Emily Whalen: Looking at Lobsters, Moving a 208-foot Boat, and Favorite Creatures, May 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: May 5, 2015

Weather Data:
Air Temperature:  8.4°C
Water Temperature: 5.1ºC
Wind:  15 knots NW
Seas:  1-2 feet

Science and Technology Log:

Lobsters!

This is a large female lobster.  The claw on the right is called the crusher and the claw on the left is called the ripper.  For scale, consider that this lobster is inside a standard 5-gallon bucket!
This is a large female lobster. The claw on the right is called the crusher and the claw on the left is called the pincer. For scale, consider that this lobster is inside a standard 5-gallon bucket!

Not everything that comes up in the net is a fish.  One of the things that we have caught many of on this trip is Homarus americanus, commonly known as the lobster.  Lobsters are invertebrates, which means they don’t have a backbone or an internal skeleton.  Instead, they have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton to give their body structure and protect their inner organs.  Because their exoskeleton cannot expand as the lobster grows, a lobster must molt, or shed its shell periodically as it gets bigger.  In the first few years of their lives, lobsters need to molt frequently because they are growing quickly.  More mature lobsters only molt yearly or even every few years.

Another interesting fact about lobsters can regenerate lost body parts.  After a claw or leg is lost, the cells near the damaged area will start to divide to form a new appendage.  The developing structure is delicate and essentially useless while it is growing, but after a few molts, it will be fully functional.

This lobster lost a claw and is in the early stages of regenerating it.  What challenges do you think a single-clawed lobster might face?
This lobster lost a claw and is in the early stages of regenerating it. What challenges do you think a single-clawed lobster might face?
This is a lobster  that has almost completed regenerating a lost claw.
This is a lobster that has almost completed regenerating a lost claw.
This is a lobster with two fully functional claws.  Why do you think each claw has a different shape?
This is a lobster with two fully functional claws. Why do you think each claw has a different shape?

When we catch lobsters, we measure and record the distance from their eye cavity to the posterior end of the carapace.  Many of the lobsters we have caught are similar in size to those you would find at the grocery store, which typically weigh about a little more than pound.  Commercial fishermen can only keep male lobsters that are over 101 millimeters.  Can you guess why?  We have seen some smaller lobsters that measure about 50 millimeters, and also some much larger lobsters that measure as much as 150 millimeters!

These are the calipers used to measure the carapace of each lobster.
These are the calipers used to measure the carapace of each lobster.
This is one of the larger lobsters that we have seen.  Some lobsters can live to be over a hundred, although everyone's best estimate for this one was about 20 years.  I put my hand next to the claw for scale.
This is one of the larger lobsters that we have seen. Some lobsters can live to be over a hundred, although everyone’s best estimate for this one was about 20 years. I put my hand next to the claw so that you could see how big it is!  I wasn’t brave enough to put my hand any closer!

One of the members of my watch is Dr. Joe Kunkel, who is doing something called ‘landmark analysis’ on some of the lobsters that we have caught.  This process involves recording the exact location of 12 specific points on the carapace or shell of each lobster.  Then he compares the relative geometry different lobsters to look for trends and patterns.  In order to do this, he uses a machine called a digitizer.  The machine has a small stylus and a button.  When you push the button, it records the x, y and z position of the stylus.  Once the x,y and z position of all 12 points has been recorded, they are imported into a graphing program that creates an individual profile for each lobster.

Here I am using a digitizer to pinpoint 12 different landmarks on this lobsters carapace, or shell.   So far, the offshore lobsters seem to have different geometry than the onshore lobsters, even though they are the same species.
Here I am using a digitizer to pinpoint 12 different landmarks on this lobsters carapace, or shell. So far, the offshore lobsters seem to have different geometry than the onshore lobsters, even though they are the same species.

So far, it appears that lobsters that are caught inshore have different geometry than lobsters that are caught further offshore.  Typically, an organism’s shape is determined by its genes.  Physical variations between organisms can be the result of different genes, environmental factors or physiological factors like diet or activity.  Dr. Kunkel doesn’t have a certain explanation for the differences between these two groups of lobsters, but it may suggest that lobsters have different activity levels or diet depending on whether they live near the shore our out in deeper waters.  In recent years, a shell disease has decimated lobster populations south of Cape Cod.  This study may give us clues about the cause of this disease, which could someday affect the lobster fishery.

This is a grid that represents the digitization of a lobster.
This is a grid that represents the digitization of a lobster.  The single point on the right hand side represents the rostrum, which is analogous to the nose, and the two points furthest to the left represent the place where the carapace or shell meets the tail.

Moving Forward

In order to move from station to station as we complete our survey, the Bigelow has a powerful propulsion system different from most other types of ships.  Typically, a ship has an engine that burns diesel fuel in order to turn a shaft.  To make the ship move forward (ahead) or backward (astern), the clutch is engaged, which causes the shaft to spin the propeller.  The throttle can then be used to make the shaft spin faster or slower, which speeds up or slows down the boat.   Throttling up and down like this affects the amount of fuel burned.  For those of you who are new drivers, this is similar to how your car gets better or worse gas mileage depending on what type of driving you are doing.

Like this class of ship, the Bigelow has a giant propeller at the stern which is 14 feet across and has 5 blades.  However, the unlike most ships, the propeller on the Bigelow is powered by electricity instead of a combustion engine.  There are four electricity-producing generators on the ship, two large and two small.  The generators burn diesel fuel and convert the stored energy into electricity.  The electricity powers two electric motors, which turn the propeller. While the electricity produced powers the propeller, it is also used for lights, computers, pumps, freezers, radar and everything else on the ship.  There are several benefits to this type of system.  One is that the generators can run independently of each other. Running two or three generators at a time means the ship makes only as much electricity as it needs based on what is happening at the time, so fuel isn’t wasted.  Since the ship can speed up or slow down without revving the engine up or down, the generators can always run at their maximum efficiency.
Also, there is much finer control of the ship’s speed with this system.  In fact, the ship’s speed can be controlled to one tenth of a knot, which would be similar to being able to drive your car at exactly 30.6 or 30.7 mph.  Finally, an added benefit is that the whole system runs quietly, which is an advantage when you are scouting for marine mammals or other living things that are sensitive to sound.

Personal Log

I have seen a lot of fish on this trip, but it would be a lie to say that I don’t have some favorites.  Here are a few of them.  Which one do you think is the coolest?

This is a sea raven.  Most of them are brown and green, but this one was a brilliant yellow.
This is a sea raven. Most of the ones we have seen are  brown and green, but this one was a brilliant yellow
Windowpane flounder.  We have seen many types of flounder, but I think these look the coolest.
Windowpane flounder. We have seen many types of flounder, but I think these are the coolest.
Last night we caught 1,700 kilograms of mackerel like these on the Scotian Shelf!
Last night we caught 1,700 kilograms of mackerel like these on the Scotian Shelf!
I find the pattern on this cod particularly striking.
I find the pattern on this cod particularly striking.
How can you not love this little spoonarm octopus?
How can you not love this little spoonarm octopus?
This is a particularly colorful four-beard rockling!
This immature cusk eel will lose these colors and eventually grow to be a dull grey color.
These squid have chromatophores, which are cells that can change color.  You can see them in this picture as the reddish purple dots.
These squid have chromatophores, which are cells that can change color. You can see them in this picture as the reddish purple dots.
This lamprey eel has circular rasping teeth that it uses to burrow into its prey.  Even as they ride along the conveyor belt, they are trying to bite into an unsuspecting fish!
This Atlantic hagfish has circular rasping teeth that it uses to burrow into its prey. Even as they ride along the conveyor belt, they are trying to bite into an unsuspecting fish!
You can see the gills of this goosefish by looking deep into its mouth.  This fish has a giant mouth that allows it to each huge meals.  Some of the goosefish we catch have stomachs that are larger than their whole bodies!
You can see the gills of this goosefish by looking deep into its mouth. This fish has a giant mouth that allows it to each huge meals. Some of the goosefish we catch have stomachs that are larger than their whole bodies!
We have only seen one of these little blue lumpfish.  While most fish feel slippery and slimy, this one has a rough skin.
We have only seen one of these little blue lumpfish. While most fish feel slippery and slimy, this one has a rough skin.

Emily Whalen: Station 381–Cashes Ledge, May 1, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: May 1, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Winds:  Light and variable
Seas: 1-2ft
Air Temperature:   6.2○ C
Water Temperature:  5.8○ C

Science and Technology Log:

Earlier today I had planned to write about all of the safety features on board the Bigelow and explain how safe they make me feel while I am on board.  However, that was before our first sampling station turned out to be a monster haul!  For most stations I have done so far, it takes about an hour from the time that the net comes back on board to the time that we are cleaning up the wetlab.  At station 381, it took us one minute shy of three hours! So explaining the EEBD and the EPIRB will have to wait so that I can describe the awesome sampling we did at station 381, Cashes Ledge.

This is a screen that shows the boats track around the Gulf of Maine.  The colored lines represent the sea floor as determined by the Olex multibeam.  This information will be stored year after year until we have a complete picture of the sea floor in this area!
This is a screen that shows the boats track around the Gulf of Maine. The colored lines represent the sea floor as determined by the Olex multibeam. This information will be stored year after year until we have a complete picture of the sea floor in this area!

Before I get to describing the actual catch, I want to give you an idea of all of the work that has to be done in the acoustics lab and on the bridge long before the net even gets into the water.

The bridge is the highest enclosed deck on the boat, and it is where the officers work to navigate the ship.  To this end, it is full of nautical charts, screens that give information about the ship’s location and speed, the engine, generators, other ships, radios for communication, weather data and other technical equipment.  After arriving at the latitude and longitude of each sampling station, the officer’s attention turns to the screen that displays information from the Olex Realtime Bathymetry Program, which collects data using a ME70 multibeam sonar device attached to bottom of the hull of the ship .

Traditionally, one of the biggest challenges in trawling has been getting the net caught on the bottom of the ocean.  This is often called getting ‘hung’ and it can happen when the net snags on a big rock, sunken debris, or anything else resting on the sea floor.  The consequences can range from losing a few minutes time working the net free, to tearing or even losing the net. The Olex data is extremely useful because it can essentially paint a picture of the sea floor to ensure that the net doesn’t encounter any obstacles.  Upon arrival at a site, the boat will cruise looking for a clear path that is about a mile long and 300 yards wide.  Only after finding a suitable spot will the net go into the water.

Check out this view of the seafloor.  On the upper half of the screen, there is a dark blue channel that goes between two brightly colored ridges.  That's where we dragged the net and caught all of the fish!
Check out this view of the seafloor. On the upper half of the screen, there is a dark blue channel that goes between two brightly colored ridges. We trawled right between the ridges and caught a lot of really big fish!

The ME70 Multibeam uses sound waves to determine the depth of the ocean at specific points.  It is similar to a simpler, single stream sonar in that it shoots a wave of sound down to the seafloor, waits for it to bounce back up to the ship and then calculates the distance the wave traveled based on the time and the speed of sound through the water, which depends on temperature.  The advantage to using the multibeam is that it shoots out 200 beams of sound at once instead of just one.  This means that with each ‘ping’, or burst of sound energy, we know the depth at many points under the ship instead of just one.  Considering that the multibeam pings at a rate of 2 Hertz to 0.5 Herts, which is once every 0.5 seconds to 2 seconds, that’s a lot of information about the sea floor contour!

This is what the nautical chart for Cashes Ledge looks like. The numbers represent depth in fathoms.  The light blue lines are contour lines.  The places where they are close together represent steep cliffs.  The red line represents the Bigelow’s track. You can see where we trawled as a short jag between the L and the E in the word Ledge

The stations that we sample are randomly selected by a computer program that was written by one of the scientists in the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, who happens to be on board this trip.  Just by chance, station number 381 was on Cashes Ledge, which is an underwater geographical feature that includes jagged cliffs and underwater mountains.  The area has been fished very little because all of the bottom features present many hazards for trawl nets.  In fact, it is currently a protected area, which means the commercial fishing isn’t allowed there.  As a research vessel, we have permission to sample there because we are working to collect data that will provide useful information for stock assessments.

My watch came on duty at noon, at which time the Bigelow was scouting out the bottom and looking for a spot to sample within 1 nautical mile of the latitude and longitude of station 381.  Shortly before 1pm, the CTD dropped and then the net went in the water.  By 1:30, the net was coming back on board the ship, and there was a buzz going around about how big the catch was predicted to be.  As it turns out, the catch was huge!  Once on board, the net empties into the checker, which is usually plenty big enough to hold everything.  This time though, it was overflowing with big, beautiful cod, pollock and haddock.  You can see that one of the deck crew is using a shovel to fill the orange baskets with fish so that they can be taken into the lab and sorted!

You can see the crew working to handling all of the fish we caught at Cashes Ledge.  How many different kinds of fish can you see?
You can see the crew working to handling all of the fish we caught at Cashes Ledge. How many different kinds of fish can you see? Photo by fellow volunteer Joe Warren

 

At this point, I was standing at the conveyor belt, grabbing slippery fish as quickly as I could and sorting them into baskets.  Big haddock, little haddock, big cod, little cod, pollock, pollock, pollock.  As fast as I could sort, the fish kept coming!  Every basket in the lab was full and everyone was working at top speed to process fish so that we could empty the baskets and fill them up with more fish!  One of the things that was interesting to notice was the variation within each species.  When you see pictures of fish, or just a few fish at a time, they don’t look that different.  But looking at so many all at once, I really saw how some have brighter colors, or fatter bodies or bigger spots.  But only for a moment, because the fish just kept coming and coming and coming!

Finally, the fish were sorted and I headed to my station, where TK, the cutter that I have been working with, had already started processing some of the huge pollock that we had caught.  I helped him maneuver them up onto the lengthing board so that he could measure them and take samples, and we fell into a fish-measuring groove that lasted for two hours.  Grab a fish, take the length, print a label and put it on an envelope, slip the otolith into the envelope, examine the stomach contents, repeat.

Cod, pollock and haddock in baskets
Cod, pollock and haddock in baskets waiting to get counted and measured. Photo by Watch Chief Adam Poquette.

Some of you have asked about the fish that we have seen and so here is a list of the species that we saw at just this one site:

  • Pollock
  • Haddock
  • Atlantic wolffish
  • Cod
  • Goosefish
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Alewife
  • Acadian redfish
  • Alligator fish
  • White hake
  • Red hake
  • American plaice
  • Little skate
  • American lobster
  • Sea raven
  • Thorny skate
  • Red deepsea crab

 

 

 

 

I think it’s human nature to try to draw conclusions about what we see and do.  If all we knew about the state of our fish populations was based on the data from this one catch, then we might conclude that there are tons of healthy fish stocks in the sea.  However, I know that this is just one small data point in a literal sea of data points and it cannot be considered independently of the others.  Just because this is data that I was able to see, touch and smell doesn’t give it any more validity than other data that I can only see as a point on a map or numbers on a screen.  Eventually, every measurement and sample will be compiled into reports, and it’s that big picture over a long period of time that will really allow give us a better understanding of the state of affairs in the ocean.

Sunset from the deck of the Henry B. Bigelow
Sunset from the deck of the Henry B. Bigelow

Personal Log

Lunges are a bit more challenging on the rocking deck of a ship!
Lunges are a bit more challenging on the rocking deck of a ship!

It seems like time is passing faster and faster on board the Bigelow.  I have been getting up each morning and doing a Hero’s Journey workout up on the flying bridge.  One of my shipmates let me borrow a book that is about all of the people who have died trying to climb Mount Washington.  Today I did laundry, and to quote Olaf, putting on my warm and clean sweatshirt fresh out of the dryer was like a warm hug!  I am getting to know the crew and learning how they all ended up here, working on a NOAA ship.  It’s tough to believe but a week from today, I will be wrapping up and getting ready to go back to school!

Emily Whalen: Trawling in Cape Cod Bay, April 29, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: April 29, 2015

Weather Data:
GPS location:  4251.770’N, 07043.695’W
Sky condition:  Cloudy
Wind: 10 kts NNW
Wave height: 1-2 feet
Water temperature:  6.2○ C
Air temperature:  8.1○ C

Science and Technology Log:

On board the Henry B. Bigelow we are working to complete the fourth and final leg of the spring bottom trawl survey. Since 1948, NOAA has sent ships along the east coast from Cape Hatteras to the Scotian Shelf to catch, identify, measure and collect the fish and invertebrates from the sea floor. Scientists and fishermen use this data to assess the health of the ocean and make management decisions about fish stocks.

What do you recognize on this chart?  Do you know where Derry, NH is on the map?
This is the area that we will be trawling. Each blue circle represents one of the sites that we will sample. We are covering a LOT of ground! Image courtesy of NOAA.

Today I am going to give you a rundown of the small role that I play in this process. I am on the noon to midnight watch with a crew of six other scientists, which means that we are responsible for processing everything caught in the giant trawl net on board during those hours. During the first three legs of the survey, the Bigelow has sampled over 300 sites. We are working to finish the survey by completing the remaining sites, which are scattered throughout Cape Cod Bay and the Gulf of Maine.  The data collected on this trip will be added to data from similar trips that NOAA has taken each spring for almost 60 years.  These huge sets of data allow scientists to track species that are dwindling, recovering, thriving or shifting habitats.

The CTD ready to deploy.
The CTD ready to deploy.

At each sampling station, the ship first drops a man-sized piece of equipment called a CTD to the sea floor. The CTD measures conductivity, temperature and depth, hence its name.  Using the conductivity measurement, the CTD software also calculates salinity, which is the amount of dissolved salt in the water.  It also has light sensors that are used to measure how much light is penetrating through the water.

While the CTD is in the water,  the deck crew prepares the trawl net and streams it from the back of the ship.  The net is towed by a set of hydraulic winches that are controlled by a sophisticated autotrawl system.  The system senses the tension on each trawl warp and will pay out or reel in cable to ensure that the net is fishing properly.

Once deployed, the net sinks to the bottom and the ship tows it for twenty minutes, which is a little more than one nautical mile. The mouth of the net is rectangular so that it can open up wide and catch the most fish.  The bottom edge of the mouth has something called a rockhopper sweep on it, which is made of a series of heavy disks that roll along the rocky bottom instead of getting hung up or tangled.  The top edge of the net has floats along it to hold it wide open.   There are sensors positioned throughout the net that send data back to the ship about the shape of the net’s mouth, the water temperature on the bottom, the amount of contact with the bottom, the speed of water through the net and the direction that the water is flowing through the net.  It is important that each tow is standardized like this so that the fish populations in the sample areas aren’t misrepresented by the catch.   For example, if the net was twisted or didn’t open properly, the catch might be very small, even in an area that is teaming with fish.

Do you think this is what trawl nets looked like in 1948?
This is what the net looks like when it is coming back on board. The deck hands are guiding the trawl warps onto the big black spools. The whole process is powered by two hydraulic winches.

After twenty minutes, the net is hauled back onto the boat using heavy-duty winches.  The science crew changes into brightly colored foul weather gear and heads to the wet lab, where we wait to see what we’ve caught in the net. The watch chief turns the music up and everyone goes to their station along a conveyor belt the transports the fish from outside on the deck to inside the lab. We sort the catch by species into baskets and buckets, working at a slow, comfortable pace when the catch is small, or at a rapid fire, breakneck speed when the catch is large.

If you guessed 'sponges', then you are correct!
This is the conveyor belt that transports the catch from the deck into the wetlab. The crew works to sort things into buckets. Do you know what these chunky yellow blobs that we caught this time are?

After that, the species and weight of each container is recorded into the Fisheries Scientific Computing System (FSCS), which is an amazing software system that allows our team of seven people to collect an enormous amount of data very quickly. Then we work in teams of two to process each fish at work stations using a barcode scanner, magnetic lengthing board, digital scale, fillet knives, tweezers, two touch screen monitors, a freshwater hose, scannable stickers, envelopes, baggies, jars and finally a conveyor belt that leads to a chute that returns the catch back to the ocean.  To picture what this looks like, imagine a grocery store checkout line crossed with an arcade crossed with a water park crossed with an operating room.  Add in some music playing from an ipod and it’s a pretty raucous scene!

The data that we collect for each fish varies.  At a bare minimum, we will measure the length of the fish, which is electronically transmitted into FSCS.  For some fish, we also record the weight, sex and stage of maturity.  This also often includes taking tissue samples and packaging them up so that they can be studied back at the lab.  Fortunately, for each fish, the FSCS screen automatically prompts us about which measurements need to be taken and samples need to be kept.  For some fish, we cut out and label a small piece of gonad or some scales.  We collect the otoliths, or ear bones from many fish.

It does not look this neat and tidy when we are working!
These are the work stations in the wet lab. The cutters stand on the left processing the fish, and the recorders stand on the right.These bones can be used to determine the age of each fish because they are made of rings of calcium carbonate that accumulate over time.

Most of the samples will got back to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center where they will be processed by NOAA scientists.  Some of them will go to other scientists from universities and other labs who have requested special sampling from the Bigelow.  It’s like we are working on a dozen different research projects all at once!

 

 

 

Something to Think About:

Below are two pictures that I took from the flying bridge as we departed from the Coast Guard Station in Boston. They were taken just moments apart from each other. Why do you think that the area in the first picture has been built up with beautiful skyscrapers while the area in the second picture is filled with shipping containers and industry? Which area do you think is more important to the city? Post your thoughts in the comment section below.

Rows of shipping containers. What do you think is inside them?
Downtown Boston.  Just a mile from the shipping containers.  Why do you think this area is so different from the previous picture?
Downtown Boston. Just a mile from the shipping containers. Why do you think this area is so different from the previous picture?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Log

Believe it or not, I actually feel very relaxed on board the Bigelow!  The food is excellent, my stateroom is comfortable and all I have to do is follow the instructions of the crew and the FSCS.  The internet is fast enough to occasionally check my email, but not fast enough to stream music or obsessively read articles I find on Twitter.  The gentle rocking of the boat is relaxing, and there is a constant supply of coffee and yogurt.  I have already read one whole book (Paper Towns by John Greene) and later tonight I will go to the onboard library and choose another.  That said, I do miss my family and my dog and I’m sure that in a few days I will start to miss my students too!

If the description above doesn’t make you want to consider volunteering on a NOAA cruise, maybe the radical outfits will.  On the left, you can see me trying on my Mustang Suit, which is designed to keep me safe in the unlikely event that the ship sinks.  On the right, you can see me in my stylish yellow foul weather pants.  They look even better when they are covered in sparkling fish scales!

Seriously, they keep me totally dry!
Banana Yellow Pants: SO 2015! Photo taken by fellow volunteer Megan Plourde.
Seriously, do I look awesome, or what?
This is a Mustang Suit. If you owned one of these, where would you most like to wear it? Photo taken by IT Specialist Heidi Marotta.

That’s it for now!  What topics would you like to hear more about?  If you post your questions in the comment section below, I will try to answer them in my next blog post.

John Clark,Headed Home Early, October 1, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 23 – October 4, 2013

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: October 1, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

A few hours into our shift midnight we get the word we have been expecting for several days – government shutdown. Our mission will be cut a few days short. That reality means the Bigelow has 24 hours to return to its homeport of Newport,  R.I.  It takes us 10 hours and we dock around 1 in the afternoon. With our fisheries operations suddenly declared over comes clean-up time, and we spend the next 6 hours of our shift cleaning up the on‐board fish lab. It is a time consuming but important process. The lab needs to be spotless and “fish scent” free before we can call our work finished on this cruise.  The lab is literally solid stainless steel and every surface gets washed and suds downed so there is no residue remaining.

Eau de fishes
Fish scales hiding under a flap!

Our work is inspected by a member of the crew. If it were the military, the officer would have had white gloves on I believe, just like in the old movies, rolling his finger over a remote spot looking for the dust we missed. But this is a shining stainless steel fish lab so there are two simultaneous inspections going on at once – the one with the eyes and the one with the nose.  It takes us twice to pass the visual inspection as small collections of fish scales are spotted in a few out-of‐the way areas. It takes us one more pass to clear the smell inspection. Up and down the line we walk, we can all smell the faint lingering perfume of “eau de fishes,” but we are having trouble finding it. We keep following our noses and there it is. Hiding under a black rubber flap at the end of the fish sorting line we find a small collection of fish scales revealed  when the flap is removed for inspection.  With that little section cleaned up and sprayed down the lab is declared done! There is a smile of satisfaction from the team. It is that attention to detail that explains why the lab never smelled of fish when I first boarded the ship 10 days ago nor has it smelled of fish at any time during our voyage. There is a personal pride in leaving the lab in the same shape we found  it. Super clean, all gear and samples stowed, and ready for the next crew to come on board – whenever that turns out to be.

The abrupt and unexpected end to the cruise leaves me scrambling to change my travel plans. Like the ship, I have a limited amount of time to make it home on my government travel orders. The NOAA Teacher at Sea team goes above and beyond to rebook my flights and find me a room for the night.

Personal Log 

On the serendipitous side, the change in plans gives me a little time to see Newport, a town famous for its mansions and the Tennis Hall of Fame.  My first  stop is  the Tennis  Hall  of  Fame.  My father was a first class  tennis  player who invested many  hours  attempting to

teach his  son the game. Despite the passion in  our  home  for  the  great  sport  we  never  made it  to  the  Tennis  Hall  of  Fame in  Newport.  Today I get the  chance to fulfill that  bucket  list  goal. I still remember being court side as a young boy at The  Philadelphia Indoor Championships watching the likes of Charlie Pasarell, Arthur Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. There was even a picture of the grass court lawn of the Germantown Cricket Club from its days a USTA championship venue before the move to Forest Hill, NY. I grew up playing on those tennis courts as my father belonged to that  club. Good memories.

Clark Log 4b

There was also a  “court tennis” court, the game believed to be the precursor  to outdoor  tennis. Court  tennis derived from playing a  tennis  type  game  inside a walled‐in  court yard.  Using  the  roof and  the  wall and the open side windows to beat your opponent is all part of the game. I played court tennis as a  young teen. It’s a very unique game that is only played in a few spots now. There are only 38 court tennis courts in the world and Newport has two of them. If you like tennis, give court tennis a go if  you ever get the  chance.

The tennis court

Thoughts of a leisurely stroll evolve into a brisk walk as I head toward the ultimate and most famous Newport mansion: The Breakers, the 100,000 plus square foot summer home of the Vanderbilt family. This house has to be toured to understand the conspicuous consumption as a  pastime of the then super rich. My 2000 square foot  home would fit entirely inside  the  grand  hall  of  the  Breakers.  In  fact you could stack my home three high and they would still be below the Breaker’s ceiling. A ceiling inspired by Paris, a billiard room with walls of solid marble overlooking the ocean, a floor of thousands of mosaic floor tiles all put  down by hand one by one, a stair case from Gone With the Wind, and 20 bathrooms to choose from all speak  to the wealth and pursuit of elegance enjoyed by  the Vanderbilt clan. It is a lifestyle of a bye–gone era often referred to as the “Gilded Age.” It is  an apt description.

Clark Log 4dClark Log 4e

Clark Log 4g

After sightseeing, it’s off to the bus stop for my shuttle to the Newport Airport where I take off at dawn the next morning to head for  home. I’m  leaving  so  early that the complementary coffee isn’t out yet! After an uneventful flight comes the end to an amazing adventure. Nothing left now except laundry and memories. And lots of great ideas for lesson plans to work into my classes. Thank you NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me the learning experience of a lifetime. I cannot wait to get back and share the experiences with my students.

Clark Log 4h

John Clark, September 27, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea John Clark

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

September 23 – October 4, 2013

Clark Log 3gMission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 27, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

It’s going to be a busy night trawling and processing our catch.  Yippee. I like  being busy as the time passes more quickly and I learn about more fish. A large number of trawling areas are all clustered together for our shift. For the most part that means the time needed to collect data on one trawl is close to the amount of time needed for the ship to reach the next trawling area. The first trawl was a highlight for me as we collected, for the first time,  a few puffer fish and one managed to stay inflated so I had a picture taken with that one.

We found a puffer
We found a puffer

However, on this night there was more than just puffer fish to be photographed with. On this night we caught the big one that didn’t get away. One trawl brings in an amazing catch of 6 very large striped bass and among them is a new record: The largest striped bass ever hauled in by NOAA Fisheries! The crew let me hold it up. It was very heavy and  I kept hoping it would not start flopping around. I could just see myself letting go and watching it slip off the deck and back into the sea. Fortunately, our newly caught prize reacted passively to my photo op. I felt very lucky that the big fish was processed at the station I was working at. When Jakub put the big fish on the scale it was like a game show – special sounds were emitted from our speakers and out came the printed label confirming our prize  – “FREEZ – biggest fish ever “-‐-‐the largest Morone Saxatilis (striped bass) ever caught by a NOAA Fisheries research ship.  It was four feet long. I kept  waiting for the balloons to come down from the ceiling.

Catch of the day
Catch of the day

Every member of the science team sorts fish but at the  data  collection tables my role  in the  fish lab is one of “recorder”. I’m teamed  with  another scientist who serves  as  the “cutter”, in this  case Jakub. That person collects the information I enter into the computer. The amount of data collected  depends on  the quantity and  type of fish  caught in  the net. I help  record  data on length, weight, sex, sexual development, diet, and scales. Sometimes fish specimens or parts of a fish, like the backbone of a goose fish, are preserved. On other occasions, fish, often the small ones are frozen for further study. Not every scientist can make it on to the Bigelow to be directly part of the trip so species data and samples are collected in accordance with their requests.

Collecting data from a fish as large as our striped bass is not easy. It is as big as the processing sink at our data collection  station and it takes Jakub’s skill with a hacksaw-‐-‐yes I said hacksaw-‐-‐to open up the back of the head  of the striped  bass and retrieve  the  otolith, the  two small bones  found behind the head that are  studied to determine  age. When we  were  done, the fish was bagged and placed in the deep freeze for  further  study upon our return. On the good side we only froze one of the six striped bass that we caught so we got to enjoy some great seafood for dinner. The team filleted over 18 pounds of striped bass for the chef to cook up.

Too big for the basket
Too big for the basket

More Going On: 

Processing the  trawl is not the  only data  collection activity taking place on the  Bigelow.  Before most trawls begin the command comes down to “deploy the bongos”. They are actually a pair  of  closed end nets similar to nets used to catch butterflies only much longer. The name bongo comes from the deployment apparatus that holds the pair of nets. The top resembles a set of bongo drums with one net attached to each one. Their purpose, once deployed, is to collect plankton samples for further study. Many fish live off plankton until they are themselves eaten by a predator farther up the food chain so the health of plankton is critical to the success of  the ecological food chain in the oceans.

Processing
Processing

Before some other trawls, comes the command to deploy the CTD device. When submerged to a target  depth  and  running in  the water as the ship  steams forward, this long fire extinguisher sized  device measures conductivity and temperature at specified depths of the ocean. It is another tool for measuring the health of the ocean and how current water conditions can impact the health  of the marine life and also the food chain in the area.

Personal Log 

On a personal note, I filleted a fish for the first time today – a  flounder. Tanya, one  of the science crew taught me how to do it. I was so excited about the outcome that I did another one!

Processing fish
Processing fish

Clark Log 3gg

A mix of fish
A mix of fish
Paired trawl
Paired trawl
Learning to fillet
Learning to fillet

John Clark, September 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea John Clark

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

September 23 – October 4, 2013

The galley
The galley

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 25, 2013

Science and Technology  Log 

I was  told  that  the  first  12  hour night watch shift was the hardest for staving off sleep and those who spoke were right. Tonight’s  overnight shift seems to be flying by and I’m certainly awake. Lots of trawling and sorting this  evening with four sorts complete by 6am. One was just full of dogfish, the shark looking fish,  and  they  process  quickly  because  other  than  weight  and  length there is little request for other data. The dogfish were sorted at the bucket end of the job so determining sex had already been completed by the time the fish get to my workstation. Again I’m under the mentorship of Jakub who can process fish faster than I can print and place labels on the storage envelopes. The placement of the labels is my weakness as I have no fingernails and removing the paper backing from the sticky label is awkward and time consuming. Still tonight I’m showing speed improvement over last night. Well at least I’m getting the labels on straight most of the time.

Sorting fish
Sorting fish

In  addition  to  the  dogfish,  we  have  processed  large  quantities  of  skate  (the  one  that  looks  like a  sting  ray to me), left  eyed flounders, croakers (no relation to the frog), and sea robins of which there are two types, northern and stripe. The sea robins are  very colorful with the  array of spines just behind the  mouth. And yes it hurts when one of the spines goes through your glove. Sadly for me sorting has been less exciting tonight.  With  the big fish being grabbed off at the front of the line there has been little left for me to sort. I feel like the goal keeper in soccer  – just  don’t let them get past me. To my great surprise, so far I’ve experienced no real fear of touching the fish. The gloves are very nice to work with.

Species in specific buckets
Species in specific buckets

And let us not overlook the squid. There have been pulled in by the hundreds in the runs today. There are two types of squids, long fin (the lolligo) and short fin (the illex). What they both have in common is the ability to make an incredible mess. They are slimy on the outside and  inky on the inside. They remind me of a fishy candy bar with really big eyes. And  for all the fish  that enjoy their squid  treat the species  is,  of  course,  (wait  for  it) just  eye  candy.  The  stories  about  the  inking  are  really  true. When  upset, they give  off ink; lots of ink. And  they are very upset by the time they reach the data collection stations. If you could bottle their ink you would  never need  to  refill your pen  again. They are also  very, very  plentiful which  might explain  why there are no requests to collect additional data beyond  how long they are. I guess they are not eye candy to marine scientists. However, there vastness is also their virtue. As a food source for many larger species of marine life, an absence of large quantities of squid in our trawling nets would be a bad sign for the marine ecosystem below us.

Safety equipment
Safety equipment

When the squid are missing, our friend the Skate (which of  the four  types does not  matter)  is glad to pick up  the slack on  the “messy to work with” front. As this species makes it down the sorting and data collecting line the internal panic button goes  off and they exude this thick, slimy substance  that covers their bodies and makes them very slippery customers at  the weigh stations.  It turns out the small spines on the tails were placed there so that fisheries researchers could have a fighting chance to handle them without dropping. Still, a skate sliding onto the floor is a frequent event and provides comic relief for all working at the data collection stations.

Clark Log 2There was new species in the  nets tonight, the  Coronet fish which looks like  along  drink straw with stripes  and a string attached to the back end. It is  pencil thick and about a foot long without the string. We only caught it twice during the trip. The rest of the hauls replicate past  sorting as dogfish, robins, skates, squid, croakers, and flounder are the bulk of the catch. I’ve been told that the diversity and size of the trawl should  be more abundant as we steam along the coastline heading north  from the lower coast of  New Jersey. Our last trawl of the shift, the nets deployed collect two species new for our voyage, but ones I actually recognized despite my limited knowledge of fish – the Horseshoe Crab and a lobster! I grew up seeing those on the Jersey shore.  We only got one lobster and after measuring  it we let  go  back  to  grow  some  more.  It  only  weighed in at less than two pounds.

Personal Log 

The foul weather suit we wear to work the line does not leave the staging room where they are stored as wearing them around the ship is not  allowed. After  watching others, I have mastered the art  of  pushing the wader pants over the rubber boots and  thus leaving them set-‐up  for quick donning and  removal of  gear  throughout  the shift.

While the work is very interesting on board, the highlight of each  day is meal time. Even though I work the night  shift (which ends at  noon) I take a nap right after my shift so I can  be  up  and  alert in  time  for dinner. My favorite has been  the T-‐bone steaks with Monterey seasoning and  any of the fish cooked up from our trawling like scallops or flounder. The chef, Dennis, and his assistant, Jeremy serve up some really fine cuisine. Not fancy but very tasty. There is a new soup every day at  lunch and so far my favorite has been the cream of tomato. I went back for seconds! Of course, breakfast is the meal all of us on the night watch  look forward  to  as there is no  meal service between midnight and  7am. After 7 hours of just snacking and  coffee, we are ready for  some solid food by the time breakfast  is served.

Seas continue to be  very calm and the  weather sunny and pleasant. That’s quite a surprise for the North Atlantic in the fall. And  the sunrise today was amazing. The Executive Officer, Chad Cary, shared that the weather we are experiencing should continue for at least four more days. I am  grateful  for  the  calm weather – less  chance  to  experience  sea  sickness.  That is something I’m determined to avoid if possible.

John Clark, Hi Ho, Hi Ho It’s Off to Work We Go, September 24, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Clark
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 23 – October 4, 2013

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: September 24, 2013

Survival suits!
Survival suits!

Science and Technology  Log 

Today is my first full 12 hour shift day. I’m on the night crew working midnight to noon. Since we left port yesterday I’ve been  trying to  adjust my internal clock for pulling daily “all night”ers.  On Monday, after we  left port, safety briefs for all hands occurred once we made it out to sea and I got to complete my initiation into the Teacher at Sea alumni program  – the donning of  the Gumby suit as I call it. It is actually a bright red wet suit that covers your entire body and makes you look like a TV Claymation figure from the old TV show. In actuality it is designed to help you survive if  you need to abandon ship. Pictures are  of course taken to preserve this rite of passage.

The Henry B. Bigelow is a specially-built NOAA vessel designed to conduct fisheries research at sea.  Its purpose is to collect data that will help scientists assess the health of the Northern Coastal Atlantic Ocean and the fish populations that inhabit it. The work is invaluable to the commercial fishing industry.

The Bigelow in port
The Bigelow in port

Yesterday, I learned how we will go about collecting fisheries data. Our Chief Scientist, Dr. Peter Chase, has selected  locations for sampling the local fish population and the ship officers have developed a sailing plan that will enable the ship to visit all those locations, weather permitting, during the course of the voyage. To me its sounds like a well-‐planned  game of connecting the dots. At each target location, a trawling net  will be deployed and dragged near the bottom of the sea for a 20 minute period at a speed of 3 knots. Hence the reason  this voyage is identified as a bottom trawl survey mission. To drag the bottom without damaging the nets is not easy and there are five spare nets on board in case something goes wrong. To minimize the chance of damaging the net during a tow, the survey technicians use the wide beam sonar equipment to survey the bottom prior to deployment. Their goal is to identify a smooth path for the net to follow. The fish collected in the net are sorted and studied, based on selected criteria, once on board. A  specially designed transport system moves the fish from the net to the sorting and data collection stations inside the wet lab. I’m very excited to see how it actually works during my upcoming shift.

The big net.
The big net.

Work is already underway when our night crew checks in. The ship runs 24/7  and the nets have been down  and trawling since 7pm. Fish sorting and data collection  are  already underway.  I don my foul  weather gear which  looks  like a set of waders used for British fly fishing.  There is also a top jacket  but the weather is pleasant  tonight and the layer is not needed. I just need to sport some gloves and get to work. I’m involved with processing  two trawls of fish right away. I’m assigned to work with an experienced member of the science team, Jakub. We will be collecting information on the species of fish caught on each trawl.  Jakub carries out the role as cutter, collecting the physical  information or fish parts needed by the scientists. My role is recorder and  I enter data about the particular fish  being evaluated  as well package up  and  store the parts of the fish  being retained  for future study.

