Ellen O’Donnell: Where Am I? May 17, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ellen O’Donnell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 14 – May 25, 2012

Mission: Northern Right Whale Survey
Geographical are of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean out of Provincetown. MA
Date: May 17, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Winds out of the Northwest, 5 to 10 knots. Mid-level clouds.Ocean swells 1 to 3 meters

Science and Technology Log:

We pulled up anchor and set sail out of Provincetown, Cape Cod at 6AM. We followed the Cape Coastline for several miles and then headed out to Georges Bank again. Unfortunately, today was windy so the ocean had a lot of whitecaps. In addition, the swells were between 1 to 3 meters throughout the day. This made it hard to spot whales. The wind also disperses their spout very quickly so they are hard to see. Around 3PM the wind lessened such that there were far fewer whitecaps. We started to see more whales but not a lot.

Atlantic White Sided Dolphin (Photo: Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation)

One right whale came close to the ship and we were able to slow the boat down and get several pictures. Other than that we saw fin and sei whales and one minke whale. A bit of excitement for me, though, is that several pods of common Atlantic white sided dolphins swam past the ship. One pod had about 15 dolphins!

Humpback entanglement (photo Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies)

The last time we were out at sea we took the little gray boat out to get closer to the right whales. One of the whales was entangled. Entanglement is when a gillnet, lobster trap or crab pot or any other marine debris gets caught on a whales fin, head or flippers. It is the second leading cause of human-related right whale deaths. In fact, nearly three out of four whales bear scars from these types of interactions.

NOAA created a central response network on the East Coast through its National Marine Fisheries Service, developed by the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. When a whale that is entangled is spotted, they send out a crew to remove the fishing gear from the whale. Now this is no easy task. Remember  whales can weigh up to 70 tons and won’t just sit still for you to remove the nets. Responders will typically try and slow the whale down and keep it on the surface. In order to do this they attach buoys to a trailing line in order to cause drag on the animal. Fin, sei and humpbacks react well to this because they are lunge feeders so they actively chase after their prey, and because of this they experience this periodic drag. Once this happens and the whale has slowed down, the responders get close in a small inflatable boat and try to remove the nets with strategically placed cuts, working to remove the net as quickly as possible. They use tools that are on the end of long poles to do this.

However, this method does not work well with right whales. They are grazers and therefore oftentimes don’t react to additional drag. Jamison Smith, biologist for NOAA, said that they even attached a large boat to the drag line but the whale just kept swimming and eventually broke the line! So they have been trying something new with them. Recently they have administered tranquilizers to the whales to slow them down. They found that this changed the right whales behavior, and they were able to get closer. They have even administered antibiotics to those whales that had severe damage from the fishing gear. View this video to see a whale getting darted. NOAA Biologist Darts Right Whale (courtesy NOAA)

Researchers continue to work on more efficient and better ways to deal with this threat to our whale populations. One method that has worked well is to work with fisherman to design fishing gear, which have weak links so that they break easier when whales swim through them. It is a controversial issue between many parties, but hopefully we will see a decline in whale entanglements in the future.

Personal Log:

You might think it’s easy to navigate a ship. Just point and drive, right? No. Navigation of a ship is a complex endeavor which requires skill and the use of many different technologies. Think about it. You need to consider wind, tides, currents, depth of water and other ships in the area. Luckily the Delaware II has a great deal of equipment and skilled operators to get our ship from point A to B.

So let’s dive into the art of navigation. First off you need to know where you are.

Lieutenant Claire Surry-Marsden and Ensign Jason Wilson showing me how the instruments work

The Delaware II has a global positioning system, which is a satellite-based navigation system. It works something like this. The US government launched satellites up into orbit around our Earth. They constantly send out light wave signals with a time the message was sent, and the location of the signal at that time. A receiver on the ground needs to receive at least 4 of these signals, sometimes three will work, to get an accurate reading on where that receiver (you)  is located. But you just don’t want to rely on one system, so the Delaware II has 2 back-up systems. The crew also utilizes a magnetic compass, and a Gyrocompass. As you know the magnetic compass points toward magnetic north (considering the declination of your area). However the Gyrocompass is an instrument that is mounted in a device so that it spins freely. When the device is moved in a different direction, such as ocean swells or turns, the gyroscope will always point to true North. A gyroscope  spins about three axes of angular freedom due to its inherent properties  and its being acted upon by the earth’s rotation and gravity. Control devices are applied to balance the forces so that the gyro seeks and continually aligns itself with the meridian and points to true north.

You also need to know what is going on down in the water. If the ocean floor gets shallow or the currents change this is going to affect the ship’s safety and or progress. The Delaware II gets this information through two navigation depth sounders. They emit sound waves out of the bottom of the boat and time how long it takes for the waves to get back. Remember our formulas during our energy units? Speed equals distance divided by time. Well we know the speed of sound in water at various temperatures (remember the speed changes with different mediums and the temperature), so you multiply the time (divided by 2)  by the speed and you get the distance. Luckily the navigation depth sounder does all this math for you automatically and you get a picture on the screen showing the depth of the water below the ship.

Computer with chart of the area

The Delaware II has a large computer which uses software called Nobeltec. This displays the most recent charts, or as we call them maps, on the screen. These charts indicate all land and the depths of the water. Before leaving the navigators plot the course on the chart and this is what they use to steer the ship. Of course, safety is incredibly important so this course is also drawn out on paper charts in case the on-line computer goes down. I watched Ensign Junie Casson transferring this information and it isn’t easy. Knowing latitude and longitude are key as well as determining the degrees in which you want to travel. See that! Math and social studies really do come in handy! Junie is also responsible for keeping the ships charts up to date as information is constantly being acquired on the topography of the ocean floor.

Ensign Junie Casson shows me how to plot a course on the chart

You also need to know how the currents are moving in the water you are traveling through. Especially should the ship release equipment, such as nets or instruments. This is done with the Doppler speed log. It emits 3 sonic beams and the information is used to determine the speed and direction of the water in three different layers. Speed and direction of the water is affected by winds, rotation of the Earth (remember the Coriolis Effect – it affects the direction of the water as well as the air) and tides. Deeper layers tend to move more slowly because there is less energy transfer between layers as you go down.

Lastly we want to make sure that no other ships are getting too close, that we aren’t getting too close to certain objects or to fix ourselves upon a certain point. For this the ship has two different kinds of radar. One radar called x-band, has  a higher frequency and shorter wavelength. The second radar is called s-band, and has a lower frequency and longer wavelength. Both are used to get the best accuracy with identifying objects.To avoid collision, The Delaware II  uses an integrated ARPA (Automated Radar Plotting Aid) to quickly analyze trial maneuvers.  Different courses and/or speeds are assessed and the calculated outcome in terms of a CPA (closest point of approach) is determined. Whenever possible at sea, one nautical mile CPA from all other traffic should be kept.

Poll Update:

On my first blog I asked which of the following whales is the longest; sei, fin, humpback, right and minke. While most of you picked the humpback the fin whale is actually the longest.

Questions of the Day:

When you determine the time in our equation to determine the water’s depth you would need to divide it by two. Why?

In ancient times, ships didn’t have the equipment I just described to you. How did they navigate the ship?

Ellen O’Donnell: An Adventure Begins May 13, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ellen O’Donnell
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 13 – May 25, 2012

Mission: Northern Right Whale Survey
Geographical are of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean out of Woods Hole. MA
Date: May 10, 2012

Personal Log

Greetings from Deerfield, New Hampshire. My name is Ellen O’Donnell and I am currently in my twelfth year working as a middle school science teacher at Deerfield Community School (DCS) in Deerfield, NH. DCS is an outstanding K-8 school in a small rural town located in between the larger cities of Manchester and Concord, NH. My high regard for DCS does not stem solely from my experience as a teacher here, but also from having all four of my sons attend DCS from kindergarten to eighth grade. The creative and dedicated teachers here did a great job preparing them for high school and beyond.

Deerfield Community School
Deerfield Community School

I applied for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program because I think it is a wonderful opportunity to bring real scientific research into the classroom. I want students to become familiar with the various scientific careers available, as well as the importance of using good scientific research as the foundation for policy decisions. I found out about the program mainly from my sister, Laura Rodriguez, who participated in the Teacher at Sea program two years ago. She is also a middle school science teacher but in Connecticut, Hall Memorial School in Willington. We both only taught seventh grade science, but then two years ago both our schools asked us to teach 8th grade science as well. We like to tease each other about who did what first! You can imagine what the conversation entails when we both get together. I’m looking forward to her students following my trip as well as my own. Our students will be working together,  while I am at sea, on a variety of ocean topics. They will communicate with each other through a community wiki and Skypeing. I can’t wait to see their final products!

sisters
Me and my sisters; Jen, Ellen and Laura (left to right)
North Atlantic Right Whale
North Atlantic Right Whale (photo credit: Georgia Dept of Natural Resources)

So here I am on the brink of an exciting adventure. I will be joining the crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the Delaware II out of Woods Hole, MA. We will be conducting a North Atlantic Right Whale Survey. North Atlantic Right Whales are one of the most endangered whales in our oceans. Some estimates say there are only about 300 individuals left. During our survey we will also be gathering information on other whales that we see, such as minke, humpbacks and sei. Right now I don’t know very much about how to tell them apart. In fact, I don’t know that much about ocean ecology specifically. I can’t wait to jump in and learn more about the Atlantic Ocean which is right in our backyard. Keep in touch and you can learn with me.

As part of the 8th grade math classes, taught by Rod Dudley,  our 8th grade students created scaled drawings of the actual sizes of the whales that I hope to see on my trip. They started from small drawings  to get the correct shape of each whale and them blew them up to their actual size. These were then drawn outside of our school for all to enjoy.  We wanted the whole school to appreciate the size of the various whales that live in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. You don’t realize how big they are until you do something like this.

Actual size of a North Atlantic Right Whale
Actual size of a North Atlantic Right Whale
Our whole 8th grade class fits inside!

So soon I will be heading out on the NOAA Delaware II into the Atlantic Ocean and I will be finding out more about the various jobs my shipmates have, information about ocean ecology, and life onboard a ship. Stay tuned

Delaware II
Delaware II (photo credit NOAA)

Anne Artz: August 2, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 30, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Location:  Georges Bank off the New England coast
Latitude: 42.634N
Longitude: 68 00.801 W
Conditions: Cloudy today, somewhat cooler but with sun most of the day

Science and Technology Log

This being the beginning of a new month we all did our safety drills on August 1 – that means everyone, including all the crew.  First we did the fire drill then the “Abandon ship” drill where we had to put on our “gumby” suits in one minute.  I did much better this time!  We’ve moved away from the New York-New Jersey coast and are now on the Southern Georges Bank.  We ran into a problem this morning when the cable that runs the pump for the dredge got tangled around the dredge during one of the drops.

A damaged power cable on the dredge

It necessitated cutting the cable that was twisted around the dredge then reconnecting it.  The cable itself is a series of copper wires twisted into 6 coils, surrounded by a neoprene “skin”, then surrounded by a Kevlar sleeve, and finally a synthetic woven casing.  It will take somewhere of 6-8 hours to repair the cable during which time we cannot do any dredging.  I’m going to use the down time to introduce you to some of the crew here on the Delaware II.

LCDR Richard Hester and ENS Carl Noblitt

There are three groups of workers: the NOAA Commissioned Corps which run the ship, the crew members who perform day-to-day work on board, and the science crew who are responsible for performing the scientific experiments for each expedition.  The NOAA Commissioned Corps on the Delaware II consists of the Commanding Officer (CO), LCDR Richard Hester, Executive Officer (XO), LCDR Sean Cimilluca, LT Fiona Matheson in charge of operations, ENS Shannon Hefferan, the Navigations Officer, and ENS Carl Noblitt, Junior Officer.

LCDR Sean Cimilluca

I interviewed Ensign Hefferan and asked her how she got into the NOAA  Commissioned Corps and what her job was like.  I’ll be posting that interview once we are back in Woods Hole since internet connections are not that good out at sea.

Personal Log

I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to our outstanding cooks on the Delaware II.  Both of the men who work in the galley do an amazing job.  Other than the first day I haven’t made it for breakfast but lunch and dinner have been wonderful.

Top chefs Jonathan Rockwell and James White on the Delaware II

We’ve had everything from BBQ chicken, lasagna, a full turkey dinner, scallops, shrimp, and lots of different kinds of fish.  Besides all that, they cook vegetables that even my husband might eat and he won’t eat anything but a baked potato!  They feed all 30 of us every day and it’s a good thing we work so hard otherwise I’d definitely have to be dieting when I get home!

Anne Artz: Introduction, July 14, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Artz
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 25 — August 5, 2011

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 14, 2011

Personal Log

I’ve spent most of my life on the west coast, about a mile from the beach.   I teach Environmental Science and Biology to high school students and we frequently visit the Pacific Ocean to collect data.  This summer, I am doing research on the east coast leaving from Woods Hole, MA aboard the NOAA Ship Delaware II as part of NOAA‘s Teacher at Sea Program.

NOAA Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

I’m excited about our experiment – collecting data about the Sea Clam and Ocean Quahog.  My students already have a summer reading project about the particular species we are looking for and I hope to be able to share some new information with them when school begins in August.

I love the outdoors and am looking forward to a new adventure at sea in the Atlantic Ocean. I’m guessing it’s going to be different seeing the sun rise over the ocean instead of setting.

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

Rebecca Bell, August 23, 2008

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

The Shrinky Cup Caper 

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

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

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

Over they go!
Over they go!

Personal Log 

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

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Krill
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphins
  • Terns
  • Minke whales
  • Pilot whales
  • Mola mola (4)
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
The results of what happened to the cups at a depth of 200 meters. The white cups are the original size.
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right, the original size
Left, a cup shrunk 2 times; center 1 time; and right,
the original size

Rebecca Bell, August 22, 2008

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

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 22, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4224.2 N Longitude: 6659.1 W
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 202m

Becky proudly displays her drifter buoy before its deployment!
Becky proudly displays her drifter buoy before its deployment!

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a buoy! Today has been busy—a vertical cast, baby bongos and the big bongos. But let me tell you about the other things. First of all, Alison and I deployed my very own buoy. NOAA has an Adopt-A-Drifter (buoy) program. Jerry Prezioso, our Chief Scientist, thoughtfully signed me up for it before we sailed. We deployed it today at George’s Bank, the deepest station we will reach.

The deployment consisted of picking up the basketball-sized buoy and throwing it over the side. There is a transmitter in the black float which will allow us to track the buoy’s motion for years. NOAA uses these buoys to assemble weather reports, monitor climate changes, etc. The buoy consists of the round ball with the transmitter and a “drogue” a long “tube” of cloth that fills with water. The purpose of the tube is to make sure it is the ocean current that moves the buoy, not wind.

With a little help, Becky gets ready to throw her drifter into the ocean
With a little help, Becky gets ready to throw her drifter into the ocean

There is a diagram on the Adopt-A-Drifter site. The ball and drogue (sounds like an English pub) are attached to a metal ring which anchors the drogue and the ball. Here I am with the MSDE-decorated buoy. You can barely see the metal ring. The drogue is the green thing, folded up. You throw the whole thing overboard. The paper and tape dissolve and the drogue unfurls. It has to be kept tied up so you don’t go overboard with the drifter.  NOAA’s Office of Climate Observation sponsors the “Adopt-A- Drifter” program.  According to the Web site: “The “Adopt-A- Drifter” program (allows you to access) information about drifting buoys (drifters) that move with the ocean currents around the globe. The drifter floats in the ocean water and is powered by batteries located in the dome. The drifter data that are collected, including location with a GPS, are sent to a satellite and then to a land station where everyone can access the data.

And off it goes on its long journey
And off it goes on its long journey

Drifters are continually being deployed from ships around the world. They last for a number of years unless they collide with something like an island in the middle of the ocean or a continent. Each drifter receives aWMO ID # (World Meteorological Organization Identification Number) so the data can be archived. The purpose of the drifters is to gather the information necessary for countries to: 1) forecast and assess climate variability and change, and 2) effectively plan for and manage response to climate change.”

This map indicates where the drifty buoy was deployed: where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream, and the North Atlantic current converge
This map indicates where the drifty buoy was deployed: where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream, and the North Atlantic current converge

We will release it in George’s Basin at 4224.2 N latitude; 6659.1 W longitude. This is an interesting area because of the way currents converge near this site.  Above is a map of the area.  Below it is a diagram showing the major currents.

A map showing the area where the drifter buoy was deployed from the Delaware II
A map showing the area where the drifter buoy was deployed from the Delaware II

As you can see, the buoy was deployed where the Labrador Current, the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Current encounter each other. There is a chance that the buoy will travel into the Gulf Stream or through the Northeast Channel into the North Atlantic Current. It might also just stay within the basin, caught in the large gyre within the Basin. You can get on-line and track the buoy to see what happens to it.

More from the Web site:

“The Adopt-A- Drifter program provides an opportunity for teachers to infuse ocean observing system data into their curriculum. An educational sticker from each school is adhered to the drifter before deployment and teachers and their students access sea surface temperature and/or sea surface pressure data from the drifter online. Students plot the coordinates of the drifter on a tracking chart as it moves freely across the ocean and make connections between the data accessed on line and other maps showing ocean currents and winds. Drifter data are used to track major ocean currents and eddies globally, ground truth data from satellites, build models of climate and weather patterns and predict the movement of pollutants if dumped or accidentally spilled into the sea. It is important for teachers and students to understand how the data are measured, how often data are downloaded, and what data are available for schools and the general public to access.”

Source: Modified from Follow the world’s ocean currents with NOAA’s Adopt a Drifter Program 

Stanitski, D.M.; Hammond, J. OCEANS, 2005. Proceedings of MTS/IEEE

Personal Log 

As we move further north, our nets started pulling in krill. I hoped that whales were not far behind. I was not disappointed. Yesterday we encountered dolphins on three separate occasions. One group came very near the ship and I have some good video of them “porpoising” through the waves. We also spotted a whale spout, but I could not see the whale. Later in the day, during our safety drill, I was looking out to sea just as a pilot whale leaped straight into the air. We were able to see that there were a number of these whales feeding in that area. Towards afternoon, we saw a group of Minke whales. In late afternoon, another spout was spotted and we saw a huge tail disappear under the water- probably a humpback whale.

For More Information 

NOAA’s Adopt-A- Drifter Program

NOAA Lesson plans: Ocean Currents

Climate Observation System

Ocean Explorer related lesson: Islands in the Stream- How geologic feature(s) in the structure of the ocean floor may cause an eddy to form in the current above it

NOAA National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service Lesson on the dynamics of the ocean using satellite data; Investigating the Gulf Stream 

NASA Lesson: Global Winds

Climate and Weather Animations Educypedia

NOAA Office of Climate Observation

NOAA Buoy and Drifter Oceanography 

Rebecca Bell, August 19, 2008

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

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 19, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4000.7 N Longitude: 6931.5
Sea Surface Temperature: 21.2 C
Depth: 114m

The Delaware’slatest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank
The Delaware’s latest cruise track has taken it from Woods Hole, MA, south past the Outerbanks of North Carolina, and then north again toward Georges Bank

Science and Technology Log 

We are heading east out to sea, right now at 4005 N latitude, 6942 W longitude. (Pull out those atlases). We will begin a turn north towards Georges Bank. Georges Bank is a large elevated area of the sea floor which separates the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean and is situated between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Georges Bank is (was) one of the most productive North Atlantic fisheries (Grand Banks being the most productive). “Legend has it that the first European sailors found cod so abundant that they could be scooped out of the water in baskets. Until the last decades of this century these banks were one of the world’s richest fishing grounds… (Source: AMNH web site below).

This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.
This map shows the location of Georges Bank and the underwater topography.

Northeastern fishery landings are valued at approximately $800 million dockside, of which a large proportion is produced on Georges Bank. Recently, scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have undertaken an effort to document direct interactions between physical environmental factors and the abundance and distribution of fishery species. (Source: USGS below). This means that the water chemistry, temperature and other factors affect how many fish there are, how many kinds of fish there are, and where they are. The article from USGS explains that the sea floor sediments that form Georges Bank came from the time when glaciers scoured the area. Since that time, sea level has risen, covering the glacial sediments, and tides and currents are eroding the bottom. When this erosion happens, small sediment particles are winnowed out by tides and currents leaving larger gravel-sized sediments on the floor. This kind of surface is good for scallop larvae and other small animals so they can settle on the bottom and not get buried by sand. Thus, the type of sediment on the ocean floor helps determine what kinds of animals can live there.

This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
This map shows the continental U.S. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

Interestingly enough, politics and international relations have affected our trip to Georges Bank. We have been waiting for clearance through the U.S. State Department working with the Canadian government, to get permission to go into Canadian waters. As Wikipedia explains below, part of Georges Bank is “owned” by the U.S. and part is “owned” by Canada. Our route is to take us through the eastern part of Georges Bank, the part owned by Canada. Unfortunately, due to the speed of processing the request, we just this morning found out we got clearance to go there. If the request had been denied, we would have had to sail around the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to avoid Canadian waters. Fortunately, we are now good to go.

From Wikipedia: 

“During the 1960s and 1970s, oil exploration companies determined that the seafloor beneath Georges Bank possesses untold petroleum reserves. However, both Canada and the United States agreed to a moratorium on exploration and production activities in lieu of conservation of its waters for the fisheries.

The decision by Canada and the United States to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (370 km) in the late 1970s led to overlapping EEZ claims on Georges Bank and resulted in quickly deteriorating relations between fishermen from both countries who claimed the fishery resources for each respective nation. In recognition of the controversy, both nations agreed in 1979 to refer the question of maritime boundary delimitation to the International Court of Justice at The Hague in The Netherlands. Following five years of hearings and consultation, the IJC delivered its decision in 1984, which split the maritime boundary in the Gulf of Maine between both nations out to the 200 NM limit, giving the bulk of Georges Bank to the United States. Canada’s portion of the Gulf of Maine now includes the easternmost portion of Georges Bank.”

American Museum of Natural History http://www.amnh.org/sciencebulletins/biobulletin/biobulletin/story1208.html (easy to medium to read)

USGS http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/georges-bank/ (more difficult to read) The map above is also from the USGS website.

Personal Log 

It’s been a very quiet day today. We had several station samples this morning. At the first one, around 6:30 a.m. one of the crew members spotted two whales. They were too far away to see what kind they were. I, unfortunately, was inside the ship at that time and missed it. However, we are heading north so maybe we will have a chance to see some.

Rebecca Bell, August 16, 2008

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

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 16, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time:   1807 (GMT)
Latitude:  36.05.40 N Longitude: 75.24.30 W
Air Temp 0C: 25.3 0C
Sea Water Temp:  26.7 0C

On left: small barrel-shaped copepods; Center: white, arrow worms; Top right: amphipods
On left: small barrel-shaped copepods; Center: white, arrow worms; Top right: amphipods

Science and Technology Log 

The most common zooplankton we have seen so far are salps, amphipods, arrow worms and copepods. Pteropods (sea butterfly) have been in a number of samples but are not numerous. Salps look like clear, jelly-like marbles. We’ve encountered these animals in warm, shallow water. They are holoplanktonic relatives of sea squirts (Urochordata). Salps are filter feeders, using cilia to move suspended particles from the water. They feed by pumping water through a sieve to remove bacteria and nanoplankton, and are thus, a very important link in the food chain. Some species of salps form huge chains by budding. They show both sexual and asexual life stages. For more about salps and photos see this website.

Amphipods are also extremely common crustaceans. There is no carapace (shell-like covering), but their bodies are flattened side-to-side, much like a shrimp.  Their bodies are segmented with 6 segments in the head, 8 in the thorax and 6 in the abdomen.1 They have a brood pouch on their thoracic limbs. They have a variety of limbs used for feeding, crawling or jumping. One group lives off a host, feeding on salp tissues. Some types live in tubes; others use their back legs to anchor themselves while they sway to and fro in the water column. Some species swim rapidly while others stay near the bottom of the ocean. Many will move vertically in the water column, moving near the surface during the day, and sinking again at night. The species we are catching has large compound eyes that can be seen by the naked eye. For more about amphipods, visit this website. 

Becky examines the catch using a hand lens.
Becky examines the catch using a hand lens.

Copepods are very common crustaceans, with more than 200 species and 10,000 families. 2 We have found more of these than any other organism. Copepods are omnivorous. Some groups graze on microplankton; other groups of copepods prey on larger plankton, including other copepods. They are an important link in the food chain as well, moving carbon from a microscopic level to a larger trophic (feeding) level. They are eaten by jellyfish, fish, comb jellies and arrow worms. Copepods have “antennae” that have special sensors that detect water movement around them. They are able to move toward prey by contracting a muscle that runs in a circle around their bodies. For more about copepods, visit this website.

Arrow worms (Chaetognatha) are common along coasts, but we did not catch any out away from shore. Arrow worms are classified in their own group, distinct from Annelids (earthworms), round worms and flatworms, which are all separate groups of worms. They are predators, often waiting to ambush their prey. When their cilia detect prey, usually copepods, the arrow worm contracts 2 muscles that run dorsally and ventrally (top to bottom) to strike. Their mouths have spines that grab the prey and smaller “teeth” produce a venom that subdues the prey. The prey is swallowed whole. Arrow worms, in turn, are eaten by jellyfish, copepods and fish.

Sea Butterflies were not common, but they are very interesting. Sea butterflies (pteropods) are holoplanktonic mollusks, related to snails. Basically, they are shell-less snails. Their foot is modified into winglike structures (ptero= winged) that they flap as they swim through the water. Their bodies are tube-shaped and clear. The bodies and wings of the species we have seen are an orange-pink color. They are predators and are preyed upon by fish, sea birds and whales.

References: 

Information for these paragraphs were modified and combined from the following sources: 1 Newell, G.E. and Newell, R.C.; Marine Plankton: A Practical Guide; 5th edition; 1977; Hutchinson & Co; London.2 Johnson, William S. and Allen, Dennis M.; Zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: A Guide to Their Identification and Ecology; 2005; Johns Hopkins University Press.

Personal Log 

This morning we saw dark clouds in the distance. You could see rain falling from the clouds. Nearby we could see the tail of a water spout disappearing into the clouds.  We sampled our southern-most station and are now heading north along the coast just south of Chesapeake Bay. The samples we are pulling now have a lot of diatoms.

Rebecca Bell, August 15, 2008

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

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude:  3846.7 Longitude: 7302.1
Temp 25.4 C

Bongo net
Bongo net

Science and Technology Log 

In the last post, I explained WHY we are collecting zooplankton. This post will illustrate HOW the samples are taken.

The samples are collected using a device called a bongo net (Yes, like the musical instrument).  You can see the metal rings and the nets hang from the metal rings. One net is marked with red and the other green. This allows you to tell the two nets apart. The samples from the red side will be used for the ichthyoplankton study. The samples from the green side will be used for the zooplankton study.

The white device is the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth). You attach it to the bongo net frame and turn it on. The CTD takes measurements on the way into the water and on the way out of the water. When the bridge clears you, the computer operator (inside) tells the hydraulics operator to start letting out the line and at what speed to let it out and bring it in. You calculate the amount of time in and out using a chart that is based on changing depth. You have to calculate it so you get at least a 5-minute tow.

