Ruth Meadows, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 15, 2009

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 54o F
Humidity: 76%
Wind: 10 kts

Science and Technology Log 

In addition to the scientists on board, we have an entire crew of NOAA personnel to run the ship and all the equipment.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is a part of the United States Department of Commerce.  CDR (Commander) Anne Lynch is in charge of the Henry B. Bigelow. She joined the NOAA Corp after graduating from college and has worked her way up to Commander during her 18 years of service. She has been on many different ships and has traveled as far away as Antarctica. ENS (Ensign) Kyle Sanders is new to the NOAA corps. He graduated from college and became a part of NOAA about 9 months ago.  He has been on the Henry B. Bigelow for at least 6 cruises. He majored in meteorology in college so he has a science background and is learning about piloting the ships of NOAA.

CDR Anne Lynch and ENS Kyle Sanders on the bridge of the Bigelow
CDR Anne Lynch and ENS Kyle Sanders on the bridge

The Henry B. Bigelow is a fairly new ship. It was commissioned in July, 2007 and has many technical features that make it a wonderful ship for doing scientific research.  In the lab there are computers set up to take data from many different types of organisms.  There are microscopes to dissect tissue samples or view very small organisms.  When the nets are towed behind ship, they will be on 6000 m (about 5 miles) ENS Kyle Sanders of wire and will go down almost 3000 m. Then they will be brought back up to the ship’s deck. Of course, someone has to be able to operate and repair all the equipment.  The crew on board has expertise in all type of mechanical engineering to make sure the equipment the scientists are using works properly.  

The state-of-the art lab
The state-of-the art lab

In each cabin, the lounge, on the bridge and in the acoustics room, there are computers that allow everyone to communicate and transfer information.  The bridge has specialized computers that help navigate the ship and conserve fuel for long distance travel. The computer screens can show the depth of the water, temperature of sea and air, wind speed, ship speed and other necessary data that makes the ship run smoothly.  Information technology helps the ship travel safely even when it is too foggy to see very far ahead of you. One of the most important jobs on the ship is the Information Technology specialist. It is his job to make sure all the computers are working so that the trip will run smoothly.

Something to think about when on a ship this size are the doors. The outside openings are equipped with watertight doors that must be closed before entering or after leaving an area. As you can see, the locking mechanism looks like a wheel. This turns the lock for the door to seal.

One of the doors on the ship
One of the doors on the ship

Personal Log 

Last night’s weather was really rough.  The waves were 10 – 12 feet in height and it was a little more difficult to sleep.  You had to make sure you had something blocking the end of the bed so you didn’t fall out. This morning the weather improved a lot and by afternoon, the sun and blue skies were finally visible.  We took advantage of the good weather to go outside for the next part of the Bigelow Olympics – golfing !! I scored better on this event than this first one.  You had to putt the ball into the hole from 4 different places, while the wind blew and the ship rocked back and forth. It was a good way to have fun with others on the ship as we travel to the area of sampling.  It was nice to see the sun and blue skies for a change. 

Left: Tom Letessier, a PhD student from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. His concentration is in zooplankton. Center: CJ Sweetman tries for a hole in one. He is a PhD student from Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Right: This is Zach Baldwin, another PhD student from New York City. His concentration is in mid-water fishes.
Left: Tom Letessier, a PhD student from the University of St. Andrews. His concentration is in zooplankton. Center: CJ Sweetman tries for a hole in one. He is a PhD student from VA Institute of Marine Science. Right: Zach Baldwin, another PhD student from NYC. His concentration is in mid-water fishes.

Ruth Meadows, June 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 14, 2009

A viperfish—see its huge teeth?
A viperfish—see its huge teeth?

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature 7.6o C
Humidity  94%
Wind  17.3 kts

Science and Technology Log 

We are about half way to our location on the Mid-Atlantic ridge.  Before we get there, we will do a comparative sampling over practice catch on the abyssal plain (a vast flat area on the bottom of the ocean). This will give us an idea of what lives in the deep open ocean away from the mid-ocean ridge for comparison with what we catch in our main study area. There has been very little sampling of the deep open ocean with large nets and not much is known about the animals that swim high above the bottom in such areas, even though they make up the largest living space on earth.

Various species that will have data recorded about them
Various species that will have data recorded about them

All the scientists were divided into two groups.  Each group will work a 12 hour shift. I will be working the 12 noon to 12 midnight shift.  We met with our work group today to learn how to use some of the scientific equipment on board.  The lead scientist for my group is Shannon DeVaney from Los Angeles, California.  Her area of expertise is in mid-water fishes.  We will be using a specialized computer program to record the data from the organisms that are caught in the nets. All the organisms will be at the end of the net in a special removable container called a cod-end.  

