Jeannine Foucault, November 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 19, 2009

Seafloor ROV images

Seafloor ROV images

Science Log

Our last day of ROV dives and it was definitely worthwhile. PISCES held off the coast of South Carolina at the Edisto MPA (Marine Protection Area). We were able to get in four dives with the ROV. The scientists paid close attention to the marine habitat within the ecosystems of all four dives. The interesting conclusion was that all four dives had very different habitats. What is even more interesting is that these differing habitats affect the number of animals that live there. Some of the areas we saw were smooth sandy bottom and interspersed on the smooth bottom are rugged rocky outcrops.

The rocky reefs range in height from some being really short to some being very tall. Some of the rocky reefs can even be in a small area the size of a dinner plate and others are hundreds of square miles.

Rocky reefs from the ROV

Rocky reefs from the ROV

The important fact of the matter is that the rugged hard bottom is favored by many species of animals including corals, sponges, and other invertebrates. Scientists find that sunken ships or other debris that ends up at the bottom of the ocean becomes perfect habitat for animals. These areas protect fish species during spawning and from predators. Today’s discovery is that the most fish species we have seen was found not in the smooth sandy bottom but in fact in the rugged rocky outcrops and rocky reef ranges.

Things I have seen today:

hammerhead shark
sea turtle
sea cucumber
spotted goat fish
lobster
pencil urchin
banded butterfly fish
sand tilefish
sea biscuit

Question of the Day

What is a TED?

Jeannine Foucault, November 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeannine Foucault
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 18, 2009

Instrumentation

Instrumentation

Science Log

Lionfish and more lionfish…..the South Atlantic coastline is getting overtaken by these funny little creatures. Scientists find that they are competing with the Grouper and Tilefish throughout the coastline and unfortunately winning. Speculation has it that at one time dive charters brought this species of fish to the coast for tourist purposes while other speculation tells that people who own aquariums once owned the lionfish kept them so long that they grew so big they had to get rid of them. What better way to get rid of them was to dump them into the South Atlantic Ocean? Nevertheless, they are here and destroying the populations of Grouper and Tilefish.

Seafloor images

Seafloor images

Since 2004 NOAA scientists have been working on this MPA (Marine Protected Area) project to gather data to identify the significant changes in species populations of the lionfish, grouper, and tilefish. Each year they come out to the same plotted MPA’s to check the habitat populations. Unfortunately, the lionfish numbers are increasing and the grouper and tilefish populations are decreasing. So what happens now? Do the grouper and tilefish relocate? Do they become endangered? Do we capture the lionfish and relocate them? There is no real answer to the problem at hand, but this is one example of the many ways NOAA scientists work on protecting marine life.

Today I was able to work hands on with launch and recovery of the ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle). Yep, hardhat and all! My job was to make sure the tether line didn’t get tangled and was being fed in and out of the ocean properly. Launch and recovery of the ROV can be a very dangerous operation if everyone is not communicating and alert.

I was also able to drive the ROV from inside the ship across the ocean floor about 223ft in depth. Driving was not as easy as it looked. Maneuvering the ROV in the direction to which the scientists need as well as not to tangle the tether. Once the end of the tether is near I had to radio up to the bridge to move the ship in whichever direction the scientists needed to explore next.

Finally, as the day was winding down acoustics lab was testing their equipment from the ship. The mammal biologists were able to identify sounds from several playing dolphins! I was able to listen to their playful audio for a while before they dissipated into the ocean.

What did I eat for dinner? Fresh sushi, of course!

Christine Hedge, September 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Chukchi Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 15, 2009

MST2 Tom Kruger and MST3 Marshall Chaidez retrieve a meteorological buoy on September 14.

MST2 Tom Kruger and MST3 Marshall Chaidez retrieve a meteorological buoy on September 14.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 730 22’N
Longitude: 1560 27’W
Temperature: 310F

Science and Technology Log 

The past few days have brought much change.  The depth of the ocean changed dramatically as we got closer to Alaska. The ocean went from depths of over 3500 meters to depths of less than 100 meters.  More birds are showing up and we are getting about 9 hours of darkness each day.  This morning at about 4 AM, the watch observed the Aurora Borealis and stars!!!  I am so jealous.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Why do you think we have more hours of darkness now? 

