NOAA Teacher at Sea Richard Chewning Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson June 4 – 24, 2010
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor) Date: June 15th, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Position: eastern Bering Sea Time: 1530 Latitude: N 55 47.020 Longitude: W 165 24.970 Cloud Cover: overcast Wind: 14 knots Temperature: 6.4 C Barometric Pressure: 1003.7 mbar
Science and Technology Log
In addition to researchers on the lookout for seabirds, the Oscar Dyson is also hosting researchers hoping to catch a glimpse of some the world’s largest animals: marine mammals. Either ocean dwelling or relying on the ocean for food, marine mammals include cetaceans (whales, porpoises, and dolphins), manatees, sea lions, sea otters, walrus, and polar bears. Although marine mammals can be enormous in size (the largest blue whale ever recorded by National Marine Mammal Laboratory scientists was 98 feet long or almost the length of a ten story building laid on its side!), studying marine mammals at sea can be challenging as they spend only a short time at the surface. Joining the Dyson from the NMML on this cruise are Suzanne Yin, Paula Olson, and Ernesto Vazquez. As a full time observer, Yin spends most of the year on assignment on various vessels sailing on one body of water or another and only occasionally is to be found transitioning through her home of San Francisco, California. Paula calls San Diego, California home and spends most of her time when not observing at sea working on a photo identification database of blue and killer whales. Ernesto is a contract biologist from La Paz, Mexico and has been working on and off with NOAA for several years. Ernesto has worked with several projects for the Mexican government including ecological management of the Gulf of California Islands.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kathleen Harrison Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson July 6– 17, 2011
Location: Gulf of Alaska Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 7, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed: 18.7 knots
True Wind direction: 145.55°
Sea Temperature: 8.12° C
Air Temperature: 9.65° C
Air Pressure: 1013.2 mb
Ship’s Heading: 299°, Ship’s Speed: 11.8 knots
Latitude: 54.59°N, Longitude: 145.55°W
Science and Technology Log
The primary mission of the Oscar Dyson Walleye Pollock Survey is to estimate the biomass (mass of the living fish) of the Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska. Read about why Pollock are important here: Pollock Now, you can’t exactly go swimming through the Gulf of Alaska (brrrr) and weigh all of the fish, so the NOAA scientists on board use indirect methods of measuring the fish to come up with an estimate (a very accurate estimate). Two of these methods include using nautical charts, and trawling.
Nautical charts are used for navigation, and location. The Oscar Dyson has several systems of charts, including electronic and paper. Each chart contains latitude, longitude, and ocean depth, as well as lands masses and islands. A chart that shows ocean depth is called a bathymetric chart.
These need updating continually, because the sea floor may change due to volcanic eruption or earthquakes. The Officer of the Deck (OOD, responsible for conning and navigating the ship) needs to know how deep the ship sits in the water, and study the bathymetric charts, so that the ship does not go into shallow water and run aground. The lines on the bathymetric chart are called contour lines, depth is shown by the numbers on the lines. Sometimes every line will have a number, sometimes every 5th line will have a number. A steep slope is indicated by lines that are close together, a flat area would have lines that are very far apart. The OOD also need to know where seamounts (underwater volcanoes) and trenches (very deep cracks in the ocean floor) are because these may affect local currents. GPS receivers are great technology for location, but just in case the units fail, and the ship’s technology specialist is sick, the OOD needs to know how to use a paper chart. He or she would calculate the ship’s position based on ship’s speed, wind speed, known surface currents, visible land masses, and maybe even use star positions. Here in Alaska, star position is helpful in the winter, but not in summer. (Do any of my readers know why?)
The Oscar Dyson’s charted course follows a series of parallel straight lines around the coast of Kodiak Island, and other Aleutian Islands. These are called transects, and allows the scientists to collect data over a representative piece of the area, because no one has the money to pay for mapping and fishing every square inch.
The Chief Scientist on the Oscar Dyson is always checking our location on the electronic chart at his desk. It looks something like this:
Several things are indicated on this chart with different symbols: the transect lines that the ship is traveling (the straight, parallel lines), where the ship has fished (green fish), where an instrument was dropped into the water to measure temperature and salinity (yellow stars), and various other ship activities. It also shows the ocean depth. This electronic version is great because the scientists can use the computer to examine a small area in more detail, or look at the whole journey on one screen.
They can also put predicted activities on the map, and then record actual activities. The scientists also use several systems for the same thing; recording the ship’s path and activities in the computer, as well as making notes by hand in a notebook.
