Donna Knutson, September 2-3, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 1 – September 29, 2010

Mission: Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey
Geograpical Area: Hawaii
Date: September 2-3, 2010

Seabirds are Amazing

Me on the Sette in front of Kaui.

 

Mission and Geographical Area:

The Oscar Elton Sette is on a mission called HICEAS, which stands for Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey. This cruise will try to locate all marine mammals in the Exclusive Economic Zone called the “EEZ” of Hawaiian waters. The expedition will cover the waters out to 200 nautical miles of the Hawaiian Islands.

Also part of the mission is to collect data such as conductivity for measuring salinity, temperature, depth, chlorophyll abundance. Seabird sightings will also be documented.

Science and Technology:

Thursday September 2, 2010 12:00 pm

Red footed Booby

Latitude: 21○ 47.4 N
Longitude: 160○ 35.7 W
Clouds: 6/8 Cumulus
Visibility: 10 N.M.
Wind: 12 knots
Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Water Temp: 27○ C or 80○ F
Air Temp: 26.5○ C or 80○ F
Sea Level Pressure: 1019.6 mb

Locating whales and dolphins is a science in itself! It takes great patience and experience to know and be able to recognize the signs of marine life. Birds play an integral part of this “game” of locating marine mammals.

Ed Bali, one of the observers with 31 years of experience tells me to look for the food. Where there is food, there are animals. Today they have not seen much of any life. So I remember what Ed said no food, no birds, no birds, no large animals.

Yesterday was a big bird day. Scott, a Bird Observer, showed me the difference between the types of seabirds we were seeing. Of the 9,000 different species of birds in the world, only 260 are seabirds. Those seabirds are categorized into four “groups” called orders. We saw birds from three of the four orders.

Scott Mills is an avid birder and lover of sea birds.
I have learned a lot from him.

Birds in the order Procellariiformes, commonly called the tubenosed, have a special desalinization system. They have a nasal gland with many blood vessels that filter out the salt from the blood. The reason the salt is in the blood is because they drink salt water while flying long distances over the ocean and also because the food they eat is salty. In most birds of this species the concentrated salt water from the nasal gland drips out of the tube which is located above the nose, and  drips down their beak. The birds that belong to this order are commonly called albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, storm petrels and terns. We saw many tubenosed birds such as the shearwaters; Newell and Wedgetail, the petrels; Bulwers and storm.
Birds from the Pelecaniformes order are known for their four webbed toes. These birds include the boobies; red-footed the most common, brown and masked. The great frigatebird, also from this order was spotted, it is a very large bird related to the pelican.

Birds from the Charadriiformes order consist of the gulls and terns. They are special unto themselves for example the Sooty Tern can live above the water for up to five years from the time it leaves the nest until it finds a breeding territory. The terns that were spotted were the noddy, brown, black, white (which is also called faerie) and the sooty tern.

Overall seventeen different species of seabirds were identified on September 2, 2010.

Bulwers Petrel

The birds’ activity is a sign to look for larger animals especially where flocks are seen. The two marine mammals that were identified were the steno and the Bryde’s (pronounced brutus) whale.
Steno bredanesis is a species of dolphin.  They are commonly called stenos, meaning “rough toothed” dolphin, and are common in many tropical waters. Almost nothing is known about its reproduction because it is very hard to follow at sea. Stenos have a very smooth beak and head with no melon shape for the forehead. The maximum length is 8’8” (2.65 m) and weight 350 lb. (160 kg). Its life span is 32 years.
Brydes’s (pronounced Brutus) Whale is a baleen whale. It was named after John Bryde a Norwegian whaler in South Africa. Bryde’s Whale is large and sleek, dark grey above and grey white or pinkish below. They have modified teeth which form 250 – 370 baleen plates that are used to filter the water for small animals. The maximum length is 51 ft. (15.6 m) and weight 90,000 lb (40,000 kg). Its dorsal fin is tall and ragged on the trailing edge. No one knows what its life span is.
Personal Log:

My great “statemate” and avid birder, Dawn Breese.

I haven’t been seasick! So far. The waves right now are larger than before, and as I sit I need to keep my stomach tight for balance. If it weren’t for the wonderful food, I could get in better shape in this month at sea.

I did my job this morning at 5:00 am, it was beautiful out with bright stars and a calm sea. During the day I really enjoy sitting out on deck and just watching. I hope to spot an animal. It is very peaceful and the motion is comforting.
I have been practicing with my camera. If I zoom it in 12x and then put it up the “Big Eyes” I can get some great pictures. Hopefully I’ll get some good shots of whales and dolphins. Most of the day was spent doing research on the animals we have seen. It was another great day at sea!

