Sue Zupko, Drifters, September 16, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Zupko
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 7-19, 2014

Mission: Autumn Trawl Leg I
Geographical Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean from Cape May, NJ to Cape Hatteras, NC
Date: September 16, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat 36°54.2’N     Lon 075°40.9’W
Present Weather CLR
Visibility 10 nm
Wind 300° 5-8 kts
Sea Level Pressure 1013.8
Sea Wave Height 1-2 ft
Temperature: Sea Water 24.3°C
Air 22.7°

Science and Technology Log

When on a field trip to Dauphin Island Sea Lab with my 5th grade students, I saw an exhibit about NOAA’s drifter program at the Estuarium. It seemed interesting to follow drifters on the ocean’s currents and learn more about our planet in the process. When I returned home from the trip, I visited the NOAA Adopt a Drifter site to see how my classes could get involved. The requirements include having an international partner with whom to share lessons and information. I was fortunate enough to find Sarah Hills of the TED Istanbul College through internet sites for teachers interested in collaborating. Her 6th grade English classes just began the school year and are studying maps. We both applied in late spring to the program as a team, explained our ideas for sharing information, and were accepted. Not only were we assigned one drifter, but two.

To create ownership for participants, NOAA sent stickers for us to sign and attach to the drifter. I was set to sail at the beginning of September so Mrs. Hills signed for her students. In addition to our friends’ stickers from Turkey, I attached stickers to the drifters signed by crew members, my students, friends, the science crew on board, and the NOAA officers on the Bigelow.

Stickers on Drifter
Stickers on Drifter

Sunday we deployed our drifters. They had come in a large cardboard box which had been sitting on the stern of the ship for almost two weeks. The directions were very simple. I just had to write down the identification number, rip off the magnet to turn it on, toss the drifter overboard, and write down the coordinates and time.

Drifters shipped to Bigelow and stowed in shipping box on fantail.
Drifters shipped to Bigelow and stowed in shipping box on fantail.

We were working close to the Gulf Stream so the captain had us enter the Gulf Stream so the drifters would catch that strong current and move out to sea. The water was pretty rough in the Gulf Stream, but, oh, the color of the water was a beautiful blue. When deploying (tossing it in the water) the drifter, I was not to remove any of the cardboard since the salt water would soften it and allow the drogue down below to drop down underwater (and it wouldn’t expand on the ship causing serious injury to us). The bosun (chief deckhand) suggested we push it off the fish board on the port stern quarter rather than tossing due to a lack of room.

Drifter Deployment Team
Drifter Deployment Team

The captain took pictures for me with my camera and the chief scientist ran the GoPro (a video camera). Must be an important operation when my two head bosses on the ship participate. We also had deckhands, Steve and James, our survey technician, Geoff, and Ensign Estela joining in on the fun.

After deploying the drifters, we watched them float in the Gulf Stream behind us.  Where do you think they will end up? Track them and see where they are.

Both drifters came online when tossed in the water. However, one of them turned off shortly after it began its journey. Only time will tell if it turns back on.

I wrote down the necessary data on the form NOAA provided, took a picture of it, and sent it to the Drifter Team back at NOAA. They needed to assign them tracking numbers and put the link to the drifters on the web site.

The drifters last about 400 days. Click here to learn more.

Meet John Galbraith, our Chief Scientist

Chief scientist, John Galbraith, prepares to examine the nets
Chief scientist, John Galbraith, prepares to examine the nets

John is a mild-mannered man. He thinks through his answers and is very thorough to make sure his listener understands what he means. John has worked with NOAA for 23 years. I asked what he would be doing if he didn’t work with NOAA and he said, “Something outside with fish.” Can you guess what his hobbies are? There really is just one. Fishing. He loves fly fishing, trawling, casting, deep-sea fishing, you name it. If it involves fish, he loves it. As a matter of fact, he was so passionate about fish growing up that people always told him he would be a marine scientist. He grew up on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and loved to be outside, especially with fish.

John is passionate about the state of the environment. When I asked why he believes what we are doing with the Autumn Trawl Survey is important, he stated that it is imperative to monitor the health of our ocean through the survey. Data about fish populations (or most environmental science) must be collected over a long period of time, and using the same method, in order to make comparisons. Is what’s happening today different than what was happening 40 years ago with our fish populations? John said, “If we didn’t know what was there 20 years ago, for example, we wouldn’t know if the population of a fish species is more or less abundant.” This is the information we are gathering for scientists to evaluate.

