Jason Moeller: June 28, 2011

JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Whale Pass
Date: June 28-29, 2011

Ship Data
Latitude: 58.01 N
Longitude: -152.50 W
Wind: 23.95 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 9.4 degrees C
Air Temperature: 10.8 degrees C
Relative Humidity: 71%
Depth: 177.72 m

Personal Log

Welcome back, explorers!

Due to the injury to the deck hand, we are done fishing. Our trip has been cut a day short and we are now headed back to Kodiak. We should arrive tomorrow morning, and I will fly back home on the 30th.

The shortest route to Kodiak was through Whale Pass, a break in Kodiak Island. The pass made for some spectacular scenery.

The entrance to Whale Pass
The entrance to Whale Pass, from the back of the Oscar Dyson
Steep hills rolling down into the water were a common sight in the pass.
Steep hills rolling down into the water were a common sight in the pass.
nav point
An island with a navigational marker in whale pass.
mountain 1
There were some spectacular views of the mountains in the pass as well.
Mountains 2
Another view of the mountains.
Mountain 3
Another view of the mountains.
And another...
Last one, I promise! We all liked the shape of this one.
A waterfall drops away into the ocean.

The coolest part of the pass, though, is definitely the wildlife. We saw sea otters everywhere! Unfortunately, they were so fast and at a great enough distance that the following shot is the only decent one I was able to take.

A sea otter at Whale Pass.

We also saw an animal that I have been hoping to see for a long time.

killer whales
Sorry about the grainy image, but it is the only one of the Orcas we were able to get.

We also saw a puffin, but it moved so quickly that there was no hope at a photo for it. Bummer. Several humpback whales were also spotted, along with numerous gulls and other seabirds.

Science and Technology Log

Today, lets talk about krill!

What are krill, you ask? They’re animals in the Phylum Arthropoda, which means they’re related to insects, spiders, crabs, lobsters, etc. They have jointed legs and an exoskeleton, are usually a couple of centimeters in length, and are reddish/orange-ish in color. They can often be found in dense schools near the surface of the water, and play an important role in the ecosystem as a source of food for lots of larger animals (like fish, whales, & penguins).

I’ve mentioned the two types of trawl gear that we use to catch fish, but if we want to catch smaller things like plankton, the mesh on those nets is way too small. Therefore, we use a third type of trawl called the Methot which has very fine mesh to corral the plankton down into a collection container at the end of the net. In addition to having a hard container at the end — as opposed to just a bag/codend that you see in the fish trawls — the Methot trawl also has a large metal frame at the beginning of the net. Check out the photos below.

The Methot trawl being taken from the water. Note the square frame.
The container that collects all of the plankton in the net.

After the net is brought back on deck, one of the fishermen or deck hands brings the container of krill into the fish lab. The first thing we do is dump the container into a sieve or a bucket and start picking out everything that isn’t krill. The two most common things that are collected (besides krill) are gelatinous animals (like jellyfish & salps) and larval fish. The fish get weighed (as one big unit, not individually) and then frozen for someone to look at later on.

The larval fish that we separated from one plankton tow.

After sorting the catch, we’re left with a big pile of krill, which gets weighed. We then take a small subsample from the big pile of krill (it’s a totally random amount depending on how much we scoop out!) and then weigh the subsample. Then the fun begins, as I’m the one that does this job; I get to count every single individual krill in the subsample. Tedious work. All of the data is then entered into the computer system, and the krill and anything else that we’ve caught (besides the larval fish) are thrown back into the water.

Tammy sorts through the pile of krill.
Tammy sorts through the pile of krill.
counting krill
How many individual krill are in this picture?

Species Seen

Northern Fulmar
Humpback Whales
Killer Whale!!!
Sea Otters!!!

Reader Question(s) of the Day!

Q. What has been your favorite thing about this trip so far?

A. I’ve been asked this question several times over the course of the last few weeks, but I’ve waited until the end to answer it.

