Staci DeSchryver: Boobies, Wedgies, and the Neurolinguistic Re-Programming of a TAS, July 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard Oscar Elton Sette

July 6 – August 2, 2017

 

Mission:  HICEAS Cetacean Study

Geographic Area:  French Frigate Shoals, Northwest Hawaiian Islands

Date:  July 21, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

 

Science and Personal Log

I’m putting both the science and personal log together this time around for a very special reason.

See, I have a confession to make.  Many of my friends from home know this about me, but I have a secret I’ve kept under wraps for the vast majority of this trip, and it’s time to officially reveal it now, because it just seems to fit so well.  Ready?  True confessions from a Teacher At Sea:

I have an irrational fear of birds.

There.  I said it.  It stems from a wayward trip to London in the Study Abroad program and involves me, innocently consuming an over-priced deli sandwich on a bench outside of the Museum of Natural History when I was suddenly accosted by a one-footed pigeon who made away with my lunch – but not before attacking my face full-force with every wing, beak, and claw it had.  My lunch then became a free sidewalk hoagie, available for all nearby pigeons (you know, like every pigeon from London to France) to feast upon as I sat helplessly watching the gnashing of beaks and flyings of feathers in a ruthless battle to the end for over-processed deli ham and havarti on rye.  I was mortified.  From that moment forth, I was certain every bird wanted a piece of my soul and I was darned if I was going to let them have it.

After many years of active bird-avoidance, my first Teacher At Sea experience allowed me to remove Puffin from the exhaustive list of these ruthless prehistoric killers.  After all, Puffins are not much more than flying footballs, and generally only consume food of the underwater persuasion, so I felt relatively sheltered from their wrath.  Plus they’re kind of cute.  The following year, a Great Horned Owl met its demise by colliding face-first into one of our tall glass windows at the school. When the Biology teachers brought him inside, I felt oddly curious about this beast who hunts with stunning accuracy in the black of night, and yet couldn’t manage to drive himself around a window.  I felt myself incongruously empathetic at the sight of him – he was such a majestic creature, his lifeless body frozen in time from the moment he met his untimely ending.   I couldn’t help but wish him alive again; if not for his ability to hunt rodents, but simply because nothing that beautiful should have to meet its maker in such a ridiculous manner.  And so, I cautiously removed Owls from the list, so long as I didn’t have to look much at their claws.

This has suited me well over the years – fear all birds except for Puffin and Owl, and as a side note Penguin, too, since they can’t do much damage without being able to fly and all.  Plus, you know, Antarctica.  But when I found out that the cetacean study also happened to have bird observers on the trip, I felt momentarily paralyzed by the whole ordeal.  I had (incorrectly) assumed that we wouldn’t see birds on this trip.  I mean, what kind of bird makes its way to the middle of the Pacific Ocean?  Well, it turns out there are a lot that do, and it’s birders Dawn and Chris who are responsible for sighting and cataloging them alongside the efforts of the marine mammal observers.  I promise I’ll come back to my story on bird fear, but for now, let’s take a look at how our birders do their job.

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NOAA bird observer Dawn scans the horizon from her seat on the flying bridge

The birders follow a similar protocol to the marine mammal observers.  Each birder takes a two-hour shift in a front seat on the flying bridge.  While the marine mammal observers use big eyes to see out as far as they possibly can out onto the horizon, the birders only watch and catalog birds that come within 300m of the ship.

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You can find the distance a bird is from the ship using a basic pencil with lines marked on the side. Each line is mathematically calculated using your height, the ship’s height, and the distance to the horizon.

How do they know how far away the 300m mark is?  Over the years they just become great visual judges of the distance, but they also have a handy “range finder” that they use.  The range finder is just a plain, unsharpened pencil with marks ticked off at 100m intervals.  By holding the pencil up to the horizon and looking past it, they can easily find the distance the bird is from the ship. They divide this 300m range into “zones” – the 200-300m zone, the 100-200m zone, and the less than 100m zone from the bow of the ship.  Anything further than 300m or outside of the zero to 90 degree field of vision can still be catalogued if it is an uncommon species, or a flock of birds.  (More on flocks in a moment.)

They choose which side of the ship has the best visibility, either the port or starboard side, and like the mammal observers, birders take only the directional space from zero (directly in front of the ship) to 90 degrees on the side of their choosing.  If the visibility switches in quality from one side to the other during a shift, he or she can change sides without issue.

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A sooty tern soars high above the ship. We’ve seen many sooty terns this trip!

The bird team also records information such as wind speed and direction (with respect to the ship), the Beaufort Sea State, visibility, observation conditions, and the ship’s course.  Observation conditions are a critical component of the birder’s tool bag.  They mark the observation conditions on a five-point scale, with 1 being extremely bad conditions and 5 being very good conditions.  What defines good conditions for a birder? The best way to make an observation about the conditions is to think about what size and species of smaller birds an observer might not be able to see in the outermost range. Therefore, the condition is based on species and distance from the ship.  Some birds are larger than others, and could be easier to spot farther out from the ship.  The smallest birds (like petrels) might not be observable in even slightly less than ideal conditions. Therefore, if a birder records that the conditions are not favorable for small birds at a distance of 200m (in other words, they wouldn’t be able to see a small bird 200m away), the data processing team can vary the density estimates for smaller birds when observers are in poor visibility.

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White terns look like they belong on holiday cards! A new favorite of mine.

If a bird flies into the designated “zone”, the species is identified and recorded on a computer program that will place a time stamp on the GPS location of the sighting. These data are stored on the ship for review at a later time.  Ever wonder where the maps of migration patterns for birds originate?  It is from this collected data.  Up until this point, I had always taken most of these kinds of maps for granted, never thinking that in order to figure out where a particular animal lives let alone its migratory pattern must come from someone actually going out and observing those animals in those particular areas.

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An albatross glides behind the ship, looking for fish.

The birder will record other information about the bird sighting like age, sex (if able to identify by sight) and what the lil’ fella or gal is up to when observed.  Birds on the open ocean do a lot more than just fly, and their behaviors are important to document for studies on bird behavior.  There are 9 different codes for these behaviors, ranging from things like directional flight (think, it has a place to go and it’s trying to get there), sitting on the water, or “ship attracted.”  There are certain species like juvenile Red-Footed and Brown boobies and Tropic Birds that are known to be “ship attracted.”  In other words, it could be out flying along a particular path until it sees this super cool giant white thing floating on the water, and decides to go and check it out.  This is how I wound up with that fun photo of the Booby on the bridge wing, and the other snapshot of the juvenile that hung out on the jackstaff for two full days.  These birds would not normally have otherwise come into the range to be detected and recorded, so their density estimates can be skewed if they are counted the same way as all other birds.

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This Brown Booby wants in on the food action near the ship. Boobies are ship attracted, and we’ve had a few hang out with us while they take a rest on the mast. This is not the exact booby that made me change my bird ways, but he’s a close cousin (at least genetically speaking) of the one who did.

Any groups of five or more birds within one “reticle” (a measuring tool on the glass of the big eyes seen when looking through them) can be flagged by the marine mammal observers for the birders.  While many flocks are found miles away and might be difficult to see in the big eyes by species, the birders know the flight and feeding behaviors of the birds, and can usually identify the different species within the flock. They have a special designation in their computer program to catalog flocks and their behavior, as well.

I sat with Dawn on a few different occasions to learn how she quickly identifies and catalogs each bird species.  At first, it seems like all the birds look fairly similar, but after a few hours of identification practice, I can’t imagine that any of them look the same. The first bird Dawn taught me to identify was a Wedge-Tailed White Shearwater, more affectionately known as a “Wedgie White.”  To me, they were much more easily characterized by behavior than anything else.  Shearwaters are called “Shearwaters” because they…you guessed it… shear the water!  They are easy to spot as they glide effortlessly just above the water’s surface, almost dipping their wings in the cool blue Pacific.

I then continued my bird observation rotation learning all kinds of fun facts about common sea birds – how plumages change as different species grow, identifying characteristics (which I’m still trying to sort out because there are so many!), stories of how the birds got their names, migration patterns, population densities, breeding grounds, and what species we could expect to see as we approached different islands on the Northwest Hawaiian Island Chain.  Dawn knows countless identifiers when it comes to birds, and if she can’t describe it exactly the way she wants to, she has multiple books with photos, drawings, and paragraphs of information cataloging the time the bird is born to every iteration of its markings and behaviors as it grows.  To be a birder means having an astounding bank of knowledge to tap into as they have a limited time to spot and properly identify many species before they continue on their journey across the Pacific.

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This Great Frigate Bird was flying about fifteen feet overhead, with a mast directly in front of him as he flew. He’s looking around for birds to steal food from. The Hawaiian term for Frigate Bird is ‘Iwa, meaning “thief.”

After two weeks of watching for birds with Dawn and Chris, I feel like I can properly identify a few different species – Wedgies, Frigate Birds (these are the klepto-parasite birds that steal other birds’ dinners), Tropic Birds, two types of Terns, and boobies, though I can only best ID boobies when they are not in flight.  I find myself up on the flying bridge on independent observation rotations calling forward to the birder on rotation, “Was that a tern?”  And now, my identifying skills have vastly improved over the last few days as I have engaged in the process of this very important data collection.

So, what has become of my irrational bird fear?  Well, I have to be honest; much like Puffin and Owl, the Red-Footed Booby melted my heart.  There he was, perched on the bridge’s shade railing, a lonely little fellow staring up at me with no reservation about my presence or expectation of a sandwich.  There we were in the middle of a vast ocean, and he was all alone – simply looking for a place to rest his wings or search more earnestly for the hint of a delicious flying fish escaping the water.  I spent a fair amount of time photographing the little guy, working with my new camera to find some fun angles and depth of field, and playing with the lighting.  He was a willing and I daresay friendly participant in the whole process (in fact I wondered if he had seen a few episodes of America’s Next Top Model), and I felt myself softening my stance on placing the Red Footed Booby amongst the likes of attack pigeons.  By the end of our encounter, I had mentally noted that the Booby should now be placed on the “safe bird” list.

As I’ve spent more time with Dawn and Chris and learned more about each species, seabirds have one by one slowly migrated over to the safe list – to the point now where there are just too many to recite and I feel it is time after fifteen years to do away with the whole of it entirely.  As soon as I changed my perspective, the beauty of all of them have gradually emerged to the point where I can easily find something to appreciate (even admire) about each of the species we’ve seen.  Terns fight fiercely into the wind as they fly, but when they can catch a thermal or pose for an on-land photograph for an ID book, look dainty and regal in their appearance – as if they should be a staple part of every holiday display.  And baby Terns?  Doc (our Medical Doctor on board) showed me a photo of a tern chick that followed him around Midway Island last year and the lil’ guy was so darn cute it could make you cry glitter tears.  Today near French Frigate Shoals many of the species I’ve seen from afar came right up to the ship and glided effortlessly overhead, allowing me to observe them from a near perspective as they flew.  (None of them pooped on me, so if they weren’t off the list by that point, that act of grace alone should have sealed their fate for the positive.)  Frigate Birds can preen their feathers while they fly.  Watching each species cast their wings once and glide on the air while looking all around themselves was oddly entertaining, certainly peculiar, but also impressive.  I can’t walk on the ship looking anywhere besides exactly where I want to go and yet birds can fly five feet away from a mast and casually have a proper look about.

If this has taught me anything, it has shown me the truth in the statement that fear is just ignorance in disguise.  When I accidentally gave my bird aversion away during our quick stop at French Frigate Shoals (more on this in an upcoming blog post) many of the scientists said, “I’d have never guessed you were scared of birds.  How did you keep it secret?”  The easy answer is “Teacher Game Face.” But, more deeply rooted in that is a respect and admiration for those who enjoy the things that I’m afraid of.  Dawn and Chris have dedicated their entire careers to identifying and cataloging these creatures, and they are both so kind and respectable I find it hard to imagine that they would study anything unequal to the vast extent of their character.  Thankfully I learned this early enough on in the trip that it was easy to trust their judgement when it comes to Procellariiformes.   This experience is once-in-a-lifetime, and how short-sighted would I be to not want to explore every aspect of what goes on during this study because I’m a little (a lot) afraid?

In Colorado, before I ever left, I made a personal commitment to have a little chutzpah and learn what I can about the distant oceanic cousins of the sandwich thieves.  And when it came to that commitment, it meant genuinely digging in to learn as much as I can, not just pretend digging in to learn at little.  I figured if nothing else, simple repeated exposure in short bursts would be enough for me to neurolinguistically reprogram my way into bird world, and as it turns out, I didn’t even really need that.  I just needed to open up my eyes a little and learn it in to appreciation.  Learning from Dawn and Chris, who are both so emphatically enthusiastic about all things ornithology made me curious once again about these little beasts, who over the last two weeks have slowly transformed into beauties.

Sorry, pigeons.  You’re still on the list.

Pop Quiz

What is to date the silliest question or statement Staci has asked/made during her TAS experience?

  1.       In response to a rainy morning, “Yeah, when I woke up it sounded a little more ‘splashy’ than usual outside.”
  2.      “So, if Killer Whales sound like this, then what whale talk was Dory trying to do in Finding Nemo?”
  3.       “So, there is no such thing as a brown-footed booby?”
  4.      After watching an endangered monk seal lounging on the sand, “I kind of wish I had that life.”  (So…you want to be an endangered species? Facepalm.)
  5.       All of the above

If you guessed e, we’re probably related.

 

Staci DeSchryver: A Brief Lesson on All the Things We Deliberately Throw Over the Side of the Ship, July 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

July 6 – August 2, 2017

 

Mission:  HICEAS Cetacean Study

Geographic Area:  Hilo Coast, Hawaii

Date:  July 12, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Location:  22 deg 38.0 min N, 159 deg 33.9 min W

Cloudy with rain squalls all around

Visibility: 10 nmi

Wind: E @ 23 kts

Pressure: 1019.1mb

Waves: 2-3 ft

Swell:  60 degrees at 3-5 ft

Temp: 27 degrees

Wet Bulb Temp: 24 degrees

Dewpoint: 26 degrees

Relative Humidity:  96%

 

Science and Technology Log

Today, we will be exploring all of the equipment we deliberately toss over the stern of the ship.  There are a number of different audio recorders that the HICEAS and other teams use to detect various species while underway.  Chief scientist Erin Oleson gives a great perspective when she says that, “We pass through this particular area for this study only one time.  Just because we may not see or hear an animal, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s not there, or that it won’t come by this area at a later time.”  In order to compensate for the temporal restrictiveness of the ship being in one spot at one time, the team will periodically launch buoys over the side to continue the listening process for us.  Some buoys are designed to last a few hours, some report the information real-time back to the ship, some are anchored to the ocean floor, some drift around, and all serve different needs for the scientific team.

Thing we deliberately throw off the ship #1:  Sonobuoys

Since arriving on the ship, I have been recruited to “Team Sonobuoy” by the acoustics team for deployments!  It is my job to program and launch two sonobuoys on a set schedule created by the scientific team.   Sonobuoys are designed to pick up low-frequency sounds from 0 – 2 KHz, most often made by baleen whales.  The sonobuoy will send information back to the ship in real-time.  Once launched over the side, the sonobuoy will drift in the ocean, listening for these low frequency noises.  They are a temporary acoustic tool – lasting anywhere from 30 mins to 8 hours of time.  Most of the buoys are set to record for 8 full hours.  After the pre-set recording time is up, the float on the buoy pops, and the buoy is no longer active.  It is my job to launch two sonobuoys, and then monitor the signal coming back to the ship via VHF until we are too far away to detect the frequency coming back to us.  This usually happens between 2 and 3 miles after launch.   The recordings are sent onshore for processing.  Fun fact: sonobuoys were originally developed by the Navy to listen for enemy submarines!  The scientists thought they would be a handy tool for baleen whales, and picked up the technology.  We have deployed sonobuoys almost every evening of the cruise.

Thing we deliberately throw off the ship #2:  DASBRs

DASBRs, or Digital Acoustic Spar Buoy Recorders, are floating recorders launched at certain waypoints in the ocean.  The word “spar” simply means that the buoy floats vertically in the water.  There are two types of DASBRs, one records from 0 – 128 KHz, and one goes all the way from 0 – 144 KHz.  Now, these particular buoys get launched, but they don’t get anchored.

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Shannon and Jen connect the buoy to the DASBR before deployment

Inside the DASBR is a transmitter that shows the location of the buoy so that the scientific team can recover them at a later time.

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Erik waits to deploy the DASBR at the proper GPS location.

So, in effect, this is a buoy we deliberately throw off the ship only to bring it back on after a predetermined amount of time.  These recorders do not transmit back to the ship.  They store all of the data on the  DASBR, which is why recovery of the DASBRs is so important.  A DASBR that does not get recovered keeps all of its secrets as it floats along in the ocean.  We can track DASBRs real time, and they follow interesting patterns as they float freely in the ocean – some track in a given direction along with the current, while others corkscrew around in the same area.  So far, we have deployed 4 DASBRs in the first 8 days of the cruise.

Things we deliberately throw off the ship #3:  HARPS

HARPS, or High Frequency Acoustic Recording Packages, are the third type of microphone deployed off the ship.  HARPS record all sounds between 0 and 100 KHz. They last far longer than both sonobuoys and DASBRS in terms of time out on the water. They are limited not by data storage, but by battery power.  HARPS are deployed at one location and are anchored to the ocean floor.  Small yellow floats rise to the surface to alert ships and other traffic to their presence.  They are a little easier to find when it comes to recovery, since they have a GPS known location and are secured to the ocean floor, but they are a little more difficult to wrangle on to the back deck of the ship when recovered and deployed, since there is an anchor associated with them.

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The HARP in the Wet Lab undergoing repairs before launch.

On this cruise we have both recovered and deployed HARP systems.  The HARPS also store information within  the HARP, so recovery is important to the scientific team because the data does not get transmitted in real time back to any computers.

Things we deliberately throw off the ship #4:  Ocean Noise Sensors

There are data recorders that record the level of noise in the ocean over time.  We are currently on our way to pick one of these recorders up, complete some maintenance on it, and re-deploy it.  This will be a full day commitment for the scientific team and the crew, so I’m going to keep you guessing on this one until we actually complete this part of the operation.  We have many hands working together both on the ship and between organizations to make the ocean noise-monitoring program effective and cohesive, so this section of “Things we deliberately throw off the ship” will get its own blog post in the future as we complete the haul in, maintenance, and re-deployment.  Stay tuned.

 

Personal Log

Team.  You’ll never guess what I did.  I.  Drove. The Ship.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I drove the ship, and – AND – I didn’t hit anything while I did it!  What’s better is that I didn’t tip anyone out of their chairs while I made turns, either!  This is cause for much celebration and rejoicing among scientists and crew alike.  The Commanding Officer, CDR  Stephanie Koes invited me, “Spaz the TAS” up to the bridge for a little steering lesson two days ago, in which I happily obliged.  ENS Fredrick gave me a little mini-lesson on the onboard radar systems, which were picking up rain just off our starboard side.

I also learned of the existence of the many GPS positioning systems and navigation systems onboard.  The NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, or OMAO, is not lost on system redundancies.  From what I can surmise, there are two of everything on the bridge in order to ensure the NOAA OMAO’s number one priority – safety. Everything on the bridge has a backup, or in many instances, a preferential option for each officer responsible for the bridge at any given time.  Some systems are fancy and new, while others maintain tradition on the bridge.  For example, a bell will still chime every half hour to remind the watch stander to record weather data on the bridge and a navigational fix on a paper chart.  ENS Fredrick says that the bell is an older maritime system, but is very handy when things get busy on the bridge –  the bell ringing is a perfect audio cue for him to stop what he’s doing and get to the logbook to record the weather.

Turning a giant ship sounds difficult, but in reality, it’s really difficult.  The actual act of turning doesn’t take much – a simple flip of a switch to take the ship off what I termed “cruise control” and a turn of the wheel (which by the way looks exactly like a smaller version of the ship wheels you see in all of the fabulous movies – I’m looking at you, Goonies) and an eye on the bearing angle (the compass direction in which the ship is headed).  But here’s the real issue – this moving city technically has no brakes.   So as the ship begins to turn, the driver has to pull the rudder back in the opposite direction before the bearing angle is reached, otherwise the bearing angle gets overshot.  If you turn the wheel too far one way or the other too quickly, the ship responds by  “leaning into” the turn at a steep angle.

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This is me not running in to things while steering the ship with ENS Fredrick!

This sounds like it might be fun until the chef downstairs rings the bridge and chews the driver out for making the cheesecake fall off the galley countertop.  Then the driver must take the heat for ruining the cheesecake for everyone else on the ship waiting quite impatiently to eat it.  Thankfully, I tipped no cheesecakes.  That would make for a long month onboard being “that guy who turned the ship too hard and ruined dessert for everyone.”  I’m pretty sure had I not had the direction of ENS Fredrick as to when and how far to turn the rudder, I’d be in the dessert doghouse.

Another fabulous part of turning the ship is that I got to use the radio to tell the flying bridge (and anyone else who was listening) that I had actually turned the ship and it was correctly on course.  Luckily I had been listening to the radio communication for a few days and put on my best radio voice to make said announcements.  I think my performance was middling to above average at least, and fully qualified to speak on the radio without sounding too unfortunate at best.  However, there was one element of driving the ship that made me terrified enough to realize that I probably am not quite ready to hack the job – everything else that is going on up on the bridge while you are keeping the ship on-course.

Watch standers are notoriously good at keeping data.  They record every move the ship makes.  If the mammal and bird team go off effort due to weather or too high of a Beaufort state, the bridge records it.  They also record when they go back on effort. They log every turn and adjustment the ship makes.  They log every time we deploy a CTD or any kind of buoy.  I watched the watch stander on the bridge take a phone call, make a turn, log the turn, put the mammal team off-effort, put the mammal team back on-effort, take a request on the radio and record weather data all in a span of about two minutes.  It seemed like everything was happening all at once, and he managed it all like it was just another day in the office.  For him, it was.

To be a member of the NOAA OMAO means that you must be willing to learn, willing to make mistakes, willing to follow orders, willing to be flexible, and willing to be one heck of a multi-tasker.  I, for one, went quickly cross-eyed at all of the information processing that must happen up on the bridge during an officer’s shift. Thankfully, I didn’t go cross-eyed while I was trying to turn the ship.  That would have been bad, especially for cheesecakes.  I’m thinking that if I play my cards right, I can enlist as a “backup ship driver” for future shifts on Oscar Elton Sette.  I figure you never know when you might need someone fully unqualified to steer a giant moving city in a general direction for any given amount of time.  But I think I can do it if I do it like the NOAA Corps – taking everything one turn at a time.

Cetacean and Fish Species Seen:

Risso’s Dolphins

Striped Dolphins

Melon-Headed Whales

Blainsville Beaked Whales

Sperm Whale

False Killer Whales

Kogia – unidentified (These are either pygmy Sperm Whales or Dwarf Sperm Whales)

Flying Fish

Wahoo or Ono (Ono in Hawaiian means “tasty” – the name was confirmed as I enjoyed a few pieces of Ono sashimi last night at dinner)

 

Seabirds spotted as of July 14:

White Necked Petrel

Juan Fernandez Petrel

Hawaiian Petrel

Black-Winged Petrel

Cook’s Petrel

Pycroft’s Petrel

Bulwer’s Petrel

Wedge-Tailed Shearwater

Christmas Shearwater

Newell’s Shearwater

Band-rumped Storm Petrel

Red-Tailed Tropic Bird

White-Tailed Tropic Bird

Masked Booby

Brown Booby

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A juvenile Red-Footed Booby takes a two day rest on Sette‘s Mast.

A juvenile Red-Footed Booby who has taken up residence on the mast of the ship for two full days and pretends to fly from the mast – highly entertaining.

 

Red-Footed Booby

Great Frigatebird

Brown Noddy

Sooty Tern

Grey-Backed Tern

White Tern

Ruddy Turnstone

Sanderling

Japanese Quail

 

 

Staci DeSchryver: Listening with Your Eyes – How the Acoustics Team “Sees” in Sound, July 10, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

July 6 – August 2, 2017

Mission:  HICEAS Cetacean Study

Geographic Area:  Kona Coast, Hawaii

Date:  July 10, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

TAS DeScrhryver_weather data
Location and Weather Data

 

Science Log

While the visual team is working hard on the flying bridge, scanning the waters for our elusive cetacean friends, acoustics is down in the lab listening for any clues that there might be “something” out there.

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The hydrophone array is a long microphone pulled behind the ship

At any given time, two acousticians are listening to the sounds of the ocean via a hydrophone array. This array is a long microphone pulled behind the ship as she cuts through the water.  When the acousticians hear a click or a whistle, a special computer program localizes (or determines the distance to) the whistle or the click.

But it’s not quite as simple as that. There’s a lot of noise in the ocean.  The array will pick up other ship noise, cavitation (or bubbles from the propeller) on our ship, or anything it “thinks” might be a cetacean.  The acoustics team must determine which sounds are noise and which sounds belong to a mammal.  What the acousticians are looking for is something called a “click train.” These are sound produced by dolphins when they are foraging or socializing and are a good indicator of a nearby cetacean. On the computer screen, any ambient noise shows up as a plotted point on an on-screen graph.  When the plotted points show up in a fixed or predictable pattern, then it could be a nearby cetacean.

The acousticians are also listening to the sounds on headphones.  When they hear a whistle or a click, they can find the sound they’ve heard on the plotted graph.  On the graphical representation of the sounds coming in to the hydrophone, the x-axis of the graph is time, and the y-axis is a “bearing” angle.  It will tell which angle off the ship from the front the noise is coming from.  For example, if the animal is right in front of the bow of the ship, the reading would be 0 degrees.  If it were directly behind the ship, then the plotted point would come in at 180 degrees.  With these two pieces of information, acousticians can narrow the location of the animal in question down to two spots on either side of the ship.  When they think they have a significant sound, the acousticians will use the information from the graph to localize the sound and plot it on a map.  Often times they can identify the sound directly to the species, which is an extraordinary skill.

Here’s where things go a little “Fight Club.”  (First rule of fight club?  Don’t talk about fight club.)  Once the acousticians localize an animal, they must determine if it is ahead of the ship or behind it.   Let’s say for example an acoustician hears a Pilot Whale.  He or she will draw a line on a computerized map to determine the distance the whale is to the ship using the data from the graph.

DeSchryver HICEAS-AC20
This is a “clean” localization of a marine mammal. Notice the two spots where the lines cross – those are the two possible locations of the mammal we are tracking. The ship is the red dot, the blue dots are the hydrophone as it is towed behind the ship.

Because the hydrophones are in a line, the location provided from the array shows on the left and the right sides.  So, the map plots both of those potential spots.  The two straight lines from the ship to the animal make a “V” shape.  As the ship passes the animal, the angle of the V opens up until it becomes a straight line, much like opening a book to lay it flat on the table and viewing how the pages change from the side.  As long as the animal or animal group is ahead of the ship, the acousticians will alert no one except the lead scientist, and especially not the marine observers.  If a crew member or another scientist who is not observing mammals just so happens to be in the acoustics lab when the localization happens, we are sworn to secrecy, as well.  Sometimes an acoustician will send a runner to get the lead scientist to discreetly tell her that there is something out there.

TAS DeSchryver HICEAS-AC25
The screenshot on the left shows a series of spotted dolphin “click trains.” Notice the marks all in a line along the graph. The right photo shows the various localizations that the acoustics team has picked up from the click train graph. The red dot is the ship, the gray line is the “track line”, and the two blue dots behind the ship are the hydrophone arrays. Notice the V shape gradually goes to a straight line and then turns in the opposite direction.

 

This way, the lead scientist can begin the planning stages for a chase on the mammals to do a biopsy, or send the UAS out to get photos with the Hexacopter.  (More on this later.)

As the mammals “pass the beam” (the signal is perfectly on either side of the ship, and starting to make an upside down V from the ship), the acousticians can alert the visual team of the sighting.  As soon as everyone is aware the mammals are out there, either by sight or sound, the whole scientific group goes “off effort,” meaning we funnel our energy in to counting and sighting the mammals we have found.  When this happens, communication is “open” between the acoustics team and the visual team.  The visual team can direct the bridge to head in any direction, and as long as it’s safe to do so, the bridge will aid in the pursuit of the mammals to put us in the best position to get close enough to hopefully identify the species.  Today, one mammal observer had a sighting almost 6 miles away from the ship, and she could identify the species from that distance, as well!  Even cooler is that it was a beaked whale, which is an elusive whale that isn’t often sighted.   They have the capability of diving to 1000m to forage for food!

When the visual team has a sighting, the three visual observers who are on shift have the responsibility to estimate the group size.

TAS DeSchryver chris takes photos
Chris captures photos of Melon Headed Whales for Photo ID.

 

Here we go with Fight Club again – no one can talk to one another about the group sizes.  Each mammal observer keeps their totals to themselves.  This is so that no one can sway any other person’s opinion on group size and adds an extra element of control to the study.  It is off limits to talk about group sizes among one another even after the sighting is over. We must always be vigilant of not reviewing counts with one another, even after the day is done.  The scientific team really holds solid to this protocol.

Once the sighting is over, all parties resume “on effort” sightings, and the whole process starts all over again.

Now, you might be thinking, “Why don’t they just wait until acoustics has an animal localized before sending the mammal team up to look for it?

TAS DeSchryver ernesto big eyes
Ernesto on the “Big Eyes” during a Melon Headed Whale Visual Chase

Surely if acoustics isn’t hearing anything, then there must not be anything out there.”  As I am writing this post, the visual team is closing in on a spotted dolphin sighting about 6.5 miles away.  The acoustics did not pick up any vocalizations from this group.

TAS DeSchryver acoustics lab 2
Shannon and Jen in the acoustics lab “seeing” the sounds of the ocean.

This also happened this morning with the beaked whale.  Both teams really do need one another in this process of documenting cetaceans.  Further, the acoustics team in some cases can’t determine group sizes from the vocals alone.  They need the visual team to do that.  Each group relies on and complements one another with their own talents and abilities to conduct a completely comprehensive search.  When adding in the hexacopter drone to do aerial photography, we now have three components working in tandem – a group that uses their eyes to see the surface, a group that uses the ocean to “see” the sounds, and a group that uses the air to capture identifying photographs.  It truly is an interconnected effort.

 

Personal Log

I haven’t gotten the chance to discuss just how beautiful Hawai’i is.  I would think that it is generally understood that Hawai’i is beautiful – it’s a famed tourist destination in an exotic corner of the Pacific Ocean. But you have to see it to believe it.

TAS DeSchryver melon-headed whales
Melon-Headed Whales take an evening ride alongside the starboard side of Sette.

I’ve been lucky enough to see the islands from a unique perspective as an observer from the outside looking inland, and I just can’t let the beauty of this place pass without mention and homage to its stunning features.

Hawai’i truly is her own artist.  Her geologic features create the rain that builds her famed rainbows, which in turn gives her the full color palate she uses to create her own landscape.  The ocean surrounding the shores of Hawai’i are not just blue – they are cerulean with notes of turquoise, royal, and sage.  She will not forget to add her contrasting crimson and scarlet in the hibiscus and bromeliads that dot the landscape. At night when the moon shines on the waters, the ocean turns to gunmetal and ink, with wide swaths of brass and silver tracing the way back up to the moon that lights our path to the sea.  With time, all of her colors come out to dance along the landscape – including the sharp titanium white foam that crashes against the black cliffs along Kona.  And if a hue is errantly missed in her construction of the landscape, early morning showers sprout wide rainbows as a sign of good fortune, and as a reminder that she forgets no tones of color as she creates.

It is our responsibility to protect these waters, this landscape – this perfect artistry.  It is critically important to protect the animals that live in the ocean’s depths and the ones that cling to the island surface in their own corner of paradise.  I like to think that this study takes on this exact work.  By giving each of these species a name and identifying them to each individual group, we share with the world that these cetaceans are a family of their own with a habitat and a purpose.  When we “re-sight” whales that the team has seen in past studies, we further solidify that those animals have families and a home amongst themselves.   The photo identification team counts every new scar, marking, and change in these animals to piece together the story of their lives since they last met with the scientists.  Everyone on Oscar Elton Sette  talks about the new calves as if we were at the hospital with them on the day of their birth, celebrating the new life they’ve brought forth to continue their generations.  I like to think we all make a little room in the corner of our hearts for them as a part of our family, as well.

Did you know?

The Frigate bird has a Hawaiian name, “Iwa”, which means “thief.”  They call this bird “thief” because they steal prey right from the mouths of other birds!

 

“Spyhopping” is the act of a whale poking his head out of the water and bobbing along the surface.

 

It is legal for research ships to fish off the ship, so long as we eat what we catch while underway.  This led to the shared consumption of some delicious mahi mahi, fresh from the depths for lunch today.  Yes.  It was as good as it sounds.

 

Oscar Elton Sette knows how to celebrate!  Yesterday was Adam’s birthday, a marine mammal observer.  They decorated the mess in birthday theme, cranked up the dinnertime music, and the stewards made Adam his favorite – blueberry cheesecake for dessert!

 

Much of the crew likes to pitch in with food preparation.  The on ship doctor, “Doc”, makes authentic eastern dishes, and the crew made barbeque for everyone a few nights ago at dinner.

Staci DeSchryver: Fair Winds and Following Seas, July 8, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

July 6 – August 2, 2017

Mission:  HICEAS Cetacean Study

Geographic Area:  South of Oahu, heading toward the Big Island

Current Location:  20.20 N 156.37 W

Date:  July 8, 2017

Weather Data From the Bridge: 

 

Science and Technology Log

We have arrived!  Today members of the incoming crew on Oscar Elton Sette picked me up from Waikiki and we made our way over to Ford Island for training.  The HICEAS study is seven “legs” long, each lasting about a month with a one week break in between legs – ours is the first “leg” of the mission, and the training took place for all scientists and crew who would be traveling and conducting research through any of the four parts of the mission.  In August and September, two of the legs will run simultaneously, so the project is significant in size with respect to time, manpower, and data collection.  We had a very full house of various research teams, some of which will overlap among the various legs of the trip.  The full crew is a tight family, with hugs and greetings all around during breaks and meal times.  How nice to know that leaving for 28 days (some of them longer) doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your family.

PIFSC_20100926-S86_B-01784.JPG
Wanted:  pseudorca (Alias: False Killer Whales) For High Crimes of Adorableness and shyness from ships.  Photo Credit:  NOAA Fisheries/Corey Sheredy

During training, scientists reviewed procedural protocols to follow for different species sightings and learned the protocol changes for a few other species.  The primary target for this particular leg of the HICEAS is pseudorca, or False Killer Whale.  They are a socially interesting bunch – a little reminiscent of the hallways at Cherokee Trail High School.  Whereas most whale species travel as a “class” in one large group all together, pseudorca behave as though all day every day is passing period.  The entire group of pseudorca may travel together (similar to being in school all day), but they don’t all congregate together in the same location.  They are a rather “cliquey” bunch – with smaller groups milling about together on their own in different corners of the main group but all keeping at least somewhat in eyesight or earshot of the other groups.  Because of this, scientists must identify the group, and then each individual subgroup, making note of any groups that join up or split apart.  We haven’t spotted any pseudorca yet, but with some time, talent, and a little luck, we will soon!

In a broad sense, the search for cetaceans on a daily basis is executed a little something like this:  Three mammal observers take their positions at port (left), center, and starboard (right) on the “flying” bridge – or the topmost deck of the ship.  There is also a space reserved just right of center for the Seabird observers.  Each observer will rotate through these three positions for a total of a two-hour shift.  If, for example, an observer begins at the port side “Big Eye” station, they will scan the water in search of cetaceans for 40 minutes from that position, rotate to the center, and then finally to the starboard side.  Where does the starboard side observer go when he or she has completed the rotation?  There’s plenty to do onboard and to help with until the next two-hour rotation begins.  There are two seabird observers working alongside the mammal observing team, and they alternate in two-hour rotations, so only one bird observer is on the flying bridge at a time in an official capacity.  All visual observers work from sunrise to sunset.

Each position at the marine mammal observation area is responsible for visually sweeping the ocean’s surface during observations.  The two side observers are only responsible for scanning from 0 degrees (the bow of the ship) to 90 degrees to their direct left on the port side, or direct right on the starboard side.  They use a very imposing pair of binoculars called the “Big Eyes” to scan their respective areas.  These binoculars are impressive in size and abilities.  They can bring even the smallest birds far on the horizon into sharp focus.  The center observer does not have Big Eyes, but stands ready to take data if there is a sighting.  He or she can scan the area in general, but the big eyes offer much more detailed observation abilities at a much greater distance.  The center observer is also responsible for keeping time on the rotations, monitoring the weather, the sun’s position in the sky, and Beaufort sea state.

While the visual observers are on the flying bridge, two scientists work in the acoustics lab to listen for cetacean vocalizations.  The two groups work in parallel universes, but only the acousticians can cross dimensions.  In other words, if the visuals see cetaceans, they can tell the acoustics about what they are seeing, but if the acoustics scientists hear vocalizations, they will not tell the observers.    More often than not, the acousticians will hear clicks, whistles, and moans from the acoustics lab well before the visuals make a sighting, because the acoustics team has a large advantage over the visuals team.  The visuals team is restricted to what they can see at the surface, and the acoustics team can “see” many miles away and deeply into the water column, which significantly increases their volume of searchable space.

When the acousticians “see” or hear a vocalization, they plot the distance from the ship. They continue to listen for vocalizations and continue with the plots.  Eventually, they have enough data to narrow down the potential location of the cetacean to two spots. This process is not unlike earthquake triangulation, except the observers can narrow down the location to two spots, rather than just one.  There will be much more to come as to how this process works in future blogs, so stay tuned!  

Personal Log

At the end of training today, Dawn, one of the ornithologists (that’s a seabird “pro”) informed us of the third and far lesser-known Pearl Harbor Memorial, USS Utah.  Utah was the very first ship capsized by Japanese bombs on the early morning of December 7th, 1941.  Found on the opposite side of the island from USS Arizona, the Utah is only accessible by folks who have military clearance to get on the base, making the memorial incredibly secluded from exposure to the general public.  Utah took 64 lives with her when she sank, and a small monument now stands on the shore as a memento to the crew lost that fateful morning.  What makes Utah interesting is that she still stands partially above water, her mangled and rusted metal piercing through the water’s surface like the grasping hand of a drowning sailor.  There was a brief attempt by the military to right and raise her, but it proved futile, and they made the call to leave her remains be.  Her finest and final duty is to serve her watch over the men caught in her belly on the day she fell prey to the Axis forces.

Utah found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time on the morning of December 7. She was moored on a pier normally reserved for aircraft carriers, and her flat and shiny deck betrayed her identity to the incoming Japanese pilots.  Due to this mistaken identity, the Japanese attacked her on appearance, and she capsized almost instantly.  More interesting is that much like the beginning of a bad cop movie, she was nearing her retirement.  She was in port awaiting her execution date,  friendly-fire style, her technological abilities waning and falling out of favor compared to the newer commissioned ships.  Her final resting place was originally supposed to be somewhere in the Pacific as a victim of a practice bombing drill by the Air Force.  The Japanese pilots got to her first.  She wasn’t even at work that day.

Utah was built in 1909 and commissioned in 1911, the second of two Florida-class battleships built for service during World War I.  After a long stint in the service as a battleship, the Utah was re-appropriated as an auxillary ship for gunnery training and target practice for the allied forces.  On the day of the attack, the aircraft carriers that should have been in-port at the time were out to sea, and so Utah moored in one of the empty spaces intended to be held by the aircraft carriers.  In the confusion of the attack, it was determined that Utah was a carrier, and the Japanese navy opened fire.  The Chief Water Tender, Peter Tomich, served bravely as he assisted crew in their evacuations when the abandon ship call came over the ship’s systems.   While everyone was running off the ship, Tomich was running back onboard. He lost his life in that selfless move and is remembered as a hero of the day.

Today Utah sits idly close to shore alongside what used to be a dock.  Her neighbor is NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, and just a little further up the harbor, our ship, Oscar Elton Sette.  It was sobering honor to be so close to the memorial before we left port, and though USS Utah is one of the smaller memorials on Ford Island, I certainly will not forget her.

Species Report:

Number of cetaceans seen visually:  0 so far

Number/types of cetaceans “seen” acoustically:

*Blainsville’s Beaked Whale

*Sperm Whale

*Dolphins

Birds Seen:

Frigate Bird

Shearwaters

Red Footed Booby

Brown Footed Booby

Land Bird who shouldn’t have been out so far in the ocean (so possibly my spirit animal).  Let’s hope he eventually finds his way home.

Maria Madrigal: The Silliness of Science: April 10, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maria Madrigal

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

April 2-18, 2012

Mission: Comparison of Fishery Independent Sampling Methods

Geographical area of cruise: Tutuila, American Samoa

Science & Technology Log: April 10, 2012

Whoever said science isn’t fun, didn’t spend a day with the BRUVS team made up of James Barlow, Jacob Asher and Marie Ferguson. Ben Saunders, Louise Giuseffi and Mills Dunlap make up the other equally charismatic BRUVS team. Every day the two teams depart from the NOAA research vessel, Oscar Elton Sette, onto the small boats to their predetermined locations to deploy the stereo-BRUVS (Baited Remote Underwater Video Stations). They deal with heat, humidity, rain, waves, currents and anything else you can imagine, even large floating debris. One would think that by the fifth or sixth consecutive day that they may be a little crabby, but on the contrary, their spirits are kept high with a little silliness that keeps their job from becoming grueling and monotonous.

BRUVS Data Sheet
Data Sheet of Science

I quickly learned the carefree attitude of the team as the term “no splashy” was used between James and Jacob to communicate with each other as Jacob carefully prepared the cameras “of science” and James positioned the boat at the site. This light-hearted repartee continued throughout the day.  Any tool used from the clipboard to the pencil was followed by the singsong term “of science.” On my first day out on the water, I became familiar with completing the data sheet “of science.” The data sheet “of science” keeps track of many important details including the site number, site location with GPS coordinates, depth, memory card identification number, time of deployment and time of retrieval just to name a few.  I also assisted with the stick “of science,” which is the baited arm that is attached to the BRUVS frame before being deployed and removed after retrieval. Amidst all the banter, safety and accuracy were always a priority.

Preparing the BRUVS camera
Preparing the BRUVS camera

On my second day out with the team, Marie thoroughly reviewed all the procedures with me from data tracking to preparing the cameras and the tricks of the trade for safely lowering and recovering the BRUVS. Reviewing video footage with them was exciting, as you never know what the cameras may capture. It was also entertaining as they add commentary; some may say they are just delirious from being in the sun all day. Delirium? Silliness? Call it what you want, it is still informative. Working with these intriguing individuals reminds me that science is alive and exciting. They not only shared their experience and knowledge but also involved me in the process.

Being out on the water, regardless of the weather conditions, was a treat for me. The day was filled with beautiful coral reefs visible through crystal clear blue waters, flying fish soaring above the water, turtles swimming and diving; it evoked the excitement of the child within me. The best thing is realizing you were learning and you were having fun. Learning that is guided by curiosity and the joy of discovery; this is the type of learning environment that I want to facilitate for the students that visit the SEA Lab and for my corpsmembers who are just embarking on their careers.

Meet the BRUVS team members!

BRUVS Team on SE-4
BRUVS Team: Ben Saunders, Mills Dunlap and Louise Guiseffe

BENJAMIN SAUNDERS

Title: Research Associate

Organization: University of Western Australia

Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine & Freshwater Biology from University of Wales at Aberystwyth, PhD in Marine Ecology from University of Western Australia.

Duties: Manages a team of technicians that sample and analyze video footage.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? Fireman/Paleontologist/Marine Biologist

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? Believe in yourself and others will believe in you, too.

Favorite thing about his job: Going to interesting and exotic places.

LOUISE GIUSEFFI

Title: Biological Technician

Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of Hawaii at Manoa, Graduate Certificate in Ocean Policy from University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Duties: Create maps using fish data summaries and help with preparation for research cruises.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? Paleontologist

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? Dream big. If you want something and you work at it, it will come your way.

Favorite thing about her job: Being out on the field and in the water.

MILLS DUNLAP

Title: Skilled Fisherman

Organization: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Education: Associate in Applied Science in Marine Technology from Cape Fear Community College.

Duties: Assist with operations. Help scientists collect the data they need. Tasks vary from fishing to operating small boats.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? It changed all the time. Didn’t have one specific career in mind. He does remember wanting to be a pilot and an explorer.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? See the world. Travel more at an earlier age.

Favorite thing about his job: Fishing and getting paid to see the world.

BRUVS Team on SE-6
BRUVS Team: James Barlow, Marie Ferguson and Jacob Asher

JAMES BARLOW

Title: Biological Science Technician

Organization: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC)

Education: Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from University of California at Santa Cruz.

Duties: Teaches day-to-day boat and safety program for PIFSC.

When you were little what did you want to grow up to be? I didn’t have a specific career in mind but was always interested in water activities. It wasn’t until he volunteered at UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory that he became focused on Marine Biology.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself? When working with people on a daily basis or out on the field, know that there are a lot of things that come up that are not about you.

Favorite thing about his job: Having a successful boating operation program and working with really good people.

 MARIE FERGUSON

Title: Marine Ecosystem Research Specialist

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science from University of California at Santa Barbara.

Duties: She is a CRED (Coral Reef Ecosystems Division) research diver whom conducts fish REA and towed-diver surveys as well as benthic-towed diver surveys. She additionally assists the Benthic Habitat Mapping and Characterization team.

When you were little, what did you want to go grow up to be? Marine Biologist.

Favorite thing about her job: Diving and seeing all the different marine habitats.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?  Set yourself up for success. Take advantage of any opportunity that may arise and try different things. If you are trying to figure out a career and field of profession, participate in internship programs even if you don’t know exactly what it is that you want to do (they’ll help you get some preliminary experience). And take the time to travel and see the world…it will open your eyes and broaden your perspective.

JACOB ASHER

Title: Marine Ecosystem Research Supervisor

Organization: Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research

Education: Bachelor of Science in Biology from University of Michigan, Master of Science in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University and will be pursuing PhD with the University of Western Australia.

Duties: He analyzes data, write grants and serves as a science liaison for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Marine Debris Program. He is also a diver and part of the Benthic Habitat Mapping and Characterization team.

When you were little, what did you want to go grow up to be? Marine Biologist.

If you only knew then what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?  Have fun but stay focused. Life is short. Figure out what you want to do and go after it. Success doesn’t come by luck; it comes if you really work for it. If you are going to do it, don’t do it half-way do it all the way.

Favorite thing about his job: It marries everything he loved when he was a kid; surfing, swimming, diving, etc.

Jennifer Fry: March 20, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 20, 2012

 

Pictured is our NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette.

Life on the ocean aboard NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette

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 Oscar Elton Sette have

bunk beds. The boat deck is where the small launches/rescue boats are stored.

  • There is a FRB, Fast Rescue Boat, and two small launches.
  •  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.
  • Communications, Oscar Elton Sette maintains a Web site titled Student Connection (http://atsea.nmfs.hawaii.edu), which provides semi-weekly communication between students and the ship. Students can follow the vessel’s daily operations through regularly posted pictures and write-ups through this site.

For more information about the Sette go to: http://www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/os_flier.pdf

The NOAA Corps (http://www.noaacorps.noaa.gov/)

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 205th

birthday

this year.

Find out more about the Corps, its mission and history from the “About the Corps” link.

Pictured here is the entire science party aboard the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette.

Here are some ship terms to remember…

Stairs are ladders

Stairwells are ladderwells

Ceilings are overheads

Floors are decks

Bathrooms are heads

Halls are passageways

Big halls are companionways

Pointy end is the bow (pronounced like  “wow”)

Stubby end is stern

And liberty, which is shore leave — time off on shore (enlisted get liberty & officers get shore leave)

Who’s Piloting the Ship?