What we are doing directly affects commercial and recreational fishing. He called this “pressure” since fisherman are changing the population of the fish they are catching. So, the surveys are looking to see what impact these pressures have on the fish. The data is used to help make or change rules for fisherman. So, if the population of a species is declining, and the larger fish are the ones needed for reproduction, for example, a rule might be installed saying that fish of a certain size cannot be kept. I found this in Canada when I went fishing this summer for Walleyed Pike. We could only keep four fish a day, and only one of those could be over 18 inches long. This helped preserve the ones who will keep reproducing so the species won’t disappear. Conversely, if there are a huge amount of a species of fish, the rules could change to allow more larger fish to be kept.

John loves his job because he loves seeing the diversity of fish. He spends 50% of his time on the boat to catch fish and the other 50% identifying fish in the lab. People are sent to him when they need a “fish expert”.

John said if he had to name the one tool he couldn’t live without it would be his fish database by Oracle. It is computer software to catalogue fish species. There is even a way to easily create web pages, which he really likes.

Now, related to this is a tool which already exists that he would love, but is very expensive. When we get certain little fish in the net, they are damaged (smushed) badly. He would like unlimited genetic testing of fish to verify the species. It would speed up identification of the fish.

John’s strength in getting the word out about fish is through his passion and willingness to teach others. Cruises such as the one I am on are the perfect opportunity to teach others. I predict a book or magazine article about fish or fish identification to be in his future so he can share his love of fish even more.

John’s advice to young people is to get stronger in math and science when it comes to school. When not at school, get outside and observe the world around you. So there is a tree on your hike. Do you know what kind it is? How tall will it grow? What lives on or in it? Look in the water. What type of fish are there? How is the type of water (pond, stream, lake) related to the fish that live there? Learn about your environment. Catch frogs and turtles and find out about them. John says all types of learning are important. He graduated from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Interestingly, several people on this ship graduated from there.

Personal Log

There are several types of doors on a ship. One is what you find in a home with a handle rather than a knob. Then, there are heavy doors with a wheel for certain bulkhead doors going outside. And, my favorite, the big handled doors between compartments inside.  These all used to be wheels, and I found them very difficult to manage when on my last cruise.

Did You Know?

Here is a mariner’s trick the captain was teaching the ensign on watch this morning. Remember these numbers. 6 & 10, 5 & 12. Did you know if you want to estimate a time of arrival (ETA) on a boat, you can calculate it quickly in your head? At 6 knots (kts) it takes 10 minutes to travel 1 nautical mile (nm). At 10 kts it takes 6 minutes to travel 1 nm. And at 5 kts it takes 12 minutes to travel 1 nm and at 12 kts it takes 5 minutes to travel 1 nm.

Question of the Day

How long would it take to travel 1 nm if steaming (traveling) at 20 kts?

Vocabulary

One of John’s favorite words: Congeners–These are things which appear incredibly similar; for fish it means the same genus, but different species. When I was trying to learn the different fish while sorting, I found the Croaker and the Spot to be similar. Both have a spot on their side, but the Spot’s spot is above his pectoral (side) fin and the Croaker’s is on its pectoral fin. The Pigfish, Butterfish, and Scup as well as the different Anchovies are difficult to identify when just learning.

 

However, although these fish appear similar, all are in different genera and some in different families. An example of congeners that we have seen this trip would be the Marbled Puffer, Sphoeroides dorsalis, the Northern Puffer, Sphoeroides maculatus, and the Bandtail Puffer, Sphoeroides spengleri. All have the same genus, Sphoeroides – which implies that they are all very similar looking fishes. In fact, their body shapes are almost identical, but they each have different color patterns.

Something to Think About

If you spend all your time sitting at a computer, will you have more or less opportunity to understand about our environment? Can you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste it?

Challenge Yourself

Follow John’s advice and get outside more than you have been. Exploring the world around you is a great way to Sharpen the Saw, as we say at Weatherly using The Leader in Me program.

Animals Seen Today

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What is it?

Can you identify what this is? 

What is it
What is it

Write down your guesses in the comments for this post.

