Patricia Schromen, August 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 22, 2009

Bringing in the nets requires attention, strength and teamwork.
Bringing in the nets requires attention and teamwork.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet
17 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

In Science we learn that a system consists of many parts working together. This ship is a small integrated system-many teams working together. Each team is accountable for their part of the hake survey. Like any good science investigation there are independent, dependent and controlled variables. There are so many variables involved just to determine where and when to take a fish sample.

Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.
Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.

The acoustic scientists constantly monitor sonar images in the acoustics lab. There are ten screens displaying different information in that one room. The skilled scientists decide when it is time to fish by analyzing the data.  Different species have different acoustical signatures. Some screens show echograms of marine organisms detected in the water column by the echo sounders. With these echograms, the scientists have become very accurate in predicting what will likely be caught in the net. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) is responsible for driving the ship and observes different data from the bridge. Some of the variables they monitor are weather related; for example: wind speed and direction or swell height and period. Other variables are observed on radar like the other ships in the area. The topography of the ocean floor is also critical when nets are lowered to collect bottom fish. There are numerous sophisticated instruments on the bridge collecting information twenty four hours a day. Well trained officers analyze this data constantly to keep the ship on a safe course.

Here come the hake!
Here come the hake!

When the decision to fish has been made more variables are involved. One person must watch for marine mammals for at least 10 minutes prior to fishing. If marine mammals are present in this area then they cannot be disturbed and the scientists will have to delay fishing until the marine mammals leave or find another location to fish. When the nets are deployed the speed of the boat, the tension on the winch, the amount of weight attached will determine how fast the nets reach their target fishing depth.  In the small trawl house facing the stern of the ship where the trawl nets are deployed, a variety of net monitoring instruments and the echo sounder are watched. The ship personnel are communicating with the bridge; the deck crew are controlling the winches and net reels and the acoustic scientist is determining exactly how deep and the duration of the trawl. Data is constantly being recorded. There are many decisions that must be made quickly involving numerous variables.

Working together to sort the squid from the hake.
Working together to sort the squid from the hake.

The Hake Survey began in 1977 collecting every three years and then in 2001 it became a biannual survey. Like all experiments there are protocols that must be followed to ensure data quality. Protocols define survey operations from sunrise to sunset. Survey transect line design is also included in the protocols. The US portion of the Hake survey is from approximately 60 nautical miles south of Monterey, California to the US-Canada Border. The exact location of the fishing samples changes based on fish detected in the echograms although the distance between transects is fished at 10 nautical miles. Covering depths of 50-1500 m throughout the survey. Sampling one species to determine the health of fish populations and ocean trends is very dynamic.

Weighing and measuring the hake is easier with automated scales and length boards.
Weighing and measuring the hake.

Personal Log 

Science requires team work and accountability. Every crew member has an integral part in making this survey accurate.  A willing positive attitude and ability to perform your best is consistently evident on the Miller Freeman. In the past few days, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assist in collecting the data of most of the parts of this survey, even launching the CTD at night from the “Hero Platform” an extended grate from the quarter deck.

Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.
Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.

Before fishing, I’ve been on the bridge looking for marine mammals.  When the fish nets have been recovered and dumped on the sorting table, I’ve sorted, weighed and measured fish. For my first experience in the wet lab, I was pleased to be asked to scan numbers (a relatively clean task) and put otoliths (ear bones) into vials of alcohol. I used forceps instead of a scalpel. Ten stomachs are dissected, placed in cloth bags and preserved in formaldehyde. A label goes into each cloth bag so that the specimen can be cross referenced with the otoliths, weight, length and sex of that hake. With all the high tech equipment it’s surprising that a lowly pencil is the necessary tool but the paper is high tech since it looks regular but is water proof.  It was special to record the 100th catch of the survey.

Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.

Questions for the Day 

How is a fish ear bone (otolith) similar to a tree trunk? (They both have rings that can be counted as a way to determine the age of the fish or the tree.)

The CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) unit drops 60 meters per minute and the ocean is 425 meters deep at this location; how many minutes will it take the CTD to reach the 420 meter depth?

Think About This: The survey team directs the crane operator to stop the CTD drop within 5 meters of the bottom of the ocean.  Can you think of reasons why the delicate machinery is never dropped exactly to the ocean floor?  Some possible reasons are:

  • The swell in the ocean could make the ship higher at that moment;
  • An object that is not detected on the sonar could be on the ocean floor;
  • The rosetta or carousel holding the measurement tools might not be level.

Launching the CTD is a cooperative effort. The boom operator works from the deck above in visual contact. Everyone is in radio contact with the bridge since the ship slows down for this data collection.

Retrieving the CTD
Retrieving the CTD

Patricia Schromen, August 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ensign Heather Moe coming aboard the Miller Freeman in Port Angeles, Washington
Ensign Heather Moe coming aboard the Miller Freeman in Port Angeles, Washington

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet with swell 6 feet at 10 seconds
17 degrees Celsius
Areas of fog

Science and Technology Log 

The Miller Freeman docked in the Port Angeles harbor two days earlier than scheduled. Repair was needed on the trawling net reel. Then the bow thruster wasn’t cooperating on Tuesday so departure was delayed until Wednesday. Once at sea, the ship must be self reliant 24 hours a day seven days a week.  Everyone and everything work together.  Team work and cooperation are critical. Many different careers are on board.  Smooth operation of the Miller Freeman relies on each department performing specific assignments.  Some of these departments are:

  • NOAA Corps- commissioned officers who pilot the ship
  • Scientists-oceanographers, fisheries biologists and data analysts
  • Deck Dept.-maintain the ship and launch the survey equipment
  • Engineering Dept.-operate all ships mechanical systems
  • Steward Dept.-prepare meals
  • Electronics Technician – manages ship’s computers and network
  • Survey Department – assist the scientists with data collection and equipment

Some people have PhDs while others may have acquired skills from on the job training.  Most people seem to like the challenge of solving problems like how to weld an extra guide stick with the materials on board or how to map the course to the fishing transects. The opportunities seem as endless as the vast waters of the ocean.

Personal Log 

During our safety drill, I grab these essentials from my stateroom and muster, or go to the upper deck.
During our safety drill, I grab these essentials from my stateroom and muster, or go to the upper deck.

Learning my way around the ship is one of my first tasks and everyone has been so very helpful. There are many hatches and steep ladders (stairs) to the different decks. Safety includes knowing how to exit quickly and how to put on a life suit in less than one minute.  Like a fire drill at school we will have a fire or abandon ship drill sometime today. When I hear the ship’s alarm I must go to my stateroom, grab 4 things:  my life preserver, bag with life suit, long sleeve shirt and hat then muster to the lab deck. There I slip off my shoes, shake the suit out of the bag, lay it out, sit in the middle, wiggle my legs in, kneel down, put in my left arm, pull up the hat, put in my right arm, arch my back and zip it up to my nose. With clear “how to” directions and practice given by my chief scientist, Larry Hufnagle, I’m ready for the mandatory drill.

Question of the Day 
Why would you rather load a ship at high tide?

Something to Think About 
When I departed the ship in the evening I had to walk down the gang plank but when I returned the next morning the gang plank was level.  I only had to walk straight across to board the ship.  The ship was at the exact same dock and no one moved the gang plank. What variable made the angle of the gang plank change?

Deck crew preparing to load gang plank Tuesday afternoon, 3:30 pm
Deck crew preparing to load gang plank Tuesday afternoon, 3:30 pm
This life suit looks like a good fit for me.
This life suit looks like a good fit for me.

Bryan Hirschman, August 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 13, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 6 knots
Wave Height: 1 ft
Wave Swell:  1-2 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.20C
Air Temperature: 14.20C

Science and Technology Log 

This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner
This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner

Life at sea can be very unpredictable. One minute everything is working great, and the next minute problems occur. Last evening a problem occurred with the net reel. The net reel is a large bull wheel that the nets roll into and out of when lowered in the water. The reel is spun by a huge engine that pulls the nets in when they are loaded with fish. This net reel is anchored to the boat with 16 huge bolts and nuts. Four of the bolts were found last night to be weakened during one of the daily inspections of ship’s mechanical instruments. The crew is constantly inspecting each piece of equipment to ensure the safest working conditions. Once this problem was seen all fish tows were canceled. We will be heading into port four days early to fix the problem.

An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel

Once in port the entire net reel will have to be lifted by crane and all the bolts will be replaced. The reel will then be lowered back in place and locked in place with nuts. Even though we are not fishing, other work on the ship is still occurring. The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph) is deployed at regular intervals. This device sends depth and temperature data to a science laboratory to be recorded and used later (discussed in more detail in log 2).

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.
Toxin-producing phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.

The HABS (Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling) research is also still being completed by Nick Adams, an oceanographer with NOAA. He takes water samples approximately every 10 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles). After collecting the samples, he filters them for toxin and chlorophyll analysis. He also collects seawater for phytoplankton numeration and identification. His main focus is on toxin-producing genera, such as Pseudo-nitzschia and Alexandrium which are responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, respectively.  At the end of the cruise, Nick will be able to create a map of the concentrations and locations of toxin- producing phytoplankton. This will then be compared with data from years past to determine patterns and trends.

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton Alexandrium
Toxin-producing phytoplankton Alexandrium

The phytoplankton themselves are not harmful to humans, but as they accumulate in the food chain there can be human-related sickness. If we eat the organisms that are eating the plankton that produce toxins, we can become ill. Not much is known about the cause of the toxin producers, but with more research like Nick’s, scientists continually increase their understanding and ultimately hope to prevent human sickness from these phytoplankton.

Personal Log 

I am saddened to be cutting my journey earlier then expected, but I will leave the ship with fond memories of Pacific Hake, Humboldt Squid, and all the wonderful people who work on the ship. I am particularly grateful to the seven scientists who have gone out of their way to make me feel at home on the ship and have answered all of my questions. They are: the acoustic scientists: Dr. Dezhang Chu, Larry Hufnagle, and Steve de Blois; the fish biologists: Melanie Johnson and John Pohl; the oceanographers: Steve Pierce and Nick Adams. They are each extremely dedicated and passionate about their research and equally passionate about protecting our oceans and the organisms living there.

Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl
Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl

Challenge Yourself 
Volunteers play an integral role in supporting the environmental stewardship conducted every day by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Across the United States and its coastal waters, opportunities exist for volunteers to take part in research, observation and educational roles that benefit science, our citizens and our planet.

Visit this website to see where you can help

hirschman_log4g

Bryan Hirschman, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles
Wind: 14 knots
Wave Height: 2 ft
Wave Swell:  5-6 ft
Ocean temperature: 14.40C
Air Temperature: 16.00C

Science and Technology Log 

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Today, John Pohl, one of the fish biologists showed me the VPR (video plankton recorder). The camera is attached to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth), which is operated by Steve Pierce, a physical oceanographer, and Phil White, chief survey technician, who work the night shift. The CTD is a large apparatus which has room for many additional sensors and attachments. The CTD onboard the Miller Freeman has a dissolved oxygen sensor in addition to the VPR.

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Each night Steve sends the CTD down to the seafloor (about 7 times) to collect data. He is most interested in determining the differing densities of water at different depths (depth is based on pressure, which the CTD measures). He then calculates the densities using conductivity and temperature. By measuring conductivity (how easily electric currents pass through the water sample being tested), Steve can get a measurement of that water sample’s salinity.  Density of water is then calculated from measurements of salinity, and temperature. An equation is used which relates the measurements so that density can be found if these other two values are known. Steve records all the data each night, and will use this information to study currents and their movements.

The VPR is a camera which records video as well as still pictures as it descends to the sea floor. The data are recorded, then uploaded to an external hard drive. The file is very large, as it takes about ten minutes to transfer all the data. The pictures and video will be used by biologists (not on board presently) to identify and determine the percentage of plankton (plankton consist of any drifting organisms) floating throughout the water column. Each time before we set out the fish nets, two people go to the bridge to look for marine mammals. If any are present the nets won’t be put into the water. A few tows have been cancelled due to the presence of marine mammals. This is a great step in keeping them safe. It is always special when I see dolphins or whales.

Here I am holding a sleeper shark.
Here I am holding a sleeper shark.

The only fish tow of the day (no marine mammals present) consisted of mainly Humboldt Squid and some Pacific Hake. Today we used a load cell to get a total mass; this is a device which hooks up to the net and crane. The load cell gives a mass of the entire haul. The majority of the load was released back into the water while a smaller sample was retained. The weights of the Hake and squid were then determined using bins and a balance. The scientists can use the subsample data to determine the data for the entire load.  Bycatch, defined as living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear, are occasionally found in the net. Today a rougheye rockfish was caught, and yesterday a sleeper shark were accidently caught. The scientists do a very good job of limiting bycatch using their acoustic data.

Personal Log 

A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish
A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish

I am enjoying the long hours of work, and have gotten into quite a rhythm. I also enjoy spending time with the hardworking and intelligent staff here on board. We work together as a team, and everyone enjoys their jobs. NOAA has chosen a great group of officers who set a very positive tone and make the ship a great workplace. I would love to take a sabbatical from teaching and work on a NOAA ship. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a bunch. I will take back a lot of positive experience to share with my students, family, and friends.

I have also learned to appreciate the smells of a load of fish. As we move the fish from the holding cell, to small baskets for weighing we are constantly splashed in the arms, face, mouth, eyes, etc. I find it pretty amusing every time I get splashed, or even better, when I splash John, Melanie, or Jake. It never grows old. The hardest portion of my day is determining what movie to watch while running on the treadmill (I finally mastered the art of the treadmill on a rocking boat and can leave the elliptical trainer alone). The boat has close to 800 movies to choose from.

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Rougheye rockfish, Humboldt Squid, Pacific Hake, Albatross, Sheerwaters, and Murres.

Poem of the Day 
Squid ink, squid ink!
O! How you make me stink!
You stain my face, you stain my clothes;
I must wash you off with a fire hose!

You make me scratch, you make me itch,
You even turn Melanie into a wicked witch!
(which is a horribly difficult thing to do—
She’s as gentle as a lamb in a petting zoo!)

Why not John, allergic to your ink!
Torment HIM with your venomous stink!
But no–not ME! All I want are Hake.
So torment instead “almost” graduate Jake!

But once again, though our dinner hour,
Because of you I must shower!

So I beg you, O squid, to hear my plea:
In the future, stay away from me!
Does that sound good?
Do we have a deal?
If not, well then—you’re my next meal.

Answers to Last Question 
Ribbon Barracudina, Pacific Hatchetfish, Baby Humboldt Squid

Bryan Hirschman, August 6, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 6, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 6 nautical miles
Wind: light
Wave Height: <1
Wave Swell: 2-3 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.90C
Air Temperature: 15.50C

Science and Technology Log 

John and Melanie sexing and measuring the fish
Melanie sexing and measuring the fish

Today the day started with a fish tow at 8:00 am. The acoustic scientists, Steve, Larry, and Chu, predicted the fish would be mostly myctophids, and wanted to be certain. The fisherman sent the net out and about an hour later the net was brought back. As predicted the net was filled with mostly myctophids. This is an important step in being able to determine the fish type and numbers using acoustic data only. Scientists will then be able to acoustically count fish populations for most schooling fish (Pollock, Pacific Hake, anchovies, and mackerel to name a few), with out using nets. After the nets are brought in the fish biologists (and me) get to work. We separate all the organisms into their own piles. We then count and weigh them, and log this into a computer using their scientific names. It’s amazing how Melanie and John (the fish biologists) can identify and recall the Latin names of these organisms.

Question: Do we just fish in random locations?

Answer: No, the acoustic scientists choose to fish in locations that appear to be different from previous fishing locations. The parameters which make them different are depth, color intensity, or pattern of the markings on their computer screens. The scientists get real-time acoustic pictures as the boat travels along on a pre-determined path (called a transect).  The more they can relate the graphs on the computer screens to the actual catch in the nets the less fishing which needs to be done.

Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is the second tow consisting of Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid.
Here is the second tow consisting of Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid.

The second fish tow of the day produced Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid. We weighed all the squid first (then quickly returned to the ocean), and 10 were randomly selected for a stomach dissection. The stomachs contained pieces of squid, Pacific Hake, and other unidentifiable fish. Another purpose of this cruise is to determine the effects of the squid on the Hake, and by looking at the stomachs the scientists will be able to determine the relationship between the squid and hake.  The third tow of the day involved an open net with a camera. The camera could record for an hour. The scientists then view the footage to estimate the size and quantity of the hake passing through the net. This is another method the scientists are using to verify their acoustic data.

Here I am holding the delightful meal of tuna.
Here I am holding the delightful meal of tuna.

I also had the chance to launch an XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph). This device is launched at the back of the boat. The sensor is released into the water and is attached by a tiny copper wire. As the sensor travels down the water column it sends the depth and temperature data to the bridge. This data is saved and used by physical oceanographers to better understand temperature profiles found in the ocean.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day. The seas were calm, I slept well last night, and the food was great. I even got to exercise for 1.5 hours. The exercise room has a television hooked up to watch movies, and it made using the elliptical trainer and stationary bike much more enjoyable. I also had a great time working with the fish biologists. We were throwing and catching squid like the professionals who work at Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Best of all was dinner, freshly caught tuna, which I got to filet.

Animals Seen Today 
Dolphin, Mola-mola, Albatross, Sheerwaters, Slender Barracudia, Ribbon Barracudina, Blackbelly Dragonfish, Pacific Hake, Lanternfish (myctophids), Salps, Sunrise Jellyfish, Purple Cone Jellyfish, Wheel Jellyfish, Humboldt Squid, Black-eyed Squid, Pacific Hatchetfish, and Spiny Dogfish shark.

Question of the Day : Can you identify the animals in the photo?
Question of the Day : Can you identify the animals in the photo?

Answer to the last question: Lancetfish

Bryan Hirschman, August 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 4, 2009

hirschman_log1Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind: 2 knots
Wave Height: <1 ft
Wave Swell: 3 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.50C
Air Temperature: 15.50C

Science and Technology Log 

Here I am holding a Pacific Hake.
Here I am holding a Pacific Hake.

We will be conducting several types of oceanographic sampling during our cruise: 2-3 Pacific hake tows per day (weather permitting), an open net tow where fish are viewed through a camera, XBTs: Expendable Bathythermograph (take temperatures at various depths), HABS: Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling, CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density (also at various depths), and a Multiple Opening Plankton Net (collects living organisms at various depths). We will also release a Surface Drifter: floats with currents and sends information about currents via satellite.

The tows, XBTs and HABS are done from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm, while the CTD and plankton net are used during nighttime hours. By working in daytime and nighttime shifts the scientists are maximizing the boat’s usage. I was fortunate enough to help with the plankton net last night. Five samples were collected while I observed. Each sample was labeled and preserved for later use in a laboratory. Observed were amphipods, copepods, shrimp, and crab larvae.

Can you identify the animal I’m holding?
Can you identify the animal I’m holding?

Our first Pacific hake tow came at approximately 8:00 am. The acoustic scientists use four transducers that are attached to the bottom of the boat.  Each transducer sends out pulses of sound at a different frequency toward the bottom of the sea floor. The sound pulse then travels back to the boat and is recorded onto graphs. Fish and other biological organisms also reflect sound pulses. Each type of fish gives off a different signal depending on its size, shape, and orientation. The fish are then identified on a computer using acoustic analysis software. The strength of the sonar signal helps determine the biomass and number of fish. When the chief scientist see an interesting aggregation of fish to tow on, he calls the bridge (the brains of the boat–this is where the boat is controlled) and reports the latitude and longitude of where he wishes to fish. The ship then turns about and the deck hands work to lower the tow net and prepare to collect fish at the depth the scientists observed the fish.

Here, I’ve got a Humboldt Squid.
Here, I’ve got a Humboldt Squid.

After the fish are collected, the Pacific hake are weighed and counted.  A sub-sample of about 300 Pacific hake is sexed and lengthed. Another sub-sample of about 50 Pacific hake is weighed, sexed, and lengthed; sexual maturity is determined by observation of the gonads, and ear bones are removed – this will enable scientists to determine the age of the fish.  About 10 Pacific hake have their stomach contents sampled as well. All this information is collected and used by Fishery Biologists to determine the population dynamics of the overall Pacific hake stock. The acoustic scientists also save all their data in an acoustic library. This will help scientists to analyze the Pacific hake biomass (population) while minimizing how many live specimens they need to collect. In total we completed three tows today. That’s a lot of Pacific hake to measure, weigh, and sex.

Personal Log 

The ship is loud. Sleep was hard to come by last night. Living in quiet Vermont has made me a light sleeper. I need to work on adjusting to the constant noise. The food and staff are great. Everyone takes pride in their ship and the work which is done on the ship.

Question of the Day 
Can you identify the beast in the picture to the picture?

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific Hake, Humboldt Squid, Myctophids, Breaching Whale (too far away to identify; most likely a Humpback)

Jennifer Fry, July 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 29, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 14.1°C (dry bulb); 13.8°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10.6°C
Wave height: 1 ft.
Swell direction: 320°
Swell height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1011.0 mb
Weather note: There are two temperature readings taken on the Miller Freeman. The dry bulb measures the current temperature of the air. The wet bulb measures the absolute humidity of the air; uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Science and Technology Log 

Those aboard the Miller Freeman: including NOAA Corps, crew, and scientists were randomly selected to answer the following question.

