Sakuma brought in an Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica, and we all got to see it up close before releasing.

Keith S and electric ray
Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma holding a Pacific electric ray, Torpedo californica

In Haul 3 we collected a pelagic octopus, Ocythoe tuberculata, shown below. Chromatophores in cephalapods, including squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are complex organs made up of both muscle and nerve and provide the ability for the animal to rapidly change its skin color in order to blend into the surrounding environment to avoid predation, communicate, or send a warning signal. It was impressive to watch the chromatophores at work as the pelagic octopus attempted to blend into the white background of his tank by turning white (see photos below) We released it back to the sea.

Pelagic octopus
Pelagic octopus (Ocythoe tuberculata) attempting to camouflage with the background and flashing white
Pelagic octopus chromatophores
Pelagic octopus (Ocythoe tuberculata) with chromatophores expressing orange, purples and pinks. The beak is exposed here.

The differences in skin coloration of the five primary squid species we are catching including Boreal Squid, Blacktip Squid, Unknown Squid, Gonadus Squid, and Market Squid (see image below) are noteworthy. While living market squid exhibit brown, pink and purple skin color (see image below) the Chiroteuthis squid tentacle displays orange and red chromatophores (see image below).

Common squids
Common squids in our catches. From top to bottom, Boreal Squid, Blacktip Squid, unknown species, Gonadus Squid, and Market Squid.
market squid
Living market squid exhibiting brown, pink and purple chromatophores.
Pink and purple chromatophores on the mantle of a market squid.
Orange and red chromatophores on a tentacle of the Chriroteuthis squid.

In Haul 4 we collected a Cranchia scabra, which Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma calls the “baseball squid” or glass squid whose body is covered with tubercles (brown spots on mantle in photo below). This animal attempted to hide from us by turning white, retracting its tentacles and inflating himself into a ball, somewhat resembling a baseball. After a few pictures, we released it back to the sea.

Cranchia scabra or "baseball squid"
Cranchia scabra or “baseball squid”

Another exciting deep-sea creature, the Pacific hatchet fish, Argyropelecus affinis, was collected in a bongo net deployed prior to CTD, for Dr. Kelly Goodwin’s eDNA research.  The fish we collected below still has intact blue scales due to being well preserved in the bongo. The hatchet fish lives in mesopelagic zone down to 2000 m depths where the CTD sensors recorded a temperature of four degrees Celsius! Hatchet fish have upward facing eyes and mouths and swim up to the the epi-pelagic zone at night to feed on salps and krill.

Pacific hatchet fish, Argyropelecus affinis
Pacific hatchet fish, Argyropelecus affinis

Kelly conducted a quick surface bucket dip prior to CTD deployment in which we found a small (~2 inch) siphonophore, which I was very excited about since this was my first one to ever see in person! Siphonophores are colonial Cnidarians composed of individual animals called zooids. Moss Landing Graduate Student Kristin Saksa and I were able to confirm the identification of this beautiful creature as a siphonophore using an invertebrate field guide that Keith Sakuma brought on board. Perhaps due to the temperature change from being in the sea to being observed in a cell culture dish under the microscope, the siphonophore broke apart into its individual zooids right in front of my eyes.  See before and after photos below.   

Intact Siphonophore colony
Intact Siphonophore colony from bucket dip, note tip or “hat” at the bottom on the animal.
individual siphonophore zooids
Siphonophore individual zooids appear as semi circles consisting of small brown semi-circles.

Tonight I was also able to observe living salps that were pulled up in the bongo net and take a video.  It was neat to see the salps pulsing.

Haul 5 was a massive haul full of pyrosomes, Pyrosoma atlanticum.  Kristin Saksa volunteered to stir the bucket of pyrosomes (using her arms) so that we could obtain an accurate distribution of organisms for the initial volume count and analysis.  As I video of this event (see stills from the video below), we were all laughing and realized that Kristin may be the only human on Earth who has ever stirred pyrosomes.

Kristin stirring pyrosomes
Kristin Saksa stirring a bucket full of Pyrosoma atlanticum
Kristin stirring pyrosomes
Kristin Saksa stirring a bucket full of Pyrosoma atlanticum

In haul 5 we were surprised to find a Giant 7-armed Atlantic octopus, or blob octopus. Keith Sakuma explained that the males have 7 arms as the fifth is a sex appendage whereas the female has 8 arms. After photographing this beautiful deep-sea octopus, we released him back to the sea.

Giant Seven-Armed Atlantic Octopus or “blob octopus”

June 3, 2019 Game Plan and Trawling Line: 5 hauls Outside Monterey Bay

Catch Highlights: Two of the hauls produced a lot of krill. The hauls had a high species density with a lot of myctophids, salps and blue lanternfish. Such hauls are time consuming to sort so as not to overlook something new and small. In one of the hauls we found a new-to-me myctophid called Nanobrachium. I dissected some of the fish and found that CA lanternfish and Northern anchovies were full of eggs, and their age/reproductive status was previously unknown.

A catch with a high krill count
A catch with a high krill count

We caught 2 young ocean sunfish, Mola mola.  Both were immediately returned to the sea.

Kaila with young Mola mola
Scripps Graduate Student Kaila Pearson with a young ocean sunfish, Mola mola.
Keith and mola mola
LTJG Keith Hanson with a young ocean sunfish, Mola mola.

We found several species of deep sea dragonfish which we arrayed below on a ruler. Most of these fish are less than 6 inches long, no bigger than a pencil, but they are equipped with sharp fangs and are apex predators in their realm! Dragonfish have large bioluminescent photophore organs underneath their eyes (and sometimes lining their bodies) which produce light and are used to attract or deter prey and attract mates.

All of the dragonfish caught on June 3, 2019 on the NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker.
more dragonfishes
Longfin dragonfish, Tactostoma macropus, on left and a Pacific black dragon, Idiacanthus antrostomus, on right. Also in the photo are a krill (on the left of the dragonfish) and a Gonatus Squid (top left corner of photo).
Longfin dragonfish, Tactostoma macropus, with large photo organ underneath the eye

We collected a stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger, which can unhinge its jaw in order to consume large prey.

Stoplight loosejaw
Stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger.
Face of stoplight loosejaw
Face of stoplight loosejaw, Malacosteus niger.

June 4th: Davenport Line

The highlight of today was at 5:45 P.M.  when team red hats went to the flying bridge for our workout and to hang out with Ornithologist Brian Hoover.  There was a lot of Humpback whale activity. I counted around 20 spouts. We observed one whale that flapped its tail against the sea surface around 45 times in a row, perhaps communicating to nearby whales by generating pulses in the water or creating a visual cue.  We saw several full breaches. We finished up the Davenport Line at 6:00 AM as the sea became rough. Thanks goodness for handrails in the shower.

The sorting team
The sorting team, aka Team Red Hats. From left: Kristin Saksa, Flora Cordoleani, Karah Nazor, Ily Iglesias, and Kaila Pearson.

June 5th: Outside of Tomales Bay

I woke up at 4PM and headed to the galley for dinner at 5PM.  The boat was rocking so much that I became dizzy and knew that I would become sick if I tried to eat dinner, so I headed straight back to bed. Around 9PM the sea seemed to have calmed a bit, but I soon learned that it only felt calmer because the ship was traveling in the same direction as the swell at the moment but that we were about to turn around.  Due to the rough conditions, the first haul inshore at Tomales Bay was delayed until midnight so the fish sorting team decided to watch “Mary Poppins Returns” in the galley. The talented chefs of the Reuben Lasker made the most amazing almond cookies today and, thankfully, temped me to eat again.  

Catch Highlights: Haul 1 at station 165 was one of the easiest and most exciting catches of the survey so far because we collected a lot of jellyfish – my favorite! We counted 66 West Coast sea nettles, Chrysora fuscescens, seven Northern anchovies (7) and 24 market squid. I actually have a tattoo of West Coast sea nettle on my ankle. We placed the jellyfish flat on the lab bench and quickly measured their bell diameter before returning them to the sea. They did not sting us as most of the nematocysts were likely triggered during haul in.  I removed a rhopalia, a sensory structure that lines the margin of the bell of Syphozoans (the “true” jellyfish). West Coast sea nettles have eight rhopalium which house the the ocelli (light sensing organ) and statolith (gravity sensing organ). A photomicrograph I took of the rhopalia under the dissecting microscope is below.

Karah measures sea nettle
Teacher at Sea Karah Nazor measuring a West Coast sea nettle Chrysora fuscescens.
Karah examines sea nettle
Karah Nazor examining a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.
Kaila holds up sea nettle
Scripps graduate student Kaila Pearson examining a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.
Kristin holds up a sea nettle
Moss Landing graduate student Kristin Saksa examining a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.
light sensing organ
Photomicrograph of the ocelli or light sensing organ in the rhopalia of a West Coast sea nettle, Chrysora fuscescens.

Haul 2 mostly consisted of Northern anchovies, 1 krill, a few moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita, a few squid, which made for another very short and easy sort (see photo below). I study moon jellyfish in my lab back at McCallie High School, so I was curious to look inside of the stomach and reproductive organs of these wild jellyfish. Under the dissecting microscope, eggs were present and were purple in color (see photomicrograph below).

jellyfish eggs
Photomicrograph of purple eggs and clear gastric filaments of the moon jellyfish, Aurelia aurita
sorting Haul 2
Kaila Pearson (left) and Karah Nazor and Keith Hanson sorting Haul 2.

