The date July 16, 2022 might seem like a typical Saturday, an ordinary day on the calendar to enjoy the last days of Summer before school starts around the corner. And this would be the case any other year. This year was different. It was a day that was two years in the making and one that this physics teacher could not come soon enough. It was in 2019 that I received the great news I was selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea for the 2020 research cruise season. I was beyond ready for such an incredible learning opportunity. It would however turn out not to be…at least for the present. This is when life (also known as COVID) intervened. Eventually, thanks to vaccinations, mitigation strategies and effective treatments, conditions started to improve and in 2022, the research cruise season was slowly becoming a reality and I finally received my cruise assignment. Today (July 16, 2022) is the formal beginning of the cruise. So, how did the day begin?
I awoke at my usual time (about 7:00 am-ish) and got washed up and ready for the day ahead. I had begun the packing process several days before and had my luggage ready to go.
However, it doesn’t seem official.
My flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Gulfport was scheduled for late afternoon and had arranged for shuttle pickup at 2:40 pm. This meant I had a lot of time on my hands. I took care of school related professional development activities in preparation for the upcoming school year so it was time well spent.
But still, it doesn’t seem official.
Minutes and the hours passed by quickly and the shuttle driver showed up on time. I placed my luggage in the back, took my seat, fastened my seat belt and we were on the way to the airport.
Even then, it didn’t seem official.
The driver was very pleasant and personable, which is not always a certainty with shuttle drivers. He got me to the proper terminal, informed me of my gate number and I was on the way to check in my luggage and to security. I now had some waiting to do so I found a seat close to my gate, pulled out my iPhone, logged into my Facebook page and checked in.
Now, it was official. Even though I knew I would eventually be going on a research cruise for two years, it is not truly official until it is Facebook official. Now all I needed to do is get to Biloxi. After a 4-hour “pilots are past their working hours limit…we have to wait for a new crew” delay, we finally were allowed to board the plane. The flight was a relatively short one and pleasant one at that.
The next day was a rest day prior to the departure of the cruise. The weather was gorgeous and served as a perfect opportunity to tour Biloxi. I would like to share with you a couple of photos of my self-guided tour.
As I was heading back to the hotel, I was looking for a bite to eat and walked by a restaurant I had heard rave reviews about so I decided to stop in. The restaurant was Half Shell Oyster House and the reviews are spot on!
I got a shrimp po-boy and it was just as good as it looks. It was a great relaxing day in Biloxi but the exciting part of the trip happens tomorrow when we board the R/V Tommy Munro for the cruise. There will be more detailed information about the ship, the research, the crew and the day-to-day operations of the science team in subsequent posts. In fact, the next blog post will be shared with you from the ship.
As I round out this post, I would like to let you know of a couple of items to expect in the blog posts that follow that will not only provide insight to the research conducted aboard the R/V Tommy Munro and the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, but also will inspire and stimulate interest in learning more about marine science.
I would first like to introduce you to a Google Site that I created for this experience entitled, Welcome to my Classroom at Sea. The site can be accessed by the link below:
In this site, I not only introduce myself and discuss the research to be conducted on my assigned cruise, but I have also included ideas for ocean-related projects as well as a host of various resources to explore all aspects of marine science.
Secondly, I would like to introduce you to a recurring segment on this blog that centers around the Ocean Literacy Framework and the seven essential principles of ocean sciences, shown in the infographic below.
The seven principles outline the integral fundamental concepts that all students Grades K – 12 should not only recognize from their science experiences but have an in-depth understanding as to how ocean sciences relate to the sustainability of and human life on Earth. Each blog post will highlight one of the seven principles of Ocean Literacy and an invitation to respond to three questions about the principle. There are no right or wrong answers – the questions serve not as an opportunity to answer yes or no, or to get answers right or wrong; rather, these questions serve as an opportunity not only to assess what you know or think about the scope of the principle but also to learn, explore, and investigate the demonstrated principle. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please indicate so in the blog and I would be glad to answer your questions and initiate a discussion.
For this blog post, I will start with Principle 1: Earth has one big ocean with many features. After you have had some time to think about this principle, please click on the link below:
which will take you to a Padlet (an electronic bulletin board) with three questions to answer. Please click on the rounded plus sign and record your answer on the blank note that appears under each column. Once you have finished typing your response, click on Publish in the upper right-hand corner and you are done with that question. Once you finish your responses for all three questions, you may then close the page. Thank you for participating in this exercise and I look forward to reading your responses.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 26, 2018
Weather Data from the Air
Conditions at 0634
Altitude: 9585 meters
Outside Temperature: -38 ℃
Distance to Destination: 362 km
Tail Wind: 0 km/h
Ground Speed: 837 km/h
(While NOAA Ship Oregon II has many capabilities, flight isn’t one of them. These were the conditions on my flight home.)
Science and Technology Log
The idea of placing an elementary school teacher on a Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey seems like a reality show premise, and I couldn’t believe that it was my surreal reality. Several times a day, I took a moment to appreciate my surroundings and the amazing opportunity to get so close to my favorite creatures: sharks!
Anyone who knows me is aware of my obsession with sharks. Seeing several sharks up close was a hallowed, reverential experience. Reading about sharks, studying them through coursework, and seeing them on TV or in an aquarium is one thing. Being only a few feet away from a large tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) or a great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) is quite another. Seeing the sharks briefly out of the water provided a quick glimpse of their sinewy, efficient design…truly a natural work of art. Regardless of size, shape, or species, the sharks were powerful, feisty, and awe-inspiring. The diversity in design is what makes sharks so fascinating!
I envied the remora, or sharksucker, that was attached to one of the sharks we caught. Imagine being able to observe what the shark had been doing, prior to encountering the bait on our longline fishing gear. What did the shark and its passenger think of their strange encounter with us? Where would the shark swim off to once it was released back into the water? If only sharks could talk. I had many questions about how the tagging process impacts sharks. As we started catching and tagging sharks, I couldn’t help but think of a twist on the opening of MTV’s The Real World: “…To find out what happens…when sharks stop being polite…and start getting reeled.”