The CTD
The CTD

Now the bongo nets are raised on the A-frame. You can see the CTD above the bongos (right picture) and there is a lead weight beneath and between the nets. Next, the A-frame moves the nets over the side of the ship and they are lowered into the water. You cruise for at least 5 minutes. The idea is to get within 5 meters of the bottom, then start bringing the nets back in. The computer operator keeps track of where the bottom is. The idea is to stop the line going out in time so the nets don’t hit the bottom and pull up a bunch of sand. Then you just have to wait for the tow, and eventually for the nets to come back up.

The bongos are removed from the A-frame and brought into the wet lab. You use the hose to wash the plankton down to the bottom of the net. The bottom of the net is put into the sieve. When the net is hosed down to the sieve end, you untie the bottom of the net and let the plankton wash into the sieves. The mesh captures zooplankton, but lets smaller phytoplankton through. Finally you rinse the plankton from the sieves into a jar with 5% formalin for preservation. A label is put into the jar as well as on top of the jar, stating station number, date and time.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Becky Bell, assists in deploying the bongo nets.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Becky Bell, assists in deploying the bongo nets.

Personal Log 

We had a fire drill and an “abandon ship” safety drill. In the picture to the right, I am wearing a survival suit, lovingly known as a “Gumby suit”. If you abandon ship, you have to run to the deck and put on this suit. It is one piece, with inflatable neck rest, whistle and flashing pocket light so you can be spotted. You have to lay the suit out on deck, and sit down in it. Feet go in first, then you stand up and pull the rest over your head, find the arms etc. Look at the look on my face. Not too sure about this! The front flap closes to show only your eyes–on me a little higher. You should try zipping the front zipper with thick rubber gloves that are too big for you. It reminds me of the astronauts trying to fix the space station. I have a new appreciation for how difficult it is too, like, HOLD anything. The best news yet–we get to practice next week again.

Deploying the Bongo net
Deploying the Bongo net
The A-frame
The A-frame
The nets begin to emerge from the water.
The nets begin to emerge from the water.
Becky waits for the nets to come back up after the tow
Waiting for the nets to come back up after the tow
Becky rinsing down the net
Becky rinsing down the net
Then she puts the plankton into a jar for preservation
Then she puts the plankton into a jar for
preservation
Becky dons her survival suit during a safety drill.
Becky dons her survival suit during a safety drill.

 

Rebecca Bell, August 14, 2008

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

Mission: Ecosystems Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: August 14, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Time:   134628 (GMT)
Latitude:  40.33.06N Longitude: 72.47.36W
Air Temp 0C: 22.1
Sea Water Temp:  22.3 0C

NOAA Ship Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Science and Technology Log 

We sailed from Woods Hole, MA on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 on the first of three legs as part of the Ecosystem Monitoring Program. There are two main objectives of the cruise. The first is to see how well the fish population is doing by sampling and counting fish larvae. The number of fish is important to the fisheries industry- those folks who bring cod and other fish to your table. The second objective is to monitor the zooplankton population. Fish feed on the zooplankton, so a healthy zooplankton population may mean a healthier fish population. We also are monitoring the physical properties of the water; in this case, salinity and temperature. These influence where fish larvae and zooplankton can survive and where and how far they can be dispersed.

There are 125-130 sites randomly selected for sampling. At each site, a pair of bongo nets are dropped and the two samples are collected side-by-side, for a total of 250-260 samples. One sample is designated for the ichthyoplankton (fish larvae) study, and the other for the study of zooplankton composition, abundance and distribution. Near-surface along-track chlorophyll-a fluorescence, which indicates abundance of phytoplankton (i.e. food for the zooplankton), water temperature and salinity are constantly measured with the vessel’s flow-through sampling system. We will also be collecting a separate set of samples as we approach the Chesapeake Bay. These will be used to study aging of fish larvae.

Zooplankton include both unicellular and multicellular organisms. Many can easily be seen with the naked eye. Zooplankton can be classified in a number of ways. One way is to classify them by life history. Holoplankton are those that are planktonic during their entire life cycle (lifers). Meroplankton refers to those plankton in a developmental stage, like eggs and larvae (shorttimers). These larvae will grow into larger organisms such as jellyfish, mollusks, fish, starfish and sea urchins, crustaceans, copepods and amphipods.

The term “plankton” comes from a Greek word for “wanderer” or “drifter”.1 This may imply that these organisms are passively moved about by currents. However, many can power around on their own, using several different methods such as cilia, muscle contraction, or appendages on the head, thorax or abdomen. They also move vertically in the water column, up toward sunlight during daylight hours and downward at night. Krill (whale food), on the other hand, do the opposite- travel downward during the day and up at night.

The first two samples contained a vast number of salps. A salp is holoplanktonic and is related to sea squirts (urochordates). They are filter feeders, catching bacteria and extremely small plankton in mucous-covered “nets” that act as sieves. Salps are an important part of the ocean food chain.

Samples 3-5 show a greater variety of organisms- comb jellies (ctenophores), arrow worms (Chaetognatha) fish larvae and amphipods. Samples 6-8 are dominated by copepods. There are salps, too, but not nearly as many (about 1/3 fewer) as we saw in the first 2 samples.

So I am looking at these results and wondering: Are there patterns to the distribution of these assemblages? Are salps found in warm water or cooler water?  Does temperature matter at all? Do they like deeper water?  Higher or lower salinity? Combinations of any of these? Are they found where another organism is found?

Personal Log 

We began our first work shift today, er, last night, um, this morning at 3 a.m. I work the 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. That means to bed around 7pm., rise and shine at 2:30 a.m. Well, rise, anyway. Not much shining till later.

As I sat on the deck in darkness, waiting to reach our first sample site, I spotted the light from another ship on the horizon. I watched as the light traveled up a wave, then down a wave then up, up, up, up, still up. I could not believe how high it was going, knowing we were doing the same thing. It’s a good thing it doesn’t feel like that. We are now heading south, back towards the Chesapeake Bay. It is getting hotter and muggier, just like home.

We saw dolphins today. A large leatherback turtle was spotted from the bridge. The 3pm- 3am. shift reported seeing flying fish.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Salps
  • Amphipods
  • Copepods
  • Ctenophores
  • Chaetognaths (arrow worms)
  • Fish larvae
  • Sea butterfly
  • Dolphins
  • Gulls (4 species)

1 Source: Online Etymology Dictionarywww.etymologyonline.com.

Tiffany Risch, August 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 5, 2008

Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Partly to mostly cloudy, with patchy a.m. fog
  • Surface winds: West-Northwest 10-15 knots
  • Waves: Swells 3-5 feet
  • Water temperature:  16o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve almost completed the entire research cruise here on the DELAWARE II. With a few more stations to cover, it is amazing how so many clams can be processed in only a week and a half at sea. Here on the DELAWARE II, scientists use digital recording devices such as scales and measuring boards to obtain accurate records. They also use computer programs that are specialized for the research being done.

When a tow is completed and the catch sorted, each surf clam or quahog goes through a series of measurements.  Each bushel of clams is massed, and then each one is digitally measured.  With sometimes over 2,000 clams to process, this technique is helpful because we can complete a station in as little as 30 minutes.  The computer program used for this purpose asks the measurer to select the species, and then it automatically records whatever the clam measures width wise on the measuring board.

There are only about twelve stations left to go before we arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  Most stations turn up a moderate number of surf clams and quahogs.  Tonight, we ended up hitting an area that contained a lot of rocks.  All of them must be cleared from the dredge by the crew before the next tow can be performed.  This sometimes can take as long as an hour, depending on what is collected.  Scientists then sometimes question whether there could be surf clams and quahogs in this specific area, so they’ll prepare to do a set-up. A set-up involves towing the region five times with intervals of 200 yards separating each tow. This allows scientists to examine what exactly could be=2 0in a specific area, and if it was just chance that allowed so many rocks to be brought up in one specific tow. Also in the future, this clam survey will be done by commercial vessels; therefore a calibration needs to be done using the current dredge versus a commercial one.  Set-ups help with this process.

Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!
Something else found in a recent tow: Scallops!

Personal Log 

I am very happy that I had this experience as a Teacher At Sea. In the past two weeks, I have gained a wealth of knowledge regarding surf clams and quahogs, bur also what life at sea is like, and who the people are that conduct research to hopefully understand more about populations dynamics.  I also have not been as tired before as I have been on this trip! Getting used to a time change by working through the night, and conducting so m any tows in a twelve hour period leaves your body fatigued.  At 1:00pm when I’m finished with lunch, all I can think about is sleep.

When tows are brought to the surface, a neat variety of other things are often brought up as well.  I have significantly contributed to my seashell collection by finding lots of different whelk, scallop, and snail shells, along with some sand dollars.  I also kept a surf clam and a quahog shell as a reminder of my trip.  Because each shell has its matching other half, they are each known as a clapper. I can’t wait to share all of my interesting stories, pictures, and experiences with my students back in Coventry, Rhode Island when I return.  I could only hope that people who truly have an interest in science could experience something like this one day!

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.

Tiffany Risch, August 2, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: August 2, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Mostly cloudy with isolated showers
  • Surface winds: 5 to 10 knots
  • Waves: Swells 2-4 feet
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
  • Visibility:  7 nautical miles
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed
The dredge being brought back up onto the ship after being deployed

Science and Technology Log 

As I began my shift, I noticed on the map hanging in the dry lab that we are working our way towards an area southeast of Nantucket called Georges Bank.  Georges Bank is a shallow rise underwater where a variety of sea life can be found. Before long, we were called to the deck for our first station of the morning.  We set the dredge, hauled it back, sorted the catch, measured and recorded data, and moved on to the next station. Recording data and sorting are two of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves shucking the clams for the meat to be measured!  My watch seemed to be on a record pace, as we managed to complete seven hauls all before breakfast at 5:00am.  This process happens around the clock on the DELAWARE II, maximizing the amount of data we collect while at sea for two weeks.  

Later in the day, the winch that is used to haul the dredge back from the water suffered a power problem.  I and the person controlling the dredge noticed this right away, as one of my jobs is to switch the power on to the pump that the dredge uses.  I alerted my watch chief, and also the chief scientist for this cruise who quickly began to assess the situation.  Over the next hour or so, things became very busy on the back deck as the captain, engineers, and scientists tried to solve the problem.  They did manage to get the power back to the winch again, which enabled the dredge to be brought back onboard the ship. The amount of talent exhibited by so many people on this ship continues to amaze me.  They always have answers for everything, and Plan B for any situation is always on their minds!

Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.
Collecting and sorting the variety of marine life that we find. Here, TAS Risch holds up some sea stars.

Personal Log 

Today was a really exciting day of sorting, as my watch found a variety of different organisms.  I actually saw a live scallop clapping in the bucket after it was hauled up!  Other interesting creatures included a Little Skate (Raja erinacea), which is a fish made of cartilage and is closely related to rays and sharks, a sea robin, sea squirts, hermit crabs, some sea stars, and even a few flounders. One of the more unusual characters that we encountered onboard was called a Yellow boring sponge, otherwise known as a Sulfur sponge or “Monkey Dung”. We take measurements of all of these things and quickly return them to their home in the ocean. Very early this morning, around 1:00am I visited the bridge, or the area where the captain controls and steers the ship from, to see what everything looks like at night. Crew member Claire Surrey was on the bridge tonight, making sure the ship stayed on its course.  The area was very quiet and dimly lit by the various monitors that broadcast

information back to the officer in charge.  The ocean was pitch black, and I could only see faint lights of a few other ships bobbing up and down in the waves very far away.  What a cool experience to see the ocean at night, with a starry sky, and know that all types of instruments are guiding my voyage through the sea!

New Words/Terms Learned 

Min-logs:  sense temperature, depth, and pressure underwater on the dredge, and are brought back to the surface and recorded via computer.

Starboard: the right side of a ship

Port: the left side of the ship

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!

Tiffany Risch, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tiffany Risch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 28 – August 8, 2008

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: South of Long Island, NY
Date: July 30, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 

  • Hazy in the morning with less than 6 miles visibility
  • Calm seas with little cloud cover
  • Wind speed = 5 knots
  • Waves = Wind drives waves < 1 foot
  • Water temperature:  23o Celsius
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.
Tiffany uses a measuring board to obtain quahog lengths.

Science and Technology Log 

Today started with an early morning shift, working from 12:00 am to 12:00 pm.  As my watch took over, the DELAWARE II began steaming towards the first station of the day to conduct a survey of the surf clam and quahog size and abundance inhabiting this specific area. In order to complete a survey of the area, a dredge is used to capture any surf clams or quahogs that are pushed out of the bottom sediment.  On the top of the dredge are hoses that push pressurized water onto the bottom to loosen up any bivalves.  A bivalve is an organism that has shells consisting of two halves, such as in a clam or a scallop. The dredge is towed behind the DELAWARE II for five minutes at a speed of 1.5 nautical miles per hour.  Attached to the dredge are sensors which transmit dredge performance information back to scientists in the dry lab to record and analyze.  The accuracy of the survey depends greatly on the credibility of the sensor data, and therefore, scientists must monitor variability of the dredge.  After the dredge is brought back to the surface, the load must be sorted, measured, and then discarded.

After listening to a presentation by Larry Jacobson, I learned a lot of new facts about both Atlantic sufclams (Spissula solidissima) and Ocean quahogs. Surf clams live only about 15 years, grow very fast, and can inhabit ocean waters stretching from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Newfoundland.  These bivalves are found in waters less than 50 meters of water. Ocean quahogs on the other hand can live for greater than 100 years, are very slow growing, and are found in ocean waters between 50 and 100 meters deep from Cape Hatteras, around the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

Giving power to the hydraulic pump.
Giving power to the hydraulic pump.

Scientists on this cruise are also interested in studying other aspects of the clam populations, such as a condition called Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. Because bivalves are filter feeders, they eat by filtering food out of the waters around them.  Sometimes, algae can contaminate clams using a toxin that is harmful to humans.  When this happens and humans eat the shellfish, they themselves can become quite sick.  Samples of clam meats are being taken during this research cruise to be studied back at a lab and determine what exactly is happening in regards to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.

Personal Log 

Today has been quite interesting, as I moved through the many stations that are involved with conducting this survey. I was trained on how to measure clams in the wet lab, how to apply the power to the dredge in the dry lab, and even how to shuck a clam to retrieve the meat which is also measured.  I was also quite amazed regarding how efficient everyone is on the ship, as we all have a job to do, and it all gets done before we arrive at the next station.

One of my highlights today was overcoming my sea sickness and finally getting my sea legs!  Everyone is so supportive, from the officers, to the scientists, and to the volunteers who are all so nice and helpful. I’m looking forward to my next eight days at sea and learning more about the research being conducted.

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?

Laurie Degenhart, July 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 23, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 170° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 18.9° C
Air temp 22.6° C
Swells: 1
Atmosphere: Clear

Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge
Laurie and some fellow crewmembers are covered with clay and mud after climbing in the dredge

Science and Technology Log 

The last two days have been less hectic.  The scientists have had to make several repairs.  The sensors on the dredge were having problems recording data.  Sean Lucey, Chris Pickett, and TK Arbusto, as well as other scientists have spent several hours replacing sensors and making sure that the sensors were logging accurate data.  In order for the survey to be reliable the scientists at sea and in the lab decided that the ship needed to return to previously tested sites to  insure that the sampling techniques had not changed with the changes in the sensor.

We have sampled both Quahogs and Surf Clams today.  It seems that some locations are dominated by the Quahogs, while others are mainly Surf Clams. The weather has been hot and humid.  So far in the trip, the Delaware II has been able to avoid the storms farther to the south. Tonight however, the winds are starting to pick up. We may see rain! Today I climbed up in the dredge compartment when it was full of clay.  Even though I knew that the dredge was very safe, I still worried that I might fall into the ocean.  The clay was very dense with rocks. Sean Lucey, chief scientist, used a high pressure hose to loosen the majority of the mud, but it was still a big slippery muddy job.  John, the Chief Bosun, told me that a full load of mud weighs almost 9000 pounds!  There were very few clams in the load.

Personal Log 

This shift has been very busy. The tows have been pretty much back to back.  All the people on my shift have formed a great team.  Though the work is hard we seem to be able to make it fun….

I continue to be impressed with the NOAA officers and scientists.  The scientists have to have knowledge of oceanography, marine biology and statistics in order to execute accurate sampling.  Another area of expertise is in trouble shooting all the scientific equipment… after all there is no running to the hardware store for spare parts. Today when the sensors broke the scientists, mechanical engineers, and the bosun had to work together to correct the problem.

Both the NOAA officers and the scientists have to be able to cope with volunteers (me included) that have no knowledge of life at sea. Each new crewmember has learn to fit in…I’m sure that this tries the patience of the seasoned crew.  Being aware of all the ins and outs of life at sea is quite a learning process. For example, I went to the bridge after dark… it seemed to be pitch black…. actually the Executive Officer was “on watch”  having the lights out made it easier for him to see both the ocean and the electronic equipment that he had  to use in order to safely captain the ship.

One of my goals for the trip is to put together a collection of photographs that depicts all the aspects of life aboard the Delaware II.  So far I have over 300 photographs.  The crew seems quite pleased…many members ask if I can take more pictures.

During this voyage I have learned a great deal about how a ship runs.  I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to work aboard the Delaware.  I will create a DVD with the images and video clips that I have gathered. I want to share my experience with students, teachers, and student teachers. NOAA offers great resources for educators and a vast selection of careers for those who wish to live a life that is rewarding and exciting.

Laurie Degenhart, July 20, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 20, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 23 knots
Sea temperature: 24.2° C
Air temp 24.6° C
Swells: 0
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log 

Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.
Scientists and volunteers sort dredge materials.

We are now into day 7 of our clam survey.  Everyone on the ship pulls together as a team to make each tow a success.  Each location for a dredge site is called a station.  The NOAA crew in charge of the ship must not only be at exactly the correct longitude and latitude, but the depth of the water, the speed of the tow, and the condition of the sea (waves and swells) must also be considered. There are three separate places on the ship where these decisions are made.  The bridge controls the location of the ship and notes the conditions of the sea.  The chief bosun controls the dredge towing. He manages the cables, depth, and length of the tow. The scientist in the lab choose the exact location of the tow and the depth.  The scientists use sensors attached to the dredge to log data about the tow. The bosun reels the cable back to the ship and onto the platform.  After the tow has been made the deck hands secure the dredge compartment where the catch is.

The scientific crew then measures and counts the clams.  A scientist from the FDA, Stacey Etheridge, has the science crew shuck a certain number of clams.  She then homogenizes them in a food processor to take back to the laboratory to test for possible toxins.  The NOAA scientists collect data on the different types of clams as well as the size and weight.  They are also trying to determine the age of the clam given the rings on the shell. In addition to the scientist on the Delaware II, there is an entire NOAA crew.  There are engineers, ship’s officers, and fishermen.  Everyone has specific assignments.  The NOAA officers are at sea approximately 244 days a year.  The NOAA careers website here.

Personal Log 

The scientists must have many skills in order to keep the study going.  Not only do they have to know about the clams, but also how to fix problems with the computer program and its sensors, as well as the mechanical operation of the dredge equipment.

The weather at sea has been very hot and humid.  The hours are long. We do approximately 10 tows on a twelve-hour shift.  Think about this… each tow gathers around 4 thousand pounds of material off the ocean floor.  That makes 40,000 pounds.  There are 7 people on our shift. That means each of us sorts and moves around 5700 pounds in a shift…. that’s as much as a small car!  I guess I can have dessert with lunch today.  The work is enjoyable.

Tina and I have shucked over 500 clams.  We ROCK, or should I say CLAM, at shelling Quahogs.  The Captain told me that we may feel the effects of tropical storm, Cristobol.  I sure hope I don’t get seasick.  I learned a new skill…swabbing the deck.  It is amazing the range of tasks each crewmember has to have to keep the ship running smoothly.

Our Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, oversees all of the roles of the scientists and volunteers.  It’s a big job and he sets the tone for the rest of us.  Everyone is positive and willing to do whatever is needed. Jakub, the Watch Chief, oversees the general operation of sorting and measuring the clams.  Both Sean and Jakub are great at teaching me the ropes so that I can do my best.  One time as I was on my way to my “station” Sean remarked,  “I know you’ll be ready.”  I thought that was great, sometimes I get anxious about doing the exact right thing at the right time.

I am starting to think about the lesson plans that I am going to write.  I want to make a simulation of a clam survey for elementary students using Oreo Cookies to gather data.  Sean is going to give me data from the trip to use in my lesson plans.  One of my goals for my presentations is to go to various Vocational Classes to talk about all the facets of NOAA as a career path. I also want to develop a presentation about the roles of a scientist, showing the different aspects of the skills that they have.

Once again the meals have been great.  I was told that the Stewards, John and Walter, have a reputation for providing the best food of all the NOAA ships.  Sure seems right to me!  We have had great meals. One night we had Sea Bass, another night we had lamb chops.  There is always an abundance of vegetables and fruit. Then there is dessert… apple pie!

Laurie Degenhart, July 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laurie Degenhart
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II 
July 14-25, 2008

Mission: Clam Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Winds at 200° at 7 knots
Sea temperature: 20.7° C
Air temp 24.4° C
Swells: 160 4’ 12 sec.
Atmosphere: Clear

Science and Technology Log (Monday, July 14 – Thursday, July 17) 

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Laurie Degenhart, gets ready to set sail on the DELAWARE II.

We set sail midday on Tuesday, July 15, 2008. Monday was spent with repairs. We heard a presentation by Dr.Larry Jacobson, the head of the Clam Survey Project.  He explained that there was a general shift in the populations of Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs.

This study is collecting data for his team to use in determining the changes and possible causes of the change.  NOAA and the clam fishing industry enjoy a good relationship, working handin-hand to protect the clam population and promote clam fishing. We were taken to the NOAA storeroom and outfitted with our “foul weather gear.” We wear the gear on board to sort and shuck clams. We each were issued boots, yellow bib overalls, and an orange rain slicker….I look quite dashing.

Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.
Laurie dons a survival suit during a ship safety briefing.

Chief scientist, Sean Lucey, gave us a general description of the work that we would be doing.  Sean stressed how important accuracy is in all the facets of the Clam Survey.  There are several assignments.  Each person is assigned a shift.  My shift is from Noon until midnight.  That’s 12 hours! We are not to return to our room until our shift is over, because the other women I share the room are on the opposite shift and will be sleeping. I am on a team with Jakub Kircun, as the Watch Chief.  He is very patient and kind, even when I make a mistake.  There are seven people on our team: four NOAA scientists, one graduate student who is studying plankton, one volunteer, and me, the Teacher at Sea.

General Description of a Clam Dredge 

The back of the Delaware II has a large metal dredge (it looks like a giant square shifter-See photo.) The cage is lowered to the sea floor at pre-determined random locations and dragged by a special cable called a hauser for exactly 5 minutes.  Then the dredge is hauled back to the boat and its contents are dumped on a platform.  We all sort through the dredged material sorting out clams and other sea life, throwing the rest back out to sea. The clams are measured, weighed, and some meat specimens are taken for examination.  Computers record a vast array of information for the scientists.  Sean Lucey (Chief Scientist) is always making decisions where we go and provides the lab and other scientists information about the catch.  The team does around 10 or so tows in a twelve hour shift.

First Assignment 

I was assigned by, Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record information about the tow a using computerized data collection system called SCS (Scientific Computer Systems). I go into a room on the bridge and listen to the deck department communicating with the bridge and I record when the dredge is on the bottom, towing, and back on deck.  The information is tracked in SCS with button pushers. I also log information about wave height, swell direction, and swell height, which I receive from the officer on watch.  I also need to record depth, time, and speed of the boat during a dredge tow. This provides accurate data for the scientists back on land to analyze. As soon as that part of my job is finished, I come down stairs to help sort and shuck the clams..

The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II
The clam dredge aboard the DELAWARE II

Personal Log 

Holy Cow, a 12 hour shift….from noon until mid-night!  I was worried, but the shift seems to fly by. There is always something that needs to be done.  I was assigned by Jakub Kircun, Watch Chief, to record the sensors for the dredge itself.  What a responsibility!!! Talk about pressure.  Sean, Chief Scientist, has been really great. His sense of humor has helped ease my stress.  I never realized how much computers are used aboard a ship to monitor experimental data.  Not to mention the general running of the ship….. There are 31 computers in all. For each tow which Sean and Jakub call a station, I do the recording for the dredge then come down stairs…put on my boots and bib overalls and head out to sort the clams with the others on my team.  It’s a big job…good thing I am used to working in the woods of Wyoming… otherwise, I don’t think I could keep up!!!

Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.
Laurie sorts clam on the fantail of the ship.

After we sort the clams, Tina, a graduate student from University of Connecticut, and I measure and weigh the clams using a special computerized machine called a Limnoterra Fish Measuring Board. Tina and I are becoming great clam shuckers. We need to weigh the clams both with and without the shell. Joe, the other volunteer, also helps weigh and shuck the clams.  Sometimes they are sweet smelling… but sometimes not!  They look nothing like Howard Johnson’s Clam Strips!

I have started a shell collection to bring back to my school.  I will be working with the Science Coordinator to design science experiments that use data from our trip.  The Chief Scientist, Sean Lucey, is working with me to develop lesson plans that use the data being collected. Just learning to find my way around the ship has been a challenge.  I’ve learned to find the galley…. great food. Walt and John, the ship’s stewards, are fantastic chefs.  Today we had crab cakes with lemon sauce, vegetables, and peach cobbler with whipped cream for dessert.  I am telling myself that as much physical work as I am doing I can eat what I want….that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

All the crew has been welcoming and accepting.  Richie and Adam, NOAA crewmembers, take care of securing the dredge. It looks like a dangerous job to me!  They both have a great sense of humor.

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).

Amy Pearson, August 27, 2007

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

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

A Shipboard Community 

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

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

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

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

Amy Pearson, August 25, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 25, 2007

Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt deploy a drifter buoy
Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt deploy a drifter buoy

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 4130  Longitude: 6650
Air temp: 17.8
Water temp: 16.7
Wind direction: 220
Wind speed: 16 kts.
Sea wave height: 2 ft.
Visibility: 4 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke to another foggy day, though the air temperature is warm (18.6 at 1:30 p.m.).  When a humid air mass hits the cooler Gulf of Maine water, fog results.  At about 1 p.m. we got a call from the bridge saying we just crossed into Canada – could we see the line in the water? (everyone has a sense of humor here). Yesterday we decorated the surface drifter buoy that will send location, air and water temperature data to a satellite. Our school logos and websites are written on the buoy as well as the message “leave in the water”.   NOAA will post this data on the Internet for anyone to track. Today we will deploy the buoy. Our school communities can watch this for over 400 days! Deployment went well, but the cloth drogue (holey sock) came apart and seemed to disappear below the buoy. We wore inflatable life vests and were tethered to the boat when we tossed the buoy off the ship.