How are science and the environment important to the work you do? 

Here are some of their responses:

Lisa Bonacci, Chief Scientist/Research Fish Biologist, M.S. Marine Biology   “As a Fisheries Biologist at NOAA I work in applied science. Our research provides information that managers and policy makers use to make important decisions at a national level. These decisions help the United States keep our fisheries sustainable and at the same time protect our ocean ecosystems.”
Lisa Bonacci, Chief Scientist/Research Fish Biologist, M.S. Marine Biology
“As a Fisheries Biologist at NOAA I work in applied science. Our research provides information that managers and policy makers use to make important decisions at a national level. These decisions help the United States keep our fisheries sustainable and at the same time protect our ocean ecosystems.”
Pat Maulden, Wiper, Engineering Department   “I like being part of the solution.  If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
Pat Maulden, Wiper, Engineering Department
“I like being part of the solution. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
John Pohl, NOAA Oceanographer, B.S. Oceanography   “Every action has a consequence.  Science improves our understanding of the world around us and consequences of our actions in the natural world.  We are not separate from the environment in which we live. We can’t hold ourselves out of the natural world, or we will affect the balance.”
John Pohl, NOAA Oceanographer, B.S. Oceanography
“Every action has a consequence. Science improves our understanding of the world around us and consequences of our actions in the natural world. We are not separate from the environment in which we live. We can’t hold ourselves out of the natural world, or we will affect the balance.”
Steve DeBlois, NOAA Research Fish Biologist   “Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.”
Steve DeBlois, NOAA Research Fish Biologist
“Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.”
Jose Coito, Lead Fisherman   “I try to help the scientific research on the ship whenever I can. I enjoy my job.”
Jose Coito, Lead Fisherman
“I try to help the scientific research on the ship whenever I can. I enjoy my job.”
LTjg Jennifer King, NOAA Corps Officer, B.S. Marine Biology   “Science helps understand natural processes: how things grow, and how nature works. We need to help protect it. Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”
LTjg Jennifer King, NOAA Corps Officer, B.S. Marine Biology
“Science helps understand natural processes: how things grow, and how nature works. We need to help protect it. Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”
Steve Pierce, Physical Oceanographer, Oregon State University, Ph.D. Physical Oceanography “None of this research is possible without math.  My study is a cool application of math.”
Steve Pierce, Physical Oceanographer, Oregon State University, Ph.D. Physical Oceanography “None of this research is possible without math. My study is a cool application of math.”
John Adams, Ordinary Fisherman   “Science helps you understand why things go. The environment is really important to protect because it’s the only one we’ve got.”
John Adams, Ordinary Fisherman
“Science helps you understand why things go. The environment is really important to protect because it’s the only one we’ve got.”
LTjg Oliver Brown, NOAA Corps Navigation Officer, B.S. Geology   “Understanding the processes of today to predict and sustain the systems of tomorrow.  Anything you can study: fisheries, atmospheric or any “ology”, the ocean plays a part in it.”
LTjg Oliver Brown, NOAA Corps Navigation Officer, B.S. Geology
“Understanding the processes of today to predict and sustain the systems of tomorrow. Anything you can study: fisheries, atmospheric or any “ology”, the ocean plays a part in it.”
Adam Staiger, Second Cook   “Remember to clean up after yourself.”
Adam Staiger, Second Cook
“Remember to clean up after yourself.”
Francis Loziere, Able Seaman, B.S. Chemistry/Engineering   “Studying science can help foster original thinking.  We need original thinking to save the planet.”
Francis Loziere, Able Seaman, B.S. Chemistry/Engineering
“Studying science can help foster original thinking. We need original thinking to save the planet.”
Julia Clemons, Oceanographer, M.S. Geology   “Science helps us to better understand the world we live in so we are not ignorant and live in a more responsible and aware manner.”
Julia Clemons, Oceanographer, M.S. Geology
“Science helps us to better understand the world we live in so we are not ignorant and live in a more responsible and aware manner.”
Chris Grandin, DFO, Canadian Fisheries, Biologist, M.S. Earth & Ocean Sciences   “We’re here to keep tabs on the fish resources of our planet, to ensure that there will be fish for the future generations, and to sustain our ecology.  We all need to take responsibility.”
Chris Grandin, DFO, Canadian Fisheries, Biologist, M.S. Earth & Ocean Sciences
“We’re here to keep tabs on the fish resources of our planet, to ensure that there will be fish for the future generations, and to sustain our ecology. We all need to take responsibility.”
Dezhang Chu, NOAA fisheries, Physical Scientist, PhD Geophysics   “To study science you need devotion and dedication.  It’s not something you make a lot of money at, but you can contribute good things to human society.”
Dezhang Chu, NOAA fisheries, Physical Scientist, PhD Geophysics
“To study science you need devotion and dedication. It’s not something you make a lot of money at, but you can contribute good things to human society.”
Gary Cooper, Skilled Fisherman,   “I’ve always loved the sea. You get out of a job, what you put into it. Set your goals high and you’ll be successful.”
Gary Cooper, Skilled Fisherman,
“I’ve always loved the sea. You get out of a job, what you put into it. Set your goals high and you’ll be successful.”
Melanie Johnson, NOAA Fishery Biologist   “Taking care of our environment, it’s the right thing to do. We need to live responsibility and sustainably; we can’t over fish or litter our world. If you don’t want it in your backyard, don’t put it in the ocean.”
Melanie Johnson, NOAA Fishery Biologist
“Taking care of our environment, it’s the right thing to do. We need to live responsibility and sustainably; we can’t over fish or litter our world. If you don’t want it in your backyard, don’t put it in the ocean.”
Mark Watson, Wiper, Engineering Department   “Life and science go hand in hand; you can’t have one other the other.”
Mark Watson, Wiper, Engineering Department
“Life and science go hand in hand; you can’t have one other the other.”
Ed Schmidt, First Assistant Engineer, Relief Chief   “In my field of engineering, science and math go hand in hand. You have to have both. n the science side, there are relationships between different fluids, gases, and the theories behind what make the equipment work. You need to use math to find combustion rates, horsepower, electricity produced/consumed, and the list goes on and on. Without math and science I wouldn’t have a job.”
Ed Schmidt, First Assistant Engineer, Relief Chief
“In my field of engineering, science and math go hand in hand. You have to have both. On the science side, there are relationships between different fluids, gases, and the theories behind what make the equipment work. You need to use math to find combustion rates, horsepower, electricity produced/consumed, and the list goes on and on. Without math and science I wouldn’t have a job.”

The engineers aboard the Miller Freeman are a group of hard working people. There are always engineers on duty 24 hours/ day to ensure the ship is running properly. Jake DeMello, 2nd engineer, gave me a tour of the Miller Freeman’s engine room.  Jake attended California Maritime Academy where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering. He has a 12-4 shift which means that he works from noon to 4:00 p.m. and then again from midnight to 4:00 a.m.

Jake DeMello stands by the desalination machine in the Miller Freeman’s engine room.
Jake DeMello stands by the desalination machine in the Miller Freeman’s engine room.

Before taking the job aboard NOAA’s Miller Freeman, Jake worked on a Mississippi River paddle boat traveling from New Orleans north past St. Louis through the rivers’ many dams and locks.  He reminisced on one memorable moment aboard the paddleboat; the day he saw Jimmy Dean, the famous singer and sausage maker.  Jake and the other engineers do many jobs around the ship including checking the fuel and water levels throughout the day and fixing anything that needs repairing.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with a machine shop, including lathe and welding equipment.

Among the jobs of the engineer is reporting daily fuel levels including:

  • Hydraulic oil used for daily fish trawls, CTD, gantry, and winch operations.
  • Gasoline used for the “Fast Recovery Boat.”
  • Diesel fuel used for the main engine.
  • Lube oil used for main engines and generators.
We say good-bye to the hake both big and small.
We say good-bye to the hake both big and small.

Fresh water production: The ship’s water desalination machine transforms 2,000 gallons of sea water into fresh drinking water daily. The ship’s water tanks hold a total of 7,350 gallons of fresh water. Another job of the engineer is taking soundings throughout the day/night. Taking soundings means measuring the levels of liquid in the tanks.  There are tanks on both the starboard and port sides of the ship. The engineer needs to be sure that fuel levels are evenly distributed so that the ship will be evenly balanced in the ocean.

Vocabulary: Starboard: right side of the ship. Port: left side of the ship.

Personal Log 

I write this off the coast of Oregon in the North Pacific Ocean.  It has been an amazing 17 days aboard the Miller Freeman. I feel honored to have participated in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program.  It has truly changed the way I look at science in the classroom and has given be a better understanding of how scientists conduct research on a day to day basis in the field. I am excited to have made so many learning connections between the real world of scientific study and the elementary school science classroom.  I thank NOAA, the Teacher at Sea program and the entire crew, NOAA Corps, and scientists aboard the Miller Freeman for this opportunity.

My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team aboard the Miller Freeman for all they have taught me.
My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team aboard the Miller Freeman for all they have taught me.

Jennifer Fry, July 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 28, 2009

Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines
Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed:  17 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: 8 nautical miles /clear
Temperature: 16.8°C (dry bulb); 11.6°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.5°C
Wave height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1012.9 millibars
Weather note: Millibars is a metric unit used to measure the pressure of the air.

Science and Technology Log 

Weather Instruments and Predicting Weather 

Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.
Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.

Everything that happens out at sea is dependent upon the weather forecasts.  Throughout history man has used a variety of instruments to acquire accurate weather information.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with state of art weather reporting instruments. Every 3 hours weather data is sent to the National Weather Service to help predict the weather at sea.  Once again accuracy in reporting data is paramount.

Global Position: The Miller Freeman has several methods by which to determine longitude and latitude, which is our position in the ocean or on land.  There are 2 G.P.S. systems on the bridge, a magnetic compass, a gyro compass, and radar. These instruments help determine the ship’s position.

True north: The actual location of a point on the earth related to the north pole.

A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west
A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west

Magnetic north: Caused by the magnetic pull on the earth.  Magnetic north heading is different depending on where you are on the earth, for instance, Magnetic north in Oregon has a variation of 16.45°east from true north. Southern California has a variation of 13.3° east from true north.

Temperature: Measured by a thermometer, units used are Celsius. Dry bulb: Measures air temperature.  Wet bulb:  Uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Wind Speed: Measured in knots using an anemometer, or estimated by using the Beaufort scale. The Beaufort scale uses observations of the sea surface, and the effects of wind on people or objects aboard ship to estimate the wind speed.

Wind Direction: Is measured by what direction in which the wind is coming.

Cloud Height/Type: Is measured visually.

Cloud Type: Is measured visually using a variety of names of clouds depending on their patterning and altitude.

Magnetic compass
Magnetic compass

Visibility: Is measured by estimating how much of the horizon can be seen.

Wave Direction: measured visually from the direction the wave comes.

Wave Height: The vertical distance between trough (bottom of the wave) and crest (top of the wave) and is usually measured in feet.

Swell Direction/ Height: Measured visually usually in feet.

Personal Log 

I have enjoyed my time on the bridge of the Miller Freeman immensely.  I have a better understanding of the weather instruments used onboard and am getting better at spotting whales and identifying birds. I want to thank the entire NOAA Corps Officers who have taught me so much about how navigation and weather work aboard the Miller Freeman.

Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National Weather Service.
Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments
to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National
Weather Service.
An anemometer, which measures wind speed
An anemometer, which measures wind speed

Jennifer Fry, July 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 27, 2009

The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.
The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Each night beginning at around 9:00 p.m. or 21:00, if you refer to the ship’s clock, Dr. Steve Pierce begins his research of the ocean. He is a Physical Oceanographer and this marks his 11th year of conducting CTD, Conductivity, Temperature, and Density tests.

It takes 24 readings per second as it sinks to the seafloor. The CTD only records data as it sinks, insuring the instruments are recording data in undisturbed waters. For the past 11 years Dr. Pierce and his colleagues have been studying density of water by calculating temperature and salinity in different areas of the ocean. By studying the density of water, it helps to determine ocean currents. His data helps us examine what kind of ocean conditions in which the hake live. Using prior data, current CTD data, and acoustic Doppler current profiler, a type of sonar, Dr. Pierce is trying to find a deep water current flowing from south to north along the west coast.  This current may have an effect on fish, especially a species like hake.

This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.
This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.

Dr. Steve Pierce reminds us, “None of this research is possible without math. Physical oceanography is a cool application of math.” Another testing instrument housed on the CTD apparatus is the VPR, Visual Plankton Recorder.  It is an automatic camera that records plankton, microscopic organisms, at various depths.  The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman collect data about plankton’s feeding habits, diurnal migration, and their position in the water column.  Diurnal migration is when plankton go up and down the water column to feed at different times of day (see illustration below).  Plankton migration patterns vary depending on the species.The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman followed the east to west transect lines conducting fishing trawls. The first one produced 30 small hake averaging 5 inches in length.  The scientists collected marine samples by weighing and measuring them.

Dr. Steve Pierce  at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Steve Pierce at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.
This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.

Personal Log 

It was extremely foggy today.  We traversed through the ocean evading many obstacles including crab and fishing buoys and other small boats.  Safety is the number one concern on the Miller Freeman. The NOAA Corps Officers rigorously keep the ship and passengers out of harm’s way.  I am grateful to these dedicated men and women.  LTjg Jennifer King, marine biologist and NOAA Corps officer says, “Science helps understand natural process: how things grow and how nature works. We need to protect it.  Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”

Jennifer Fry, July 26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 26, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 100° [from the east]
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 13.5°C (dry bulb); 13.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10°C
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell direction: 315° Swell height:  6 ft.

Here I am checking HAB samples.
Here I am checking HAB samples.

Science and Technology Log 

We conducted a number of HAB, Harmful Algal Bloom sample tests. The Harmful Algal Bloom test takes samples at predetermined location in our study area. The water is filtered to identify the presence of toxic plants (algae) and animals (zooplankton). The plankton enter the food chain specifically through clams and mussels and can be a possible threat to human health.

We also conducted XBTs, Expendable Bathythermograph; and one  fishing trawl net. The trawling was successful, catching hake, squid, and Myctophids.  Fishery scientist, Melanie Johnson collected specific data on the myctophids’ swim bladder.  The swimbladder helps fish regulate buoyancy.  It acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates depending on the depth of the fish. Sharks on the other hand have no swim bladder. They need to swim to maintain their level in the water. Marine mammals such as dolphins and whales have lungs instead of a swimbladder.  Most of the sonar signal from the fish comes from their swimbladder.  The study of the swimbladder’s size helps scientists determine how deep the fish are when using the sonar signals and how strong their sonar signal is likely to be.

Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.
Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.

The scientists tried to conduct a “swim through” camera tow, but each time it was aborted due to marine mammals in the area of the net. During the “Marine Mammal Watch” held prior to the net going in the water, we spotted humpback whales. They were observed breeching, spouting, and fluking. The humpback then came within 30 feet of the Miller Freeman and swam around as if investigating the ship.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and animals trawled: Hake, Squid (Cephalopod), and Myctophids.
Marine Mammals: Humpback whale.
Birds: Albatross, Fulmar, and Shearwater.

Jennifer Fry, July 25, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 25, 2009

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 355°from the north
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 11°C (dry bulb); 10°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.2°C
Wave height: 2 ft.
Swell direction: 310°
Swell height: 5 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

Three fishing trawls were conducted today. We took biological samples from the hake collected. The following is a list of other fish retrieved:

  • Octopus: 1
  • Squid: 47
  • Glass shrimp: 50
  • Shrimp (another species): 3
  • Bird observations: Many bird species are seen around the boat each time there is a fishing trawl net. They range in size and flying pattern. Here are a few of them.
  • Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes): Mostly dark in all plumage, or feathers; White undertail and white may be on belly; Range: Seen around the year off west coast in spring and summer; Winters in Hawaii.

While observing the albatross and fulmar fly, I noticed that they glide gracefully across the waves gently touching the tip of their wing into the water. During take off, the albatross uses his giant webbed feet to push off by “running” on the surface of the water. Similarly during landing; his feet appear to “run” on the water which seems to slow him down.

  • Sooty shearwater
    Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus): Whitish underwing contrasts with overall dark plumage; Range: breeds in southern hemisphere; Abundant off west coast, often seen from shore.
Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus): Blackish-brown above; white wing underparts, a bit mottled; Range: spends summers in northern Pacific; winters in Chile
Pink-footed Shearwater (P. creatopus): Blackish-brown; white wing underparts, a bit mottled; Range: spends summers in northern Pacific; winters in Chile
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis): Gull-sized seabird; rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding over waves; color is rather uniform with not strong contrasts; gray overall with whitish undersides; range: Northern Pacific Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean; Breeds: Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis): Gull-sized seabird; rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding over waves; color is rather uniform with not strong contrasts; gray overall with whitish undersides; range: Northern Pacific Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean; Breeds: Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Fun on-line NOAA activities such as Make your own Compass, Tying Knots, Learn about Nautical Charts, Be a Shipwreck detective, and Make a tornado in a bottle.

Commander Mike Hopkins overlooks the North Pacific Ocean just off the Oregon Coast from the bridge. His job is to make sure everything aboard the Miller Freeman is running smoothly.
Commander Mike Hopkins overlooks the North Pacific Ocean just off the Oregon Coast from the bridge. His job is to make sure everything aboard the Miller Freeman is running smoothly.

NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers are a vital part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Officers provide support during NOAA missions  ranging from launching a weather balloon at the South Pole, conducting hydrographic or fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys in the tropical Pacific, flying snow surveys and into hurricanes. NOAA Corps celebrates its 202nd birthday this year.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and other trawled animals: Hake, Octopi, Squid, and Shrimp.
Birds: Fulmar, Shearwater, Albatross, and Gulls.

Jennifer Fry, July 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 24, 2009

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 24 knots
Wind direction: 355° from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 17.3°C (dry bulb); 15.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.8°C
Wave height: 3 ft.
Swell direction: 350°
Swell height: 5-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

There is an abundance of marine life in the ocean today: sightings include a humpback whale breaching and spy-hopping.  Breaching is when a whale jumps out of the water.  Spy-hopping is when the whale’s head comes out of the water vertically and “takes a peek” at his surroundings. We also sighted the Pacific white-sided dolphins that appeared to be “playing” with the ship.  They would swim perpendicularly to the ship’s hull and at the last minute; veer away at a 90° angle. The dolphins were also swimming alongside the bow and the side of the ship.

Beautiful view
Beautiful view

The sonar signals indicate an abundance of marine life under the sea and the presence of marine mammals helps us draw that conclusion. All that life is probably their prey. We made 2 fishing trawls which included hake and 2 small squid, split nose rockfish, and dark, blotched rockfish. That was the first time I had seen rockfish.   They are primarily a bottom dweller. Scientists don’t want to catch too many rockfish because they tend to be over fished and their numbers need to be protected. Also, we only want to catch the fish species we are surveying, in this case, hake. The scheduled camera tow was cancelled because we did not want to catch marine mammals.  The camera tow is described as a net sent down to depth that is opened on both sides.  It takes video of the fish swimming by.  This helps the scientists determine what species of fish are at each particular depth, during which the fish are not injured for the most part.

Personal Log 

It was very exciting to see the humpback whale and dolphins today.  They appeared to be very interested in the ship and it looked like they were playing with it.  It was a perfect day with the sun shining and calm seas.

Question of the Day 
What are ways scientists determine the health of the ocean?

Did You Know? Breaching is when a whale jumps out of the water.   Spy-hopping is when the whale’s head comes out of the water vertically and “takes a peek” at his surroundings.

Animals Seen Today 
Marine mammals: Pacific white-sided dolphins, California sea lion, and Humpback whale: spy hopping.
Birds: Fulmar, Shearwater, Albatross, and Skua.
Fish: Hake, Split nose rockfish, and Dark Blotched rockfish.

Ode to the Miller Freeman 
As the chalky white ship, the Miller Freeman cuts through the icy blue waters of the North Pacific Ocean,
I stand in wonderment at all I see before me.
A lone Pacific white-sided dolphin suddenly surfaces over the unending mounds of waves.
A skua circles gracefully negotiating up and over each marine blue swell
Off in the distance, the band of fog lurks cautiously, waiting its turn to silently envelop the crystal blue sky.
Watching this beauty around me I have arrived, I am home.

Jennifer Fry, July 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 23, 2009

Here I am in the lab helping with the HAB samples.
Here I am in the lab helping with the HAB samples.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 12.0°C (dry bulb); 11.8°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.7°C
Wave height: 2 ft.
Swell direction: 000°
Swell height: 4 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

We began the day conducting 2 HAB (Harmful Algal Bloom) sample tests of the ocean. This tests the amount of plankton in the water.  Scientists test this because some plankton can carry harmful toxins that can get into the fish and sea life we eat, such as clams. Later we sighted numerous marine mammals including: 2 humpback whales (breaching), 12 Pacific white-sided dolphins, and California sea lions.