Truth be told, it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite thing that I’ve seen or done. There are so many candidates! Exploring the Buskin River and seeing bald eagles before we set sail was a blast! Eating fresh caught salmon for the first time was a great experience, as it just melted in my mouth. Leaving shore for the first time was a lot of fun, as there is no feeling like the salt air blowing past your face at the front of a boat. Trying to take pictures of flying birds with a digital camera was a challenge, and we all had a good time laughing at the blurred images. Getting better at photography is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I feel like I have improved that. The first fish lab with the sleeper shark was great! Working in the fish lab, as messy as it was, was also a lot of fun! The XBT prank that was pulled on me was one of the best executed pranks I’ve ever seen, and it was hilarious! Hanging out and reading Martin’s Game of Throne series during breaks with my fellow scientists was a lot of fun as well, as it was just like a book club. Today’s ride through Whale Pass with the otters, whales, and mountains was exactly what I dreamed Alaska would be like.

The scientists sense of humor also made it an enjoyable trip. For example, this is what happens when you play around with the net camera for too long.

Cam Trawl Dinner
See what I mean?

That being said, if I was absolutely forced to pick a favorite memory, it would probably the impromptu fishing trip at Sand Point. You know you love your job when you decide to keep going at it on your day off.

There will be one last log posted, so if you have questions please send them to me at jmoeller@knoxville-zoo.org!

Kim Wolke, August 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 6, 2006

Weather from the bridge
Cloudy (CL)
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

TAS Kim Wolke kayaking in Porpoise Harbor in the Shumagin Islands in Alaska
TAS Kim Wolke kayaking in Porpoise Harbor in the Shumagin Islands in Alaska

Today was an absolutely beautiful day here in the Shumagin Islands.  By afternoon the clouds cleared out and the blue skies and sunshine took over. The acting Commanding Officer (CO) Julia Neander invited me to go kayaking with her, which I eagerly said yes to. We paddled along the coastline right into seagull territory.  Although the sounds of the ship’s engines were fading, the screeching seagulls filled our ears.

We also encountered many horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata), which are the cutest and silliest looking birds. They appeared to have some nesting areas on the rocky cliffs which they were trying to distract us from locating since they kept circling above us and flying away from the cliffs.  Puffins typically stay out on the open sea through the winter but come to the land in late spring to breed.  They are better built for swimming than flying which is evident when you see them fly.  Under water their wings are used to propel them while their webbed feet are for maneuvering.  To get airborne, they must run along the water surface before taking off.  From land, they dive off cliffs to gain enough speed for flight, using their feet to help change direction.  Puffins feed in flocks, eating mainly fish and zooplankton.  They will dive straight into the water and continue their motion as they swim to get their next meal.

Seagulls perched on a rock in Porpoise Harbor
Seagulls perched on a rock in Porpoise Harbor

LT Ben Evans, the acting Executive Officer (XO), invited the other TAS, Jackie Hams, and me to dinner in the Wardroom this evening.  Traditionally, the Wardroom is where the officers eat. Upholding tradition, the officers on the RAINIER have their meals there.  There’s even a seating arrangement, also based on tradition.  I felt honored to be asked to eat with the officers since the rest of the crew eats in the Crew Mess, which is where I’ve had all of my meals as well. After dinner this evening, I joined three of the NOAA divers and AB Leslie Abramson, who was snorkeling, as they did a recreational dive close to the ship. Since I am not a NOAA diver I was only able to stay on the skiff as they went under water. The water temperature was relatively warm at 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The divers all wore dry suits while Leslie wore a rather thick wet suit (7mm).  Everyone wore a hood, booties, and gloves, all as protection from the cold water temperatures.

SST Erin Campbell and SS Corey Muzzey check each other’s dive equipment before a dive.
SST Erin Campbell and SS Corey Muzzey check each other’s dive equipment before a dive.
A horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) sitting on a cliff on St. Paul Island, AK.  Picture taken by Mike Danzenbaker.
A horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) sitting on a cliff on St. Paul Island, AK.

