Mission: Mapping CINMS Geographical area of cruise: Channel Islands, California Date: May 8, 2016 Weather Data from the Bridge:
Science and Technology Log
In previous posts, I’ve discussed the ME70 multibeam sonar on board Shimada. You’d think that I’ve told you all there is to know about the wondrous data this piece of equipment provides, but oh, no, dear readers, I’ve merely scraped the surface of that proverbial iceberg. In this post, I will explain how the raw data from the ME70 is used to create important seafloor maps. Heck, I’ll even throw in a shipwreck! Everyone loves shipwrecks.
Back to the multibeam. As you may remember, the ME70 uses many beams of sonar to capture a 60 degree image of the water column. It collects A LOT of data, one survey line at a time. Lots of data are good, right? Well, if you want to map the bottom of the ocean, you don’t need ALL the data collected by the ME70, you just need some of it. Take, for example, fish. You don’t want big balls of fish obscuring your view of the seafloor, you just want the seafloor! Leave the schools of fish for Fabio.
The person you need to make your seafloor map is Kayla Johnson. First, she sends the raw data to a program called MatLab. This nifty software separates the bottom data from all the other stuff in the water column and packages it in something called a .gsf file. Next, this .gsf file goes to this huge processing program called CARIS HIPS, where it is converted into an something called HDCS data.
You’d think that all you’d need to make an accurate seafloor map would be data from the multibeam, but it is actually much more complicated than that (of course you knew that! just look at how long this blog post is). Think about it: while you’re running your survey lines and collecting data, the ocean and, therefore, the ship are MOVING. The ship is heaving, rolling, and pitching, it’s travelling in different directions depending on the survey line, the tides are coming in and out, the temperature and salinity of the water varies, etc. etc. All of these variables affect the data collected by the ME70 and, hence, must be accounted for in the CARIS software. Remember how I said it was HUGE? This is why.
Everyone still with me? Ok, let’s continue processing this data so that Kayla can make our beautiful map. Next up, she’s going to have to load data into CARIS from the POS. POSMV (POSition of Marine Vehicles) is a software interface used on the ship that collects real-time data on where we are in relation to the water (heave, pitch, and roll). She’s also going to load into CARIS the local tide information, since the ship will be closer to the seafloor at low tide than at high. Not including tidal change is a good way to get a messed-up map! Once the POSMV and tide files are loaded into CARIS, they are applied to the survey line.
Next, Kayla has to compute the TPU (Total Propagated Uncertainty). I could spend the next four paragraphs explaining what it is and how it’s computed, but I really don’t feel like writing it and you probably wouldn’t want to read it. Let’s just say that nothing in life is 100% certain, so the TPU accounts for those little uncertainties.
Since the data was collected using multiple beams at a wide angle, there will be beams returning bad data, especially at the edges of the collection zone. Sometime a bad data point could be a fish, but most often bad data happens when there is an abrupt change in seafloor elevation and the beams can’t find the bottom. So, Kayla will need to manually clean out these bad data points in order to get a clean picture of the seafloor.
These data need a haircut!
Almost done! Last, Kayla makes the surface. All the data points are gridded to a certain resolution based on depth (lots of explanation skipped here…you’re welcome), with the end result being a pretty, pretty picture of the bottom of the seafloor. Phew, we made it! These seafloor maps are incredibly important and have numerous applications, including fisheries management, nautical charting, and searching for missing airplanes and shipwrecks (see! I told you there would be a shipwreck!). I’ll be getting into the importance of this mapping cruise to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary in my final post, so stay tuned.
Shipwreck in Buzzard’s Bay, MA image courtesy of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
U-boat image courtesy of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Endnote: A word about XBTs
Before all your data are processed, you need to know how fast the sound waves are travelling through the water. When sound is moving through water, changes in temperature and salinity can bend the wave, altering your data. An XBT is an expendable bathythermograph that is sent overboard every four hours. It transmits temperature and salinity readings throughout its quick trip to the ocean bottom, allowing the computer to make data adjustments, as needed.
Did You Know?
Hey, you’ve made it to the bottom of this post! If you are interested in seafloor mapping, have I got an institute of higher learning for you. The College of Charleston has a program called BEAMS, which trains future ocean surveyors and includes a course called Bathymetric Mappings. Three of the hip young scientists on board have taken this course and it seems to be pretty amazing. If you love sailing the high seas AND data processing, you might want to check it out.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Theresa Paulsen Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer March 16 – April 3, 2015
Mission: Caribbean Exploration (Mapping) Geographical Area of Cruise: Puerto Rico Trench Date: March 28, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge: Scattered Clouds, 26˚C, Wind speed 13-18 knots, Wave height 5-7ft
Science and Technology Log
Mapping of our first priority area is now compete and we have moved to the priority two area on the north side of the Puerto Rico Trench. We are more than 100 miles from shore at this point. Land is nowhere in sight. Able-Bodied Seaman Ryan Loftus tells me that even from the bridge the horizon is only 6.4 nautical miles away due to the curvature of the earth. At this point with no frame of reference other than celestial bodies, navigation equipment becomes essential.
The ship uses Global Positioning Systems, GPS units:
On the radar display, we are in the center of the circle. Our heading is the blue line. Since this photo was taken near shore, the yellow patches on the bottom indicate the land mass, Puerto Rico. The two triangles with what look like vector lines to the left of us are approaching vessels. On the right, the Automated Identification System displays information about those vessels, including their name, type, heading and speed. The radar uses two radio beams, an S-Band at 3050 MHz and an X-band at 9410 MHz, to determine the location of the vessel relative to other vessels and landmarks within a 1% margin of error.
A standard compass points to the magnetic north pole rather than true north, therefore mariners prefer to use gyrocompasses for navigation. Before departing, a gyrocompass is pointed to true north. Using an electric current, the gyroscope in the device is spun very fast so that it will continually maintain that direction during the voyage. Slight errors build up over time and must be corrected. The watch standers post the necessary correction on the bridge. Since the device is electronic, it can feed data into the system allowing for automated navigation and dynamic positioning systems to work well.
On the Electronic Chart Display Information System (ECDIS) screen, watchstanders can view the course planned by the Expedition Coordinator in charge of the science conducted on the voyage (in red), see the bearing they have set (thin black line), and see the actual course we are on (the black, dashed, arrowhead line).
The dynamic positioning system allows the vessel to remain in one spot in very delicate situations, such as when they lower a tethered device like the robotic vehicle they will be using on the next cruise or a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth probe). It is also helpful for docking.
The electronics are able to control the ship due to the ingenious way the engine system is designed. The diesel engine powers generators that convert the mechanical energy into electrical energy. This way electrical energy can be used to control main hydraulic propellers at the stern as well as electric bow and side thrusting propellers.
What happens if the power goes out and the electronic navigation devices fail? There are back ups – no worries, students and family!!
The vessel can sail onward. It is equipped with a magnetic compass and the watchstanders are well versed in reading charts, using a sextant, and plotting courses by hand – they often do that just to check the radar and GPS for accuracy.
They also have a well-used copy of the “bible of navigation,” The American Practical Navigator written in 1802 by Nathaniel Bowditch.
They even let me take it for a spin – okay it was about a 90˚ turn – but hey, it feels pretty cool to be at the helm of a 224ft vessel!
So where are we right now?
As I said we have begun mapping in our second priority zone, more than 100 miles north of Puerto Rico. We are near the boundary of the Sargasso Sea. It is not bordered by land, like other seas. Instead it is bordered by ocean currents that keep the surface water in one area.
Remember the seaweed I wondered about in an earlier post? It is called Sargassum. It grows in rafts in the Sargasso Sea. This is actually where the Sargasso sea got its name. According to NOAA’s National Ocean Service, these rafts provide habitat for certain fish and marine life. Turtles use them as nurseries for their hatchlings. In recent years large blooms of Sargassum have been washing up on nearby coastlines causing problem along the shore. (Oct 1, 2014, USA Today) More research needed! There are always more questions. Is this caused by warming oceans, by oil spills, or by a combination? Nothing lives in isolation. All life forms are connected to each other and to our environment. Changes in the ocean impact us all, everywhere on the globe.
Want to explore yourself? Check out NOAA Corps to become ship officer!
Acting Executive Officer (XO) Lieutenant Fionna Matheson is augmenting on this leg of the trip, meaning she is filling in for the XO currently on leave. Otherwise, in her current “land job” she works at NOAA headquarters for the NOAA Administrator, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan, a former astronaut and the first American woman to walk in space, reports to the Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. Working on the headquarters team, LT Matheson learns a great deal about the breadth and importance of NOAA’s mission.