Sadly for my curiosity, sharks have yet to acquire the ability to communicate verbally, despite their many advantageous adaptations over millions of years. To catch a glimpse of their actions in their watery world, scientists sometimes attach cameras to their fins or enlist the help of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to learn more. The secret lives of sharks… reality TV at its finest.
Underwater camera footage is beginning to reveal the answers to many of the questions my Kindergarten-5th grade students have about sharks:
How deep can sharks swim?
How big can sharks get? How old can sharks get?
Do sharks sleep? Do sharks stop swimming when they sleep? Can sharks ever stop swimming?
Do sharks have friends? Do sharks hunt cooperatively or alone?
Is the megalodon (Carcharocles megalodon) still swimming around down there? (This is a very common question among kids!)
The answers vary by species, but an individual shark can reveal quite a bit of information about shark biology and behavior. Tagging sharks can provide insight about migratory patterns and population distribution. This information can help us to better understand, manage, and protect shark populations.
Using several low-tech methods, a great deal of information could be gleaned from our very brief encounters with the sharks we caught and released. In a very short amount of time, the following information was collected and recorded:
• hook number (which of the 100 longline circle hooks the shark was caught on)
• genus and species name (we recorded scientific and common names)
• four measurements on various points of the shark’s body (sometimes lasers were used on the larger sharks)
• weight (if it was possible to weigh the shark: this was harder to do with the larger, heavier sharks)
• whether the shark was male or female, noting observations about its maturity (if male)
• fin clip samples (for genetic information)
• photographs of the shark (we also filmed the process with a GoPro camera that was mounted to a scientist’s hardhat)
• applying a tag on or near the shark’s first dorsal fin; the tag number was carefully recorded on the data sheet
• additional comments about the shark
Finally, the hook was removed from the shark’s mouth, and the shark was released back into the water (we watched carefully to make sure it swam off successfully)!
Other fish were retained for scientific samples. Yellowedge grouper (Epinephelus flavolimbatus), blueline tilefish (Caulolatilus microps), and red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) were some of species we caught and sampled. Specific samples from specific species were requested from various organizations. Generally, we collected five different samples:
• fin clips: provide genetic information
• liver: provides information about the health of the fish, such as the presence of toxins
• muscle tissue: can also provide information about the health of the fish
• gonads: provide information about reproduction
• otoliths: These bony structures are found in the inner ear. Similar to tree rings, counting the annual growth rings on the otoliths can help scientists estimate the age of the fish.
Samples were preserved and stored in vials, jars, and plastic sample bags, including a Whirl-Pak. These bags and containers were carefully numbered and labeled, corresponding with the information on the data sheets. Other information was noted about the fish, including maturity and stomach contents. Sometimes, photos were taken to further document the fish.
Thinking of the Oregon II as my floating classroom, I looked for analogous activities that mirrored my elementary students’ school day. Many key parts of the elementary school day could be found on board.
With my young readers and writers in mind, I applied my literacy lens to many of the ship’s activities. Literacy was the thread that ran through many of our daily tasks, and literacy was the cornerstone of every career on board. Several ship personnel described the written exams they’d taken to advance in their chosen careers. Reading and writing were used in everything from the recipes and daily menu prepared by Second Cook Arlene Beahm and Chief Steward Valerie McCaskill in the galley to the navigation logs maintained by Ensign Chelsea Parrish on the ship’s bridge.
I often start the school year off with some lessons on reading and following directions. In the school setting, this is done to establish routines and expectations, as well as independence. On the ship, reading and following directions was essential for safety! Throughout the Oregon II, I encountered lots of printed information and many safety signs. Some of the signs included pictures, but many of them did not. This made me think of my readers who rely on pictures for comprehension. Some important safety information was shared verbally during our training and safety drills, but some of it could only be accessed through reading.
Did You Know?
Thomas Jefferson collected fossils and owned a megalodon tooth. The Carcharocles megalodon tooth was found in South Carolina. One of the reasons why Jefferson supported expeditions to lands west of the Mississippi? He believed that a herd of mammoths might still be roaming there. Jefferson didn’t believe that animal species could go extinct, so he probably liked the idea that the megalodon was still swimming around somewhere! (There’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that either Thomas Jefferson or the megalodon are still around.)
If Sharks Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams
This picture book acknowledges the scariness of sharks, but explains that a world without sharks would be even scarier. Shown through the eyes of a curious young girl and her family, the book highlights the important role that sharks play in the ocean food web. As apex predators, sharks help to keep the ocean healthy and balanced.
The book includes some mind-blowing facts, such as the concept that sharks existed on Earth before trees. Through easy-to-follow examples of cause and effect, the author and illustrator explores complex, sophisticated concepts such as overfishing, extinction, and trophic cascade. The glossary includes well-selected words that are important to know and understand about the environment. Additional information is provided about shark finning and ways to help save sharks. An author’s note, bibliography, and additional sources are also included.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Western North Atlantic Ocean/Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 14, 2018
Weather Data from the Bridge
Conditions at 0030
Latitude: 25° 22.6’ N
Longitude: 84° 03.6’ W
Barometric Pressure: 1017.4 mb
Air Temperature: 28.8° C
Wind Speed: 9.1 knots
Science and Technology Log
For the first few days, we steamed, or traveled, to our first station. Each station is a research location where several activities will take place:
Preparing and setting out the longline gear.
Letting the line soak (fish on the bottom) for one hour while other tasks are performed.
Deploying a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Salinity) to collect samples and information about the water.
Hauling back the longline gear.
Recording data from the longline set and haulback.
Collecting measurements and samples from anything caught on the longline.
Depending on what is caught: attaching tags and releasing the animal back into the water (sharks) or collecting requested samples for further study (bony fish).
This is a very simplified summary of the various activities, and I’ll explore some of the steps in further detail in other posts.
During these operations and in between tasks, scientists and crew are very busy. As I watched and participated, the highly organized, well-coordinated flurry of activity on deck was an incredible demonstration of verbs (action words): clean, rinse, prepare, gather, tie, hook, set, haul, calibrate, operate, hoist, deploy, retrieve, cut, measure, weigh, tag, count, record, release, communicate…
Last night, I witnessed and participated in my first longline station. I baited 100 hooks with mackerel. I recorded set and haulback data on the computer as the gear was deployed (set) and hauled back in (haulback). I attached 100 numbered tags to the longline gangions (attached to the hooks). I recorded measurements and other data about SHARKS!