Amy and Kim decorate the buoy for launch
Amy and Kim decorate the buoy for launch

Shortly after this, we took a plankton sample and as the net was coming up, I spotted some pilot whales about 40 ft. off the starboard side of the ship. There were six together, then another group appeared off the stern. They seem to stay very close together. Length was approximately 12-16 feet. They seemed to enjoy riding the stern waves.  They were very cute, as the photo below shows.

Science Topic 

This cruise is called an Ecosystems Monitoring Cruise. They happen four times per year, during January, May, August and November.  Additional data to support this data set is collected on Fish Survey Cruises that occur in March, April, September and October.  As I said in an earlier log entry, its mission is to assess changing biological and physical properties which influence the sustainable productivity of the living marine resources of the mid-Atlantic Bight, southern New England, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank portions of the northeast continental shelf ecosystem.

Amy Pearson with a harnass connecting with ship for buoy deployment.
Amy Pearson with a harness connecting with ship for buoy deployment.

The plankton that is collected and analyzed must be collected in the same exact manner during each cruise in order to compare it from season to season and year to year. The constant materials used are identical 61 cm diameter Bongo Nets with mesh size of 335 microns.  The net is towed at a constant speed of 1.5-2 knots, 5 meters from the bottom or to a maximum depth of 200 meters.  The rate of release of the nets into the water is constant as is the rate of return. There is always a 45 kg weight at the end of the wire that the nets are clipped to. The angle of the wire with the water is maintained at 45 degrees. Keeping these parameters constant allows scientists to compare the net catches because the only variable is what is very enthusiastic and dedicated. Even when I offered to take over the hosing of nets at the end of his shift, his response was, “I live for this!” NOAA is fortunate to have so many dedicated scientists and employees who work at sea.  This is definitely not like any job I’ve experienced. The challenges of life at sea make it not something everyone can do. Betsy Broughton, the other scientist aboard is also high energy when it comes to this work. She clearly loves every minute and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.  I have learned much from both of them.

A flowmeter in each net measures how much water passes into each net and its data is part of the equation when amount of plankton per amount of water is calculated. Jerry Prezioso has been involved with this project since the 1970’s and is very enthusiastic and dedicated.Even when I offered to take over the hosing of nets at the end of his shift, his response was, “I live for this!” NOAA is fortunate to have so many dedicated scientists and employees who work at sea. This is definitely not like any job I’ve experienced. The challenges of life at sea make it not something everyone can do. Betsy Broughton, the other scientist aboard is also high energy when it comes to this work. She clearly loves every minute and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. I have learned much from both of them.

Pilot whale observed in the Gulf of Maine, following our ship.Others were underwater when I snapped the photo!
Pilot whale in the Gulf of Maine, following us. Others were underwater when I shot the photo!

Amy Pearson, August 24, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 24, 2007

Teacher Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt dressing up as plankton
Teacher Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt dressing up as plankton

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 19.9
Water temp: 16.8
Wind direction: 185
Wind speed: 10 kts.
Sea wave height: 1to2 ft.
Visibility: 4

Science and Technology Log 

Early this morning we were at the southeastern edge of George’s Bank. Last night my team (Betsy and I) had collection stations at about 5:10 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and 2:20 a.m. (today!). At 2:20 a.m. we were at a very deep location (305 meters depth) and about 200 miles offshore. I was surprised to come on deck and see 3 lights from other boats.  Two were just small single lights. The other ship had bright lights on and was moving away from us, probably fishing.  We first did a vertical drop of the CTD to get the temperature and salinity with depth all the way to the bottom. At 298 meters it was 6.7 degrees Celsius.  One can look at the salinity and temperature here and predict if this continental slope water is coming from the north (Labrador Current) or from the continental shelf.  It will be less salty and cooler if coming from Labrador.  Betsy predicts it is coming from Labrador, based on the data.  go to sleep around 3 a.m. and wake several times, hearing foghorns from our ship.  At 10:30 a.m. there is pretty dense fog, and while we are underway we must sound a foghorn once every 2 minutes.  If we are limited in our movements (plankton tow) we must sound one long and two short sounds. It is quite humid (we are in a cloud!) and the air temperature at 1 p.m. is about 19 degrees Celsius.  Our 75th station samples were loaded with gammarid amphipods that Betsy nicknamed clingons because they cling to the plankton net. This fog does make seeing whales more challenging.  Hope it lifts soon!

Jerry Prezioso, Amy Pearson, Kim Pratt, Joe Kane with 1 weeks worth of plankton samples collected during the southern leg of Ecosystem Cruise
Jerry Prezioso, Amy Pearson, Kim Pratt, Joe Kane with 1 weeks worth of plankton samples collected during the southern leg of Ecosystem Cruise

What Is the Mission of This NOAA Cruise? 

The primary objective of the cruise is to assess changing biological and physical properties which influence the sustainable productivity of the living marine resources of the mid-Atlantic Bight, southern New England, Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank portions of the northeast continental shelf ecosystem.  The following items are being measured: water column temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll-a fluorescence, and ichthyoplankton and zooplankton composition, abundance and distribution. The teachers aboard will deploy a surface current drifter buoy that will allow our students to track water movements and temperatures in near real-time on an Internet website.  We will also collect Pseudonitzchia (a red-tide pinnate diatom) samples from the ship’s flow-through seawater system for mapping the distribution of it in the Gulf of Maine and George’s Bank.  Zooplankton is also being collected for the Census of Marine Zooplankton Project (formerly called the Zooplankton Genome Project).

Small puffer fish and salps mixed w/ other plankton
Puffer fish and salps mixed with plankton

From my perspective, I never thought there would be such big differences in the type and amount of plankton we collect at different locations.  The diversity is very interesting, from large jellies to small zooplankton.  We have seen amphipods (tiny crustaceans), tiny crabs (still maturing), brownish phytoplankton, salps (clear jellies the size of a small walnut), to brownish creatures too small to see, krill, arrow worms…and many more.  The scientists are quite knowledgeable and usually predict what we will be seeing at each spot. I’ve put a few photos here to illustrate the diversity.

 

Small fish, large jelly fish and other types of plankton
Small fish, large jelly fish and other types of plankton
A plankton sample full of amphipods
A plankton sample full of amphipods

Amy Pearson, August 22, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 22, 2007

Morning light in Woods Hole Harbor
Morning light in Woods Hole Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 18.7
Water temp: 17
Wind direction: 75
Wind speed: 15kts.
Sea wave height. 2 ft.
Visibility: 7 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke to the sound of engines warming up.  We were docked in Woods Hole having arrived at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to exchange scientists.  Scientist Joe Kane who supervised my shift was departing and a new scientist, Betsy Broughton, was joining us.  Yesterday, the crew and scientists were very excited for the chance to get on land.  Many joined their families who live nearby.  I met my husband for dinner at a location about half-way between here and my home.  It was great seeing him. The DELAWARE II would be departing Woods Hole at 6a.m. The water was very calm and the morning light just beautiful. Everyone seemed recharged for the final leg of our cruise. After an early morning walk, I got on the exercise bike for a while.

Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse being restored
Martha’s Vineyard Lighthouse being restored

Today I had a tour of the engine room, a place I had observed engineers entering with earphones but hadn’t seen. I followed Engineer Chris O’Keefe down a ladder into a very warm and noisy engine room.  It is huge and very clean. We first went into the office/control room where it was quiet and he showed me the many dials, switches, and screens that monitor the different systems of the ship.  There is one engine, two generators for producing electricity, and another generator in the bow to run the bow thrusters and hydraulic winches. There is also a system for making fresh water from sea water, utilizing a heat exchanger. Cool salt water condenses the steam to form fresh water, which is then chlorinated. The ship has about 10 fuel tanks and can carry 70,000 gallons of fuel. There is also a machine shop below with tools and some space to work.  I am very impressed with the organization of materials, cleanliness of the space and the size of the engine. There is a lot to keep track of down here, and it is well organized and clean.

Jerry Prezioso and Betsy Broughton changing CTD batteries
Jerry Prezioso and Betsy Broughton changing CTD batteries

As we left Woods Hole, we passed north of Martha’s Vineyard and I noticed a light house with an orange ladder next to it. I recalled that a friend of mine, Marty Nally, was going to be restoring this lighthouse at this time.  Right is a photo of the lighthouse with the orange ladder, Marty must be nearby! The CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) unit that we use can work for about 90 times before it needs a battery change. It is close to 60 stations and Jerry decided to change the batteries. He and Betsy (our new scientist on board) did this today during a calm moment.

My first plankton sample was done at around 9 p.m., and loaded with amphipods, tiny crustaceans that have little hook-like structures on their legs that make them very hard to remove from the nets.  Our midnight sample was about the same.  We were collecting at an area called Nantucket Shoals, east of Nantucket. It is shallow and has a hard bottom. I was surprised to get on deck to see at least 15 lights from fishing boats, fairly evenly spaced in a long line.  I heard that we had to change our collection site a bit due to the position of all of these boats.  I was quite tired and went to sleep at about 12:30 until 2:20 a.m. when I thought we would be at our next station.  I discovered that it would not be happening on our shift and went to sleep.  One thing about this ship, there is always noise, humming of some piece of equipment.  Headphones are very helpful in blocking it out…whether there is music, a book on tape, or just no noise.  It looks like tomorrow will be a much busier night, so I hope to stock up on some rest tonight! 

Amy Pearson, August 19, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 19, 2007

Amy Pearson hosing down plankton net
Amy Pearson hosing down plankton net

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 24.8
Water temp: 24.3
Wind direction: 200
Wind speed: 11 kts.
Sea wave height: 1-2 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

Woke at 8 a.m., had some breakfast, and then went back to my cabin to read and sleep more.  Lunch was wonderful, including smoked salmon Sunday and some great butternut squash soup. I visited the bridge to collect some data and learned that the ship receives XM satellite radio to gain weather data.  As I was shown the Nobeltec software system along with a map that showed the currents in different locations, LT Monty Spencer remarked that sometimes he felt like he was “driving the ship with a mouse”….so much important computer-based navigation.

Opening the cod end of net to release plankton
Opening the cod end of net to release plankton

It was a busy sampling shift, with collections at about 6 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 11 p.m., 1:10 a.m., and 2:45 a.m., though the other shift workers came early and told us to go to sleep. Our first sample occurred off Delaware Bay and was loaded with lots of heavy jellies and brownish green phytoplankton. As we moved north the plankton changed. The 8:30 p.m. sample was still high in jellies and phytoplankton but had some amphipods.  The 11 p.m. sample had a small puffer fish puffed out, several worms, and amphipods.  The 1:10 a.m. sample had a worm and lots of amphipods.  The photos in this log show me hosing down the plankton within the nets, and then hosing it into a sieve which will be taken into the wet lab where the plankton will be preserved with formalin.  I saw the glow of Atlantic City from the sea—it was a long white light with a red light near the middle.

A phytoplankton sample with small pufferfish
A phytoplankton sample with small pufferfish

Life on a Research Vessel 

Working on a scientific research vessel requires adjusting to some changes from life/work on land. Basics like smaller living space, meals at designated hours, a limited area to live, are changes I have observed. Working 24 hours means shifts for all.  The scientists work from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. and another group works from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. The NOAA officers on the bridge work 4 hours on, 8 hours off, then 4 hours on again. At night a crewmember joins the officer on the bridge, to provide a second set of eyes.  I was amazed to find the bridge dark at night with the exception of the instruments.  This allows them to see what’s on the water clearly. The engineers work similar hours: 4 hours on, 8 hours off. The crew works 12 hours on, 12 hours off, from 12 to 12.  The wiper works a day shift beginning about 6 a.m., for about 8 hours. The chief steward (head chef) and second cook work over 12 hours, as breakfast begins at 6 a.m. and dinner ends at 6:20 p.m.

Amy takes a spin on the stationary bike
Amy takes a spin

Then there is clean up. Because someone is always off shift, one must be quiet so as not to wake up those sleeping. If you share a room with someone who is sleeping, you are not supposed to go into the room when they are sleeping. Free time can be spent sending email, on deck (there are some chairs), in the galley, or in your room if no one is sleeping. The galley has satellite TV at one end and a big screen at the other where movies can be watched.  The ship receives about 20 new movies per month that rotate among ships. ENS Claire Surrey has the responsibility of updating a movie list. There are also many other movies that stay on the ship. There is also an exercise bike and some free weights for those interested in this form of exercise. 

Amy Pearson, August 18, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 18, 2007

Chief Steward, Jonathan Rockwell, and CO of the DELAWARE II, Jeff Taylor
Chief Steward, Jonathan Rockwell, and CO of the DELAWARE II, Jeff Taylor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 24.1
Water temp:  26.4
Wind direction:  030
Wind speed:  12 kts.
Sea wave height: 3 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Science and Technology Log 

What a beautiful day. Humidity is gone and there is a nice breeze, bright sun and 2-3 ft seas.  Up at 7 a.m. just in time for breakfast of blueberry pancakes, bacon and an egg sandwich. Email checked and data collection for logs happened. I went to the bridge and interviewed the Commanding Officer (CO) Jeff Taylor and the ship’s navigator, Ensign Claire Surrey. I also interviewed and taped Patrick Bergin, the ship’s electronic technician. Information from them will be in another log entry.  We also observed a large pod of bottlenose dolphins (at least 25) swim with the boat for a short time in the morning. A smaller group with larger individuals came by around 3:30 p.m.  I did get some video of the first group—very beautiful creatures.

Ensign Clair Surrey at the bridge
Ensign Clair Surrey at the bridge

After lunch I sent my first four logs to the NOAA office in Maryland. We do not have Internet access here, just email access on 3 computers.  This all went quite smoothly.  My evening watch begins with a sampling at about 6 p.m., another at about 9 p.m. and one more at approximately 12:20 a.m. During the evening we headed inshore, the ocean depth decreased, and flies were annoying us on deck. Contents of the plankton tows have increased in volume with more jelly-like creatures, such as Salps.  We observe more ships in the area. Learning about NOAA’ s mission and how this ship fits into the mission took place today. The organization NOAA falls under the auspices of the Department of Commerce (DOC). It used to be under the Dept. of Interior.  NOAA’s many divisions support the mission of DOC. The organization has just 299 NOAA Corps officers, a congressionally approved maximum. All others who work for NOAA (99% of workers) are civilian marine workers employed by the government.  They include scientists, crew, who are called wage mariners, and the many support staff who work for these people. To become a NOAA Corps officer, one must apply and compete with many worthy candidates.

LT Monty Spencer at the bridge
LT Monty Spencer at the bridge

The maximum age to apply is forty-two years old. One must have a bachelor’s degree in an area of science or engineering with two semesters of both calculus and physics. Upon being accepted, one would begin with a sixteen-week training program at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.  Then the individual would receive their first sea assignment that would last two to three years.  Following this, a three-year land based assignment would happen. For both of these assignments the officers can submit a rank of requests for location. After twenty years, they may retire with a pension. On this cruise there are four NOAA Corps officers: LT Jeff Taylor, the acting Commanding Officer, LT Monty Spencer, the Executive Officer, ENS Francisco Fuenmayor, operations officer, and ENS Claire Surrey, navigation officer. More information on their job descriptions will appear in another log.

Amy Pearson, August 17, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 17, 2007

A beautiful moth landed on the plankton net
A beautiful moth landed on the plankton net

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp:  21.7
Water temp:  24.3
Wind direction: variable
Wind speed: variable
Sea wave height: 4kts.
Visibility: 2 nm

Science and Technology Log 

Slept till 9:30 though woke several time during the night.  Much bigger rolling than before. Had a banana and some coffee cake for breakfast, after taking a shower and putting in a load of wash. Lay down for about an hour, then moved wash to dryer, ate a little lunch, half a burger, asparagus, and a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie.  Have been working on logs and then to laundry – good news is the laundry chemicals got out most of the grease that I got on my shorts.  This is a working ship and one does get dirty!

An amazing lunch menu and the delicious food served.  Cheers to Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell and second cook Terence Harris
An amazing lunch menu and the delicious food served. Cheers to Chief Steward Jonathan Rockwell and second cook Terence Harris

The crew said there had been some lightning this morning, and it was raining lightly at 10a.m.  Several things to record on boat life – floor is sometimes not where you think it is, hold on to railings…including the shower which does have railings.

Sample from a Bongo net with some jellyfish—a finch flew into the wet lab to check it out!
Sample from a Bongo net with some jellyfish—a finch flew into the wet lab to check it out!

Getting out of my lower bunk continues to be a challenge. I am not big but the opening requires planning to exit the bed! We have been told some rough weather is on the way for later today.  Deployment of scientific equipment is halted if seas are over 12 ft. and winds are 30 knots. Today’s first station for me was at 5 p.m.  This timing went well and we were able to eat dinner when it was served. I made some photo transfers with Kim Pratt, the other teacher, and did more log work as well as email.  Two more stations to work—I’m on deck for the later two.  Our last station was at 10:45 p.m., and I was able to sleep at about 12:00 a.m.  Very fortunate to get a good night’s sleep!  Did not notice any rough weather!

The other nice discoveries are the bright lights on deck for night sampling and rock and roll music we hear when on deck.  Lots of good oldies!

Amy Pearson, August 16, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 16, 2007

Scientist Jerry Prezioso and teacher Amy Pearson in the wet lab of DELAWARE II
Scientist Jerry Prezioso and Amy Pearson in the wet lab

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 20.0
Water temp: 20.1
Wind direction: 215
Wind speed: 11 kts.
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Visibility 10+ nm

Science and Technology Log 

Woke up after a good night’s sleep. Slept from about 3:00-10 a.m. Meals are served at certain hours so I had missed breakfast, but was able to get some cereal and coffee cake.  I worked on my logs. Lunch is pictured below, amazing food!  As the seas were reasonably calm, I decided to video-tape Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso and teacher Kim Pratt going through their duties during a bongo net drop. This went well, and then I showed it to them.  With seas rolling, and staring at the small camera screen, I began feeling ill.

Data collection station for scientists on the DELAWARE II
Data collection station for scientists

Yes, I did become seasick, feeling really awful. I took a Bonine at about 3 p.m., then tried wrist bands about an hour later, and then went to my cabin to lie down. It got worse and yes, I lost lunch. This does make one feel a little better, though not much. I thought I’d feel better out on deck in the fresh air, which is where I stayed. I felt quite weak and unsteady on my feet.  About 6:45 p.m. I had a little water and some crackers, which tasted good. I decided I had to try a patch of scopolamine that I had brought just in case….good thing. I put it on and remained on deck, feeling weak and drowsy until the captain suggested I’d be better off in my cabin.  Scientist Joe Kane was very understanding and he took over the whole task of sampling this evening. A good sleep ensued and I woke up feeling much better.

My cabin aboard the DELAWARE II
My cabin aboard the DELAWARE II
Ensign Claire Surrey and Scientist Jerry Prezioso enjoying a delicious lunch. Bravo to the chefs!
Ensign Claire Surrey and Scientist Jerry Prezioso enjoying a delicious lunch. Bravo to the chefs!

Amy Pearson, August 15, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 15, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 23.0
Water temp: 22.1
Wind direction: 195
Wind speed: 13 kts.
Sea wave height: 3-4 ft.
Visibility: 7nm

After dark, Amy Pearson operates the A-frame, which is used to lower the CTD and Bongo Nets.
After dark, Amy Pearson operates the A-frame, which is used to lower the CTD and Bongo Nets.

Personal Log 

Not ready to eat much food, the cook let me make some toast.  Lunch was rice and as the day progressed I felt much better.  During the day we saw a pod of dolphins, length of about 4 feet (grey upper body and light underside) riding the ship’s bow waves, some as close as 20 ft. to ship. I ate steak and tuna (also a little sushi!) for dinner with a little pasta. I rested a bit today and did some work on logs and email. Sampling occurred from 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. (3 stations – with me doing the outside work for several of them), and as the next station was at 3:45 a.m., we got to sleep at 1 a.m.

Science and Technology Log: What I have learned about ship life and some of the jobs on this ship…… 

One must work when the weather/seas are good as it’s difficult to focus or do certain tasks when the ship is rolling. The deck crew had been painting yesterday but today it was not conducive to that. Also, everyone is on a shift, with people working around the clock. Someone is always sleeping so one must be quiet when opening doors and talking near people’s cabins. There is a policy of only loud equipment use (sanders) between 9 am and 3 pm as this is when shifts change for some. The deck hands do ship maintenance (painting, some repairs) and help the scientists in their work.  The CTD/Bongo nets are dropped from wire connected to a winch.

A crewmember bringing in the CTD and Bongo Nets after sampling
A crewmember bringing in the CTD and Bongo Nets after sampling

One crew member is in charge of the winch and has radio to communicate w/ the computer person who is watching the depth of the equipment.  A second helps position the CTD/Bongo nets so they go out and away from the ship, and the when they come in, helps to get them on deck safely.  A third deck person, this being a scientist works the A-frame controller that carries the equipment away from the side of the boat for deployment.  I got to do this last night and it was a thrilling experience. When the equipment comes up, I had to pull the lever to bring the A-frame back in. It is very exciting to control this big piece of equipment.

We had some very deep sampling tonight. We went off the continental shelf for a short time with depths of over 400 meters. Here the maximum drop is 200 meters.  There was not a lot of plankton retrieved in this cast.  When we came back in to shallower water the contents of the cast did increase, with lots of amphipods and Calanus. Scientist Joe Kane said these are found in deeper colder waters this time of year.

Amy Pearson, August 14, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 14, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air temp: 18.2
Water temp: 19.0
Wind direction: 160
Wind speed: 13 kts.
Sea wave height: 2 ft.
Visibility: 10+

Amy Pearson dons her survival suit during a safety drill
Amy Pearson dons her survival suit during a safety drill

Personal Log 

I got up around 7 a.m. and had some breakfast, a delicious egg sandwich on a bagel w/ bacon on the side. The ship is supposed to depart at 1 p.m., but due to some mechanical problems the time is bumped to 5:30 p.m.  Kim Pratt, an ARMADA Teacher at Sea, and I helped Jerry with organization of jars, labels, supplies and received a second lesson in CTD data acquisition from Tamara.  We had time to squeeze in another walk through Woods Hole, a great village, devoted to marine science study.  The town is perfectly developed for working with the sea—many places for boats to tie up, great research facilities (MBL, WHOI, and National Marine Fisheries with NOAA), and just the right amount of shops and restaurants.

We departed Woods Hole at 5:45 p.m.  It was very exciting to pull away from the dock.  We looked back at a village devoted to science and saw the majestic Knorr that had just arrived yesterday and is tied up at the WHOI dock.  We had drills to insure all are prepared for fires, abandoning ship, and man overboard.  The photo shows me in a survival suit (nicknamed a Gumby suit) that we had to bring to deck in the event of having to abandon ship. We also had to bring along a long-sleeve shirt, hat and blanket, and were assigned life rafts. We headed out passing Martha’s Vineyard on our port (left) side and the Elizabeth Islands on our starboard (right). Dinner was a pork roast in mango sauce or fish.  Great veggies. Our first station to sample was at about 10:00 p.m.

Science and Technology Log 

Lots of science to learn and experience today. One goal of this trip is to collect plankton samples at over 100 stations ranging from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine and east to Georges Bank. Some stations are offshore, over 200 miles offshore.  Others are closer to the coastline called inshore stations.  This plankton will be preserved for identification and counted at a later date.

We collected the plankton in Bongo Nets – two round metal frames (look like bongo drums) that have fine netting attached.  As we traveled slowly through the water, the nets collected plankton of a certain size, letting smaller plankton (phytoplankton) through.  We are collecting large zooplankton (animal-like creatures-many crustaceans) and ichthyoplankton (fish larva).

As we head south from Woods Hole we will start doing offshore stations as the weather is good and if it deteriorates, we will move in-shore.  For our first sample, my job was to man the computer, recording the data collected.  At this station, there were 3 monitors to watch, one that has basic navigational info such as latitude, longitude, water and air temperatures, wind speed and direction, depth and more.  The other monitor has the software that I am to input data on the cast.  A third showed real time views of the stern deck where the scientific equipment was being deployed.  Here I watched what was happening on deck and communicated with the winch operator who was lowering the equipment.

Another role here is to monitor the depth of the scientific equipment being lowered.  Besides the Bongo Nets, a CTD is lowered. There is also a large lead weight at the end of this equipment to make it go down.  The CTD unit (costing about $14,000) collects data on Conductivity, Depth, and Temperature.  The conductivity reading produces data for ocean salinity. If this scientific equipment hits bottom it may be destroyed so I had to watch the depth reading to insure safety for the equipment.  Based on the depth of the ocean, I check a chart to determine the rate of output wire release and input wire return, telling this to the winch operator.

All of this data is recorded on paper logs and the computer.  Once the plankton is brought to the surface, the cod end of the net (tied end) is opened and the plankton is washed out of the net into a sieve that retains this plankton.  This is then rinsed into a collection jar and formalin is added to preserve this.  Labels are marked to identify its station location.  All of this takes about thirty to forty minutes depending on the depth of the cast.

Amy Pearson, August 13, 2007

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

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 13, 2007

Amy Pearson helping Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso load equipment onto  DELAWARE II
Amy Pearson helping Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso load equipment onto DELAWARE II

Science and Technology Log 

DAY 1 – Onboard, pre-cruise work Woods Hole, MA.

Arrived in Woods Hole at 11:45 to an overcast, humid day. Upper 70’s.  Felt privileged to be able to drive into a shipside parking lot. There he and Kim Pratt, another teacher on our cruise, helped me load my gear onto the ship. Everyone was friendly, and I was shown my room – meant for 4 w/ 2 bunk beds. Great to feel the air-conditioning!!! All to myself, how wonderful, and its own bath, a shower and head in one room, sink in the room w/ the bunks.  Under the bunks were latched drawers, four in total. There were also four hanging lockers, which I filled w/ hanging stuff, shoes and was able to place things on the top shelf. Assorted activities included lunch in the galley- delicious choice of crab cakes (my choice-awesome), rice, asparagus, creamy pot-onion soup and fresh green salad.  Bravo to John the Chief Steward. In the galley there is a fridge w/ milk, juice, and a freezer w/ ice cream plus snacks and sandwich supplies for those who work at times that cause them to miss a meal.

Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt during their first evening on DELAWARE II
Teachers Amy Pearson and Kim Pratt during
their first evening on DELAWARE II

On to unloading supplies from a nearby storage area using wheeled carts.  Boxes of jars, bongos, and much more, several trips. We were introduced to Cristina who would later instruct us on CTD data collection, but as the CTD was being repaired that was moved until later in the afternoon.  We met Betsy who would be on board during the second week, saw her lab and the cool fish larva – ichthyoplankton, that she studies the stomach contents of. Met some of the crew and visited the helm to see equipment and borrow a 3-hole punch. Unpacked our stuff a little, then had lessons on CTD data collection. Free time for the rest of the evening. Time to explore the village of Woods Hole. Fish were jumping in water, seemed to be small stripers, lots of action. Tired and turned in – cannot sit up in lower bunk w/o hitting head, that’s ok. Finished unpacking as once we get moving, it may be difficult. There is a good light above my bunk for working here. I will have 3pm-3 am shift….We leave at 1 pm tomorrow, which is slack tide. The ship only goes 8 knots so the idea is to leave when the tidal flow into Woods Hole is best for departure.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, August 4, 2007

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

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

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

References 

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

Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

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

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

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

Migration: No organized or seasonal migration

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

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

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

 

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, August 3, 2007

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

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: August 3, 2007

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

Pilot whales as seen from the zodiac—note the calf in the foreground.  Photo courtesy of Brenda Rone.
Pilot whales as seen from the zodiac—note the calf in the foreground.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was another great day for sightings. Critter counts include sperm whales, white sided dolphins, a whopping 17 minke whales, a Sei whale, offshore bottle nose dolphins, a finback whale, another pod of pilot whales and 100’s of common dolphins.  At one point during my starboard observation shift, both I and my portside counterpart were calling off sightings so rapidly that the recorder was having problems keeping up with us.  We both paused for a moment and pulled away from the big eyes to look around and discover that we were surrounded by literally 100’s upon 100’s of common dolphins.  The sea was frothing with their activities; some doing aerobatics, others charging, some came to bow-ride of the ship, while other could be seen chasing large fish which were identified as yellow-fin tuna.

Researchers position themselves to rejoin the main ship.
Researchers position themselves to rejoin the ship.

In a repeat from several days ago the pilot whale sighting prompted another launch of the zodiac…only this time I got to climb down the Jacob’s ladder and go for a zodiac ride which brought me as close to pilot whale as I could ever hope to be.  We were able to procure 5 tissue samples for further genetic study along with an untold number of dorsal fin photographs. (Please see log from August 1st for further explanation of these genetic studies and photos.) My job on the zodiac was to fill out the photography data sheets which record the GPS headings, frame numbers, animal position within pod, approximate size of animal, special markings on the animal, if an attempt to biopsy the whale was made, if the shot resulted in a hit or miss….etc.  I was madly recording all this information as cameras were shooting and crossbows were firing and the whole experience whizzed past me.  I hope I didn’t forget to record anything!

An ill-fated Northern yellow warbler rests on the deck of the DELAWARE II
An ill-fated Northern yellow warbler rests on the deck of thevDELAWARE II

Aside from all the sightings (some of which have become rather common place), and my zodiac ride I really have nothing left to report for the day….except of course that the day flew by. In fact every day passes in a blink…even the foggy ones.  I suppose that’s what happens when each day is filled with something new to see and do. Before I sign off for the day I’ll leave you with two more species profiles.  One of which may surprise you!

Yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia)

There are approximately 40 subspecies of this widely distributed little bird. This bird, in particular, was most likely from the subspecies aestiva thus making it a ‘Northern’ yellow warbler.

As a true bird-lover I’ve been taking notice and taking note of every new bird I’ve seen while out at sea, and naturally all of the birds I’ve seen lately from black-backed gulls to shearwaters are suppose to be out here in the open ocean searching for fish and bobbing around in the waves while resting.  The yellow warbler however is not suppose to be here….and in fact being at sea means certain death for the delicate songbird as its food source is almost non-existent out here and it is ill-equipped to handle a lack of freshwater.  The warbler pictured above probably hitched a ride with us following our 24 hour port call in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  Sad to say that this warbler did in fact perish at sea despite my offerings of fresh water and bread crumbs (I was all out of their primary food which are insects!)  A second warbler and a grosbeak did however find the boat as we were coming back into harbor so we hope they were more fortunate then the first stowaway.

Common Dolphins Bow-riding off the DELAWARE II: Note the crisp crisscross markings on the dolphins’ side.
Common Dolphins Bow-riding off the DELAWARE II: Note the crisp crisscross markings on the dolphins’ side.

Identification: The yellow warbler is fairly large compared to other warblers and has an exceedingly short set of tail feathers.  Both sexes have a yellowish green head and back with yellow underbellies. Females tend to be a bit duller in color while males typically have brown streaks on the cheek and breast. Distribution: The Northern Warbler breeds from Alaska to Newfoundland and Southern Labrador, south to South Carolina and into Northern Georgia, and as far west as the Pacific Coast. It is also found periodically in the American Southwest.   Migration: Winters in the Bahamas, Northern Mexico, Peru and the Brazilian Amazon.  Diet and Habitat: In its northern and eastern distribution the warblers live in damp habitats surrounding swamps, bogs, marshes, ponds and stream or river banks.  They will also feed and nest in woodland areas, meadows, and overgrown pasture lands.  In the west and southwest the bird is restricted mainly to riparian habitats.  Unfortunately riparian habitat is rapidly decreasing in the Southwest as are the population of yellow warblers within this region.  The warbler feeds primarily on insects, but will occasionally eat berries. Listen to its song here.

Common Dolphin

Until recently both the short-beaked and long-beaked common dolphins were considered to be one species. Although much of the recent research and literature still does not differentiate between short-beaked and long-beaked, they are technically two different species.  For the purposes of our survey we also did not distinguish between the two as they are nearly identical in physical appearance.   

Short Beaked Common Dolphin and Long-beaked Common Dolphin

Identification: Very distinctive crisscross patterning on the sides; yellow/tan patches on the side, dark gray over the topside and pale underside. Light grey patch along the peduncle of the tail.

Max length and weight: 330 pounds and 9 feet. Males are just slightly larger then females

Diet and Feeding: Fish and squid

Migration: No organized or seasonal migration

Distribution:  Widely distributed throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans as well as the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Special Note: Common Dolphins are especially active and are commonly seen doing aerobatics and bow riding. They are also extremely vocal; to such a degree that their high pitched whistles and clicks may be heard above water.

References 

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

More Common Dolphins riding the bow.
More Common Dolphins riding the bow.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, August 1, 2007

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

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: August 1, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 7nm lowering to less then 1 in fog
Wind Direction: Southerly
Wind Speed: 3-8 knt increasing to 8-13
Swell height: 3-5 feet

The flexible Jacob’s ladder rolled up for easy storage.
The flexible Jacob’s ladder rolled up for easy storage.

Science and Technology Log 

Fog has kept our sightings to a minimum over the past two days. In fact we’ve had only two sighting since my last log on July 27th. Yet despite today’s weather forecast, the fog horn has been silenced and everyone is outside enjoying the sunshine and stretching their eyes.  It is a wonder to see color other then a shade of grey!  The change in weather has also brought new sightings including 3 humpback whales, a pod of harbor porpoises, 4 right whales, a minke whale and a dozen or so pilot whales (spotted by your’s truly).  These sightings kept the observers busy as well as those involved in the launching of the zodiac (aka little grey boat) and the Tucker trawl. The morning sighting of the right whales prompted a Tucker trawl sampling in order to examine the copepod densities in the surrounding areas.

Dr. Richard Pace assists with deployment of the zodiac.
Dr. Richard Pace assists with deployment of the zodiac.

The trawl did yield a higher density of copepods then all of our previous trawls which where carried out in the absence of right whale sightings, however compared to their prior experiences most of the researchers thought that the copepod densities were still on the sparse side. The sighting of pilot whales brought the first launching of the zodiac boat.  The goal for this expedition is two fold:  1. To attain tissue samples from some of the pods larger whales so that genetic analysis and subsequent pedigrees may be chronicled and;  2. Acquire photographic images of individual dorsal fins in an effort to establish a method of identifying individuals based on their unique dorsal fin features. Such features may include nicks, scratches, unusual scars and or color patterns. Deployment of the zodiac requires numerous experienced hands and a wherewithal for safety. First the boat is loaded with all the supplies (photography equipment, biopsy tips and crossbows, and tissue specimen jars) that will be needed for the sampling and documentation of the pilot whales.  Then the crane on the back deck is used to hoist the zodiac up and over the side of the DELAWARE II.  Chief scientist, Dr. Richard Pace then climbs on board the zodiac while the crane slowly lowers the boat into the water.   Dr. Pace keeps the zodiac in position while a special flexible hanging ladder called a Jacob’s ladder is unrolled down the side of the DELAWARE II.  All other persons enter the zodiac from the DELAWARE’s back deck via the Jacob’s ladder. 

Once deployed, the researchers make final adjustments before pursuing the pilot whales.
Once deployed, the researchers make final adjustments before pursuing the pilot whales.

After the little grey boat is loaded it sets off in the direction of the whales as indicated by the observers on the fly bridge, who have all the while been communicating the whales’ position to the captain of the DELAWARE who then makes sure that the ship stays relatively close to the pod.   As one can imagine three-way communication between the fly bridge, the wheel house and the zodiac is critical for not only tracking the swiftly moving whales but also for the safety of all involved. Today was my day to be on the fly bridge as all of this was going on but if the weather holds and we keep seeing pilot whales then I too may get to ride on the zodiac.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 27, 2007

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

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 27, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 7nm lowering to less then 2 in patchy fog
Wind Direction: Westerly
Wind Speed: 8-13 knots with gusts of 20
Swell height: 2-4 feet

From left to right; Melissa Warden, Kate Swails, and Methea Sapp staff their observatory stations on the flying bridge of the DELAWARE II
From left to right; Melissa Warden, Kate Swails, and Methea Sapp staff their observatory stations on the flying bridge

Science and Technology Log 

Today marks one of the most active sighting days yet!  The species list for today included the following; common Atlantic dolphin, fin whale, sei whale, sperm whale, humpback whale, white sided dolphin, minke whale, offshore bottlenose dolphin and pilot whale. The methodology for logging each sighting is fairly straight forward yet detail orientated.  There are nine of us scientists on board and we have been organized into shifts which begin at 7:00am and end at 18:00. In the absence of fog three of us are stationed on the fly bridge at any given time; one person uses big eyes on the starboard side, the second person serves as the sightings recorder and the third person uses the big eyes on the port side. Every thirty minutes we rotate stations with the port side station retiring from their shift, and a new person taking up watch on the starboard side.

Data is recorded in two electronic touch pad tablets called Pingles.  The first pingle is used to record effort and as such is updated each time a rotation is made. Other points of effort which are also recorded are weather conditions, beaufort scale (or degree of wave action), sun angle, glare, swell height, swell angle, etc.  The second pingle is used to record the sightings. When an observer calls out “sighting” the recorder will log the following information (as iterated by the observer):

  • Animal identification
  • Cue (or what the observer saw first ie. a splash, or the animal itself)
  • Behavior (swimming, milling, aerobatics etc)
  • Bearing relative to the ship
  • Swim direction relative to the ship
  • Distance from the horizon
  • Best head count followed by estimations of highest and lowest probable numbers

sapp_log4a

sapp_log4b

Flukes of two different humpbacks; Notice the variations in white and black patterning.  Such patterns are used by researchers to identify and track individual humpbacks.

On a day like today the recorder is certainly in the hot seat trying to log the sightings of two people! Based on today’s sighting list I’ve chosen two species to profile for you, the humpback whale and sperm whale.

Species Profile for Sightings of July 25th 2007 

Humpback Whale, Megaptera novaeangliae  Identification:  Stocky body, black topside with white or mottled underside, flippers are exceedingly long and marked with white as is the fluke.  Flukes are often visible when animal begins dive. (see photo below)   Max length and weight: 56 ft and 40 tons Diet and Feeding: Krill and small schooling fish. Up to 20 individuals may cooperatively hunt and feed via bubble net fishing.  Humpbacks are a baleen whale Migration: Extensive migration between Antarctic feeding grounds to breeding grounds off the coast of Columbia.  Round trip = 11,000 miles Distribution: Ranges from the poles to the tropic.  Have made a good post-whaling recovery and are one of the best studied of all cetaceans.  Record breaker for the longest flippers:  Averages 15 feet but may be as long as 18 feet; humpback flippers are the longest of any whale species.

Sperm Whale, Physeter catodon Identification:   Huge square shaped head; no dorsal fin; blow is often angled forward; body is dark and wrinkled  Max length and weight: 36 ft and 24 tons (female), 59 ft and 57 tons (male)  Such sexual dimorphism is rare among whales.  Diet and Feeding: Mostly squid and some octopi, sharks and other fish.  Sperm whales are a toothed whale as opposed to a baleen whale.  Migration: Is not wide spread in females and young whales although adult males will travel long distances. Distribution:  Sperm whales are found in population clusters from the tropics to the extreme southern and northern latitudes.  They are most common offshore in deep water.  Record breaker:  The sperm whale holds three records in the cetacean world; One being that it is the largest of the tooth whales. This whale also holds the record for diving depth and longest dive. One particularly large male sperm whale has been recorded diving to 6,500 feet and on a separate dive stayed down for 52 min.  Famous Sperm Whale: Moby Dick; the great white whale from Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby Dick.

Sorry, no photos of the sperm whale sighting 

References 

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

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 24, 2007

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

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 24, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less then 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: Easterly
Wind Speed: 5-10 mph increasing to 20
Swell height: 3 to 5 feet

A photograph of a C. finmarchicus C5 with a large oil sac, taken with a VPR (Video Plankton Recorder).
A photograph of a C. finmarchicus C5 with a large oil sac, taken with a VPR (Video Plankton Recorder).

Science and Technology Log 

Dense fog has given us little to see or do but listen to the fog horn for the past two days.  Therefore today’s entry will be less of an activities report and more of an informative piece that will hopefully elucidate just one of the many ecological relationships which we aim to study…once the fog lifts of course.  

Got Copepods? 

Mammalian foraging strategies are as diverse as mammal themselves, from coordinated packs of prowling wolves to a solitary grazing rhinoceros. Yet regardless of the critter, the energy (or calories) spent pursuing a meal must be less then the energy gained from eating the meal. This simple equation of energy expenditures to energy gains must be kept in the positive for proper growth, development, and reproduction.  All of this may seem fairly intuitive and straight forward until you stop to consider the right whale Eubalaena glacialis. This whale is one of the largest predatory animals on the planet measuring up to 17 meters and weighing 40-50 tons, yet feeds almost exclusively on a small ephemeral looking copepod which measures 1-2 mm long.

The copepod preferred by right whales is called Calanus finmarchicus but is often referred to simply as Calanus. Calanus, like most copepods feed on phytoplankton, transition through a number of growth stages, and aggregate in large concentrations of up to ~ 4,000 copepods per cubic liter of water.  As far as right whale feeding goes the copepod of choice is most calorically valuable during stage 5 of its life cycle.  By this stage (C5) the copepod has sequestered a significant amount of lipid (specifically wax esters) in a part of its body called an oil sack.

Right whales feed on copepods by either skimming the waters surface or diving; sometimes reaching feeding depths of 175 meters.  Regardless of depth, the whale pushes its open mouth through the water and then shuts it while forcing the big gulp through its baleen plates which boarder the upper mandible.  All filter feeding whales possess baleen, although the baleen of right whales is very fine and hair-like in texture, therefore enabling it to filter out the miniscule copepods.  In contrast, a humpback’s baleen is thick and bristle-like and more adept to filtering larger krill and small fish.

In order to maintain proper growth a right whale must consume copious amounts of copepods. Melissa Patrician, an Oceanographic Technician for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, reports that scientists estimate that a right whale consumes on average of 2-4,000 pounds (wet weight) of copepods per day.  This is the equivalent weight of 1 Volkswagen beetle and calorically equal to 3,000 Big Macs.  In general right whales can be found feeding in four main locations within the North Atlantic.  These feeding grounds are centered around the Bay of Fundy, Roseway Basin, Cap Cod Bay, and the Great South Channel which runs E. of Nantucket.

Understanding the intricacies of copepod life and right whale feeding are just part of a greater body of knowledge which is aimed at saving the right whale from extinction.  Researchers estimate that only 390 right whales are left following the extensive whaling practices of the 19th century.  Scientists from multiple disciplines including but not limited to, pathologists, reproductive endocrinologists, geneticists, veterinarians, behavioral ecologists, and toxicologists are all working to protect the species from disease, entanglement, ship-strike and to better understand recent declines in reproductive success.

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This diving sequence depicts right whale foraging for nutrient rich Calanus finmarchicus.
This diving sequence depicts a right whale foraging for nutrient rich Calanus finmarchicus.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 23, 2007

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

Deployment of the Tucker Trawl enables researchers to sample zooplankton at various depths. The cod ends of each of the three nets have been tied with white rope and are visible in the right-hand photo graph.
Deployment of the Tucker Trawl enables researchers to sample zooplankton at various depths.

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 23, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less then 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: West – Southwest
Wind Speed: 5-10 mph
Swell height: 3-5 feet

Science and Technology Log 

Although the weather is not especially nice today, at least we have a new project to work on. Today is Tucker Trawl Day! The trawl consists of a trio of long finely meshed nets which are mounted one above the other on a heavy metal frame.  The frame is then tethered to a wire cable which runs up to a crane.  Also mounted on the frame is a flow meter, which is used to measure the amount of water that has passed through the net, and a Seabird mini-logger sensor which records time, depth and temperature. Deployment of any piece of equipment requires careful coordination between numerous members of the ships crew and scientists, as the boats position, and speed must be carefully controlled. Meanwhile the crane operator and those physically preparing the nets will oversee proper operation of the nets and its sensors along with the depth and speed of its ascent and descent.

The cod ends of each of the three nets have been tied with white rope and are visible in the right-hand photo graph.
The cod ends of each of the three nets have been tied with white rope and are visible in the right-hand photo graph.

Back in the dry lab several other hands are at work preparing the sampling jars, labels and documentation for the incoming specimens.It does not take long before everyone is in place and the net is lowered.  The trawl will be lowered to the seafloor at which point a devise called a messenger will be snapped on to the wire cable. The messenger is a heavy brass cylinder (about the size of a small fist), which runs down the cable and hits a special releasing lever near the trawl’s metal frame.  Release of this lever closes the bottom net and opens the middle net.  Deployment of a second messenger then closes the middle net and opens the top net.  Control of the opening and closing of the three individual nets allows researchers to take samples at specific depths. After several minutes the Tucker Trawl begins its ascent.  It should be noted that the Tucker is not used to sample fish; therefore, we are not expecting to capture any vertebrates.  The speed of the trawl is fairly slow so that fish have plenty of time to get out of the net’s way.  What we are hoping to capture are Copepods.  These tiny lipid-filled zooplankton are the primary food source for the endangered right whale.  (For more information regarding copepods and right whales please read my log from July 21st 2007). Once the trawl is on deck we use a low-pressure saltwater hose to rinse the nets.  We work our way from the mouth of the net downward so that every organism is rinsed into the narrow end of the net which is called the cod end.

Kate Swails, Biologist in the Office of Protected Resources rinses the Tucker Trawl contents from a sieve into formalin filled jars.
Kate Swails, Biologist, rinses the Tucker Trawl contents from a sieve into formalin filled jars.

Then the cod end is carefully untied and its contents rinsed into a fine mesh sieve.  The gauge of the mesh sieve is large enough to flush phytoplankton out of the sample while retaining zooplankton.The sieves are then shuttled to the dry lab where the contents are raised with seawater and formalin.  Later these same jars will be shipped to a lab in Poland where the samples contents will be sorted, identified and counted.  All copepods in the sample will also be tallied in accordance to one of six life stages. Aside from physically enabling us to put masses of copepods in jars the results of the Tucker Trawl are also compared to the results from the conductivity/temperature/depth sensor (CTD) and video plankton recorder (VPR).  (Please see my log dated July 21st for further explanation and photos). Furthermore Tucker Trawls are also used to help indicate the likelihood that whales are in the area; empty trawls mean no whale food and few if any whales. Naturally, packed trawls signify ripe feeding grounds which may be worth staying on to survey.

The samples will eventually be shipped to Poland for full analysis.
The samples will eventually be shipped to Poland for full analysis.
This soft-ball sized deep sea sponge was unintentionally caught in the Tucker Trawl.
This soft-ball sized deep sea sponge was unintentionally caught in the Tucker Trawl.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 21, 2007

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

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 21, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 7nm
Wind Direction: West-northwest
Wind Speed: 5-10 mph
Swell height: 6 to 8 feet

Peter Duley stands with the vertical profiling package, which is the property of Dr. Mark Baumgartner, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Peter Duley stands with the vertical profiling package, which is the property of Dr. Mark Baumgartner, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday and today were spent traveling down 3 transect lines. Each transect line is a total of 18 miles long and sits 5 miles apart from its neighboring transect. The 3 transects are further divided into stations so that each transect contains 6 stations which are evenly spaced by three miles. The boats captain and crew ensure that the boat is correctly positioned according to the transects and stations. Upon arrival at a given station the bridge radios the dry lab and preparations begin in order to launch an instrument called a vertical profiling package.  The vertical profiling system on board the DELAWARE II is the property of Dr. Mark Baumgartner of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and is operated by Melissa Patrician, Oceanographic Technician at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

This trio of instruments is bolted to the inner rim of a round aluminum cage that helps protect the sensitive instruments and allows multiple instruments to be lowered in one convenient package. Three instruments are on this particular cage: One is a conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) sensor which also happens to measure phytoplankton concentrations via a fluorometer. The second implement is an optical plankton counter (OPC). This instrument functions by projecting a beam of light against a sensor plate.  When particles (marine snow, copepods, krill, or other types of plankton) pass in front of the sensor plate they block the beam of light and are thus recorded by a remote computer. The computer software then enables the scientist to sort these light-interrupting events by particle size. The third instrument is a video plankton recorder (VPR), which may take as many as 30,000 photo frames per sample. The resulting images help to give researchers a visual confirmation as to the various life forms inhabiting the water column.

After each instrument has been checked and is in sync with its perspective computer the vertical profiling package is lowered from the deck via a motorized cable. The instruments are lowered to within a meter of the seafloor and then are immediately lifted back to the surface. During the down-and-back journey all points of data collected by the 3 instruments are loaded onto three computers for later analysis.

Researchers hope that by sampling the water column they can gain a better understanding of the biotic and abiotic factors that affect copepods and their distributions. Copepods are of particular interest as they are a primary food source for a multitude of marine animals from fish fry to whales.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 19, 2007

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

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 19, 2007

NOAA Ship Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Delaware II: Ship Specifications 
Length: 155ft
Breadth: 30ft
Draft 16.6 ft
Hull: Welded steel
Displacement: 891 tons
Cruising Speed: 10 knots
Range: 5,300 nm
Endurance: 24 days
Commissioned Officers: 4
Licensed Engineers: 3
Crew: 10 Scientists: 14 (Max)
Launched: December 1967
Commissioned: March 12th 1975
Builder: South Portland
Engineering, S. Portland Maine

I arrived in Woods Hole Massachusetts at 10:30 pm and rolled my luggage up and down the main street trying to find the DELAWARE II.  Following a not so encouraging conversation with a bus station security officer who said to me “The DELAWARE II never docks here”, I managed to indeed find the ship that would be home for the next 3 weeks.

A large tiger shark awaits examination and tagging
A large tiger shark awaits examination and tagging

Over the course of a calendar year, the DELAWARE II will be at sea for ~200 days during which a crew of 17 will attend to her maintenance and operation.  Most of its crew members are hired via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; 6 of which work on deck, 4 others serve as engineers, 2 work in the galley, 1 serves as an electronic technician, and 4 more are NOAA  Corp officers. These officers are in charge of ship operations and manage all other operations which are carried out on board.  The DELAWARE II conducts a variety of fishery and marine resource research in support of NOAA. The ship has also been utilized to carry out research conducted by private entities, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the US Geological Survey in addition to other government agencies and universities.  Typically DELAWARE specializes in 5 different survey projects which are as follows:

DELAWARE II: Surveys

The Northeast Ecosystems Monitoring Survey monitors the Northeast continental shelf by assessing both its physical and biological aspects.  For example, one of the methodologies employed during this survey uses a set of Bongo tows which are designed to catch plankton, small fish fry, larvae, and other small invertebrates.  These minuscule creatures are the foundations for most of the ocean’s food webs and therefore their populations are used to indicate and predict the overall health of the ecosystem.  The Northwest survey is conducted on a repetitive basis so that these populations may be monitored over time, thus enabling researchers to monitor changes over time.

A smaller tiger shark will receive a tag before being released as part of the ongoing Apex predator survey
A smaller tiger shark will receive a tag before being released as part of the ongoing Apex predator survey

Apex Predator Survey is conducted every three years and is designed to assess the relative abundance, distribution, population structure, species composition, and to tag sharks so that migration patterns may be studied.  Sharks are captured via longlining and then released after tagging and biological samples have been gathered.

Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey combines a variety of advanced technologies including multi-frequency echo integration, omni-directional sonar, and underwater video to assess hearing populations. The stability of herring populations is central to the sustainability of many commercial fisheries as well as the ecosystem as a whole.

Ocean Quahog and Surf Clam Survey conducts dredges through the silty and/or sandy portions of the ocean floor where these filter feeding bivalves dwell. Such dredges enable researchers to calculate relative abundances and thus derive sustainability yields.  Since both the ocean quahog and surf clam are edible bivalves, they are of commercial value and contribute to the economic stability of the Atlantic fisheries.  The surf clam is especially coveted in the restaurant and other food industries for making clam strips and chowders. The ocean quahog has a stronger flavor and is used in recipes where the clam is used in conjunction with other strong flavored ingredients like pasta dishes.  (who knew you would get a cooking lesson here) Also of significance is the reproductive biology of the quahog: This bivalve is extremely slow growing and long lived, it does not reach maturity for 20 years and will live up to 200 years.  Those that are eaten are typically between 40-100 years old.

Marine Mammal, Large Whale Biology aims to examine the relative abundance and distribution of the Atlantic’s large whales.  A variety of data gathering methodology is used, ranging from visual and photographic recording to biopsy sampling for genetic studies. Studies which focus on the whales’ food abundance are also included in this survey.

Commanding Officer (CDR) Richard Wingrove
Commanding Officer (CDR) Richard Wingrove

So who’s in charge of all this nautical navigation and science? As one can imagine there is allot going on aboard the DELAWARE II at any given time.  Of course, numerous highly trained personnel insure that the engines work, that everyone gets three meals a day, that the toilets flush, that scientific protocols are being met, and that we are on course. But one individual is ultimately responsible for the coordination of these individual efforts. During my tenure aboard the DELAWARE II that role was fulfilled by the Commanding Officer (CDR) Richard Wingrove.  CDR Wingrove has spent a lifetime working in, and studying marine environments.  After earning a degree in Marine Science from the University of Miami, the Commander joined the Peace Corp and was stationed on the Caribbean island of Antigua. As a fisheries officer for the Peace Corp, his job was to monitor fishing practices while helping fishermen develop and implement techniques that would improve their catches. Following his service in the Peace Corp, CDR Wingrove went to work as a Satellite Oceanographer for the private sector; it was during this job that he happened to attend a conference and met a NOAA officer:  Soon after, it was on to officer training school in Fort Eustis, Virginia where after 5 months of training, officers emerge with the foundational knowledge to navigate the seas and drive a ship.  