To become a member of the NOAA Corps you must have a Bachelor’s degree in Science or Math. It is a competitive process, so some sort of experience with boating is advantageous, but not required. NOAA Corps officers are trained not only to drive and manage ships, but also to handle emergencies including fire-fighting, and follow maritime law. They act as the glue between the scientists and the crew (wage mariners), making sure the scientific mission is accomplished and the safety of the crew and the vessel are secure. Fionna has been part of the corps for 11 years. She explains that NOAA Corps officers are stationed for about 2 years at sea (with some shore leave) followed by 3 years on land throughout their careers. During her NOAA career, Fionna has sailed in the tropical Pacific maintaining deep-ocean buoys, fished in the North Atlantic, collected oceanographic samples in the Gulf of Mexico, and now mapped part of the Caribbean. She has also worked as part of an aerial survey team in San Diego, studying whales and dolphins.
Fionna’s advice to high school students is this, “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is action. Take the initial risk.”
What do we do for fun in our free time?
We play games like chess, although I am not very good. I try, and that is what is important, right?
We watch movies – even watched Star Trek on the fantail one evening. Very fitting since we are boldly going where no one has gone before with our high-resolution sonar.
And we watch the sun go down on the ocean.
Mostly, I like watching the water when I have time. I would have made a great lookout – I should look into it after I retire from teaching. I have been trying to use my Aquaman powers to summon the whales and dolphins, but so far – no luck. Maybe on the way back in to shore we’ll catch another glimpse.
What do I miss?
My family and friends. Hi Bryan, Ben, Laura, Dad, Mom, and the rest of the gang.
And my students and coworkers. Go Ashland Oredockers!
I am fortunate to have such supportive people behind me! Thanks, guys!
I do not miss snow and cold weather, so if you all could warm it up outside in northern Wisconsin over the next week, I’d appreciate it. I’ll see what kind of strings I can pull with these NOAA folks! ¡No me gusta la nieve o el frío en la primavera!
Did you know?
Sky conditions on the bridge are determined by oktas. An okta is 1/8th of the sky. If all oktas are free of clouds the sky is clear. If 1-2 oktas contain clouds, the bridge reports few clouds, 3-4 filled oktas equal scattered clouds, 5-7 equal broken clouds, and 8 filled oktas means the sky is overcast.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Theresa Paulsen NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer March 16 – April 3, 2015
Mission: Caribbean Exploration (Mapping) Geographical Area: Puerto Rico Trench Date: March 24, 2015
Weather from the Bridge: Scattered Clouds, 26.6˚C, Wind 10kts from 100˚, Waves 1-2ft, swells 2-3ft
Science and Technology Log
Now that the interns have been trained in data collection and processing, it was my turn to learn.
Mapping Intern Chelsea Wegner taught me how to launch an XBT and how to process the data gathered by the multibeam sonar. It is a fairly simple procedure that requires diligent record keeping in logs. I processed four “lines.” A line is about one hour of data collection, or shorter. Two of my lines were shorter because the sonar had to be turned off due to a whale sighting! This is bad for data collecting, but AWESOME for me! Again, I missed it with the camera, though.
I have also been given the task of using a sun photometer to measure direct sunlight over the ocean as part of the Maritime Aerosol Network, a component of AERONET, a NASA project through the Goddard Space Flight Center. Every two hours when the sun is shining and there are no clouds in the way of the sun, I use this tool to measure the amount of sunlight able to penetrate our atmosphere.
I use a GPS to determine our location and transfer that information to the sun photometer. Then I scan the sunlight with the photometer for about 7 seconds and repeat 5 times within two minutes. Keeping the image of the sun in the target location on the photometer while standing on a rocking boat is harder than it may look!
According to the Maritime Network, the photometer readings taken from ground level helps determine the Aerosol Optical Depth, meaning the fraction of the sun’s energy that is scattered or absorbed while it passes through the earth’s atmosphere. The reduction in energy is assumed to be caused by aerosols when the sunlight’s path to earth is free of clouds. Aerosols are solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere. Sea-salt is a major contributor over the ocean as well as smoke and dust particles from land that are lifted and transported over the oceans. There are many stations over land that collect this data, but using ships is also important because the data is used to provide “ground truth” to satellite measurements over the entire earth, including the oceans. The data is also used in climate change research and aerosol distribution and transport modeling.
It is pretty cool to be part of such an interesting project! The people here are interesting too. I thought I’d highlight some of their stories in my next few blogs.
Career Profile of Intern Chelsea Wegner
Chelsea’s story is a great example for high school students. She graduated from a high school in Virginia that is similar in size to Ashland High School, where I teach. Her family enjoyed spending time near the ocean and had a library of books about ocean adventures. Her grandfather served in the Navy on Nuclear Submarines and liked to build models of ships.
In high school, her career interests began to take shape in her Environmental Science in Oceanography class. She went to college at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia majoring in environmental science with particular interest in geology and river systems. She took advantage of a research opportunity studying sediment transport from rivers to the coast during her undergraduate career. She took sediment core samples and analyzed them to determine human impacts, contamination, and dated the sediment layers. She took more research courses that took her to the US Virgin Islands to conduct a reef survey, identifying and counting fish. She described that as a pivotal experience that led her toward her Masters Degree in Marine Science. Her Masters thesis project was a coastal processes study the potential effects of sea level rise on coral reefs and the corresponding coastline. She used the connections she had in the US Virgin Islands and in her university to fund and/or support her research.
After competing her Masters Chelsea applied for a marine science and policy fellowship, the Knauss Fellowship, which allowed her to work as an assistant to the Assistant Administrator of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) within NOAA, Craig McLean, for one year. Through this fellowship, Chelsea traveled the world to places like Vietnam, the Philippines, New Zealand, and France getting a first-hand look at how science informs marine policy and vice versa.
Chelsea learned early on that experience matters most when trying to make yourself marketable. That is why she is here now serving as a mapping intern. She takes the opportunity to learn every piece of equipment and software available to her. She is a rising star in the world of science. After this voyage, she will begin her new job as a program analyst at OAR headquarters working in the international office handling engagements with other countries such as Indonesia and Japan. And she is only 28!
Did You Know?
At 10 AM this morning there was tsunami drill, LANTEX (Large Atlantic Tsunami Exercise) on the east coast from Canada all the way down to the Caribbean. So students in schools inside Tsunami-threatened areas likely participated in evacuation drills. The test is part of NOAA National Weather service Tsunami Warning Program. It helps governments test and evaluate their emergency protocols to improve preparedness in the event of an actual tsunami.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Theresa Paulsen Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer March 16 – April 3, 2015
Mission: Caribbean Exploration (Mapping) Geographical Area of Cruise: Puerto Rico Trench Date: March 17, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge: Partly Cloudy, 26 C, Wind speed 12 knots, Wave height 1-2ft, Swells 2-4ft.
Science and Technology Log
Elizabeth “Meme” Lobecker, Physical Scientist Hydrographer with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and our Expedition Coordinator, gave the science team aboard the vessel an overview of our expedition on Sunday after an evening of becoming acquainted with the ship and other members of the science team.
She explained how oceanic exploration research is different from the rest of the scientific community and even other projects within NOAA, because it focuses purely on exploration and discovery that can generate hypotheses. In other areas, a scientist has a hypothesis first and sets out to test it through research and experimentation.
The information gained on our mission could generate hypotheses in all kinds of areas of research such as geology, fisheries, oceanography, marine archeology, and hydrography. It could help us identify areas that need protection, such as spawning grounds for commercial fish populations. Meme and her team will turn the data over to the National Coastal Data Development Center within three weeks. From there, it goes to the National Geophysical Data Center and the National Oceanographic Data Center, where it is freely accessible through public archives within 60-90 days of the end of the cruise. From there, any entity, public or private, can access the data for use in their work. Have you ever wondered how Google Earth and Arc View GIS get the background data for their ocean floor layer? This data contributes to those layers. Now you know! Public data access is through www.ngdc.noaa.gov and www.nodc.noaa.gov.
While we currently have low resolution data from satellites, less than 5% of the oceans have high-resolution images. We have better data now about the features of Mars than we do about our oceans on earth. Why? Because ocean surveying is difficult and time-consuming. High resolution maps cannot be made of the ocean floor with current technology on satellites. The technology is getting better and better, though. The image below shows the progression from a leadsman dropping a 10 pound weight attached to a line in the water to the multibeam sonar being used as I type.
The multibeam sonar aboard the Okeanos Explorer sends out a ping at 30 kHz that bounces off the seafloor and returns to the transducer that is equipped with sensors oriented in 432 different directions receiving up to 864 beams per swath. This method has been tested in depths of up to 8000 meters. It can give us not only bathymetry data, but also water column backscatter and bottom backscatter data. This allows us to know if there are features in the water column like gaseous seeps escaping from the ocean floor. We can also tell something about the surface features, whether they are soft sediments or hard rock, from the bottom back scatter.