Ship equipment
Ship equipment

Data collection on each fish harvest is a very detailed. Fish are sorted by species as they come down the moving sorting line where they arrive after coming up the conveyer belt system from the “dump”  tank, so  named  because that is where the full nets deposit their  bounty. Everybody on the line sorts fish. Big fish get  pulled off  first  by the experienced scientists at  the start  of  belt  and then volunteers such as I pull off the smaller fish. Each  fish  is placed  into  a bucket by type of fish. There are three types of buckets and each bucket has a  bar code  tag. The  big laundry  looking  baskets  hold  the  big  fish,  five  gallon  paint buckets hold  the smaller fish, and  one gallon  buckets (placed  above the sorting line) hold  the unexpected  or small species. On  each  run  there is generally one fish  that is not sorted  and  goes all the way to the end untouched and unceremoniously ends up in the catch-‐all container at the  end of the  line. The watch leader weighs the buckets and then links the bar code on the bucket to the type of fish in it. From there  the  buckets are  ready for data  collection.

Clark Log 1d
The sorting line

After sorting the fish, individual data collection begins “by the bucket” where simultaneously at three different stations the sizing, weighing, and computer requested activities  occur. By  random sample certain work  is  performed on that fish. It  gets weighed and usually opened up to retrieve something from inside the fish. Today, I’ve observed several types of  data collection. Frequently requested are removal of  the otolith, two small bones in the head that  are used to help determine the age of  the fish. For bigger fish with vertebra,  such  as  the  goose  fish,  there  are periodic  requests  to  remove a  part  of  the backbone and  ship  it off for testing. Determining sex is recorded  for many computer tagged  fish  and  several are checked stomach contents.

Of the tools used to record data from the fish, the magic magnetized measuring system is the neatest. It’s  rapid  fire  data  collecting  at  its  finest.  The  fish  goes  flat  on  the measuring  board;  head  at  the  zero point, and  then a quick touch  with  a magnetized block at the end  of the fish  records the length  and  weight. Sadly, it marks the end of tall tales about the big  one that got  away and keeps getting bigger as the story is retold. The length of  the specimen is accurately recorded for  posterity in an instant.

 

clark 1e

Personal Log

Flying into Providence  over the  end of Long Island and the  New England coast line  is breath taking. A jagged,  sandy  coast  line  dotted  with  summer  homes  just  beyond  the  sand dunes. To line  up  for  final  approach we  fly right over Newport where  the  Henry B. Bigelow is berthed at the  Navy base  there. However, I  am  not  able  to  spot  the  NOAA  fisheries  vessel that  will be my home for the next two weeks from the air.Clark Log 4b

I arrive a day prior  to sailing so I have half a day to see the sites of Newport, Rhode Island  and  I know exactly where  I’m headed – the Tennis Hall of  Fame. My father was a first class tennis player who invested  many  hours  attempting  to  teach  his  son  the  game.  Despite  the  passion in  our  home  for  the great sport we  never made  it to the  Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. Today I fulfilled that bucket  list  goal. I still remember being  court side  as a  young boy at The  Philadelphia  Indoor Championship watching the likes of  Charlie Pasarell, Arthur  Ashe, and Pancho Gonzales playing  on the canvas tennis court that was stretched out over the basketball arena. Also  in  the museum, to  my surprise, was a picture of the grass court lawn of the  Germantown Cricket Club from its days as a USTA championship venue. I  grew up playing on  those  grass tennis courts as my father  belonged to that  club. After seeing that picture, I left the museum knowing my father  got  as much out  of  the visit  as I did.

Sue Cullumber: Hooray, We Are Finally on Our Way! June 10, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Cullumber
Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
June 5–24, 2013

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Date: 6/10/13
Geographical area of cruise:  The continental shelf from north of Cape Hatteras, NC, including Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, to the Nova Scotia Shelf

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Time:  21:30 (9:30 pm)
Longitude/latitude: 40.50289N, 68.76736W
Temperature  14.1ºC
Barrometer 1017.35 mb
Knots  10.2

sueleavingport
Leaving Newport – photo by Chris Melrose.

Science and Technology Log:

After several ship issues, we were able to finally head out from Newport, RI on June 9th after 4 extra days in dock.  We have started the survey and are using two main types of equipment that we will deploy at the various stations: CTD/Bongo Nets and CTD Rosette Stations.  We were originally scheduled to visit about 160 stations, but due to the unforeseen ship issues, these may have to be scaled back.  Some of the stations will just be the Bongo and others only the Rosette, but some will include both sets of equipment.

Bongos
Bongo and baby bongos being deployed during the survey.

A bongo net is a two net system that basically, looks like a bongo drum.  It is used to bring up various types of plankton while a CTD is mounted above it on the tow wire to test for temperature, conductivity and depth during the tow. The two nets may have different sizes of mesh so that it will only  filter the various types of plankton based on the size of the holes.  The small mesh is able to capture the smaller phytoplankton, but the larger zooplankton (animals) can dart out of the way and avoid being captured. The larger mesh is able to catch the zooplankton but allows the phytoplankton to go through the openings. There are regular bongo nets and also baby bongo nets that may be launched at the same time to catch different types of plankton.

rosetteinwater
Rosette CTD returning to the surface.

The Rosette CTD equipment is a series of 10 cylinders that can capture water from different depths to test for nutrient levels and dissolved inorganic carbon, which provides a measure of acidity in the ocean. These are fired remotely via an electronic trigger that is programed by a computer program where each cylinder can be fired seperately to get 10 samples from different depths.  It also has several sensors on it to measure oxygen, light and chlorophyll levels, as well as temperature and salinity (salt) from the surface to the bottom of the water column.

plankton
Copepods and Krill from one of the bongo net catches.

Our first station was about 3 1/2 hours east of Newport, RI and it was a Bongo Station.  I am on the noon to midnight shift each day.  So on our first day, during my watch, we made four Bongo stops and two CTD Rosettes. Today we completed more of the Bongos on my watch.  We are bringing up a variety of zooplankton like copepods, ctenophores, krill, and some fish larvae.  We have also seen quite a bit of phytoplankton on the surface of the water.

sueinsurvivalw
Wearing the survival suit – photo by Cathleen Turner.

Personal Log:

Being on a ship, I have to get used to the swaying and moving about.  It is constantly rocking, so it can be a little challenging to walk around.  I have been told that I will get used to this and it is actually great when you want to go to sleep!  Luckily I have not had any sea sickness yet and I hope that continues!  We completed several safety drills that included a fire drill and abandon ship drill where we had to put on our survival suits – now I look like a New England Lobster!

dolphinsfav
Common dolphins swimming off the ship’s bow.
blueshark
Blue shark swimming beside the Gordon Gunter.

Today was an amazing day – was able to see Right Whales, Blue Sharks and Common Dolphins – with the dolphins surfing off the ship’s bow!  The Northern Right Whale is one of the most endangered species on the planet with only 300 left in the wild.  One of the reasons there are so few left is that swim on the surface and were excessively hunted and there feeding areas were within the Boston shipping lanes, so they were frequently hit by ships. Recently these shipping lanes have been moved to help protect these animals.  So I feel very privileged to have been able to see one!

Did you know? Plankton are the basis for the ocean food web.  They are plentiful, small, and free floating (they do not swim). The word plankton comes from the Greek word “planktos” which means drifting. “Plankton” from the TV show SpongeBob is actually a Copepod – a type of zooplankton.

Copepod
Copepod

Question of the day:  Why do you think it is important that the scientists study plankton?

Anne Byford, June 11, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Byford
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – 15, 2010

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Location:  off the coast of New England
June 11, 2010

Weather Data at 1:35pm
EDT: Clear, 14.4˚C
Location at 1:35pm
EDT: Lat: 40 30.07 N
Long: 69 08.66 W
Water Depth: 77.5 m
4th Day at Sea

Why Count Sea Scallops?

That had to be the most common question I got asked before coming on this trip. Much of the information below is from the NOAA FishWatch website (www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/atl_sea_scallop.htm).

Economically, sea scallops are an important species; in 2008 the scallop harvest was about 53.5 million pounds and was worth about $370 million. The population is not currently considered to be overfished and has been above minimum sustainable levels since 2001. Formal management began in 1982 with the Atlantic Sea Scallop Fisheries Management Plan. The management plan includes limiting new permits, restrictions on gear and on the number of crew on a boat. Since about 2000, the biomass of scallops has been increasing. Biomass is estimated by using the weight of scallops per tow on cruises like this one. Combinations of biomass estimates and estimates of the commercial catch are used to update and adjust the management plan.

Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) are filter feeders. They can live up to 20 years and begin reproducing at about 2 years, with maximum fertility reached at 4 years. A single female scallop can produce up to 270 million eggs in her life. This high reproductive capacity has helped the scallop population recover relatively quickly. Gender can be determined by the color of the gonad; females are orange while the male gonad is white. Adult scallops average between 6 and 7 inches from hinge to tip (called height) but can be as big as 9 inches. Age can be estimated by counting the rings on the shell. Scallops can “swim” by opening and closing the two shells. This is a useful adaptation for escaping from predators, including flounder, cod, lobsters, crabs, and sea stars. Scallops are harvested for the adductor muscle (the one that opens and closes the shell). There is no commercial aquaculture of scallops in the US as of August 2009.

scallop dorsal and ventral

Personal Log

A storm moved through beginning on Wed. evening (day 2) and stayed with us most of Thursday. By the end of shift on Wednesday, we were working on deck in full foul weather gear and life jackets. Thursday we had an 8 hour steam between dredge sites and by the end of shift on Thursday, the seas had begun to smooth out. Friday was quite nice, weather-wise.

I am learning to shuck scallops, though I am about half the speed of many on the boat. I am also learning to tell the various types of flounder and other fish apart as well. It’s not always obvious which type of founder or hake is which.

New Species

Goose fish (aka monk fish), several more varieties of flounder, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eel pout, some very large skates, 3 types of sea stars and 1 type of brittle star.

Barbara Koch, October 3, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.72
Longitude -72.16
Speed 11.30 kts
Course 289.00
Wind Speed 25.11 kts
Wind Dir. 69.68 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.78 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 33.94 PSU
Air Temperature 16.40 ºC
Relative Humidity 71.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1016.80 mb
Water Depth 121.67 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

Safety is very important on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. We participated in a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship drill today. Each person on board is assigned a location to “muster” (gather) in case of emergencies. For a fire drill, all scientists are to carry their life vest and survival suit and muster in the lounge directly across from my stateroom. Life vests and survival suits are kept in the staterooms, so we are to grab those and get to the lounge as quickly as possible.

Fire drill
Fire drill

The fire drill began while the day watch was in the wet lab, one level below my stateroom. The scenario was that there was a “fire” on the 01 deck beside the lounge. That was right where my stateroom and the lounge were! Since we couldn’t get to our staterooms to gather our survival suits and life vests or muster in the lounge, due to the “fire,” we grabbed extra life vests and suits from the wet lab and mustered in the mess hall, which is near the wet lab.

Once everyone was accounted for during the fire drill, we moved out to the back deck of the ship for our Abandon Ship drill. Each person on board was assigned a life boat, and that is where we mustered for the Abandon Ship drill. First, we put on our life vests and made sure they were secured tightly. Next, we took off the life vests and put on our survival suits, which are often called “Gumby Suits” because they are large and look a lot like the animated Gumby character from the 1960’s. The survival suit is bright orange and is made out of neoprene. This makes the suit waterproof and very warm. The zipper and face flap are designed to keep water out, as well. Other features of the suits include reflective tape for greater visibility in the ocean, a whi8stle, a water-activated strobe light, a buddy line to attach to others, and an inflatable bladder behind the head to lift one’s head out of the water.

In my 'Gumby' suit
In my ‘Gumby’ suit

Boots and mittens are attached so that all one has to do is jump into the suit and zip it up. It’s not that easy, however. The arm cuffs are very tight, so it takes some strength to push your hands through. It also takes strength to pull the zipper all the way up to the center of your face. All personnel aboard the ship must be able to put this suit on and abandon ship in one minute. I was able to put my suit on in the allotted time, but we didn’t have to abandon the ship during the drill.

My stateroom
My stateroom

Personal Log

Living on a ship is an interesting experience. Space is at a premium, but the Henry B. Bigelow is actually quite comfortable. The scientists told me that this ship has a lot more amenities than some of the other research ships. My stateroom is small and narrow, but roommates are normally working on separate watches, so no one feels cramped or without personal space. You can see in this photo that the room has two bunk beds. Mine is on top, and it has been a fun challenge trying to get in and out of bed when the ship is rocking! I haven’t fallen yet! Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed to darken your sleeping area, if you are sleeping during daylight hours. There is also a desk with latched drawers, so they don’t fly open when the ship is in rough waters. Bungee cords are attached to the walls and desks to hold chairs and large items in place, too. It’s important to keep everything tied down and in the locker so it doesn’t role around and get damaged, or make noise. I learned the importance of that my first night on rough seas when hangers were banging in my locker.

The Head
The Head

My stateroom also has its own “head” (bathroom). The term “head” comes from long ago when boats were powered by the wind. Sailors had a grated area at the front or “bow” of the boat where they could use the bathroom. It was at the front of the boat so bad odors would blow away from the rest of the ship. The figurehead was also attached at the front, so it became common practice to refer to that area as the “head.” The head in my room has a toilet that flushes, and is much nicer than the heads of days gone by, thank goodness!

These are all great amenities, but the best part of my stateroom is the view! First thing every morning, I pull back the curtain to see what’s going on outside. One morning I saw several dolphins jumping out of the water as they moved swiftly toward our ship. Most days, I’ve seen fog, rain, and roiling waves, but I still enjoy looking out and seeing nothing but water as far as the eye can see, and sometimes, a beautiful sunset.

Sunset
Sunset

Barbara Koch, September 30, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude 41.53
Longitude -71.32
Speed 0.00 kts
Course 58.00
Wind Speed 16.00 kts
Wind Dir. 143.26 º Surf.
Water Temp. 18.79 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.45
PSU Air Temperature 21.50 ºC
Relative Humidity 91.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1014.67 mb
Water Depth 12.53 m
Cruise Start Date 9/27/2010

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow is now docked in Newport, Rhode Island due to a deep trough of moisture from the East Pacific and Tropical Storm Nicole in the Atlantic moving up the Atlantic coast towards New England. The National Weather Service has issued a gale warning, because winds associated with this weather system are causing rougher seas, and it is too dangerous for the ship to continue trawling the ocean floor. When ships are at sea conducting research, it is vitally important that NOAA monitors current weather and wave conditions to insure the safety of the crew and scientists aboard their vessels. Actually, NOAA provides current weather information for everyone in America, including commercial fishermen and all of us on land. Visit NOAA’s National Weather Service website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/ to see what’s happening today.

Our ship is equipped with instruments that collect weather and water data.Data is collected for wind speed, wind direction, water temperature, surface water salinity, air temperature, relative humidity, and barometric pressure. The information listed above under “Weather Data from the Bridge” is information gathered from the weather station located on top of the ship. Weather information is posted hourly. NOAA also has buoys placed in the waters around the United States, the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans that collect data. Visit the National Data Buoy Center’s website at http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/ to see where they are located and to read current data.

Henry B. Bigelow
Henry B. Bigelow

Wind movement in the atmosphere and water movement in the ocean are interrelated. When wind blows across the surface of the ocean, friction causes water molecules to move in a circular motion. Energy built up from friction transfers from one molecule of water to the next as each molecule rotates into the next. This action causes a wave to form. The size of the wave depends on three factors; the strength of the wind gust, the distance it blows (fetch), and the length of time it gusts (duration). NOAA’s buoys and ships collect wave measurements over a twenty minute sampling period for wave height (WHGT), wave period (APD), and the period with the strongest wave energy (DPD). A “gale warning” is issued when wind speeds are expected to measure 39-54 mph causing waves to reach between 18-25 feet in height. So, we are here until the seas calm down, which may be Saturday. While at dock, we’ll have time to explore Newport.

Personal Log

Foul weather gear
Foul weather gear

I’m really sad that we had to go in to port because I was just getting my sea legs and starting to feel comfortable with my work in the wet lab.But, I am glad to have a little time to wash my clothes.Everything I wear in the lab smells like fish! We wear our regular clothes, but put “foul weather gear” on over them before going into the wet lab. Foul weather gear consists of rubber boots, suspendered waterproof pants, and a waterproof rain jacket. Here is a picture of the gear hanging in the room where we get into our gear, and a picture of me in my pants holding a large skate. We store the pants over the boots so we can just step right in and pull the pants up, just like fire fighters. We always spray all the fish remnants off before we come back into this room to take off our gear.

Converyor belt in the wet lab
Converyor belt in the wet lab

We also wear rubber gloves during all of our work. The scientists have been using the blue gloves like the ones John is wearing at right, but scientists from past cruises commented they had a hard time holding onto the fish, so we are testing two other types of gloves on this cruise. The two gloves are rubber, but one is thick like the blue gloves and one is thinner.Both gloves have ridges on all of the fingers to allow for better gripping. I’ve been wearing the thicker orange gloves. So far, these gloves have worked well for me. I am able to easily pick up flat fish like flounder, but the sharp point of a scup’s dorsal fin poked through my glove once. That hurt! I’m just glad I didn’t have the thinner gloves on. A lot of fish slime also collects on the ridges throughout the watch. That’s easily remedied with a quick rinse from the nearby hose. Now, I think I’ll try out the blue gloves, so I can make a valid comparison.I’ll let you know my results at the end of the cruise.

Gloves
Gloves

Barbara Koch, September 28, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Me in Front of the Henry Bigelow
Me in Front of the Henry Bigelow

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude 41.36
Longitude -70.95
Speed 10.00 kts
Course 72.00
Wind Speed 19.19 kts
Wind Dir. 152.91 º
Surf. Water Temp. 18.06 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 31.91
PSU Air Temperature 19.80 ºC
Relative Humidity 91.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1012.45 mb
Water Depth 31.48 m
Cruise Start Date: 9/27/2010

Science and Technology Log

I have the privilege of working with the science team on Leg II of the Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow from September 27 – October 7, 2010. We left port on Monday, September 27 and have been conducting the survey in the waters of Southern New England.

Processing Fish
Processing Fish

Fisheries surveys are conducted every spring and autumn in order to determine the numbers, ages, genders and locations of species that are commonly caught by the commercial fishing industry. The surveys are also carried out to monitor changes in the ecosystem and to collect data for other research. The scientists working on this leg of the survey are from Alaska, Korea, and New England. This ship works around the clock, therefore, we are divided into a day watch and a night watch, and we are all under the direction of the Chief Scientist, Stacy Rowe. I’m on the day watch, so my team processes fish from 12:00 noon until 12:00 midnight.

In order to collect a sample of fish, our ship drags a net for twenty minutes in areas that have been randomly selected before the cruise began. After the “tow,” the net is lifted onto the boat, and the fish are put in a large area to await sorting. The fish move down a conveyor belt, and we sort the fish by putting the different types into buckets and baskets. Once, the catch has been sorted, we move the buckets onto a conveyor belt, which moves them to stations for data collection.

Measuring fish
Measuring fish

Two people work at a station. One is a “Cutter” and the other is a “Recorder.” The cutter measures the length and weight of the selected species of fish on a “fishboard.” This data is automatically entered into the computer system. Depending on the species, the cutter might also be required to take an age sample or a stomach sample. Age is determined by collecting scales or an otolith (sometimes called an ear bone), depending on the species. The cutter removes these and the recorder puts them in a bar-coded envelope to send back to the lab for later study. The cutter also removes the stomach, cuts it open, and identifies what the fish has eaten, how much, and how digested it is. All of this information is entered into the computer for later analysis.

The information gathered during this cruise will give NOAA and other organizations valuable information about the health of the fish species and their ecosystem.

Personal Log

I arrived the night before we left port, and I was able to spend the night on the boat. My stateroom sleeps two people in bunk beds, and each person has a locker in which to stow our belongings. The stateroom also has a bathroom with a shower. Right across the hall is the scientist’s lounge. It has two computers, a television, many books, and games. This is where we sometimes spend our time while we are waiting for a tow to come in.

We spent much of the first day waiting to leave port. Once underway, some tests were conducted on the nets, and my Watch Chief showed me pictures of some of the common species we would see, explaining how to identify them. We began processing fish today. The first time the fish came down the conveyor belt, I was nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do with them. It worked out fine because I was at the end of the conveyor belt, so I only had to separate the two smallest fish, Scup and Butterfish, and Loligo Squid. After my first try at processing, I felt much more confident, and I even was able to tell the difference between Summer and Winter Flounders. One faces to the right and the other faces to the left!

Anne Byford, June 8, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Byford
Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp
June 8 – 15, 2010

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Location:  off the coast of New England
June 8, 2010

Weather Data at 6pm EDT: Calm, Clear, 23˚C
Location at 6pm EDT:
Lat: 39 42.68 N
Long: 73 24.98 W
Water Depth: 86.4m

First day at sea

The first day was mostly spent steaming to the first dredge site, about 14 hours away from Lewes, Delaware. In the morning, all of the safety information was covered and those of us who had not tried an exposure suit before put one on. After the ship reached the ocean, we did a test dredge to ensure that all of the equipment was working and that we all knew what to expect.

The process is basically the same for all dredges on the Sea Scallop survey. Each tow is at a specific, pre-selected random site, using the same type of dredge, at the same angle to the bottom for the same amount of time and at the same speed as all other tows. This ensures that the data gathered is comparable from tow to tow and particularly from year to year. Once the dredge is pulled back up, it is dumped onto a sorting table on the rear deck of the ship. Everything is sorted into 4 categories: scallops, fish and squid, sea habitat (which is anything that is not scallops or finfish), human trash. Once the initial sorting is done, the sea habitat is counted by the bucket-load and dumped back into the ocean; the fish are sorted by species and weighed and counted. Some species (skates, flounder/flukes, and goosefish, also called monkfish) are also measured for length. Scallops are weighed, counted and measured. Some specific samples may be kept for researchers on shore and the rest is thrown back. Human trash is kept aboard for proper disposal later. After all of the sorting and measuring is finished, the buckets are rinsed and stacked for the next dredge, which isn’t usually that long in coming.

Sorting

Fortunately, we are not measuring things with a tape measure or having to manually input lengths into the computer. The ship has 3 “fish boards” that are electronic magnetic measuring devices that automatically send the data to the shipboard computers. Operators choose the species of fish being measured and then each fish is put on the board and a magnetic wand is used to mark the end of the tail of the fish. Each length is sent to the computer and stored. Historically, the data was collected on paper and the lists sent to a prison to be hand entered into a database. The database then had to be proofread and corrected if necessary. While the data still must be audited, it is much faster and easier, and less prone to error, to take the hand written stage of data collection out of the process.

Fish Board

Species Seen:

At the dock in Lewes: Osprey pair and at least one chick in the nest, Sea gulls

At sea: Pod of dolphins playing in the ship’s wake, jellyfish, pelicans

In the dredge: Squid, gulfstream flounder, windowpane flounder, summer flounder, spotted hake, sea robins, small skates, clearnose skates, several kinds of crabs (spider and rock), moon snails, sea stars, sand dollars, whelks, sea urchins, scallops, sea mice (polycheate worms)

Personal log:

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, clear and calm. After the safety meeting and test dredge, there was a great deal of down time until we reached the first site at about 10pm. I am on the day watch from noon to midnight and so got to sort the first real dredge. We did find scallops, ranging from about 1 inch across to about 5 inches across, but we found more sand dollars. After spending countless hours walking beaches to find even a few sand dollars, it was amazing to see hundreds or thousands on the sorting table to be tossed back as sea trash. I also discovered that you can easily loose track of time simply sitting in the sun on the deck watching the world go by.

Duane Sanders, June 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 10 KTS, Direction  50 degrees
Barometer: 1024 millibars
Air temperature: 13 0C
Seas: 3-5 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

A sorting table full of sand dollars!
A sorting table full of sand dollars!

Why is it that we find huge numbers of sand dollars at so many stations?  There have been some stations where our dredge was completely filled with sand dollars.  The sorting table was so full that there was no clear space in which to work. This has piqued my curiosity as a biologist. Some questions come to mind.  Are there any natural predators of sand dollars? What is it about sand dollars that allow them to out-compete other organisms that might otherwise be found at these locations?  What do sand dollars eat? How can there be enough food at a given location to support these huge populations? I talked with Stacy Rowe, the chief scientist for this cruise, and she was not aware of any research being done to answer these questions.  Stacy did know that a species of fish known as the Ocean Pout eats on sand dollars.  I am looking forward to seeing results of some research on these organisms.  Maybe one of my students will follow up.  Who knows?

Duane Sanders with Keiichi Uchida: A fellow scalloper!
Duane Sanders with Keiichi Uchida: A fellow scalloper!

Many different scientists use data taken during this survey.  NOAA staffers come to the ship with a list of types of organisms or samples that have been requested by researchers.  For example we have been setting aside a few scallops from certain stations for special handling.  The gender of each scallop is determined and then they are measured and weighed.  Next, the meat from each scallop is carefully removed and weighed.  The shells are carefully cleaned and set aside to give the scientist who made the request along with all of the measurement data.

I have made a new friend, Keiichi Uchida, of a visiting researcher from Japan. He is doing research that involves tracking the movements of the conger eel, Conger oceanicus, using GIS systems.  Keiichi is here to learn more about how NOAA does surveys like the one we are on now. He is also looking at data similar to his and trying to correlate the different data sets.

Personal Log 

In many ways I am going to miss living and working with people who are interested in the same branch of science as me.  I have had fun talking about all of the things I have observed and the kinds of work being done by this branch of NOAA. There is one thing about this trip that causes me some real sadness.  I have not seen a whale. Two whales have been spotted, but I have always been at the wrong place to see them.  I hope my luck changes before we dock at Woods Hole.

Duane Sanders, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 6.8 KTS, Direction 65.7 degrees
Barometer: 018 millibars
Air temperature: 11.33 0C
Seas: 2-3 ft.

Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.
Dumping a dredge on the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

We had to change out the dredge during my last watch.  Actually, I watched while the crew did the dangerous work. We have been working in an area with a rocky bottom and the rocks caused substantial damage to the netting in the dredge. Fortunately, we are carrying four dredges plus spare netting. The crew put a new dredge into operation right away so that we didn’t lose too much time.  Geoff, our watch chief, directed the installation of the new mesh into the first dredge.

The scallop dredges we use are eight feet wide. Commercial dredges are sixteen feet wide. The basic design is the same for each.  The mouth of the dredge is a welded steel rectangular frame, with the height about one foot.  The bottom of this rectangle is a heavy steel bar, called the cutting bar. This breaks loose organisms from the bottom.  A steel plate, called the pressure plate, is welded at an angle across the top of the rectangle.  This plate creates a downward swirl of water that directs the organisms into the mouth of the netting. The bag attached to the dredge is made of a net of steel rings. A mesh liner is mounted inside the bag for scientific use. This helps to trap other organisms that make up bottom-dwelling communities.  This gives scientists a more complete picture for the survey.  Commercial dredges do not use a liner and the rings of the bag are larger.  This allows smaller size scallops and other organisms to pass through the bag and remain to help sustain a healthy scallop population.

The business end of a scallop dredge
The business end of a scallop dredge

We have been ‘shadowed’ by another ship, the Kathy Marie for part of the time we have been working.  She is carrying a device known as the “HabCam”, short for Habitat Camera.  This is an underwater camera system that is towed just over the bottom. It makes a photographic record of still images of the bottom taken at a rate of three per second. The HabCam accumulates data at about three terabytes per day. The Kathy Marie runs over the same area dredged by the Sharp after we move on to the next station. Images from these runs provide scientists with an index of dredge efficiency at capturing the bottom dwellers.  Once enough image data has been collected to make useful correlations to dredge data, it might be possible to reduce the number of physical dredge samples taken and use the HabCam to record the community ‘in situ’, that is, in position without disturbance.

Personal Log 

I said in an earlier log entry that fish are not my favorite type of organism.  Because of this bias, I had been avoiding helping with the fish sorting and identification.  After thinking about this for a bit, I decided that I needed to embrace my bias against fish and try to learn something as well as help my colleagues.  Besides, how could I face my students without at least making an effort?  So, I am trying to learn how to identify these critters.  So far, I am pretty good with goosefish, red hake, longhorn sculpin and some of the flounder species.

I wonder how long it will take me to adjust to walking on dry land after being at sea for eleven days. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.  I have been trying to read some before going to sleep, but I find that I can do a few pages at best.  Hard work, sea air and the rocking motion of our ship make powerful sleep inducers.

Duane Sanders, June 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 15.4 KTS, Direction 171.8 degrees
Barometer: 1008 millibars
Air temperature: 16.56 0C
Seas: 3-5 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

It is the end of my watch and I am ready for a break.
It is the end of my watch and I am ready for a break.

The routine of dredging for scallops 24 hours a day continues.  Since the goal of this survey is to get a good understanding of the entire ecosystem where scallops might live, we take samples from areas closed to commercial scalloping as well as from open areas. Every catch is a little different in the numbers and types of organisms we find.  There is a huge difference in scallop counts between areas that have been open for a time and those areas that have been closed. I can understand clearly the importance of checking this ecosystem on a regular basis. Open areas can become overfished and need time to recoup their losses and should be closed for a period of time.

In terms of dollar value the scallop industry is the most valuable fishery in New England. It would be decimated from overfishing without proper management based on sound, scientifically obtained data.

Personal Log 

I have adapted to standing watch at night and sleeping during the day. This experience has helped me to more fully appreciate the finer things in life: sunrise, good food and sleep. Also, I am proud to report that, thanks to some of my fellow ‘watchmates’ I am now ‘BlueTooth competent.’ They showed me how to use Bluetooth on my computer while we were winding down after our watch.

Duane Sanders, June 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 19.4 KTS, Direction 86.8 degrees
Barometer: 1013 millibars
Air temperature:  14.2 0C
Seas: 2-3 feet

I’m having fun at the sorting table.
I’m having fun at the sorting table.

Science and Technology Log 

The primary mission of this cruise is to complete the second leg of a three-leg survey of scallop populations along the New England Coast. Other information about the scallop ecosystem is also collected. Scientists evaluate the status of the scallop fishery use data gathered from the survey.  Decisions about which areas to allow commercial scalloping and which areas to close to commercial use are based on these surveys. These science-based management decisions help to promote long-term stability of the scallop industry.

Members of the day watch working at measuring stations.
Members of the day watch working at measuring stations.

After two complete watches, I think I understand the procedure. Stations to be sampled are determined by a stratified random sampling procedure. Computers, following certain parameters set by NOAA staff, determine which area is to be sampled. It is important to be consistent so that each station from each of the three legs of the cruise can be reliably compared other data from this survey as well as from other years.  Once the captain puts the ship on station, an eight-foot wide dredge is lowered to the bottom and dragged for 15 minutes.  The captain keeps the ships speed to a constant 3.8 knots.  When the dredge is hauled in, its contents are dumped on a large steel sorting table that is bolted onto the to deck. The science team on watch sorts through the contents of the catch and separates all scallops into one basket, all fish into a different bucket and all the rest of the haul into another basket.

We then determine the total weight of the scallops and measure the length of each one. Thankfully we use a computerized system for determining the lengths which automatically record them.  All of the fish are sorted by species, and then weighed by species.  The length of each fish is recorded using the same system as for the scallops. The total volume of the remaining haul is estimated with each basket being equivalent to 46 liters. The general contents of the basket are characterized by types of shells found, types of substrate material and other organisms present.

Personal Log 

A sea mouse (Aphrodite aculeate)
A sea mouse (Aphrodite aculeate)

I have been assigned to the night watch. This means we work from midnight to noon. Although I am doing better today, it has been difficult to adjust to sleeping during the day. I am sure that I will continue to adapt. As long as Paul, our cook, keeps preparing his delicious meals I will survive quite nicely!

I have really enjoyed seeing the variety of organisms that come up in the dredge.  My favorites are the invertebrates. Some examples include different species of starfish, other mollusks beside scallops, and sea mice.  A sea mouse is actually a marine worm in the group known as polychaetes. These strange looking creatures grow long, thin scales that looks like fur. Their bodies have the general shape of a mouse with no tail.  There are also many fish species, which I am learning about, but they do not interest me as much as the other organisms.

Duane Sanders, June 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Duane Sanders
Onboard Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp
June 8-19, 2009 

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: New England Coast
Date: June 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: Speed 16.1 KTS, Direction 50.5 degrees
Barometer:  1014 millibars
Air temperature: 16.8 0C Seas: 1-3 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

The Hugh R. Sharp at dock in Delaware
The Hugh R. Sharp at dock in Delaware

I have been assigned to participate in the annual scallop survey in the New England fisheries area. Our ship, the Hugh R. Sharp, is two years old and designed specifically for ocean research. The Sharp is owned by the University of Delaware and is under contract with NOAA for the scallop survey. It has laboratories, a workshop and specialized equipment for handling large or bulky devices. There is a continuous data stream gathered by the ship’s instruments and posted on monitors on the bridge and in the lab. This includes some parameters related to ocean chemistry as well as the usual weather data. There are several other high-tech sensing systems to assist in a variety of research projects. The ship’s flexible design allows for the science team to install computers, servers and ancillary equipment specific to the research project at hand.  Also, modular labs outfitted for specific purposes can be secured to the fantail (rear deck) of the ship.

My favorite piece of technology is the diesel electric drive system.  Diesel generators produce electricity that supply power to the drive motors all other electrical needs on the ship.  Propulsion is provided by thrusters, which are capable of rotating in any direction as needed.  There are two thrusters in the stern and one in the bow.  These three acting together can keep the Sharp within six feet of a specified location.  The ship’s engineer can monitor all systems from his station on the bridge. This system is very quiet and vibration is kept to a minimum.  That means we can sleep much better than with a conventional diesel engine drive. All in all, this vessel seems to me to be an ocean scientist’s dream come true.  It is designed for high-tech applications and configurations that change as the need arises.

Here I am practicing donning my emergency immersion suit.
Here I am practicing donning my emergency immersion suit.

Personal Log 

Today is our first day at sea. We spent the morning hours getting acquainted with each other and learning about safety, emergency procedures and shipboard etiquette. For example, the science team was divided into two watches, midnight to noon and noon to midnight.  The rule is that people coming on watch need to take everything they want to use during watch hours with them. This allows those coming off watch to get some undisturbed rest.  Living in close quarters requires everyone to be considerate and cooperative. We all rely on each other to do their part to help make the cruise a safe and successful one.  While there is always room for some fun, everybody takes their responsibilities quite seriously.  Life and limb often depend on this careful approach to our work. 

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 16, 2008

Falcon
Falcon

Science Log

This bird came by for a visit. I think is a type of hawk or a falcon. Can anyone identify it for me? We have been trying but can’t seem to figure out what kid of hawk this is. In any case, it stopped by and perched on the bow just out of the blue when we were about 80 miles from shore. I wonder how it got here? Was it blown out to sea by a storm? Did it follow a ship looking for food? Is it lost? I hope it finds its way back.

It was foggy during the early morning and the ship had to blow its fog horn. I found out that ships use a code when they sail. One long blast means we are steaming ahead. One long and two short blasts means we have equipment such as nets in the water and cannot manuver as quickly. Listen by clicking here.

We found more spoon armed octopi. Can you see that one of the arms has a little spoon like object at the end? The male has an arm shaped like a spoon. Can you see it in this picture?

Octopii
Octopii
This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.
This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.
This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.

A sea anemone. This opens up and tenticles appear. They wave their tenticles in the water to collect food. When fish like Nemo, the clown fish, go into a sea anomone, it will sting the fish, so the clown fish backs in which helps it tolerate the sting.

Sea anemone
Sea anemone

Here is an interesting story: We were approaching a station where we were expecting to take a sample from the water with our nets. Do you see the note in the chart that says “Unexploded Ordinance?” (you can click on the chart to make it bigger). that means there are bombs from an old ship that may still be active! We decided to move our trawl to a nearby area. When we did, look what came up in the nets! Part of an old ship! The coordinates are Latitude: 42°27’23.65″N and Longitude: 68°51’59.12″E. Here is that location on Google Earth. What could have happened way out here? CLE students, tell me the story of that wreck. Be creative. Please print them out and leave them for me on Monday. Make them fun to read. I am bringing back what came up in the net for you to see. When I get back, we will see if we can do some research and find out what really happened!

Now lets meet Phil Politis, our Chief Scientist on board the Bigelow. I asked him to tell us about his job. Here is what he said:

chart2-740911The main job of a chief scientists is to meet the goals and objectives of the the scientific mission. In our case, that is, to pair up with the ship Albatross in as many stations as possible, following their route. My day to day job is to coordinate with the officers, and crew, setting the nets properly, make sure that the samples are processed properly and solving problems as they arise. Say we have an issue with the nets. It is the chief scientists job to decide what to do next. I can accept the tow, code it as a problem, or re-do the tow. I have to look at each issue individually. If we tear on the bottom, will it happen again? Is there time to re-tow? I also coordinate with the other vessel.

My title is fisheries biologist, but I am a specialist in the nets. My background is in trawl standardization. We have to ensure that our nets are constructed, maintained and that we fish same way each time. Small changes in nets can effect how the nets fish and that effects the study. That way we can compare this years catch to next years catch. Remember, this study is called a time series. Over time, you can see changes to fish population. The only way you can trust those numbers is if the nets are the same each time we put them in the water year after year, tow after tow. We have to document what we are doing now so that in the future, people know how and what we were doing. This way the time series remains standard. We have to standardize materials the nets are made of, way they are repaired. We inspect the nets each time we come on here. We train the deck crews in the maintenance and repair of our nets.

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IMG_6818-772778In answer to many of your questions, I will be back to SOCSD on Monday. I’ll be in WOS on Monday and CLE on Tuesday. See you then.

Mrs. Christie-Blick’s Class:

You asked some AMAZING questions. I’m so proud of you guys. Drl Kunkel was impressed as well. Here is what He told me:

You asked: What is your proof that these lobster shells are softer than other lobster shells? How do you measure hardness:

We have an engineering department at U Mass and one of the projects they have to do to become materials engineers is to test for hardness and they do an indentation test. Another way is to shoot x rays at shell and we can tell how hard it is by how the x rays scatter.

You asked: What is causing the harmful bacteria in the water?

We don’t know if they are harmful bacteria. My theory is that it could be the same normal bacteria that are on the backs of healthy lobsters. We think it is the weakness in the new lobster shells because of environmental influences south of Cape Cod that causes the trouble.

You asked: Can you get rid of the harmful bacteria?

It is possible to reverse the environmental conditions that have been created by us or by mother nature.