We caught, measured, sampled, tagged, and released four sharks last night: a silky, smooth-hound, sandbar, and tiger shark! I’ve never seen any of these species, or types, in person. Seeing the first shark burst onto the deck was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life!
Sometimes, we didn’t catch any fish, but we did bring up a small piece of coral, brittle sea stars, and a crinoid. All three are marine animals, so I was excited to see them in person.
In between stations, there was some downtime to prepare for the next one. One of my favorite moments was watching the GoPro camera footage from the CTD. A camera is attached to the device as it sinks down through the depths to the bottom and back up to the surface again. The camera allowed me to visually ‘dive along’ as it collected water samples and data about the water temperature, salinity, pressure, and other information. Even though I watch ocean documentaries frequently and am used to seeing underwater footage on a screen, this was extremely exciting because the intriguing ecosystem on the screen was just below my feet!
Perhaps it is sea lore and superstition, but so far, the journey has been peppered with fortuitous omens. One of my ocean-loving former students and her Disney-bound family just happened to be on my flight to Orlando. Yes, it’s a small world after all. Her work samples were featured in our published case study, reminding me of the importance and impact of ocean literacy education. Very early the next morning, NASA’s promising Parker Solar Probe thunderously left the Sunshine State, hurtling toward the sun. New York’s state motto: Excelsior. Later that morning, a rainbow appeared shortly before the Oregon II left Port Canaveral. Although an old weather proverb states: “rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning,” we’ve had very pleasant weather, and I chose to interpret it as a reassuring sign. Sailing on the Oregon II as a Teacher at Sea is certainly my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
In fifth grade, celebrating Halloween with the clingfish (Derilissus lombardii)
Now in middle school, celebrating summer!
According to seafaring superstition, women on board, whistling, and bananas are supposed to be bad luck on a boat. On the Oregon II, folks do not seem to put much stock into these old beliefs since I’ve encountered all three aboard the ship and still feel very lucky to be here.
In another small-world coincidence, two of the volunteers on the Second Leg of the Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey recently graduated from SUNY Potsdam, my undergrad alma mater. What drew us from the North Country of New York to Southern waters? A collective love of sharks.
These small-world coincidences seemed indicate that I was on the right path. Out on the ocean, however, the watery world seems anything but small. The blue vastness and unseen depths fill me with excitement and curiosity, and I cannot wait to learn more. For the next two weeks, the Oregon II will be my floating classroom. Instead of teaching, I am here to learn.
As a fourth generation teacher, education is in my blood. One great-grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse in 1894. My other great-grandmother was also a teacher and a Potsdam alumna (Class of 1892). As we traverse the Atlantic Ocean, I wonder what my academic ancestors would think of their great-granddaughter following in their footsteps…whilst studying sharks and snapper at sea. Salt water equally runs through my veins.
As we steamed, or traveled, to our first station (research location), I wondered about the unfamiliar waters and equipment around me. Before I could indulge my questions about marine life, however, I first needed to focus on the mundane: daily life at sea. In many ways, I was reminded of the first day at a new school. It was junior high all over again, minus the braces and bad bangs. At first, those long-forgotten new school worries resurfaced: What if I get lost? Where is my locker (or, in this case, my stateroom)? What if I forget my schedule? What if I have to sit by myself at lunch? To combat these thoughts, I draw upon a variety of previous travel and life experiences: studying abroad, backpacking, camping, meeting new friends, volunteering, working with a marine science colleague, and sailing on other vessels. Combined, those experiences provided me with the skills to successfully navigate this one.
I’ve spent the first few days getting acquainted with the layout, personnel, safety rules, and routines of the Oregon II. My students wondered about some of the same aspects of life at sea.
Where do I sleep on the ship?
The staterooms remind me of a floating college dorm, only much quieter. I’m sharing a small stateroom with Kristin Hannan, a scientist. We are on opposite work shifts, so one of us is sleeping while the other is working. I am assigned to the day shift (noon to midnight) while she is assigned to the night shift (midnight to noon). Inside the stateroom, we have berths (similar to bunk beds), a sink, and large metal storage cabinets that are used like a closet or dresser. Space is limited on the ship, so it must be used efficiently and sometimes creatively.
Do you know anyone else on the ship?
No, but I’m meeting lots of new people. They have been welcoming, offering interesting information and helpful reminders and pointers. Those first-day-of-school jitters are fading quickly. I didn’t get lost, but I got a bit turned around at first, trying to figure out which deck I needed for the galley (like the ship’s cafeteria), where we eat our meals. And I only had to eat lunch by myself once. On the first day at sea, I made a PB & J sandwich. Eating that, I felt like a kid again (only without my lunchbox), but it was nice to be at a point in my life where I’m confident enough to be all by myself and feel a bit out of place. That’s how you learn and grow. Everything is new to me right now, but with time, it’ll start to make sense. Pretty soon, the equipment and unfamiliar routines will start to feel more familiar. Hopefully, the sharks will like me.
Did You Know?
The Gulf of Mexico is home to approximately 200 orcas (scientific name: Orcinus orca, also known as killer whales).
As an introduction to biographies in grades 4 and up, I recommend Women and the Sea and Ruth! written and illustrated by Richard J. King, with additional text by Elysa R. Engelman. Ruth and her stuffed shark explore a maritime history museum, learning about the important roles women have held at sea. Inspired by female sea captains, explorers, and naturalists, Ruth imagines herself in the photographs and paintings, part of an actual exhibit in the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut. For more information about the intrepid women featured in the book, brief biographical information is provided at the end. Ruth would no doubt be impressed with the seafaring women (and men) aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue Zupko (soon to be) Aboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
September 7-19, 2014
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg I Geographical area of cruise: Cape May, NJ to Cape Hatteras, NC Date: September 4, 2014
I am a teacher of the Gifted and Talented at Weatherly Heights Elementary School in Huntsville, AL. I am so very humbled by the opportunity I have been given to conduct research aboard the Henry B. Bigelow with NOAA scientists. This is my second NOAA cruise. I studied deep-water corals aboard the Pisces in 2011 and thought it was my only chance to do something like that. They told me if I did all my homework, and did all my projects well, that good things would come my way. I say that to my students and this is an example of why one should do one’s homework and try hard. You’d better believe that I did my best. I love to learn so a NOAA research cruise and projects with my students are a perfect fit.