A steer is what you BBQ

You steer a car

You pilot a ship

The person on the wheel of the ship is the helmsman

The wheel is called the helm

You steer a course

You pilot a ship

Wishing you fair winds and following seas

 Student Questions:
Q: Have you seen any butterfly fish?
A: The most interesting butterfly fish was a juvenile.  It was about the size of a marble and it had horns. It was certainly one of the most interesting specimens we caught.
This is a juvenile butterfly fish. It is the size of a small marble and has horns.
The butterfly fish is rather rare and this made the scientists very happy to see one.

Q:  What do you do when there IS a fire?

A:  While onboard the NOAA ship Sette we had several fire drills.  The scientists and I were to report to the “Texas Deck” which is just behind the bridge where the captain pilots the ship.  During the “Abandon Ship” drill, I learned to put on a big orange “Gumby Suit” also known as a  survival suit.  When worn it keeps you afloat and warm while in the water, and since it is orange, it is very visible.

Teacher at Sea, Jennifer Fry and crew member James McDade muster on the Texas Deck during an Abandon Ship drill aboard NOAA ship Sette.

Jennifer Fry: March 8, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette arrives in Pago Pago, American Sa'moa
A tropical beach and azure seas in Pago Pago, American Sa'moa.

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 8, 2012

Personal Log

Hawaii to Pago Pago

We arrived in Pago Pago yesterday around midnight.  A fierce storm had just passed through dumping rain everywhere, evidence of which still remained on the tarmac.  Exiting the plane came with a blast of hot, humid air like a furnace on full blast.

Through the thick air, we could barely make out a long string of lights illuminating the single road defining the island’s coastline.

As we queued up with our belongings, we were greeted by the Immigration & Customs agents of American Samoa.  All the officials greeted us with enthusiasm and welcomed us to their island.  Unlike our U.S.customs, each department wore a different colored uniform which consisted of a matching shirt and lava lava, which resembled a wrap around skirt.  Bags were inspected, questions were answered, and we were off to our next destination.

We arrived at Sadies by the Sea, a seaside hotel situated next to a shallow bay.

After settling into the room, I ventured out onto my little porch/ lanai to view the scene only to see giant “flying foxes” of the area. The enormous fruit bats that encircled overhead were common to the island.

I was lulled to sleep by soft lapping sounds of waves as they greeting the shore.  The excitement of the day soon turned to sleepy eyes and happy thoughts of what will come tomorrow and the next adventure.

Nicole Macias, June 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 24, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 25° 04.341’N, 169° 34.084’W
Wind Speed: 19 kts.
Air Temp: 26.1° C

This is the invasive Hypnea algae that we collected in the lobster traps.
This is the invasive Hypnea algae that we collected in the lobster traps.

Science and Technology Log 

We finished collecting data on the lobsters of the North Western Hawaiian Islands. As soon as Bob, the Chief Scientist, is finished inputting his data I will give you a brief over view of the findings. During the entire cruise there was a special white bucket in “the pit” that was specifically for holding all the algae that would come up in the traps. Algae is like seaweed. We have lots of it in Florida, but it seems that the algae we collected on this trip are very different and there is a greater variety. Just as we have invasive species in Florida so does Hawaii. An invasive species is an alien species (transported to a location outside its native range) whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm. When we pull up the lobster pods and take out any organisms we also have a bucket for any algae.

The other day we collected algae called Hypnea musciformis. It is very invasive and was actually introduced to Hawaii from Florida! This algae is a huge threat to Hawaii’s near-shore reefs because it smothers the coral and the surrounding reef reducing diversity in the reef community. There are currently four efforts in Hawaii to manage the invasive algae situation. They have a volunteer-based algae removal effort, a mechanical suction system capable of removing large volumes of algae, research on biological control using native grazers and finally they are researching the feasibility of repopulation of native algal species. It is important for humans to understand their impact on the environment and invasive species is a great example to look at. One human bringing a species somewhere it doesn’t belong can destroy whole ecosystems.

Personal Log 

Tomorrow we are going to Turn Island to pick up a few scientists that need a ride back to Honolulu. If the weather cooperates the scientists will get the opportunity to take the small boats and explore the island. I am excited because there are supposed to be quite a few seals that hang out on the beach. If we get to go on this adventure I will be sure to report back to you ASAP.

Nicole Macias, June 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 20, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 37.7’N, 164° 43.005’W
Wind Speed: 11 kts.
Air Temp: 25.6° C

Here is a picture of an otolith that has been extracted from one of the fish we caught.
Here is a picture of an otolith that has been extracted from one of the fish we caught.

Science and Technology Log 

Even though the mission of this cruise is to conduct research on lobsters, we are helping out another scientist with his study on bottom fish. Three of the jobs on the rotation require bottom fishing at night. Every fish that is caught has to be “processed.” When processing a fish you have to indicate the type of species, its fork length, the gender and you have to collect its otoliths. The fork length is the distance from the fish’s upper lip to the end of the center of its tail.

To determine the fish’s gender and collect its otoliths you must dissect the fish. It is very messy business. First the scientist makes an incision from the fish’s anus all the way to the throat. From there you can open up the fish and locate its gonads, sex organs. By looking at the gonads you can determine whether it is a male or female. The female’s gonads are much larger and much more vascular, meaning they have more blood vessels in them. The scientist will then extract the gonads and place them in a jar with formaldehyde so that they can be taken back to the lab and further studied.

These are the females gonads of a fish. It is very important when cutting open the belly that you are very careful because the knife can easily cut into the gonads as it has in this picture. Notice all the blood vessels running through the gonads. This is characteristic of a female.
These are the females gonads of a fish. It is very important when cutting open the belly that you are very careful because the knife can easily cut into the gonads as it has in this picture. Notice all the blood vessels running through the gonads. This is characteristic of a female.

After removing the gonads, it’s time to extract the otoliths. Otoliths are the inner ear bone of a fish and are responsible for hearing and balance. There are two of them—one on each side of the spine at the base of the skull. They are very small, fragile bones so it takes a little finesse in removing them. The reason the otoliths are so important is because they can tell scientists a lot of important information on the life history of the fish. The otoliths have growth rings, kind of like a tree. The growth rings can tell scientists the age of fish as well as any environmental factors it encountered during that time period.

The purpose of the study is to re-estimate the life history for these important commercial fish species. The main species they are lacking data on is the opakapaka, Pristopomoides filamentosus. We have not caught very many of this species, but we have been catching quite a few ehu, Etelis carbunculus. This species is very similar to the red snappers we have in Florida and just the other day I caught a Butaguchi fish, which is related to the Jack family.

Here is a picture of me holding up the Butaguchi I caught. If you look in the background you can see the hydraulic bottom fishing rig that was used to catch the fish.
Here is a picture of me holding up the Butaguchi I caught. If you look in the background you can see the hydraulic bottom fishing rig that was used to catch the fish.

Personal Log 

We are now at our second and last location, Maro Reef. There is no land to be seen for miles. At least at Necker we had something to look at. We are heading in to the last week of the cruise and it is easy to see that 30 days is a long time for some people to be out to see. I am fortunate that I have made some really good friends or else I would be really ready to get home.

I have had the free time to read some really great books and watch some movies I haven’t seen and probably would never have watched if I weren’t out to sea. Anyway, I am looking forward to my last week on the ship and hope to report back many exciting things for you!

Here is a picture of me in the safety boat, about to be lowered down so that we can deliver fresh fish to the near by NOAA vessel.
Here is a picture of me in the safety boat, about to be lowered down so that we can deliver fresh fish to the near by NOAA vessel.

Nicole Macias, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 14, 2009

Here is a close up picture of fertilized lobster eggs. You will notice two black dots in each egg. Those are the lobster's eyes!
Here is a close up of fertilized lobster eggs. You will notice two black dots in each egg. Those are the lobster’s eyes!

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 37.7’N, 164° 43.005’W
Wind Speed: 10 kts.
Air Temp: 25.6° C

Science and Technology Log 

So let’s talk about the life cycle of a lobster. In the last log I explained how they reproduce and that the female carries the fertilized eggs on the underside of her tail in the center of her pleopds. The fertilized eggs are a clear spherical shape that have a tint of orange to them. As you can see by the photograph each egg has two black dots, these are the lobsters eyes. After a period of time the fertilized eggs hatch as phyllosome larva. In this stage they look like a very small squished spider. While in this stage they are drifters and travel out to sea in the currents. They hover in the water column and are only able to move vertically on their own, every other movement is up to the ocean. The lobsters stay in the phyllosome larva  stage for several molts. A molt is every time a lobster sheds its exoskeleton and then develops a new one. It is similar to the way a snake sheds its skin or a hermit crab moves into a new shell.

This is a picture of a lobster in the puerulus stage.
This is a picture of a lobster in the puerulus stage.

The next stage is when they transform into a puerulus. A puerulus looks like a lobster except it is very tiny and clear, it does not have any coloration. During this period of the lobster’s life it begins to swim into shallow water and settles at about 20 fathoms (1 fathom is equal to 6 feet.). When it settles it no longer is a drifter and is now considered a bottom dweller. Again after several molts it will begin to develop color. Once it has coloration it will take 1- 2 years to become 1 lb. size. The survival rate is very low for the lobster when it is in the phyllosome and puerulus stage. There is a high chance it will be eaten by a predator. Even when they are full grown they have to be very careful because even then we are one of their predators!

Here is a picture of the "pool" that a few of the other scientists decided to make after a long day of playing in mackerel blood!
Here is a picture of the “pool” that a few of the other scientists decided to make after a long day of playing in mackerel blood!

Personal Log 

The days have been very hot and being surrounded by crystal blue water is very frustrating because we cannot go swimming because of the sharks that have learned to follow our boat for leftovers. A couple of the “men” scientists decided that they couldn’t take it any more, so they filled up one of the giant square bins that usually holds rope, with sea water and went “swimming.” It actually looked very fun and I think I might jump in next time they make a “pool” on deck.

We have reached the half -way point of our trip. Only two more weeks to go and I will be able to walk on land again. I am very excited and hope it goes by quickly. Since we are nearing the end of our stay around Necker Island we did a drive by around the entire island. It is much smaller than I thought and does not look very hospitable. Pele’s brother is said to live on the island. Hawaiian culture believes that Pele is the goddess responsible for the formation of the Hawaiian Islands.

Here is a picture of me as we do a drive by of Necker Island, which is part of the North Western hawaiian Islands Monument.
Here is a picture of me as we do a drive by of Necker Island, which is part of the North Western hawaiian Islands Monument.

 

Nicole Macias, June 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 10, 2009

Here I am holding up a spiny lobster.
Here I am holding up a spiny lobster.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 37.7’N, 164° 43.005’W
Wind Speed: 10 kts.
Air Temp: 25.6° C

Science and Technology Log 

So the job rotation finally put me into the wet lab where I had a few first hand experiences with the lobsters we have diligently been trying to catch. The first day I was a wet lab assistant and the second day I was a measurer. As mentioned before there are two types of lobsters that we are collecting data on–the spiny and the slipper. For each lobster that is caught we record the sex, the carapace length, and if it is a female we record its pleopod length, the status of her eggs and sperm plate.

There are a couple different ways to determine the sex of a spiny lobster. The first is if their back legs have little pinchers on them then they are female, no pinchers than they are male. The female has a sperm plate on the underside of its head (carapace) right before the tail begins. The male gives sperm to the female who carries it on her sperm plate, when she is ready to reproduce she will begin to scratch the sperm onto the underside of her tail where the eggs are. When we record the status of the sperm plate we must indicate either smooth or rough. Smooth means she has yet to start fertilizing her eggs and rough means she has begun scratching off the sperm. The males have a snail like structure at the base of their hind legs, this is their sperm duct that they release sperm from. The female also has much larger pleopods. The pleopods are like little flippers on the underside of the tail. The female uses her pleopods to hold her eggs. When a female is carrying eggs she is considered berried.

This is a picture of a spiny female lobster that is berried (carrying eggs, they are orange). You can also see the pleopods, which are the black with an outline of white flipper like structure. Above that, between the two legs, is the sperm plate. You can tell that she has begun to scratch the sperm off because of the rough texture.
This is a picture of a spiny female lobster that is berried (carrying eggs, they are orange). You can also see the pleopods, which are the black with an outline of white flipper like structure. Above that, between the two legs, is the sperm plate. You can tell that she has begun to scratch the sperm off because of the rough texture.

It is a little different when distinguishing from the male and female slipper lobsters. The easiest way is to locate on which base of the leg they have a pore. If they have a small clear pore on the bottom leg then they are male. If the pore is on the base of the third leg then they are female. The slipper lobsters have pleopods but they are much smaller than the spiny lobster.

This is a male because of the snail like structures (sperm duct) at the base of his legs.
This is a male because of the snail like structures (sperm duct) at the base of his legs.

The job of the pleopods is to hold the eggs before and after fertilization. The reason that their length is recorded is so that it can be compared to its body length to determine maturity. Even though this seems like a lot of information once you get the hang of the process it goes by very quickly. For every lobster that we catch we must determine whether it has a tag form the previous years. If it does then we have to make sure we put it back at the same location we found it. We are not tagging any lobsters on this cruise. I do not know why so that is something that I will have to figure out and report back to you on. On the next log I will talk about the life stages of a lobster! 

This is a picture of the top half of a spiny lobster. The carapace is the section between the eyes all the way to where the head ends and the tail starts.
This is a picture of the top half of a spiny lobster. The carapace is the section between the eyes all the way to where the head ends and the tail starts.

Personal Log 

I am definitely ready for a day off. Being a research technician is a lot more work than I was expecting. It is a lot of quick intensive manual labor followed by a lot of waiting until the next burst of work. I am beginning to despise the smell of rotting mackerel blood. It seems to follow me wherever I go on the boat. I am looking forward to the two-day transit to our next stop, Maro Reef, even though it is not for another four days. At least I am eating well and trying to fit in a work out every day.

I cannot wait to come home and tell everyone about my experiences in person.

Nicole Macias, June 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 4, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 23° 15.7’N, 164° 26.7’W
Wind Speed: 8kts.
Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 ft.
Water Temp: 26.3 ° C
Air Temp: 28° C

A fish that has its air bladder protruding from its gills.
A fish that has its air bladder protruding from its gills.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was our second full day of hauling and setting the traps. The science team is on a rotating schedule so that everyone gets a chance to work each position. Yesterday, I was a “runner”. My job was to stand in the pit next to the “crackers”. The crackers would take out the specimens and place them in a bucket and then take out the old bait and replace it with new bait. Once the pod was ready to go I would run the bucket to the lab and the pod (trap) down the pit tables to the stackers. It was a labor-intensive job, but at least I was able to see everything that came up in the trap. We did not catch many lobsters, but we did trap quite a few white tip reef sharks. Even though they are not very large they are extremely strong. I would know because I got to throw one over the side of the ship!

This is me in the pit when I was a "runner." So far we are catching more white tip reef sharks than we are lobsters. See the white tip on the shark’s tail fin?
This is me in the pit when I was a “runner.” So far we are catching more white tip reef sharks than we are lobsters. See the white tip on the shark’s tail fin?

Today I was a “stacker.” My job was to take the pods from the runner and stack them on the fantail, the back of the boat where the traps are released later in the day. The pods are stacked 4 high and end up covering the entire back of the boat. There are 160 pods all together. We release 10 strings of 8 pods each and 4 strings with 20 pods each. The main focus of the research being conducted is to collect data on the population of lobsters in the North West Hawaiian Islands. Even though we are targeting lobsters we record the data on everything we catch. Anything beside lobsters are considered by-catch. By-catch is considered anything that is caught accidentally. We are setting these traps for lobsters, but many times other animals will work there way into the pods. This is unfortunate for any fish that gets caught in the traps because they are pulled to the surface so fast that their air bladder expands causing a balloon-like structure to protrude from their mouth.

This is the feeding frenzy that follows the ship until the end of the day when we give them all our old bait. They are Galapagos Reef Sharks.
This is the feeding frenzy that follows the ship until the end of the day when we give them all our old bait. They are Galapagos Reef Sharks.

This “balloon” enables them to swim down and they end up being eaten by a predator or drowning. In a normal situation the swim bladder helps a fish regulate their buoyancy. The by-catch problem is seen in many commercial fishing industries. Usually they are dealing with a larger quantity of equipment and in certain instances, such as long lining, many sharks and turtles end up dying unnecessarily. The two main species of lobsters that are found in Hawaiian waters are the spiny lobster, Panulirus marginatus, and slipper lobsters, Scyllarides squammosus. Both species are also found in the waters off South Florida, but they do look a little different. The lobsters in Hawaii have more of a purple color to them. I have not come into much contact with them since my day in the lab isn’t for a while in the rotation. Once I am in the lab I will be able to report back with more information about them. Tomorrow I am a stacker again, so my biceps will be getting really big. I do know that on the first day we only caught 3 spiny lobsters and on the second day 21.

Oh! The most exciting part of the day is after we have finished hauling all the traps and replacing the old bait with new bait, we dump the old bait overboard and there is a feeding frenzy amongst the resident Galapagos sharks that follow our boat.

Personal Log 

Here I am on the fantail of the deck scrubbing the mackrel blood after setting 180 traps.
Here I am on the fantail of the deck scrubbing the mackrel blood after setting 180 traps.

Well my feet are very sore from being wet and in shoes all day. They are definitely not used to being in closed toed shoes everyday. I am ready to start working in the lab and learning more scientific information than just performing physical labor. With all the energy I am exerting I am definitely replacing all the lost energy with the delicious food that is different and amazing everyday. Today we had Hawaiian cornbread with pineapple. It was out of this world! We have also been eating a lot of fresh fish since one of the rotations included bottom fishing. I have yet to be in this rotation.

I am beginning to make friends with everyone on the ship. I am sure by the end of the month I will have forged some great friendships. It does seem like I have been on the ship for quite some time. I hope the days start going by a little faster. I am beginning to miss Florida!

I will be writing soon. Hopefully with some exciting adventures! 

Nicole Macias, June 1, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 1, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 22° 35.7’ N, 162° 32.4’ W
Wind Speed: 5 kts.
Swell waves: 2-4 ft.
Water Temperature: 26.7°C
Air Temperature: 26°C

This is "the pit" where the lobster traps are pulled into the ship. My job setting up was to bolt the legs together.
This is “the pit” where the lobster traps are pulled into the ship. My job setting up was to bolt the legs together.

Science and Technology Log 

Since the ship is still in transit to our first location the science team did not have much to do today. All we did was set the tables up in the “pit”. This is the section of the boat where the traps, or “pods”, are pulled up out of the water. Once they are pulled out of the water they are cracked open and everything is placed in a corresponding bucket to be taken to the wet lab to be measured and recorded. Everything in pod 1 would be placed in bucket one and so on. The only organism that does not go into the buckets are eels. My job today was to bolt the tables in the pit together. They needed to be bolted together in case we hit rough seas. While half of us were working on the tables the other half was inflating buoys that will be used to mark the beginning and end of a set of traps.

I also was able to release a message in a bottle that another teacher had sent to me before my trip asking if I would release it for him. The man, Jay Little, has had over 225 message bottles released all over the world. His goal is to raise awareness for the global efforts needed to preserve the integrity of oceans and inspire people to take action. The message in the bottle explains his goal and also asks that whoever finds the bottle to send him back artifacts from the location it ended up in. He uses these artifacts to make sculptures that reflect the contributions of people from around the world. Out of the 225 bottles released to date 21 have been found. The 19th bottle found had an incredible journey having circumnavigated the world in 23,000 miles. The latest discovery was in Matrouh City on the Mediterranean coast of Northern Egypt in 2007. Hopefully our bottle number 285 will land somewhere new and deliver an important message.

Here I am throwing the message in the bottle over the stern of the boat.
Here I am throwing the message in the bottle over the stern of the boat.

Personal Log 

One of the perks of being out to see are the incredible sunrises and sunsets that happen every day and the wild life that comes with it. In the morning a huge pod of either Pacific white-sided dolphins or Dusky dolphins, passed by the ship. They are very similar and some scientists believe that they might be the same species. In the evening, while on top of the bridge to watch the sunset, two red-footed booby birds decided to perch on the weather vain to watch too. They are the smallest of all the booby species and nest on land, but feed at sea. They are strong flyers and can travel up to 93 miles at a time and can dive up to 98 ft. to pursue prey.

The food is really good. Last night the cook made chocolate cake with a pecan and coconut frosting. It was very delicious. It is a good thing the boat has an exercise room so I can burn off the calories from three full meals a day. They also have a freezer that is stocked with ice cream and available 24 hours a day.

A beautiful sunset on the Pacific
A beautiful sunset on the Pacific

“Did You Know?” 

Prior to the Revolutionary War, dockworkers in Boston went on strike protesting that they had to eat lobster more than 3 times a week!

“Animals Seen Today” 

The Red Footed Booby (Sula sula) Pacific White-sided Dolphin: (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) 

Nicole Macias, May 31, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicole Macias
Onboard NOAA Vessel Oscar Elton Sette 
May 31-June 28, 2009 

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Location: 21° 14.6 ‘ N; 158° 07.5’ W
Wind Speed: 15 kts.
Wave Height: 1-2 ft.
Sea Water Temp: 26.4° C
Air Temp.: 26° C

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette about to leave port
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette about to leave port

Science and Technology Log 
Well the ship was originally supposed to depart on May 28, but first it experienced generator problems delaying the trip by two days and then there were problems with the salt water holding tank postponing the trip another day. The reason there have been delays with the ship is because the Oscar Elton Sette was originally made for the Vietnam War. It never did see any action, but it is that old. In preparation for the cruise we received a cultural briefing on the importance of the North Western Hawaiian Islands to the native islanders. The natives are very spiritual and believe that the souls of their ancestors travel to these islands.

View from the Maunawili Trail
View from the Maunawili Trail

After the cultural briefing, we went to the ship where we were given a brief tour and then loaded 6,000 lbs of bait. The bait we are using is mackerel. The chief scientist, Bob Moffit, informed me that mackerel is good for bait because it is very bloody and oily. Mackerel is considered a constant variable in the lobster study. This means it is something that stays exactly the same during each trial. If they used different bait during each trip they might not know if that affects their results so they keep it constant.

Jumping off the falls at Maunawili Falls
Jumping off the falls at Maunawili Falls

Personal Log  

Since the trip was delayed I had time to explore the island of Oahu. My hotel was located in Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii. It is a very busy and somewhat crowded place. The population of Oahu is around 1million and the entire population of all the Hawaiian Islands is around 1.3 million. So it makes sense that it is a heavily populated area and it is usually the first stop for visitors from the main land, ex. Ft. Lauderdale!

This is my room that I share with four other women!
This is my room that I share with four other women!

I rented a surfboard for an hour at Waikiki Beach and was able to catch a few waves even though the line up was very crowded. I also got to explore the North Shore and see all the famous surf breaks. While there I stopped at a little ice cream shop that had mochi, which is a Japanese food made from sticky rice. This shop just happened to stuff the sticky rice cake with ice cream and it was delicious. My favorite experience so far was hiking up to a waterfall in the forest. The scenery was very beautiful and when you reached the fall you could climb up and jump of a ledge into a very cold pool of water. I am on the ship now and everyone seems very nice. There are three other women who are considered part of the “science party.” We are all in a room together. The room is meant for six people, but there are only four of us so we have plenty of space and extra drawers for our belongings. I will write again soon!

Taylor Parker, April 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 27, 2009

Weather Data 
Partially cloudy.
Minimal Winds.
Air temp: 75F.

Scientists deploying the CTD
Scientists deploying the CTD

Science and Technology Log 

Similar to the smaller CTD that we dropped from the SAFE boats, there is a much larger one on the Sette that is dropped almost nightly. The large CTD is different in several ways: it drops to a depth of 6800 meters while the smaller one will only go 600 and the larger CTD can measure many more components. It determines conductivity, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and flourescence. Conductivity is the amount of electrical current allowed within the sample, salinity is then measured by the conductivity and temperature, dissolved oxygen is the amount of oxygen found within between the water molecules and fluorescence is, well, exciting. Flourescence is the measurement of chlorophyll at different depths; to do this a little LED light is shone into the water to see the excitability of the algae. Determining the amount of chlorophyll, and subsequently the amount of algae, helps to, among other things, measure the amount of the oceans ability to absorb greenhouse gases.

Prior to the departure of the cruise, the scientists set up sampling sites along transects on a grid system near shore off the Kona coast. They are compiling data over the years to analyze changes in the physical characteristics of the ocean. This part of the research aboard the Sette is really interesting and the impacts of the data are obvious. However, there wasn’t much for me to do with this other than take photos of the Science Techs do their job and ask them questions. That is quite alright though; I lost a couple hooks while bottom-fishing but I don’t think that I want to be responsible for losing that big piece of equipment.

A Sample of the Marine Debris Encountered
A Sample of the Marine Debris Encountered

Earlier in the day, I was participating in the routine I/K trawl and we came across a slick that had perfect conditions for the billfish we were looking for. We dropped the net and slowly came upon the slick. We set everything in the water and even put the safety line across up. Within ten minutes the entire trawl was filled with marine debris, it was filled with trash. Debris accumulation is apparently normal for slicks; along with being an area where small fish can be found, the same ocean currents bring planktonic debris. And, according to the scientists who study billfish, it is good habitat for fish larvae. Not this time. This time the whole net was filled with trash and very little of anything else. We started going through it and found a crab and a shrimp and pounds of plastic. We collected everything and dropped the net in again hoping to keep it down there longer. While the remaining trawls were less trashy, there were still significant amounts of litter strewn about.

Personal Log 

The large CTD required trained professionals so I sat back and watched the two techs maneuver the large instrument. I spoke with them after to understand what they were doing. What I found most interesting was the use of the fluorometer to help measure the ocean’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases. Considering the challenges facing our planet and oceans, this is incredible data that they are collecting and when the results are analyzed, I can’t wait to see what they read.

Sargassum fish
Sargassum fish

Another challenge is one that we faced when trying to run I/K trawls. The amount of litter in the oceans is staggering. I have worked on many beach cleanups and have run tons of classes, educating hundreds of kids about the importance of watershed responsibility. Seeing the garbage floating freely in the water, clogging the runways of slow currents in the oceans is depressing. Talking with the other scientists they suggested I take a look at NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. This is a very useful and informative website describing the many factors of trash in the ocean: awareness and information about hazards, education, removal projects, etc. This is a very pressing problem considering debris, and specifically small plastics that look like food, is found everywhere where the ocean touches shore.

Animals Seen Today 
Like I said, we were picking up mostly trash in our trawls and the CTD doesn’t pick up many animals. One of the small boats did happen to pick up a kind of Frogfish called a Sargassum fish (Histrio histrio). I was reading about them and apparently they have one of the smallest brains in proportion to their body and they are highly cannibalistic. 

Taylor Parker, April 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 24, 2009

Sunset with glassy water
Sunset with glassy water

Weather Data 
2ft rolling swells.
Air temp: 75F.
Slightly cloudy with variable winds 3-5 Knots.

Science and Technology Log 

One of the things that I’ve figured out is that fisheries scientists like nets. Big nets, small nets, blue nets and red nets. While I won’t go any further with the rhyme, the nets do collect some rather Suess-like creatures. Tonight, we worked a big net and found those creatures. The big net is the biggest on the boat and is called a Cobb trawl. The Cobb is deployed at night and is designed to capture pelagic organisms at deeper depths than the I/K or regular dip nets.

Lowering the net into the water
Lowering the net into the water

The target species for this trawl is snappers. It is deployed at night for two reasons: 1) at night there is a better chance the fish won’t be able to avoid the net because they can’t see it and 2) a lot of the fish targeted follow the amount of light that penetrates the surface, they stay at the bottom during the day and swim up at night – this is called vertical migration.  The Cobb is about 30 feet long and has a mouth opening of 7.5 feet that gradually tapers down to a foot long detachable cod-end. It can be dropped to different depths depending on the amount of line let out. There is a 2:1 difference, so if 1,000 feet of net is released then it will drop to 500 feet below the surface. The Sette motors at 3 knots for about 3 hours while the Cobb is busy collecting the ocean denizens. The cod-end is only in the water for two of those hours. The scientists have been either targeting two depths and spending an hour at each or have been staying at one site for two hours.

Bringing in the catch
Bringing in the catch

It takes a crew of at least 4 line-handlers, a crane operator, engineers working on the hydraulics and synchronizing between the officers piloting the boat from the stern and those on the fly-bridge just to keep the large net in the water safely. It is a long and coordinated process to retrieve the necessary sample of a couple pounds.

The catch, ready to be analyzed
The catch, ready to be analyzed

For safety reasons, the scientists are required to stay away from the net until everything is on deck and the winch holding the net is off. But once the Cobb is brought up, it is like horses at a track: there is a rush to see what was caught. And I’ve never seen such large 8-year-olds as the scientists; mesmerized by the hundreds of fish, larvae, jellies and other fascinating creatures the group piles in around the sampling trays and quietly picks through trying to find the rare and unique. The haul is definitely something to get lost within. With so many different fish stacked on top of each other and the seemingly infinite number of marine invertebrates, trying to find a juvenile Snapper or rare Lantern fish with a pair of small forceps is much like those claw-games that keep eating your quarters. Of course, the rare and interesting species are analyzed but the rest of the fish need to be sorted also. While trawling took 3 hours, going through the collection was easily a couple hours.

A hydro-lab full of scientists
A hydro-lab full of scientists

In the end, I was most intrigued by the eel larvae, the Snaggletooth and the flat fish. If you’ve ever had monsters in your dreams these are probably the culprits. The eel larva is flat, nearly transparent and when stretched out is almost a foot long. It has a black spot (maybe two but it is hard to tell) at the front of its body (you can’t tell that either, really) that I am supposing is its eye. Imaging this creature swimming around my feet is already making me shiver. The Snaggletooth is probably the most horrifying. They are only 5 inches or so but if they were the size of, say, my arm, I would never go in the ocean again. The flat fish babies are just gross. While all of these creatures are going make me sleep with the lights on tonight, they are marvelous representatives of the ocean creatures these NOAA scientists are studying.

Personal Log 

The snaggletooth
The snaggletooth

The Cobb is interesting because it starts 7.30pm and is a whole lot of nothing with bookends of activity. There is a lot of action to get it out, you watch the net in the water for 3 hours, a lot more activity to get it in and then for two hours is the fish sorting. I knew this before-hand and that is why it took me a week to stay up for it. But today I took a nap in the afternoon and was determined to wait for the net.

Flat-fish larvae
Flat-fish larvae

I’m very happy I did because I wouldn’t have seen the stars in the cloudless Hawaiian sky on the moonless night, nor would I have been privy to the green bioluminescence off the bow wake. Also, the catch was a catalyst for the scientific banter in the hydro-lab where everything was sorted. Names of fish were flying past me at exceedingly high speeds and were volleyed by the appropriate guttural sound of “ohh” and “awe” from across the lab. It was well worth a late night bed time, even if the Snaggletooth is waiting for me.

Did You Know? 

Scientist Bruce Mundy with eel larva
Scientist Bruce Mundy with eel larva

The net is named after John N. Cobb who lived from 1868- 1930. He was, among other things, Dean of the College of Fisheries at University of Washington in 1919, the only college of fisheries at the time. My roommate on the Sette, scientist Bruce Mundy, told me another interesting thing. Just off of where we stationed for the Cobb trawl is the site where Captain Cook was killed by the local Hawaiian population on Valentine’s Day in 1779. He was the first European to reach Hawaii on his way to discover the Northwest Passage. Everything was good on the first trip. After a year, however, he returned and he didn’t manage the local politics well. Hawaiians stole one of his boats and he was subsequently beaten and stabbed after trying to take the Hawaiian’s King as a hostage for ransom of his boat. Nevertheless, the local peoples honored him as they would have their own royalty, giving his funeral similar rites.  Apparently there is shrine dedicating his place of death in Kealakekua Bay.

A “caught and released” seahorse
A “caught and released” seahorse
Kealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay

Taylor Parker, April 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 22, 2009 – Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!
Happy Earth Day!

Weather Data: 
Winds: 1-3 knots variable.
1-2 ft swells.
Water temp: 24 C.
Air temp: 80 F.
Voggy.

Science and Technology Log

This morning I awoke with a cup of tea and this beautiful sunrise coming over the big island. There is something auspicious about a morning like this and our day turned out truly favorable. At 6am we started our safety meeting with the regular GAR survey. The GAR survey is a standard safety check before deploying small boats. It stands for Green, Amber and Red and those are the colors associated with the number that represents the amount of danger with the operation. Apparently we were green because the crew prepared the boats. The larger boat dropped into the water with Chief Scientist Ryan Nichols leading the bottom-fishing. I jumped in the smaller boat with scientist Don Kobayashi to do CTD surveys. CTD’s stand for Conductivity, Temperature and depth. Depth and temperature are pretty self-explanatory but conductivity is the measurement of electrical current that is found in the water. This conductivity is proportional to the amount of salt in the water and it increases with a rise in temperature. Therefore, you can figure out the salinity by analyzing the temperature and conductivity. Don is working on measuring the unique circumstances that occur when two or more ocean currents come together and create calm waters known as slicks.

Me holding the handheld CTD
Me holding the handheld CTD

Lighter plankton collect within the slicks along with debris. It is curious to note whether the calm waters draw the weaker fish or whether they search the slicks out on their own. Not much is known about these converging points of down-welling and Don is trying to find out what makes them special.The weapon of choice for his study is an instrument that is about 5 pounds and about a foot and a half long. For our original drop we set a buoy down in the middle of the slick with a drogue, a sea anchor that works by means of an underwater parachute. We then dropped the CDT 5 times on each side of the buoy at 10 meter intervals, which expanded outside of the slick. This level of specificity allows for accurate readings of what is occurring just below the surface. The way the slicks start to appear and just as quickly disappear or even elongate is mysterious.  The final page of this log has the results from one of the CTD drops with an explanation.

Larvae found while dip-netting
Larvae found while dip-netting

After measuring the physical characteristics of the slicks we started dip-netting them, chasing the plankton and debris. Don sat on the bow and I leaned over the port side cruising along at about 1-2 knots trying to find bubbles, debris or any sign of life like a glimmer from the side of a fish or a Pilot Whale (I’ll get to those soon). We caught a few things; well, actually Don caught almost everything while the baby fish evaded me diligently. We collected our, or rather, Don’s haul and kept in a bucket for safe keeping. We caught a big red light bulb with Goose-neck barnacles on it, but more importantly, fish hiding underneath it. The light bulb brought in most of our haul but we did find some other larvae hanging out under a bunch of bubbles.

The Drogue
The Drogue

After dip-netting for a while we found the other boat and helped them bottomfish. We grabbed one of their reels and spent the remaining two hours of our trip trying to catch fish. Where I wasn’t successful with the larvae, I made up in catching a Yellowbarbel Goatfish (Parupeneus chyrsonemus). Unfortunately for us, yet fortunately for him, this colourful bearded fish was not a target species. We let him go safe and sound with only an odd abduction story to tell his friends.

Personal Log 

Our haul from the slick. The light bulb has life underneath, I swear.
Our haul from the slick. The light bulb has life underneath, I swear.

Today I learned a lot about slicks, conductivity and goatfish. The amount of stuff that congregates in the slicks is fascinating and it was wonderful being on the hunt with my net for hours. Even better though was being out on the crystal clear, calm waters off of Kona. There was hardly a breeze, the water was nice and warm and all I wanted to do was jump in. Right when I was thinking about ditching my boat and going for a swim, a 4-5 foot Oceanic White-Tip Shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) swam under us. I was told not to pet it. I have never seen a shark with the reputation as ferocious as this one so close. The ends of his dorsal and pectoral fins were shining white in the clear Hawaiian water and he looked formidable yet tranquil.

Goatfish
Goatfish

While we were dropping the CTD, a call came over the radio from the Sette informing us that Pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchos) were in the vicinity. We paid it no mind as a sighting like that would most likely pass without our noticing it. Sure enough, within half an hour a pod of about 8 whales were heading directly for us. The whales were cruising around us showing us their giant domed heads and curved dorsal fins. When they got within about 10 yards of the boat they all disappeared and didn’t reappear until they were well beyond our position. But for a while, we were schooling with Pilot whales.

On our way back to the boat we were flagged down by Ensign Norris, Lieutenant Little and CO Lopez from the Fly Bridge. They needed photos of the Sette with the large NOAA logo while underway. Well, here is one of the shots and if you look closely you can see all three up there.

The Whitetip is in the lower left hand corner with a Pilot Whale in the upper right
The Whitetip is in the lower left hand corner with a Pilot Whale in the upper right
Pilot Whale
Pilot Whale
The Oscar Elton Sette with three officers
The Oscar Elton Sette with three officers
Here are some of the data from the handheld CTD dropped in the slicks. As you can see the area surveyed within the slick has higher temperatures deeper and more heterogeneity. This is opposed to just outside the slick where it is colder with little variation.
Here are some of the data from the handheld CTD dropped in the slicks. As you can see the area surveyed within the slick has higher temperatures deeper and more heterogeneity. This is opposed to just outside the slick where it is colder with little variation.

Taylor Parker, April 21, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 21, 2009

The crew does an incredible job of lowering these SAFE boats into the water with Kona coast in the background.
The crew does an incredible job of lowering these SAFE boats into the water with Kona coast in the background.

Weather Data 
Winds: 7-16 knots variable.
3-5 ft swells.
Water temp: 24 C.
Air temp: 70 F.

Science and Technology Log 

Oh man, I am so happy that we’re underway! The swells found us today and we’re finally rocking around – it is great! Today, the game-plan is that at 6am the 15ft SAFE boat runs out into the sapphire blue Hawaiian waters to study the slicks (areas of converging down-welling currents- the glassy parts in the ocean) while the 19ft boat tries to find juvenile bottom-fish. Good luck!

Retrieving the trawl
Retrieving the trawl

I, however, am helping three other scientists with trawling for billfish. We’re working with the Isaacs-Kidd trawl (I/K). This is a 10 meter long net with 5mm mesh that is connected to a detachable cod-end which collects the plankton. The I/K was named after the researchers from Scripps in La Jolla who developed the technology in the 60’s. We dropped the net bearing their names into the water by an A-Frame winch maintaining just below the surface for an hour. At this time the net is retrieved and the cod end is removed for study. It is replaced with a fresh end and the net is thrown back into the water for another hour.

The codend is replaced
The codend is replaced

The cod-end is brought into the hydro-lab and the contents are splayed out into a tray and analyzed. The marine organisms are then sorted, organized and labeled for any rare or special fish – my personal favorite is the long, skinny Lizardfish in the middle of the tray. The different fish in this photo are really interesting. The small one in the top left is a Slender Mola which as an adult lives in the open water, the longer Lizardfish lives on the bottom, the Blenny lives near shore in shallow water while the Lantern-fish grows up, lives in mid-water and develops light organs. As adults they grow into different sizes, scatter into different waters in the ocean and adapt accordingly. But as larvae they are all found together—in the slicks.

The contents of the cod-end are readied for analysis
The contents of the cod-end are readied for analysis

The target specimens for this trawl are Marlin, Swordfish and other billfish larvae. And you know what? We caught a couple; the one pictured is a baby Swordfish. From this photo it is hard to believe this creature grows up to be the extremely muscular fish in the same sub-Order as the one Hemingway writes about, but it is true. Not much is known about the life histories of these fish, that is why we’re here, but it is believed that it takes many years to reach adult. The specimen were photographed and then placed in a 32oz plastic jar with ethyl alcohol for further analyzing later. We repeated this process 6 times throughout the day.

Personal Log 

My personal favorite, the lizardfish
My personal favorite, the lizardfish

The I/K collects a lot of very small marine organisms. It looks like gumbo. Luckily, this isn’t our dinner; we’re fed a lot better looking— and definitely tasting— food on this cruise. We collected numerous jellies, shrimp, fish larvae, debris, eggs, nudibranchs and crabs. All of it is relatively transparent so you don’t notice it while in the ocean. The I/K concentrates the gelatinous biota and truly illustrates what is in the water. And considering the warmer waters of the tropics are less productive than colder waters, this isn’t everything that could be there. Just don’t think about this when you open your mouth underwater!

A baby swordfish
A baby swordfish

The trawl was fun and definitely a new experience. It is truly incredible the amount of life that is in the water. Until you see you it pulled out, you don’t believe it. This is one of the paradigm-shifting results from being on this ship that I am only now beginning to realize. This entire vessel is designed to study the ocean; every facet of this boat is geared toward understanding the marine world. The researchers and crew on the Sette are actively embracing NOAA’s mission of stewardship.

Question of the Day 

"Gumbo" from the trawl
“Gumbo” from the trawl

Why are the fish we catch the colors they are—orange, yellow, red, etc? This was one of the questions I asked some of the expert marine biologists over dinner the other day and I was told that one of the reasons is that the colors makes the fish invisible. Red absorbs the spectrum of light that gets down around 100 fathoms and makes the fish look grey.

New Term/ Phrase/ Word 
New words: Vog –volcanic fog. Here the marine layer is normal condensation coupled with volcanic particulates. Kai – Hawaiian for the sea; Nalu – Hawaiian for waves; Kuliana— Hawaiian for responsibility. This can be responsibility for anything: your job, your family, etc. But as Ensign Norris says, it is also responsibility for the environment and it reminds us to protect what we have.

Animals Seen Today 
We saw a Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) today zooming the boat. It is a beautiful bird that I’ve never seen before and its wings were truly massive. We also caught a few billfish and fish larvae so tiny they look like they are just heads!

Taylor Parker, April 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Parker
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19-29, 2009 

Mission: Hawaii Bottom fish Survey
Geographical Area: South side of Oahu
Date: April 19, 2009

Weather Data 
Calm winds of about 5 knots.
30% -50% Cloud cover.
80F degrees.

Science and Technology Log 

NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Welcome to my ship logs!  On our cruise we are studying bottom fish in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. The purpose of studying bottom fish is because of their popularity by commercial interests. These animals are well fished by local boats and there is much to learn about them and their life histories for sustainable fisheries management. Better knowledge of life history traits, such as age, growth and size and age at maturity will help current efforts to assess the bottom fish fisheries in the main Hawaiian Islands.

This weekend was exciting. After our cruise being delayed about a week due to various generator problems, it was decided that we would begin some of the bottom fish research from the smaller SAFE boats. On Saturday, April 19th, two teams hauled two boats (a 15 ft and 20 ft SAFE boat) to a boat ramp near Diamondhead on Oahu. Both were deployed at approximately 8:00am with the smaller boat studying “slicks” for conductivity, salinity and temperature as well as phyto- and zooplankton. The other boat, the one I was on, studied the bottom fish we pulled up. The smaller boat concluded their operations around 2pm while our boat finished at 4:30pm. All together our boat spent about 8 ½ hours on the water; we ate several sandwiches, drank a lot of Gatorade and used about a bottle of sunscreen. The weather was incredible with very little wind and few clouds until 2pm. The winds around Oahu pick up in the early afternoon and create some challenging swells.

As for the work done on the boats, we studied “slicks” and bottom fish. Slicks are the visible trails created in the water due to converging water flow. This trail has less turbulence than surrounding current and many fish larvae are found within these mini-refuges. They are called slicks because of their resemblance to oil slicks and that is partially because of the accumulation of oils from the many marine species. The smaller boat worked with specially adapted collection devices and finished the day with a bucket worth of sample to analyze.

Our boat dropped lines in the water several times to depths ranging from 100 – 230 meters to hopefully catch different bottom fish species. The gear we used consisted of two motorized reels and several hundred meters worth of monofilament mainline on each reel. At the bottom of the mainline a “blood” line was connected. It is called so because of the red color of the stronger line. A “pigtail” connection is attached to the lower end of the blood line to easily connect the interchangeable hooks and weight.  Three or four hooks are then attached to an interchangeable line connected to the pigtail.

Finally, a two pound weight is attached to the end of the line of hooks to bring the whole rig to the bottom. The fish we are targeting remain at a depth of more than 100 meters on semi-hard to hard bottom (rock and crushed coral). Once an appropriate site was found, the coxswain maintained position while we fished. In total we caught 6 fish: 4 Ehu (Etelis corbunculus), a Gindai (Pristipomoides zonatus) and a kind of Large-headed Scorpion fish, Hogo (Pontinus macrocephalus). We released the scorpion fish because it is not part of the study and one of the Ehu because it was healthy enough to return after we took measurements.

Personal Log 

I’ve never caught fish before. The only challenge I had in applying for this position was in my ability to kill another animal but I believe in the importance of research and recognize the beneficial impacts this work has toward promoting better stewardship of our natural resources. Catching a few fish for this cause seems justifiable and studying these creatures and their physiology is fascinating. After pulling the Ehu and Gindai from the water and seeing their remarkable oranges, red and yellows contrast against the blue of the swirling Hawaii waters, it surprises me that we cannot see these fish at all swimming directly underneath us. If the waters were truly clear, visible to the bottom, I believe the amount of and variety of colors we would see would mystify us.

Speaking of mystifying: the behemoth Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) visited us on our day trip. Although it is late in the season for them –most are on their way to the plankton buffet outside Alaska – we saw several momma whales swimming with their calfs. One time, on the horizon, we saw two humpbacks slapping their pectoral fins on the surface and crashing around with each other playing.

Additional: New term/ phrase/ word 

I’m learning new Hawaiian words: Puka means a hole or divet of any size and Pau is a term that has traditionally meant dead but has come to mean finished.

Chris Monsour, July 10, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: July 10, 2007

At Lisianski Island, NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour  gives the camera his best Hawaiian hello.
At Lisianski Island, NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour gives the camera his best Hawaiian hello.

Final Log 

At 11:19 a.m. today, Jonathan, the Lead Fishermen, yelled out “last trap” and hauled the last trap aboard the ship for this lobster cruise.  I would be lying if I said I did not feel relieved, because I was. The general consensus among the other scientists is that it is time to get back to our “other” lives.  Ones that are not regulated by wind speed, waves, medical emergencies, and the cutting of mackerel.

Today did not see the monster haul of lobster that we would have liked to have seen. We did get a very large Ridgeback lobster and a large sea star, but not many of the spiny and slipper lobsters that I have learned to identify, determine the sex of, and appreciate. I understand now why in the past, cruises would start at Necker then go to Maro Reef. Necker is training for Maro Reef. We did have some lobster, and that is all that matters.

Before this trip I had never been in the Pacific Ocean.  When I was in Chile, I saw the Pacific, but not quite like this.  In the course of the month as Teacher at Sea I have learned a lot about the Pacific.  I learned that it could be a lonely place.  Especially on the nights when I would stand on the observation deck and look out and see water and stars, nothing else. I learned that it has a lot of secrets to keep and that we as scientists will never know all of them, but we must pursue them.  I learned how to tie knots, clean squid, handle sharks, eat fish heads, and bottom fish.  I learned that dental floss is a great substitute for thread when a button breaks and that eating fish for breakfast is not such a strange thing to do. I learned to relax and appreciate a sunset.  I learned that it is important to make decisions based on good science and that even though people have good intentions, what seems right at the time, may not be in the future.  Finally, I know I will pass onto my students my adventure and hopefully they will be able to get in them, some of the enthusiasm and sense of wonder that I did.

Aloha… Chris

Maggie Flanagan, July 10, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: July 10, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan measures a lobster carapace.
Maggie Flanagan measures a lobster carapace.

Science and Technology Log – Lobster Lessons 

We’ve hauled back our last string of traps and have begun the transit back to Pearl Harbor. Our Northwestern Hawaiian Island (NWHI) lobster survey has provided the 2007 data for a record that goes back 30 years. Our Chief Scientist, Bob Moffitt, is a biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service within NOAA. Bob completed his first lobster survey in 1977, and has been continually involved with the project. The model we still use was established in 1985-86, and there has been survey data nearly every year since then.  The two sites we monitor are Necker Island (Mokumanamana, in Hawaiian) and Maro Reef (Nalukakala, in Hawaiian).  Necker Island is closer to the Main Hawaiian Islands, 430 miles from Honolulu.  Maro Reef is farther out the NWHI, 850 miles from Honolulu.  Target species are spiny lobsters (Panulirus marginatus) and slipper lobsters (Scyllarides squammosus).

