Eric Koser: The Impact of the Work

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Koser
Aboard Ship Rainier
June 22-July 9
Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK
July 4, 2018: 1000 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 55°57.7’          Long: 133°55.7’
Skies: Clear
Wind Light and variable
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: <1 ft
Water temp: 7.2°C
Air Temp: 14.1°C Dry Bulb, 12.5°C Wet Bulb

Pelican Harbor

The harbor at Pelican, Alaska.

The Impact of the Work
“We’re a part of history!” This notion, shared by a colleague on a launch yesterday, brings home the importance of the work of this team and NOAA’s Hydrographic Branch. Lisianski Inlet was last surveyed in 1917 by lead line! The charts of the inlet were old and not likely accurate. This week – fresh data has been collected by Ship Rainier and her launches to bring the next century of mapping tools below their shores.

Pelican Harbor in the town of Pelican, Alaska was last surveyed between 1970 and 1989.–until we surveyed it yesterday with Rainier Launch RA-3. Our team drove in and out between each of the docks in the harbor, carefully pinging sound waves off of the floor of the harbor to construct a new digital map of the bottom.

Pelican Guys

Guys on a mission…walking to pickup the HorCon.

Pelican HorCon

This is the Horizontal Control station, or HorCon, setup on the breakwater at Pelican before we took it down.

Part of our task yesterday, in addition to conducting MBES survey from our launch, was to dock in Pelican and retrieve our HorCon (a GPS reference radio setup on land that we have used there all week). As we walked through the very small town carrying two car batteries in backpacks, a pair of antennas, tripods, and other gear back to the launch – surely people were interested in what we were up to. Several people stopped to chat as we made our way from the pier, along the boardwalk, and down to the docks to go back to our launch. People asked who we were – and if we were the NOAA team that was in town. There was much appreciation expressed to NOAA for the work being done in the inlet to update the nautical charts. Here in Pelican, the water is the primary mode of transport. Accurate nautical charts provide security and safety.

 

 

 

Pelican

Here is a bit of history on the city!

Main Street, Pelican, Alaska

Main Street, Pelican, Alaska

 

Pelican

It’s a comfortable place, here in Pelican!

There are no roads to Pelican. A few cars are in town – to pull trailers and move equipment. But the primary mode of land transport is four-wheelers. The ‘main street’ is really a raised boardwalk that runs along the rocky shore – and is the heartbeat of the community.   Folks that live up or down the inlet from the town get there in small launches – there are no roads. A ferry comes to Pelican twice a month and is how cars and trucks come and go here. A seaplane comes through a few times a week—often bringing tourists in and out – and the mail. It’s a beautiful spot centered in a small inlet on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pelican Seaplane

The fastest transportation in many parts of Alaska.

Pelican House

A house up the shoreline from Pelican.

Science and Technology Log

It’s mission accomplished for Lisianski Inlet!

Nautical charts are broken up into sheets. And within each sheet, areas are broken down into smaller polygons for data collection. Each launch (small boat), as well as the ship itself, can bring in multibeam data with the equipment mounted on each hull to complete plotting polygons and eventually complete sheets.

The hydrographic survey team is working away today in the plot room and on “the holodeck” of Ship Rainier (an office area on the top of the ship behind the plot room) processing the data we have collected the past several days. A combination of ship and launch multibeam data in addition to bottom samples and shoreline updates have been collected. Now the work of the scientists continues and becomes data processing.

Holideck

Part of the hydrographic team on the holodeck.

As the data is combined, it is reviewed and refined to make a complete picture of the survey area. Once the team on the ship has completed their work, the data goes to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch of the Office of Coast Survey of NOAA. Here, the PHB team reviews that data again and assures it meets the specifications and standards needed to become finalized for use.

From PHB, the data is passed to two places. One is the NCEI (National Center for Environmental Information) office. They archive all of the raw and processed data including the digital surfaces themselves and the descriptive reports written by the hydrographers here.

The data also goes to the Marine Chart Division, an office of NOAA Coast Survey. Here is where the nautical charts are produced in both ENC and RNC (electronic and paper versions). It is this branch that publishes the data for use by mariners and the general public. Anyone can see the charts at nauticalcharts.noaa.gov (try the “Chart Locator”).

Nautical Chart

Here is a finished chart we are using to navigate today. Notice the two buoys in purple and green on the chart, and the narrow space between them.

Flybridge Approach

This is the view from the flybridge as we approach these same two buoys that are indicated on the chart.

 

Who is on board?

Tyanne

Tyanne Faulkes is a hydrographic scientist with NOAA.

During this leg of the trip, we have a visiting scientist from NOAA’s is here on board. Tyanne Faulkes works as a physical scientist for the Pacific Hydrographic Branch of NOAA. She is a part of the team that processes the data from the hydro teams on NOAA Ship Rainier and NOAA Ship Fairweather. Her job is to assure that the data meets NOAA’s specifications–so that they can provide evidence of dangers of navigation and accurate depth information for all mariners.

Tyanne loves to be involved in making maps of the sea floor – and getting to see things others have not seen before! She loves that NOAA provides data for free to scientists around the world. Her job includes not only desk work, but also opportunities to make many mapping trips to understand where the hydro data comes from. Ms Faulkes has a bachelors degree in geography and GIS. It was a paid internship just out of college with NOAA that initially brought her to this work. And – she has a ton of fun with what she does. As a kid, Tyanne loved oceanography. Her GIS education tied well with the internship – and it all came together to take her where she is today!

Tyanne Mountains

When she’s not chasing the bottom of the oceans, Tyanne also loves to climb mountains!

She some advice to students – “Learn how to code!”

“Building Python scripts is a very powerful tool to allow us to automate the data review process. Being able to write the code – or at least understand the basic concepts that put it together – allows one to be much more efficient in your work!”

Understanding the concept of an algorithm that can save one hours of work is a very good asset. “I wish in college someone would have taught me how to do this!” One easy example is a bulk file renaming tool that the launch teams use. After collecting 50 some separate files of data in a day, this tool will take the individual file names and append any number of things to the filenames – all automatically.

Want to get involved? Next week, Tyanne and her team at NOAA’s Western Regional Center at Sand Point in Seattle, WA are hosting an annual camp for middle school and high school students! Students from across the US can apply to come to this camp each summer and have great experiences learning all about oceans and hydrography! Check it out on the web: NOAA Science Camp – Washington Sea Grant.

 

Eric Koser: Let the Science Begin! June 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Koser
Aboard Ship Rainier
June 22-July 9
Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK
June 27, 2018: 1500 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 57°52.9’          Long: 133°33.8’
Skies: Overcast
Wind 15 kts at 011°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: Calm
Water temp: 3.9°C

Science and Technology Log

Rainier Hat

This insignia cap is worn by the NOAA Corps members on the ship.