When the scientists want to catch fish, they ask the crew to put a trawling net into the water. The basic design of the trawl is a huge net attached to 2 massive doors.
The doors hold the net open, as it is dragged behind the boat. There are 2 different trawling nets aboard the Oscar Dyson: one that trawls on the bottom called the PNE (Poly Nor’Easter), and one that trawls midway in the water column called the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl). Another net called the METHOT can be used to collect plankton and small fish that are less than 1 year old. The scientists determine the preferred depth of the net based on the location of fish in the water column; the OOD gets the net to this requested depth and keeps it there by adjusting the ship’s speed and the amount of trawl warp (wire attached to the net).
A trawl typically lasts 15 – 20 minutes, depending on how many fish the scientists estimate are in the water at that point (more about this later). Today, a bottom trawl was performed, and 2 tons of fish were caught! The net itself weighs 600 pounds, and is handled by a large crane on the deck at the stern (back) of the ship. Operating the trawl requires about 6 people, 3 on the deck, and 3 on the bridge at the controls. When the scientists judge that there are the right amount of fish in the net, it is hauled back onto the deck, weighed, and is emptied into a large table.
Then the scientists (and me) go to work: sorting the fish by species into baskets, counting the fish, and measuring the length of some of them. NOAA technology specialists have designed a unique data collection system, complete with touch screens. A fish is placed on a measuring board, and the length is marked by a magnetic stylus that is worn on the finger. The length is automatically recorded by the computer, and displayed on a screen beside the board. I measured the length of about 50 Atka Mackerel after the first trawl.
By sampling the fish that come up in the trawl net, the scientists can estimate the size of the population. Using the length, and gender distribution, they can calculate the biomass.
Personal Log Some great things about living on the Oscar Dyson: the friendly and helpful people, the awesome food, the view from the bridge.
Some challenging things about living on the Oscar Dyson: taking a shower, putting on mascara, staying in bed while the ship rolls.
I started my 12-hour shifts, working from 4 am to 4 pm. Well, maybe working is not the right word, I actually worked about 3 hours, and asked a lot of questions during my first shift. The scientists are very patient, and explain everything very well. We did one trawl today, and it was a good one. I enjoyed sorting and counting the fish, and then measuring the length of them. I will probably take a shower, eat dinner, and read for a short time before climbing into bed. I have the top bunk, and it is plenty of room, except I can’t sit up straight. Here is a picture of the stateroom. After my shift, I will probably take a shower, eat dinner, watch a movie and fall asleep around 8:30.
The weather today has been windy, so there are 6 – 8 foot swells, and the ship is rolling a bit. I have not been seasick yet – yippee! The wind is supposed to calm down tomorrow, so hopefully we will have a smoother ride tomorrow night.
I learned the difference between pitch, roll, and heave: pitch is the rocking motion of the ship from bow to stern (front to back), roll is the motion from side to side, and heave is the motion up and down. The Oscar Dyson is never still, demonstrating all 3 motions, in no particular pattern. Imagine standing in a giant rocking chair, and someone else (that you can’t see) is pushing it.
Day 7: Saturday, August 17, 2002 Time: 0700 military time (based on a 24-hour time schedule)
Latitude: 21°14.715’North (N) Cruising just south of the Big Island of Hawaii visible this morning from the port (left) side of the ship when facing forward Longitude: 157°57.378’West
Weather Observations taken from the bow of the ship with Shippensburg University’s hand-held Kestrel 3000 instrument:
Air Temperature: 27°C (80.6°F) Average Wind Speed: 6.3 knots (7.3 mph) Cloud Cover: 8/10 with mostly altocumulus (middle level, puffy) and cirrocumulus (high level, puffy) clouds Precipitation in previous 24 hours: 0 cm (0 inches) Relative Humidity: 89% Dew Point Temperature: 24.8°C (76.6°F) Relatively calm seas; beautiful sunrise; Porpoises spotted on the port (left) side of the ship
Quote written on the Plan of the Day (POD) posted outside the Main Mess (meal) area: “All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare.” – Benedict Spinoza
After a restful night’s sleep on my upper bunk, I awoke ready for a new day! It struck me as I was lulling into a peaceful sleep that my mattress felt just like a waterbed. I thought that I was rolling around on a bowl of jello, a neat feeling which made me relax. I am fortunate that I haven’t experienced any seasickness yet. A few others haven’t been so lucky. Michelle, our fearless Medical Officer on board, has distributed medication for seasickness to those needing it. It is recommended that you breathe in fresh air and watch the horizon for a while if ever you feel queasy.