Haul 3 had a lot of krill, young of year (YOY) Pacific hake, Merluccius productus, one large hake, and a few market squid. This sort was also super easy except for separating the small YOY Pacific hake from the krill.

Sorting of haul 3 which had a lot of krill and young of year (YOY) Pacific hake, Merluccius productus.

June 6th: Outside Farallones. On our final night, we conducted three hauls with very small harvests consisting of few organisms and low species density.  One new to me fish in the final catch was a top smelt fish (see image below). These were the three easiest sorts of the survey. It was suggested by Keith Sakuma that the catches were small due to the stormy conditions.

catch from the last night
A small catch from the last night June 6, 2019, with one West Coast Sea Nettle, a Gonatus squid, and two topsmelt silversides, Atherinops affinis.
Kristin with a topsmelt
Moss Landing graduate student Kristin Saksa with a topsmelt silverside, Atherinops affinis, from the final haul of the survey.

June 7, 2019: Return to San Francisco

Group photo at Golden Gate Bridge
In front of the Golden Gate Bridge at the conclusion of the cruise. From left: Brian Hoover, Kelly Goodwin, Ily Iglesias, Karah Nazor, Flora Cordoleani, Kristin Saksa, Lauren Valentino, and Jarrod Santora.
group photo at Marin Headlands
In front of the Marin Headlands at the conclusion of the cruise. From left: Ily Iglesias, Kristin Saksa, Flora Cordoleani, Kaila Pearson, Lauren Valentino, and Karah Nazor.

Susan Dee: From the Bottom of the Food Chain to the Top, June 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Susan Dee

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 

May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeastern Coast of U.S.

Date:  June 3, 2018

Weather From Bridge

Latitude: 43°47.1′
Longitude: 068°40.41′
Sea Wave Height: 4-6 ft
Wind Speed:  20 knots
Wind Direction:  NE
Visibility:  10
Air Temperature:  10°C
Sky:  few clouds


Science and Technology Log

Birds on water
Sea Birds

As the Henry B. Bigelow traverses the Gulf of Maine sampling the microorganisms at stations, another pair of scientists are observing bird and marine mammal populations. Much of my time between sampling stations, I head up to the flying bridge and join  Nicholas Metheny and John Loch, Seabird Observers, on the lookout for the seabird and marine mammals. The seabirds most commonly observed in the Gulf of Maine are the Wilson Storm Petrel and the Sooty Shearwater.  These two species account for 60% of the birds seen.  These pelagic seabirds live offshore and only return to land to breed, often on remote islands.

birders on deck
Seabird Observers on Observation Deck


South Polar Skua
South Polar Skua (photo by Nicolas Methany)

All the samplings taken with bongo nets are samplings of the producers and primary consumers, the small organisms in the food chain.  On the observation deck, the fish and marine mammals that rely on a healthy bottom food chain are observed.  Spotting  marine mammals adds much to the excitement of the day. The bridge will announce a sighting and if possible, one gets to the flying bridge to see the wildlife.   One of the first sightings was of humpback whales in the distance, followed by sperm whale and pilot whale sightings.

Sperm Whale
Sperm Whale (Photo by Nicholas Methany)


Short Beaked Common Dolphin
Short beaked Common Dolphins (Photo by Nicholas Methany)


The most fascinating sightings were of Mola Mola- Ocean Sunfish.  They were spotted often and very close to the ship.

Mola Mola  - Ocean Sunfish
Mola Mola – Ocean Sunfish (Photo by Nicolas Methany)


Blue Shark
Blue Shark (Photo by Nicholas Methany)


Personal Log

The science crew is kept busy sampling at each station.  There is some down time steaming from station to station at 12 knots but it is enjoyable. I spend the down time talking to crew and scientists.  Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso has been an awesome mentor and photographer! I am learning so much and am so excited to bring it back into my classroom next year. The seas have been relatively calm but the forecast for the end of the cruise is not favorable for sampling due to high winds. If winds are over 30 knots, the crew has difficulty deploying the nets so sampling is suspended.  The science crew has taken samples from 114 stations.  These samples will be sent off to be analyzed at different labs.

Filled jar samples
Samples collected, boxed and ready to be shipped to analyze

work deck
Science Lab Work Deck

Deck Crew
Andrew and AJ helping deploy instruments

The deck crew and scientist party have been a pleasure to work with. I have learned so much from each of them

Science Party
Science Party Day Crew: Jerry P, Mark, and Chris T

Route map shows path of cruise
Final Day of Cruise Route map shows path of cruise

The cruise was cut short by two days due to high winds.  The last sampling station was in Cape Cod Bay. Tomorrow the ship will  head back to port through the Cape Cod Canal, ending a fantastic cruise.  I am so excited to see the data from  all these samples.  Thanks Teacher at Sea program for a great adventure!

Teacher at Sea Susan Dee
Teacher at Sea Susan Dee

Christopher Tait: Suburban Wilderness, March 27, 2017

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Christopher Tait

Aboard NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker

March 21, 2017 to April 7, 2017

Mission: Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean from San Diego, CA to San Francisco, CA

Date: March 27, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time 3:35 PDT,

Current Location: near San Nicolas Island, Latitude 33.3 N Longitude -119.2 W

Air Temperature 16.0 oC  (59.5 oF)

Water Temperature 14.9 oC  (58.6 oF)

Wind Speed 19 kts

Barometric pressure 1014.64 hPa

San Nicolas Island from the Reuben Lasker

Science and Technology Log

Acoustic Trawl

There is a lot of advanced equipment that is used to do a survey of fish that spans the coast of California. The Reuben Lasker has been fitted with state of the art echo-sounders (Figure 1), which send out pulses of sound that bounce off objects and return to the ship in the form of backscatter.  Looking at the backscatter data you can create a profile of the water column and see a variety of organisms swimming beneath the ship.  The target species for the research is the Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) and Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax).  The schools of fish are detected using a range of frequencies.  Looking at graphical representations of these data, or echograms, you can see the bottom as an area with strong echoes and, at times, you can see an area of high-intensity back scatter higher in the water column such as a school of fish or an aggregation of krill or plankton (figure 2).  This would be a school of fish, krill or other organisms.  The geographic location of the school is marked for a return by the ship at night for collection using a trawl.  To conduct a thorough survey, the ship travels back and forth between the coast and a predetermined distance out to sea across the predicted habitat of the target species (Figure 3.)  Scientists referred to this as “mowing the lawn.”

 Figure 1: Reuben Lasker Acoustic-Sampling Beams

Reuben Lasker Acoustic Sampling.png
©2014 Oceanography, Volume 27, number 4, Zwolinski et al.

Figure 2: An example echogram, showing the seabed and various sound scatterers in the water column.


Figure 3 : Survey Map of the Spring Coastal Pelagic Species Survey 2017

California Sampling Map.png

Scientist Profile:

The Cruise Leader, Kevin Stierhoff, is a fisheries scientist who works for the Advanced Survey Technologies group at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC) in San Diego, CA.  Not only has he been effectively managing this complex science expedition, he has gone out of his way to make me feel welcome and a part of this scientific endeavor.


How did you become a NOAA scientist?

I earned a B.S. in Biology, a Ph.D. in Marine Studies, and completed several postdoctoral research appointments prior to getting hired by NOAA. The work that my colleagues and I do at the SWFSC is very interdisciplinary, and the variety of educational and research experiences that I’ve had prepared me become a researcher at NOAA.

What do you like best about your career?

I consider myself lucky to have a job with a variety of duties. Not only do I spend time in the office analyzing data, but I also get to spend time at sea conducting survey and collecting data. When I’m not using acoustics to study pelagic fishes that migrate between Canada and Mexico, I use remotely operated vehicles (ROVs, or undersea robots) to survey endangered abalone that live on rocky reefs in the deep sea. When I’m not at sea, I’m analyzing the data that we collected at sea to communicate the results of our work.

What advice would you give to a student who would like to follow a similar career path?

Increasingly, a research career in marine biology requires a graduate degree to allow for maximal career advancement. If possible, take some time after undergrad to work in a job related to your career goals. This will allow you to focus your interests before choosing a graduate program, or perhaps discover that you don’t actually like that career path (better to find out sooner than later!) or that you don’t require a graduate degree to do the job that really interests you (which will save you lots of time and money). Most importantly, choose a job that you look forward to going to every day.


Personal Log

It is dark out, but as I look down from high atop the ship through an open window from the bridge, the lights of Long Beach reflect on the placid expanse of ocean and I come to a great moment of reflection.  One of the busiest ports in the world is just off in the distance and I am looking for marine mammals in this suburban wilderness.  Beside the glow of humanity, nature continues on.

Long Beach, California

I have been mostly helping with analyzing organisms that came up in the trawl at night, so my work schedule has moved to a 6 pm to 6 am.  I am struck by how hardworking, dedicated, and driven all members of this expedition are.  The crew, scientists, and NOAA Corps collaborate to continuously run surveys 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I am enjoying working at night now even though it took me a few days to get use to all of the adjustments in my schedule.  I particularly enjoy doing the marine mammal watch from the bridge.  It gives you this aerial point of view of all the action the NOAA Corps expertly navigating the ship and coordinating operations, the deck crew masterfully deploying nets and equipment, and the scientists excitedly exploring the organisms we collect.

Catch of the Day!

Haliphron atlanticusThis strange creature is a gelatinous octopus, whose body resembles a jellyfish, but when you look close, you see eyes looking at you!

Octipus Gelatinous.png
Haliphron atlanticus

Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

Boreal Clubhook Squid (Onychoteuthis borealijaponicus)

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) is the strangest fish I have ever seen! It is one of the heaviest bony fish, surprisingly from a diet high in jellyfish and salps. We caught a small and large sunfish.