Let the science begin! We departed from Sitka about 1300 on Monday enroute for Lisianski Inlet. Getting out to sea has been a wonderful experience. Ship Rainier is truly run by a dedicated team of people. I have been able to spend quite a bit of time on the bridge – first watching and then participating with the Junior Officers on the deck. It quickly became obvious to me that this is a teaching operation. The hands on the deck represent a variety of experience levels, quite by design. More experienced NOAA Corps Officers coach Junior Officers through each procedure that happens on the Bridge. It’s a great example of a team based ‘on the job’ teaching system!

On the bridge there is always an OOD (Officer On the Deck) that is in charge of operations. This person then helps to administrate the work of the CONN (responsible for the conduct of the vessel), the helm, the lee helm, the lookouts, and the navigator. The CONN gives commands to the others on the team, which are then repeated back to assure clarity.

Chart Table

This is the chart table where the Navigator works on the bridge of the ship.

The first task I learned was to plot our course on the charts. The CO (Commanding Officer—in charge of the entire ship) selects waypoints for an upcoming course in a digital mapping suite called Coastal.   Coastal sets a series of digital paths that each include a compass bearing (direction in degrees) and range (distance in nautical miles) between each waypoint. Then the navigator takes this same series of points and plots them by hand in pencil on the series of chart {the nautical term for maps]. Each point is a pair of latitude and longitude points plotted as a small square. Given the expected cruising speed, the navigator can also estimate future positions of the ship, which are referred to as “dead reckoning” and are plotted with a half circle.

 

 

 

Sheet Route

A route that I plotted on our charts.

Coastal

A view from the Coastal software of a route.

Periodically the navigator measures the location of the ship either digitally with GPS or by measuring distances to adjacent land features with radar. A pair of dividers is used to plot these distances on the sheet as small triangles and confirm the current location of the ship. By these methods, the navigator assures the ship is on the planned track and/or adjusts the track accordingly.

The person at the helm (the steering wheel) is directed by the CONN to point the ship at the necessary bearing. As changes are needed to the bearing, the person at the helm responds to the CONN’s commands to adjust.

In Lisianski Inlet the team of hydrographers started collecting data with the multibeam sonar system around midnight Tuesday morning. As we traveled along the entire length of the Inlet overnight, this initial data was collected. When we arrived at the small town of Pelican, AK (pop. 88) a crew on a launch (small boat deployed from Rainier) traveled in and set up a HORCON (Horizontal Control) reference station. This is a high precision satellite receiver. It provides a very accurate way to measure potential drift in satellite indicated GPS over time. After taking data from the ship, the latitude and longitude are corrected with data from the HORCON.

Launch RA

This is one of several small(er) boats called “Launches” that are used for surveying.

Ship Rainier

This is a view of our ship from the launch.

After this initial work was complete at Lisianski, we began transit to Tracy Arm Fjord. While the multibeam sonar work was completed here last week, three crews deployed in launches to ‘proof’ the shoreline information on the charts. This is essentially confirming and updating the existence and location of particular features (rocks, ledges, etc).

Tracy Arm

This was the view as we approached the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm.

Launch Team

NOAA Hydrographer Amanda Finn and I together on the launch.

At this point, the hydrographers are processing much of the data obtained in the past few days. Additional data will be collected tomorrow morning. Then in the evening we’ll transit back to Lisianski to begin further work there.

Ship among ice.

The ship parked here while the launches moved closer to the ice.

Glacial Ice

The glacial ice shows a beautiful blue color.

Ice Blue

Different pieces of ice appear slightly different colors.

Personal Log

Every member of the team on this vessel has a job to do. Every member matters. The success of the entire operations depends upon the teamwork of all. There is a positive sprit among the group to work together for the tasks at hand.

I’ve been welcomed to learn to chart our course. I had an opportunity today to operate the helm (steering). I went out on a launch today to visit waters that were yet uncharted as the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord is receding. It was incredible to see not only the beauty of the ice among the water, but to also witness from afar the calving of the glacier. A rumble like thunder accompanied the crashing of two small walls of ice into the ocean below as we watched from afar.

I enjoyed capturing many photos of the ice and the wildlife among it. Many harbor seals were relaxing upon chunks of glacial ice as we traveled through the Arm. The natural beauty of this area is best represented by a few photos.

An adult seal and pup

This adult seal was watching us closely with the pup.

Ice Dog?

What can you see in this ice? Might it resemble a dog?

Did You Know?

Junior Officers in the NOAA Corps learn in a 19 week program followed by 2 weeks at sea on a tall ship called Eagle.

There are approximately 320 commissioned officers in the NOAA Corps internationally.

NOAA Operates 16 Ships and 20 Aircraft!

Valerie Bogan: The Journey Ends, June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Valerie Bogan
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 7 – 20, 2012

Mission: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Summer Groundfish (SEAMAP) Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date
: Wednesday June 20, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sea temperature 28  degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius.

 Science and Technology Log:

Well we have come to the end of the cruise so now it is time to tie it all the pieces together.  The Gulf of Mexico contains a large ecosystem which is made up of both biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors.  We studied the abiotic factors using the CTD which records water chemistry data and by recording information on the water depth, water color, water temperature, and weather conditions.  We studied the living portions of the ecosystem by collecting plankton in the bongo and neuston nets.  The health of the plankton depends on the abiotic factors such as water temperature and water clarity so if the abiotic factors are affected by some human input then the plankton will be unhealthy.  The trawl net allowed us to collect some larger organisms which occupy the upper part of the food web.  Some of these organisms eat the plankton while others eat bigger creatures which are also found in the trawl net.  Despite what they eat all of these creatures depend on the health of the levels below them either because those levels are directly their food or because those levels are the food of their food.

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem

An illustration of how the food web in the gulf works. (picture from brownmarine.com)

The ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico has taken a couple of large hits in the recent past, first with Hurricane Katrina and then with the Deepwater horizon oil spill.  When an ecosystem has undergone such major events it is important to monitor the species in order to determine if there is an effect from the disasters.  Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the people of the Gulf coast but did minimal damage to the biotic parts of the ecosystem.  The effects of the deepwater horizon oil spill are still unknown due to the scope of the spill.

Today’s portion of the ship is the engine room.  I was recently taken on a tour of the engine room by William.  The ship is powered by two diesel engines which use approximately 1,000 gallons of fuel per day.  The ship obviously uses the engines to move from location to location but it also uses the energy to power generators which supply electrical energy, to air condition the ship and to make fresh water out of sea water.

The engines.

The twin diesel engines.

