Mark McKay, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark McKay
Onboard Research Vessel Knorr
June 10 – July 1, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 15, 2009

Hanging Valley outside of Dutch Harbor
Hanging Valley outside of Dutch Harbor

Science Log

We are underway!!! Got up this morning to a flurry of activity as the Knorr was preparing to get underway. I hooked up with my researcher Dr. Ray Sambrotto from Columbia University. His interests are in phytoplankton and the different chlorophylls they produce. There is a lot of plankton work happening on this cruise, as well as some benthic (seafloor) studies and surveying of seabirds. It’s amazing how much science they squeeze into a cruise. One of the things I saw as we were heading out was a very cool example of a Hanging Valley. This geological feature is formed by glaciers. I saw it when we flew into Dutch Harbor but I didnt get a chance to get a picture of it. As we set out on the Knorr we passed right by it so I got my chance.

 Multicore Apparatus
Multicore Apparatus

The day before we departed was spent storing equipment, testing instruments, and getting settled in our quarters. Problems with equipment not arriving on time wont prevent the start of the mission. We got underway right about 11 am Alaska time and headed for our first station over the Bering Canyon.  Safety is everything onboard the Knorr so before anything really gets started we are required to undergo safety training. The ships crew is very concerned with making sure everyone is safe so they go through procedures in detail.

After the safety briefings and getting some of Dr. Sambrotto’s equipment running, I had a chance to play in the mud. Dr. Shull’s group from Western Washington University is looking at cores of sediment taken from the ocean bottom. Their interest is in how nutrients are cycled through deep-water sediments. They drop the sampling device, called a Multicore, which has specialized sampling bottles to the ocean bottom. The device pulls cores from the seafloor and when the sampling device is retrieved, the scientists have a sample of the sea floor.  My job came after the bottles were retrieved. The process was to slice through the cores at specific depths and save the samples for further analysis. Good way to get really dirty.