In preparing for my first entry I asked my students for advice on what to include. They insisted that I include a “shout out” to them and tell how fabulous our school is.
Here are a few highlights. Weatherly has been recycling aluminum cans to help pay for our outdoor classroom since 1998 when I helped write a grant to get a trailer to collect cans and take them to the recycling center. We have made thousands of dollars through the years and have an Alabama Certified Outdoor Classroom now. Students, parents, faculty, and community volunteers help with it and enjoy learning there. We have raised Monarch butterfly larvae, viewed Ladybug larvae under a microscope from the Tulip Poplar tree, grown melons, touched plants in the sensory garden, and myriad other activities.
We piloted a recycling program for our district. Every classroom has a bin to collect clean paper and plastic. It is collected weekly and tons of items have been recycled as a result.
We participate in a plastic bottle cap recycling program. This is an annual contest city-wide and Weatherly counts and recycles thousands of caps to be made into paint buckets rather than taking up room in the landfill. For many years we recycled phone books and were one of the top three recyclers.
In addition to helping the environment, we are a No Place for Hate school. We also study about the ocean. A lot. I am the faculty advisor for our morning announcements. Our quotes of the week this year are about the ocean and we highlight an ocean literacy principle every day. We now know that marine biologist Sylvia Earle pointed out that “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you’re connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live. Most of the oxygen in the atmosphere is generated by the sea.”
On my upcoming voyage with NOAA, I will launch two drifters. In order to be selected for this drifter project, a teacher must have an international partner to share lessons with to learn about the ocean. After an extensive search I found the perfect match. Sarah Hills at the TED Istanbul College teaches English. Her students will be studying map reading starting in September when they return to school. We have already decided that our students will plot the course of the drifters and hypothesize where they will be at specific times based on the ocean currents and winds which will carry them.
These drifters measure ocean salinity, surface water temperature, velocities (speeds) of the current, and air pressure and are important for understanding more about our weather and the ocean. I can’t wait to get our students communicating. Weatherly’s school theme is “A Village of Learners and Leaders.” Outside my classroom on the bulletin board are some wonderful items from Turkey provided by Mrs. Hills and it says, “A Global Village of Learners and Leaders.” In preparation for tracking our drifters, we are currently tracking former hurricanes and researching how the ocean changes our planet. On their exit ticket today, my 5th graders commented that they liked tracking the hurricanes since they will use the same technique to track my journey and the drifters.
I am so excited. I have spoken with the Chief Scientist, John Galbraith, and understand that I will be working side-by-side with scientists on this fisheries cruise. We will drop a trawl net behind our 209 foot long ship and catch marine creatures. Our job will be to sort the fish (and other marine animals) and learn more about them using measurements and other means such as dissection. Computers play a role in our study and my first assignment will be to collect data in the computer. Wonder what program I will use, and is it similar to Excel which we use a lot?
I asked my fourth graders if they thought I might see a whale. They all responded yes in that group. What do you think?
Teachers at Sea need to be flexible, have fortitude, and follow orders. Let me explain. Right now I am waiting to see if my ship will even sail. The engineers have found a problem and are working to make the ship seaworthy for our voyage. Already our cruise date has changed twice. I must be flexible and be ready to leave on a moment’s notice. There are always some changes, it seems, when dealing with the ocean. On my last cruise a tropical depression (storm) formed over us and we couldn’t begin our research for an extra day.
Sailing is not for the faint of heart. I must be able to work long hours in uncomfortable conditions (they say this is having fortitude). They do supply my “foul weather” gear. Wonder if I will smell like fish at the end of my shift.
One handy piece of equipment I will take is ear plugs. The engines are loud and that helps when it is time to sleep. My shift will be either from midnight to noon or noon to midnight. That’s a long time to work. If we have a good catch, we will be working a lot. That is good for weight loss, as long as I don’t overdo with the fabulous food prepared by the stewards (cooks) in the galley (kitchen).
I was in the U.S. Army years ago and learned to follow orders, the third of the 3Fs. There are NOAA officers whose orders I must follow for my safety and the safety of the other scientists. I also must follow the orders of the NOAA Teacher at Sea directors and my chief scientist. Add to that my principal and superintendent in my district. That’s a lot of bosses giving orders.
Lastly, my students requested that I tell everyone our school motto. “We are Weatherly Heights and we…GO THE EXTRA MILE.” Well, pretty soon I can say, “We are the crew and scientists aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow and we…GO THE EXTRA NAUTICAL MILE.” Can’t wait to see what treasures we will uncover in the ocean.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge: Air Temperature: 19.30° C
Wind Speed: 20.74 knots 5 on the Beaufort wind scale Relative Humidity: 88.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,020.80 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 21.39° C
Science and Technology Log
High winds, moderately rough seas, and difficulties with the ship’s positioning system all contributed to the delay of the first scheduled launch of TowCam on our midnight shift. Even though the necessary decision meant a loss of precious underwater time, it is better to delay than risk losing expensive equipment.
When the seas calmed down we were able to launch TowCam, but first we had to go through the pre-launch checklist. I helped Lizet as she prepared TowCam.
The batteries are under very high pressure when TowCam goes to the ocean floor so we have to push out the air before each trip. I help by tightening the battery caps. Every time I am on deck I must put safety first. I always wear a hard hat and the life vest.
When everything has been checked and double checked, the operator gives the signal, and the deck crew of the Bigelow use the winch and tag lines to launch TowCam on its next mission.
Look at the picture carefully. The deck crew always wear their safety equipment too! They hook themselves to the ship by their belts, and they wear safety vests and hardhats. The deck crew on Bigelow also make sure everyone follows the safety rules.
As soon at TowCam is in the water, everyone wants to view the images sent by the camera, but the TowCam operator must keep an eye on the monitors.
TowCam operators watch eight different computer monitors to control TowCam’s movements. With the help of mathematic modelers and previously collected data about the structure of the ocean floor, the scientists choose locations where they think they will find corals. These locations are called “stations.”