Generators

Generators

There are two vital positions on the Oregon II that I have not discussed, deck worker and engineer.  We could never have collected the samples that we did without the immense help of the deck workers.  They operated the winches and cranes that allowed us to deploy and bring back the nets which captured our samples.  The engineers kept the ship’s engines running, the electricity on, and the rooms cool.  Some of these men started out their careers as merchant marines.  A merchant marine is a person who works on a civilian-owned merchant vessel such as a deep-sea merchant ship, tug boat, ferry or dredge.  There are a variety of jobs on these ships so if you are interested in this line of work I’m sure you could find something to do as a career.  A few merchant marines work as captains of those civilian ships, guiding the ship and commanding the crew in order the get the job done.  More of them serve as mates, which are assistants to the captains.  These people are in training to one day become a captain of their own ship.  Just like on the Oregon II there are also engineers and deck workers in the merchant marines.  Engineers are expected to keep the machinery running while the deck workers do the heavy lifting on the deck and keep the ship in good condition by performing general maintenance.

During this cruise I have met a lot of people who have different jobs all of which are related to collecting scientific data.  The bridge is wonderfully staffed by members of the NOAA Corps.  These men and women train hard to be able to sail research ships around the world.  To find out more about a profession with the NOAA Corps go visit the Corps’ webpage.  There are a large number of scientists on board.  These scientists all specialize in the marine environment and there are many wonderful universities which offer degrees for this field of study.  Go here to get some more information on this scientific pursuit.  The engineers and deck crew keep the ship running. To learn about these professions go to The United States Merchant Marines Academy.  The stewards are instrumental in keeping the crew going on a daily basis by providing good healthy meals.  To learn more about working as a steward read about the Navy culinary school.  The ship could not continue to operate without each of these workers.  Nobody is more or less important than the next–they survive as a group and if they cannot work together the ship stops operating.

Personal Log

Well my journey has come to an end and it is bitter-sweet.  While I’m happy to be back on land, I’m sad to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people on the Oregon II.  When I was starting this adventure I thought two weeks was going to be a long time to be at sea, yet it went by so fast.  Although I’m tired, my sleep and eating schedule are all messed up, and I have some wicked bruises, I would do it again.  I had a great time and in a couple of years I have a feeling I will be once again applying for the Teacher at Sea Program.

It should be no surprise to those that know me best that I love animals which is why I volunteer at the zoo and travel to distant locations to see animals in the wild.  So my favorite part of the trip was seeing all the animals, both those that came out of the sea and those that flew to our deck.  So I’m going to end with a slide show of some amazing animals.

Pelican.

This pelican decided to stop and visit with us for a while.

angel shark

An angel shark

Moray eel

A moray eel

Bat fish

Two bat fishes of very different sizes.

Sand dollar

A sand dollar

Hitchhikers

A group of sea birds decide to hitch a ride for a while.

Mark Silverman, June 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 12, 2006

FREEDOM STAR back in port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station under the dark, glowering skies of tropical storm Alberto.

Back in port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station under the dark, glowering skies of tropical storm Alberto.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: Fair to Poor
Wind direction: ESE
Average wind speed: 7 knots and building during day
Wave height: 1-2’ knots and building during day
Air temperature: 75 oF
Sea temperature: 79 oF
Cloud cover: 100%
Barometric pressure: 1014 mb

Personal Log 

This morning I overslept and woke up about 0815. Everyone was just hanging out as we ran for port so it was not an issue. I had a light breakfast, as breakfast was officially over (Patrick “Cookie” Downey, the cook, kindly left out some food for late risers).  After breakfast I went up to the bridge to work on this, my final log. The weather outside is deteriorating and the sky is dark with light rain.  The bridge crew is in good cheer and we bantered a bit.  The launch towers of Cape Canaveral are barely visible to the west through the overcast.  On radar I can clearly see the shape of the Cape and our path around it. We are about 1-2 hours from the entrance, a bit more to docking, as we have to pass through the lock.  The FREEDOM STAR should dock at Port Canaveral Air Force Station today around 1200.  The operations were curtailed 48 hrs. early due to impending tropical storm Alberto.  Alberto is currently just off the west coast of Florida around Steinahatchee.  About 0100 we passed through the Port Canaveral inlet as a number of the crew and team stood on the bridge joking, talking, and looking through binoculars. I felt quite privileged to be part of this retinue as people on shore and in other boats observed our entrance into port.  As we steamed into port, Tim Freely, Chief Engineer, gave us a tour of the one part of the ship we hadn’t entered yet, the Engine Room. Due to the dangers involved we could only enter with an engineer.  It was fascinating! FREEDOM STAR has 6 diesel engines.  Two for propulsion, two for thrusters, and two for generators.

Several shots from our tour of the engine room: From left, Mark and Tim pose, Tim proudly shows Nancy and Steve the major components of the engine room, one BIG Detroit diesel that turns one of the propellers. Note the ear muffs that are necessary due to the high noise level.

Several shots from our tour of the engine room: From left, Mark and Tim pose, Tim proudly shows Nancy and Steve the major components of the engine room, one BIG Detroit diesel that turns one of the propellers. Note the ear muffs that are necessary due to the high noise level.

Andy managed to change my flight for this evening to get me out before the storm, so I did laundry, packed my things, took a few more pictures and got ready to debark.  Nancy and the ROV team will be flying out this evening as well.  The science team and a few of the crew got together one last time at a Port Canaveral restaurant to say goodbye.  Overall, it’s been a fantastic time and I’m sad that it’s over, but I have lots of great memories and learned a lot too.  Everyone I got to know, the crew, and the science team, were super and made me feel like I belonged.  I hope I can participate in Teacher at Sea again someday and highly recommend it to anyone out there reading this and thinking about it. Hasta luego, Mark

Signal flags.

Signal flags.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Yesterday’s question is really just for your own personal reflection. To prepare for a career in marine biology, take lots of math and science.  Practice good writing skill.  Keep your GPA up and work hard in college. See my interview with Andy David on day 3 for more information. Today’s question: What do the black flags in the photo on the left mean? (See end of this log for the answer).

Addendum 1: An Interview with Marta Ribera, GIS specialist. 

Marta was a little shy about giving and interview and claimed she wouldn’t have much to say. However, once she warmed up to our discussion she was vivacious and charming, punctuating her comments with laughter and smiles.  She has a much different demeanor while working, although retaining her sense of humor, her seriousness and concentration are obvious. She appears to thoroughly enjoy what she does.  Much to my delight Marta was born in Gainesville and is a Gator fan.

Patrick “Cookie” Downey grills up some freshly caught dolphin fish.

Patrick “Cookie” Downey grills up some freshly caught dolphin fish.

Q: Tell me about yourself, where your from etc.