Meme has a crew of mappers working with her including Scott Allen, Senior Survey Technician; Melody Ovard and Jason Meyer, Mapping Watch Leads; and several interns. Another important part of the mission is to train a new generation of ocean explorers. These interns, Chelsea Wegner, Kristin Mello, and Josue Millan, come from colleges all over the country. Their main job is to make sure the data is good and to create logs to document data collection. They have to correct the multibeam sonar data by deploying XBTs (Expendable Bathythermographs) that determine the temperature changes within the water column because sound speed increases as water temperature increases. They also use sensors on the ship to measure the conductivity and therefore determine the salinity of the water. Since sound waves penetrate saltier water more easily, the salinity affects the sound intensity measurements. Pressure must also be calculated into the equation because sound speed also increases with increasing pressure.
The vessel’s attitude also has to be factored into the sonar (like teachers need to factor in student attitudes when planning a lesson!) Similar to an airplane, a boat can pivot on its center of gravity in all three-dimensional axes: Pitch, Yaw, and Roll. Think about your own head. Pitch is like nodding your head in agreement, yaw is like shaking your head to say no, and roll would be like putting your ear to your shoulder. Gives new meaning to the phrase “Heads are going to roll,” doesn’t it? Boats also heave, or move up and down as swells pass beneath them.
The screen shot above shows the data as it is being collected by the mappers. In the main window in the upper right is the bathymetry data. Below that is the water column backscatter. In the bottom left is the attitude of the vessel on all axes. The center left gray image shows the bottom backscatter while the number 421 above is the current depth beneath the vessel. Finally, the display on the top left indicates the quality and intensity of each of the 432 beams.
We also have a team of researchers from the University of Puerto Rico that are deploying free vehicles to study water masses within the Puerto Rico Trench. More about them in the next blog!
Safety First! On Monday, we had our first drills as part of our safety training. We practiced the “Abandon Ship” and “Fire” drills. We tested the fire hoses and donned our gumby suits. Mrs. Paulsen is looking pretty good, eh? It is comforting to know I’ll be well-protected by good equipment and a great crew in the event of an emergency.
After mapping all morning, we learned we had to return to port due to a medical issue. I discovered that engineers are vital to the operation. Without them, we don’t sail – and they are hard to come by. All of my students interested in marine engine repair should consider NOAA in the future. The pay is good and the adventure is awesome!
I took the time in port to work in the galley helping to make lunch with the chefs. They are a friendly bunch. We made fajitas of all kinds and swordfish. Delicious! I also learned how to garnish a buffet line and even washed dishes afterward. In my high school and college days I worked in many restaurants, but they never let me work in the back. They said I was too much of a “people person” and so I was always waiting on customers. Today I got to cook on one of those large grills I see on cooking shows. Fun to cook on, but not fun to clean. The Chief Steward, Dave Fare, said he brought 5000 lbs of food on board for our trip! We’ll be eating well! Good thing there is a fitness room on board too!
After training on Sunday I had some time to take in a little of the history and culture of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is a lovely place filled with beautifully colored buildings and fun music. The history is fascinating. According the National Park Service, this is where Chrisotopher Columbus landed on his 2nd voyage and laid claim to the land for Spain. Under Juan Ponce de Leon, Spain took control of the island, displacing the Taíno Indians in 1508. An enormous wall of defense was built to keep hold of the island. Trade winds and ocean currents allowed ships to easily sail here from the east. The fortifications on the island took 10 generations to build.
Spain kept control of the island against invaders until the Spanish-American war in 1898 when Puerto Rico became a US Territory. The fortress including the Castillo de Felipe del Morro and the Castillo San Cristobal are now historical sites managed by the National Park Service. You can learn more here.
After touring the city, I found my way to the sea! I watched children running from the waves. This reminded me of my childhood. My father used to take us to the coast when we lived in California and Oregon. That is where my love of the sea began. Both of my parents have adventurous spirits and strong work ethics. They taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to take the chance and put in the effort. This is a belief I hope I pass on to my students.
Question of the Day
Can you identify this crustacean I found along a beach in San Juan?
NOAA Teacher At Sea Amy Orchard Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster September 14 – 27, 2014
Mission: Deep Habitat Classification Geographical area of cruise: Tortugas Ecological Reserve and surrounding non-reserve area Date: September 21 & 22, 2014
Weather: September 22, 2014 20:00 hours
Latitude 24° 25.90 N Longitude 83° 80.0 W
Few clouds, clear
Wind speed 10 knots
Air Temperature: 28.5° Celsius (83.3° Fahrenheit)
Sea Water Temperature: 29.9° Celsius (86° Fahrenheit)
CLICK ON THE SMALL PHOTOS TO MAKE THEM LARGER
All week we have had the privilege of using the Remotely Operated Vehicle. This model is the Mohawk 18. It has two cameras, one that provides still photographs and the other takes high-definition video. Both are geo-referenced so we know exactly which latitude and longitude we are working.
It has an amazing maneuverability and gets around, over and under things quite quickly. The footage is sent back up aboard in real time via a long fiber optic umbilical cord.
This amazing piece of equipment has allowed us to see down to depths that the divers would not have been able to reach. It has also allowed us lengthy bottom times that the divers would not have been able to sustain. Most of the divers have been trained to dive with double air supply tanks, which affords them more bottom time, but the ROV can stay down for hours and hours at a time. The only limitation is the stress it puts on the pilots. Jason and Lance, our pilots, said that a four hour dive is about all they can run at a time without getting extremely crossed-eyed and need a break! However, they are troopers and we have been doing multiple ROV dives each day, some lasting up to 4 hours.
Here are some fun things we have seen.
The last ROV dive of our day (& this cruise) was to a 56’ shrimp boat wreck which was down 47 meters (154 ft) just along the boundary of the North Reserve. We saw nine Goliath Groupers (Epinephelus itajara) all at once. Groups of these fish are often seen on wrecks, but the scientists were a bit surprised about the high density on such a small boat. Due to over fishing of the Goliath Grouper, about twenty years ago, a moratorium was placed on fishing them and they were being considered for Endangered Status. After just 10 years, a significant increase in population size was observed. It’s still illegal to bring them over board but they are not on the Endangered Species list. Juveniles live in the mangroves but adults live in deeper waters where our scientists were able to observe them with the ROV.
During the last 6 days we spent 14 hours and 20 minutes underwater with the ROV. The entire time was recorded in SD and the scientists recorded the most significant events in HD. They also sat at the monitors the entire time snapping still shots as often as they saw things they wanted photos of. 957 digital stills were taken. The longest dive was 4 hours and 10 minutes. Our deepest dive was 128 meters (420 feet!)
The screen on the left shows the map of the area the ROV is surveying.
These maps were created by the Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) The ROV depends on the MBES as do the fish scientists. Without these maps, the ROV would not know where to dive and the fish scientists would not know where to conduct their research. The MBES gives the fish scientists a wider view of the terrain than they can get on their own by SCUBA diving in smaller areas.
The Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) uses SOund NAvigation and Ranging (Sonar) to create high-definition maps of the sea floor and it’s contours (as well as other objects such as shipwrecks) by shooting sound waves (from 512 sonic beams) down to the seabed and then listening as they reflect back up to the ship.
This is very similar to the way a topographic (topo) map represents the three-dimensional features (mountain and valleys) of the land above water. Instead of using contour lines to show variations in relief, MBS uses color to depict the bathymetry (submarine topography) Red shows the shallowest areas, purple the deepest.
Another important element of the MBES for the fish researchers is called backscatter. This byproduct of the sonar action wasn’t always collected. Not until advances in technology allowed for an understanding of how to gather useful information from the backscatter did technicians realized how valuable it can be. Backscatter is the amount of acoustic energy being received by the sonar after it is done interacting with the seafloor. It is now recognized that the information from backscatter can determine substrate type. Different types of substrate will “scatter” the sound energy differently. For example, a softer bottom such as mud will return a weaker signal than a harder bottom, like rock.
Layering together the multibeam data (which provides seafloor depth information and is computed by measuring the time that it takes for the signal to return to the sonar) with the backscatter, provides information which is especially helpful to fish researchers as it can assist them in classifying habitat type. This allows them to know where they might find the species of fish they are looking to study.
Tim Olsen, Chief Engineer, toured Camy and I through the engine room. It was overwhelming how many wires, cranks, moving parts and metal pieces there were. Tim and the other engineers are brilliant. I can not fathom what it takes to keep this 187 foot ship going with it’s multiple cranes, winches, engines, thrusters, small boats, air conditioners, toilets, kitchen appliances, etc.