As we head home to Barrow, the science party is busily completing their “Cruise Reports” and making sure that their data is stored safely for the trip home.  Much has been accomplished on this trip:

  • 132 XBT deployments (measures temperature, depth)
  • 8 CTD deployments (measures conductivity, temperature, depth)
  • 5 Dredge operations and hundreds of pounds of rock samples collected and catalogued
  •  1 Seaglider deployed and retrieved
  • 2 HARP instruments retrieved and 3 deployed
  • 3 Ice buoys deployed
  • 8 Sonobuoys deployed
  • 9585.0 lineal kilometers of sea floor mapped
  • 1 METBUOY retrieved (meteorological buoy)

Coast Guard Marine Science Technicians  

MST3 Marshal Chaidez operates the winch during a dredging operation.

MST3 Marshal Chaidez operates the winch during a dredging operation.

Science parties come and go on the Healy, each doing a different type of research.  A constant for all the scientific cruises is the good work done by the Coast Guard MSTs (Marine Science Technicians). Running the winch, taking daily XBT and weather measurements, working the dredge, and helping to deploy buoys are just some of the many tasks these technicians do. The scientists could not get their experiments done without the assistance of our team of MSTs.

MST3 Daniel Purse, MST2 Daniel Jarrett, MST3 Marshal Chaidez, MST2 Thomas Kruger and Chief Mark Rieg have done a masterful job of helping the science party accomplish their goals. I asked them to tell me a little about their training for this job. Each MST attends a 10-week training school in Yorktown, VA. Most of their training involves how to clean up oil spills and inspect cargo ships which means they are usually stationed at a port. Being assigned to a ship is not the norm for an MST.  But, because the mission of the Healy is specifically science, a team of MSTs is essential.

MST2 Daniel Jarrett rigging the crane.

MST2 Daniel Jarrett rigging the crane.

Personal Log 

My commute to work is different lately. We have about 9 hours of darkness each day. It gets dark around midnight and stays dark until about 8:30 in the morning.  So, walking the deck to the science lab is a bit of a challenge at 7:45. It will be strange to drive to work in a few days! On September 16th, we will depart the Healy via helicopter if all goes according to plan.  It will be strange to be on land again.

We will be back in Barrow, AK on September 16th. I cannot believe that our expedition is almost over.  I have learned so much from the members of the science party and the crew of the Healy. They have been very gracious and patient while I took their pictures and asked questions. Now comes the task of sharing what I have learned with folks back home.  I know one thing for sure; the Arctic is no longer an abstract idea for me. It is a place of beauty and mystery and a place some people call home.  I hope to convey how important it is that we continue to study this place to learn how it came to be and how it is currently changing.

Jon Pazol and I next to the bowhead whale skull in Barrow. When we return to shore the bowhead hunting season will have started.

Jon Pazol and I next to the bowhead whale skull in Barrow. When we return to shore the bowhead hunting season will have started.

Thanks to the folks at NOAA Teacher at Sea, Captain Sommer, and chief scientists Larry Mayer and Andy Armstrong for allowing me to take part in this cruise.  You can be sure that I will be following Arctic research and the adventures of the Healy for many years to come.

Christine Hedge, September 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Chukchi Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 14, 2009

Dr. Hall standing by the hovercraft before it is inflated

Dr. Hall standing by the hovercraft before it is inflated

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 720 46’N
Longitude: 1580 24’W
Temperature: 350F

Science and Technology Log 

Doing science in the Arctic is challenging.  The weather is difficult, the ice is ever changing, and the expense of operating an icebreaker, aircraft, or helicopter is quite high.  So, how else can people get out onto the ice to study the ocean and the geology of the seafloor? One interesting project uses a hovercraft (think air hockey), which skims over the ice on a cushion of air. Using a hovercraft to study the most inaccessible places in the Arctic is not a new idea. But, Dr. John K. Hall, a member of our science party has taken this idea and run with it.   John has a long history of polar exploration under his belt. Including 13.5 months floating around the Arctic on a 90 square kilometer, 60-meter thick ice sheet known as Fletcher’s Ice Island (T-3) during the 1960’s. His latest project has been to purchase and equip a hovercraft to go where icebreakers cannot (areas of VERY thick ice).