A: I was born in Gainesville, Florida because my father was there to study his PhD. My father finished his PhD and moved my mother, my sister and myself to Spain where he is from.

Q: How old were you [when you moved to Spain]?

A: I was 3 and a half and I have an older sister who was 4 and •••. I grew up in Spain until I was 24.  I studied my BS in Biology, the first 2 years [of college] and 2 more years in Ecology.

Q: Where did you study?

A: Universidad Autonóma de Barcelona [Independent University of Barcelona] in Barcelona.

Q: So you studied in Spanish? (Marta was quick to correct me and I could sense her pride)

A: In Barcelona we speak Catalan, but I was really fluent in English from when I was here [in the U.S.]! (Continuing on about her studies) Then I did a degree, kind of a Masters without the thesis, in GIS, Geographical Information Systems.  So, I did about a year of that and then I got an internship in the lab [at NOAA, in Panama City, FL].  I came here because of the GIS, because a friend of my father knew the lab needed someone in GIS.  I came here for 3 months and I’ve been here for 3 years! That’s about it.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

Left to right: Mike Nicholas, Freshteh Ahmadian, and Craig Bussel goof around at the post cruise get-together.

Left to right: Mike Nicholas, Freshteh Ahmadian, and Craig Bussel goof around at the post cruise get-together.

A: It’s never the same and [I like] the people I’m working with. Being away from home is hard, but they make it real easy! All the GIS and multibeam mapping, I’m doing it with Andy [David]. Then I also help Stacy [Harter] with a study in the bay in Panama City on juvenile snapper.  I want to finish my Masters in GIS.

Q: …and a PhD?

A: PhD?  Well, we’ll see about that.  Now I’m gaining a lot of experience and seeing a lot of things…like 30 people work in the lab on all kinds of stuff, like sharks, measuring age and growth. I know all the areas, now I really know what I like. I’m getting a lot of experience.

Q: How old are you?

A: I’m 27 from last May…well I’m 27.

Group shot at the post cruise get together.  Front row, from left to right, Craig Bussel, Freshteh Ahmadian, Mike Nicholas, Mark Silverman, and Steve Matthews.  Back row, from left to right, Kevin Joy, Andy David, Wayne Stewart, Stacy Harter, Marta Ribera, Nancy McClintock, and Cece Linder.

Group shot at the post cruise get together. Front row, from left to right, Craig Bussel, Freshteh Ahmadian, Mike Nicholas, Mark Silverman, and Steve Matthews. Back row, from left to right, Kevin Joy, Andy David, Wayne Stewart, Stacy Harter, Marta Ribera, Nancy McClintock, and Cece Linder.

Q: Is GIS far from Biology?

A: No, it’s not. I always loved math and computers.  My parents thought I would go into engineering. I had a high school teacher who showed me to love Biology.  Right when I finished college, I volunteered in forestry and started doing GIS.  I really loved it, because it let me mix both.  I love computers, but I cannot stand being in front of a computer all week.  Now, I can do both! I didn’t think I would work in Marine Biology because I can’t dive [Marta has an ear injury that prevents diving], but now I’m working in Marine Biology!

Marta Ribera smiles while recording fish and bottom composition data and location during an ROV dive.

Marta Ribera smiles while recording fish and bottom composition data and location during an ROV dive.

Addendum 2: An Interview with Steve Matthews, Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist 

Steve is a fascinating person to get to know. He has a background in saturation diving and has dove as deep as 650 feet. His contributions to the project are diverse, from building the 4-camera array, to expertise in deploying gear off a ship (not as simple a task as it sounds in a rolling sea). Steve has a great sense of humor and enjoys telling jokes. I was privileged to bunk with him aboard the FREEDOM STAR. On his free time I frequently found him reading a Clive Cusseler novel.  It must have been good, because he said he’s not much of a reader, but he finished it in several days.  Steve’s title is Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist.

Q: How does somebody get into a field like that?

A: I didn’t intend to get into a field like that.  I just sort of fell into it [smiles].  I’m already retired.  I was in the Navy 28 years as a saturation diver…

Q: Steve can you give me a short definition of saturation diving?

A: Go deep, stay long [everyone laughs]. (Saturation diving involves diving until the body has absorbed all the nitrogen it can.  After that one can stay down indefinitely, usually in a habitat or bell. Decompression usually occurs on the surface in a decompression chamber over several hours or days, depending on the depth of the dive.) When I retired, I went to work with FSU [Florida State University], Panama City campus, Advanced Science Diving Program.  There was a fledgling program at Panama City campus and we set up a dive locker at the Panama City lab at the National Marine Service site.  FSU did not have its own facility at that time.  That was a new program and they ran out of money and sense.  When the fisheries people heard I was going to leave, they offered me to stay on with them and matched me up to the category on the books. Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist was the closest thing. Sometimes commercial fishermen are hired on to this field. The equipment part is where I fit in best…marine mechanic, boat maintenance, welding, and fabrication of fishing gear.

Steve Matthews, Fisheries Methods and Equipment specialist on the bridge of the FREEDOM STAR.

Steve Matthews, Fisheries Methods and Equipment specialist on the bridge of the FREEDOM STAR.

Q: How long have you been with the lab?

A: Five years.

Q: Do you always work with Andy [David]?

A: I work for the lab. Andy is one of the groups I do stuff for.  There’s several others.

Q: What would you tell students that want to get into this field?

A: If the students ask, tell them the joke about the commercial fisherman who won the lottery. They asked him what he was going to do with all the money? He said, Oh, I’m gonna keep commercial fishing ‘till all the moneys gone! [laughs heartily]. It’s a tough field!

Answer to the Question of the day, today: 

The black signal flags let other boats and ships know to stay away. As Cody put it during his tour of the flying bridge (he was pointing out a red signal light that has a similar function at night), “we are pretty high on the pecking order.”  It is not permitted to come too close to a government vessel during official operations.  The flags were not flown while underway on our cruise. Other large ships are required to be familiar with signals and usually obey them.  Many small boaters often are not up to speed on the meaning of the signal flags and lights. During our cruise one 40-50’ fishing boat trolled within a half mile of our port side while the ROV was deployed.  Fortunately, many of the operations occur so far offshore that not many pleasure boats are in the vicinity.  Our mission took place 50-100 miles offshore.  The SRB recovery is about 120 miles out.

Addendum 3: FREEDOM STAR and her crew’s regular assignment 

As involved as we were in marine biology on this cruise, its easy to forget that FREEDOM STAR and her sister ship, LIBERTY STAR have as their principal function the recovery of the SRB’s (solid rocket boosters) for the space shuttle program immediately following a launch.  The crew is very proud of this role.  They must go out regardless of weather. The ship is also used to tow the external fuel tanks from Louisiana, where they are manufactured, to Cape Canaveral, Florida where they are assembled to the space shuttle and prepared for launch.