Following completion of officer training, CDR Wingrove was appointed to the NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN which is stationed in Alaska.  After enjoying the northern latitudes for two years, NOAA then sent him back to his home state of Florida where he worked in the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.  Following two years in the sanctuary he returned to the Western Seaboard and set to work on the NOAA Ship JOHN N. COBB which is stationed out of Seattle.  Again, after two years of surveying salmon, killer whales and other marine mammals CDR Wingrove was headed back to the Eastern Seaboard. This time he would spend three years based in Miami where his job was to oversee oil spill responses for South Carolina, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.   As he explained to me, working to clean up such an event is a rather delicate job since each of the involved entities including the company who spilt the oil, state agencies, federal agencies, and community leaders are each represented by their own biologists, ecologists, scientists, and researchers which then assess the spill, evaluate its impacts, and determine how the clean up should be executed. CDR Wingrove’s job was to take all the data and information presented to him by each of the involved parties, and then coordinate their findings in order to determine a course of action for clean-up, as well as monitor the clean-up process.

After three years of cleaning up other peoples’ messes CDR Wingrove was appointed as Executive Officer aboard the NOAA Ship DELAWARE II. He worked aboard the DELAWARE for two years before being sent to the Great Lakes area where he spent another three years coordinating the clean-up oil spills.  Then once again he was headed back to the DELAWARE II this time as the ships Commanding Officer.  CDR Wingrove will finish his service aboard the DELAWARE II in May yet he does not know where NOAA will send him next.  Regardless of the locale I have little doubt that CDR Wingrove will continue his legacy of service to the natural world and to all whom benefit from healthy seas.

Jill Carpenter, September 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 14, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 180
Wind speed: 14 kts
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Swell wave height: 7 ft./9 sec. from 90o
Seawater temperature: 16.8oC
Sea level pressure: 1018.7mb
Cloud cover: PC

Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.
Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.

Science and Technology Log 

The trip is winding down and we will be in port in a few hours. I am writing this final log in the early hours of the morning of my last night shift.  We will soon be approaching Cape Cod Canal, and our time of arrival into Woods Hole is scheduled for 9:30 this morning. On last night’s shift, we passed the time taking CTD measurements and logging the events. Unfortunately, no trawls were completed since we didn’t come upon a location with an abundance of fish. Tonight we began with a trawl. As with the last trawl, the majority of our catch was redfish.  We also caught Atlantic herring, northern shrimp, anchovies, pearlsides, silver hake and red hake, short fin squid, several dogfish and a goosefish. The catch from the trawl was sorted by species, just as before.  The individual species were weighed and measured.  Again, we took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length. Additional information was again gathered on the herring including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data.

I was also able to interview a few more of the crewmembers on the ship. Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove (otherwise known as Captain) has worked his way up to his Commander position during his 17 years experience with NOAA.  Richard has a degree in Marine Biology and has loved the ocean from the time he was a child.  His extensive background experiences include being a satellite oceanographer for the NOAA Hurricane Center, working for the National Marine Sanctuary on oil spill cleanups, and serving the Peace Corps as a fisheries officer in Antigua.  As commanding officer of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II, his job involves overseeing the entire ship, supervising officers, and safely completing missions.  He claims the best part of his job is working with the crew, which he thinks of as his family at sea, although he admits it is still tough being away from his real family.  As one can imagine, the job of commanding officer comes with a great amount of responsibility.  Richard is in charge of a $12 1/2 million ship and a crew of 34 people.  Pretty intimidating!

Jill Carpenter in her survival suit
Jill Carpenter in her survival suit

He has a great deal of fond memories and stories of rough seas, though he recalls one humorous incident in particular.  He was once on board a ship off the coast of Alaska when the seas were 25-30 ft. It was so rough that all the crew could do was ride out the seas; the cooks weren’t even able to make a meal!  On a dare from the other crew members, Richard tried jumping up to touch his back to the ceiling, but mistimed his jump and ended up being slammed to the floor when the ship descended quickly and the ceiling pushed him down.  He was stunned, but otherwise okay.  This legendary stunt is still spoken of amongst Richard’s seafaring friends.  Richard recommends taking many classes in science and math if one is interested in commanding a ship.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois has experienced a lot of rough weather during his six years at sea aboard NOAA ships. He has many responsibilities aboard the DELAWARE II.  A lead fisherman splits a 24 hour shift with the boatswain, and their duties are to operate the machinery on deck, such as the nets, winches and crane.  Pete is responsible for the fishermen’s and scientists’ safety on deck while machinery is operating.  He also oversees the deployments and recoveries of scientific instruments such as the CTD sensor. Additional duties of a lead fisherman include general maintenance of the ship, such as loading and unloading stores and equipment.  Mr. Langlois also serves as third mate of the ship.  A third mate is in charge of the track lines of the ship and acts as a representative of the captain.

One of the first things that Pete recommends for future sailors is to try spending time aboard a ship to see if you like it.  It is also necessary to get your Able Seaman Certificate which is issued by the U.S Coast Guard. One path to pursuing your career is through a maritime academy, such as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  He claims there is a high demand for all positions aboard ships, and it is important to get experience at sea in order to get an Able Seamen or Captain’s license.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II

Personal Log

Although I am sad for the trip to be over, I am looking forward to returning home to my family, friends, and classroom and sharing my experience with them.  This trip has been invaluable to me in so many ways.  I have met many amazing people, I have participated in recording ocean data, and I have seen how much thought, effort and talent goes into a fisheries research vessel.  I am fortunate to have completed 3 mid-water trawls while on board. Being able to see and touch the fish that we are studying was amazing.  I gained hands-on knowledge and experience, and I began to see the species not as slimy and gross fish, but as a necessary tool for progressing our understanding of ocean species.

The crew of the DELAWARE II has been nothing but welcoming and accommodating to me.  I appreciated all of their care, time and patience with me as I learned about life on board a scientific research ship. Their sincere good natures and the humorous spirits will always be remembered by me.  I can now better understand the wisdom shared by our Chief Scientist, Bill Michaels, about how people and teamwork are to be greatly appreciated. People are such a large part of what make a job enjoyable.  It is easy to see that the entire crew of the DELAWARE II enjoy their jobs and each other’s company. They make an unbelievably great team. Thanks to all of the crewmembers of the DELAWARE II. I will never forget you or my experiences on board.  My students will surely benefit from my gained knowledge for years to come.  Thanks again for sharing a slice of your lives with me.  I’ve been inspired by all of you.

Jill Carpenter, September 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction:  60 degrees
Wind speed: 17 knots
Sea wave height: 5 feet
Swell wave height: ~ 1f
Seawater temperature: 17.3oC
Sea level pressure: 1029.1 mb
Cloud cover: PC (partly cloudy)

TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Science and Technology Log

On Sunday, the DELAWARE II steamed out of the Great Harbor.  Our first stop was Cape Cod Bay, and then we continued to the Gulf on Maine. It’s great to be at sea! My first night on the night shift felt very productive to me.  I worked with fisheries biologists Dr. Jech and Karen to rig up the monofilament (fishing line) so we could attach the copper spheres beneath the hull in order to complete calibrations of the acoustic system.  As explained in an earlier log, calibrations are required for each survey to ensure data quality and to verify that the equipment is working properly. We were mostly successful, but a few events slowed our progress, such as having to reposition the ship because of fixed gear (lobster traps) in the water near us.  Once we located the copper spheres in each of the remote-controlled downriggers in order to move the copper sphere in all directions within the beam.  After we worked out all the bugs during the first calibration, the system worked smoothly for the two remaining frequency calibrations.  When we finished, we disassembled the downriggers and put away the gear.

We finished our first shift by deploying a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) sensor and keeping track of it in the Event Log book and computer program.  A CTD is an instrument that is equipped with devices which measure the salinity and temperature of the water and the depth of the instrument.  Connected to a cable and winch system, it is lowered into the water within meters of the ocean floor, all the while taking measurements and sending data to computers on deck.  A profile of salinity and temperature is taken at the end of each transect, or path, that the ship makes and also before a trawl is completed.

TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Deploying a CTD is a joint effort on the part of the officers on the bridge, the fishermen and the scientists. Communication takes place via walkie-talkies to synchronize the deployment time.  While the officers on the bridge maintain the location of the ship and watch out for traffic, the fishermen are deploying the CTD instrument and the scientists are logging the event, recording information such as time of deployment and the latitude and longitude of the deployment. My second night on the night shift was also very eventful.  We had begun a series of transects, which basically means that the ship zigzags back and forth across the ocean in order to take CTD measurements and locate large schools of fish for the purpose of trawling, or catching fish for biological sampling. Twice during the night, in the middle of parallel transects, we completed trawls.  The High Speed Midwater Rope Trawl (HSMRT) is a funnel-shaped net attached to wires, also known as trawl warps, which are spooled onto winches located on the aft deck of the ship. The HSMRT is used to collect biological samples.  The decision on where to trawl rests with the scientists as they interpret acoustic data, so if the acoustic system shows that there is a large collection of objects (hopefully fish) below the surface, a trawl may be completed.  Trawling is also a group effort between the officers, the fishermen, and the scientists.  The net is set out and retrieved by the fishermen who control the depth of the net and monitor its performance.  The officers on the bridge work with the fishermen during the trawl to ensure its success.

The catch from the trawls is sorted by species. Then the individual species are weighed and measured.  The catch from our first trawl included redfish, Atlantic herring, lumpfish, and northern shrimp.  We then took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length.  Because herring is the primary focus of this survey, additional information was also gathered on this species including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data. This is done by using a stylus to press the buttons on the computer screen to enter the catch information.  The scales used for weighing the fish and the measuring boards automatically send their information into the computer system.  The data is saved and later will be analyzed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught with a mid-water trawl for the Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught for the Herring Hydroacoustic Survey

Personal Log

I apologize for not writing in a few days. As I predicted, the shift work is taking a bit of a toll on me, and I haven’t been sleeping well during the day due to slight seasickness.  It is such a strange feeling to be lying in bed and rocking back and forth. Sometimes the boat pitched so much that my stomach got butterflies, just like when you ride a roller coaster and go down a steep hill. I had to keep getting up and sitting on one of the decks so I could see the horizon and get some fresh air.  Our stateroom has no windows, so there is no way of telling what the conditions are outside.  I had to laugh at myself when I went up to the bridge, expecting to see a ferocious storm and high sea swells, only to find blue skies and slightly choppy waters. A combination of Dramamine, ginger root tablets, and Saltine crackers also helped to calm my stomach.

This past night of sleeping (rather, day of sleeping) went much better.  I seemed to be used to the motion of the ship, and I fell asleep right away.  It helped to wedge myself in between the wall and my bag to keep from rocking back and forth so much.  I feel rested and much more confident to handle the seas.  It was forecasted that Hurricane Florence would make our ride a bit rough, though she is passing several hundred miles from our location and seas have been much calmer than expected, which is fine with me!  Even so, I can now see why we had to spend time tying down equipment so it wouldn’t slide or roll. When the ship was docked, it was hard to imagine it moving so much to necessitate securing items so well, but the need was evident to me after this shift.  Several times during the night, the ship rolled side to side so much that even heavy items fell over and off tables.  The chairs we were sitting in kept sliding back and forth, and we had to hang on to the tables to keep from moving around! It was wild. I loved it! I tried to get a picture, but I had to hang on instead!

Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.
Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.

I was proud of myself when we completed our trawls and I had to handle the fish. It was rather disturbing to see the eyes and stomachs of the fish bulge out because of the change in pressure. We had to be careful when picking up the redfish because of the prickly spines sticking out of their fins. I was a little apprehensive to feel the fish through my gloves, and I was very grossed out at the thought of picking up a slimy, dead fish, but I tried to put that aside so that I could be of some help, at least.  The biologists I was working with jumped right in and weren’t squeamish at all.  After all, this is part of their job and the focus of their research. I tried to be brave and handle the fish confidently and without shrieking just as they did, but I still looked a bit wimpy.  The important thing, though, is that I tried something new and walked away with an invaluable learning experience. Cutting apart a herring to examine its insides was a little over my limit, but I tried it anyway and now I am glad that I did. I figured that it’s not every day that I have the chance to dissect a fish in the name of research.

I spoke with Mrs. Nelson the other day, and she said I have a bright group of fifth graders awaiting my return.  I can’t wait to show all of you my pictures and share this incredible learning experience with you.

Question of the Day

When weighing fish on board the ship, it is necessary to “tare” the scale.  This means that if a fish is being weighed in a bucket, we must first put the empty bucket on the scale, and then we need to reset the scale so it measures to zero kilograms.  After that, we place the fish in the bucket and put it back on the scale.

Why do you think it is important for scientists to tare a scale when weighing objects that are in containers?

Jill Carpenter, September 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 9, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 240 degrees
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: no swell
Seawater temperature: 19.4 degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure: 1016.2 millibars
Cloud cover: hazy skies 1/8

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck

Science and Technology Log

Today, the DELAWARE II left the port and steamed out into the waters of Vineyard Sound for the day. It was exciting to finally get underway.  While out at sea, the AFTV underwent additional testing and troubleshooting. I was able to work the joystick which controls the video camera on the front of the AFTV and enter information into the Event Log program to document the beginning and end of the AFTV deployment.  We steamed back to Woods Hole for the evening, and our scheduled time of departure is tomorrow at noon. Once we leave tomorrow, we should be out to sea for the remainder of the cruise. Additionally, I was able to interview two other members of the crew. The Chief Scientist aboard this mission is Fisheries Research Biologist Bill Michaels.  He has worked for NOAA and been a chief scientist for 27 years. He started as a co-op student at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Bill’s parents knew he would grow up to be a scientist when they saw him spending his time collecting feathers and examining flowers as a six-year old. He has extensive training in marine and fisheries biology and has been in charge of the National Marine Fisheries acoustic program working on advanced sampling techniques for almost 10 years.  Bill has logged over 2000 days at sea and has been a part of many different research boats in many different countries! Bill believes that by incorporating advanced technologies into cruise operations, we will be able to provide more accurate, cost-effective and timely scientific information in order to meet NOAA’s goals. 

Mr. Michaels says the best parts about his job are the diversity associated with the work and the teamwork involved.  Because of these, he has enjoyed every day of his career.  Although he loves working with new technologies such as his new Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle, he has come to enjoy working with people more and more, especially with scientists from other countries. Bill shared with me that he once went overboard during winter temperatures, though he wouldn’t say if it was by accident or on purpose!  Some of his more challenging voyage experiences include being out to sea with 25 ft waves, having to sleep in a fish bin, and being on a foreign boat that was infested with cockroaches.  Bill’s advice to someone who would like to become a scientist is to focus on all subjects, not just biology and math.  He says that you can’t be a good biologist by studying only biology.  He advises future biologists to understand people, value teamwork, appreciate different cultures, learn new technologies, and study from a variety of disciplines, ranging from geology to English and foreign languages.

TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board
TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board

I also spoke with my roommate and NOAA Program and Management Analyst, Jeannine Cody. She works in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Management and Budget in the Program Planning and Budget Formulation Division.  She serves a liaison to NMFS’ Office of Science and Technology, the Ecosystem Observations Program, and the Climate and Ecosystems Productivity Program.  She also tracks all of NMFS’ research and development activities at their six Science Centers. Each year, the President of the United States submits a budget request asking Congress for money to support NOAA activities. It’s kind of like asking for an allowance and then telling your parents the reason why you need the money.  In Jeannine’s line of work, telling the reasons why money is needed is called a budget justification. Each fiscal year (Oct 1 through Sept 30) she works on budget justifications for NOAA’s fisheries research programs.  This involves talking to a scientist to understand his/her plans for research in the upcoming year and writing a summary about the need for the activity, the cost of the activity, and the benefits to the country. She says that although her job description changes day to day, she spends much of her time responding to questions from the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget and from Congressional staff. 

I found it interesting that Jeannine first became interested in working in marine biology while watching Jacques Cousteau’s TV show as child.  Later, she volunteered to work with National Museum of Natural History curator Dr. Clyde Roper after watching a Discovery Channel program on giant squid.  She’s proud to say that one of her reference letters for graduate school had a giant squid at the top of the letterhead!  Ten years later, Jeannine’s back where she started as a research collaborator in the Museum’s Division of Fishes.

Sunset from Cape Cod Bay
Sunset from Cape Cod Bay

She says the best part of her job is when her efforts are successful in getting funding for NMFS’ programs. “It’s nice to know that you’re a part of a larger effort to understand the oceans and marine life,” says Jeannine.  To prepare for a NMFS career in program planning and budget formulation, Jeannine recommends a biological degree, such as one in fisheries science, marine biology, environmental biology, or environmental policy.  You should be comfortable working with numbers and asking a lot of tough questions. Jeannine spends a lot of time writing, creating slideshow presentations, designing websites and talking to different groups, therefore good communication skills will help as well. Internships, fellowships and volunteering on NMFS cruises are also great ways to know how NMFS works.

Personal Log

What a beautiful day! It was a wonderful experience to be steaming on board the ship.  It was a warm, sunny day, although it was considerably cooler when we got away from land. Today was the first day that I was able to get weather and sea measurements from the bridge. I am hoping to become independent in reading the instruments that take these measurements by the time we return.

On the return trip, I was able to sit up on the flying deck (which is the top level deck) and watch as we pulled back in to the harbor at Woods Hole. The view was incredible and made me feel so far away from Virginia!  Don’t worry, I am still planning on returning to school on the 18th! I am sure once we begin with the more intense work load that comes with trawling and completing biological sampling, paired with the overnight (6 PM to 6 AM) watch that I have been assigned to, I will be looking forward to returning to my own bed soon enough!

Question of the Day

A seafaring riddle for you: What is alive without breath, As cold as death, Never thirsty, never drinking, All in mail but never clinking?

Jill Carpenter, September 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 8, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.
Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was spent on last minute performance testing to verify that the ship’s instrumentation is working properly.  Crewmembers finished tying down equipment, the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle was tested and adjusted with minor protective modifications, and the Scientific Computer System was finished being set up.  The DELAWARE II is scheduled to depart tomorrow at noon. I was also able to interview several of the crewmembers on board the ship.  Each person has such an interesting story and so much knowledge to share. The first person that I had a chance to interview was Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych.  He has many duties on board the ship.  As a navigation officer, he is responsible for all the charts used to navigate the ship. He starts the navigation process by creating a route on the computer, then transfers and double checks the route on the paper charts. Mark is on his first sea tour which has mostly been in the northern Atlantic Ocean.  His favorite part about his job is that he gets to draw on big pieces of paper and that he has the opportunity to see some wonderful sunsets. Navigation Officer Frydrych has additional duties on board the DELAWARE II as well. Another title he holds is Junior Officer where he inventories and periodically checks the safety equipment like the fire extinguishers and escape hatches.

TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.
TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.

For anyone interested in becoming an officer aboard a NOAA ship, Mark recommends pursuing a scientific or engineering degree.  He says that computer experience and math classes would also be helpful.  Mark would eventually like to be trained as a NOAA Corps pilot. The other person that I was able to speak with was fisheries biologist Karen Bolles.  Her research involves using morphometrics (analysis of shape) to examine body shape differences among Atlantic herring spawning groups in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (stock discrimination).  This will help improve the accuracy of our herring stock assessments and harvesting strategies. Using computer programs, Karen analyzes differences among groups of herring, using characteristics such as mouth length. Because herring spawning groups mix during non-spawning time, these findings can be used to determine proportions of different spawning stock herring that may constitute research and commercial catches.

Karen’s research has taken her from mid-Atlantic waters north to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. She has also been a scientific member on research vessels operating off Iceland and in the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia. Karen has survived some challenging voyages at sea, including a two-week cod survey trip around the island of Iceland that took place during extremely rough winter weather where nobody on board spoke English!

TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

When talking with Ms. Bolles, it is very evident that she is passionate about her job. She says that she loves the feeling of helping to improve fisheries management and stock assessments.  She especially enjoys using digital image analysis systems to measure morphometric characteristics, but her main passion is working with fishermen to gain knowledge and to fine-tune her fish sampling designs.  One thing about the field of marine biology that was surprising to her in the beginning was the amount of math and statistics that is used to analyze biological data.  Karen’s advice for individuals pursuing experience in the marine science field is to get involved with volunteer opportunities, independent studies, and internships that come your way.  She stresses the importance of hands-on experience, understanding how to work with large data sets and spreadsheets, and good writing skills.

Personal Log

I am very excited to get out on the open water and begin to use the equipment to conduct surveys and take measurements.  I am also a little anxious to put to use all that I have been learning; I hope I can remember how to enter all the information accurately.  See, even teachers get worried before a test! I am enjoying talking with each of the crewmembers.  I feel fortunate to be on a cruise with such a good group of people!

Question of the Day

The fish that the DELAWARE II will be studying are classified as pelagic fish, which means that they live in the top layer of the ocean away from the seashores or ocean floor.  1. Why do you think that most of the oceans creatures live in the top layer of the ocean?  2. Research to find what percentage of sea life lives in this zone.

Jill Carpenter, September 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 7, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a very exciting day aboard the DELAWARE II. Scientists and crewmembers worked together to deploy the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV) into the water for the first time in order to complete initial testing.  The AFTV was delivered to the NOAA pier yesterday and loaded on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.  Chief Scientist Bill Michaels explained to me how he designed the AFTV in collaboration with Deep Sea Systems International.  This new piece of scientific research equipment utilizes the latest underwater technology to improve measurements in support of NOAA’s strategic goals (e.g., Essential Fish Habitat, Stock Assessment Improvement Plan).  The AFTV is presently configured for verification of acoustic targets in the water column during NOAA’s Herring Acoustic Survey (RV DELAWARE II cruise DE200615). The AFTV provides a universal platform in which acoustical, optical and environmental sensors are integrated. The AFTV electronics convert these data to ethernet signals that are transmitted through the 2000 m of fiberoptic cable to a laptop providing network ready information.  For example, real-time underwater video images during cruise operations can be viewed from a computer on land provided satellite transmission.  The advantage of this towfish is that new technologies, such as newly developed sensors, can be readily plugged into the towbody’s ethernet-based electronics to accomplish various cruise objectives.  The AFTV can be reconfigured during future cruises for marine habitat classification (video mosaics and acoustic classification of the seafloor).

Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.
Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.

We also had the chance to learn how to use the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). This computerized system is used for electronically recording data from the biological sampling that will be completed on board.  Nancy McHugh, a fisheries biologist and FSCS administrator from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, showed us how to operate the system and record our information accurately.  In the past, data had to be hand-recorded, and errors were not caught until months later.  Nowadays, using the FSCS allows us to digitally record measurement data, such as lengths and weights, in real time and gives us the advantage of computer-audited data which flags the scientists for potential errors.

Afterwards, Dr. Jech explained the ship’s Scientific Computer System (SCS) located on the bridge of the ship. This PC-based system continuously collects information from more than a hundred sensors on board. Information about the ship’s location and route, weather conditions, ocean conditions and biological sampling is gathered, recorded and synchronized on these computers.  We also practiced entering data into computers using the SCS Event Log program which documents all operational events, such as each time the scientists lower sensors into the water or collect fish samples.

Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow

Personal Log

It was great to witness the experimental launching of a new piece of scientific equipment.  I think my fifth graders would be really excited to witness firsthand this underwater vehicle being placed in the water. It looks like a large yellow plastic box with metal pipes that make up the frame.  Attached to the back are “wings” that help to stabilize it, and in the front are spotlights and video equipment to take pictures of fish. It is controlled by joysticks and computers on board the ship. It is like an underwater robot.  Very cool! I think it is also an invaluable learning experience for me to see the process of scientific experimentation happening right here on board the ship. Between the calibrations, setting up the Scientific Computer System, and launching the AFTV, I have witnessed scientists and crewmembers informally using various scientific methods to find better solutions and problem solve when the unexpected arises.

Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.
Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.

It is exciting to see science experiments happening every day, with real people in a real-life context, instead reading about it from a worksheet or having that intangible image in my mind of a mad scientist in a white lab coat stirring a beaker of something bubbling.  Science is accessible to everybody!  You don’t have to be in a fancy laboratory or have the latest equipment.  It can be done inside or out, on a boat or in your backyard. Science encompasses so many fields and is available to anyone with a curious mind.  I am excited to share this realization with my students and make science more real to them.

Question of the Day

Two words that I am using aboard the ship are “starboard” and “port”.  What do these two words mean?  Where do they come from, and why are they important to use when on board a ship? 

Jill Carpenter, September 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 6, 2006

The Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.
The AFTV is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Science and Technology Log

It has been a busy day aboard the DELAWARE II as we are preparing to get underway on Friday or Saturday. The uncertainty about our departure date is due to the set-up and system testing of the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV). The AFTV is a recently constructed submersible vehicle that is designed to use acoustical and optical sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.  Because the AFTV has not previously been set up on the ship, performance tests may require more than one day.  The ship will remain in Woods Hole until the AFTV system is ready.

This morning, we began with a continued effort to calibrate the hydroacoustic systems using the copper sphere attached to the downriggers with fishing line. We were successful in placing the copper sphere in the hydroacoustic beam, but again had to postpone our efforts due to seaweed interference.  We now plan on completing the calibrations in Cape Cod Bay. The remainder of the morning and afternoon was spent helping to load and organize additional supplies on board.  A lot of thought goes into securing items on the ship in order to prevent them from falling or rolling around when we are at sea.

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

The more I see scientists and crewmembers securing equipment, the more concerned I become about maintaining my balance on board the ship. In the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s “Manual for First-time Sailors,” the advice is to use your life preserver to “wedge” yourself against your bunk rail to avoid being tossed around when sleeping.  From the preparations I am witnessing aboard the ship, it looks like I will be taking this advice! My work day finished with helping Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech secure computer equipment to the ship. We did this by using wood boards, screws and tape to attach equipment to immobile objects.  I found it comical to tape down the computer keyboards.  This ship may be pitching more than I expect! I learned a bit of ship trivia that I found interesting.  A ship’s foghorn is used to communicate many messages.

The following are the meanings of some sound patterns of a ship’s foghorn: 1 prolonged blast = the ship is leaving the port; 1 prolonged blast every 2 minutes = the ship is steaming (traveling) through fog; 1 prolonged blast followed by 2 short blasts every 2 minutes = the ship is fishing in fog; 5 short blasts = danger, get out of the way! 1 prolonged blast followed by 3 short blasts = the ship is leaving the dock in reverse

Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.
Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.

Personal Log

It amazes me how much preparation and behind-the-scenes work goes into getting ready for a fisheries research trip.  Everyone is hurrying around the ship, completing last-minute duties and running tests on electronic equipment.  They have all been very friendly and patient with me; I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the entire crew of the DELAWARE II.

I spent the evening typing logs and adjusting the size of my digital pictures to fulfill space requirements on emails.  I find it challenging and somewhat time consuming to “translate” all of the scientific explanations into language that is more friendly to a room of elementary school students (and to myself as well!). I am grateful to several members of the crew for their input and suggestions on the wording of certain complex concepts. My evening ended with a walk into the village of Woods Hole.  I find Woods Hole such an interesting and charming little town.  Located on the southwest corner of Cape Cod, Woods Hole has developed into a world leader in marine and fisheries research.  This scientific community is the home of the world renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), each contributing great advances to the field of marine science research.

TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.
TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.