Mary Cook, December 19, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 19, 2004

Location: Latitude 25°07.83’S, Longitude 81°54.62’W
Time: 0830

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.04
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.42
Relative Humidity (percent) 56.95
Air Pressure (millibars) 1018.17
Wind Direction (degrees) 155.6
Wind Speed (knots) 15.91
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.99
Sunrise 0734
Sunset 2116 (9:16 pm)

Questions of the Day

Why is the sunset so late in the day?

Positive Quote for the Day

“The world of achievement has always belonged to the optimist.” J. Harold Wilkins

Science and Technology Log

We tossed the last of fifteen drifting buoys this morning! It’s not the end, but the beginning of a wonderful new program. I’d say the Adopt-a-Drifter program got underway with a big splash! Teachers and their students around the world can adopt a drifting buoy just like my students at Southside Middle School in Batesville, Arkansas. They can map its path as it goes with the flow of the ocean currents. These drifting buoys also provide sea surface temperature and air pressure. This information can be utilized to gain a better understanding of the global oceans. I watched as Jeff and Bob deployed another Argo float. These floats are lowered over the back of the ship and when the quick-release mechanism comes in contact with the water, the powder in a small device dissolves and this releases a spring that unhinges the float from the straps. The straps are pulled back onboard as the ship leaves the Argo float in its wake.

I sat down and had a conversation with Chief Scientist Dr. Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution about the importance of oceanic/atmospheric studies. He made some very good points that highlighted the fact that when just 1ºC of heat energy is released from the ocean water into the atmosphere it affects the air flows for thousands of miles. This then can be like a domino effect and continue around the globe influencing weather patterns for people everywhere.

At 2:00 we interviewed Richard Whitehead, Chief Steward. Richard is over the food preparation in the galley. Richard shared that he has been working on ships for over 40 years and has had several trainings for the position he now holds. He said that the menus were developed based on nutritional guidelines and availability of produce. Richard shared with us that they keep the produce fresh for weeks by keeping it very cool and placing it in special bags that slows the deterioration. He also said that there are many safety issues that concern food preparation on a moving ship. All the pots and pans are deep, there are railings on the stovetop, and special care must be taken with knives. The countertops must be covered with anti-slip cloths to keep everything from sliding around. He also said that they consider the weather when deciding what to prepare because you wouldn’t want to bake a cake while the ship was moving through rough waters.

We changed “6:00 Science on the Fantail” to “6:00 Science in the Van on the Bow” because we wanted to interview Jason Tomlinson of Texas A & M about his work with aerosols. First of all, Jason explained that an aerosol is not a spray can. It is a small particle in the air. Jason showed us the Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer (TDMA). It looks like a mad scientist’s invention with wires, tubes, canisters, and radioactive components! It is one of the best devices in the world for analyzing small particles in the air. It draws in air from outside then dries the air. It then separates the particles according to size. Jason said that these particles are too small to see with the naked eye but they have a great influence on cloud formation and cloud life length. The TDMA can determine what the particles are made of by adding moisture or by adding heat. The TDMA costs about $70,000! He also showed us the Aerodynamic Particle Sizer (APS) which analyzes larger particles. They mostly get sea salt and dust out here in the ocean. Jason said that there’s a mystery about the sea salt and its influence on clouds. The APS costs about $35,000. He also said that occasionally they take in the ship’s exhaust and that destroys their data for that particular time. He concluded by saying that it all gets back to climate change and using these data to make better models for predictions.

After our interview with Jason, we ran outside to glimpse San Felix and San Ambrosio Islands! Our first land sighting in over two weeks! These small islands, located about 300 nautical miles from Chile, are volcanic in origin. They are basically huge, desolate rocks protruding up from the ocean floor. As far as I could tell nothing is growing on them. Seafaring birds do nest on the cliffs. Since 1975 the Chilean Navy has had an installation on San Felix Island where they operate a short airstrip, a weather station and a tide station.