The ship must make very small movements to get the camera in the correct place on station. The operator will say something like, “Lab to Bridge- move 10 m to the North please.”… Then they watch the camera and the monitors to see if TowCam moves to the correct position. Sometimes TowCam floats right past the spot scientists want to see, and then the operators have to try to get it back into position to take the pictures. Not every station has the corals the scientists hope to find. But even knowing where corals are not is important information. After several hours of picture taking, we move on the next station.
Even in calm seas controlling TowCam is a challenging process. Remember, TowCam hovers over the ocean floor attached to the ship by a wire. Fully loaded it weighs over 800 pounds in the air. Since the ship moves TowCam by pulling it, it is not easy to follow the scientists’ plan.
However, when the perfect coral images appear on the screen, no one thinks about how hard they were to find. We all crowd around the monitors and watch in amazement. The scientists try to figure out types of corals in the picture, and then they wait for the next picture to see if there are even more! We have found corals at lots of stations!
Think about a time you tried to pull something tied to the back of a rope. Was it easy to steer? Did it get stuck?
We have talked a bit about how scientists find and try to study corals using the underwater camera and other sensors on TowCam. On other missions scientists sometimes use remote control underwater vehicles ROVs. Unlike TowCam which is dragged behind the ship, these vehicles are more versatile because they are driven and controlled remotely using a joy stick similar to the ones you use for computer games. Sometimes scientists even go to the ocean floor and drive themselves around using submersibles. One thing is certain, you have to get under the water to study corals.
Scientists go to all this trouble because corals are important to our Earth’s oceans. They are very old, and they provide habitat for other animals.
As you grow, it will be your job to find ways to study and protect corals and all other living things in the oceans.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: Sunday, July 8, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 24.60° C
Wind Speed: 4.5 knots
Relative Humidity: 88.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,010.30 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 24.49° C
Science and Technology Log
Look who went to the bottom of the ocean on TowCam. No you silly students…not me! TowCam is exploring the deep ocean between the twilight zone and the midnight zone, and it is not possible for people to travel in deep water without very special equipment.
Our mascot Lowell Lion accompanied TowCam as it was deployed for Tow 2.
At this location, TowCam reached a depth of over 1900 meters below the surface of the ocean. That is more than one mile-straight down! It was a good mission. The camera was sending some very interesting images back to the ship. As I was doing my job logging, I was watching these first images. I was able to see hard bottom- the best habitat for corals. I also saw fish and sea stars, and then I saw the corals! They looked like little fuzzies on the rocks. The scientists had the ship hold position right over of the corals so they could take lots of pictures. The TowCam operator used controls on the ship to raise and lower TowCam to get close to the corals without touching the cliffs where the corals were living.
Students: Can you imagine using remote controls to move the TowCam? I bet you would be good at it. Perhaps the video games you play will help prepare you to fly TowCam when you finish college.
Well, when TowCam came back on the ship, Lowell was very wet, but he handled the cold, dark high pressure very well. Thanks to Greg and Lizet, Lowell stayed on the TowCam Sled!
Once TowCam was secured on the deck. We went out to take care of TowCam. What a big surprise to find other creatures hitchhiking on TowCam. Lowell the Lion must have made some friends.
The first deep sea visitor was a spiny orange sea star.
The orange sea star was found on TowCam deployment #2.
Isn’t it beautiful? We all rushed to see it. Dr. Nizinski carefully examined and measured the sea star. She used her tweezers to pick up a tiny sample the sea star leg, and she put the sample into a little bottle with a label. She will use the sample to test the DNA to help classify the sea star. She will find the sea star’s “family.”
It was exciting to find the sea star, but when we looked further one of the scientists saw a piece of coral tucked in a hiding place on TowCam. Dr. Martha took care of the coral also. The coral will become a permanent record that reminds us that this type of coral lives here.
Do you see how carefully the sample is documented? Some of the things we do in school like labeling and dating our illustrations and our work prepare you to be a scientist.
Many years from now someone can look at the coral in this picture and see that the sample was collected on the Bigelow TowCam #2, on July 8th. The ruler in the picture helps everyone know the approximate size.
One of the components on TowCam we have not talked about yet is the slurp.
Try to find the Slurp on TowCam.
The “slurp” is really an underwater vacuum cleaner that sucks up water, sediment, and sometimes small creatures. When TowCam is in deep water, the scientists watch the images to decide when it is a good time to trigger the slurp. They have to choose carefully because the slurp can be done only once on each trip to the bottom.
The scientists used the slurp on Tow #2. The collection container looked like it just had “mud” and water. It was emptied through a sieve to separate the “mud” and other things from water. The scientists carefully examined what looked like regular mud but tiny organisms like bivalves, gastropods, and small brittle stars were found in the sieve. These animals were also handled very carefully.
This brittle star was found with mud and sediment slurped from the ocean bottom.
Can you find any other living things in this picture?
You never know what is hiding in the mud. I bet we could do this kind of exploring right in our school’s courtyard. What do you think we could find if we examined our mud?
I think we should talk about the ocean today. Many of us have had some experience with the ocean. Maybe you have been to the beach, and maybe you have even seen some of the cool creatures that can be found on the beach. I have seen crabs, horseshoe crabs, clams, and plenty of jellyfish, but the scientists on Bigelow are working in a very different part of the ocean.
If you visit the beach, you are only swimming in a teeny tiny part of the ocean. Maybe you are allowed in the ocean up to your knees to a depth of 20 inches (about 1/2 a meter), or maybe you are brave and are able to go in the ocean with an adult up to your waist to a depth of 30 inches (about 3/4 a meter). Even if you have been crabbing or fishing in the Delaware Bay where the average depth is 50 feet (15.24 meters) you have been in only the most shallow part of the ocean. TowCam has been down as far as 1.2 miles(2000 meters). That is not even the deepest ocean! The ocean is divided into zones according to depth and sunlight penetration. I learned about the top three zones.
The sunlight zone– the upper 200 meters of the ocean are also called the euphotic zone. Many fish, marine mammals like dolphins and whales, and sea turtles live in this band of the ocean. At these depths there is light, plants, and food for creatures to survive. Not much light penetrates past this zone.
