Cristina Veresan, Lights, Camera, Ocean! August 13, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cristina Veresan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 28 – August 16, 2015 

Mission: Walleye Pollock Acoustic-Trawl survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2015

Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 59° 18.31’N
Longitude: 141° 36.22’W
Sky: Overcast
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 358
Wind speed: 8 knots
Sea Wave Height: < 1 feet
Swell Wave: 2-3 feet
Sea Water Temperature: 16.2°C
Dry Temperature: 15°C

Science and Technology Log

When my shift begins at 4am, I often get to participate in a few “camera drops” before the sun comes up and we begin sailing our transect lines looking for fish. We are conducting the “camera drops” on a grid of 5 km squares provided by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center bottom trawl survey that shows whether the seafloor across the Gulf of Alaska is “trawlable” or “untrawlable” based on several criteria to that survey. The DropCam footage, used in conjunction with a multi-beam echosounder, helps verify the “trawlability” designation and also helps identify and measure fish seen with the echosounder.

cameralaunch

The Drop Camera being deployed

The DropCam is made up of strobe lights and two cameras, one color and one black and white, contained in a steel frame. The cameras shoot in stereo, calibrated so scientists can get measurements from rocks, fish, and anything else on the images. When the ship is stopped, the DropCam can be deployed on a hydrowire by the deck crew and Survey Tech. In the Chem Lab, the wire can be moved up and down by a joystick connected to a winch on deck while the DropCam images are being viewed on a computer monitor. The ship drifts with  the current so the camera moves over the seafloor at about a knot, but you still have to “drive” with the joystick to move it up and down, keeping close to the bottom while avoiding obstacles. The bottom time is 15 minutes for each drop. It’s fun to watch the footage in real-time, and often we see really cool creatures as we explore the ocean floor! The images from the DropCam are later analyzed to identify and length fish species, count number of individual fish, and classify substrate type.

emilydriving

Emily “drives” the camera from the Chem Lab as the sun begins to rise

camershots

DropCam images (clockwise from top left) a skate, brittle stars, a cruising halibut, two rockfish in rocky habitat

Technology enables scientists to collect physical oceanographic data as well. The Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) is a probe that is dropped from a ship and measures the temperature as it falls through the water column. The depth is calculated by a known fall rate. A very thin copper wire transmits the data to the ship where it is recorded in real-time for later analysis. You launch the probe from a hand-held plastic launcher tube; after pulling out the pin, the probe slides out the tube. We also use a Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) aboard the Oscar Dyson; a CTD is an electronic device used by oceanographers to measure salinity through conductivity, as well as temperature and pressure. The CTD’s sensors are mounted on a steel frame and can also include sensors for oxygen, fluorescence and collecting bottles for water samples. However, to deploy a CTD, the ship must be stopped and the heavy CTD carousel lowered on a hydrowire. The hand-held XBT does not require the ship to slow down or otherwise interfere with normal operations. We launch XBT’s twice a day on our survey to monitor water temperatures for use with the multi beam echosounder.

xbt

Cristina launching the XBT probe Photo by Alyssa Pourmonir

ctd

Survey Tech Alyssa servicing the CTD carousel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipmate Spotlight: An Interview with Ensign Benjamin Kaiser

download

Ensign Benjamin Kaiser, NOAA Corps

Tell me a little more about the NOAA Corps?
We facilitate NOAA scientific operations aboard NOAA vessels like hydrographic work making charts, fisheries data collection, and oceanographic research.

What do you do up on the bridge?
I am a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), so when I am on the bridge driving the ship, I am accompanied by an Officer of the Deck (OOD). I am on my way to becoming an OOD. For that you need 120 days at sea, a detailed workbook completed, and the Commanding Officer’s approval.

What education or training is required for your position?
I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Science from Boston University. My training for NOAA Corps was 19 weeks at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut– essentially going through Coast Guard Officer Candidate School.

What motivated you to join the NOAA Corps?
A friend of mine was an observer on a fisheries boat, and she told me about the NOAA Corps. When I was in high school and college, I didn’t know it was an option. We’re a small service, so recruiting is limited; there’s approximately 320 officers in the NOAA Corps.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I love not being in an office all the time. In the NOAA Corps, the expectation is two years at sea and then a land assignment. The flexibility appeals to me because I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one thing. There are so many opportunities to learn new skills. Like, this year I got advanced dive training for Nitrox and dry suit. I don’t have any regrets about this career path.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
There’s a steep learning curve. At this stage, I have to be like a sponge and take everything in and there’s so much to learn. That, and just getting used to shipboard life. It is difficult to find time to work out and the days are long.