After touring the outer decks of the ship watching the sun rise above the morning clouds on the horizon, I stopped to speak with crew member Roger Stone who said that every day is slightly different because the sky is always changing. He recalled seeing a white rainbow at night under a full moon. I had never heard of this so I’m intrigued about what would cause such a remarkable feature.
Breakfast was interesting because I spoke with Rachel, a Cadet, and Steve, our Field Operations Officer (FOO) who received a degree in Meteorology at the University of Nebraska. We discussed Steve’s research and he said that I could come up to the bridge to take weather observations anytime. Yahoo! For some reason beyond me, weather obs are not everyone’s favorite activity of the day. Rachel taught me the difference between a pitching and rolling boat. She said that a pitching boat rocks front to back (up and down), while a rolling boat rocks side to side. She is currently taking a course requiring that she write a complete report of all of her activities while on board. I hope to learn many things from her, including celestial navigation — how to find your way using the stars. Can’t wait!
I learned from Steve that the reason it was a bit rocky in the ship last night was due to our travels through currents emerging from between the Hawaiian Islands. The currents disturbed the forward motion of the boat. Unknown to me, currents are named for the direction toward which they flow, unlike winds, which are named for the direction from which they blow. So, if ocean currents and winds are moving in the same direction, they have opposite directional names – very interesting!
I spent part of the day organizing my thoughts regarding my upcoming lesson plans. There are so many exciting ideas generated each day by the scientists as we talk. I will definitely interview the scientists on the ship about their current research as well as use the opportunity to describe the many mechanical and electronic sensors on board to everyone watching the webcasts. Please let me know what you would like to know more about and I’ll try to include it in a future webcast.
John pointed out flying fish on the port side of the boat today. They are quite small and it is believed that they fly to flee from whatever is gaining on them. They don’t have great ability to determine direction and they stay in the air for just a few seconds before splashing into the water again.
Our location and the weather observations at 1300 today were: Latitude: 18°37.8’N Longitude: 155°23.7’W Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm) which is about the greatest distance you can see due to the curvature of the earth Wind direction: 060 (on a 0-360° scale) which means ENE Wind speed: 19 kts Sea wave height: 5-7′ Swell wave height: 6-8′ Sea Water Temperature: 26.6°C Sea level pressure: 1015.0 mb Dry bulb temperature: 26.2°C Wet bulb temperature: 23.5°C
Sarah and Rachel gave me a tour of the ship’s bridge this afternoon. They discussed every aspect of their job and it was fascinating! They have radar on the ship to detect nearby ships and severe weather. On the front panel of the bridge there is an automatic pilot system for the ship. There are also throttles for the main engines, which allow us to travel at approximately 10-12 kts under ideal conditions. The bow thruster controls movement of the front of the ship from left to right. They described radio communication procedures with other ships, explained who has right of way when two ships are merging, and provided details about the nautical charts used during each journey. I made the mistake of calling nautical charts “maps” and was politely corrected. I will place this new term in my memory bank for future reference. I also was privy to a chart showing our upcoming transit line with waypoints approximately every 200 miles. The ship remains in a straight path until a certain point where a slight change of direction is made, otherwise, the bearing would constantly change as the ship’s path slowly curved.
After a workout and excellent meal of chicken stirfry, cauliflower, rice and pecan pie prepared by Helen and Doretha, I met with John who informed me that there would be a deployment of a test buoy tomorrow around 0900 and that he would like to videotape me on the buoy before it’s sent out to sea to explain the instrumentation on the mast. Earlier today I met with Dave and Paul, our Chief Scientists on board, and they explained the entire array of sensors and the purpose behind the buoy. It will be deployed and removed during this trip with data collected every few seconds and stored in a datalogger on the mast. During the return voyage of the KA to Honolulu in late September the buoy will be removed from the water and the data analyzed immediately following the trip. A compass comparison test and a buoy motion monitor test will be conducted. A specially engineered tube containing 3 different compasses and an accelerometer will enable the pitch, roll, and yaw of the buoy to be determined. As of yet, I believe that these movements on the buoy are unknown.
Today’s question: What is the pitch, roll, and yaw of a ship? Be the first to answer and I’ll acknowledge your response in my next log. I’ll write again tomorrow after a peaceful night under the millions of visible stars above.