TAS Chris Tait holds an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Measuring the ocean sunfish…

Slide to Freedom!

Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira): This fast looking fish hunts plankton at night near the surface.

Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira)

Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens): This juvenile flatfish rises to the water surface at night to hunt zooplankton.  Flatfish have an eye that migrates from one side of their body to the other as they develop.

Curlfin Turbot (Pleuronichthys decurrens)

Alexandra Keenan: Singing Whales, June 23, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alexandra Keenan
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 18 – June 29, 2012

Mission: Cetacean Biology
Geographical area of the cruise: Gulf of Maine
Date: June 23, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 14.4° C
Sea temperature: 13.3° C
Wind speed: 10.5 knots
Wind direction: from the SW

Science and Technology Log:

Whales are social creatures with a remarkable ability to communicate with one another over long distances using sounds. Male humpback whales, for example, can sing for days on end over mating grounds to attract the ladies, or over feeding grounds such as the ones on Georges Bank (where we are!) The acoustic behavior of sperm whales may even provide for distinct cultures within the species.

Listen: Song of a humpback whale (courtesy Denise Risch)

Given these vocalizations, it is possible to monitor the distribution and behavior of acoustically active marine animals using special recording units called “marine autonomous recording units” (MARUs). For the past few days, we have been zig-zagging and loopty-looping around Georges Bank to retrieve several of these MARUs (track our ship’s course here).

MARUs are little buoys designed to sit on the ocean floor and record all sounds within a certain range of frequencies. The MARUs we retrieved during this cruise have been on Georges Bank since the March cruise on the Delaware II (see Chief Scientist Allison Henry’s blog post).

To retrieve a buoy:

1. An acoustic signal (a sound) is sent out from a speaker lowered into the water that basically says to the buoy, “Hello! Are you there?” Listen: Signal used to contact buoy

pop-up buoy retrieval
Bioacoustician Denise Risch sends a signal to the MARU.

2. The buoy can then respond with another acoustic signal, “Yup!”

listening for the pop-up buoy
Research analyst Genevieve Davis and intern Julia Luthringer listen for a response from the MARU.

3. Upon hearing confirmation that the buoy is indeed in the area, the bioacoustician can send another signal to the buoy telling it to burn the wire anchoring it to the sandbags on the ocean floor.

4. The buoy is free! It floats to the sea surface and is retrieved from the side of the ship.

Denise Risch, Genevieve Davis, and Julia Luthringer wait for the ship to approach the MARU (small yellow dot in ocean).

5. Data is retrieved from flash memory on the buoy for further analysis.

MARU ready for data retrieval.

What will these MARUs be able to tell bioacousticians (scientists that study sounds produced by living organisms)?

Lots!  Using passive acoustic monitoring (recording the sounds that marine mammals make), scientists can study the distribution of acoustically active mammals and can couple distribution data with environmental measurements of the area to identify relationships between conditions on the ocean and acoustic activity. Scientists can also distinguish whale species based on their sounds, so certain species of whale can be monitored.

Physics break: Why do you think whales have evolved to use sound rather than sight or smell to communicate underwater?

Personal Log:

I have been amazed by the amount of maintenance being done while we are underway. Even with a relatively new ship like the Bigelow, there is always something to be done, whether it be grinding away at the deck for subsequent repainting or fixing a malfunctioning pump.

Maintenance on the Bigelow
Deck crew member Tony repaints the deck after grinding off the old paint while we are underway.

We spend most of our days out on the fly bridge watching for whales, and mostly we see whales.

whale watching
Equipment used for watching for whales from the flybridge.

However, once in a while a shark, turtle, or mola mola floats by. I really get a kick out of the mola molas. They look like they could be the subject of a Pokemon trading card– a big flat fish head with fins sticking out. They eat jelly fish and have few natural predators. Adults weigh an average of 2200 lbs!

mola mola
The other-worldly mola mola.

A short video of one in action below:

Finally, I wanted to introduce everyone on the science team for this cruise:

aglow following a blue whale sighting
From left to right: Me, Scientist Pete Duley, Bioacoustician Denise Risch, Chief Scientist Allison Henry, Scientist Jen Gatzke, Research Analyst Genevieve Davis, and Intern Julia Luthringer (photo courtesy CO Zegowitz)

Jennifer Fry: March 14, 2012, “Pi Day” 3.14, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 14, 2012

At Sea: Pago Pago, American Samoa

Science and Technology Log:

My current assignment aboard ship is helping the scientists with the “Nighttime Cobb Trawling”  We conduct two trawls in the night, the first one beginning around 9:00 p.m. and the second one at 1:30 a.m..  After each trawl which lasts 2 hours, the nets are brought up and we sort the catch.  The scientists are looking for migration patterns and types of sea life in this region.  Not much data has been collected  in American Samoa.

There are 3 other  scientists working on this project.

John Denton, is from the Natural History Museum in New York.

Aimee Hoover works for University of Hawaii.

Sione “Juice” Lam Yuen and Faleselau “House” or “Fale” Tuilagi are from the Fisheries Dept .in American Samoa.

The two trawls exaimine five species of fish:

  1. Myctophid fish
  2.  non-myctophid fish
  3.  crustaceans
  4.  gelatinous zooplankton
  5.  cephalopods

During one of the trawls the other night, they think they found a new species of myctophid fish. These fish have photophores which make them glow in the dark.  They are anywhere from 4-5 inches to very tiny, 1 inch.

Myctophids are among the most numerous fish in the sea. They have specific light producing organs called photophores.

After 4 days on the  night shift, I’m getting into the groove.  Going to sleep at 6 a.m. and waking up at 1:00 p.m.

It’s crazy.  Last night we did 2 trawls for fish.  We caught a huge fish, approx 4 feet in diameter, called a Sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus or Sunfish.  The scientists and crew were able to  free him and let him go back into the ocean. Click here to see the exciting video of the release of the Mola: Releasing the  Sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus/ Sun-fish

During tonight's Cobb trawl a sharp-tailed mola was caught in the net. The crew and scientists aided in freeing the fish allowing him to swim away. Mola can reach 100 years old.

When conducting a scientific experiment it is very important to maintain the same procedure or protocol.  This allows the scientist to measure only that which he/she is interested in, keeping all constants the same.

Here is the procedure or protocol for each Midwater Cobb Trawl:

1. Secure the TDR and Netminds tracking devices to  the trawl net Let out the trawl net, timing for 30 minutes at 350 meters of “wire out.”

2.  Ask the bridge and trawl net operator to raise the net line to 100 meters “wire out.”

3.  Time the trawling for additional 30 minutes.

4.  Once the trawl net has been hauled in:

5. Cut away the TDR and Netminds tracking devices: Their data is read on the computer.   Helping scientists determine temperature, depth   for each trawl.

6. Working together, scientist and crew members collect the specimens caught is the Cobb net.

7. The fish collected are taken to the wet lab and strained into a net that is in turn poured into examining trays.

8. Scientists then collect data including: weight (volume & mass), length (centimeters) ,  and count the number of each species recording the

minimum and maximum lengths.

9.   The scientists preserve each group of fish in ethanol/ ethyl alcohol  which eases transportation and preserves the fish for further study back in the lab.

Personal Log:

I’ve switched to working the night shift, tonight being the third night.  It’s getting a little easier, although we all still get punchy around 3-4 a.m.  I am scheduled to work nights until next Monday.  We will continue counting the fish, setting the trawl nets out, imputing the data, preserving the fish.  All very interesting work.

Animals Seen:

Sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus fish

Moorish Idol fish

Two Moorish Idol fish were caught in the Cobb Trawl net. Their colors were brilliant including their unique dorsal filament.

Caitlin Thompson: A Calm Day at Sea, August 9, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Caitlin Thompson
Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
August 1 — 14, 2011

Mission: Pacific Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean off the Oregon and Washington Coasts
Date: August 9, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Bringing in the net
Bringing in the net

Lat. 47 degrees 42.4 N
Long. 125 degrees 51.3
Present weather: cloudy
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Wind direction: 322
Speed 18 kts
Sea wave height: 3-4 feet
Swell waves – direction: 320
Swell waves – height: 4-5 feet
Sea water temperature: 16.7 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1019.7 mb
Temperature – dry bulb: 14.9 degrees C
Temperature – wet bulb: 13.2 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

Mola Mola
A mola mola, like the one I saw from deck.

Today the ocean was crystal clear and the sky partly clear. I saw amazing creatures floating on the still surface of the water — salps, mola mola, and jellies. Mola mola, also called sun fish, are flat and float on the surface of the water, seeming to sun themselves, eating jellyfish. The water was speckled with salps, identifiable by their small, jelly-like bodies and dark center. When Jennifer saw the salps, she groaned, explaining that their presence suggests a relaxation in the winds that drive upwelling. Less upwelling means fewer nutrients for the whole marine system. I spent the whole day trying to wrap my head around the fact that the slight winds I feel every day drive such an enormous system as coastal upwelling, and that one peaceful day could cause so many salps to be floating on the surface.