The twilight zone– this middle zone is between 200 meters and 1000 meters and is called the disphotic zone. Because of the lack of light, plants cannot live in this zone. Many animals like bioluminescent creatures with twinkling lights do live in this zone. Some examples of other creatures living in this zone includes: crabs, gastropods, octopus, urchins, and sand dollars.
The midnight zone– this zone is below 1000 meters and is also called the aphoticzone has no sunlight and is absolutely dark. At these depths the water pressure is extreme, and the temperature is near freezing. 90% of the ocean is in the midnight zone.So you can see that when you are at the beach, you are never in the “Deep Ocean.” You are still in a great place to find many amazing creatures. Keep your eyes open! Be curious! Make sure you do some exploring the next time you visit this important habitat. Then write and tell me about the things you find.Try to draw and label the three zones of the ocean. Be sure to draw the living things in the correct zone.
Next time: Someone will be working on deck getting TowCam ready for deployment. Hint: It will not be Lowell. : )
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kate DeLussey Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: Monday, July 7 , 2012
Latitude: 39.29 °
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air Temperature: 23.40° C
Wind Speed: 15 Kts
Relative Humidity: 90.00%
Barometric Pressure: 1,011.99 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 23.66° C
Science and Technology Log
At 7:00 pm last night the Henry B. Bigelow left Pier 2 from the Newport Naval Base. Narragansett Bay was crowded with sailboats, yachts, and even a tall ship, but once we passed under the bridge, we knew we were really on our way. Now that we are at sea, everyone onboard will begin his or her watch. I will be working 12 am to 12 pm along with some of the scientists. Even though I never worked night work before, I was excited to learn about my jobs!
One of our jobs is to keep track of the “TowCam” when it is in the water. Every ten minutes while the TowCam is deployed (sent underwater) we log the location of the ship using Latitude and Longitude. We also have to keep track of other important data like depth. The information is logged on the computer in a spreadsheet and then the points are plotted on a map. A single deployment can last 8 hours. That is a lot of data logging! These documents provide back up in case something were to happen to the data that is stored electronically. I will have other jobs also, and to get ready for those duties, Lizet helped me get to know the TowCam better by explaining each component.
Students:See if you can find each part Lizet showed me on the picture of the TowCam in my last blog.
Camera– The camera is the most important part of the TowCam. You need a very special camera that will work in cold deep water. When the TowCam is close to the ocean floor this digital camera takes one picture every 10 seconds. The thumbnails or samples of the pictures are sent to computers on the ship by the data link. The camera operator described the thumbnails like the picture you see when you look at the back of your camera. When I look at the thumbnails I don’t usually see much in the picture. The scientists know what they are looking for, and they can recognize hard bottom on the ocean floor and corals. They see fish and other sea creatures too, and when they see a picture they like, they will ask the ship navigator to “hold the setting” so they can take more pictures. Remember, the scientists are trying to find corals, or places where corals might live. If they have a picture, they have proof that these special animals live in a certain habitat that should be protected.
Strobe light– There are two strobe lights on the TowCam. The deep ocean does not have
natural lighting because the sunlight does not reach down that far. The strobe light flashes each time a picture is taken. If the TowCam did not have these special lights, you would not be able to see any of the pictures from the camera. These lights are tested every time the TowCam is deployed.
CTD- The CTD is an instrument that has sensors to measure Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth in a certain water column. It is attached to the TowCam and the information from the CTD is sent to the computers through the datalink. This information gives the scientists a better understanding about the ocean water and the habitat for the creatures they are looking for. Look for more components on the TowCam. How do you think the TowCam gets its power?
I am getting adjusted to life at sea. For the first few days, when we were still on the dock I did not have much to do. ESN Zygas gave me a job and let me find updates for the navigational charts that are stored on the bridge. The charts are maps of the oceans and waterways that help the NOAA Corps team steer the boat, and these charts get updated when markers like buoys are moved or when the water depths and locations change. Up-to-date charts keep the ships safe. I was glad to do a job that helped keep us safe. Now that we are at sea, I have been working my watch. The work varies. We have hours of watching TowCam on the bottom of the sea and charting the positions of the ship. Then we have the excitement when the camera comes on-board with pictures and samples that need to be processed.
One of the best things about this experience is that I am the student just like my students at Lowell. I am excited to learn all of the new things, but I am frustrated when I don’t understand. Sometimes I am embarrassed when I have to ask questions. Yesterday I was working with some of the images and I was looking for fish. All I had to do was write “yes” there is a fish in this photo. Well, I had to ask Dave (one of the scientists) for help. I had to ask, “Is this a fish?” Can you imagine that? A teacher like me not knowing a fish! It was like finding the hidden pictures in the Highlight magazine!
So instead of being frustrated, I am open to learning new things. I keep practicing and try not to make mistakes, but when I do make those mistakes, I just try again. By the time we go through the thousands of pictures I may not be a pro, but I will be better. I can see that I am improving already. I can find the red fish without zooming in -the red color probably helps!
Next time: Wait until you see who went to the bottom of the ocean on TowCam. You won’t believe what they brought back with them.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kate DeLussey Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep-Sea Coralsand Benthic Habitat: Ground truthing and exploration in deepwater canyons off the Northeast Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date:Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Location: Latitude: 41.52778° N
Longitude: -71.31556° W
Weather Data from the Bridge: Air Temperature: 28°C (83°F)
Wind Speed: 19 knots (22 mph), Beaufort scale: 5 Wind Direction: from N
Relative Humidity: 80%
Barometric Pressure: 1,014.90 mb
Surface Water Temperature: 28°C (83°F)
Happy Independence Day!
Science and Technology Log
Here aboard the Henry B. Bigelow we are sporting the red, white, and blue showing our pride for our Nation. The grill is hot and the hamburgers and hotdogs are ready for our lunch. Our July 4th is much more relaxing than we expected. We should be out gathering data. Images from TowCam verifying true bottom have not been observed. Creatures from the deep have not been collected, and important discoveries have not yet been made. We are still on Pier 2 at the Newport Naval Base. The information we have received from the Bigelow engineers is that the winches are not operational because a printed circuit board, which is involved with the computerized control of the hydraulic system that powers the winches has burnt out. It cannot be fixed with duct tape.