What are your duties aboard the Oscar Dyson?
I am on duty 12pm to midnight, rotating between working on the bridge and other duties. I am the ship’s Safety Officer, so I help make sure the vessel is safely operating and coordinate drills with the Commanding Officer. I am also the Training Officer, so I have to arrange the officers’ and crew members’ training schedules. I am also in charge of morale/wellness, ship’s store, keys, radios, and inspections, to name a few.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a marine career?
I grew up in Rhode Island and was an ocean kid. I loved sailing and swimming, and I always knew I would have an ocean-related career.

How would a student who wanted to join the NOAA Corps need to prepare?

Students would need an undergraduate degree from a college or university, preferably in a STEM field. Students could also graduate from a Maritime Academy. When they go to Officer Candidate School, they need to be prepared for a tough first week with people yelling at them. Then there’s long days of working out, nautical science class, drill work, homework, and lights out by 10pm!

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy rock climbing, competitive swimming, hiking, and sailing.

What do you miss most while working at sea?
There’s no rock climbing!

What is your favorite marine creature?
Sailfish because they are fast and cool.

Inside the Oscar Dyson: The Chem Lab

chemlab

This lab is called the Chem Lab (short for Chemical). For our survey, we don’t have that many chemicals, but it is a dry lab with counters for workspace when needed. This room is adjacent to the wet lab through a watertight door, so in between trawls, Emily and I spend a lot of time here.  In the Chem Lab, we charge batteries for the CamTrawl and the DropCam. There are also two computer stations for downloading data, AutoLength analysis, and any other work (like blogging!). There is a window port to the Hero Deck, where the CTD and DropCam are deployed from. In the fume hood, we store Methot net samples in bottles of formalin. There is a microscope for viewing samples. Note the rolling chairs have their wheels removed and there are tie-downs on cases so they are safer at sea. Major cribbage tournaments are also played in this room!

Personal Log

It has been so calm on this cruise, but I have to say that I was looking forward to some bigger waves! Well, Sunday night to yesterday afternoon we experienced some rain and rough seas due to a nearby storm. For a while the ship would do big rolling motions and then a quick lurchy crash. Sea waves were about 2 feet in height, but the swell waves were over 5 feet at times. When I was moving about the ship, I’d have to keep a hand on a rail or something else secured. In the wet lab while I was working, I would lean against the counter and keep my feet spread apart for better balance.

waves

Seas picked up and the ship was rocking and rolling!

Remember the Methot net? It is the smaller net used to catch macroplankton. We deployed one this week and once it came out of the water, it was rinsed and the codend was unscrewed. When we got the codend into the wet lab, we realized it was exclusively krill!

methotlaunch

The Methot net is deployed by the Survey Tech and deck crew members

Krill

#krillfordays

Krill are  small crustaceans that are found in all the world’s oceans. Krill eat plant plankton (phytoplankton), so they are near the bottom of many marine food chains and fed on by creatures varying from fish like pollock to baleen whales like humpbacks. They are not so small that you need a microscope to see them, but they are tiny. We took a subsample and preserved it and then another subsample to count individuals…there were over 800 krill in just that one scoop! Luckily, we had them spread out on a board and made piles of ten so we did not lose count. It was tedious work moving individual krill with the forceps! I much prefer counting big things.

I love it when there is diversity among the catch from the AWT trawls. And, we caught some very memorable and unique fish this week.  First was a beautiful Shortraker Rockfish (Sebastes borealis). Remember, like the Pacific Ocean Perch, its eyes bulge when its brought up from depth. The Shortraker Rockfish is an open-water, demersal species and can be one of the longest lived of all fish. There have  been huge individuals caught in Alaskan waters that are over 100 years old. This fish was not particularly big for a Shortraker, but I was impressed at its size. It was probably my age.

IMG_5108

Holding a Shortraker Rockfish. Photo by Emily Collins

IMG_0634

Smooth Lumpsucker fish: so ugly it’s cute?! Photo by Mackenzie Wilson

We also caught a Smooth Lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus). It was inflated because it was brought up from depth, a form of barotrauma. This scaleless fish got its name for being shaped like a “lump” and having an adhesive disc-shaped “sucker.” The “sucker,” modified pelvic fins, are located ventrally and used to adhere to substrate. These pelagic fish are exclusively found in cold waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic, and North Pacific. The lumpsucker fish, and its roe (eggs) are considered delicacies in Iceland and some other countries.

lumpsucker

You can see the “sucker” on the bottom of its body. Photo by Mackenzie Wilson

Pollock are pretty slimy and they have tiny scales, so when we process them, everything gets covered with a kind of speckled grey ooze. However, when we trawled the other day and got a haul that was almost entirely Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), I was amazed at their scales. For small fish, the herring had scales that were quite large and glistened like silvery sequins. The herring’s backs are an iridescent greenish-blue, and they have silver sides and bellies. The silver color comes from embedded guanine crystals, leading to an effective camouflage phenomenon in open water.