Initial analysis of the data includes computing our catch per unit effort (CPUE), which is the total number of lobsters in traps divided by the number of traps.  The data are separated by site, by species – spiny or slipper lobster, and by number of traps in the string, – 8 or 20. (Strings of 20 are often set in deeper water.)  The mean for all strings of a type in a year is used for comparisons.  Bob works up the numbers each evening to keep us posted.  

You can’t draw conclusions from just a few numbers, but a sample of CPUE information is below.

In 2007, Necker Island sampling was suspended for several days and the data may be biased towards historically less productive quadrants.
In 2007, Necker Island sampling was suspended for several days and the data may be biased towards historically less productive quadrants.

Graphing the entire data set reveals that Necker Island experienced a sharp decline in the presence of both types of lobsters during the mid to late 1990’s, and the numbers have remained low.  Graphs of Maro Reef data show a more complex story.  There, spiny lobsters dropped dramatically in 1989. Spiny lobster numbers remained low, as slipper lobster numbers increased. It’s proposed that as spiny lobsters were decreasing, slipper lobsters could access more resources, such as food and habitat, which expanded their numbers.  The spiny lobster has had more commercial value because it looks prettier, and so was probably targeted more by fisherman.

Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan holds spiny lobsters while “cracking” – recovering lobsters from traps.
Maggie Flanagan holds spiny lobsters while “cracking” – recovering lobsters from traps.

Commercial fishing for lobsters in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands began with multi-purpose vessels which would keep the lobsters live for market. About 1981, fisherman started landing only the lobster tail, which was frozen at sea.  This greatly increased the capacity for the taking of lobsters. Data showed decline, fisheries scientists became concerned, and the fishery was closed in 1993, then opened with very low quotas.  By 1997, research data still showed decline and the NWHI commercial lobster fishery was closed again in 2000.  Models at that time showed that NWHI lobster overfishing (meaning the size and take of the fleet) wasn’t problematic and research that focused on the lobsters themselves would be needed.

When lobsters are tiny, in the phylosome stage, they are transported by currents.  Spiny lobsters spend 12 months in this stage and have been caught in plankton tows 60 miles out at sea.  So, lobsters can settle in sites far away from their parents.  This recruitment may or may not influence the population numbers of lobsters in the NWHI, but as a real possibility, is a topic for research. Bob Moffitt’s data, with that of other NWHI scientists, could contribute to a metapopulation model that could estimate the density of lobsters throughout all the NWHI over time.  This could be designed to scientifically predict the affects of fishing and recruitment.  DNA analysis could also reveal information on the transportation of lobsters when juvenile.

In 2006, all the NWHI were included in the creation of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which will be closed to all fishing.  The Monument is the largest marine protected area in the U.S., but the research questions on what will help Hawaiian lobster populations still remain to be answered.  Ocean currents in the area generally run to the west and south, and if juvenile lobsters are transported, they would be traveling those currents. But the marine protected area is already west of the Main Hawaiian Islands, so recruitment out to restore other areas seems unlikely, though not yet tested.    There is reason to celebrate our new Marine National Monument, but there is no conclusive scientific evidence that it will help lobster populations recover.

A slipper lobster as compared to a pencil.
A slipper lobster as compared to a pencil.

Personal Log 

With all fisheries closed in the NWHI, what will happen to the fisheries research that has  contributed much to the understanding of marine populations?  Will scientists be allowed to continue pursuing research questions, or will they be considered irrelevant?  Approval for access to the NWHI under the Monument status now involves an arduous permit process, even for scientists.  Bob Moffitt’s work has provided an extensive time series of data, and is considered worth continuing as ecosystem monitoring.  Hopefully in the future, scientific work will continue and guide policy making for protected areas.  

Maggie Flanagan, July 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: July 9, 2007

Meaghan Darcy with a 70.2cm opakapaka (Pristopimoides filamentosus).
Meaghan Darcy with a 70.2cm opakapaka (Pristopimoides filamentosus).

Science and Technology Log – Interview with Meaghan Darcy, scientist 

Meaghan Darcy, from Rhode Island, is a research technician for our lobster survey.  We spend our days helping with lobster traps, but in the evenings our science work includes sampling the many species of bottomfish in the Hawaiian Islands.  Meaghan is a Ph.D. candidate working with the Fisheries Center and Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, specializing in Hawaiian bottomfish.  Meaghan has always been interested in biology, but a semester of study in the Caribbean  included research with fisherman and inspired her to pursue the science of fisheries.

What is the focus of your current research? 
Meaghan is working on a management strategy evaluation for the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery.  The bottomfish fishery targets about 13 different species across 3 designated zones, which are fished at depths of 50 to 600+ feet using hydraulic hand lines with up to 10 hooks per line. The targeted bottomfish include several snappers (ehu, opakapaka, onaga, kalekale, gindai, and lehi), grouper (hapu`upu`u), and jacks (kahala, butaguchi, and ulua). One reason bottomfish are popular as a commercial product is that they don’t feed much on reefs, and so are less likely to carry ciguatera poisoning, however, kahala has been associated with ciguatera and is no longer highly sought after. The first step in evaluation is to use a simulation model to simulate the data gathering process (i.e., simulate catch and effort data that would be similarly collected for the commercial fishery). Meaghan will then use an estimation model to estimate bottomfish abundance relative to a target abundance using the simulated catch and effort data.  Based on the results from the assessment model, a management policy is set and applied to the simulation and estimation models to determine the policies impact.  Using this approach, the potential success of a variety of different possible fishery management strategies can be evaluated.  Meaghan will also apply this approach using the Hawaiian bottomfish commercial fishery data and her conclusions will offer insight on best management practices for the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery. 

Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan with a 71.2cm hapu`upu`u (Epinephelus quernus)
Teacher at Sea Maggie Flanagan with a 71.2cm hapu`upu`u (Epinephelus quernus)

What are the challenges in your research? 
The Hawaiian bottomfish is a multi-species fishery, where several different species may come up on the same line. This simultaneous capture makes scientific evaluation of the fishery more difficult.  The reported catch per unit effort (CPUE) data is not species specific, and this grouping ignores differences in the life histories and catchabilities of different species. Different habitats preferred by juveniles and different ages of maturity and breeding lumped together in management may influence decline of one bottomfish species, while not another.

Some of the management strategies have drawbacks along with potential benefits. Currently in the Main Hawaiian Islands, the bottomfish fishery is being managed under a seasonal closure policy during peak spawning periods (May 15, 2007 – October 1, 2007) to maximize the number of fish breeding. Over the next couple of years Hawaii is moving towards a quota system where a total allowable catch (TAC) will be set. Under a quota system when the TAC is reached, the fishery is closed for the remainder of the year.  In practice, TAC can produce a “race for the fish” which encourages competition at the expense of conservation while fishing. Quotas can be effective, but require the infrastructure for widespread monitoring in real time and making annual assessments.  Size limits are another possible strategy, which could be complicated by the multi-species nature of the fishery.

Another possible strategy would be to establish marine protected areas,where commercial fishing isn’t allowed.  This may lead to increased pressure on other marine areas, if fishing effort isn’t reduced, but just forced to relocate.  Now that the North West Hawaiian Islands have become part of the Marine National Monument, commercial fishing is being phased out of those waters and the management strategies evaluated in Meaghan’s thesis will be mainly relevant to the Main Hawaiian Islands, which already suffer from overfishing. Through acknowledging these challenges in her research, Meaghan is developing novel approaches to management strategy evaluation.  Her objectives include modeling the fishermen’s behavior to better understand how they will respond to different management strategies, and identifying effective management tactics for the multi-species nature of this fishery.

What inspires you about your work? 
Meaghan is excited to be working on real issues in fisheries, where her efforts are applied to real situations. She’s interested in quantitative expertise and population dynamics as tools for her work. Hawaii has recently begun expanding management of the bottomfish fishery, and recommendations through Meaghan’s evaluation will be very relevant for developing policy.

Personal Log 
Besides teaching me about the Hawaiian bottomfish fishery, Meaghan also taught me how to work the fishing gear. She is a wonderful role model for women in science, and a great crewmate!

Chris Monsour, July 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: July 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour demonstrates the proper technique for holding and releasing on of the many Grey Tipped Reef Sharks that were brought aboard OSCAR ELTON SETTE during the July 7th lobster trapping.
Chris Monsour demonstrates the proper technique for holding and releasing Grey Tipped Reef Sharks

Science and Technology Log

Today we finally got to get back to what brought us here, the lobster trapping. As mentioned several times before, the lobster population at Necker Island  seems to be smaller than Maro Reef.  Today this was evident when at one point we had pulled up more Grey Tipped Reef Sharks than lobsters. It was neck and neck with 20 apiece. I think at the end of the day we had more sharks. (As I am writing this the lab is finishing up the data). Some of the area where we were sampling is a sand bottom which is not the best habitat for the lobsters, so we pulled mostly hermit crabs and sharks out of the traps. That is not to say we did not catch any lobster. We caught a few Chinese slipper and a few spiny. The spiny that we did catch were large adults, with no juveniles.  There were several times that we would have an entire string of traps without any lobsters.

The number of sharks did surprise me and at first I was hesitant to handle the sharks, but the other cracker, Matt, showed me the proper way to get a shark out of the trap. I had to first grab the shark behind the head, near the gills and then grab near the tail. One has to grab the head first because a shark does not like to be grabbed as one could imagine and if the head is not grabbed first, it will bite you.  After I fumbled the first two, I had enough courage and the ability to take sharks out of the traps on my own.  At one point when I was taking a shark out I was called the “Shark Whisperer”.  By my estimate, I pulled 12 sharks out of the traps and tossed them overboard.  There were a few times when we would have 2 very large sharks in a trap. I have to wonder what would drive such a large animal into such a small space, for so little food.  Is the natural drive for food so strong in sharks that they would squeeze themselves into such a small space?  

Many grey tipped sharks were brought aboard during the lobster trapping.
Many grey tipped sharks were brought aboard during the lobster trapping.

There were also a few eels, Conger eels to be exact and these eels do not have the teeth or the mean disposition of the moray eels.  I did not know this at first, so the first time Matt tried to pick up a Conger eel and it slid out of his hands and ended up coming right at me! I was standing on the table in about 2 seconds, I didn’t know it wasn’t going to bite me.  The crew got a good laugh at me standing on the table. Eventually, I had the nerve to pick up the eels and was able to remove the last  eel of the day and toss it over the side of the ship safely.

We have only 5 days left, 3 of these will be trapping.  I am glad to be back to work.  The six days we were down were fun at first, but by Thursday I was getting cabin fever or boat fever. I am looking forward to the 3 days of work.  I will be a cracker again tomorrow, runner, and my last day I will be a stacker.

Aloha… Chris

Maggie Flanagan, July 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: July 7, 2007

A turkeyfish and white spotted toby found in lobster traps.
A turkeyfish and white spotted toby found in lobster traps.

Science and Technology Log – Bycatch 

Though spiny and slipper lobsters are our target species for sampling, many other interesting creatures are interested in our bait, and wind up in our traps.  Some of the smaller creatures spend a little time in our on board aquarium for observation and acclimation.  These fish are upside down because their swim bladders, which regulate buoyancy in the ocean, have not yet adjusted to the surface (barotrauma).  They wouldn’t survive if they were immediately released. The turkeyfish, aka Hawaiian lionfish, Dendrochirus barberi, is red/orange with large fins. It has venomous spines in its dorsal (back) fin, and will lunge pointing them at a threat.  We used a net instead of gloves to observe this one. This fish in known to enjoy a meaty diet, eating other smaller fish. The Hawaiian white spotted toby, Canthigaster jactator, is a sharp nose puffer, brown with white spots. This toby is endemic to Hawaii, found naturally only in Hawaii.  These fish can make themselves swell in size to ward off predators by filling their stomachs with water. They carry a toxin in their skin, which can harm other aquarium creatures if released.

Swimming crab (Charybdis paucideutis?) and hermit crab (Dardanus brachyops)
Swimming crab (Charybdis paucideutis) and hermit crab (Dardanus brachyops)

The red figure in the background of the above photo is a sea hare, Aplysioidea, aka sea slug. These invertebrates are hermaphroditic, carrying both male and female sex organs. We also encounter a variety of crabs with a variety of adaptations.  Hermit Crabs, Dardanus,  have been the most numerous in our traps, and there are reported to be up to 2000 species of hermit crabs world-wide.  They take over the shells of marine snails and keep their soft abdomens tucked inside. Many of the hermit crabs we’ve found in the North West Hawaiian Islands take protection even one step further – they keep anemones on their shells. The anemones eject bubble-gum-pink stinging threads called acontia when threatened. We wear gloves when handling the crabs to protect ourselves. Scientists have discovered that the anemones don’t live on the shells when the snail is alive, and that hermit crabs will actually move their anemones from shell to shell as they move to new shell homes.  They figure that the anemones benefit from mobility with the crab and from food particles spread by the hermit crabs as they rip and shred.

Swimming Crabs, Charybdis, are the most aggressive crab in the trap.  In both body and behavior they’re similar to the blue claw crabs of my home waters, so I was prepared for their quick attempts to pinch and slice my fingers.  Their last pair of legs is oval like a paddle – perfect for swimming. On board, we call the box crab, Calappa calappa, the Vader crab. Its claws fold perfectly into its oval body, making it look like the face mask of that notorious space villain. These crabs can be mean too; those wide claws are powerful and help the crab eat mollusks.  Imagine how well camouflaged it is folded up down in the sand.

A box crab (Calappa calappa), a.k.a., the Vader crab
A box crab (Calappa calappa), a.k.a., the Vader crab

Personal Log 

During our lobster survey work, we catalogue the other animals that also get in the traps, and release them as healthy as possible. The creatures that you catch unintentionally are generally called bycatch. A current issue in commercial fishing is animals killed and wasted because they’re caught as bycatch, and not sold or eaten.  Many times they’re dumped back in the sea dead.  It’s a complicated issue on a global scale considering the definitions of what makes bycatch, all the different kinds of fishing gear, the variety of marine ecosystems, applications of technology, and the multiple political and economic groups involved.  There are many figures being reported, from 30% to over 50% of the take winding up as wasted bycatch, or perhaps 28 million metric tons world-wide. But, statistics on this topic are difficult to determine, which makes solving the problem even more difficult.  Technology has innovated some fishing gear which particularly reduces the bycatch of sea turtles and marine mammals, and recent focus on bycatch by type of fish and type of gear may inspire more solutions to this serious problem.

Chris Monsour, July 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: July 3, 2007

The reflection of NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour can be seen in one of the monuments to The Battle of Midway.
The reflection of NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour can be seen in one of the monuments to The Battle of Midway.

Science and Technology Log 

I have decided to just combine the logs because we have not had a chance to do any lobster trapping in the past seven days and really have not done a lot of science.  I have seen a lot science and ecology in action, but I have not participated in doing any research, so no science log today.  Last night at about 1:00 a.m., I watched as the air ambulance took off from Midway. I had the chance to ride in the ambulance to the airstrip and help with the final transport of the injured researcher.  Watching the plane take off was the culmination of my unexpected visit to Midway Atoll.  I must say, that I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Midway and take in some of the history and nature of the island.  I spent the two days here relaxing on the beach, observing several thousand Laysan albatross, and just exploring a remarkable island. So this log will focus on Midway.  Most the information comes from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Multi-Agency Education project.

Midway Atoll is a circular-shaped atoll with three small islets (Sand, Eastern, and Spit) on the southern end of the lagoon. Midway is probably the best known location within the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  While the land area only covers about 1535 acres, the atoll has approximately 85,929 acres of reef.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured a Fairy Tern displaying its wings during his trip to Midway Atoll.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured a Fairy Tern displaying its wings during his trip to Midway Atoll.

During World War II, Midway served as an important naval air station and submarine refit base. The atoll was attacked twice, first on December 7th 1941, and again during the pivotal Battle of Midway, June 4th-6th 1942. A successful American intelligence operation tipped the U.S. forces to the planned attack, and a small U.S. task force was able to surprise and defeat the Japanese invasion fleet bound for the atoll.  Many interpret this battle as the watershed moment in the tide of the Pacific War.  Though the major carrier-based actions took place to the north, a fierce air battle was waged above and on Sand and Eastern Islands. The atoll was designated as the National Memorial to the Battle of Midway in 2000.  Nearly two million birds of 19 species nest at Midway. The atoll has the largest Laysan albatross (also called goonie birds) colony in the world. Other birds include black-footed albatross, red-tailed tropicbirds, white terns, black and brown noddies, shearwaters, and Bonin petrels. The waters abound with dolphins, monk seals, and green sea turtles. More than 250 species of fish live in its waters, including hapu`upu`u, ulua (jack), kumu (goatfish), and sharks. Beyond the reefs are pelagic fishes such as tuna and marlin.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured this photo ofseveral Laysan Albatross resting in one of the fields onSand Island at Midway Atoll.
Chris Monsour captured this photo of several Laysan Albatross resting on Sand Island at Midway Atoll.

In 1996 the once strategic naval base was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be managed as Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. A massive U.S. Navy clean up prior to their departure removed tons of debris, leaky fuel tanks, and lead paint, as well as rats. Today a fulltime Refuge staff administers a small visitor program, cares for its wildlife, restores native plant life, and protects historic resources.

It would be hard to not mention the Laysan Albatross when not mentioning Midway. Over seventy percent of the world’s population nests at Midway. In 1996, about 387,854 breeding pairs of Laysan Albatross nested on all three Albatross currently on the island, he stated around 400,000 breeding pairs.  We just happened to be at Midway when the chicks were beginning to fledge.  To get around on the island was at times difficult because the birds would not move when approached.  At times the streets were full of adults and chicks and one had to zigzag through the sea of birds. As one passes by an albatross and gets to close, it will snap. It was nothing for me to be walking to the North Beach and have a hundred of these birds snapping at me.  I have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”, but it was referenced several times as we made our way through the island.  It was especially eerie at night because it gets very dark on Midway and I forgot to bring a flashlight with me on the second night.  I walked along the beach back to the ship because I knew if I followed the roads back, I might step on an albatross.

Overall, I enjoyed the time at Midway Atoll.  We are currently on course back to Necker Island. We’ll have four more days of trapping, and then we’ll depart for Pearl Harbor.

Aloha… Chris

NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE seems to be dwarfed by one of the huge fuel tanks on Sand Island at Midway Atoll.
NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE is dwarfed by one of the huge fuel tanks on Sand Island at Midway Atoll.

Chris Monsour, July 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: July 1, 2007

Science and Technology Log

Third week at sea and the course of the rest of the trip is still up in the air.  We are currently on our way to Midway. As you may know, Midway was an important sea battle during WWII and an important victory for the Allies in the Pacific Theater (I know this is supposed to be a science log, but history is just as important).  Yesterday we picked up two researchers from the island of Lisianski (see below).  We traveled from Necker Island to Lisianski, then off to Midway.  The Northwest Hawaiian Islands Education Project had some good information about Lasianski Island. Lisianski Island is 1.5 square kilometers (381 acres), about the size of Honolulu. Its highest point is a sand dune about 40 feet above sea level. Though the island is small, the reef area to the southeast, called Neva Shoals, is huge, covering 979 square kilometers (241,916 acres), an area nearly the size of O`ahu.

This map was part on an article found in the June 14th, 2006 edition of the New York Times.
This map was part on an article found in the June 14th, 2006 edition of the New York Times.

A ship picking up survivors of a shipwreck introduced mice to the island in 1844. Rabbits were introduced later, and along with mice, they devastated the island’s ecology and are believed to have caused the demise of the Laysan rail. Feather collecting began on Lisianski about 1904. In response to public outcry about the feather trade, Theodore Roosevelt established the Hawaiian Island Bird Reservation, which included Lisianski, in 1909. An armed party landed on the island in 1910.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour takes in the sand and sun
Chris Monsour takes in the sand and sun

They arrested feather poachers and confiscated and destroyed about 1.4 tons of feathers, representing 140,400 birds. Today, Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles are common visitors to Lisianski’s sandy white beaches. Migratory shorebirds seen on the island include the kolea (golden plover), ulili (wandering tattler), and kioea (bristle-thighed curlew). Nearly three-fourths of the Bonin petrels nesting in Hawai`i make this island their home. In some years, more than a million sooty terns visit Lisianski.

An Albatross preens its young. Lisianski Island is an important nesting area for the Albatross as well as other seabirds.
An Albatross preens its young. Lisianski Island is an important nesting area for the Albatross as well as other seabirds.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is an endangered marine mammal that is endemic to the warm, clear waters of the Hawaiian Islands. `Ilioholo-i-ka-uaua is how it is known to the indigenous people of Hawaii. The Monk Seal gets its common name from its round head covered with short hairs, giving it the appearance of a medieval friar. The name may also reflect the fact that the Hawaiian Monk Seal lives a more solitary existence, in comparison with other seals that in places collect in large colonies.

This photo of a mother Monk Seal with her cub was taken by NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour during a visit to Lisianski Island.
Chris Monsour captures this mother Monk Seal with her cub during a visit to Lisianski Island.

Maggie Flanagan, June 30, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 30, 2007

Science and Technology Log – Setting and Hauling Traps 

Maggie Flanagan, scientists, and ship’s crew work together to set lobster traps
Maggie Flanagan, scientists, and ship’s crew work together to set lobster traps

We’ve worked a lot with lobster traps by now, and I’ve had the chance to try every part of the job. The science crew works closely with the experienced fisherman of the ship’s crew – it takes teamwork!  We take turns preparing bait in the early morning.  Thawed mackerel are sliced twice through the middle – be sure to expose the guts which release fluids and oils that are especially attractive to our targets. Later, the traps are set in strings of 8 or 20. Historic data is based on strings of 8, which is why they’re still used even though experience has shown labor is more effective with strings of 20. The traps are all clipped to a gangion, a short line that is spliced (woven) into the length of the ground line (main line of the string) at 20 fathoms (120 feet) apart.  Buoys are clipped in at one end for strings of 8 and at both ends for strings of 20.  A little entertainment comes from the fun names on our buoys which are called out over the radio – Big Momma, 8-ball, Spifferino, Easy Target.  Sadly, we lost the 8-ball float, which is the only gear we’ve lost so far.  Setting baited traps happens from the fantail, or aft working deck, of the ship.  The stackers (scientists on trap duty) lift and shuffle the traps up to the diamond plate (steel non-slip) at the very stern of the ship. A large pallet tub of our line waits there, with eye splices (loops) for attaching gear carefully stacked on a small pipe, keeping the loops ready, in order, and clear from the many coils of line in the tub.   The crew clips a buoy or a trap to a gangion and carefully sends it off the stern.  After beginning the string, the traps slide off on their own with the momentum of the line paying out.

Hauling back lobster traps in the pit aboard OSCAR ELTON SETTE
Hauling back lobster traps in the pit aboard OSCAR ELTON SETTE

Everyone has to be careful to not accidentally step in a loop of line and get dragged off too.  While the traps are going over another crew member, the heaver, manages the tension on the line by guiding it off the stern with a stick in great sweeping arcs.  All the while the Chief Bosun, or supervisor, is in radio communication with the bridge to ensure strings are set at the prescribed depth and location. For our data standards, the traps soak overnight. Hauling back the traps happens in the pit, the low open area along the port side of the ship. The officer at the sticks (steering) operates from a side wing of the bridge, and the Chief Bosun operates the pot hauler, a wheel at the top of a tall J frame that helps pull in the line. As the bridge maneuvers close up to the buoy, a crew member throws the messenger (a 4 pronged type hook) to catch the buoy warp (rope). Once the crew pulls in and unclips the buoy, the ground line is led through the pot hauler, and with a steady hiss the traps are brought up. The pot hauler pauses briefly for each trap to be unclipped, and they’re slid down a table to the crackers (members of the science party) to open. Pretty quickly you open, remove creatures to a bucket, remove old bait, fill new bait, and close the trap. Everything and everyone in the pit gets wet and splashed with mackerel juice.  A bucketeer keeps order of the specimens collected and helps with sharks and eels.  A runner brings the specimens and trap out of the pit. Traps are re-stacked on the fantail and specimens go to the Wet Lab, where the intermediary, assistant, and measurer (more members of the science party) work to catalog them. Overhead, the ground line runs through fair leads (hanging metal circles) back to the pallet tubs on the fantail, where another crew member coils the line back in and stacks the gangion eyes in order.  

The lobsters can surprise you with powerful snaps of their tails.  The assistant has to hold them firmly while the measurer uses a digital caliper to find the length of the carapace (back of the shell) in millimeters. On certain females, we also measure the exopod part of the first left pleopod (appendages under the tail), which can indicate level of maturity.  Females with eggs, spongy masses of tiny round orange or brown specks under the tail, are said to be berried. We also check the lobsters for PIT tags by waving them in front of a scanner – like electronic checkout at the supermarket.  These tags are the same type implanted in pets and if sensed, the scanner shows that lobster’s unique number.  After all the specimens have been recorded, or when a tagged lobster needs to go back in the same quadrant, the intermediary does a dump, releasing them.  Lobsters are dumped through a special cage lowered on the pot hauler, which is designed to deliver them back to the bottom without exposing them to sharks.

Personal Log 

It’s hard to say which job in the lobster survey is my favorite.  Cracking open the traps is certainly the center of the action, but quite a wet, messy job.  Being the measurer makes you feel closely involved with the scientific process, but keeps you working inside.  Stacking empty traps is not as interesting, but happens out in the sun while talking and listening to music. I guess I’m enjoying all the jobs, and certainly learning a lot. Since I began writing, we had to stop our lobster survey for a few days to offer medical assistance to another scientist camping on one of the islands.  It wasn’t life threatening, thank goodness, and we’re back to work soon.

Chris Monsour, June 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 26, 2007

An eel that was captured during lobster trapping on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE is held in a can until it can be released.
An eel that was captured during lobster trapping is held in a can until it can be released.

Science and Technology Log 

My science logs will not have as much science for the next few days as there has been a change in plans. NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE is currently responding to a medical emergency within the Monument, which may delay operations for six days.  I am not sure what our course of action will be, but the circumstance has shown me just how vast these islands are and how I am essentially in a liquid desert.  When I look at a map of all the Hawaiian Islands, it does not seem that big, but if placed over a map of the U.S. mainland, the island of Hawai’i would be in Georgia, along the coast, and Kure Atoll would be in the northeast corner of Utah.

I did some research and found that during the winter storms, which bring about quick currents and dangerous waves in shallow waters, juvenile spiny lobsters leave their shallow reef habitat and travel over 30 miles (19 km) to a deep reef habitat where they will live for their adult life.  Spiny lobsters line up in single file when they migrate or move to another area, touching their antennae to the tail of the lobster in front of them. As many as 100,000 lobsters will get in this line, which is thought to look like one long eel or snake.  If the lobsters are attacked, they gather in a circle with their tails pointing inward, displaying all of their spines outward.  For the science part of this log I will highlight two of the juvenile spiny lobster predators. Essentially, everything is connected out here, and what happens to one eventually will happen to the other.

Hapu’u, a predator of the spiny lobster, caught during bottom fishing
Hapu’u, a predator of the spiny lobster, caught during bottom fishing

One predator of juvenile spiny lobsters is the eel. The three species of eels that I have seen are the conger eel, lemonhead eel, and the steiny eel.  Most often these eels have been in the traps and are regarded with much disdain when the traps are opened.  The lemonhead and the steiny are moray eels while the conger is in its own group.  Moray eels are numerous in Hawaii, found in holes and under large rocks during the day.  They usually hunt in the open under cover of night but will during the day if the opportunity arises. Morays have thick leathery skin that envelops the continuous marginal fin and lack pectoral fins.  Morays are rarely consumed by humans since they are likely to cause ciguatera poisoning, a serious neurological condition that can be contracted by eating certain kinds of reef fish.

The two Morays, the lemonhead and steiny attain about 3 feet. I have seen both species at varying lengths and they have an aggressive demeanor.  Today one fell on deck as we were removing it from a trap and we were all glad to see it go over board on its own. The conger eels have smooth scaleless skin, large pectoral fins, and the continuous marginal fin rays are easily visible.  They are much less common than moray eels in Hawaii. The generic Hawaiian name for eels is Puhi. Another predator of juvenile spiny lobster is the hapu’u, also called the Hawaiian grouper. Groupers are bottom fish, lying in wait near the ocean floor to ambush passing fish or invertebrates. When a likely meal gets close, the grouper opens its expandable mouth and inhales, sucking in both water and prey. As you might suspect, this action takes place with lightning-strike efficiency.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured this image of a Galapagos shark during a feeding frenzy.  These followers of the ship are one of the reasons that swimming is not permitted.
Chris Monsour captured this image: Galapagos shark during a feeding frenzy. These followers of the ship are one of the reasons that swimming is not permitted.

Personal Log 

As mentioned earlier with the change in plans, I will have a lot more time on my hands and will have to find other activities on the ship until we resume operations.  We’ll return to Necker Island as soon as we can and begin setting traps.  We did not put fresh bait in the traps and we secured all of our equipment on deck.  For the next few days I will have time to review some of the data with the scientists, research the other animals we’ve collected, read more books and watch some movies.  I have read five books so far and in reality, what else would I be doing?  I just wish we could get in the water, but there is this little problem, sharks. The sharks follow the ship at times and I am sure they would love to snack on human if given the chance.

Did You Know?  

1. Lobsters can cast off a leg if a predator bites it. This strategy helps to prevent the lobster from getting an infection in a bite wound and it is better to lose a leg than a life.

2. Spiny lobsters produce noises to warn other lobsters to stay out of their territory. They rub the hard area at the bottom of their antennae against ridges on their head. It makes a grating noise that warns others to stay away.

Malama pono….

Chris

Chris Monsour, June 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 26, 2007

Above is an example of the bluestriped snapper that was caught off of Necker Island. This species has become a nuisance since it was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.
Bluestriped snapper that was caught off of Necker Island. This species has become a nuisance since introduced to the Hawaiian Islands.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we hauled our first set of lobster traps at Necker Island.  I must say the Chief Scientist was right when he said there would be less lobster here.  I think we may have caught 25 lobsters out of 160 traps. Very disappointing numbers, less than one lobster per trap. It is possible that the traps were in too deep of water and the substrate being sand made conditions unfavorable. We will be here for 13 more days or for 13 more sets, depending on how you want to look at it. A majority of what we caught today were different types of crustaceans and bluestriped snapper.

The bluestriped snapper is a non-native species that was brought to Hawaii from French Polynesia in the 1950’s. The fish’s native distribution is the Indo-Pacific from east Africa – Tuamotus; north to southern Japan; south to New Caledonia. The fish was brought to Hawaii to fill a vacant niche in the reef community, a shallow water snapper.  The bluestriped snapper does not have a good reputation.  In Hawaii, the bluestriped snapper share the same habitat with native fishes and this may result in competition for habitat use and food sources. Evidence has been documented which suggests that bluestriped snapper may displace native fish from important refuge habitat.  However this remains a controversial topic and more research investigating the ecological niche of L. kasmira is needed. From what I saw today though, the most common fish brought up from the traps was the bluestriped snapper.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour holds up an example of a sponge crab that was captured off Necker Island.
Chris Monsour holds up an example of a sponge crab that was captured off Necker Island.

When I searched the internet for “bluestriped snapper” and “Hawaii”, I found that many of the links discussed the fish as being a great aquarium fish and really no other use.  Yes, I will admit the fish are great to look at, but what will be the future impact?  The discussion of the bluestriped snapper led into the problems which exists in Lake Erie with the invasive round gobi, zebra mussel, and purple loosestrife.  The main difference here in Hawaii is that this species was introduced intentionally and the impact is yet to be seen. Granted, it has been over 50 years since the bluestriped snapper was introduced, but most of the people I have talked to on the ship see it as a nuisance and not a threat.

Today, as mentioned earlier, I saw more species of crustaceans, especially crabs. There were two groups that I have been seeing quite a bit and that is hermit crab and sponge crab.  Anyone who has explored a tide pool is familiar with the hermit crab.  Although an external skeleton like other crabs covers their front parts, their long soft tails are not protected.  Hence, they use empty snail shells for protection and are very difficult to remove.

One of the many hermit crabs that was caught during OSCAR ELTON SETTE’s cruise of the North West Hawaiian Islands poses for a picture.
One of the many hermit crabs that was caught during the cruise poses for a picture.

The other species that has really caught my attention is the sleepy sponge crab. The sleepy sponge crab is considered to be the most evolutionary primitive of the true crabs. As I found out, they are very slowing moving and nocturnal. They use their hindmost legs to carry a piece of sponge over its back. The crab uses the sponge for camouflage and within the sponge is living a whole myriad of other organisms like sea stars and forminifera (algae).  Unfortunately as I found out, when the sponge comes off the back of the crab, you can’t put it back on.

Personal Log

I was posed this question by the CO (commanding officer) of the ship: What does a Teacher at Sea do on a transit day after a hard week of lobstering at Maro Reef? 

Transit days are spent catching up on reading, laundry and rest.  I finished up one book and read the first half on another. On Sunday at twilight we had a pyrotechnic display on the fantail of the ship. Essentially we had to get rid of the expired flares, so we had a good time setting them off.  Then on Monday before we set the gear, we had four sets of drills which included a quarters escape drill.  Right now though, I am glad to see Necker Island, the first land I have seen in a long time (it resembles Abe Lincoln’s profile).  So with this I will be posting another log in a few days.

Questions of the Day 

1. What type of relationship exists between the sponge crab, the sponge on it’s back , and anything living in the sponge?  Commensalism, mutualism, or parasitism?

A hui hou,… Chris

Maggie Flanagan, June 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; Necker Island
Date: June 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Maggie Flanagan, repairs a trap aboard NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Maggie Flanagan, repairs a trap aboard NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE.

Science and Technology Log 

We just spent an exciting week setting lobster traps at Maro Reef. Sliced mackerel is our preferred bait, and we scrub the bloody patches that drip to deck every day. We hauled back many lobsters, as well as eels, crabs, urchins, and fish. Shark and Octopus can really break up the traps, and ocean conditions can be hard on the gear, so we make repairs as needed. I was proud to put my sailor skills to work helping to splice new bridles on traps.  (Splicing is weaving a line back into itself to create a loop, which is used to attach the trap to a fishing line).  In the past week our Commanding Officer, Karl F. Mangels, shared a little history on The Marine National Monument area created out of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.  This status is the most protected, but also complex to initiate.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and the State of Hawaii, among others, have targeted this area for preservation for many years.  Recently President Bush moved quickly to legalize the Monument status, but it is taking time to work out the details of regulations and procedures, considering the multiple jurisdictions involved.

Regulations indicate all activities must be approved by permit, including scientific research, and all ships must have vessel monitoring systems.  But, access for native Hawaiian cultural activities is preserved as several of the islands are ancient holy sites.  Midway Atoll retains special status and will be open to more public visitation. All commercial fishing in the Monument waters will be phased out by 2011, and oil and gas exploration and extraction is prohibited. Having been part of a research crew in the Monument for a week now, I appreciate all these efforts at conservation. There is little dry land surfacing out of the Pacific here, but the bird life and sea life are precious, including rare seals, sea turtles, and albatrosses.

Watch out when there’s an eel in your trap!  Most of the local species have sharp teeth, and are quick and eager to use them to gain their freedom.
Watch out when there’s an eel in your trap! Most of the local species have sharp teeth, and are quick and eager to use them to gain their freedom.

Personal Log

Working at sea makes me think often of the legacy of sailors before me.  Though he was a global voyager, Captain James Cook’s influence is heavily felt in the Pacific.  He honed his seamanship skills in the coasting collier (coal cargo) trade in Britain and honed his surveying skills in Canada, helping the British Navy fight the French.  He charted the St. Lawrence River and the coast of Newfoundland, but was a surprise choice among his contemporaries for the Pacific voyages due to his lack of noble title and lack of Royal Navy training. His first command aboard Endeavour in 1768 was to observe the transit of Venus viewable from Tahiti.  A replica of Endeavour now sails out of Australia, and for $1,000 Aussie you can too! The mission of Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific in 1772 was to “complete the discovery of the Southern Hemisphere.”  He took command of Resolution and penetrated the Antarctic circle several times.

Both Endeavour and Resolution were converted North Sea colliers, sturdy vessels familiar to Cook from his merchant marine experience. For the third voyage, Resolution also carried the latest equipment, including a Gregory Azimuth Compass, apparatus for distilling fresh water from seawater, and a new five inch marine chronometer, the K1, by Larcum Kendall.  The chronometer provided for even better chart making as it was easier to use than lunar measurements and proved more accurate for finding longitude.  In 1778, sailing to find a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific, Cook encountered the Hawaiian Islands. Natives were friendly to the Captain and his crew, and when Resolution’s foremast cracked badly in February 1779, they returned to Kealakekua Bay on the big island of Hawaii to down rig the mast and float it to the beach for repairs.  Misunderstandings developed as from both sides, resources were taken and tempers flared.

When Cook went ashore with marines to seek settlement, a crowd gathered and became aggressive. Cook shot a Hawaiian, and in the retreat to the bay, Cook was clubbed and stabbed from behind, dying in the surf.  Two other important figures were also witnesses that day in Kealakekua Bay.  William Bligh of Bounty infamy was one of the ship’s officers, and Kamehameha, who unified the islands to become the first King of Hawaii, was nobility of the village ashore. Cook left quite a legacy of knowledge with his charts and logs, and a legacy of British influence around the globe.  He accomplished surveys of the Pacific from Australia to Alaska.  Resolution’s officers demanded Cook’s body be returned, but it came back as pieces of bone and flesh, which were buried at sea.  There is a monument to Captain Cook in the form of an obelisk on Kealakekua Bay, and it’s curious to think that perhaps missing parts of his remains are buried there.  Interestingly, that little part of Hawaii is technically British soil even to this day.  Now, Kealakekua Bay is also a Marine Life Conservation District filled with coral, schools of tropical fish, and even spinner dolphins – another legacy this historic site can offer for the future.

Chris Monsour, June 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour is all smiles as he pulls up two Ehu during bottom fishing. This was the first time Monsour ever bottom fished.
Chris Monsour is all smiles as he pulls up two Ehu during his first bottom fishing experience.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was our last day at Maro Reef and now we are making the 36-hour trip to Necker Island 350 miles to the east southeast.  We finished up trapping today early as the number of lobsters collected was greatly reduced by the time we got to the sets of 20’s.  I had the job of assisting in the lab today. I would collect the lobsters from the buckets, identify the sex, and then hold in place so they could be measured.  In the morning, we collected a lot of slipper lobsters, sometimes as many as 19 or 20 in a trap. There were some spiny, but not nearly as many as the slipper. After lunch we collected the sets of 20 and found quite a difference. Instead of lobsters, we were collecting hermit crabs, spider crabs, sea anemone, and other types of crabs.  The differences may have to do with the sandy bottom or the greater deep of the traps.  I have tomorrow off to do whatever, which may include finishing up the book I started 8 days ago.

In this log I am going to talk about bottom fishing, which is one of the activities we get to do during the evening. Bottom fishing is the name given to line-fishing with baited hooks on or very close to the sea bottom. This is a fishing method, which catches predatory fish that feed on bottom-living crustaceans, fish, etc. One or more hooks may be used. Deep-bottom fishing has been known for many years in the Pacific region, and has been practiced for generations in some of the remote island communities of the Pacific. In the old days fishing was carried out from paddling canoes using gear made from locally-available materials, and was a challenge to even the most experienced fisherman.  We however have the luxury of modern bottom fishing gear such as a winch to help bring up our catch.

One of the reasons for the popularity in the fish that are caught by bottom fishing is the species caught never carry ciguatera fish poisoning. This is a type of natural toxicity, which originates from reef and lagoon fish that feed on toxic reef algae. Ciguatera fish poisoning causes illness and makes the affected person unable to eat seafood for a long time. The possible presence of ciguatera is a major cause of concern for many consumers of reef and lagoon fish. The fact that it never occurs in deepwater fish, due to their diet, makes these fish all the more valuable.  Some of the fish we have caught include Ehu, Uku, Opakapaka, Kahala, Butaguchi and Gindai. (have fun pronouncing these).

Deep-bottom fishing gear can be made from a range of materials, but the basic structure  is generally the same:

  • a mainline, several hundred meters long, to lower the hooks to the bottom.
  •  a terminal rig, usually 2–5 m in length, with attachment points for the mainline,  several hooks, and a sinker. The terminal rig can be made of nylon, or steel cable to resist cutting by the sharp teeth of fish or rough rocks and corals on the sea floor. The attachment points may be loops made on the ends of the terminal rig and at intervals along its length, or may be swivels knotted or crimped into the rig.
  •  several hooks, each fixed to a short trace , which can be connected to or disconnected from the attachment points along the terminal rig. This allows the traces to be changed quickly and easily when damaged or when the size of the fish being caught calls for smaller or larger hooks.
  • a heavy sinker, 0.5–2 kg in weight depending on the strength of the current, to get the rig down to the bottom quickly. I do enjoy the bottom fishing and to date I have caught 3 bottom fish, 1 Kahala and 2 Ehu. In fact I have the record on the boat for the largest Ehu at 54.6 centimeters!
Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour holds up two examples of fish caught during bottom fishing on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE.  The fish on the left is a Ehu and the fish on the right is a Uku.
Chris Monsour holds up two fish caught during bottom fishing; Ehu (left) and Uku (right).

Personal Log 

I am glad to have tomorrow off so to speak.  It will be good to sleep in and catch up on all the e-mails I have gotten.  As mentioned before, Necker Island in the past has been slow because of its proximity to the inhabited islands. The bottom fish we are collecting are being used to get an idea of the health of the reefs.  During the processing of the fish, we collect weight, length, gonads, liver, fin, and bones from the skull.  Ryan is collecting these for his research. It is a very interesting process and bloody one too.

Animals Seen Today 

Spiny lobster, Slipper lobster, Ridgeback lobster (type of spiny), Sea anemone, Hermit Crab, and Spider Crab.

Questions of the Day 

  1. What can we learn from Hawaiian values and practices to guide our interactions  with the land and sea today?
  2. What can we do to help restore declining fish populations?

A hui hou,… Chris

Chris Monsour, June 21, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 21, 2007

A juvenile spiny lobster is a welcome sign on the board OSCAR ELTON SETTE.  This was the smallest spiny lobster caught to date.
A juvenile spiny lobster is a welcome sign on the board OSCAR ELTON SETTE. This was the smallest spiny lobster caught to date.

Science and Technology Log 

We have been trapping for 5 days now and I have been the cracker twice, runner, and setter twice. The days are going by very quick and I find it harder and harder to write because by the time I get done, I am exhausted and then it is time to bottom fish.  We have been having good days in terms of the number of lobsters we are collecting and returning. Just by what I have seen, the slipper lobster is the most numerous and I really can’t seem to find the answer to why.  I do know that I would rather tangle with a slipper lobster than a spiny.  The focus of this log will be on the spiny lobster and what makes it such an interesting organism. As with most lobsters, the spiny lobster is important in the reef community.  I have learned that the spiny lobsters are usually found under ledges or in caves with only their antennae sticking out. The term stridulation comes from the lobster’s ability to rub its antennae to warn other animals away.  I finally understand why we are setting the traps at night. Lobsters remain in their shelters during the day and emerge at night to forage over the reef and in our case for mackerel within the traps.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour captured this image of spiny and slipper lobsters waiting to be processed on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE.  All of the lobsters were released back to a spot near to where they were captured.
Chris Monsour captured this image of spiny and slipper lobsters waiting to be processed. All of the lobsters were released near the spot where they were captured.

The spiny lobster does not have the large chelipeds that the Maine lobster has.  The first thing I asked about was what do we do about the crusher and pincher (terms used to describe the front appendages of Maine lobster and crayfish). The spiny lobster does not have them; instead they have the spines that point forward that cover their antennae and dorsal surface.  During the reproductive period, which occurs during summer, male lobsters seek out females.  The males attach a sticky packet of sperm near the female’s reproductive opening and her eggs are fertilized as they leave her body.  The female attaches the fertilized eggs to the delicate limbs on the underside of her abdomen.  She aerates the developing embryos by fanning her abdominal limbs through the water.  Females with eggs are called “berried” females because the eggs resemble tiny, reddish or blackish berries. The embryos hatch months later and take up life in the plankton as wafer-thin phyllosome larvae.  The larvae spend up to 9 months in the plankton before settling out to begin life on the bottom.

As I have found through discussion with members of the crew, spiny lobsters are a popular food item in Hawaii.  Just as we have been doing, the commercial fishermen catch them using baited wire traps set on the seafloor.  Recreational fishermen, scuba divers, and snorkelers around the main Hawaiian Islands can only capture lobsters by hand (no nets or spears are allowed), and because of the long reproductive period, it is illegal to catch spiny lobsters during the summer months (May through August).  Females with eggs are protected throughout the year.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour holds up a Grey Reef Shark that was caught during the lobster cruise.  Data such as the stomach contents will be used to further understand the dynamics that occur on the Maro Reef.  Two of Chris’ shipmates, Ryan and Garrett show their excitement over Chris’s first shark encounter.
Chris Monsour holds up a Grey Reef Shark that was caught during the lobster cruise. Stomach contents will be used to further understand what occurs on the Maro Reef. Two of Chris’ shipmates show their excitement over Chris’s first shark encounter.

Personal Log 

As mentioned earlier I am worn out by the end of the day, but it is nice that I have gotten into a routine. We have 2 more days left here at Maro Reef then it is onto Necker Island for 2 weeks. I have been told that Necker Island is not as exciting because it was where more of the trapping occurred in the past and so the numbers are not as high. We will see what happens.

Animals Seen Today 

Uku albatross Ehu terns Reef sharks frigate birds Galopogos Sharks lemonhead eel Spiny Lobster conger eel Slipper lobster Hermit crab Spider crab Sponge crab

Questions of the Day 

  1. How does human debris have a negative impact on marine life, and what can we do       to solve this problem?
  2. What can we learn from a bolus about seabirds and human impact on their habitat?
  3. How do products we use on land affect our ocean and beaches?
  4. How effective are some alternative products that have less impact on the environment?

A hui hou… (Until we meet again) Chris

Chris Monsour, June 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 18, 2007

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour, holds up one of the large Uku that was caught.  The fish will be used for bottomfish studies.
Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour, holds up one of the large Uku that was caught. The fish will be used for bottomfish studies.

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday and today were very busy days on board OSCAR ELTON SETTE as we set our first traps, cut bait and then pulled up traps and collected the lobsters, eels, sharks, and whatever else made it into the traps. Yesterday we set 160 traps off of Maro Reef. We set 10 lines of 8 traps and 4 lines of 20 traps. Each trap was assembled and 2 mackerel, which had been cut into thirds, was placed into the baiter. The baiter is a small container within the trap that holds the bait. The bait was cut earlier in the day. I volunteered to cut bait and I spent about an hour slicing and dicing the mackerel. Once the traps were baited we spent about an hour setting the traps. The traps were stacked into groups of fours and I would hand a trap to a fisherman who was standing on the stern and watch as the traps were pushed off into the water. I wish I could say my day was done but there was still a lot to do before tomorrow, including getting more bait.

Every night about 2100, the “crackers” for the next day go into a walk in freezer and pull out 13 boxes of frozen mackerel to thaw.  (The term “cracker” comes from the job of opening up the traps when they are pulled out of the water, one has to crack open the lobster trap and pull out whatever is in side.)  The next morning I got up at 0545 to cut the bait. The other cracker for the day was Matt and we spent a good hour cutting up the mackerel. I did learn that it is much easier to cut a half frozen mackerel as opposed to a thawed out mackerel.  The knives were kind of dull and the mackerel were full of blood and eggs and there were a few times where the mackerel ended up on my shirt.  No problems though.

Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour sorts through a trap that was brought up off the Maro Reef.
Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour sorts through a trap that was brought up off the Maro Reef.

The processing of pulling up 160 lobster pots takes up the good portion of the day so I will keep it simple.  Once the pots are pulled from the water and end up on the deck they first come to the crackers.  The crackers open the pots and remove all organisms from inside. Today, this included slipper lobsters, spiny lobsters, eels, sharks, crabs, fish and one octopus. The most difficult had to be the octopus, it just refused to come put and its tentacles stuck to every surface.  It took both Matt and me to pry the octopus from the trap. We both tried to avoid the mouth because they do have a beak like structure and neither of us wanted to see if it could remove a finger.  The spiny lobsters were also difficult because one, they are covered with spines but are a lot stronger than one would think. They would kick back with their tail and one time my pinky got caught by tail and blood was drawn. The slipper lobsters are easier to handle and taking them out the trap was not a problem because their bodies lack the spines.  Most of the lobsters that were pulled out were the slipper lobster, which are also the easiest to handle.  The worst part of the job as cracker is constantly being wet and having to dunk my hands in the bait buckets which are full of mackerel blood and organs.  The smell of the mackerel has found its way into my shoes, gloves, hair, and skin. I don’t think I will ever be able get rid of it. My job as cracker ended and tomorrow I start as a runner. Everyone who has done this cruise before says cracker is the best job. I guess I will soon find out.

Personal Log 

I would be lying if I said I was not tired. The job of cracker is not the hardest job, but when one has his hand in a trap that has eels, sharks, and spiny lobsters in it, it can be stressful. On top of emptying the traps, the old bait has to be removed and new bait placed in, all the while, a new trap is making its way down the table. So after eating dinner at 1630, I am ready to call it a day. By keeping so busy I have not had as much time to sit on the observation deck and look for whales and dolphins, but I have come face to face with some really amazing animals.  I am really fascinated by the eels.  They are very aggressive and strong animals. I almost had one get real personal with me when I was emptying a lobster pot and the eel had managed to hide on the bottom.  As I was picking up spiny lobster, this eel pops it head up by my hand and all I could say was EEL! EEL!  Everyone had a good laugh. We ended the day with a feeding frenzy in which all of the old bait is dumped over the side and the Galapagos Shark’s come in. It is an amazing sight to see and to be that close to such a great animal.  I am sure there will be many more moments like that to come.

Animals Seen Today 

Spiny lobster
Crabs
Slipper lobster
Lemon Head Eel
Galapagos Shark
Uku
Reef Shark
Hermit Crab

Question of the Day

Looking at the food web of The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, what would happen if a large predator like the Galapagos Shark was removed? Would there be another animal that could replace it in the web?

Aloha… Chris

Chris Monsour, June 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 15, 2007

Frigate bird
Frigatebird

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday we entered The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (formerly the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument). I found from talking to the crew it is the largest Marine Protected Area in the world. The new native Hawaiian name, Papahānaumokuākea reflects Hawaiian traditions relating to the birth of the Islands. Papahanaumoku is the goddess who birthed the islands.

I spent most of today on the observation deck above the bridge looking for birds and waiting for French Frigate Shoals to appear on the horizon.  A part of our mission was to deliver supplies to Fish and Wildlife personal on Tern Island, which is part of the shoal. Tern Island was formed into a runway to serve as a refueling stop for planes enroute to Midway during World War II. Some of the buildings remain and could be seen with a pair of binoculars.

This image of La Pérouse Pinnacle was taken by Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour as OSCAR ELTON SETTE approached the French Frigate Shoals to deliver supplies.
This image of La Pérouse Pinnacle was taken by Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour as OSCAR ELTON SETTE approached the French Frigate Shoals to deliver supplies.

I found through some investigating that French Frigate Shoals is an open atoll consisting of a large, crescent-shaped reef surrounding numerous small, sandy islets. The first object that stands out as soon as one reaches the shoal is the steep-sided pinnacle that sticks up out of the water. It is the first land I have seen in 3 days so it may not seem like much, but it was a welcome sight. The pinnacle is named “La Pérouse Pinnacle” after Compte de La Pérouse, who visited the atoll in 1786. As I did some research on the shoals I found that in the moonlight the pinnacle so resembled a full-rigged sailing ship that it lured more than one vessel to her doom on the shoals.

On deck we were preparing the tables and traps for tomorrow as we will set traps tomorrow at 1700 (or at 5:00 p.m.)  I asked Garrett who has been on this trip 5 times if I could get bait duty first. This consists of taking a Mackerel and making three cuts so that the muscle is exposed to attract the lobsters and any other organism that may venture into the trap. We will then collect the traps at 0800 Sunday morning.  We have set up an assembly line on the side of the ship, which consists of several tables end to end.  As a trap comes up, the cracker will open up the trap and take out the organisms that made it in and the old bait. The trap is then rebaited and sent toward the back of the ship.  The organisms that were collected will be placed in a bucket and sent to the wet lab to be measured and processed.  All of the lobsters that are collected will be returned after data such as carapace length are recorded.  The lobsters are not just tossed off the side of the boat, but are placed in a special cage and dropped to the bottom.  This prevents any predators from eating the lobster before they make it back to the bottom.

Personal Log 

The days have been going by pretty quickly.  I am ready to do some work though.  The major event of the past two days has been the meals and watching movies.  The food is excellent so I m sure my plan of losing weight on the trip will not come to be.  The good part now is that I have the chance to get to know the people I’m living with a lot better.  My roommate Mike is a student at the University in Hawaii and knows a great deal about sharks and I learned quite a bit about the behavior of the shark and especially about some of the sharks we may see.  I am learning to tie knots that will not come undone when we have large waves and I got to put on my survival suit for the first time during the abandon ship drill. I hope to have a picture to share of that.

It has become a common sight for Teacher at Sea Chris Monsour to see in the skies large, black birds, hovering lazily in place.  This is the frigatebird. The name “frigatebird” calls to mind the sails of ships and, indeed, frigatebirds sail gracefully in the air currents overhead. Their wingspan is some 7.5 feet and their deeply forked scissor-like tails afford them ultimate maneuverability. Their other common name, however, the “man-o’-war” bird, reflects the way in which they use their flying and maneuvering skill. Frigatebirds are pirates who harass incoming birds until the victim is so upset that it disgorges its catch. The frigatebird then drops with amazing speed and plucks the bolus out of the water, or even catches it before it hits.

Animals Seen Today 

Terns, Frigate birds, Shearwaters, and Dolphins.

Question of the Day 

During World War II what impact might the battles (Midway) that were fought near these islands have had on the ecosystem? Could there still be impact today?

Aloha… Chris

Maggie Flanagan, June 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Flanagan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean; French Frigate Shoals
Date: June 15, 2007

An anuenue (Hawaiian for rainbow) at sea
An anuenue (Hawaiian for rainbow) at sea

Project Log 
NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE  Call Sign: WTEE
Length: 224 ft.; Beam (width): 43 ft.
Draft (hull depth beneath the water line): 15 ft.
Cruising speed: 10.5 kts.
Displacement tonnage: 2,301 tons

From the ship’s web site – “Dr. Oscar Elton Sette (is regarded) as the father of modern fisheries oceanography in the U.S. He formulated the concept that the “changing ocean” rather than “average ocean conditions” plays key roles in the natural fluctuations of fish stocks and their vulnerability to harvesting. He originated the importance of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, including the interrelationships between fisheries, oceanography, and meteorology, to understanding and solving marine fisheries problems. Although he was a man with big ideas and many strengths and capabilities to implement them, Elton was a relatively small-built man who spoke softly. Whatever Elton sought out to do, he did so with vigor, dedication, and determination. Yet, he was notably inclusive, rather than exclusive, and was a firm believer of the power of teamwork to accomplish goals.  Dr. Sette was a gifted oral and written communicator. He possessed the wonderful ability to explain complex ideas, concepts, and scientific findings in a pragmatic, concise, straightforward, understandable, and clear manner.”

What a great model for our work!

Our ship was originally designed for another kind of ocean monitoring.  She was built for the Navy in Gulfport, MS as a submarine hunter and launched in 1987 as USNS ADVENTUROUS.  In 2002 she was transferred to NOAA and commissioned as NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE the following year.  The vessel was recently homeported at historic Ford Island at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station.

Our mission – marine research by permit in one of our country’s newest preserves, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.  This area incorporates the North West Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) sanctuary, and is a state/federal partnership.  Our activities are part of a yearly effort by NOAA scientists and their University of Hawaii colleagues to record data on spiny and slipper lobster populations.  These creatures don’t have the famous claws of the New England lobsters I’m used to, but I understand their tails make for great surf and turf. As other stocks dwindled, lobster taking in the NWHI  increased. Around 1989 lobster populations collapsed, and despite restrictions on that fishery, have not recovered well. The scientists aboard are trying to understand and improve this situation.

We’re steaming northwest on our way to our first research area at Maro Reef.  Coils of yellow line and stacks of black traps fill the fantail or aft deck.  Inside the wet lab, a freezer full of whole mackerel wait to be prepared as bait.  Original plans were to collect data from Necker Island first, but this changed as the crew is also delivering fuel and supplies to the Fish and Wildlife Service on Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals.  When the time does come, it will be exciting to get the gear wet!

Chris Monsour, June 13, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Monsour
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 12 – July 12, 2007

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date: June 13, 2007

Science and Technology Log 

I have been in Hawaii for three days already to acclimate myself to the time change, learn about the job ahead of me, and to get to know the crew.  There are 11 members of the scientific crew including myself, all of us with a background in biology formally or informally.  Our adventure over the next 30 days will be to visit some of the islands that make up the Hawaiian Archipelago to see how the populations of two species of lobster have changed in the past year. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) are an uninhabited archipelago that extends 1200 miles across the Central Pacific Ocean.  The area supports many marine species including lobsters, bottomfish, and monk seals.  The two species of lobster that we will be studying are the slipper lobster and the spiny lobster. Both species of lobster were fished for about 15 years in the waters of the NWHI Six years ago the lobster fishery was closed and data suggests that the populations have not recovered appreciably.  The areas where the lobsters will be collected are Maro Reef and Necker Island. One of the interesting facts that I learned from the chief scientist is that the lobsters were not separated when they were collected; they were grouped together as lobster, even though there are major anatomical differences between the two. The data suggests that the slipper lobster population has done better in terms of increased population. I will be doing various jobs over the next four weeks such as baiting the traps, measuring the carapace of the lobsters, and collecting samples for DNA/ genetic research that one of the grad students is working on.  Essentially, he will be doing a population genetics study. I have not asked what type of information he is looking for and should do that tomorrow.

Another area that we others in the group will be studying is the bottomfish fishery.  Bottomfish are fish that are found at deeper depths and include pink snapper, flower snapper, red snapper, and the Hawaiian snapper. I am not sure how the bottomfish sampling will occur because there is a limit on the number of bottomfish that can be taken because the NWHI was declared a Marine National Monument in June of 2006.  With this status new restrictions have now been placed on what can and cannot be done within the Monument.  Another question I need to find the answer to is, “What is the difference between a monument and a sanctuary?”

Personal Log 

I have spent most of the day getting use to the rocking of the boat and settling into my stateroom, which I am very happy with and should be quite comfortable for the next 30 days. If the beginning of the trip is any prelude to the rest, it will be an amazing experience. I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of the scientific crew and learning from them, just as I hope they learn from me.

Animals Seen Today 

Terns, Shearwaters, and Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins.

Question of the Day 

What type of interactions might be occurring between the spiny and slipper lobster that could explain the differences in their populations?  Is one a generalist/specialist?

Aloha… Chris

A rainbow is seen over Pearl Harbor as the OSCAR ELTON SETTE sets sail for its 30 day mission to survey the lobster population of the NWHI.
A rainbow is seen over Pearl Harbor as the OSCAR ELTON SETTE sets sail for its 30 day mission to survey the lobster population of the NWHI.

Jenny Holen, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 2 miles off Keauhou, Hawaii
Depth: 77.75 m or 233 feet
Water Visibility: Clear & gorgeous
Water Temperature: 26.61 C
Salinity: 34.59 PSU
Wind Direction: 223.02, south-west
Wind Speed: 4.01 knots
Air Temperature: 26.5 C
Cloud Cover: rain clouds in distant above islands hills

Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise aboard the SETTE.
Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise.

Science & Technology Log

Yesterday, the routine was very similar to Monday. The NOAA ship was 45 miles out, performing plankton tows from 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m. We did not catch much billfish larva or eggs, but we did catch a lot, I repeat, a lot of little fish.  We were even catching baby tropical fish that must have got caught on the giant seaward current that runs offshore of the big island. Unfortunately, I got very sea sick “again” mid afternoon, and wasn’t able to do much but take photographs of the plankton.  I did how ever, get some “killer” microscopic photography shots and some very cool, short videos of live plankton species in action.

OSCAR ELTON SETTE traveled through the night and we finally got back to the Kona coastline, about 1-2 miles offshore, where it was calm. I, finally, got to sleep that night without being seasick! In the morning, the island rose out of the mist and exposed beautiful hues of tropical greens against the dashing blue sky and crystal clear turquoise waters. Today, sadly our last day, we are performing plankton tows amongst the coastal “slicks.” Now what is a slick you ask?  Well, according to Russell, one of the lead scientists with us from La Jolla, California, the slicks are formed due to wind currents coming off the island that gently push down on the water’s surface forming a glassy phenomenon amongst a rippling environment.  Here, due to the stillness and protection, millions of larva fish and some human trash harbor.  The fishermen who are catching baitfish usually troll their nets through here.  The interesting aspect that Russell talks about behind these slick communities is that they “are aged.”  Some are very young because the spot has been recently open, and some are more mature and older because nothing has bothered them.

TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net
TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net

Today, we hunt through these slicks in hopes of finding billfish marlin eggs and larva. We hit one slick that gave us a bunch! Then we spent the rest of the day getting nothing, and hunting for that original slick. I got many more photographs with my Olympus Mic-D microscope of which both Bob and Russell got copies. One fun thing the scientist and I did today was “pose” in the laboratory for National Geographic pictures taken by David the author of Archapelago. We were still searching for eggs in the newly caught plankton and doing our work, he just made the station and set-up look good.  It would be SO cool to end up in an article of National Geographic. That I’ll have to show off and frame!  At 3 p.m., I left the ship in view of waving hands and smiling faces from all the crew.  It was sad, but what an unforgettable experience I have had these past four days.

Personal Log 

After being sick for the last 2 days, barely being able to walk through the ship to my room, let alone type on a computer, I finally took some Bonnie medicine from the ships nurse, Sarah. After three days out at sea, doing the same thing every day, every hour, I start to realize the required monotony and dedication of scientific research. In order to accomplish a desired goal of finding out a particular question, such as which billfish eggs and larva turn into which adult species; a lot of repetitive analysis and trials must be done in order to come to a clear consensus or even obtain part of an answer to the overall question. Having been a tall ship sailor for two years, my mind wonders to historical maritime scientific expeditions, such as the three-year voyage of H.M.S. Challenger in the 1800’s; John Steinbeck’s journey through the Sea of Cortez; Darwin’s five-year Galapagos voyage on the H.M.S Beagle; and even to Nathanial Bowditch grasping celestial navigation with no background experience out at sea.  These men not only had to endure environmental changes of heat, wind and rain while trying to collect scientific samples, but also had to compensate research time versus sailing obligations when seas became rough, or duty called. Imagine, instead of simply taking pictures of the plankton found (with your Mic-D microscope), you had to literally draw each organism with only a magnifying glass as an aid.

It is just incredible how far we, as mankind, have come towards uncovering the mysteries of the ocean within only the past 200 or so years.  Yet, it is even more astounding to know how much we have yet to still uncover.  Imagine a plate showing only a 10% sliver of a colorful picture underneath. There is no way we would be able to guess what the picture is displaying. This is our world’s ocean knowledge.  There is so much work to be done and to discover that it is essential for the next generation and the one after that to know that they can still be a Jacques Cousteau or a Charles Darwin, discovering and revealing secrets only the giant whales can see.  Imagine marveling at a newly discovered specimen in admiration of the diversity of the sea.  As with all maritime sailors, ocean goers, and even pirates, the ocean is our home.  I had an opportunity on the NOAA ship OCSAR ELTON SETTE to simply look closer at it and view its secrets for just a brief moment along the great span of time.

TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.
TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Question of the Day 

“How does a Hawaiian sunset make a green flash?”

According to Karl Mangels the Commanding Officer of the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE, a green flash is due to an angle refraction of light from the sun as it is setting.  Only to be seen in the tropics during clear skies, the angle at which we are positioned on the earth compared to where the sun is creates a light refraction where we see a green spot were the sun just set. Kind of like the colors of rainbow’s and rain.  In accordance with Hilo’s Bishop Museum, “as our atmosphere bends the sun’s rays, they are also dispersed or broken up into different colors.” Green flashes are thus the result of “colored arcs of light above and below the bright orange disk of the sun.”

Jenny Holen, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 18, 2006

Weather Data From Lab 
Location: 40 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii
Depth: 4099 meters or 12,297 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.21 C
Salinity: 34.77 PSU
Wind Direction: 335.29 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 11.54 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.6 C
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.
NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.

Science & Technology Log 

The plankton tows have not been as successful as the chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, would have liked. Few billfish larva and eggs have been found, and more are needed to generate a genetic analysis sample.  Bob believes this might be due to an eddy that is forming about 45 miles off shore, swooping the plankton out there. As we slowly start to migrate offshore, we are still obtaining plankton samples every hour until sunset.  Today, instead of helping to look for billfish eggs, I took microscopic plankton photographs with my Mic-D microscope given to me by NOAA’s South East Plankton Monitoring Network program, in South Carolina.  These individual plankton species photographs will be a get asset to the lesson plans I am generating from this research expedition of which could ultimately be used by teachers all over the world through NOAA’s website.

The plankton samples that we got today were almost the same as they were yesterday, nothing too new. However, I did get some background information on why this particular study is so crucial to the future survival of large billfish, such as Marlin.  Currently, some scientists believe that blue Marlin may be migrating between Hawaii and South America, but others are still not sure. Hawaii is a nursery ground for the larval and probably juvenile stages. Adults are migratory and apparently have a magnetic sense that allows them to migrate across to South America where there may be higher food nutrients. The importance behind obtaining this knowledge is to help conserve the declining population due to commercial and sport fisheries. If we knew where the mothers primarily spawn and if there are resident verses transient populations, than we could gain a better grasp of their overall ecology, life cycle, and habitat range. Unfortunately, the farther away from the island you go to get this valuable data the less protected you are from wind and large waves. Hence, at about lunchtime I got extremely seasick and was out of commission for the rest of the day.  I hope enduring all of the rocking and rolling will give rise to better plankton samples tomorrow!

Recommended books:

G. Wrobel & C. Mills.  1998. Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates.

Monterey Bay  Aquarium Publisher, California.  (ISBN0-930118-23-5)

D.L. Smith.  1977. A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine

Invertebrate Larvae. Kendall/Hunt Pub.  Company, Iowa. (ISBN0-8403-1672-0)

Personal Log 

Once again, I am amazed to witness and be part of a science research expedition that portrays through every member of the ship, from the cooks to the deck hands and Bridge Officers, the enthusiasm and positive attitude for the current research at hand.  Everyone here is extremely helpful, especially when I got sea sick and ending up hurling in a bucket in the kitchen. The professionalism is evident by everything they do, which gives an air of importance towards the research being done.  I wish more people, teachers, and high school to college students could participate in an experience like this.  It takes the illusion of scientists being a far away myth to being a regular Joe who cares about the environment and the conservation efforts towards the animals it holds.

Another cool thing about this trip is that the author from the acclaimed book Archipelago (the North West Hawaiian Islands) is here on the ship taking photographs of all the unique plankton we are catching for a National Geographic article.  I think that is amazing to know that not only is this research voyage being documented by NOAA scientists, but that the world will get to see and learn about plankton through journal media.  Education is the key to conservation.

NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations (less seawater) which will be viewed underneath microscopes aboard the SETTE.
NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations which will be viewed underneath microscopes.

Interview for the Day 

Today I interviewed one of the head scientists of the plankton cruise.  His name is Michael Musyl working with NOAA through the University of Hawaii in Oahu in conjunction with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR).  Michael had always had an interest in fisheries ever since he was a kid, fishing from a fishing pole. He took his education career after high school to Northern Illinois where he got his B.S. in zoology. After which, Mike did a five-year masters program in fisheries Biology from the University of South Dakota, to then go on and get his PhD from New  England in Freshwater fish population genetics.  He then used his knowledge and experience with the Arizona Fish and Game department for two years and then taught college biology and ecology for one year at the University of New Orleans.

Mike decided to go get a post doctorate from South Carolina in molecular genetics of blue fish tuna and ended up working with NOAA on electric tagging of pelagic fish and sharks through the University of Hawaii.  Mike is currently studying the post release  survivability of these fish through archival tagging which broadcast the information to satellites. He is also studying the post release mortality of fish captured in long line nets, to see how long they live after being rescued.

A typical year of work for Mike is answering emails, collaborating with fellow scientists around the world, developing and maintaining research projects, analyzing data obtained from research expeditions, writing about four to five papers for journal publications, and spending about 50% of his time on ships like OSCAR ELTON SETTE obtaining project data. Life as a scientist is busy, as well as exciting!

Jenny Holen, September 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 17, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 4 miles out, between Kailua-kona and Keahou
Depth: 1266 meters or 3798 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.15 C
Salinity: 34.62 PSU
Wind Direction: 270 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 6.69 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.9 C
Cloud Cover: Hazy

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast

Science & Technology Log 

Anything short of “amazing” would not justify the unique beauty and wonder which ocean plankton hold.  Working side by side with professional scientists, Erick, Michael, Bob, and Ryan, brought the prospective of importance and dedication we all must exude in the hunt for rare billfish eggs and larva mixed among the ocean’s nursery.  In a jar, surface plankton simply resembles muck from the bottom of your toilet.  Up close however, the characteristics, colors, and movements planktonic organisms portray immediately demand the respect of awe and wonder. Are they microscopic aliens floating around silently in the vast ocean realm?

Underneath the microscope, in search for the rare billfish eggs and larva, the multitudes of diverse and crazy looking creatures emerge unfathomably from what seems an empty ocean of just water.  “What is this?” “What’s this called?” and “I’ve found a baby crab!” come jutting from my mouth like I was a small child seeing something for the first time.  The excitement of being up close to the species that up-hold the entire ocean food web was exuberating.

The research schedule for the day was simple, unlike what we were looking at: drop the large green plankton net into the water, go back to the “cold” lab and examine the last sample catch under the microscopes, reel in the plankton net, and begin again – all within one hour, every hour, from sunrise to sunset.  At dark, just to spice up things, we would throw over board a super bright light in hopes of attracting more crazy looking phototactic organisms.  Our results for the first night include a poisonous male box puffer fish with bright blue spots, some healthy squid, small larval fish and some crazy little crabs that swirled around the light faster than a merry-go-around.

This is the front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae onboard the SETTE.
The front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae

To compare the microscope analysis for the day revealed much more: salp larva, jellyfish, blue copepods, bright pink krill, hairy polychate worms, snail larva, a lot of circular golden diatoms, many clear gelatinous organisms, a never before seen crab larva with feathers attached to each leg elbow for swimming, shrimp larva with heads like hammerheads, clear fish eggs and larva, but no marlin or billfish eggs or larva. However, the other scientist did find some. It must be experience!

Personal Log 

I got picked up about 11 am on Sunday at the Honokohou harbor fuel dock. It was a beautiful afternoon with a light westerly breeze, shimmering turquoise toned tropical waters, and a warmth that felt like a Northface goose-down jacket in the winter. The small boat ride to the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE was bumpy and rough leaving my backside sore for the rest of the day. I met everyone aboard, all of whom generated a true aloha spirit and seem to love what they do.  I was put to work right away underneath a microscope looking at moving plankton on a rolling ship – talk about seasickness!  After working with the scientists and crew for just one day, I’ve realized that this particular research area is still vastly unknown and much help is needed in marine fisheries research.  This leaves many upcoming marine ecology students a big job in the search for plankton knowledge. Hence the age old saying, the ocean is our last undiscovered frontier.  I love this thought because it means there is still so much more work to done and many more people can join in the treasure hunt, which hopefully will inspire those students dreading their biology and chemistry classes.

TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab onboard the SETTE.
TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab

Question of the Day 

“How does one go about getting a job aboard a NOAA research boat?”

1) Small Boat Driver: applied two years ago when he was a full-time fisherman in Hawaii and didn’t get the job, then reapplied a year later and a position opened up for an experienced fisherman.

2) Assistant Scientist: Went to college and studied fish population counts and after working with a similar company for a few years applied when a job positioned open.

Possible NOAA Ship Positions: Bridge Officers, Engineering Officers, Deckhand and crew, Electronics department, Stewards (cooks), Survey department, Scientists, Teacher at Sea. (Note everyone works together and helps towards the success of the current mission).

Moral of the story: Be persistent, dedicated, and determined with a positive view and you can obtain anything you desire, including becoming part of a NOAA research study.

Chris Harvey, July 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: July 2, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“The older I get, the less I know what I want to do.” -Huntley Brownell

Over the last two days I have been thinking about how to adequately end this journey in words. And I know that despite how eloquent I try to make it seem, words fall short in comparison to the experience that has become a part of me. And again I fall back on the idea of perspective, and the value it has come to hold in my life. The older I get, the more I realize how big this world is. And though I’ve made a point to explore one small piece of it at a time, I realize in moments of earnestness- ever so infrequent, and always at a time when I am unable to capture the essence of this great mixture of thought and feeling- that I will never know it all. The more I think about this world, and the six plus billion people who now occupy its lands, the more I feel backed into a corner. And yet, I am unafraid of being so small. For in being so small, there is Being. And with Being, a lifetime ahead of me.

I have quoted a man who will perhaps never be quoted in anything more than this, my final entry from sea. But I have found that my discussions with Huntley on the ship have broadened my perspective and given more meaning for my own life. It is ironic that Huntley turned twenty six just days ago, adding another year onto his age and perhaps taking a little more direction from his life’s compass. But there is a second half to this quote: “The more you travel, the more open doors you see. And you know that you can walk through any of them.”

I walked through a door that led me into the classroom at the age of twenty-three, and in a year and a half since walking through that door, have found so many other doors open before me. For instance, here I am typing on the computer and staring out the window at yet another setting sun. And in walking through this door, I have learned so much about Life and Love and Everything Else that I almost cannot take it all.

Where have these people come from, that I have shared such close quarters with over the last twenty-eight days? Where will they go? In a matter of weeks we were all brought here together, and in a matter of hours we will all be free to spread ourselves out again. Carole, my friend from France, will return to her last year of graduate school at the College of Charleston. Amee is headed to a small island north of Vancouver to study whale migrations for several months, then on to Boston to do acoustic work with a research vessel there, and then quite possibly off to Antarctica. Logan will battle his way through the end of his undergraduate degree, working towards something he has longed to finish well. Eric and Aris will finish their undergrad degrees shortly hereafter and be scattered into the world. Justin is also nearing the end of his degree and is debating whether he wants to go directly back to school, or to work for a couple years and narrow down his options for postgraduate study. I will return home to prepare for another challenging year at school.

Some of the crew have been with this ship for years, and will be here many more years into the future. Others have just arrived, and still others will be leaving shortly hereafter. Time has brought all of us close together, and Time will take us apart. Most of us will never see each other again. And while it seems rather sad to speak this way, it is something that I have been reminded of on this cruise. Someone left these words upon my heart, however unintentional, and I must accept them with the part of me that loves this life of leaving: “Being a nomad carries along the awful truth that most meetings come to an end.”

I have enjoyed my time out here for all of the reasons you have read about over the last few weeks. I have met my share of struggles- physically, mentally, and spiritually- and have come through them one way or another. Am I a better or worse man for their outcomes? I am not the judge of that. All I can say is that I am changed, and I will leave it at that.

I have seen things that have angered me to the point I had to walk away and be by myself for a time, and have also seen things that have made me wish I had another set of eyes with which to share the view. I have worked my way through routine, day after day. And have cherished the little idiosyncrasies that have come up at random intervals along the way. I have been a scientist, student, teacher, and friend. And have been both great and terrible at each at times.

In all, this has been a wonderful experience. And though this is just another cruise for some, it is another life experience for me. As Jack Kerouac would attest, any chance to gain life experience and adventure is another chance to make a story. This story may have seemed ordinary to some, but it is another chapter in the Story of My Life. The longer I live, the grander this story becomes. The longer I live, the more I see that my life is just a knot into which relationships are tied (yet another Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote). Have you enjoyed this bond with me? Has it in some way enriched your life?

I have two weeks on the Hawaiian Islands before I return home to a family I have grown to miss, a puppy and kitty I perpetually miss, friends whose summer stories I will have to catch up on, and kids who will be walking into my classroom unaware of all the changes their teacher has undergone this summer. In that time I am sure I will look back on all of this and consider myself fortunate to be one of the few to have such an experience. But I will also take the time to enjoy the simple things in life: a walk along a sandy beach, a nap under the shade of a palm, and an ice-cold beer. Life is meant to be serious when we are serious, and relaxed when we are. May you find yours as such–a little of One and a bit of The Other, but never too much of either.

Chris Harvey, June 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 30, 2006

Science and Technology Log

“Finish well.”

-Terry Harvey, my mother

-Larry Harvey, my father

(Strange they both offer the same advice!)

Everyone’s spirits seem to be up this afternoon, for good reason. The work is finally done and we are on our way back to Honolulu! The last two days I have risen from my sleepless sleep before sunrise to drink a cup of tea before work. Recently the sunrises have paled in comparison to the sunsets, and have been followed by an inundation of rain at the same time we were set to begin hauling traps. Yesterday there was lightning and thunder so heavy that some people were actually hesitant to go outside. I cooed a gentle sigh at the sign the thunderstorm, as it was a friendly reminder of summer back home in Jacksonville. It rains hard every day for about an hour around 4-5 in the afternoon, and I usually find a way to curl up in bed and listen to the storm outside. After that, the skies clear and life goes on.

We worked through the rain both mornings. From my position yesterday as a cracker I was forced to wear foul weather gear to keep me warm and dry underneath. Again, images of an orange Gumby come to mind. But it worked and, despite the rain, we finished on time. Today I ran traps between the crackers and the stackers, though I accepted the cool rain as refreshment instead of something to be avoided.

Being on the subject of finishing, I always use the quote, “Finish well” near the beginning of the semester to try to get my kids focused on the idea of completing a task to the best of their ability. I find from my own experience, as my mother constantly reminds me, I have always struggled with the idea of finishing well. Usually I find that the last part of any given task is the hardest. Most commonly, this final segment of work is the cleaning up part. And who likes to clean up anything?

It is fun to start projects. Everyone loves a fresh chance to earn good grades, do well in an athletic season, or learn how to perform well at a new job. But very few of us enjoy finishing a semester that we did not do particularly well in, participating in an athletic event that does not matter whether we win or lose, or finishing up those last two weeks after we have put in notice of quitting a job.

Those tend to be the hardest moments, in my opinion, because our heart is no longer in whatever we are doing. If we are finishing a mediocre semester of school, our mind is either on the break between semesters or on the next semester already. If we are playing in that last sporting event and we have no chance of going into the postseason, we are probably thinking about how much free time we will have available to us or how we will begin preparing for the next season. In quitting one job, most of us would already have our minds set on our next job, or at least be thinking about how to make ends meet in the time between jobs.

So I remind my kids at the very onset of the semester, especially in the fall when they are beginning their first year of high school, to finish well. Although they have four months between the first and last day of class, each day in between contributes to whether or not they finish the semester well. Franklin Covey would tell you to “Begin with the end in Mind.” In either case, it is good to think about how you plan to finish a particular task. If you plan on finishing poorly, what is the point of even beginning the undertaking in the first place?

We are nearing the end of this cruise and have completed most of the hard work. However, there are still three days separating us from land and there are still the tasks of cleaning up and packing. Already I have found myself in denial of the fact that we still have to clean up. Kenji, our chief bosun, blasted an air horn when we hauled in the last buoy. Everyone in the pit let out their own sigh, or scream, of relief at having finished our hauling for the trip, and then cleaned up and went to lunch. I was content to let this cruise be finished, and to take these last three days as the beginning of my summer vacation. Yet as I sat in the galley eating lunch, the sound of my mother’s voice came to my head. “Finish well,” she said.

We have agreed to take the rest of the afternoon off and finish cleaning everything up tomorrow. That is good because no one is in the mood to work now anyway. The sun is finally shining outside and I think I will go take a nap in its rays, listening to my music, and thinking about nothing in particular.

Chris Harvey, June 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 27, 2006

Science and Technology Log

“It is only when we become conscious of our part in life, however modest, that we shall be happy.”

Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’ve just returned from outside, after spending the evening playing guitar and watching the twilight sky fade into a charcoal background. Of course the sunset was spectacular. Nobody was really paying attention to it. But I pointed out a waterfall of clouds to Carole, who stopped drawing for a moment and gasped at the view. A ring of cumulus clouds in the shape of a flattened oval enclosed a portion of the red sky. In the middle of the oval, a vertical stream of wispy clouds seemed to fall down into the sea. Carole ran to get her camera to take a picture. But I knew that images like this don’t turn out the way we want them to on film. So I just watched the waterfall of clouds until darkness seeped in from all directions and swallowed us.

I am starting to get peculiar emotional twinges inside of me that leave me somewhat sad. It always happens to me at this point in any journey, when the end is of closer proximity than the beginning. We will be at sea for another week- three days of work and another four in transit back to Honolulu- and yet one week does not carry such excitement as it did three weeks ago when the adventure was first begun. Granted, I have not enjoyed every moment of the cruise. But I have become used to waking up and walking outside and having the sea in all directions. I know that there will be a dozen albatross following behind the ship, searching for their breakfast in our wake as I eat my own. And that the swells will be gentle in the morning until the wind picks up later in the afternoon. I know when the crew will change shifts and who I can expect to see working in various locations throughout the day. I can tell you what job I did yesterday, what I will be doing today, as well as what my job tomorrow will be. Everything has become so comfortable. Everything has become so familiar. Everything has become Reality- one that will change again in another week.

As I reflect back on my journal entries from my expedition across the United States immediately before this cruise, I can see how my perspective changes in this moment. Things begin to make more sense. All of the ideas that I have been tossing around in my head for the last three weeks begin to tie together. The good experiences and the bad experiences synthesize to create a whole experience. Even the things that I once disagreed to now seem to have their place in my mind as necessary at the time.

There is no doubt in my mind that I have become more mature in this experience. Although the purpose of this cruise was for me to gain exposure to science in action (which I have in abundance), I feel as though a side purpose has been to stretch me in ways I have not been stretched before. Old ideas, once tested, have been brought back to be tested again. New ideas, rich in energy and perspective, displace old ideas that have failed the test of mind. I have become a collection of ideas that has changed me into the man that I am today- so much different from three weeks ago, and much more different from what I will be when I return home in three more weeks time.

And have you ever seen a thunderstorm so far out to sea? For some reason I never thought lightning possible out over open water before- though I remember last summer I sat on the upstairs porch of a hotel in La Ceiba, Honduras looking out over a Caribbean storm that seemed to be displacing large amounts of electrical energy on the sea. The air was warm and humid, and I recall looking down onto the street corner at a man, our security guard, pacing back and forth with a cigarette in his mouth and machete in hand, completely unaware from where he was that the sky was opening up in the distance. Tonight was no different for me as I sat up outside the bridge and watched the lightning tear apart the night sky. The sun had long since set, and black appeared black across the horizon until the lightning lit up the night. Miles and miles away, the faint lights outlined layer upon layer of clouds between me and the obscure infinite beyond- defining the night in terms of different shades of black and gray. It was remarkable to see. As most things out here seem to be.

As for the science today, we caught more lobster today than we have on any other day. I was in the lab processing the lobsters. Usually being in the lab is great because there are not too many lobsters to measure, so you get a lot of free time to read or talk or sit or whatever you want to do. Bob is still in the lab entering the data for today, so I do not know the exact numbers. But what I do know is that the only break we had today was for lunch. Every other minute of the day, between 8:10 when the first trap was hauled over the side and 2:15 when we measured the last lobster, was filled with measuring lobster. Offhand, I would have to say that we probably averaged about 6 or 7 lobsters per trap. Adding all of the traps together, that’s between 960 – 1120 lobsters, all of which I had to hold in my hands and measure! Talk about a productive day.

Tomorrow I am back in the pit cracking traps. This does not thrill me very much. In fact, it does not thrill me at all. But one of the things that I have learned from reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery is that fulfilling one’s duty in life provides all of the satisfaction that one should require from it. Maybe this will make the mundane things in life more meaningful to me. I have particular duties and responsibilities in life that I have committed myself to fulfilling. In serving these obligations, not only am I demonstrating myself as a man of character, but also I am contributing to the satisfaction of my soul in ways I may not understand until the entire task is complete.

Bob thanked me tonight for my work in the lab today. As I mentioned, it was rather stressful work for all of us involved. Yet we each did our duties to the best of our abilities and the task was completed successfully. Bob knows that I have particular reservations against my work, and his gratitude for my hard work today dismissed my reservations- however necessary and/or proper they seem to be to me- and demonstrated the greater purpose of my time out here. He is dependent upon me working hard on this cruise, as I agreed to in the beginning, and if I give anything less than my best -solely because I feel that I should not work as hard because I do not agree with all of it- then I am not living up to my duties. There are ways to be happy, even when you feel unhappy about what you are doing. If you can somehow seek the sense of duty of it all, the importance of your work to the big picture- whatever that might be- then perhaps work will provide that sensation of “happiness” that seems altogether elusive to most people in the world. Just some thoughts.

Chris Harvey, June 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 25, 2006

Crew Interview: Huntley Brownell, Deckhand

“Rather than defining my life by working a job, what will define me is the relationships I form along the way.”

The most remarkable thing about Huntley is that he was born in the backseat of a Greyhound bus heading down Highway 41. Since then it seems he has been on the move, discovering this world one place at a time. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Huntley left home after a year in college and set out to explore the world. Although his mother was not in full approval of his decision to leave, his father–a biologist working for NOAA–knew that he needed a bit of time out in the world before attending college.

After working several small jobs, Huntley put in his application with NOAA and then forgot about it for several months until one day he received a call asking if he was still interested. “Can you start work in 2 days,” the voice on the other end asked. Huntley accepted the offer and was at sea on the COBB between Seattle and Alaska almost immediately. After 3 months of working, he found out about an opening on the SETTE, based out of the tropics instead of the arctic, and has been working onboard the SETTE for the last two years.

Only planning on spending a summer or so working on the SETTE, Huntley found himself quickly addicted to the fix that traveling to remote parts of the world offered. “It is a good way to travel and see places you wouldn’t normally see as a tourist.” And sure enough, one cruise to Samoa turned into another to Marianas. Like most travelers, it was always the thought of the next trip that kept him going cruise after cruise.

While at sea, Huntley is an avid reader, crediting The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, as one of his favorite, life-changing books. (I also agree, as a fellow journeyman, that this is one book not to be missed.) He is also teaching himself guitar and studying for his private pilot’s license. Flying when back in Oahu is one of the things that have opened Huntley’s perspective of life.

Although he cannot recall his favorite memory onboard the SETTE, as he says there have been so many, he narrowed down the years of past experience to two: the time that the fishermen were catching big tuna right and left and it was fun to be a part of that, even though he hadn’t earned his fishing spot yet, and the first time he came to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and saw a part of the islands that most people never get to see.

Huntley loves the sea, but senses the urge inside of him to travel again. He has no immediate plans of where he might move on to, but with a strong feeling that it is nearing time, his options are unlimited: “The older I get, the less I know what I want to do. The more you travel, the more open doors you see. And you know you can walk through any one of them.”

Chris Harvey, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 23, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“When both feet are planted firmly, you are stuck”

I can only think of one thing to write about today- or yesterday, or the day before, for that matter. That is, what day is today? Piglet would tell me that today is the day after yesterday, which does not help since I do not know what day yesterday is. And Pooh would tell me that today is the day before tomorrow, which makes more sense, but not enough. Eeyore would tell me that today is a bad day, while Rabbit would tell me that today is however many days past the first of the year it so happens to be (as he calculates how many days have passed since then!). Owl would tell me that today is just a state of pondering what today really means. And Christopher Robin would tell me that today is today, of course! I was thinking that today must be close to July. Days just seem to pass out here. And it seems we are much closer to being back in port than to being out to sea. And yet a container of milk said June 14 for the expiration date. So I think to myself, are we in some kind of time warp, or am I drinking milk that is two weeks past expiration? Pooh says expiration dates don’t matter anyway, as long as you put some honey in the milk. (Is it the sun, or salty air, or both that are getting to me?)

But low and behold, as I poured the crunchy ice-milk into my cup I realized that my rationality, what the sun and sea have not taken from me, had been undermined by a piece of modern technology called a freezer! God bless the freezer! We have been eating “fresh” fruit and vegetables for over twenty days now, and I have had no complaint on the freshness of the food. Scurvy has stayed clear of the Oscar Elton Sette!

Presently we are anchored off of Maro Reef, far enough out not to do damage to the reef, yet close enough that- with my mega ultra 17 X super zoom lens (it’s not really that great!)- I can see waves breaking on the reef. Our friendly albatross has multiplied during the day, and all but disappeared during the evening. Have I mentioned how amazing these creatures are?

In terms of work, yesterday we averaged nearly six lobsters per trap, which was a substantial increase over past days in the NWHI. However today was back to normal. We are in our last rotation of jobs this week, which is bittersweet in that by the end of the week we get another break. Only this time the break is for good. I can tell you that without a shadow of a doubt, I will not miss hauling and setting lobster traps.

However, having just observed the Pacific sunset (behind a big nasty storm, beautiful nonetheless) I am reminded of my joys while being here. And yes I still coo like a schoolgirl over her first crush when I see the stars at night. I’ve made it a point to spend several hours a night lying underneath them. I have come up with my own constellations, since the other ones seem to be rather old and archaic. There is the Hippopotamus, the Wishbone, the Giraffe, the Arrow, the Sun to name a few (Yes, I know the Sun already exists. But I have found another one, much brighter than our own, but further away…Have I told you of the sun and salty air and what it does to the mind?)

As for the quote of the day. When both feet are planted firmly, one would think they would be on stable ground. This is good for some, and bad for others. I am of the kind that likes to think that two feet planted implies immobility. Although it does not quite rule out two feet firmly planted while running in some direction. Still, I always think of my life- the few times I think of my life in terms of footsteps- as having one foot on the ground, and one foot in the clouds. But that might also be because the more I think about planting myself anywhere, the more I want to get up and go somewhere else. In fact, I think that at this very moment I shall quit my teaching job and find a job as a deckhand in Honolulu! (That is the foot in the clouds speaking!) Of course this is not sensible, but can you imagine the stories I would be able to tell you then!

My friends Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, and Christopher Robin want me to mention that, if you get the chance, you should read The Tao of Pooh. For those of you who know me, you will find that the cover of the book somewhat resembles a piece of artwork tattooed to my right leg (or rather, the artwork on my right leg somewhat resembles the cover of the book). Either way, the book is wonderful in that it brings about a simpler perspective of life. I have been reading it in the time I have been out here, savoring the pages for the perspective that I gain from them.

Other than that, life goes on like Groundhog Day. Did I mention the effect of the sun and the salty air on the mind? Oh, thanks Pooh, I see that I have. Well it makes one love the sea and all of the Beautiful experiences that one experiences out here. Absolutely amazing!

Chris Harvey, June 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 22, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“If your mind and heart are true, the world is good.”

I have quite taken to the idea of including a quote at the beginning of every journal entry. Although it is rather reminiscent of my warm up assignment for my kids in class each day (yes, I did vow not to speak of class again on this trip), I find that if I start my day with a good quote, it helps to keep my thoughts a little clearer throughout the rest of the day. For this reason I drink a cup of green tea in the morning, and tend to heed the advice of the little slip of paper attached to the tea bag.

This morning was different, however, since I did not get out of bed until 12:30 in the afternoon! I messed up my routine with my daily quote and my hot cup of tea with breakfast, but the chance to sleep in was one I knew I must take advantage of. This is my summer vacation after all!

We had drills almost immediately after I woke up. This meant that the general alarm was sounded, ensuring that I was in fact awake, and we had to muster on the boat deck until our fake fire was extinguished. In this drill, I got to hold a fire hose and spray water out into the ocean. I think when I get back I am going to be a fireman instead of a teacher! We also had our “abandon ship” drill, which required us to muster at the lifeboats with our safety jacket, long sleeve shirt and pants, and our exposure suit (My favorite part of this drill came on our first day when we actually got to try on the exposure suit. I looked like a sunburned Gumby!). I always look at the people who are supposed to be on my lifeboat as potential meals when the dry rations run out. (This is, of course a joke. I am finding that my humor on the ship is often a bit too witty for the crew. And so my journal entries are becoming my outlet for my release of humorous energy.)

After drills I watched a couple of movies. The first is one I know my mother would enjoy on a Friday night, wrapped up in her four kittens with a bowl of popcorn and a wine spritzer (can I say wine spritzer in a journal entry?!) It is a British fairy tale of sorts, upon Amee’s insistence, called Nanny McPhee. Amee was confident that I would not be able to sit through the whole thing. Not only did I watch the movie from start to finish, but also I found myself with moistened eyes at its happy ending! (We watched Hotel Rwanda yesterday and I was in full-fledged tears. Do not expect happy feelings from that one.)

We then put in Madagascar, one of my new cartoon favorites! I have to say that if I were a kid again, which I am still at heart but not in outward appearance, most of the humor would have gone right over my head. As it is, the humor settled perfectly on my level and I am now in a rather cheerful mood. This is partly due to the fact that it brought back memories to a very positive classroom experience for me.

One of my students, a “favorite” if a teacher is allowed to have “favorites,” brought in the movie and asked me to show it in class one day. Unfortunately I did not have the creative capability to find a way to incorporate it into my curriculum (Boss, if you are reading this, can you find the creative capability to incorporate it into my curriculum?!). But she wanted to share with the class a song that best described her personality and outlook on life. Yes, even as a science teacher I dared step into the realm of exploring my student’s personalities and modes of expression. She shared with us the song “I like to move it, move it,” which is really very basic in terms of its lyrics. But put into the context of the movie, I found it to be very descriptive of this child.

The particular student, call her Sue for the sake of simplicity, had one of the biggest hearts that I have ever had the fortune to come in contact with. She struggled very hard with my class, but always came into my room with a smile on her face and asked me what she could do for me. I always told her she could teach the class for me so I could sit in the back and take a nap, and she always laughed (even though there wasn’t much funny about that comment). I would ask my students to keep track of what I call their “List of 5’s and 3’s,” which was a list that we would make every Monday at the beginning of class that would address 5 positive things and 3 negative things that the students did to/for themselves, and 5 positive things and 3 negative things that the students did to/for other people. I always stressed the things that we did for other people, which was always the hardest for most of the students. However, Sue never had any problems with her list because her life was so full of helping other people who each time she did something good for someone else, she was doing something good for herself. She asked me if it was OK for her to have both lists contain the same thing. I looked at her and smiled as I said that it was, because inside of me I had a particular jealousy over the fact that she could have such a heart.