Engineers, crew and the scientific team are attempting to get the parts we need … from locations across the country…from another ship the Nancy Foster… on a holiday. Are you feeling their pain?
The scientific team has worked so diligently in preparing for this cruise. Teams of researchers who do not normally work so closely came together for this mission. They joined their funding sources, their research and their “equipment” (the ship, TowCam, computer software, etc.) to develop a multipurpose mission that will add data to their work in order to build a deeper understanding of deep-sea coral habitats. Some of the most experienced people in the ocean science community are aboard. Their enthusiasm and passion for their work is contagious. I heard one of the scientists is on his 50th cruise! (Happy golden anniversary!) What a lineup!
While the team is visibly disappointed with the setback, they have worked together to solve the problem. During the science team meeting scientists shared when something like “this” happened to them. Executive Officer Bohaboy wrote about problem solving at sea. He wrote, “Though it is very rare that we suffer multiple lost days at sea like we did at the beginning of this trip, every cruise always has issues to overcome. The ship itself is a very complex system of linked systems. A break down in one of these systems can cause a delay in the mission. Note that one of the most important shipboard systems, which might be easy to overlook, is the ship’s crew and scientists, whose specialized skills and training are crucial to completing the mission.” Yes, the mission is not what was expected, but everyone moves forward and makes the best of a difficult situation. The members of the team have also kept working on their individual projects, and while Vince may have enough work to keep him busy for two years, I am trying to find things to do.
I too have made the best of the situation. Not used to sitting around, I have been reading and writing. (See I told you never to travel without a good book!) I found an excellent small picnic table on deck where I can be out of the way, and still watch what is going on. I have also found ways to keep busy by watching, listening, and having conversations with the scientists so I can build a better understanding of their work. We all have lots of questions when we are learning new things, but before I ask questions, I watch, listen and think. I try to find of answers myself. Everyone on board has been helpful and supportive. The most exciting thing is when the scientists, mappers, or modelers say, “Let me show you!”
The students at Lowell helped create a list of Big Questions about the oceans and corals, and today we will begin to talk about question #2:
One way the scientists study the corals is by identifying places where corals like to live. They figure if they find the habitat, they will locate corals. On this mission, a TowCam (towed camera) is towed by the ship and will record images of what the bottom of the ocean looks like (Ground-truthing). It will also show what animals live there.
When you think about it, the technical setback is an excellent lesson for you students at Lowell School. Many times we want to do something and we just cannot do it. So many things can keep us from doing our best work. Some problems are within our ability to fix, some are not. We can blame others, get emotional, and give up, or we can find solutions that will help us meet those challenges to be better prepared the next time. This team solved their problems by cooperating with and working with one another. You can use the teamwork problem solving strategy in your work too! The simple message of problem solving crosses all activities we do as students, teachers, and scientists. We may not be conducting the research (yet), but we are problem solving. “How can we make this work?” “How can we do this better?”
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kate DeLussey Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow July 3 – 18, 2012
Mission: Deep Sea Coral Survey Geographical area of cruise: Atlantic Ocean, Leaving from Newport, RI Date: June 6, 2012
Current Location: Philadelphia, PA; Latitude:40.0409483; Longitude:-75.1287162
Greetings and Welcome to My NOAA Blog!
I am Kathleen (Kate) DeLussey from the J. R. Lowell School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in a city of 1.5 million, I have spent most of my life in the same five-mile radius. The school where I teach is right down the street from the elementary school I went to when I was a child. I am a true city kid. You may have taken a yellow bus to school, but I rode the “El” train. Water came out of the “tap” and early fish experiences included both rectangular “sticks” and orange pets, but we will not talk about either of those things here.
So, you may question why a woman like me, a teacher with four children who experienced her first plane flight last year, would be excited about participating in scientific research aboard a NOAA vessel as a Teacher at Sea. Especially when I am not exactly sure about what I am going to be doing, (Hint: The more I learn about the Oceans and Atmosphere, the more information I have to share with our students at Lowell School.)
You may also be wondering why a Reading Specialist in a K-4 school would be so interested in what is happening in Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere, especially when I come from such a large city. (Hint: We all need to learn about and care for our Earth’s Oceans.)
Finally, you may be wondering how a teacher’s experience at sea will encourage our students, and their families to connect with and learn more about the Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere. (Hint: When I show you how wonderful and important our Oceans are to the life of all things on Earth, you will just have to get involved!)
If you are thinking and asking questions like these as you read, GREAT! When students and teachers just have to know, they are behaving like scientists, and like writers.
I just had to know more about NOAA’s work. I have read many things, seen TV programs, and visited Web sites to teach me about oceans, but I still have many questions.
How do the scientists at NOAA understand and forecast the weather?
How do they understand fish?
What types of jobs do the people at NOAA have?
How can my students prepare for careers at NOAA?
Where can my students find the answers to their own questions?
How can I find out more?
I was researching the answers to these questions on the NOAA website when I saw the chance for teachers to go to sea. I applied, and I was chosen! To use the words of our principal Mrs. Runner, “WHOOOO WHOOOO!” I am so excited to be participating as a Teacher at Sea.
After I found out I was going to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I wanted to prepare my students for ocean learning and did what all good teachers do at the beginning of a lesson. I asked my third grade friends in Room 207 some questions. “What do you know about the Oceans? Tell me everything you know!” Of course, the students wrote the “lists” of things they “knew” about the oceans and they really shared some of their thinking as they wrote.
What the students in Room 207 report they know about the oceans:
Emily, Isaiah, and Lusine had the longest lists, and while all of the students reported they “knew” something about oceans, most of the answers on the student lists looked like this:
The oceans cover most of the Earth’s surface
The oceans have lots of living things like fish, crabs, and sharks
The oceans are important to the Earth
You can swim in the ocean
You can see that for our students to become ocean experts, they really needed more details to add to their list of “what they know.”
(Some of the ideas the students put on the list were not true, and I do not want to put those ideas on this list, because I want to include only true information in my Blog.) I do not want to confuse anyone about a topic as important as Earth’s Oceans.
This list only had Big Ideas about the oceans and even with my thinking, we could not add many details. You can see we all have a lot to learn about our oceans.