Personal Log

I’m just beginning to realize that this trip is nearly over. We only have four days left. I knew it wouldn’t go on forever but as the old saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”. What a superb voyage this has been for me-a voyage that is continuing my personal quest to search out the majesty of Earth. In doing so it is my heart’s desire to absorb the inexplicable magnificence of our Earth. I want to be permeated with awe for the splendor as I soak it in with my eyes and ears and nose and skin. I am amazed. How can I take it all in? Where was I when the Earth was formed and hung in the nothingness of space? From where did this splendor come? Clouds and rain and snow and hail are amazing! Mountains and valleys and canyons and caves are amazing! Oceans and rivers and glaciers and springs are amazing! Rocks and minerals and soil and sand are amazing! People and animals and languages and ideas are amazing! And they all work together in a symphony of overwhelming magnitude. I believe that we’re all an inextricable part of this grand masterpiece. Traveling is not the essential element in a voyage. Life is a voyage no matter where you are. Our voyage is how we perceive our surroundings, how we face our challenges, and how we come to Truth. Actually, none of us ask for this voyage called life. We’ve been thrust into it by forces greater than ourselves. So here we are. We do have some choices, though. Will we make the most of this journey or will we let it sweep us along without ever wondering, and questioning and being amazed?

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, December 17, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 17, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°40.26’S, Longitude 89°46.38’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.59
Water Temperature (Celsius) 20.13
Relative Humidity (percent) 73.07
Air Pressure (millibars) 1017.14
Wind Direction (degrees) 101.42
Wind Speed (knots) 15.44
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.67

Question of the Day

What are the ship’s three types of motion?

Positive Quote of the Day

“Never say “No” to opportunity.” Melvin G. Marcus

Science and Technology Log

Today, we made the big turn toward the San Felix islands and we’re heading southeastward at 12 knots. We did our last CTD cast of the cruise! Several of us decorated more Styrofoam cups to send down for compression by the pressure of the ocean water at 1000 meters depth. This afternoon and for the remainder of the cruise we will be tossing drifting buoys and Argo floats over board from the fantail. The Argo float has a bladder that inflates and deflates to allow it to go down to 2000 meters, drift in the current for about 10 days, and then record temperature and salinity as it comes back to the surface. It then transmits the data to a satellite where it is then sent to a ground station. The Argo float goes up and down over and over until the battery runs out. These floats are never recovered. It is hoped that there will be 3,000 of them in the oceans by 2006.

As we toss the drifters we are doing a promotional video segment to describe what a drifter measures and encourage teachers and their students to adopt a drifting buoy. This is a great way to get real science in the classroom. The Adopt a Drifter Program is sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Climate Observation and can be accessed online at http://osmc.noaa.gov/OSMC/adopt_a_drifter.html.

This afternoon Diane and I toured the ship and recorded it with the video camera. We went to the galley, mess hall, our stateroom and toilet room, the ship’s bow and the bridge. The bridge is where the ship is driven. While on the bridge, we spoke with NOAA Corps officer Silas Ayers and he explained how they record and report the weather observations to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offices located back in the United States. Tomorrow, he will give us a complete tour of the bridge.

In “6:00 Science on the Fantail”, we interviewed Chris Fairall, a physicist/mathematician who works for the NOAA Environmental Technology Lab (ETL) based in Colorado. Chris explained some of their instrumentation for measuring clouds and precipitation. He said that some of their instruments can individually measure the smallest of mist droplets! They have worked closely with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution over the past few years to compile data for the stratus cloud deck over this part of the Pacific Ocean. Chris said that the main reason this particular location was selected for the study was lack of data because it had never been thoroughly studied.

This evening, Diane and I continued the writing of the children’s book documenting this Stratus 2004 cruise.

Personal Log

Today has been another good day at sea. I’ve gotten emails from students, family and friends. I’ve had good food to eat and good conversation and laughter with new friends. I spent some quiet, alone time to ponder and count my blessings. The sun momentarily broke through the stratus clouds like a smile from up above! We tossed some Argo floats and drifters overboard. We’re steaming ahead to new and exciting places! What more could I ask for?

An observation: the Argo float is tossed in the water without removing the biodegradable cardboard box, so it looked to me like a casket as it floated away in the wake of the ship. I guess it really is a burial at sea because the Argo floats are never recovered.

Paul and I are about to deploy another Argo float shortly. This will be my first Argo float where I actually get to do the hands-on tossing! I’ve just been observing up until now. We’ll lower it by a rope over the back of the fantail then release it into the water.

Another observation: As the ship steams along it is rolling and pitching. All that motion causes stuff to shift and creak and rattle. Even if I’m in a room all alone, I still feel like someone else is there, too. It’s an odd sensation to hear a noise, turn expecting to see someone and nobody is there!