Acoustic data
Acoustic data

We made two trawls which provided plenty of hake for us to observe, measure, and collect data.  Acoustic Judging:  One important aspect of the acoustic hake survey is what scientists do when not trawling.  There is a process called judging that fishery biologist, Steve De Blois spends most of his day doing. While looking at acoustic data, he draws regions around schools of fish or aggregations of other marine organisms and assigns species identification to these regions based on what he sees on the acoustic display and catch information gathered from trawls.  He uses 4 different frequencies to “read” the fish signals—each shows different fish characteristics. Having started at the Alaska Fishery Science Center in 1991, this is Steve’s 19th year of participating in integrated acoustic and trawl surveys and his eighth acoustic survey studying Pacific hake. He’s learned how to read their signs with the use of sonar frequencies and his database. Steve tells us about the importance of science: “Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.” 

Pacific white-sided dolphin
Pacific white-sided dolphin

New Term/Phrase/Word Pelagic: relating to, living, or occurring in the waters of the ocean opposed to near the shore. In terms of fish, this means primarily living in the water column as opposed to spending most of their time on the sea floor. 

Steve De Blois, NOAA Research Fishery Biologist, shares acoustic datawith Julia Clemons, NOAA Oceanographer, aboard the Miller Freeman.
Steve De Blois, NOAA Research Fishery Biologist, shares acoustic data
with Julia Clemons, NOAA Oceanographer, aboard the Miller Freeman.

Did You Know?
Northern fur seals are pelagic for 7-10 months per year. Pelagic Cormorant birds live in the ocean their entire life.

Humpback whales
Humpback whales

Animals Seen Today 
Humpback whales (2), Pacific white-sided dolphin (12), California sea lions (6), and Northern fur seal.

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whale breaching

In Praise of…Harmful Algal Bloom Samples 
Crystal cold ocean water running through clear plastic pipes
Be patient as containers are carefully rinsed out three times.
The various sized bottles are filled with the elixir of Poseidon
Accurate measuring is essential.
Consistency ensures accurate results.
Once the water is filtered, tweezers gently lift plankton-laden filter papers.
All samples await analysis in the 20°F freezer.
Data from each test is later recorded;
Levels of domoic acid,  Chlorophyll,
And types, populations, and species of phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Jennifer Fry, July 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 22, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

Today we did a fishing trawl off the coast of Oregon. First, the scientists used multiple acoustic frequencies of sound waves.  After analyzing the sonar data, the scientists felt confident that they would get a good sampling of hake. The chief scientist called the bridge to break our transect line (the planned east/west course) and requested that we trawl for fish.

Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.

The NOAA Corps officers directed operations from the trawl house while crew members worked to lower the net to the target depth.  The fishing trawl collected specimens for approximately 20 minutes. After that time, the crew members haul in the net. The scientists continue to record data on the trawl house.

The trawl net sits on the deck of the Miller Freeman and is ready to be weighed and measured.
The trawl net sits on the deck of the Miller Freeman and is ready to be weighed and measured.

Today’s total catch fit into 2 baskets, a “basket” is about the size of your laundry basket at home, approximately 25-35 kilos. Included in the sample were some very interesting fish:

  • Viper fish
  • Ctenophores or comb jellies
  • Larval stage Dover sole, lives at the sea bottom
  • Jelly fish, several varieties (*Note: Jelly fish are types of zooplankton, which means they are animals floating in the ocean.)
  • Hake, approx. 30 kilos

The scientists made quick work of weighing and identifying each species of fish and then began working with the hake. Each hake was individually measured for length and weighed.  The hake’s stomach and otolith were removed. These were carefully labeled and data imputed into the computer.  Scientists will later examine the contents of the stomach to determine what the hake are eating. The otolith (ear bone) goes through a process by which the ear bone is broken in half and then “burnt.” The burning procedure allows one to see the “age rings” much like how we age a tree with its rings.

Personal Log 

A view from the trawl house during a fishing trawl.
A view from the trawl house during a fishing trawl.

Everyone works so very hard to make the Hake Survey successful.  All hands on the ship do a specific job, from cook to engineer to captain of the ship.  It is evident that everyone takes their job seriously and is good at what they do. I feel very fortunate to be part of this very important scientific research project.

 

 

A viper fish
A viper fish

Did You Know? 
Bird facts: An albatross’ wing span can be 5 feet, which equals one very large sea bird. A shearwater is slimmer and smaller yet resembles an albatross.

Animals Seen Today 
Ctenophore, Jelly Fish, Dover sole, Hake, Humboldt squid, Fulmar, Albatross, Gull, and Shearwater.

Here is something interesting, a hake with two mouths discovered in the trawl net.
Here is something interesting, a hake with two mouths discovered in the trawl net.
A hake and its stomach contents, including krill, smaller hake and possibly an anchovy
A hake and its stomach contents, including krill, smaller hake and possibly an anchovy
Dover Sole, larval stage
Dover Sole, larval stage†
NOAA Oceanographer John Pohl and NOAA Fish Biologist Melanie Johnson discuss data about the fish collected.
NOAA Oceanographer John Pohl and NOAA Fish Biologist Melanie Johnson discuss data about the fish collected.

Jennifer Fry, July 21, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 21, 2009

Boatswain Matt Faber, and Skilled Fisherman, Gary Cooper, tend to full net of hake from one of the day’s trawl.
Boatswain Matt Faber, and Skilled Fisherman, Gary Cooper, tend to full net of hake from one of the day’s trawl.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 011°from the north
Visibility: cloudy
Temperature: 16.2°C (dry bulb); 14.9°C (wet bulb)
Weather note: When you speak of wind direction you are talking about the direction in which the wind is coming. 

Science/Technology Log 

You can see by the weather data above that the seas were much calmer today. We were able to conduct 3 fishing trawls amounting to several thousand kilograms of hake. Once the fish were hauled onto the deck, we began measuring, weighing, dissecting, and removing otoliths, ear bones, for age analysis. I removed my first pair of otoliths today.  The best part of the day was the last and final trawl. We collected approximately 3,000 pounds of Humboldt squid which equals 444 squid.  The math problem to calculate is… “How much would one squid weigh in our catch?”

Julia Clemons, NOAA Fisheries and Jennifer Fry, TAS pictured with Humbolt squid. Today’s catch totaled 444 squid.
Julia Clemons, NOAA Fisheries and Jennifer Fry, TAS pictured with Humbolt squid. Today’s catch totaled 444 squid.

Personal Log 

What strikes me today is just how dedicated the scientists and crew are to their jobs.  Everyone has a specific job aboard the Miller Freeman that they take seriously.

Question of the Day 

Can you use squid ink as you do regular ink? Is there a market for squid inked products such as cards?

New Term/Phrase/Word 

Cusk eel

Animals Seen Today 

Fish:  Humbolt squid, Hake, Iridescent Cusk eel (see photo), Myctophid
Birds:  Shearwaters, Albatross, Gulls

The Squid 
The squid come on little tentacled feet
Falling, splatting, rolling, and sliding out of its netted jail.
Free at last
To be weighed and measured
Sitting on a strong mantle in a flowing liquid of ebony and midnight.
Your silent escape goes unnoticed.

The Clouds 
The clouds slither on little squid tentacles
The midnight inky darkness envelopes the sky and warns us of foreboding
It sits looking over ships and sea lions
Its silent mantle quietly slides away.

(Inspired by Carl Sandberg’s “The Fog”)

The squid were examined, weighed, and the data entered into the data base.
The squid were examined, weighed, and the data entered into the data base.
A cusk eel
A cusk eel

Jennifer Fry, July 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 20, 2009

Chief scientist, Dezhang Chu, gets to know a hake while chief scientist, Lisa Bonacci looks on.
Chief scientist, Dezhang Chu, gets to know a hake while chief scientist, Lisa Bonacci looks on.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Reading in the morning:
Wind speed: 40 knots
Wind direction: 000°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.6°C (dry bulb); 10.5°C (wet bulb)

Reading in the afternoon:
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 358°from the north
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 12.2°C (dry bulb); 11.8°C (wet bulb)

Science/Technology Log 

Collecting the hake’s stomach help scientists determine its diet.
Collecting the hake’s stomach help scientists determine its diet.

Fishing trawl #1. We conducted a successful fishing trawl.  Collection of hake totaled 3500 kg. (kilograms.)  Pictured are chief scientists Lisa Bonacci and Dezhang Chu getting to know the hake.  Fishing trawl #2: There was trouble with the sonar equipment so we were unable to conduct a successful fishing trawl.

Personal Log 

Today’s unsuccessful fishing trawl due to a malfunction reminds me that we often learn more from our mistakes that our successes. Scientists are constantly reviewing their scientific process to make sure they align with their hypothesis. After 3 days of gale force winds (34-40 knots) and big waves, today was a welcome change with 20 knot winds and calm seas in the afternoon.  I finally feel like I’ve my “sea legs” about me.

The hake stomach and a pair of otolith, ear bones will help determine what the hake is eating and how old the fish are.
The hake stomach and a pair of otolith, ear bones will help determine what the hake is eating and how old the fish are.

Animals Seen 
Fish:  Hake Myctophidae
Birds:  Fulmar, Albatross, Gulls, and Shearwater

Jennifer Fry, July 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 19, 2009

The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)
The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 42 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.4°C (dry bulb); 10.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

The seas are still very rough with 40 knot winds. No fishing trawls due to the high waves and heavy seas. However, despite the rough seas, we were able to conduct an XBT, which stands for Expendable Bathythermograph.  An XBT is a measuring apparatus consisting of a large lead weight connected to a very thin copper wire. The function of the XBT is to measure the temperature throughout the water column.  It is launched off the stern (back) of the ship. As it sinks to the sea floor, temperature data is transmitted to an onboard computer.

Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT
Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT

Personal Log 

The Miller Freeman is an NOAA research vessel.   Here’s a bit of information about the Miller Freeman…For more information go here. The Miller Freeman is a 215foot fisheries and oceanographic research vessel and is one of the largest research trawlers in the United States. Its primary mission is to provide a working platform for the study of the ocean’s living resources. The ship is named for Miller Freeman (1875-1955), a publisher who was actively involved in the international management of fish harvests. The ship was launched in 1967, but not fully rigged until 1975. The vessel was again re-rigged in 1982. Its home port is Seattle, Washington.  It is capable of operating in any waters of the world. The ship has 7 NOAA Corps officers, 27 crew members, and maximum of 11 scientists.

Following is a “tour” of the ship.  It has many nice amenities for extended life at sea.

The Laundry Room - Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick if you’re up there too long.
The Laundry Room – Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick at times.
The Kitchen - Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Kitchen – Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Galley - This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Galley – This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Library - Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Library – Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Lounge - Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Lounge – Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Gym - The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship.  This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.
The Gym – The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship. This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.

The Gift of Patience 
Wending our way through the North Pacific Ocean,
The massive waves crash against our hull with Herculean strength
As high as a one story building, their tops are dolloped with luscious whipped cream
They take their turn crashing against the ships sturdy hull, as gale force winds whip wildly past.
We play a waiting game. We practice the ancient art of patience.
When will we have hake, the silvery, slender fish that evades our sonar?

As the winds blow, cold sea spray stings my face.
I watch as the never ending line of waves wait their turn to hit the ship’s hull.
The waves wait patiently as do we.
The sea teaches us serenity.
We must not show greed or impatience.
The sea will provide.
One should lay empty and open waiting for the gifts from the sea.

~Inspired by Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gifts from the Sea

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Jennifer Fry, July 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 40 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: foggy Temperature: 12.9°C (dry bulb); 12.0°C (wet bulb)
Wave height: 8-10 feet

Science and Technology Log 

Lisa Bonacci, chief scientist and Melanie Johnson, fishery biologist in the Freeman’s acoustics lab
Lisa Bonacci, chief scientist and Melanie Johnson, fishery biologist in the Freeman’s acoustics lab

Acoustics: Lisa Bonacci, chief scientist, and Melanie Johnson, fishery biologist, are in the acoustics lab onboard the Miller Freeman as it travels along a transect line. NOAA scientists can detect a variety of marine life under the sea. They use sonar—sound waves bouncing off an object—to detect the animals. There is an onboard sonar system that puts out four different frequencies of sound waves.  Each type of fish will give off a different signal depending on its size, shape, and anatomy.  The fish are then identified on the sonar computer readout.  The strength of the sonar signal will determine the number of hake and the way that they are swimming.  As soon as it appears on the sonar as if hake are present, Ms. Bonacci then calls the bridge to request that we trawl for fish.

This is the sonar readout as it’s seen on the computer screen.
This is the sonar readout as it’s seen on the computer screen.

Personal Log 

The boat was rocking in all directions with 40 knot winds and 8-10 foot waves. The fishing trawl brought up scores of fish including a lot of hake. The sonar signals worked really well to locate them. We dissected and measured many fish, but not before we sat in a giant vat of hake (see photo.)  It was a great learning day.

Animals Seen Today 
Hake,spiny dogfish, Humbolt squid, Myctophidae, and Birds.

Here we are in a giant vat of hake!
Here we are in a giant vat of hake!

Discovery from the Briny 
As the trawl net was raised from the depths
The sun broke through the clouds revealing a sparkling azure sky.
Scores of seagulls circled the stern
In the hopes of a bountiful offering
Tasty morsels from the deep
Soon to be thrown overboard.

American fishery biologist, Melanie Johnson, and Canadian fishery biologist, Chris Grandin, take biological samples.
American fishery biologist, Melanie Johnson, and Canadian fishery biologist, Chris Grandin, take biological samples.

Jennifer Fry, July 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 17, 2009

Hake are unloaded into holding containers, soon to be weighed and measured
Hake are unloaded into holding containers, soon to be weighed and measured

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 340°from the north- north west
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 15.2°C (dry bulb); 13.0°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

Each day I observe the NOAA scientists using the scientific process.  These are the same process skills we learn in the classroom. The scientists determine what they want to find out and state it in a question form. These are some of the questions/hypotheses that they are trying to answer.

  • What and where are the populations of hake?
  • In what environments do the hake best thrive?
  • When do they migrate?
  • What do they feed on?
  • What feeds on the hake?

Once the hake are observed on the sonar, the trawl net is dropped into the water.  The fish are hauled out onto the deck where they are emptied into huge holding bins.  Scientists want a good sampling of hake for the survey, not too much and not too little.  Getting a good sample is important to the scientists; both for their research and the environment.  The scientists don’t want to take too many hake each time they fish, doing this might diminish the hake population. 

Collecting Data: Observing – Using the senses to collect information.

Classifying – Sorting or ordering objects or ideas into groups or categories based on their properties.

Measuring – Determining dimensions (length/area), volume, mass/weight, or time of objects or events by using instruments that measure these properties.

Otoliths—fish ear bones—are extracted and placed in vials (test tubes) for later study.
Otoliths—fish ear bones—are extracted and placed in vials (test tubes) for later study.

The scientists then collect their data. Fish are separated by species or classified.  All hake collected are then weighed. A certain number of them are measured in length, and their sex is determined.  Scientists observe; dissect a group of hake, and collect the fish’s ear bones, called the otoliths, (2 white oval shapes pictured above). Otoliths are stored in small vials, which are like test tubes, for later study. The test tube has a serial number which is fed into a computer as well. Later, scientists will observe the otoliths under a microscope.  The otolith helps determine the age of the fish. When observed under a microscope, the otolith, or ear bone has rings similar to rings of a tree. The more rings, the older the fish.  The age of the fish or data is then recorded in a computer spreadsheet.

Communicating – Using pictorial, written, or oral language to describe an event, action, or object.

Making Models – Making a pictorial, written or physical representation to explain an idea, event, or object.

Recording Data Writing down the results of an observation of an object or event using pictures, words, or numbers.

As data is collected, it is recorded into a computer database, then scientists create tables and graphs from information in this database.

Inferring  – Making statements about an observation that provide a reasonable explanation.

Predicting – Guessing what the outcome of an event will be based on observations and, usually, prior knowledge of similar events.

Interpreting Data – Creating or using tables, graphs, or diagrams to organize and explain information.

The otoliths look like small oval “winglike” structures.
The otoliths look like small oval “winglike” structures.

Once all the data is in the computer, scientists can analyze or figure out the answers to these questions.

  • What and where are the populations of hake?
  • In what environments do the hake best thrive?
  • When do they migrate?
  • What do they feed on?
  • What feeds on the hake?

Scientists use the data to infer or make a statement about the data that gives a reasonable explanation.  Scientists also make predictions by guessing what the outcome might be based on the data/observations.

Marine Mammal Watch – NOAA Fisheries instructs the scientists to conduct a “marine mammal watch” prior to a fishing trawl. This is to protect the marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales, sea lions, and seals.  When the nets go into the ocean, the curious sea lions want to see what’s going on and play around the nets.  This can prove dangerous for the animals because if they get tangled in the net, they cannot come up for air, and being mammals, they need air.  As it happened, a half a dozen sea lions were spotted around our trawl net. To protect the inquisitive animals we found another spot in which to put our net.

California sea lion
California sea lion

Personal Log 

Everyone aboard the Miller Freeman is a team.  It’s an amazing working environment.  The ship runs like a well oiled machine.  The crew is always so helpful and are dedicated to their work.  The scientists are incredibly dedicated to their specific field and are committed to helping the world and the ocean’s biome. Everyone is so patient with all my questions.  I am so grateful and honored to be part of this hake survey which is so scientifically important in determining the health of our ocean.

Animals Seen Today 
California sea lions
Hake Myctophidae: lantern fish

Jennifer Fry, July 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 16, 2009

Here is Dr. Chu using a sonar readout to determine where the hake are located.
Here is Dr. Chu using a sonar readout to determine where the hake are located.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 358°from the north
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 15.2°C (dry bulb); 13.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

We conducted several sea trawls for hake and other various fish species.   First, the scientists conduct an acoustic survey using 4 different frequencies. Then the nets are lowered and drug at depth. The fun begins when we don our rubber overalls, gloves, and galoshes and count, identify and, weigh the fish. The most numerous fish in the trawls were myctophids (see photo), bioluminescent fish with some species having 2 headlights in front of their eyes to help attract prey.

Here we are sorting the catch.
Here we are sorting the catch.

HAB/ Harmful Algal Blooms Test:  Throughout the day we took HAB samples, “harmful algae blooms”, which measures the toxins, domoic acid, and chlorophyll levels in the water (which correspond to the amount of plankton present). The HAB sample entails collecting sea water and putting it through a filtering process. Julia Clemons, a NOAA Oceanographer, and I conducted the HAB survey (pictured below).  Fifty milliliters of sea water is measured into a graduated cylinder then filtered.

This is a type of fish called a myctophid. They are bioluminescent.
This is a type of fish called a myctophid. They are bioluminescent.

Sea water is collected at specific times during each transect or line of study.  The sea water goes through a filtering process testing domoic acid and chlorophyll levels.  These results will be evaluated later in the lab. One thing that strikes me is the importance of careful and accurate measurement in the lab setting. The harmful algal bloom samples are conducted 5-6 times daily and accuracy is essential for precise and definitive results.  Later scientists will review and evaluate the data that was collected in the field.  It is very important that the scientists use the same measurements and tools so that each experiment is done the same way. Making accurate data collection makes for accurate scientific results.

Animals Seen Today 
Numerous albatross circling the stern of the ship, Viper fish, Octopi (approx. 6 inches in length), Squid (approx. 3 inches in length), and Myctophidae (see photo).

Zooplankton
Zooplankton
Here I am observing Julia as she filters a HAB sample.
Here I am observing Julia as she filters a HAB sample.

Jennifer Fry, July 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind Speed: 19 kts.
Wind direction: 355° north
Temperature: 15.4°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

This picture shows the Miller Freeman in Alaskan waters.  On our cruise, it’s working off the coast of California.
This picture shows the Miller Freeman in Alaskan waters. On our cruise, it’s working off the coast of California.

Our cruise was delayed for a day due to poor weather conditions and heavy seas. We began with a meeting of the scientific team which consists of 8 members all with their specific scientific knowledge and expertise. We will be conducting several types of oceanographic sampling during our cruise:  2-3 hake tows per day, weather permitting, an open net tow where fish are viewed through a camera, XBTs: Expendable Bathythermograph, HABS: Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling, and CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density. The ship conducted Man Overboard and Fire drills.

The research vessel Miller Freeman set sail from Eureka, California on Wednesday, July 15th at approximately 12:30. Each person aboard is assigned a specific job and place to report on the Miller Freeman during such an event. Our assignments are posted on our stateroom door. During a Fire/Emergency Drill the signal is a 10 second blast of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle. I am to report or muster to the Chemical Lab.

In the event of an Abandon Ship Drill, I am assigned to life raft #2 and muster on the O-1 deck, port (left) side. The Abandon Ship signal is more than 6 short blasts followed by one long blast of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle. If a Man Overboard Drill is called, we will hear 3 prolonged blasts of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle.  The muster station is the Chemical Lab. If we personally see a person go overboard the ship there are three things to do immediately: Throw a life ring overboard, call the bridge, and keep your eyes on the person. 