Don’t worry, Hutchison Farm Elementary, I haven’t forgotten about you! I am sure there is just as much hustle and bustle going on there during the first week of school!  I am anxious to see each one of you; I know I can expect a very mature and intelligent group of fifth graders.  Thanks so much for being on your best behavior for Mrs. Nelson! I have been sleeping like a rock on board the ship.  I am  appreciating these restful nights now because I don’t know if I can count on a peaceful night sleep once we are out to sea! The food is also very good, and I am becoming known for my big appetite. The chefs, Dennis and John, are excellent cooks.  I look forward to each meal they serve.  Looks like I won’t be losing any weight!

Question of the Day 

1. The NOAA scientists and crewmembers need to bring many materials on board with them when they go to sea. If they forget something, they will not be able to return to get it, and there are no stores in the middle of the ocean.

a. What would you bring to sea with you if you were going for a week?

b. What would you absolutely need to bring with you?

c. What if you could only bring 10 items?  What would they be?

d. What if you were only able to bring 5 items? What would they be?  Two items?

My stateroom, or bedroom, on board the DELAWARE II
My stateroom, or bedroom, on board 
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA

Jill Carpenter, September 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 5, 2006

NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

Weather Data from Bridge
Weather data not collected while in port

Science and Technology Log

I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday evening. After a short walk through town, I came upon the Northeast Fisheries Science Center building and NOAA pier where the DELAWARE II was docked.  For the next 10 days, this vessel will be completing part 1 of a 3-leg Hydroacoustic (water-sound) Survey, and I will be a part of it!  I will bring back the knowledge and experiences that I gain and share these with my classroom of fifth grade students in South Riding, Virginia. The DELAWARE II is a stern trawler ship, which means that it is designed to catch fish and other sea life in nets from the rear (stern) of the ship.  The ship was built in 1968, is 155 ft long, and displaces 600 tons of water.

Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.
Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.

The purpose of this survey is to estimate the number of certain species of northwest Atlantic pelagic (mid-water) fish.  The ship will use technologies such as multifrequency and omni (all) directional sonar to provide information about the fish.  We will also take select samples of certain species for biological data, such as weight, length, age, and prey items (stomach contents). 

After breakfast, my roommate and I helped research fisheries biologist Dr.Mike Jech and herring biologist Karen Bolles load equipment needed for the trip.  Some of the supplies loaded were computer equipment, tool boxes, life vests, and equipment for collecting and measuring fish, such as large plastic baskets, measuring boards, and waterproof labels.

About mid-morning, we shifted piers from the NOAA pier to the neighboring Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) pier.  The first goal, before getting underway, was to calibrate the sonar systems on board.  We needed to calibrate to make sure the system is working properly and to maintain consistency and standardize this survey to all previous hydroacoustic surveys. This helps scientists to find the fish they are researching and obtain important information about them such as behavior and size of the schools.

Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port
Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port

The calibration is accomplished by lowering a copper sphere, which is about the size of an orange, below the hull of the ship so that it is in the hydroacoustic beams.  The acoustic beam is shaped like a flashlight beam. This process should be performed at slack tide (when the water is moving the least) so we have the most control of the sphere. The copper ball will bounce an echo back to the ship, and the scientists can translate that data into information that will make sense to them. It took patience to calibrate the sonar system.  First, Mike, Karen and I worked to position the copper sphere so that it was in the sonar beams.  This was done by using downriggers (which are like large fishing reels) and fishing line to lower and adjust the copper sphere below the hull. We eventually had to postpone the calibration because of the high amount of seaweed that interfered with the echo from the sphere. I also had the opportunity to receive a tour of the fore deck of the boat.  Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych showed me around the bow and explained some of the equipment to me, such as the hawse pipe (the tube where the anchor chain drops down) and the wildcat (the drive that lifts the anchor chain and anchor. Also, I learned that rope on board a ship is called “line”.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.
Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.

Personal Log

When I first caught sight of the DELAWARE II, my new home for the next 10 days, I was in awe. It looked to me like a ship that you would see on the Discovery Channel!  It has so much technical equipment on board, and the ship seems so large when you are standing next to it on the pier. It was a different story when I got on board!  The hallways are more narrow than I am used to, and my room is only about 7’ x 10’ but sleeps 4 people!  I have quickly become used to the size of the interior of the ship and have learned how to maneuver quickly around the passageways.

I am most fearful of becoming seasick while on board.  I keep my motion-sickness medicine and wristbands with me at all times.  I am still a little worried, though, since I can already feel the ship rocking and we haven’t even let the port yet!

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.

I have been thinking of my students today and wondering how their first day of fifth-grade is going. I am looking forward to returning and getting to know each one of you!  I hope your year is off to a good start and I am eager to share my experience with all of you! Take care of Mrs. Nelson!

Question of the Day

1. How old is the DELAWARE II?

2. What does it mean to “displace” water?  Can you think of a time when you have displaced water?

3. I learned that lengths of chain are measured in “shots” instead of feet or meters.  A shot is 90 feet of chain. If 5 shots of chain are needed to be released in order for the anchor to touch bottom, how much chain will that be?

Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA
Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA

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 used in an DELAWARE II, however seems to never be at rest. In three days, the ship is scheduled to leave on a Marine Mammal Observation Cruise for the next two months. This survey will be conducted in order to measure and monitor marine mammals in the Georges Bank, Southern New England, Long Island, New Jersey and Delmarva Regions. An Autumn Trawl Survey will follow this. The trawl survey is a multi species finfish survey that collects biological data, such as maturity stages, food habits, predator/prey relationships and migratory patterns. This same Trawl survey will also be conducted in the spring. The regions to be surveyed will be the Mid-Atlantic (inshore and offshore), the Georges Bank and the Gulf on Maine. This winter, the DELAWARE II will be conducting a Winter Trawl Survey that uses a modified net system that targets flatfish such as summer fluke and yellowtail flounder. The Winter Trawl Survey will focus on the Mid-Atlantic, Southern New England and the Georges Bank regions. The DELAWARE II will also participate in a Fishing Power Survey that are a series of experiments designed to yield a correction factor for changes in either survey equipment or vessels. This year the DELAWARE II will be conducting these tests with the HENRY BIGELOW, a new vessel being built in Mississippi, and scheduled to replace the DE II’s sister ship, the ALBATROSS IV.

To find out where the DELAWARE II is, at any given time, NOAA provides a web site that includes a track line of all of its research vessels. Wherever these vessels are you can be assured that they are working diligently to accomplish the goals of the Northeast Fisheries Research Center. The goals start with research and monitoring fish stocks and their environments. The surveys endeavor to provide data that will assist in understanding and predicting changes in marine ecosystems, living marine resources, fisheries, habitats, ecosystem condition, and the generation of national benefits. The outcome of this research is the production and dissemination of scientific advice for management programs based on an ecosystem framework, and finally, you can be assured that NOAA will be endeavoring to engage stakeholders in the process of decision-making. NOAA is a team builder in stewardship. You can also be assured that NOAA will be involving educators in order to provide outreach to students and society at large.

lynch_log10bIn closing, I need to extend my thanks and appreciation for the opportunities that were afforded me aboard the DELAWARE II. True to NOAA’s goals of education and outreach, the crew extended tremendous courtesy and patience while indoctrinating me into the area of marine science, research and life at sea. Without exception, all of the crew were helpful and willing to share their expertise and time. I must extend particular thanks to Charles Keith, Kris Ohleth, Richard Raynes, Erin Kapcha and Jeff Taylor. Each of these crewmembers extended themselves way beyond the call of duty in helping me to understand the shipboard policies, routines and the goals and objectives of our research. Also a special thanks to Cindy Travers, a Coast Guard Cadet who taught me a great deal about seamanship and positive attitude.  Each of these people embodies a dedicated spirit that goes well beyond the parameters of their specific duties. Special thanks also goes to Dennis Carey, the Chief Steward who is the most important, and hardest working person on the vessel. I also wish to extend my thanks to all aboard the DELAWARE II, the crew believes in their mission and are sacrificing personal gain for public service. In short, they are an inspiration.

Life at sea is arduous. It is hard work, long hours, inclement conditions and deprivation of creature comforts. Life at sea is also a community, a brotherhood and a commitment. To NOAA, and the crew of the DELAWARE II, thank you, I learned a great deal and am deeply grateful.

Mike Lynch, June 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

lynch_log9Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 29, 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

Scientific Log

lynch_log9aToday’s Log will focus on the scientific work being done on the stern deck. The Chief Scientist, Victor Nordahl, coordinates the 2005 Clam Survey aboard the DELAWARE II. One of Victor’s many jobs is to oversee the collection work done by the two scientific crews aboard the vessel. Each crew works two six hour shifts, the scientific data collection and cataloguing goes on twenty four hours a day. Each crew is made up of a crew chief and five supporting workers. Our crew chief is Chad Keith. Chad is an engaging young man who has worked for NOAA for a number of years and has just finished his Masters degree in Geography at the University of Oregon. Kris Ohleth is our Marine Biological Seagoing Technician. Kris is soon to start her graduate program on Marine Policy at the University of Rhode Island. Kris is in charge of data and the daunting task of training people, like myself, in the intricacies of the onboard FSCS and SCS computer systems. Richard Raynes is an equipment technician for NOAA, and a net maker by trade, he is the equipment guru of our crew. Erin Kapcha is also a NOAA employee, who coordinates the observer program that places observers on board commercial fishing vessels. Erin is stretching her legs and doing some work outside the office. Cindy Travers is an energetic 20 year old, Senior Cadet from The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Cindy is doing a summer practicum on board and will be following this cruise with another on board the ALABATROSS IV. I, Mike Lynch, am the last member of the crew, and a participating member of the Teacher at Sea Program. I am a flatlander from Moses Lake, Washington. I am here to learn more about the role NOAA plays in the formulation of policy and regulation. I am also here due to NOAA’s commitment to education and outreach. Our mission, as we have accepted it, is to gather and input data on the Atlantic Surfclam and the Ocean Quahog. Today’s journal will be a synopsis of the processes of data collection and the responsibilities of our crew.

lynch_log9bIn an earlier log, I outlined my duties on the Bridge. This was the process of reporting data for each station on the Shipboard Computer System. This is the step that monitors the location and duration of each tow of the dredge. The next step happens on the stern work deck and the wet lab. Once the dredge is brought back to the surface, brought up on the crane carriage, and secured to the deck by the deck crew, it’s show time for our science crew. Our first job is to inspect the dredge and determine if the contents need to be washed. If they do, we adhere a mesh gate to the front of the dredge and it is released by the work crew for a tow behind the boat. Once washed, the contents of the dredge are released on to a large worktable for sorting. One of our crewmembers, usually Richard, goes up into the dredge to clear it of all debris. The contents of the dredge are pulled with rakes down the length of the worktable. The crew sorts surfclams and quahogs and places each species into bushel baskets at the end of the table.

lynch_log9cAnother bucket is in place for other species such as starfish, crabs, fish and other varieties of clams. Two other buckets are in place for broken clams and quahogs, and clappers. Clappers are clams or quahog shells that are called shell hash, is also collected into bushel baskets. Once the table is cleared, it is time to clean the dredge area, count the baskets of shell hash, and catalogue the species data into the FSCS database. Ocean quahogs and surfclams are taken and weighed on electronic scales. The scales have been calibrated to zero for the weight of the bushel basket. The clams are then moved to one of three workstations. The stations are long stainless steel tables equipped with Limnos boards, electronic scales and interactive FSCS computer monitors. The limnos boards are used to electronically measure the length of each specimen and catalogue the data into the database. The scales are used to measure the specimen weight in shell and the meat weight of shucked specimens. The computer terminals are touch screens that are interactive consoles, which allow the recorder to select species and data categories. The console also notifies the worker of special instructions and requests for specimen samples that have been requested by the chief scientists. The species are catalogued by station, which has been programmed at the bridge to indicate exact location, time, depth, weather, etc.

A hearty bunch
A hearty bunch

For the purpose of data collection, the areas that we are investigating are divided into regions and strata. The Clam Survey is collecting data in five regions: Georges Bank, Southern New England, Long Island, New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula (an offshore area of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). We are participating on the third leg of the survey, and have spent most our time, thus far, off the coast of Virginia. These large geographical regions are subdivided into smaller areas called strata, and the specific areas of each tow are called stations. In each of the strata, we are asked to collect age data and meat weights as well as numbers and weight volumes. For Ocean Quahogs, we are asked to collect meat weights and samples of ten specimens for each 10 mm. class in length measurement. These samples are shucked weighed, catalogued for the location of their capture, bagged, labeled and frozen. These will go to Jim Weinberg, who is the Principle Investigator for this survey. Essentially these samples are to be analyzed in the NEFSC labs in Woods Hole. Atlantic Surfclams receive far greater scrutiny. Samples of meat weights must be kept for specimens within 10mm. classes on every tow. The requests for these samples are preprogrammed into the computer base, and as the “cutter” enters the length on the Limnos board into the computer, the recorder will be told which specimens must be kept for meat weight collection. The NEFSC division of Age and Growth also requests Surf Clams. The computer will alert the recorder that an age tag is requested. In this scenario, The cutter will take a meat sample, but the actual clam shells will be marked by station number, strata, and ID number. These shells are bagged, tagged and frozen for the A&G lab. Age samples are one clam within a 10 mm class at every site. How’s that for confusing. Between our crew chief Chad, our Sea going Technician Chris, and the demanding FSCS computer terminal, mere mortals like myself can participate in scientific data collection.

Aside from the data collected for the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, we are collecting surf clam samples for a member of our other crew. Adriana Picariello is collecting samples as part of research for her Masters Thesis at the University of Virginia Marine Science department. Her research will be comparing growth rates in different regions. It’s interesting what you can learn from clams, about the environment and possible changes in the environment such as global warming. Cool Stuff!

Personal Log

The weather has become hot and humid. Yesterday we did part of a depletion survey where we did repeated tows non stop for the entire shift. It was a real marathon, I could have been part of a research on the sweat capacity of a human being. There was no time for interviews, logs or breathing. I slept well! Go figure. Still having fun, and have I mentioned the food?

Mike Lynch, June 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset

Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 27, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 3938.834N
Longitude07316.810W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 3 Foot
Weather: cloudy
Visibility: obscured
Wind Speed: 14 mph

Science and Technology Log

Today’s log will continue the exploration of the DELAWARE II, her crew, and the concept of an ocean going vessel as a self-reliant community. This log, like the last on this theme, is inspired by a sudden revelation; Clams can be stinky. Actually, clams themselves probably aren’t all that stinky, but constant application to clothing over a prolonged period of time at accelerated temperature certainly produce stink. Having come to this hypothesis, I concluded that the solution was laundry. (Pretty scientific, huh?)

Using the hose
Using the hose

Laundry on board the DELAWARE II, in itself, doesn’t pose a large problem. You wait until about 2 AM, go down past the galley and into the Ship’s Store, and you find two sets of washers and driers. Simple, there is really nothing to it, until you begin to investigate the processes that are involved in providing laundry service. Where does all the fresh water come from? How does the onboard electrical system work? Where does the wastewater and soap go? To find answers to these questions I interviewed Lieutenant Jeff Taylor, who is scheduled to become the X.O. (Executive Officer) off the DELAWARE II.

The first question dealt with fresh water. “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”. I’m not exactly sure who said that, but it pretty much explains where we are. We have not seen land in over a week, so where is all this fresh water coming from? Lieutenant Taylor explained the process. Fresh water is used onboard for drinking, washing, cooking, and of course, laundry. Initially the answer is simple, 5,000 gallons of water is taken onboard when dockside. This water is supplied to different areas of the ship using an electrical pumping system; the electricity is supplied by generators that are powered by diesel… simple! But what happens when we start to deplete the water? The answer to this is an onboard water purification process that uses an evaporation system to create fresh water. Jeff explained that sea water was taken onboard through what are called sea chests. The seawater is then run through coils that are heated to boiling by the diesel power plant that powers the ship. The resulting steam produces fresh water and the remaining salt solution is returned to whence it came. Simple, we have just distilled fresh water from salt. The newly created water is now pumped into the holding tanks to replenish the water source. The potable water tank is subjected to a bromine treatment, and we are good to do laundry. The creation of fresh water in this manner really is a big deal. It in essence removes one of the three elements that limit the time a ship may stay out at sea: water, food, and fuel. Fresh water is in constant supply to the thirty-man crew of the ship. Fresh water is pumped to each of the staterooms, two common bathrooms, the galley, the ship’s store, the emergency showers, and the wet deck in the science area. The nine fire stations and the onboard hydrants on each of the decks use seawater.

Part of the waste disposal system
Part of the waste disposal system

The second question deals with power generation. Power generation onboard the DELAWARE II is supplied by two “Ship’s Service Generators”. These are diesel powered 375 amp generators. On this survey, one of the generators is used to power the ship’s electrical needs and the other is dedicated to the Clam Survey equipment, primarily the winches and the 440 service to the underwater pump. Usually only one generator is used at a time, and runs for 250 hours between oil changes. There is also an emergency generator onboard that supplies a 70-amp service. The generators, as well as the ship’s two powerful engines, are diesel powered. The ship’s diesel capacity is approximately 40,000 gallons, enough for 19 days at full operation, 24 hours a day. The last component of the laundry equation is the matter of wastewater. There are two distinct wastewater systems onboard the DELAWARE II. These are “grey water” and “black water” systems. Grey water comes from sinks, showers, and laundry. Disposal of grey water is a simple enough process, it can be pumped overboard. The Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Coast Guard, however, strictly regulate black water, or human waste disposal. No black water may be disposed of within three miles of the United States’ coastline. Beyond three miles, processed waste may be disposed of, and beyond the twelve-mile mark; untreated human waste may be pumped overboard.

Aboard the DELAWARE II, a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) treats all black water. The sewage treatment is essentially a large holding tank, with a macerator. Biologicals are added (yeast), and the black water is treated and released. There are also regulations and protocols for the disposal of garbage at sea. A wet and dry garbage log is kept on the bridge. If the galley wants to dispose of left over food, they must request permission; specify the amount, the type, the time and the day on the report. These items would fall into the category of wet garbage. For things like cardboard and paper, a similar log with similar notations is kept. For dry garbage, it must be reduced to pieces 1” or smaller if released between 3 to 12 miles of the coast. Oil and plastics can never be dumped at any location. The wet and dry garbage logs are routinely checked and cross-referenced to the materials that were taken aboard. The DELAWARE II does not dump much, if any, dry garbage, but instead uses a compactor, bags and wire gages to store the garbage for shore disposal. Well, my laundry is done, and what seems like an everyday mundane task turns out to be a wonder of applied science. Things smell better now.

Mike Lynch, June 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Lynch
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 20 – July 1, 2005

lynch_log7Mission: Clam and Quahog Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 26, 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

Scientific Log

Navigation from the bridge
Navigation from the bridge

Today’s log will be an outline of a typical day aboard the DELAWARE II Clam Survey. Our day begins with an 11:10 wakeup call. A quick routine and I am out the door. Coffee in  the galley, a few guys watching the final minutes of game seven of the NBA finals. I quickly take advantage of the time to organize my folder of materials that has fallen into disarray. There is very little space other than the galley to do any written work on board. Every available space is filled with equipment of some sort related to our survey. There are no tables or chairs in our staterooms, these are only for sleeping. It’s now 11:50 PM, and time to go aft to relieve the other crew. There are six people on this crew, and they are all busy measuring clams and weighing meat weights. They are happy to see us and noticeably tired.  Within minutes, we are coming on to our first station. Stations are either randomly selected by the computer or selected by our chief scientist. Unlike a commercial fisher, we survey many different strata and depths. We are not exclusively concerned with the areas of highest concentration of biomass, but instead want to obtain data that will give an overall glimpse of the entire ecosystem. It is my job to go up to the bridge as we approach the station and coordinate the Shipboard Computer System (SCS) with the activities of the deck crew and the Officer On the Duty (OOD). This morning, Ensign Nathan Priester, Navigator, is on duty.

Radar navigation
Radar navigation

The first activity on the SCS is to synchronize the computer clock to a constant satellite feed and software called Dimension Four. Once I am assured that the computer clock has not drifted I open the program software to the clam survey data. This screen requires that I enter information that will catalog the data for each specific event at designated areas called stations. Station numbers are related to exact coordinates of latitude and longitude for the desired tow. Today we are off the coast of Virginia at Latitude: 33651.231N. Longitude: 07526.591W. Next to be entered are the numbers for strata (general area) and the tow number (the number of tows in that strata). The computer will then use this data to not only monitor the aspects of the tow, but also as a file to catalogue the species data that will later be recorded on deck. The next information has to do with the depth of the tow. A number is entered that correlates to the length of the hauser that is to be released. A hauser is a 3” rope that is used to tow the dredge once it is on the bottom. Today the hauser length will be 110 ft.; I also need to enter the information for the winch cable. The winch cable is heavy wire that is used to lower and raise the dredge.

Charting our course
Charting our course

The length out is slightly longer than the designated hauser length; this means that when the dredge reaches the bottom the tension is transferred over to the more flexible hauser for the tow. Today’s cable information is designated 125 ft and the Crane. Having entered this info, my next job is to go to the back of the bridge and activate two switches that will lower the hydrophone. This is a device that is lowered down beneath the ship that communicates with the Survey Sensor Package (SSP) adhered to the dredge. This sensor package provides a constant stream of information regarding dredge position, attitude to the bottom, speed, depth, temperature, and more. This communication will also provide a track line that can be monitored on the bridge and the wet lab.  Now we are ready for a crew is on the radio and the OOD, on the bridge, has a video feed of the stern deck. The crew calls in that the dredge is being taken off the chains, and I input the start of the “event” in the computer. An internal clock starts running and monitoring data. When the dredge is 10 meters out the crew asks for “Power On”, I now enter this into the SCS, and the 440-volt power is turned on to the pump and the sensor package.

More ship equipment
More ship equipment

At this point the sensor package is being read by the hydrophone, and a constant stream of data is being entered. The pump is now delivering water at high pressure through a manifold with a dozen nozzles. This pressurized water is blown onto the substrate (ocean floor) creating a slurry of clams, substrate and shell hash in front of the oncoming dredge. When the dredge comes to the end of the cable, the tension is transferred to the shorter hauser line and the crew announces “on the hauser”. This is my cue to enter “start tow”. This command starts an internal clock that measures a tow of exactly five minutes. With five minutes to spare, I now need to enter further cruise information and input weather data. The OOD keeps the vessel going a constant 1.3 knots. He then tells me the average rpm of the tow. Today we are averaging 135 rpm’s.  The weather data consists of the percentage of cloud cover (20%), the visibility (clear), the wave height (2ft.), the swell height (3ft.) and the swell direction (160 degrees). At the end of the five-minute tow, the deck crew announces, “haul back”, and I input “end timed tow”. The next command I input will indicate off the hauser, meaning that the cable winch has now retrieved the tension. The next command is ‘off the bottom”, and then power off. When I input each of these commands into the computer I await the call for last ten meters. This signals the end of the computer event and I exit the program, cross off the station on the log so that the number is not inadvertently reused, and electronically retrieve the audio phone back onboard. This part of my job usually takes about 25 to 20 minutes. It is now time to go aft, put on my oilers, and go out to sort the dredge contents, and input species data. That will be the subject of a future log. This process is repeated on an average of eight times per shift. There are four shifts; each crew has two shifts per day. The vessel and data collection operates 24 hours per day.

Personal Log

We are now off the coast of Virginia. There is lots of military traffic out of Norfolk. We are fishing the shallower waters of the Delmarva Peninsula. We are in surfclam territory. We are having limited success which is consistent with the data of previous surveys that would suggest that clam populations are moving to colder off shore locations and further north. We are doing a lot of measurements of meat weight and saving samples in various strata for universities and scientists that have requested samples for research. All is well, the weather is great the people on board are super, and, have I mentioned the food is great?

Mike Lynch, June 25, 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 25, 2005

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

Weather Data

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Scientific Log

As we are entering our sixth day aboard the DELAWARE II, we are still collecting data on Atlantic Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs. It could be that some would question why NOAA, the Federal government, scientists and the commercial industry would be so interested in these species as to fund our research. Today’s log will try to deal with some of the reasons that make this and other surveys of this type important.  The citizens of the United States and the World depend on marine resources for jobs, recreation, tourism, medicine and industrial and commercial products. As citizens, we depend on our governments to make informed policy decisions to ensure sustainable resources for future generations while allowing for present well-being and opportunity. These goals may sometimes appear to be at odds, but on further analysis they are interrelated. At no period in history has mankind been so acutely aware of the correlation between environment and human well-being.

Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

The result of this awareness has placed increased public pressure on NOAA to provide optimal stewardship of these resources.  NOAA and the Northeast Fishery Science Center have established goals that attempt to reach a balance between conservation for the future and efficient utilization of existing resources. The first goal centers on research and monitoring. This is where the scientific surveys, such as the Clam Survey provide data that helps our society to understand and predict changes in the ecosystems and their subsystems that affect vital marine resources. The second goal is to provide scientific advice that can be used to create sound environmental policies with an ecosystem framework. This advice is provided in order to enhance society’s ability foresee and respond to changes and manage risks. The third goal deals with education and outreach. Communication with individuals, stakeholders, schools, communities and industry is essential if policy and regulations are to be formulated and adhered to. Cooperation can only be achieved through communication and participation. Our current survey, and my participation as a Teacher at Sea are prime examples of NOAA’s commitment to share technical assistance and understanding.  Another example of NOAA’s adherence to the goals of conducting and disseminating scientific data have been the Cooperative Clam surveys conducted in 2002, 2004, and soon to be continued in July of 2005. Two of the scientists that participated in the 2004 Cooperative Survey are currently on board our current Clam Survey. Both were happy and enthusiastic to share their experiences and are anxiously awaiting their participation in this years’ 2005 Cooperative Research.

Teamwork gets the job done
Teamwork gets the job done

The Atlantic Surfclam supports a multi-million dollar annual fishery along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Communities, industry, fishermen and the general population are stakeholders in these important resources. Preserving the well being of the surfclam fishery is therefore not solely an objective of environmental agencies. Due to concerns about the status of the surfclam stock, the Cooperative Clam Surveys were developed toaugment the scientific surveys that were being done by NOAA every three years. The surveys that doctors Pickett and Nordahl worked on were cooperative efforts of NOAA, the National Fisheries Institute, The Clam Institute, the North Atlantic Clam Association, The New Jersey Fisheries Information and Development Center, the Rutgers University Haskins Shellfish Research Laboratory and the University of Virginia Institute of Marine Science have worked cooperatively to conduct these surveys. The survey area was the Mid-Atlantic Coast from the Hudson Canyon to Virginia. This survey, however had a noticeable difference: a commercial clammer, the FV Lisa Kim, was used, as well as a commercial clam dredge. The same Stratified Random Sampling Design, utilizing NEFSC clam strata was used as had been done on the DELAWARE II three year Clam Survey. Dredge efficiency was measured via depletion experiments and monitored by using the NMFS Survey Sensor Package (SSP) from the DELAWARE II.