You are right about these sources of pollution. Good thinking. And yes, Dr. Kunkel believes that one or more of these factors may be hurting the lobsters. The problem area is south of Cape Cod. Look on a map today and count the number of cities between New York and Boston. Is this an area with a lot of people and pollution or is this an area that is sparsely populated?How would you expect this area to compare to areas where the lobster population is healthier off of Maine and Nova Scotia? Do the problem areas for the lobster and the pollution occur in the same area? If they match, scientists say there is a correlation between the two and they wonder if one is causing the other. What do you think?

Hag fish did gross me out a little. Interestingly, there is no way to determine the age of this fish as there are with others, so I’m not sure we can even tell you how long they live.

Several of you asked about the red dots on the lobster. They are a disease. It is called shell disease.

The lobster on the right is healthy. I just love this picture so I thought I would share it.

SR, the water temperature is about 16 degrees C last time I checked.

MF, nice to meet you. It is really cool to be a Teacher At Sea.

DTR, my favorite thing about this trip is working with you guys from the middle of the ocean.

MR, Snuggy and Zee are having loads of fun touring the ship.

CF: I will try to count the teeth of a fish and tell you what I find. Sometimes they are hard to see. I do not know if I am going back next year, but I hope so. I like being at sea. The truth is, I like being on land too. Both are nice. Thanks for writing.

BS: No, we find mostly adults, but some babies. Many creatures are small as adults.

BV: We have seen lots of jellyfish. We had so many we had to hose down the lab at the end of our session the other day. They were everywhere.

GS: We will continue to take samples here.

TL and Many Others asked how long we put the cups down for: We put the cups down for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it takes to lower the CTD to the bottom. When it gets to the bottom, it comes right back up. Thanks all for writing.

AS: Right you are!

Good job calculating all those who got 984 feet!

MM, I love the adventures I’m having here and the people I am meeting. It has been fun. I like being on land too.

JS, Dr. Kunkel took samples from some lobsters so he could help cure the disease.

KF: Could the hag fish bit us? Yes, Mel Underwood, our Watch Chief was very careful as she held the bag and backed her hands up when the fish got close to her hands. Mel is very experienced working with sea life and I have never seen her back off the way she did with this thing.

HRF: Go for it! It is a cool job!

CF: Good question. No, your bones are a lot stronger than styrofoam, so you would have to go down many miles to hurt yourself, and you could not swim that far without gear. When divers get hurt from pressure changes, it is usually something different called the bends. This happens when you are swim up to fast and certain gases in your blood stream expand as the pressure increases and form bubbles that can hurt you. Divers have to swim up slowly (the usual rule is don’t go up faster than the air bubbles next to you) in order to avoid getting the bends.

DC: Good questions: The dots are not bacteria on the lobster, they are the result of the bacteria eating away parts of the shell. The actual bacteria are too small to see. Good question about he temperature relating to growth. It is a bit more complex than that. There are many factors at work. The factor that may be causing more bacteria are chemicals like fertilizers from land getting into the water.

Dr. Kunkel came on board to study lobsters. He is a biologist, not a medical doctor. There are many scientists on board working with us, and me with them.

The quadrent is an old invention. People have been able to find their way with the stars for thousands of years. It is an ancient art. It was fun to practice it here.

SF, VF and others: The fish stayed in the bag. We made sure of that. From the bag, we put it back in the sea.

SD, sorry, I can’t help you there. I don’t think a pet skate would survive the trip back to NY.

Several of you have asked if I have gotten sick. No, I have not.

How many lobsters have we caught so far? Lots!

SS, sleeping on a boat if fun. If the waves are small, they rock you to sleep. If they are huge, however, they throw you out of bed!’

CP: bacteria infect the shells of the lobsters. This destroys the protection that the lobster should have. They grow weak and die of other causes. Good question!

Why do we work at night? Because ships work 24 hours a day so that no time is wasted. I ended up on the night shift. Why do we wear suits? To stay warm and dry on deck.

The hagfish eat shrimp and small fish, though they are scavengers and can eat large creatures as well.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class, you guys are doing some great work. I check on the skates for you. Some skates have protection, like thorns or spikes. They also have some interesting fins that look almost like feet. They use these to “walk” along the bottom searching for food. I know you asked about skates, but I have to mention the ray I worked with yesterday. It is related to the skate and could shock with an electrical charge for both protection and for hunting prey. Cool!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 15, 2008

Using the sextant
Using the sextant

Science Log

Our study of creatures on the bottom of the sea has been done every year for 45 years. In fact, it is the longest series of data for fish, in the world. Why is this important? I asked Dr. Michael Fogarty, head of the Ecosystems Assessment Program, at the Northeast Fisheries Sciences Center in Woods Hole, MA.

Mr. T: This is the longest uninterrupted time series of a trawl survey anywhere in the world. Is that important?

Dr. Fogarty: Really important because the changes that we are observing occur over long periods of time due to fishing and climate and other factors, so we need to track these changes to see how individual fish species are doing and to see how the ecosystem itself is responding to these changes.

Mr. T: What have you found?

Processing samples
Processing samples

We have found overall in the 45 years that we have been doing this survey, the number of fish has remained the same, but the types of fish have changed. In Georges bank, we would have mostly cod, flounder in the past, now we have small sharks, skates, which are relative of the rays.

Mr. T: What does that mean in terms of the ecosystem?

Dr. Fogarty: It has changed the entire food web because, for example, these small sharks we are seeing are ferocious predators. Because these dog-fish prey on other species, they keep the fish we usually like to eat down in number

Mr. T: Why is that happening?

Dr. Fogarty: Our hypotheseis is that because the some fish have been hurt by too much fishing, the other fish have come in to take their place.

IMG_7042-735252I thought about that for a while. It means this ecosystem has been effected by something called Overfishing and something called climate change. I started wondering about all the different factors that might have effected the environment we are studying. There are so many! Let’s look at some of the may things that human beings have done that have changed this ecosystem in the 45 years we have been doing this study. Dr. Fogarty and I talked about this and then we created talked about this mini website for you. Click each problem area to learn more.

Remember the other day when I tried to use a sextant to fix our position? I could not even get close, so today, I took a lesson with one of the NOAA Corps officers on board, Lieutenant Junior Grade Andrew Seaman. Click here to come along.

IMG_6866-762848Elsewhere on the ship, Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the dive locker on the ship. This is the area on the ship where SCUBA gear is stored. We are not using SCUBA on this trip, but it was fun to visit the locker and see all the gear. Snuggy and Zee learned that the crew can actually fill up the air bottles they need right on the ship. They have all the equipment they need to do work underwater right here on the ship.

We had a fire drill yesterday. I know you are all familiar with fire drills, because we have them at school. When we do them at school, we often practice evacuating the building and calling the fire department. Well, at sea, things work a little differently. We have to get away from danger, but then, we have to practice putting out the fire as well. After all, there is no fire department to call way out here! Click here for a video.

Finally, so many of you asked about dangerous creatures that we have caught. This torpedo ray does have an electrical charge to it. The ray can zap you if you are not careful. I used rubber gloves to keep from getting hurt. The hardest part was holding the thing while we took the picture. I kept dropping it becuase it was so slimy!

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AT: I have not been frightened by anything on the ship or in the sea that we have seen. The hag-fish did seem gross. Very gross. Other than that, no.

Hi SP, I enjoy Korean food very much and have eaten lots of crab roe. It does not gross me out at all. Thanks for writing.

NV, Zee and Snuggy are just fine. Thanks for asking.

Mrs. B’s Class: I’m glad you liked the blog. We found the dead whale 100 miles or so off of Cape Cod. There are no sea snakes here. The water is too cold. I’m kind of glad about that!

Hello Mrs. Graham’s Class. I am staying nice and warm. Even working on deck, it is not too cold. We could stay out for several more weeks without a problem. Do you know what we use to make electricity? See if you can figure that out. We have to go back to port before we run out of that.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class: Very interesting. Our chief Scientists says that they can tell the whales don’t like barnicles because whales without them don’t behave in quite the same way.
This particular fish, which we call a monk fish or a goose fish has all the adaptations you mentioned. You did very well thinking those up. The Chief Scientist, Phil Politis and I are both impressed. He says that the fish hides in the mud (that is why it is brown), which keeps it hidden from predators. It has another adaptation, the illicium which we are calling a fishing rod. This adaptation lures smaller fish to the monkfish. Since it does not move around as much as many other fish, it can stay safer from predators.

Hello to Mrs. Coughlin’s Class, Mrs. Berubi’s Class. I’m glad you like the blog.

NN, I’ll be back next week. Because the crew and I, as well as a few birds are the only land-creatures we have seen out this far! Thanks for writing.

Hi Jennnifer. Thanks for your kind words and thanks for checking in on the blog.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 14, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 14 2008

Here is Doctor Kunkel collecting samples with Watch Chief Mel Underwood.
Here is Doctor Kunkel collecting samples with Watch Chief Mel Underwood.

Science Log

Dr. Joseph Kunkel from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is investigating a mystery on board our ship. In the last few years, fisherman and biologists have all noticed that lobsters are disappearing from waters south of cape cod near shore. This includes Narragansett Bay and our own Long Island Sound. Why? Thats’ what Dr. Kunkel is trying to find out.

He and other scientists have found that the lobsters are infected with a bacteria. Dr. Kunkel has a hypothesis. He believes that some lobsters get the bacteria because their shells are not as strong as other lobsters and don’t protect them as well. He is here collecting samples to test his hypothesis.

Shellfish are affected by acid rain
Shellfish are affected by acid rain

He has even made a discovery. He and another scientist, named Dr. Jercinovic, discovered that this shell fish actually has boney material in certain places in the shell. The boney material helps make the lobster strong enough to resist the bacteria. Effected lobsters may not have as much bone, so their shells are weaker. Why are the shells weaker? There may be a few reasons. The water South of Cape Cod is warmer than it normally is. Climate change may be to blame. The water has a lot of pollution from cities like New York and Boston. There are many streams and rivers pouring into the area that are Affected by acid rain. All of these things may effect the lobsters in the sea. They may effect other creatures in the sea as well. Can you think of things that are happening in our neighborhood that may contribute to this problem? Post your ideas on the blog and I will share them with Dr. Kunkel. What does shell disease look like? Can you see the red spots on the photo on the right? That is shell disease. It can get much worse. Thanks Dr. Kunkel for sharing your work and your photograph.

Cups are ready!
Cups are ready!

The art teachers, Mrs. Bensen in CLE and Mrs. Piteo in WOS had groups of students decorate Styrofoam cups for an experiment on the ship involving technology, water pressure in science and perspective in art. You probably have felt water pressure. When you swim to the bottom of the deep end of a pool, you may have felt your ears pop. This is water pressure. It is caused by the weight of the water on top of you pushing down on you. Well, a pool is only 10 or 12 feet deep. Just imagine the pressure at 600 feet down. We wanted to do an experiment with water pressure. Since Styrofoam is has a lot of air in it, we wanted to see what happened when we sent the decorated cups to the bottom of the sea. Click here for a video and see for yourself. If you decorated a cup, you will get it back when I come in next week.

Here are some more interesting creatures that came up in our nets overnight. We have been in deeper water and some some of the creatures have been quite interesting.

This “sea pen” is a type of soft coral.
This “sea pen” is a type of soft coral.
Two sea-hags
Two sea-hags

This is a sea-hag. It is a snake-like fish that has some amazing teeth. We put one inside a plastic bag for a few minutes to watch it try to eat its way out. Take a look at this video to see what happened.

Spoon Arm Octopi
Spoon Arm Octopi

Here are three Spoon Arm Octopi. Each octopi has three hearts, not one. One pumps blood through the body and the other two pump blood through the gills. There are three octopi in this photo. How many hearts to they have in all?

Red fish
Redfish

This redfish are also an interesting criters. When they lay eggs, you can see the babies inside. They live in deep water. We caught this one at a depth of 300 meters. How many feet is that?

Squid and sea star
Squid and sea star

Here is a bobtail squid and a sea-start. The squid looks like an octopus, but it is not.

Skate case with a baby skate inside
Skate case with a baby skate inside

This skate case had a baby skate inside. Here is what it looked like as the tiny creature emerged.

Crab and eggs
Crab and eggs

Finally, the red on the underside of this crab are the eggs. Biologists call them roe.

Zee and Snuggy paid a visit to the ship’s hospital to take a look around. The hospital is amazing. They are able to treat a wide variety of injuries and ailments without having to call for help. They can even put in stiches if they need to. In cases of serious injury, however, the Coast Guard would have to take the patient to land with the helicopter or fast boat. Zee and Snuggy had a great time touring the hospital, and all three of us are just fine.

IMG_6859-737787

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 13, 2008

Old fashioned navigation
Old fashioned navigation

Science Log

Happy Columbus Day everyone, and, since were in Canada, Happy Thanksgiving. Yes, that’s right, Thanksgiving. Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. So a special note to my son Nicky: Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!  Back to Columbus Day, though. Since that’s probably what your all talking about at home. In honor of Columbus Day, I thought I would try something interesting.

I made a replica of the instrument Columbus used to navigate his ship. It is called a Quadrant. Columbus would sight the North Star with his quadrant and measure its angle above the horizon. That angle is equal to your latitude. He used a quadrant to measure that angle.

A quadrant
A quadrant

This is what a quadrant looks like. You hold it up so you can see the star you want in your site. The weighted rope simply falls over the scale of numbers and indicates the angle. What instrument in math looks like this? Post your answers on the blog if you think you know. So did I beat the GPS? You will have to watch this video to find out.

Want to try sighting the North Star yourself? Here is how: Find the Big Dipper. Trace an imaginary line from the spoon up. The first bright star you come to is the North Star. Want to find our more about using the stars to find your way, or Celestial Navigation, click here.

We are fairly far out to sea right now. There is a point of land in Nova Scotia, Canada about 100 miles to our north, but most land is around 200 to our west. We are seeing a lot of off-shore birds like the Shearwaters pictured here. These little birds spend most of their lives in the open water feasting on fish. They come on shore only to breed, so landlubbers don’t see them very much. What a treat. They were part of a large flock that was foraging in the nets yesterday afternoon during a tow.

Seabirds
Seabirds

We also have a few land birds on board. They may have been blown out to sea by storms and have stopped on our ship for a rest. Several were eating what they could find out of the nets on deck yesterday. The nets on the Bigelow have 6 sensors, each reporting different variables, such as depth, the width of the net opening and the height of the opening back to the scientists on deck. One of the sensors stopped working and had to be replaced yesterday. Take a look at this video of how the repair was done.

The water temperature outside is changing. It is now much colder than it was. When we were further west, we were towards a warm current called the Gulf Stream that moves north along the east coast of the USA. The water was about 63 degrees. Now we are in a cold water current called the Labrador Current. This current brings water south from the Arctic along the Canadian coast and ends in the Gulf of Main. The water here is about 55 degrees or so. We are not seeing the dolphins anymore and some of the science crew thing the water temperature may be too cold for them. Take a look at this map of the water temperatures. Brighter colors are warmer in this picture. We have moved from the warmer greener colored water into the cooloer blue colored water. The red line represents our course.

Water temperature illustration
Water temperature illustration

WOS students who have not had a chance yet, should compare our ship to the one Columbus Sailed. Go back and look through the blog at the pictures of Snuggy and Zee in the different parts of our ship to help you. Post your answers on the blog. Finally, something very interesting came up in our nets today. We got this off the bottom in 1000 feet of water. It is wood. Clearly cut and shapped by a person and for a purpose. It appears to have been down there for a long time. How do you think it got there? Post your answers on the blog!

CLE students, try using these images of ships in the past as a story starter. Write me a short story about a trip on an old sailing vessel and incorporate some of what you have learned about their technology in your story. Can you tell me the story of how that wood ended up on the bottom of the ocean? Please don’t post these to the blog. They will be too long. Print them and show them to me when I get back on land next week.

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IMG_6782-766424And now some answers to your questions:

RM – Good question: A sea spider is a sea-creature related to the horseshoe crab. It just looks a lot like the spiders we see on land.

Have we seen any sharks? We have seen a lot of dog-fish, which are a type of shark, but are not very ferocious. Our captain saw a great white off the bridge. Unfortunately, I was working below decks at that moment and did not get out to see it in time.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 12, 2008

Science Log

Here is a sample of what has come up in the nets overnight.

Sea stars and baby invertebrates
Sea stars and baby invertebrates

Here are several different types of sea-stars. I am always amazed by the wide variety of these creatures that exist in the ocean.

a brachiopod
a brachiopod

This little fellow might not look like much, but it has an interesting history. This creature is called a brachiopod. It belongs to one of the oldest family of creatures on earth. There have been brachiopods in the sea for at least 550 million years. That is long before there were even plants on land, let alone animals and dinosaurs. It is a simple shelled animal that has a single stalk that helps is stay attached to the rocks around it. Click here to learn more about this amazing creature.

a brachiopod
a sea cucumber

Here is a sea cucumber. They live at the bottom of the sea and can be found all over the world. They are used to make medicine in some countries in Asia.

Sargassum up close
Sargassum up close

Remember that large raft of sargassum weed we saw yesterday? Some came up in the nets today. Here is what it looks like close up. She the little pockets that hold air? They help the sargassum stay afloat.

This is a sea spider.
This is a sea spider.

And of course, there is always garbage. We keep getting bits and pieces each time the nets come up. Here is a sampling. We found one entire Butterfinger candy bar with the chocolate still inside (no, we did not eat it), as well as some rope. How do you think it got here?

Let take a closer look at a sensor called a CTD. That stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. Remember the drifter buoy that we released a few days ago? It measures temperature on the top of the water and it can drift all over the ocean taking readings. A CTD takes its measurements as it descends through the water column and can go all the way to the bottom.

Trash pulled up with the rest of it
Trash pulled up with the rest of it

Have you ever seen barnicles move? They do. We found these huge barnicles in our net and we put them in water to encourage them to come out. Check out this video!

A lot of people have asked me about sea-sickness. Sea Sickness happens when your brain and body, which are constantly working to keep you balanced, get confused by the rocking of the ship. It is a terrible feeling, and I’m glad I have not been sea-sick at all on this trip. Some people do better than others on boats. I do not tend to get sea-sick unless the waves are very high, and I am used to the rocking of the ship now. The other night I was working on deck and I caught sight of the moon moving quickly across the sky. I wondered why it was moving so fast until I realized it was my ship that was moving in the sea and me with it. The moon only seemed to move. I guess that means I’m used to the rocking back and forth and hardly notice it now.

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More marine debris
More marine debris

MLL, SPL and MCL, Snuggy and Zee are having a great time and none of us are sea-sick. I put more information about it in the upper part of the blog entry. Thanks for writing.

SQ, CS, KM and VM: It is nice fall weather. Not too hot, not too cold. I love it. I have not felt uncomfortable even when I am working out on the wet deck of the ship.

GG: It is not hard to sleep at all most nights. There was only one night where the waves were high and I bounced around too much to sleep well. The rest of the nights were fine. The ship rocks me to bed at night. I do miss WOS. See you soon.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2009

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 11, 2008

Science Log

Greetings from Canada, my son Nicky’s favorite place! We are now in Canadian waters. We have crossed the international boarder. More amazing things keep coming up in our nets. Today we had some interesting sea-stars. Take a look. The larger ones are called Sun-Stars. Do they look like the sun to you? Sea stars are scavengers. They will move around the bottom looking for whatever food is laying around. The legs of the sea star have small tentacles that push food towards the mouth in the center.

Can you find the mouth?
Can you find the mouth?

Did you know that squid can change color? Often male squid change color to attract a mate or to scare off other males who are competing with them. If there are two males near one female, they able to turn one color on the side facing the female, and then turn another color on the other side facing the male.

Squid
Squid

We had more dolphins circling the ship last night. We think our lights may be attracting certain fish or squid, then the dolphins come to eat that. They are not with us during the day at all. One of the benefits, I guess, of being on the night watch. I cannot shoot still photos due to the low light, but have wonderful video. The sounds that you hear on the video were recorded with the ship’s hydrophone. This is a special microphone that can record sounds underwater. The sounds were recorded as the dolphins swam around the ship. You can hear the sound of them swimming by as well as the sound of their sonar as they locate fish to eat. Click here to watch and listen. Thanks to survey technician Pete Gamache for recording this for us. Click here to see the video. Don’t miss it!

Floating Sargassum mat
Floating Sargassum mat
Close up Sargassum
Close up Sargassum

We drove past some seaweed called sargasum weed. It normally grows in an area towards the middle of the Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. We are well west of the Sargasso, but this seems to have drifted our way. Sargasum Weed grows on the surface of the water. These huge mats of seaweed support an entire ecosystem of sea creatures. Many come to seek shelter in the weeds. Many more come to feed on smaller creatures hiding there.

Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the fantail of the ship.
Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the fantail of the ship.

The fantail is an area by the stern of the vessel where the nets are deployed. The photos show the area where the work gets done. Our ship works all night long, of course, and trawls are done at night as well as during the day. Take a look at this video which explains how trawls are done.

NOAA Ship Albatross
NOAA Ship Albatross

Our ship is shadowing another NOAA ship, the Albatross. Why? The Albatross is an old ship and will be replaced by the Bigelow in the years to come. At this point, the ships are trawling in exactly the same place to see if they get similar results in their surveys. Making sure the vessels measure the same thing the same way is called calibration. Right now we are doing calibration with the Albatross.

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IMG_6425-724011Now some answers to your questions:

RM – No we did not see Nantucket yet. We were too far out to sea. We may see it on the way back. Thanks for writing.

T – I love Block Island too. Thanks for the warning about rough seas. I am glad you and your mom are both enjoying the blog as much as I enjoy writing it for you. I’m used to the 12 AM shift now. I that I finally got 8 hours of sleep.

AR – There were TONS of skates in the water.

Hello to Mrs Eubank’s Class. Its great to hear from you. Great questions. Now for answers:

— Amanda, I think fish can get smaller pieces of plastic confused with tiny plankton, but our buoy is too large for that. I don’t think it will hurt fish. I think they will stay away from it.

–Tiffany, this is a tough question and a very good question. I guess over time, our buoy will stop working and will become floating trash. The truth is all science effects the environment you study. The trick is to do more good with your work than harm. Our buoy will help us understand our environment better so that all of us will do less harm in the future. Our ship also burns fuel as we study the ocean. That pollutes a little, but hopefully through our work, we do more good than harm to what we study.

Weston, It felt like the drifter weighs about 35 pounds or so.

Bryce, we use a large net to scoop along the bottom. The opening is about 4 meters wide.

Luke, we have not, nor do I expect to find new species. Our purpose is to learn more about the species that we already know about.

Bryce, we were about 140 miles from the nearest land the last time I looked.

RJ, some scientists made our drifter.

Weston, there are about 1000 drifters right now in the open sea.

I enjoyed your questions. Thanks for writing.

Mr. Moretti’s class, I’m not sure what killed the whale, but remember, all things the live also die. We cannot assume that something human beings did killed that whale. With all the pollution we create, we cannot assume, however, that we did not hurt it. We should stop polluting just to be sure we do not hurt other living things.

Many of you have are working hard to figure out our math question from the other day. Here is how it works. If we are going 8 knots for 24 hours, we multiply 8 times 24 and get 192 knots in a day. If we want to convert that to miles, we multiply again by 1.15 because each knot is 1.15 miles. We get 220.8 Congratulations to all who got this correct. It was a tough question.

Several of you have asked how long I would be on the ship. I will be here until the end of next week. I leave the ship on Friday October 17th.

LP – I enjoy the show Deadliest Catch very much. I think it is cool that scientists sometimes do that same kind of exciting work.

SD, there is no way for me to videotape under that water, but tomorrow I will show you how our sonars (we call them echosounders) work. That is one way to see under the water.

DT from SOMS dont’ worry, there is no light pollution out here. I am on the back deck of a working ship, so right where I am there are lights. I need them to do my job. I just have to go to the upper decks to get away from it or ask the bridge to shut them down for a bit.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 10, 2008

IMG_6354-743446Science Log

Did you figure out the answer to yesterday’s question? Those creatures were the real cast of Sponge Bob Square Pants TV Show. We saw a sponge, like Sponge Bob, and sea stars like Patrick, plankton, like Sheldon Plankton, some squid like Squidward, a crab like Mr. Krabs next to a sand dollar (because Mr. Krabs loves money), a lobster like Larry the Lobster and a snail like Gary. All the creatures in the program actually exist in the sea, except for squirrels, and we have seen them all on this adventure. Amazing creatures keep coming up in our nets day after day. Let’s take a look at a creature called a skate. The skate makes those funny black rectangles that you find on beaches. Take a look at where those rectangles come from and what is inside of them. Click here for a video!

Skates also have interesting faces. They live along the bottom of the sea. Their eyes are on top of their head to spot predators and their mouthes are below to eat what is on the bottom. They have two nostril -like openings above their mouth called spiracles. They look just like eyes but actually help the skate breathe. Here are a few interesting skate faces.

IMG_6247-720301

This sea robin uses three separate parts of its pectoral fin, called fin-rays to move, almost like its walking along the bottom of the sea as it looks for food. This helps is move very quietly, making it able to sneak up on prey unobserved.

Sea Robin
Sea Robin

These two baby dog-fish show different stages of development. This one is still connected to an egg sack. The other has broken loose from it, but you can still see where it was attached just below the mouth. Usually in this species, just like most fish in the shark family has eggs that develop inside the mother’s body. She gives birth to the pups when they have hatched from their eggs and are ready for the open sea.

Dogfish egg sack
Dogfish egg sack

IMG_6374-789593Many people have asked me about garbage. Here is some of what we have found so far. We caught part of someone else’s fishing net. Here is a Styrofoam cup and here is a plastic bag, which we caught 140 miles from the nearest land. How do you think it got here?

Finally, we were visited by some dolphins last night. They were eating smaller fish and as they came in for their attack, you can see the smaller fish jumping straight out of the water into the air to try to avoid being caught. Click here for a video.

IMG_6125-731150

IMG_6383-764446Snuggy and Zee decided to visit the kitchen today. Here are Zee and Snuggy with our chief Steward Dennis M. Carey and our 2nd cook, Alexander Williams. The food here is fantastic. See how large the kitchen is? We have a lot of people to feed on this ship, and the cooks here work hard. You have seen a few of the many different jobs that people can do on a ship like this. You have seen the scientists at work in the labs, you have seen the engineers who make the engine go. You have been to the bridge where the NOAA Corp officers run the ship. You have been to the kitchen where the cooks keep us so well fed. Tomorrow, you will see how the deck crew trawl our sample nets through the water. Keep checking the blog this weekend. There will be lots to see.

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Now, some answers to your questions and comments:

Hi to KD and to Derek Jeter. We are staying safe. Thanks for writing.

Hello to St. Mark School in Florida. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. I really enjoyed your thoughts about what these fish have in common. Great work. Here are some answers:

If a ship hit a drifter, the drifter would probably be broken. But the ocean is a big place, and that does not happen very often.

Can your school adopt a drifter? Of course! Take a look here: http://www.adoptadrifter.noaa.gov/. In the mean time, you are welcome to follow the adventures of our buoy. Keep checking this website!

I have Snuggy because some of my kindergarten classes asked me to take a bear with me to sea. So I did!

How heavy are the drifters? It weight 30 pounds or so, I would guess. Enough to make me work to pick it up.

I knew the whale was dead because part of it was decomposing. We could see it and we could smell it. Yuck.

Did any fish try to bite me? Yes. One scallop closed its shell on my finger. I had to be quick to get my hand out of the way in time. Other than that, no.

At 8 knots per hour, the ship could travel 192 knots, or about 220 miles in a day.

Congratulations to all who calculated correctly. The truth is that we have to stop for sample trawls every hour or two, so we seldom make our top cruising speed when we do work like this. So, we usually travel less than we could.

Oh, and to all those who asked, so far I have not gotten sick. Yet.

Thanks all for writing. Keep checking the blog!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 9, 2008

DSCN3867-789283Science Log

Hello everyone. I hope you are all enjoying your day off today. Since you have time off from school, I bet many of you are spending time observing these sea creatures…

Can you guess what they all have in common? Post your answers on the blog.

Need a hint? That crab is standing right by a sand dollar. Money. Hmmm.

This angler fish is an interesting character. It sits on the bottom of the water and blends in with its surroundings. It has a small hair that sticks out of its face that is use to lure prey closer to its mouth (just like its cousin from deeper waters, the angler fish). When the prey get close by it strikes. With all of those rows of sharp teeth it makes short work of smaller fish. Can you imagine a fish with a built in fishing rod. Very interesting. We came across a dead whale floating in the open sea. What an amazing sight (and smell). Yuk. Look how big it is next to the ship. The barnacles on its face were the size of baseballs.

A lot of you have asked what my stateroom looks like. Here are Snuggy and Zee in my “rack.” That’s what we call a bed. Do I have a roommate? Yes. Sean is very nice. I’ve only met him once or twice because he sleeps when I work and I sleep when he works, so we don’t run into each other much. That’s often how things work on a ship like this. The second picture is the door to the corridor. The locker to the right is where I keep my gear. The door on the left leads to the “head,” which is what we call the bathroom on a ship.

Many of you asked what the engine room is like. Joe Deltorto, our Chief Engineer, was kind enough to give me a tour. The Bigelow has an interesting engine room. Huge diesel generators make electricity. Lots of it. Enough to power all of our computers, sensors, lights, and even the ship itself. The propeller is turned by large electric motors. This makes the Bigelow one of the most quiet research ships anywhere. Why is that important? Sound is often used to see what is below the surface of the water. Sonars push sound through the water and listen when it echos back. That’s often how boats see what is under them. The Bigelow has a more sophisticated version of this called an echosounder. It can see much more, but still uses sound to see. So the engines have to be super quiet.

Today we will deploy our Drifter Buoy. This is an instrument that we are adopting. It will float in the open sea for the next 14 months or so and tell us where is has gone and what the temperature of the water around it is. Drifters are an important way that scientists measure. Keep watching here. I will update the blog when I deploy the drifter.

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Here are some answers to your wonderful questions and comments.

Have I gotten sea-sick? No. So far, the water has been very calm. I feel very luck. The ship has hardly moved at all.

Does it smell on board because of all the fish? Surprisingly, no. even the fish labs have lots of fresh ocean air coming through. There is no bad smell. When we came across a rotten whale floating in the ocean, then there was a smell! Oy!

The whales we have seen so far were all humpback. Even the dead one.

Have I seen fish that were new to me. Oh yes. Most of what we have seen has been new to me! That’s what makes these trips so much fun! I love learning new things.

What do I want to see that I have not seen yet? Dolphins.

In answer to so many of your questions, no, I have not fallen in yet. Either has anyone else. The Bigelow is a very safe ship. Everyone is well trained and very concerned for the saftey of themselves and all the others on board. I feel very safe here.

Hello to Ms. Farry and classes in TZE. I’m glad you are looking at the blog.

Hi Turtle. Nice to hear from you. Yes, I think we can work that out. We are on the shelf, so our deepest CTD deployment will be only be about 300 meters. Will that do?

FD and JEGB, thanks for your questions. No, so far we have not seen any 6 pack rings on any creatures. I did see some garbage float by many dozens of miles from shore. It was right where the whales were swimming. Sad.

IJ, cool idea, though I wonder, though if the water would carry toxins from the smoke into the streams rivers and oceans? Keep thinking maybe you will discover a way to solve this problem someday.

Mi Mrs. Bolte’s class. I’ll get you engine room photos very soon, and there is a photo of my stateroom for you today. I’m glad you like the blog.

MS, the people here are friendly, very professional and so helpful with everything I have needed for all my projects.

MH, yes I do miss my family.

MJ, we see lots of ships out here. Yes. It has been fun to see.

Several of you asked about cell phones. They do not work out here. We are way too far from land. All the crew were on deck as we left port making their last calls to their families. So was I.

Hello to Mrs. Ochman’s class, Mrs. De Vissers’s class, Mrs. Sheehy’s and TN’s class. I hope the pictures in the last few days answered lots of your questions.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s class, here are some answers to your questions: No, the clothes just keep you dry (and comfortable) when you are working. You get used to them. I am adjusting well to the time change. It is a little like going to New Zealand like Mrs. Christie-Blick did recently. I wake up at about 8:00 PM, go to work at midnight and then go to sleep in the early afternoon. Our time, that is. If I were in New Zealand, I would be on a normal schedule. I’ll post pictures for your soon for my stateroom. It is very relaxing here. There is not a whole lot to worry about. There is a lot of work, but it is not hard.

The zig in our course, by the way is probably where we stopped for a trawl. We sometimes circle around when we do that.

Hello Mrs. Benson. Thanks for checking out the blog. No artists here at the moment. I enjoy amature photography and what subjects there are out here!

Hello Guy D. Thanks for following the blog. I appreciate your support.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 8, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2009

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 8, 2008

Science Log

Today we started working. My shift is 12 midnight to 12 noon, so I slept for a few hours in the afternoon and then worked overnight and into the morning. It is hard to get used to staying up all night. It feels a little like I took an unexpected trip to Europe. Our first haul took the longest to sort out because many of us were learning how things were supposed to work, but after a full day, it started to feel routine. Here is a sampling of some of the amazing creatures that came up in our nets:

Big fish!
It’s a shark!
This is a dogfish. It is a relative of the shark, but without all those ferocious teeth. So many people have asked me if I have seen a shark, I had to put these photos up for you!
This is a dogfish. It is a relative of the shark, but without all those ferocious teeth. So many people have asked me if I have seen a shark, I had to put these photos up for you!
This lumpfish is a related to the anglefish, which has a light and lives in deeper water.
This lumpfish is a related to the anglefish, which has a light and lives in deeper water.
Here is a squid, a sea-robin a baby dogfish that had just hatched and a flounder or two.
Here is a squid, a sea-robin a baby dogfish that had just hatched and a flounder or two.
This is a skate.
This is a skate.
These are the skate egg cases. Have ever found one on a beach? Now you know what it grows into.
These are the skate egg cases. Have ever found one on a beach? Now you know what it grows into.
This is a long horned sculpin. These creatures buzz when you hold them and stick their fins up to scare you off. Amazing!
This is a long horned sculpin. These creatures buzz when you hold them and stick their fins up to scare you off. Amazing!
The largest lobster I have ever seen. Can you guess why I'm smiling in the picture? Here is a special shout out to my favorite lobster (and clam) fans, Simon and Nicky Tanenbaum!
The largest lobster I have ever seen. Can you guess why I’m smiling in the picture? Here is a special shout out to my favorite lobster (and clam) fans, Simon and Nicky Tanenbaum!