Space Shuttle lifts off from Cape Canaveral.

Space Shuttle lifts off from Cape Canaveral.

Addendum 3: The SRB recovery operations.

Recovery must go forward regardless of weather.  The LIBERTY STAR with SRB and Ambar crew still operate in rough seas.  Winches are used to bring in the parachutes and the crane lifts the nose cone.

Divers install the equipment need to float NASA ships M/V LIBERTY STAR and FREEDOM STAR the SRB horizontally for towing. The dives enter port with the SRB’s in tow. It can be dangerous, in excess of 130’ due to the length of the SRB and up and down wave motion. A decompression chamber is ready on deck.

Mark Silverman, June 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 11, 2006

Teacher at Sea, Mark Silverman, takes still digital photos during an ROV dive aboard the NASA ship FREEDOM STAR.  The ROV navigator, Kevin Joy, and pilot, Craig Bussel are seen in the background.

Mark Silverman takes still digital photos during an ROV dive. The ROV navigator, Kevin Joy, and pilot, Craig Bussel are seen in the background.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: Good, a little hazy on the horizon
Wind direction:  SW
Average wind speed: 12 knots
Harbor wave height: SW, 2-4’
Air temperature: 76 oF
Cloud cover: 10%
Barometric pressure: 1013 mb

Science and Technology Log 

This morning dawned with Tropical Storm Alberto expected to come off the north Florida or south Georgia coast sometime late afternoon on Tuesday, June 13.  Winds for tomorrow are forecast at 20-25 knots and seas are forecast at 5-7 feet.  In these conditions it is not possible to work safely. Capt. Exell and Andy David, the Principle Investigator, made the decision to go in early, upon completion of today’s work.  We are scheduled into Port Canaveral by noon tomorrow, so this will be the last science log.  I will do one more personal log tomorrow. This morning dawned with fine weather and no sign of the expected storm.  Three ROV dives were planned in the Options off southern Georgia.  At 0800 a general CTD was deployed to support the ROV. It was decided not to deploy the 4-camera array today because strong currents would interfere.

Before presenting a record of the dives, I will discuss a little about the importance of communication and coordination between the bridge and the ROV team.  Although the ROV is piloted by Craig Bussel, it is essential that the ship is moved in the direction that the ROV needs to go. The ROV remains tethered to the ship throughout all dives.  Craig explained that the technology is not yet in place for an autonomous ROV.  The tether provides electrical power to the ROV and returns data, information on position, and video and still photographs to the ROV lab on the ship.  The ROV team remains in constant contact with the bridge using two-way radios.  Craig or Kevin, the navigator, may radio: “move us 50 meters, bearing 273o” and the ship can use dynamic positioning technology to make precise movements.  Dynamic positioning is accomplished using the main props, bow and stern thrusters, GPS, and computers in conjunction with human pilots.  Current and wind play a large role in how well the positioning system functions.  The cooperative efforts of the bridge crew, the ROV team, along with external conditions are crucial to the success of the dive. One of my jobs on this cruise was to take still photos during the ROV dives.  The still photos are shot straight down to study bottom and habitat composition.  One photo per minute is shot and additional photos may be taken of interesting objects.

In what quickly became a “tradition,” the members of the science team and crew gather in the galley to attentively watch an ROV dive on the big screen TV.  Cheers and jeers would echo as a big grouper or snapper appeared or was lost from view.  Clockwise from left in front view, Andy David (PI), Steve Matthews(Fisheries Specialist), Tim Freeley (Chief Engineer), Darin Schuster(Winch operator), and Wayne Stewart (Crane operator).

In what quickly became a “tradition,” the members of the science team and crew gather in the galley to attentively watch an ROV dive on the big screen TV. Cheers and jeers would echo as a big grouper or snapper appeared or was lost from view. From left, Andy David (PI), Steve Matthews(Fisheries Specialist), Tim Freeley (Chief Engineer), Darin Schuster (Winch operator), and Wayne Stewart (Crane operator).

ROV dive 1 was the deepest dive of the cruise at 345 feet (104 m).  The current was very strong for blue water (1.7 to 3 knots).  This caused some difficulty with positioning the ship as explained above.  The bottom was soft, silty ooze.  Much less ambient light was present than in the previous dives. The fish seen included flounders, lizardfish, and scorpionfish. Where scattered rocks occurred snowy grouper were also seen.  One large jack appeared briefly. Invertebrates included sea pens, crinoids (sea lilies), pencil urchins, starfish, and abundant portunid crabs.

An Atlantic Spotted Dolphin frolics in the wave of the FREEDOM STAR, much to everyone’s delight.  The pod had about eight members.

An Atlantic Spotted Dolphin frolics in the wave of the FREEDOM STAR, much to everyone’s delight. The pod had about eight members.

ROV dive 2 transected a mud/silt bottom between significant rock formations and ledges at about 245 feet.  Once again it was difficult to position the ship due to the combination of current and wind. Visibility was poor; however, many grouper were seen.  Seen for the first time on this cruise were Warsaw grouper and red snapper near the larger rocks.  Snowy grouper and scamp were also seen, in addition to the usual big eyes, tattlers, etc. After ROV dive 2, two fish traps were deployed containing cut up Atlantic mackerel (tinker mackerel) as bait.  The traps were recovered after ROV dive 3.  The first trap came up empty.  The second trap was deployed in the rocky area found on ROV dive 2.  It produced 37 red porgies of various sizes, which were measured and released. ROV dive 3 was the final dive for the cruise.  The bottom was a silt and compacted sand mixture with algal patches. Visibility was poor.  Fish seen included amberjack, big eyes, bank sea bass, tattlers (Serranus phoebe), red porgies, and juvenile beeliners (also known as vermillion snapper, which are of a different genus than all other snappers).  One large rock with caves had a wrasse bass, yellow tail reef fish, and a large school of unidentified fish, possibly grunts. Several white colonial tunicates were seen.  Interestingly, they are of a type that is being investigated for possible medical applications (new drugs).  Many terrestrial sources have been tried and produced many drugs.  The ocean has many new possibilities waiting to be discovered. Other invertebrates included hermit crabs in long shells, chalice sponges, gastropod egg cases, and starfish. It is unfortunate that the cruise had to be cut short, but a wealth of important data was collected during the 5 days we worked.  Work ended around 1700, 195 miles from home, and FREEDOM STAR transited to her homeport, Port Canaveral, overnight.