In all my traveling I look for friendly faces in time of need. Whether I need directions to a particular location, or a place to sleep at night, I find that- although many times they are few and far between- friendly faces always emerge at just the right time to help me out of the situation. Finding a child like Sue in my very own classroom was a blessing to me because I did not have to go out and seek that friendly face among strangers. She made it a point to be so brilliantly kind and generous to every one of her classmates and teachers, that it was hard to have complaints after having her in class, even if it wasn’t the best of days. It is strange now to speak of a child with such high regard, but as I tell my students at the end of every semester before I let them go into the world, a teacher can learn a great bit more from his students than his students can learn from him, if he pays attention to them and takes the time to get to know them.

I say that I am hesitant to think about school while on my summer vacation, but it warms my heart to think about all of the positive things I have seen in and around my classroom as a result of my kids. Too often I find myself grumbling about how terrible and destructive students are for themselves and for others. And though I am reminded by others, especially my mother who is not only a great parent but also a colleague at school, that “children will be children,” and that I was no worse than they were when I was their age, I take great comfort in watching my kids progress through the months that they are in my classroom.

I spoke earlier on this trip with Amee about a similar idea, and mentioned in some way that “kids these days” are… (I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the … could be filled in by pretty much anything). She smiled and looked at me and repeated what I said. At that moment I realized that, perhaps for the first time, I was a “Grown-Up.” I had made the discrimination between myself and a younger generation, and I realized that I have moved onto a new phase in my life where I am often viewed with the same contempt by some of my students as I held some of my teachers. And on the other side of things, I remember how well I respected and adored some of my teachers for their instruction and for the way they seemed to care about me. This has been a truly revolutionary moment in my life, as an adult and teacher, because I see now how much of an impact I have on my kids- whether positively, or negatively.

So I think about the song from Madagascar and it makes me smile. I think about Sue and how she has probably filled her summer with chances to make the world a better place. And it leaves me out here in a moment of solitude and reflection, as I take in the scenery around me, wondering what the world would be like without such friendly faces among strangers.

Chris Harvey, June 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“Accept something you cannot change, and you will feel wetter.” -Taoist principle, modified

While working in the pit the last three days, I have noticed a peculiar anticipation out of which two Taoist principles emerge:

  1. Do I look behind me in constant fear that the next swell will be the one that crashes over the side and drenches me?
  2. Do I avoid getting wet at all costs, holding onto the comfort of dry boots and clothing for as long as possible?

A quick reminder of what the “pit” is. Along the port side (left) of the ship about halfway between bow and stern (right in the middle) there is a section of the ship designed for hauling in lobster traps and the catch from long line fishing. It is between 5 and 10 feet above the waterline and, at parts, very open to approaching waves. Depending on how much the ship rolls on the swells (rocks back and forth on its sides), and how large the swells are that day, it is possible to take large quantities of water into the pit.

Our first few days were very uneventful in that the ship did not roll very much because there were small, if any, swells in the Pacific. In such conditions, one could expect to remain rather dry and comfortable while working in the pit. However, since the swells have picked up, thus causing the ship to roll quite a bit, working in the pit has meant inevitable inundation from the sea. Herein lie the principles at hand.

1. The question of constantly turning one’s head in attempt to see whether the next approaching swell is large enough to get one soaking wet is really an issue of accepting the inevitable in a prescribed situation. When you consider the conditions that you are 1) working on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2) hauling in lobster traps from the bottom of the seafloor, 3) closer to the swells than anywhere else on the ship, you must accept the fact that at some point in the 8-9 hour day, you will be soaking wet. Yet some of us, myself included, find the temptation to look over our shoulders at times too much. It is not enough to see our partner’s eyes, which are facing the oncoming waves, grow larger and larger as a wave approaches. We must then turn ourselves to see what fate we, in fact, cannot change. I have saved a bit of advice from a fortune cookie that I opened once in June 2001 (Yes, I remember the date because the advice has proven that important over time): “Accept something you cannot change, and you will feel better.” In this case I think the fortune should read, “Accept something you cannot change, and you will feel wetter.”

2. The question of avoiding getting wet at all costs is a simple extension of the first question. It is inevitable that one will be drenched by the end of the day when working in the pit. This is one fate, as reluctant as one might be, that is best admitted at the onset of work. It is true that wet boots are known for causing wrinkly toes. But if you seek the good in wrinkly toes, whatever that may be, then the anxiety of having them will be extinguished. One can then proceed to crack open traps with the peace inside that salt water can be the cure for the common soul, in addition to being the cure for the common scrape or cut. In fact, I find it quite a relief to stomp around in the seawater like a child dancing in the rain. Others might consider this childishness irrelevant to the job, when in fact remaining a child at heart is one of the best, if not the best, remedies for any ailment or anxiety.

As you can probably tell, I am at a loss of things to write about. Still I am known for finding obscure trivialities and then elaborating on them until they seem important! In any case, we have hauled in the last of the lobster traps at our Necker Island location, and are now underway further north and west towards Maro Reef. It is supposed to take us two days to get there, in which we are given a chance to get some solid rest and sleep. The last two weeks have been rather full of activity and I think it will be nice to have some time off.

Chris Harvey, June 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 20, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Today has been rather uneventful in the world of lobster fishermen. I was in the pit as a cracker for my last day for a while. That is good because dead fish are no fun to play with. Except that I made friends with “Albert the Albatross” with the help of Amee. She would get on one side of the boat and whistle at Albert (who she incidentally named, very creative that girl is!) and I would wait on the other side for him to fly away from her. Then I would toss him a fish and he would be happy. And I would be happy watching him be happy. Then the sharks below him would be happy because they would think that they had a nice feather-filled snack (if sharks could think, this is what they would think). Then Albert would try to take off. The goofball that he is, he would flap his wings and then kick his feet along the top of the water as though he was running a marathon. (I tell you what, if I had a dozen Galapagos sharks underneath me fighting over who was going to get a nice bite out of my rear end, I would be running on top of the water too!) Albert would get away and we would both be happy once again. It has been a very happy day for pretty much every party involved. Except of course for the mackerel that we use as bait. They have been very unlucky for a long time. At least since they were caught and frozen and shipped from Taiwan several weeks ago. Before then I am sure that they were as happy as a school of mackerel could be!

I have found myself in the middle of a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince. He had an amazing life, short as it was, and kept track of his adventures and stories along the way. In the story I am reading now, Wind, Sand, and Stars, he recounts his first years as a French airmail pilot back in the 1920s and 1930s. Talk about amazing stuff. The guy seemed to crash a plane every few weeks! And he walked away from all but one (the one in the middle of World War II that was responsible for his disappearance forever). I am also reading a short book of his quotes on the side. He was a very insightful human being- full of love and compassion and optimism for the human potential. So as you can imagine, I am paying close attention to the things he has said.

Many of the passages in The Little Prince and in Wind, Sand, and Stars that have stood out in my reading of them have been included in this short book of quotes. Also, since I am borrowing Huntley’s copies of the books, I find that Huntley has also dog-eared the corners of the book in the same places. And I reflect back on an experience I had just recently, at the end of my cross-country drive just days before leaving on this cruise.

My friends and I ended up in Yosemite National Park near the border of California and Nevada and were surprised at what we found. Thinking that this park would be similar to the parks I have visited around the world, I was sure that we would find our own part of the park away from everyone else and be able to get off the beaten trail and do some hiking. As it turns out, thousands upon thousands of visitors enter the park each day. Not only this, but the park has several places where you can eat prepared food (including a huge grocery store), stay in resort hotels, and take tour busses throughout the park. We were even able to purchase gasoline inside the park (at the rate of $3.85/ gallon!).  This was not what I imagined of Yosemite.

What is more, the park is HUGE. We had no idea where to begin. And since we only had one day to visit as many parts of the park as we wanted we followed the handout that the rangers gave us and every other vehicle to enter the park that day. By the way NEVER give yourself one day for Yosemite, give yourself at least a week.

Those of you who know me well know that I would rather take the long way around a crowd, than to find myself mixed up in one. In Yosemite we did not have an option. We were part of the crowd everywhere we went. So we crawled our way up to Glacier Point, at the top of the park looking down upon Yosemite Valley, behind a long line of cars headed to the same place. Once there, we rushed out of the car excited about what we were going to see.

What we saw were hundreds of people standing around in the afternoon sun eating ice cream bars and taking pictures of each other with the valley in the background. But I forced myself to look beyond the people for a moment, and into the valley. What I saw was absolutely amazing. And of all of the mountain views I have seen in my life, this one was perhaps the most remarkable. I stood at the edge of a 2,000-foot ledge and looked down into the valley where cars moved like ants below us and thought about how special the moment was for me, regardless of how many other people were around.

Moments later, when the astonishment of the scenery had calmed a little inside of me, I took to watching other people enjoying the view. At some point during this time I had a revolutionary thought that I never thought myself capable of thinking before: Some things are great by their essence, and that is what draws people together around them. Crowds cannot take away the essence of something Beautiful. They may distract you from it, or ruin the “perfect photograph,” but the Beauty still remains beneath it all.

In Yosemite I was in a crowd of people all desiring to admire the Beauty of the park for whatever reason each of us had. For some, it was a checklist of things to do in the United States. For others, it was a weekend trip from the city. And for us, it was the realization of all of our effort in driving across the country in the week before. Whatever our reasons, we all shared the same awe and admiration for something that is truly spectacular in its essence.

In reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and any other author for that matter, and recognizing quotes from his stories in other places, I find myself comforted in the fact that others recognize the same Beautiful things that I do. So often I give up on humanity still appreciating the simple, Beautiful things in life. And when I experience Yosemite as I have, and read A Guide for Grown-Ups as I am now, it warms my heart and makes me optimistic for those of us who find Beauty in the simple things.

I have leant Huntley one of my favorite Hermann Hess books, Narcissus and Goldmund, and he has told me that he has the same experiences in reading it as I have had in reading his. Is this not the goal of any author, that his readers would find agreements among each other as to the Beauty of his prose? It is, for me, something that I strive for as I teach myself to write from all of the experiences I have gained thus far in life. Will people look back one day and find words that I have shared with them to have truly moved them to feel something? To do something? To be something?

“True freedom lies only in the creative process. The fisherman is free when he fishes according to his instinct. The sculptor is free when carving a face.”

Chris Harvey, June 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 19, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We are back within eyesight of Necker Island, after spending the last few days fairly far off to the southeast. I have issues with backtracking when traveling. I remember returning to Dublin eleven days after I left it several years back. I hitchhiked around the entire country of Ireland, filling the time with wonderful tales of adventure and company I met along the way. And when I revisited Dublin in order to catch a flight to Brussels, the city remained the same- but I had changed.

Necker Island feels the same to me now as Dublin had then. Both were spectacular in their own respect. And both were markers in the timeline of Christopher Harvey’s life, in a sense that they both stirred his heart to the point that traveling has become as essential as breathing. Yet this time the waters around Necker Island are rough, clouds surround us here, and we are constantly plagued with the chance that we might get rain at any moment. This is just the physical change I have noticed.

Emotionally, I have been run through the ringer- having performed each job on the line, having conversation with many crew members that have allowed me to know them and myself better, having read many more words from books that have taken seed within my heart, and having survived a two-day cold (Thus the reason for no entry yesterday. I was sick in bed for 16 hours!) . I shouldn’t try to be any more poetic than any other person who has ever noted the effect of time on a soul, but I will because I cannot help myself:

“Time is the only factor that moves us, even when we don’t want to move. It brings us into hard times, and out of them all the same. It gives us the room to look back and laugh or cry at the things that we have done, and the hope to look forward to the good things ahead. It prods us. It changes us. It befriends us, even when we push It away. It is, and so we must be- with It or without It, Time moves on.”

I have made Time my friend on this cruise. Even though routine is wearing me thin- especially now that the sleep is not as good as it used to be- I find myself grateful for the time aboard the ship. I know that as soon as I step foot off of the Oscar Sette and venture into the world of Honolulu, I will look back on the sunsets I have seen here and be grateful for each of them. I will be sad to leave my new friends behind, though like always, they will remain with me in memories and email (for as long as distant friends can remain friends). I will be forced into a new world- exciting nonetheless- in which the only thing that remains constant in my life will be Time as my friend.

Hopefully we have all found some way to befriend Time. How many of us know how long she will be here with us? How many things have you thought of doing, “if only I had more time”? For me there are too many.

I have had conversations with Huntley, perhaps my closest crewmember friend on the ship, and his story has moved me to embrace the time I have. I hope to write about him so you too can know him better. But he is hard to write about. A friend once told me that the reason she never took a picture with me was because I was too dynamic for a still picture. I have carried those words in my heart, because some of us slow down to the point that a picture might capture our essence. Some of us become predictable. We become easily captured in a photograph. Huntley is one of those people who is too full of life to describe in words, though I will try sometime. He has given me great thoughts of the world out there- of the people that he and I are supposed to meet someday- and I cannot help but wonder if I am becoming inactive in my life. Am I settled down already? Will I read about Huntley’s adventures one day and tell everyone that I could have done the same, if only I had more time?

Amee received some of the best news a marine biologist/traveler could receive at 7 am today. She has been accepted into a program in which she will be working on a German research vessel in the waters surrounding Antarctica. While this may sound boring to some, I find it to be extremely fascinating. You may not know how hard it is to visit Antarctica, but it is not like traveling to Europe or South America. And as one of the seven continents that I have made it a goal to visit in my lifetime, Antarctica holds a special place in my heart. In Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, I had a dream of the mysterious continent. It was one of the most peaceful scenes I can recall- the stillness at the end of the world. I’ve asked Amee to take as many pictures as she can while she is there in hopes that one of her pictures might recapture this dream for me.

Will I make it to Antarctica someday? Should Time continue to be my friend, I imagine so. Will I take to the wind and wisp myself around the world? I cannot decide right now. What I do know is that we are midway through our cruise and Time is both an ally and an enemy to many of us. Many of the crewmembers have family back at port that they are anxious to see. Many have already been at sea for some 250 out of the past 365 days and just want a break from life at sea. Still others have plans of traveling the mainland and visiting friends and familiar places. Time seems an enemy to some- it keeps them from the things they have come to love the most. But I imagine they all have hearts for the sea- for what else could bring them out here but a love of the ocean, joy in the sunsets, and some sense of satisfaction that what they are doing here is what they are supposed to be doing with their lives.

We scientists are but transient visitors. We invade the space and privacy of those who make the Sette their home for two-thirds of the year. We often get in the way, or ask stupid questions, and sometimes even make faulty inferences based on our limited knowledge of life at sea. But we are doing our best to become family out here. And even if it seems that there might be conflict or drama evolving, we all recognize the need to remedy the problem immediately. My friends out here are good friends. We have to be. On July 4th we might become strangers again. That is the reality of life on shore. But life on the ship is different, and friends are either the easiest or the most difficult to come by.

I know that I said I would be observing the dynamics of individuals more than I have been. But it seems sometimes this task is a bit too much at times. And on the other end, the science of the ship is becoming routine. We rotate jobs each day, and the catch rate is remaining just about on par of what it has been in the past. We have not had any extraordinary days in terms of how our catch went. But as I have already mentioned, Time is doing some peculiar things to us out here- rather, Time is giving us the opportunity to do some peculiar things. Some fuses are growing shorter. Some fuses are remaining the same. No fuses seem to be growing longer. I sometimes feel unwelcome for I am a bit too honest about some things I have noticed. I have learned in life to be wary of passing judgment and I avoid doing this as much as possible. Still I haven’t figured out how to walk on water yet, unless I’m pulled behind a ski boat, and I know that I am probably contributing equally to the shortening of fuses as anyone else out here. We have fifteen more days at sea- as many left as we have put in already- and I wonder how they will go. Will we grow into better friends? Or will we tear away from each other and come in contact only when we have to? As the proverbial “They” say, “only Time will tell.”

Back to the classroom for a minute (I just gave myself the shivers in mentioning the word “classroom” while still early into my summer vacation!). The Hawaiian Islands are the result of what geologists call a “hot spot,” Essentially this is a pool of magma under the earth’s crust that is waiting to rise up wherever it can due to density differences between materials. Every now and then a crack will form in the crust, and this pool of magma is able to seep out.

To complicate matters, the Earth’s tectonic plates are geologically active, meaning that they are continuously moving in one direction or another. For instance, the Pacific plate, cradling the Pacific Ocean, is moving generally in the Northwest direction. Once upon a time, some millions of years ago, a hole opened up in the Pacific plate. As a result, this hot spot magma flowed through the crust and formed a series of undersea volcanoes. Over time the volcanoes built up and up and up until they broke the surface of the ocean. At this point we would call the volcano, and the exposed land around the volcano, an island.

Because the Pacific Plate is moving northwest and the hot spot remains stationary underneath the crust, as the Pacific Plate moves, a series of volcanoes form over the hot spot. Over time these volcanoes form what geologists call “island arcs.” In the case of the Hawaiian Islands, those islands farthest from the hot spot are the ones farthest northwest. The newer islands are closer to the hot spot, which is currently located near the Big Island, or Hawaii. I say “near” because there is a new island in the making that is slightly southeast from Hawaii. However, the island of Hawaii is still very active.

Necker Island is one of the older volcanic islands, believed to at one point been made up of two cone volcanoes. What has happened to Necker Island over time is that its weight has actually pushed the island further and further below sea level. When I first arrived I was very surprised to find that Necker Island was more of a “rock” than an “island.” But looking at nautical charts of the depths around Necker Island, where we have been doing all of our lobster trapping, it is very easy to see the borders of what used to be a rather large island. We are dropping traps in about 15 fathoms of water (15 times 6 feet), and almost immediately to the other side of the ship where we drop traps the water drops down in some cases to about 1,365 fathoms (1,365 times 6 feet)! I wish that I could attach a topographic map of the island and the waters around the island, but without Internet on the ship it is hard to find.

Eventually Necker Island will do what the islands to the northwest are doing, and it will completely sink down into the sea. When this happens it will be called a “seamount” and will be subject to erosion by the oceans currents. Literally, mountains are tumbling to the sea. Kind of cool huh!

Chris Harvey, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 17, 2006

Science and Technology Log  

I just woke up from a wonderful 2-hour nap, reminding myself of something I have meant to write about for days but have forgotten. Since the swells have come along, the ship bounces around quiet a bit at night, making sleep difficult if not entirely impossible at times. So I have modified my sleeping patterns somewhat to adjust to the situation.

I take a short nap immediately after work, whether at 1:30 or at 6:30 (short to me is anywhere between 1-3 hours). This is the only sleep that I can guarantee myself that day, so I cherish the fact that my stateroom has no windows and thus can become completely dark and the fact that after work I know I will be entirely exhausted. (I think back now to how excited I was on my first night into Honolulu when Bob told me I would be working, not observing. What a fool I was!) I usually wake up just in time for a quick bite for dinner and then I make my way outside to enjoy the last remaining hours of daylight. Once the sun has set, I either take my laptop up to the bridge and sit out on the side deck where there is no obstruction to the star-filled sky, or I return inside and write if the clouds cover up the stars. Either way, I have been spending a good but of my time in writing inspired by the scenery around me. I write until I am once again completely exhausted (the only guarantee for sleep), which is usually around 11:30 or midnight, and I head back to bed for a few hours until it is time to get up for work again.

Having just awakened from my nap, I have a whole new day in front of me- one that requires no work from me! So I will begin this new day by telling you about a book I have just finished reading upon the recommendation of Huntley, a well-read traveler. I do this because nothing much happened today worth describing- although it has been confirmed that the NWHI are now the largest marine sanctuary in the United States, and that our mission is not so much invalidated, but will be used for other purposes. NOAA will still be in charge of the area on the federal level, so our data on lobster catch will take on meaning in a different way. Also, Amee said, “please” today for the first time on the cruise. So my inferences are correct, she is not of royal English ancestry. Go figure!

Back to “The Little Prince.” If you can read French, buy the book in French. I am sure that a lot of meaning is “lost in translation” (which is also a good movie by the way). But if you are like me, an English-only reader, then you can still enjoy the book for its simplicity. The author, Antoine de Saint- Exupery, speaks to us as an adult who encourages us to keep a child’s perspective in life for all of the naiveté and simplicity doing so would retain. It would not surprise many of you to know this is a chief goal of mine (inherited through my Peter Pan of a father, to the chagrin of my mother! Thanks Dad!), though I often try to imitate the wisdom of the sage- making a wonderful fool of myself in the long run. By the end of the story I was left with moistened eyes (tears fall infrequently from my eyes), and the feeling that it was time to create Something Beautiful.

So I am in attempts now to create the first of (hopefully) many Beautiful things in my life. I have an idea for a children’s story that came to me suddenly, with such great passion that I probably irritated Bob by my slowness in work today. I tried clinging to each new thought I had, as if it were my last, in hopes that each thought that came my way was some integral piece of that Something Beautiful (Incidentally, the story has a working title of “Something Beautiful.”) As it turns out, in looking back after a refreshing nap, the thoughts I have recorded do not seem as full of potential as they did before. But maybe that is because the stars are still waiting for someone to turn out the light tonight, so they can have their way with my heart. On the surface, I am still a scientist/resident Teacher At Sea with scientific obligations to achieve. But in my heart, I am a man on a journey to become the artist he believes himself to be, willing to take in every experience as a piece of the story that will mean the most to him- the Story of His Life.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– The Fox from “The Little Prince”

Chris Harvey, June 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 16, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

There is talk today that the President has made the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) a national monument, whatever that means.  Bob informed me this morning and I am inclined to think he is the resident expert on the matter since he has the most riding on the line (i.e., his job is on the line). From my understanding, the NWHI would become like Rocky Mountain National Park or Yosemite National Park, and would be completely off limits to commercial fishing.  This would have a HUGE impact on the fishing industry out here, since many companies are awaiting Bob’s findings about whether or not the NWHI can sustain commercial lobster fishing or not.

Regardless of the rumor, we continued work today as normal.  So did the trade winds. So too did the swells. I was in a great position as a stacker to watch my fellow scientists cracking the traps against the threat of one breaking wave after another.  At one point I thought we would lose Aris, the little one, to a swell that must have been about 15-20 feet from trough to crest.  I was relieved to see that he was still cracking away after the water had subsided, and could only laugh at the great luck I had not to be a cracker today!  (That said, I think I can sense my waxen wings beginning to melt.)

We finished late again today. And other than fighting the rough seas, nothing much happened. I have taken to watching the swells- as my old man taught me- but from the surfer’s point of view instead of the scientist’s point of view.  I anticipate great waves in the distance while everyone else is “ooo-ing” and “awww-ing” at the ones near the ship. And it is always these distant waves that turn out to be trouble.  I see the swells in sets, unpredictable of when, except that I know that they will come.  And when I see a large face of a wave, I think to myself, its time to start paddling or else I’m going to miss it.  But I catch myself, sadly, when I remember that I am on a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where I would not have a chance of catching a wave anyway–there is no bottom for the swells to catch.  One hope for me is that someone will catch the waves, when they touch ground and build into beautiful things.  Some surfer on the North Shore is doing exactly what I am doing, watching the set and waiting, because the swells I see today will be the surf he rides tomorrow.

Chris Harvey, June 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I have lost track of time out here, both the date and the day of week, and am only reminded that it is the middle of June by the changing of the date on each of my new journal entries. It is kind of nice to forget about time for a while.  All I know of time is that I wake up each morning and go about the routine of hauling the traps in the morning and setting the traps in the evening. It has truly become Groundhog Day out here.  Regardless of what day it is, there is one thing I know I will be doing: waking and working. At least the scenery is nice!

The trade winds have continued to blow at a consistent 20 knots from the east, bringing with them long, deep swells and choppy surface waves.  It was much rougher today, and is still much rougher tonight, than it was on any other day.  So long, quiet Pacific.  As I stood on the bow of the ship to watch the sunset I thought about the fact that these trade winds have already come across my little Honduran island and have long since left.  The same winds, at some point, helped carry tropical storm Alberto across the Atlantic Ocean and towards my home in Jacksonville.  Of course, the energy and direction of the winds have fluctuated indefinitely over the time it takes them to wrap around the world, but they are essentially still the same. And I go back to my island in the Caribbean and think of how wonderful the trade winds are for keeping the mosquitoes and sand flies away during the summer time.  And how they inspired me to do anything and everything.  And now they make me sit outside long into the night to keep fresh air in my lungs and brain, and to keep a horizon of sorts on level ground for the sanity of my inner ear.

Many of the scientists have already given up the fight and have retired long before dinner. I, a fighter of nearly everything, have continued the battle against seasickness and am waiting for the trade winds to clear the clouds from the evening sky so that I might take in their beauty once again.  I am yet to miss a sunset on the ship, or a moment of utter awe at the night sky above me. And I doubt I will miss either the rest of the trip, even if I am ailing from the increased swells that can be anticipated from strong wind across a large section of water over a long time.  The view out here is definitely not something I get to see every day back home.

Work today was difficult with the waves splashing over the side of the ship.  I was a stacker today and found, at times, that stacking traps on the fantail was like climbing a mountain and dragging the traps behind. I would watch and wait for the ship to tilt bow up, so I could pull the traps “downhill” across the fantail in the rear of the ship.  Sometimes there was no “downhill” or “uphill” for that matter.  Sometimes we just bounced back and forth and rocked in almost every direction at the same time.  I guess my offerings of respect and love for the Pacific were not accepted.

In addition to having difficult trap drags on the deck, it took us much longer to move from the site where we hauled the traps to where we set them than it normally does.  (That sentence took a long time to write, not only because it seems grammatically deficient, but also because I had to sit and watch the mouse slide back and forth across the desk, dragging the curser on the screen along with it!  Talk about entertainment onboard a rocking ship!) In short, I ate a small dinner before I set the traps tonight.  So we were not done working until around 6:45 or so.  Long day. Plus I managed to get a nice sunburn.

I am again envious of our resident albatross.  I watched him soar back and forth and up and down, along the tips of the crests of waves up to the outline of the bottoms of clouds, without moving his wings once.  It was truly remarkable to watch him soar so freely without expending energy. A friend has informed me that only information can break the laws of physics. I think this albatross has come pretty darn close today.

Also, I will attach the “biographies” of two of the ship’s crew who have become good friends of mine. In an attempt to “practice” my creative writing and character development of stories, I am interviewing as many of the crewmen as possible and then writing a “fun” biography for the ships records.  Knowing how well I am at starting projects, and how poor I am at finishing them, these will probably be the only two I complete during the cruise.  But I am going to try to get everyone done before July 4, when we pull back into Honolulu. I make reference to many different people in my journal entries, and I have not done an adequate job of describing them.  I will try to fill you in on their characters and personalities, but no promises that you will be able to relate to my experiences out here any more or less as a result.

As you will read, Sarah is a junior officer on the ship and a peer of mine through age and life experience. She has taught me many things about the bridge and how the boat functions, as well as how the ship acquires weather data that it sends back to the National Weather Service every few hours, and of course, the Beauty of the evening sky and the many constellations that occupy its space.  We have a similar background that makes conversation easy and, as always, this conversation carries meaning for me because it constantly stretches my mind and perspective on how things in the world operate.

Bruce is the first of the crew that I met, and immediately struck a note with.  He is native Hawaiian, born in the house in the Oahu hills that his parent’s still live in today.  He has a wonderful laugh that makes me laugh every time I hear it, even if I do not hear the punch line of the joke or story he has just told.  He is about the happiest-go-lucky person I have ever met, with an outlook on life that is enviable.  I have been told that he can be mean at times.  But I haven’t seen that part of him.  And those times are so few and far between that his demeanor is positive in an almost excessive amount.  (When has positive attitude and behavior ever been excessive?  Certainly not in this world!)  He is one of those people who you can’t help but to hope that everything good happens to him in life- just because he is not expecting it to, and he is not demanding that it does.  I am learning a lot on this cruise from Bruce.

All quiet other than that. I thought of school today and made myself sick with worry.  So I stood up and walked to the very rear of the ship and watched the “screws” (props) churn up sky-blue water. I don’t like thinking of school.  There are so many things that I know I will have to do- so many things to worry about.  This is the last time I will mention it.  Worry is not for me.  Especially not here.

ENS Sarah Harris 

Junior Officer/Scientist

Sarah always wanted to be a professional clown when she grew up, but her feet were not large enough to fit into the shoes of a clown, and so she was turned down from the National Clown Academy upon her completion of high school.  Instead, she attended Long Island University in South Hampton, New York and earned a degree in marine biology. Upon completion of her degree, Sarah had a difficult time finding a job as a marine biologist.  Instead, she spent the better part of the two years after college working “stupid jobs” in order to make ends meet.

One day, working as a server in a Moroccan restaurant and as a bodyguard in a girls’ home, Sarah had an epiphany of sorts.  Memories of a Marine Ecology class came to mind.  She had used NOAA data in one of her class projects and had the sudden revelation that she should apply to become a NOAA officer. Sidestepping pressure to join the Air Force or Navy, she attended courses through the Merchant Marine Academy and within three months was qualified to begin work with NOAA onboard several ships.

In an interview for placement aboard a NOAA ship, Sarah commented that she would prefer to be on a Hawaii-based ship. She knew that the OSCAR ELTON SETTE had the best crew, and by far the best meals of any NOAA vessel.  As fortune revealed itself to Sarah, none of the other NOAA officers applied for Pacific ships, and she was given a position aboard the SETTE, based out of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here she is at twenty-four years of age driving the SETTE through the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Her unofficial capacity as an officer aboard the SETTE is to “drive the dang boat.” (As it would be, you can put a boat on a ship, but you CANNOT put a ship on a boat!). However, her official job description is to “help coordinate scientists and crew to accomplish the ship’s mission.”  (Proper use of the term “ship,” and might I add as an objective interviewer, very well stated!)

Sarah focuses daily on her short-term goal, which is to not jump overboard during the shark feeding frenzy that takes place on lobster cruises each afternoon.  In the long run, she hopes to use the GI Bill to help her earn her masters degree in the coming years.  She also aspires to become a treasure hunter and, if that does not work out, a pirate!

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys riding her beach cruiser.  Of course she cannot do that while at sea, so she also takes up the wonderfully entertaining hobby of reading.  Her fondest memory aboard the SETTE was the first day setting sail in January of 2006, when she earned the affectionate nickname of “Princess Spew Wog” for putting on a wonderful demonstration of what a hangover will do when mixed with Pacific swells and a moving ship.

Sarah carries a line with her everywhere she goes, whether out to sea or on land:

“Desire is Desire wherever you go. The Sun with not bleach it, or the Tides wash it away.”

Bruce Mokiao 

“Decky”

“Always look for the good in people.”

If there is a friendly face to know aboard the SETTE, and the warmest laughter to accompany a welcoming smile, it belongs to Bruce.  He has been a decky aboard the SETTE since it was commissioned on January 23, 2003.  Before that, he worked in the same capacity aboard the recently decommissioned NOAA vessel, the TOWNSEND CROMWELL.  Even further back than that, one might recognize Bruce’s voice in the song “Wipe Out.”  The royalties for the song have since run out, so Bruce takes to the sea to do what he has come to do very well.

Spending much of his time before NOAA as a commercial long-line tuna and marlin fishermen, he stumbled into his current position almost by accident.  A friend of his working on the Townsend Cromwell had given him an application many years back, which he held onto for two years before finally submitting it to NOAA.  Like many of us, he only knew NOAA for the National Weather Service, and not for its marine research.

On June 11, 2006 Bruce passed his five-year mark with NOAA, an accomplishment that he is very proud of. He has no real plans of leaving the ship any time soon, although he is finishing up testing with the Coast Guard when the ship is at port.  As long as tuna are being caught in the trolling lines and he has first dibs on a freshly beating tuna heart, Bruce will always be found aboard the SETTE.

Some of Bruce’s hobbies on the ship include making fun of the Teacher at Sea, and storytelling, both of which he does with such clear evidence of god-given talent it is amazing!  While the ship is not as sea, Bruce heads back to his parents home to spend time with them.  He has great love and respect for his mother and father, who make frequent appearances in his stories, and he strives to model their example in his own life for his daughter (21 years old) and his son (19 years old).  Bruce was recently married in January 2006 and takes great pride in his wife as well.

Some of the best advice that Bruce has to offer surrounds him, much like the quotes at the top and bottom of this page.

“I like to be happy every day.”

Chris Harvey, June 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 14, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Some of you are about to begin your day, and mine is dragging on for a little while more.  Today was a bit more full of wind and rain than yesterday. In fact, the seas have heightened to the point that we are in a continual state of bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball (or a rag doll, if you prefer the cliché). That would be ok if we were in fact a ping-pong ball. Instead, we are a 240-foot steel sailing vessel. The Pacific has definitely had her way with us today. Although we are all still healthy and the Sette continues to push back on the waves crashing at the bow just as hard as they are pushing on Her. Tomorrow is bound to be substantially worse than today according to preliminary weather reports from the bridge (remember, we are NOAA, the weather source!). As the French say… Yeah I caught myself before I quoted the French! The only French person worth quoting is Napoleon, who himself claims that he was not French! (I am only harassing France because Carole, one of our researchers, is French and I have not given her a hard time in my journals yet! I was treated very well by the French when I was in France, and I am also hoping to one day work with a man whose last name is Cousteau, so I better be kind to the French!)

I got to sleep in a little longer as the “runner” today than the last two days when I was a “cracker” and bait cutter.  Having this job didn’t keep me any drier than the crackers. Nor did it keep me very far away from the smell of day old festering mackerel. But it was a nice change. Tomorrow I go back to my favorite job- that of a stacker. Being a stacker keeps me as far away from the science of this mission as possible. It puts me on the fantail with good music and good crew to keep me company. If you can’t tell, these two things have become some of my favorite aspects of the cruise. But now I am sounding redundant of past entries.

Today we lost eight more traps to the coral reef below.  Good for it! Except that those traps will be there for some time. It is kind of ironic the way this mission and the next will work out for the Oscar Sette. On the next cruise, the Sette will be hosting scientists specializing in coral reef protection. Perhaps we should have their chief scientist and our chief scientist talk next time before anyone goes out to sea. Then maybe we wouldn’t tear down the bridges that they keep building!

Bob says that fishermen have a saying about losing gear to the sea: If you put it in, do not expect to get it back. I’ve thought about it all day long, a kind of sailor’s koan, and have only been able to conclude that fishermen who think this must have very little respect for the sea. But that is not my position to say. As a wise man has advised me, some battles are best not fought. The sad reality of this trip is that despite how much effort we put into protecting any or all species of marine animals, someone in some part of the world is doing his part to remove as many of those animals as possible to put as much money in his pocket as possible. Again, no negativity. Only reality.

On the lighter side of things, I found enjoyment in two particular marine species today.  The first was a monk seal that passed by the port side (left side) of the ship between hauling strings of traps. It didn’t stop to give us much of a show, which is good because that is not its purpose in life. Instead it just dipped itself into the waves and moved on past the stern (rear) of the ship and out of sight.

The second was an albatross that didn’t seem to mind the fact that the wind picked up to about 30 knots today. In fact, it took advantage of this wind to perform some acrobatic maneuvers that I am sure any pilot would love to imitate in any aircraft. At times I swore that its wing tips were in the crest of a wave as it raced about just above the waves. It couldn’t have been more than six inches above the water at times. Which is remarkable because the waves were so sporadic an unequal in size that I expected it to wipe out at any point. Just when it seemed the albatross was going to crash into the water, it would tilt itself upwards and rise into the sky cutting the sky into two pieces as quickly as a warm knife through butter. The flight was so graceful and perfect in its form. As cliché as it sounds, I thought of how wonderful it must be to be that albatross today. It didn’t seem to be scavenging for food or drink. And it never seemed anxious that it was lost. It was just playing in the wind and waves, perhaps taking a day off of the trials of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow. Perhaps it too can say mooo!

Chris Harvey, June 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Today was the longest day of hauling traps since we have been out here.  I guess that is partly due to the fact that the wind picked up this morning and made the ocean very choppy. We have been experiencing swells of around 5 feet for the last few days.  But with the wind cutting into them, the waves smashing into the boat have the strength of the swells but the misdirection of a thousand firecrackers.  It made navigating the ship very difficult for the bridge. If our winch (Yes, the Captain corrected me on my use of the word “wench” in a previous entry. A “wench,” he said was a servant girl of the Dark Ages. A “winch” is a machine used to haul lines up and down.) receives the trap strings at angles larger than about 30 degrees to the ship, it is very difficult to use.

A second reason why we had such difficulty hauling the traps this morning is that we set them on coral heads at the bottom of the ocean.  The traps are made of sturdy, yet flexible plastic and are connected to each other with rope about a half inch in diameter.  Further, there is a fair amount of rope between each trap, which is left to float and dangle in the current, frequently catching itself in the coral and making our job of hauling the traps to the ship extremely difficult.

Twice today the coral won decisive battles against us, and forced the rope to break.  We lost a total of 7 traps to the ocean. Bob says that this is a minor loss. I wonder what is to become of the traps once we are gone.  Yesterday we lost 9 traps while setting them because instead of attaching a float to the end of a string of eight, a crewmember attached a ninth trap. Instead of having a buoyant float to mark the string of eight traps, nine traps sank quickly to the ocean floor. There was talk this morning of diving the site to retrieve the floats.  Then there was talk that the traps were expendable, and that the risk of shark attack was slightly too high. So after today, there are 16 traps on the bottom of the Pacific, full of bait, lobster, sharks, hermit crabs, eel, or anything else that had the misfortune to crawl inside.

I am still greatly enjoying the people. And the sunsets here have been some of the most amazing things that I have ever seen. Even the “full” moon rising the last few nights has left me in pure awe of the world and all its wonders.  Last night, while sitting on the deck outside of the bridge, Sarah, an Ensign officer, showed me the Southern Cross rising in the horizon.  She also pointed out several other series of constellations that I had never been aware of before.  My father warned me about the beauty of the stars in the open sea.  He was certainly right. Constellations that I could never begin to see back home in Jacksonville stuck out in the night sky like the ancient sailors’ visions of old. But even with all of the constant beauty of nature around me, I still wake up each morning with apprehension over what my work will bring.

I must move forward, regardless of how I feel towards the science–or rather methodology of the science.  And maybe that is what I am supposed to learn through practice over the next three weeks. Usually when I run into something that tastes bitter at first bite, I back away from a second bite. I cannot back away from future bites in this situation. So I will be forced to move into a new realm of patience, perseverance, understanding, and personal growth. I have already given up on the thought of eating fish and lobster anytime soon. Lobster has never been a favorite of mine, but after spending the last four days staring into their fearful little eyes while I pull them from traps, or spread them across a table to take measurements, I have come to love the lobsters for their simple, yet perfect existence.

I hate reaching this point, where I feel as though I am guilty for being part of the human race. I am not about to make such a leap as in Walden, and presume that humans are supposed to act in such a small part in nature as everything else.  I know that there is something special about us that gives us the right, perhaps out of desire rather than necessity, to remain at the “top” of the food chain…for now (I say “top” because as soon as I fall into the water during shark feeding time, I guarantee I am NOT at the top of the food chain anymore!).  Still I feel as though part of this mission is to see how the lobsters live without the interaction and interference of man in their natural habitat.  Then we come along in our ship with our traps and our scientific instruments and rip them from their homes, probe about them for a while, throw them into a bucket with so many of their likes that they would probably not have ever come across on the ocean floor had we not caught them in our traps, toss them back into the sea in a different location from where we pulled them, and then expect them to grow and multiply.  I am sorry for the analogy, but in the tradition of practicing perception from different perspectives on this cruise, as I was probing lobsters in the wet lab yesterday I kind of felt like I was an alien in a space ship scooping up human beings, performing horrific torture on them as I took my measurements, and then throwing them back down. In a sick kind of way, I hope that aliens do come along some day (if they haven’t come already) and abduct some of our scientists. I don’t mean them any harm, but sometimes I feel very guilty for our egocentric belief that we can are supposed to analyze and break down everything in order to “fix” nature.

I am afraid that I am getting a little deep in my thought, and it’s not yet time for sunset (my drug of choice for inspiration while onboard the ship).  I think that there are a lot of things in nature that we can seek to understand.  But I think that we should take hint after hint from Mother Nature as she continues to bombard us with hurricanes in the Atlantic, volcanoes in Indonesia, and the melting of the icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica (and so on, and so forth of course!). Yes, it is truly wonderful to be a human being instead of a fat moo-cow!  Do not get me wrong about that!  But maybe a fat moo-cow doesn’t suffer so much as it goes about its life because it never thinks that it can control the type or amount of grass it eats, the temperature in which it lows each night, the cleanliness of the water that it drinks, and so forth.  It just does what it is created to do, and offers its life as a perfect sacrifice to the Great Beyond by doing this most simple task to the best of its ability.

Chris Harvey, June 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 12, 2006

Science and Technology Log

The hardest part of this job, aside from waking up around 6:30 in the morning, is keeping track of the events of the day through my journal entries.  Yesterday I didn’t feel like writing much, so I skipped an entry just to make it harder on myself today.  I’ve been told that I don’t need to write about everything each and every day, but I know from all of the journals that I have kept during my travels, writing is as much for me to look back on as it is for those of you keeping up on my experiences here.  So this entry is a bit of a hodgepodge, smorgasbord, or mishmash of sorts.

I have read through my last entry a half dozen times and I am still amazed at the experience. It seems premature of me to say that I’ve had my turning point in this trip already. But it sure feels that way.  It is a struggle to work now.  I feel like a man on a great pilgrimage to some Holy Land who has found Enlightenment midway through his journey, and so longer needs to travel–but does so for the sake of sharing his experience along the way. And on a ship at sea, one does not really have the luxury of turning the ship around and going home.  That’s how I know that there is quite a bit more in store for me.  And so I will go another day, awaiting what will be.

A common theme of the voyage is the regular showing of “Groundhog Day” at 8 PM each evening.  I have not taken to watching it yet, but I love the idea of showing it again and again. I was warned, after the ship left the harbor of course, that the lobster cruise becomes Groundhog Day after a few days.  And so far, this must be true.  Yesterday I was back in the wet lab measuring lobster all day.  Nothing much happens there, and I am in the air conditioning rather than in the sun, so I should be grateful for that.  However, I am starting to wonder if the costs involved in this research expedition are worth the results that we are getting.

I have been asked by some of you to share the results of our catch.  I don’t have all of the numbers next to me right now, but the general trend is that the lobster catch in the NWHI really sucks. We are pretty much right on par for the last few years of data, which for the most part averages less than one lobster per trap.  In some cases, such as today, the catch rate is much, much lower than that.  Which leads me into explaining part of the reason for this mission to exist.  I will do my best to explain this, as it has been related to me thought my prying and probing.

Part of NOAA’s purpose for existence, as an extension of the US Department of Commerce, is to conduct surveys to promote the use of sustainable fisheries for the US.

What this means is that the US government has recognized that fisheries provide the economy a fairly sizable chunk of change, employment opportunities, and the likes, and would like to continue to improve the industry.  The Hawaiian Islands are some of the most protected land areas in the United States, governed by up to three different organizations. Since the year 2000, commercial fishing of lobster in the NWHI has been completely eliminated.  Commercial bottom fishing is still permitted, but on a very restricted basis. There were concerns that, for the 100+ years that commercial lobster fishing was legal in the NWHI, the lobster population was suffering a serious blow and was unable to recuperate itself year after year.  For this reason, various government agencies, particularly during the end of the Clinton era, gained a greater control over the environmental protection of the NWHI and the waters surrounding them.

We are here now as part of a study to document the growth, or lack thereof, of two types of lobster native to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands: the Slipper Lobster and the Spiny Lobster. Scientists have been interested in the growth rates of these two lobsters because, for the most part, growth has been very, very slow over the last few years.  Determining the age of lobster is extremely difficult, as is left to best estimates based on size.  Over the last few years, thousands of lobsters have been tagged, and we are on the prowl for such lobster so we can document their growth over time.

The best place to see what is going on in the lobster community is to spend time in the wet lab measuring the specimen with Bob, the Chief Scientist of the ship, who has spent over thirty years working out of Hawaii. Although he probably gets tired of my probing, most of what I have come to know about our mission has come from the last two days I have spent in the wet lab. There we take measurements of each lobster, and after we are through, Bob crunches the numbers and spits out data for us to compare to previous years. As I said before, we are right on par for last year’s numbers.  Perhaps slightly higher, at best.

If we are not catching more than one lobster per trap, and the lobster that we are catching are only slightly larger than the year before, if that, can we open the waters to commercial lobster fishing again?  Think about that for a minute, and then come back to me…The answer seems to be, no.

As scientists, we must move further into the issue and ask ourselves why aren’t the lobsters growing?  In a time where every scientific question seems to be answered with “Global Warming,” we must take into consideration many other factors as well.  Water temperature and salinity may be changing over time.  But there is also the issue of food supply for the lobsters. Is the quantity or quality of food decreasing?  What about predators?  There are many times more white tipped reef sharks present in these waters now than ever before. Could this be influencing lobster growth (how is the marine food chain in the NWHI changing?)?  Are the lobster stressed for other reasons? Are the coral heads in which the lobsters take shelter growing, or dying?

With so many variables, we must do our very best to keep our constants in this investigation constant. Such constants include: location of traps, type and amount of bait, and measuring points on the lobster.  Bob has done a very good job of keeping these things constant over the last few years, despite how easy it would be to change any of them at any other time.  If he were to do that, he would essentially be throwing out years and years of previous work.

So what are we doing here?  I ask myself that every day!  We are here to make evaluations of the sustainability of the lobster fishing industry–not quite as “treehugging” of a mission as I had first anticipated, but important nonetheless, if the Hawaiian Islands’ fisheries are to significantly contribute to the US economy.  Whether or not we are justified in spending the time and money we are spending is still up in the air for me, but maybe that is why I am just an “observer,” and “scientist,” rather than head of some government agency.

Today I switched jobs and became a “cracker.”  Yeah, according to some of my students I already am a “cracker.”  But in this use of the word, I was paired again with Amee in opening the traps as soon as they were hauled onto the ship.  I tell you, the only thing worse than smelling dead mackerel is smelling dead mackerel that have been sitting at the bottom of the ocean for a day growing more and more putrid.  I was very reluctant to begin the job today. I have resigned myself to simply stacking traps.  This gets me away from the lobster, shark, crabs, and dead fish of the traps and allows me to listen to music on the fantail while small-talking with the crew about anything and everything.  As I have made reference to already, I am very undecided about my involvement in the research we are conducting. Since I signed up for the job, I will do it to the best of my ability.  But it is already difficult for me to do jobs, such as cracking, because I see some things that do not sit well in the stomach.

Amee and I sang Disney songs all day long to pass time, to the chagrin of the others around us. In all, we were finished rather early.  I threw the bait overboard to the waiting sharks (one of my undecided arguments), and took a nap (never an undecided argument!).  I am about to head outside to watch another Pacific sunset, followed immediately by the task of setting out bait to thaw overnight.  Tomorrow is an early morning, since I have to wake up at start cutting bait by 6:30 if I want to eat breakfast (another undecided argument, breakfast is NOT to be missed!).

Not to be forgotten, last night was another first for me.  Doc, Amee, and I were sharing conversation over a cup of tea on the weather deck when the moon rose like a flame over the ocean. For a moment I thought we were drinking hallucinogenic tea.  But we were all having the same trip.  I pointed out what looked to be an island on fire, perhaps a volcanic eruption. Amee said it was a Viking ship of old.  Doc said it was the moon.  I didn’t believe any of us, so I ran towards the bridge to ask more experienced sailors what it could be. Then the fire spread into the sky, outlining the shape of a mushroom.  So this is the end! The Nuclear Holocaust has begun, and Honolulu is gone! My love story with the sea would soon turn into one of survival, with no one left to read about it!