And finally, we saw whales!

~~~

NOAA Ship Albatross, also working on this survey
NOAA Ship Albatross, also working on this survey

On a personal note, this is a very comfortable ship. Zee and Snuggy will continue to show us around each day. Several of us watched the presidential debate on live satellite TV in the lounge tonight. Here are Snuggy and Zee having a quick meal.

Cottage Lane students, we are traveling about 8 knots per hour right now. Can you calculate how for we can travel in a day? Remember, the ship works all day and all night. How far can it go at that speed? Post your answers on the blog, then watch the video. Would you like to do this kind of work? Let me know.

I have enjoyed reading your comments very much. We are going to have a little delay in my responding to comments today as I get used to working the midnight shift. You are all correct when you say that the Bigelow has a LOT more technology than the Eagle. Consider this: I went on deck at about 4 in the morning to do some work and found that I could not see the stars because the electric lights on the ship were so bright! I guess we have to have a GPS when you reach that point! Celestial navigation just will not work on a ship with lights so bright!

Mascots in the galley
Mascots in the galley

A lot of you were focusing on what sailors then and now need to survive: Food and water, for example. Did you know old sailing ships had to bring their entire supply of fresh water with them in barrels. Today, our ship can take the salt out of seawater to make it safe to drink. Technology has changed the way we live on ships!

To my fellow TAS from the Delaware: Thanks for writing. We are doing bottom trawls and are looking to survey the entire benthic community here. Thanks for the sea-sickness tips. I may need all the help I can get if the weather decides to change.

Lynn: thanks for reading the blog. Zee is fine, and so far so am I. With luck, the weather will hold! If not, Zee may do better than I do. We could see Cape Cod earlier today. Beautiful!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 7, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

This one shows our ship under the bridge leading into Newport.
This one shows our ship under the bridge leading into Newport.

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 7, 2008

Science Log

Our first day at sea is a day of mainly travel and drills. We are moving east around the island of Martha’s Vinyard towards our first tow of the day.

Did you know that ships like the Bigelow have all kinds of safety procedures? We had two drills today. In one the crew all went to the back of the ship and put on our survivial gear. This suit will help us survive and be spotted by rescurers in the event we have to abandon ship. It is called an abandon ship drill.

On the gangplank!
On the gangplank!

During a fire drill, we go to our assigned safe spot for attendance – we call it muster. And the officers and crew practice putting out a fire. A fire on a ship can be dangerous. There are no fireman to call, so crew have to learn to put out fires on their own. That takes practice.

Snuggy and Zee also had their own tour of the ship. Each day they will visit a few places and show you pictures so you can see what different parts of the ship look like. They came in on the gangplank this morning. Just like all the sailors do.  Tomorrow, WOS students, please tell me what other parts of the ship we should visit. CLE students, you had lots of good ideas about how Columbus’ ship and mine are different. Technology is at the top of the list. Imagine crossing the ocean with just a compass, a steering wheel and a quadrent. What an adventure. We live in luxury even on our working ship. My quarters even have carpet! Keep those ideas coming. Good night to them both. It’s four in the afternoon and time for bed. I get up at 11 and start work at 12 midnight.

Zee and Snuggy on the bridge.
Zee and Snuggy on the bridge.
The nets are ready for our first day of fishing. Zee and Snuggy are ready to help.
The nets are ready for our first day of fishing. Zee and Snuggy are ready to help.

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Safety gear
Safety gear

Hello to all who wrote so far. Mrs. Christie Blick’s class, Mr. Connaughton’s class and others want to know when we start our survey work: We will begin our experiments late today after I have gone to bed, so I will tell you what we catch tomorrow. And I will send you LOTS of photographs! What do we want to catch? Well, different scientists need different things for their work. One of our scientists is studying lobsters. I hope we catch more than he needs so I can have a few for myself!

CP and others, it is not likely that we will see anything new in the water that has never been discovered. Sceintists study this area in detail every day to look for changes to the number of fish or patterns in where they live. we have a good idea of what is doen there.

AR, I will try to answer all your questions in the days to come. I have a bed called a rack here on the ship. I have a small quarters and one very nice roommate. I’ll show you around soon.

The weather here is perfect. The water is not cold or hot. It is just right. By the way, I will not be going to the bottom. We will lower nets to the bottom and see what we bring up.

EA, this ship is 210 feet long.

My brother David asks if I bring music along. Yes. I have my whole collection on my computer. Including all your discs!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 6, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 6, 2008

Now here is a view of the bridge of NOAA Ship HENRY B. BIGELOW.
Now here is a view of the bridge of NOAA Ship HENRY B. BIGELOW.

Science Log

I made it to Newport and am writing from the ship. It was an interesting trip, can you find Newport, RI, on the map?

Remember its’ Columbus Day next Monday and we are going to spend some time on this cruise comparing this ship to the one Columbus was on. I stopped off to see an old Square Rigger Sailing Ship run by the Coast Guard. It is called the Eagle and it is based in New London, Connecticut. Here is what the bridge of the Eagle looks like.

How do the crew of the Eagle know where they are? They use the sun and the stars. In fact, it is the only Coast Guard Base where Celestial Navigation is still taught. Here a friendly Coast Guard Officer, Lieutenant Lally, shows us how to use a sextant. See the tables below? He needs those to convert his sextant sighting to a latitude.

Masts of the ship
Masts of the ship

Thanks to Lieutenant Lally and to the entire crew of the Eagle for their hospitality. Fourth graders tomorrow should work in pairs and post 4 ways the Eagle and the Bigelow are the same and 4 ways they are different to the blog. Then you can work on the navigation part of this website. Don’t miss the simulation of the tool you just saw demonstrated.

Newport is also famous for mansions an beautiful sea coast. Here are a few photos of the mansions. Thank you to Harle Tinney and her wonderful staff at Belcourt Castle for letting me take photos of the inside for you. She told me something else about the Castle. The weather vane at the top of the castle was marked on the maps sea captains used back in the old-days. From that weather vane, they could calculate their position and avoid crashing on the rocks nearby.

See you tomorrow.

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Navigation instrument
Navigation instrument

Response to your questions and comments: Thanks to all for your good wishes. MAB – I will tell you all about what we catch. OG, we are not permitted on deck while work is going on unless we have a life jacket. Everyone here cares about safety. CB, the ship holds about 36 people. I’m not sure how many are sailing on this cruise. About half the crew are scientists. Several of you asked how long I would be gone for. I’ll be gone for about two weeks. We come back on the 17th of October. Many of you suggested I bring warm clothes. Yes I did. I brought just one suitcase (there is not a lot of room on a ship for extra stuff), but it is full of clothes. I brought lots of layers as well.

Hello to Miss. William’s Class: I am very excited to be going to sea again. I love it. I’ll be back in two weeks, but while I’m away, I’ll tell you all about what we catch and what we do while I am out.

Oh, and to everyone who asked, If I get sick, I’ll tell you that too! I promise! Thanks for writing.

J from TZE, I’ll show you about the cups in a few days. We are going to do an experiment with them. Keep watching!!

MH you asked a lot of great questions. Thanks for writing. I’ll try to answer all of them over the next few days. As for where I’ve been. Well, I spent the last two voyages in Alaska, so this will be very different. And much warmer.

Oh, and I did bring a few things to read. Most of them are on my computer to save space. There are a few books.

Keep watching the blog and keep writing! I’ll respond to your comments as best I can either personally or in the text of the blog now and in the days ahead. Remember, students should just use their initials when commenting.

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 5, 2008

The mascots
The mascots

Science Log

I am packed and ready. Here is a photo of Zee, our High School Mascot and Snuggy on their way to Newport to meet the ship. Monday, I will leave early in the morning and will post a blog entry from Newport, Rhode Island before we leave on Tuesday.

Next to Zee are the styrofoam cups our 4th graders and 1st graders made for an experiment. Some of our 4th graders also decorated my hardhat. It looks great! Thanks for helping keep me safe and in style while I work on deck, and thanks for all your comments and suggestions. You really helped me remember what to bring!

Styrofoam cups ready for the depths
Styrofoam cups ready for the depths

Marilyn Frydrych, September 25, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 25, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy with wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

We received a call from the Coast Guard yesterday telling us to seek shelter because of the impending interaction of Hurricane Kyle with a strong cold front approaching us. We cut our cruise a day short and headed for Woods Hole. As we headed back in I had time to reflect on my experiences over the last couple weeks. I particularly appreciated all the positive energy of the scientific crew. They were always very helpful and thoughtful as well as efficient. I learned a lot from them.  Each morning I found myself looking forward to what might unfold as we worked together.  I totally enjoyed my four or five hours of free time each day. Often I would spend this time on the bow or the fantail taking in the rhythm of the sea.  It was a very soothing experience much like watching a camp fire. The sunsets, too, brought a sense of awe and peace.

Each of the crew was a master of multiple tasks.  Jon Rockwell was not only an expert cook, but a medic as were three others aboard.  As part of their initial training with the NOAA Corps the four officers had entered a room fully in flames and totally filled with smoke.  If they had to, they could navigate by the stars. Two of the officers were NOAA trained SCUBA divers.  The engineers could fix anything whether it had to do with distilling water, leaking hydraulic pipes, stuck drawers, broken toilets, cracked welds, or the various diesel engines.  They were experts in the “green” rules governing disposal of waste.  The ET specialist could fix both hardware and software.  The scientists knew their software programs backwards and forwards.  All very impressive.

Each day brought a new, wondrous sunset.
Each day brought a new, wondrous sunset.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 24, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 24, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy with winds out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Marie Martin, the bird watcher, came rushing down from her perch on the flying bridge in the early afternoon announcing that she had just spotted a humpback whale close by.  We all rushed here and there to get a view. I went up to the bow and looked for about 10 minutes.  As I came back through the bridge LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, the OOD (Officer of the Deck), and Marie were talking about a right whale entangled in a net.  Mark called the captain seeking his advice.  Whenever a situation like this is observed the captain is expected to report it.  The captain told Mark to report it and let the trained people steam out to try to find it.  I interjected that I never did spot the pilot whale. Everyone said, “What pilot whale?”  Mark said he saw a right whale. Marie piped up that she had said it was a humpback whale.  Then I remembered that indeed she had said humpback whale.  At that point the whole thing was moot because the humpbacks are not endangered. Then we asked Mike, the chief scientist, what would happen if a right whale got caught in his net. He said he didn’t want to think about it.  When a sturgeon got caught he said he had two weeks of doing nothing but filling out forms.  If a right whale got caught he would probably have 2 months of paperwork.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.42 degrees N, 67.39 degrees W
Cloudy with wind out of the N at 32 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.5 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  11.6 degrees Celsius
Waves: 6 feet
Visibility:  10 miles

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday we were fairly busy doing CTD casts and trawls. Today we woke to find the night crew just starting to record the lengths and weights of their large catch. We grabbed some cereal and took over from them at 5:45 a.m. They had collected and sorted all the fish. Jacquie and I took about two hours measuring, weighing, and examining the innards of the half basket of herring they left us. Our chief scientist, Dr. Mike Jech, summarized his findings so far in a short report to everyone including those back at Woods Hole: “Trawl catches in the deeper water near Georges Bank have been nearly 100% herring with some silver hake.  Trawl catches in shallow water (<75 m) have occasionally caught herring, but mostly small silver hake, redfish, butterfish, and red hake.

A night haul of herring.  Notice the brilliant blue stripe on the top of the herring. The camera’s flash is spotlighted in the reflective tape on the life vests.
A night haul of herring. Notice the brilliant blue stripe on the top of the herring. The camera’s flash is spotlighted in the reflective tape on the life vests.

Small being less than 5-6 cm in length.  We caught one haddock this entire trip.  Trawl catches north of Georges Bank have been a mix of redfish and silver hake, with a few herring mixed in.” This afternoon the Officer of the Deck, LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, gave me a run down of many of the instruments on the bridge.  I spotted a white blob on the northeastern horizon and pointed it out. He showed me where it was on the SIMRAD FS900, a specialized radar.  The SIMRAD FS900is often able to identify a ship and its name.  This time it couldn’t.  Looking through binoculars we could see it was a large container vessel.  Then we looked at a different radar and saw both the ship’s absolute trajectory and its trajectory relative to the Delaware 2.  It was on a path parallel to the Delaware2 so Mark didn’t worry about it intersecting our path.  We also noticed another ship off to the west and north of us on the radar, but we couldn’t yet see it on the horizon. It too was projected on a path parallel to us.

Then Mark pointed out an area on the SIMRAD FS900 outlined in red. It’s an area where ships can voluntarily slow to 10 knots in an effort to avoid collisions with whales. It seems that sleeping right whales don’t respond to approaching noises made by ships.  There are only about 350 to 500 of them left and they are often killed by passing ships. The Delaware 2 was steaming at about 7 knots because in the 6 ft waves it couldn’t go any faster. However the container ship was steaming at 15.5 knots.  Few ships slow down in the red zone.

Mark showed me how to fill out the weather report for that hour.   I typed in all my info into a program on a monitor which assembled all my weather data into the format the weather service uses. I first recorded our position from an instrument displaying the latitude and longitude right there above the plotting table.  I read the pressure, the wet bulb temperature and the dry bulb temperature from an instrument which had a readout in a room off to the starboard of the bridge.  The ship has two anemometers so I averaged these to get the wind speed and direction.  We looked at the waves and tried to imagine standing in the trough of one and looking up.  I figured the wave would be over my head and so estimated about 6 feet.  We also looked at the white foam from a breaking wave and counted the seconds from when it appeared until it rode the next wave. The period of the wave we watched was four seconds.  Next we looked out the window to search out any clouds. It was clear in front of us but quite cloudy all behind us.  I estimated the height of the clouds. I typed all this information into the appropriate boxes on the monitor.  It was all so much easier than my college days when we had to gather the information manually then switch it by hand into the code appropriate for the weather service.  The OOD sent this information to NOAA Weather Service on the hour, every hour operations permitting.

Personal Log 

Though my son was instrumental in persuading me to apply for the Teacher-at-Sea position I haven’t seen much of him thus far.  He’s standing the 1 to 4 shift both afternoon and night.  When I’m free he seems to be sleeping.  We don’t even eat meals together.  That’s why I made a special trip to the bridge today to meet up with him during his watch.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 22, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.52 degrees N, 68.06 degrees W
Cloudy, wind out of the E at 11 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.2 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  14.0 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  16.9 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

Today was more of the same–more CTD’s and trawls.  Just after lunch we had our weekly fire drill. This time the fire was in the galley and Jon Rockwell, the chief cook, was supposedly overcome with fake CO2 smoke.  After everyone except Jon was accounted for the search for him began in earnest.  The Hollywood style smoke machine produced smoke so thick the crew had difficulty finding Jon “passed out” on the floor of the galley.  Part of the drill was lifting Jon on a stretcher up the stairs and out onto the fantail.  Our station was redirected to the bridge this time where we were allowed to listen as LT(jg) Mark Frydrych conducted the exercise.  I had noticed emergency firemen gear here and there in the halls.  Always there was a radio charging next to the gear. That’s how they communicated.  All in all I was very impressed with the expertise and calmness of everyone even when plan A didn’t work and plan B had to be tried.  Safety always came first. For a good 45 minutes following the drill the crew and officers talked over possible improvements.  There was no messing around.  Everyone was in earnest and aware of the seriousness of the drill and the debriefing.  Yet this group had been practicing fire drills weekly every time they were at sea.

Personal Log 

I already knew three people aboard when I arrived.  My son, LT(jg) Mark Frydrych, was the Operations Officer. He’s the one who suggested I apply for the Teacher-at-Sea position.  On a previous visit to Woods Hole I had met Erin Earley, the engineer wiper.  We had hit it off then and continued to get to know each other better on this cruise.  Then there was my hiking pal from Colorado, Jacquie. She and I both work at Pikes Peak Community College in the math department.  She’d taken the semester off and was looking for an adventure.  After applying for the Teacher-at-Sea position I learned that the Herring Legs needed volunteers.  Jacquie signed up for the first two legs. This cruise was her second leg.  I experienced a tremendously easy adjustment stage because of these friendships.

 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.00 degrees, 68.06 degrees W
Partly cloudy, wind out of the SE at 6 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 18.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  15.7 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  17.7 degrees Celsius

Red Fish waiting to be sorted and later in a clothes basket.
Red Fish waiting to be sorted and later in a clothes basket.

Science and Technology Log 

We returned to a spot that Mike had marked on our computers as a place where he would have liked to have sampled the fish when the seas were high and we were unable to fish.  We sent down a CTD at dawn and then deployed our net.  I’m learning more about the importance of the man at the helm.  If he speeds the boat then the net will rise.  Conversely, if he slows the net falls.  The desire of the scientist is to get a representative sample of the fish in the area, but not to take more than what is needed since we return very few alive to the ocean. The NOAA Corps officer at the helm knows this as well and has his own sonar so that he knows at what level the fish are located.  He adjusts the speed of the boat as he sees fit to catch an appropriate number of fish while checking with the chief scientist or watch chief to ensure the net is where they want it. I also learned that red fish are often associated with American herring.  Red fish are a sweet delicious fish, which were over fished during World War II.  They’ve been on the US’s banned fishing list since that time.

frydrych_log6aWe brought up in today’s catch about 200 small fry red fish.  We also collected about 20 good-sized ones running to about 12”.  The large ones take up to 60 years to grow to the size where they are worth harvesting to eat.  We only brought up 5 herring.  This time there was one 8” squid. We deployed the Tow Body this afternoon around 3:30 p.m.  It’s an undersea camera.  Unfortunately the wires connecting the Tow Body to the computers had gotten broken as it sat on the fantail. Possibly the wires got jostled during clean up.  (We use a fire hose to clean the fantail after each trawl.) Possibly people stepping on and over the wires as they walked about on the fantail broke the wire.  This wasn’t learned until moments before we were to deploy the instrument.  The ET specialist, Dave Miles, figured out where the wire was broken fairly quickly and reconnected it. That gave us connectivity, but still there was a problem of the Tow Body not responding to commands from the computer.  The chief scientist, Mike, tackled that part of the problem.  Somehow he fixed the software. We got the go ahead signal about three hours later. 

Getting ready to deploy the Tow Body
Getting ready to deploy the Tow Body

This was the only deployment in which the scientific crew was allowed on the fantail as part of the deployment.  Like the fishermen we had to wear a life jacket and hardhat.  Four of us held onto lines that kept the Tow Body from twisting as it entered the water.  Unfortunately one of the lines got loose. Displaying great skill fisherman Jim Pontz used a grappling hook to retrieve it.   By now we had drifted so far off course we had to circle back into position.  When we finally got the instrument in the water our fish had left the area.  We could tell that by the echograms.  The plans were to leave the Tow Body’s lights off until the camera was surrounded by fish.

Otherwise the fish swim away from the lights.  Only later when we again came into a school of fish did we learn that the lights weren’t responding.  The endeavor was aborted.  From a scientific standpoint we did learn something.  The Tow Body needed more work.  We also learned that we should start disconnecting the wires from the Tow Body when it’s stored on the fantail.

Personal Log 

I watched the Broncos play this afternoon.  No one else was interested.  Four or five of the crew watched different football games throughout the day.  They seemed to have time for their favorite team, but no one seemed to spend hours and hours watching game after game.  The most popular form of relaxation was watching movies.  There must be over a hundred DVD’s to choose from. The screen is a large flat panel screen.

Fisherman Jim Pontz using the grappling hook to retrieve a loose line attached to the Tow Body.
Jim Pontz using the grappling hook to retrieve a loose line.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
42.53 degrees N, 67.51 degrees W
Cloudy, wind out of the E at 11 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.2 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  14.0 degrees Celsius
Waves: 1 foot
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  16.9 degrees Celsius

A goosefish, also called a lumpfish.
A goosefish, also called a lumpfish.

Science and Technology Log 

We did a CTD with an attached water bottle and then deployed a net. We backtracked today and redid the sites we found yesterday which had good herring potential. About 10:30 in the morning we collected about 1/3 of a clothesbasket of fish. Most of that were herring and mackerel, with the usual small butterfish, goosefish or lumpfish, red hake fish, small jellyfish, and Ilex squid. The catch included an unknown two inch fish which Mike, the chief scientist, conjectured had gotten caught in a warm eddy off the Gulf Stream and ended in the wrong part of the ocean much like the jet stream blows birds off course. Part of sorting the fish involved gutting one to three each of the different lengths of herring to determine their sex, age, and what they had been eating. With practice and much patience on Robert and Jacquie’s part I learned to recognize the stomach and sex organs of the fish.  None of the herring today had anything in their stomachs, while those of two days ago had lots, mostly krill.  With two of us working it took about 45 minutes to measure the length and weight of each herring.  They varied When we finally collected the net we had 3 basketsful of redfish, half a basket of silver hake, 4 herring, one large goosefish about a foot long, and a rare Atlantic Shad about 2 feet long.

To measure our fish we used the magnetized pointer in the upper right hand corner of the picture.  It looks like a cigarette.  We lined up the fish’s head against the black backstop. Then we stretched the body straight out.  When we pressed the pointer against the end of the fish’s body an electrical circuit closed and the computer automatically recorded the fish’s length.  The fish are silver hake.
To measure our fish we used the magnetized pointer. We lined up the fish’s head against the black backstop and stretched the body straight out. When we pressed the pointer against the end of the fish’s body an electrical circuit closed and the computer automatically recorded the fish’s length. The fish are silver hake.

We froze samples which we’d opened up for Mike and then one ungutted sample from each of the nine categories for the University of  Maine. We did another CTD about 11:30 and deployed the net again. All did not go well this time. The sonar showed that the net was twisted and the opening blocked. The fishermen were called upon to bring it in and straighten it.  The first thing they did was to take the two 400 pound chain weights off. Then they sent the net back out hoping it would straighten itself.  Alas, they had to bring it in and send it out a couple more times as they manually untangled all the lines. It was very strenuous work and took them about 45 minutes.  As a result we steamed about 3 miles past the point where we intended to fish.

We’ve sorted a smaller catch on the measuring board. We measured and weighed these fish, but never opened them to determine their sex.  We did that only for herring.  The scale is under the gray container on the right.  We only had to press a button for the computer to record the weight.
We’ve sorted a smaller catch on the measuring board. We measured and weighed these fish, but never opened them to determine their sex. We did that only for herring. The scale is under the gray container on the right. We only had to press a button for the computer to record the weight
 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 18, 2008

Marilyn entering below deck.
Marilyn entering below deck.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature:  20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 9 feet
Visibility:  10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature:  21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

We suspended operations. The seas were from 8 to 9 feet for the next day and a half. Conditions were unsafe for the fishermen to work.  Everyone spent the day reading, playing board games, watching movies, or typing on the three computers provided for everyone’s use. Erin Earley, the engineer wiper, took the opportunity to show Jacquie and me the engine room.  She took us through all the portals marked, “Do Not Enter”.  They all had ladders under them leading to the bowels of the ship. The engine area was compartmentalized and was entered from different spots from above. Erin showed us the ubiquitous colored handles which turned the various valves on and off.

Marilyn ducking under pipes below deck
Marilyn ducking under pipes below deck

There were yellow handles for transmission oil pipes, green for seawater, orange for hydraulic fluid, red for emergency fire hose water, blue for drinking water, and brown for engine oil. We headed down under the galley where we passed next to the 12-cylinder Detroit Diesel engine which powered the screw. It was about ten times the size of a good-sized pickup engine. Erin explained the importance of placing all this heavy machinery so that the weight is evenly distributed within the ship. The engine being so heavy is usually near the center of the ship.  This necessitates a huge long drive shaft connecting it to the screw. The drive shaft, spinning away at high speed, was out in the open just under and alongside the catwalk. One slip would be catastrophic.  Most of what we saw was large 5’ by 5’ or larger rectangular tanks for fuel, distilled water, black water, gray water, and used oil.  The black water from the toilets is stored in a tank with “bugs” or a bacteria in it which eat the refuse and in effect clean up the water. The gray water is from the sinks and showers and contains soap which kills the bugs. The gray water has to be saved in tanks separate from the black water.  All this is dumped into the sea in designated areas.  Only the used oil is saved to be offloaded back at the dock.

Erin Earley pointing out hydraulic fluid pipes.
Erin Earley pointing out hydraulic fluid pipes.

We saw two workshop areas, a storeroom with all the parts that might be needed for any possible repair, an extra emergency generator, and the Engine Control Room (CERC), where Engineer Chris O’Keefe was standing watch. The CERC room contained all the gauges to monitor all the engine systems.  By the end of the tour Jacquie and I were totally impressed with how clean and organized everything was and how much knowledge the engineers needed.  The four of them had to be experts in heating and cooling, in welding, in diesel engine repair, in electrical repairs, and hydraulics.  Each of them had either mastered these fields or was in an apprenticeship with that as their goal. Usually people master one of these fields in a lifetime. We were also impressed with how many safety features were built in everywhere.  It seemed everywhere we went there were three foot CO2 bottles which would automatically spray everywhere if a fire were to occur.

Personal Log 

Two holding tanks
Two holding tanks

Sleeping was difficult for me that evening.  I did succumb to seasickness Friday morning, but was fine after downing a sea sickness pill.  We frittered away the rest of the day.  Robert Gamble, second scientist under Mike Jech, got out his game called Hive and taught three or four of us how to play. Otherwise I read, did Sudoku, rode the exercise bike, and ate.

The food was tremendously good.  All of it was prepared from scratch.  The two cooks were at least four star cooks. They not only cooked, they also cleaned up their own mess, did the dishes, and cleaned up the dining area.  They appeared the hardest workers on board.  For both lunch and dinner they prepared two entrees, three veggies, homemade soup, and two salads.  They baked two luscious desserts as well. So far we have sampled lamb chops, salmon, lobster bisque, crab ravioli, pork chops with a luscious applesauce, and grilled swordfish. 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 17, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters

Deploying the fishing net
Deploying the fishing net

Date: September 17, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

A fisherman dumping the catch
A fisherman dumping the catch

The third day out was much like the second day. Our first job was to fish with the big net.  This time the chief scientist wanted to know what some small vertical echoes on the echogram were. He guessed that they were shrimp or krill. The acoustic echogram used three frequencies:  18 kHz, 38 kHz, and 120 kHz. If dots appeared in all three then he was pretty sure it was fish and most likely herring. These particular vertical dots appeared only in the 18 kHz echogram.  He guessed they were very small fish, but wanted to determine if the signature belonged to opening were huge metal doors.  They looked like doors, but in fact never closed. They were actually more like the front edge of an airplane wing. Their purpose was to stay parallel to each other and keep the net open. The net was rolled up on a large roller, which sat at the center back of the fantail. It was about 250 ft long.  When it was time to deploy, the fishermen used a winch to unwind the net. The person at the helm had to be extremely careful that the boat kept at a steady headway of about 3 to 4 knots. The doors were stored at the very end of the stern. With the help of their own hydraulic winches they were lifted to a spot where they could be attached to the net.  There was a place on each side of the net where the side wire changed to a chain link. The metal doors were clasped on these links and then dragged into the sea.  Another link in the wire was for heavy chains. Their weight of about 400 pounds each held the sides of the net down.

Fishermen setting up the recorder which is sent outwith the net.
Fishermen setting up the recorder sent outwith the net.

The night crew, on from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am were busy Wednesday night and on into the morning.  They did two CTD’s and three net deployments.  They left us about 50 herring and silver hake to observe in the morning.  Richie Logan, one of the fishermen, used these to write a birthday note to his daughter. Here’s his picture. Each time we sent out a net we were hoping for about half a clothes basketful of fish. Last night they filled 30 baskets.  Only about 1/3 of a basket is ever measured and weighed. The rest are tossed back.  Our chief scientist said he can remember processing enough to fill 60 baskets. So far most of the biomass in the basket has been krill. Mixed in with the krill are small anthropoids maybe a half inch square, jelly fish about twice that size, Illex squid from 2 to 6 inches long, baby silver hake, butterfish, or red hake. These last three are all in the neighborhood of 1 inch long.

This morning we pulled up a lamprey eel about 2 feet long and a couple two inch lumpfish in the evening.  Most of the fish were dead when we got to them.  We had to wait until the fishermen were totally finished with winding the net and had dumped the net’s contents onto the deck before we were allowed on the fantail. Then we sorted the large fish into clothes baskets and the smaller ones into small trays. Wednesday Jacquie Ostrom, another volunteer from Colorado Springs, noticed that two 3-inch lumpfish were moving.  She added some water to our rectangular sorting pan and a piece of clear hard plastic we had thought was some molt or litter also started to move. No one seemed to know what the “plastic” was.  After a quick reference to the Internet we learned it was the larva of the spiny lobster.

Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.
Richie Logan making a Happy Birthday email for his daughter.

Personal Log 

We must have passed by the north-south migration path of the whales.  We didn’t spot any today. The work load is really light compared with teaching.  We work two or three hours cataloguing the catch after each trawl, clean up with the saltwater deck hose, and then wait for the next trawl maybe three or four hours later. A 20 minute CTD deployment every now and then is the only other work we are expected to do. The cruise is turning out to be very relaxing. I spend quite a bit of time just staring out at the sea, immersing myself in its gentle rhythm.

Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
Seven basketsful of herring from a haul in the deep waters near Georges Bank.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.
The piece of “plastic” turned out to be the larva of a spiny lobster.

Marilyn Frydrych, September 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 16, 2008

The Newston net hanging from a pulley on the A-frame
The Newston net hanging from a pulley on the A-frame

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Today started slowly since we were still in transit to our starting position.  All morning there were 15 to 20 terns and gulls flying nearby.  Occasionally we’d spot land birds.  A small yellow-rumped warbler actually flew into the dry lab area of the boat. It was far from where it belonged and probably wouldn’t make it back.  The terns skimmed the water surface, but never actually seemed to touch the water.  Our bird scientists, Marie-Caroline Martin and Timothy White, decided they would deploy a Newston net to try to determine what the birds were eating. The fishermen, who do all the deploying of instruments, hung the net from the A-frame pulley on the starboard side and swung it out over the water. For 20 minutes it bounced in and out of the water never getting more than a foot or so above or below the surface. The Neuston fine mesh net is about 10 feet long and has a mouth about 4 feet by 2 feet.

Jim Pontz, a fisherman, working the A-frame.
Jim Pontz, a fisherman, working the A-frame.

When the fishermen brought it in, it mostly held salp and  jellyfish, but also some small crustaceans which looked like miniature shrimp about 1/2 in. long.  The jellyfish were small, without stingers.  Marie carefully washed the contents of the net down to its opening with a salt water hose.  Then she used her unprotected hands to slide her catch into a glass jar about the size of a medium peanut butter jar. She graciously separated a few of the crustaceans for us to observe. About 11:30 a.m. we finally reached our starting point. The plan was to do parallel north-south transects.  We would cross the east-west transects without stopping . We fished with a huge net off the stern. The chief scientist, Dr Michael Jech, decided when to fish. Sometimes he put the net in to prove that there were no herring there and the echoes he was receiving were correct.  Other times he saw a new signature on the screen and checked to see what it might have been.  Still other times he recognized the herring signature (he’s about 90% accurate) and  fished to determine sizes, sexes, and stomach content.  At other times he had predetermined stations where fishing had been good in the past.

A herring in a clothes basket. Note the brilliant blue stripe on top.
A herring in a clothes basket. Note the brilliant blue stripe on top.

At each 90 degree turn we deployed a CTD – conductivity, temperature, and depth instrument. The instrument measured how easily electricity can flow through the seawater, its conductivity. From this and the temperature and pressure (or depth) the salinity of the water can be determined.  The equations involve the 5th power of both temperature and pressure. They appear to be Taylor’s series approximations.  The CTD is also used to calculate the speed of sound which is important for the accuracy of the sonar equipment.  Only the crew may actually deploy instruments.  None of the scientists touch the instruments going over the side. The scientific crew’s job was to communicate via a handheld radio with the fishermen working the winch and the one putting the instrument into the water.  We told them when to start after we had initialized the computer programs and when to haul back the CTD as it came within a few feet of the ocean bottom. We could simultaneously look at a cam on a nearby monitor showing what was happening at the A frame.  I watched the first time this was done, but with everyone’s help soon caught on and was doing it myself.

Jacquie Ostrom at her post radioing the fishermen when to start the CTD
Jacquie Ostrom at her post radioing the fishermen when to start the CTD

The second time I helped with the CTD we attached a Niskin water bottle to the bottom of the CTD and signaled to have it stopped about half way back up the ever present bottom layer isotherm.  We paused for about a minute as it filled with the surrounding water.  At that point both ends were wide open. A fisherman dropped a messenger, a heavy round metal doughnut, down the line to the bottle.  It tripped a lever which then allowed the lids connected with tremendously strong elastic bands to snap shut.  The tube is a little larger than a 2-liter soda bottle. When we were given the retrieved bottle, we washed out a small, maybe 1-cup, bottle 3 times with the seawater from the Niskin bottle before we filled and capped it and replaced it in its position in a crate.  The water can be used to calibrate the salinity readings the CTD recorded and to determine various other chemicals at that spot of collection in the ocean.

Sunset silhouetting the CTD bottle balancing against one arm of the A-frame.
Sunset silhouetting the CTD bottle balancing against one arm of the A-frame.

Personal Log 

Today being the first full day at sea I was introduced to a wonderful daily ritual. Each morning at about 10:30 the chiefs brought out from the oven their first baked dessert of the day. Today’s was the most perfectly seasoned peach cobbler I’ve ever tasted. Once toward evening we spotted dolphins around the ship. We could occasionally see them jumping through the air. A pair played in the bow wake for a short while. About the same time the crew pointed out to us some three or four pilot whales about 100 yards off the starboard stern. I hadn’t expected to see so much sea life.  This is turning into a very memorable adventure.

 

Marilyn Frydrych, September 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Marilyn Frydrych
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 15-25, 2008

Mission: Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: New England Coastal Waters
Date: September 15, 2008

The Delaware II  (Photo courtesy Jacquie Ostram)
The Delaware II (Photo courtesy Jacquie Ostram)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
41.27 degrees N, 70.19 degrees W
Partly Cloudy
Wind out of the W at 19 knots
Dry Bulb Temperature: 26.0 degrees Celsius
Wet Bulb Temperature: 20.9 degrees Celsius
Waves: 2 feet
Visibility: 10 miles
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.6 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

The purpose of my trip on the Delaware II was to find interesting venues for presenting various math lessons to students at Pikes Peak Community College where I teach and to students of different grades and ages at the K-12 public schools in Colorado Springs. We left on time yesterday, though I was unaware of the departure. I had been busy unpacking my things and making my bed.  Then I decided to learn my way around the boat.  I happened to look through a porthole and noticed we were about 25 yards from the peer.  The NOAA Corps officer, ENS Charlene Felkley, taking us out had used the bow thruster to move us away from the dock. It was so smooth that I hadn’t noticed any movement.  I thought that strange considering the size of the Delaware 2.  We steamed all day toward our station about 250 miles east of Cape Cod. 

NOAA’s dock at Woods Hole, Massachusetts
NOAA’s dock at Woods Hole, Massachusetts

After we were out of the channel we started our drills.  We’d all been given a station billet stating where our stations were for emergencies.  The first was a fire drill followed by an abandon ship drill. I started to my station at the stern for the fire drill, but one of the engineers redirected me to the bow stating that the fire was in the stern.  About 15 of us gathered in the bow. We had all carried our survival suit, life vest, long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves, and anything we thought we might need.  I brought as extras my sunglasses and a bottle of water. When we were dismissed, about 15 minutes later after the officers and crew had practiced using the fire hoses by spaying over the side of the boat, we proceeded to the stern where those of us who had not been on the last cruise dressed in our survival suits.  I soon learned that the easiest way to put on a survival suit is to stretch the legs and boots out on the deck, sit down in its middle, draw its legs onto your legs, stand up and finish with the upper body. Pulling the zipper up proved quite difficult.  The hood enveloped my face and I could feel its suction.  The suit is designed to keep the cold water away from your body. It was well insulated but still in icy cold waters would only protect you for about an hour.

Jacquie Ostrom and Marilyn on the bow
Jacquie Ostrom and Marilyn on the bow

Personal Log 

That evening we spotted some whales spouting.  It was migration time so we must have been crossing their path as they headed south. We were told they were probably humpback whales because of their size and the shape of their spouts.  I saw a couple fins, but mostly just their massive bodies surfacing.  I learned about “fin prints” the spot where their fin flattens the water.  The little ripples, prevalent everywhere on the ocean’s surface, seem to be smoothed out at the spot where the fin hits the water. These areas were about 6 ft by 4 ft and glistened smooth in the setting sun. We watched spout after spout for about 2 hours.

Marilyn and Debbie Duarte on the bow
Marilyn and Debbie Duarte on the bow
Our four bunk room.  Debbie Durate on the night shift and Jacquie Ostrom and I on the day shift shared this room.  It was understood we were not to return to the room any time during our 12 hour shift. The shower is behind the sink and not much wider.
Our four bunk room. Debbie Durate on the night shift and Jacquie Ostrom and I on the day shift shared this room. It was understood we were not to return to the room any time during our 12 hour shift. The shower is behind the sink and not much wider.
Marilyn in survival suit
Marilyn in survival suit
Robert Gambel, scientist, standing in front of our fishing net ready to put on his survival suit
Robert Gambel, scientist, standing in front of our fishing net ready to put on his survival suit

Lisbeth Uribe, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: August 5, 2008

Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl, Chief Boatswain Jon Forgione and Chief Engineer Patrick Murphy discussing the best way to reattach the pump power cable to the dredge.
Chief Scientist Vic Nordahl, Chief Boatswain Jon Forgione and Chief Engineer Patrick Murphy discussing the best way to reattach the pump power cable to the dredge.

Ship Log 

In the last 48 hours the engineers, crew and scientists have had to re-attach the power cable to the dredge (see photograph), fix the cracked face plate of the pump, replace the blade and blade assembly, change the pipe nozzles that direct the flow of water into the cage, and work on the dredge survey sensor package (SSP). Dredging is hard on the equipment, so some mechanical problems are to be expected. The main concern is for lost time and running out of critical spare parts.  So far we have had great success with making the repairs quickly and safely.

Science and Technology Log 

Collecting Tow Event and Sensor Information for the Clam Survey 
Over the weekend I was moved up to the bridge during the towing of the dredge. I was responsible for logging the events of each tow and recording information about the ship and weather in a computerized system called SCS (Scientific Computer System). I listened carefully to the radio as the lab, bridge (captain) and crane operator worked together to maneuver the dredge off the deck and into the water, turn on the pumps, tow the dredge on the seafloor bottom, haul the dredge up, turn off the pump and bring the clam-filled dredge back on deck. It is important that each step of the tow is carefully timed and recorded in order to check that the tows are as identical as possible.  The recording of the events is then matched to the sensor data that is collected during dredge deployment. As soon as the dredge is on deck I come downstairs to help clean out the cage and sort and shuck the clams.   

Lisbeth is working on the bridge logging the events of each tow into the computer system.
Lisbeth is working on the bridge logging the events of each tow into the computer system.

My next job assignment was to initialize and attach to both the inside and outside of the dredge the two mini-logger sensors before each tow. Once the dredge was back on deck I removed both mini-loggers and downloaded the sensor data into the computers. Both sensors collect pressure and temperature readings every 10 seconds during each tow. Other sensors are held in the Survey Sensor Package (SSP), a unit that communicates with onboard computers wirelessly.  Housed on the dredge, the SSP collects information about the dredge tilt, roll, both manifold and ambient pressure & temperature and power voltage every second. The manifold holds the six-inch pipe nozzles that direct the jets of water into the dredge.  Ideally the same pump pressure is provided at all depths of dredge operation. In addition to the clam survey, NOAA scientists are collecting other specimens and data during this cruise.