Results from the 2004 survey were catalogued and compared with historical survey data. Tows were made on the same random stations, using the same speed, the same tow duration, and the same count and measurement techniques were employed.  The differences were the ship,the dredge and the expertise of professional clammers. Due to the lesser number of scientists on board, measurements of ages, Ocean Quahogs, Southern Quahogs and clappers were not taken. The results in some ways confirmed data that had been accumulated by the DELAWARE II. The research confirmed the patterns of surfclam population movement to deeper waters and a distinct northern migration pattern. Numbers of clams caught suggested that clam populations might be greater than had been previously suggested. Most importantly, the survey produced a sampling of data that allowed the NEFSC to compare their data with scientific data cooperatively produced with participating stakeholders. The data collected by the commercial vessel can now be used to quantify the efficiency of the equipment and procedures used by the DELAWARE II.

True to the goals of NOAA Fisheries, industry, scientists and government are working in coordination to create accurate data from which we can make informed decisions to benefit our present economic needs and the future of our precious marine environments. NOAA has in many ways accomplished its goal of outreach, cooperation and education. By empowering stakeholders and informing society, the future looks bright for the creation of policy and regulations that achieve the balance of present and future needs.

Personal Log

The weather is absolutely outstanding. Calm seas, a slight breeze, moderate to warm temperatures and little humidity. Does it get any better? We are starting to become adjusted to our new sleep patters, and the equipment has required little servicing. We are currently off the coast of Virginia. Have I mentioned the food is great? Everyone’s favorite person is the Chief Steward. The only thing missing… Clams! Oh well, we’re finding where they’re not.

Mike Lynch, June 23, 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 23, 2005

Safety ring
Safety ring

Weather Data

Latitude: 3651.23N
Longitude: 07526.591W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 2
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 14 mph

Scientific Log

It is now 12 AM Wednesday morning. We were awakened for our shift at 11:20. The unwritten rule aboard ship is that you hustle out and relieve the alternate shift a few minutes early. Things got a little chaotic prior to the end of our second shift on Tuesday. An electrical junction box that operates the high compression pump and water jets on the dredge was damaged on a tow. The electrical wiring was pulled out of the box, allowing water and sand to impregnate the electrical system. The damage was observed prior to the dredge being lowered for another tow, and the work began.

Safety equipment
Safety equipment

Life at sea requires the crew to wear many hats. There is no WalMart, no Home Depot, no 911, no fire department, and no ambulance. We are a self-sufficient community that must be self-reliant and work as a team in order to problem solve. Tools were brought out, electrical parts were on hand and collective, hands on, can do attitude was applied. The box was repaired and I learned a good deal about how electrical work designed for underwater usage, differs significantly from what is done on dry land. This event prompted me to think about the interesting and challenging aspects of life at sea. Today’s journal log will focus on the job of safety.  Starting the first day, we were all assigned fire stations, evacuation stations, general quarters assignments and given safety protocols. Before we left the dock, we had our first fire drill. We were also instructed to go to our evacuation stations and to bring our immersion suits. Everyone was asked to put his or her immersion suit on.  It was a fine photographic moment, but also a very serious one. While on a tour of the Osprey IV, prior to our departure, one of our officers pointed out the self-contained oxygen apparatus for fire fighting. In passing, he mentioned, “you know, if we have a fire out here, there’s no one to call”.

Protocols
Protocols

Every one of our staterooms has four bunks a bathroom, four drawers and small lockers for your stuff. There are usually never more than two in the room at any time due to watch constraints. But regardless of the constraints on space, each room contains a fire extinguisher, four Emergency Escape Breathing Devices (EEBDs), four life jackets with beacons and two survival (immersion) suits. The “common room” which adjoins the galley is no bigger than 6ft.by 12ft. There is a TV, a stereo, VCR and two couches. Space is limited, but central to it all are an EMT jump box for medical emergencies and an automatic emergency defibrillator for possible heart attacks. In the same room, there is a posting of all crewmembers and their stations and responsibilities in foreseeable crisis events. There are drills for fire, abandon ship, and man overboard. Each of these drills has an associated general stations alarm and whistle designation to identify the nature of the crisis. Hardhats are worn on deck at all times and OSHA regulations for safety are strictly followed throughout the vessel. Immediately inside the stern deck are two emergency showers with eye wash stations. There is a chemical spill kit inside the ready room. There are full-size backboards and short boards dispersed throughout the ship for immobilization involving head trauma or possible spinal compromise.

lynch_log4cBefore boarding the ship, I observed twos stokes basket that would be used for emergency lift of a diver out of the water, or an overboard crewmember. There is also a contingency on board for an emergency helicopter evacuation. There are nine general fire stations throughout the boat that have hydrants and hoses. There are four life rafts that can be used for evacuation and one rescue vessel that can be used for emergency retrieval of a person overboard. There is a dive locker with underwater breathing apparatus and trained personnel to make the dives. There is a Damage Control Locker that contains three SBA controlled breathing devices and fire suits in case of an onboard fire, as well as HAZMAT materials, and myriad of resources that would be necessary in the event of a collision. On each of the outside decks, there are life rings with locator beacons stationed to be used for a man overboard scenario.

Deck storage
Deck storage

There are a total of eight life rings, six of which have locator beacons.  At night, personnel are instructed to continue to release these in order that the ship can find a path back to the crewmember. There are a total of forty-five fire extinguishers onboard. They are a variety of water, CO2 and chemical. There is a chief medical officer and three other officers are current EMTs. All crew, commissioned and civilian have basic first aid training, current CPR, and are routinely presented with safety seminars on ship board policy, firefighting and the use of available equipment such as the emergency defibrillator. At first, these drills and musters, seem to be mere bureaucratic protocol, but when you are at sea for a period, and realize the physical isolation that separates the vessel from services that we have all come to take for granted, you come to realize the nature of being at sea. For me, it was the repair of an electrical box that opened my eyes to the true interdependence that makes a crew a self-sustaining community.

lynch_log4ePersonal Log

The morning shift from 12 to 6 was great. Temperatures were comfortable and the moonlight made to ocean absolutely beautiful breakfast at six and back to bed. Up at eleven and work to six. Our tows have been moderately successful and we have been keeping busy. I am still operating the shipboard computer for each of the events, and that seems to be a lot easier now with practice. The food is great, but the hours to eat, in proximity to sleep, are all out of whack. This afternoon I suddenly started to get really tired. The whole crew is going through a metamorphosis where the intense curve of learning is beginning to be replaced by an overall fatigue. I am certain that will improve as we acclimate to our schedules. There is another teacher on board, but on the other shift. We are comparing notes as we pass. One of us has always just gotten up and the other has just finished a shift and is heading for the barn. I did a lot of interviewing today, some on a formal basis and a lot of informal questioning of officers, scientists and crew. My clothes are a mess and wash will soon become a reality. The general rule is to wait until you have a full load, as water is a manmade commodity on the DELAWARE II.

Donning our safety gear
Donning our safety gear

Mike Lynch, June 22, 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 22, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Latitude: 3726.163N
Longitude: 07444.980W
Wave Height: 1 foot
Swell Height: 1
Foot Weather: clear
Visibility: unlimited
Wind Speed: 7 mph

Safety gear
Safety gear

Scientific Log

Our first real shift for the DELAWARE II Ocean Clam Survey began this morning off the coast of Long Island. The shift stated at midnight, so we were awaked at 11: 15. Our first dredge occurred at 2:15 AM. We are working in a crew of six. Two of us input data into the FSCS computer as the deck crew coordinates with the boatswain in charge of the winch. Safety is a big issue on the NOAA vessel, and scientists are not allowed on deck while the dredge is being lowered off the stern. A high voltage cable is fed out along with the winch cable, and no one is allowed ion the deck until the dredge is in position for tow. Our job upstairs is to coordinate with the Officer of the Day when each step is being done and input his into the computer. Each actual tow takes five minutes, but the entire process of lowering the dredge, dredging and raising the dredge onto the deck takes about 25 minutes. When the dredge is brought up, our job begins.

Measuring a larger clam
Measuring a larger clam

We often start by places a smaller mesh screen at the front of the dredge in order tot capture the contents and releasing the dredge into a tow to wash away some of the debris and substrate soil. When the dredge is brought in the second time it is hauled up to an enormous table where the contents are released for inspection of our crew. It is then our task to sort through large amounts of shell hash, rock and substrate and find the living organisms.  Our trawl today has been averaging at depths of 60 meters (180ft. or 30 fathoms in you want to be really cool and nautical). This is Ocean Quahog territory. True to form, our first three station trawls resulted in large numbers of Ocean quahogs as well as the assorted species. For commercial fisherman, these other species are often referred to as discard. These are unwanted species, or at least not the targeted stock. Today along with the quahogs, we caught several varieties of clams. These smaller clams were varieties such as Asterias, Astarte, Astrope, and Razor. We also collected Sea Scallops and Horse mussels. We Few fish are caught in bottom dredges, but we did catch one small Sea Robin and a small Skate. At first, I thought the unwanted species were called bycatch, but through interviews with on board fishermen and scientists I was informed that the term bycatch more commonly refers to sea mammals, reptiles or marine birds that are accidentally caught or killed in commercial fishing.

Sea stars caught in the dredge
Sea stars caught in the dredge

For example, in the area of scallop dredging, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the bycatch of endangered species of Sea Turtles. After each tow the catch was sorted, measured for length, and weight and catalogued into the computer database. What used to be done by pencil and paper is now done via electronic scans and scales. For quahogs under 40 mm, or above 110 mm in length, we conducted meat weigh measurements as well. This is hard work, and the ship conducts non-stop tows and data collection 24 hours a day. We are learning fast and having fun. The six-hour shift flew by and I was exhausted. A great morning, in bed by 7AM, and ready for the next shift at 11:30 AM. What a weird schedule. We have all been at it for a day and a half, and no one seems to know what day it is. As part of today’s log, I need to share what I have learned about the mysterious Ocean Quahog. The IO\Ocean Quahog, (Antica Islandica) is found from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras. They are usually found in depths from 8 to 256 meters. They are a relatively cold-water species and are rarely found in waters above 16 degrees Celsius.

lynch_log3cTheir population densities are greater in off shore waters and they prefer a substrate of fine sand. In Maine they are found in shallower waters, but the populations are small, and the species grows at a slower rate. The average size is about 70mm.  But today we had one at 110mm. What are really incredible about Ocean Quahogs are their ages. The scientists we interviewed today estimated that most of the many of bushels of quahogs we captured were in the 45 year old range. Quahogs can be in excess of 170 years old. Their most dramatic growth occurs in their first twenty years of life and the growth process slows significantly. Their ages are incredible, I may have to feel guilty the next time I spoon into clam chowder.  Marine biologists have been finding that the Ocean Quahog, like the Atlantic Surf Clam, has shifting population strata. Surveys conducted over the past two decades and commercial fishing statistics show a pattern in which the Surf Clams are establishing themselves in deeper areas where quahogs previously predominated, and that the quahog populations are showing patterns of migration further offshore and further to the North.

One scientist onboard speculated that clam and quahog surveys might be important in the study of global warming.  Ocean Quahogs have a commercial market value. The principal commercial fishing for the species occurs off the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey, Long Island and even Southern New England. In 1993, the commercial harvest of Quahogs reached its zenith at 25,000 metric tons. In 2000, the harvest had diminished to 14,000 metric tons. The decline in the fishery has been in part due to increased regulations under the Surf Clam- Ocean Quahog Fishery Management Plan (FPM), but also due to a decrease in the number of clamming boats and a depressed commercial market.  Despite the reduction in total landings, the Quahog stock may be in jeopardy. The total landings are less than two percent of the total environmental stock, but any greater landings may threaten replacement levels and sustainability of this slow growing species.

Personal Log

Things were going along well until electrical problems with the dredge shut us down. Time to go to work on a different sort of problem.

Mike Lynch, June 21, 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 21, 2005

Heavy dredge equipment
Heavy dredge equipment

Weather Data

Latitude: 3948.669 N
Longitude: 07302.329 W
Visibility: Clear
Wind: 6-8 mph
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell Height: 3ft.
Swell Direction: 150 degrees

Science and Technology log

Changing one’s hours to six on and six off could be a subject for a scientific study in itself. Our first day on board was a short one. We left Woods Hole at 3PM and began our sail south. We stopped to do a test drop with the trawl and received a crash course in the computerized world of fishery research. The NOAA vessel uses two computer systems to bottom dredge. Computer times are constantly calibrated to ensure that different machines are reading data at the same time. The onboard systems are the Fishery Science Computer System (FSCS), and the Scientific Communication System (SCS). The computers monitor the ship’s exact, location, the time of the dredge, the speed, the water temperature the substrate composition and aspect of the dredge to the bottom. Later this week we will be attaching the video feed as well.

Working in the lab
Working in the lab

This sure isn’t your grandpa’s fishing. Once the dredge is secured to the ship, and the power is shut down the scientific crew is released to the aft deck to release and sort the contents of the dredge. The clams are sorted by variety and by size. Other invertebrates and fish are sorted weighed measured and released. The contents of the dredge are analyzed and catalogued for its overall percentage of substrate, shell debris and fish and animals. The clams are then measured, weighed and analyzed for age. The weighing and measurements are done electronically and simultaneously cataloged into the database. The ages of the clams and quahogs are determined through visual inspection of growth rings. This takes a practiced eye, especially with the ocean quahogs, which grow very slowly and can reach ages of one hundred fifty years. One of the on board scientists indicated that they will soon receive a scanner that will be able to read the rings on the surf clams and ocean quahogs and determine their precise age and growth rate. It’s all pretty amazing stuff. Needless to say, some monster computer mainframe is crunching numbers and providing some great information in determining the health of the stock, the overall biomass and the condition and patterns in the environment. It’s hard not to be impressed, and somewhat overwhelmed.

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

We all have a lot to learn about our new duties onboard. We had a quick run down on other experiments we would be conducting at the request of our chief scientist throughout our adventure, and then were on our way to the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia). We will start on our first stations at about 3 AM. This will be fishing for real, and learning on the job. We will start in the Delmarva area, and then work our way back up the New Jersey coastline. The New Jersey offshore waters are the area of the greatest concentration of surf clams and also the greatest concentration of commercial fishing. This area is of specific interest to the scientists who are anxious to measure the health of the stock in relation to findings of previous surveys. It is now 1 AM, and we are awaiting our arrival at our first station. I am spending my time reading about surf clams and ocean quahogs. I am so intrigued, I feel compelled to share. Spisula Solidissma, more commonly known as the Atlantic Surf Clam, can be found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Cape Hatteras. The largest concentrations are off the Delmarva Peninsula, New Jersey and the Georges Bank. Landings of clams off the coast of Virginia and New Jersey have traditionally accounted for half the landings nationwide.

Measuring clams
Measuring clams

The Georges Bank however has been closed to commercial fishing since 1990 due to high concentrations of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP). The surf clam can be found in varying depths from the beach to 60 meters, but concentrations below 40 meters tend to be low. Surf clams can reach a maximum size of 222.5cm (8.9in.), but surf clams larger than 20cm (7.9in.) are rare. Surveys are done because clam populations can, and indeed do, move. Movement predominantly occurs in the larval period. Eggs and sperm are shed into the water column, and may bee carried by currents for as many as three weeks before recruitment to the bottom occurs. The ages of surf clams can be determined by counting the rings on their shells. The rings are formed when a thin tissue adheres to the inner surfaces of the shell, called the mantel, and a thickened rim of muscular tissue at the mantel edge deposit new material at the mantel edge. The resulting rings show how old the clam may be. More on the elusive Ocean Quahog will follow tomorrow.

Personal Log 

Who the heck sits up reading about clams at one AM? Is this nuts or what? The life of a scientist is indeed a crazy one. I myself do not qualify as a scientist, but they sure are interesting to hang out with. I am learning tons, and anxious for our day to begin. The food is great, everyone is friendly, but the sleeping part is somewhat sketchy. I’m sure it will catch up with us all pretty darn soon.

Mapping and lab work
Mapping and lab work

Mike Lynch, June 20, 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 20, 2005

Screen shot 2013-09-08 at 7.51.56 PMScience and Technology Log

We are preparing for a 2pm departure on the NOAA vessel DELAWARE II. We are departing from Woods Hole, MA. Woods Hole is a small maritime community in scenic Cape Cod. Apart from being a tourist Mecca, and a jump off point to Martha’s Vineyard, Woods Hole is home to some of the World’s foremost institutions in the area of Oceanography and Marine Science. A brief stroll down a picturesque cape-side street takes you by The Marine Biology Libratory, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the Northeast Fisheries Center, and the National Oceanic aerospace Administration. It short order it becomes quite apparent that Woods Hole is center of learning and scientific research.

Today we will be leaving on the DELAWARE II, which is a stern trawler that was built in 1963. The ship is 155ft. in length and has a displacement of 600 ton. This research vessel is operated by the National Ocean Service’s (NOS) division of the National oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is a government agency with a mandate to study the condition of the world’s environments.

NOAA Ship Delaware II in port
NOAA Ship Delaware II in port

As a steward, NOAA Fisheries has an obligation to conserve, protect and manage living marine resources in away that will ensure their continuation, while affording economic opportunities and enhancing the quality of life of the American public. Our specific mission will be a scientific survey to collect data on fishery stocks and demographics of exploited fish resources.  More precisely our target stocks are to be Atlantic surf clams and ocean quahogs. In a brief orientation with our chief scientist, we were told that we would be conducting timed dredges on pre-selected stations to collect data on species recruitment, the health, number and location of incoming classes of fish. We would also be monitoring data on the abundance, location and survival rates of harvestable size clams and quahogs. Our mission will also obtain data that monitors changes in the ecosystem as well as the biomass of the surveyed areas.

Activities on deck
Activities on deck

In order to gain the needed scientific data, the DELAWARE II will be using a hydraulic dredge to sample the stations of the ocean bottom. The last “clam survey’ was conducted in 2002. This survey is conducted on a three-year basis due to the low exploitation rate of the fishery as well as the slow recruitment rate of the species. For this survey we will be using a five foot wide hydraulic dredge, fitted with water jets, and a submersible electric pump that loosens the substrate and animals in the path of the dredge. The equipment is a modification of that which is used in the commercial industry. The five-foot dredge looks more like mining equipment than fishing gear. It is fitted with a two inch aqua mesh that allows the capture of smaller species than are commercially profitable, in order to get a more accurate sampling of the stock. Clam debris and other associated invertebrates are collected and measured as well. Sensors and photographic equipment will also be attached to the dredge in order to measure bottom conditions and dredge performance. The state of the art sensor package placed on the dredge, gathers a continuous steam of data on dredge performance, bottom temperature, water depth and ship position. Data on catch and dredge performance; location, time and conditions will be catalogued into computer programs that will calculate stock, habitat and location.

Personal log

Day one of our journey has been a flurry of activity. We have received our berth assignments, met new people, gathered our foul weather gear and been introduced to the fantastic fare of the galley. The ship’s crew is busy with a myriad of pre-departure activities, but everyone has gone out of their way to be friendly and accommodating. The weather is beautiful and everyone’s spirits seem to be high. I have had the opportunity to informally interview several of the crew and was given a tour of the ALABATROSS IV as well as our ship, the DELAWARE II. The crew is busy with a cable replacement for the dredge. I and several of the volunteers had the opportunity to have a brief orientation with our chief scientist, and we are awaiting our scheduled 2 PM departure. I will be working two shifts both from 12 to 6. The shifts, along with the scientific work, the interviews and daily logs promise to keep me busy. I am learning a lot, staying out of the way and getting excited. We will be heading south to New Jersey rather than the Georges Bank. Time constraints and equipment repair may have been factors in the change of plan. Woods Hole is a beautiful and picturesque location but also a hotbed of scientific activity.

A hearty bunch
A hearty bunch

Jeff Grevert, June 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 16, 2005

As our research cruise was coming to an end I went on the final watch of the trip at 0000 hrs. Since we were steaming en route to the ship’s homeport in Woods Hole, MA., no research took place. We cleaned the science lab and science deck for a few hours. We arrived in port at Woods Hole at approx. 0700 hrs.  After docking, I took some final photographs, exchanged e-mail addresses and said my good-byes.

grevert_log9 grevert_log9a

Jeff Grevert, June 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 15, 2005

The dredge
The dredge

Weather Data

Latitude: 41° 12′ N
Longitude: 070° 45′ W
Visibility: 2 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 13 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Sea Water Temp.: 13.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1007.9 mb
Cloud Cover: 5/8 (Altocumulus, Cirrus)

Science and Technology Log

0000- 0600: After one successful trawl, an electrical component on the dredge lost power. During the next four hours, scientists and engineers dismantled the component and realized that it had a leak which allowed water to enter. The component was most likely damaged when the dredge was dragged over rocks yesterday. The component was repaired by the end of my watch. We then went off watch and ate dinner. When I awoke for my next watch, I learned that the next watch (0600-1200) also experienced power loss to the component.  Again it had to be dismantled and repaired.

1200-1800 The dredge and all components worked smoothly for my second watch.  Our trawls yielded few clams however.  One trawl filled the dredge with nothing but benthic sediment.  After being relieved by the next watch I ate dinner and went to work on lesson plans and interviews.

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Jeff Grevert, June 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 14, 2005

Skates!
Skates!

Weather Data

Latitude: 40° 28′ N
Longitude: 69° 27′ W
Visibility: < 1nm
Wind Direction: 230°
Wind Speed: 12 kts
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 3 ft.
Sea Water Temp: 10.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1004.1 mb
Cloud Cover: 1/8 (Altocumulus)

0000- 0600 Went on watch. Conducted a few trawls which yielded ocean quahogs. Bycatch included little skates and starfish. At the end of my watch I ate breakfast and went to sleep.

1200-1800 Conducted more successful trawls. This was the first day that my watch had two uninterrupted watches.  We got a lot of work done and had good clam yields.  Interesting bycatch included a goosefish. Not knowing any better, my cabin mate stuck his hand in the goosefish’s mouth and got bitten.  At the end of my watch I ate dinner and went to work on my lesson plans.

On the next watch the dredge hit an underwater rock field and got mangled.  The crew and scientists successfully replaced the front blade assembly with a spare. This halted operations for a while but soon we were back to work.

The goosefish has sharp teeth!
The goosefish has sharp teeth!

Jeff Grevert, June 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 13, 2005

Clam sizes
Clam sizes

Weather Data

Latitude: 41° 12′ N
Longitude: 070° 45′ W
Visibility: 2 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 13 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Sea Water Temp.: 13.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1007.9 mb
Cloud Cover: 5/8 (Altocumulus, Cirrus)

Science and Technology Log

We’re back underway 🙂 The repairs went well and the Delaware II set sail at 1400 hours. It was about a three-hour steam to our first sampling station.  Once we arrived, there was time on my watch to conduct one trawl. Only one Ocean Quahog was collected. Some bycatch included sea stars, sponges, sand dollars and a crab. At 1800 hours I went off watch and ate dinner. Later I worked on my lesson plans and collected data from the ship’s weather log.  Currently I’m waiting for my second watch (midnight).  I think I’ll get some rest.

Taking measurements and collecting data
Taking measurements and collecting data

 

Jeff Grevert, June 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 12, 2005

Today I went to Martha’s Vineyard for some R & R with some of my shipmates.  No scientific research took place. Our ship is scheduled to set sail tomorrow June 13th at 1200 hours to continue sampling possibly in the vicinity of George’s Bank.

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grevert_log5

Jeff Grevert, June 11, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 11, 2005

grevert_log4Weather Data
Latitude: 38 39 N
Longitude: 73 50 W
Visibility: < 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: 190
Wind Speed: 10 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temp: 15.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1021.4 mb
Cloud Cover: Fog

Our entire day was spent steaming en route to Woods Hole, MA. We arrived around 1600. Many of the scientists and crew dispersed to go home to their families.  No scientific research took place.

grevert_log4b

Jeff Grevert, June 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 10, 2005

Sampling surf clams
Sampling surf clams

Weather Data
Latitude: 37° 51′ N
Longitude: 74° 25′ W
Visibility: 7 nm
Wind Direction: 182°
Wind Speed: 13 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temperature: 16.1° C
Cloud Cover: N/A, Clear

0000 – Went on watch.  Shortly after my watch started, we experienced generator issues.  The overhead lights in the science lab went out momentarily and we were on an emergency generator to keep the computers on.  Both generators are required to work the wench that controls the dredge, so operations ceased for approximately the next four hours. At around 0400 the ship’s engineers fixed the problem, and trawling continued.  The few trawls we were able to conduct yielded fewer shellfish than in previous days. The watch chief explained that it probably had to do with the location of those specific stations we were sampling in the vicinity of Delaware Bay. Bycatch included a stargazer fish (Astroscopus sp.) and a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus).

Sorting baskets
Sorting baskets

0600 – Finished the assigned duties of my watch, ate breakfast, and went to sleep.

1200 – Went on watch.  We conducted one trawl with a small yield.  The catch included ocean quahogs (Arctica islandica) and several specimens of Chestnut Astarte (Astarte castanea). I must say that working with someone educated outside of the U.S. helps you to appreciate the value of binomial nomenclature.  Common names for the same organism are different all around, but the scientific name remains the same.

Soon after our first trawl, we experienced technical difficulties with the power pack that controls the wench which drives the sampling dredge weighing in at approx. 7,000 lbs (empty).  The ship’s engineers were unable to fix it with the present resources.  At this point, it was decided to turn around and head back to Woods Hole to obtain the parts necessary for repairs. We are currently on a 25hour trip back north from Delaware Bay to Woods Hole. After the power pack is repaired we will set out to continue sampling most likely in the vicinity of southern New England.

Since no sampling can take place, we are not standing watches at this time.  Most of the scientists are using this time for R&R by sleeping, listening to music, watching satellite TV, and viewing one of over 500 films on 8mm provided by the U.S. Navy Motion Picture Service.  Some of the films are still in theatres!  R&R is always nice, but I am eager to get back to work.

Making repairs
Making repairs

Jeff Grevert, June 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 9, 2005

Catch of the day
Catch of the day

Weather Data
Latitude: 38 39 N
Longitude: 73 50 W
Visibility: < 0.5 nm
Wind Direction: 190
Wind Speed: 10 kts
Sea Wave Height: 2′
Swell Wave Height: N/A
Sea Water Temp: 15.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1021.4 mb
Cloud Cover: Fog

0530 – I was awoken by a NOAA scientist.  He informed my cabin mates and me that the 6-12 watch had to wake up, and the 12-6 watch only had to wake up if they wanted breakfast. I got up to get a bite to eat.

1000 – Woke up and started preparing for the day. Ate lunch.

1200 – Went on watch.

Sample sorting
Sample sorting

1500 – Arrived to our first sampling site.  Donned foul weather gear. We are now sampling in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 30 – 40 miles off Delaware Bay.  Our first trawl yielded Ocean Quahogs (Arctica islandica) and Sea Scallops (Placopecten magellanicus).  Some bycatch included a few skates, a crab and some razor clams (Ensis directus). In a later trawl, I volunteered to go up into the trap to clear out any amount of the catch that was stuck in the apparatus.  I received instruction from the chief scientist on checking for bent valves in the water pump apparatus.  When the trap is lowered to the sea floor, a high-pressure water pump shoots water into the benthic zone directing shellfish into the trap.  The valves must be checked after every trawl to ensure that they are straight and clear. Bent valves must be replaced. I checked the valves for the remaining trawls in my watch and had to replace one.  After assisting with sorting the catches, I began to collect data on the Ocean Quahogs. Shell length, total mass and meat mass were collected.