This mid-water fish, a viperfish (Chauliodus sloani ), was 225 cm in length and had a mass 0.0230 kg. It was caught in an earlier tow test. Until today, I had only seen this fish in books. The teeth are really sharp and large for such a small fish. To learn more about the viperfish. Once the organism is measured and the information is recorded in the computer.  A label can be printed and the animal will be either frozen or preserved for further investigation.  Then it will be on to the next one.   

Here I am chucking my potato!
Here I am chucking my potato!

Personal Log 

Everyone is participating in the “Bigelow Olympics”.  This is a fun competition for both the scientists on board as well as the crew. Today was the first event, a potato chucking competition.  We each had 5 potatoes that we loaded one at a time to in a large slingshot to shoot at a target off the back of the boat. Each “hit” earned you 20 points for a possible total of 100 points – I only hit the target twice so I got 40 points.  The event is open for 24 hours since some people will be working nights and some are working days.  This is one of my attempts.  Some people hit the target 5/5. There will be several more competitions, so maybe I will do better on the next one. If you look carefully, you can see my potato as it sails out to sea. 

 Here’s my potato as it flies toward the target!
Here’s my potato as it flies toward the target!

The temperature has dropped some since yesterday, so it is difficult to stay outside for any length of time.  Of course the wind is always blowing but sometimes you can find a place that is protected from the wind to enjoy some outdoor time.  We all want to see icebergs and we may be in the area by Monday or Tuesday.

Did you know? 

Did you know that icebergs are composed of fresh water?  The density of fresh water is less than the density of seawater which is why the iceberg floats.

Ruth Meadows, June 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature 11.1o C
Humidity 96%
Wind 12.99 kts

Here we are during a safety drill donning our survival suits.
Here we are during a safety drill donning our survival suits.

Science and Technology 

We have just left the continental shelf off the coast of North America.  The depth of the water changed quite dramatically, from around 89 meters in depth to over 1600 meters in only a few minutes of time.  The current depth of the ocean is now 2600 meters.

Every week, a safety drill is held to make sure everyone knows how to protect themselves and others during an emergency.  Today was a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. Everyone was required to take their survival suits and life preserver to their assigned life boat positions.  Then we had to put on our suits to make sure we knew how in case of an emergency.  The survival suits are necessary because we are in the North Atlantic where the water temperature is currently 13o C. .

Personal Log 

meadows_log2aAs we travel to our location, we have a lot of free time to visit and get to know our fellow participants. Several of the people on board are students that are currently working on their PhD from various universities in the United States and abroad.  Most of the scientists have been on many cruises similar to this one to learn as much as they can about their specialty.   The weather has been really foggy both days so it has been difficult to see anything from a distance. This morning we had some common dolphins that were in the front of the boat.  After a few minutes, more dolphins joined them from both side of the boat. They traveled with us for about 15 minutes and then went on their way. I’m standing on the top deck of the ship. 

Did You Know? 

NOAA has a web page with information especially for students?  Learn more here. There are activities for elementary and middle/high school students.  Try one while you on summer vacation!!

Ruth Meadows, June 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature 14.7o C
Humidity 96%
Wind 12.4 kts

The Henry B. Bigelow
The Henry B. Bigelow

Science and Technology Log 

We left Newport, Rhode Island today to begin our journey of 1750 miles to the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone (CGFZ) located along the Mid- Atlantic Ridge.  Mar-Eco is an international exploratory study of the animals inhabiting the northern Atlantic Ocean.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a volcanic mountain range in the middle of the ocean marking the spreading zone between the Eurasian and American continental plates. New ocean floor is constantly being formed there. The groups of animals to be studied includes fishes, crustaceans, cephalopods (squids) and a wide range of gelatinous animals (e.g. jellyfish) living either near the seabed or half-way above the ridge.

The animals will be collected using special nets that will be lowered to a specific depth behind the boat and then pulled back up after a certain amount of time.  These animals will be transferred to the lab located in the ship to be studied, counted and cataloged by the research scientists.

Personal Log 

My cabin on the Bigelow
My cabin on the Bigelow

Life on a research ship is different from life on land.  The cabins are small but well planned.  Each cabin has two scientists in them.  Bunk beds and built in cabinets are in each unit as well as a computer with flat screen that can be used as a TV also. Each room has its own bathroom as well.

There is a lounge area with sofas, large TV and conference room.  The galley (think dining room) has tables with chairs and a serving area.  The food has been really good so far – fresh fruit and vegetables.  I wonder what will happen after 4 weeks to the freshness of the fruits. Of course there is a scientific lab with equipment that is used specifically for the job to be done.  The equipment on the boat for collecting samples is almost overwhelming.  I can’t wait to actually see it at work.  I haven’t been able to see much off the ship as it has been very foggy – hopefully it will clear up soon.

Did You Know? 

You can track the Henry B. Bigelow on the Internet here. Just select the ship you want to follow and the current cruise. It will give you our position as well as information about the weather.