Chris Henricksen: Standing My First Watch, May 8, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Chris Henricksen

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

April 29–May 10, 2014

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Maine

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl & Acoustic Survey

Date: May 7, 2014

Air Temp: 9.1°C (48.38°F)

Relative Humidity: 73%

Wind Speed: 10.83mph

Barometer: 1011.7mb



Science and Technology Log

My section stands watch from midnight to noon–twelve hours on, twelve hours off.  Today I stood my first watch, acting as one of three “recorder” on the fish sorting line.  A recorder’s role is to assist his assigned “cutter” by entering requested measurement data (e.g., length, weight, etc.) of individual fish into a computer database.  The cutter processes fish by identifying the species, then performing any number of actions (i.e., cuts, as in, with a knife) in order to retrieve information about particular fish for later use by scientists.  Such data will consist of measuring, weighing, and sexing the fish, as well as checking the contents of its stomach.  Other particular data may be gathered, such as collecting otoliths (ear bones) from the head of the fish.

photo of net prep
Preparing the net for our first trawl

After getting underway, the captain called a series of drills, one of which was abandon ship.  During this exercise, I reported to the aft deck of the ship, donned a “Gumby” survival suit, which is bright orange/red, keeps you warm while in the water, and helps you to stay afloat.  Following that, we had a collision drill.  In a disaster scenario, everyone has a muster station, so that we can be counted, and then help control the situation, if need be.

photo of abandon ship drill
Abandon Ship Drill

Today was my first of about a dozen watches I will stand.  It went smoothly, but there was considerable down time.  The first stations (the areas in which the nets are lowered and trawling begins) were about 25 nautical miles from one another, so it took a couple of hours to steam from one station to the next.  During this time, I was able to relax, grab a bite, or hang out with other members of my watch. Personal Log The food aboard ship is very good, and there is plenty of it. Between mealtimes, the cook makes sure that plenty of drinks and snacks are available, so there is no reason to go hungry aboard the Henry B. Bigelow. The ship has a huge library of DVDs with many new movies.  We can also watch TV thanks to a satellite connection (DirectTV). The only things I am not allowed to do are 1) re-enter my stateroom after going on watch, as there is always an off-watch shipmate trying to catch some shuteye, and 2) make a surprise appearance on the bridge, which is where the NOAA officers navigate and steer the ship.  That’s for safety, and I am sure they would welcome me, as long as I called ahead first. I am tired, but feeling pretty good.  I boarded the ship wearing an anti-motion sickness patch, fearing that, after twenty years of not being at sea, I might be susceptible to seasickness.  The medicine made me feel awful, so I took it off, and now feel much better!  I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy the rocking of a ship.  It’s an especially good way to fall asleep–gently rocking…

2014-05-06 deck selfie
Deck Selfie!

Suzanne Acord: Underway off the Kona Coast of the Big Island, March 18, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 18, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 08:00
Wind: 20 knots
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Weather: Clear
Depth in fathoms: 2,521
Depth in feet: 15,126
Temperature: 23.5˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Kona cruise map
2014 Kona IEA Cruise Map

HARP (High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package) deployment: 06:00

Ali Bayless leads this early morning deployment of the HARP, or High-frequency Acoustic Recording Package. This is an instrument that monitors marine mammals and studies ambient ocean noise over long periods of time. Peruse the cruise course map above to find the red circle with H1. This is where the HARP was deployed. We will pick up another HARP in the location marked H2 later during the cruise. The H1 HARP will be at the bottom of the ocean for a whole year recording all acoustics in the vicinity. We are listening for various species of cetaceans in order to determine their presence near this unique oceanographic feature, the Jaggar Seamount. This is a first because a HARP has never been dropped in the area. Sixteen discs of data will ultimately provide a snap shot of what has been happening acoustically in the area. Unfortunately, we can’t take a sneak peak at the data prior to the HARP’s retrieval.

Marine Mammal Observation (MMO) training by Ali: 08:00

Ali is also our Marine Mammals Operations lead. While on the flying bridge, Ali encourages our team to keep an eye out for sperm and pilot whales. Each MMO participant will serve 45 minutes on portside and 45 minutes on starboard side in rotating shifts. We must be sure to complete the sighting form to ensure we keep track of our mammal friends. Ali provides illustrations for our team and points out a few key features of marine mammals so that we can more effectively identify them.

MMO watch
Suzanne and Beth on MMO watch in the flying bridge 

MMO begins: 09:30

Scientists rotate through the flying bridge throughout the day with handy binoculars. When we see a mammal, we radio acoustics to let them know the location. This is more fun than it sounds. Ocean + binoculars + flying bridge = awesome!

Science Party Interview with Aimee Hoover

Official title: JIMAR Research Data Specialist

Aimee Hoover
Aimee Hoover at the acoustics monitoring station

Aimee has spent the past two and a half years with JIMAR (Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research). She is technically a State of Hawaii employee who often has the opportunity to work with NOAA.

Her job is flexible. She can analyze data on a variety of projects. In addition to our IEA, Aimee has worked with swordfish and tuna long line fisheries, species composition, and the size and structure of animals. She frequently examines large oceanographic features such as transition zone chlorophyll front (TZCF). She analyzes the movements and the locations of the TZCF, which travel from the north to the south. She mentions that turtles often feed off of this mysterious matter.

Aimee’s favorite job task: Cruises.

On this cruise, Aimee is hoping to find: Squid in the acoustics.

Coolest thing Amy has ever seen at sea:  In Maui, Aimee witnessed a female humpback riding next to and under their ship to avoid potentially mating males. This lasted for two hours!

Personal Log

My first days on board have been a whirlwind. Our push off time was delayed by six hours. Despite this, the NOAA crew was sure to use every moment of our delay wisely. We practiced our abandon ship drill and fire drill in addition to receiving a ship safety and etiquette briefing by OPS Officer, Ryan Wattam. It looks like my muster point during emergencies is on the Texas deck, port side. There is so much to learn and so much to do aboard the Sette. I have eaten great food, visited the bridge, assisted with a CTD deployment, and have met countless amazing crew members and scientists. It is only day two!

Pre boarding
Prior to boarding at Ford Island
Abandon ship
Note to self: Get suit and lifejacket and head to the Texas deck when I hear seven blows of the horn

Did You Know?

What is the difference between a rope and a line? “A line is a rope with a purpose,” according to Mills Dunlap, NOAA crew member.

A Tasty Surprise

Lines were immediately cast once underway. During an intense moment, Mills Dunlap ran toward a starboard line off the stern of the ship. Excitingly, an Ono would serve as our first catch. An omen? I think so. The food aboard the Sette is delicious!

Mills catches an Ono
NOAA crew member, Mills Dunlap, with a recently caught Ono