These things all need to be done as simultaneously as possible to assure the safety and recovery of the person who is in the sea. It is important to conduct these emergency drills so that everyone is ready and prepared in the case of an emergency event.

Personal Log 

I am sharing a stateroom with Julia Clemons, an oceanographer on board the Miller Freeman. She works for NOAA Fisheries in Newport, Oregon.  Her educational background includes a Bachelors’ degree in Oceanography and a masters’ degree in Geology. The scientists and crew on board are so professional and willing to teach and tell about their job.  They are an amazing group of people.

New Term/Phrase/Word 
Domoic acid

Questions of the Day? 
What does a hake look like in person?

Animals Seen Today 
5 Egrets
1 great blue heron
Numerous gulls

Jennifer Fry, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 14, 2009

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Weather Data from the Bridge 
No data (In port)

 Science Log 

After arriving at the Eureka airport I found my way to the Miller Freeman thanks to many friendly Eurekan locals. What a lovely town with many interesting sights including the dock area, downtown with its renewed turn of the century architecture.   Upon arriving at the Miller Freeman I was greeted by Ensign Heather Moe who graciously gave me a tour of the ship.

There were four decks or levels to the ship which include:

  • Flying Bridge Deck: observations take place as well as storage
  • Bridge Deck: Navigation can take place from the bridge or the trawl house.  The trawl house faces toward the stern of the ship and is used to control the ship during “fishing.”
  • Boat Deck: Officers’ & Chief Scientist’s staterooms.  A stateroom is where you would sleep on a boat or ship. Your bed is called a “rack.”  Most staterooms on the Miller Freeman have bunk beds. The boat deck is where the small launches/rescue boats are stored.
  • There is: a FRB, Fast Rescue Boat, and a small launch.
  • Quarterdeck/ Main Deck:  Ship’s store, survey officers’ staterooms and the back deck, used for fishing. *The term quarterdeck was originally, in the early 17th century, used for a smaller deck, covering about a quarter of the vessel. It is usually reserved for officers, guests, passengers. It is also an entry point for personnel. Lower/ Galley Deck: Crew’s and scientists’ staterooms, library, two lounges, galley, where everyone eats their meals.
  • Hold: Gym for exercising and engineer’s storage area.

Question of the Day 
Where did the word quarterdeck* originate? (see answer above)

Animals Seen Today
Egrets Blue Heron Gulls

Stephen Anderson, June 30, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Anderson
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 28 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographic Region: California
Date: June 30, 2009

We’re on station south of Monterey Bay and starting our pattern of parallel east and west course up the coast of California.  Imagine a block capital “S” , and you get the idea.  Using different frequencies on the sonar, Dr. Chu and his colleagues from NOAA/NMFS/NWFSC can detect various types of marine organisms. Here is a picture of what the screen looks like.

Once they detect what we think are hake, we make ready the net and drop it
Once they detect what we think are hake, we make ready the net and drop it 

Because we didn’t find any hake, we looked at the small fish to see if they had a swim bladder. The swim bladder on a fish is like a balloon that inflates and deflates depending on the depth of the fish.  However, when the sound bounces off these swim bladders it may make the fish appear bigger than it actual size. The dissection of these small fish was no fun.

However, today we didn’t find hake.  Instead, we found a Humboldt squid, several small fish, and some shrimp.
However, today we didn’t find hake. Instead, we found a Humboldt squid, several small fish, and some shrimp.

It’s amazing the number of scientific instruments and studies that are being carried out on this ship.  In the following picture a marine biologist is taking a salt water sample.  He will then filter it to identify the presence of toxic plants (algae) and animals (plankton).  These microorganisms not only affect the food chain, but can also be a threat to humans.

Big squid!
Big squid!
Biologist Anthony Odell conducts a test for toxic plankton
Biologist Anthony Odell conducts a test for toxic plankton

Another instrument they use to monitor the ocean is an XBT.  This lead weight is attached by a very thin copper wire. In the following picture a scientist is attaching this to a cable that goes to a computer.  This is then “launched” or dropped overboard reading temperatures and sending them to the computer as it sinks to the bottom (greater than 760 meters or 2200 feet).

Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT
Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT

Personal Log 

  • The food has been great.  There is only an hour for each meal, and you have to eat fast.  But there is always a great menu.  I’ll have to try to get to the gym or else I’m going to gain weight.
  • Everyone has been very cooperative.  Being on a ship puts you in tight quarters with everyone.  This cooperation and team spirit helps to make everything work very smoothly.
  • There is an emphasis on safety.  You can tell that everyone is highly trained for their job and role. Yesterday we had our fire and abandon ship drills. On the deck we wear life jackets and hard hats.  Everyone watches out for everyone else.  The level of expertise and professionalism is impressive.

Stephen Anderson, June 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Anderson
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 28 July 12, 2009

The CTD Instruments
The CTD Instruments

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographic Region: California
Date: June 29, 2009

We anchored in Monterey Bay.  After putting the anchor down there were several tests that had to be made.  The first was to send in SCUBA divers to check our propeller.  The second test was to check on the transducers for our sonar.  The third was to put over the side the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and density instruments).  This instrument is useful not only to tell the composition of the water, but also to determine currents. Included in this set of instruments is an automatic camera that will catch video of the small animals (micro-organisms) at various depths (what the fish eat).  The fourth test was to send three balls of different sizes and materials to hang under the boat using what we in Michigan would call salmon downriggers.  Dr. Chu, our chief scientist, and Stan Tomich, our engineer, can control these miniature cranes to raise and lower these balls.  They can then calibrate (set the readings on the sonar sensors) to make sure they have the correct depth for the fish they will be able to see with the sonar.  The sonar array in this boat is accurate to within one centimeter. Later tonight we will weigh anchor to go further south to begin our chase after hake.

Divers over the side to check the propeller and sonar.
Divers over the side to check the propeller and sonar.

For those of you who don’t know hake.  This is a cod type of fish that is very important to the fish industry on the west coast of the US and Canada.  If you’ve had a fish stick, you’ve probably had hake.

We were visited today by some very interesting animals: several species of jelly fish, several sea lions, a few dolphins, and a mola mola fish which is sometimes called a sun fish.

A Mola Mola, or Sun Fish. This guy was probably 6 feet in length.
A Mola Mola, or Sun Fish. This guy was probably 6 feet in length.

Katie Turner, July 30, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 30, 2008

Screen shot 2013-11-03 at 10.15.47 AMWeather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility:  10 miles
Wind Direction:  050
Wind Speed:  7 knots
Sea Wave Height:  0-1 foot
Swell Wave Height:  2-3 feet
Seawater Temperature: 8.3 ˚C.
Present Weather Conditions: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

This was the final day at sea for this cruise and we have just returned Dutch Harbor.  The cruise has been challenging for the scientists as they have had to scale back their study, and even eliminate some experiments.  Fifteen days of cruise time were lost while repairs were made to the ship. Conditions while working at sea are unpredictable and require acceptance, patience, and flexibility.

Ship's cruise path
Ship’s cruise path

The Buoy Experiment 

In addition to the side by side comparison study, a unique experiment was designed and performed during this cruise to investigate how walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) behave in the absence versus presence of either vessel, to augment the comparison study.  Transducers were mounted on a buoy, which was deployed from OSCAR DYSON, and allowed to drift while collecting acoustic data on pollock schools with the ships at a distance.  As the buoy drifted along, MILLER FREEMAN and OSCAR DYSON alternately passed by the buoy on a “racetrack” 6 nautical miles (nm) long.  Each ship passed the buoy within 10 meters along the racetrack about every 30 minutes, and maintained a position opposite one another.

The racetrack pass experiment will provide information on how fish respond to the ship as it approaches and passes over them, and then as it moves away. The acoustic data collected by the transducers on the buoy was monitored aboard OSCAR DYSON during the operation, and was downloaded in entirety once the buoy was retrieved for analysis. We made a total of seven buoy passes, which took about 3 ••• hours.  This experiment was done at night when pollock schools migrate up from the bottom of the ocean into mid-water regions.  It was interesting to observe the navigation operations from the bridge as ships maneuvered around the racetrack in the dark. The computer screenshot below shows the track (in red) of the MILLER FREEMAN after our 6th pass of the buoy.  The short, blue vertical line at the end of the red track line at the top of the screen represents the ship. (Green lines are depth contours.) After completing the buoy experiment we picked up the transect from where we had left off and continued the side-byside study.

View of Unalaska
View of Unalaska
On the bridge bringing MILLER FREEMAN into Captain’s Bay, Executive Officer Natasha Davis (official owner of ship’s cat) and Ensign Otto Brown
On the bridge bringing MILLER FREEMAN into Captain’s Bay, Executive Officer Natasha Davis and Ensign Otto Brown

Another Setback 

Later that day the ship developed engine problems and it was necessary to shut down the main engine to investigate. Leaks in the cooling system involving two separate cylinders had developed. This same problem occurred recently with a different cylinder, and was one of the problems that originally delayed our cruise out of Dutch Harbor.  The engineers repaired the system and we were underway again within a few hours.  At this point we were nearly 450 nautical miles from Dutch Harbor, with limited resources for additional repairs.  In the best interest and safety of all aboard, the Commanding Officer decided to discontinue our north and westward direction along the cruise course and head the ship back to Dutch Harbor.

Ship's cat
Ship’s cat

Personal Log 

Our final day in the Bering Sea was mostly sunny.  Dall’s porpoise and whales were occasionally sighted off in the distance, and we watched ash clouds rise from Okmok volcano off our starboard side all afternoon as we closed in on Unalaska.  The wind seemed to be carrying the ash cloud to the southwest, and we hoped that it would not affect flights out of Dutch Harbor for those of us who are flying home.  We arrived in Unalaska before 10 pm, leaving just enough time to anchor and repeat the acoustic calibration. After the scientists and I leave the ship in the morning, she will head back to her home port of Seattle, where she will have a maintenance check before the next cruise. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay on MILLER FREEMAN and owe many thanks to the officers and crew for their hospitality. It has been a pleasure to get to know everyone and I will have good memories of this cruise, despite the breakdowns and delays. I am especially grateful to the scientists on board, Patrick Ressler and Paul Walline, for sharing their work, helping me understand a little about acoustic surveys, and for their friendship during this experience.

Katie Turner, July 26, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 26, 2008

Rescue crew retrieves a dummy man overboard. It is a maritime custom to refer to the man overboard as “Oscar." This comes from an international regulation requiring the raising of the Oscar flag when a vessel is responding to a man overboard, warning other vessels to be on the lookout
Rescue crew retrieves a dummy man overboard. It is a maritime custom to refer to the man overboard as “Oscar.” This comes from an international regulation requiring the raising of the Oscar flag when a vessel is responding to a man overboard, warning other vessels to be on the lookout

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility:  3 miles
Wind Direction:  050
Wind Speed:  8 knots
Sea Wave Height:  0-1 foot
Swell Wave Height:  2-3 feet
Seawater Temperature: 7.8˚ C.
Present Weather Conditions: cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

After leaving Captain’s Bay early Friday morning, the trip to the rendezvous point with OSCAR DYSON took nearly 20 hours. During that time we had our mandatory fire, abandon ship, and man overboard drills.  For our fire drill the Captain staged a mock fire, with smoke reported from the acoustics lab.  The fire fighting team had to respond, find the point of origin of the fire and figure out how to treat it. A debriefing was held afterward so that responders could discuss strategies and learn from the experience.

The rescue boat is brought back aboard the MILLER FREEMAN
The rescue boat is brought back aboard the MILLER FREEMAN

The abandon ship drill is regularly performed so all crew are ready to respond to a severe emergency by mustering at their assigned stations and getting into survival suits to be ready to board life rafts. It’s a good way for new crew members, such as me, to make sure they know where to go and what to bring. We made our rendezvous with OSCAR DYSON late Friday evening in the Bering Sea and immediately moved into position to run the first side by side transect. We are working on a comparison study to determine whether acoustic estimates of pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) abundance made by MILLER FREEMAN and OSCAR DYSON are comparable.  Pollock may have different behavioral responses to these vessels during surveys due to the differences in the amount of noise each vessel radiates into the sea from its propeller, engines, and other equipment.  These behaviors could affect the acoustic estimates of abundance.  OSCAR DYSON is taking over the task of acoustic pollock surveys in the Bering Sea and has been built under new specifications that require a lower level of radiated noise. MILLER FREEMAN has been doing the Bering Sea pollock surveys since 1977.  This study is important because it will ensure that future biomass estimates will be continuous with those done in the past. During this cruise the two ships will continuously collect acoustic backscatter data while traveling side by side along a transect line where pollock schools are known to occur. The distance between the two ships is maintained at 0.5 nautical miles (nm), while they travel at about 12 knots. Every 50 nm along the transect, the vessels switch sides.

OSCAR DYSON from the bridge of the MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea
OSCAR DYSON from the bridge of the MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea

For this to happen one vessel will slow down and cross behind the stern of the other vessel, then catch back up on the other side. The beginning and end of each transect section must be carefully coordinated between the scientific team in the acoustics lab The remainder of our time on this cruise will be spent working with the OSCAR DYSON to cover as much of the study area as possible before returning to the port of Dutch Harbor.  After the study is complete, the acoustic data collected by each vessel will be carefully compared to see if there is any consistent difference between them. At the same time officers on the bridge are in constant communication to coordinate navigation and maneuvering of the ships.

The figure above shows the final transect path of MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea as straight lines in red. The parallel lines running nearly north and south were traversed from the east to the farthest westerly point. The zigzag red line across the parallel lines represents the path taken as we head back to the southwest on our return. Other colored lines on the map are depth contour lines.  Red lines indicate depths from -75 to -100 meters, yellow to -130 meters, green to -155 meters, and blue greater than  -160 meters.

Ship transect
Ship transect

Personal Log 

During these few days at sea the scientists onboard have taught me a lot about acoustic studies. It’s a complex science that requires both an understanding of the physical science of acoustics and the technology involved, but also the biology, behavior, and ecology of pollock.

One of the opportunities I have especially enjoyed has been watching and photographing the seabirds. They are an important part of this ecosystem and one that can be observed without acoustics. We have seen mostly northern fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis) and black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla), but also an occasional long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus), and flocks of thick-billed murre (Uria lomvia). Northern fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis) exhibit a lot of variation in color from very light, to light, and dark versions, with gradations in between. These different color morphs all mate indiscriminately. They are gull sized birds with moderately long wings, a short, stout, pale bill, and a short rounded tail. A key characteristic is their dark eye smudge.  They are common in the Bering Sea but also in the northeast Atlantic.

Northern fulmar, light morph
Northern fulmar, light morph
Northern fulmar, dark morph
Northern fulmar, dark morph

Fulmars are well known among commercial fisherman for scavenging waste thrown off fishing boats, which explains why they have been nearly constant companions to the MILLER FREEMAN on this cruise. Fulmars are members of the family Procellariiformes, also known as the “tube-nose” birds, along with albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters. The term comes from the tubular nostril, a structure that looks like a tube on top of their beak.  Their beak, as you can see in the photo, is made up of many plates. This specialized nostril is an adaptation that enhances their sense of smell by increasing the surface area within to detect scent. They also have enlarged brain structures that help them process those scents. Learn more at the Cornell and U.S.G.S. websites.

Katie Turner, July 25, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 25, 2008

Bald eagles are abundant around the port in Dutch Harbor
Bald eagles are abundant around the port in Dutch Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 075
Wind Speed: 13 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Swell Wave Height: 3 feet
Seawater Temperature: 7.1˚C.
Present Weather Conditions: Cloudy, 9.3˚C, 94% humidity

Science and Technology Log 

After spending 3 weeks at the dock in Dutch Harbor, MILLER FREEMAN finally began the cruise with less than a week left to complete the study. We pulled away from the dock Thursday afternoon, 24 July, and sailed to nearby Captain’s Bay to calibrate the acoustic instruments.

A line diagram of MILLER FREEMAN showing the location of the centerboard below the hull
A line diagram of MILLER FREEMAN showing the location of the centerboard below the hull

Background 

Acoustics is the scientific study of sound: its generation, transmission, and reception.  Sound travels in waves at known rates, and the physical properties of the material the waves travel through affect the speed of sound.  These properties of sound waves enable their use in medical diagnosis, testing critical materials, finding oil-bearing rocks underground, and counting fish in the ocean. Sound travels through seawater of average salinity about 5 times faster than through air (~1,500 m/s, or about 15 football fields in one second).  Many animals that live in the ocean rely on sound more than vision for communication and survival. You are probably already familiar with echolocation and communication vocalizations in whales and porpoises.

Picture of the transducers in the centerboard, which is lowered when the ship is at sea. Lowering the transducer away from the hull reduces the noise interference of bubbles running along the hull while underway.
Picture of the transducers in the centerboard, which is lowered when the ship is at sea. Lowering the transducer away from the hull reduces the noise interference of bubbles running along the hull while underway.

The speed of sound in water increases as temperature and salinity increase.  It also increases with depth due to the increase in pressure.  Therefore, in order to know the speed of sound at a given location in the sea, you need to know the temperature, salinity, and depth. There are other factors that are important to consider as well.  As sound travels through seawater it loses energy because of spreading, scattering and absorption.  When sound waves strike bubbles, particles suspended in the water column, organisms, the seafloor, and even the surface, some of the energy bounces off or is scattered. When the sound energy is scattered at angles greater than 90 degrees it is referred to as backscatter.

Fish Assessment 

Scientists use acoustics to measure fish abundance in the ocean by emitting sound waves at specific frequencies and then measuring the amount of backscatter.  Different organisms and other objects will have a characteristic backscatter that is dependent on many biological factors as well as the physical properties of the medium. The most important biological factor is presence and the size of a swim bladder, but also the organism’s size, shape and orientation.  If scientists know the backscatter signature of the target species (which can be determined experimentally or by mathematical models), they can use sound to identify and measure certain fish populations in the ocean. Onboard the ship, sound waves are emitted from an instrument called a transducer, which is located in the centerboard of the ship. The transducer generates sounds directly beneath the ship into the water column below (pings).  When these sound waves are backscattered from the fish below back to the transducer, they are converted to an electrical signal that is sent to the scientist’s computer.  There, a profile can be created that represents the fish in a graphical image.

Chief Scientist, Patrick Ressler, attaches calibration spheres to the line that will be lowered beneath the ship.
Chief Scientist, Patrick Ressler, attaches calibration spheres to the line that will be lowered beneath the ship.

Before making any actual measurements during this study, it is necessary to calibrate the acoustic instruments on board the ship. Calibrations of instruments and other measuring devices are done by using a known standard to compare the output of the instrument. So for example, if I wanted to calibrate a stick as a measuring device, first I would compare its length to a known standard such as a ruler. We anchored in Captain’s bay, on both bow and stern to keep the ship from moving much, and spheres with known acoustic properties were suspended beneath the ship at a known distance below the transducers. Acoustic data were then collected on backscatter from the spheres. Knowing the distance to the spheres, their acoustic qualities (how they will backscatter the sound), and the physical qualities of the medium (seawater temperature and salinity) allowed the scientists to standardize their equipment.   While acoustic calibrations were performed by the scientists, the survey technicians collected seawater temperature and salinity. The way these properties are measured is standard practice on research vessels.  An instrument package called a “CTD” measures conductivity (which is converted to salinity), temperature, and depth.  Sensors for each of these make up the package, and are mounted on a metal frame called a rosette. The rosette is lowered into the water column by a crane, and the data collected is transmitted via a cable to a computer on board. Once the calibration and CTD measurements were completed, we pulled anchor and headed northwest into the Bering Sea to meet up with NOAA Ship OSCAR DYSON.  We expect to reach our rendezvous point by late Friday to begin our study.

Survey Technician Tayler Wilkins monitors the CTD data transmission while communicating with the crane operator as the rosette is lowered through the water column. The computer automatically produces a profile of temperature and salinity with depth.
Survey Technician Tayler Wilkins monitors the CTD data transmission while communicating with the crane operator as the rosette is lowered through the water column. The computer automatically produces a profile of temperature and salinity with depth.

Personal Log 

The long stay in Dutch Harbor made the departure that much more exciting.  I am looking forward to what little time is left.  The crew of MILLER FREEMAN have all made me feel welcome, and have been helpful in answering my questions and educating me on shipboard operations.

New Terms 

acoustics, calibration, backscatter, centerboard, transducer, CTD rosette

Learn more here 

Katie Turner, July 18, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Turner
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 10 – 31, 2008

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: July 18, 2008

The ship
The ship

Science and Technology Log 

Where is the Bering Sea?
Where is the Bering Sea?

The Vessel 

NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN is a 215 foot fishery and oceanographic research vessel, and one of the largest research trawlers in the United States.  She carries up to 34 officers and crew members and 11 scientists.  The ship is designed to work in extreme environmental conditions, and is considered the hardest working ship in the fleet.