I was most interested in the water systems. The ship makes all its own drinking water since salt water is non-potable and it would take a lot of storage space to carry fresh water (space its tight on a ship!) They have two systems. One is a reverse osmosis system which, using lots of pressure, moves sea water through a membrane to remove the salts. This system produces 1500 gallons of potable water a day. The second one is a flash distiller. In this system, seawater is heated by the engine and then pumped into a vacuum chamber where it is “flashes” into water vapor which is condensed and collected. The distilling system makes 1800 gallons a day aboard the Nancy Foster. Distillers, in some form, have been used on ships since the 1770s.
The other thing that caught my attention was the sewage treatment system. Earth Campers, this one is a bit smaller than the one we toured!
Of course, I also took a ride out in one of the small boats to assist the divers. Sometimes all I do is fill out the dive log and pull the buoys back into the boat but I really enjoy being out in the open ocean, feeling the sea spray in my face and watching the light move across the top of the water.
This week Tim has been coming around every now and then wearing his Domino King’s crown and cape, reminding us all to come challenge him to a game of Mexican Train (a fun dominos game).
Tim has won every tournament game on the Nancy Foster in the last three months and has the bling to show for it! Then tonight, to the surprise of all, one of the scientists, Mike, dethroned the king! This was the first time ever that a member of the science team has won the championship game.
Today was a fairly quiet day. Not too much science was done except setting out a few more fish traps.
We welcomed aboard NOAA’s Mary Tagilareni, Deputy Superintendent for Operations & Education and Beth Dieveney, Deputy Superintendent for Science & Policy as well as Lonny Anderson, our new dive master. From the FWC, Bill Sympson, Biological Scientist, as well as our conch biologists Bob Glazer, Associate Research Scientist and Einat Sandbank, Biological Scientist.
Lonny – dive master, Beth & Mary
newly arrived Bill with Jeff, Dani and Paul
Einat Sandbank – conch biologist
Bob Glazer – Conch expert
Also while in port, a few of the crew dived under the ship to check for any calcium carbonate secreting critters that may be growing on the transducer. While down there, they found some lobster pot line that had caught on the propeller.
To end the evening, a pod of dolphins can by again and Ensign Conor Maginn caught this video.
WORD OF THE DAY: Extirpated
BONUS QUESTION: Tell me about any Sonoran Desert species which were once being listed as Threatened or Endangered (or were being considered to be listed) and then had their populations recover.
Answer to the quiz from the last blog: Lion Fish are INVASIVE.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Cassie Kautzer Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier August 16 – September 5, 2014
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical Area of Survey: Woody Island Channel, Kodiak, Alaska Date: August 22, 2014
Temperature & Weather: 11.5° C (53° F), Cloudy, Rainy
Science & Technology Log
Today was ‘Day 4’ of surveying in the Woody Island Channel next to Kodiak, Alaska. The Woody Island Channel is a very busy waterway leading ships, boats, and vessels of all sizes into Kodiak. The problem at the moment is that much of the Woody Island Channel has shoals (shallow areas) and rocks. This can be very dangerous, especially since the channel has not been surveyed or mapped since the 1940’s! At that, in the 40s, surveyors were using Lead Lines to map the ocean floor. Lead Lines were long ropes, marked with measurements, and with a weight at the end, that were thrown out to measure the depth of the water. Lead Lines were considered very accurate for their time. The problem with Lead Lines is that there was no way for surveyors to map the entire ocean floor–the lead line only gave a measurement of depth in one location (point) at a time.
Today, NOAA Hydrographers use Multibeam Echosounders. A Multibeam Echosounder uses sonar to send out hundreds of sound pulses and measures how long it takes for those pulses to come back. The multibeam echosounder is attached to the hull, or bottom, of the survey launches. To find out how deep the ocean floor is in an area, depths are generated by measuring how much time it takes for each of hundreds of sound pulses to be sent out from the echosounder, through the water to the ocean floor and back again. The sound pulses are sent out from the echosounder in an array almost like that of a flashlight.
The deeper the water, the wider the swath (band of sound pulses). The more shoal (shallow) the water, the smaller the swath. Basically, a wider area can be surveyed when the water is deeper. This means that surveying near shore, near rocky areas, and near harbors can be very time consuming. These surveys do need to be completed, however, if they are in navigationally significant areas, like the Woody Island Channel that Rainier is surveying right now.
Technological advances over the years have made it more efficient and more accurate to survey the oceans.
Using multibeam sonar, the Rainier has surveyed thousands of linear nautical miles of ocean in the past couple of years. In 2012 the Rainier was away from its home port in Newport, Oregon for 179 days–surveying 605 square nautical miles and 9,040 liner nautical miles. In 2013 Rainier was away from its home port for 169 days – surveying 640 square nautical miles and 7,400 linear nautical miles. It is NOAA’s goal to get 10,000 linear nautical miles surveyed each field season between all four of its Hydro ships: Rainier, Fairweather, Thomas Jefferson, and Ferdinand R. Hassler. Several years, the Rainier has come close to this on its own!
I have spent the last four days out on the survey launches, gathering data, with a bunch of amazing people. I have had the opportunity to drive a launch several times, with skilled Coxwain and Able Seaman Jeff Mays supervising me and helping me adjust to the differences in driving/steering a heavy boat versus driving my car at home. Jeff always took back over when we got to a rocky area or area that was shoaling up quickly. I am grateful to him, however, for the opportunity. As with any skill that needs to be practiced, I got a little better each time I drove. (Trying to steer in a straight line/path on the water when dealing with wind, water currents, waves, wakes from other boats, and the boats themselves is tough! At least for me. Coxwains Dennis Brooks and Jeff Mays make it look easy, and always kept me feeling safe aboard the launch boats!)
For My Students
Below is an update on my Alaskan Wildlife sightings. Remember, these are all animals I have been within 20 feet of (except for the bear). Along with the wildlife in the graph below, I have also seen hundreds of birds from a distance and several romp of otter (large groups).
Can you help me identify the pictures below? It can be quite difficult to identify creatures and “stuff” in the dark ocean waters.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Cassie Kautzer (Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier August 16 – September 5, 2014
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical area of cruise: Cold Bay, Alaska Date: August 11, 2014
Hi! My name is Cassie Kautzer and I am writing to you from my couch in Northwest Arkansas. I am hiding inside with the air conditioning today because my thermometer shows it being 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and that is too hot for this former Wisconsin girl! I am finishing packing and doing some final research before I head to Alaska on August 16! (I am also very much looking forward to cooler temperatures!)
I am a fifth grade teacher at Monitor Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas! I have loved MONITOR and all my little Mallards since 2008 when I had the honor of joining the Monitor Team. Monitor Elementary houses a very diverse population of around 800 students each year. This school year, I will have the pleasure of teaching science to 112 of those students, and I cannot wait to share this amazing experience with them! Since Arkansas is not a coastal state, neither my students nor I have a lot of experience with marine ecology or tidal influences. In the Paleozoic Era, however, the entire state was covered by relatively shallow ocean, the Ouachita Basin.
I applied for this wonderful learning opportunity for several reasons:
• I am like my students, I learn by DOING! I can’t take all of my students with me (though I would if I could), so I will learn and gather new information, first hand, and take back pictures, videos, stories, lessons, and activities to share with them!
• I want my students to see the bigger picture–how is our life in Arkansas affected by oceans, tides, floods, erosion?
• I want my students to see the scientific opportunities, jobs, and careers that are available to them! I want to help inspire future scientists!
• I want my girls to see women working in scientific fields!
• And… I love adventure, and exploring and learning about our beautiful world! I will not fear the unknown; I will learn and grow as I figure it out!
My mission this summer, from August 16 – September 5, will be a Hydrographic Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier. NOAA is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA’s mission is to understand the Earth’s environment in order to conserve and care for marine (ocean) resources. The Rainier is “one of the most modern and productive survey platforms of its type in the world” and uses multibeam sonar systems to “cover large survey areas in a field season. The ship’s hydrographers acquire and process massive amounts of data and create high-resolution, three-dimensional terrain models of the ocean floor.” Those models can then be used to identify obstructions and shoals along the bottom of the ocean that are dangerous for navigating ships. (http://www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/ra_flier.pdf) Hydro ships, like the Rainier, map the ocean floor to help with safe navigation of the seas. Knowing the depth and make-up of the ocean floor surrounding Alaska will benefit all the vessels and ships, large and small, passing through the Gulf of Alaska. Activities onboard can include echosounding, tide gauge installation, shoreline surveying, verification, and mapping, and data processing.