Two small black tubes (~3 inches long), called miniloggers, are attached to the dredge. The miniloggers measure the manifold (inside) and ambient (outside) pressure and temperature during the tow.
Two small black tubes (~3 inches long), called miniloggers, are attached to the dredge. The miniloggers measure the manifold (inside) and ambient (outside) pressure and temperature during the tow.

NOAA Plankton Diversity Study 
FDA and University of Maryland Student Intern Ben Broder-Oldasch is collecting plankton from daily tows.  The plankton tows take place at noon, when single-celled plants called phytoplankton are higher in the water column. Plankton rise and fall according to the light. Plankton is collected in a long funnel-shaped net towed slowly by the ship for 5 minutes at a depth of 20 meters. Information is collected from a flow meter suspended within the center of the top of the net to get a sense of how much water flowed through the net during the tow. Plankton is caught in the net and then falls into the collecting jar at the bottom of the net.  In the most recent tow, the bottle was filled with a large mass of clear jellied organisms called salps. Ben then filters the sample to sort the plankton by size. The samples will be brought back to the lab for study under the microscope to get a sense of plankton species diversity on the Georges Bank.

An easy way to collect plankton at home or school is to make a net out of one leg of a pair of nylons. Attach the larger end of the leg to a circular loop made from a metal clothes hanger.  Cut a small hole at the toe of the nylon and attach a plastic jar to the nylon by wrapping a rubber band tightly around the nylon and neck of the jar.  Drag the net through water and then view your sample under a microscope as soon as possible.

Biological Toxin Studies 

NOAA Scientist Amy Nau hauls the plankton net out of the water using the A-frame. (Upper insert: flow meter; lower insert: plankton in the collection bottle after the tow).
NOAA Scientist Amy Nau hauls the plankton net out of the water using the A-frame. (Upper insert: flow meter; lower insert: plankton in the collection bottle after the tow).

Scientists from NOAA and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) are working together to monitor clams for biological toxins. Clams and other bi-valves such as oysters and mussels, feed on phytoplankton. Some species of phytoplankton make biological toxins that, when ingested, are stored in the clam’s neck, gills, digestive systems, muscles and gonadal tissues.  If non-aquatic animals consume the contaminated clams, the stored toxin can be very harmful, even fatal.  The toxin affects the gastrointestinal and neurological systems. The rate at which the toxins leave the clams, also known as depuration rate, varies depending on the toxin type, level of contamination, time of year, species, and age of the bivalve. Unfortunately, freezing or cooking shellfish has no effect on the toxicity of the clam. The scientists on the Delaware II are collecting and testing specimens for the two biological toxins that cause Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

NOAA Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) Study 
A group of naturally occurring diatoms, called Pseudo-nitzschia, manufacture a biological toxin called Domoic Acid (DA) that causes Amnesia Shellfish Poisoning (ASP) in humans.  Diatoms, among the most common organisms found in the ocean, are single-celled plankton that usually float and drift near the ocean surface. NOAA scientist Amy Nau collects samples of ocean water from the surface each day at noon. By taking water samples and counting the numbers of plankton cells, in particular the Pseudo-nitzschia diatoms, scientists can better determine if a “bloom” (period of rapid growth of algae) is in progress. She filters the sample to separate the cells, places the filter paper in a test tube with water, adds a fixative to the tube and sets it aside for further study in her lab in Beaufort, NC. 

Scientist Amy Nau filters seawater for ASP causing dinoflagellates.
Scientist Amy Nau filters seawater for ASP causing dinoflagellates.

FDA Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) Study 
Scientists aboard the Delaware II are also collecting meat samples from clams for an FDA study on the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning. When clams ingest the naturally occurring dinoflagellate called Alexandrium catenella, they accumulate the toxin in their internal organs. When ingested by humans, the toxin blocks sodium channels and causes paralysis. In the lab, testing for the toxin causing PSP is a lengthy process that involves injecting a mouse with extracts from shellfish tissue.  If the mouse dies, scientists know the toxin is present. The FDA is testing the accuracy of a new quick test for the toxin called the Jellet Test Kit. After measuring and weighing a dozen clams from each station on the Georges Bank, Ben and Amy remove and freeze the meat (internal organs and flesh) from the clams to save for further testing by scientists back on land. At the same time, they also puree a portion of the sample and test it using the Jellet strips for a quicker positive or negative PSP result.

Personal Log 

Pilot whales sighted off the bow!
Pilot whales sighted off the bow!

The problems that we have experienced with regard to the dredge over the past few days are an important reminder of the need for the scientists and crew to not only be well prepared but also flexible when engaged in fieldwork. All manner of events, including poor weather and mechanical difficulties, can and do delay the gathering of data. The Chief Scientist, Vic Nordahl, is constantly checking for inconsistencies or unusual patterns, particularly from the dredge sensor readings, that might need to be addressed in order to ensure that the survey data is consistent and accurate. The time required to repair the dredge meant I was able to do a load of laundry. Dredging is very dirty work! Good thing I am using old shirts and shorts. I also caught up on a few emails using the onboard computers. Though the Internet service can be slow at times it is such a luxury to be able to stay in touch with friends and family on land. I still have two very special experiences that I wish to share before ending my log.

Late in the evening a couple of days ago, as we steamed toward our next tow station, I was invited to peer over the bow. The turbulence in the water was causing a dinoflagellate called Noctiluca to sparkle and glow with a greenish-blue light in the ocean spray.  The ability of Noctiluca and a few other species of plankton and some deep-sea fish to emit light is called bioluminesense. A few days later we had the great fortune to see five pilot whales about 100 meters away, gliding together, their black dorsal fins slicing through the water, occasional plumes of air bursting upward through their blowholes (nostrils located on the tops of their heads).

Answers to the previous log’s questions: 

1. What is the depth and name of the deepest part of the ocean? The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is 10,852 meters deep, (deeper than Mount Everest is tall – 8,850 meters).  Speaking of tall mountains, the tallest mountain in the world is not Mount Everest, but the volcano Mauna Kea (Hawaii).  It reaches 4,200 meters above sea level, but its base on the sea floor is 5,800 meters below sea level.  Its total height (above base) is therefore 10, 000 meters!

2.What is the longest-lived animal on record? In 2007, an ocean quahog was dredged off the Icelandic coast.  By drilling through and counting the growth rings on its shell, scientists determined it was between 405 and 410 years old. Unfortunately it did not survive the examination, so we do not know how much longer it would have lived if left undisturbed. This ancient clam was slightly less than 6 inches in width.

Lisbeth Uribe, July 31, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: July 31, 2008

“Bob” the Man Overboard Victim
“Bob” the Man Overboard Victim

Ship Log 

Man Overboard Drill 

Just as the day watch started our shift we heard three short blasts of the ship’s horn, signaling a “Man Overboard” drill.  While the crew was on deck (both on the bow (front of the ship) and stern (back), the Chief Boatswains Jon Forgione and Leno Luis put on life vests and safety helmets and were lowered into the water in a rigid haul inflatable boat (RHIB).  When those on board the ship sighted the dummy victim, we raised our arms and pointed in its direction. The rescuers then headed in the direction the crew were pointing.  At the same time, the Operations Officer and Medical Person in Charge (MPIC) Claire Surrey readied her gear to perform life saving measures once the victim was safely brought on the deck.  Rescue protocols are taken very seriously as they are designed to keep all members of the crew safe.  Once the MPIC determined the dummy victim was breathing on their own and required no further medical assistance, the drill was over and the crew returned to their stations or berths (sleeping rooms).

Scuba Divers to the Rescue! 

Not long after the man overboard drill, the dredge rolled when it was being hauled from the sea floor, wrapping the hawser (floating tow line) underneath the cage.  To make matters worse, as the dredge was being lifted up the ramp on deck, the hawser became caught in the ship’s rudder.  Our three NOAA Working Divers, Executive Officer (XO) Monty Spencer, Chief Steward (chef), MPIC Jonathan Rockwell and MPIC Claire Surrey suited up in scuba suits for a dive to untangle the rudder. NOAA Working Divers must complete a 3-week training course. They are skilled at ship husbandry, such as working on the rudder, propellers, zincs (metal zinc objects that are placed on the hull of a ship to attract corrosion), and the bow thruster (a tunnel through the ship with a propeller to help direct the bow when docking).  

Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell preparing to dive below the ship to untangle the hawser line from the rudder.
Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell preparing to dive below the ship to untangle the hawser line from the rudder.

The diver breathes air through a mouthpiece, called a regulator, from a scuba tank of compressed air that is strapped to the diver’s back. The regulator, connected by a hose to the tank, adjusts the air in the tank to the correct pressure that a diver can safely breathe at any given depth. Originally called the “aqua-lung”, “scuba” stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. Scuba gear has helped scientists explore the ocean, however, the equipment does have limitations.  The deepest dive that can be made by a NOAA scuba diver is about 40 meters, but the average depth of the ocean is about 3,800 meters.  The increased water pressure of the dive limits the depth of the descent of a scuba diver.

As Monty and Jonathan plunged into the ocean, the rigid haul inflatable boat (RHIB) was deployed with General Vessel Assistant (GVA) Adam Fishbein and Chief Boatswains, Jon Forgione at the tiller arm, to assist in diver rescue operations if needed. On standby in full scuba gear was MPIC Claire Surrey in case the divers ran into any trouble. In no time at all the divers freed the tangled hawser from the rudder and were back on board. At each step of the job, great care was taken to check all gear and ensure the safety of the crew.

Question: What is the depth and name of the deepest part of the ocean?

Mature Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog
Mature Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog

Science and Technology Log 

As I mentioned in my first log, we are targeting two species of clams during our survey, the Atlantic Surf clams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). They are very easy to tell apart, as the surf clam is much larger (about 18 cm in width) and lighter in color. “Quahog” (pronounced “koh-hawg”) originated from the Narrangansett tribe that lived in Rhode Island and portions of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Atlantic surf clams are a productive species, in that they are faster growing, with a lifespan of about 15 years, with variable recruitment (reproductive cycles). They are much smaller and typically found in more shallow waters (<50 meters) from Cape Hatteras to Newfoundland than the ocean quahog. The Quahog lives in depths of 50-100 meters in US waters (from Cape Hatteras up to the north Atlantic (Iceland), and also in the Mediterranean). Quahogs grow slowly, and typically live for more than 100 years, with infrequent and regional recruitment.

There is a great variety of material, both organic and inorganic that is collected by the dredge providing a snapshot of the habitat below.  At times it is sandy, sometimes the sediment is the consistency of thick clay, in which case we must re-submerge the dredge for a few minutes to clean the cage. At other times large rocks and boulders are captured.

Live clams, shells and other material collected in the dredge.  All the material is sorted, weighed and measured as part of the survey.
Live clams, shells and other material collected in the dredge. All the material is sorted, weighed and measured as part of the survey.

Atlantic Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs live in a part of the ocean called the subtidal zone. Their habitat is the sandy, muddy area that is affected by underwater turbulence but beyond heavy wave impact. In addition to clams, our dredge is capturing a variety of organisms perfectly adapted to this environment, such as sponges, marine snails and sea stars that are able to cling to hard materials to protect them from being swept away by ocean currents and waves. Marine snails and hermit crabs are also able to cling to surfaces.  Like the clam, many organisms have flattened bodies, thereby reducing their exposure to the pull of waves and currents.  We find flat fish, such as flounder and skate, which avoid turbulence and their enemies by burying themselves in the sand.  Flounder prey on sand dollars, another flat organism living in the subtidal zone.  In many hauls of the dredge, the cage is filled with sand dollars. We have collected lots of other interesting animals, such as hermit crabs, worms, sea jellies, sea mice and, less often, crabs and sea urchins. The Sea Mouse is plump, about 10 cm in length, segmented and covered in a large number of grey brown bristles that give it a furry appearance.

Question: What is the longest-lived animal on record?

Personal Log 

The main difficulty I have with writing this log is choosing what to cover. Each day is filled with new and interesting experiences. I am learning so much, not only about the science behind the clam survey, but also about the ship itself and the skills necessary to operate the ship and conduct a marine survey.  Everyone has been extremely generous with sharing his or her knowledge and experience with me.   While cleaning the inside of the dredge last night one of the wires made a small tear in the seat of my waterproof overalls. Now I know to pack a bike inner tube repair kit if I am lucky enough to be invited to join another survey cruise! One of those small rubber patches would have been the perfect for the job. I was able to find a sewing kit and in short order sewed the tear and sealed it with a layer of duct tape. Now I am ready to get back to work!

Lisbeth Uribe, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisbeth Uribe
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: Southern New England and Georges Bank
Date: July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisbeth Uribe, in her survival suit next to the dredge
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisbeth Uribe, in her survival suit next to the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Prior to our departure on the survey, all the volunteers attended presentations by NOAA scientists about the work we would be doing. The purpose of the clam survey is to provide consistent, unbiased estimates of the relative abundance for many shellfish in the North East region. The target species for our survey are the Atlantic Surf clams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica). We also went to a NOAA storeroom and were outfitted with our foul weather gear (heavy waterproof boots, fluorescent yellow rain pants and rain jacket). While on board we received several briefings about safety and the expectations for behavior during the cruise.  During an emergency drill we each tried on our survival suit. I keep the suit in a bag at the foot of my bed, ready for any emergency!

We set sail at 2:00 pm on Monday, the 28th of July, and headed south towards our first tow location in the Southern New England region. The first 10 survey points or stations of our cruise are repeats of points surveyed in the last trip. This means we will be heading south toward the Long Island region before sailing for the Georges Bank region. We are conducting repeat surveys because after the last survey, the dredge’s electrical cable was replaced with a longer cable (formerly 750 feet, now 1,100 feet long). The added length in the cable results in a voltage drop that is expected to be enough to cause the dredge pump to loose pressure slightly. The pump, attached to the dredge itself, is designed to churn up sediment and shellfish as the dredge is towed along the sea floor. By rechecking the survey data collected in the last trip, the scientists will be able to calibrate the data obtained using the new cable. The scientists and crew are very concerned about accuracy of data collection during all parts of the Clam Survey.  

Problems with the Dredge 

For the first repeat survey station, our CO (Commanding Officer), Captain Wagner, warned the crew that the bottom might be rocky.  Once the dredge hit the bottom and began to be towed, we heard some loud noises indicating that there were indeed rocks on the bottom.  We pulled the dredge out of the water after the standard 5-minute tow time.  Rocks had twisted, bent and even severed various pipes and rods that make up the cage of the dredge. The row of outlet pipes (called nipples) that direct powerful jets of water towards the opening of the cage had been severed at the points in which they screw into the main pump pipe.

Though the damage was a setback in terms of lost time, it was amazing to see the engineers swing into action and make the necessary repairs over the next six hours. Out of the hold came an assortment of tools, such as metal cutters, jacks, soldering equipment, wrenches, pliers, and mesh wiring.  I was put to work extracting the broken ends of pipes and handing tools to the engineers as they either replaced or repaired broken parts.  By the end of my work shift (midnight) the dredge was fully repaired and ready for work again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 

I am wearing my bib and overalls, boots, and a hardhat while working inside the dredge to free the clams caught in the corners and cracks of the dredge.
I am wearing my bib and overalls, boots, and a hardhat while working inside the dredge to free the clams caught in the corners and cracks of the dredge.

I am fortunate to be working with a great team on the day shift crew (noon to midnight).  My Watch Chief, Shad Mahlum, and the Chief Scientist, Vic Nordahl, are excellent teachers, patient with my mistakes and quick to offer words of encouragement. There are several work assignments during each station.  I help by turning on and off the power for the pump on the dredge, clearing out the shellfish that get caught in the cage, and weighing and measuring the clams we catch. My favorite job is cleaning out the inside of the dredge. After the dredge has been hauled up the ramp onto the deck, the back door is released and the clams and broken shells tumble onto the sorting table. My job is to climb up inside the cage of the dredge and toss down the shells and organisms that get caught along the edges. I like the challenge of climbing around up high in a small space. We have been lucky to have very calm seas over the past couple of days.  This job will get quite a bit more challenging when the deck starts to move around more.

The dredged material is sorted into different wire baskets, also known as bushels, each contain either clams, other sea life or trash to be thrown back out to sea once we have moved past the survey site. The clams are weighed and measured.  At some stations we also collect meat specimens for further analysis.  All the information goes into the computer, including data collected by the sensors on the dredge.

Personal Log 

As part of the day shift crew, I work from noon until midnight.  It may sound tough working a 12-hour shift, but in reality the time passes very quickly as we are always busy either preparing for a station, processing the clams, or cleaning up after a dredge.  We are not permitted to return to our room until the end of our shift as our roommates are on the opposite shift and are sleeping.

When sailing out in the open water it easy to lose one’s sense of direction.  On the second day of the survey I knew that we were headed south for the repeat dredges, but it was not until one of the crew members showed me the site “Ship Tracker for NOAA” that I realized we were collecting samples just off the coast of Long Island all afternoon—not far from my home town, New York City! We are so busy moving from station to station that I often lose track of where I am.

I am grateful for the clear weather we have had so far on the cruise.  Learning to work with the dredge and scientific equipment would have been much more difficult if the seas were not so calm. Each day brings something new and interesting to learn and experience.

Well, my shift is almost over.  Time to think about eating a late night snack and then getting some rest, – lulled by the gentle rocking of the waves.

Question for the Day 

What is the origin of the word “Quahog”? What is the difference between Atlantic Surf clams and Ocean Quahogs? What is a sea mouse?

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 5, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Today’s weather e-mail: 

UNCLAS //N03144// MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN NORFOLK VA// SUBJ/WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II// July 5th, 2008 REF/A/MSG/NOAAS DELAWARE II/022000ZJUL08// REF/B/WEB/NOAA SHIP TRACKER/041747ZJUL08// NARR/REF A IS MOVREP. REF B IS NOAA SHIP TRACKER PAGE.// POC/SHIP ROUTING OFFICER/-/NAVMARFCSTCEN/LOC:NORFOLK VA /TEL:757-444-4044/EMAIL: MARITIME.SRO(AT)NAVY.MIL// RMKS/1. METEOROLOGICAL SITUATION AT 051200Z: A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE LABRADOR SEA WITH A COLD FRONT EXTENDING ALONG THE NORTHEASTERN SEABOARD HAS AN ASSOCIATED STATIONARY BOUNDARY ALONG THE TRAILING EDGE OF THE COLD FRONT WHICH EXTENDS INTO THE MID ATLANTIC STATES. STRONG HIGH PRESSURE REMAINS ANCHORED IN THE NORTH CENTRAL ATLANTIC.

2. 24 HOUR FORECAST COMMENCING 060000Z FOR YOUR MODLOC AS INDICATED BY REFERENCES A AND B.

A. SKY, WEATHER: PARTLY CLOUDY TO MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH ISOLATED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS.

B. VSBY (NM): 7, 3 TO 5 IN SHOWERS, 2 TO 4 IN THUNDERSTORMS.

C. SURFACE WIND (KTS): SOUTHWESTERLY 5 TO 10, INCREASING 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 LATE PERIOD.

D. COMBINED SEAS (FT): SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 2 TO 4, BUILDING 4 TO 6 LATE PERIOD.

  1. OUTLOOK TO 48 HOURS: WIND SOUTHWESTERLY 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 INCREASING 15 TO 20 GUSTS 25 EARLY PERIOD, DECREASING 10 TO 15 GUSTS 20 BY LATE PERIOD. SEAS SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 4 TO 6, BUILDING 5 TO 7 EARLY PERIOD.
  2. FORECASTER: AG2(AW/SW) SCOTT//

V/r, Command Duty Officer Naval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

http://www.weather.navy.mil http://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil

PLA: NAVLANTMETOCCEN NORFOLK VA

Ship tracker
Ship tracker
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge
Lisha holding sea specimens retrieved from clam dredge

Science and Technology Log 

Ship Tracker 

NOAA has a Web site that can show you the path of each of its ships in near real time.  Below is the track of the DELAWARE II from June 30 – July 5, 2008. The red line shows exactly where the DELAWARE has gone. If you’d like to track the DELAWARE or any other NOAA ships yourself, then go to this Website.

Clam Surveys 

On the DELAWARE II our team is in the process of conducting a clam survey. This particular fishery survey is on clams. After dredging, collecting, sorting, counting, measuring and weighing (clam with shell and shucked clam meat only) – the data obtained is recorded and entered into computers filed under the specific station number that was dredged. All data is then sent to a central data base. The compiled data can then be compared to past surveys.  If the actual meat weight, size, quantity or quality of clams collected has reduced in comparison to past surveys, this could be an indication that some factor is influencing the reduction. Possible influencing factor: Clams are being over-fished.

However, clam fisheries are a very important part of the economy, especially in the northeastern part of the United States. Many people depend on clam fishing for a living. As long as clams are not over-fished, the balance between economy and ecology can remain stable.  Not only could this affect the clam population, but other marine life in this particular ecosystem could be affected as well because in an ecosystem ~ all living and nonliving things in the environment must interact and work together for the ecosystem to be productive. This is why it is vital that NOAA scientists continue to survey and keep track of the productivity in our ocean environments for future generations.

Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.
Lisha in the clam dredge towing out the dark, clay sediment.

We document and record the data on all marine life that is pulled out from the dredge. These species are important documentation in clam surveys because in an ecosystem, all living organisms (and non-living things) depend on each other, interacting to produce food chains and food webs. Early this morning, we entered 2 separate stations, just a few miles apart. These 2 stations were loaded with a huge quantity of very healthy, large sized, heavy meat clams.  Vic noticed that not only did these 2 stations contain lots of large, healthy clams but that there was a lot of clean, sand sediment with very little other types of sediment. Sediment is defined as organic matter or mineral deposited by ice, air, or water. Sediment can be mud, clay, rock, gravel, shell fragments, silt, sand, pebbles or dead organic material (called detrius). The various sediments are sometimes mixed and are found in various textures, consistency and colors. Unlike these 2 sandy stations, the 69 stations we had already dredged all contained various other types of sediment.  Above and to the right are some pictures of a prior station that contained sediment of dark, hard clay.  

Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.
Lisha, Mark Harris and Richard Raynes in the clam dredge towing out the remains of the mud sediment.

Vic instructed the crew at this point that we needed to get a sediment sample from the two nearby stations that we were fixing to dredge. I was asked to retrieve it with the aid of Jimbo Pontz and Lino Luis who operated the bottom grab (a device used to lower down into the ocean operated by an electric cable, for the purpose of retrieving sediment.)  First, Vic instructed me to “GEAR UP”; safety gear is a major priority on all NOAA ships.  I was given a safety harness to put on, along with a life jacket, and a hard helmet.

Then, the bottom grabber was lowered into the water and it collected the samples, towed back up by Lino Luis and emptied by Jimbo Pontz. I collected 2 cups of the sand sediment at both locations, prior to the dredge being hauled back up to the deck.  Note how clean and “new” the sand sediment looks. It is not mixed with a lot of other sediments. Sure enough, we again collected a huge load of healthy, large size, weighty meat clams covered in the same sediment seen in the picture above.  

Big Question of the Day 

Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment
Lisha “gearing up” in safety equipment

Science Researchers have concluded that over the past century, sea level is rising at increasing rates, (possibly linked to Global Warming). Global warming is defined as the observed increase in the earth’s air and oceans in recent decades due to greenhouse gases and the theory that this temperature rising will continue to increase.

The rising of sea level causes an “environmental change”.  Some environmental changes on Earth occur almost instantly, due to Natural Disasters (like a hurricane or other massive storm events). Scientists that study environmental changes due to past storm events are called Paleotempostologists.  Other environmental changes can take decades, centuries, or thousands of years (like the rising of sea level). These environmental changes often cause new sediment to be deposited on top of older sediment. The adult, large, healthy, meaty-weight surf clams found today in the location where we sampled medium to coarse-grained sand were retrieved at stations offshore in cold and deep water; (the depth recorded by Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician as 70 feet). Could it be that environmental changes on the ocean floor are taking place due to the rise of sea level?  Could the medium to coarse-grained sand sediment sampled today possibly be a new layer of sediment due to rising sea levels causing a relocation of some marine species (like surf clams)? 

Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.
Lisha collecting the sediment sample that was hauled in by the bottom grab.

Abundance of surf clams in New York Harbor in June 1995, from this Web site.

Surf clams utilize an unusual behavior in response to stress: they leap from the sediment surface in order to relocate. Surf clams have been observed using this avoidance behavior in response to crowding and the presence of predators. Surf clams are mostly oceanic in distribution, preferring turbulent waters at the edge of the breaker zone. They can be found in some estuarine areas, but their distribution is limited by salinity (Fay et al. 1983). In New York/New Jersey Harbor, surf clams are found predominantly in the area where the harbor opens into the Atlantic Ocean. Juvenile clams prefer medium to fine, low organic sands averaging 9 to 25 meters in depth. Adults prefer medium- to coarse-grained sand and gravel, burying themselves just below the sediment surface. They are often found at evenly distributed positions relative to one another, with spacing interval negatively correlated to density. Additionally, adults often remain in their juvenile burrows unless they are displaced by storm events (Fay et al. 1983).  Predation by crabs, gastropods, and bottom-feeding fish have been observed to limit development of beds in nearshore areas colonized by larval surf clams, relocating to colder, deeper water.”

The Bottom Grab
The Bottom Grab

New Term/Word/Phrase: Ecosystem: an environment where living and non-living things interact and work together. Bottom Grab: A device used to lower onto the ocean floor for the purpose of gathering sediment.

Something to Think About: Are surf clams relocating?

Animals Seen Today 

Asterial boreal, Lady crab, Eel, Moonsnail, Shark eye northern snail, Stargazer fish, Whelk, and Sea cucumber.

hylton_log5h

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 3, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Daytime: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft.

Evening: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft with a chance Of showers and thunderstorms

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.11.10 PMScience and Technology Log 

Today, we experienced mechanical problems on the ship. I learned that this is why there are so many crew members on board. It takes the expert knowledge of many people in different careers to repair necessary equipment imperative to operate mechanical devices onboard.  The problem we had is that a power cable connected to the pump blew out.  Then they had to cut out the bad part of the cable and replace it to the power box that connects to the pump on the clam dredge.   However, adding the new cable means that we had to reconnect all of the smaller wires to the power box. Then we had to check the power to the switch inside the pump.  It took all hands on board to correct the problem, with Vic Nordahl, the chief scientist, in charge.

The problem was corrected with Vic Nordahl’s knowledge and the assistance from the chief engineer, Brian Murphy, the 1st engineer, Chris O’Keefe, the 2nd engineer, Grady Abney, along with many other crewmembers. Following is a sequence of photos that show the problem: I was amazed at the way so many people were involved in fixing the problem. The following people are crew members on board the DELAWARE II; many who helped to resolve the problem.

NOAA Crewmembers on the DELAWARE II and Their Titles and Careers 

Vic Nordahl – Chief Scientist In command of all scientific people on the ship. In command of what each person does on the survey. Has complete control of the numerous tasks involved in the survey. He teaches and explains all procedures involved in survey to new crew members and gives advice to old crew members in a very patient and very informed manner. Vic also has expert understanding in engineering, equipment maintenance and electrical mechanics and was the crucial person who solved the problem with the power cable connected to the pump. His understanding and mechanical ability enabled us to complete this survey; otherwise we would have had to return back to port.

Captain Stephen Wagner – Captain of the ship. Responsible for everything and everyone on the ship.

Lt. Monty Spencer – XO Executive Officer Second in command on the ship. Oversees all general operations of the ship and personnel. Does all the accounting on the ship, keeps the budget, take care of making sure there are sufficient personnel on all trips.

Richard Raynes – Gear Specialist Maintains all gear equipment on the ship.  Makes all fishing nets for ship.

ENS Chuck Felkley – Junior Officer of the ship In charge of safety, navigation ad driving on board the ship under Lt. Monty Spencer

Engineer Staff: (Brian Murphy) the chief engineer , the 1st  engineer (Chris O’Keefe) and the 2nd engineer (Grady Abney)

Francine Stroman – Marine Technician Enters technological data of marine species under survey.

Jim Pontz  and Mark Bolino – ABS (Able Bodied Seaman) Handle all equipment on ship’s deck department.  Lower and raise anything that goes in or out of water.

Mark Harris – High School Biology Teacher (ARMADA Teacher at Sea) Layton High School, Layton, Utah

Lisha Hylton – Third Grade Elementary Teacher (NOAA Teacher at Sea) Pelion Elementary School, Pelion, South Carolina

Patrick Bergin – Electronical Technician Takes care of all of the electronic equipment on the ship; phones, radar, computers, electronic equipment to operate ship.

Lino Luis – Lead Fisherman Radios when dredge pump is to be activated and deactivated.

Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician In charge of the team that takes care of the biological specimens on the ship. Maintains all computers for storing data for specimens collected.

Richie Logan – Works on back deck (maintains machinery)

Kira Lopez – Sophomore at North Carolina State University majoring in Zoology. Volunteer scientist

Alicia Long – Sea-Going Technician Takes care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Steph Floyd – Biological Science Technician Summer employee trained by the sea-going technicians to take care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Erin Earley – Oiler/Wiper Assistant to engineers on ship

Jonathan Rockwell – Chief Steward Prepares and cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for entire crew.

Walter Coghlan – 2nd chef Works with Chief Steward in preparing and cooking all meals.

Christi and Russell – College Seniors majoring in biology.

Sharon Benjamin– College Graduate majoring in biology.

Question of the Day 

How many crew members are on board THE DELAWARE II for The Clam Survey? Answer: 32

New Term/Word/Phrase: Conductive Electric Cable

Something to Think About: Vic Nordahl (at 2:00 A.M.) started thinking about and telling us possible solutions to the problem if it could not be fixed while out at sea.

Challenge Yourself : I will learn all I can about equipment maintenance and repair from the experts on board.

Did You Know? 

It is highly difficult to fix an electrical problem on a ship because supplies are limited at sea.

Animals Seen Today 

Seagulls and a Pelican

 

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Coastal Waters From Sandy Hook To Manasquan Inlet Nj Out 20 Nm
* 930 Pm Edt Wed Jul 2 2008*
* Overnight*
Sw Winds 10 To 15 Kt With Gusts Up To 20 Kt.
Seas 2 To  4 Ft.

The Clam Dredge
The Clam Dredge

Science and Technology Log 

This information is general on working stations. My objective is to follow up on following daily logs into more specifics on how each station is operated and maintained. The crew is now learning more technicalities on entering data into the computer system as we continue to pull out quahogs and surfclams. The two species look a lot alike; a surfclam is more elongated in width where a quahog is rounder with a definite hooked shape at the top that connects the two shells. A quahog is also heavier in weight than a surfclam. After hauling in loads at frequent stops, heading north at pre-determined stations, the crew sorts through miscellaneous sediments to separate the clams. Surfclams are put in one basket, quahogs in another. If they are broken but the 2 valves are still intact, these go into 2 more baskets. Any living marine life goes into a bucket. We have documented the various sediments at each haul since this may prove to be a factor in the quantity and size of the clams. So far, the various sediments include rocks, pebbles, sand and shells, a dark oozy mud and grey clay. 

Kira Lopez in the lab
Kira Lopez in the lab

Once separated, we break up into teams and work at different stations entering the data into station computers that input the information into one database. Stations we have worked include: measuring the length, weighing the clams in the shell, shucking the clams and then weighing the meat only, determining the age, identifying other live marine organisms. Entering data for weight involves turning on the weight machine with a prod. Once this is done, Vic records the station # we are working at into all computerized machines. Input into the weight machine involves the following steps:

  • Key in the names of crew members working the station
  • Identify the clam
  • Specify living or broken
  • Measure the clam
  • Weigh the clam in the shell
  • Shuck the clam and enter the meat weight
  • Add any specific notes
  • Go to next clam until all clams are recorded
  • All data goes into a central data-base.

Questions of the Day 

  • How long does a surfclam usually live? A surfclam can live up to 15 years.
  • How long does a quahog live? A  qhahog can live up to 100 years.
A shot of the lab with the ocean in the background
A shot of the lab with the ocean in the background

New Term/Word/Phrase: Bivalve (A Mollusk) 

Something to Think About 

  • Why are there more surfclams and quahogs at different stations or locations?
  • Why do some stations or locations have older surfclams and quahogs?

Challenge Yourself: I would like to learn to operate a station and be able to teach someone else to do it.

Did You Know? 
A surfclam has 2 abductor muscles.

Animals Seen Today 
Starfish Sea Squirts Rock Crab Sea Biscuit Sea Worm

Lisha on Delaware II
Lisha on Delaware II

Lisha Lander Hylton, June 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: June 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Each day, the ship receives an e-mail about the weather.  Following is the e-mail the ship received for today’s weather: 

Subject: WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II// From:  “CDO.NMFC_N.002.fct” <cdo.nmfc_n.002.fct@navy.mil> Date: Tue, 01 Jul 2008 12:57:31 -0400 To: CO.Delaware@noaa.gov, OPS.Delaware@noaa.gov

CC: “Maritime.CDO” <Maritime.CDO@navy.mil>

UNCLAS //N03144//MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN NORFOLK VA//SUBJ/WEAX/NOAAS DELAWARE II//REF/A/MSG/NOAAS DELAWARE II/301900ZJUN08//REF/B/WEB/NOAA SHIP TRACKER/011147ZJUN08//NARR/REF A IS MOVREP. REF B IS NOAA SHIP TRACKER PAGE.//POC/SHIP ROUTING OFFICER/-/NAVMARFCSTCEN/LOC:NORFOLK VA/TEL:757-444-4044/EMAIL: MARITIME.SRO(AT)NAVY.MIL//RMKS/1. METEOROLOGICAL SITUATION AT 011200Z:LOW PRESSURE OVER QUEBEC WILL RETROGRADE WESTWARD AS ASECOND LOW FORMS OVER LABRADOR. THE ASSOCIATED COLD FRONT EXTENDS SOUTHWEST FROM THE GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE ALONG THE COAST TO NORTHERN FLORIDA. THE TRAILING EDGE OF THE COLD FRONT WILL SLOWLY DISSIPATE OVER THE WESTERN ATLANTIC. HIGH PRESSURE OVER THE NORTH CENTRAL ATLANTIC WILL REMAIN STATIONARY AND INTERACT WITH THE FRONT AS IT MOVES OFF THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST. ANOTHER LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM FORMING OVER ONTARIO WILL MOVE EAST-NORTHEAST TOWARDS LABRADOR THROUGHOUT THE PERIOD.

2. 24 HOUR FORECAST COMMENCING 020000Z FOR YOUR MODLOC AS INDICATED BY REFERENCES A AND B.

A. SKY, WEATHER: PARTLY CLOUDY TO OCCASIONALLY MOSTLY CLOUDY.

EXPECT PATCHY COASTAL FOG OVERNIGHT AND EARLY MORNING.

B. VSBY (NM): 7, 1 TO 3 IN PATCHY COASTAL FOG.

C. SURFACE WIND (KTS): SOUTHWEST 5 TO 10, INCREASING 10 TO 15BY 03/00Z.

D. COMBINED SEAS (FT): SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 3 TO 5, GRADUALLYABATING 2 TO 4 BY 02/12Z. SEAS WILL BE LOWER IN PROTECTED WATERS.

  1.  OUTLOOK TO 48 HOURS: WINDS SOUTHWEST 10 TO 15, INCREASING 18TO 23 WITH GUSTS TO 28 AFTER 03/12Z. SEAS SOUTH-SOUTHWEST 2 TO 4,BUILDING 4 TO 6 BY LATE PERIOD. SEAS WILL BE LOWER IN PROTECTED WATERS.
  2.  FORECASTER: AG1(SW) JONES//

V/R, Command Duty OfficerNaval Maritime Forecast Center Norfolk

Web Page: http://www.weather.navy.milhttp://www.nlmoc.navy.smil.mil

PLA: NAVLANTMETOCCEN NORFOLK VA

NOAA Ship DELAWARE II at its port in Woods Hole, MA
NOAA Ship Delaware II in Woods Hole, MA

Science and Technology Log 

Mission 

The mission of my trip with NOAA is to provide me (a teacher of third grade students) an extraordinary opportunity to take part in genuine-world experiences being conducted by NOAA in order for me to achieve a clearer insight into pour ocean planet and a superior understanding of NOAA-related careers. With the comprehension that I obtain, I will be able to make lesson plans created on my field study for my students, giving them insight as to how much power they have on their lives and this world we live in. I will be able to generate lesson plans allowing my students to play a part in maritime activities as we study together, to value the work and expertise that is required to sustain oceanic and atmospheric research. The students’ enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and yearning to learn will only heighten with the hands-on, motivational activities that I gain from my research with this NOAA team. The educational experience that I gain from NOAA will certainly provide for an exceptional setting for knowledge and instruction.

Why Does NOAA Conduct Clam Surveys? 

DELAWARE II’s Cooperative Ship Weather Observing Program Certificate
DELAWARE II’s Cooperative Ship Weather Observing Program Certificate

Clams are a very important part of economy and ecology along the eastern United States Coast. NOAA is keeping track (surveying) of clams for the purpose of conserving clams to stabilize fishery industries without wiping out the clam population completely. Clams play a very important part in marine ecosystems; therefore these surveys are helping to maintain stability in the economy and ecology of United States. Today was our second day at sea. Our ship departed from Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday at 3:30 p.m. So that new crewmembers could learn their jobs and responsibilities from our Chief Scientist (Vic Nordahl), we participated in a “practice” dredge.

On Monday, June 30th – the crew onboard The Delaware II undertook our first clam survey (Station 1). I was on the 12:01 a.m. night crew. I was put in charge of operating the power switch for the clam dredge. The dredge operator (Lino Luis; THE LEAD FISHERMAN) would radio me when the dredge was set into the water, radio me again when he was preparing to dredge “hauling” and then radio me “GIVE ME POWER”. At this point, I would check the DEII device, which read the meters of the surface voltage, which detects the power for the speed of the ship. This machine needs to read between 2.5 and 3.0 knots. Wearing a rubber glove and standing on a rubber mat, I immediately turned the switch on the SURF CLAM CONTROL to “ON”. This supplied the dredge with approximately 900 amps (A-C AMPERES) and a voltage of approximately 450 volts. As soon as I turned on the switch, I would radio back to Lino “THE POWER IS ON!” He would radio me back when it was time to turn off the power switch (after the dredger was off the bottom). He would signal to me “Turn the power off”. I would turn the switch to off and radio him back “POWER OFF”.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisha Hylton (center), stands in front of the DELAWARE II with some fellow ship mates.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Lisha Hylton (center), stands in front of the DELAWARE II with some fellow ship mates.

Personal Log 

Once the clam dredger was hauled onboard the back deck of the ship and the dredger was secured and inspected by Vic Nordahl (Chief Science Researcher), the clam load was released. Wearing protective clothing and hardhats, the crew began to sort the variety of marine animals. Richard Raynes (Gear Specialist) and I were involved in this task. Large buckets were used for this purpose. Broken quahogs were separated from undamaged quahogs. Surfclams went into another bucket. Other living sea creatures like sand dollars, stingrays and sea scallops along with shell fragments and sediment were put into a separate bucket and immediately released back into the ocean. I worked closely with Vic Nordahl and Francine Stroman (Biological Technician) watching, learning and participating in sorting the load and recording data for Station 1 Clam Survey. The clams were weighed and counted (this data imported into a computer system). The second step was measuring the length of the clams on a LIMNOTERRA (a measuring board) and importing this data into the computer system as well. I assisted in the sorting, weighing, counting and measuring. Once the data was stored, the clams were released back into the ocean.

The dredge on the DELAWARE II is big enough for people to stand under and lie on!
The dredge on the DELAWARE II is big enough for people to stand under and lie on!

There are 3 legs to this research survey. I am on the 1st leg. Some general conclusions will be obtained at the end of the 1st leg from the data we collect. Vic Nordahl (our chief scientist) is going to explain these general conclusions to our team; however, more conclusive evidence of the clam survey will be evident after the 2nd and 3rd leg has been completed. On my last log, I plan to show evidence of some of the general conclusions our team has made.

Question of the Day 

How much does the clam dredge weigh?

Answer: 9,500 pounds

New Terms/Words/Phrases: 

  1. Clam Dredge
  2. DEII Device
  3. Ocean Quahog
  4. Surfclam
  5. Limnoterra Measure Board
TAS Hylton holds up some interesting specimens that the dredge brought up!
TAS Hylton holds up some interesting specimens that the dredge brought up!

Something to Think About: How can we conserve and preserve fisheries along the eastern United States coast?

Challenge Yourself: I would like to pursue a career with NOAA in researching and surveying fisheries along the eastern coast of the United States.

Did You Know That?  

The abundance of clams is declining because of 2 factors:

  1. Climate change
  2. Fishermen are taking more clams than the clam population can reproduce.

Animals Seen Today

Ocean Quahogs (Mollusca), Surfclams (Mollusca), Sand Dollars (Echinoderm), Annelida Polychaeta, Atlantic Sting Ray (Skate), Sea Scallops (Mollusca), and Sea Mouse (AnnelidaPolychaeta).

Adrienne Heim, September 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: September 4, 2007

NOAA Ship Albatross IV
NOAA Ship Albatross IV

All about the Ship!

For ten days I have been living aboard the ALBATROSS IV – the oldest research vessel within the NOAA fleet. It has been quite an amazing experience for me to wake up each morning surrounded by water. I have been loving every minute of it including falling asleep to the lapping sound of the waves against the porthole of my room. For the most part, the waves have not been too large, except for the first few days. Eating while the ship rocks back and forth has been an interesting sensation. It certainly evokes smiles on all of us who are not accustomed to this environment. When the ALBATROSS IV is not at sea, she resides in Woods Hole, MA. The ALBATROSS IV conducts fishery and living marine resource research for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole, Ma. Her purpose is to conduct fisheries and oceanographic research within the waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. She is fully equipped to collect information on the distribution and abundance of ground fish and sea scallops, as well as, on the environmental factors that may affect fish populations. Some basic facts regarding the ALBATROSS IV are:

Living quarters
Living quarters

Length: 57.0 meters (187 feet)
Breadth: 10.1 meters (33 feet)
Draft: 4.9 meters (16.2 feet)
Gross Tonnage: 1,115
Range: 3,933nmi at 11.5 knots