1800 – Off watch. Ate dinner. Elected to stay awake to complete log entry and gather meteorological data from the ship’s weather log.  Preparing to back on watch from 0000 June 09 – 0600 June 10.

Activities on deck
Activities on deck

Jeff Grevert, June 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Grevert
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 8 – 16, 2005

Mission: Surf Clam Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 8, 2005

Jeff Grevert, ready to set sail
Jeff Grevert, ready to set sail

Weather Data
Latitude: 41° 22′ N
Longitude: 070° 53′ W
Visibility: 5 nm
Wind Direction: 220°
Wind Speed: 11 kts
Sea Wave Height: 1′
Swell Wave Height: 2′
Sea Water Temp:  14.3° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1041.8 mb
Cloud Cover: 1/8; Altocumulus, Cirrus

Science and Technology Log

0900 – DELAWARE II changed docks; I assisted with lashing the cargo net beneath the gangway.

1200 – Participated in an interview conducted by an intern at the National Marine Fisheries Service Ecosystems Surveys Branch. The objective is to create an interactive DVD to promote NOAA programs.

1300 – Embarked from Woods Hole Mass.

grevert_log1a1400 – All hands aboard the DELAWARE II participated in ship drills for fire and abandoning ship. All hands onboard had to report with a life jacket, a survival immersion suit, a hat, long pants and a long sleeve shirt. My station was the stern at life raft # 2.  On the stern, we all learned how to don our survival immersion suits.

1500 – The scientific crew and I participated in a practice bottom trawl to learn how to conduct clam surveys. The clam survey is the primary scientific objective of this cruise.  I was briefed on deck safety, chain of command and research protocol. After the trawl (~5 minutes), the scientific crew on watch and I sorted the catch.  The organism collected in the greatest abundance was the Surf Clam (Spisula soldissima).  Other organisms collected included sea stars of the genus Asterias.  The Surf Clams were sorted into three categories: live, clappers (a specimen where the bivalve shell and hinge are intact but with no meat) and dead (a bare half shell).  One of the scientists from the national marine fisheries service gave me training on entering data into the Fisheries Science Computer System.  This is a software application designed specifically for fisheries research.  Parameters recorded included: shell length, overall mass and meat mass.

1900 – The first officer of the DELAWARE II gave me instruction on understanding nautical codes from the ships log for recording cloud cover, cloud type and other meteorological conditions.  A nautical day starts at 1200 noon. Since we were still in port at that time, I recorded the first entry into the ship’s weather log.

Carolyn Bielser, May 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 29, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Cloud cover 50-60%
Weather – partly cloudy
Wave height – 0
Swell height – 0
Latitude- 3815.93 N
Longitude – 07423.00W
Air Temperature 16.6
Barometer – 1013.9
Salinity – 031.34
Wind speed –n4.89
Flurovalue – 325.5

Science and Technology Log 

The seas have been calm and the temperatures warmer.  We have been making our way south, now along the coast of Delaware. The clamming has been going better with the better weather and less breakdowns. We did have the power cable to the pump catch on fire, briefly. Earlier the power cable jumped a winch and got caught on a chain and damaged.  They must have missed a small hole when fixing it and it ended up burning the outer cover. We had to stop and take out the damaged portion of the cable and rewire the pump.

We are now moving east and north to conduct some setup depletion sites and the DE II depletion site. After that, we will try to finish up a major portion of the stations left in the mid-Atlantic bight.

Sensor package, trackpoint dredge tracking system and the FSCS are all working well.

We attached a video camera to the top of the dredge in order to observe the pump kicking on and the water jets working properly.  The jets shoot water down in front of the dredge and loosen up the sand so the dredge can be pulled through more easily.  The resulting video showed this to be working well. It was neat to see the dredge in action underwater.

Many of the tows result in few clams and lots of shells, rocks or periodically a ton of clay. We have seen a few interesting fish – a monkfish, a stargazer and a sea robin.  I think the fish surveys would be very interesting because they trawl with nets and you would see a lot more variety of fish.

Personal Log 

At the very least, I have gained a respect for the people who do this kind of fieldwork.  Without them, this information would not be collected and little would be known about the conditions of the ocean environment and the life in it.

Carolyn Bielser, May 28, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 28, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Cloud cover – clear
Weather – clear
Wave height – 0.3
Swell height 0.4
Latitude 3958.66 N
Longitude 07400.65 W
Air temperature 24.8
Barometer 1009.6
Total Salinity 27.78
Wind Speed 14.17

Science and Technology Log

As of 0600 this morning, we reached station # 43. Beautiful morning, clear skies and getting warmer.  We are in an important area for this survey, off the coast of New Jersey, so some of the tows are repeated.  The dredge has been operating smoothly today.

Personal Log 

It is a beautiful morning out – clear skies and not cold.  I actually got an email from Jacqui. I have tried to send another one to school and hope something gets through.  I’m not doing so well with the pictures being sent, but I will bring them back – most of the action here takes place around this big dredge, so the dredge is the subject or background of many of my pictures.

On board are basically two groups that work together to make things happen.  The scientific group is composed of the Chief Scientist, the Watch Chiefs and the “scientists” (either volunteers, contracted employees or employees of NOAA).  The Chief Scientist in this case is Victor Nordahl. He is responsible for the conduct of the scientific personnel, organizing and implementing the scientific activities on board ship and making sure the cruise objectives are met.

The Watch Chiefs are responsible for directing and coordinating scientific activities on their watch.

The Master or C.O. is the final authority on board ship.  He is responsible for the safety of all on the ship, all personnel and equipment.  He is ultimately responsible for the comfort and morale of all.

On the scientific end, there are two watches.  The day watch is 0600 to noon, then 1800 to midnight.  The night watch goes noon to 1800 and midnight 0600.  So at any one time, half the scientific crew is working and half is sleeping.  So while we may have 14 people on the scientific end, you really are only crossing paths at change of watch.

The rest of the crew on board support the operation.  There are the fishermen who work a lot with the dredge, bringing it up and down; the engineer who takes care of the power end of the ship; the electrical technicians who are here for any electrical problems, and the cooks.

I got to climb up on top of the dredge today.  I should have taken a picture from the top– you would not have believed that I was up there!  I was clipped on though, so even if I slipped I would not have ended up in the ocean.  There are a lot of situations that could lead to an accident if you were not paying attention – safety is a big issue.  Hard hats are required whenever you are out on the deck; life vests are not mandatory if you are just going out on deck, but if you are dumping samples over the side or doing any climbing, they are definitely needed. The deck gets slippery and I think it would be pretty easy to go sliding down the deck and over the railing, so wearing a life vest is probably a pretty good idea all the time.

Carolyn Bielser, May 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 27, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Cloud cover 100%
Weather drizzle
Wave height 1.3
Swell height 1.3
Latitude 3943.80 N
Longitude 07358.57W
Air temperature 10.8
Barometer 1007.4
Wind Direction 027.76
Wind speed 025.36

Scientific Log 

On this survey, we are most concerned with surf clams and quahogs; so here’s a little information on surf clams.

Surf Clam or Spisula Solidissima:   Identification: shells moderately strong, somewhat triangular.  Hinge with distinct cuplike chondrophore and strong lateral teeth crenulated on inner side, visible with a hand lens even if very small.  Outside is nearly smooth; fresh shells have yellowish-orange periostracum and grow up to 8 inches (200 mm).

Where found: Nova Scotia or Labrador to South Carolina.  Very low in the intertidal zone to subtidal, down to 100 feet (30 m).

Remarks: The most common clamshell on ocean beaches south of Cape Cod.  A favorite of scavenging gulls, who drop them from on high until the shells break.  Formerly little valued commercially, surf clams recently accounted for 70% of the U.S. clam crop, usually taken by hydraulic dredge off N.J. and Maryland shores.  Most of the catch is canned.

Personal Log 

Science involves fieldwork and lab work; this is one type of fieldwork involved in marine science. Lots of people are involved and they have to work as a team to accomplish the mission.  Often they are working on less sleep than usual and probably a whole different schedule than they are used to. This ship is not very big – only 155 feet long and 30 feet wide. Much of the space on board is taken up by equipment.  There is a wet lab (264 sq. ft), a dry/chemistry lab (230 sq. feet) a protected work area 172 sq feet, and a scientific freezer (201 square feet).  There are two single staterooms, 11 double staterooms, and four bunkrooms with a total of 32 bunks.  There is a small dining area, a very small lounge area, and for exercise, there is stationary bicycle stuck in the corner.  So you can imagine people are crammed pretty close together.  You need to think about how you would handle this if you wanted to pursue a career that took you out to sea very often.

Carolyn Bielser, May 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 26, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Due to the seas being too rough we put the sampling on hold last night.  This morning one of the electrical cables got twisted up so they are working on that right now.  We have covered about 24 stations to this time.

Personal Log 

Slept well again last night even though the ship was rocking and rolling.  Very strange feeling when you are in your bunk – like sleeping on a waterbed and someone else is jumping up and down on it.  The other volunteers are feeling a little better.  I have sent emails – or rather, I composed email and tried to send it out, but I have received nothing back so I am dubious that anyone is receiving any from me.  We have been close enough to shore to observe some sea birds – mostly terns.  On the haul in the dredge, we have seen skates, starfish and hermit crabs.

Carolyn Bielser, May 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 25, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature 8.9
Barometer 1010.4
Fluorescence value 242.6
Total Salinity 030.11
Swell Height 1.3

Science and Technology Log

One of the things that stands out about this cruise is the use of the FSCS, or Fisheries Scientific Computer System.  This is the second time this system is being used for clams.  In 2002, the data from each station was obtained through SCS, but biological data was simultaneously recorded on the dredge log and also entered into the FCSC.  This year all operations will be directly entered into the FSCS; also a newly modified celltech clamboard, a Limnoterra board, will be used.

Some of the objectives of this cruise are to:

  1. Determine the distribution , relative abundance and biological data for surf clams and ocean quahogs
  2. Collect dredge performance readings on each dredge haul utilizing a multi-sensor sampling device attached to the clam dredge
  3. Collect positional data for the dredge using an experimental trackpoint system to determine the relative position of the dredge
  4. Deploy a camera system to document the clam dredge performance
  5. Conduct approximately 10 set up sites for commercial survey

How things operate: A hydraulic jet dredge, equipped with a 60-inch blade will be towed at a speed of 1.5 knots for 5 minutes at approximately 450 randomly selected stations.  The dredge is powered by an electric pump positioned on the dredge.

The station information will be logged by a Scientific Computer System and transferred to FSCS at the end of each tow. The catch will be sorted into one-bushel baskets separating live surf clams, live quahogs and clappers (clappers are empty paired shells).  Volume will determined and recorded for the surf clams and quahogs.  A sub-sample of one bushel each of surf clams and quahogs will be measured for shell length and recorded to the nearest millimeter.

Personal Log 

The sea got a little rough Tuesday night and I began to feel a little under the weather.  I still have the scopolamine patch on, but will change it to a new one tonight and maybe that will help. I am able to sleep well so far, but going up on deck when it’s rocking and rolling is getting to me a little.

I think I have spoken with everyone on the scientific end of things here.  There are a lot of different people here and in different status.  Some are permanent employees for NOAA, some are volunteers (like myself) who either would like to become a permanent employee or are looking at a career in marine biology, environmental science and so forth. Some people work for a different company that are contracted out for this research. Everyone really seems to work together well to accomplish the mission.

We are on a 6-12 schedule; I am on the “day” shift.  It is a strange schedule – I start to wonder if it is day or night.  Operations go on 24/7.

Carolyn Bielser, May 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 24, 2005

Science and Technology Log

Days 1: In Port, Woods Hole

Monday, May 23 the DELAWARE II went out on a shakedown.  We left port at approximately 1130 and returned to Woods Hole approximately 0600.

The objectives of the shakedown were to:

  1.  Test deployment of the clam gear and power systems
  2.  Test and calibrate the Survey Sensor package (SSP)
  3.  Test and calibrate archival sensors (minilog and inclinometer)
  4.  Test and calibrate positional data for the dredge utilizing an experimental trackpoint system
  5.  Deploy Van Veen Grap sampler for benthic samples
  6.  Test FSCS for Shellfish using new electronic Limonterra digital measuring boards

Personal Log 

No turning back now…

Leanne Manley, March 28, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leanne Manley
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
March 24 – 31, 2005

Mission: Atlantic Mackerel and Herring Survey
Geographical Area: New Jersey
Date: March 28, 2005

Weather Data
Latitude: 41˚N
Longitude: 70˚ W
SOG (speed over ground – boat): 10.5 Knots
Speed log (speed of boat through water): 10.4 knots
COG (course over ground – boat): 34˚
Furuno3 (3 meters deep) temp.: 2.1˚ C
Air temp.: 3.8˚ C
TSG (thermosalinograph) conductivity: 28 TSG
Salinity: 31 ppt. (3.1%)
Fluorescence value (phytoplankton):  244.7 µg/L
Swells: 2 feet (very calm)

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday afternoon included a variety of happenings.  First, I interviewed some more crew members, took some more pictures, ran the CTD probe and water sampler 2 times, helped clean up data noise from the simrad, and finished up taking a tour of the engine room.

I spoke with Lisa again, as she was up during my shift to clean up some datum for her research. She is doing a paper on topographical features and the species of fishes which thrive in each type. Different types of flora and fauna, rock bottom, or murky detritus bottom, and also the step sloped type bottom.  I just reread that sentence and it’s funny. Anyway, Lisa is a contracted scientist who works with Mike J.

Bill (a.k.a. the ultimate Snood player, Kill Bill) spoke with me a while about NOAA careers and what he’s gained by working for them.  He ultimately was hired as an undergrad, then over the years NOAA paid for him to go through a PhD program, I think at U.Mass. Note to self: Now isn’t that strange, the federal government pay for scientists to better their education, but state governments won’t for educators to better their education. He’s worked with Mike J for about 5 years now on the fish surveys.  His specialty is the underwater camera/video equipment and he showed me a few models they brought with them.  Ultimately, we were going to put them in today, but since we have to head back to Woods Hole to get the hydraulics fixed, we’ll wait until we back out Tuesday.

Grady Abney is one of the engineers on board. He is a retired civilian, and has worked on this ship for 8 years now. He showed me around the engine room and patiently answered my many questions.  How this ship runs is amazing.  Or maybe more amazing is that the basic internal combustion engine that we purchase to get from point A to point B barely lasts 100,000 miles – not running constantly.  This 12 cylinder Diesel engine onboard the DELAWARE II was installed in 1968 and runs, basically nonstop.  They have a rebuild kit (piston sleeves bearings and gaskets) onboard.  It’s refitted/overhauled after so many hours…no other real maintenance, other than oil changes, is performed.  This monster has 1025 horsepower and runs through approximately 1100 gallons of fuel a day on a good day–at a normal 10 knot pace.

The tachometer hovers around 800 rpm and the reducer, better known to us as a transmission, takes the power form the rpm’s and runs the propeller, reducing the rpm’s to 250.  The temperatures are rather intense…even when it’s freezing outside that room stays at a nice 95 degrees F with the vents open.  The engine case temp is about 450 degree F, and the oil temp is 160 degrees F.  The camshaft has never been replaced…37 years old.  Grady showed me the generators and their backup. The other feature in the engine room that is interesting is the evaporator (i.e., the desalinator) . Get this, the fresh water that is sealed in the engine serving as the radiator, is run through an area of incoming sea water.  The heat from water which cooled the engine is used to evaporate the sea water.  The only other process the newly made drinking water goes through is a bromine filter; at that point the water is safe to drink.

We took the last 2 CTD reading yesterday and the 3rd water sample.  The CTD worked great until a short occurred (thankfully on the last release) the CTD read accurately to 375 meters and then just stopped all data retrieval.  The area we were over at the time was 550 meters deep.

Mike J called me out to the aft of the ship to point out dolphins and D said she saw a couple of whales. Dolphins don’t really thrive in the colder regions in the winter.   When I was cleaning up data with Mike, it revealed a mass of fish in 6 places on the readout. One mass of fish was about 1.5 miles long.  But since we can’t trawl I have a hard time visualizing the little blocks on the screen to real fish.

We’re about 2 – 3 hours from Woods Hole right now.

Personal Log

Dennis and Nellie put on a phenomenal Easter Dinner; they’re both awesome cooks.

I’m tired of the shower beating me up.

I’ve never had an exercise bike move around the room when I rode it.

Walking into walls has become a favorite activity of mine.

My powerpoint, picture not text, slide show is up to 50 right now.

I’m going to buy a diesel vehicle when I get home.

I will definitely write another grant to attain more computer based lab equipment and develop at least 4 core labs that I do with them each year.  Computer based lab equipment is a great way to teach the students data analysis (statistical error).

Leanne Manley, March 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leanne Manley
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
March 24 – 31, 2005

Mission: Atlantic Mackerel and Herring Survey
Geographical Area: New Jersey
Date: March 27, 2005

Weather Data
Latitude: 40° N
Longitude: 72° W
SOG (speed over ground – boat): 10.8 knots
Speed log (speed of boat through water): 10.2 knots
COG (course over ground – boat): 241?
Furuno3 (3 meters deep) temp.: 2.4? C
Air temp.: 3.7? C
TSG (thermosalinograph) conductivity: 29
TSG Salinity: 31.4 ppt. (3.1%)
Fluorescence value (phytoplankton):  253 µg/L
Swells: 2- 3 feet (varies)

Science and Technology Log

For a good portion of yesterday afternoon I took pictures and recorded them on the lap top. My confidence level isn’t high as I’ve never used a digital camera before;  every time I take a picture I worry it won’t be there when I need it back home.

After the picture taking session, Mike J had the patience to teach me how to clean up the data from the Simrad 500.  The amount of work it takes to work through the “noise” to get to the real data (the fish) is tedious and time consuming.  I’m really starting to appreciate scientists in the field; patience and perseverance is definitely a needed characteristic for the research scientist profession.

We’re about half way through the transects at this time.  We will probably start steaming back towards Woods Hole this evening—which will take a good 15 hours.  The hydraulic winch will be serviced at that time; if all goes well and the weather looks decent then the boat will go back out on Tuesday.

The internet is down in Norfolk –where the server is located—it feels strange to be this out of touch with people. I can send the e mail messages, but they are only put in a queue until the server is back online.  I started to send the log entries via attachment and I’m still wondering if they went through.  This morning we collected the 12th session of data of the CTD—nothing out of the ordinary. So far we’ve taken 2 water samples; the night shift took the 2nd one last night. And we have another hour to go until the next CTD collection.

While working with Mike J yesterday it was difficult for me to discern between data “noise” and real data (the fish).  The data “noise” consists of bubbles, other ship’s wakes and other sonar equipment on this ship.  Mike discovered the interrupting sonar and had them turned off.

He and a few others in the bridge computer room can discern between a larger fish (a bunch of gray and white blocks to me) and a school of smaller fish.  The other area that is difficult to discern is the changing topography of the ocean floor data and fish data.  Since we aren’t surveying in deep waters many fish stay close to the bottom. One way to gain confidence in knowing whether the data is fish or noise is by comparing one kHz level with another.  If the data is consistent at all three levels then the confidence level is high that the data isn’t just noise.

I met one of the engineers last night, Grady Abney .  He was working out in our “inside gym” and I was in line to use the “inside gym”, so we talked for a while.  Later today I might get a chance to visit the engine room.  The reliability of these ships drive trains is phenomenal.  The engines run constantly—24/7 and I couldn’t find one person on board that had a NOAA ship leave them stranded.  Crew members recalled equipment needed to carry out a research trip breaking (like the hydraulics on this trip), but never an engine.

Personal Log

The way these professionals work together in close quarters is something to see.  From what I notice there is no hierarchy that is necessary to enforce.  Everyone has a demanding job to perform and knows the significance of that position.  They also know that no cruise would be successful if one group of crew members (engineers, operations officers, galley crew, fishermen, scientists) didn’t perform to task.  They say the close quarters starts to wear at everyone on the longer cruises, but they develop methods to keep pettiness at bay.

I miss land—running, going for walks, roller blading, etc.  The “inside gym”, which consists of an exercise bike, is my only recourse.

Leanne Manley, March 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leanne Manley
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
March 24 – 31, 2005

Mission: Atlantic Mackerel and Herring Survey
Geographical Area: New Jersey
Date: March 26, 2005

Weather Data
Latitude: 40° N
Longitude: 72° W
SOG (speed over ground – boat): 10.8 knots
Speed log (speed of boat through water): 10.2 knots
COG (course over ground – boat): 241?
Furuno3 (3 meters deep) temp.: 2.4? C
Air temp.: 3.7? C
TSG (thermosalinograph) conductivity: 29
TSG Salinity: 31.4 ppt. (3.1%)
Fluorescence value (phytoplankton):  253 µg/L
Swells: 2- 3 feet (varies)

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday’s shift ended by releasing and retrieving the first CTD (conductivity, Temp and depth) probe. We hit the area of study (diagram after this log) and are starting the transects. It takes about a 4 hour steam to complete each transect. At the start of each transect the CTD probe is released to take its abiotic measurements (as stated in its name).  This information is important to understand what conditions the fish thrive in and also to note any density-dependent or independent limiting factors.

This survey is near the Southern coast of New Jersey and about 10 – 15 miles off the coastline. Mike Jech stated that we are a bit too shallow.  We will most likely move the transects slightly east to hit deeper waters.  The last CTD probe hit a depth of only 11 meters on the  west side of the transect (near the coastline).

After our fist CTD probe readings last night Mike took Deanelle “D”, Mike (volunteer) and I up to the computer room in the bridge to decipher some of the acoustic readings that the Simrad collected. I didn’t realize how difficult it was to interpret the readings. The acoustic readings are taken with 3 different wavelengths: 18 kHz, 38kHz and 128 kHz. Due to the different frequencies of these wavelengths different colors are assigned to each level of kHz. The difficulty lies when they overlap. Also, since a species-specific fish-finder is only a hope for the future, it is hard to interpret from the data what types of fishes are being detected.

“D” is a PhD student studying mechanical engineering at MIT.  She specializes in long-range acoustics, so she was asked to join Mike J’s crew to learn and help out with this survey. She is one who is hopeful to design a long-range species-specific fish finder.

The early morning seems best to write log entries; so, the first quarter of my shift is the standard time for these entries.  Shortly, we will release the CTD again and also take a water sample at that depth.  The water sample is collected using a 4” PVC tube with spring inserts attached to the ends, or doors of the tube.  Before the tube is released the spring loaded “doors” are tied open. Once the tube is at the desired depth the spring loaded “doors”, which are attached to a cord that someone has onboard the ship, are pulled releasing the springs and closes the doors.  Upon return to the surface, the water is bottled and given to the National Marine Fisheries upon return to port for testing.  The rectangular box represents the area of survey/study.  The lines transecting the rectangle, creating a serpentine, is the course of the DELAWARE II.  The CTD probe is released at the beginning of each transect, or line.  The trawl, if the hydraulics were working, would have been released when the Simrad detected fish along this transect.

Personal Log

It is nice not to have e mail bombarding me every minute – The exercise bike is still a favorite…but the dehydration due to the Dramamine cramps muscles—I like discussing past, present and future research projects with the crew.  The cold is a nice change. I’ve written 13 ideas for lessons applicable to this research…now I just have to write the procedures for each. Last, but not least, Snood is a cool game.

Leanne Manley, March 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leanne Manley
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
March 24 – 31, 2005

Mission: Atlantic Mackerel and Herring Survey
Geographical Area: New Jersey
Date: March 24, 2005

manley_logsWeather Data
Latitude: 40° N
Longitude: 72° W
SOG (speed over ground – boat): 10.8 knots
Speed log (speed of boat through water): 10.2 knots
COG (course over ground – boat): 241?
Furuno3 (3 meters deep) temp.: 2.4? C
Air temp.: 3.7? C
TSG (thermosalinograph) conductivity: 29
TSG Salinity: 31.4 ppt. (3.1%)
Fluorescence value (phytoplankton):  253 µg/L
Swells: 2- 3 feet (varies)

Science and Technology Log

This is my first shift.  I’ve been told that most boats work a 6 hour on and 6 hour off shift cycle. This particular cruise, on board the 147’ DELAWARE II, we are pulling 12 hour shift cycles. I awoke at 0500 hours (10 Greenwich Standard time), gathered my gear, ate breakfast and then started interviewing crew members.

Last night (or early this morning) while I was off duty the night crew calibrated the Simrad 500 (echosounder – fish finder sonar).  This sonar device is the standard device used by NOAA to do fish population counts. The basic objective of this cruise is to do acoustical fish surveys off the New Jersey continental shelf. We will transect the area of study going from shallow to deeper areas of the shelf.

Mike Jech is the chief scientist. He explained the meaning for the abbreviations on the data display screen. The probes that acquire this data are located on the hull of the DELAWARE II.  They record a vast array of quantitative measurements.  I included the ones in my log that apply to this cruise.

Eventually, we will deploy a CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) sensor at the beginning and at the end of every transect.  The abiotic datum it will provide is very important in order to accurately survey the fish.

Rob Gamble, contracting scientist with Mike, assists in handling the technology involved with the fish survey. He helps setup and run the Simrad equipment and the limnoterra, which is a magnetic fish measuring board. He also assists in the use of the FSCS (a computer program used to enter the fish survey data).

Dan Price is the acting executive officer on this cruise.  He explained the transects that we will be doing off the coast of Southern New Jersey.  An area of land off the coast was chosen to do population counts of Atlantic Mackerel and Herring.  The transects are basically the ship’s course “transecting” the chosen area of study. Picture a large square with lines crossing back and forth (in a lawn mower pattern) across the square.  We will transect the chosen squire/area about 8 times.  Within this survey area, the fish finding sonar will be used to locate areas of schooling, or fish hot spots. Trawls and underwater video will be used to identify the fish found by the sonar.

Pete Langlois, acting chief Boatswain, is in charge of many things.  One of his main areas of operation is handling and directing the releasing and retrieving of the trawling net.  At 8:30am they (Mike, Pete, and Dan) released the trawl for a practice run.  We will be at the area of study about 2 pm.  At that time we will start the first transect.  Mike Jech just stated that we have a leak in a hydraulic seal—the hydraulic system operates the trawl (among many other systems on this boat).  The pictures I took show the net in the water, the leak was apparent when they started to retrieve the net.  Most likely we have to enter a port to get the parts needed to repair the leak.  For now, the Simrad will be used.

Personal Log

So far today has consisted of interviewing, writing log entries, taking Dramamine and staying hydrated. They have an exercise bike on this ship and it’s a nice reprieve for me! Since my students are on spring break, most are not available for e mail communication. I will show them my pictures when I return and highlight the objectives and methodology of this cruise. On only the first day I’ve learned a great deal about the equipment and methods used on this cruise.