As this last week comes to a close, I am not ready to say goodbye…

hand

Herring scales are nature’s sequins

Amanda Peretich: My First Love (Chemistry and Other Stuff), July 16, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
Date:
July 16, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 58ºN
Longitude: 175ºW
Ship speed: 10.2 knots (11.7 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 8.2ºC (46.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 6.4ºC (43.5ºF)
Wind speed: 9.9 knots (11.4 mph)
Wind direction: 221ºT
Barometric pressure: 1022.6 millibar (1.01 atm, 767 mmHg)

Chemistry Lab

Chemistry Lab on the Oscar Dyson

Science and Technology Log
Throughout some of my previous posts, I’ve hinted at the amount of science on board the Oscar Dyson. Of course, I got super excited any time I saw something more on the chemistry and physics side of things versus the biology side, mostly because although I love biology, chemistry is definitely my first love. Thus today’s science and technology log will be to share just a few of the gazillion ties to chemistry that I’ve found in the past few weeks.

  1. Cathodic protection system
    Seawater is more corrosive than freshwater and will corrode the steel on the ship, so the Cathelco seawater pipework anti-fouling system on board works to prevent that corrosion from happening. Cathodic protection controls corrosion by making the metal surface the cathode of an electrochemical cell.

    Cathelco

    Cathelco cathodic protection system to prevent ship corrosion.

    Fluorometer

    Fluorometer and TSG on the Oscar Dyson.

  2. Fluorometer
    The fluorometer on the Oscar Dyson is used to measure both chlorophyll and turbidity (cloudiness) of the sea water using fluorescence technology. There is an intake on the keel of the bow that pumps water aft into the chemistry lab where it first goes through a debubbler to remove any excess air and then it goes through the fluorometer and TSG (see next point). Measuring the amount of chlorophyll is a good indication of plant life and thus the amount of phytoplankton and other species in the food chain. This data is also stored on the SCS and available for scientists to use.
  3. Thermosalinograph (TSG)
    Another device that the sea water passes through from the underway system is the TSG. This measures both temperature and conductivity (how much electricity passes through) in the water. There is a fancy mathematical equation that is then used to determine salinity in PSUs, or practical salinity units.
  4. Needle gunning and more
    When we aren’t letting out a net or hauling back in a net, the deck crew work on various things for upkeep around the ship. One day at dinner, they were discussing something called needle gunning. Never having heard of this, I was immediately intrigued, to which Deeno kept telling me “it’s nooooot really that exciting”. Wrong! It’s basically this pneumatic device (something using compressed air) that has a bunch of little rods (needles) in a circular pattern that, when turned on, seems to feel like a jackhammer as the needles press against the surface at quick speeds. They use it on various ship surfaces to clean off rust and corrosion. Following the needle gunning, they can then apply a layer of corroseal rust converter which reacts with any rust (iron oxide) to oxidize and convert it a more stable substance (magnetite) that turns black. After this, they are free to add primer and 2 part paint (different than the paint you’d use at home) to keep things on board looking great and not corroding away.
Needle Gunning

Needle gunning (left) and preparing for painting (right) on the Oscar Dyson.

Personal Log
I’ve been working on my last blog coming up on all of my ship mates since almost the first day on board the Oscar Dyson. Be sure to check it out in a couple days! But before that, I’d like to share some of the fun things I’ve learned or taken note of since we left Dutch Harbor that didn’t really fit nicely anywhere else.

Lingo I’ve Learned

Hawse Pipe

The hawse pipe, through which the anchor is raised and lowered, on the Oscar Dyson.

* hawse pipe: someone who has worked their way up on a vessel, from deck crew to the bridge (1st mate, 2nd mate, executive officer (XO), etc.); this is in reference to the pipe on a ship through which the anchor chain is fed – for example, XO Kris Mackie worked his way up the hawse pipe to get to where he is today
* ringknockers: someone out of NOAA Corps BOT-C (basic officer training class)
* scuttlebutt: rumor or gossip on board; this comes from the idea that a butt (cask) of water that has been scuttled (deliberately “sunk”) so that water could flow, similar to a water fountain, was a place around which people would convene to gossip

Dog All Dogs

Dogging the door.