Black-footed albatross, like the one I saw
Black-footed albatross, like the one I saw

Usually there are enormous black-footed albatross all around the ship. Albatross, one of the biggest birds in the world, spend most of their lives at sea, coming to shore only to breed. The albatross I see may be nesting on remote Pacific islands, traveling many days to gorge themselves on fish off the West Coast before returning to their nests. They come to our waters because of all the fish here due to upwelling. An albatross can be away from the nest as many as seven days, returning to regurgitate fish from its stomach, which the chicks will eat. Like many seabirds, albatross fly extremely efficiently. They rise and sink repeatedly as they fly to use the energy from the wind. They also use the rising air that comes off of waves for more lift. I see them soaring without moving their wings, so close to the water that they disappear from view behind small waves. Before flapping, they seem to tilt upward, and even so, their wings appear to skim the water. A windless day like today is a hard day for an albatross to fly, so they stay on the water. I saw very few, all in grounded groups.

Tufted Puffin
Tufted Puffin

Instead of albatross, I saw many small diving birds, especially when we came close to the beautiful, jagged coast of the Quillayutte River and La Push, Washington. I saw tufted puffins in bright breeding plumage, surfacing on the water for a few minutes before bobbing back under for surprisingly long times. The day before we set sail, Shelby and I visited the Newport Aquarium, where we saw tufted puffins in the arboretum. We saw the puffins swim through the water in the arboretum, wings flapping as if they were flying. We told a volunteer we were headed to sea. She said to look for single puffins close to shore. This time of year, puffins are nesting in pairs, making nests in burrows in cliff faces this time of year. While one puffin stays in the nest, its mate goes to sea, eats its fill of fish, stuffs about another seven fish in its beak, and returns to feed its chicks. The puffins I saw certainly looked like they were hard at work hunting for fish.

Deploying the Tow Fish
Deploying the Tow Fish

Today I helped deploy two sonar devices that I haven’t seen before, a sub-bottom profiler called a tow fish, and an Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT). The tow fish is a sub-bottom profiler, meaning that it sends a signal to map the bottom of the ocean. The scientists on the acoustics team are using it to look for fish. We backtracked over a section where we fished yesterday and dragged the tow fish alongside the ship. The data from the tow fish will be analyzed later, and proofed against the information from the haul and the other sonars. As usual, the goal is to be able to use the data to identify specifies with more and more accuracy.

Alicia showing me how to launch the XBT

The XBT is a probe that measures the temperature of the water. Falling at a known rate, it sends the temperature back through two small copper wires, which can be graphed as a function of temperature vs. depth in order to find the temperature profile of the water. Because the XBT looks vaguely like a gun, Larry left earplugs and a mask out for me, warning me about the explosion I was about to make. However, Alicia was in charge. She said, “There’s a hazing that happens with the XBT. I’m a bad liar. You don’t need this stuff.” So I went out on deck in just a life jacket and hardhat, which are required when doing any operation on deck. Once the technology tech radioed that the XBT had fallen to the necessary depth, I broke the copper wires. They were so thin I could cut them by rubbing them between my fingers.

Shelby taking algae samples

Shelby, my roommate and a student Western Washington University, showed me her work measuring harmful algal blooms (HAB). While algae and other phytoplankton are essential to marine ecosystem because as primary producers, some algae produce domoic acid. Domoic acid is toxic to marine life and humans. Using surface water collected outside the boat and pumped into a hose in the chemistry lab, Shelby filters the water and saves the filter paper for further analysis of domoic acid and chlorophyll. A NOAA scientist will compile her data in an effort to map HAB along the West Coast. Shelby is a volunteer, one of four college students who each collect the data for one leg of the journey.

Personal Log

Fish Prints
Rebecca teaching me to make fish prints from the yellow-tails we had caught

Life aboard the Shimada seems to suit me very well. Every time I ask a question, which is often, I learn something new, and every time I look outside, I see something I never saw before. Yesterday, I ran into Rebecca in a hallway. Excited, she said, “There’s a P3 about to launch a sonobuoy!” I asked her to repeat. She said, “There’s a P3 about to launch a sonobuoy!” I stared at her. She said, “A plane is dropping stuff. Go outside and watch.” We both had to laugh about that one. Outside, I quickly learned that a marine ship had called the bridge to ask if we would help with a mission to drop a sonobuoy. A sonobuoy is a  listening device. With a parachute attached, it drifts into the ocean, where it floats, using passive sonar to report the location of objects like submarines. The day was shockingly beautiful, so a number of us stood on the very top deck of the ship, called the fly bridge or, jokingly, the beach. We watched the airplane circling us and watched the drifting clouds and diving birds. Several people declared it the flattest water they had ever seen in these parts.

I am happy to say that, with beginner’s luck, I won the first match of cribbage, placing me in semi-finals, and have started staying up in the evenings playing cards with other people on board.

Julianne Mueller-Northcott, May 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julianne Mueller-Northcott
Onboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
May 11 – 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Julianne Mueller-Northcott
University of Delaware R/V Hugh R. Sharp
Mission:  Sea Scallop Survey: Leg III
Port of Departure: Lewes, Delaware
Location: Off the coast of Virginia
Date: May 12, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Air temp: 13.72⁰C, 85% humidity, overcast

Science and Technology Log
When the dredge gets pulled up the ramp of the ship, I always strain to try to see past the chain and netting to see what amazing creatures might have gotten caught in the dredge.  I can see the pale-as–a-ghost face on the underside of skates and flounders.  The sea stars fall to the table in a big mound and you can see the crabs trying to climb the net.  And of course the scallops!  They get dumped out onto the table in a wave.  The pile of creatures undulates as organisms try to right themselves and seek cover.  Each dredge so far has been different.  Some are chock full of sea stars such as Asterias forbesii and Asterias vulgaris which we have at home, but by far the most abundant sea star species is Astropectin sp.   There was one dredge that was all sand dollars and they tumbled out onto to the deck, like hundreds of poker chips, hockey pucks and small frisbees.  I noticed that all of the fish in the dredge were green and then everything else started turning green. Apparently, sand dollars turn everything green! No one was quite sure why—this will be something to investigate once I get home.

So you can imagine how exciting it is to see hundreds (in some cases maybe thousands) of your sea friends, dumped out in front of you to examine!  I think about all the hours toiling at Odiorne Point with my students searching under rocks and peeling back algae in the intertidal zone looking for a hidden gem.  Here on the sorting table at the back of the boat there are so many species, so many things waiting to be discovered.  I think about my marine biologists at home and how excited they would be to have some of these critters for our tank!  (And while the thought has crossed my mind to try to kidnap some, that might be a difficult situation to explain going through security at the airport—a cooler full of crabs, sand dollars, sea stars and scallops!) The object here is not to study all the cool creatures for hours under a microscope which is what I would love to do (there isn’t even a microscope on the ship!) but instead, to sort.  My job, with 5 other people, is put out all the scallops and fish.  Those get measured and counted and everything else goes back into the water.  It all happens very quickly.  Because the goal is to do so many dredges in a relatively short amount of time, the faster you process everything the faster we can move on to our next sampling location, which means the more data that can be collected.  Also time is money on this high tech ship we are on.  For the scientists to use the R/V Hugh R. Sharp it costs $12,000 a day.  So it is imperative to work quickly to get the job done. But I am learning some tricks so that I can spend a little more time with the creatures I really want to check out.  I usually sneak a couple of neat things to photograph off to the side and after we are finished with the work at hand take a few minutes to study them.  And the scientists have figured out that when they have an organism that we haven’t seen yet, they have to show it to me before it gets tossed back overboard!

We were just pulling up a dredge last night when Ben pointed to the starboard side of the ship.  There in the starlight were about eight dolphins riding in the wake of the boat.  They were porpoising in and out of the water.  They were gray, with speckled black dots—we don’t have a mammal field guide on board—so I am not sure which species it was.  It was the first night that we could see stars, other than the sea star variety. I thought of Kat S. who was the first person who got me excited about the prospect of seeing stars at night from the boat.  Between the starlight and the spotlights on the ship, the sea below sparkled.  Even in the dark water you could see the water shimmer and change to a light green color, letting you know where the dolphins were just before they surfaced.  I have a list of top wildlife encounters in my life (swimming with whale sharks and eagle rays, saving stranded pilot whales in the keys, viewing humpbacks breech in a storm in the Bay of Fundy, nesting sea turtles Mexico, watching baby orcas play in the San Juan Islands, etc) but even with this list, watching the dolphins at night beneath the stars was pretty magical!

Captain Bill nonchalantly mentioned that he had seen an ocean sunfish (Mola mola) yesterday morning.  “What?!” I guess I hadn’t made it clear that I wanted to witness any such animal encounters.  I had told my students that the ocean sunfish was the one species I was really looking forward to seeing on this trip.  I had seen them in various aquariums but never in the wild. The ocean sunfish has always seemed to me a freak of natural selection.  How could something so big, clumsy and awkward looking have survived evolution?  Something about the way it lazes around without a care in the world has always appealed to me.  This morning, I took my usual watch on the bow of the boat (as I do every morning before my watch begins at 12:00). There, about 50 ft from the boat, I saw two large fins, flopping this way and that without an apparent purpose.  It was Mola mola! We didn’t get very close and our boat was traveling fast but through my binos I at least got a glimpse of its round, disc body.  And a couple of hours later, I saw another—this one a little further away.  So I know there are lots out there—now the goal is to get an up-close view and hopefully a photo!

Personal Log
It is pretty awesome now that the weather is brightening and we are seeing some beautiful species!  I love being on the top decks watching the sunlight dance on the water.  I love that everywhere I look all I see is ocean.  Yesterday we saw many other ships on the water—but today it is really just us steaming along. At first it was a little hard to get used to seeing lots of dead fish in the dredge and lots of animals that don’t survive the sampling.  There is a lot more by catch than I would have expected. It is going to take a little more time for me to process my thoughts about it all, but I am starting to understand that for now this is the best way for the data to be collected.  While it might not be the best thing for individual organisms, these sampling techniques are important for protecting the fisheries and ultimately the ecosystem.