She was launched in 1967 and her home port is Seattle, Washington. MILLER FREEMAN has traditionally been used to survey walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) in the Bering Sea.  These surveys are used to determine catch limits for commercial fisherman.  In 2003 NOAA acquired a new fisheries research vessel, the NOAA Ship OSCAR DYSON. OSCAR DYSON is to eventually take over MILLER FREEMAN’s research in Alaskan working grounds, allowing MILLER FREEMAN to shift her focus to the west coast. OSCAR DYSON was built under a new set of standards set by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which reduces the amount of noise generated into the water below, while MILLER FREEMAN is a more conventionally-built vessel which does not meet the ICES standards.  The assumption is that marine organisms, including pollock, may avoid large ships because of the noise they make, thus altering population estimates.  It is therefore important for scientists to know the difference between population estimates of the two ships. This is done through vessel comparison experiments, in which the two ships sample fish populations side by side and compare their data.  The primary purpose of this July 2008 cruise is to complete a final comparison study of the two ships and measure the difference in the pollock population data they collect.  

Image of the eruption of Okmok, taken Sunday, July 13, 2008, by flight attendant Kelly Reeves during Alaska Airlines flights 160 and 161.
Image of the eruption of Okmok, taken Sunday, July 13, 2008,
by flight attendant Kelly Reeves during Alaska Airlines
flights 160 and 161.

The Location 

The Bering Sea covers an area of 2.6 million square kilometers, about the size of the United States west of the Mississippi.  The maximum distance north to south is about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles), and east to west is about 2,000 kilometers (1,500 miles).  The International Date Line splits the sea in two, with one half in today and the other in tomorrow. The area is also bisected by a border separating the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Russia and the United States. The EEZ is the area within a 200 mile limit from a nation’s shoreline; where that nation has control over the resources, economic activity, and environmental protection. More than 50% of the U.S. and Russian fish catch comes from the Bering Sea. It is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world.  The broad continental shelf, extensive ice cover during the winter, and the convergence of nutrient-rich currents all contribute to its high productivity. It is a seasonal or year round home to some of the largest populations of marine mammals, fish, birds, and invertebrates found in any of the world’s oceans.  Commercial harvests of seafood include pollock, other groundfish, salmon and crab.  The Bering Sea has provided subsistence resources such as food and clothing to coastal communities for centuries.

Aleutian Island volcaneos
Aleutian Island volcaneos

Repairs and Delays 

Anchorage high school teacher, Katie Turner, arrives at the pier in Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Anchorage high school teacher, Katie Turner,
arrives at the pier in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

While all aboard were anxious to begin this Bering Sea Cruise, the ship could not sail until crucial repairs could be made.  During the previous cruise a leak was discovered in the engine cooling system that brought the ship in from that cruise early.  The location of the leak was the big mystery.  After days of testing and a hull inspection by divers the leak was located.  It was in a section of pipe that runs hot water from the engine through the ship’s ballast tanks and into a keel cooler on the outside of the ship’s hull, where it is cooled before circulating back to the engine. This turned out to be a very labor intensive job and workers spent days draining and cleaning the tanks before the leak could be repaired.

In the meantime, a repair to one of the engine’s cylinders required a part that had to be shipped from Seattle via Anchorage (about 800 miles northeast of Dutch Harbor). To complicate the arrival of this part, a nearby volcano erupted, spewing ash 50,000 feet into the path of flights to and from Dutch Harbor.   Alaska has many active volcanoes. The Aleutian Island arc, which forms the southern margin of the Bering sea, comprises one of the most active parts of the Pacific’s “ring of fire”. This tectonically active area has formed due to the subduction of the Pacific plate beneath the North American plate. So far we do not have a definite departure schedule.  Each day spent at the dock is one day less for the scientific team to complete the goals of the cruise.  Meanwhile, OSCAR DYSON is completing its survey in the Bering Sea, and anticipates the arrival of MILLER FREEMAN to complete the comparison study.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Katie Turner, gets a tour of the bridge and quick navigation lesson from Ensign Otto Brown
NOAA TAS, Katie Turner, gets a tour of the bridge and quick navigation lesson from Ensign Otto Brown

Personal Log 

I arrived in Dutch Harbor on July 9th with a forewarning that repairs to the ship would be necessary before heading out to the Bering Sea, and that I would have some time to explore the area. I have managed to keep busy and take advantage of opportunities to interview the crew, hike, and find my way around town. The weather in Dutch Harbor has been exceptional with many sunny days. It’s uncommon for a NOAA research ship to spend so much time at the dock, and we attracted the attention of a newsperson from the local public radio station. Commanding Officer Mike Hopkins and Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler were interviewed by KIAL newsperson Anne Hillman while MILLER FREEMAN was delayed for repairs in Dutch Harbor. Unalaska Island has few trees and along with other islands on the Aleutian chain is known for its cool and windy weather. There are no large mammals such as bear on the islands but small mammals, such as this marmot, are common along with many species of birds and a wide variety of wildflowers, which are in bloom this time of year.

Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler explains how he uses acoustic equipment to study pollock in the Bering Sea.
Chief Scientist Patrick Ressler explains how he uses acoustic equipment to study pollock in the Bering Sea.
A marmot spotted on a ridge alongside the road up Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island
A marmot spotted on a ridge alongside the road up Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island
A Bald Eagle guards the crab pots stored near the pier
A Bald Eagle guards the crab pots stored near the pier
The view from Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island. Lupine, a common plant found on the island, is in bloom in the foreground
The view from Mt. Ballyhoo on Amaknak Island. Lupine, a common plant found on the island, is in bloom in
the foreground
Black Oystercatchers take flight over the harbor
Black Oystercatchers take flight over the harbor

Learn more about the Bering Sea ecosystem at these Web sites: 

http://www.avo.alaska.edu/volcanoes/aleutians.php http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/beringsea/index.html http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/alaska/preserves/art19556.html http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/europe/what_we_do/arctic/what_we_do/marine/bering/index.cfm

Dennis Starkey, July 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 29, 2006

“It Looks Like a Giant Milk Bottle” 

Science and Technology Log 

The MILLER FREEMAN’s next task was to aid two fisheries researchers conduct a trial attempt at catch and release salmon tagging.  A net system is employed to haze the salmon into the center of the net.  Salmon are fairly shallow surface feeders so the trawls would not be deep. In fact, our trolling regions were within two miles of Dutch Harbor.

What makes this trawl interesting is the device that gathers and stores the salmon at the end of the netting. It could accurately be described as a large old-fashioned milk bottle made of aluminum that serves as the retaining device and tank.  The flowing water and salmon are swept into a 724-pound portable live tank.  The ocean water is held in the confines of the tank with all kinds of surface fish and jellyfish.  After the fishermen crank it up, the back of the boat with a winch, we opened the door and had live salmon to measure, tag, take a scale sample, and sometimes put on a satellite-tracking device!

The need for such a device arose from the high mortality rate of netted, and hook and line tagging procedures. The more handling and scale loss incurred during a capture results in a dramatic decrease in immediate survival for the salmon.  The outcomes success rate and eventual retrieval of the tag becomes slim.  The scales on the sides of the salmon are a precious defense mechanism that needs to be retained to ensure a healthy immune system and this is why the “Box Trawl” device was made.  This tank system of netting was first developed by the Norwegians to further their studies of ocean fisheries.  This particular model was drawn up by the Biologists and manufactured locally in Dutch Harbor.

Unfortunately, the welder probably didn’t realize what the purpose of this device was.  It roughly built with sharp edges, aluminum slag pocking, and a heavy free-swinging fish door. After the first tow with these flaws, it was apparent modifications were needed to make this more fish “friendly”.  Fire hoses were slashed and wrapped to cover sharp edges as were rubber tubing to cover blunt surfaces.  A grinder was used to take the burs off the metal sheeting, and the door was removed to prevent added banging upon the fish.  Everyone on the fishing deck seemed to help out.  The results were amazing!  The first trawl saw some very banged up salmon with a high loss of scale coverage.  After the corrective measures, there was hardly a glitter from scale loss in the tank.

The six trawls over the two-day period resulted in an average capture of about 15 to 20 salmon per tow.  Other species of fish were caught as well.  Atka mackerel were numerous, and a 14-inch herring was in the tank as well.  The largest catch was estimated at having about 60 fish in it.  Fortunately, they all could be released unharmed due to the trawl tanks successful features.

The biologists, Jim and Jamal, are targeting Pacific King, Chinook, and Coho salmon for their study. They choose the highly commercial, or highly respected recreational varieties, because the success rate of a returned tag is higher for those particular types of salmon because of the desire for humans to obtain them.

Out of the Tank 

After the door was opened and we could see what we had caught, a hose with freshly pumped seawater was inserted into the tank to supply fresh water and oxygen.  Without this, fish in the tank would quickly use up their oxygen supply.  Then Jim brought over a fish hammock with two handles and a button that was about a meter long.  This was a “settling” device connected to a car battery.  The fish obviously don’t wish to cooperate when they are removed from the water, so they are zapped with some voltage that calms them for not more than a minute and a half.  Each fish is identified by species, measured for length, and plucked of a single scale sample.  A tag is then inserted by means of a hollow sharp probe that contains a small round red and white tag number and information on whom to return the tag to if found.  The tag itself is attached to a plastic bubble zip tie that holds the dime size tag in place.  About six of the fish were fitted with satellite tracking devices as well.  These state of the art clear plastic devices are about the size and shape of an average Lego block. Each one costs about $125. This technology allows the biologists to locate this particular fish for about 5 years.  These devices were installed in much the same way as the round tags.

Everyone on board enjoyed gathering around the big “milk bottle” to see what was in the tank. I especially enjoyed helping transport the fish out of the tank and helping measure them.  The most satisfying part of the process was taking them over to the side of the boat and releasing them!

Personal Log 

The scientific parts of my journey are now over.  We will head to Kodiak Island for the end of my stay at sea.  I have enjoyed the educational aspect of every mission I was able to observe and participate in. I also can appreciate the team effort that it takes to complete each mission.  The ship’s fishermen have to be versatile at all kinds of fishing techniques as well as be the deck hands. The ship’s officers are top-notch navigators and responsibility lingers in every decision they make.  The scientists visit the ship as a vehicle for their ideas and creations.  It becomes a portable platform for the fieldwork that is contrived in their offices. The mechanics and engineers man the power plant that gives the MILLER FREEMAN life and sustenance. The ship’s galley and the cooks give everyone a touch of home cook’n that we all miss out on when at sea.  A satisfied mind comes with a satisfied belly!

 

Dennis Starkey, July 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 21, 2006

Gathering Pollock Data and “Getting Slimed” 

The scale used to acquire data on the Pollock
The scale used to acquire data on the Pollock

Science and Technology Log 

My job on board is to work closely with the fisheries biologists to collect specific information from the sample of the fish we catch in our nets. The first step is to dress in boots and full rain-gear attire. They don’t call the area we process Pollock in the, “slime lab” for nothing! All the fish in the net are accounted for in some way.  Different species are separated at the sorting table first. Each kind of fish species we catch is also weighed and recorded even though they are not our target species. After separating the kinds of fish, we count off about sixty Pollock at a time into what look like heavy-duty laundry baskets. We then take them over to a scale that is networked with computer software program call FSCS. This program specializes in data collecting, coordinating, and reporting.  After the contents of the trawl are weighed, a workable representative of the sample is collected from the entire catch.  The biologists determine the amount of Pollock to be “worked up” based on the large or small volume of fish caught. The unneeded fish are deposited overboard to either swim away or return to the sea expired as potential energy for the food chain.

Roughly five baskets containing about sixty mature fish each are then checked for gender. We do this by making an incision into the abdomen and find either two yellow egg sacks on a female or a ribbon like vessel that is the testes on the male.  From personal experience, I’ll tell you this can get extremely difficult in the small immature Pollock.  The egg sacks almost become invisible and the testes become nearly non-existent!

The gender specific baskets are separated into separate containers and are moved over to the measuring device.  Again, this measurement technology is tied into the FSCS system for ease of data entry. We use a device called an Icthystick to enter this data.  It looks like a space aged metal tray that is about 90 centimeters long with blinking lights.  It works by using an electro magnetic current to mark the length of the fish in centimeters.  It has a stylus that attaches to a person’s finger that contains a small magnet.  When the stylus momentarily stops where you want it, at the fork of the fish’s tail, a tone is heard and the length is noted on the computer screen.  The software is set to record all of the males, and then the females, as we work toward processing them all.  At this point it may have taken an hour and a half to process about 400 fish.

Occasionally we catch different size and aged Pollock.  When this happens, a sub sample is collected.  This is pretty labor intensive because the three age classes are separated before being processed with the steps mentioned above.  “Ones” are first years, “seconds” are two-year growth, and “three” are mature and up.  Smaller fish tend to come in larger amounts and take twice as long to determine gender.  Each age class is also weighed to find a general ratio between ages found in the school.  When there are smaller fish it can take as long as three hours to perform all the required steps!

“Brain” Surgery 

After that, a representative number of fish of each age category are randomly selected to have their individual weight, length, gender, and age confirmed.  This is usually done by two people. One person weighs, determines length and gender, and then makes an incision on the top of the fish’s head near the brain to remove two otolith ear bones from each side of the brain.  The second person extracts them, washes them, and puts them in a capped vial. These two white half-crescent shaped bones are defining factors for determining the age of the fish.  Length of the fish is an estimated measurement for age.  The otolith bones are marked with microscopic growth rings that show if they are one or two years of age. After they are inserted into a specimen vial they are preserved with alcohol, and are brought back to a laboratory on land for final confirmation.  By this time the slime lab is very messy.  Scales and certain organ parts fall from the fish cavity during this process. Everything gets hosed off, even the “touch” monitors and people!  The sea birds that follow us love it when the big red fire hose comes out to blast the “slime lab” clean again.  They pick up tidbits and small fish when they get carried over the side of the ship.

Personal Log 

Our shifts are broken up over a twenty-four hour period.  I am ready to work from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day.  It is not like I must work that entire time but I need to be ready to process the fish. Sometimes there is a catch ready at 4 .am. and other days there are back-to-back hauls. I actually had one day where we didn’t have a trawl at all. I try to take a nap right after supper and wake up to catch a movie. Then it’s right back to sleep. My sleeping quarters are warm, I rarely use any covers!

Did You Know? 

Since the MILLER FREEMAN was commissioned as a government work ship it has been watched continuously for years! What this means is that an officer is on watch any time the ship is in the water. That includes out at sea or at port. Even when repairs are needed and the ship is dry-docked, there is a responsible person to administer to the ship at all times. How would you like that babysitting job? Actually, it is an act of ultimate respect and security for the ship affectionately called “SALLY” by the office staff on board.

Dennis Starkey, July 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 18, 2006

“Way Out There!” 

Science and Technology Log 

We are now 529 nautical miles out into the Bering Sea.  I thought there would be an occasional sea bird of some kind.  I was mistaken.  There are tons of sea birds to see!  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also conducting a survey of the density of bird life in the Bering Sea. Tamara, our bird Biologist, spends daily shifts on the Captain’s deck recording the birds that she sees in a 300-foot swath in front of the ship’s path.  She has been busy. She enters the species and numbers of birds on a computer program that works in conjunction with the ship’s radar. Some of the common species are, Northern Fulmars, Murres, Kittiwakes, and my favorite, Puffins.  The results give an impression of the density, or how many of each kind in a specific section, for the Bering Sea area. Tamara informed me that the last survey of this kind was in the 1980’s.  The weather looks calm and “beautiful sailing” conditions prevail.  There is a stratus cloud cover, but the sun has peeked out on occasion.  The temperature is currently 8 degrees Celsius.  The overall temperature range has been a bit warmer than this and has been comfortable to dress in a sweatshirt.

“How Do You Know There Are Fish Down There?” 

You see, we are not catching tons of fish. We do this on purpose.  In the past, fishermen would report catch amounts and that information would be analyzed and that was about all. This left speculation as to many variables that were not consistent.  Reports were not always accurate, locations were not disclosed, and weights weren’t reliable.  By having a research vessel conduct the survey, the results can have reliability and consistency measures.

To go out into the Bering Sea and drag nets all over the place does not make economic sense. A better solution is to find traditional fishery areas in the Bering Sea and survey those areas. Those areas happen to be along the continental shelf.  This is a comparatively shallow area of the ocean where currents of warmer and cooler water converge and circulate, allowing ideal conditions for life to flourish.  This is an area rich in phytoplankton (plants or algae) that are producers of food, which can feed lower end primary consumers (krill), that feed secondary and tertiary consumers and so on.  The Pollock find this area a favorable habitat for this reason.

So, you can’t catch them all, especially with one or two boats, so what do you do? Use technology! The computers, program software, and technology devices used make the survey possible. Echo sound is proving to be a fantastic way to find and quantify data.

Consider this scenario: It works sort of like this: You are in your bedroom reading when you hear a truck outside. You think, “It’s a big truck,” based on the type of sound and your experience listening to sounds. You knew it was a truck even though you never saw it. In order to confirm what you were hearing was a truck, you tell your mother to look out the window and let you know if it is a truck.  She might yell back, “It’s a fire truck at the neighbor’s house next door!” After she physically sees it, she can provide you with the details by providing color, length, and function of the truck.  The echo-scientists can’t exactly see each individual fish as we go by at 12 knots, but what they can do is be reasonably sure that different sound frequencies bounce back to the sonar equipment in a predictable fashion based on species. I’m informed that the fish’s swim bladders are the telltale sign. They do see a mass of colors and bunches on the computer monitor, but you can’t measure that information yet until confirmed.  Even jellyfish have their own particular patterns as do krill, and whales for that matter. The next step is to have a system to indeed find out for sure that the fish are there.

This is the part where mom is your eyewitness.  Fisheries scientists then return to the site by using satellite technology to where the characteristic patterns are detected.  Then a trawl net is lowered and dragged. What is caught is recorded.  My experience here in four trawls has shown 100% accuracy each time!  We take the collected specimens and put them on a 10ft x12ft x10-inch table for sorting.  We sort by species, gender, weight, and other collectable characteristics requested by the lead biologist. We now have the specifics of the truck, and the Pollock for that matter, based on circumstantial and physical evidence. Sounds a bit like CSI doesn’t it? A sample of less than four hundred fish is desired to make the data collection a success.  Often we get more.  The sorted data is entered in the computer and the information is combined with the cumulative data of the survey to demonstrate trends and density results for the Walleye Pollock.

Personal Log 

The MILLER FREEMAN doesn’t turn off the engine.  This diesel-powered ship runs all the time!  As we transect the grid course day in and day out, the boat maintains a rate of about 12 knots. The only time it slows is during trawl operations.  Trawling occurs when the chief scientist feels it would be good to get a sample of what she sees on the four sonar frequencies. The result to your ears is comparable to a commercial jet airliner from inside the coach.  I’d say the crew is totally used to it.  It actually seems to help me sleep!

I have participated in four Pollock hauls now.  They have all been successes!  It takes about two, to two and a half hours to conduct the scientific processing of a catch.  It is pretty slimy business!

Did You Know? 

British Scientists are researching the slime found on fish to develop a drug that would defend the body against diseases. The hope is to replicate the protection properties that fish provide to trout on our bodies. Could you imagine your roll on slime dispenser? I’m sure that’s not what they have in mind!

Dennis Starkey, July 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 17, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We made a krill trawl today to check the sonar equipment.  It was a check on one of the primary food sources of the Pollock and it helps the echo-integration specialists hone their skills at identifying Pollock versus other schools of marine organisms.  The trawling device was designed to catch a small bucket of krill of which it did. The specimens were weighed and then photographed on a scanner for later base study analysis. The greatest thing about the cruise so far is the warm, helpful welcome I received on board and the willingness of everyone to spend some time with me to share conversation, and bring me up to speed on what is taking place.

Members of the fisheries biology staff begin to count out and weigh the Walleye Pollock from the sorting table.
Members of the fisheries biology staff begin to count out and weigh the Walleye Pollock from the sorting table.

Personal Log 

I had a few days to visit Dutch Harbor while the scientific staff rotated and the ship restocked. The most impressive observation for most people living in the lower forty-eight states must be the abundance of our national bird, the Bald Eagle.  They congregate here for the free fish that spill overboard at one of the many fishing plants. They are rather like pigeons here. The harsh climate does not suit trees well so the eagles perch on the hillsides and, more often, on the store rooftops and streetlights right in town.

Living on the 205ft MILLER FREEMAN takes some getting used to.  I am not accustomed to the small living quarters on board yet.  I am rooming with the two Russian scientists in a “cozy” 54 sq. ft. bunkroom. I sleep on the top bunk and have been pleasantly lulled to sleep by the drone of the engine the past two nights.  The sea has been calm but overcast.  I have had the chance to see Minke whales, Dall’s porpoises, fur seals, and incredible amounts of sea birds!  I have been getting used to the many hatches, decks, and stairways. I still find myself laughing out loud when I come to a dead end or the wrong deck just trying to get to my room.

Dennis Starkey, July 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dennis Starkey
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 16 – August 4, 2006

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 16, 2006

“On Land to Off Shore” 

Executive Officer Sean Cimiculla oversees the operations of an on-board firedrill. The sailing crew trains regularly for fire scenarios on the ship.
Executive Officer Sean Cimiculla oversees the operations of an on-board firedrill. The sailing crew trains regularly for fire scenarios on the ship.