Personal Log 

I woke early in order to finish up yesterday’s log.  The conversation at breakfast centered on the impending storm and Andy announced that we would head in tonight. I have had such a wonderful experience that I can’t help but be a little bit disappointed. However, I am just grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the world of a marine biologist and all the wonderful adventures of the last five days. Living and working aboard a research vessel with marine biologists fulfilled a life long dream for me.

A “biting shark” is brought up to the gunwale in order to be released.

A “biting shark” is brought up to the gunwale in order to be released.

I worked on my log until the first ROV run was under way and then assisted with the camera and recovery of the vehicle. Throughout the day I worked in various capacities, experiencing one more time life at sea. Several exciting moments occurred.  The first was when I spotted a large school of spotted Atlantic dolphins from the “Lido” deck. After announcing their presence I bolted down the stairs to get my camera.  I shot lots of pictures in order to try and get a good one. I have included one of the better ones in this log. The crew fished on and off all day and several dolphin were caught and also a shark! I asked Andy what type of shark it was and he replied, “A biting shark.”  Finally, I got up my nerve to try and toss the high-flyer float again on the last fish trap deployment (remember I dented the radar array, and nearly my head, on my last attempt).  I had been studying the technique all day and my toss was perfect! Later Cody Gordon, Ordinary Seaman, took me up to the flying bridge and gave me a great tour.  It was thrilling to be up so high up on the ship underway as the wind whipped by at about 40 knots. Cody was familiar with all the equipment topside and explained to me the function of each, such as antennae for GPS, radios, radar, etc. and signal lights, search lights and more.  As always the food and camaraderie was excellent, another great day at sea! As my Newfoundland friends would say, “I’m beat to a snot!” and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Yesterdays question about the distribution of fisheries resources has no clear-cut answer and is highly debatable. Much of the fisheries research at NOAA, such as this mission will help answer the question.  The current trend is a 50-50 split between commercial and recreational users while maintaining a sustainable fishery for the future. Today’s question: Do you think you would like life at sea or the career of a marine biologist? If so how would you prepare?

Addendum 1: Glossary of Terms 

Ambar:  Zodiac-like partially inflatable outboard boats carried aboard the ship and deployed by cranes. FREEDOM STAR normally carries two. Tropical storm:  A cyclonic storm with winds of at least 40 mph. Autonomous:  Something that operates on its own, with no connection to a source or other support system. Ambient: The natural surroundings. Colonial:  Organisms that live in close association to one another, but are not completely interdependent on one another. “Lido” deck:  A colloquialism (slang) used by the crew for the O-1 deck.  The ship has five decks from below sea level up:  the lower deck (below the water line), the main deck (at or just above the water line), the O-1 deck (forecastle – pronounced fo’cle deck), the bridge deck and the flying bridge. PI: Principal Investigator.

Ordinary Seaman, Cody Gordon, braces against the wind as he gives me a tour of the flying bridge.  Clouds from Tropical  Storm Alberto loom in the background.

Ordinary Seaman, Cody Gordon, braces against the wind as he gives me a tour of the flying bridge. Clouds from Tropical Storm Alberto loom in the background.

Addendum 2: Interview with Mike Nicholas and Allan Gravina 

Mike and Allan enthusiastically agreed to do an interview.  I approached them on day 4 while they were on they’re morning bridge watch.  Seamen on the FREEDOM STAR and her sister ship LIBERTY STAR work 2 four hour watches per day or as they say, “4 on, 8 off.” Mike and Allan were assigned 8 AM to noon and 8 PM to midnight during this cruise. I found them to be very proud of they’re work, particularly as it involved the space shuttle missions, with a good sense of humor and a very positive attitude.

Q: Describe your job and life at sea. Mike: Mostly I’m just Navigational Officer.  Each day as we go from place to place, I make sure we get there without hazards. Allan: …and charts and communications. Allan: I assist the watch; stand the look out for watch on duty is my main job.  Also, my job includes anything else that needs to be done on deck. Retrieving boosters we work on deck. Any time personnel needs to be moved we’ll drive the Ambars.

Q: How did you come to work on FREEDOM STAR? Mike: I actually started on LIBERTY STAR [sister ship to FREEDOM STAR] eighteen and one half years ago.

Q: How old are you now? Mike: I’m 38. Allan: I’m 32. Mike: I started entry level as an ordinary seaman and came up through the ranks.  I came on FREEDOM STAR as a promotion 11 years ago and I was transferred over to FREEDOM then.

Q: Do you like working at sea? Mike: Yeah, I enjoy it. I like the idea that everyday is different.  You don’t know what you’ll get everyday. Not to mention, the challenges of what we have to do.

Q: Is it fun? Mike: Absolutely…a good time!  We usually retrieve the space shuttle solid rocket boosters. This is not our normal mission. Allan: That’d be our number 1 job, that and the external [fuel] tank.

Q: What’s it like working a shuttle mission? Allan: Pretty exciting actually, a good feeling!  We know we are one of 24 people in the world that do what we do, no other country, no other boat, no other place. It’s also challenging, because we must go regardless of weather, up to 30-foot seas.  They’ve only held the boat back once or twice in the 25 year program history.

Q: Do you see the launches? Allan: About 1 minute after lift off it will fly over us.  [They are roughly 120 mi out to see in the recovery zone]

Q: How far to splash down of the boosters are you? Allan: 5-10 miles.  You can see them come down, the whole bit.

Q: Is there any danger of them hitting you? Mike: No, they know exactly where they are going to land. Allan, grinning: If you think about it, those things are 130 feet long and 12 feet in diameter coming through the air.  They’re pretty big!

From left, Allan Gravina, Able Bodied Seaman, and Mike filled 3 and ½ pages.  The Nicholas, 2nd Mate, on the bridge during the  0800-1200 bridge watch.  Their duties while on watch include monitoring the ships position in relation to other vessels, land, and obstacles, piloting the vessel and monitoring the ships systems and accurate quotes and used notes.  communications.  They’re ability to pilot the ship was crucial to the success of the ROV dives.  When not on watch they frequently lend a hand on deck.   Off duty both of them enjoy fishing or a good game of Spades.

From left, Allan Gravina, Able Bodied Seaman, and Mike filled 3 and ½ pages. The Nicholas, 2nd Mate, on the bridge during the 0800-1200 bridge watch. Their duties while on watch include monitoring the ship’s position in relation to other vessels, land, and obstacles, piloting the vessel and monitoring the ships systems and accurate quotes and used notes. communications. They’re ability to pilot the ship was crucial to the success of the ROV dives. When not on watch they frequently lend a hand on deck. Off duty both of them enjoy fishing or a good game of Spades.

Mark Silverman, June 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 9, 2006

Sunrise revealed rough seas aboard the FREEDOM STAR off the coast of South Carolina.

Sunrise revealed rough seas aboard the FREEDOM STAR off the coast of South Carolina.

Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility: Good
Wind direction:  SW/W
Average wind speed: 20 knots
Wave height: 8-10’
Air temperature: 72oF
Cloud cover: 70%
Barometric pressure:  1009.8 mb

Science and Technology Log 

Morning dawned revealing seas of 8-10 foot with occasional 12-foot swells causing unsafe conditions on deck. Waves were rolling onto one side of the ship’s deck and across the other. Several members of the field party were seasick as a result of the weather.  A joint decision was made to scrub the morning mission by Principle Investigator Andy David, Capt. Exell and Craig Bussel, the ROV pilot, due to the unsafe conditions on deck.

Water washed across the deck creating hazardous working conditions.

Water washed across the deck creating hazardous working conditions.

Conditions improved after mid-day and we began a survey of the South Carolina site B in an area overlapped by Options 1 and 2. The fish trap was deployed first, with 450 ft of blue spectra line tethered to high-flyer floats to facilitate retrieval.  While it soaked the 4-camera array was deployed, using a similar float system, and retrieved after 30 min.  In order to collect physical data, the CTD was also deployed and retrieved successfully. After about 90 min. the fish trap was retrieved.  7 red porgies and a gray triggerfish were recovered and measured.  Three measurements were recorded for each fish:  standard length, fork length, and total length.  Since the fish were blown up by the pressure change they were cleaned for the galley. In the 3 hours between the beginning of the mission and the ROV run the current was determined to have swung 180 degrees, by a drift test. The initial current was 1.3 knots to the south. By afternoon the current was 1.3 knots to the north.  In order to run into the current with the ROV, so as to improve visibility of the camera views and keep the ROV free of the props we took some time to reorient the transect path to start on the opposite, north, end of the transect.  Next, the ROV was deployed, but the dive had to be aborted due to a problem with the camera.

Waves splashed over the transom as we tried to hold position for the morning mission.

Waves splashed over the transom as we tried to hold position for the morning mission.

The camera problem was resolved and the ROV was launched a second time for a 2 hr+ transect. The transect, which ranged from 197’ to 227’ deep, was very successful. A varied terrain was seen consisting of pavement crevices of hard compacted sand and isolated, scattered rocks and hard bottom. At least one object appeared to be of human origin.  In addition to video, still pictures are taken once per minute to survey the bottom composition.  Most of the fish seemed to be concentrated in the rocky areas. A surprising number of fish would orient to even very small pieces of structure. Many of the same species of fish were seen that are mentioned in the Day 2 log as well as several new species of interest. These included Lionfish (an introduced species that is native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans), tilefish, razorfish, and several others that still need to be identified. Abundant numbers of scamp, amberjack, big eyes, red porgies, and butterfly fish were observed.  Additionally, several interesting invertebrates were seen, including a Holothuroidea (Sea Cucumber) and an Asteroidea (starfish). FREEDOM STAR then transited, over night, approximately 131 mi. to the North Carolina Options off of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The “girls” hold an animated discussion while going over data using a PDA.

The “girls” hold an animated discussion while going over data using a PDA.

Personal Log 

I slept soundly as the ship tossed and turned during the night in a building sea.  As we reached our destination in the morning and FREEDOM STAR slowed the roll and pitch became extreme.  Although several members of the team were seasick, so far I felt fine.  I ate a light breakfast out of respect for the conditions.  As the sun rose in beautiful shades of rose, the waves rose as well, splashing over and washing across the deck.  We had the morning free since it was too dangerous to work.  Feeling a bit queasy, several of us returned to our racks.  After a nap I felt much better and seas were beginning to lay down. I was given the opportunity to participate in several of the deployments and found out it’s not as easy as it looks.  Hardhat and life jacket in place, I baited and launched the fish trap…a bit prematurely, but all went well.  I also tossed the high-flyer for the camera array…not so well. It whipped back and dented the radar reflector, much to my embarrassment.  Andy, kindly, reassured me that most of them wound up this way after being taken to sea. Repairs were made later using a hammer and duct tape. Next, I assisted in taking pictures during the ROV dive.  1, 2, 3…Craig, the pilot would slow down…using the laptop I took a picture once a minute.  I even managed to photograph some fish, including a lionfish.  Noting how much Craig, the pilot, enjoyed his work, I asked if the ROV had a name and was told it’s the Hela Dive 118.  He then offered to let me try piloting one day.  I’m very excited and can’t wait!  I requested soft sand after my experience with the high-flyer, LOL.  Several dolphin (the fish) came up to the boat and I managed to hook one!  It ran toward the operations area and had to be broken off to avoid entanglement…Oh well.  We did see some dolphin (the flipper type) in the wake too!  I shot lots of photos, I wish I could share them all.  Another beautiful sunset and all and all it was an adventuresome day and I’m getting tired, so…

Steve Matthews, fisheries methods and equipment specialist, coordinates crane operations during deployment of the 4-camera array.

Steve Matthews, fisheries methods and equipment specialist, coordinates crane operations during deployment

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Yesterday’s question is very controversial and is the impetus for this mission.  There is currently no right answer. Hopefully the data we collect will help shed light on this complicated issue.  The Scientist and crew are dedicated to providing concrete, unbiased data to create sustainable fisheries for the future. Today’s question: Today we encountered an introduced species, the lionfish.  Nonnative species have plagued the freshwater ecosystems of South Florida for years.  What are some of the possible impacts resulting from the introduction of nonnative species to marine ecosystems of the Southeast Atlantic basin?

Addendum 1:  Glossary of Terms 

Standard length:  Measured from the front edge of the mouth to the forward edge of the caudal fin. Fork length:  Measured from the front edge of the mouth to the center of the fork of the caudal fin. Total length:  Measured from the front edge of the mouth to the farthest point of the upper caudal lobe. Caudal fin: The tail fin of a bony fish (Class Osteichthyes). Drift test:  Used to determine how the ship will move in the wind and current conditions by shutting down propulsion and using the GPS to note direction and speed of travel. Rack: Bed High-flyer:  a buoy with a tall pole topped by a radar reflector to facilitate retrieval. Sustainable Fisheries:  a fishery where the numbers of fish remain at suitable levels to support commercial and recreational fishing.

Addendum 2:  An Interview with Andy David, Principle Investigator 

Andy David is an affable man.  He is a walking encyclopedia of facts about fish, wildlife, environmental issues and marine science.  I found Andy to be patient while teaching, yet focused and determined about his work.  I interviewed him in the galley after lunch as we transited between study sites. The interview is paraphrased.  I did not have a tape recorder to get accurate quotes and used notes.  Any inaccuracies are the fault of the interviewer and not Andy.

Sunset, in stark contrast to sunrise, over calm seas as another day aboard FREEDOM STAR draws to a close.