Date Commissioned: May 1963

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK FOR MY STUDENTS:

What is the meaning of tonnage and range?

How fast is a knot when compared to miles?

Taking a tour of the ship
Taking a tour of the ship
Mechanics on deck
Mechanics on deck
Sunset over the water
Sunset over the water

Adrienne Heim, September 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Colorful sea stars!
Colorful sea stars!

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: September 2, 2007

Science and Technology Log: Ocean Diversity

Contrary to my initial thoughts, there is an eclectic amount of diversity AND color among the species that dwells within the Georges Bank/Nantucket Shoals. I have been very surprised at the amount of species we collect during our tows. I also am very surprised by the variations of color among the starfish. I just typically associated marine color to warm saltwater dwelling creatures where you would find coral reefs and such, but there is a beautiful array of colors up here. Among the typical sort of sea life you would expect to see here, like dolphins, whales, cod, crabs, sea scallops, clams, tuna etc. there exists a greater level of diversity here. Just to give you an idea, here is a list of some of the marine life we have encountered at our stations:

Monkfish brought up in the survey
Monkfish brought up in the survey

Winter Skate
Little Skate
Silver Hake
Red Hake
Fourspot Flounder
Yellowtail Flounder
Windowpane Flounder
Gulfstream Flounder
Longhorn Sculpin
Ocean Pout
Cancer Crab
Sea Scallop
Atlantic Hagfish
Fourbeard Rockling
American Plaice
Moustache Sculpin

Alligator fish
Alligator fish

Northern Sandlance
Spoonarm Octopus
Goosefish
Loligo Squid
Sea Raven
Asterias Boreal
Fluke
Northern Searobin
Rock Gunnel
American Lobster
Leptasterias Tenera
Alligator Fish
Butterfish
Seacucumber
and many more…

Sea cucumber
Sea cucumber
Spoonarm octopus
Spoonarm octopus

Adrienne Heim, August 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

The CTD, recording information at depth
The CTD, recording information at depth

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 27, 2007

Science and Technology Log: CTD Casts
Immediately following the fire and abandon ship drills, we proceeded to have a debriefing regarding appropriate and professional behaviors, as well as, receiving information regarding shift schedules, meals, work expectations, etc. Our Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, informed us of the various duties and responsibilities each of us would have during the Sea Scallop Survey. I was paired with another volunteer, Shawn, to help with the measuring of the sea scallops once they were sorted and weighed. I was also assigned the role of performing CTD casts and collecting data from the inclinometer.CTD casts are performed at every third station. The acronym stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. It is a hefty contraption that is hooked onto a cable and sent down, a vertical cast, into the water. Basically, while the CTD is sent down vertically, it records the temperature, depth, salinity, and pressure. The saltier the water, the more conductivity is generated. The cast first soaks for about one-two minutes at the surface of the water to record the salinity. It is then sent down, stops about 5-10 meters before reaching the bottom of the ocean floor and then is hauled back. Recording this data is essential for scientists, especially while conducting a Sea Scallop Survey; because the CTD casts helps to associate water temperature and salinity with sea scallop abundance. Scientists record the data to view it later and assess the casts with the other data collected from the work stations.
Computers and cameras recording information from the CTD
Computers and cameras recording information from the CTD
The winch at the back of the ship
The winch at the back of the ship
Communicating with the winch operator
Communicating with the winch operator

Adrienne Heim, August 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Working at night
Working at night

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2007

Science and Technology Log: Sample Sorting

It is then time to get to work. Each of us works in 12 hour shifts. We are either designated to a noon-midnight shift or visa-versa. First, the winch operator sends out the dredge. It trolls in 15 minute increments and collects everything that it encounters along the way. This includes various marine life, vegetation, and bottom sediment like rocks and sand. Once it is brought to surface the deck handler’s work with the winch operator to lower the dredge to the middle of the stern. The dredge is emptied of its contents and then it is our turn to sift through it. The marine life is sorted into blue buckets according to their species. Our Watch Chief teaches us how to identify them, especially when sorting Winter versus Little Skates or Winter versus Yellow-Tail Flounders. We put all of the scallops into large orange baskets. The species are then weighed and measured. We work in pairs and each pair is assigned to one of the three work stations. The data is recorded into the FSCS, which stands for Fisheries Scientific Computer System. Some of the scallops are frozen for further scientific investigation while the others, as well as the other marine life collected from the dredge are put back into the water. The buckets are washed and stored for the next tow, which occurs every 45 minutes as we wait to reach the following station.
Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

I am learning so much and I can’t wait to bring all of this information back to my students. My next log will discuss the diversity of the marine life here along the Georges Bank and Nantucket Shoals, as well as, the purpose of the FDA sending employees to test for PSP (Paralytic Shellfish Poison) within the meat, viscera, and gonads of the sea scallops.

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK FOR MY STUDENTS:
What preys upon sea scallops besides starfish?
How are the open and closed waters designated and determined?
What is the impact of scallop fishing on the overall ecosystem?

Sorting on deck
Sorting on deck

Adrienne Heim, August 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

IMG_0478Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2007

Science Log: Beautiful Sunsets

The best thing about working 12 hour shifts are the sunsets! Sunsets along the Atlantic Ocean have been positively beautiful.
The weather has shifted drastically while on board the ALBATRSS IV. Initially in the voyage the weather was cold, foggy, damp, and windy. The visibility was difficult, as well as, balancing myself with the continuous rocking of the vessel. Quite a feat! Recently the weather has been gorgeous: fair skies, very warm, with a rewarding breeze. My partner, Shawn McPhee, and I have developed quite a rhythm for measuring the scallops and cleaning up. We have even “graduated” to measuring many other species in order to help expedite the process and allow enough time for our Watch Chiefs to focus, more importantly, on collecting other sorts of data during each tow.
IMG_0453
IMG_0415

Adrienne Heim, August 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Woods Hole
Woods Hole

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 7, 2007

Weather Data

Visibility: 10 miles or more
Latitude: 68° 27.5 W
Longitude: 41° 24.7 N
Wind Speed: 6.5-7 Knots
Wind Direction: N NE
Cloud Cover: 10-20% : Stratus
Seawater Temperature: 15.5 °C
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2mb
Sea Wave Height: 1 foot
Sea Wave Swell: 2 feet
Science and Technology Log
Downtown shops
Downtown shops

I arrived in Woods Hole, MA on Sunday August 5th, 2007. The ALBATROSS IV was scheduled to depart early Monday morning, but we were unfortunately delayed a couple of days as a result of waiting for some diesel oil and fresh water shipments to arrive. During our delay we took a tour of the NOAA Aquarium right there in Woods Hole, MA. We started to become more acquainted with some of the species we would encounter while on the survey. We set sail early Tuesday afternoon. I stood at the stern of the vessel watching the landscape fade away into the foggy mist.

Once on board and steadily sailing north bound, a few procedures and protocols were immediately rehearsed. The first procedure was a fire drill. As the alarm sounded, we quickly retrieved life jackets and a large orange tote containing a wet suit from our rooms and proceeded into the “wet lab” where we waited for the following instructions. Afterwards, an abandon ship drill was announced. The entire crew congregated at the stern of the vessel. Each individual had to rapidly unpack the survival suit from the large orange tote. We had to slip into the red immersion suits, which proved to be a bit difficult for me to maneuver. However, hopefully in the event of an actual abandon ship emergency, I would be much more successful at putting them on. They certainly provide enough protection in case of an emergency.

The harbor
The harbor

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 30, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10-12 nautical mile
Wind direction: 3.7 o
Wind speed:  8.5 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 18.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.2 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

There was a spectacular sunrise this morning and then, during our next-to-last station Steve pointed out a sun dog in the sky above us. We’ve got one more station left to do – in Cape Cod Bay and then we’ll sail through the Cape Cod Canal and back to port at Woods Hole, about a day and a half early.  We will have completed 138 stations in total.  It will all turn into a set of numbers put out on the Web, at some point, and, when I see them, I’ll now know what went into producing them.

Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.
Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The photo contest entries are up.  The “kids” watch came up with several entries and some of them are pretty cute.  I especially like the one of me, with a shrimp on my shoulder, on the cover of Time magazine, labeled “Teacher of the Year” and the caption “Teacher discovers the oceans are teeming with life.”  I still think we’ve got a good shot at winning. Voting opens at 1100 and closes at 1600.  The suspense is killing me!  It’s been a wonderful trip and there’s a lot about this life that I’ll miss including the constant and ever-changing beauty of the sea; the clean, fresh air; the spectacular sunrises; the 3 meals a day cooked for me; but, most of all, the camaraderie with an interesting and fun-loving group of people.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

All the photos are up and the competition is over with.  It’s great what the other group has come up with.  There’s a picture of Tamara and Karen peaking over the bongo nets, Don getting eaten up by the grab and Jerry “pickled” inside of a sample jar.  So far, we have no idea who’s going to win. I love our picture of Tony as a fairy.  As soon as you know Tony, though, that makes the picture all the more entertaining.

We’re almost off the boat.  I’m going to miss the crew terribly, especially Tony, Mike, Steve, Tim, Lino and Orlando.  Okay, I admit it…I’ll miss every single person A LOT!  =) I’ll miss talking with Kurt (XO/CO) and the rest of the officers, Tracy and Alicea.  It’s terrible that I miss these people already…especially because I haven’t left yet.

As soon as we get into port, many of the crew will head off to their homes.  It’s difficult on them because they are away from land for such a long period of time.  Respect is definitely deserved for these men and women who dedicate such a large part of their lives to helping forward knowledge of the oceans and its inhabitants.  I promised Orlando a picture of the Ling Cod I caught (my first fish ever) the week before I came out.  Although there is quite a bit of distance between all of us, I’ll give it my all to keep in touch with everyone when I get home.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 29, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: o
Wind speed:  20-25 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3’
Swell wave height: 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 14 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.2 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

The rain has stopped but it’s a very foggy day here in the Gulf of Maine – not unusual for this area, according to the officers.  I visited the bridge early this morning before dawn and Acting XO Jason Appler mentioned the “cabin fever” that can result from sailing through fog for days on end. We were hoping to see the beautiful coast of Maine but we may pass without ever catching a glimpse if this fog keeps up.

On the second station of our watch, in addition to the bongos, we used another plankton net which extends from a rectangular frame.  It’s called a neuston net and it’s towed right at the surface, partly in and partly out of the water.  The object of this tow is to catch lobster larvae which, according to Jerry, are often found clinging to seaweed drifting at the surface. We’re doing this sampling for a student who is considering studying the distribution of lobster larvae for a thesis.

Jerry reminded me of two terms I learned at some point in the past but had forgotten.  Meroplankton  are animals that are residents of the plankton for only part of their lives, e.g., larvae of fish, crustaceans, and other animals.  Holoplankton is made up of jellyfish, copepods, chaetognaths, ctenophores, salps, larvaceans, and other animals that spend their entire lives in the plankton.

Jerry has a copy of the book The Open Sea by Sir Alister Hardy, a classic work of biological oceanography.  As only one example of his many marine expeditions, Hardy served as Chief Zoologist on the R.R.S. Discovery when it voyaged to Antarctica in the 1920’s. The first half of the book is devoted to plankton and the second half to fish and fisheries. Both parts contain a number of his beautiful watercolors of the animals discussed, painted from freshly caught specimens and all the more remarkable for the fact that they were done on a rocking ship!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The seas got pretty bouncy this evening. I had been feeling pretty cocky about my “sea legs” but was getting a little uneasy. However, I did cope without any problems.  I don’t really understand seasickness and I get the feeling no one else does either.  I wonder how often and for how long one has to be at sea before their sea legs become permanent.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

It’s like riding a bucking bronco out here on the ocean.  Walking, by itself, is forcing me to improve my coordination.  I love it. I’m only worried about how I’ll be on land…last time I was swaying back and forth for a few hours. I think Karen got quite a kick out of that.

We’re still taking pictures for the contest.  It’s difficult being creative, especially because we’re limited on what we have for resources.  We’ve got one picture that I hope turns out well. One of Tracy’s good friends sent her the picture of the Brady Bunch.  I’ve been trying to work the picture so that our shift’s faces are in place of the original cast.  The only one that truly looks in place is Wes, he actually looks natural!  We’re having such a great time!

We all climbed into our survival suits again and took pictures on the stairs.  Believe me when I say that sitting on the stairs in those “Gumby” suits, is a very difficult task.  Wes was holding all of us up. Tracy had a hold of the side and I was propped up in between them.  Alicea was very ready to jump forward in case we were to all start the journey downstairs a bit too quickly. I’m still having an amazing time.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: 116 o
Wind speed: 15 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 13.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.6 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

Science and Technology Log 

This is the first rainy day we’ve had.  It’s pretty chilly as well and not all that pleasant working on deck so we were delighted when the “kids” watch came on (our watch is known as the “geezer” watch) and got us out of doing an EPA station.  I can’t imagine doing this in January. It’s a great day to stay indoors which is what I’ve been doing as much as possible – working on lesson plans and the Power Point on this trip, and reading.  I did help Jerry do a collection for a WHOI scientist who is looking at the bacterium that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.  That involved filtering 2 L of seawater through progressively smaller filters and then washing the filtrate off the finest filter into a bottle of medium in which the bacterium, Pseudo-nitzchia, will grow.

I had some nice conversations with crewmembers today.  Chief Boatswain Tony Vieira came from Portugal with his family at the age of 17.  After working construction for a few years, he began commercial fishing with his brother and fished for 18 years.  Ten years ago he was happy to give up that difficult and dangerous profession to work for NOAA. Although he plans to retire before long, Tony says he won’t want to stay away from the ocean for long and will probably look for opportunities to fill in on ships now and then.

We pulled up a heteropod with the bongos (not exactly in them) yesterday or the day before. It’s a gastropod that’s modified for a planktonic existence. Unfortunately, it was somewhat mangled so we didn’t get a complete picture of what one looks like.  It would be wonderful to see some of these animals in their natural element.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

“Alexa, call the bridge.” I froze for a second as if I had just been called to the principal’s office. Going to a phone, ENS Chris Skapin told me he had a project for me and I was to carry a very large box to the bridge. As Wes and I scrambled to find a very large box, we speculated the many different activities I was about to be a part of.  As soon as I walked in, the men talked in unusually quiet whispers.  After several minutes, I figured out why.  Acting XO Jason Appler had made quick friends with a small bird fluttering around the bridge. A sigh of relief came from me as we hunted down the small creature.  After attempting to feed and give water to the small bird, he was let free.  Unfortunately, as Mike Conway pointed out, few birds that are not adapted to sea-life can survive so far out to sea.

I finally got up to the bridge.  Kurt showed me how everything works, radar and all the other navigation programs.  All the crew told me that if I want to see some sort of marine life, to go up to the bridge when XO Jason Appler is there.  About ten minutes after I was up on the bridge with Skapin and Appler, we saw a humpback whale come completely out of the water. There was a huge pod swimming about 100 m away.

Jerry added another station to break up our steam time; we had had one six-hour steam which we were all looking forward to. It seems like we might be getting in earlier than I expected, maybe now I’ll have extra time to hang out with Tracy and Alicea before we all have to leave. I can’t believe my three weeks are almost over!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I don’t think I’ve spent so many days without a to-do list in years.  I can see some of the appeal of the mariner’s life.  Things are a bit simpler out here.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 27, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 36 o
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1025.6 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we launched a drifter buoy that will transmit its position to a satellite so our students can monitor it via a website. Tamara Browning, the other teacher on board, wrote her school’s name on it and I wrote Garrison Forest School and drew a paw print for the GFS Grizzlies. The buoy consists of a small flotation device – about a foot in diameter or a little larger – which contains the electronics and is tethered to a part that looks like a wind sock but will be underwater where it will catch water currents as opposed to wind. Jerry picked a launching spot in the channel where the Labrador Current enters the Gulf of Maine. He says it may stay in the Gulf of Maine and circle around or it may exit with the outgoing current.  It is designed to last for over 400 days. It will fun to have my students follow it and plot its course on a map.

JE Orlando Thompson gave us a tour of the engine room this morning.  He took us into the air-conditioned booth which overlooks the room and contains the control panels.  Orlando explained that the center part of the console controls the main engines (there are 2), the left portion controls the power supply for the ship, and the right side is for the trawl engine which is used when trawling or dredging.  He said that the fuel for each day is first purified to remove sediments and then put into the day tank.  The emergency generator, which is located behind the bridge, has its own fuel tank.  The ship runs on diesel fuel. Down on the floor of the engine room, he showed us the transmission and the shaft that runs aft to the propeller.  The ship moves forward when the blades of the propeller are adjusted to the right pitch. To stop the forward motion during sampling, the pitch is changed. Orlando, who was originally from Panama, learned his craft in the Navy where he served on aircraft carriers that he says make the ALBATROSS IV look like a toy.

Personal Log – Karen Myers 

We finally saw whales today! Well, maybe not whole whales but we did see spouts, flukes, and tails. Ensign Chris Daniels identified them as Right Whales by their divided, v-shaped spouts.  One reason that whalers called this species “Right” whales is that they are slow and sluggish and so were easier to catch up with and kill

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tracy, Alicea and I all sleep through breakfast and lunch so we meet in the galley for cereal and toast around 12:00. Unfortunately, we missed the whales that showed up around 10 a.m. Apparently there were several pods swimming around the boat, one off the port side, one off the starboard side and one off the portside of the fantail.  I’m still trying to understand the different terminology.  Don Cobb stated that there were probably close to 40 whales total in the three different pods.

Karla is definitely a trooper. For her sampling, she has to be working for sixteen hours straight, however, there have been days when she’s been awake for over 24.  It’s great to be in a group of close girls.  Tracy and Alicea are very welcoming, friendly and personable. In such confined spaces, that’s a blessing to find two women who are so agreeable.  There’s no pettiness, nor competition.

Life at sea is simpler than on land, I think, though you have to be able to find ways to keep yourself occupied and still find times to simply sit back and enjoy the frontier around you. I’ll spend time writing to home and my friends, talking to the various crew members, scientists and officers, reading, journaling my opinions and interpretations, and relaxing on the hurricane deck looking out to the sea.  It’s very calm and laid back here.  I think I like it here…

We’re having a cook-out tonight!  Well, actually, it’s a pseudo-cookout because we left the propane tank at port. It’s basically an onboard barbeque which everyone gets together for (assuming that we’re not on station at the time).  Tracy says, “Nothing beats eating dinner right on the ocean as the sun starts going beneath the clouds.”  Following, Alicea said, “We takes a beating, but we keeps on eating.”

Ten minutes before we arrive at each station, the bridge sends an announcement over the intercom.  Depending on the officer manning the bridge, a variety of calls can be decreed onboard. Ensign Chris Daniels (now nicknamed the Nascar driver), however, gave all the calls in one, “10 minutes to station, 10 minutes to CTD, 10 minutes to bongos, 10 minutes to bottom grab, 10 minutes to the longest station of the cruise.”  Unbeknownst to the shift at the time, it was indeed the longest station and took over two hours on station due to problems with the CTD and bottom grab.  As Alicea put it, “We should kindly ask the bridge to keep their comments to themselves [so they stop jinxing us]!”

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction: 3 o
Wind speed: 16 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2 ’
Swell wave height: 2 1/2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1024 mb
Cloud cover: 1/8

Science and Technology Log 

Today we sampled at the deepest station of the trip – 350 m. We had to do what they call a “double dipper” because the bongos are never lowered any deeper than 200 m since pretty much any organisms of interest to Fisheries are with 200 m of the surface.  But the CTD is still lowered all the way to within 5-10 m of the bottom in order to get a complete hydrographic profile.

Karla Heidelberg is engaged in real cutting edge research in microbial genetics.  Now at the University of Southern California, she has worked with the J. Craig Venter Institute which is in the midst of an ambitious program to provide a genomic survey of microbial life in the world’s oceans.  This survey is producing the largest gene catalogue ever assembled and will provide scientists worldwide with an opportunity to better understand how ecosystems function and to discover new genes of ecological importance.  The survey is based on collections made during a circumnavigation of the globe by the sailing yacht Sorcerer II between September 2003, and January 2006.  But this expedition didn’t allow for sampling of the same areas over time.  So, with the help of an NSF grant and NOAA ship time, Karla is sampling and resampling areas in the Gulf of Maine.  When she takes samples, she pumps 200-400 L of water on board and filters it through a series of filters, first to eliminate the zooplankton and phytoplankton, and then to separate the various components of the microbial community.  The filters are frozen while on board ship and then, back in the lab, they’re subjected to an enzyme treatment to remove everything but the DNA. The DNA is then nebulized to break it into small fragments and the fragments are cloned.  The fragments are reassembled and sequenced.  As poorly understood as the ocean in general is, the microbial life of the ocean is a true frontier!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I love sitting out on one of the decks gazing at the sea.  Of course, I’m always hoping to see a whale or a Giant Ocean Sunfish but even though I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at spotting anything, I find it very calming to watch the ocean.  I’m amazed when I look at it that there are painters who are skillful enough to recreate the complex patterns on a canvas.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Well our shift worked extremely hard today, hard enough that we all fell asleep within 10 minutes of a post-shift movie.  We got hit with station after station during our 12 hour period. It’s fascinating, though, to be looking at the organisms that come up in the grab or bongo nets. I’m not very familiar with the different scientific classifications of animals, but I certainly have an appreciation for what the ocean holds.  As Karla said, we’re seeing what 1% of the Earth has ever seen before.  We’re truly in undiscovered territory.

Like the rainforest, there are many species that have yet to be discovered.  At ISEF, my father and I went to an IMAX theatre to watch Deep Blue Sea in 3D.  The VPR (Video Plankton Recorder) showed images just like what we saw on the big screen. I live on the coast, yet I had no idea what was in the ocean.  In fact, people come from all over to whale watch in Gold Beach.  Yet I have never seen a whale, nor have I seen a dolphin.

I go home in six days and head back to school in eight.  I’m getting pretty fond of being out here now, and the idea of sitting in a classroom reading from textbooks isn’t as appealing. I do miss discussions with my teachers (i.e. Ms. Anthony (Calculus); Coach Swift (American Gov’t); Mr. Lee (Honors English II)) though.  Anyway, we’re coming on shift now. So I’d best be off to work.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 90o
Wind speed:  12-13 kts
Sea wave height 2’
Swell wave height 3-4’
Seawater temperature 20.4C
Sea Level Pressure: 1018 mb
Cloud cover: 4/8

Science and Technology Log 

We’re finally on the famous George’s Bank. It’s been a busy day – we had 7 stations on our watch, including 2 EPA stations.  It’s a lovely day, a little chilly, with a brisk wind.

I asked Jerry earlier in the cruise why George’s Bank has historically been such a productive area for fisheries. He explained that, first of all, it’s shallow so fish can spawn there and sunlight can penetrate the water column, providing energy for phytoplankton.  Steve said he’s seen a picture from the 1900’s of guys playing baseball on the shoals in the middle of the Bank.  Secondly, there’s a gyre-like water movement, probably resulting from the Labrador Current meeting the Gulf Stream, so it’s rich in nutrients and the fish that hatch there tend to be kept there by the current.  I’ve also heard about the “Hague Line” that was established by the International Court in the Hague to divide George’s Bank between Canada and the U.S.  Steve talked about how fisherman fish right along it. It’s great to get the perspectives of someone like Jerry whose views are those of a scientist well versed in fish and fisheries and Steve who has a wealth of knowledge from fishing this area.

I had a nice visit on the bridge this morning with Acting CO Kurt Zegowitz and Ensign Chad Meckley. Chad told me that the ALBATROSS IV doesn’t have a rudder – it’s steered by something called a Kort Nozzle which is essentially a large metal open-ended cylinder around the propeller.  When it is turned, it directs the outwash which makes the ship turn. Jerry suggested that it may be better for fishing boats because the nets sometimes get caught on a rudder.  However, this ship is not as maneuverable as it would be with a rudder.

I also got some more information on life in the NOAA Corps.  It seems like a pretty attractive job for a young person. Kurt spent his first sea duty in Hawaii and had a wonderful experience. Chad is thinking about what kind of billet he hopes to be assigned to for his shore duty, which will come after the ALBATROSS IV is decommissioned.  Kurt showed me a list of NOAA Corps billets – both at sea and on land and a list of the individuals in the Corps and where they are currently stationed.  I was pleased to see how many women are in the Corps.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey

I’ve become good friends with my new watch-mates; we have a lot of fun together.  From after-shift meetings at 3 a.m. to ‘Cake Breaks,’ Alicea, Wes, Tracy and I have really come together as a team.  I’ve never been too fond of group projects, most of the time because it leads to one person doing all of the work.  However, our shift has selected specific job roles that we trade off to ease the constant work load and maximize efficiency.

I’ve been talking to a wide variety of people through email, from my science teacher to friends from ISEF to family abroad.  I’m hoping to have a new puppy waiting at home when I get there. We used to have a Keeshond (Dutch Barge dog) named Dutch.  I’m hoping for a Tervuren or Husky, but it’s ultimately up to my parents because he/she will stay with them when I head over to school.  I encourage anyone I know who has a dog to watch the Dog Whisperer w/ Cesar Milan (Animal planet).

I’ve only been up since 11 a.m. (we go to bed after 3 a.m.) so not much has occurred today. Both shifts will be getting hit with stations rapidly today.  We might have close to 8 stations in just a single shift.  Still no whale sightings, but we’re not giving up hope. Last night, a sea of fish rode next to us on the boat. These fish (juveniles about 8 inches long), would jump about 3 feet out and across the water.  It was pretty neat. I’m going to get lunch and start piling on my gear.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I can’t believe how comfortable I feel aboard ship now.  At first I was at loose ends about how to fill the free time, especially since it comes in chunks of unpredictable length.  But now, between writing logs, writing emails, working on the photo contest, making up a Power Point on my experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea, talking to people on board, and trying to spend some time on the bridge or the hurricane deck watching for whales, the day just zips by.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 22, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Wind direction 270 o
Wind speed: 5.5 kts
Sea wave height 1-2’
Swell wave height 2’
Seawater temperature 19 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.4 mb
Cloud cover: 6/8, Cumulus, Cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve done 4 stations on our watch and that’s it for today because we’re heading back into port to exchange personnel. We expect to dock around 4 p.m. and then leave Wednesday morning around 11.

I went up to the bridge to get weather data today and came away again with a wealth of information from Captain Steve Wagner.  He explained the difference between sea waves and swell waves.  Swell waves are generated by distant weather systems and tend to have longer wavelengths. Sea waves are created by local winds – they’re more like chop.  There can be swells coming from different directions and this is the source, he said, of the belief among surfers that every third wave is a bigger wave.  If there are swells approaching a beach from two different directions, sometimes they’ll come together in constructive interference, resulting in a wave that’s larger than either and other times they’ll cancel each other out in destructive interference.  It may be every third wave that they come together or it may be every fifth wave or whatever.  They estimate the heights of the waves and the swells visually.  Seawater temperature is measured by a hull sensor.  Cloud cover is also measured visually by dividing the sky into 8th’s and estimating how many 8th’s are made up of clouds.  Visibility is measured visually as well but confirmed, if possible, by radar or land sightings. For instance, right now Martha’s Vineyard is visible and they know the distance to the island so that can help them come up with a visibility number. If they’re out at sea and there’s nothing to use as a marker and the horizon appears crisp, they post a 10-mile visibility.  They send all their weather data to the National Weather Service every 3 hours.  They have a book–the same one with the Beaufort Scale ratings–that has pictures of cloud formations, each with a number and letter to identify it so they can use that for their reports.

He also explained that when they’re estimating visibility, they have to take into account “height of eye” which is how far above the water they are when they’re looking out.  For Steve Wagner on this ship, it’s about 26 feet because the bridge is about 20 feet above the water and Steve himself is 6 feet tall.  That affects the visibility distance and there’s a formula they can use which takes the square root of height of eye and multiplies by 1.17 to correct the visibility figure.

We also discussed the fact that US offshore charts use fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet) while the charts of harbors, which have shallower water and so require greater resolution, use feet. Canadian charts use meters.  So a mariner has to be aware of what measurement the chart he’s looking at uses. He said the Spanish have their own fathom which is less than 6 feet.

I find it fascinating that there’s such a combination of information from high-tech sources like GPS and low-tech sources like the human eye used in piloting, navigation, and weather prediction.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I got very said news via email yesterday.  A woman who worked in the business office at my school and was an experienced horsewoman was killed in a riding accident.  The service was today. I’ll look for a sympathy card and send it to her family while we’re in port.

Alexa, Tamara, and I are going on a shopping trip to Falmouth.  I have a list of things to buy including a deck chair, if I can find one. No one here seems to object to the concept of deck chairs but there are only 3 on the whole ship and they’re in much demand.  If I can find a cheap, lightweight one in Falmouth, I’ll buy it and then just donate it to the ship when I leave, along with the book Cod by Mark Kurlansky which I finished and passed on to Jerry Prezioso and my cache of granola bars if there are any left (which there almost certainly will be).

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a beautiful day – clear and a bit blustery and the water is a beautiful deep blue.  We’re off the coast of Long Island, heading back towards Woods Hole where we’re expected to arrive about 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, spend the night there and exchange some personnel, and leave the next day to head north.  It’s been a very quiet watch – we had two stations in rapid succession starting about 2:30 a.m. and then had a long steam – for about 7 hours and then one more station.  So there’s been lots of free time to fill with reading, working on crossword and Sudoku puzzles, checking email, sunning on the bow, using the exercise equipment, etc.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 18, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I visited the bridge this morning and plan to go back again for another visit because there’s so much to learn there. There’s an amazing amount of equipment up there and Captain Steve Wagner made an attempt to explain some of it to me.  There are two radar units of different frequencies. The higher frequency unit is a 3 cm unit (I assume 3 cm is the wavelength) and has greater resolution so it can be used when entering harbors, for instance.  The other is a 10 cm unit that can cover a larger area.  They have to have two of every instrument in case one malfunctions.  They have the same program – NobelTec – as Jerry uses. It shows the charts for all the areas we are cruising through.  On the chart, our course is plotted and every station is marked with a square that becomes a star when you click on it. The ship appears as a little green, boat-shaped figure that the program calls the SS Minnow (after the boat in Gilligan’s Island).  The program can tell you the distance to the next station and the ETA (estimated time of arrival) as well as the time to reach the station.  You can zoom in or out and scroll around. It shows depths in fathoms.  The program works with a GPS unit to monitor position.  On another monitor, they get online weather information.  The site on the screen had a graphic which shows the area we’re heading into marked all over with the little icons used in weather maps to show wind speed and direction. It was easy to see the low-pressure system which I’d heard was weakening off the coast of South Carolina.  They also get weather data through a little machine called a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex), similar to a FAX, that prints out a continuous strip of paper about 4 inches wide and gives weather data for various segments of the coast, e.g., Fenwick Island to Cape Hatteras or Cape Hatteras to Murrells Inlet. The information comes from stations at several points along the coast.  The machine checks the accuracy as it prints out and gives an error rate at the top right.  If it’s too high, it stops and starts over. I can sympathize with Captain Wagner when he talks about how difficult it is to keep up with the new technology.  I feel the same way as a teacher. The big difference is that he has lives in his hands.  At the same time, he adds that the technology available makes his job much easier.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Dolphins…enough said. The most amazing thing is seeing a massive pod of dolphins riding the wake less than 25 feet directly below you.  Tamara, Karen, Barbara, Jerry and I all clambered around the bow of the deck desperately snapping photos and avoiding wet paint as we safely peered over the edge. ENS Chris Daniels spied several areas with dolphins and flying fish and quickly pointed every spot out as he tried many different ways to get our attention.

We did another EPA station, which we do every five stations.  A great many of the crew joined us after our shift to play a game of ‘Set’; there were about 8 people pulling, pushing, and looking either dazed or confused at the visual card game.  I’ve been learning a lot about life on the East Coast and oceanography from Carly Blair, URI graduate student, while she sunbathed outside on the Hurricane deck.  Many activities occur out on the Hurricane deck like exercising on several of the available machines, sunbathing, whale watching, etc. It’s good to know that we still have our fun after working shift.

The two people who I admire extremely at this point are Don Cobb and Jon Hare, both East Coast natives. They are so knowledgeable on every subject that arises and work probably more than 18 hours a day.  Don came out to teach Barbara and me the procedures for each test and he spent an extra shift answering all questions and supervising our actions. Jerry taught me most of the computer and paperwork, and I was pretty confused for a while. Later that night, I sat in with Jon as he ran everything.  Every step of the way, he’d pause and explain how the system works and how to operate it. It’s something I appreciate beyond words.

I can’t believe how many great people are concentrated into such a small area.  I just don’t want to head home soon.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I agree with Alexa – the dolphins were inspiring!  It’s amazing that they can swim faster than the ship – twice as fast, according to Jon.  I feel like I’m getting to know the people on the ship better and they’re an entertaining bunch.  They work so hard – Tim Monaghan just told us that someone figured out that a mariner works 7 years longer in a lifetime than an onshore worker because they work round the clock 7 days a week.  It makes my life seem awfully easy by comparison!

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 17, 2006

Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.
Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.

Science and Technology Log 

0200–I made it up for our watch and helped Alexa with the first plankton tow.  She’s already like a pro.  They call the sampling device “bongos,” I guess because it consists of two big stainless steel open-ended shallow cylinders which look somewhat like bongo drums to which are attached the two long, conical plankton nets. The mesh openings are 335 μm. They’re towed for about 5 minutes.  This time they also did two baby bongos which are for a University of Connecticut researcher who wants to look at the genetics of plankton on either side of the edge of the continental shelf. Jerry tells me this apparatus is considered to be superior to the old plankton nets which were towed from a bridle because it was thought the bridle scared away some plankton that were mobile enough to avoid it.  Now the bridle is between the two nets which act to balance one another out and give a two-for-one sample.  They use one for zooplankton and one for fish larvae.  The samples are sent to Poland where they’re sorted and it takes almost a year to get the data back.  The bongos are attached to a big boom which is operated from the winch booth which sits above the aft deck.  They’re lowered over the port side and the ship is maneuvered so the wind is coming toward the port side so that the ship doesn’t get blown over the nets.  Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps with the sampling, points out that in rough weather, that also means that the seas are coming over the port side as you’re working.  He says they’ve been out when the seas are breaking over the bow and over the entire superstructure onto the aft deck!

Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso explained the sampling track to me.  They have the entire sampling area from the North almost up to the Bay of Fundy south to Hatter divided into what they call “strata” which are areas of continuous depth readings.  Each one is numbered and for each sampling trip (4, sometimes 5, per year), the computer randomly generates several stations within that stratum. From what he says, there has been a lot of discussion of the best way to sample to get a complete and accurate picture.  The original program was called MarMap which was started in the 70’s.  It used a grid pattern and sampled at the same stations every time.  The criticism of that was that some areas never got sampled so significant information could have been missed.

We’ve had an extremely busy shift.  We’re in an area off of Delaware Bay where “gliders” have been deployed. They are instruments that look like torpedoes and are programmed to work autonomously, moving back and forth across this area at varying depths and sending out data on salinity. John Hare is using that data to decide where we’ll do stations that will help to delimit the line between shelf water and slope water.  So we’ve done a number of stations in rapid succession.

We’ve also been testing a VPR, Video Plankton Recorder, which uses a camera and rotating strobe light to take pictures of plankton. The VPR takes as many as 20 pictures per second. A computer program then selects the images that can be identified.  The VPR would be used to supplement the bongos.  It reveals the depth at which the particular organisms occur which can’t be determined from the bongo samples.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I’m relieved that my seasickness has passed.  I’m still finding that life at sea is somewhat of a challenge for me.  But I do like sleeping on a rocking ship.  I’m surprised by how much I miss my family – it’s different only being in touch by email and not being able to hear their voices.  I’m enjoying getting to know the various people on the ship – everyone is so kind and they all have such interesting backgrounds.  It’s such a different life that people live at sea! I’m impressed by the dedication of the scientists – they are serious about getting every station right, in spite of having done the procedure over and over again for years. Not only the scientists, but also Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps us get the equipment over the side and back in again, is meticulous about never missing a step.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tamara, Karen and I interviewed Ensign Chad Meckley about his career path in NOAA corps. After coming out of the Merchant Marine Academy and completing BOTC training (a two-year course packed into four months), Meckley has begun working on the ALBATROSS IV to complete his sea-experience requirement . He describes his BOTC training as similar to drinking through a fire hose.

Karen and I are so lucky to come aboard to such a great crew.  I finally know everyone’s names and I believe most know mine.  Originally, I was quite scared of what this experience might be like because I know very little about the macro/micro organisms which we are observing. Secondly, I’ve never been to the East Coast before nor flown on a plane by myself for close to 10 hours. I miss my family quite a lot; I’d never really been this far away nor for such a long period of time.  Being completely out of contact for a week or more is quite difficult, but I know I’ll see them soon.  Fortunately, I’ve been adopted by a whole new family aboard ship just like at ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) last May.

The crew and scientists aboard are amazing!  There’s so much to learn, not just from the scientists, but the officers and crew.  These men and women have hands-on experience with a huge variety of subjects. I’m getting to learn from top field-experts in ways textbooks cannot convey.  Additionally, I’m improving my understanding of science, technology, engineering, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Everything is going smoothly with the weather, especially because it’s hurricane season.  There are beautiful sunsets and sunrises.  It’s just a great overall experience, something that no one should pass up. I get back on the 2nd of September, drive another 6 hours home, and then have one day off before school but, it’s all worth it.  I’ve been requested to interview as many of the officers, crew and scientists as possible in the allotted time.  During the work shift, I found I can handle several of the procedures alone, though I’m constantly afraid of making a mistake.  So far, I’ve heard I’m the youngest to ever sail aboard so I’m attempting to learn quickly and earn my keep.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

13:47 — I’ve lost the past day to seasickness. All the other visitors/females on board have also been sick except for Alexa who is amazing.  We are on the midnight to noon shift with Jerry. I missed the whole shift but Alexa worked the whole shift.  Barbara and Carly are barely functioning. Tamara and I are still hurting.  Everyone is very kind and encouraging. Think I’ll head back to bed for now.

 

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We’re still at the dock in Woods Hole.  NOAA inspectors delayed the ALBATROSS IV’s departure for a day. We’re due to leave at 2 p.m. today.  Weather is overcast and windy.

The science crew consists of Jerry Prezioso, Chief Scientist, who is from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service; Jon Hare, also of NMFS; Don Cobb of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Barbara Sherman, who is a secretary at EPA in Narragansett and is out for a week as a volunteer; Carly Blair, a graduate student from URI; Alexa Carey, a student from Gold Beach, OR; Tamara Brown, a middle school teacher from Teaneck, NJ; and me.  I’ve met most but not all of the ship’s crew.  There are three NOAA Corps officers: Ensign Chad Meckley, Ensign Chris Daniels and Ensign Chris Skapin. We learned that the NOAA Corps is the seventh branch of the uniformed services, responsible for operating NOAA’s ships and planes.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail
Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail

The plan is to cruise south, perhaps as far as Cape Hatteras.  NMFS will be doing plankton tows and testing a video camera for surveying plankton.  EPA is taking water samples to test for a variety of nutrients and sediment samples to test for heavy metals and benthic organisms.  We’ll come back to WH on 8/23 to exchange personnel and then head north up to the Gulf of Maine and possibly as far as the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia, Canada.

Linda Depro, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge caught a monster lobster today.  The scientists seemed to think it was more than twenty years old. When held up it was the size of an adult’s length from shoulders to knees, and two hands were needed to hold it!  A spiny dogfish (looks like a shark) was also caught. I held it to have my picture taken and I plan to hang it on my classroom door! Otherwise the catches were the usual—some with lots of rocks, some with sand, others with many star fish or skates.  All these fantastic sea creatures that I have only seen in books have become part of my life here on board the ALBATROSS IV.  The star fish and hermit crabs are my favorites, skates are cool to look at and pick up by the tail and put in the bucket, goosefish (known as monk fish in the grocery store) have a face that “only a mother could love”, and the scallops, even though I’ve seen thousands of them are each a little different.

Personal Log 

Sunset was beautiful again tonight and the moon is spectacular.  With my binoculars the craters were very clear. A lone seagull followed us for a while; his white body against the black sky would have inspired me to write a poem if I were a poet.  Hard to believe the adventure is coming to an end, and what an adventure it was.  The crew has been super, very kind, and willing to talk and answer questions.  The scientists have an important job collecting and recording data; they are an interesting group to work with.  Thanks to all for making my time on the ALBATROSS IV the adventure of a lifetime.

Linda Depro, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a small world here on the ALBATROSS IV.  Chad Meckley is a 1996 Wilson High School graduate. Wilson is in Berks County and I live in Lancaster County, less than forty minutes away.  If you want to talk to Chad, look on the bridge.

Chad earned a geography/environmental science degree from Shippensburg University and moved to Colorado to be near the mountains.  After working several years in sales, Chad happened to be talking to a friend who knew about the NOAA Corps.  He applied, was accepted, and began training in February 2006.

We are on Leg 2 of the Sea Scallop Cruise and it is Chad’s third cruise with NOAA.  He enjoys being on the ocean and plans to continue his NOAA career.  Chad has two goals: to become Officer of the Deck (so he can command the ship) and to experience his first winter at sea.

It is evident that Chad enjoys what he’s doing; you can see it in his smile.  Best Wishes, Chad!

Last watch was not quite as busy as the night before.  We had two stations that were mostly Brittle Stars, very interesting little starfish.  They are a tannish color about the diameter of a coffee mug, with long thin arms that visibly move. When they were shoveled into laundry size baskets each time we had two baskets full, and that’s a lot of Brittle Stars!

Personal Log 

Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous day on the ocean.  The sun was out and the water was calm.  Whales were sighted, but in the distance.  I did see them surfacing and took pictures. Imagine a 4×6 all bluish-green and a fourth-inch dot of black. Sunset was working on spectacular, but just as the sun reached the water it went behind a layer of clouds. We are almost at full moon and the night time was just as beautiful in its own way.

Linda Depro, August 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was quite a day—many stations, lots of scallops, and BIG rocks.  I am amazed that the trawl net liner was not damaged.  Last night, though, a rock the size of a small car was hauled onto deck—that one did tear the liner.  It’s interesting to watch the winch drop it in the ocean.

My new special position (I’m still sorting, shoveling, and measuring) is taking the inclinometer, or bottom contact sensor, reading.  To you landlubbers, it’s a device attached to the trawl that gathers data and tells the scientists whether the net was parallel to the bottom of the ocean. So when the net comes up with very little the information from the inclinometer is helpful.

Here’s what I do. I have an optic shuttle (about the size of a hot dog) that I secure in the inclinometer located on the trawl.  Each part has sensors and when put together properly the inclinometer sends the data to the optic shuttle (like a zip) and when all information is received and a little green light flashed I take in into a computer and transfer the data onto the hard drive. It’s an important piece to the mission.

What I have been doing here is an example of how important hands-on learning really is for understanding and transfer. I could have read all about this experience (like you are with this journal), but until I held the fish, scrubbed the scallops, cut into a Monk fish to discover the ovaries, etc., I had no real understanding.  Amazing!

Personal Log 

The weather remains beautiful, the people are great, and the food is delicious.

Linda Depro, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 4, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

If you are observant you will notice that I’m on my second Friday in a row.  Time is a hard thing to keep track of here on the ocean.  Last watch, Thursday I think, we entered Canadian waters. I was looking for a sign the said “Welcome to Canada”, but I must have missed it.

I am a scallop scrubber!  With each haul five scallops are chosen at random to gather in-depth data on (all other scallops are weighed and measured only).  The shells are scrubbed clean so the scientists on shore can determine the age.  Scallop shells are a little like a tree trunk. Age is determined by growth rings.  The larger scallops can be five years and older. The scallop is measured for length and weighed individually then opened. The sex is entered into the computer next.  Male scallops have a white gonad and females have a pink gonad.  The gonad is weighed, and then the muscle (what we would call the “scallop”) is cut out and weighed.  The shell is dried and numbered to match the data, bagged, and frozen.  Some scallops are very clean, but others can have barnacles, “weeds”, sponges, and/or slime (don’t know the scientific term!) growing on their shells. As a shell scrubber you get to know these things and the best way to remove them!!  Finally the whole station is hosed down for the next haul.

Personal Log 

The noise of the engines and the rocking of the ship are becoming second nature.  The weather has been kind and swells small.  I am really, really hoping that is stays this way.  Laundry is my goal for the morning.  The washer and drier are behind a metal door called a hatch. There are six dogs (big metal latches) that must be closed when the ship is at sea. I have opened and closed those six dogs so many times I’ve given them names: King, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Lady, Spot, and ToTo!  So many things to learn.

Linda Depro, August 3, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 3, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Life happens here aboard ALBATROSS IV in twelve-hour intervals. My watch is from twelve noon until twelve midnight and the other watch is from twelve midnight until twelve noon.  I feel fortunate to have the “day watch” because at midnight I fall into bed dead tired and let the ocean rock me to sleep.  After breakfast I have time to write in my journal, read, do laundry, or sit and talk to the many interesting people who are aboard.  Lunch at 11:15 and then it’s off to work at 11:50.  If the stations are close together that means there is not much steam time and hauls can come in in 45 minutes or less.  So far that has been enough time to log all the data from the previous haul, freeze any biological samples to be worked up at the on shore lab, and clean up.  If steam time is longer I can read a book, get a snack (there is always fresh fruit out – I am a happy camper!), or eat dinner.

Personal Log 

Yesterday morning I was showering before breakfast.  As I was soaping I looked out the port hole that is in the shower. It was one of those “wow” moments.  Where else can a person take a shower with white caps splashing against the window?  I recounted my experience with the watch chief. She said, “Wait until the porthole is underwater.”  I certainly will be holding on the grab bars!

I’ve talked to the head cook and his assistant several times, both very kind men who obviously enjoy their jobs. Their food is excellent.  Each meal includes two entrees and many sides.  One lunch entree was unbelievable – blackened scallops prepared by using the scallops that had been part of the biological sampling in the wet lab.  Talk about fresh – and were they delicious!!

Linda Depro, August 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 1, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

To quote that famous seaman, Popeye, “A sailor’s life for me!!”  I’m thinking about joining him and changing careers – this experience is fantastic.

The ALBATROSS IV is conducting the second leg of the Atlantic scallop survey, and we are in Georges Bank off the coast of New England.  In specific stations (areas of the ocean) the scientists are keeping data;  the number of scallops, their size, and weight, the number and kind of fish, the volume of the entire catch, and at specific stations the number of crabs, or the number of starfish.

The vessel steams to each station where the dredge is lowered and then AIV trawls for fifteen minutes.  The haul is brought in and emptied onto the aft deck where the scientists, volunteers, and me (teacher at sea) sort through and put the scallops and fish into different baskets. With that completed we go back and shovel all unneeded shells, sand, etc. into baskets that are recorded (for volume) and returned to the sea.  The scallops and fish are taken into the wet lab where they are counted, weighed, and measured.  Five random scallops are chosen to be individually surveyed.  The shells are scrubbed clean (one of my jobs) so their age can be determined later; each is measured, weighed, and opened. The sex of the scallop is recorded, the gonad weighed, and the abductor muscle weighed.  Finally the shell is numbered to correspond to the data (in a computer) for each.  The shells are bagged, marked, and frozen for later study.

Personal Log 

All my expectations about this adventure pale to the experience that it has been so far.  When Patti Connor (the other Teacher at Sea) and I saw the ALBATROSS IV for the first time we were awe-struck.  My excitement at that moment wiped away any worries or fears about the adventure. Tony, the first bo’sun, was on deck and welcomed us aboard.  He was the first, and with each new crewmember, from the steward to the engineer to the captain we met I felt more and more “at home.”

The staterooms hold three scientists; my bed is on the bottom of the bunk bed.  We have two portholes for light, a sink, two closets, and some storage drawers.  The head and shower are shared with the next stateroom.  The room is pretty much for sleeping and showering because I cannot go in while one roommate on the opposite watch is sleeping.  It is amazing how the roll of the boat puts me to sleep, and so far I have been sleeping quite well.

Sorting through the piles that are brought up from the bottom of the sea is very exciting.  Even those who have been doing this for a while are enthusiastic about the catch.  I am picking up REAL LIVE hermit crabs, flounder, scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, and more!

David Riddle, July 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 27, 2006

Parting Thoughts 

It’s Thursday afternoon. We have completed almost 300 tows to sample scallops from Cape Hatteras to Cape Cod.  Today will be our last full day at sea; we return to Woods Hole, MA early Friday morning. I am of course looking forward to getting back to land and eventually back home to North Carolina, but I am immensely grateful for this experience.

During our introductory meeting at the start of the cruise, our ship was compared to “a city at sea”. I’ve thought about that a number of times.  All the normal services provided by municipalities must be duplicated on board a ship:  electricity for heating and cooling, fresh water for drinking and washing, food supplies to last for the duration of the cruise, waste disposal, emergency services, communications, even entertainment.  Then too, this is a city on the move.  It takes brainpower to know where we are and where we’re heading at every moment in time.  And it takes mechanical power to keep us moving through the water.

I would suggest that it also takes a considerable amount of people-power to keep this city-at-sea operating at its fullest capacity.  And I’ve witnessed this sort of people-power consistently aboard the ALBATROSS IV the past 15 days.  Organization, planning, and procedures govern nearly everything.  Officers, crew, and scientists know what to do and what not to do, and all this works to achieve the overall goal of gathering the data necessary to continue this study of scallops that started back in 1975.

But beyond merely following procedures, I’ve also witnessed something else among the individuals on board this vessel that makes work progress smoothly:  simple courtesy. People are quick to offer a helping hand. “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, “Let me help you with that”, as well as unspoken gestures of consideration, are plentiful.  Everyone seems fully aware that we are, literally, all in the same boat out here, and getting along is an important aspect of getting the job done.

So, as I approach the end of this experience, I am grateful to all those who made it possible: the NOAA Teacher at Sea program and its administrators, as well as the officers, crew, and scientists aboard the ALBATROSS IV.  Thank you all for the valuable work you do, and thank you for allowing me to be a small part of it.

David Riddle, July 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 25, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Science-wise, catches of scallops have been variable. Sometimes we’ve hauled in huge numbers; other times almost none.  We’re still sorting and counting and measuring fish from every catch, and as we move back northward, a little east of our starting point now, the fish species have begun to change.  We’ve even caught a few lobsters.

I’ve been trained to do several different jobs so far.  I’ve monitored the computer station while collecting the CTD data, determining salinity by lowering the device over the side that measures conductivity, temperature, and density within 5-10 meters of the bottom.  I’ve also helped download the data from the inclinometer, which results in a graph showing the angle of the dredge relative to the bottom during the tow.

I’ve learned the procedures for measuring and collecting additional data on little skates. They’re the fish that look like stingrays.  We measure, length, width, weight, and determine degree of sexual maturity.

Now I’m doing the starfish count, every third tow.  My job is to collect a random bucket full of the by-catch (the leftovers) after everything else countable has been removed, then sort, count, and weigh the starfish according to species.  Sometimes the whole catch is mostly starfish, so there’s plenty to keep me busy.

Sightings:  This afternoon I saw the dorsal fins of two ocean sunfish (Mola mola). I would have assumed they were sharks, since all that was visible was the fin, but the fishermen said you could tell by the shape of the fin and the way it moved through the water. The Peterson Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes says they’re among the largest of the marine bony fishes.  (Whale sharks and basking sharks are larger, but sharks have cartilage instead of bony skeletons.) Sunfishes can be as large as 3 meters long and 3.3 meters tall, and they may weigh over two tons.

Personal Log 

Several days have passed since my last log entry.  I’ve been making some hand-written notes, but they’re mostly about our encounter with the fringes of Tropical Storm Beryl and my re-encounter with seasickness.  Everyone has been very understanding, and I’ve appreciated it. I’m feeling back to normal now.

David Riddle, July 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 17, 2006

A seahorse that came up with the dredge
A seahorse that came up with the dredge

Science and Technology Log

It’s almost halfway through my watch now, and I have a little down time.  The day started with several stations that were close together, which kept us busy. Now the sampling stations are farther apart, and I’ve had time to work on some photographs of shells.

Our catches turn up lots of interesting creatures.  Some I recognize from my college invertebrate zoology course (oh, so many years ago!)  Others I’ve only seen pictures of.  There are occasional sea squirts, bulbous little creatures that squirt a stream of water when squeezed.  We find an occasional “sea mouse”, a polychaete worm, bristly-looking on the backside and shaped sort of like, well, a mouse.  Underneath you can see the segments.  Hermit crabs are abundant; many of them simply abandon their shells when they’re dumped onto the deck. This is probably not a good survival strategy, since they get dumped back overboard only to drift slowly to the bottom without any protection at all. Oh well, most everything in the ocean is somebody else’s lunch anyway. We find other species of crabs as well.  The larger ones are set aside and are sitting in a bucket which has seawater continually being pumped through it to keep them alive. I wonder whose lunch they’ll turn out to be?  We’ve caught a few small dogfish sharks, under two feet in length.  I’m told on some of the ground fish surveys they catch tons of them (literally). Considerably smaller were two needlefish, about 6 inches long and ••• inch wide.

I find myself wondering things like, “What must it be like to be that small, living in this huge ocean?”  Them I’m reminded of our little planet’s location in our galaxy, and the Milky Way’s tiny place in a universe with millions of other galaxies.  OK. Humility is a good thing.

Then too, I’m reminded that small is not always equivalent to unimportant.  Do you like breathing?  Well, consider that roughly 3 out of every 4 breaths you take come to you courtesy of the phytoplankton in the oceans of the world.  There they are, soaking up the sunshine and the carbon dioxide and pumping out huge quantities of oxygen every single daylight hour. They’re microscopic, but their importance in the overall scheme of life on this planet is enormous. I suppose it would be helpful to remember, while we’re busy saving the whales, we should take care of the little guys too.  But then, how would “Save the Plankton” look on a T-shirt or bumper sticker?

On a more practical note, we’re due to reach our turn-around point in 5 more stations.  We will have reached our southernmost latitude, which will put us due east of the North Carolina-Virginia border.  Then we’ll begin making our way back up the coast, stopping at the stations in shallower waters.  I flew to Boston from my home in western NC to take part in this Teacher at Sea experience.  So this is the closest to home I’ll be for the next 12 days.

I keep thinking I’m done with my log for the day and then something else happens.  At station 99 we caught a seahorse!  The depth was 24 fathoms, and I seriously doubt it was on the bottom, but when the dredge came up, there it was on deck.

Sightings: The osprey was still here this morning, but as of late afternoon it was gone.

David Riddle, July 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 15, 2006

Not all scallop shells are pretty, but these were outstanding!
Not all scallop shells are pretty, but these were outstanding!

Science and Technology Log

We’re in an area now with an abundance of scallops, and most of them are large. When the catch is emptied from the net onto the deck, it takes 6 to 8 people working steadily, on hands and knees, to separate the scallops from the rest of the catch.  We’ve gotten up to 16 bushels so far in one 15 minute tow, using an 8 foot dredge. If the next station is nearby, we just have time to get the measurements completed and clean up before it’s time to start again.  But it’s not always that busy.  If the next station is several miles away, we get time to sit for a few minutes and relax.

During one of my relaxing moments, I photographed some of the fish that were caught along with scallops and starfish and everything else.  We catch small skates, which are shaped like stingrays, with a broad, diamond-shaped body and an elongated narrow tail.  We also catch goosefish, sometimes called angler fish, with mouths agape, showing rows of needle-like teeth. We catch flounder too.  All of these are bottom-dwellers, probably too slow to swim away from the net, or else when they feel the net coming they just hunker down in their standard defensive posture, which unfortunately is no help when the thing that’s coming after you weighs nearly a ton and is being dragged at between 3 and 4 knots.

Scallop eyes are visible as rows of dots inside the shell margin.
Scallop eyes are visible as rows of dots inside the shell margin.

As we have moved farther south today, I’ve begun noticing scallops with different patterns on their shells. Some look like sunbursts; some are striped.  I’ve collected a few to take home.  I want to get some photos of live scallops also. When they open their shells you can see the row of eyes along the margin of the gills.  Scallops can swim, which is unusual for a bivalve. The powerful muscle (the part we eat) which holds the shells together, opens and closes the shell in rapid succession. This draws water in between the shells and forces it out the back near the hinge in little concentrated jets. Scallops swim by jet propulsion!  Prior to sailing, we saw a brief film clip showing a group of scallops swimming, in a jerky, erratic motion.

Sightings: An osprey landed on the mast about 11:00am.  The fishermen say we’re about 20 miles offshore, so I imagine he/she is pretty tired.  Maybe it will hang around for a while. Later…It’s 9:00 pm now and the osprey is still perched on the mast.  I expect it will still be here in the morning.  Another small songbird showed up later in the afternoon. I didn’t see it, so I don’t know the species.  The fishermen offered it some fresh water, but it didn’t drink.  They say it probably won’t survive this far out, if it won’t drink. Even so, some birds seem quite at home this far out.

Personal Log 

Midnight notes: We did 18 stations in 12 hours; several were back to back.  Do you think I’m ready for a shower and bed?  Does a scallop live in the ocean?

David Riddle, July 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea David Riddle holds a medium-size goosefish.
NOAA Teacher at Sea David Riddle holds a medium-size goosefish.

Science and Technology Log

My first shift involved getting accustomed to the job. It seems like an incredible amount of detailed instructions and procedures at first, but over time, the routine emerges.  The dredge goes out and tows for 15 minutes.  Then it comes back in and the inclinometer data is downloaded. The inclinometer is attached to the frame of the dredge and measures the angle of the dredge in relation to the bottom. This data allows verification that the dredge was towing at the proper angle. Then the dredge frame is moved, the net is dumped, and I take a photo of the catch with Amanda holding a sign telling which tow and which location. Then we dig through the pile, on hands and knees, sorting out scallops, clappers (recently dead scallops with the shell halves still hinged), all fish species, and every third station we save and count crabs and do a random sample count to estimate the number of starfish.  Starfish are scallop predators. Also, at every third station before we do a tow the CTD measuring device is lowered over the side. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Density, and these numbers are used to calculate salinity. The temperature data from the CTD helps establish the conditions which scallops may or may not prefer.  CTD data is not only related to the Scallop Survey, but NOAA ships regularly collect data that is used by scientists working on other projects.

The location of each tow is selected randomly by computer within various strata which vary by depth. There’s a navigational chart posted on the wall that shows the precise location of all the areas being sampled.  Some samples are taken from areas that are closed to commercial fishing, for resource management purposes.  Some areas may be closed indefinitely while others are rotated or allow fishing on a “restricted access” program.

Sightings: In the afternoon, whales were blowing on the horizon, too far away to see any more than that.  I counted five spouts together in one place, then two more a little farther behind. Hammerhead shark, reported from the bridge.  I saw the fin. Dolphins alongside in the dark: they look silver-gray, in the reflection of the ship’s lights.

Personal Log 

I awoke feeling fine, and went around taking some video of fishing operations.  But I felt uneasy from late morning on.  Twelve hours is a long time to work when feeling queasy, but interestingly, when I was focused on a specific task, even something as simple as shucking scallops and talking, I was less aware of my discomfort.  I was tired toward the end of my 12-hour shift, tired of feeling queasy, tired of the half-asleep feeling that comes from the anti-nausea medication.  A shower and bed were most welcome!

David Riddle, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Riddle
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 13 – 28, 2006

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 13, 2006

NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV in port at Woods Hole, MA.
NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV in port at Woods Hole, MA.

Science and Technology Log 

After a 3-day delay due to technical issues, the NOAA Ship ALBATROSS IV headed out to sea for leg 1 of the Sea Scallop Survey at 6:00 pm today.  We completed a test tow to check the equipment, and the volunteer scientists got to examine the samples collected. We also learned how to identify, weigh, and measure several species of fish, using the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS), which we are assured will become second nature in short order.  So far, no scallops, but that’s not a surprise, considering the location of our first tow.

Sightings: Portuguese Man-of-War (Physalia), just a few as we were heading out.

Personal Log 

The ALBATROSS IV has two Teachers at Sea on this cruise, plus three other volunteers on the scientists’ crew. We are currently underway to our first station, which is several hours away. The scientific crew scheduled to stand the first watch, which starts at midnight, will be able to get a little sleep before they’re called for duty in the pre-dawn hours. My watch starts at noon tomorrow, so sleep won’t be an issue for me.  Sleeping in a bed that gently pitches and rolls may be a challenge, however.  Time will tell.

Joan Raybourn, August 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 25, 2005

Personal Log

Today was the last day of our two-week adventure at sea. At dawn this morning, we paused for a while before entering the north end of the Cape Cod Canal. While we have been within sight of land for a day or two, it was strange to see land on both sides of us. The canal was built in the 1930s, and using it to get back to Woods Hole saves at least half a day’s sailing time. Without it, we would have to sail all the way around the “arm” of Cape Cod. We slipped into the canal and eased our way south, back into civilization. We stood on the bow of the ship and watched fish playing in the water, seabirds hovering hopefully over them. People walked their dogs on the path beside the canal, and sailboats passed silently. All was quiet. When a siren split the air, we knew we were back.

The trip through the canal took about an hour and a half, and we were in Buzzards Bay. We made our way through the islands and back around to Woods Hole, to the pier where our trip began. We cleaned the labs and packed our gear and samples to go ashore. At the pier, a gangplank was attached to the ALBATROSS IV so that we could move “all ashore that was going ashore”. We lugged boxes and crates over it to the NOAA warehouse, the EPA truck, and the NOAA van that would take the samples back to the lab in Rhode Island. It was a strange feeling to be back on land. At the beginning of the trip, my body had to adapt to the motion of the ship, and for the first two days I staggered around until I got my sea legs. Back on land, my body had to adapt again; even though my brain knew I was on solid land, the sensation of motion persisted.

And then it was over. By 2:30, everyone who was leaving was gone, and our shipboard community was dissolved. Since my flight home is not until tomorrow, I will stay one more night aboard the ALBATROSS IV. It’s a little lonely now, with everyone gone and no work to do. But I’ve been up since midnight, when my last watch began, and an early bedtime tonight will be welcome. What an adventure this has been! I will never forget my days out on the wide blue sea, with nothing to see but sky and wind and ocean. Whenever city life hems me in, I’ll be able to go back in my mind’s eye, feeling the wind and the sunshine, and watching the endless play of the sea, all the way to forever.

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Joan Raybourn, August 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 43°32’ N
Longitude: 69°55 W
Visibility: 8 miles
Air Temperature: 17° C
Wind direction: E (99 degrees)
Wind speed: 5 knots
Sea wave height: 1’
Sea swell height: <1’
Sea water temperature: 18.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1018.0 millibars
Cloud cover: 7/8 Cumulus

Question of the Day: At what degrees on the compass would you find the intermediate directions? (Use information below to help you and look for the answer at the end of today’s log.

Yesterday’s Answer: GMT stands for “Greenwich Mean Time”. GMT is the time at the Prime Meridian, which passes through Greenwich, England. People around the world can use this time as an international reference point for local time. We are on Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), which is four hours behind GMT. At 1:33 a.m. GMT, it was already August 24 in Greenwich, but our local time was 9:33 p.m. EDT, still August 23, so that is the date I used in the log.

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Science and Technology Log

Over the last eleven days, the ALBATROSS IV has zigzagged back and forth across southern New England waters, Georges Bank, and the Gulf of Maine. The collection stations were chosen in advance of the trip and plotted on an electronic chart. So how does the crew drive the boat to the next station?

Ship navigation is a combination of automated and manual tasks. Based on the ship’s current position and the latitude and longitude of the next station, the navigator determines what heading to take. That is, he decides in exactly which direction to go using a compass. The ship has an electronic gyroscope as well as a manual compass similar to the ones you may have seen, only larger. It has a magnetic needle that points north, and is divided into 360 degrees. The cardinal directions are these: 0° is north, 90° is east, 180° is south, and 270° is west. The navigator enters the heading into the ship’s navigation computer, and if conditions are normal, he can set the ship on Autopilot. Then the computer will automatically adjust the ship’s direction to keep it on course.

The fact that the ship is running on Autopilot does not mean that the crew can take a break. The crew sets the ship’s speed depending on weather and sea conditions, and on how much other ship traffic there is in the area. In open water, the ALBATROSS IV cruises at about ten to twelve knots, which means we cover about 10 to 12 nautical miles per hour. The crew must constantly monitor to make sure the ship is operating safely and efficiently. They plot the ship’s course on paper, monitor weather conditions, watch for other ships and communicate with them, and adjust the ship’s course and speed. At the collection stations, they are able to put the ship at the exact latitude and longitude called for, and keep it there during water casts and sediment grabs, or moving at just the right speed for plankton tows.

Navigators keep a constant watch out for other ships, using a combination of visual and radar data. They use radar to pinpoint the ships’ locations, and often can be seen scanning the sea with binoculars. Signal lights on ships help with navigation, too. Ships have a red light on the port (left) side and a green light on the starboard (right) side. This helps navigators know which side of a ship is facing them and in which direction it is headed. Of course, radio communication makes it possible for ships’ crews to talk to each other and make sure they are passing safely.

Personal Log

Tonight will be the last night of the cruise. We expect to be back in Woods Hole by midday tomorrow, two days earlier than planned. We’ve been blessed with excellent weather, and have made good time cruising between stations. I was very excited last night to see fireworks in the toilet! Toilets on the ship are flushed with sea water, which often contains some bioluminescent phytoplankton. Sometimes the swirling action of the water will excite them, and we’ll see blue-green sparkles and flashes as the water washes down. (Sewage and waste water are biologically treated on board so that they are safe to release into the ocean.)

I want to thank the crew of the ship, especially the NOAA Corps officers who have welcomed me on the bridge and answered many questions about ship operations. I am particularly grateful to Capt. Jim Illg, who reviewed all of my logs, and Ensign Patrick Murphy, who answered many questions about weather and navigation.

Finally, I want to thank the scientists who willingly shared their knowledge and patiently taught me protocols for their work. Jerry Prezioso, a NOAA oceanographer, served as chief scientist on this cruise. He helped me prepare ahead of time via telephone and email, and has been endlessly helpful to this novice seafarer. His enthusiasm is infectious, and he has a knack for turning any event into a positive experience. Jackie Anderson, a NOAA marine taxonomist, taught me to operate the CTD unit and helped me identify the kinds of zooplankton we captured in the bongo nets. Don Cobb, an EPA marine environmental scientist, helped me understand the kinds of research the EPA is doing to monitor the health of our oceans and estuaries. Thanks to all of them for their  work in keeping Planet Earth healthy, and for making this an experience I can take back to my classroom and use to help make science real for my students.

Today’s Answer: The intermediate directions are those that fall between the cardinal directions, so to find their degree equivalents, find the halfway point between the numbers for each cardinal direction. Northeast would be at 45°, southeast would be at 135°, southwest would be at 225°, and northwest would be at 315°.

Joan Raybourn, August 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 23, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 44°23’ N
Longitude: 66°37’ W
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind direction: W (270 degrees)
Wind speed: 12.7 knots
Sea wave height: 1’
Sea swell height: 1’
Sea water temperature: 11.1°C
Sea level pressure: 1014.7 millibars
Cloud cover: 1/8 Clear with a few cumulus clouds low on the horizon

Question of the Day: What does “GMT” stand for and how does it affect the date in the log information above?

Yesterday’s Answer: The clock shows 9:17 a.m. There are 24 hours around the clock face. The hour hand is pointing a little past the 9, so that is the hour. To read the minute hand, notice its position. On a twelve-hour clock, this position would indicate about 17 minutes past the hour. Since this clock counts off 24 hours instead of counting to 12 twice, the afternoon and evening hours have their own numbers. For example, 4:00 p.m. on a twelve-hour clock would be 16:00 on a twenty-four-hour clock. There is no need to indicate a.m. or p.m. since each hour has its own unique number.

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Science and Technology Log

Today I spent some time up on the bridge talking to the crew about weather. The ship collects all kinds of weather data from on-board sensors, including air temperature, air pressure, wind speed and direction, and relative humidity. It also receives weather data from sources outside the ship via satellite link and email. I was especially interested in how the crew determines visibility, cloud cover, sea wave height, and sea swell height, since these represent subjective data. “Subjective” means that someone uses known data and their own experience to make a judgment. Here are some examples.

Visibility just means how far you can see into the distance. This is very hard to judge on the sea because there are no reference points – no objects to “go by” to decide how far away something is. Radar gives an accurate distance from the Albatross IV to objects such as other ships, and on a clear day, the horizon is about twelve miles away. A navigator learns to estimate visibility by combining radar information with how far away objects look in relation to the horizon. It takes a lot of practice to be able to judge visibility using only your eyes!

Cloud cover just means the amount of the sky that is covered by clouds. This is expressed in eighths. Today the cloud cover was about 1/8, meaning about one eighth of the sky had clouds and seven eighths was clear. To make the estimate, mentally divide the sky in half and ask yourself if about half of the sky is cloudy. If you see that less than half the sky has clouds, then mentally divide the sky into fourths, and then eighths. This can be tricky if the clouds are scattered around because it is hard to see a fraction that isn’t all “together”. Once again, this skill takes a lot of practice.

Sea swell height and sea wave height are both descriptors of how the ocean surface is behaving. These are important to observe because they affect the motion of the ship. Swells are large rolling humps of water that are created by the winds from storms. Navigators can tell how far away the storm is by observing the speed of, and length between, the swells. The ship might rock with long, slow swells caused by a storm hundreds of miles away, or with the shorter, faster swells of a storm that is closer. Waves, on the other hand, are caused by local wind; that is, the wind that is blowing right at your location. Waves might just be rippling the water if the wind is light, but can be large if the wind is strong. Both swell height and wave height are estimated in feet from the trough (bottom) to the crest (top) of the wave. Again, this skill takes lots of practice.

Personal Log

Yesterday we got word that a pod of about seventy right whales had been sighted in the Bay of Fundy. This represents a large fraction of this endangered species’ entire population of fewer than 300. Our route has taken us up a little way into the bay, and we have been eagerly watching for whales. We’ve seen several blows in the distance, and occasionally a glimpse of a long back breaking the water. Most of them have been fin whales, but we did see two or three right whales before it was completely dark. It’s exciting to see these giants of the ocean and we hope to see more when the sun comes up.

Joan Raybourn, August 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 21, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 42°17’ N
Longitude: 69°38’ W
Wind direction: SE (130 degrees)
Wind speed: 10.3 knots
Air Temperature: 19°C
Sea water temperature: 21.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1016.5 millibars
Cloud cover: High, thin cirrus

Question of the Day: Why does sediment collect on the ocean floor more rapidly near the coast than it does further out in the ocean?

Yesterday’s Answer: The stern of the ship is at the back, and the sun rises in the east, so the ship must have been heading west.

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Science and Technology Log

On this cruise, there are actually two separate but complementary kinds of research going on. We have two scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who are collecting samples of the sediment on the ocean floor, which will be analyzed both biologically and chemically. Biology is the study of living things, so the scientists will look to see what organisms are living in the top layer of the ocean floor. The chemical analysis will show what non-living substances, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus compounds, are present. Chemicals may occur naturally, or may be a result of pollution. This work gives us information about human influence on the ocean ecosystem.

To collect the ocean floor sample, scientists use a sediment grab (picture #1). The “grab” is lowered into the ocean until it hits the bottom, where the container closes and “grabs” a sample of whatever is down there. Then it is hauled back to the surface and opened to see what has been collected. There could be sand, silt, mud, rocks, and any creatures living at the bottom of the ocean. There are two chambers in the grab. From one chamber, the top 2-3 cm of sediment are scooped into a pot, mixed up, and put in jars for later chemical analysis. This thin top layer will yield information about the most recent deposits of sediment. Near the coast, that sample may represent matter that has settled to the ocean floor over a year or so. Further out, that much sediment would take several years to deposit. The contents of the other chamber are dumped into a bucket and washed through a sieve to remove the sediment and leave only the biological parts.

The sieves used for the sediment sample are very much like the ones used for the plankton samples, but bigger and with larger mesh at the bottom (picture #4). The bigger “holes” in the mesh allow silt and sand to be washed out. Whatever is left in the sieve is put into jars and stored in coolers for later analysis. The sample contains evidence of what lives in the benthic layer, the top layer of the ocean floor. This evidence could be plankton, worm tubes, or remains of once-living animals.

At each station where a sediment grab is performed, three water samples are taken, one each from the bottom, the middle, and the surface of the ocean. One liter of each water sample is filtered (picture #6) to analyze its nutrient content. This process is somewhat similar to the chlorophyll filtering I described in yesterday’s log. The filters are saved to be analyzed in laboratories, which will look for both dissolved nutrients and particulate matter. Dissolved nutrients are like the sugar that dissolves in your cup of tea – you can’t see it, but it’s still there. Particulate matter consists of tiny bits (particles) of things such as plankton, whale feces, plants, anything that might be swirling around in the ocean.

The EPA is primarily concerned with human influences on natural environments. By collecting sediment and water data, scientists can see what substances humans are putting into the ocean, and what effects they are having on the plants and animals living there. This work meshes well with the plankton research work, since the health of the plankton is directly influenced by the health of its environment. Everything in the natural world is connected, and we humans must learn how to balance our wants and needs with the needs of all other living things. If we are not careful about how we use our Earth, we will upset the balance of nature and create negative consequences that we may not see for years. For example, if chemicals dumped into the ocean (on purpose or accidentally) kill large numbers of phytoplankton, then the entire food web will be disrupted in a kind of ripple effect, like a stone dropped into a pond. The zooplankton (who eat phytoplankton) will starve, and the animals that eat zooplankton will either starve or move to a different part of the ocean, which in turn changes that part of the ecosystem. From this very small example, maybe you can see how huge our responsibility is to keep our oceans (and other environments) clean.

Personal Log

I am so grateful to Jerry Prezioso, our NOAA chief scientist, and Don Cobb, our EPA scientist. They have included me in all of their operations from Day 1, and have been infinitely patient with my many questions. They have explained things over and over until I “got it”, from procedures for collecting samples to the science behind all their work. It has been eye-opening to be on the student side of learning. Many times I have not even had enough background knowledge to know what questions to ask, or have been almost paralyzed with fear that I might do something wrong and skew someone’s data. I know this experience will help me better understand my students who go through these same feelings of anxiety and joy when they are learning something new.

Joan Raybourn, August 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 20, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 42°17’ N
Longitude: 69°38’ W
Wind direction: SE (130 degrees)
Wind speed: 10.3 knots
Air Temperature: 19°C
Sea water temperature: 21.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1016.5 millibars
Cloud cover: High, thin cirrus

Question of the Day: Based on the caption for photo #6 above, in which direction was the ALBATROSS IV traveling when the picture was taken?

Yesterday’s Answer: Our location at 41.39 N and 67.11 W means our goldfinch was 160 nautical miles from Woods Hole. A nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude and is slightly longer than an ordinary land mile.

99

Science and Technology Log

In addition to collecting zooplankton samples, we also collect water samples and measure the amount of chlorophyll they contain. Phytoplankton are too small to see, but an instrument called a flourometer can measure their presence. The flourometer shines a beam of light through the water sample and measures how much blue light (fluorescence) is present.

This process is fairly delicate and great care must be taken to get a good representative water sample, and then not to contaminate it during processing. Water samples are collected in two ways: some are collected in water bottles that are attached to the bongo cable, and others are collected from a hose that is pumping sea water into the plankton lab.  In picture #1 above, our chief scientist, Jerry Prezioso, is collecting a sample from the plankton lab hose. The sample itself is poured through a filter into the bottle to remove any large particles that may be present. Then 200 ml of the sample water is pumped through a fiberglass filter (picture #2). The filter traps chlorophyll as the water passes through. Even though the large amounts of chlorophyll in land plants gives them their bright green color, the small amounts present in phytoplankton are not visible, so you can’t see it on the filter. In picture #3, Jerry uses tweezers to remove the filter (a small white circle) and place it into a cuvette, which is a small test tube. The cuvette contains acetone, which preserves the sample. Then it is placed upside down in the cooler for 12 to 24 hours, which allows the chlorophyll on the filter to wash out into the acetone.

When the sample is ready to be measured, it is taken out of the cooler along with a “blank”, a cuvette of plain acetone with no chlorophyll present. The two cuvettes must warm up a little before they are read, because water condensation on the outside of the cuvette can result in a false reading. We use the flourometer to take three separate readings. When we do science investigations at school, we determine which factors are constant (kept the same for each trial) and which are variable (the thing you are changing in each trial). In this case, the variable is the amount of chlorophyll on the filter. In order to make sure we are measuring only chlorophyll, we also “read” two constants: a solid standard, which is contained in its own tube and used for every trial, and the blank containing only acetone. After the chlorophyll sample is read, we can compare the three sets of data to see how much chlorophyll is really there. In picture #4, I am putting a cuvette into the flourometer, which will shine a light through it and display a number value. The numbers for the solid standard, the blank, and the chlorophyll sample are all recorded on the clipboard along with data such as date, time, and where the sample was collected. Later, the data will be entered into a computer for further analysis.

Why do we want to know about chlorophyll in the ocean? Well, chlorophyll is produced by plants, in this case, phytoplankton. By measuring the amount of chlorophyll in the water samples, scientists are able to determine how much phytoplankton is present. Since phytoplankton is the base of the ocean food web, it is one more piece of the ocean ecosystem puzzle.

Personal Log

Today I switched from the day watch to the night watch, but the timing was good because we had a long steam between stations and I was able to get a little extra sleep before doing a double watch. While all the scientists usually eat meals together, we work in teams to cover the watches, so I will be working with a different set of people. I am now on watch from noon to 6:00 p.m. and from midnight to 6:00 a.m. We will be working our way north for the next week, and the probability of seeing whales is increasing. That will be exciting!

