Jennifer Fry: March 11, 2011, 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 11, 2012

Pago Pago, American Samoa

A brief history of American Samoa is rich and varied.  The highlights include:

  •  The islands of American Samoa have a total land area of 76 square miles.

    Coconuts grow everywhere in American Samoa and contribute to the daily diet.

  • Pago Pago or Tutuila contains about two thirds of the total area and is home to 95% of the 65,000 islanders.
  • American Samoa is located 14 degrees south of the equator, and 172 degrees meridian west, and is the center of Polynesia.
  •  Located 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,600 miles northeast of New Zealand, it forms a strategic midpoint on vital shipping and air routes.
  •  Samoan islands were “officially discovered” by Dutch Explorer Jacob Roggeveen in 1722.
  • Initial contact with the outside world came with the introduction of Christianity by John Williams of the London Missionary Society. .
  • Traditional Samoan society is based on a chieftain system of hereditary rank, and is known as the “Samoan Way” or fa’a Samoa way of life.
  • Local cultural institutions are the strongest single influence in American Samoa. The fa’a Samoa way of life stems from the aiga, the extended family with a common allegiance to the matai, the family chief who regulates the family’s activities.
  • Religious institutions are very influential in the community and the village minister is accorded a privileged position, equal in status to a chief or matai.
  • The Fa’a Samoa also reflects a communal lifestyle with non-public ownership and 90% of the communal lands controlled by the family matai.
  • American Samoa has been a territory of the United States since the signing of the April 17, 1900 Deed of Cession.
  • The Pago Pago Harbor area was the site of the coaling station and a naval base. During the War Years, the United States built roads, airstrips, docks and medical facilities exposing island residents to the American way of life.
  •  The government is divided into three branches, similar to the United States.
  • The Executive Branch is led by the Governor and Lieutenant Governor,
  •  the Legislative Branch is led by the local legislature, consisting of the House of Representatives, who are elected by popular vote and the Senate, who are represented by the village matai.
  • The judicial branch is part of the U.S. judicial system, and American Samoa has a non-voting representative elected to the U.S. Congress.

For more information about American Samoa and its history, go to: http://www.amsamoatourism.com/history.htm

Personal Log:

Since we arrived early, we were able to explore the island and its unique beauty.  We drove up to the National Park of American Samoa, Ma’Oputasi.  The vistas , beaches, flora, and fauna were breath-taking.  Here is a pictorial tour of the sites.

Pago Pago is home to the largest tuna cannery in American Samoa. Many islanders are employed here.

American Samoa celebrates 111th anniversary.

Jennifer Fry: March 9, 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 9, 2012

Personal Log

Pago Pago

With the morning light, the island’s landscape came into view.  Looking back toward land was the single road, a variety of buildings, consisting of numerous churches, restaurants, schools, and hotels.  I have come to learn that each small village has its own church and outdoor meeting hall.  Behind the buildings the topography extended upward forming a steep hillside covered with green, lush tropical plants, including a variety of palms and fruit trees laden with mangoes and papayas.

After a hearty Samoan breakfast with ten of the scientists that will be on the research vessel, we met with representatives from the local marine sciences community at the American Samoan government building.  Chickens, chickens, and a small clutch of baby chickens happily pecked on the lawn in front of the building which put a smile on my face.

These chickens found their home in front of the Government Building of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Scientific Log

The chief scientist, Dr. Donald Kobayashi, began by introducing the team of scientists and gave a brief overview of the upcoming mission aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette.

The variety of investigations that will be conducted during these next 2 weeks which include:.

  1. Midwater Cobb trawls:  Scientists, John  Denton, American Museum of Natural History, and Aimiee Hoover, acoustics technician , Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, will conduct nighttime tows that will focus on epipelagic and pelagic juvenile reef fish and bottomfish species.
  1. Bot Cam: Using a tethered camera that is later released to float to the surface, and using acoustics–a.k.a. sonar readings–scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center , Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research of the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow , Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will collect samples of fish at selected sites during the cruise.
  1. CTD experiments: “Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth.”   At predetermined locations scientists Evan Howell, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Megan Duncan, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, will collect water samples called “profiles” taken of the water column at different depths.  This data is very important in determining the nutrients, chlorophyll levels, and other chemical make-up of the ocean water.
  1. Plankton tows:  Using plankton and Neuston nets, scientists Louise Giuseffi, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, and Emily Norton,University of Hawaii, Manoa, Biological Oceanography department, will conduct day and nighttime plankton tows focusing on plankton and microplastic marine debris.  Scientists will be  looking at a specific species of plankton called the copepod.  This study will also be collecting microplastic pieces, some of which are called “nurdles” which are small plastic pellets used in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately most plastic debris will never degrade and just break into smaller and smaller pieces potentially working their way into the food web, making this research and its findings very important to environmental studies.
  1. Handline fishing using a small boat, the Steel Toe: Scientists Ryan Nichols, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Meagan Sundberg, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at the University of Hawaii, and Jamie Barlow, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, will conduct daily fishing expeditions obtaining scientific data on bottomfish, grouper and snapper species.   They will be focusing on life history factors including age, growth, male/female ratios, length and weight.  This is very exciting research since the last data collected from this region was from the 1970s and 80s.

I am very excited and fortunate to be part of this important scientific research project, and the significant data collected by the scientists.

Did You Know?
American Samoa pronunciation: The first syllable of “Samoa” is accented.
Pago Pago (capital of American Samoa): The “a”  pronunciation uses a soft “an” sound as in “pong.”

Animals Seen Today
Frigate birds
Common Myna
“Flying Foxes” Fruit bats
Kingfisher
Brown tree frog
Dogs, various
Chickens, various

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.