NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 27, 2014
Mission: South Atlantic Marine Protected Area Survey
Geographical area of cruise: South Atlantic
Date: June 25, 2014
Weather: Partly cloudy to sunshine. 27 degree Celsius. 8.0 knot wind from the southwest.
Locations: North Cape Lookout 3 Proposed MPA, South Cape Lookout Proposed MPA (both off the coast of North Carolina) and the Edisto MPA (off the coast of South Carolina.)
LAT 32°24’N, 79°6’W LON 32°24’N, 79°6’W
Hint: See the pictures LARGER.
If you click on any of the pictures in any of my blogs, they should open up full screen so you can see the detail better.
Science and Technology Log with more than 20 ROV dives completed, here are five new items to share
Science Part I. Totally Awesome Turtle!
On Tuesday, June 24th during our first of four dives of the day a Loggerhead sea turtle came for a visit in front of the ROV. Loggerheads are common for the MidAtlantic and other oceans in the mid-latitude regions. Loggerheads grow up to 250lbs and are named for their relatively large heads.
This was a dream come true for me. I have always had this fascination with turtles stemming from catching them on Keller Lake in my early childhood to the snappers that have been visiting and nesting in our gardens the past few years at Goose Lake. Every turtle is entitled to a name, this one I am calling “TJ.” (Hi Taylor!) I hope we will see more.
Science Part II. Discoveries of Dives in the Deep – the fish
Science Part III. An Ocean of Stars – Echinoderms and other Invertebrates
A brief bit of science, then you can see the pictures. Echinoderms have three main characteristics:
1. A body plan with 5-part radial symmetry
2. A calcite skeleton
3. A water-vascular system
Here are a few we have found on the ocean floor the past few days with the ROV. By the way, it’s also a sky of stars at night from the ‘iron beach’ on the top deck aft of the bridge of the Nancy Foster.
One of the mollusks we found.
Science Part IV. Iceberg Scours dead ahead!
Many of the ridges and valleys Stacey Harter our chief scientist choose for us to investigate with the ROV are actually scours along the Atlantic Ocean seafloor created by icebergs that moved in a southwesternly direction towards the Carolina’s. Yes, I said icebergs! These scours I learned were probably created during the last deglaciation period, (~29,000-15,000 BP (before people)). I found this great blog post that summarizes some research on these and has a good graphic too. The scours are revealed through the multibeam mapping (MB) that the science mapping team conducts overnight. The image below is a MB map that shows the ridges and valleys (iceberg scours) and the red dots that form the line our ROV took exploring it on Sunday.
Multibeam (MB) Map showing iceberg scours. The red dotted line near the middle of the image is our ROV track from the dive, going east to west. Image courtesy of NOAA and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute . June 2014.
The earth science education I teach with the Earth Balloon and Earth Walk programs cover processes that shape and form the planet and I can’t wait to incorporate iceberg scours and the habitat they now provide into these programs!
A call out to Jennifer Petro and her class at Everitt Middle School in Panama City, Florida. Jennifer participated as a TAS in 2013 on this same research project. Her class sent a collection of decorated styrofoam cups with Andy David from the Panama City NOAA lab for us to bring to the bottom during one of our dives. This is what happens when Styrofoam is subject to increasing pressure.
Science Part V. I think we placed it here…I think it is here…It is here!
Earlier this spring, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in cooperation with the Army Corp of Engineers sank two barges to create artificial reef systems and habitat for groupers, tilefish, and countless other species.
During the overnight hours of June 24th & 25th the mapping science team (see below) set out to find these two barges somewhere within a 2 square mile box using the MB aboard the Nancy Foster; that’s a lot of ocean to cover! I stayed up late with them and at about 10:00pm images began to emerge that resembled the barges. By 10:30pm, the mapping team had combed through the data and generated 3D maps that were strong evidence they had found them.
However, a hypothesis emerged; one of the barges may have flipped upside-down during its initial sinking and that some of the cargo containers had actually fallen off and came to rest on the ocean floor separate from the barge. During this discussion with the mapping team, I had this huge smile and was in awe with what they could do with sound waves!
So on Wednesday afternoon, June 25th the ROV team went to work to explore the sunken barges. I watched as Lance Horn slowly guided the ROV down below 100 meters. Eventually we could make out the barge. Lance had to use his many years of ROV piloting to carefully maneuver. We could not let the umbilical fiber optic and power cord get caught on any of the metal debris and towers that projected outward. What did we discover? Unfortunately I am unable to show you the pictures. At 90 meters in depth it was so dark, the digital camera could not capture quality images – even with two LED lights. However, the HD video gave us clear visual and conclusions. The barge settled upright on the sea floor (it wasn’t upside down). However, we speculate that it came down with such force that the shipping containers and structures collapsed and broke away. Indeed four of them are lying on the ocean floor off the northwest corner of the barge. It’s only been a few months so habitat and few fish have yet to call it home, but schools of Amberjack were all around.
Kayla Johnson and Freidrich Knuth are our mapping scientists we brought on board as part of the science team and Samantha Martin and Nick Mitchell are fulltime NOAA mapping scientists assigned to the Nancy Foster. All four of them have very interesting stories about how they use their education and expertise to be eyes through the water column deep into the ocean. Freidrich and Kayla accompanied the science team as graduates from the Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at Charleston College.
It is really inspiring to hear about their experiences in MB mapping in many of the oceans worldwide. They are experts of combing through data we receive through a number of ship-mounted devices, applying complex GIS software (geographic information systems), and creating 2D & 3D maps that the science team can use to direct the ROV to the next day – which means this team works through the overnight hours and sleeps during the day.
I have been running on the treadmill which is located in a small fitness center low in the ship. It’s a very awkward feeling when there are large waves and the treadmill and I are going up and down and swaying side to side. The way I look at it I am running on water so it has to be easier on my knees.
I have lost track of the number of birthdays we have celebrated while offshore. From somewhere, seemingly daily, birthday cards and cakes emerge.
And for another quote from The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman that I am reading while aboard the Nancy Foster.
“Water is a pleasure. It is fun. Our sense of water, our connection to water, is primal. Anyone who has ever given a bath to a nine-month-old baby – and received a soaking in return – knows that the sheer exuberance of creating splashing cascades of water is born with us. We don’t have to be taught to enjoy water.” (p760)
We are sailing for the Florida MPA overnight tonight (10-12 hours) and will be ready to launch the ROV again tomorrow.
Glossary to Enhance Your Mind
Each of my logs is going to have a list of new vocabulary to enhance your knowledge. I am not going to post the definitions; that might be a future student assignment. In the meantime, some might have links to further information.
NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch has a great site of definitions at
- Radial symmetry
- A ‘clip’
- TED – turtle exclusion device (Andy and I had a conversation about other work NOAA is doing in the Gulf related to turtles, TEDs and their work on trawlers. Perhaps another NOAA at sea adventure for me in the future.)