So what does all of that mean?? I am about to find out! NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program aims to provide me, the teacher, with real-world research experience through work with world-renowned scientists, to allow unique insights into oceanic and atmospheric research crucial to our world. To this end, I truly believe the best way to learn is by getting ones hands dirty and trying to figure things out. So, on August 16 I will head to Alaska and meet up the Rainier in Kodiak, AK. On August 18 we will depart from Kodiak and head toward Cold Bay to begin our hydrographic survey mission.
Right now, I have more questions than answers: What will it be like without land beneath my feet for three whole weeks? What hours will I work? How am I going to learn all the crew members’ names? Will I get sea sick? What is echosounding? Will I get to go out on a launch? What marine life am I going to see? Will I ever want to leave Alaska? I guess I am about to find out!
For My Students
Can you find out…..?
1. How can I track the distance and speed I am traveling at while on the Rainier? (What units would I use to measure and share this information with you?)
2. When I am on the Rainier, weather information will be shared in degrees Celsius. How can I convert that information to degrees Farenheit so all of my non-science friends can understand?
“Leave a Reply” at the very bottom of this page! I am looking forward to answering (or trying to answer) your questions and sharing this epic learning adventure with you!
And of course, as Will.I.Am wrote and sang, and I kareoked to my students all year, “Reach for the Stars” and you’re sure to end up in the “Hall of Fame!”
Geographic area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina
Date: July 13, 2014
Weather Information from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 27.6 °C
Relative Humidity: 73%
Wind Speed: 5.04 knots
Science and Technology Log
Someone is always working on the Pisces. When Nate Bacheler and the other fishery scientists have finished their work for the day collecting fish, it is show time for the hydrographers, the scientists who map and study the ocean floor. Their job is to map the ocean floor to help Nate find the best places to find fish for the next day. Warren, Laura, David and Matt were kind enough to let me join them and explained how they map the ocean floor while on board the Pisces.
People have learned over the years that some fish like to hang out where there is a hard bottom, not a sandy bottom. These hard bottom areas are where coral and sponges can grow and it also happens to be where we usually find the most fish.
Instead of using a camera to find these hard bottom habitats, the mapping scientists use multibeam sonar. Here is a simple explanation on how sonar works. The ship sends a sound wave to the bottom of the ocean. When the sound wave hits the bottom, the sound bounces back up to the ship.
Since scientists know how fast sound travels in water, they can figure out how far it is to the ocean floor. If the sound wave bounces back quickly, we are close to the ocean floor. If the sound wave takes longer, the ocean floor is farther away. They can use this data to make a map of what the ocean floor looks like beneath the ship.
The neat thing about the Pisces is that it does not send down one sound wave only. It sends 70 waves at once. This is called multibeam sonar.
So, now you know how sonar works in simple terms.
But it gets a little more complicated. Did you know that sound speed can be affected by the water temperature, by how salty the water is (the “salinity”), by tides, and by the motion of the ship? Computers make corrections for all of these factors to help get a better picture of the ocean floor. But, computers don’t know the physical properties of our part of the ocean (because these properties change all the time) so we need to find this information and give it to the computer.
To find the temperature of the ocean water, the mapping scientists launch an “XBT” into the water. XBT stands for “expendable bathythermograph.” The XBT records the changes in water temperature as it travels to the ocean floor. It looks like a missile. It gets put into a launcher and it has a firing pin. It sounds pretty dangerous, doesn’t it! I was excited to be able to fire it into the water. But, when I pulled out the firing pin, the XBT just gently slid out of the launcher, softly plopped into the ocean, and quietly collected data all the way to the ocean floor.
With the new data on water temperature, the hydrographers were able to create this map of the ocean floor.
In the map above, blue indicates that part of the ocean floor that is the deepest. The green color indicates the part of the map that is the next deepest. The red indicates the area that is most shallow.
Nate talks to the hydrographers early in the morning and then predicts where the hard bottom habitats might be. In particular, Nate looks for areas that have a sudden change in elevation, indicating a ledge feature. If you had Nate’s job, where would you drop the 6 traps to find the most fish? Look at the map below to see where Nate decided to deploy the traps.
To find out more about using sound to see the ocean floor and to see an animation of how this works, click on this link:
We have now gotten into a regular routine on the ship. The best part of the day for me is when we are retrieving the traps. We never know what we will see. Sometimes we catch nothing. Sometimes we find some really amazing things.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Did you know?
The ocean is largely unexplored. Maybe someday you will discover something new about the ocean!
Mission: South Atlantic Marine Protected Area Survey
Geographical area of cruise: South Atlantic
Date: June 20, 2014
Weather: Sunny with clouds. 26.6 Celsius. Wind 13 knots from 251 degrees (west). 1-2m seas from the north.
** Note: Upon request, note that if you click on any picture it should open full screen so you can the detail much better!
Science and Technology Log
Research mission objectives – what am I doing out here?
Gathering data on habitat and fish assemblages of seven species of grouper and tilefish in the South Atlantic MPAs . These species are considered to be at risk due to current stock levels and life history characteristics which make them vulnerable to overfishing. Information gathered will help assess the health of the MPAs, the impact management is having, and the effectiveness of ROV exploratoration to make these health assessments.
Science Part I: Multibeam sea floor mapping Multibeam sonar sensors — sometimes called multibeam acoustic sensorsecho-sounders (MB for short) are a type of sound transmitting and receiving system that couple with GPS to produce high-resolution maps of the sea floor bottom. See how it works by checking out this cool NOAA animation. MB mapping is occurring all night long on the Nancy Foster by a team of expert mappers including Kayla Johnson, Freidrich Knuth, Samantha Martin, and Nick Mitchell (more on them and their work and NOAA careers in a future blog). Our Chief Scientist Stacey Harter has identified areas to map.
By morning, after the mappers have worked their magic on the data, Stacey is able to see a visual representation of the sea floor. She is looking for specific characteristics including a hard sea floor bottom, relief, and ridge lines – important characteristics for the groupers, tilefish, hinds, and other fish species under protection and management. Stacey uses these maps to determine transects for ROV exploration. Those transect lines are used by both the scientists driving the ROV and the navigation crew aboard the Nancy Foster. Once down on the ocean floor, the ROV pilot follows this transect and so must the ship high above it in the waves driven by the crew. Although 3 floors apart – it’s amazing to hear the necessary communication between them. (Watch for one of my future posts that will highlight a MB map and a sample transect line.)
Science Part II: ROV exploration – Completion of 8 dives
By the time this posts, we will have made 8 dives with the SubAtlantic Mohawk 18 ROV from University of North Carolina. (perhaps we will have made more dives because internet via satellites is slow and I am uncertain when this will really get posted.)
The ROV joined the mission with its two pilots, Lance Horn and Jason White. Pilots extraordinaire but I otherwise see them as the ROV’s parents guiding and caring for its every move. The technology aboard the ROV is incredible including a full spectrum video camera, a digital camera, sensors to measure depth and temperature, and 4 horizontal thrusters and one vertical thruster with twin propellers. The ROV has donned a pair of lasers which when projected on the sea floor allow the scientists to measure items.
The ROV control station is daunting! As one may imagine, it does include three joysticks accompanied by multiple switches, buttons, lights and alarms – all just a fingertip away from the ROV pilot. Five monitors surround the pilot – some of them are touch screen activated adding more to the selection of options at their fingertips. Is a Play Station a part of your daily routine? Perhaps you should consider a career at NOAA as a ROV pilot!
While the ROV drives and explores a set transect line, six additional scientists and assistants identify and record habitat, fish species, invertebrates, and other items that come into vision on any one of the monitors scattered around the lab located inside the ship. Two scientists are recording fish species and a scientist accompanied by me the past two days are identifying habitat and invertebrates.
Of course, the ROV is on the move constantly, so fish and items of interest are flying by – you don’t have time to type or write so the scientists use short cut keyboards pre-coded with species and habitat descriptors. Meanwhile another scientist is narrating the entire dive as everything is being recorded and yet another is controlling DVD video recording and centering and zooming the digital camera capturing hundreds of pictures during a dive. You would be surprised by the number of computers running for this operation! What is amazing is that everything will be linked together through a georeferrenced database using latitude and longitude coordinates.
Science Part III. What have we seen and discovered?
On June 19th & 20th we completed 8 dives. Some of the first species we saw included the shortbigeye, triggerfish, reef butterflyfish, and hogfish (Here is a good link of fish species on the reefs located here.) We also observed a few stingrays and speckled hind. For invertebrates, we saw a lot of Stichopathes (tagged as dominate during the dives) and fields of Pennatulacea (long white feathers). We also saw echinoderms and solitary cap coral (a singular, white tube coral) and discovered a Demospongiae that Stephanie, one of the Research Biologists (see below) hadn’t seen yet; we called it a bubble-wrap sponge in my hand-written notes.