Who’s Who on the NOAA ship RAINIER? 

What I’ve recently learned and find very interesting is that there are several NOAA scuba divers onboard.  Being a recreational diver, I was curious to learn about the NOAA divers.  To become a NOAA diver, you need to complete the NOAA diver-training program through the NOAA Diving Program (NDP).  Most of the training takes place at the facility in Seattle, Washington, however, in January there is also a class held in Key West, Florida.

Currently, there are six NOAA divers aboard the ship. They are: LT Ben Evans, ENS Sam Greenaway, Seaman Surveyor (SS) Carl VerPlank, SS Corey Muzzey, Senior Survey Technician (SST) Erin Campbell, and Able Seaman (AB) Jonathan Anderson.  Another NOAA diver not on this leg is the 3rd Assistant Engineer Mike Riley. In the fall, ENS Nathan Eldridge, SS Eric Davis, and AB Leslie Abramson are going for their NOAA diver training, which takes place over a three-week period.  SST Campbell and ENS Greenaway will also complete their Dive Master training in the fall.

AS Leslie Abramson putting on her hood in preparation for snorkeling.
AS Leslie Abramson putting on her hood in preparation for snorkeling.

NOAA divers have various jobs depending upon their locations.  Divers can deploy and retrieve scientific instruments, document fish and marine animal behavior, perform emergency and routine ship repair and maintenance, and investigate submerged objects such as shipwrecks for nautical charting. Aboard the RAINIER, one of the common jobs of the divers is to install tide gauges 10-15 feet below water.


Kimberly Pratt, July 7, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 7, 2005

White-sided dolphins
White-sided dolphins

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  44, 20, 7 N
Longitude: -126, 27, 7 W
Visibility:  10
Wind direction: 220
Wind Speed: 220
Sea Wave Height:  12
Swell Wave Height:  3-5
Sea Level pressure: 16.1
Cloud Cover: 7/8, AC, AS, CU
Temperature:  17.1

Scientific Log

Yesterday, we had the good fortune to see a school of Pacific White Sided dolphin, which swam at our bow for about 1/2 hr. A biopsy was taken of two of the animals, by Scientists, Tim O’Toole and Juan Carlos who used a crossbow with a special “grabber” attached to the arrow. A piece of skin and a piece of blubber will be analyzed.  Also swimming with the school were 2-3 baby dolphins.  Also spotted was a Humpback whale. A very busy day…

Today, we’ve spotted 2-3 Fin whales, along with a pod of Killer Whales.  The small boat was launched and tissue samples were taken from one of the Fin whales.  The Fin whale seemed rather curious as it approached the small boat at a close range.  The Killer Whales, however, were more cunning and a tissue sample could not be taken because their swimming pattern was very erratic.

As far as birds go, we spotted several Puffins, with beautiful markings on their heads; Black footed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Leach’s Storm Petrels and lots of Seagulls.  Peter Pyle and Sophie Webb have trained me in the data entry part of their observations, so I am now helping them on the bridge when possible.  Tonight, I’ll be learning more about the CDT cast and also the Bongo Tow.

Personal Log

Yesterday was our first day out to sea, and my first experience with ocean swells.  I will admit I did develop sea sickness – or getting my sea legs as it’s called.  Chief Scientist Karen Forney, joked that may my sea legs grow quickly.  Ha! I’m now recovered, with no worse for wear. I guess it’s a rite of passage that all sea goers must experience.  So now I’m seasoned.  I’m very grateful to Chief Scientist Forney who in the middle of my sickness, came to my room and let me know about the dolphins outside.  She knew I wouldn’t want to miss it and she was right!  Another wonderful sight is the different tones of blue that can be seen when looking out over the water.  The weather has been nice, and we are now in the waters off of central Oregon.  We hope to be in central California by this weekend, depending on how things go.  The crew and scientists are extremely supportive and patient with all of my questions, and I’m learning a lot. I’ll post another log in a day or two.