Ruth Meadows, July 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: July 11, 2009

Waiting to see what animals we can spot off the bow
Waiting to see what animals we can spot off the bow

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature 18o C
Humidity 61%
Wind speed 4.2 knots

Science and Technology Log 

Today is our last day at sea and the weather is certainly cooperating with us. We have beautiful blue skies, warm temperatures and calm waters.  It is a perfect day for observing marine life.  Several of us spent most of the day on the bow of the ship looking for any type of marine life.  Throughout the day, we spotted three Mola mola fish, which is a very large ocean sunfish that can be found in temperate oceans.

A humpback whale breaches the water off the bow of the Bigelow.
A humpback whale breaches off the bow.

One went right by the ship so we were able to see the entire body of this fish through the water.  Another one was just lying on its side but we were too far away to see it very well. Finally it was suppertime and we all went to the galley eat, somewhat disappointed that we had not seen more sea life. During supper, the call we had all been hoping to hear came, “Humpback whale off the bow.”  We all left the galley and quickly ran up to the deck afraid we would miss seeing this majestic creature.  We were in for a treat.  It was as if the whale knew we were watching and performed for us.  For over 40 minutes, the humpback whale slapped its pectoral fins, slapped its tail and even breached out of the water twice.  It was an amazing sight.

The fluke of the humpback
The fluke of the humpback

As the whale slowly swam around, the ship carefully followed at a safe distance giving us an amazing opportunity to observe this massive mammal in its natural habitat. At one point, the whale was floating on its back and slapping both of its pectoral fins in the water at the same time.  We were close enough to actually hear the sound of the fins hitting the water.  Many members of the ship’s crew came to the bow to watch also. While we were watching, the chief engineer standing next to me looked down at the water next to the ship in time to point out a Mako shark swimming just below the surface moving slowly toward the rear of the ship. The afternoon turned into an amazing good bye present to the entire crew of the Bigelow. After the humpback whale made its final dive deep into the ocean, many of us stayed outside to enjoy our last sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

Personal Log 

The past four weeks on board the NOAA ship, Henry B. Bigelow, have been an amazing experience for me.  We traveled over 5,000 nautical miles to search for rare and unusual animals that live in the deep ocean along the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  I was truly fortunate to have been selected for this particular scientific cruise.  The scientific crew, NOAA corps and crew were second to none. Everyone worked around the clock to make sure the goals of the cruise were accomplished.  In addition to the professionalism of all the members of this cruise, everyone seemed to truly enjoy working together to complete all parts of the mission. Everyone, from the captain of the ship, the engineers, the deck hands, the cooks and the scientific crew, made me feel welcome and included in all the activities on board. I will take many things with me from this opportunity I was lucky enough to be selected for.

A beautiful sunset on the Atlantic
A beautiful sunset on the Atlantic

I knew I would learn a lot about the ocean and the organisms that live there.  What I didn’t know before I left was how much I would enjoy getting to know the people that were a part of the MAR-ECO cruise. Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of this wonderful experience.

Stephen Anderson, June 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Anderson
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 28 July 12, 2009

The CTD Instruments
The CTD Instruments

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographic Region: California
Date: June 29, 2009

We anchored in Monterey Bay.  After putting the anchor down there were several tests that had to be made.  The first was to send in SCUBA divers to check our propeller.  The second test was to check on the transducers for our sonar.  The third was to put over the side the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and density instruments).  This instrument is useful not only to tell the composition of the water, but also to determine currents. Included in this set of instruments is an automatic camera that will catch video of the small animals (micro-organisms) at various depths (what the fish eat).  The fourth test was to send three balls of different sizes and materials to hang under the boat using what we in Michigan would call salmon downriggers.  Dr. Chu, our chief scientist, and Stan Tomich, our engineer, can control these miniature cranes to raise and lower these balls.  They can then calibrate (set the readings on the sonar sensors) to make sure they have the correct depth for the fish they will be able to see with the sonar.  The sonar array in this boat is accurate to within one centimeter. Later tonight we will weigh anchor to go further south to begin our chase after hake.

Divers over the side to check the propeller and sonar.
Divers over the side to check the propeller and sonar.

For those of you who don’t know hake.  This is a cod type of fish that is very important to the fish industry on the west coast of the US and Canada.  If you’ve had a fish stick, you’ve probably had hake.

We were visited today by some very interesting animals: several species of jelly fish, several sea lions, a few dolphins, and a mola mola fish which is sometimes called a sun fish.

A Mola Mola, or Sun Fish. This guy was probably 6 feet in length.
A Mola Mola, or Sun Fish. This guy was probably 6 feet in length.

Ruth Meadows, June 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 19, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 9oC
Humidity: 95%
Wind: 4.36 kts

Scientific and Technology Log 

We are currently working in the pelagic zone of the ocean.  Pelagic refers to the open ocean away from the bottom. The word pelagic comes from a Greek word that means “open ocean”.  The pelagic area is divided by depth into subzones.  .

  • The epipelagic , or sunlit zone, is the top layer where there is enough sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. From 0 – about 200 meters (656 feet)deep
  • The mesopelagic, or twilight zone, receives some light but not enough for plants to grow.  From 200 – 1000 meters (3281 feet)
  • The bathypelagic, or midnight zone, is the deep ocean where no sunlight penetrates. From 1000 – 4000 meters(13,124 feet)
  • The abyssal zone is pitch black, extremely cold and has very high pressure.  From 4000 – 6000 meters.(19,686feet)
  • Hadalpelagic zone is the deepest part of the ocean. These zones are located at trenches where one tectonic plate is being subducted under another plate. 6,000 meters to over 10,000 meters. (35, 797 feet)

Setting up the net that will collect organisms
Setting up the net that will collect organisms

Today we are using a special trawling net to capture organisms that live in the mid-water area around 3000 meters deep. The closed net is lowered slowly from the rear of the ship until it arrives at the correct depth. The length of the wire released is measured by the winches as they unwind. A timer is used to open the cod-ends (containers at the end of the net).  It is then pulled underwater very slowly. The five cod-ends are set to open and close at different times so there will be samples of organisms from different depths.  After a specific amount of time the net is slowly reeled in. It takes about 8 hours to fully deploy and retrieve the trawl.  Each cod-end should have samples from different depths. Once the net is back on board the ship, it is very important that the material collected from each cod-end be kept separate and labeled correctly.

All the blue buckets contain various organisms
All the blue buckets contain various organisms

The second trawl came in around 4:30 in the afternoon. We were really excited to see the organisms that were collected in each of the cod-ends. Each container was emptied into a large bucket and a picture was taken to record the catch. One set of material was left out to begin sorting and the other containers were put into the freezer to remain cold.  David Shale, the professional photographer for the cruise, selected the best samples to use for his photographs. Then the actual sorting began. Several of us would do a rough sort, all the crustaceans (different types of shrimp-like animals) in one container, fishes in another, and jellyfishes in another. After the rough sort then the final sort is started (dividing all the organisms into groups by specie or family). 

Certain types of organisms were abundant – hundreds of them, others were rarer – only one or two of each species. As soon as we are finished with one species, information about them is entered into the computer (number, length, mass) and then the organism is saved for later investigations by either freezing or placing in a preservative.  A printed label is included in all samples so they can be identified by name, depth and location of trawl.

Personal Log 

A viperfish
A viperfish

Everyone on board the ship is always interested in any sightings of marine mammals.  The officer on the bridge will often announce to the lounge area if he spots any type of animal, “Whales off the bow.”  As soon as the announcement comes on, we bolt out of the lounge to the outside as fast as we can.  Sometimes you are fast enough and sometimes you aren’t. The dolphins usually are the easiest to spot as they swim in groups and surface frequently as they are swimming.  The whales, however, are a little more difficult to see.  They are usually far off so the distance makes them difficult to spot.  When they surface, the spray from the blowhole is usually your first indication of where they are.  After that, most of them dive again and you may not get a second chance to see them.  So far the type of whales spotted have been pilot whales, sei whales and a sperm whale.  They knew it was a sperm whale because the spray from the blowhole was at an angle. It is much more difficult to see these animals than I thought it would be. It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack – a very big haystack…

 Mastigoteuthis agassizii Squid
Mastigoteuthis agassizii Squid

Did You Know? 

The Mola mola is the heaviest known bony fish in the world.  It eats primarily jellyfish which doesn’t have a lot of nutrition in is so they have to eat LOTS of them.  It looks like a fish with only a head and a tail, no middle part.

Dr. Mike Vecchione took this picture of a Mola mola, a very large ocean sunfish, at the beginning of the cruise off the coast of Rhode Island.
Dr. Mike Vecchione took this picture of a Mola mola, a very large ocean sunfish, at the beginning of the cruise off the coast of Rhode Island.