Then the curve of a red/orange moon nudged itself above the clouds.  And with each passing second I could see Her rise, red and rich as fire.  And full.  I trembled at the sight of a red moon and thought of any nautical expressions that might predict the outcome of such a sight. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.  No, that wouldn’t work! It doesn’t say anything about red moons!  And that was the only nautical expression I knew! In my trembling, I eventually grew comfortable at the sight of something amazing.  I stood there in silence for the next hour as I watched the blazing moon shed its color as it rose into a darkened sky.  The few stars that were bright enough to hold their own light in its presence seemed to glow red and orange in its reflection.  Rising still into the night, I went to bed again truly impressed at whatever forces allowed this moment to be…again.  When I thought I had seen it all, something like this comes along. What a Beautiful life!  Have I said this before?

Chris Harvey, June 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 10, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Have you ever wanted to create something so Beautiful, but didn’t know where to begin? I have. It happened last night just before sunset, and lasted until about midnight when I finally closed my eyes.  I tried to capture the moment with my words and with my camera, but both failed in every attempt.  Here are the words anyway.  Pictures will have to wait.

“I don’t know if I have ever seen anything as Beautiful as the sunset tonight.  I can’t describe it in words. Nor should I even try. They wouldn’t do it justice.  All I can do is try to describe myself right now, incredibly inspired to live in this one moment–and take back every other one, just to remain here now.  A nearly full moon arises as the sun retires for the evening. White cumulus clouds of different shapes and heights scatter themselves across the sky and then fade into colors as they meet on the horizon.  Every color exists right now. And with the setting sun, a flash of green to outline the furthest clouds. The depth my eyes perceives exceeds the depth of the ocean.  Dolphin dance quietly in the waters around us to the sounds of Coltrane to make the evening complete. If I don’t wake tomorrow, I know where I shall be–forever in this moment.  Remove the people. Remove the steel from this ship.  Remove my pen and paper and camera and lenses. Leave nothing but me in a dinghy to drift about through this lovely sea and sky.  And let me go here in quiet moments, if I wake in the morning and this is no longer real. And let my soul reside in solitude among the gentle rolling swells and mirrored moon upon their hills and valleys. Keep me here, where I know that Everything that belongs here is in its right place. Let me sing along in wordless song to the music in my heart.  Let my senses overwhelm me.  I am here, right now.  Not dreaming.  Or am I?  Will I wake tomorrow morning worn and weary, awaiting another breath, wishing and wondering when I–if I–should ever see a moment so still as now? Unimaginable. Love. Beauty. Life. All the same right now.  All in front, behind, beside, within me.  Love and Beauty and Life, forever in this moment.  Until I close my eyes, and wake again…”

I would have painted the moment for you if I could paint.  Or I would have sung it to you, if my voice could describe the colors, depth of perception, taste of salt in the air, and slightest feeling of air pressed from the wind against my skin.  Not even Monet could paint it though.  Nor could a church choir reach the solemnity of such a peaceful moment.  And I fail with my words again and again.  So I’ll stop.

I spent a good part of the morning recounting the evening with everyone on board.  Many of the crew agreed that they have never seen such a night before.  All of us scientists, who are just along for the ride this one time, believe much the same.  Last night was incredibly spiritual–on so many levels.  I expect them to peel away from me over time, like layers of an onion.

The anchor was broken this morning, so we did not begin work until about 9:30.  In the meantime, I sat on the fantail of the ship watching the sun change the colors of the sky from pastels to brighter primary and secondary colors.  Joe put some Grateful Dead on the PA, and we sat in silence for a good while taking in the scenery around us.  Except for Necker Island, we are entirely surrounded by water and clouds and blue sky.  The Pacific remains so calm, and keeps the crew knocking on wood at every mention of Her stillness. It is becoming taboo around here to speak of the gently rolling swells.  Though not quite as comparable as the Great Nor’easters that menace sailors off the coast of New England in a matter of minutes, the Pacific is known for turning on a dime and changing such silence into a terrible mess.  I have grown to respect her Peace with us.  I pray for it each morning in my own stillness.  The birds also welcome such moments and offer their best unto the sea and sky with their graceful flight throughout the clouds. Everything is truly in its right place.

As for work, I was inside the wet lab today measuring lobster.  I saw a side of science that did not seem to fit my picture of what it should be. Not that it was bad, per se.  It just was not what I expected it to be. Though I should know from traveling time and time again, my expectations of what should be will never fully match up with what really is.  I am constantly reminded of this.  And I constantly forget it.  And my heart has been stirred, to say the least, to consider the nature of science and all of its implications.  I am still a scientist.  But I am learning that perhaps I am not a scientific researcher.  Perhaps I will remain on the other side of science for a while, until I can sort out the disparity between my heart and my head in this matter.

It was an easy day, full of air conditioning and fluorescent lighting.  I saved my skin from an ultraviolet beating, and kept myself fully hydrated.  I didn’t even break a sweat, and almost started feeling bad about it later in the day when I saw how exhausted everybody else seemed to be.  Then I reminded myself how spent I had been the last three days, and how I would be again on Monday when I left the lab and returned to the deck of the ship. I have trouble slowing myself down sometimes, and feel as though I should be thoroughly involved in anything and everything that happens.  So I intentionally withdrew myself after work into the Rec Room to watch a video with some of the other scientists.  I need the down time.  I need the break from reality.  I take everything so seriously all of the time. And I wonder, shouldn’t I? Can I afford to take these breaks? There is always something that I can do, something that I can write, some song that I can play. And there is always that drive in me to create something so Beautiful, and to begin doing it sometime soon…

Chris Harvey, June 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I actually woke up on time for work today (though my muscles, or lack thereof, were extremely sore)!  I dreaded the idea of stacking again today, though yesterday I thought I would volunteer my services as a stacker for the entire trip.  Due to the tremendous amount of physical labor in the sun, I thought that working as a stacker would be great for me to get back in shape (what shape that is, is yet to be determined!) and give me a chance for a good tan. As it turns out, one must first know what shape they would like to be, before they can pursue getting back into it.  For example: Homer Simpson would prefer to be in the shape of a beer, so he practices by drinking beer.  Presently, I am in the shape of a Dunlap. That is, my belly is so big it “dun lapped” over the rest of me!

I stacked again today, though we were much more efficient as an entire ship.  The bridge (control part of the ship) seemed to get us to our strings of traps in a timely manner, and our trap-hauling assembly line was wonderfully efficient.  We finished our strings of eight early enough to have a full hour for lunch (yesterday it was only about 20 minutes), and our twenties were out of the water by 1:30. We continued on and re-set the traps in their new locations and were completely finished swabbing the deck by 3:30.  All in a day’s work!

Some highlights of the day were: feeding the sharks again (or course!  I don’t know if that will ever get old!), throwing a small white-tipped shark out of a trap and into the water where the larger Galapagos sharks consumed it in a matter of seconds (yes, sad but incredibly fascinating to watch.  Sharks seem to me to be a nearly perfect species–aside from the fact that they eat dead animals, have a brain about the size of a walnut, and do not have opposable thumbs! They are incredibly agile and flexible–being made of cartilage and not bone–very swift, strong, and efficient in their use of energy.  Plus they look very sleek, unless they are trying to bite your arm off, in which case I am assuming they look extremely frightening!), catching a decent number of lobster, crab, eel, and other such marine life that is fun to see up close, and not having to work with Amee.

The Pacific has been eerily calm these last few days.  Today we had some gentle swells, but nothing I couldn’t handle. My “sea legs” seemed to have turned into “S legs,” because when I try to walk a straight line with the ship rocking, my line looks more like a curved “S”! We have been dancing around Necker Island, never staying further away than eyesight. She stills looks like a Dragon at times, and a Sperm Whale at others.  But she is company in this voyage.

I had some incredibly insightful thoughts while meditating earlier this morning.  Thoughts come much clearer when you are surrounded by such beautiful scenery.  One of my favorite things these days, besides trying to count the different shades of blue between the open sea and sky, is looking off in the distance where the clouds meet the sky. In places they seem to gently “bubble” up out of the sea.  Joe says that this is where the world ends. I asked him if we could go there, but he says that it is an insurance liability thing with NOAA.  I asked if I could take a life raft and check it out myself, since I enjoy life on the edge. He said “No!” I’d still like to know if it’s the end of the world or not. Whatever it is, it is one of the many things that I am noticing at sea that I have never noticed about the world before. Strange, this recent talk of perspective–my entire journey is from a different perspective.  I am growing so much every day.

I have come across two ideas that I hope to expound upon over the coming weeks.  The first is the human condition, and how hard it is to diagnose, treat, and remedy the human body, mind, and soul.  Lots of people are making lots of money off of books and videos and CD ROMs that promise to do just that.  However, I have good reason –via the scientific method and the perspective of science I am gaining out here–to argue against such media.

The second is the human element in science.  Science is our way of understanding the world around us. Ever since someone had a question about something natural–from astronomy to gravity to cells to atomic particles–someone else has come up with a process of answering that question through science.  That is why I love science so much. I have so many questions about the world around me; I know that science is the only way to learn how to answer my questions. But science is no living creature.  It is no solid set of information, or database with solutions to every riddle.  Humans have invented “science” as a process through which we ask questions, design controlled experiments, collect data, and interpret that data.  There is a whole lot of room for error there.  Especially since the first word in that sentence is “humans.”  (I hope that I do not offend anyone by saying that humans, whether by nature or by nurture or by neither, have a tragic flaw instilled in their perspective that tends to cause error of some degree in nearly everything. Call it “Original Sin,” “human nature,” or what have you- the one thing we are great at doing is screwing something up.)  I don’t mean to sound pessimistic; just realistic. And again, I will return to this idea later.

On the drama side of things, some tension has been created between Eric, a student at the university, and myself.  He wanted to help us set traps yesterday afternoon and I asked him to leave the deck so I could finish the job.  I didn’t mean to offend him by asking him to leave.  It is just that I worked hard from the beginning of the job, and I wanted to see the project through to the end. I am terrible with finishing things well.  So I am continually trying to practice this when I can. It is kind of ironic, but we were partners today in the stacking job. I don’t think he said 10 words to me all day.  But we seemed to get along all right, and the work was done well.  I am not the kind of guy to go and ask him if I offended him.  And he is not the kind of guy to tell me if I did.  So as long as this lack of communication between us does not create any future problems, it will be all right for each of us to remain the type of people that we are.  Otherwise I will come forward and address the issue. Everyone is working far too well together for conflict.

Chris Harvey, June 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 8, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

A splash of water on my face, a trip to the head, and a brief breakfast before work…that is all I wanted as I laid in bed at 7:15. I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune today.  I wasn’t even looking for a penny on heads. All I wanted was a nice day full of sunshine and subtle rocking, and maybe a little “scientific work” on the side.

But today I officially became a man!  At least, I’m going to put in my application now to become a man!  I was interrupted from my breakfast of a sausage patty and fresh fruit by Garrett, one of the more experienced scientists onboard, to tell me that I had a meeting to attend. I was previously told that work began at 8 AM sharp, so my intentions were to enjoy my breakfast and then begin work at 8 AM sharp.  Instead, I skipped the rest of breakfast, lubed up in suntan lotion, and hit the fantail of the ship for the first part of a very long day.

We set 160 traps around Necker Island yesterday afternoon.  And after leaving them overnight, our task was to haul them up in the morning, take our catch to the lab to be scanned, weighed, and measured, re-bait the traps, and then stack them on the fantail to be set in new locations later in the day. Each scientist had a different job on the SETTE assembly line.  There were 1) the “crackers,” who opened the traps, removed any catch, and then re-baited the trap; 2) the “runner,” who brought the empty trap down the line and dropped off the bucket with the catch at the intermediary wet lab; 3) the intermediary wet lab, who took the fresh catch into the wet lab for examination, and brought the measured catch back to a trash can filled with salt water to act as a holding pen until the catch could be re-inserted where they were taken from at the bottom of the ocean (our scientists took great care to ensure that each lobster was returned very close to where it was taken from by dropping them to the ocean floor in a cage with a quick release. Rather than just tossing them overboard, where predators could eat them on the way down, the lobster are securely released in their natural habitat.);  4) the wet lab scientists, who took the catch and performed the required measurements on them; and 5) the stackers, who took the empty, re-baited traps and stacked them on the fantail to await being reset.

I was a stacker today, and will be again tomorrow until my rotation is up.  Stackers have the most difficult job because they have to stack the traps four high and then maneuver them across the deck and arrange them in a way so as not to clutter the deck.  Then, when everyone else’s job is done for the day, stackers are responsible for maneuvering the same traps across the same deck in order to be set later in the afternoon.  In addition, stackers have the joy of “swabbing the deck,” as I say in a not-so-good attempt to speak Pirate (Cakawww! My sister!  Cakawww!). Yes, that means we get to scrub the fish blood and any other acquired nastiness from the deck with our toothbrushes!  (Just kidding about the toothbrushes. We still use them to brush our teeth.  We got to use regular, long-handled brushes for this task.  But that doesn’t mean it was any easier or any more fun!)

We set 10 lines of 8 traps and 4 lines of 20 traps for a total of 160 traps in the water yesterday.  So from 8 AM until about 1:30 PM we hauled in the traps.  The hardest part of this was actually waiting for the ship to reposition after each string of traps.  If we had one string of 160 traps, the job wouldn’t have taken so long.  But we had to reposition the ship 14 times!

About 15 minutes after I stacked the last of the traps, I was given the order to begin setting them again.  Talk about government work!  Dig one hole, then turn around and fill it with sand! We set traps from about 1:45 until 4:00, with 20 minutes or so to clean the deck. I think the hardest part of the job was actually watching the deck go from being entirely empty, to entirely full, and then right back to being empty again.  That makes you feel like you haven’t done a thing at all, and you are so darn tired at the end of it all.

But a rewarding thing, aside from the collection of great scientific data, was that we got to throw all of the old bait over the side of the ship.  What do you think would take joy at the sight (or rather, smell) of rotten, dead fish?  That’s right boys and girls, sharks!!!!  In a matter of minutes we had about a dozen Galapagos sharks, raging from about 6 to 10 feet in length, fighting each other for the old mackerel.  The entire ship, crew and scientists, gathered around the side to watch the sharks fight it out about 8 feet below.  That was pretty cool! I offered to throw Amee overboard, but she didn’t want to go.  She said only if I went first. So I took a diving knife in my teeth, in the style of a true Pirate, and jumped over board to wrestle with the sharks!  (Can you tell it’s been a long day? Of course, I didn’t wrestle with the sharks.  But I did offer to throw Amee overboard!)

After the long day of stacking and resetting the traps and swabbing the deck, I ate a brief dinner and watched the end of a movie.  At this point I was notified that people were bottom fishing again outside.  Those of you who know me know that I cannot turn down a chance to bottom fish, even if I am exhausted!  So I headed outside to participate in the action.

But rather than fishing myself, I watched everyone else fish for a while.  One thing that I have learned over the years is to enjoy enjoyment. When other people have an opportunity to enjoy themselves, sometimes it is best for me just to sit back and let them.  So rather than fight my way into the fishing rotation, I let my colleagues fish away.  Believe it or not, some of them have never gone fishing before!  We used hydraulic wenches to fish anyway. And that didn’t seem like true fishing to me.  But since our goal was to catch fish in about 100 fathoms (600 feet) of water, you can count me out of fighting a fish all the way to the surface.

About midway through our fishing expedition, the sharks started showing up again.  Kenji, one of the ship’s crewmembers, caught a very nice sized snapper, but only managed to bring in a very nice sized head.  A shark got the rest of the body! He later landed a good-sized grouper. It seemed strange at first to fish from the ship.  But with scientific permits, we are able to collect specimen for measurements and population density studies. And after the fish have been chilled, the scientists cut into them and look for certain parts that tell them certain things (I don’t have a great memory of what parts they look for, and although I am a fan of eating fish, cutting them up has never been my favorite thing so I stay away from it as much as possible.).

Around sunset, I was given a chance to fish and, despite my focus on seeing a green flash (we saw one the first night at sea), I took over on the fishing wench.  As soon as my line hit bottom I had a fish on.  Huntley, another crewmember and now good friend of mine, told me to wait a couple more minutes to see if any more fish would take any more of the 4 baited hooks (we fished with 5 hooks in total).  I waited and it seemed as though I had at least another fish on, so I began to haul in the line.  Anyone who has ever fished knows that most, if not all, of the excitement of fishing comes from the anticipation of the catch.  The fishing line bridges the world above water to the world under water and, without singing the Little Mermaid song “Under the Sea,” I think it is our fascination with the unknown that makes this bridge so exciting.  In all my patience, I expected to have the largest and best catch. I am known for that sort of thing.  And about 30 or 40 feet from the surface, I felt my line jerk up and down really hard several times.  Had this occurred while my bait was on the bottom, I would have become very excited.  However, I knew exactly what that meant.  I hauled the line up to the surface and to my disbelief, the shark that took my fish also took my five-pound lead weight!  Jeff, the ship’s doctor and my fishing buddy, commented on the fact that some shark was going to be regretting its decision to swallow the weight. I laughed, but then thought about the countless Shark Week episodes I watched as a kid where they split open freshly caught sharks to examine their stomachs.  Sharks will truly eat anything.  Including nosy British girls who won’t stop staring over my shoulder as I type (Amee is standing behind me reading every word I write, making sure that I do not write poorly of her anymore!)

No green flash at sunset tonight.  But a beautiful “Miami Dolphin Sunset,” as I call it, when the sky is full of the Miami Dolphin’s shades of aqua and orange.  We are watching Groundhog Day tonight, and I am already late!  They say we are watching it because setting and hauling traps becomes one continuous blur of a day.  I believe them after a day like today.  Eight full, and much needed, hours of sleep will be immediately followed by a splash of water on my face, a trip to the head, and a brief breakfast before work…

Chris Harvey, June 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Necker Island came into view about an hour ago.  But alas! I was enthralled in Kurt Vonnegut’s latest (last?) masterpiece, “A Man Without a Country.”  It was rather hard to put down. Having the same critical side to me as Vonnegut, I have become a fan of his recently.  In this novel he comments on the times, and on the times ahead from a socialist/humanist standpoint.  I enjoyed most of it, though some parts struck a nerve.  It is strange to think that as a writer, some people think the same thoughts as I and are able to express them so much more eloquently.  We have stopped now to bottom fish in about 120 fathoms of water.  Good for us! For those of you who skipped Pirating 101, or Sailing Across the Atlantic 101, a fathom is 6 feet.  So you do the math!  I have a feeling I am spending a lot more time writing than it is intended.  But as the proverbial “they” say, practice makes perfect.  Or rather, as my high school basketball coach stressed, perfect practice makes perfect!

If you cannot tell, I have taken a peculiar fascination with Amee.  I have become a scientist of sorts on board this ship.  And she is a rather strange creature to study.  So I spend much time dissecting her horrible English accent, and injecting as much sarcasm as possible when we communicate.  Recently she commented on how nice my boots looked.  I thanked her and told them that they were called “Euro trekkers,” and that they were good for trekking Euro. They don’t really match my board shorts and t-shirt, but this is no fashion show!

By the way, on a semi-serious note: Amee is a police officer back in England, so we have had many stories to swap about our less-than-ideal work conditions.  I think that is why we get along so well. The other researchers onboard are just “kids,” as I have explained before. They are all undergraduate students with slightly less life experience than either of us. So I truly enjoy having a friend who can relate to my experience, especially one with a diverse perspective. We have debated the solution to all of the world’s problems from various angles, and I am continuing to see why perspective is so important to solutions.  (By the way, the solution to all of the world’s problems is Ahu, a little red snapper that dwells around Hawaii.  It is a pretty little thing, with big eyes and a fat belly.  Well, the solution is either Ahu, or Peanut Butter and Jelly.  You can never go wrong with that!)

I am often viewed as a complainer, because I tend to see the world through very critical eyes. But I also do my best to gain as much perspective in a situation as possible before opening my mouth.  This is something that I have learned through traveling time and time again. I remember very clearly the first time I spoke without perspective on my first journey. I was sitting in a lounge in a hostel in Dublin, Ireland having a conversation with a Canadian, a Kiwi (New Zealand), a Welshman, and a Pole (is that what someone from Poland is called?) about the politics of the war in Iraq. It had first broken out just days before my travel, and I was anxious about the reception that I would have in Europe.  In some cities there were riots and American exchange students were being spit on and beaten up in public. And here we were, a bad joke waiting to be told, trying to figure out the ethics, reasons for, and solution to the war in Iraq, each of us from a different standpoint. I started to open my mouth to say what I truly felt as an American who survived the 911 attacks and grew up under the protection of and respect for the military, which would have been brutally honest, when the Welshman cut me off and began ranting and raving about how terrible US politics were.  I was growing furious inside and if it weren’t for the good-natured Kiwi who spoke up before me, I would have said something rude and most likely provocative of a fight.  The Kiwi asked the Welshman if he had ever lived in the United States.  The Welshman said no.  “Have you ever visited the United States?” Again the answer was no. “Then what right have you to speak of the politics of the United States if you have never been there?”  Silence filled the room and suddenly I was aware of what perspective truly meant.

Had I opened my mouth to defend my country, I would have most likely ended up looking just as angry and ignorant as the Welshman for his point of view.  Instead, through patience and persevering through another person’s point of view, I was able to objectively understand the arguments from another person’s side of things.  I had NEVER been able to do this before. And at this particular moment, my life was forever changed.

Would we all take the time to get to know our neighbors and those people who we don’t seem to get along with, I am sure things would be much better in the world.  While I can only promote this notion on a small scale, I hope that others can see how important perspective truly is. EVERY time I travel I learn something new about myself.  Every time I stop and listen to the complaints of someone else about myself, I am able to see things in myself that I need to change.  Again, can I save the world? Most definitely not.  But can I learn enough to change a small part of the world through conversations with people such as Amee?  Certainly.  Should it be my purpose in life to listen and extend my perspective on various ideas and notions?  I believe so.  And not to sound preachy, or “teacher-ish,” as I like to refer to these moments, but do you ever wonder how much confrontation, stress, anxiety, and negativity we could avoid if we only took the time to stop and listen to another person’s point of view?

As Amee knows, I am ALWAYS right!  She has affectionately dubbed me the American Redneck. And to make the name stick, I have intentionally earned myself a farmer’s tan over the last day and a half. I am officially an American Redneck, and Amee is officially a Bloody Brit, but we are officially friends, and that makes a day for me…

We have “made a bed” for ourselves a short distance away from Necker Island.  For all of the huff and puff of reaching the island, I am a little disappointed.  It is definitely nothing more than a rather small island, or a rather large piece of rock, sticking out of the water just enough to attract several dozen birds.  Apparently there are some monuments engraved into the island, left over from primitive Pacific cultures.  Scientists’ best guess is that they were used for navigation, or small religious ceremonies, since the island is definitely not habitable.

It has been a long day today and I am grateful for the change in pace.  At 12:45 we were called into the wet lab, a laboratory set up on the inside of the ship where most of the science of the project will take place.  We, the novice researchers, were given instructions on how to set up and bait the traps, as we would be setting them in our first sites almost immediately.  Joe, one of the scientists and leading authorities on the North West Hawaiian Island (NWHI) lobsters, gave us the run through in Trap 101.  I can teach any of you Trap 101 upon my return to the mainland if you so desire.  He didn’t have certificates to print out, so my knowledge of lobster traps will be filed away under the “Important Once Upon A Time” folder inside my head that contains information such as: how to remove a tick from a dog’s rear end, how to speak Pig Latin, and how to cook microwave popcorn in a microwave.

By 1 PM we were all out on the fantail of the ship assembling, baiting, and locking 160 lobster traps. This again was a wonderful portrait of the unity that we have formed among us, with no instruction to cooperate as such.  To give you an idea of our working conditions, whenever fish blood was spilled on the hot, black deck, a filthy steam would rise into the air. I went through a gallon of water in the course of an hour or so.  And at times the sweat was pouring into my eyes so much that by the time I wiped my eyes with my shirt, more sweat was pouring in. (Remember, no pity parties…yet!)  Now take into consideration that there was many of us working together in a rather tight spot (after we have assembled 160 lobster traps, the deck is rather full) all requiring the same basic materials to complete our task, in such heat as I’ve just described.  I can count the number of times one of us complained by using a Goglesplotcha (That’s right, whatever that “word” is, it does not exist.  NO ONE complained once.).

By 2:30 we were setting traps in the water with the help of the more experienced ship crew. Although no specific jobs were assigned, we seemed to rotate the workload between us, ensuring that the job was done effectively and efficiently.  Again, coming from a business mind, I am thoroughly impressed with the way things went today.  Our boss was so confident in our working together that he stood on the next deck above us and drank a diet coke while we sweated away (I guess that is the reason we should all strive to become a boss one day!).  Nobody had to thank me for the work I had done.  Nor did I have to thank anyone else. We all knew that we had successfully completed the task. Had I a PhD behind my name, I might study our methods a little closer and try to coin a phrase to describe our cooperation and put it in a book!  I think, if somehow our faculty could cooperate the way we did today, there is no question in my mind we would become the best school in the district.  There were probably flaws along the way, and at times some of us may have been thinking that we were carrying more or less of the workload. But when it was all said and done, the job was done wonderfully and we will be rewarded by the data we begin collecting tomorrow.

That’s it for now. Life aboard the ship is peachy keen (or something cheesy like that).

PS- The “sea legs” have arrived, complete with a nice sunburn!  The only trouble I have now is closing my eyes in the shower to keep the shampoo out of my eyes.  When I do this, it seems my inner ear loses its balance and I bang my head against the showerhead.  Believe it or not, the methodical scientist that I am, it is not enough to have this happen once. I must try several times, testing variables such as water temperature, width of stance, and pace of head scrubbing.  In the end I get the same bruised noggin.  O’ the price I have to pay in the name of science!  (It may just be that I am clumsy.  I haven’t taken that variable into consideration yet!)

Chris Harvey, June 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 6, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I survived the night with ease! The only problem I had was after I woke up the first time (around 1:30 AM) and could not fully get back to sleep.  I am still struggling with this jetlag thing, although my “sea legs” are coming along well.  Knock on wood; I am already well adjusted in the inner ear, though I still get tossed around a bit when I try to walk. I can handle that though. It is the seasickness that I feared.

I ate breakfast with Amee and John, the Electronics Technician guy.  He handles all of the communications and electronics stuff on the ship.  We all traded past war stories and somehow ended up in a pseudo-philosophical discussion about science and technology and the future of our world. (I say “pseudo-philosophical” because none of us is trained in any way in philosophy!) Yeah, we are all science geeks!  But it was fun. I am learning that everyone on the ship is very kindhearted and friendly.  I guess you have to be if you are going to live in such close quarters together for so long.  I’ve begun to think of this ship in terms of reality shows (Not that I am a fan of them, but we are under a lot of the same conditions: many strangers with unique backgrounds put together in a strange situation, forced to share resources in close conditions, while attempting to complete a task or mission in a given amount of time.).  I will attempt to document the human element of this trip as much as the scientific.  After all, is observation not a key element to the scientific method?  So far we are drama-free, aside from losing Tonatiuh.  But there are still 30 days left.

On a more concrete note, we are headed towards Necker Island, to the northwest of Oahu.  Unofficial word is that we will be there by mid-afternoon.  Although I have also heard that we have another full day of transit.  When we arrive there, we will begin baiting and setting lobster traps. Our mission on the OSCAR ELTON SETTE is to trap lobster in the Hawaiian waters, take measurements of tagged lobsters, and keep track of the overall population density of lobsters in the given areas.  My colleagues are concerned that the number of lobsters in the area is remaining low despite the fact that the waters have been off limits to commercial fishermen since 1990.  They are hoping that, each time they come out here, there will be a sudden increase in the number of lobsters in the area.  Something must be keeping the population down, and through the data we collect, we will be able to contribute to determining the cause, and therefore be able to help scientists devise solutions to stabilizing the lobster population.

Until we reach Necker Island, it is smooth sailing across a gently rolling Pacific, upon my perch on the Marine Mammal Observation Deck, the highest deck set directly above the bridge and which is intended for use for scientists to search for whales, dolphins, and other such life. It is covered, with a nice breeze, and Garret, a fellow researcher, is playing his harmonica.  Life couldn’t get much better.

On that note: Bob, the Chief Scientist onboard the ship (my “boss” so to speak) has made it rather clear to me that when the time to work comes, I will be working hard alongside everyone else. “I don’t know what they told you about the Teacher at Sea program,” he told me over the phone when I first arrived in Honolulu.  “But you are not going to be just observing. You will be getting hands on and dirty.”  “Good,” I told him with a smile on my face.  “That’s why I am here.”  I imagine that when we arrive at Necker Island the pace of life will pick up rather dramatically.  Until then, I am going to work on learning the ropes and enjoy my time with good company.

We have stopped the ship so that we can take a CTD reading.  The CTD reading is a measure of Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth of a water sample between the surface and 500 meters below the surface.  I was very interested in this because 1) it is the first time we have stopped the ship since we made our run out of Honolulu and a change of scenery is great when you are on a ship; and 2) the information that comes back from a CTD is very relevant to the information that I cover in my Earth/Space Science class (Mother, you will have to find some answers to questions I will pose, since some of the data contradicted my thoughts of what it should be.)

The data we are collecting is part of a time series, meaning that we are taking the sample at a specific point that has been sampled in the past and will be sampled in the future.  Scientists can then use the data over time to make inferences about such things as an approaching El Nino or La Nina, suitable regions for supporting animal populations, and other such conclusions based on our basic oceanographic data.  In addition to temperature and depth, the CTD measures the amount of oxygen and chlorophyll in the water, as well as the ocean’s salinity. Why is this data important?  We’ll get to that in a minute.

The CTD is nothing more than a weighted contraption with sensors built into it.  It is picked up by a winch and then released at a rate of 60 meters per minute to a maximum depth of 500 meters.  For this trip, we are going to take four CTD readings.  It is a secondary mission for us, meaning the only reason we are doing it is because we happen to be in the area. As the CTD increases in depth, these are some things I would have expected to see:

1) Temperature should decrease (the deeper it goes, the further it is from sunlight)

2) Chlorophyll count should decrease (Chlorophyll is dependent upon sunlight as well. This is the same chlorophyll that is found in green plants on the solid earth, and is important because it is the most basic form of life for the aquatic food chain. Thus, the more chlorophyll, the greater the chance that an aquatic food chain could be established and supported in a given region of water.  No chlorophyll would indicate a region of water that would most likely not be able to sustain life- i.e.- without chlorophyll there would be no plankton.)

3) Salinity should increase (Saline water is more dense than fresh water, so more saline water should be found at greater depths than less saline water)

4) Oxygen should be found in greatest abundance wherever chlorophyll is in greatest abundance. (Remember from Biology 101, chlorophyll takes carbon dioxide and sunlight and converts it to oxygen)

What actually happened was this:

1) Temperature did in fact decrease with depth, though only slightly.  We were at a depth of over 4,000 meters and we only sent the CTD down 500 meters.  Imagine what would have happened if we sent it down further!

2) The chlorophyll count went from about zero to its maximum at 100 meters, and then returned back to zero by 200 meters depth. This makes sense since most of the sunlight is absorbed by 200 meters.

3) The salinity of the seawater increased at first, then decreased, and ultimately ended up about the same as at the surface.  This is the question I pose for you Terry (ask Marge for some assistance!): Why?  One of my colleagues, smartalec Amee, told me that it was because the Coriolis effect was stirring the ocean between depths of 0-500 meters.  Is this true?  (Remember, Amee is British so I must second-guess ANYTHING and EVERYTHING she says!)

4) Oxygen followed the same suit as I suspected and was at greatest concentration where the chlorophyll was at greatest concentration.

It was very interesting to conduct this investigation because the data that I use in class comes from surveys such as ours.  This was another exciting science-geek moment for me because I seem to forget quite often that I am on a NOAA research vessel conducting the research and acquiring the data that many science resources across the world become dependent upon!

On the sociology side of things, our reality show would never cut it back in the States.  It seems that we all just get along too darn well!  No matter what we seem to say or do to each other, everything seems to come out positive.  Imagine having classrooms with environments like this!  Imagine communities cooperating like we do!  Imagine entire cities or states or countries, or God-forbid, the entire world!  The words of John Lennon come to mind: “…Imagine all the people…”  I guess I am in a utopia of sorts, where life is different only for the time being.  But just imagine!

…you may say that I’m a Dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

Chris Harvey, June 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log: “Sea Legs”

I am having difficulty acquiring my “sea legs,” but it seems that I am not the only one.  I took my non-drowsy Dramamine an hour before departure and I have seen others among us landlubbers with seasickness-medicated patches behind their ears.  Amee, my British confidante in which I have already found similar humor, perspective on life, and taste for tea, has assured me that it is all inside my head.  “Stop thinking you’ll be sick,” she says in a Mary Poppins’ motherly sort of way. “And you won’t be sick…And stop drinking so much tea!”  Had she been a psychologist or a flight surgeon and not a marine biologist, I might have accepted her advice as truth.  As for the tea, I have fallen asleep by 7 PM both nights I have been in Hawaii and I have resorted to drinking caffeine tea to try to extend my waking hours.  Amee says that drinking too many fluids will make me sick.  I say, not drinking enough tea will make me fall asleep on the job.

And here it is 8:15 and I have already conceded defeat unto the Sea.  I have taken my drowsy Dramamine coupled with some Tylenol PM, Melatonin, and Gaba to ensure myself a good night’s sleep. Surviving the first night of rest is imperative to the success of the other 29. I think that sleep shall come swiftly and gently.

“The Head” I learned several things when I was young, most of which I learned from my father’s good example:

  1. Never pee into the wind. (Ladies, this does not really apply to you.  Guys, I hope you know this by now!)
  2. Buy a LOT of Girl Scout cookies when they are on sale.  Do not forget that you can always freeze them, and they are only on sale once per year.
  3. Chew with your mouth closed and come to the dinner table wearing a shirt.  (Again, ladies hopefully this does not apply to you!)
  4. Do not try to take a shower on board a moving ship unless you are prepared for water shortages, drastic changes in water temperature and pressure, a general inability to hold oneself upright without the use of one’s hands long enough to use one’s hands to scrub one’s back or hair without falling over, and the door to suddenly open, exposing you to your roommate to both of your dismay.  (Yeah, you are right. I did not learn this one until today.  Father, the veteran Navy sailor, should have explained these things to me years ago!)

Bathrooms are affectionately referred to as “the head” onboard a ship.  As so, I have not figured out why, nor had the inquisitive mind enough to research the reason.  But one thing that I did know about moving ships at sea, which my younger sister Lauren taught me in the Galapagos, is to sleep with a trashcan by your side.  That poor child slept curled at my feet by the toilet while she “popped” at intermittent intervals because we didn’t have a good trashcan in our room.  I have a great one by my side right now, double lined with Hefty bags, though I am hoping not to use it!

“Chow”: We had buffet-style dinner tonight that included salad (with ranch dressing!), spaghetti with shrimp, teriyaki chicken, and Hawaiian pig and roasted vegetables. I had a little of each, with a second helping of green vegetables.  I told Amee that I was worried about scurvy. She told me that I was dumb for worrying about scurvy.  I told her to re-read the history of the merging of her ancestors and mine through the long ship rides from England to what would become the United States; it is littered with failed attempts to colonize due to scurvy. She told me I was dumb and to shut up and eat.  I did. (Did I mention how well our personalities compliment each other?!)  We have to bus our own dishes after we are through eating.  That is better than having to bus everyone else’s dishes after they are through eating. (So long to the restaurant server life…for now.)

“Teacher at Sea”: I am treated somewhat like royalty here—in the sense that I have my own large room, I have to have my correspondence screened by the Commanding Officer of the ship, and everyone knows me as The Teacher at Sea. Being royalty makes life kind of nice.  It doesn’t make the rocking of the ship upon the sea any calmer (I think Jesus is technically the only person capable of such a feat!).  But it does give me an air of importance.  It’s strange, but I am looking up to these “kids” (being college students, they are “kids” to me, though several of them are actually older than me) for their experience and expertise as scientists, researchers, and specialists while it seems from conversation that they all look up to me for the same.  A mutual environment of respect will be important for the bonds we are to form over the next thirty days.

Also, when purchasing a souvenir T-shirt from the ship’s store today, I told the officer that I was a Teacher at Sea, and asked if he had any special deals for me.  “Yeah,” he said as he handed me a blue Oscar Elton Settee t-shirt.  “Fifteen dollars.”  “How much are they regularly?” I asked not really sure if this was a good deal.  “Fifteen dollars!” He replied with a smile on his face.  I handed him the money, returning the smile.  Most everyone seems to be good-humored here…at least for now.  Thirty days at sea is a lot of time together.  We will see how the rest of the days go.

Today was essentially a “get-acquainted-with-the-ship” day.  We will be charging ahead for the next day and a half towards Necker Island.  I hope to have acquired my “sea legs” by then. Breakfast is at 7 AM.  Maybe I will write more after breakfast.  Until then…

Oh yeah. There is talk of getting Tonatiuh back in a few days if his foot heals.  We are meeting up with a charter fishing boat to drop off some researchers around Necker Island.  He may come out on that boat and jump on with us.  It would be nice to have some company to talk to at night.  I am sleeping in a bunk bed like the good old times of sleepovers in my childhood, yet I have no friend above me with which to talk into the early hours of the morning.  Oh well for now.  Woe is me for being in such a terrible position as I am now, on a ship in the middle of the tropical Pacific with a place to sleep, good company, good food, and wonderful scenery.  There is no pity party for me!  Not yet at least!

Chris Harvey, June 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I was picked up at my hotel in downtown Honolulu around 12:30 PM.  Boarding the van with the other researchers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were mostly young undergraduate students, by appearance, about my age.  I am sure that they sighed the same relief to find that their Teacher at Sea was not some “old fart” science teacher from the mainland, but instead a bearded 24-year-old man on a similar quest as their own: to gain insight into the happenings of the science and research world.  It is a common misconception that teachers keep up with, and know all about the subjects that they teach.  This may be true for literature teachers, (When was the last time that Shakespeare composed a piece of literary art?) and even more so for mathematics teachers (I cannot tell you the last time a math story made the front page!).  But science- Wow!  is that a hard subject to master!  Even yesterday a volcano erupted in Indonesia.

This is the last thing I told my students at the end of May before they were released for summer break (and most of them just rolled their eyes because they have heard it so many times throughout the year): the Earth is truly a living thing, and there will be more signs of its life in the coming years as we advance our perception of it through the use of the same science and technology that we learn about in class.  Here I am, a Teacher at Sea aboard a NOAA research vessel, participating in the scientific studies that some of my students may get involved in on their own as college students and beyond!  I am amazed, and truly fortunate to have this opportunity to connect the science of the real world to the science of my classroom.

We are leaving Oahu now for 31 days (counting today).  Right now I am on the ship’s “boat deck,” the level of the ship where all of the life rafts and rescue boats are located, sitting in a chair watching the crew scurry about to send us on our way.  The port around us is full of freight ships loading and unloading cargo, and the airport behind me is active intermittently with an overseas arrival or departure.  The temperature is perfect for shorts and a t-shirt and a nice breeze keeps the air from becoming too hot and stale for comfort.  I am not going to lie, this is one heck of a good deal!  And until the Pacific swells become too much and I find myself keeling over the side, I cannot imagine a better way to spend my summer than on this ship.  Then again, you must remember that I am a science geek, and we geeks tend to get excited about this sort of thing!

On a low note, my bunkhouse mate and best friend so far on the trip, Tonatiuh, has been removed from the cruise due to an infection on his foot.  We have already had several great conversations and I was looking forward to working with him, as he has much graduate work experience that I have not.

Kazu Kauinana, May 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 21, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  22, 34 N
Longitude: 163, 10.46 W
Visibility:  10NM
Wind direction:  070
Wind speed:  25Kts
Sea wave heights: 4-5
Sea swell heights: 7-10
Seawater temperature: 24.7 C
Sea level pressure: 1019.5
Cloud cover: 3/8 Atocumulus, cumulus

Personal Log 

As you could tell by the wave and swell heights, it has been ROUGH! The boat has been rocking like crazy. Things have been falling off of shelves, and if I didn’t have my sea legs, I would be spending most of my time in bed.  In fact, it is even difficult to do that. Anyway, you want to hear something funny? You know the sculpture I’ve been talking about?  Well I finished it today, but just as I was going to put it away because I had considered it PAU, the stool I was sitting on tipped over because of the rocking boat.  I turned around to pick up the stool and the sculpture slid off the table onto the floor and smashed the face like a pancake.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I went outside jumped over the rails and tried to drown myself.  No, I’m only kidding, I’m an adult.  I went to the mess hall, got something to eat, and then watched a movie.

Kazu Kauinana, May 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 20, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  24, 12.5 N
Longitude: 166, 50.6 W
Visibility:  10 Nm
Wind direction:  95
Wind speed:  25 Kts
Sea wave height: 3-4
Sea swell height:  5-7
Seawater temperature: 25.0
Sea level pressure: 1022.2
Cloud cover: 1/8 cumulus, cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

This morning I spoke with the Lead Electrical Technician John Skinner.  He has been following the progress of the bust I am creating of Lead scientist, Chad Yoshinaga.  He told me that he liked the sculpture and that it has been great having an art teacher at sea this time around.  Apparently I am the first, and the perspective I have given has been interesting and different from the science teachers.

He is also the computer guy for the ship and he spends his spare time taking digital photos and putting together slide shows.  Anyway, he asked me if I would like to see it, and of course I said yes. It was awesome!  It was pictures that he and others had taken on many of the various trips out to the Hawaiian Archipelago.  It includes pictures of the voyage I am on, only much better.  He gave me a copy and I can’t wait to show you guys this DVD. It will blow you away! He also told me about a book called Archipelago that has fantastic photos of these atolls.

The rest of the day I worked on my sculpture and watched the fishermen.  They caught Bull Dorado (mahi-mahi), Ahi and Uku.  BeegBahgahs!!!

Kazu Kauinana, May 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 19, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  25, 55.0 N
Longitude: 170, 58.5 W
Visibility:  10 NM
Wind direction:  115
Wind Speed:  115Kts
Sea wave heights: 3-5
Sea swell heights: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.6 C
Sea level pressure: 1019.4
Cloud cover: 2/8 cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we had a fire drill, followed by an abandon ship drill.  Both were executed well.

All of our island adventures are over and we are on our way back home.  We should arrive either Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Kazu Kauinana, May 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 18, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  27, 02.0 N
Longitude: 173, 54.3 W
Visibility:  10 NM
Wind direction:  160
Wind speed:  16 Kts
Sea wave heights: 3-4
Sea swell heights: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 23.1
Sea level pressure: 1019
Cloud cover: 8/8 cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we are off loading three scientists and their gear onto Southeast Island in Pearl and Hermes Atoll.  “The atoll derives its name from those of two English whaling vessels, the ‘Pearl’ and the ‘Hermes,’ which ran aground at nearly the same time on the then unknown reef during the night of 25 April 1822. No lives were lost and provisions and timber were salvaged and used to sustain the crews for two months during which they built a schooner from the salvaged timbers.  Shortly before the crews were ready to launch their new schooner, named the ‘Deliverance,’ another ship—the ‘Thames’—was saved from disaster on the reef.  Captain Phillips of the ‘Hermes’ was able to warn her  captain in time.  While most of the two crews were safely taken off the reef by the ‘Thames,’ 12 elected to sail the ‘Deliverance’ into Honolulu” (Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society Library, Missionary Letters; Bryan, 1942: 197).

All of these atolls are filled with a history of shipwrecks and survivors who salvaged their food supplies, water, tools, and building materials from their grounded ships; lived on these tiny uninhabited islands for as long as six months; and built a boat and sailed back to the high islands. I just spent two days helping unload provisions for seven people to last six months on the island of Kure.  If you’ve never really looked at a map and seen just how isolated these atolls are, do it, and you may be surprised.

And just what were all these sailors doing up around these parts?  Well here’s a good example:

“During the off season of sea otter hunting, the Japanese schooner ‘Ada’ was chartered by an American, George Mansfield, and his friends.  They sailed from Yokohama, Japan, on 10 December 1881, bound first for the Bonin Islands and thence to the Northwestern Hawaiians hoping for a cargo of fish, shark, turtle and beche-de-mer.  On 19 January 1882 the ‘Ada’, commanded by Harry Hardy, anchored off Pearl and Hermes Reef and in the next two days her crew of 17 killed 28 turtles and collected 54 beche-de-mer and 43 pounds of albatross down.  The down was obtained by killing the chicks, dipping them in boiling water, and then stripping off the feathers; petrels, boobies, and frigates were treated in like fashion. The ‘Ada’ visited the remaining islands down to French Frigate Shoals and stopped a second time at Midway in May 1882 to reprovision before returning to Japan” (Hornell, 1934: 426-432).

Yes, I eat fish and chicken, and I even owned a down jacket when I lived in New York City.  I guess I’ve got to be more careful about where these products are coming from and not support the depletion of an entire species.  Ironically, the species that may be on its way to extinction is us. We really should be paying close attention to what scientists are telling us about what is happening to the planet and all the life that lives on it. We have really made a mess of things, but with education and awareness, there still might be hope for our grandchildren, our children, and, believe it or not, us. We are already being affected by our destructive actions. There is a great article in the April 3, 2006 issue of Time magazine about “global warming,” and evidence that the earth is now at the TIPPING POINT! READ IT!! Am I making you worried? Good. The article is called “Be Worried.  Be Very Worried.”

Kazu Kauinana, May 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  28, 23.9 N
Longitude: 178, 25.0 W
Visibility:  10 NM
Sea wave heights: 2-3
Sea swell heights: 3-4
Seawater temperature: 24.0 C
Sea level Pressure:  1/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we began to off load gear and seven personnel onto Green Island, the main island of Kure Atoll, as well as the farthest west and last island in the Hawaiian chain.  This island did not experience any bird poaching or guano mining, but in 1960 it became a United States Coast Guard LORAN (long-range navigation) station.  The major features of the station were a barracks, a signal/power building, a transmitter building, a pump house, seven fuel tanks, a 4,000-foot-long runway and a 625-foot-high LORAN tower.  The only features remaining are parts of the barracks and the runway, which is unused and disintegrating. There is also a small pier that is being used by the researchers.  It is now a wildlife refuge under the jurisdiction of the Hawaii Fish and Game Department.

The island is heavily vegetated with not only shrubs, grasses, and crawling vines, but also several kinds of trees. Verbesina is now growing out of control and a landscaper is a part of this crew to eradicate this invasive species.  It grows so thick that it does not allow ground nesting birds like the Blue Faced Booby to utilize them.  It also poisons the ground so that other plants cannot grow where they have established themselves.

I should mention that this is not a quarantine island like Laysan, Lisianski, and Pearl/Hermes.  Too many invasive species had been brought in with the development of the station to warrant that designation.  One of the invaders is a crawling weed with half-inch thorns and easily goes right through your slippers.  When the women opened the barracks to check it out, it was filled with cane spiders on the walls and ceiling; and the floor was covered with a carpet of dead ants that the spiders had eaten.  There are also rats and at one time there was a dog, left there by a rescued shipwrecked crew.  However, it was eaten by a crew that was shipwrecked later on.  The atoll is notorious for shipwrecks.

I saw turtles and seals too.  In fact, I had to get out of the water several times because the seals would swim towards me to see what I was doing there.  We always had to steer clear of all the animals so as not to disturb them or have them become familiar with humans.

Green island is located on the inner side of a large ring of reef.  Within this reef, it is relatively shallow and outside the ring it is very deep; rough water on the ocean side and calm on the lagoon side; and sloping fine sand beaches on the inside and course and rugged on the ocean side.  The camp and pier are on the lagoon side of the island.

Most of the day I was a “mule,” carrying six months worth of supplies from the shuttling Zodiac to the spider’s nest (the barracks). Lots of thorns, soft fine sand, hot sun, but no ticks.

At the end of the day I was rewarded by being allowed to visit the “AHU” (alter or shrine) that the crew from the Hawaiian sailing vessel, The Hokulea, had built on a recent visit to this island.  It is located in a spectacular site on the wild ocean side of the island just up in a safe spot from the water’s edge.  It is comprised of several large coral heads comfortably arranged with a Hawaiian adze placed in the middle, inscribed with the title “NAVIGATING CHANGE.”  I was deeply moved!