Science and Technology Log 

Hello to all!  I welcome you, and myself, aboard the good ship MILLER FREEMAN in the Bering Sea. I am a sixth grade classroom teacher from Wildhorse Plains, Montana. I will be aboard the ship from July 16 to August 4.  This is the MILLER FREEMAN’s third tour this summer of 2006 surveying the Walleye Pollock. My goal is to keep you informed of the importance of this scientific endeavor and share with you the experience of being a “land lover” at sea while drawing observations of the uniqueness of spending time in a self-contained salt-water vessel, also known as a ship!

The NOAA task is to survey the density and population of a very valuable commercial fish called the Walleye Pollock.  The results of this survey will be forwarded to fishing regulatory agencies that will look at the data collected to make decisions that may affect the catch limit, areas that are fishable, and length of the walleye Pollock season.  You may have never have heard of the walleye Pollock, but I bet you have tasted it!  This fish is commonly used in the United States as a generic fish entry.  Frozen food companies often use this species as the main ingredient in fish sticks, imitation crab, and fish sandwiches. Fast-food chain restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King offer it in their fish selections on the menu.  Other countries also have high stakes in the profitability and abundance of this fish in Bering Sea waters.  Japan, and especially Russia, both have a great interest in the success of the catch and population trends for these cold-water schooling fish.  Russian fishermen harvest the Pollock from the waters in their coastal territory along the Bering Sea as well.

Near the end of this leg of the survey, the MILLER FREEMAN is scheduled to cross into Russian waters to continue the study to get a truly encompassing sample of the entire cross-section of the Bering Sea.

International and Domestic Implications 

Aboard the ship are two Russian Biologists that are working in conjunction with the NOAA fisheries biologists to record the sampling results of our work here.  They hope to use this information in their country to relay the same boundaries and limits as mentioned above. The success of the Pollock harvest in northern Bering Sea has the potential to make or break the profitability of the small family owned fisheries as well as the larger corporate fishing plants. A large part of the annual harvest is exported to counties all over the world. You might say this species is the “bread and butter” of the annual fishing season. The location and prediction of a sustaining population of Pollock in the Bering is paramount to the livelihood of many stakeholders.  Nearly 72 percent of all the schooling groundfish taken from this area in 2004 were Pollock!

Survey Update to July 16, 2006 

Leg I and Leg II 

The preliminary findings have been consistent in finding the Pollock thus far.  The MILLER FREEMAN has been systematically plotting a course that has traditionally been a good source for Pollock harvest and study. The technology survey instruments and sampling devices have worked well, and the density of Pollock has been measured.

Leg III 

The MILLER FREEMAN speeds out to sea to pick up where it left off doing the study.  It is stocked with fisheries biologists setting up and checking instruments.  It will take us a full day’s and a night’s travel to reach our starting point. As of July 16, formal permission has not been granted to enter the international waters of Russia. The crew is hoping this can be rectified or alternative studies and revisions will need to be incorporated on this third leg.

As of July 16, The Ship OSCAR DYSON remains at port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  This other NOAA vessel is similarly equipped to study Pollock but is undergoing some repairs on its generating plant.  It is hoped that it will meet up with us in the Bering Sea to coordinate some surveys maneuvers with the MILLER FREEMAN.

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

eagle-727518Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 20, 2006

Personal Log 

Click here if you would like to look at the results from the Pollock Study.

This will be my last blog entry for the trip. As the project draws to a close, I would like to evaluate how effective it was. There is a link to an electronic survey. I would like to ask students, teachers, parents, and other visitors to the site to take a few moments to let me know what you think of this idea. The survey is all electronic and only takes a minute or two to complete. Thank you in advance for your time. Click here to access the survey.

Wild horses
Wild horses

Today we arrived in the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska early this morning. Dutch Harbor is a fishing village full of interesting sites to see and people to meet. It is also where the fishing vessels featured in the TV show “Deadliest Catch” are based, so a lot of you may have heard of it. The highlights of an incredible included a herd of wild horses. Their ancestors were released here by US soldiers stationed here after World War 2. We couldn’t figure out what they ate until… 🙂

Climbing in mountains full of wildflowers.
Climbing in mountains full of wildflowers.
Standing on the glacier
Standing on the glacier

An incredible end to an incredible journey. Thanks all of you for sharing it with me.

Final Thoughts:

I would like to express my profound appreciation to everyone on board NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN. Every single person on board the ship welcomed me and helped me in every possible way with this project. The scientists and ships personnel answered every one of mine and your thousands of questions and opened the entire ship up to us all. Many of the people on board shared the blog with their families back home, and the notes I have gotten back from them touched me deeply.

To Commander Gallagher, Lieutenant Commander Boland, Dr. Paul Walline and the everyone on board, thank you for making this project possible and for all you have done to welcome me on board the ship these past weeks.

Thank you as well to the Jennifer Hammond, Elizabeth McMahon and everyone at the Teacher At Sea program for creating this wonderful opportunity and for all of your support before and during the project.

Thank you as well to all of you back home for taking part in this experiment. Teaching and learning with you from the Bering Sea has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my 19 years as an educator.

Have a great summer vacation everyone.

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 19, 2006

Mountains in the clouds
Mountains in the clouds

Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: Less than 1 mile
Wind Speed: 14 miles per hour
Sea Wave Height: 2 feet
Water Temperature: 44.06 degrees
Air Temperature: 41.36 degrees
Pressure: 1018 Millibars

Personal Log

NOTE: We will arrive in the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska on June 20. As the project draws to a close, I would like to evaluate how effective it was. There is a link to an electronic survey. I would like to ask students, teachers, parents, and other visitors to the site to take a few moments to let me know what you think of this idea. The survey is all electronic and only takes a minute or two to complete. Thank you in advance for your time. Click here to access the survey. I should be able to send one more blog tomorrow from Dutch Harbor. Check back and I will let you know what being on land again feels like. Dutch Harbor should be an interesting place.

Large sea stars from the bottom trawl
Large sea stars from the bottom trawl

We passed the Pribilof Islands. Home to one of the largest worlds largest gatherings of marine mammals in the summer time. I got up to see the islands at midnight and again when we passed a second one at 4:00 AM. We were covered in fog both times, so we will have to come back another day. At midnight, the sun had not yet set. Our sun set last night at about 12:15 and it took a long time to grow dark after that. The sky began to grow light at about 5:00 and it came up a little after 6. A short night.

Science Log

Last night we had another bottom trawl. This one had some of the largest sea stars I have ever seen. One was close to a foot long.  In addition, there is a coral here called sea raspberry. It is common along the Bering Sea Shelf. I thought coral was only in tropical seas, but here it is in the Bering Sea. Since it is our last day at sea, I spoke to our Chief Scientist Dr. Paul Walline from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle Washington about what we have learned so far.

Coral called a sea raspberry
Coral called a sea raspberry

What does the data tell you so far? 

What do you expect to see in the next legs?

What will happen to the data at the end of the cruise? 

Finally, we were testing a platform today that can open nets at different depths. We lowered the platform to about 390 feet before a technical problem forced us to raise it back up to the surface. As an experiment of my own, I tied a bag of Styrofoam cups to the platform to see what the pressure at that depth would do to them. Want to see more? Click here for a video

Question of the Day:

What was your favorite part about participating in this project. Please write and let me know.

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 18, 2006

mike-781281Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Speed: 9 miles per hour
Sea Wave Height:2 feet
Water Temperature:41 degrees
Air Temperature:40.8 degrees
Pressure: 1013 Millibars

Personal Log

NOTE: We will arrive in the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska on June 20. As the project draws to a close, I would like to evaluate how effective it was. There is a link to an electronic survey. I would like to ask students, teachers, parents, and other visitors to the site to take a few moments to let me know what you think of this idea. The survey is all electronic and only takes a minute or two to complete. Thank you in advance for your time. Click here to access the survey.

Sea cucumbers
Sea cucumbers

By now, you have met many of the interesting people aboard NOAA ship MILLER FREEMAN. There are three groups of people aboard these ships. The officers on the ship are part of the NOAA Corps. This is a uniformed service of the United States consisting of about 300 officers who complete rigorous training and hold ranks, like ensign, or commander. They are in charge of ships operations and stand watch on the bridge. The scientists aboard are mostly from NOAA research labs, like the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. Many of the other members of the crew are civilian wage mariners. These are professional sailors who handle many of the day to day operations of the ship. Some, such as Chief Engineer Bus, have made their home on this ship for close to 30 years. Other sailors are contract workers who come aboard for a few months, go home and take a break, then join the crew of another ship for a different sort of cruise. Sometimes they are on research vessels, sometimes they are on freighters, sometimes they are on tankers. Today, lets meet able-bodied seaman, or AB Michael O’Neal. Click each question to listen to the answer.

Mud star
Mud star

What do you do on board the NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN?

Tell us about what you have done and where you have gone on some of the other ships you have been on.

Where are some of the other jobs you have had at sea?

What does it take to be an able-bodied seaman?

Science Log:

Smile! Here are big mouth sculpins. Once close up and one in the hands of Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko.
Smile! This is a big mouth sculpin.

We had another in a series of amazing bottom trawls last night. When the nets trawl along the bottom out here, some of the most interesting creatures of all get swept into our nets. Creatures that live on the bottom are often stranger looking for a few reasons. They are adapted to blend into the bottom so that predators cannot see them. They often wind up looking like rocks or plants as a kind of defense. They are also adapted to an environment with higher pressure and less light than the surface. Some of their adaptations can also make them look very different from other fish. Since they don’t have to worry about predators below them, these fish may be flat and have both their eyes sticking up. These creatures often do not need to be fast swimmers, since their defense is to blend into the environment rather than swim away when predators approach. The basket of sea cucumbers was one of the strangest things I’ve seen so far. These sticky blobs are not plants. They are sea creatures that live on the bottom of the sea and sift through the sand or water to find food. There are several different kinds of sea cucumbers in this basket. Can you see the different types? Mud stars, on the other hand, are soft and sticky, not like the sea stars we have at home. It may be called a mud star, but I think looks like Patrick from Sponge Bob.

Here is another kind of sculpin with large fins that look like the wings of a butterfly, called a Butterfly sculpin.
Another kind of sculpin with large fins that look like the wings of a butterfly, called a Butterfly sculpin.

Question of the Day

Now that you have seen some of the different jobs aboard NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN, if you were on a ship, which job would you prefer? Write me a comment on the blog and let me know!

Answer to Yesterday’s Question

Look at the movements of the ship described above. When the ship drives into the wind and waves, sailors call it a corkscrew motion. Can you think why?

A corkscrew motion occurs when the ship is struck by waves in such a way that it moves in several motions at once. In other words, it may pitch, roll, surge, and sway all at the same time. I’m getting a funny feeling in my stomach just thinking about it!

Answers to Your Questions

Sorry that I left off the link from Friday where you can see the position of the ship. Here it is. Fair warning, the site was down for most of today, so if it does not work, just try again later.

http://info.nmao.noaa.gov/shiptracker/Ship.aspx?ship=Miller%20Freeman

After we put in to port, I’ll have a day or two in Dutch Harbor to look around, before I can get a flight in to Anchorage. After that, I’ll be visiting some friends and family out west before I head back east. Thanks for writing. 

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 17, 2006

Smooth Lumpsucker fish.
Smooth Lumpsucker fish.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: 14 miles
Wind Speed: 25 miles per hour
Sea Wave Height 7: feet
Water Temperature: 44.06 degrees
Air Temperature: 44.96 degrees
Pressure: 1009 Millibars

Personal Log

NOTE: We will arrive in the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska on June 20. As the project draws to a close, I would like to evaluate how effective it was. There is a link to an electronic survey. I would like to ask students, teachers, parents, and other visitors to the site to take a few moments to let me know what you think of this idea. The survey is all electronic and only takes a minute or two to complete. Thank you in advance for your time. Click here to access the survey.

Well, we had pea soup for lunch today, also called storm soup by sailors. Legend is that when you serve pea soup, the weather will turn stormy, and sure enough, a gale is blowing nearby and the waves are picking up. The soup was great, though. As the ship rocks and rolls to the rhythm of the waves, lets take a closer look at how it moves. Sailors have lots of different terms for ships movement:

Pitch – refers to the up and down movement of the front, and back, or bow and stern of the ship

Yaw — when the ship spins from side to side.

Heave — When the entire ship moves up and down.

Roll — When the ship rocks from side to side.

Surge – When the ship jumps forward or backward.

Sway – When the ship jumps sideways.

Happy Father’s Day to all. A special hello to my own father, Elias, and my two son’s Nicky and Simon. I miss you, guys.

Science Log

Our trawl nets picked up the smooth lumpsucker fish near the bottom last night. This fish tends to say near the bottom and can inflate itself with water as a defense against predators. A good defense, I would say. Would you want to eat it?

Our survey continues. We brought in two hauls of fish this morning. Tamara is having less time on the bridge looking for birds in the last day or so. Her time is limited because we are fishing more and a large group of birds following a fishing net is not considered a natural occurrence, so she does not count them in her study. If the waves are too high, she cannot see the small birds in the troughs of the waves, so she can’t count during heavy seas, and right now, the seas are fairly heavy.

Question of the Day:

Look at the movements of the ship described above. When the ship drives into the wind and waves, sailors call it a corkscrew motion. Can you think why?

Answer to Yesterday’s Question

It is about 8:00 AM on Saturday morning. If the ship uses 2100 gallons of fuel a day, how many gallons of fuel will we need to get to Dutch Harbor on Tuesday Morning at about 8:00 AM?

It will take 3 days to reach Dutch Harbor. Since the ship uses 2100 gallons of fuel a day, we have to multiply 2100 x 3 which equals 6300 gallons of fuel. Enough for my car to drive 157500 miles. Wow.

Answers to Your Questions

Hello to James H from yesterday.

Thanks for writing

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

Waves washing over the bow of NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN
Waves washing over the bow of NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN

Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 16, 2006

Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: 14 miles
Wind Speed: 27 miles per hour
Sea Wave Height: 7 feet
Water Temperature: 41.7 degrees
Air Temperature: 42.4 degrees
Pressure: 1013.8 Millibars

Plotting longitude and latitude
Plotting longitude and latitude

Personal Log

NOTE: We will arrive in the port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska on June 20. As the project draws to a close, I would like to evaluate how effective it was. There is a link to an electronic survey. I would like to ask students, teachers, parents, and other visitors to the site to take a few moments to let me know what you think of this idea. The survey is all electronic and only takes a minute or two to complete. Thank you in advance for your time. Click here to access the survey.  How do you find your way around when you can’t see any land? I spent some time with Ensign Lindsey Vandenberg, on NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN.

Plotting longitude and latitude
Plotting longitude and latitude

Every 30 minutes or so, the bridge officers take a “fix” on their position. How do they do it? When they are out at sea, they take the latitude and longitude from the GPS and plot their exact position on a chart. A GPS is a machine that uses satellites to display the exact longitude and Latitude on a screen. The charts also have the latitude and longitudes written on them, but there is a problem. The longitude and latitudes scales on the chart are on the side and bottom of the chart, not where the ship is located. Every so often, there is a line across the entire chart. The navigator must use a tool, like the same compass you might use in math class, to mark the distance to the exact point on a scale from a line on the chart. She can then use the same tool to mark the distance in the part of the chart where we actually are. This must be done for both the longitude and latitude of the ship.

Ploting the bearing on a map
Ploting the bearing on a map

When we are near land, we can use Terrestrial Navigation. This means we can use the distance to an object on the shore, such as a lighthouse, to find out wherewe are. With a large ship close to shore, it is very important that we know exactly where we are so that we don’t wind up in shallow water. Ensign Vandenberg uses a tool called an alidade to help her. She puts the alidade over a large compass outside of the ship. The instrument reflects the compass into the viewer so she can see both the object on shore and the exact compass heading. If she takes a few bearings to objects on shore, she can use tools to chart her exact position on the chart.

Science Log: 
I’ve been asking many of the people on the ship what becomes of the data that we are collecting. This survey will be used to set quotas for one of the most important fisheries in the world. Here is how it works. If too many fish are caught in an area, there will not be enough fish left for the species to come back the next year. That is bad for the fish, and bad for the fisherman. To prevent this “overfishing,”. A quota, or limit to the number of fish that can be safely caught, is established. Methods are put in place to make sure that all fishing boats in the area respect the quotas. Do you want to learn more? Take a look at this short video on the subject.

Question of the Day:
It is about 8:00 AM on Saturday morning. If the ship uses 2100 gallons of fuel a day, how many gallons of fuel will we need to get to Dutch Harbor on Tuesday Morning at about 8:00 AM?

Answers to Yesterday’s Question:
If our ship wants to do a trawl 50 meters below the surface, how much wire would it need.

The ship must put out two feet of wire for every one foot of depth. So you have to multiply 50 x 2 which gives 100 meters of wire. Each net has, not one, but three wires holding it to the ship. So you would need 3 wires. All three are 100 meters in length. That gives us 300 meters of wire to do our trawl.

Answers to Your Questions:
Hello to all who wrote today.

Colin, no seawater on the equipment yet. They have a couple of computers in the lab where we process fish that can be drenched with water and will still work. Maybe I need one of those.

Mrs. Z. Click here to see the route we have taken so far. I do not think it will give you exact miles, but you can get a good idea of our total.

Thanks for writing.

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 15 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 15, 2006

Holding up the catch
Holding up the catch

Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: 14 miles
Wind Speed:19.5 miles per hour
Sea Wave Height: 4 foot
Water Temperature: 44.4 degrees
Air Temperature: 44.2 degrees
Pressure: 1018.8 Millibars

Personal Log

main_engine-702351I got to thinking the other day that the engines on this ship have been running since we left port almost two weeks ago now. I started to wonder how they could stay running for so long and so I decided to ask Chief Engineer Steve Bus to tell me more about them. So put on your ear protection, and lets go to the engine room. The engine room on NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN is like a small city below the deck. In addition to the 2100 horsepower diesel engine that moves the ship forward, there are generators sufficient to power a small town. A research vessel, after all, needs a lot of electricity to run all the electronics we need. In addition, the engine room has equipment to make it’s own drinking water out of sea water. We cannot drink sea water because it has too much salt for our bodies to handle. The machines in the engine room take the salt out of the water and, clean it, and make it possible for us to drink it.

sewage-793154There are boilers to heat water and make steam to keep the ship warm. There are also machines that process waste water. Finally, there is shaft alley. This is the part of the engine room where a long metal shaft connects the diesel engine to the propeller. Take a look at this video to see shaft alley. The ship burns 2100 to 2200 gallons of fuel on an average day. Who keeps it all running? Chief Engineer Steve Bus and his crew. They are responsible for the ship from bow to stern.
How do you prepare for an emergency at sea? The same way you do in school. By drilling over and over. Today, we had a fire drill where the some of the crew got into firefighting gear and practiced what they would do in an actual emergency. Want to come along? Click here for a video.

water-737525Science Log

We had some interesting returns on the echosounder this morning. Take a look at the screen. You can clearly see the top and bottom of the water column. You can clearly see the different groups of fish. The echosounders can tell us so much information. When we put the nets down near the surface, we knew exactly what to expect. We did a trawl along the bottom of the sea floor last night and brought up some of the most interesting creatures I’ve ever seen. Here are a few.

This is a basket star, a kind of sea star. Its branches are hard and are divided into many different branches. The basket star uses all of these to catch plankton. In the center is the mouth.

This is a basket star, a kind of sea star. Its branches are hard and are divided into many different branches. The basket star uses all of these to catch plankton. In the center is the mouth.

crab-726932 Next, we have a lyre crab. Have you ever seen a hermit crab without a shell? This one lost his on the way up from the bottom.

bottom-777997

This next photo includes a huge sea star, a sea urchin, a hermit crab without its shell, a tanner crab and several fish called poachers. These fish have scales that are hard, almost like bone or a shell.
h-crab-706029 This last one is my personal favorite. The fish at the top of the screen is called a big mouthed sculpin. It has the biggest mouth of any fish I’ve ever seen. This fish stays on the bottom waiting for smaller fish to come by, and then… watch out! When it came up in the net, it had a smaller fish in its mouth.

Finally, we brought up a creature called a brittle star. It is a kind of sea star with soft tentacles. It moves very fast for a sea star. The arms can break easily, but don’t worry, they grow back. That’s why they call it a brittle star. Here is a video of a brittle star moving across the lab table.

Later on the same day, our ship was visited by some dall’s porpoises. Click here for a video

Question of the Day

Look at the answer to yesterday’s question. Let’s try another one. If our ship wants to do a trawl 50 meters below the surface, how much wire would it need.

Answer to Yesterday’s Question

How much wire would the ship need to let out if it wanted to put the nets 200 feet below the surface? Make sure to watch the video on nets before you try to answer the question.

The ship must put out two feet of wire for every one foot of depth. So you have to multiply 200 x 2 which gives 400 feet of wire. Wait, we are not finished yet. Each net has, not one, but three wires holding it to the ship. So you would need 3 wires. All three are 400 feet in length. That gives us 1200 feet of wire to do our trawl.