Things that we saw today that we wished we hadn’t seen:
Pollution So with much of my teaching centered around clean water and pollution prevention and mitigation, I was saddened to discover the following items on the ocean floor during the first five dives: Plastic bags, cans, a barrel, a clearly visible rubber surgical glove, and an artillery shell. Interesting – from the ROV you can easily spot what the scientists call ‘human debris’ as it often has straight lines and corners, distinctly human crafted shapes – not like mother nature engineers.
Career highlight: Stephanie Farrington, Biological Research Specialist
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University
Masters of Science in Marine Biology. Bachelors of Science in Marine Science and Biology.
Stephanie’s expertise is in collecting, classifying, and mapping marine biology with emphasis in habitats and invertebrates. She is also proficient in ArcGIS for mapping and maintaining a database of everything she sees, discovers, and observes. During this research trip, she is the scientist charged with identifying the habitat with an emphasis on the invertebrate species that speckle the sea floor. For the past two days I have shadowed her side – watching the video feed from the ROV and logging. She is a wealth of information and I really appreciate sitting next to her the past two days. She is a master in biology and a master in buttons – and a fun spirit too.
Day 2 was spent almost entirely in transit – getting north from Mayport to Georgia, almost 9 hours. Part of that time was spent getting to know the research team and participating in safety drills. Sorry everyone; I did not get a picture of me in my red gumby suit (aka the life saving immersion suit). Upon recommendation from a colleague (you know who you are) I also spent two hours on a bench on the bow reading The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman
“If Earth were the size of a Honda Odyssey minivan, the amount of water on the planet would be in a single half-liter bottle of Poland Spring in one of the van’s thirteen cup holders.”
Although I have been out on the ocean before as well as the Great Lakes, on this day I simply felt tiny in a vast sea of blue.
For those who know me during my off-work hours, I also hit the ship’s gym -yes, that’s right, I am keeping up my routine with one exception. My Paleo diet is now nearly broken – too much great food here from the ship’s chef’s, including ice cream.
Last night, at the end of Day 3 (Thursday) I spent the evening on the beach! Well actually, what they call steal beach – a platform aft (behind) the ship’s bridge equipped with lounge recliners to watch the sunsets. I sat up for seemingly hours trying to write all my excitements and discoveries in a log I am keeping. Don’t worry though, I won’t make you read it all; my blog readers will only see a small snapshot of all I have been seeing and discovering!
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. NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch has a great site of definitions HERE.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Beverly Owens Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow June 10 – 24, 2013
Mission: Deep-Sea Corals and Benthic Habitat: Ground-Truthing and Exploration in Deepwater Canyons off the Northeastern Coast of the U.S. Geographical Area: Western North Atlantic Date: June 13, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 16.70 oC (62.06 oF)
Wind Speed: 25.17 knots (28.96mph)
Science and Technology Log
“You get to go on a two-week cruise for vacation!”
This is the misconception that some people had, when I told them initially that I would be participating as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. On a vacation cruise and a research cruise, participants stay an extended period of time on the ocean, and they receive three meals a day. That is pretty much the end of the similarities between these types of cruises. During a scientific research expedition, there is a mission to accomplish. For example, this trip is examining sites that are known or predicted to be deep-sea coral and sponge habitats.
Many multibeam bathymetric maps are consulted to find the most suitable sites to investigate. Bathymetric maps are similar to topographic maps with the exception that bathymetry applies to the topography of the ocean floor. Most of the major structure-forming deep-sea corals are found on hard substrate. Thus, areas of soft sediment are not the most likely places to find the majority of coral species, however many other organisms like brittle stars and anemones, may be found there.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into planning and coordinating a research “cruise.” The Chief Scientist must put in a request for a research vessel, and must assemble a science crew that has the skills and research interests that align with the research mission. In the months leading up to the research trip, the science party will discuss specific science objectives, protocols and potential study sites. Every participant must receive medical clearance, which includes having a TB (tuberculosis) test, and a recent tetanus vaccination.
The Chief Scientist, with input from the science team, determines which areas of the ocean to examine, and what type of technology to use to explore the ocean. Weather and waves may prevent some of the “dives” from taking place. Safety first – the conditions must be safe enough for the TowCam operators and deck crew to be outside during deployment as they lower TowCam safely into the ocean.
During TowCam deployments, many things must be done to make the dive successful. The Chief Scientist selects several points (waypoints) along a survey line within a canyon. These points help guide the ship during the TowCam deployment. To get TowCam into the water requires a lot of communication and coordination of efforts. The winch operator and deck crew are responsible for getting TowCam into the water. The winch operator is in constant contact with the TowCam pilot and controls the wire that lowers TowCam into the water. At a certain depth, the control is passed to the TowCam pilot in the lab who uses a joystick to lower the camera to the ocean floor. The pilot and the Bridge are in constant communication during the dive. The Bridge controls the ship and follows the track for the survey. The TowCam pilot analyzes data displayed on several computer monitors in order to make the most informed decisions as they guide the camera through the water column by moving TowCam and up and down in the water column. In addition, a variety of data are collected during the deployment. I have been logging data during the night shift deployments. I help keep track of variables such as depth, winch wire tension, latitude, longitude, and altimeter readings along the survey track. All this information will be invaluable to scientists examining the data collected during this research cruise.
At Crest Middle School, we try to teach our students critical thinking skills: think for themselves, make informed decisions, gather data, predict, and draw conclusions. This research trip is a prime example of how skills that students acquire in school will be beneficial for them in the future. When completing a task such as logging data, I have to decide what the important events are that have occurred in the TowCam dive, and to phrase those items in a way that others will understand.
Did You Know?
TowCam is about the size of a refrigerator. It has one large high-resolution camera that takes pictures every 10 seconds. It also has a CTD, which records conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth. TowCam also carries several Niskin bottles, used for water collection at depth and a slurp pump that pulls sediment from the ocean floor into a container for later analyses.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Marsha Skoczek Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces July 6-19, 2012
Mission: Marine Protected Areas Survey Geographic area of cruise: Subtropical North Atlantic, off the east coast of Georgia. Date: July 15, 2012
Location: Latitude: 32.47618N
Longitude: 78.19054 W
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temperature: 27.6C (81.7 F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots (6.9 mph)
Wind Direction: From the SE
Relative Humidity: 75 %
Barometric Pressure: 1018.3
Surface Water Temperature: 28.4C (83.12 F)
Science and Technology Log
In order for the scientists to find the fish they are studying on this cruise, they need to know where the areas of favorable habitat are located. Old nautical charts are not one hundred percent accurate–sometimes they can be hundreds of kilometers off. Early ocean floor mapping used long lines with a lead weight which was hung off the side of the ship. As the ship moved forward through the water, the long lines would get behind the ship making it very difficult to get an exact reading. It wasn’t until sonar came into general use during World War II, that it was discovered to be useful for bathymetric mapping.
Sonar works by sending a single sound wave to the ocean floor. As it reflects back toward the ship, a hydrophone listens for the return sound. The length of time it takes for that sound wave to return to the ship can be used to calculate the depth of the ocean in that location. The speed of sound in water travels at approximately 1,500 meters per sec (m/s) which is about five times faster than sound travels in air. The problem with single beam sonar is that the data only plots the one single line beneath the ship. It does not give the complete picture and gaps in data were often filled in using the readings taken around the area as an estimate.
So how is multibeam sonar different from single beam sonar? With multibeam sonar, it is just as the name implies–multiple sound beams are sent toward the ocean bottom. For the depths we are working on, the multibeam sonar on the Pisces sends out 70 beams of sound every .67 seconds. Within a fraction of a second, these “pings” are reflected off of the ocean bottom and back to the transducer. The time it takes for all 70 of those pings to return to the transducer determines the depth at each point. The echogram screen illustrates the bottom features in real time and will even pick up large schools of fish in the water column. As the ship continues to move up and down the survey lines, the raw data is collected. The distance between the survey lines is determined by the depth of the area to be mapped. To set the survey lines, we are using 1.5 times depth so, if the water depth averages 100 meters at the mapping location, the survey lines are set at 150 meters, (.08 nautical miles) apart. Tonight, the ocean depth at our mapping location is about 60 m so the survey lines are set at 90 meters (.05 nm) apart. The goal when laying out the survey lines is to overlap the previous lines by about 25%. This will insure a more complete picture.
It is not simple enough to just take the raw data from the return pings. The temperature, salinity and depth of the ocean in the mapping area can create slight variations in the return speed. Temperature, salinity and depth can influence the speed of the return signal, so we use the CTD to gather readings each morning as they are wrapping up the mapping for the night. This information along with the information on the ship’s roll, pitch, and yawl from the Position and Orientation System for Marine Vessels (POSMV) are plugged into software that helps process and clean up the data. From there, the data is converted into a “geo tif” file where it can be plugged into GIS mapping . The final product is a full color 3-dimensional image of the mapping area.