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 17, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3614.8661 W Longitude: 12402.7415 N
Wind Direction: 190 (compass reading) SW
Wind Speed: 2.1 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.230

Science and Technology Log 

Above is a spreadsheet of some of the Chrysaora fuscescens data that was collected on September 15.  The first trawl was at 4:48 pm, the second at 6:39 pm and the third at 8:20 pm.  A fourth trawl was deployed at 10:49 pm. A total of 204 jellies were sorted and measured.  Of these, the first 7jellies measured from trawl numbers’ 46, 47 and 48 are recorded above. All of the species in this data set are Chrysaora fuscescens. Using the spreadsheet, create a graph that compares mass to length for these 21 animals.  When you believe you have completed this, answer the questions listed below.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 1.48.14 AM


  1. Is your graph complete?
  2. Check to see if you have included; all units-mass in kilograms, length in millimeters; a legend that includes the code of the points; title for each axis(length of jelly in millimeters, mass of jelly in kilograms); title for graph.
  3. Did you make a scatter plot, bar graph or line graph? The best choice would be a scatter plot, this may give an indication of patterns in the relationship between length and mass.
  4. Can you see any pattern?  Is there a relationship between mass and length? This would be indicated by a linear pattern in the points?
  5. Do there appear to be any points that do not fit a general pattern?  What might cause these points that do not fit the norm to exist?
  6. Compare your graph with the one shown below, generated by the computer.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 1.48.32 AM

These Chrysaora fuscescens were caught in “jelly lane”, in the waters near Pacifica, CA that are known to have large jelly populations.  It is also an area known for leatherback sightings because of this food source. A great deal of information is known about the oceanographic conditions in this near-shore habitat. The reason the LUTH survey is crisscrossing off the continental shelf, is that much less is known about deeper offshore waters as a potential food source for migrating leatherbacks.  The routes they travel on must have some food available, so we are working to find out where that is, and gain information about relationships to oceanographic variables so that researchers will be able to eventually estimate where that food is using satellite images that will be translated into jellyfish habitat.

Chico Gomez and Scott Benson sorting jellies.
Chico Gomez and Scott Benson sorting jellies.

Personal Log 

There was quite a bit of excitement today up on the flying bridge. Although we were traveling out beyond the continental shelf, we moved over a front of water that had an abundance of moon jellies.  It was unexpected and the scientific team became very excited. New plans were made based on this observation and a decision was made to cross back across the front and collect temperature data within the water column every 10 minutes.  Quantitative observations were made of all jellies seen port and starboard and a net trawl was deployed at one point along the zone of interest.  It was quite a day. We also spotted blue sharks, ocean sunfish, and a swordfish jumping.  It was a good day.

Animals Seen Today 

Extracting stomach contents from large C. fuscescens
Extracting stomach contents from large C. fuscescens

  • Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus 
  • Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens 
  • Moon jellies Aurelia aurita 
  • Northern Fur seal Callorhinus ursinus 
  • Elephant seal Mirounga angustirostris 
  • Swordfish Xiphias gladius 
  • Blue shark Prionace glauca 
  • Buller’s shearwater Puffinus bulleri 
  • Ocean sunfish Mola mola 
  • Rhinoceros auklet Cererhinca monocerata 
  • Black-footed Albatross
  • Phoebastria nigripes 

Questions of the Day 

  1. What might be possible reasons the scientific team was excited at finding jellyfish out beyond the continental shelf?
  2. The weather has been very calm and mostly overcast.  One of the officers told me he would much rather have those conditions, than windy and sunny.  What effect might wind have on a sturdy, ocean-going ship?

Ocean sunfish seen from flying bridge.
Ocean sunfish seen from flying bridge.

Sunset seen from flying bridge, the first sunset we’ve seen on this leg.
Sunset seen from flying bridge, the first sunset we’ve seen on this leg.

Alex Eilers, August 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Alex Eilers
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 21 – September 5, 2008

In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.
In the picture, the “Big Eyes” are covered and on the left side of the picture, the antennas are directly above me.

Mission: Leatherback Sea Turtle Research
Geographical area of cruise: California
Date: August 24, 2008

Today we were in assembly mode and I spent the majority of my time on the flying bridge (top deck). With the help of several scientists, we cleaned and replaced the viewing seats, installed the “Big Eyes” – (the largest pair of binoculars I’ve ever seen), and assembled and tested the Turtle tracking antennas.  The “Big Eyes” will be used to help track and identify marine mammals, leatherbacks and birds near the boat.  This is especially important prior to and during the times scientists have equipment in the water so we don’t catch or injure these animals. The receiver will be used to track the Leatherback Sea Turtles who have a transmitter attached to their carapace. The good news is we are receiving reports that there is a Leatherback approximately 110 miles off the coast of Monterey – the bad news is he may not be there when we arrive.

Safety training During our first true “day at sea” we had two practice safety drills; a fire in the galley (kitchen) and an abandon ship.  The crew handled both drills quickly and efficiently.  The abandon ship drill was exciting. When the bell rang, everyone was responsible for his or her own billet (job duty). My billet required me to grab my life preserver and survival suit and muster to the O1 deck (report to an area for role call).

Survival suit
Survival suit

Training to be a VO – visual observer We started the day on the flying bridge. Karin Forney, marine mammal researcher, trained us on how to be a marine animal visual observer or VO for short.  During the first observing session, we only saw a few animals – sea lions and various birds.

I’m getting fairly good at spotting kelp beds (seaweed), however, the scientists are not interested in them, so I still need more practice identifying marine mammals.

By the afternoon, we started to see more marine life.  A large pod of common dolphins swam playfully near the ship.  This was a beautiful sight to see but not ideal for net testing. We waited 30 minutes without a mammal sighting then successfully tested the nets. As the scientists were pulling the nets aboard we spotted another smaller pod of common dolphins, some California sea lions and a small mola mola (sun fish).  All in all it was a good day!

Watching for kelp
Watching for kelp

Rebecca Bell, August 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Bell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
August 14-28, 2008

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 23, 2008

Alison, Shrinky Cup Project Director, with the cups before being sent beneath the water.
Alison, Shrinky Cup Project Director, with the cups before being sent under.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time: 1919(GMT)
Latitude: 4219.5N Longitude: 6812.5 W
Air Temp 0C: 20.7
Sea Water Temp 0C: 19.6

Science and Technology Log 

The Shrinky Cup Caper 

A trip to sea is not complete without the classic experiment on ocean depth and pressure— Styrofoam cup shrinking. Styrofoam cups are decorated with markers, and then lowered in a bag attached to the cable during a vertical cast. In our experiments, pressure is measured in decibars (dbar). This means that 1 dbar equals about 1 meter of depth. So 100 dbars = 100 meters; 1000 dbars =1000 meters. For every 10m (33ft) of water depth, the pressure increases by about 15 pounds per square inch (psi). At depth, pressure from the overlying ocean water becomes very high, but water is only slightly compressible. At a depth of 4,000 meters, water decreases in volume only by 1.8 percent. Although the high pressure at depth has only a slight effect on the water, it has a much greater effect on easily compressible materials such as Styrofoam.

Attaching the bag of cups to cable Over they go!
Attaching the cups

Styrofoam has air in it. As the cups go down, pressure forces out the air. See the results of the experiment for yourself. The depth of the cast was 200 meters or about 600 feet. (You can now calculate the total lbs of pressure on the cups). Addendum: Alison discovered that putting one of the shrunken cups down a second time resulted in an even smaller cup. The cups were sent to 200 meters again. Below right is a photo of the result of reshrinking the cup. Apparently, time has something to do with the final size as well. Resources: NOAA Ocean Explorer Web site – Explorations; Submarine Ring of Fire. AMNH Explore the Deep Oceans Lessons.

Over they go!
Over they go!

Personal Log 

There is a noticeable difference in the amount of plankton we pull in at different depths and temperatures. I can fairly well predict what we will net based on the depth and temperature at a sample site. I’ve also noticed that the presence of sea birds means to start looking for whales and dolphins. I assume that where there is a lot of plankton (food) there are more fish and other lunch menu items for birds and dolphins. A high population of plankton means we are more likely to see more kinds of larger animals.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Krill
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphins
  • Terns
  • Minke whales
  • Pilot whales
  • Mola mola (4)

The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.

Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right, the original size
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right,
the original size

Tara Treichel, April 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Treichel
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
April 15-27, 2008

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: April 26, 2008

One of the Survey Technicians operates the Multi-Beaming mapping system.
One of the Survey Technicians operates the Multi-Beaming mapping system.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Wind: 11 knots
Waves: 1-2 feet
Ocean swells: 2-4 feet
Sea temperature: 23.5
Air temperature: 22.0

Science and Technology Log 

In addition to the Lionfish survey, the other research that is being conducted while aboard the NANCY FOSTER is benthic habitat mapping of the ocean floor. This is accomplished using highly sophisticated, computerized multi-beam SONAR technology. Two survey technicians aboard the ship are responsible for running and monitoring the system, which is run all through the night. The operators make sure that the system is recording data properly and that the ship stays on course (within about 5 meters), and process the data as it is recorded. The course is set and followed, lawnmower style, back and forth along long narrow parallel lines, producing a beautiful rainbow colored map coded for “depth by color,” where red is high and blue is low. After five nights of mapping, the white digital nautical chart contains five tiny rainbow swatches, each one representing about 10 square miles of mapped space. Each year the research team adds to the swatches, until one day perhaps the entire bay floor will be mapped. Scientists later use the maps to support their research; in this case, Paula used them to determine where to dive. With countless miles of ocean floor (much of which is sand, or poor fish habitat) and limited time and research budgets, the maps are a critical part of the research effort. 

Tara holds up a specimen that some of the scientists said was the biggest Spiny Lobster they had ever seen!
Tara holds up a specimen that some of the scientists said was the biggest Spiny Lobster they had ever seen!

There are a lot of variables such as temperature and salinity that can  influence the transmission of the sound waves produced by the multi-beam sonar to measure seafloor depth.  In order for the data to be as accurate as possible the survey technicians need to measure these variables throughout the water column using a CTD (conductivity (salinity), temperature and depth). They conduct three CTD ‘casts’ a night by first lowing and raising the CTD on a long cable that is controlled by a winch.

