NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007
Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: July 8, 2007
Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 346° (NNW)
Wind speed: light
Sea wave height: less than 1foot
Swell wave height: less than 1 foot
Seawater temperature: 8.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1019.4 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus
Science and Technology Log: Who was Oscar Dyson?
The 206-foot OSCAR DYSON is one of the newest ships in NOAA’s fleet, and was commissioned in 2005. The OSCAR DYSON is home ported in Kodiak, Alaska, and sails primarily in the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and the Bering Sea, researching fish stocks, marine mammals, and seabirds, observing weather, sea and environmental conditions, and conducting habitat assessments.
The ship is a stern trawler, and is outfitted with two trawl nets, among others, to support the annual fish surveys and biological assessments that are conducted in support of commercial fisheries, primarily pollock. The OSCAR DYSON is outfitted with a Scientific Sonar System, which can accurately measure the biomass of fish in the survey area. Trawling is used to collect specific biological data, such as length, weight, and gender of the sample. Weather, sea and environmental data are also collected continuously using hundreds of sensors on board, such as the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), which measures ocean currents. The OSCAR DYSON can also assist in maintaining and deploying stationary buoys to collect similar information for a specific area at depth over time.
In support of the science mission of the OSCAR DYSON, the ship has been built to minimize sound. By decreasing the hull noise, scientists are better able to observe fish without disturbing their natural behavior. Another special feature of the OSCAR DYSON is a retractable centerboard that carries many of the sensors used in scientific studies. By lowering the sensors over 10 feet below the hull, the acoustic data collected by the scientists is less affected by the ship’s noise. When retracted, the scientists and crew aboard the OSCAR DYSON are able to access the sensors for maintenance and replacement as needed.
The ship’s namesake, Oscar Dyson, was an innovative leader in fisheries in Kodiak. He came to Alaska in 1940, where he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers to build infrastructure in Southwest Alaska. Immediately after the war he began fishing out of Kodiak. He fished crab and shrimp, and was a leader in the development of the pollock fishery. Dyson also was a founding partner in All Alaskan Seafoods, the first company controlled by fishermen who owned both the vessels and the processing plants. Oscar Dyson served on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for nine years, and fished until his untimely death in 1995. In an interview with the Kodiak Daily Mirror in 1981, Dyson commented, “You’ve got to love the water first, or you’ll never make it.”
My leg of the summer Pollock survey is drawing to a close, and we have ended with some different kinds of trawls. We’ve collected jellyfish and plankton, and we’re still hoping to trawl using a special net that opens and closes, enabling the scientists to target multiple sets of fish at multiple depths in one cast. We’re ending with much improved weather, which has been a welcome change for everyone.
The crew of the OSCAR DYSON has made this experience particularly memorable, with scientists explaining their work in detail and crewmembers sharing their knowledge willingly. I’ve toured the engine room, spent time on the bridge, eaten once-in-a-lifetime meals, talked commercial fishing with the deckhands and even learned to tie some knots and splice lines with their help. It has been an amazing learning experience!