So, I am be bringing the future “Ocean Literacy” of our 1,000 students with me as I work with NOAA during my Teacher at Sea adventure. (Hi kids!)
Our big questions for this mission will be:
What are Deep Sea Coral Reefs?
How do scientists study deep sea coral reefs?
What do scientists do with the information they gather during their research?
I am participating on this trip because I want to find answers to our questions. I also want to be sure everyone understands NOAA’s work so we all can participate as scientists and writers to help protect our Earth’s Oceans and Atmosphere.
Join me–not only a teacher–but also a citizen of the Earth planet as I work as a guest scientist aboard the Henry B. Bigelow,a NOAA research vessel.
Continue to ask questions as you read my blogs. We may not find the answers to all of our Big Questions, but we will be better prepared to find our answers as we gain knowledge and as we add details to our scientific knowledge and to our writing.
Hopefully, at the end of my journey, you may be wondering if you could to this “At Sea” research too!
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Steven Allen Aboard R/V Bellows August 9 — 18, 2011
Mission: Exploring the Submerged New World Part III
Geographical Area: West Coast of Florida Date: August 2, 2011
My name is Steven Allen and my two lifelong passions are understanding our planet (while enjoying and protecting it) and understanding our past. Furthermore, I enjoy sharing these passions with my students. I hold a Master’s Degree in history from Florida Atlantic University, as well as an Interdisciplinary Certificate in Environmental Studies and a Heritage Awareness Diving Certificate.
As a middle school social studies teacher at Palm Beach Maritime Academy for the past eight years, I have sought to infuse the standard curriculum with the main ideas of ocean literacy, namely the influence the oceans have on humans and the impact that humans have on the oceans. Combining ocean literacy with a strong belief in experiential learning, I take students into the field to experience this relationship first hand; for example, seventh- and eighth-graders trek (locally, known as slogging) into the Everglades to measure nitrate, phosphate and pH levels as markers for pollutants. We also regularly visit our partner organization, Palm Beach Maritime Museum, at the old Coast Guard Station in the middle of the Lake Worth Inlet to do seining and species identification.
In addition to organizing marine-science- and maritime-based field trips, I organize student civic activities centered on marine conservation. Working with local agencies, our students have planted over a thousand mangrove seedlings to help restore estuary habitats.
Annually, I spearhead student participation in the International Coastal Cleanup in the Lake Worth Lagoon. In 2010, the Ocean Conservancy recognized our school for its “outstanding and dedicated service to the International Coastal Cleanup” following our seventh consecutive year of participation. I also help organize our participation in the Lake Worth Street Painting Festival where students create maritime- and marine-science-themed street paintings. This year students drew attention to the problem of shark finning by creating a shark with a banner underneath stating “Stop Shark Finning.” In 2010, the school and I were recognized by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center as finalists in their Blue Awards for our ongoing commitment to the conservation and understanding of our oceans.
Science Log and Mission Background
As a maritime academy history teacher, my understanding of the past and of the planet has taken on a decidedly “blue” color. I have increasingly immersed myself into the role of the oceans on our planet and come to understand that no history of the Americas (or the world for that matter) can be divorced from an environmental understanding of the role of the oceans. For the Americas, oceans first acted as barriers, then later as conduits for people to merge in the New World. It is for this reason that I am extremely excited to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea participant, accompanying archaeologists, Dr. Jim Adovasio and Dr. Andy Hemmings, both of Mercyhurst College, on the ocean exploration mission, Exploring the Submerged New World 2011. This mission, aboard the R/V Bellows, is the third in a series in the Gulf of Mexico in which they seek to uncover artifacts from some of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas that now lie underwater.
The logic for this mission follows from the fact that during the last Ice Age, climate change caused ocean levels to significantly decrease. The exposed land of Florida’s peninsula was much greater, especially on the western Gulf of Mexico side where Florida’s continental shelf has a gradual slope. For food supplies, early inhabitants were prone to coastal habitation. Indeed, circumstantial evidence has been uncovered by local fishermen and dredging activities that suggest to scientists that artifacts exist in this late Pleistocene, but now submerged, landscape. Exploring the Submerged New World 2011 will explore this underwater landscape that has not been touched by human activities for thousands of years. This is incredibly exciting.
Finding these underwater artifacts, however, has been likened to “finding a needle in a haystack.” Previous ocean explorer missions in 2008 and 2009 identified likely spots for the haystacks in this vast underwater landscape by mapping the intersection of the Ice Age coastline and ancient drowned river beds flowing from Florida in an area known as the Florida Middle Grounds. In 2011, mission scientists hope to uncover the “needles” at these identified zones. New technology such as ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) and side-scan sonar, have made a significant amount of the underwater landscape mapping possible. As a NOAA Teacher at Sea, I will be able to bring these real-world applications for ROVs back to my classroom, where I have worked for the past two years developing an ROV curriculum and working with student groups in constructing ROVs for competition.
As I tell my students, the age of discovery is not over. In the future, new technology will allow even more access to previously unexplored sites in the oceans. Exciting new discoveries are inevitable. It is not a matter of if, but simply when new discoveries will be uncovered from the world’s oceans. With the proper education and training today’s students can be the ones to tell a fuller story of the past. This exploration cruise affords me the opportunity to give students insights into the variety of marine and maritime-related fields that are associated with underwater archaeological exploration.
New discoveries will ultimately lead to greater understanding and possibly new interpretations of the past. One of the greatest benefits students will get is a deeper understanding of how scientists piece together the past. Previous archaeological discoveries by Dr. Adovasio at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania along with archaeological data from other sites, such as Monte Verde in Chile, have refuted the “Clovis First” interpretation and led to a reinterpretation of the arrival of the First Americans.
In a similar manner, any discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly expand our understanding of the First Americans. To me, it is critical to bring this scientific process into the classroom. Too often students see the past as a set of fixed facts in textbooks. Instead, students need to understand the scientific process by which historians and archaeologists construct their pictures of the past based upon the available data and evidence. Our understanding of the past, especially the remote pre-historical past, is at best an incomplete picture. When new data presents itself it must fit into the existing interpretations, or those interpretations themselves must be altered. In this manner, students will understand that reconstructing the past works along the lines of the scientific method found in other disciplines.