Personal log 

Today, the Chief Engineer caught a Wahoo off the stern of the boat. Wahoo! Can you think of a fish with a cooler name? It’s a cool fish, too, sleek and streamlined, with large jaws and a loud stripy pattern on blue gray skin. It was perfect timing, since a barbeque was planned for our last afternoon at sea. The fish is nearly all muscle, and yielded 25 steaks, almost enough for each one of our full ship of 35 people aboard. How was it, you ask? Delicious! The scientists also caught several large Spiny Lobsters, a Scamp (a Grouper), Hogfish, Sea Bass, and of course, many Lionfish. In addition, they saw a Mola Mola (Sunfish) and several Loggerhead Turtles. 

Amy Pearson, August 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amy Pearson
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 13 – 30, 2007

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 27, 2007

A full moon over the Gulf of Maine
A full moon over the Gulf of Maine

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 15.6
Water temp: 15.1
Wind direction: 003
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

What a gift. After what seems like many days of fog, it is a perfect day in the Gulf of Maine. I witnessed it at about 1:30 a.m. from the bridge where I went to photograph a full moon from the “darker” end of the ship. The deck where we work (stern) is well lit all night, so there is light pollution.  The reflection of the moon on the water is hard to reproduce in a photo, but worthy of the attempt. The air has also cleared, replaced with dry, crisp Canadian air, and as a bonus, the seas are calm.  After a good six hour sleep I head to the deck for what I think is the best morning yet.  Clear skies with visibility that seems infinite, deep blue water with barely 1 ft. waves, and a gentle breeze mark the morning hours.  The air feels so clean, almost brand new.

Shearwaters are gliding onto the top of the water and dunking their head in for a quick taste.  It is the first time I’ve see herring gulls at sea in at least a week.  There are large mats of yellowish sargassum floating in the water.  There have been humpback whales spotted but I haven’t seen them yet.  It is still quite deep here, about 200 meters.  The plankton samples contain a lot of Calanus which is almost a salmon color and appears like small grains of rice in the sieve. It is a tiny crustacean, and food for so many large organisms…a favorite of young cod. I was late for breakfast but had some freshly cut honeydew melon, toast and cheese. Some warm coffee cake was soon put out.  I’m so lucky to have this great experience. I spotted a grey triangular shaped dorsal fin in the water. It was quite wide at the base and a lighter grey near the top. It appeared twice then disappeared.  Claire on the bridge confirmed sighting, a Mola Mola, a large sunfish.

On one side of the ship a lunar eclipse was taking place, while on the other the sun was rising.
On one side of the ship – a lunar eclipse, the sun was rising on the other

Today is such a spectacular weather day. The Chief Steward pulled out the barbecue grill and charcoals were lit late in the afternoon. He added some hickory wood and grilled steaks and tuna. What a feast! We took samples in the Gulf of Maine today and tonight. They were a salmon pink color due to the calanus but contained a mix of zooplankton including amphipods, glass shrimp, and a few large, clear jellyfish.  I preserved a jar from the baby bongo net for my students. Because I work into Tuesday morning, I wanted to include a special event on 7/28 at about 4:50 a.m.  There was a lunar eclipse going on one side of the ship and a gorgeous sunrise on the other. Photos of both are below, as well as the moon rise the evening of 8/27, above.

Thanks to Kim Pratt, a fellow teacher, & Jerry Prezioso, a NOAA scientist.
Thanks to Kim Pratt, a fellow teacher, & Jerry Prezioso, a NOAA scientist.

A Shipboard Community 

Nineteen people living aboard a ship, working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for seventeen days. A very unique community. Thirteen of them are there to support the scientific research of four science staff and to maintain the ship for its use as a scientific research vessel.  The four-man deck crew maintains the ship and runs the heavy equipment for the scientists. The four-person NOAA Corps staff navigate, drive and manage the ship.  They re-adjust courses when conditions force a change, deal with fog and rough seas, lots of other boats that want to be in the same place we do, and make sure everyone has their needs met.  The two-person kitchen staff feeds this team of nineteen as they work on twenty-four hour shifts. Good food is so important on a ship.  The Four-person engineering team seems to stay behind the scenes (below deck!) and keep all systems running like clock-work.  Last, but certainly not least is the electronic technician, a genius with anything that has wires. He told me the favorite part of his job is problem-solving, and quite frankly, that is what is required of him each day.  From email to satellite TV reception to the electronics in the winch, he is constantly fixing new problems or finding ways to make things work better.  Each person has a different background and reason for being here.

Thanks to Betsy Broughton, also a scientist.
Thanks to Betsy Broughton, also a scientist.

The age range of the members of this community begins at 23 and goes to the upper 50’s. The key to a good working ship is respect, consideration, and cooperation between people.  There are many personal stresses on everyone, from lack of personal space, lack of sleep, seasickness, little contact with family, and inability to “go home”.  In addition, each person needs to think of the needs of others so as not to disturb them or make their jobs any harder than they already are.  This may seem like a utopian ideal.  I suspect it is achieved on many vessels, though I can only speak for the DELAWARE II. What a great team to work with.  Thank you for your support.

Teachers Kim Pratt and Amy Pearson say thanks to the crew of the DELAWARE II.
Teachers Kim Pratt and Amy Pearson say thanks to the crew of the DELAWARE II.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, August 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Methea Sapp-Cassanego
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 19 – August 8, 2007

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: August 4, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 5 in haze lowering 3 to 5 in showers
Wind Direction: Southwest
Wind Speed: 10-15 knt increasing to 20 knt.
Swell height: 3-5 feet building 4-6 feet

A solitary ocean sunfish basks in the sun while a shearwater skims by.
A solitary ocean sunfish basks in the sun while a shearwater skims by.

Science and Technology Log 

Rotations have been going like clock-work, although today’s sightings have again been numerous we still have not found any more right whales.  Again I’ll fill today’s blog with some species profiles of animals we’ve seen today.  By the way, the sightings list for today includes, pilot whales, minke whales, offshore bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins, white-sided dolphins, beaked dolphins and harbor porpoise.  We’ve also seen a few Mola mola which are not tallied since they are not marine mammals.

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus) Researchers and scientists also refer to this animal as a “Lag.” Identification: At first glance the Atlantic white-sided dolphin looks very much like the common Atlantic dolphin. Its body is slightly more robust then that of the common Atlantic dolphin; its tail stock is also thicker.  The upper portions of the body are black while the lower belly and chin are white; a long horizontal grey strip bisects the upper and lower body portions. The flippers are also grey.  Max length and weight: 510 pounds and 9 feet. Diet and Feeding: Fish and squid Migration: No organized or seasonal migration Distribution: Found in cold waters of the northern North Atlantic from the Northeast United States to Northern Europe and Southern Greenland.    Special Note: Atlantic White-sided Dolphins are especially gregarious and are often seen swimming along the side of boats and bow riding.  They will also mingle and feed with fin and humpback whales. Several hundred are caught and killed each year as a source of food by the Faroese Island people.  


Collins Wild Guide: Whales and Dolphins. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, New York. 2006.

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

Identification: This oddly shaped fish is most easily identified when it is basking at the surface. Its large disk-like body is pale grey to white in color; lacks a true tail; both the dorsal fin and anal fin are extremely elongated so that the fish is as tall as it is long. Sunfish are solitary but may occasionally be found in pairs.

Max length and weight: Averages 5 feet 9 inches in length and 2,200 pounds.  Records exist of sunfish spanning 10.8 feet in length and weighting just over 5,000 pounds.

Diet and Feeding: Primarily seajellys but also feeds on salps, squid, crustaceans, comb jellies and zooplankton. Sunfish are pelagic and may feed at depths just shy of 2,000 feet.

Migration: No organized or seasonal migration

Distribution: Ocean sunfish are found globally in both temperate and tropical waters. Research suggests that populations of sunfish inhabiting the Atlantic and Pacific have greater genetic differences than populations in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Special Note: The ocean sunfish poses no threat to humans and is commonly approached by divers. Its meat is of minimal economic importance although there seems to be an increasing popularity in sunfish cuisine and it is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world. The sunfish has few natural predators due to the thickness of its skin which can measure up to 3 inches in some places.  More often than not the sunfish encounters its greatest threat when caught in fishing gear.  Sunfish by-catch totals ~30% of the total swordfish catch off the coast of California and ~90% of the total swordfish catch in the Mediterranean.

Impressive size and startling appearance make the ocean sunfish a favorite attraction at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  This photo is freely licensed via Wikimedia Commons and is courtesy of Fred Hsu.
Impressive size and startling appearance make the ocean sunfish a favorite attraction at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This photo is freely licensed via Wikimedia Commons and is courtesy of Fred Hsu.


Susie Hill, July 30, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 30, 2007

Mesh netting in the dredge
Mesh netting in the dredge

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 17.5° C
Sea Temperature: 18.6° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1014.8 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.62 knots
Water Depth: 65.3 meters
Conductivity: 43.45 mmhos
Salinity: 32.03 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I can’t believe it’s already been a week already since we left from Woods Hole, MA. I’m still getting a hang of the time schedule, but it’s working out okay. The weather has been beautiful. The staff is great—I’ve learned so much from them. The food is delicious, too! Today’s focus will be on the dredge. This is a metal frame with a metal ringed and meshed net that we use to dredge or scoop the sea bottom in hopes of finding our prize catch, sea scallops. The bag is about 8 feet wide with 2” rings and mesh netting. The mesh netting, called a liner, is in the dredge to ensure catching of the smaller scallops as well as the other species that coexist with the scallops. The dredge is lifted, put into the water, and dragged using a motorized gantry with a block and tackle system. The dredge is towed for 15 minutes at each station. The depths for this trip have been ranging from 29 meters to 112 meters. Sea Scallop dredge surveys have been conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Services since 1975.