Kazu Kauinana, May 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 15, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  28, 06.7 N
Longitude: 177, 21.3 W
Visibility: 10 Nm
Wind direction: 095
Wind speed: 17 kts
Sea wave heights: 2-3
Sea swell heights: 5-6
Seawater temperature: 23.2 C
Sea level pressure: 1027.2 Cloud cover: 3/8 Cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today we hit Midway Atoll, the largest island we’ve visited so far.  It is covered with tall Ironwood trees and has been well developed by the military.  A large airstrip and an enclosed harbor can be seen on the approach.  We docked at one of the two piers on the northeast side of the island.  Midway is no longer a military base.  It has been turned into a wildlife refuge. The park rangers came over to the boat and gave a briefing and rules of the island. I went for a walk on my own and did not see the Laysan duck because I did not have a guide to the restricted refuge area.  Forty-three ducks from Laysan island were brought here one year ago and 40 have survived.  They have also produced ducklings  so the project is considered to be going well.

I did have a great time just moseying around taking pictures of odd and interesting man-made curiosities.  There was a 12-foot gooney bird between two super huge canons in front of the bowling alley and mall.  Everything had a ghost town sort of look, and there were birds everywhere as usual, but no people.  I made my way to the famous seaplane hanger to get a picture of its bullet-riddled side, but the side had been removed.  In another hanger I found the Midway Military Museum.  It had been the airport arrival and departure area. There were two bombs at the gateway, one 6 feet and the other 20 feet.  There were great paintings of aircraft, some in battle scenes.  Everything was from the 1940s and being alone there kind of creeped me out.  TWILIGHT ZONE.

I made my way to North Beach next to where we docked the ship.  This beach is rated as one of the best four beaches in the world and it lives up to it.  It’s about two miles long and the sand is blinding-white coral. The water is crystal clear and 3-5 feet deep for about a quarter mile out to sea.  You can easily see the abundant fish swimming fearlessly by you, and any Tiger shark approach would give you fair warning.  Even the sand is great because it is made of crushed coral and it stays cool.  It is not silica sand.  I was told that the fishing is great here, but it is catch and release because of sanitaria.

Personal Log 

That evening the OSCAR SETTE had a great barbecue and the whole town was invited.  I think there are only about 30 permanent residents.  It is interesting that most of the help is from Thailand.  I met a Thai artist who does sand-blasted glass illustrations.  I showed him the bust of Chad Yoshinaga that I was doing and then he took me up to his home and showed me his artwork.  I was very impressed with his wildlife and Buddhist images.  He said he just does it to pass the time.

We spent the night at Midway and left at 7 a.m.

Kazu Kauinana, May 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 14, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  26, 31.9W
Longitude: 174.57.4W
Wind direction:  100
Wind speed:  22 kts
Sea wave heights: 4’
Sea swell heights: 5-7
Seawater temperature: 24.9c
Sea level water pressure: 1024.
Cloud cover: 3/8, cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today I went out to Lisianski (formerly Lisiansky) Island with the supply coordinator and met scientist Jean Higgins and her assistant.  Jean and her assistant, Veronica Decamp, are the only two on the island. There are noticeable differences between Laysan and Lisianski.  Lisianski has fine white sand beaches surrounding the entire island as well as in the interior.  It does not have a lake in the middle like Laysan.  Rather, this sandy island is thickly covered with shrubs.  It appears to be more pristine than Laysan but it shares some of the same human profiteering and devastating environmental history with Laysan.  Lisianski is an atoll whose center crater became filled with fine coral and sand, whereas the Laysan crater filled only partially with debris and then was topped off with water (presently high saline and brine). There are no coconut trees left; eighty had been planted in 1844, but the only trees I saw were Casuarinas dotting the islands here and there.  There was a lot of scaevolas and bunch grass, Ipomoea, Boerhavia, Laysanicum, Solanum nigrum, Sicyos, and Tribulus.

The shoreline and water clarity of Lisianski also differ significantly from Laysan.  There is a steep drop off 3-5 feet deep, and 6-10 feet from where the water laps up onto the sand. This in conjunction with dense, murky water (probably due to the very fine coral sand) makes swimming, bathing or snorkeling, a bad idea.  I witnessed numerous Green sea turtles and Monk seals swimming just a few feet from where I stood on the beach.  A few of the turtles were missing fins or had teeth marks on their carapace from sharks, probably Tiger sharks, that have been seen chasing them.

Something I did not mention about a commonality to all the islands thus far is the littering of dead animals scattered throughout the island.  These are not like beaches on the occupied high islands where there are much fewer animals and scheduled city and county beach machine clean-up crews.  Nature takes its course here and the living pass with dignity.

Lisianski suffered similar environmental disasters as Laysan except for guano mining.  It did, however, go through a period in the early 1900s of Japanese plumage plundering.  Like those words, “Plumage Plundering”?  It means that at least 1.25 million birds were killed on the islands for their feathers. A businessman by the name of Max Schlemmer, who was an agent for the Pacific Guano and Fertilizer Company in 1908, entered into an invalid feather-harvesting-rights contract with Genkichi Yamanouichi of Japan.  This contract also included Laysan. It is estimated that 284,000 birds were killed on Lisianski and close to a million on Laysan.  These are two islands where the birds were so thick on the ground that it was difficult to walk without stepping on them, and with every step, you would sink waist deep into the ground because of the collapsing nest burrows.

In 1910, shortly after the feather poaching was stopped, rabbits were introduced to Lisianski and Laysan. The U.S. Revenue Cutter Thetis made a trip to Lisianski in 1914 and this is a report by Carl Elschner from that visit:

“At the time of my visit, there were two houses on the island which, as well as the phosphate deposits, lay in the former lagoon.  That is, in a depression, which, however, does not contain water any more.  Surrounding the houses are small patches of tobacco, which grow wild, having been brought by Captain Schlemmer.  This is in fact the only vegetation on the island, and there hardly is a blade or stalk of any other plant to be seen with the exception of perhaps two poorly looking specimens of Ipomea, which I saw…  The rabbits introduced have just exterminated the flora…now the rest of these rabbits (we found many dead but very few living ones) will have to submit to starvation.”  (Elschner, 1915: 56)

It is important to note that the island is back to a healthy level due to the efforts of conservationists, scientists, monitoring by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy, and expeditions such as the one I am on.

Kazu Kauinana, May 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 13, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  25, 33.1N
Longitude: 121:28.9W
Visibility:  10nm
Wind direction:  090
Wind speed:  19Kts
Sea wave height: 2-3
Sea swells height: 4-6
Sea water temperature: 24.8
Sea level temperature: 24.8
Sea level pressure: 1021.4
Cloud cover: 4/8, altocumulus, cumulostratus, cumulonimbus, cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

I left the OSCAR SETTE at 8:30 this morning on a Zodiac with cargo and a crew of five for Laysan Island. This island was not a military landing strip so it still looks like what you might imagine a desert island would look like.  It is really beautiful—nice sandy beaches, clear water with coral reefs, low shrubs and grasses, a patch of coconut trees and even a lake.

Sarah Luecke took us on a tour from the beach where we had landed to the hyper-saline lake in the northern, middle of the island.  As with all of the islands, you cannot explore without a guide. Shearwater noddys, Tristan’s petrels, and bonin petrels burrow into the ground to make their nests, and if you do not follow your guide carefully, there is a good chance that you could cave in their nests. We managed to cave in only two, and we had to re-dig the tunnels to make sure the birds could continue using them.  Birds are everywhere and they have no fear of humans. They behave like barnyard birds, so when you are walking you have to go around them, because they will not move.  When they get  irritated with you being too close they clack their beaks like plastic toy wind-up dentures.  The two breeds that are the most oblivious to human space are the large Laysan Albatross and the black-footed Albatross. The chicks are almost as large as the adults, covered with patches of downy molting fuzz, and are really goofy looking.  They plant themselves everywhere, especially on the paths, in front of tent doorways and chairs, and next to your belongings.

It was great to see so many birds, because at about the turn of the century the bird population had been decimated by the Japanese feather industry.  An American Guano contractor had subleased the right to taking wings, breasts, skins, and tons of feathers to the Japanese company.  This went on for at least a couple of years before it was stopped but, by then, the damage was done.  At least a million birds were killed and three out of the five endemic species became extinct.  Fortunately, most of the sea birds came back.

The bird population here had at one time been so dense that you could see the cloud of birds way before you ever saw the island. It was so thick that a guano industry was established here in the late 1800’s into the early 20th century.  The Japanese immigrant workers who worked for Haole American businessmen based on Oahu, had to use picks and axes to break up the caked up thick layers of it.

There had also been an attempt at rabbit farming by a family, but that didn’t work.  It did, however, destroy almost all of the vegetation on the island.  Through a lot of work and expense, the rabbits were eradicated and an intensive replanting program was established and is still active. In spite of all of these man-made disasters, the island today, looks like paradise.  So it did give me a lot of hope that we may still be able to maintain some of the few precious resources that we have left.

Personal Log 

We walked along the beach and saw monk seals in the water and on the beach.  We found a spot where it looked like it would be terrific snorkeling and it was.  After that, it was time to go back to the OSCAR SETTE.

Kazu Kauinana, May 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude: 25, 21.8N
Longitude: 170, 51.1 W
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 100
Wind speed: 17 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3
Swell wave height: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.8C
Sea level pressure: 1018.3
Cloud cover: 6/8 cumulus, altocumulus, cirrus, cirrocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

My shift on the cetacean watch began at 9:00 this morning.  I started with the Fujinan 25×150, four-mile range, light-gathering, “Big Eye” binoculars.  It was o.k. using the Big eyes looking straight ahead but looking through them at port or starboard was difficult because of the up and down rolling of the boat.  I would switch to smaller hand-held binoculars instead of the deck-mounted Big Eyes.  The water surface conditions were choppy so we did not see any whales, dolphins, or seals.  However, I did spot a yellow spherical shape floating by. We had been instructed that if we did see a mammal to draw exactly what we saw and not to copy the illustrations from the identification book.

I worked the mammal watch detail until 11:00 a.m. and then I went back to work on the clay portrait I am doing of Chad Yoshinaga, the lead scientist.  He is too busy to sit for me but I did manage to take some Polaroids and work from that.  I have to admit, I am proud that he is a local boy who not only made it as a scientist, but he is the lead scientist.  There aren’t very many kids from Hawaii who are in this field; in fact, we are greatly outnumbered by scientists from the continent.  Part of the reason is geography. Kids who study at the U. of Hawaii are getting exposure only to our limited wildlife, whereas the continent has a greater variety.  Beeg mahni fo go sku ova dea.  This will be my ho’okupu (gift) to Chad, the ship, the program, and the crew, who by the way, seem to be entertained by watching me work.

Personal Log 

The ship’s fishermen caught four Ono today.  Each was about four feet long. This was the first catch on the entire trip so far probably due to our passing over a seamount only 600′ deep.  Tomorrow will be better fishing because we will be approaching Laysan Island. I am scheduled to go ashore with the scientists.

Kazu Kauinana, May 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 11, 2006

Weather
Latitude:  24, 01.0 N
Longitude: 167, 10.3
Visibility:  10 NM
Wind direction:  090
Wind speed:  20 KTS
Sea wave heights: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.8 C
Sea level pressure: 18:18
Cloud cover: 2/8 cumulus, altocumulus

Science & Technology Log

I did not get a good night’s sleep last night so I woke up at 6:30 a.m. instead of my usual 4:30. I attended an 8:00 a.m. briefing this morning for all those who were scheduled to leave for Tern Island in the French Frigate Shoals.  I departed early at 9:00 AM in a Zodiac with two crewmen who were delivering cargo to the island.  You could see the island in the distance when we started out but we encountered a squall and lost visibility of everything.  The pilot was familiar with the reefs and the island, and when the rain cleared, we were still on the right path.

As we approached Tern Island the thousands of birds that inhabit the World War II landing strip became increasingly  clearer and the raucous squawking grew louder and louder until it was almost deafening.  It was HITCHCOKISH!  In fact, the bird sounds from Tern Island were used in the movie “The Birds”.  We were greeted by two women (Most of the volunteers and scientists on this trip, and I think in general, are women) who helped us dock and unload the boat. I spent most of my time on the island at the dock unloading shuttle loads from the OSCAR SETTE.

An airplane was scheduled to arrive so I watched the staff clear the runway of all the baby Albatross from the airstrip.  They were about 4 months old, molting, the size of a small turkey, and like the rest of the bird population, fearless of humans.  They picked them up and handled them like human babies and carried them off to the side of the runway. Bicycles with handlebar baskets were also used for the ones further down the strip. The plane arrived and the sky became peppered with adult birds.  No birds were killed. This is pretty good considering that there are so many birds that you have to be careful not to step on any while walking. The birds do prefer to nest off the hot run way but the chicks wander out there and bask. If you do happen to disturb a nesting bird off of its nest, usually by running or nearly stepping on them, you have to stop and monitor the nest until the nesting bird returns. This is to prevent other birds from pecking holes in the eggs, killing the chicks or stealing nest-building materials. Sahm tarabo yeah?

I wasn’t allowed to leave the pier without a guide so I went back to watch for the next cargo delivery and stared into the crystal clear water.  I noticed a fish headed straight for me and as it got larger and larger, I realized that it was a three-foot long ulua.  It turned parallel to the edge of the pier, tilted his body at an angle so it could see me better then slowly swam off. It returned two more times and had a good look at me before swimming off to write his friends about what he just saw.  I was told later that they are very abundant and that they hang around you when you go snorkeling.  They must know that like the rest of the reef fish they cannot be eaten because of Sagittaria plants.  From the pier, I also saw two large Green Sea Turtles wrestling or mating.  Hard to tell since I couldn’t see their genitals.

After about two hours on the pier, a boatload of excited scientists from the SETTE arrived and we were led on a tour of the island.  Some of the most interesting facts I found out about Tern island are: their water catchment is a large concrete slab on the ground (too hot for birds nests and not used for drinking); drinking water is reverse osmosis from sea water; 10 people live on Tern; sea lion research is also done on the island (we saw three adult Hawaiian Monk Seals on the beach); when you go swimming go with someone else and look out for the SHARKS.

It’s 10:30 p.m., I am exhausted, hele au moe moe.

Kazu Kauinana, May 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 10, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude: 23-28.0 N
Longitude: 165-45.0 N
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction:  078
Wind speed: 22 kts
Sea wave heights: 2-3′
Swell wave heights: 5-6′
Seawater temperature: 25.2 c
Sea level pressure: 1020.6
Cloud cover: 1/8, altostratus, cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a repeat of the last two days: CTD sampling and cetacean watch or marine mammal search.  There were no sightings today because of the choppy water conditions until we got closer to the French Frigate Shoals.  As we approached the atoll the bird sightings increased and surface fish, like flying fish, became more abundant.  A large Mahi-mahi was seen swimming on the surface next to the boat and added to the rising excitement.  No land could be seen, but rolling surf over shallow reefs appeared and beautiful turquoise blue streaks interrupted the dark blueness of the ocean.  We looked through the “Big Eye” binoculars at a line of surf surrounding what looked to be a sliver of sand and sure enough, it was a sand spit, and there were three Hawaiian Monk Seals basking in the sun. We were exhilarated!

We reached our destination for the day, which is in a protected area just south of the French Frigate Shoals.  We will spend the night here and tomorrow morning I will help transport the research team to Tern Island.  This will be our first drop off.  The researchers are excited and to top it off, it is almost a full moon.

We arrived at our destination a couple of hours before sunset so the ship maneuvered over a seamount where the depth was about 600 feet and the fishing crew did some bottom fishing.  They used Hydraulic fishing reels with a 1000-foot line capacity, 3 to 4 hooks per line, 8-pound lead weights, and squid for bait.  Very efficient!  They landed eight Onaga, the largest about 5lbs.

Personal Log 

I attended a meeting this morning for the Mammal Watch team.  An interesting issue was raised concerning the declining Hawaiian Monk Seal population, numbering now at only about 1000, and the relationship to shark predation.  For some unknown reason, male seals were killing pups and the carcasses were attracting sharks.  Sharks are now stalking new areas where pups are more vulnerable and may be affecting the population.  What species of sharks, how many, and what to do about them are questions that must be resolved. Enter in the Hawaiian Shark Aumakua cultural factor and the issue becomes even more complex.  Some Hawaiians believe that sharks are ancestral guardian spirits and should not be destroyed, but that may lead to the end of the seals.  And even if conservationists are allowed to kill sharks to protect the seals, the Question is “should we really be interfering in the balance of nature and would it work?”  I was surprised to hear that the seal population is reducing at an alarming rate; I thought it was increasing.  Anyway, these are just some more world problems to keep you up at night.

Kazu Kauinana, May 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kazu Kauinana
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
May 9 – 23, 2006

Mission: Fisheries Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: May 9, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Latitude:  22, 33.4n
Longitude: 162, 06.2W
Visibility:  10
Wind direction: 070
Wind speed: 21 kts.
Sea wave heights: 2-4
Swell heights: 4-6
Seawater temperature: 24.8
Sea level pressure: 1020.4
Cloud cover: 4/8 Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was primarily orientation and familiarizing myself with the ship, staff, and scientists.  It was so interesting to talk to the scientists and discover that the main motivation for their chosen profession was the same as that of artists: Passion!  Most of them had an early interest in animals or plants and were now fulfilling a life-long dream.  In spite of all of the sacrifices (money, family, material possessions) they love what they do and consider themselves lucky to be doing it.

Part of the day was spent on a cetacean watch, or marine mammal search, from the flying bridge. We used two Fujinan, 25×150, 4-mile range, light gathering, “Big-Eye” binoculars to methodically scan 180 degrees in front of the ship.  Ironically, a mother and baby calf Humpback whale surfaced almost directly in front of the ship. That was the only sighting, mostly due to choppy wave conditions.  I have to tell you that methodically scanning the ocean all day on a boat that is pitching and rolling can be very tedious, but very ZEN.

I also witnessed an XBT (Expendable Bathymetry Thermalgraph), a foot-long torpedo attached directly to the ship’s computer by a thin, hardly visible copper wire, dropped 460 meters.  It sends back the temperature data to the ship’s computer and then is released, thus the name, “expendable.”  I asked the scientist conducting the test if there had been any significant temperature changes during the past 10 years but that information was not available to her.

Today was a repeat of yesterday’s data gathering except for a CDT (conductivity, depth, temperature and oxygen) cast.  The “fish” CTD, or data sampling device, is hoisted with a crane over the side of the ship and submerged to a depth of 500 meters.  I found that the most interesting information taken was the chlorophyll count.  There was a dramatic  increase spike at 100-200 meters, and then a dramatic drop to about zero.  Chlorophyll is the beginning of the food chain.

Personal Log 

A large part of the day on a research vessel like this deals with the practical everyday functioning of the voyage. Today we had a fire drill, which was very straightforward and required that we all meet on the escape boat deck.  We also had an abandon ship exercise, and we all gathered on the same deck next to our prospective escape boats with our life vests and immersion suits.  We tried on our one-piece, head-to-toe, neoprene suits and got a good laugh because we looked like bright orange GUMBYS.  Actually, we felt a sense of relief mixed with anxiety that if we had to use them that we would be  prepared.

Geoff Goodenow, May 24, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 24, 2004

Time: 1615

Lat: 20 09 N
Long: 156 15 W
Sky: Bright and sunny
Air temp: 26.5 C
Barometer: 1014.3
Relative humidity: 57%
Wind: 60 degrees at 28 knots gusting to 35
Sea temp: 26.3 C
Depth: 1227.6 m
Sea: Its really rocking at the moment!

Science and Technology Log

This was the last roundup — and a rather disappointing finish. Four barracuda came up, an escolar and half of an escolar cleanly bitten in half by a shark. A blue shark and a blue marlin were on the line also but, unfortunately, dead. Trolling through early afternoon brought in a yellowfin tuna and a wahoo.

The main mission for the rest of the day is to make way for Honolulu.

In case some of you might be thinking about a Teacher at Sea experience, but wondering if longlining is for you, I thought I’d give you a bit of info related to other missions of the SETTE. Perhaps one of those operations would be of more interest to you. (Of course, there are other ships in other places doing other things for different lengths of time.)

The next cruise for the SETTE is a Protected Species Investigations cruise which takes the crew to the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. These are primarily resupply trips to take scientists and materials to and from temporary camps set up on these remote islands for the study of monk seals and bird populations. I read about these camps and found them quite interesting. For example, in an effort to prevent invasion of (more) exotics to these islands items going assure are placed in a freezer for a time to kill hitchhiking critters.

Debris cruises are another NOAA mission. Yep, that’s right, picking up trash from the island beaches and off of coral reefs. A crewman, John, related to me that the stomach contents of dead chicks are often clogged with plastics fed to them by their parents. He has even found plastic lighters, which to the birds might look like squids, in the stomach remains of these birds. It’s nice to know an effort is being made to reduce the hazards, but sad to note that the negative impact of humans strikes even in the most remote places.

Coral reef surveys are done to monitor health of those systems. Studies of benthic habitats are conducted as well as investigations of planktonic life. Later this year the SETTE will do a lobster cruise to assess those populations. John, our electronics technician, described to me that overharvesting of spiny lobsters which like relatively shallow water opened up their habitat to invasion by the slipper lobster. Slippers typically stayed deep to avoid the spiny, but now that the species are encountering each other a hybrid has developed.

John also pointed out that regardless of the mission of the science teams aboard, the SETTE is constantly collecting and filing data. Wherever the ship is, it is recording weather information and physical characteristics of the seawater and the seafloor. Perhaps you get the idea that this is a busy little platform sailing out here in the big blue sea.

Personal Log

At the time of my weather report we were passing through the channel between Hawaii and Maui. This is where we got blasted by heavy (much more so than today) seas on our first night out. I’m handling this well and would like to boast that I am now seaworthy enough to handle with ease forces as encountered on day 1. But then I don’t want to tempt the sea gods to challenge me with a new test of my endurance. The sea is very pretty in this state (something I was in no condition to say 3 weeks ago). White-capped waves, snow white on a navy blue backdrop and fleeting rainbows of color as wind blown spray catches the light just right fill the gap between the island masses.

The sea calms dramatically as we pass between Maui and islands to its west. We are close enough now to Maui to see the green of the land with its black lava scars and the observatories perched atop 10,000 foot Haleakala glistening white in the late afternoon sun. To our southwest the surf crashes against the shear walls of the neighboring island, Kanoolaweu. Lenai and Molokai lie ahead and frame a beautiful sunset for our last night at sea as several of us enjoy it from the bow.

I will be doing my last edition of the log tomorrow (Tuesday). I think I lose my NOAA address as of tomorrow also. If you have any questions perhaps they will be forwarded to me through the Teacher at Sea website. I look forward to hearing from you.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 23, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 23, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 19 35 N
Long: 156 08 W
Sky: Hazy, bright sunshine; mostly cloudy by evening. No green flash or stars tonight.
Air temp: 26.8 C
Barometer: 1014.4
Relative humidity: 53.7%
Wind: 282 degrees at 6 knots
Sea temp: 27.3 C
Depth: 2611.9 m
Sea: Very gentle today. Not quite glassy but quite smooth.

Science and Technology Log

Eight fish on the longline this morning including a striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) which was tagged and released. We had 2 representatives of a species, crocodile shark (Pseudocharcharius kamoharai) not previously caught. Also on the line were an oceanic white tip, a large barracuda, a mahi mahi, a swordfish and (you guessed it) an escolar.

Here are a few facts related to some species new since I reported on fish types previously. My source is the same. Please note that it was published in the 1980’s and that some info could be out of date, but it’s the best I have for you.

Crocodile sharks: There is only one genus and one species in the family. These are not very large sharks attaining about 110cm. Their teeth are long, curved and slender, very sharp (and, I thought, very impressive).

Striped marlin attain 2.9 m.

Blue marlin (Makaira mazara): Males reach about 150 kg but females can grow to 5 meters and weigh over 800 kg.

Tonight is out last set of the longline. Again we are off the coast of Kona.

I asked our electronics technician, John, to tells me about some of the safety systems on the ship. This would have been good to report first thing so as to put my mother’s mind at ease. Anyway, here’s a bit about how we are protected in case our ship encounters some sort of distress. These are all part of the global Maritime Distress Signal System.

We are capable of sending radio distress signals indicating our position. A VHF signal has a range of about 50 miles, and HF signal up to 1500 miles. A satellite connection for the “All Pacific Region” alerts stations from northern Alaska to the tip of South Anmerica and east to west across the Pacific.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB): This can be activated manually, but is activated automatically if it contacts saltwater. It sends a keycode to a satellite which alerts NOAA where the ship can be identified, its most recent position marked, and direct nearby ships to assist.

Search and Rescue Transponders (SARTs): Our ship as well as others are constantly sending out a signal at a certain frequency. Assume we have lost the ship and are in a boat/raft with our SART. When it detects the signal from a ship in the area it lights up. We would then turn on our SART which sends a signal to that ship’s radar indicating our direction and distance.

I feel pretty confident that someone always knows where we are! John also showed a couple of other pieces of gear on the ship. One is an Accoustic Doppler Current Profiler used to determine current speed and direction at various depths. In another, transducers on the bottom of the ship “ping” the bottom at low and high frequencies. Lower frequency signals travel farther and can give us a profile of the bottom. Higher frequency signals can actually detect schools of fish or concentrations of plankton.

Personal Log

Still on the finger soaks and antibiotics, but finger infection is clearing up. The crocodile shark teeth were so impressive to me and make a great contrast to the blue shark’s jaw that I decided to risk further pain, discomfort and more infection in another jaw cleaning exercise. Small size and previous experience combined to make this a much shorter effort than that with the blue, but nonetheless painful as those needle sharp teeth penetrated gloved hand and found their mark in human epidermis.

Then it was to work on a eye cup from the blue marlin pulled in yesterday. Kylie made the official presentation to me last evening as Kerstin and Eva listened on. I had to finish the cleaning job then apply Kerstin’s newly found hot water bath treatment to complete the removal of the flesh. I feel like a real, official Junior Eye Scientist Club member now that I’ve been awarded my first “medal”.

Questions:

I’m drained; I can’t think of any.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 22, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 22, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 19 24 N
Long: 156 53 W
Sky: Sunny this morning, but brightly overcast at the moment. Clear this evening.
Air temp: 26.5 C
Barometer: 1015.1
Relative humidity: 59.9%
Wind: 144 degrees at 6 knots
Sea temp: 26.7 C
Depth: 3810.4 m
Sea:

Science and Technology Log

Even with our normal start time today we were able to get to our one broadbill swordfish in time to tag and release it. we had a new species on — a 176 cm blue marlin (   ). It looked as though it had been attacked by sharks while on the line. We were also able to tag an oceanic whitetip shark. Also for the first time on the longline we had a shortbill spearfish. The rest of the catch was rounded out by the regular cast of characters: 3 escolar, a snake mackeral, one great barracuda and one mahi mahi.

We trolled lines up to 40 miles away from the big island today but nothing grabbed the lures. Tonight we are setting again offshore of Kona, perhaps 25 miles out (not sure).

A chapter in Wilson’s book and some comments made by Kirsten and Mike a couple days ago are the motivation for this part of today’s log. Should we be looking for ways of expanding aquaculture and reducing our dependence on wild stocks to provide fish protein? Wilson in Diversity of Life (1992) states that 90% of fish consumed worldwide is taken from wild stocks. He further states that while about 300 finfish species are cultured throughout the world, 85% of the yield comes from just a few species, talapias, for example.

Kerstin told me of the southern blue fin tuna, a highly prized species, whose numbers crashed due to overfishing in the 1950’s and 60’s. A moratorium on taking the species was imposed and resulted in an increase in the wild stocks. Now quotas are set to protect the species. Australia meets its quota by capturing animals then towing them live to ocean pens at Port Lincoln. The pens are roughly 40 meters in diameter and 15-20 meters deep with about 2000 fish per enclosure. There the animals are fed a diet of fish over 3-4 months that brings their flesh to a desired quality. Of course, this demands harvesting many tons of feeder fish (from the wild) to support the pen raised stock.

In America and elsewhere we have turned from wild stocks of animals to support our numbers. We raise chickens, pigs, cattle and sheep to provide most of our meat. Hunting of wild game is reduced to controlled recreational seasons designed to protect those resources. Should we be doing much the same for more species of ocean fishes, that is, develop methods to economically raise several desired species and greatly reduce our take from wild stocks? Should some receive total protection?

Check out the question section below for some reading about certain aspects of the issues then decide what you think about the concerns raised.

Personal Log

The doc lanced my finger today and I’m still on the antibiotic and hot water soak routine. Feeling kind of sluggish today and appetite is not quite up to my norm; probably effects of antibiotic.

Sky cleared nicely before sunset providing a clear horizon and our first green flash in many days.

Hope to sit out the line set tonight and perhaps just take in a movie.

Question:

In the June 9, 2003 issue of U.S. News and World Report is an article titled “Fished Out” in which the state of oceanic fish populations is discussed. What is you reaction to the article?

On page 40, there is a reference to a report by scientists Myers and Worm. Rich and Mike have told me that there have been several rebuttals to the Myers and Worm report noting flaws in their methods and conclusions. Find such an article then rethink your attitude toward the US news and World Report article and issues raised above.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 21, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 21, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 19 25 N
Long: 156 54 W
Sky: Overcast today. A bright unthreatening sky but clouds thick enough to prevent casting of shadows.
Air temp: 26.3 C
Relative humidity: 70%
Barometer: 1015.7
Wind: 146 degrees at 14 knots
Sea temp: 26.5 C
Depth: 4738 m (at 1645 hrs)
Sea: Rolling today with 3-5 foot swells but not uncomfortable. Much calmer this evening now that we are nearer the Kona coast.

Science and Technology Log

We began our retrieval of the longline at 0600 today; usually we begin at 0800. This change was made in light of the fact that we have been catching swordfish in this area and that they are dead when we get to them. These are animals (when alive) that we would like to tag. The thought is that if we get to them sooner we will have live animals to work with. I hate to see any of them dead, but it was especially hard to accept the loss of that big guy yesterday.

Did it work? Well, we didn’t lose any swordfish today, but then we didn’t catch any either. It was a very poor catch — several escolar (apparently the most abundant fish in the sea), one snakemackeral, and, the only thing worth getting up for (personal commentary), a bigeye thresher shark. This one was tagged by Rich who harpooned the pop up into its back with one swift and well aimed lunge. He was then cut free of the line — another mobile laboratory.

Tonight we are again off the Kona coast for the line set. I don’t know why the decision was made to come here as opposed to staying over one of the seamounts.

Yesterday I had a tour of the engine room. I thought I’d mention a couple things going on below deck and perhaps a few other tidbits about our floating city of 30-40 people. In an earlier log, I think I mentioned that we make our own fresh water. Waste heat from the engine cooling water heats sea water held in a partial vacuum where it can boil at less than 100 degrees C. then be recondensed to yield our water supply.

Our waste water treatment system is a Class 2 type according to chief engineer, Frank. All human waste and gray water goes to a holding tank. From there it is pumped through a unit to macerated solids. The slurry then passes through an electrical cell that completes the purification process before discharge to the sea.

Our little city generates its share of trash as well. Bins around the ship are marked as to the specific kinds of refuse we may put into each. Here’s is what I understand concerning disposal of sewage and trash. Within 3 miles of shore everything must be held although I think if sewage is treated, as ours is, it is OK to let it go even there. Plastics are never to be dumped. From 3-12 miles out, we can dump trash and food waste ground to less than an inch, but no packaging and such that floats. At 12-25 miles, food wastes can go but again the floating debris is prohibited. Beyond 25 miles, I think all can go but the plastics. Cardboard boxes and paper trash go over the side out here and untreated sewage can be flushed.

And, of course, we have to eat. Todd and Susan are our stewards. Todd insisted that I write that “the second cook (in this case Susan) has the hardest job on the ship.” Susan agrees. For a typical 24 day cruise, Todd (chief steward) spends $5000-$6000. To mention just a few of his purchases for this trip he packed on 48 gallons of milk, six cases of juices, a case being containing 4 three-liter bottles of 4-1 concentrate, and over 80 loaves of bread. Whatever he buys is supplemented by our catch. He noted too that in different areas, crews have different likes. For example, in Hawaii he packs on lots of fruits. In cold Alaska, crews like to have soup everyday whereas here it’s not as welcome because of the heat.

Well, that diversion got me (and you) away from fish science for today. Sorry if anyone is disappointed.

Personal Log

I think the early start jolted everyone’s biorhythms or perhaps just mine. I liked being done with the line by 0830, but I did feel kind of lazy all day afterwards. Perhaps that along with the humid, overcast sky and an antibiotic the doc gave me for an infected finger combined to make napping the desired task of the day for me. So aside doing this log, soaking my finger and a bit of reading that’s about all that happened for me today.

Questions:

Perhaps this should have preceded yesterday’s questions. The Hawaiian Islands are some of the most remote island in the world. How did they originally (before the hands of humans) become inhabited by plants, animals, fungi? What are some of the mechanisms that permit dispersal of life to such isolated places as these?

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 20, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 20, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 19 15 N
Long: 157 06 W
Sky: Beautiful day; lots of sunshine with scattered cumulus clouds
Air temp: 26.6 C
Barometer: 1015.2
Wind: 132 degrees at 15 knots
Relative humidity: 62%
Sea temp: 26.7 C
Depth: 3116.6 m
Sea: Swells less than a meter offering up a very smooth and pleasant ride.

Science and Technology Log

Several escolar, 2 snake mackeral, 2 sharks and 2 swordfish on the line today. The sharks were both silky sharks. One was tagged and released. The same treatment was intended for the other but it broke free of the hook before we got it on board. Both swordfish were dead.

The last of the swordfish was the biggest we have seen: 185 cm plus a sword of over 60cm and weighing in at 90kg. A couple skipjack tunas were landed with troll lines.

We are staying in the same area for the longline set tonight. We didn’t even bother to check Cross seamount as things are pretty good here and we would probably have had to turn away from there out of respect for others’ presence.

In reviewing Kylie’s presentation (see personal log), Rich commented that we know what the movements of the animals are, but we don’t know so well why they make various vertical movements nor how they are able to deal with the stresses imposed by those movements. The temperature/cardiac function relationship described yesterday adds a bit to the puzzle as do studies of tolerance to oxygen reduction. I found this quite interesting and hope I can condense the story to something meaningful for you.

At depths reached by bigeye tuna oxygen levels are far lower than levels experienced by skipjack and yellowfin tunas at the depths they are normally found. Tunas characteristically have high metabolic rates which might seem impossible to maintain at low ambient oxygen levels experienced by the bigeye. Fishes tolerant of low oxygen levels are typically very sluggish, have low metabolic rates and have blood with a higher affinity for oxygen than less tolerant species. In exchange for that high oxygen affinity (a benefit at the gills), they sacrifice maximum delivery of that oxygen to their tissues; their blood just doesn’t want to let go of it.

Bigeyes then, as you would expect, have blood that grabs oxygen more readily than blood of skipjacks and yellowfin. So how are bigeyes able to remain so active when their fellow fishes with high oxygen affinities just can’t keep the pace? Recall those heat exchange units we’ve mentioned before??? Bigeyes’ blood loses much of its grasp on the vital gas as it is warmed by those heat exchange units. And remember that at the gills the blood is “cold” again. What a great system — readily grab and hold oxygen at the gills even in low ambient oxygen environments, and readily release it in the muscles. Pretty cool, I think.

To conclude, I quote from the summary section of my source as to the value of these studies. I presume that what is stated here specifically with respect to bigeye applies more broadly. “Understanding the vertical movements and depth distribution of bigeye tuna, as well as the physiological abilities/tolerances and oceanographic conditions controlling them, has been shown to be critical to improve longline catch-per-unit effort analysis and long term population assessments in the Pacific.”

Goodenow 5-20-04 oceanic white tip
Geoff with a small oceanic white tip shark

Personal Log

Following the line retrieval, I managed to get some time on the upper deck in my favorite shady spot with my book. Reading, snoozing and enjoying the view passed the afternoon along with an interruption to assist with a troll line catch. This was very nice after such a gloomy yesterday that was topped off with another late night at the movies (Pirates of the Caribbean).

Just before supper Kylie did a rehearsal of a presentation she will be making in Australia about her vision studies. Rich and Kerstin made comments and suggestions to help her polish the presentation. It was interesting to hear them address content and presentation issues much as I do with my own students.

Kerstin asked me today if it is getting tough coming up with material for the log. I suggested that indeed it is becoming more of a challenge. Perhaps out of sympathy, she called me to her lab early this evening to share with me some details related to the eye socket of a swordfish. Thanks, Kerstin, and keep ’em coming!

Questions:

Many native plants and animals of the Hawaiian Islands have suffered due to the introduction of non-native species to their environment. The green cover of the islands is very different in most places than what Polynesian settlers saw. Mongooses and ginger are two introduced species. See if you can find out how they got here, why they were introduced and specific impacts they have had on native species. (There are others for which you could do the same investigation including many in your home area).

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 19, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 19, 2004

Time: 1615

Lat: 19 15 N
Long: 157 14 W
Sky: Cloudy all day with light to moderate rain showers throughout the day after longline retrieval. Ended by supper time, but the sky remained overcast.

Air temp: 23.6 C
Barometer: 1012.5
Wind: 106 degrees 16 at knots
Relative humidity: 73.4%
Sea temp: 26.2 C
Depth: 3959.8 m
Sea: Swells less than a meter.

Science and Technology Log

Not a big catch today, but everything we did catch came at once resulting in a flurry of activity for a short time. A blue shark was kept, and our largest swordfish so far came up dead. Too bad as it would have been an excellent one to tag.

For today’s in depth science report, I will refer to a couple of papers both coauthored by our chief scientist, Rich, relating to vertical movements of some of the species we have seen. Some fish tend to stay within particular vertical realms while others traverse them. What factors influence the animals’ movements?

One seems to be temperature. In a study of yellowfin tuna, blue marlin and striped marlins, all three were found to descend to depths where water is no more than 8C below surface temperature. Where oxygen levels in the water are not a factor, all three of these species seem to be restricted by the effects of water temperature on cardiac muscle function.

Bigeye tuna as you will recall stay deep (500m) by day and rise to the surface waters at night. At depth the animals are exposing themselves to ambient temperatures that are up to 20C colder and oxygen levels much lower than in the upper layers. Swordfish and bigeye thresher sharks exhibit patterns similar to those of the bigeye tuna.

What about those heat exchange mechanisms described in earlier issues of my log? Shouldn’t they, if present, allow a fish to tolerate a wide temperature range? While indeed they are present in some species, they are not working to keep blood warm as it goes to and through the heart. Any heat left in the blood on its return to the heart is lost as it passes through the gills. Since the heart is “downstream” of the gills, cardiac muscle remains within 1C of ambient temp. Studies show that temp. reductions cause heart rate and output to decrease.

Yellowfin tuna and the marlins seem to have no ability to increase heart rate or cardiac output following sudden temperature reductions. Consequently, they stay within that 8C window of surface temp.

So how do the bigeye tunas and others manage to negotiate these temperature realms with apparent ease? The question remains, the full story unknown so untold. Perhaps by the time you are here as a teacher at sea you can fill us in with the details. I’ll be waiting!

I’ll complete this look at physiology tomorrow with a bit more to relay about the oxygen issue.

Goodenow 5-19-04 bite marks
This was taken to show countershading and nuptial bites. The large bite is obvious but also note the smaller teeth marks below. The bites are made by the males on the females.

Personal Log

I usually have a good start on the log by supper time but not today. In the quiet following the period of intense longline activity, I began the process of securing the jaws of the blue shark for display. This was a female of good size (165cm, 45kg) and with a nice set of choppers. I was being pelted with rain as I worked through lunch and beyond. I thought if I stopped I wouldn’t go back out to deal with it any more so I just kept peeling away the flesh to expose the teeth and reduce future odor issues. Had it pretty well done as chill started to get to me. I headed for the warmth of a stairwell over the engine room pausing momentarily to enjoy the (usually) stifling heat before finishing my route to room and warm shower. I did return to inspect my work. In comparing it to Eva’s similar effort I felt more had to be done to match her high standard. But now it’s done and jaws are held wide apart with crossed chopsticks as nature tends to the final phase.

No longline duties at the start of tonight’s set which I think is in last night’s neighborhood. Perhaps I will be in there as a reliever a bit later.

Question:

For something completely different and to address the history buffs among you:

How long ago is it estimated that Polynesians discovered and settled in the Hawaiian Islands?   When were the islands discovered by European explorers? Why was captain Cook first welcomed by the native people, but not received so well (and eventually killed) when he returned shortly after his departure?

Any subject areas I’ve not touched on yet?

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 17, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 17, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 18 24 N
Long: 157 47 W
Sky: Stratus cloud layer shielded us from the sun until longline was in then it started to break up by 1030. Sun for awhile then clouded over again by midafternoon. Thinning by evening but still a good blanket on us.

Air temp: 27.3 C
Barometer: 1011.24
Wind: 35 degrees at 7 knots
Relative humidity: 54.5%
Sea temp: 26.8 C
Depth: 4489.2 m

Sea: 2-3 foot swells; no problems

Science and Technical Log

Yesterday after picking up the line we began a westward passage toward Swordfish Seamount. It was a long way off and there was no hope of getting there last night. The line was set along our course at 18 34 N and 156 47 W at no particular oceanographic feature that I am aware of. Perhaps that is why out haul today was none too exciting — a couple escolar, a snake mackeral and two blue sharks. Only one of the blues was brought on board. We will be at Swordfish to set tonight and look forward to a more interesting catch tomorrow.

I have covered each of the areas of research going on by the science teams aboard for this cruise. Today, my focus will be on sharks. We have caught 4 species so far and that has aroused my interest in these animals. I’ll provide some general info as well as some specifics for the species we have caught. For those of you interested in more, my information comes from two sources: Smiths’ Sea Fishes by Margaret Smith and Phillip Heemstra, and Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson.

Sharks along with skates and rays are among 700-800 species in the subclass Elasmobranchii of the Class Chondrichthyes. Like all members of the class, their skeletons are entirely cartilaginous, but Elasmobranchs are distinguished by an upper jaw that is not fused to the skull and 5-7 pairs of gill slits.

There are about 350 species of sharks ranging in adult size from the 23 cm green lanternshark to whale sharks, the largest of all fishes, which reach 13 meters. Sharks lack a swim bladder, but produce large amounts of lipids which are stored as oils in the liver for buoyancy. The liver can account for up to 25% of the animal’s total weight. Sharks maintain osmotic (water) balance by maintaining a high concentration of urea (so high as to be deadly to most fishes) in their blood and tissues thereby reducing water loss to their salty environment.

All sharks we have caught (except the bigeye thresher, Order Lamniform) belong to the Order Carchariniform. This is the largest group of sharks; it includes about 200 species. These two orders are distinguished from one another in the following ways:

Carchariniforms: purse-like egg cases or live bearing; a movable nictitating membrane (eye covering).

Lamniforms: bear live young with uterine cannibalism (now there’s an interesting bit) evident in some; no movable nictitating membrane. There are also differences between the orders in the internal structure of their intestines — very interesting but I won’t go into description.

Specifics about each species of shark we have taken follow.

Blue sharks: the most fecund of all sharks; viviparous and bear 35-135 pups per litter; 50 cm at birth; attain 3.5 m; widespread in all oceans; favor water 12-16 C.

Oceanic white tip: in all oceans; away from continental shelves; viviparous bearing 6-8 pups usually; 60-65 cm at birth; up to 3 m; abundant in tropical seas.

Silky: widespread, prefer warm water; feeds inshore and in deep water; viviparous bearing 9-14 pups; 80-85 cm at birth; up to 3 m.

Bigeye thresher: widespread in warm ocean waters; ovoviviporous (provides embyo with no nourishment beyond the original yolk); 2 pups per litter; 100-130 cm at birth; attain 4.5 meters.

Personal Log

Well, I guess you can tell what I did today, and I might have a few more tidbits about sharks to add tomorrow. I am completing the log before the line set tonight so as to take in a movie afterwards. Don’t know what’s playing tonight, but it will be free and relaxing.

Tomorrow begins our last week at sea. Little time remains for you to file your questions with me. I’m looking too for suggestions for topics to try to address so if you have ideas, please suggest. I have asked for a tour of the engine room which is a possibility for Tuesday if tickets aren’t sold out. That might give me some interesting goodies to pass along.

Question:

We have seen fish that are rather uniformly dark in color and some that are brightly colored. What are some of the roles of coloration in fishes (as well as other animals)? Describe countershading and how it serves an animal like the blue shark.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 16, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 16, 2004

Time: 1615

Lat: 18 25 N
Long: 156 13 W
Sky: A dreary morning with gray stratus clouds all around and an occasional misting of precipitation. Much brighter sky by 1300 — enough to cast shadows, but remained mostly cloudy throughout the day. A pleasent evening with clearing skies.

Air temp: 25.7 C
Barometer: 1011.61
Wind: 352 degrees at 13 knots
Relative humidity: 71.5%
Sea temp: 26.4 C
Depth: 5012.1 m
Sea: 2-3 foot swells

Scientific and Technical Log

Longline retrieval started on a bad note this morning as the line went under the ship. It caused only a short delay as maneuvers were quickly and successfully made to keep it out of the propellers. We brought up an escolar, 2 snake mackeral, and a broadbill swordfish head. A large, angry silky shark came in also. The shark was released after being tagged and “kindly” relinquishing a remora. And finally, a new species for the record, a lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). These guys look much like the snake mackeral, a long thin body up to 200cm, nearly cylindrical with a tall uneven dorsal fin (sail)standing perhaps 5 body widths high over nearly 2/3 of its back. The snake mackeral’s dorsal fin does not rise nearly so much. The lancet’s skin was very smooth, scaleless in fact, iridescent and rather pale. They have narrow snout with long sharp teeth.

For those interested in the studies of pelagic fishes, the Pelagic Fisheries Research Program (PFRP) publishes a newsletter which can be viewed online (I think) at http://wwwsoest.hawaii.edu/PFRP . For more on the eye work being done by Kerstin and others see Vol. 6 Number 3 (July-September 2001).

Other studies aboard the SETTE:

Melissa is a master’s program student at Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS). She did her undergraduate study at UC San Diego. She has been collecting remoras, larvae from our plankton tows and stomach contents from some fishes, and fin clips from sharks. Here’s what it’s all about:

The remoras are being collected as a favor for her labmate’s work at VIMS. That person is looking at the phylogenetics of remoras and also that of their hosts which include sharks, billfishes, and the occasional baitfish or float. She is also collecting fin clippings from sharks of the genus Carcharhinus (e.g. oceanic white tips, silky sharks) for another labmate working on the sandbar sharks (also in the Carcharhinus genus) off of Virginia, looking at natal homing patterns.

From the plankton tows, Melissa is interested in larvae of the fish family Scombridae which incldes tunas, wahoo, bonitos, and mackeral. Can we find ways to identify them based on their genetics? Samples from all will be sequenced using their mitochondrial DNA in an attempt to find unique interspecific (between species) genetic markers. The value of this is that it would allow easier identification of larval types than does morphological identification. We might more readily then identify where and when particular species spawn and thereby attain a better understanding of their life histories. Are the genetics of a species uniform throughout the range of the fish? If there are significant genetic differences in populations then perhaps it is wise to manage fisheries of that species by area as opposed to globally (one size fits all approach) so as to preserve gene pool diversity. Answers to these questions could lead to management practices that better protect these resources.