Ideally the scientists would have multibeam information for each of the sites they want to study that day. To make this happen, the night before the ROV dive the ship will make its way to the next day’s study area so the geographers can map all night. The survey lines are selected using bathymetry maps as well as looking at the existing multibeam maps of the area to see if there are any gaps that need to be filled in. The idea is to give the scientists as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions about where to study. Time on the ship is extremely expensive and they want to make sure they take full advantage of that time by finding the best habitats to study. Without the multibeam images, the scientists have to make a best guess as to where to map using old and possibly out of date information.
Today I took a tour of the Pisces’ engine room. Engineer Steven Clement was nice enough to show me around and explain everything for me. It is amazing to me how this ship is like its own little city. The ship creates its own electricity using diesel-powered generators. It takes four generators to power the ship at full speed which is about 15 knots. The engines are so loud that I had on double ear protection and it was still extremely loud to walk past them. Using all four engines all day would burn up 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The Pisces is capable of holding 100,000 gallons of fuel which should last the ship several months at sea. The electricity that is left over from powering the engines is used as the power supply for all of the electronics on board.
Other ways that the Pisces reminds me of a small city is the water. The ship creates its own drinking water with a reverse osmosis system complete with UV filter and is capable of producing 2.8 gallons per minute. It also has two hot water heaters attached to a compressor to keep the hot water pumped up into the pipes of the ship. I do have to say that the hot water on this ship is extremely hot!! There is no need to wait for hot water, it comes out instantly when I turn on the faucet. When I shower, I have the cold on full blast and just a smidge of hot water to get a normal temperature shower. Even our waste water is cleaned up in the Pisces’ own waste water treatment facility which uses microbes to break down the waste products before it is released back out to sea.
Other than pulling into port occasionally for fuel and supplies, the Pisces is really a self-contained vessel capable of cruising at sea for long periods of time.
Ocean Careers Interview
In this section, I will be interviewing scientists and crew members to give my students ideas for careers they may find interesting and might want to pursue someday. Today I interviewed Dr. Laura Kracker.
What is your job title? I am a Geographer with NOAA National Ocean Service in Charleston, South Carolina.
What type of responsibilities do you have with this job? Usually I work on projects using acoustics to map fish in the water column. Using fisheries acoustics, we can map the distribution of fish in an area and detect large schools as well. On this mission, I am using multibeam to map seafloor habitats.
What type of education did you need to get this job? I earned my Associate’s Degree in agriculture from Alfred College in New York. When my children were little, I stayed home with them. While I was home with them I earned my Bachelors in Painting. Then I went to work in a fisheries office for a couple of years before deciding to go back to college to get my Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Science from the University of Buffalo. I then continued on to my PhD in Geography and GIS, also from the University of Buffalo. My dissertation was on Using GIS to Apply Landscape Ecology to Fish Habitats. So I have combined all of my experiences to get me to where I am today.
What are some of your best experiences have you had with this job? I love being on a ship. I spend as many as 55 days a year on ships, often at the request of other scientists that need help with multibeam sonar. I love geography, it gives us a framework to put everything together, you can layer more and more information onto a map to find a complete picture.
What advice do you have for students wanting a career in marine biology? Get a broad foundation before you specialize. You don’t have to take a direct route to where you want to go.
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Rasmussen Ship: R/V Tatoosh Geographical area of the cruise: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Date: July 9, 2011 Cruise to: Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Crew: Rick Fletcher, Nancy Wright, Michael Barbero, and Karen Rasmussen Time: Start 9:12 a.m.
The first part of mission is to conduct Multibeam mapping and to collect ground-truthings at the LaPush/Teahwhit areas of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. We will also service the OCNM buoy, Cape Alava 42 (CA42). The second week of this mission is to explore the Teahwhit Head moorings, ChaBa and sunken ships, and North and South moorings. Weather Data from the Bridge
3’ swells and light breeze.
Risk factor 18
Science and Technology Log
Today we gassed up the generator in Forks, WA. Once at the boat we completed a safety drill, and then left port at 09:12. We completed a patch test at TH015, one of the OCNMS oceanographic moorings near Teahwhit Head. The patch test was completed to calculate roll, pitch, and yaw as part of a greater suite of error measurement used in multibeam data processing. We conducted a full multibeam survey and CTD cast at TH042. We also moved approximately 5 miles offshore to survey the area around the Milky Way wreck, a purse seiner that sank in the Sanctuary in 1995 hauling a catch of sardines. Although we searched around the last known site of the vessel, we did not find any indication of its existence. We hypothesized that the vessel had been buried by sand.
We docked at 3:30 because we had several hours of data to interpret.
We had calm seas today–absolutely the best I have seen. We saw dozens of sea lions, one otter, many pelicans and several bald eagles. I drove the boat during part of the multibeam testing and I conducted data acquisition using Hypack software. I am getting the hang of controlling the boat. It is quite a skill. I can understand how long it takes to become a true skipper/captain of a vessel.
It is so wonderful that all equipment was working and we were actually able to collect “real” data. It has been a frustration for me and all of the scientists involved when the equipment was working properly.
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler Ship: USCGC Healy
Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean 41 miles north of Alaska Date: 9 August 2010
Seeing the Bottom — 7 August 2010
It’s taken me several days to write and post this entry. I wanted to learn more about the sonar technology that we are using for the bathymetric mapping, then we lost internet early on the morning of 8 August 2010 while heading north in the Beaufort Sea. This happened at about the same time as we started encountering heavy ice, but I do not believe that the two events were related. I am including location and weather data for several days to give you a sense of where we were and where we are heading as well as the physical changes in our environment.Thankfully, email works even when internet does not – it took my non-IT oriented mind a while to wrap itself around that concept. While I am out of range, my dear sister Rosemary has agreed to post for me as long as I can get emails to her. (Thanks, Ro!) You already have her to thank for the polar bear post. Please keep emailing and/or posting comments. I look forward to reading comments when I come home.
Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 7 August 2010 Time of Day: 1400 (2:00 p.m.) local time; 22:00 UTC
Latitude: 70º47.6’N Longitude: 142º42.3’W
Ship Speed: 15.1 knots Heading: 111º (southeast)
Air Temperature: 5.1ºC /41.6ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1005.3 millibars
Humidity: 87 .9%
Winds: 27.7 Knots NE
Sea Temperature: 2.3ºC
Salinity: 20.22 PSU (practical salinity units)
Water Depth:1270 .8 mDate: 8 August 2010
Time of Day: 1245 (12:45 local time); 20:45 UTC Latitude: 72º12.72’N
Longitude: 138º28.7’W Ship Speed: 7.7 knots
Heading: 36.2º (NE) Air Temperature: 0.5ºC /32.9ºF Barometric Pressure: 1012.7 millibars Humidity: 86.3% Winds: 19.3 Knots NE
Wind Chill: -7.48ºC/18.53ºF Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 25.5 PSU Water Depth:2547.8 mDate: 9 August 2010
Time of Day: 1530 (3:30 local time); 22:30 UTC Latitude: 72º 29.8’N
Longitude: 139º 40.9’W Ship Speed: 6.3 knots
Heading: 183.5º (SSW) Air Temperature: -0.03ºC /31.94ºF Barometric Pressure: 1009.7 millibars Humidity: 92.2% Winds: 17.7 Knots NE
Wind Chill: -6.02ºC /21.17ºF Sea Temperature: -1.2ºC Salinity: 25.08 PSU Water Depth:2969.0 mScience and Technology Log
The primary objectives of the science mission are to map the seafloor and image the underlying sediments. Bathymetry is the measurement of depth of water bodies, derived from the Greek bathos meaning deep and metria meaning measure. Early bathymetric surveys used the “lead-lining” method, in which depths are manually recorded using a weighted line. This method is slow and labor intensive, and it is not practical for depths greater than about 100 feet. (Ironically, I spent the summer of 2009 doing just such a survey of a small lake on Long Island, NY working with two other teachers as DOE-ACTSinterns at Brookhaven National Laboratory.) Modern bathymetric surveys use echo sounding, or SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) to determine depth and shape of the seafloor. These systems make it possible to map large areas in extreme detail, leading NOAA to name the 20th Century advancements in hydrographic surveying techniques to its list of Top Ten Breakthroughs during the agency’s first 200 years.SONAR uses sound signals to locate objects beneath the sea surface. Passive systems use receivers such as hydrophones to detect signals transmitted by other sources, such as animals or submarines. Active systems transmit and receive signals. A transmitter mounted on the ship’s hull emits a signal. The signal travels through the water column and bounces off an object in its path. It returns as an echo to a transmitter on the ship that measures the strength of the return signal. The time between transmission and reception is used to determine range, where range equals (speed of sound in seawater) times (travel time divided by 2). When the object that reflects the signal is the seafloor, the range is the water depth.