The dredge is prepared for deployment.
The dredge is prepared for deployment.


Susie Hill, July 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 28, 2007

Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.
Here I am measuring a skate using the FSCS system.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21.4° C
Sea Temperature: 19° C
Relative Humidity: 100%
Barometric Pressure: 1013.6 millibars
Wind Speed: 10.78 knots
Water Depth: 62.4 meters
Conductivity: 44.76 mmhos
Salinity: 32.58 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

I am completely exhausted! We had about 12-14 stations almost back to back last night. Down on your knees picking through the sort to find scallops and fish to back bending of lifting up full baskets and cleaning the deck, I’m tired. It was loads of fun, though. We went from collections of sand dollars to big scallops, quahogs (clams), flounders, big sea stars, and sticky, slimy skates.  When the scallops, flounders and skates come in, we weigh them on a scale and then measure their length and count them using the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). It’s pretty cool how it works. You lay the species on the electronic board, and it gets measured by us using a magnetic stick to mark it. Once marked, the measurement goes right into the computer as well as counts it. One station, we counted 788 scallops! That is a lot, but they say there’s more where that came from!

Susie Hill, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 21° C
Set Temperature: 22° C
Relative Humidity: 100 %
Barometric Pressure: 1017.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.76 knots
Water Depth: 67.0 meters
Conductivity: 45.75 mmhos
Salinity: 32.13 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

The weather has been very nice, sunny, and calm. Conditions were so clear last night that we could see fireworks far off into the distance. I’m getting into the routine of all of the stations- sorting for fish and scallops, weighing, measuring the length (or in scallop terms, shell height), counting starfish, and cleaning off the deck.

Today’s focus is on the CTD meter that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth. This is the instrument that they use to determine the conditions of the water. It is lowered down to about 5-10 meters from the ocean floor about twice in a shift (12 hours). Some other results they also receive are pressure and salinity levels. These measurements are collected at the surface as well as at the bottom. Once they receive all of the data, it is loaded into a computer and turned into a very colorful graph.  Scallops like to live in water temperatures of < 20° C and in water depths of up to 200 meters south of Cape Cod (Dvora Hart, WHOI, 2002).


Elizabeth Eubanks, July 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Eubanks
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
July 22 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Relative Shark Abundance Survey and J vs. Circle Hook Comparison
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean, West of San Diego
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Visibility: 8-10 miles
Air temperature: 17.0 degrees C
Sea Temperature at 350m: 7 degrees C
Sea Temperature at surface: 19.0 degrees C
Wind Direction: 290 W Wind Speed:  18 kts
Cloud cover: clear –some cumulus, cirrus
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2 mb
Sea Wave Height: 2-3 ft
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 ft

Science and Technology Log 

“First, do no harm.” –Michael J. Zoghby RPT 

Today was so exciting. We caught a Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish, and 22 sharks.  Many of them were baby Blue sharks and although this team tries very hard to keep all of the sharks alive, some of them are so badly thrashed by the hook and/or line that they don’t make it. Yesterday was the first day that we had our first mortality (dead shark).  It was a baby Blue and the gills were just ripped out by the hook.  Sad, no one likes to see a dead shark. Everyone is out here to preserve them and keep them safe.

We caught many average size sharks and a few really large ones.  Watching the scientist work on the large animals has got to be one of the most thrilling things to see, especially when they have the extra challenge of wave swells coming across the platform, soaking them and giving the shark a chance to do what it does best… swim. As one of the grad students put it, the pictures and videos we have taken during these events are not ones you would want your mom to see, the mix of slippery platform, scalpel in hand, swell water pouring in and of course a HUGE SHARK, could be a deadly mixture. But safety comes first. They probably had the shark on the platform for a good 3-5 minutes. The Blue was using every bit of what it had to get off of the platform. It was so exciting that I had to video and take still shots. This shark would’ve been a great choice for the satellite tag because of its size, but they didn’t get a chance to that. They removed what they could of the hook, identified him as a male and struggled to hold him down. The Blue shark was estimated at 220cm. We never did get an actual measurement, because for one thing it appeared to be longer than the platform measuring tape and for another Dr. Kohin made a decision to “just let it go” and that is a direct quote. Safety comes first for shark and for people.

Dr. Suzy Kohin surrounded by a big Blue Shark – notice the eye, the nictitating membrane covers the eye.
Dr. Suzy Kohin surrounded by a big Blue Shark – notice the eye, the nictitating membrane covers the eye.

More safety notes: Late night we found out that there was a problem with one of the engine fans. So tomorrow morning our set is canceled. We will have to wait to see if they can fix it and if they can’t we go back to San Diego and the trip is over. Why? Because they follow the rule, the only rule you really ever need– First Do No Harm. Extra note: The Ocean Sunfish is an amazing fish. You will see them in the Pacific and at first think that they are sharks, because of their dorsal fin that sticks out of the water. They have been described as one of the most evolved fish and look like a super sized Frisbee.- A great fish to do a little personal research on, if you are into fish. (Sean Maloney – check it out!)

Personal Log 

Bet ya goin’ fishn’ all the time, I’mma goin’ fishin’ too. I bet your life, your lovin’ wife is gonna catch more fish than you, so many fish bite if ya got good bait, here’s a little tip that I would like to relate, I’mma goin’ fish, yes I’m goin’ fishn’ and my babies goin’ fishin too!” 

– Not sure who sang or wrote this little diddy first, so I can’t give credit right now – but I didn’t write this “catchy” tune. 

I am working/ living on a fishing boat. Dah! It’s a goofy realization that just hit me today. Since I got accepted for this project, I have been in a narrow mindset that I am on a shark research vessel, which I am. I broaden my mindset and hit me that I am also on a fishing vessel. Fishing is what we do when we set and haul the long line. Fishing is what we can do in our spare time. We have bait, we have hooks and we have line. We catch fish. Oh and we cook and eat fish too. We are fishing.  Funny, but now it makes my experience even cooler. I have always wanted to work on a fishing vessel.

Right out of high school my girl friend and I had done a heap of research and were planning on moving to Ocean City, MD for the summer. We had spent hours investigating different job possibilities. We had heard that sometimes you spend all your summer working to pay your bills and don’t really get to enjoy the beach, but we didn’t care. She was interested in a job as a waitress and I had sent in a ••• dozen applications to fishing vessels. That is what I really wanted to do. That was my glamour job! I dreamed that I could be the one who baits the hooks and cleans the deck. I figured if I had to spend most of my time working, it should be on the water with fish and people who liked to fish. Anyway, that dream ended with a car crash – no one was killed, just minor injuries but it sure shook up my folks enough to keep me in PA for the summer.  So after all these years – I am working and living on a fishing ship. Super cool, huh!

Scientists Suzy Kohin and Russ Vetter tag the Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish
Scientists Suzy Kohin and Russ Vetter tag the Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish

Question of the Day 

If you had to pick a research science career, what would you study? What would your problem be?

Question of the trip: Which hook, the J or Circle, will catch more sharks? 

Please make a hypothesis. Utilize resources to justify your hypothesis.  ———Yes, you get extra credit for this. 

Susie Hill, July 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susie Hill
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 23 – August 3, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 26, 2007

Sunfish (Mola mola)
Sunfish (Mola mola)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature: 20.6° C
Sea Temperature: 22.6 ° C
Relative Humidity: 97%
Barometric Pressure: 1022.1 millibars
Wind Speed: 3.36 knots
Water Depth: 57.2 m
Conductivity: 46.15 mmhos
Salinity: 31.56 ppt

Science and Technology Log 

From noon to midnight, we go from being hot under the shining sun searching for the treasure of scallops in the collected pile to sitting under the beautiful moonlight shining across the vast ocean waiting for the next tow. It’s wonderful no matter how you look at science!

Today, I got to start up the starfish study. We are counting starfish from the sort to figure out the abundance and distribution of the Asterias sp. and Astropecten sp. in the researched area. Depending on the location of the station will determine how many of sea stars you have. The first station, we had loads of starfish! The starfish are randomly collected off of the remaining pile after everyone has been through it for their studies. Out of 4.5 liters (about 5 large handfuls), I counted 340 Astropecten sp. I can’t imagine how many there really were! With the passing of the stations from each night, the majority species of the pile has shifted from starfish to sand dollars. I’m glad I don’t have to count those because there’s so many of them. Sand dollars are part of the echinoderm family with the sea stars. I always thought that they were white like you buy them in the beach souvenir shops, but they’re a dark purple color when they’re alive. Pretty cool! I’ve got lots of samples to bring home!

With being in the middle of the ocean, you also get to see the big marine life! It was kind of gross, but amazing at the same time! We thought it was a dead whale, but it ended up being a basking shark that has been dead for maybe a week. You could see the decaying skin, bloated belly, and the now showing gill rakers (the cartilaginous structures that filter food and sediment out of the gills when the shark eats). We also saw a sunfish (Mola mola)! We show a mini-movie of one of them as you’re going up the moving escalator at Nauticus, but it is so awesome seeing it in real life! It looks like a whale that’s been flattened. So cool! 

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 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!