Answers to Your Questions

Hello to all who wrote today.

The MILLER FREEMAN does seem like home to me now. I have gotten used to the constant rocking of the ship and the routines of the day. I really enjoy being at sea. By the way, they had pizza for lunch, but I asked the cook to make me some fresh pollock that we caught and filleted last night.

Do people eat jellyfish? I asked our chief cook, Mr. Van Dyke. He told me many species of jellyfish are poisonous. Even those that are safe to touch with your hands. So, no, we don’t’ eat them here, but in some countries they do. We have caught many tons of fish, but more importantly, we have seen many fish without catching them using our echosounder. This device allows us to survey fish without capturing so many.

There are 34 people on board with us for this cruise. That will change next week when we get to port.

The squid felt slimy, but not much more slimy than most fish seem. I don’t recall it spraying anything.

Jacob Tanenbaum, June 14 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
June 1 – 30, 2006

Mission: Bering Sea Fisheries Research
Geographic Region: Bering Sea
Date: June 14, 2006

Orca off the port beam.
Orca off the port beam.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: 14 miles
Wind Speed:14 miles per hour
Sea Wave Height: 3 foot
Water Temperature: 5.3 degrees
Air Temperature: 6.2 degrees
Pressure: 1018 Millibars

Personal Log

The coffee pot. See the ring to keep the coffee from flying when the seas get rough?
The coffee pot. See the ring to keep the coffee from flying when the seas get rough?

A lot of you have been asking about the food on ship. How do we eat? What do we eat? Where do we get our food. All of these are great questions, so yesterday I spent some time with Chief Cook Russell Van Dyke to get some answers for you. He, along with the Chief Steward and the Second Cook, is responsible for preparing all the meals on NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN.

How do people eat on a ship? “With a knife and fork,” said our chief cook with a smile. Food is prepared and served on the ship in much the same way that you prepare and serve food athome. The main difference is quantity. Here on the ship, food is prepared for 40 people instead of just a few. “We don’t cook one, chicken, like you do at home,” said Mr. Van Dyke, “we cook 5 chickens. Here are some pictures of where the food is cooked, and where the food is served. On a ship, this is called the galley. Can you see the ring around the coffee pot? Can you guess what that is for? During storms at sea, when the waves are high, that ring keeps hot coffee from flying around the galley. Good idea!

Chief Cook Russell Van Dyke
Chief Cook Russell Van Dyke

Another interesting difference between food on a ship and food at home is that when you are out to see for a month, you cannot run down to the corner to get some milk if you run out. Each time NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN is in port, it must take on enough food to last for the entire journey to come. How do they keep all that food? Aside from being a great cook, Mr. Van Dyke and the rest of the crew are also experts in how to store food and keep it from going bad. NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN has not one but three refrigerators and two freezers. The refrigerators are kept at slightly different temperatures. The dairy products, like milk and cheese are kept at 37 degrees . The fruits and vegetables are kept in a separate refrigerator at 42 degrees. They keep the humidity in that refrigerator higher as well. Those slightly different conditions help keep the food fresh for a longer period. Meats and ice cream are kept frozen. Dry foods, like cereal are kept in a separate area. Put it all together and the crew on board eat great meals every day. The photo here shows the inside of one of the refrigerators.

Click below to listen to Chief Cook Russell Van Dyke describe cooking on board a ship:

The kitchen in NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN
The kitchen in NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN

Where does the ship get its food?

How do you cook on board a ship?

Does the crew have a favorite food? 

One more question: Does the crew eat split pea soup? There is a superstition among mariners that cooking split pea soup will bring on a storm. I asked Mr. Van Dyke about it. He told me they eat it all the time. This brave crew last had “storm soup” on May 27th and we may have it again in a few days. I guess the only thing they can’t do on board this ship at sea is have a pizza delivered.

The inside of one of the refrigerators. Look how big it is.
The inside of one of the refrigerators. Look how big it is.

Science Log

We continue surveying pollock and surveying birds as we move along the transact lines in the Bering Sea. Most of the surveying is being done with the echosounder, but from time to time, we put the nets into the water and trawl for fish. This helps the scientists know more detail about the fish they see on the echosounders. The nets on NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN work basically the same way that nets on large commercial trawlers work. We just catch far fewer fish. Would you like to learn more? Click here for a video on the nets.

The Galley where the crew eat
The Galley where the crew eat

Question of the Day:

How much wire would the ship need to let out if it wanted to put the nets 200 feet below the surface? Make sure to watch the video on nets before you try to answer the question.

Answer to Yesterday’s Question:

Look at the speed of the ship on this website: About how far would it go in 24 hours? To get your answer, you should multiply the speed you see by 24. Remember to express your answer in nautical m iles. At the moment, the ship is going about 12 nautical miles per hour. At that speed it will travel about 288 miles per day. The real figure will vary because of winds and currents that effect our speed, and because we sometimes stop to fish.

Rusty, the ships cat and Teacher at Sea Jacob Tanenbaum
Rusty, the ships cat and Teacher at Sea Jacob Tanenbaum

Answers to Your Questions:

I also had an email request from Marcelo for photos with Rusty and I. Here is one. I’m also putting a second photo on to show you one of Rusty’s favorite games. There is a mail slot in the door to the office where he spends a good part of his day. He loves to stick his paw through and introduce himself to passersby. Surprise!!

Mrs. McBride, thanks for your kind words.

To my Kindergarten friend, was the squid slimy? YES!!! 🙂

Getting the mail
Getting the mail

Jim Jenkins, April 30, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 30, 2005

Crewmembers retrieve a marine mammal listening device from the water.
Crewmembers retrieve a marine mammal listening device from the water.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Marine Mammal Listening Device

Earlier, a marine mammal listening device scheduled for recovery could not be picked up because the instrument responded to signals and released from its anchor, but it did not rise to the surface for recovery.  You may remember the theory was that it was stuck in the mud which prevented it from rising.  Well, things changed on the second effort to pick up one of these devices. This one popped to the surface and is now onboard the ship. The data and sounds recorded will be of great interest to scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Crewmembers deploy bongo nets.
Crewmembers deploy bongo nets.

A couple of days ago, I sent some photos of brittle stars, bivalves, barnacles and worms that had gathered on a mooring that had been 200 meters deep in the Bering Sea for about a year. Were you as impressed with all the life forms as I was?

I expected to see life forms on the marine mammal listening device because it had also been beneath the water for 1 year. You may be surprised to learn that there was almost nothing on the surface of the entire instrument!  Would you like to take an educated guess as to the reason for the lack of life on this mooring? You would be correct if you noted that this one was deployed at a deeper depth.  In fact, this one was 1,800 meters deep.  The role of the sun in starting the process of photosynthesis to feed all life is pretty impressive isn’t it?  I hope this example helps you even more appreciate the role of penetration of sunlight into the water as a huge factor in ocean food chains.

Bongo Tows

Four bongo shaped nets were lowered into the water this morning to catch zooplankton. Two of the nets had a 60centimeter diameter and 133micron holes in them.  This means that anything smaller than 133 microns simply passes through the net and is not collected. Lots of phytoplankton fall into this category and are not collected.

Mr. Jenkins displays a sample of zooplankton
Mr. Jenkins displays a sample of zooplankton

Two more nets had 20-centimeter diameter openings and nets which had 153-micron holes in them.  Can you see that these nets are set up to catch smaller plankton species? All nets were lowered to the bottom by a winch until they were 10 meters from the bottom.  The nets are then pulled up to the surface by a winch at a rate of 20 meters per minute.  All organisms are collected in a cylinder attached to the base of the net.  The cylinders are removed from the nets, taken into the laboratory where they are put into bottles. The bottles are then sent to a lab in Poland where technicians use microscopes to identify the species, and the number of each species, in each sample.

Today’s specimens had a lot of organisms visible to the naked eye.  I will be forwarding a photo in which you may be able to make out some specimens.  There were a few fish larva and even some squid larva.  Have you noticed that rivers around Virginia tend to have a greenish hue once algae populations begin to grow in the summer?  Well, this process also happens in the Bering Sea. The size of the mesh on bongo nets is adjusted during the summer months because a larger amount of algae growing in the water tends to be picked up.  These algae may even clog a net if too much is collected.  What can be determined by the small specimens collected in the bongo nets? For starters, finding a lot of zooplankton means that larger species are going to have more to eat.  This could mean healthier populations and better fishing.  Eggs of fish collected in the tows give an indication of the future of fish populations.  More eggs may mean more fish.

Our friend, the Walleye Pollock’s, eggs soon turn to a larval form before developing into small fish.  The larva of the Walleye Pollock have small ear bones called otoliths. These ear bones have growth rings in them which are similar to growth rings in trees.  It is possible to determine the age of Pollock larva to the number of days by examining and counting the rings in its ear! Knowing the age and number of larva in the water can be extremely helpful in predicting the number of fish that are likely to be available for harvest in the future.

Crab Classic contains “Surimi Crab.”
Crab Classic contains “Surimi Crab.”

Argos Apex Drifters

Two instruments have been dropped into the water and they are probably not going to be recovered.  In fact there will be no effort to recover them!

The first of these long yellow cylinders with satellite transmitters on the top was dropped into the water yesterday.  At first, the instrument simply sat horizontally on the surface of the sea until it picked up a signal from a satellite in orbit.  When the signal was received by the Argos Drifter, the instrument filled a bladder with water causing it to sit upright and sink into the sea. The instrument descends to depths of up to 2,800 meters.  It then rises slowly to the surface, all the time collecting data on salinity.  Upon reaching the surface, the instrument transmits all its data to the satellite.  After transmission, the instrument dives again and repeats this process of collecting data for 8 or 9 months.

Plans are to have 3,000 or more of these instruments in the water of all the world’s seas collecting data. Do you think that this is an improvement on having to actually travel to a particular site to collect salinity data?

Personal Log

E-mails from home tell me of balmy warm weather and spring plants coming out in profusion. Conditions are a little different here today.  Hands went back into pockets so that my they would not be made so inflexible by the cold that I could not use a pencil well to keep records when working on the deck this morning.  A winter coat and felt liners in my boots felt wonderful.  Do you think I may have some adjusting to do when I return to springtime in Virginia?

Several of you have asked about stars. It is getting dark rather late here, so I woke up the last couple of nights at 1:00 AM to take a walk on the deck to enjoy the stars.  The weather has been pretty cloudy, so I could only see two stars as I walked around the deck.  You would have appreciated the flat blackness of the sky, however.  I can imagine the stars being quite radiant on a clear night.  I will keep looking and let you know what I see.

Surimi Crab sandwiches were on the menu for lunch today.  Being a big fan of the Chesapeake Blue Crab, I ordered a sandwich and found it delicious.  After lunch, I went back to the kitchen to ask Chief Steward, Russell Van Dyke, to tell me about the Surimi crab. I was surprised to find out that there is no such thing as a Surimi Crab!

Russell was good enough to go down to the freezer to get a bag of Surimi Crab so that I could look at it.  I discovered that the package contained only 20% of a crab product.

Now for the question of the day: What makes up the other 80% of Surimi Crab?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Jim Jenkins, April 28, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 28, 2005

Waves and an ice floe on the Bering Sea.
Waves and an ice floe on the Bering Sea.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

The past two days have been 12-hour workdays helping to do CTD tests. This involves putting an instrument into the water to measure the salinity, temperature and depth of the water in specific locations. All the data collected is stored in a computer file so that scientists can look at data the data for analysis. I have an experiment that I would like you to try to see how salinity influences oceans. First, mix up some water with varying levels of salinity.

Mr. Jenkins helps to retrieve a CTD.
Mr. Jenkins helps to retrieve a CTD.

You could do this by putting 1 teaspoon of salt in 100 ML of water, 2 teaspoons of salt in 100 ML of water, 3 teaspoons of salt in 100 ML of water and four teaspoons of salt in 100 ML of water.  It would be a good idea to color these with a drop or two of the same color of food coloring.  Label the cups and put them in order, least to greatest amount of salt. Now, fill four cups with 100 ML of fresh water.  It would be a good idea to put a drop or two of food coloring in these samples also.  Make sure to pick a color that is different than the color used for the saltwater samples. Gently pour the fresh water samples down the side of the container into the saltwater samples and record your observations.  You may notice that the fresh water stays on top of the salt water because the salt water has a greater density than the fresh water.  You are now on your way to understanding part of what CTD tests are all about.  That is, saltier water tends to sink toward the bottom of the ocean while fresher water tends to be at the surface of the ocean.

You now may want to experiment with changing the temperatures of your specimens and recording your observations and thoughts.  Your observations may lead you to conclude that colder water tends to sink while warmer water tends to rise.  Understanding this will put you well on your way to understanding characteristics of seawater due to salt and temperature differences that are the basis of CTD tests.

Ocean Birds
Ocean Birds

Do you remember our discussion of the Walleye Pollock?  You may remember that larva for the Pollock are in seawater and are influenced by currents which may transport the larva, or bring food to the larva.  The rise and fall of water due to temperature and salinity differences causes some of the currents that transport larva, or bring food to the larva through upwelling. Understanding how oceans circulate because of salinity and temperature differences and how this circulation influences ocean life is the basis of the measurements collected by CTD tests. Please let me know how your experiments go.  What are your observations and questions?

Yesterday, the ship was close to an island and lots of birds were following the ship or playing around the ship. I spent some time on the bridge looking at the birds through binoculars and reading about them in a bird book kept on the bridge.  Let me tell you about a few of the more interesting birds I saw.

The most interesting bird to me was a brown bird that resembled a puffin in some ways.  These birds tended to be in front of the ship.  The spent a lot of time flying, then would plop down into the sea to rest for a while. They are great floaters and bobbed well in the 8-foot swell waves. This bird is called the Northern Fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis).  What do you think of the species name?

The Northern Fulmar has had a habit of following whaling ships to feed on offal or blubber thrown over the side. A second bird, a gull, was larger and largely white. This bird, the Glaucous Gull, is also known as, “Chief magistrate of the North,” because of some of its more peculiar habits.  It has a habit of feeding on the eggs and unattended young of other birds. Its most curious habit is its tendency to confront a bird called and Eider which it forces to disgorge what it has eaten so that the Glaucous Gull can enjoy a good meal!  What do you think of this?

Finally, the Laysan Albatross was a beautiful bird with a wonderful combination of straight edges and curves in its wings.  This bird is an incredibly graceful flyer.  Sailors and Pacific Islanders often refer to it as a “Gooney Bird.” This albatross feeds mainly on squid and tends to live in the open ocean, well away from shore. You might want to ask you parents about the albatross.  They are likely to tell you some great stories and even entertain you with a few lines of a poem they know!

Yesterday, a notation in the logbook read, “Confused Seas.”  Looking at the sea from the height of the bridge made this seem an apt description.  Waves were bumping into other waves in locations causing sections of the ocean to be in churning turmoil.  I noticed that the ocean waves caused by local winds were in the 1-2 foot range.  Larger waves, or swell waves, were in the 8-foot range. Discussion with the officers on deck helped me to understand that swell waves, like regular waves are generally caused by wind. The winds causing the swell waves tend to be further away, however. In fact, the swell waves coming to us yesterday might be the result of winds causing waves in the water as far away as Japan. I think you might enjoy looking at a globe to fully appreciate this phenomenon.

Personal Log

We are in transit today and a due to reach the site of a marine mammal mooring to be recovered tomorrow morning.  It is nice to have the time to write logs and replies to you guys at a more leisurely pace.

Last night, I learned something about myself.  Did you know that I smell, “greater than a toothpick and that I smell like a tree?”  I thought that you would appreciate this description brought to you by 5-year-old Sam Jenkins!

Question(s) of the Day: Which whale is capable of the deepest dive?  Which whale can hold its breath the longest?  How are the Gray Whale’s feeding habits different than the habits of other whales? (A great resource: http://cetus.ucsd.edu) Mrs. English may be able to help you with other good web resources. It would also be a great idea to visit Mrs. Griffith in the library!

Jim Jenkins, April 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 26, 2005

Here you can see the heavy chain that keeps Peggy the Mooring in place.
Here you can see the heavy chain that keeps Peggy the Mooring in place.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

I am going to leave out cloud cover today.  Can you look at the data above and fill in the space for cloud cover?  I think you may also be able to know what current weather conditions are for today. Did you get the photos of the mooring, chain and cable which were covered with barnacles, brittle stars, worms, starfish and bivalves?  I thought these were pretty interesting and spent some time yesterday looking carefully at the photos to see what was identifiable.

By the way, the barnacle and associated organisms I am holding up in one of the photos are now in a jar which is wrapped in bubble wrap and inserted in a zip lock bag.  I am thinking that we will put it in a mesh bag and hang it from a tree limb to dry once I get back to school.

Yesterday, after dinner, I spent a long time talking with Mr. Rick Miller a mechanical engineer who has helped to design a lot of the moorings we are deploying or recovering on this cruise. Mr. Miller has an absolute passion for his work and I think he said a lot of things that you are going to find extremely interesting.

The mooring named Peggy was partly designed by Mr. Miller.  Do you remember that the top part of the mooring weighed 5,600 pounds?  You may be surprised to learn that the anchor and the chain holding Peggy to the ocean floor also weigh 5,600 pounds.  Mr. Miller went on to say that winds in the Bering Sea can be quite ferocious.  Long ago, engineers learned that a mooring with too much weight holding it to the ocean floor is not a good thing; the wind will simply blow the mooring over and push it below the water. This would prevent transmission of data that comes from the tower which is supposed to be above the water.

The fact that the anchor and chain for Peggy is the same weight as the surface part makes it possible for the anchor to move slightly when pulled on in a gale.  This keeps the mooring above water and close to the location in which it was dropped!

A second interesting design feature was made more interesting after looking at the barnacle cover on the mooring brought up yesterday. Mr. Miller and his team looked at the history of barnacle cover on submerged instruments in the Bering Sea and calculated that a half ton of barnacles would likely cover the underside of Peggy the Mooring within a 6-month period. To counter this, they painted the bottom of the floating piece with a paint which repels barnacles and sea life that might attach to the surface. What do you think might have happened if the surface had not been treated and the expected half ton of barnacles accumulated?

Chains used by NOAA to anchor moorings are tested so that each link is capable of holding a 42,000-pound weight. This would be strong enough to pick up approximately 20 of the cars that I drive to school each day.  This seems plenty strong to counter the weight of a mooring in even the strongest wind, or current, doesn’t it?

Mr. Miller was very surprised, as were a lot of scientists and engineers, when they came out to pick up moorings anchored with this chain and found them missing.  The breakthrough came when they recovered a link of a chain that was broken!  They took the chain to a metallurgist (a scientist who studies metals).  The metallurgist discovered that the fact that NOAA chains were heat-treated tended to form a strong crystal lattice in the metal.  Hydrogen atoms had a tendency to get trapped in this lattice.  The hydrogen expanded and forced a crack in the metal.  A force much less than 42,000 pounds was then able to break the chain.

The solution: NOAA chains are still tested to be able to hold 42,000 pounds, but they are NOT heat-treated. No problems with broken chains have been noted since this change.

I think Mr. Miller summed up his thoughts about design well with this statement:  “Overall strength is not the answer to all problems.  The key to success is to design to the requirements of the project.”

You may want to spend some time discussing the above statement with your classmates.  I think that there is a lot of wisdom in these words.

A lot of time was spent today doing CTD tests. You probably already know this because all of the pictures sent today related to CTD tests.  The tests took a bit longer than usual because all of the tests were at a depth of about 1,500 meters.

Personal Log

I think that Mr. Miller is an outstanding human being, in addition to being an outstanding engineer and scientist. Let me know what you think after reading the words he spoke in response to my request for a comment to some bright fifth graders in Purcellville, Virginia:

“Encourage them to go into a field for which they have a passion.  I would urge them to go into something that makes them smile when they think about it.  I would encourage going into something with which you can have fun.  Having fun has nothing to do with being easy. Challenges are fun.

Encourage them to keep life fun, and not be too heavy with life.

Remember that there are things equally important as academic endeavors.  Remember to be good stewards of the planet.

Encourage them to think about outcomes which are up to the individual.”

I leave you now to contemplate Mr. Miller’s words.  Have a great evening.  I look forward to talking with you tomorrow.

Question of the day: An instrument descends to a depth of 1,500 Meters at a speed of 50 meters per minute.  How long does it need to travel the 1,500 meters?

Jim Jenkins, April 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 23, 2005

Mr. Jenkins helps to retrieve a Calvets net
Mr. Jenkins helps to retrieve a Calvets net

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Get the microscopes ready!

Early this morning, I helped out with dropping and pulling up Calvets nets.  These nets collect fish eggs and other small life forms from the sea.  Specimens collected are put in jars, preserved with formaldehyde and sent to labs for analysis.  This is a quantitative sample, meaning that each test is designed to get a good idea of the amount of fish eggs in a specific amount of water.  In this case, the test measures eggs in a 100 cubic meter area. Specimens are filtered through a screen to eliminate most of the water.  Screens are then rinsed to make sure all the netted material goes into the specimen bottle.

You can see how big Peggy the Mooring is with Mr. Jenkins standing in front of it!
You can see how big Peggy the Mooring is with Mr. Jenkins standing in front of it!