* dogging the door: handles on various doors on board are fastened to seal it

* leeward: the side of the vessel that is not facing the wind, which changes sides based on wind direction
* windward: the side of the vessel that is facing the wind

Leeward

Kenny reminding you to use the leeward side when opening doors

(wet and dry bulb temperature readings are taken on the bridge hourly on the windward side)
* fantail: another name for the aft deck
* “wagging the tail”: used when the person on the bridge is adjusting various things on the ship to evenly wrap the chains onto the reel when hauling in a trawl
* “alls balls”: refers to midnight, which is 0000 in military time
* head: bathroom/toilet

Weird Facts/Thoughts That Don’t Fit Anywhere Else
– I remember I’m on a male-dominant vessel when the toilet seat in the community head outside the fish lab is always up (there are 3 community heads: one right near the fish lab, one in the gym, and one outside medical – these are used so you don’t have to disturb your roommate while they are sleeping in the room)

– The above fact is okay because the head has the BEST green hand soap in the world with moisturizing beads and a wonderful aroma – sometimes I just go wash my hands in there for the sake of it, which is fine because there are also signs everywhere reminding you to wash your hands

– It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if I walk into the TV lounge, I will more than likely sit down and watch part of whatever movie is on

– Still in dealing with the TV lounge, the rule on board is that once you start a movie, you have to let it go all the way to the end, because some people on board have TVs in their room hooked up to the movie channels and may be watching it

– There are three movie players: 2 “tape decks” with these 8mm cassette tapes and 1 special DVD player for the NAVY movies and close to 1,000 movies to choose from!

– I’ve watched more movies since I’ve been on board than I probably have watched in the past year combined (although some were parts of movies that I walked in on after they’d started or had to leave early from to fish)

– The internet works via a signal from a geostationary satellite (GE23 at 172 degrees E on the equator) so as we are travel, the receiver on board must look south for signal such that when we are traveling north-northwest, the mast and stack of OD get in the way of the signal and we have no internet

– I could actually make short phone calls using VOIP (voice over IP), but this slows down the internet and you had to limit your calls to 10 minutes or so – it also shows up on the receiving end as a Maryland phone number because that’s where NOAA is located

– My favorite place to just go relax is actually up on the flying bridge – rarely do people go up there (it’s super windy) but when it’s nice outside (also a rarity), it is a beautiful view of nothing but the Bering Sea (and plenty of birds) – just have to make sure to let the officer on deck (OOD) know you’re going up there

Fun with KNOTS
One day, Brian and ENS Kevin attempted to teach me how to tie a bunch of different knots. I have a good idea how my students feel when they don’t understand a concept that seems so easy to me because both guys were just like “you do this this this and this and you’re done” and there I was, back on the first step, completely lost.

I did learn the bowline (which is not pronounced “bow-line” like you’d think, but rather more like “bo-lin”) and the one-handed bowline. Kevin even taught me the dragon bowline, where he tied a bowline knot and dragged it on the floor – get it? 🙂

Knots

Some of the knots I learned to tie on board.

Some other knots I learned: figure 8, square, clove hitch, timber hitch, daisy chain, and becket. Could I repeat those for you today? Possibly, but probably not.

Scavenger Hunt
One of the jobs of the safety officer is to check the Ocenco EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) on board to make sure they have not expired. ENS Libby (who just came to the Oscar Dyson on this leg of the pollock survey from NOAA Corps BOT-C) and I went on a scavenger hunt one night to find all of these EEBDs around the ship (aside from the ones inside staterooms). Some of the folks that have been on here for a while laughed a little because I was so excited to go on this little adventure – but it teaches a good lesson: things will only be as exciting as you let them! I also decided to make Libby a scavenger hunt for other random things with clues to the room they were in. She only found one of the three, so no prize for her this time. We also plan to go on a scavenger hunt for fire extinguishers soon!

EEBDs

Hunting for EEBDs (left) with ENS Libby (right).

Cribbage

Good times with cribbage.

Cribbage
Two of the guys in the acoustics lab, Bill and Scott, were constantly playing this card game with a red, white, and blue wooden board that looks sort of like a race track. They would lay out cards, count random numbers, and move these pegs in a fashion that I totally did not understand, no matter how long I sat and watched them. Finally, I stayed up later after my shift one night and Carwyn (my roommate) taught me how to play cribbage (she’d taught the science intern Nate to play the previous night). All of the other scientists are really good at this game, so Nate and I started playing each other as the newbies. We are both getting much better at it (although I ultimately came up with the winning record by the end of the cruise)! One of these days, I hope to be as quick with the counting as Bill and Scott. I even taught Libby how to play last night, although she much prefers rummy, which she then taught me how to play.

Animal Love
Two new animals I’ve seen recently: the crested auklet (this little guy landed on board and stuck around a little over a day near the bow of the ship) and a whole lot of Pacific herring that we caught in the net the other day (which I’ve renamed Vegas fish because they are so sparkly and glittery like Vegas lights).

Crested Auklet

Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella)

Pacific herring

Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)