There are single beam and multibeam sonar systems. Single beam systems measure along a single line beneath the ship and produce a line of depths. Multibeam systems send signals out along a line perpendicular to the ship and generate a “swath” of data for the area beneath the ship. The advantage of this system is that it creates a map that shows depth and shape of the seafloor. The diagram below shows a schematic comparison of three bottom survey methods.
Healy is equipped with a hull-mounted multibeam sonar system. It runs continuously whenever Healy is at sea, collecting bathymetric data to add to our knowledge of the seafloor at high latitudes. I serve as one of the watch standers in the geophysics lab each night from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. We keep an eye on several computer monitors that display the data from the different geophysics tools and others that display water quality and geographic position data. The photo on the right shows me with my watch partner, USGS scientist Peter Triezenberg sitting at the watch station.
There are many variables that can influence the quality of the multibeam data. The speed of sound in water is influenced by many different variables, including temperature and salinity. Therefore, seawater samples are collected from the ship’s seawater intake system to generate a thermosalinograph (TSG) profile to keep the speed of sound accurately calibrated. Additionally, expendable probes (XBTs) are launched twice a day to update the sound speed profiles. Other instruments monitor the attitude (pitch, roll and heave) of the ship and feed that data to the multibeam system. Finally, the ship keeps extremely precise track of time of day and geographical position so that the data can be used for accurate bathymetric mapping of the seafloor. My job as a watch stander is basically to be sure that everything is running properly, and to notify one of the specialists if something is not right.
The end result is a detailed map of the seafloor in which different colors represent different depths. The picture below shows an image of the raw multibeam data superimposed on a seafloor map which we can see on the ship’s Map Server display. The red line shows the ship’s track, and the new multibeam data extends perpendicular to that line. Other data on the map are from transects mapped on earlier Healy cruises and other sources.
We experienced a range of sea and ice conditions over the last several days as we traveled east of Barrow Alaska and headed north into the Beaufort Sea. Our earliest ice encounters were a gentle preview of what was to come – mostly bumps and scrapes with small pieces as we headed eastward parallel to the Alaska coastline. By midday on Saturday, we began to cross larger floes, and at times the ship was really rocking. One science team member said it feels like riding the subway, that’s a pretty good analogy. Sitting in the Mess on the main deck of the ship – which is about one floor above water line – I hear the grinding of ice on steel and it feels like I’m sitting in a big tin can that’s being crushed in a trash compactor. Fortunately, the ship is tougher than the ice. At times we move so much that everything in the room shakes. Because we are on a ship, everything is bolted down, but I still look up to be sure there is no danger of anything falling on my head. Some team members from California say the sensation reminds them of an earthquake.
Late Saturday morning, we crossed out of ice and back into open water. As we approached the last pieces of ice before open water, I saw waves hitting the distant edges of the ice; it looked like waves breaking on the shore. At first, I did not grasp the significance of this observation – I thought it was pretty and snapped some pictures and marveled at how we could be in thick ice and then suddenly in open water.
In the next hour, I realized that these were the largest waves we had encountered so far on the trip, and while they looked pretty, they also made the ship roll considerably more than it had before. Over the next few hours, I began to sense the movement more than I had in a few days. By dinner time, I had difficulty walking straight across the mess deck, and I was becoming a little apprehensive. I took a motion sickness pill as a preventative measure, and I took a nap because it was far more pleasant to lie in my rack and be rocked by the ship’s motion than to try to remain vertical. We eventually moved into calmer waters, and soon after that, we were back in heavy ice, which I somehow do not find as unpleasant as the waves. Since then, our movement has been slow and steady along our transects through the ice, with an emphasis on slow.
We don’t get much darkness up here in the Arctic, but we do occasionally get treated to some great sunrises and sunsets, if one is awake to catch them. Here are some photos of the sunset on Saturday 7 August 2010. The first was taken about an hour before sunset from the port side of the ship. I was as captivated by the horsetail clouds as I was by the color of the sky. The second was taken just at sunset, right before my camera battery died!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Michele Brustolon Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson June 28 – July, 2010
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Michele NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor) Date: July 1, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Time: 1400 Latitude: 58.19 N Longitude: 170.01 W Cloud Cover: 100%, dense fog Wind: 11.49 knots Air Temperature: 3.800 C/ 38.840 F Water Temperature: 3.960 C/ 39.1280 F Barometric Pressure: 1003.10 mb
Science and Technology Log
Here fishy fishy!
July 1st began by spending time in the Acoustics Lab learning about the equipment used to analyze the data. The Oscar Dyson has 5 transducers on its center board and 1 temporary transducer on the side of the center board that looks horizontally. The transducers allow us to see where the fish are. Because of where the transducers are placed, we can only see the pollock from 16m to the bottom. This means that if there are any fish between the surface and 16m they will not be detected. This is the near surface “dead zone”. Why this happens? The transducers are mounted on the bottom of the centerboard about 9 m below the water line, and near the transducer face (first 7 m), no good data are collected. Why it’s okay? Pollock tend to hang out in mid-water. Although a few baby pollock might be in the near surface “dead zone,” the majority of pollock will be in the area we are watching. There is also a bit of a “dead zone” at the other end near the ocean floor. Yesterday the bottom was around 69.35m.
Why acoustics? Ideally, the acoustic data collection would allow us to track aggregations of pollock without actually having to fish them out of the water. All parties involved (scientists, fish, bank accounts) would benefit from this change but scientists are still in the process of perfecting this process. The Oscar Dyson is part of a fleet of five boats that was specifically designed for acoustics. Specifically, it is considered a “quiet boat” where the engine noise is decreased to prevent scaring the fish. Other Acoustic projects include: Pacific hake off the coast from California to Vancouver Island (run as a joint project with Canada), herring in the northwest Atlantic, and krill in the Antarctic. Acoustics are used throughout the globe and many countries depend on acoustics for their fish surveys.
A little help from UNH! Along with the transducers, there is also a multibeam SONAR that produces the same information as the transducers but with a wider angle range. The multibeam ME70 sends its signal out after the transducers information is sent and returned. They alternate about 1.5 seconds apart. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is helping to use the tool and also to analyze the data. To analyze the transducer data collected, a program is in place from Tasmania to help determine what the boat is seeing. The scientists use the program to help separate species in the water column. Scientists utilize the multibeam ME 70 along with the transducers and fish trawling to ensure they are capturing an accurate picture of the mid-waters.
How the survey data we collect are used. The data we collect on the Oscar Dyson during the summer pollock surveys are used by scientists and policy makers to determine the fishing quota (the “take”) of pollock for the next season. Quotas are important for maintaining the population of pollock (and other species) for this generation and generations to come. The data we collect on the Oscar Dyson help ensure that maximum stock can be taken without negatively impacting the Eastern Bering Sea pollock population.
Although there was no fishing yesterday, I certainly was able to be involved. I launched the XBT off the Hero Deck just as we began our fire drill. Once that was completed I returned to the Acoustics Lab until we were cleared from the drill. We then had our abandon ship drill where we get our survival suits and head to our assigned position. My meeting location is at life raft 3 and 4. Once we learned how to deploy our life raft, we headed inside to the conference/lounge to practice donning our suits. While this is very serious, it is also worth a laugh or two watching people struggle and become orange gumbies! The goal is to be able to don your suit in under 60 seconds!
Yesterday I had the opportunity to head into St. Paul’s Island; the largest of the Pribilof Islands. St. Paul’s is also called the Galápagos of the north. The Zodiac was driven by Joel Kellogg and Amber Payne, and our CO (Commanding Officer Mike Hoshlyk) allowed Katie, Rebecca, and I the opportunity to take the trip inland. Our mission while on land was to bring science equipment (ice-flow detector) to the airport that needed to be sent to Anchorage. Stepping foot onto St. Paul’s Island seemed eerie and mysterious. There was the lurking fog along with a very industrial feel to the island. Because most of the island consists of coalescing small volcanoes, the sediment’s dark color is due to lava flow which didn’t brighten the land at all. We did not see many people other than those working on dredging the new causeway or the people in the airport. Our taxi driver said that they hadn’t gotten mail since Monday and it was Thursday which explained why the people waiting for flights at the airport seemed a bit anxious. On our way back to the boat, we were able to see sea lions and some puffins hanging out in the water and around the break wall. As we approached the boat, it was like an apparition appearing before us. Just another once in a lifetime chance that I have had this cruise!