Knowledge of the amount of fish eggs present in water can help make predictions about the health of fish populations. It can also help fishermen plan for the future.  This morning we ran an extra test and I collected the contents of the net to bring back to Mountain View Elementary.  There were a lot of copepods and some tiny worms visible to the naked eye in our specimen.  Other portions of the collected specimen were squirming with life, but I could not make them out with just my eye.  Let’s make looking at this specimen under the microscope the first activity that we do when I return to school.

The mooring named Peggy that I wrote you about earlier went into the water this morning. This was a complicated procedure. A couple of hours were spent “building” a chain with all the instruments which hang down to the bottom below this mooring,  All of the instruments needed to be bolted to specific lengths of chain with shackles.  The assembly was done according to a diagram drawn in Seattle.  The total length of all the chains and instruments joined together was 67 meters long.  Instruments used to gather data on temperature, salinity and nitrate levels at various depths were attached.

Once the chain was assembled, the whole assembly was lowered into the ocean as the times that each instrument hit the water were recorded.  One end of the chain was joined with a shackle to the mooring and it is ALMOST ready to go Peggy, the mooring, is so big that it was a complicated job to get it into the water. Two winches, several rope lines, a lot of communication and thinking were necessary to get it into the sea. About an hour after the process began, Peggy touched down lightly in the sea. A big cheer went up from everyone on the deck!

 Rusty and Mr. Jenkins
Rusty and Mr. Jenkins

Finally, the anchor needed to be attached to the bottom of the chain and dropped into the water. In this case, the anchor was not the railway wheels that you have heard about so often. This anchor resembled half of a Tootsie Roll Pop lying round side up and it was bright yellow. The exterior was made of concrete.  A big mooring needs a big anchor!  The anchor for Peggy weighed in at 5,000 pounds! (This is equivalent to 2 and one-half small cars).

How did an anchor this big get from the deck into the water?  Again, it took considerable thinking and communication between deck hands and scientists.  Communication between people on the deck and officers on the bridge was also extremely important so that the ship was in the right location. The cooperation, thinking and communicating paid off. Finally, Peggy the mooring, settled into the sea!

I took many photographs of the process of putting the mooing into the sea as well as a farewell photograph as the ship pulled away. These will be sent to you later today and will be there by Monday when you return to school.

By the way, another small mooring was put in right after lunch.  Now we have an 18hour transit before reaching the site of deployment of the marine mammal listening device brought up by Chris Garsha and Lisa Munger that we discussed earlier.

Personal Log

I hope you guys had a great weekend!

Did you receive the photo of Rusty the ship’s cat? Well, I also sent copy of the photo to my home.  My wife, Chantel, just wrote to advise that our son, Sam, climbed up in her lap when he saw the photo on the computer screen to give a big kiss to both his dad and to Rusty. Needless to say, this was a heartwarming message for me!

Question of the Day: What is at the center of the yellow concrete anchor used for the mooring named Peggy?  (Hint: Reading previous logs might help you with this answer.)  This “easy as candy” question comes to you in honor of the weekend!  (Very Big Grin!)

Jim Jenkins, April 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 22, 2005

Fair Visibility
Fair Visibility

Weather Data 

Latitude:  56, 28, 22 N
Longitude: 160, 35, 21 W
Cloud Cover: Cloudy
Visibility: 6 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction:  164
Wind Speed: 20 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 3-4 Feet
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 Feet
Sea Water Temperature: 2.4 Degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1011 MB

Science and Technology Log

How is visibility determined?  This was the question I posed to Ensign Mandy Goeller. Her answer was that the distance is 10 nautical miles if the viewer can see the horizon.  Distance may also be ascertained if another vessel shows up on radar and can also be seen with the eye.  Finally, there is a degree of intuitive thought based on experience when writing visibility in a ships log.

A CTD cast was done this morning.  This involves having a winch lower a huge instrument (about the size of motorcycle) into the water until it is almost resting on the bottom.  Salinity, temperature and density readings are done on the way down for the instrument.  Readings done on the way up would involve taking readings on water which has been disturbed by the passage of the instrument.

This morning’s reading was done for the benefit of The Kodiak Crab Lab (I bet you like that name!) in Kodiak, Alaska.  One of the problems for king crab fishermen is that king crabs do not like to inhabit bands of cold water that stream through sections of the Bering Sea. Fishermen armed with knowledge of the location of these cold streams will likely not waste time, fuel and labor trying to catch crabs when the crabs are probably not going to be in the cold streams.  NOAA is trying to help by supplying knowledge.

Retrieval of a mooring was scheduled for this morning.  The boat arrived at the latitude and longitude at which the mooring was dropped off.  A hydrophone (listening device attached to an electrical cord) was dropped into the water to listen for the device after a NOAA scientist sent it a signal to “wake up” and respond with a signal so that it could be located. The plan was to have an “acoustic release” sent to the mooring when it could be located. This signal would cause a metal latch located just above the anchor to open so that the mooring could rise to the surface, be spotted and be recovered.  Unfortunately, the mooring never sent a signal.  The acoustic release signal was sent but the mooring did not pop to the surface as planned.  The mooring appears to be lost! I think it would be good to remember this the next time things do not go exactly as planned in our daily lives. Sometimes in science, as in all areas of human endeavor, things just do not go as planned.

The location of the lost mooring remains on file.  Maybe it will be found in the future.  Meanwhile, a mooring scheduled to be placed within a one third mile distance from the lost mooring was deployed as planned.

A second mooring was recovered as planned later in the day. This one was covered with huge barnacles and had a few life forms holding onto its surface.  I took a few photographs of tiny crabs and worms which were found on this mooring.  I held the crabs and worm in my hand for photographing so that you would have an idea of their size.  I am thinking all the research you did on crabs before the trip may make it possible for you to identify the crab.  Identifying the worm could be fun for someone!

Speaking of photos, I sent a number of photos to you today.  Earlier, I had a problem with the size of files being too large to be sent by satellite to you.  Please let me know what you think about the photographs.

Personal Log

I had breakfast this morning with Shawn Bowman, a young man wearing a Kings Point rugby shirt. Our conversation turned to rugby and I talked about one of our neighbors, Tom Levac, who is a student at The Merchant Marine Academy and also a rugby player.  It turns out that Shawn is a graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy and played rugby with Tom.  It is indeed a small world, isn’t it?

Had some time this morning just to walk around the deck and enjoy the beauty of the snow-capped peaks gracing coastal Alaska.  This was a scene so beautiful that it was almost painful (You may not understand this at your stage in your life, but I bet that your parents will be able to tell you of a similar place.  I was surprised when the people I was talking with when I described the beauty as being almost painful indicated that this was also the way they felt about thisplace.)  I very much hope that each of you will be able to visit this sparse, pristine, rugged and eternally beautiful part of the world. Lt. Miller had his binoculars out looking for walrus on the shoreline this morning.  There were none to be seen today. Maybe tomorrow?!

Question of the day: When are you guys going to send an e-mail!!!!  (Very Big Grin!)

Jim Jenkins, April 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 20, 2005

The Bering Sea
The Bering Sea

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

You might want to begin by comparing yesterday’s barometric pressure (1002.8 millibars) to today’s pressure (1011.1 millibars).  Knowing that a rising barometric pressure is an indication of good weather would give you an idea of the weather that we are enjoying right now. It is bright, sunny and warm for this part of the world.  Last night, there was another indication that the weather today would be nice when I looked out the porthole to see a lot of pink in the sky just before I went to bed.  Do you remember the saying, “Red sky at night, sailors delight?”  Do you think this applies also to reddish shades of pink?

Sarah Thornton sits beside the instrument used to measure nitrate levels in the ocean.  (The cylindrical device in the lower right of the photo.)
Sarah Thornton sits beside the instrument used to measure nitrate levels in the ocean. (The cylindrical device in the lower right of the photo.)

Tomorrow, the phrase, “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning,” may apply! Matt Faber, Ordinary Fisherman, on the Miller Freeman is sitting across from me reading the paper as I type. Matt advises that we are expecting a drop in the barometric pressure tomorrow of about 10 millibars to around 1000.00 millibars.  What do you think this means about tomorrow’s weather?  If you predict that the weather will change dramatically you are correct.  In fact, Matt notes that we are expecting high winds tomorrow.  Winds are projected to come from the east at 35 knots per hour.  Sea wave height will probably be 6 to 8 feet high. This is quite a change from today’s one-foot sea wave height, isn’t it?

I asked Matt about his experiences in rough weather at sea.  He told me of a trip in February of this year when the sea wave height was in the 20-30 foot range.  (This would make some waves higher than Mountain View School Elementary School!)  Matt advises that the best strategy for these conditions is to “hang on,” and “put up a rail on your bed so that you do not fall out of bed at night.”  I am taking his advice on these things as well as his advice to visit the ship’s doctor to get some medicine to prevent seasickness!

This is the operations officer Lt Miller.  He knows a lot about marine geology.  What are your questions about rocks, earthquakes, volcanoes, faults, trenches, tsunamis......?
This is the operations officer Lt Miller. He knows a lot about marine geology. What are your questions about rocks, earthquakes, volcanoes, faults, trenches, tsunamis……?

Visiting the bridge to get the data needed to start my journals to you is becoming a great opportunity. Do you remember the story of seeing a killer whale on my first trip to the bridge to collect data?  Well, today I got another surprise!  The operations officer, Lt. Mark Miller, called me over to look at a volcano that was spewing smoke. The view through the binoculars was stupendous!  Unfortunately, the distance and the conditions did not make it possible to get a good photograph.  By the way, the name of the volcano is Shishalden. It is on Unimak Island.  This may be a great topic for research for some of you. I am looking forward to having the time to research this myself when I return home.

Today, I have talked with Sarah Thornton, a scientist from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Sarah is here to deploy an instrument that measures the nutrients in seawater that feed all ocean life. In the past, sampling involved traveling to a location, taking a water sample, and then taking it back to the lab for analysis.  Sarah’s instrument collects the data as it sits beneath the surface of the ocean.  Sarah will come back in 6 months from the time she drops it off to pick it up.  The instrument will then have 6 months of data which will be available to lots of people studying food chains in the sea.

This is the library where most of the logs to you are typed. The computer is put away right now so that it does not fall off the table with rolls of the ship.  I am writing from "Data Plot" where computers are bolted down.
This is the library where most of the logs to you are typed. The computer is put away so that it does not fall with rolls of the ship. I am writing from “Data Plot” where computers are bolted down.

Sarah’s instrument will be placed below the large yellow doughnut centered mooring that I described on day one.  ISUS is the name for Sarah’s instrument.  The letters stand for In-Situ (Latin for “In Place) Spectrophotometric Underwater Sensor.  The words are complicated, but the idea is not as complicated. Put simply, an ultraviolet light is sent through sea water.  Different substances in the water absorb light at very specific frequencies.  Nitrate, the primary food for phytoplankton, also absorbs light at a very specific wavelength.  This enables data on nitrate level to be recorded.  As noted earlier, Sarah will be able to take six months of nitrate level testing back to labs for analysis when she comes back to pick up her instrument next September or October.  Scientists can then look at the nitrate levels to see how well fish populations will be fed in the future.  Good nitrate levels mean that the fish will be well fed and plentiful.  Lower nitrate levels may mean problems for fish and for fishermen.

I assumed that ISUS would be placed close to the surface where the sun’s rays were able to penetrate to start photosynthesis. I was a little surprised to learn that the instruments are typically placed at a depth of only thirteen meters.  Can you think of a reason for this depth?  If you guessed that they placed at this depth to avoid problems with ice, boat traffic and weather, you are exactly right.

Light penetration in the Bering Sea may be common at 40 meter depths under some conditions. Sediment in the water or a lot of phytoplankton in the water may lessen light penetration, however. And there is measurable amount of light at 100 meters in some parts of the Bering Sea. Do you think the 13 meter depth of the instrument is logical in light of all you know?

Personal Log

I am going to send a photo of my stateroom today.  It occurs to me that you might find this interesting. The room is about 12 feet X 12 feet.  It is divided diagonally into two smaller rooms.  Each room has a bunk bed and two lockers.  A shower and bathroom are in one corner of the room. I am lucky to have a good roommate.

Later today, I am going to go down to the gymnasium for a run.  I have had little physical  exercise since I got on the ship. I do not want to come home and have you guys run circles around me on our Tuesday runs.

Remember to let me know what you want to learn about, while I am on the ship.  This is a great opportunity for you to impact your own education.  Please take advantage of this.  Question for the day: A major tsunami, or seismic wave, hit the coast of the United States more that forty years ago. Can you find the exact year and place?

Jim Jenkins, April 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 19, 2005

Mr. Jenkins holding a temperature sensor.
Mr. Jenkins holding a temperature sensor.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  55, 36, 50 North
Longitude: 155, 51, 00 West
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction:  164
Wind Speed: 18 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 Feet
Sea Swell Height: 2-3 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  5 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1002.8
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

The better part of the morning was spent putting temperature and pressure sensors in metal cages. I will send a photo with the subject line, “Metal Cages” so that you will have a good idea of the construction of these devices. The sensors mounted in metal cages are suspended from moorings at 3 feet intervals to give scientists a good indication of the temperatures at various depths in the ocean.  Data collected from similar sensors has been collected for a long time and will continue to be collected well into the future. Scientists can look at the data collected over the years to draw conclusions about the patterns noted. For example, should temperatures continue to rise over the years, scientists might look for a reason for this rise in temperature.  You have heard of the idea of “Global Warming.”  Data collected in this project can be used to monitor the severity of this problem.

Today has been mainly a day of transit, the term used by NOAA folks to refer to travel to a work location. The down time gave me the opportunity to interview my roommate, Chris Garsha, an engineer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. Chris and Lisa Munger, a doctoral student from the University of California at San Diego, are here to place instruments in the sea which will monitor whale calls. Chris and Lisa are great people. They provided a lot of good information which I will share with you now. Also, they volunteered to e-mail you with more information about whales when they return home to California.  I gave them my card so that they would have your school address. First, I will give you the address of a web site that both Chris and Lisa recommended.

The site has sounds of whales which have been recorded by the instruments that Chris and Lisa are here to deploy. I know that you will enjoy this.

Do you remember studying sound waves in class?  I think that you will remember that a wavelength is measured from crest to crest, or from trough to trough. Chris and Lisa use this idea when recording sounds of whales. They measure the frequency of whale sounds in Hertz (Hz). 1 Hertz (Hz) would be 1 wavelength per second.  40 Hz would be 40 wavelengths per second. 1 Kilohertz (kHz) would be 1,000 wavelengths per second.  40 kHz would be 40,000 cycles, or wavelengths per second.  I hope that I have explained this clearly, please let me know if this is not the case.

Chris and Lisa are going to put an instrument in the water which will be attached the top to a huge yellow ball which will float just beneath the surface of the sea.  The bottom of their instrument will be attached to one of the railway wheels we mentioned yesterday so that it will be in the same place when they come back to pick up their instrument in 6 months.

The instrument that Chris and Lisa are going to put into the sea has three tubes.  One of the tubes is for power.  The power is provided by the same D cell batteries that you use in your flashlight at home.  Only in this case, the power is provided by 192 batteries!!!

A second tube contains a data logger to record whale sounds and associated electronics.  This tube contains sixteen 80-gigabyte discs.  This represents the computing power of sixteen lap top computers.

The third tube contains a hydrophone. This is a device that initially picks up the pressure caused in the water by whale’s sound. The pressure of the sound causes oil inside the hydrophone to move.  This movement or pressure is picked up by electronics inside the tube and recorded.

As I noted earlier, Chris and Lisa are coming back in 6 months to pick up their instrument and analyze the sounds. Some of the sounds will be converted to spectrograms so that they can analyze the sounds visually.  Loud sounds will show up on the computer screen in shades of red. Softer sounds will show in shades of blue.

Human hearing is in the 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz range.  This will give meaning to some of the things I am about to tell you.  For example, Baleen whales (Right Whales or Fin Whales) make lower frequency sounds in the 10 Hz to 10 kHz range.  Would you be able to hear a Fin Whale making a sound at its lowest frequency? I look forward to your answer to this question.

Toothed whales (Dolphins, Porpoises, Killer Whales, Sperm Whales and Beaked Whales) make sounds at higher frequencies.  This helps Chris and Lisa to tell a toothed whale from a baleen whale just by listening to their sound.

Did you know some whales make different sounds for different reasons?  For example, a Killer Whale whistles at a lower frequency for social reasons of communication.  Higher frequency clicks are used for echolocation, just like the Little Brown Bats which live in caves there in Virginia.

Chris and Lisa are scheduled to put their instrument into the water shortly.  Please let me know if you would like an update on its deployment?

Personal Log

Your teacher had an old man’s day, retiring at noon for a two-hour nap.  Some seasickness had persisted so I decided to see it I could sleep it off.  Well it worked!  After not eating all day, I had a delicious dinner that ended with my all time comfort food, banana cream pie. I feel great!

I must confess that a dose of Dramamine taken just after getting up may have helped the situation. You may find humor in the fact that I chose the Less Drowsy Formula because I did not want to waste time sleeping while I was here!

Question for the day

Today’s seawater temperature is 5 degrees Celsius.  Can you convert this to degrees Fahrenheit?

Jim Jenkins, April 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jim Jenkins
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
April 18 – 30, 2005

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: April 18, 2005

Mr. Jenkins with NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN in the background.
Mr. Jenkins with NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN in the background.

Weather Data 

Latitude:  57, 37, 50 North
Longitude: 156, 02, 34
West Visibility:  8 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 161 Degrees
Wind Speed:  17 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 4-5 Feet
Swell Wave Height:  4-6 Feet
Sea Water Temperature:  4 Degrees C
Sea Level Pressure: 1001.5
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

I arrived in Kodiak on the afternoon of April 15.  The first few days in Kodiak were spent helping scientists and deck hands load equipment and assemble moorings.  The sensors are used to gather information about currents, salinity (saltiness), water temperature, weather, and ocean organism populations.  Some of the moorings are so large that a crane needed to move them about the deck for assembly.

One of these moorings will ride on the surface of the ocean on a doughnut shaped center about the size of a monster truck tire.  A 12-foot high triangular tower made of metal is  attached to the top of doughnut like piece with bolts.  This part of the mooring collects weather data. A second triangular metal tower is bolted to the bottom of the center piece. This section is made of different types of metal which enables collection of data  on salinity. Three 110-pound metal triangles attached in the center of this section hold the  mooring down in the water. The whole apparatus is anchored to the bottom of the ocean using old railway wheels. What do you think of this form of recycling?  I am sending  photos of the mooring as well as the wheels used to anchor the mooring.  Please take a careful look at the photos.  I know that you will have excellent questions as usual. Be certain that I will post replies to your questions quickly.

Above is the mooring.  Ms. Thornton’s instrument to determine nitrate level will be placed beneath this.
Above is the mooring. Ms. Thornton’s instrument to determine nitrate level will be placed beneath this.

Most of this cruise will be involved with the study of conditions above a relatively shallow shelf in the Bering Sea. Water depths in this section of the sea are less than 100 meters.  Your knowledge of the food chain will enable you to see that study of this  productive zone is not an accident.  The relative shallowness of the water enables the sun’s rays to penetrate to provide food for plant plankton or, phytoplankton, which make their food by photosynthesis.  Animal plankton, or zooplankton, eat the phytoplankton starting the food chain which provides nutrition for all ocean organisms as well as you and me!

Walleye Pollock are the most harvested fish in the Bering Sea.  Each year, about 1,000,000 metric tons of this fish are caught and sent to food processing factories.  Can you tell me how many pounds make up a metric ton?  This may require a little research as  well as your math skills, but I am sure that you can do this.  I look forward to your answer.

You may have eaten Walleye Pollok and not known it!  Much of the fish caught is processed into fish filets or fish sticks.  You probably have eaten Walleye Pollock if you  have had a fish sandwich at a restaurant.  Some of the walleye harvest is made into a paste. This paste is added to crab products in the artificial crab that you may have  enjoyed. Does this make you want to look at food packages and do other research  regarding the source of your food?  Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed your taste of the bounty of the Bering Sea!

I needed to go up to the bridge yesterday to get the data which begins this journal.  A Killer Whale came to the surface right in front of the ship while I was recording the data. Awesome!

Personal Log

Kodiak was one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  I particularly enjoyed hikes along the beaches, through the spruce forests and on the hillsides.  A box of rocks was put into the mail to all of you on Saturday.  The rocks came from a gorgeous cobble beach called Mayflower Beach.  I think you will enjoy the way the sea smoothed your rock to leave the wonderfully sculpted pieces which you will soon have. I hope you enjoy these treasures of nature!

A sculpin was one of the fish caught on a fishing trip yesterday.  I remember how interested all of you were in the report on sculpin done by Alison.  A photo was taken before releasing the fish. I am sending a copy of the photo.

I have proven that it is possible for a human being to become seasick on a 215 boat in 4-foot seas (Very Big Grin)! Anyway, I am peachy now and look forward to your replies. I miss you guys!