This work also has applications in forensic studies. Fish that have been taken illegally and already filleted can be identified by genetic markers enabling better enforcement of regulations. Also, morphological identification of degraded tissue, as in stomach contents where enzymes have done their deed, is impossible.  Stomach contents collected here will be screened using genetic markers for the tuna larvae to see if the larvae are part of that particular fish’s diet.  Applications from this work could potentially aid studies of trophic levels and predator/prey relationships.

Goodenow 5-16-04 shark on cradle
Shark being lifted aboard

Personal Log

Suffered my first injury in shark wrestling today with a slight abrasion to left knee — not enough to scare me away from the next match. Nothing too news worthy to report about the day. It was a rather slow day. Not much sun, humidity was above the norm — a bit uncomfortable outside. Continued reading Wilson’s book, did wash and stewards offered a linen change today which I took advantage of.

There was a moment of excitement this afternoon when a marlin took off with a troll line. It was out of control and our two champion fisherman couldn’t handle it. Gears were stripped in the reel which actually smoked from the heat generated as line spinned off. That rod is out of action for the duration; the fish won that round.

This evening our electronics technician, John, gave me a pictorial introduction to other research cruises of the SETTE which I will share with you another time. And, relieved of longline duties tonight, I spoke with Mike and science in general and some specific regarding his work in fisheries research.

To all of my ’02-’03 Advanced Biology students, I am sorry to report that I was not able to make use of my Secchi disk nor did I even see one on the ship.

Question:

What does the term upwelling mean? Identify several general locations in the oceans where upwelling occurs. What is the biological impact of upwelling in those areas?

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 15, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 15, 2004

Time: 1550

Lat: 18 52 N
Long: 155 47 W
Sky: Bright and sunny over us but the island has a layer of stratus obscuring views to top
Air temp: 26.3 C
Barometer: 1012.72
Wind: 202 degrees at 12 knots
Relative humidity: 62.4
Sea temp: 26.2 C
Depth: 2015.4 m

Sea: Rolling along with 2-3 foot swells; no big deal.

Scientific and Technical Log

Scientific name for the pomfret we caught yesterday is Brama brama and for the silky shark (caught a week or so ago) it is Carcharhinus falciformis.

Today as we trolled just off the Hawaii shoreline as we steamed south to our longline set position. Mike and Chris teamed up again to land a shortbilled spearfish (Tetraturus angustirostris) 161 cm and 17 kg, silvery body with a deep blue dorsal fin — beautiful fish. This one was kept for eye studies and other tissue samples. We pulled a nearly intact fish about 20 cm long from its stomach. The 2 man team of Chris and Mike is working smoothly and efficiently; no fish has a chance against them now.

We will set the longline tonight southeast of the southern tip of Hawaii at Apuupuu Seamount, 929 m below. (18 31N, 155.24 W). Following the set we will be doing a plankton tow.

Vision (one more time):

Another aspect of the vision studies is trying to assess the animal’s speed of vision. Electroretinography measures the response of an eye to light pulses from a flickering source. So called flicker fusion (FF) is reached when the eye loses its ability to perceive individual pulses of light. A relatively high FF value is characteristic of shallow living species compared to deeper dwellers. In the dim light the speed of light gathering is slowed similar to the need to slow a camera’s shutter speed to gather sufficient light.

In concluding this abbreviated look at the vision studies, I’ll try to draw some of the pieces together. Pop up tags show where these animals spend their time in terms of depth, light and temperature realms. We can tell how sensitive an eye is to light and how fast it works. As you will recall, some of these fishes deep dwelling fishes have heat a exchange system located in the eye which keep it warm. It has been shown that speed of vision is affected by temperature change — a warm (above ambient) eye functions more effectively. Much more goes on, but perhaps you get a sense of how different areas of study contribute to a better picture of this function in these pelagic fishes.

To other (non-vision) studies tomorrow.

Personal Log

We steamed toward Kona through the night so that we could ferry Steven to shore and flights to other places. It was great to have met him; I’m sorry he had to jump ship. I got up at 5:30 to experience sunrise (around 6 o’clock). I thought it would be nice to see it rise over the island, but didn’t count on the clouds hanging over the mountains to obscure anything that might have been spectacular; it wasn’t even good from our perspective. But it was nice to see a color that I haven’t seen (except as a flash) in over a week — green. We have been wrapped in a beautiful blue and white world (which I am sure would excite fans of the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Mifflinburg HS Wildcats), but I tend to favor green fields and forests in the mix.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to touch the green or for that matter the briny deep as snorkeling was denied us. So it was a day of leisure on board. I spent time reading (Diversity of Life), making some journal entries and enjoying the sight of land — perhaps the last for another 9 days (not complaining). I tried to ignore the typical signatures of human presence at Kona: autos, the Big K-Mart and Lowes perched to give exiting customers a grand view across the sea, a cruise ship at anchor, shore front hotels and homes dotting the mountainside. I directed my focus on the crashing surf, blankets of exposed black lava rock interrupting the predominant green, and shear black cliffs dropping to the sea — the natural stuff. It got better the further south we moved along the coast.

Dan guided Kylie and me through filleting of the spearfish this afternoon. Between the three of us (and the catch team, of course) we secured a good bit of food for the crew. This evening I split spool duty with Kerstin then took a chair from which to watch the rest of the set, read and talk with super fisherman Chris.

It’s a great night back in the world of blue and white.

Question:

Can you find the point on the sea where you would be most distant in any direction from land?

Geoff Goodenow, May 14, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 14, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 18 40 N
Long: 158 14 W
Sky: Sunnny with widely scattered cumulus
Air temp: 26.4 C
Barometer: 1011.26
Wind: 172 degrees at 12 knots
Relative humidity: 61.4%
Sea temp: 26.4 C
Depth: 888.5 m

Sea: A few white caps out there; swells in 1-3 foot range — easy going today.

Science and Technology Log

A fairly exciting morning on the longline. Several escolar, a barracuda, and a pomfret (a laterally flattened fish about 30cm long but only 2-3 cm in width with a fine set of sharp teeth). Samples taken from all. We also had a blue shark from which samples were taken and an oceanic white tip shark which was tagged and released. I got to wrestle both. Picked up a few remoras from the sharks. We think we have at least two species of remoras.

This afternoon we passed over Cross Seamount and traversed it several times as we trolled but to no avail. There will be no longline set tonight since we have a date in Kona to drop off one of the current scientific party.

I want to fill in with more of the vision story this evening if I can stay coherent long enough to convey it sensibly. I will touch on the work of Steven, Kerstin, and Rickard.

I have been collecting samples of fish lenses. They vary in size, as you would expect, among different sized fishes. What makes the lenses different from those of most vertebrates is that they are spherical rather than oval in cross section. The cornea of fish is also optically non-functional. Since it has the same refractive index as water, focusing is done by moving the lens back and forth in the eye rather than by changing the shape of the lens as our eye muscles do.

Steven uses laser light to determine the focal point for different colors of light. He suspends lenses in a fluid medium then turns on a laser beam that makes two vertical passes through the diameter of the lens. You can watch light’s path change as the beam migrates. Computer analysis then determines focal point.

Kerstin and Rickard must have live cells from the retina for their studies. Among other things, they are looking at the sensitivity of these cells to different light intensities. Live retina cells convert light to electrical signals which travel via the optical nerve to the brain to produce an image. By attaching electrodes to tissue samples about 1 cm square in size and subjecting the cells to different intensities of light electrical responses of different strengths can be detected and measured. They appear as a wave pattern on a screen. As light intensity is increased, the amplitude of the wave pattern increases. So a flat line (no response) becomes one with small amplitude waves which grow as light intensity increases to a point where more light produces no greater effect.

Lets compare two species, mahi mahi, which stay nearer well lit surface and bigeye tuna which like deeper environs. Which eye would you expect to be more light sensitive? The bigeye. Their cells are stimulated by much lower intensities of light than the mahi’s. They (bigeye) have to be able to detect their prey under minimal light conditions and need the more sensitive eye to do that. Big eyes, big pupils (fish pupil size is fixed) and a “super” sensitive set of retinal cells are adaptations of these fish to their deep environment.

I’ve had enough (as I suppose you have too). I will wrap up the vision story tomorrow or Sunday.

Personal Log

We are headed for Kona. Although we probably will not get any shore time, it has been suggested that there might be an excursion to a place where we can swim/snorkel for awhile. I am hoping very much this it true as are others. A plunge into this element (I guess I should say compound) that we have bobbed around on top of for the past 13 days would be a pleasant change in the routine and scenery.

Reading E.O. Wilson’s The Diversity of Life.

I would like to thank, Ron, a fellow teacher from Michigan who I have never met, for writing a note to tell me that he has been enjoying the logs and also to pose a question. Much appreciated!

Questions:

Sunrise here today is at 6AM and the great yellow ball sets here at 7PM. What time is it rising and setting in your area at this time of year? Find out sunrise and sunset times for the solstices for Honolulu and your area. From that determine A) how much longer the sun is above the horizon for each place in summer vs winter B) which place, Honolulu or your home has more sun time at each solstice? If you find that there are differences explain why they exist.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 12, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 12, 2004

Time: 1745 (Later than usual due to busy late afternoon fishing)

Lat: 18 33N
Long: 158 20 W
Sky: Somewhat overcast this morning but a nice sunny day overall.
Air temp: 26.5 C
Barometer: 1013.5
Wind: 90 degrees at 10 knots
Relative humidity: 63.5%
Sea temp: 26.3 C
Depth: (forgot to check)
Sea condition: Good sized swells today kept us rocking and rolling pretty good throughout the afternoon and evening. But it wasn’t discomforting at all.

Scientific and Technical Log

Brought up 3 escolar and one wahoo on the longline this morning — not a very exciting time. The set was about 30 miles NE of Cross seamount. After retrieval we steamed south again through/over Cross and back to the area of success around Swordfish seamount to set the line tonight. Along the way we encountered several so called “bird piles”, congregations of birds on the water, indicative of fish below.   Passing over Cross we pulled in 5 mahi mahi, a small yellowfin tuna, and 4 bigeye tunas. It was a busy late afternoon. There’s lots of fish on ice for upcoming meals!

Returning now to the vision studies:

This afternoon Eva gave me the tools and an escolar eye and had me go through the procedures she follows to get what she needs for her studies. (Kylie basically does the same procedure but uses skipjack tunas). I’m not ready for microsurgery yet, but she gave my effort a thumbs up as I successfully secured the materials she needs for later study.

As the eye is taken from the animal marks are made on it with a scalpel to mark its orientation in the animal. After measuring eye cup and pupil size, the cornea and lens are removed and a bit more scraping and cleaning eventually leaves her with optic nerve, retina and vitreous to be preserved. This took me about 45 minutes to do.

Back at her university lab, the retina alone will be used. Sections of the retina will be mounted for microscopic examination. With it she can answer questions such as 1) what do the photoreceptor cells look like? 2) Is there a variety of types of receptors in their eye? 3) What is the density/distribution of receptors across the retina? In another study she makes other preps for microscopic examination to observe density of ganglia in the retina.

Personal Log

I had some ideas for tonight’s entry in this section, but this boat is rocking pretty hard right now and sitting in front of the computer is not particularly pleasant. I’m cutting things short tonight.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 11, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 11, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 18 49 N
Long: 158 03 W
Sky: A gray overcast morning with a couple of showers. Brightened through the late morning and stayed mostly(thin)overcast but enough sun to cast shadows and feel pretty intense. 90% cloud cover through most of daylight hours. Tonight the sky is star-filled — beautiful.

Air temp: 26.3 C
Barometer: 1011.9
Wind: 100 degrees at 8 knots
Relative humidity: 66.9%
Sea temp: 26.7 C
Depth: 3333 m

Sea: A bit of chop especially this morning when wind seemed stronger. There were a couple of splashes onto the deck as we brought in the line this morning. Still some whitecaps this afternoon; well settled this evening.

Salinity: 34.4 (I thought some might be wondering; it has been consistent throughout.)

Scientific and Technical Log

This morning we brought in several escolar (none scoring better than 4 as they belly flopped to the surface), a yellowfin tuna which was tagged and released, and three blue sharks (one was kept and two were returned after blood samples and a couple remoras were secured). Shark wrestling is getting to be routine. Since then we have been steaming northeast beyond Cross Seamount. At 2000 we are at Lat 19 10N and Long 157 45 W as we begin the set.

On minor correction: sharks and other big fish brought on board are hoisted by human muscle using a block and tackle (not a mechanical winch as stated previously)

Kerstin Fritsches from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia is working on vision studies of the fish. Her husband, Steven Evill (often affectionately referred to as Dr. Evil) assists as do three graduate students, Rickard and Eva from Sweden, and Kylie, also from Brisbane. It is for these studies that the eyes are taken from the animals. I will attempt to explain some practical applications of their studies and give you a sense of the kinds of work being done on board. I will do this in several editions of the log — not all at once. So to start —

Fishes, depending on species may use a variety of senses to know their environment. Scent, for example, may allow them to home in on prey.   While research goes on by others to analyze other sensory structures and abilities, Kerstin’s work is about vision. The attempt is being made to find out just what these different fishes are able to see. Do they see differently and, if so, how so? The practical application for longline fisheries, a very indiscriminate practice, is to eliminate by-catch. This can help protect endangered species and make longlining more cost and time efficient by finding ways to attract only economically valued species.

The water column is visually quite a varied environment. Longer wavelengths of red light are essentially filtered out and gone within the first 50 meters below the surface while shorter wavelengths in the blue range penetrate the depths. But imagine hanging out, living, and hunting at 600 meters as some of these fish do, in daytime light levels the equivalent of a starry night at the surface. Some such as swordfish and bigeye tuna come toward the surface at night keeping their exposure to light levels constant. Imagine your life spent in light levels no greater than that of a starlit night. What adaptations do these animals have to accommodate such a lifestyle? What are different parts of the visual apparatus doing in these animals? In order to help uncover answers to these and other questions, three kinds of projects are going on here.

When a live fish of desired species comes aboard, it is first killed then its eyes are taken. Kerstin and Rickard must have living tissue from the retina for their studies. They have about 20 minutes in which to get the tissue they need into a special oxygen-rich solution in which the tissues will be good for 6-8 hours. Steven works with lenses which do tend to cloud over time, but he is able to easily accomplish his work before that happens. For Eva and Kylie there is no rush as their samples, retinas and eyes with only lenses removed, are destined to be preserved for later study at home. I’ll pick up from here tomorrow with details about specific aspects of the work on vision. In preparation you might look up what the retina and lens of the eye do.

Personal Log

I observed our hitchhiking birds in a new feeding maneuver this morning. A bunch of flying fish took to the air and were happily gliding along. Our friends took after them and approaching from the rear snatched them out of the air.

Filling in the non-fishing time gaps: Last night I interviewed Eva about her part of the vision studies and this afternoon Rickard took me through his experiments. At home in Sweden he does vision studies on insects, moths and butterflies in particular. I am also reading Adam’s Navel which I can recommend to those with an interest in human biology written in an interesting non-technical and often humorous style. And it is often nice to find some shade, a comfortable deck chair and with a beverage in hand stare across that wide, blue expanse of water.

The days pass quickly.

Goodenow 5-11-04 sunset
Sunset from NOAA Ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE.

Questions:

I am happy to report that we are eating quite well on our voyage, but that was not the case for early voyagers across the seas. At times they might have had plenty to fill their stomachs, but at the same time lack a balanced diet. Because of this, one condition the mariners suffered was scurvy. What are the symptoms/problems associated with that condition? What can be done to prevent it? See if you can find out when and how the solution to the problem was discovered.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 10, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 10, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 18 41 N
Long: 158 19 W
Sky: Sunshine with scattered cumulus; beautiful day.
Air temp: 27.3 C
Barometer: 1010.92
Wind: 68 degrees at 8 Knots
Relative humidity: 47.9%
Sea temp: 27.1 C
Depth: 1674m (at 1800 hours, Lat 18 25N, Long 158 27W)
Sea: A few white caps tonight. What might they foretell?

Science and Technology Log

Pretty good day on the line. We tagged a yellowfin tuna (on board) and a broadbill swordfish (in the water). In the latter case, the tag was attached by sort of harpooning it into the animal from deck. We also pulled in a snakefish (head only), a big eye tuna, 2 escolar, a barracuda (of no interest so simply cut off the line) and 3 blue sharks. One was too large to safely bring aboard; it was cut loose. The two others were brought on board. From one we took blood and fin clips after which it was released. One fish was brought in by trolling today.

As you have noticed water temperature here would be quite comfortable for us (but we are not taking afternoon swims). Rich explained to me that here there is mixing of the surface layers such that the surface temps. I have been reporting would apply to a depth of about 100 meters. Then between there and 400 meters we would see about a 10 degree C drop. While some fish stay in the upper layers others hang in the depths or make regular vertical transgressions across these zones.

Fish are generally regarded as having body temperature at or very near ambient. Any heat produced in the muscles by aerobic respiration is picked up by the blood and circulated through the gills where that heat is dumped efficiently to the environment. Some saltwater fish (no freshwater ones) including tunas and some sharks have developed a kind of heat exchange system. Heat from venous blood is passed to arterial flow in order to keep certain muscles and organs above ambient temp. by as much as 20 degrees C in large fish. This allows body tissues and organs to work more efficiently.

Billfish such as swordfish also have a heat exchange system but it is located only around the eye and brain. Here certain eye muscle is reduced to little more than a container for mitochondria which generate lots of heat. The heat exchange system then only serves this region of the body keeping it above water temp. Still busy at Cross Seamount. The fishermen must be having a big time up there. We are setting at Swordfish again tonight. (Lat 18 17N Long 158 22W at finish of set)

Personal Log

Those oily escolar are not being kept for consumption. This morning we took one’s eyes and made a short incision along the belly just to take some muscle tissue In returning the escolar bodies to the sea I have scored their diving entries 1-10 as in competitive events. Most have been dropped straight in, but this morning I thought of trying something with a higher difficulty factor — a one and half back flip with tail entry. But on its first rotation, a bit of the entrails was ejected shipward striking me on the shoulder before falling to the deck. Unfortunately, this was not captured on film for replay tonight on “Funniest Ship Videos”, but for those present, it provided a good bit of humor to start the morning. Hereafter, we might just stay with the less ambitious dives. Spectators were glad it was I and not they.

Later I made my debut as a shark wrestler. As a rookie I was given the tail end. Even though the blues are comparatively tame once on board, the strength in the animal’s body was very evident as it tried to move – – not so sure I care to deal with the other end of these babies!

Goodenow 5-10-04 blue shark
TAS Geoff Goodenow and a blue shark.

Questions:

This question relates to paragraph two of the science log. What is the thermocline within a body of water? How would you expect a temperature profile to change through the seasons in a deep lake in central Pennsylvania?

Any questions from you folks???

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 9, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 9, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 18 39 N
Long: 158 17 W
Sky: A few more cumulus clouds around today (40% cover) but they didn’t seem to get in the way of the sun too often. Some thin stratus and cirrus around too.
Air temp: 26 C
Barometer: 1011.5
Wind: 120 degrees at 3.5 Knots
Relative humidity: 56 %
Sea temp: 27.1 C
Depth: 959.3 m

The sea was very,very smooth throughout the day.

Science and Technology Log

The line last night was put out at Swordfish Seamount (500 meters deep), about 35 miles south of Cross. It was a bit longer than usual. Longline retrieval began 0800 and was not complete until 1130. Both the length and our better fortune accounted for the longer effort. We brought in 7 on the line today including 4 sharks. Species included the following: 1 snakefish (Gempylus serpens – 104 cm long and about 7 cm wide with a big eye, pointy snout and lined with very sharp teeth– dead), oceanic white tipped shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) alive, 157 cm and nasty; a blue shark (Prionace glauca), alive, 132 cm and 32.5 kg, rather docile onboard, very pretty coloration — grayish belly softly blending to a blue dorsally; a big eye thresher shark (Alopias superciliosus — love that name) a bit of life in him but not much, 136 cm + tailfin, 51 kg, its curved tail fin nearly the length of his body; a silky shark (   ?   ) alive; an ono or wahoo, a dolphinfish and an escolar. I took some samples of blue shark and thresher shark teeth. A pretty exciting and busy morning. For most of these fish their fate in our hands was the same as usual.   But the real excitement was bringing on the live sharks. As they are drawn near the ship, netting held in place on a 3 foot by 6 foot rectangular metal frame is lower to the water by a winch. The fish is brought onto it and hoisted aboard. There are a few seconds of near terror as this thrashing animal hits the deck wielding danger at both ends of its body. A mattress like cover is thrown over each end and weighted down by human bodies (mine was not one of them today, but I’ll take my turn eventually; how many people do you know who have ridden a shark?).

The oceanic white and the silky were tagged with the pop ups. To do this a hole is drilled through the base of the dorsal fin. Line looped through that hole attaches the pop up to the animal. Fin clips and blood samples (if possible) are taken as are any remoras attached to the sharks. Then another moment of fear — restraints are withdrawn and animal is sent overboard as quickly as possible. Description of the satellite pop up tags: Each is about 12 inches tall. At the base is a light sensor, above that a cylindrical housing about 1 inch diameter, next a swollen area about 1.75 inch diameter (the pressure sensor) above which is an antenna about 6 inches long.   Each costs about $4000.00 including about $300 satellite time to upload data. Since a signal cannot be sent through seawater to the satellite, the units acquire and store data until a preset pop up date (8 months is about max given battery power of the unit). Then they are released automatically, pop to the surface, find a satellite and dump info to it. The system allows us to track fishes vertical movements (by pressure changes) and horizontal movements by measuring ambient light levels. The latter tells us daylength which can be used to estimate latitude to perhaps within a degree and time of dusk and dawn, which when compared to Greenwich can indicate longitude.

But what if the animal dies before the 8 months are passed? If the animal is headed to the depths, at 1200 meters pressure causes release of the pop up. If no vertical change is detected over 4 days (animal has died in shallow water), they release. Other things can happen that disable the pop ups. They might get broken or eaten by other animals. Only about i in 3 tagged swordfish and big eye thresher sharks are heard from if tagged. Those animals go surface to 600 meters often and rapidly subjecting tags to quick temperature and pressure changes that might disrupt operation of the device. In spite of the obstacles, data is gathered from about 60% of the pop up tags deployed. An alternative is small archival tags that get implanted right onto the animal. These cost only $800 and have much greater storage capacity than pop ups so can provide much more data. However, these must be recovered — the fish have to be recaught in order to get the info from the tag. That’s a tough order in this big ocean and recovery rate is indeed low. Setting longline again tonight in same area. At 2042 we are at lat 18 16 N and long 158 27 W.

Personal Log

Last night was spectacular. Brilliant stars horizon to horizon — a star show above, including the Southern Cross, that was equaled in beauty and wonder by the light show in the water. Bioluminescent organisms were ablaze off stern. It looked like the Milky Way in the water but with the stars turning on and off and swirling about in a frenzy. Some were mere points of light, sometimes things flashed as a light bulb going quickly on and off, and once in a while a ghostly basketball sized sphere tumbled through the view. It was hard to know whether to look up or down for fear of missing the next dazzling event.

And yes, there was a small crowd at the bow to admire the moonrise at about 2345. The ship as always held its position near the longline set. As such we are sort of at the mercy of the sea, just rocking and rolling as it moves beneath us. It is to me a very pleasant motion, one that just rocks you gently to sleep. I have never been on a cruise ship, but friends who have tell me there is no (or little) sense of motion to the ship. Perhaps this is comforting to some, but I like the total experience (within reasonable limits, of course) and these last two nights have been perfect in all respects. I am handing off my duties as brake and bait man to others this evening so that I might digest and organize some of the info passed to me by Kerstin and others in the last couple days.

Questions:

Here are a couple relating to ocean currents. Look at a chart that shows ocean currents along the US east coast (southern and mid-Atlantic states) and for the US west coast (Washington to California). What is the general direction of the flow along each coast? Along which coast, especially in summer, would you expect ocean water to be warmer? Why?

I have given you daily temperature readings for the sea water here at about 18 degrees north. The Galapagos Islands straddle the equator far to the east of here off the west coast of South America. You would most likely expect the water there to be warmer on average than around the Hawaiian Islands. Is it? If not, what accounts for the difference?

Happy Mother’s Day,

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 8, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 8, 2004

Time: 1820 (I’m late today)

Lat: 18 12 N
Long: 158 26 W
Sky: beautiful day; blue sky with scattered cumulus
Air temp: 25.9 C
Barometer: 1011.9
Wind: 70 degrees at 6 knots
Relative humidity: 52%
Sea temp: 27 C
Depth: 3571 m

Scientific and Technical Log

The longline brought in just two escolar (Lepidocybium flavobrunneum), an oily tuna (not ones we keep for eating) that tends to live rather deep. It is a dark colored fish unlike the shallower water tunas and mahi we have brought up which are nicely (sometimes brilliantly) colored. Its eye is very large and reflective like a cat’s eye though silvery. It is quite striking. So anyway, a bit of excitement there, and I got to see a species new to me. I don’t think I gave any description of the longline retrieval yet.   The ship maintains a course to keep the line perhaps 30-40 degrees off port side. The line comes up midship over a pulley at the spool and is wound onto the spool. As leaders come up they are unclipped at the pulley and passed to others who remove bait and return hooks, leaders and clips to storage barrel. If a fish comes on, the spool is stopped until it is landed and removed from the retrieval area. It is a challenge for crew on the bridge to maintain the proper course for the ship with respect to the line. Because the ship is moving slowly during the process and the process must be stopped for fish or entanglements, recovery of the line takes much longer than the set. I don’t think we’ve done it in less than 2 hours. Nothing came up by trolling today and no plankton tows were done.   Tonight we are south of Cross Seamount (at 2000 we are at 18 08 N, 158 27 W) to set the line. Again we are not at Cross because of another boat’s presence. I’m the starter on the bait box tonight. I hope I can fulfill the duties, after all I’m a rookie and used to coming in only as the closer so far. I guess they’ll try anything to change our luck.

Personal Log

After completing my log last night at about 2030 I went to an upper deck where we have strung a hammock. I was a beautiful starry night — the clearest we have had. A warm gentle wind blew over a sea rolling under us as one foot swells. The bright orange waning gibbous moon rose 20 minutes later a cast its long shimmering light across the water as it rose higher. The Big Dipper was easily apparent pointing toward Polaris only 18 degrees or so above the horizon. As new constellations took their place above the eastern horizon a couple of meteors streaked by. I was reluctant to leave the scene for my cabin. I made the mistake of telling folks about it today; there could be some competition for that hammock tonight!

In preparation for upcoming editions of the log I spent an hour or so with Kerstin discussing her work with vision in these pelagic fishes. Wow! I’ll be sorting that out for awhile — very interesting stuff. I finished a book, The Great Biologists, written in 1932. Obviously many more recent greats are not included, but I enjoyed reading about the men included from a 1932 perspective. It is of interest to me to learn more of the impact of particular work at its time in history and of the personalities of the men themselves. It adds some new dimensions to teaching of biology that might captivate a few students as bits and pieces can be appropriately included.   We had a small group of dolphins leaping high as they passed the boat.   Flying fish are a common sight; crewmen report that often they are found on deck in the morning. We have a pair of birds, a type of booby I believe, hitching a ride with us. They are leaving their mark all over the bow which is not pleasing the crew and have thus been dubbed “John’s nemesis”. But for those of us who don’t have to swab the deck, it is neat to have them around and to watch them feed. From their perch they seem to spot a fish leap from the water and take off. They follow the fish 10-20 feet over the water as it swims and at an instant make a fast dive for it and quickly take flight again. Many of us had our supper on the deck tonight — my first mid-ocean picnic. A clear horizon at sunset gave me another view of the green flash. Venus (I think) set about 2135 just as set of the longline finished. And as predicted, there is a crowd gathering on the bow for moonrise.

Question:

There is no “south pole star” as we think of Polaris as our “north pole star”. How can you use the Southern Cross to point you in the direction of the south pole?

Off to join the bow party,

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 7, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 7, 2004

Time: 1615
Lat: 18 41N
Long: 158 34W
Sky: scattered cumulus clouds; bright and sunny
Air temp: 26.6 C
Barometer: 1012.04
Wind: 87 degrees at knots 6.7 knots
Relative humidity: 50%
Sea temp: 26 C
Depth: 4558 m

Scientific and Technical Log

We left the shelter of the Kona coast and steamed all night toward Cross seamount arriving there between 0900 and 1000 hours. We trolled a couple lines across it for several hours but pulled in no fish. This is where we wanted to lay the line tonight, but in communicating with a fishing vessel in the area, that crew indicated they have 30 miles of line in the water now. Protocol, I presume, says it’s their place for now so we will respect that and go elsewhere.

Elsewhere is another seamount about 45 miles west and slightly north of Cross. But why are we hanging out at these things called seamounts? Rich (remember, chief scientist) explained to me that above seamounts are local currents called Taylor Columns that sort of swirl around above these features. Small fish tend to concentrate within these and, of course, that attracts the big boys. Cross is well known for that effect due to its shallowness (182 fathoms). The one we are going to is much deeper and consequently does not have as dramatic an impact as Cross.

Here is a bit about a couple tools that we are not using on this ship for this mission. One is called the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler. It sends out a high frequency signal and allows determination of current direction and speed under the ship. Another is the CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth). This circular array of water sampling bottles is lowered into the water. Temperature and conductivity are monitored and recorded continuously as it moves through the water. On ascent, bottles can be triggered to close at specific depths thereby bringing water samples from different levels in the water column for further testing on board.

Personal Log

More about life on the ship:

There will be no shore time during this trip, but there are several forms of entertainment aboard. Just listening to crew members speak of other places and projects around the globe they have participated in on NOAA vessels is fascinating. There is a small work out room and a couple rooms where we can view videos/cds or watch TV. There is quite a library of viewing materials and books available. Some crew members have their own TVs and stereo equipment in their cabins. On the more mundane side, there is a laundry to do personal items and once a week stewards give us a change of linens and towels.

Communication with home:

We download and upload email three times per day: 0700, 1300, and 1900 hours. Phone calls can be made but they are expensive and generally reserved for emergencies. The ship’s total communications bill can run up to $10,000 per month. So far, a typical day for me has been something like this after breakfast (0700-0800): collect samples from longline catch, assist cleanup, cleanup self, lunch (1100-1200). Check emails, enter some notes to log until tiring of that, R&R (reading, snoozing on shaded deck, interview someone or observe their work) and help with any fish coming in on troll lines. Dinner (1630-1730), R&R, input to log, help set longline (2000 -2130), finish the day’s log and send to Washington (that makes me sound pretty important doesn’t it?), R&R, and to bed 2300-2400 hours.

Since we did not set a line last night and no fish came on by trolling today was kind of slow. I used the time to have a tour of the bridge by executive officer Sarah and electrical technician, John. It was very interesting to learn more about the ship’s scientific monitoring abilities (as briefly and incompletely described above), navigation and safety features for times of distress.

Crew assisted me to string my swordfish bills so to drag along behind us. This is done to get some of the flesh and oils out of them. I am told that this will take a week or more to accomplish.

Questions:

Estimate the distance in miles between yesterday’s and today’s position (today at 2018 hours we are at Lat 18 53 N and Long 158.59 W).

What is a seamount?

Looking at the nautical chart on the bridge I can see the top of Cross seamount is at (a shallow) 182 fathoms. We are headed to one that is 406 fathoms. Between the two the chart shows a maximum depth of 2585 fathoms. What is the depth of the water over the seamounts and the deepest point between them in feet?

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 6, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 6, 2004

Local Time: 1600
Lat: 19 19 N
Long: 155 57 W
Sky: thin overcast
Air temp: 25.5 C
Barometer: 1011.28
Wind: 348 degrees at 9 knots
Relative humidity: 59.9
Sea temp: 26.6 C
Depth: 1997 m

Technical and Scientific Log

Longline retrieval began as usual at 800 hours (Can you tell I’m getting more than just my sea legs?). Everyone was feeling optimistic as various (secret) measures were employed through the night to ward off another disappointing haul. We did begin with a bit of bad luck as the line somehow got under the hull. (Obviously we have a few kinks to work out of the rituals.) Rich indicated that we had lost a couple big ones because of that. But we did land 4 fish – 2 dophinfish, alive, and 2 broadbill swordfish (Xiphias gladius) both dead on arrival. The latter were young fish just over 100 cm and each with a bill of about 52 cm which I collected. Hoping to get them home, but airline security might have something to say about that. We also brought on a couple yellowfin and a skipjack tuna while trolling through the afternoon and evening.

Yesterday I gave you an idea as to how Michele will use the blood, liver and tissue samples she is collecting. I am gathering muscle tissue samples for Brittany who is a grad student at Univ. of Hawaii, I believe. Those samples are to be used for stable isotope analysis of these pelagic fishes. I cannot recall enough about this and no one on board can help me give you an explanation of that work, but I will get details eventually. Let it be enough for now to say that the data collected should provide info on the trophic history and possible migration patterns of these fishes.

Some pilot whales and dolphins swam with us briefly today. No day time plankton tows today.

The depth of our longline sets the past couple nights has been about 40 meters. Depth of set depends on what you are trying to catch and the lunar cycle. Rich suggests that perhaps we should have been deeper. On full moon, for example, you would set deeper than at new moon. The fish tend to adjust their depth to maintain a rather constant level of light.

We are not setting the longline tonight. Winds have calmed outside of this area so we are going to head away through the night in search of happier hunting grounds (or should I say “fishing waters?”)

Personal Log

Given “gentle” seas, life on this vessel is very comfortable. Of course, gentle is a relative term and one that I hope in short time comes to be useful to me in situations that currently bring on thoughts like “why did I ever decide to do this?” (That only happened Sunday into early Monday; I’m having a great time since then.) Today I want to tell a bit what it’s like on board.

Most interior space in the ship is air conditioned; only stairwells are not. This contrasts quite favorably to the first research ship I went on. I remember very well the mens’ quarters — hot, hot, hot as it was just forward of the engine room, always smelling of diesel, “bunks” 3 high with about a foot of head room, and only a red lamp for lighting.

Here,I share a room about midship just above the main deck with Rickard, a Swedish graduate student working with Kerstin on the vision studies. Our stateroom is about 10X15 feet. It is carpeted, we have bunk beds, a desk, sink, closet and a window. We share a toilet and shower with one other person, a crew member, in the adjoining room. I think all of the science personnel are on this deck.

Meals/food service are excellent. The galley is always open and we may help ourselves to a variety of treats, snacks and real food at any time of day. For breakfast, cold cereals, bread, fruits, hot drinks and juices are available and the galley staff will prepare eggs, pancakes, meats, hot cereals as to your order.

Lunch and supper always include a salad bar and your choice of 2 entrees and a variety of side dishes. Not that we are on a strictly fish diet, but all of the fish that we have taken for specimens are immediately iced down and saved for the cooks who have many ways of making them a treat for the palate. Tonight featured freshly caught ahi cooked on a grill on deck.

Last night’s sunset was a beauty. I saw for the first time, the “green flash”.

Questions

Lets turn to the atmosphere for a few questions. If you are keeping up with answering the questions (or just look above), you have an idea of the latitude of the islands. What is the name, including direction, of the global wind belt the Hawaiian islands lie within?

The ship has been sailing along the west coast of the big island, Hawaii. Is this the windward or the leeward side of the island? The heights of Maui and Hawaii help create the weather observed on different parts of the islands. Look at a map of Hawaii and find the towns, Hilo and Kona. Which of the two would you predict to have the drier climate? Why? Check some other sources for precipitation records to find out if you are correct.

You can try the same for Maui. Hana is on the east side and Lahaina is on the west. Make some predictions as to the relative climates of each town then check other sources of climate data to see if you are correct.

If you have any questions, please send them my way.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 5, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 5, 2004

These data noted at about 1600 hours:

Lat: 19 27
Long: 156 02
Sky: Sunshine; clouds hanging over coastline
Air temp: 26C
Barometer: 1011.0
Wind: 290 at 11 knots
Relative humidity: 55%
Sea temp: 26.7C
Depth: 2392 m

Science and Technology Log

Retrieving the longline takes about 2.5 hours. This morning it brought in one mahi mahi (dolphinfish) alive, and one bigeye tuna that had died on the line. Trolling afterwards brought in 3 more fish including one big eye and two yellowfin tunas. Samples were collected as yesterday.

I will give you a better idea over the next few reports as to how different samples are going to be used. I’ll start with the blood serum, liver and muscle tissue samples being taken by Michele who is from Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS).

The blood serum contains a compound called vitellogenin. It is a precursor to a protein needed for egg yolk production. It is typically in relatively high levels in females. Environmental stresses such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which include PCBs, pesticides such as DDT and chemical flame retardants among others, can elevate vitellogenin levels noticeably in males. A heightened level suggests that their immune system is compromised. Serum will be analyzed for levels of that compound.

Liver, muscle tissue and serum will be analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry for the presence of POPs. From all of this it might become possible to determine if there is a correlation between level of POP and presence of vitellogenin and therefore stress on the immune system.

Surface plankton tows were done this afternoon, and tows at depth (60 meters)will take place tonight after longline is set. Tonight’s set of the longline will be north to south just a few miles west of where the first two were set. Both of those were set along a north to south line which overlapped by about 1/3. (They were not 20 miles apart as I stated yesterday) I learned that the line was intentionally cut last night probably by some fishermen who felt this line intruded upon their territory. We did recover all of our gear.

Personal Log

It was not until nearly the end of the longline recovery that the two fish were hauled in. Consequently, it was a long morning and as it was looking totally unproductive, Chris, our physician assistant/medical officer, suggested that the Teacher at Sea program was really a way to get people on board in case a sacrifice is needed to make the waters more productive. No wonder my students were encouraging me to participate. But later I heard that it was bad luck for our fishing to eat bananas on deck so eyes turned toward several who were in violation and ignoring that doctrine. I wonder what it will be tomorrow.

The big eye which came aboard was not identified with certainty until opened. Striations on its liver, I presume not present in other tuna species (certainly not in all) confirmed it to be big eye. I asked chief scientist, Rich Brill, the significance of those and he explained in some detail that they are part of a mechanism for keeping the liver warm. I will attempt to explain that mechanism another time. It is a neat piece of plumbing for sure.

I also observed Steve as he used a laser to determine the focal point of a big eye’s lens for each color of light. This, too, is something I will try to explain at another time. The big eye tuna’s lens was nearly spherical and about 3 cm diameter.

For a change of pace, here are a few bits about the ship that the captain shared with me yesterday. This was built for the navy in the 1980s as a listening ship for submarines. It was refitted for research in Jacksonville, FL then brought here through the Panama Canal. It can store about 30 days of food and enough fuel (160,000 gallons of diesel) to stay out comfortably for about 50 days. We can make our own fresh water at a rate of approximately 3000 gal/day.

Questions:

How do eruptions of Hawaiian volcanoes compare to those like Mount St. Helens, for example?

The height of these volcanic islands affects wind speeds and sea conditions as noted yesterday. How much above sea level is the highest point on Maui? on Hawaii? If you consider its base on the ocean floor as part of its overall height, how tall is the highest peak on Hawaii? Is that taller than Mt. Everest?

It’s nice to be hearing from some of you; thanks for writing. That’s all for now.

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 4, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 4, 2004

Latitude: 19 19
Longitude 156 05
Sunny with scattered clouds
Air temp 26C
Barometer 1013.75
Wind 130 degrees at 9 knots
Relative humidity 59%
Sea temp 26.5
Ocean depth 2770 meters

Scientific and Technical Log

This morning we hauled in the longline. This is the first time this team has used the larger hooks and herring (as opposed to squid) for bait as a means of avoiding taking of turtles. In that sense, we had tremendous success — no turtles. But on the downside, we caught only two fish — a mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus),still alive, and a wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) which had died on the line. Eyes, liver, blood, and muscle tissue were taken from both. For the experiments on vision that Kerstin is doing only live eyes are useful.

Some surface plankton tows were conducted over a couple hours this afternoon. Several eggs were gathered and preserved. More tows will be conducted after the longline is set.

When nothing else was going on, two lines were trolled off the stern.   This method yielded 4 fish including bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), skipjack tuna (Katsuwanus pelamis) and yellowfin tuna (T. albacares). These were sampled as above and in addition we kept stomachs for later study of contents. So 400 hooks sitting in the longline for 12 hours so far isn’t looking nearly as effective as a good old fishing line and a lure.

Tonight at 8PM we again set the longline, this one about 20 miles north of last night’s set. Because the winds are still very strong outside the shelter of the big island we are a bit restricted as to where we can go to fish right now. Winds are to becomes calmer over the next 48 hours.

Here is the longline set up in more detail than before. A spool holding about 40 miles of line sits parallel to length of ship on port side approx. mid-ship. Line feeds off to a pully along side of ship which directs line 90 degrees to stern. Via a couple more pullies the line goes to starboard side of stern. A team on the stern takes care of it from here. At center is person with basket of hooks attached to metal or monofilament leads with a clip on the other end. He withdraws the hook and clip, passing the hook to his right and the clip to his left while pulling the leader from the basket. The hook is baited, while the clip is passed to the next man to the left. On a signal about every 12 seconds, the leader is clipped to the line as it pours off the stern and the baited hook is tossed. A light stick goes on every fourth leader or so to attract fish. Better luck to us tonight!

Personal Log

My role this morning as line was retrieved was to record information (catch location, length, weight, sex) about each fish brought aboard and to assist in gathering muscle tissue samples for Brittany who is not present on this cruise as well as for others. Again I was brake man and bait boy on the longline tonight.

The afternoon hours seem to be those of least to do unless the troll lines are hot. Today I felt settled enough in the stomach to dare to enter a very confined space and enjoy my first shower at sea. Then I sought out a shady spot on the upper deck where I parked myself for a bit of reading. The wind was light and sea calm; I had a nice view of the west side of Hawaii. The lush, green slopes were interrupted in several places by lava flows. I had the opportunity to talk with the captain about many aspects of the ship, weather, ocean currents much of which I will try to incorporate into upcoming reports. But I was particularly interested in our rough weather of Sunday and he explained it as follows. As we crossed open water we were encountering winds of 20-25 knots, but as we entered the channel between Maui and Hawaii wind speeds were 35-40 knots. The reason for the increase is that both islands have very high mountains so the air is being funneled through a rather narrow slot and speeding up. This produced 10-12 foot waves with very short periods, and the ability to create a lot of discomfort in those at sea.

Tonight as we work, the light of a full (?) moon dances on the water.

Question:

One more (easy) location question for the astronomy buffs: Our latitude today is about 19 degrees north. What is the altitude of the North star (Polaris) as we view it from here? What is its altitude at your latitude?

OK, so we know where we are, but how did the Hawaiian islands get here? All of these islands are of volcanic origin. The Hotspot theory explains how the islands formed here. Briefly describe this theory.

Which of the islands (easternmost or westernmost) are the oldest in the Hawaiian Island chain? How long ago are the oldest islands estimated to have formed?

The Galapagos Islands also formed according to the hotspot theory. Which islands in that chain are oldest (eastern or western islands)? How old are the oldest of those islands?

For those who are wondering, yes, I do expect to be able to post some pictures, but we are not quite set up yet at this end to do so. That’s all for now,

Geoff

Geoff Goodenow, May 3, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 3, 2004

Technical and Scientific Log

Due to the rough sea all work scheduled for last night as well as a troll (net) for 6AM was cancelled. As we steamed eastward a couple of lines were trolled and did bring in two fish, a mahi mahi and ono . Both fish were kept. Their eyes were dissected for lens and retina and muscle samples were taken.

Goodenow mahi mahi
TAS Geoff Goodenow shows off a mahi mahi.

I learned more of the eye studies today from Kerstin. Longlining has taken a toll on sea turtle populations. Recently a judge ordered the practice stopped in Hawaiian waters due to the turtle by-catch. One way to avoid turtles is to utilize larger hooks and bait that turtles don’t like. As we set lines on this cruise we are employing those techniques. But Kerstin’s work with eyes is an attempt to learn of different sensory abilities in the different animals to see if those differences can be used to make catch by longline more selective. A web search under longlining will lead you to some articles about the by-catch issues.

Plankton tow — We did one at surface for an hour then one at depth for another hour. It is preferred to tow through visible surface “slicks” where target larvae (those of billfish) like to gather. No slicks were found as they were probably broken up in last night’s rough water.

These samples are being gathered (1) for the eye studies and (2) to be used to see if a genetic marker can be found that will be useful in identifying species in the larval stage. If found, identification will be much easier than doing so morphologically and will make reproductive studies easier.

Tonight at 8PM we set our first baited longline. I started at the spool with “brake shoe” in hand poised for trouble that never came. After an hour or so of that I was “promoted” to bait boy–in the heart of the action! I kept the bait box full for Bruce as he attached the herring through the eyes to hooks. We set 180 pounds of fish on 400 hooks along 9 miles of line. Our leaders were metal tonight as our targets, sharks, can’t bite through the metal. Monofilament is used when the target is billfish because the metal leaders damage those animals in ways that monofilament does not. Every so often a temperature/depth recorder is attached to the line. About every 4th hook also gets a light stick attached as an attractant for fish. Buoys go over at regular intervals to help hold the line at desired depth and of course to mark its position. We will pick up the line after breakfast and see how well our efforts are rewarded.

Personal Log

I was none too excited about getting out of bed this morning and leaving the prone position which had proved to be the most effective at preventing unpleasantries. But I had to make the move. The sea was still rough and sure enough that memorable sensation returned and put me on my knees before the toilet bowl once again. A couple of dry gags settled me, but I immediately headed to our physician assistant for appropriate meds. We found much calmer water on the west side of Hawaii and those of us who were quite unsettled this morning found our comfort growing through the day. Someone said swells/waves last night were 10-12 feet and coming from various directions. No wonder I felt as though I had been in a washing machine.

Question:

How does the altitude of the sun (its angle above the horizon) at noon at 18 degrees north latitude compare with its altitude at 42 degrees north over the course of a year? To find out, use an analemma to find out the sun’s position with respect to the equator. Graph altitude (0-90 degrees) on the y axis and the 21st of each month on the x axis. Describe similarities and differences in the patterns.

Geoff Goodenow, May 2, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
Date:
May 2, 2004

Science and Technology Log

This morning we set sail at 10AM. After lunch and drills, the crew set out a longline of about 2 miles of un-baited hooks which were immediately retrieved. This was done as a test of equipment and to help crew get the rhythm of the procedure. I was asked to stand by the spool as line was fed to the stern. My role was to watch for any slackin the line, brake the spool to take up any slack or stop the spool if it tangled (bird nested). All went well on the test.

Scientists and their teams were busy setting up their respective labs and preparing for the work ahead. One team will be doing vision studies using retinas removed from selected animals. Muscle tissue and blood samples will be taken for other studies. Plankton tows will be done at daylight and night to collect specific types present at those different times of the day.

Some fish will be tagged and released. The pop up archival tags record an animal’s depth, latitude and longitudes and other data as it moves through the ocean over a specified period, perhaps 8 months. After that time, the tag automatically is released from the fish, pops to the surface and transmits its data to a satellite.

The longline was set to be deployed at 8PM, but due to rough seas that effort was cancelled. So as you can tell, this was a day of preparation, with the real science soon to come.

Personal Log

I arrived Friday, April 30 after nearly 23 waking hours, 5000 air miles and 10.5 air hours from Harrisburg, PA. It was not difficult to find comfort in my upper berth aboard the SETTE. On Saturday, I was up by 8AM, walked about Honolulu most of the day. I had brief tour of the ship with chief scientist Rich Brill. By Sunday, I felt well rested and comfortable at sea until after supper. By then things were a bit rough and most of supper and perhaps a bit of lunch came back up. But I slept well — horizontal felt best.

Question for Today:

Locaction, location, location:

Determine the change in latitude and longitude from your home to Honolulu. How many time zones are crossed? State the westernmost and easternmost longitudes of the entire Hawaiian Island chain. State the northernmost and southernmost latitudes of the Hawaiian Island chain.