Karen Matsumoto, April 25, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Matsumoto
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19 – May 4, 2010

NOAA Ship: Oscar Elton Sette
Mission: Transit/Acoustic Cetacean Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean; transit from Guam to Oahu, Hawaii, including Wake Is.
Date: Friday, April 25, 2010

Science and Technology Log

The Oscar Elton Sette is making its way to Wake Island, and we hope to be there by tonight. One of the research operations is to recover a HARP (High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package) that is in place on Wake Island and replace it with a new HARP unit.

This morning, I was on “CTD duty” at 4:30 a.m. A CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth) station is deployed prior to the start of the visual survey effort, right at sunrise. The CTD data is collected using the ship’s SeaBird CTD shown below. The CTD is deployed to a depth of 1000 meters (depending on depth where we are) with a descent rate of about 30 meters per minute for the first 100 meters of the cast, then at 60 meters per minute after that. It takes three people, plus a winch driver to deploy the CTD, as well as the expert operation from the bridge to keep the ship steady and in one place during the entire operation!

Checking the CTD unit prior to launch.

Launching the CTD unit.

Background on CTDs

The CTD is a device that can reach 1,000 meters or more in depth, taking up to five water samples at different depths, and making other measurements on a continuous basis during its descent and ascent. Temperature and pressure are measured directly. Salinity is measured indirectly by measuring the conductivity of water to electricity.

Chlorophyll, a green photosynthetic pigment, is measured indirectly by a fluorometer that emits purple light and measures fluorescence in response to that light. These measurements are made continuously, providing a profile of temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll as a function of depth. The CTD unit is torpedo-shaped and is part of a larger metal water sampling array known as a rosette. Multiple water sampling bottles are often attached to the rosette to collect water at different depths. Information is sent back to the ship along a wire while the instrument is lowered to the depth specified by the scientist and then brought back to the surface.

Monitoring the CTD in the ship’s E-lab.

Data gathered from the CTD during its descent.

By analyzing information about the water’s physical parameters, scientists can make inferences about the occurrence of certain biological processes, such as the growth of algae. Knowledge like this can, in turn, lead scientists to a better understanding of such factors as species distribution and abundance in particular areas of the ocean.

I am continuing my acoustic work with the sonobuoys. Today I heard a Minke whale BOING! Below is what a Minke whale boing looks like on the computer. It sounds very much like someone blowing a low tonal whistle or a cell phone vibrating on the desk!

 

To hear an Atlantic minke whale call (which is different from those found here in the North Pacific, but really cool!) go to this website:

http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/vents/acoustics/whales/sounds/sounds_atlminke.html

Personal Log

I am making so many great friends among the Sette crew and the science team! I am getting spoiled from all the fantastic meals put together by Randy our cook, and no one ever wants to miss a meal! Our wonderful Doc Tran makes incredible Vietnamese dishes and delicious desserts. Today we had cream puffs for dinnertime dessert! Who would have ever guessed!

Marie Hill, our Chief Scientist and fearless leader was awarded the prestigious NOAA Team Member Award! We surprised her with balloons and decorations in her cabin, and Doc Tran and Lisa made a yummy cake in celebration! Congratulations Marie!!!

Marie Hill, Chief Scientist finding her cabin wildly decorated to congratulate her on her award.

We had a visitor today on the flying bridge-an exhausted juvenile red-footed booby! He sat on the mast, finding a place to rest in the middle of the ocean! It felt great to feel the warm wind hit my face and watch the sapphire blue water crash against the bow of the ship! What a great feeling!

Juvenile red-footed booby on the bridge

Deep blue Pacific ocean water!

Question of the Day: How can you figure out how much food to bring on a 2-week cruise? How do you keep the food fresh? What do you do with leftovers?

This is the situation that the Chief steward has to deal with on every cruise! How would you figure this out? Can you do the math?

New Term/Phrase/Word of the Day: Beaufort Sea State is an empirical measure for describing wind speed based mainly on observed sea conditions. It is also called the Beaufort Wind Force Scale. We stop conducting our visual observations when wind/sea conditions reach Beaufort 7, as wind and sea conditions are too rough to accurately make observations (and its windy out there!).

Something to Think About:

This part of the North Pacific is often described as an ocean desert. We have not seen any whales, and have had only a couple sightings of dolphins since we left Guam. We have also seen migrating sea birds, but not in huge numbers. What do you think may account for the lack of sea life in this expanse of tropical waters?

Animals Seen Today:

  • Sooty tern
  • Red-footed booby (juvenile)

Did you know?

That the team of whale visual observers never discuss the numbers of animals they see among themselves. Some people consistently count high, others count low, others are spot on! By not discussing how many animals they observed, they don’t influence each others’ observations. Back at the lab, researchers compare each observer’s counts from their written observations, and can tell which observers tend to under or overestimate numbers of animals they see. They can then make adjustments to total numbers based on everyone’s observations! This is similar to calibrating thermometers or other scientific equipment!

Today’s sunset from the Sette.