Joan Raybourn, August 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 19, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 40’ 17” N
Longitude:  70’ 08” W
Wind direction: NNE (29 degrees)
Wind speed: 19.6 knots
Air temperature: 19° C
Sea water temperature: 22.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1018.1 millibars
Cloud cover: cloudy

Question of the Day: Yesterday a goldfinch visited us, but we are far out to sea. When I took the picture above (#6), our position was 41.39 N and 67.11 W. About how far was this little guy from Woods Hole, Massachusetts?

Yesterday’s Answer: Qualitative data is the “what” that your doctor can observe but not necessarily measure. She might look in your ears, eyes, and throat, feel your internal organs through your abdomen, observe your spine, test your reflexes, have you balance on one foot with your eyes closed, and ask general questions about how you feel. Quantitative data is the “how much”; it is something that can be measured. Your doctor will probably measure how tall you are and how much you weigh, and take your temperature and your blood pressure. If she takes blood or urine samples, they will be analyzed for both qualitative and quantitative properties. We are observing and recording similar kinds of data about the ocean, so scientists can get a good picture of the health of this ecosystem.

8

Science and Technology Log

We are very fortunate on this cruise to be able to deploy a drifter buoy. The NOAA Office of Climate Observation (OCO) established the Adopt-a-Drifter program in December 2004. The program makes buoys available to teachers who are participating on cruises as Teachers at Sea. Our drifter has been adopted by my school, Greenbrier Intermediate School of Chesapeake, Virginia, and by Julie Long’s school, Farnsworth Middle School of Guilderland, New York. We named him (It’s a buoy!) Moose in honor of the fact that he was deployed in the Georges Bank area of the Gulf of Maine, which has a number of GOMOOS (Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing Systems) buoys. Moose is the fourth drifter buoy to be deployed as part of the NOAA program, and joins over 1,000 drifter buoys collecting data worldwide.

The buoy itself is a blue and white sphere about the size of a beach ball. It is attached to a drogue, a long “tail” that hangs below the buoy and ensures that it is drifting with the surface currents and not being pushed along by the wind. The buoy is equipped with a water temperature sensor, and a transmitter so that its position and temperature data can be beamed to a satellite, which relays this information to a ground station that will place it on a website. Julie and I decorated the buoy with our school names and signatures – it even has a Greenbrier Intermediate School sticker and a picture of our panther mascot. Then we deployed the buoy on August 18 by tossing it over the side of the ship while it was moving slowly. It was a little sad to see Moose drifting off without us, so small on the huge ocean, but we can follow his adventures for the next 410 days by checking the Adopt a Drifter website. You can begin tracking it here. You can find Moose by clicking on his WMO number, which is 44902. The website will give you the location of the buoy (latitude and longitude) and the date, time, and temperature of the surface water at that location.

What can scientists do with the data about surface water currents that buoys such as Moose are collecting? Of course it can be used to track major ocean currents. Knowledge of currents is useful for understanding the ocean ecosystem and for navigation. But this data will also be used to build models of climate and weather patterns, predict the movement of pollution spills, and even to assist with forecasting the path of approaching hurricanes.

Personal Log

I finally feel like I am becoming useful as a scientist on this cruise, not just an interested observer. Although I have been busy helping from Day 1, I am gaining confidence about conducting some parts of the work on my own. I have learned to collect and preserve the plankton samples, process water samples for chlorophyll, and operate the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth), a computer linked instrument that measures oceanographic data. This morning I was up in time to watch a beautiful sunrise and had time to do a load of laundry during a long steam between stations. We had a raft of seabirds sitting hopefully off the stern while we were stopped for some work, and the weather is cool and sunny. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Joan Raybourn, August 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 18, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 41.36 N
Longitude:  67.11 W
Wind direction: N (343 degrees)
Wind speed: 2.6 knots
Sea water temperature: 17.9°C
Sea level pressure: 1019.3 millibars
Cloud cover: 00 Clear

Question of the Day: What kind of quantitative and qualitative data does your doctor take when you go in for a checkup? (Read the science log below for explanations of these terms.)

Yesterday’s Answer: Phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton, which are in turn eaten by penguins, sea birds, fishes, squid, seals, and humpback and blue whales.

7

Science and Technology Log

On some of the plankton tows, we attach a set of “baby bongos”, which are a smaller version of the big bongos. Their nets are made of a much finer mesh, so they catch even smaller kinds of plankton. The samples retrieved from the baby bongos are sent to scientists who are working on genetic analysis. By examining the DNA present in the samples, they can discover new species and determine how known species are distributed in the water.

After the nets are washed down, and their contents are in the sieves, we bring the sieves inside to preserve the samples. The plankton from each net go into separate jars, two jars for each big bongo haul, and two more if we do a baby bongo haul. The plankton are carefully washed out of the sieve and into the jars with a small stream of water. Then we add formaldehyde to preserve the samples in the big bongo jars, and ethanol to preserve the genetic samples in the baby bongo jars. Each jar is labeled to show where it was collected, and stored until we get to shore. The big bongo samples each have a special purpose. One will be analyzed to see what kinds of ichthyoplankton, or tiny baby fish, are present. The second jar will be analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitative data tells what kind of plankton you have. Quantitative data tells how much plankton the jar contains. You can think of these as “the what (qualitative) and how much of the what (quantitative)”.

All of this data is an indicator of the health of the ocean ecosystem. It’s kind of like when you go to the doctor for a checkup. Your doctor takes your pulse and your temperature, looks in your mouth and ears, tests your reflexes, and takes other kind of data to see how healthy you are. The scientists involved in this project are giving the ocean a checkup. We are collecting data on the water itself (salinity and temperature at different depths), on the plankton that live in it, and on the weather. Over the years, patterns develop that help scientists know what is “normal” and what is not, how weather influences the ocean ecosystem, and how to predict future events.

Personal Log

I decided not to take a nap yesterday afternoon, and I can feel the difference this morning. It was hard to get up! Sometimes it is hard to remember what day it is because of the six-hour watch schedule. Instead of a nap yesterday, I went up on the hurricane deck with my book and just sat. I read a little, watched the other crew do a bongo haul, dozed a little, but mostly just watched the sky and the ocean. The sea stretches all the way to the horizon in every direction, the sun sparkles on the water, a few feathery clouds float in the sky. Very occasionally, a far away fishing boat or cargo ship slips by. Life is good. We are planning to deploy our drifter buoy this afternoon. More about that tomorrow.

Joan Raybourn, August 17, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 17, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 40’ 17” N
Longitude:  70’ 08” W
Wind direction: NNE (29 degrees)
Wind speed: 19.6 knots
Air temperature: 19° C
Sea water temperature: 22.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1018.1 millibars
Cloud cover: cloudy

Question of the Day: What kinds of animals depend on plankton as a major food source?

Yesterday’s Answer: Phytoplankton are producers, since they make their own food.

6

Science and Technology Log

On this cruise aboard the ALBATROSS IV we will be taking plankton samples at 90 stations off the coast of New England. The stations are randomly chosen by a computer, so some are close together and some are further apart. The idea is to get a broad picture of the ecological health of the entire region.

The actual process of plankton collection is called a plankton tow, because the nets are towed through the water while the ship is moving slowly, collecting plankton as the water moves through them. Can you guess why the collection apparatus is called a bongo? (Look at picture #2 above.) The frame looks just like a pair of bongo drums! Attached to the frame are two long nets that collect the plankton. The bongo isn’t heavy enough to sink into the water evenly on its own, so a lead ball is added to help pull it down to the bottom smoothly. (See pictures 3 & 4.) The bongo is attached to a cable, which is in turn attached to a pulley system that lowers the bongo into the water and pulls it back up again. Since we only want floating plankton, we have to be sure the bongo doesn’t scrape the bottom. We lower the bongo to about 5 meters above the bottom, and then bring it back up.

The nets bring in all kinds of zooplankton, very small but big enough to see. (Most phytoplankton are so tiny they slip right through the net!) There are lots of copepods, which are related to lobsters, and sometimes arrow worms, which are tiny predators that love to eat copepods! There are other species as well, including some jellyfish. We have to be very careful to save the entire sample so that scientists back on shore can see exactly what was living near each station. When the nets are back on board, we use a hose to wash the plankton down to the bottom of the net. Then we untie the net, dump the plankton into a sieve, and spray some more to be sure nothing is left in the net. At the end of this process, we tie the bottoms of the nets again (so they are ready for the next tow) and take the sieves with the plankton inside to the wet lab for the next step. I’ll describe the process of preserving the plankton samples in tomorrow’s log.

Several kinds of data (besides the plankton itself) are collected on each tow. For example, we take water samples to analyze for salinity and chlorophyll, and the EPA scientists are collecting samples of the ocean floor. In the days to come, I will describe them and explain how computers are used to make all of this work easier. Stay tuned!

Personal Log

I am becoming much more comfortable with the routine tasks of the trip. I can handle the bongo pretty well, and can preserve the plankton samples we get. I am learning to operate the computer end of the process and will soon be able to do that on my own. I can use the tracking system to see where we are going next and how long it will be until we get there. Do I have time to take some pictures? How about to grab a snack? I enjoy talking with the crew, and have discovered that “it’s a small world after all” – our navigator grew up in Virginia Beach and another crew member just built a house in Chesapeake. I can now walk without too much trouble, and this morning I awoke before my alarm went off because I heard the engines slow down as we approached a tow station. There is rumor of a cookout on the deck tonight, so I’d better go get in a nap before then!

Joan Raybourn, August 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 40’ 17” N
Longitude:  70’ 08” W
Wind direction: NNE (29 degrees)
Wind speed: 19.6 knots
Air temperature: 19° C
Sea water temperature: 22.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1018.1 millibars
Cloud cover: cloudy

Question of the Day:  What is phytoplankton’s place in the food chain? (producer or consumer)

Yesterday’s Answer: Factors that could influence the depth to which sunlight penetrates the sea water include amount of cloud cover and how clear the water is. If the weather is clear, more sunlight makes it through the atmosphere to the surface of the sea. If the water is clear, the sunlight can go deeper than if the water is murky with a large mass of surface plankton, excess nutrients, pollutants, or silt.

5

Science and Technology Log

In yesterday’s log I talked about phytoplankton. The other group of plankton is zooplankton. Phytoplankton are plants, and zooplankton are animals. If you think of the sea as a bowl of soup, the zooplankton are the chunky parts. They include organisms that spend all of their lives as plankton, as well as the baby forms of other seas animals, such as crabs, lobsters, and fish. Most zooplankton eat phytoplankton, making them the second step up the ocean food chain.

While you would need a microscope to see most phytoplankton, you can see most zooplankton with an ordinary magnifying glass. Many are big enough to see with the naked eye. While phytoplankton need to stay near the surface of the sea in order to absorb the sunlight they need for photosynthesis, zooplankton can live at any depth. Zooplankton have structural adaptations that help them float easily in the ocean currents. Some have feathery hairs to that can catch the current. Others have tiny floats filled with air, and still others contain oil that helps them float. There are even behavioral adaptations that zooplankton have developed to help them survive. One kind of snail makes a raft of air bubbles and floats on that. Some even link together and float through the ocean looking like skydivers holding hands.

Many animals go through several physical changes as they go through their life cycles. For example, a butterfly begins life as an egg, hatches into a caterpillar (larval stage), makes a chrysalis, and finally emerges as a beautiful adult. Many marine animals go through similar changes, and during their larval stage they are part of the mix of plankton in the ocean. These “temporary” zooplankton are called meroplankton. These include baby crabs, lobsters, clams, snails, sea stars, and squid. Permanent plankton are called holoplankton, and include copepods, krill, sea butterflies, and jellyfish.

One of our deck hands joked about having sushi for breakfast right after we completed a very productive plankton tow. We might not like that kind of sushi, but many ocean animals love it, and depend on it as their food source. Krill (shrimp-like zooplankton) are a very popular menu item with penguins, sea birds, fishes, squid, seals, and humpbacks and blue whales. “A single blue whale may devour up to eight tons of krill a day.” (from Sea Soup: Zooplankton by Mary M. Cerullo)

Most of the plankton we are collecting on this cruise are zooplankton. We preserve them in jars, and when the cruise is over they will be sent to laboratories where other scientists will analyze the samples. We also analyze water samples for chlorophyll, though, which is made by phytoplankton and is therefore an indicator of their health. In the days to come, I will describe the procedures used for the plankton collection, as well as those used for the EPA research.

Personal Log

Life on board a research vessel is not all work and no play. During down time, people rest, read, play games, watch movies, work on needlework, or get a snack, much like life at home. When I am not on watch, I write my logs, take and organize pictures, take a shower, do laundry, send email, and sleep. The scientists are usually able to eat meals together around the time we switch watches. We gather for breakfast around 5:30 a.m., for lunch around 11:30 a.m., and for dinner around 5:30 p.m. It’s nice to have a chance to catch up with each other while one group comes to work and the other goes off to bed.

Joan Raybourn, August 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 15, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 40° 01’ N
Longitude: 71° 37’ W
Wind direction: SSW (207)
Wind speed: 14 knots
Air temperature: 24° C
Sea water temperature: 24.8° C
Sea level pressure: 1015 millibars
Cloud cover: Hazy

Question of the Day: There is some variation in the depth to which sunlight penetrates. What factors could account for this?

Yesterday’s Answer: Because phytoplankton use photosynthesis to make their own food, they live near the surface of the ocean where they can absorb sunlight. Enough sunlight for photosynthesis penetrates to about 10 meters below the surface.

4

Science and Technology Log

“Phytoplankton are incredibly small. Each one is a single cell or a chain of identical cells. One teaspoon of seawater can hold a million phytoplankton.” (from Sea Soup: Phytoplankton by Mary M. Cerullo) They are so small that pictures of them must be taken through a microscope that magnifies them hundreds times. There are thousands of different kinds of phytoplankton, and new species are being discovered all the time. In fact, some kinds of phytoplankton were thought to be dust specks on microscope slides, until researchers built microscopes that are more powerful and discovered that those specks were really living organisms. Even though phytoplankton are plants, they don’t look like plants on land. They don’t have roots, stems, or leaves. “Instead they resemble spiky balls, tiny harpoons, links on a bracelet, spaceships, and many other shapes that defy description.” (Cerullo)

Why should we care about something that most of us will never see? First, phytoplankton are the base of the ocean food web, and all other living organisms in the ocean depend on them. Many ocean animals (including zooplankton) eat them, and are in turn eaten by larger animals. Without phytoplankton, the ocean food web would collapse. A special kind of phytoplankton called zooxanthellae helps to build coral reefs, one of the largest structures on earth. Corals are animals, but they need the help of the zooxanthellae to survive. The zooxanthellae live with the corals, providing food and oxygen, helping the corals take in minerals, and giving the corals their beautiful colors. Many people are worried about global warming, often called the greenhouse effect. This phenomenon is mostly due to the release of excess carbon dioxide into the air, which traps heat in the upper atmosphere. Every year, phytoplankton use nearly half of the carbon dioxide, slowing down global warming. Phytoplankton also help replace the ozone layer, which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. The remains of ancient phytoplankton provide us with oil and natural gas to use for energy. When they died, their remains sank to the bottom of the ocean, were covered with layers of mud, and over millions of years changed into oil deposits. “Products made from phytoplankton also filter swimming pools, distill fruit juice, wine, and beer, put the polish in toothpaste, and keep dynamite from exploding too soon. But perhaps most important, phytoplankton help us to breathe. About half of the world’s oxygen comes from phytoplankton. That means every other breath you take is thanks to phytoplankton.” (Cerullo)

As you can see, keeping the ocean environment healthy for phytoplankton is very important. Whenever you enjoy your warm house on a cold day, enjoy pictures of corals, eat fish, brush your teeth, or just breathe, you have phytoplankton to thank!

Personal Log

Now that we have been at sea for almost two days, I am adjusting to the watch schedule, which is different from normal life on land. My watches are from 6:00 a.m. to noon and from 6 p.m. to midnight. I try to get four or five ours of sleep between midnight and 6:00 a.m., and a shorter nap in the afternoon. Sometimes there is time to rest even on watch, while we are traveling to the next station. It’s a good time to catch up on reading, or wander around and ask questions about ship operations. About halfway through the cruise, Julie and I will swap watch schedules so that we can each experience what happens at other times of the day. Meals are excellent; usually better than I eat at home, since someone else is doing the cooking! The weather continues to be warm and muggy, but this morning is a little cooler. The crew is keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Irene, which does not look like a threat to our mission. Best of all, I have not been seasick, and probably won’t be unless we hit some rough seas. Today we discovered a stowaway in the wet lab. As the fume hood was being repaired, a bat flew out and perched on the ceiling (See picture #6). Definitely not a shipboard critter! Our chief scientist, Jerry, caught it in a paper cup and released it. We were close enough to land that the little guy should make it safely to a more hospitable habitat. Until tomorrow.

Joan Raybourn, August 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Joan Raybourn
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 14 – 25, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Productivity Survey
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 14, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 40° 01’ N
Longitude: 71° 37’ W
Wind direction: SSW (207)
Wind speed: 14 knots
Air temperature: 24° C
Sea water temperature: 24.8° C
Sea level pressure: 1015 millibars
Cloud cover: Hazy

Question of the Day: Phytoplankton are plants and use photosynthesis to make their own food. Where in the ocean would you expect to see phytoplankton living?

3

Science and Technology Log

The main function of this cruise is to collect plankton samples, which will be analyzed to determine the health of the ecosystem. The word plankton comes from the Greek “planktos”, meaning to drift. These tiny creatures of the sea have very little swimming ability of their own, but drift with the currents of the ocean. Plankton fall into two groups: phytoplankton, which are plants and require sunlight for photosynthesis; and zooplankton, which are animals. Phytoplankton are the base of the ocean food web and are the food source for zooplankton. Some kinds of zooplankton are plankton for their entire lives, drifting at the mercy of ocean currents. Other kinds of zooplankton are in the larval stage of their life cycles and will grow and change into free swimmers or bottom dwellers. Most plankton are microscopic, but some are much larger, such as jellyfish. I will expand on these topics in the days to come.

In addition to the plankton research, we have two scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with us. They are collecting samples from the bottom of the ocean, as well as water samples at each of their sampling locations. The first sample collected this morning was mostly sand, and it will be analyzed for both chemical and biological properties. The chemical analysis will show what kind and how much of any pollutants are present. The biological analysis will show how many and what kind of organisms are living on the ocean floor. Both sets of information give important clues to the health of the ocean ecosystem, and about human impact on it.

These two sets of data, from the plankton collection and the ocean floor collection, will give scientists a good picture of how healthy this part of the ocean ecosystem is. Healthy plankton is critical to the health of all other ocean species, since it is the base of the food web. Humans can have an impact on that through pollution of the water, whether intentional or not. This research will help us understand how we can keep our oceans healthy.

Personal Log

I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on Friday evening and spent the night in town. At the motel, I met the other teacher, Julie, who will be sailing on this cruise. She teaches eighth grade science in Albany, New York. On Saturday morning we made our way to the dock and boarded our home for the next two weeks, the NOAA ship Albatross IV. Jerry, our chief scientist, showed us around the boat and introduced us to the crew and other scientists. We moved into our room, retrieved linens from a closet and made up our bunks. At 2:00 p.m., we set sail for the southern portion of our cruise. It was foggy as we left the harbor so visibility was poor. We participated in an abandon ship drill, struggling into our “Gumby” suits and learning how to work all the parts that will keep us safe if we have to abandon the ship. In a real emergency, I will have to be much faster! The weather, while humid, is much cooler than back home in Virginia Beach. Julie and I are on opposite watch schedules, so we will see each other only briefly during the cruise. The crew and scientists are all very friendly and helpful, which is good because I have so much to learn!

Cary Atwood, August 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: August 1, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: undetermined
Wind direction: E ( 107 degrees)
Wind speed:  12 knots
Sea wave height: 3’
Swell wave height: 0’
Sea water temperature: 14°C
Sea level pressure: 1022.2 millibars
Cloud cover: 30% Partly cloudy,cumulus

Question of the Day

Does the temperature of ocean waters change depending upon its depth?

Answer to yesterday’s question

Bilateral symmetry is the drawing of a line through an object and having it be the same on both sides as a mirror image, such as sea stars and mud stars.

Science and Technology Journal

Aside from the major science mission of the scallop survey a few other scientific investigations are taking place on the Albatross.  One such project is the CTD measurements.  C for conductivity, T for temperature and D for depth.  I will elaborate on this in tomorrow’s journal.  Another smaller project is the mapping of habitat using acoustic sounders.

Although the scallop watch crews are labeled as scientists aboard ship, with many us with our master’s degrees in a particular science specialty, only a few are fully engaged in that role for this leg. Vic Nordahl, Chief Scientist, Dvora Hart and Avis Sosa.

Vic is ultimately responsible for collecting and reporting accurate numbers of all scallops and other marine species we have documented.  The watch chiefs report the data to him, but they must audit the data before a full report is made.

Dvora, while on watch, depending upon the tow number will randomly check numbers of starfish, crabs and the weight of scallop meat and gonads.  We are collecting numeric quantities to help better determine the age and growth of scallops in different sampling areas.

Avis Sosa moonlights on these scallop survey crews during her summer vacation from teaching.  Currently she is teaching advanced placement chemistry in a large international school in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is an amazing woman with a huge supply unique life experiences from all over the world under her belt.  For the past 14 years, Avis has been working on various NOAA ships, first as a volunteer, now as a contract employee.  Over the years, she has become a source of expertise in her knowledge of marine mollusks.  While sorting through the pile, she will identify anything in it and give you not only the common name, but the scientific name as well.  Currently she is collecting specimens for the collection in the museum at the Marine Fisheries Lab. She is my role model as the quintessential independent, worldly woman!

Personal Log 

Another day of calm seas and perfect weather.  Even though I hate getting up every morning at 5 a.m., when I arrive on the fantail after breakfast, the fresh salt air and sunrises always makes the early hours worth the struggle of waking my body up.  After donning my rubber boots and “Hellies”, I take a few moments to scan the horizon, note the texture of the water, lean over the deck to watch the shape of the boat wake and breathe in the air of a brand new day.

Cary Atwood, July 31, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 31, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What is bilateral symmetry?

Answer to yesterday’s question: The Hermit Crab

Science and Technology Log

As we comb through our dredge piles, intent on finding scallops, one of the most prolific creatures I notice is the Hermit Crab of the family Pagurus.  Hermit crabs are common on every coast of the United States and like many people, I am drawn to their special ability to take up residence in cast off mollusk shells. Just as we grow out of shoes when our feet grow, so must they find new homes as they age.  When seen without their shell, their abdomen is coiled, soft and very pink.  They carry their shell with them, and when threatened or attacked are able to retreat quickly for protection.  Hermit crabs are highly adapted to  carry around their permanent burden of a home because they have special appendages on their midsection segment for clinging to the spiral support of a marine snail shell. Their long antennae and large socketless eyes give them a distinct, non-threatening but whimsical  look….and it makes me want to take one home-but of course I couldn’t offer it the same kind of home it already has.

Personal Log

The six hour shifts for the scallop survey are taking its toll on my sleep needs. Every day I feel I am further behind and will never catch up.  This morning I truly did not feel awake until about 10am, even though my watch began at 6 a.m.  My daily schedule consists of the basics: eat, work, eat, relax, sleep, eat and work.  I don’t know how the crew can adjust to this kind of schedule for months on end as they go to sea.  It takes a very special person to adjust to the physical demands, let alone the demands of leaving family behind to come to sea.  However, some of the guys on board have been doing it for 20+years!

Coming to sea has a magnetic pull for some….is it the vast water and open horizons? Is it the need to assert some sort of independence? Is it the opportunity to be a part of something so much larger than one’s self?  As I speak to some of the deck hands, they are generally happy to be working for NOAA and away from the uncertainty of fishing or lobstering. In part it’s having steady work not influenced by the vagaries of what is caught at sea. These days, with the Atlantic fishery recovering, the catch is more consistent. Of the two deck hands I have come to know, both have a far away look in their eye—missing some of the action on a fishing boat, but still in love with the sea.

Cary Atwood, July 30, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 30, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day:

What kind of crab makes its home in an abandoned snail shell?

Answer to yesterday’s question: Lines- a word used on a ship meaning ropes; Bosun- a very old word derived from “Boat Swain”- meaning the lead fisherman; Steam- the distance to be traveled on a ship from one destination to the next; Swell- wave action –when the action is greater, the difference between the tip of the wave and the trough represents the swell.

Science and Technology Log 

In the past few days, pods of humpback whales have been sighted near our ship.  I grab my binoculars and watch their show.  They are very acrobatic whales, breaching (jumping above the water), slapping their flippers and lobtailing—meaning they dive below the surface leaving only their large tail fluke showing as they wave it in the air.  If you are lucky enough to get close to a humpback whale, you might be able to see the distinctive markings on the underside of their flukes.  These markings are used to identify individual whales. It is hard to imagine the immense size of this mammal as they reach from 36 to 52 feet in length and weigh up to 40 tons

Humpbacks can be found worldwide and in the winter they migrate south to the Caribbean. Their summer feeding grounds are the Gulf of Maine to Iceland.  Humpbacks were commercially fished almost to the brink of extinction in the 1800’s as whaling ships plied their trade all along the Atlantic coastline, making many fisherman and coastal communities very wealthy. Once they were listed on the endangered species list in 1966 it protected them from commercial harvest.  Their numbers have recovered and it is estimated that 8000-10,000 live and feed in the waters of the North Atlantic.  Seeing these whales is a truly special experience

Personal Log– a poem for humpbacks

Humpbacks
On dark waters
You rise
And reach for the sky
Your fluke
Like a signature
Tells all who are near
This is my playground
Too I have returned from the
Brink of extinction.
Atlantic waters
Give me life
Help them remember
I could have been
A ghostly memory
Of times past.
Now, I inspire awe and hope
For the future.

Cary Atwood, July 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 29, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day:

Define these terms used aboard the ALBATROSS IV:  lines, bosun, steam, swell

Yesterday’s answer: Pelagic means “of the sea.”  Lesser shearwaters are part of a larger group of pelagic birds who spend their entire adult lives out in the open ocean.  They rest, sleep, feed and mate on the water.  The only time they return to land is to lay a brood of eggs in the same geographic location where they were born and fledged before they left for the open waters of adulthood.

Science and Technology Log  

Today’s topic is ALBATROSS IV Geography: a mini guide to the important places on the ship.

Fantail—Another name for the stern of the ship.  Since this is a ship on which scientific missions are completed, this section of the boat has space to accommodate the gantry and boom, which pulls up the dredge, as well as a full wet lab to process scallops and other groundfish species. Wet Lab—The area in the fantail with touch computer screens and magnetically activated measuring boards and scales to document scallop survey data. Bridge—The enclosed area where navigation and sighting is done by the captain and crewmembers.  A full complement of computers is used to assess position, direction and locations of ships and buoys.

Computer Room—Located on the middle deck, it contains computers with e-mail access, FSCS computers and computer servers.  In every main area of the ship, a computer monitor with a closed circuit view of the fantail can be seen.  This is so the scientists, engineers, and captain can know the status of the fantail area at all times. Galley—Another name for the kitchen area.  Food for the crew is prepared here by Jerome Nelson and served buffet style by Keith.  The menu is posted daily and always includes a wide assortment of meats, breads and vegetables, as well as that all-important treat: ice cream! Hurricane Deck—AKA “Steel Beach”- a small deck above the fantail used for sunbathing and relaxation. Engine Room—Noisy room down in the bulkhead where the engineering crew keeps the two diesel engines running smoothly. Boom and Gantry—Found on the aft deck (otherwise known as the fantail), these are the all-essential components needed to tow the eight-foot net.  The gantry is the large metal A-frame and the boom is the moveable arm or crane, which uses large cables and a pulley system to bring up the net each time. Cabin or stateroom—Sleeping quarters for two or three persons.  It has portholes, bunks and a shared bathroom.

Personal Log 

Today the ocean waters have calmed a bit.  Thursday’s wave action gave new meaning to the term “rock the boat,” which is exactly what we did.  The swells, up to three feet in height, were the distant result of Tropical Storm Franklin as it made its way up into the waters of New England. A good safety rule we learned during our brief introductory meeting was to make sure you gave “one hand to the boat” at all times.  This was especially good advice as my footing placement became increasingly unpredictable.  Ships are built to withstand the high seas, and fortunately, there are plenty of places to put a firm grip as one makes their way around the ship.

Cary Atwood, July 28, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 28, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: undetermined
Wind direction: SSW (217 degrees)
Wind speed:  11 knots
Sea wave height: 0.4’
Swell wave height: 1.4’
Seawater temperature: 18°C
Sea level pressure: 1013.3 millibars
Cloud cover: Obscure, Fog, Haze, Dust

Question of the Day: 

Lesser Shearwaters are common pelagic birds we often sea in great numbers near our ship. What does pelagic mean?

Answer to yesterday’s question: Astropectin species (sea stars) prey primarily on young scallops.  Asteria vulgaris, another kind of sea star will prey upon adult scallops by wrapping themselves around the bivalves and tiring out their muscle.  Once that is done, they will use their mouth to suck out and make a tasty meal of the scallop’s soft, fleshy parts.  Other scallop predators include crabs, lobsters, and some flounder species that eat small scallops.  Wolf fish eat scallops as well.

Science and Technology Log 

I am so pleased to have Dr. Dvora Hart on our cruise.  She has given me a great deal of context regarding the scallop survey conducted aboard the Albatross IV.  As an official operations research analyst, Dr. Hart is responsible for taking the raw data from the yearly scallop surveys and creating mathematical models of past and current surveys and projecting those numbers for future management decisions of the scallop fishery.  Because the fishery is worth about $300 million annually to fishermen, and more than a billion dollars in retail, it is as valuable a fishery resource as the lobster industry.  Together they represent the two most valuable fisheries on the New England coast.

Dr. Hart has worked for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center for over six years now.  Having a strong math and statistics background has put her in a unique position to develop tools and models that help biologists understand the distribution of surf invertebrates. Every three years, stock assessments are reported to local and regional fishery boards with recommendations for the management of scallops.  Needless to say, the messenger is not always a popular person, especially when areas show diminishing populations and should be closed. However, armed with so much longitudinal data can be a benefit, too, in that areas in the past that have been overfished, if left alone, can, over the course of time, recover.  In order to make the scallop fishery a sustainable industry for all who depend on it for their livelihood, a person like Dvora has pioneered the mathematical modeling on scallops’ fishery management.  Her devotion and passion to this endeavor is clear, and one hopes that these management recommendations will enable fishermen to sustain their livelihood for years to come.

Cary Atwood, July 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 27, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day: What might be the major predators of Atlantic scallops?

Yesterday’s Answer 

According to Dr. Dvora Hart, probably the world’s expert on Atlantic scallops, who just happens to be on our cruise and is a part of my watch crew, the elements listed below are essential to the survival of these scallops

  • Water temperatures in the range of 0 degrees Celsius –17 Celsius.  Above this point they will die.
  • Firm sand or pebbly gravel needed for attachment as it grows
  • A good supply of phytoplankton and similar sized micro and protozoa and diatoms and detritus to feed upon

Science and Technology Log 

This morning after my watch, I interviewed Captain Michael Abbott who is captaining the ALBATROSS during this cruise. We stood up on the bridge while he demonstrated some of the navigation equipment.  I like spending time on the bridge because the open view from the bow is fabulous, and there are rarely any people up there.  I’ll write about navigation in another entry.

I talked with him about his career in the NOAA officer corps.  He joined the Corp about 21 years ago making it a career when he heard about it on his college campus.  At that time he was completing a degree in geology and hydrology at the University of New Hampshire.  After a three month officer training at the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York he became a uniformed officer in the NOAA Corps.  It is the smallest branch of the uniformed non-military service, with less than 300 officers operating ships and aircraft for scientific research purposes.

According to Captain Abbott, his major responsibilities aboard the ALBATROSS IV are the safety of the crew, a successful completion of the scallop survey mission and making the cruise enjoyable for all on board. The crew includes 5 uniformed NOAA officers, scientists and ship crew–all together, about 25 people. Being at sea gives Mike great pleasure in that he is able to contribute to NOAA’s mission and play an active part in stewardship towards the environment.

Personal Log 

A poem today…

Ocean water Glassy smooth
Rippling velvet
Sunset shimmering
Fog rainbows dancing
Ship rocking
Sun glimmering
Shearwaters circling
Teacher adjusting
To daily rhythms
Of the cruise

Cary Atwood, July 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 26, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What do scallops need in order to survive within their habitat?

Yesterday’s Answer 

The scientific name of the Atlantic Sea Scallop is Lacopectin magellanicus.  Lacopectin means “smooth scallop.

Science and Technology Log 

The real work of the ALBATROSS IV mission is accomplished during the four six-hour shifts with a crew of six workers each.  On my watch, they are Sean, watch chief, Bill, Avis, Dvora, Noelle and myself. Working as a team, we accomplish great things in each tow, which takes about 30 minutes to process.  Here’s how it unfolds.  The eight-foot dredge basket is specially designed to capture all sizes and ages of scallops for research.  It is dredged from a depth up to 100 meters to the surface for a fifteen-minute time period.

After each tow comes out of the water, fishermen release it from the cable and it’s deposited on the fantail, also known as the back deck of the ship.  The fantail is a huge open area complete with a non-skid surface–very important when the boat is on an intense rock and roll session. With our “Helly’s” on (the yellow and orange storm gear you see in the pictures) and tall rubber boots, I take a picture of the mound, along with Bill, who holds up a whiteboard indicating the catch number, the tow and the strata (level) where we do the dredging. Once that is done, orange baskets, white buckets and kneepads are hauled to it. On our hands and knees we look for what might seem like buried treasure; sifting through the debris of the sea.  We toss scallops and many varieties of fish, into the baskets until we have combed through every inch of them.  Once the sort is done, we all move into the covered lab area for a variety of assessments, including the weight and length measurements of each scallop, as well as any ground fish that are caught.  Even though some of the work is manual, computers play a very important role in accurate capture of the data. One instrument we use is a long, flatbed magnetically charged scanner. Once we put a scallop shell on the bed and hold a magnetized wand against it, it reads out the measurement onto a touch computer screen.  Computers such as this one have relieved some of the tedium of the work, making it more accurate and faster.  The same is done with fish, and depending upon the tow, we will keep crabs and starfish out.

All of this data is uploaded into the FSCS – Fisheries Scientific Computer System which compiles the data from the survey.  This valuable data is used to assess populations and biomass for the scallop fishery and then make management decisions for present and future fishery use. The watch crews and scientists love it because it has saved so much time, and compilation of the data is considerably easier and less time consuming in the long run.

Personal Log 

Sleep of any length of time is longed for, but never received.  Due to our 6 hour on, 6 hour off shifts, at best we can manage 5 hours.  Today I am feeling very zombie like as my body adjusts to this schedule. I rarely see John, my other TAS compadre since he works opposing shifts from mine.  When we do meet, we share notes and commiserate about the work and our need for sleep!

One of my favorite haunts on board in my free time is the bridge and the upper bow.  It is a quiet, calm place with great views–and a really strong pair of binoculars and field guides. The ever shifting texture of the water always captures my attention when I am outside; from the glossy velvet of early mornings, thick fog during the day, complete with fog rainbows!-and the ethereal brightness of sunset through the fog.

Another constant is the “ocean motion”.  We are in a constant state of rocking–at times delicate and other times, the swells are deep and we will roll with them.  I am very glad I have an ear patch to mitigate the possibility of seasickness….now I can just enjoy the ride!

Cary Atwood, July 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 25, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What is the scientific name of the Atlantic sea scallop, and what does the Latin name mean?

This question will be answered in tomorrow’s log.

Science and Technology Log 

Day one: the adventure begins! I arrived last night from Boston into Wood’s Hole–what a cool respite from the heat of western Colorado! A short walk later, I was in front of the ALBATROSS IV, the ship that would be my home for the next 11 days.  Tony, the lead fisherman, welcomed me aboard and showed me to my stateroom.  Soon after, Kris, the watch chief for our other work shift, and Noelle, who is working on her master’s thesis showed up. I took the remaining top bunk and moved my gear in.  Our room has two portholes. The most exciting porthole is the one in the shower stall; my eyes are almost dead even with the water line outside….it almost feels like I live in an aquarium!

The mission of the ship on this cruise is the sampling of Atlantic sea scallops.  Why are scallops being sampled?  The scientific work revolves around the close monitoring of scallop populations up and down the New England coastline from Cape Hatteras in the south, to the outer extremes of Georges Bank to the north.

Over the past 30 years, unregulated commercial fishing of scallops has had a huge negative impact on scallop populations.  Because this area holds the largest wild scallop fishery in the world, it has great economic importance not only to the fishermen who dredge to make their living, but also to the economies up and down the coastline.  Historically, commercial fishing could be done by anyone who had a seaworthy vessel and the ability to dredge. Prior to the early 1970’s not much data had been gathered about numbers and locations of scallops, hence the need for surveys to acquire data and impose limits to prevent total decimation of this species.  In my next entry I will explain more about the nitty gritty work that must be accomplished each day by watch crews.

Personal Log 

Old ship sits in port
hiding new technology beneath its decks
Salt spray and seagull call
Grey clapboard houses rest close to water’s edge
As whitecaps signal a change in weather
We are on our way!

Until next time,
Ms. Atwood

Mike Lynch, June 30, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 30, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

lynch_log10Scientific Log

The last couple of days aboard the DELAWARE II have been a constant buzz of activity. We have moved north to the New Jersey Coast. This is prime surfclam territory, and sure enough we are into them. Our chief scientist Victor Nordahl has selected this site for a depletion survey. A depletion survey is an event that starts with finding an area of heavy population density. For our purposes and equipment, this was an area that yielded five bushels of clams in a single tow. Once the location is found, the exact GPS coordinates of longitude and latitude are used as a locator for each successive tow. Using the information recorded by the Ship’s Sensor Package (SSP), the exact trackline of the tow is ascertained and becomes the template for the depletion event. The concept of the depletion is to repeatedly cover the same track line for as many as 40 to 60 tows. With each tow, clams are counted and on every fifth tow, they are measured and samples are taken. The purpose of this event is to monitor how quickly the dredge reduces the population. Through this process, the scientists can calculate the effectiveness of the equipment in capturing the species. In essence we are calibrating the equipment. In fact, we are running non-stop stations in one of the muddiest areas we have seen. It is an exhausting process that goes on 24 hours a day and works the bridge, deck crew and science teams very hard. I have developed a real respect for how strenuously this crew works. Everyone pitches in, and works as a team.

The depletion event is rapidly coming to an end. It will be followed by our last duty at sea. Our next mission will take us off the coast of Massachusetts, where we capture clams and take samples to determine the levels of Red Tide infection. Closure of fisheries for red tide, is usually a job for state agencies, but it is also an opportunity for NOAA to do further scientific research. While steaming to our destination, we are working on swapping out the SSP package on the dredge. The second unit will be used on these final tows to ensure its reliability for future surveys. On our next watch, the DELAWARE II will be concluding the third and final leg of the Clam Survey. The ship will steam to its homeport of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The ship will be in port for four days. During this time, much of the equipment that is used in the clam survey will be disassembled and moved into storage for three years, when the next clam survey will be once again conducted by the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

lynch_log10aThe three and a half ton dredge and the Crane carriage will be stored, but other technological devices will be use