I look forward to tomorrow. We have a couple of interviews and will continue working on the book plus tossing a few more drifting buoys and floats along the way.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, December 10, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 10, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°39.97’ S, Longitude 83°40.08’ W
Time: 9:30 a.m.

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 118.48
Relative Humidity (percent) 70.62
Temperature (Celsius) 18.99
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1015.61
Wind Speed (knots) 12.97
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.21
Cloud Type Stratus

Questions of the Day

What does CTD stand for? (answer is found in the previous logs)

What season is it right now in the southern hemisphere?

Positive Thought for the Day

“Life leaps like a geyser for those willing to drill the rock of inertia” Alexis Carrel

Science and Technology Log

Today Bob Weller and Jeff Lord of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) helped me deploy two more adopted drifting buoys for Viviana Zamorano’s class at the Escuela America in Arica, Chile and Debra Brice’s class at San Marcos Middle School in San Diego, California! Their classes will be able to electronically access the drifter’s location along with the sea surface temperature and pressure. They can then use this information to study the ocean currents.

Late tonight and early tomorrow we will arrive at 19º45.91’S 85º30.41W , the location very near the Stratus 4 moored buoy that has been in the water for over a year. We will hover here for a day and conduct inter-comparison tests of the old buoy’s instruments with the instruments onboard the ship. This is a very important part of the research and data collection because they must prove that the information gathered is accurate. Accuracy of the data is of the utmost importance. After the testing is complete, they will begin the process of reeling in the old Stratus 4. This will take quite a while because there’s about 3 miles of cable to bring onto the ship. Then the old Stratus 4 will be hoisted onboard. I’ll give more details about the new Stratus 5 deployment as the time draws near.

This evening we interviewed Jeff Lord for “6:00 Science on the Fantail”. Jeff is a senior engineering tech for WHOI. He’s intricately involved in the new design of the Stratus 5. Jeff said that two really big changes in this new design are the construction materials and the modular-style architecture. The buoy is made of Surlyn foam, a tough but soft and buoyant substance. It can withstand wear and tear of whatever the ocean environment throws at it. Also, when taking it in and out of the water, if it bangs into the side of the ship, no problem! The other new design aspect is that the Stratus 5 can be taken apart and shipped in closed containers. The old Stratus design has a big aluminum hull that is one solid piece. It is too big to fit in a closed container, therefore the end of it sticks out about two feet. Jeff said that nowadays, transporting in open containers is very difficult because it limits the stackability and transportation companies find it difficult to deal with. Jeff also told us about the cables and ropes attaching the buoy to the 9000 pound anchor. The upper section is made of strong cable wire that can support the instrument packages and resist being bitten in two by fierce sea creatures. Then there’s lighter nylon rope that goes down nearly to the bottom and the last portion is made of a buoyant material so it doesn’t drag on the seafloor and get tangled. Jeff said to just wait until the old buoy is reeled in and new one deployed because it’s an impressive operation!

Personal Log

Today has been a good day. I like throwing the drifter buoys overboard. It only takes a few seconds but it makes me feel part of something important, something important on a global scale. This evening the sky is overcast but beautiful nonetheless. It’s cool and fresh out on the deck. I smiled to see that Phil has donned his reindeer antlers to set the holiday mood. Diane has been taking pictures of everyone and posting them on the doors. Bruce completed another great illustration for our book. It’s been approved for me to tour the engine room! The WHOI guys are getting excited because time is drawing near for the big buoy.

This afternoon I worked on developing lesson plans based upon the science work being done on the ship. I’m very excited about coming up with some practical and interesting lessons. Tonight during my watch, I am operating the radio as the Chilean university students perform a 3000 meter CTD cast. It takes about 3 hours to complete. Several of us have decorated Styrofoam cups and sent them down with the CTD rosette. Many people put Christmas greetings on them. Some of the Chileans put an American flag and a Chilean flag on their cups. I drew the Ron Brown ship with a “Christmas star” overhead. We are anxiously awaiting their return from the depths of the deep blue sea. I just found out that watch duty is suspended for the next five or six days! My watch times are good because they’re during waking hours but some people have the night shift plus an afternoon shift. So they’ll get a much needed break and get to sleep the night through instead of catching a nap here and there. Like I said, today has been a good day.

Until tomorrow….

Mary