Sunset, in stark contrast to sunrise, over calm seas as another day aboard FREEDOM STAR draws to a close.

Q: What and where did you study?

A: I have BS in Chemistry and Biology from Stetson University in Central Florida.  My MS is Marine Science was done at USF in Saint Pete.

Q: Do you have a PhD?

A: My PhD is near completion at FSU.  I am nearing completion of my dissertation.

Q: How did you come to work for NOAA?

A: I am from Panama City and moved back after college due to my wife’s work.  I took a temporary 1-year position on the [NOAA] redfish project at $17,000 a year with no benefits and stuck with it. Sixteen years later here I am.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: I currently have four projects, The South Atlantic fisheries project, a Gulf of Mexico fisheries project which is completed, [an investigation of] trolling in closed areas in the Gulf, and a multibeam mapping project on Pulley Ridge in the north Dry Tortugas in 60-100 meters of water.

Q: Would you recommend a career in fisheries science to current high school students?

A: It’s a great job. You can tailor your studies

to what you like. The stress level is low, the dress is casual (points to his shorts, rubber clogs, and t-shirt smiling), and the work is interesting. There are boring things as in any job, but generally it’s really interesting.  New projects always come up.  It’s not usually mundane.

Q: How would you recommend that a student prepares for this career?

A: Take all the math and science you can. English is important too…it all comes down to expressing what you found in an understandable way or you’re just spinning your wheels. Don’t worry about Marine Biology [courses] in 9th grade. Take good general science and wait to learn the fancy stuff, all the names and stuff, in grad [graduate] school. You don’t need to go straight through. You can get a Bachelor’s degree, get an entry-level job, and see if you like it. NOAA supports returning to school and helps with tuition. You can blend your work with your Masters thesis project. Andy confers with Darin Schuster, one of the crane operators as the camera array is recovered on day 3.

Mark Silverman, June 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 8, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  unlimited
Wind direction:  S/W
Average wind speed: 7 knots
Wave height: 1-2’
Air temperature: 78oF/25oC
Cloud cover: None
Barometric pressure:  1011 mb

Members of the science team and crew prepare to deploy the ROV in Option 2 off the coast of North Florida aboard the NASA ship FREEDOM STAR.

Members of the science team and crew prepare to deploy the ROV off the coast of North Florida

Science and Technology Log 

This morning at about 0800 the CTD was launched and recovered successfully in the Option 2 area about 50 miles off the coast of North Florida.  Next, a fish trap baited with Spanish mackerel was launched.  After overcoming a few difficulties, the ROV was launched in about 200’ of water around 1000.  Visibility was excellent and two successful transects were accomplished.  The bottom consisted of mixed hard bottom and sand with several good ledges encountered.  The hard bottom visibly contained invertebrate species such as black coral, Oculina varicosa coral, Lophelia pertusa and other branching corals as well as basket sponges and various algae.  A number of species of fish were spotted. The fish were most prolific in areas where the most relief was seen. Fish species spotted included tomtate grunts, scamp (a type of grouper), three types of porgies, blue angel fish, reef, bank and spot fin butterfly fish, blue and queen angel fish, almaco and greater amber jacks, yellow tail reef fish and many other types of damsel fish, filefish, scrawled cow fish, and Cuban hogfish.  After the ROV run, the fish trap was recovered after soaking about 2 hours. Two red porgies were measured and released.  Finally, the camera array was soaked for 30 minutes.  We moved about 2 hours north and repeated a similar protocol at Option 1.  The FREEDOM STAR traveled 134.5 miles north during the night of June 8-9.

Mark Silverman, NOAA Teacher at Sea, practices the use of his “Gumby” survival suite.  The suit is designed to assist survival at sea should a ship go down.

Mark Silverman, NOAA Teacher at Sea, practices the use of his “Gumby” survival suite. The suit is designed to assist survival at sea should a ship go down.

Personal Log 

Last night I slept well as we sailed from port to today’s destination.  The hum of the motors and the rocking of the ship lulled me to sleep.  Today I awoke a little woozy from the seasick medicine I took as a precaution and remained that way for most of the day.  I will not take any more as the weather is fine.  After breakfast I sat outside on deck and read my Bible for a short while as we finished our travel, it was very peaceful.  Once again we were served excellent meals.  The day consisted of flurries of activity and periods of waiting which I used to write my log and debug the email program.  Just about everyone came out on deck to see what the fish traps brought up.  I also assisted taking ROV still photos and deploying and recovering gear.  Everyone is settling into the routine of life at sea. The crew watches movies, plays cards, and fishes during the down time, but they work extremely hard when called on, which is often.  The ocean is beautiful below an endless sky, deep blue, calm and spotted with patches of Sargassum weed, a brown alga.  Only a few boats have been spotted all day.  I look forward to subtle changes as we move up the coast toward Cape Fear, North Carolina. Perhaps if the crew is lucky this evening we will eat fresh fish tomorrow!  Hello to all my friends, students, and family out there!

“The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.” – Jimmy Buffett

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: The FREEDOM STAR holds 44,000 gallons of diesel fuel in ten tanks. A gallon of diesel fuel costs approximately $2.25.  Just imagine the fuel costs for this week! Today’s question:  Do you think the government should have the right to close certain areas of the ocean to public use and do you think closures would have a positive environmental impact?

An American alligator at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station prior to departure.

An American alligator at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Addendum 1: Glossary of Terms 

Millibar (mb):  a unit of pressure equivalent to 1/1000 atmospheres of pressure. Atmosphere: a unit of pressure that is the average air pressure at sea level. Transect:  a sample area taken along a straight line used to estimate populations and habitat coverage. Option: Proposed areas for deep water MPA’s that are under evaluation.  Each MPA has 2-3 Options for a total of eleven. Prolific: found in abundant, large amounts. Relief:  distance above or below relatively flat, featureless sea bottom. Protocol:  a series of steps and procedures used in an operation. Lock:  Enclosed area where ship can enter while water level between two bodies of water is raised or lowered.

Addendum 2: Officers and Crew of the FREEDOM STAR 

Captain: Walter Exell; Chief Mate: George Kirk; Second Mate: Mike Nicholas; Boatswain (lead Seaman): Darrell Hoover; Ordinary Seaman: Cody Gordon; Able Bodied Seaman: Allan Gravina; Cook: Patrick Downey; Retrieval (Crane Operator): Wayne Stewart; Retrieval (Crane Operator): Darin Schuster; Deck Supervisor: P.J. Zackel; Chief Engineer: Tim Freeley; Assistant Engineer: John Heer.

A pelican in the locks in Port Canaveral, FL.

A pelican in the locks in Port Canaveral, FL.