Norwegian students parked on the ice doing research. The white tent protects the scientists while they collect data through a drill hole in the ice.

Norwegian students parked on the ice doing research. The white tent protects the scientists while they collect data through a drill hole in the ice.

The hovercraft was completed in 2007.  She is called the R/H Sabvabaa, which is the Inupiaq word for “flows swiftly over it.”  This hovercraft was designed specifically for doing science in Arctic conditions. It is equipped with all the comforts of home and all the latest technology.  From this research platform scientists have access to echosounding and seismic equipment to study the sea floor.  They can also park the Sabvabaa easily on a floe, get out on the ice to drill, photograph, and collect samples from under the ice.  This small 40-foot vessel (it fits in a semi-truck container) has great potential as a way for scientists to collect data in heavy ice conditions.  For more information about the Sabvabaa check out this website.

Classroom on the Ice 

Could you imagine being one of the first people to ride the hovercraft over the pack ice?  Since 2008, 16 lucky Norwegian high-school students have had that honor.  A competition was held as part of the Norwegian International Polar Year (IPY) program.  This competition set out to find Norwegian students ages 14-18 who are interested in careers in polar geophysics. A pair of students and a pair of researchers worked from the Sabavaa for one-week intervals. During their time on the Sabvabaa, the winning students participated in geophysical, geological, and oceanographic studies on drifting ice. They also had 4 encounters with polar bears!  What a great opportunity for these students. If you are interested in the student blogs from these trips (which are written in Norwegian) do a Google search for Sabavaa and have Google translate them.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Remember, not all scientists work in labs wearing white lab coats!  Many researchers lead exciting and adventurous lives. 

Paul Henkart teaching Nikki Kuenzel and Christina Lacerda.

Paul Henkart teaching Nikki Kuenzel and Christina Lacerda.

Personal Log 

As an educator, one of the best parts of this expedition has been to watch the mentoring that goes on. The scientists and professors in the science party have decades of research experience to share. It is not unusual to find one of these veteran Arctic explorers sharing their expertise with graduate students from the University of New Hampshire. Not only do these “mentor scientists” have great technical expertise. They are also really good at explaining complex ideas in a very simple way.   This has been wonderful for me since my background is in biology – so geophysics has been a challenge. The graduate students on board are not only learning science from the masters – they are hearing great adventure stories about past polar adventures before we had helpful technologies such as GPS and multibeam echosounders. Everyone on the Healy is in “learning mode”.  The Coast Guard crew, teachers at sea, scientists, and students are constantly asking questions and sharing expertise.

Christine Hedge, September 7, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Christine Hedge
Onboard USCGC Healy
August 7 – September 16, 2009 

Mission: U.S.-Canada 2009 Arctic Seafloor Continental Shelf Survey
Location: Beaufort Sea, north of the arctic circle
Date: September 7, 2009

The empty dredge being lowered into the ocean.

The empty dredge being lowered into the ocean.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Latitude: 790 ’24N
Longitude: 1540 27’W
Temperature: 290F

Science and Technology Log 

Today we deployed our first dredge in hopes of collecting some samples of bedrock from the Arctic Ocean. A dredge is a basket made of metal chain link with a sharp edged bottomless tray on top. A wire cable connects this dredge to the Healy. Our echosounding instruments show us what the sea floor looks like. Maps reveal ridges, seamounts, flat abyssal plains, and raised continental shelves.  But, how did all these features form?  How old are they?  What type of rock are they made from?  What kinds of forces created this ocean surrounded by continents?  Where are the plate boundaries? Collecting rock samples will help us to answer some of these questions.

Sifting through the muddy sediment in search of rocks

Sifting through the muddy sediment in search of rocks

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you predict what type of rock we might find by sampling oceanic crust?  Continental crust? 

Here is how dredging works:

  • The dredge is deployed over a seafloor feature with a steep slope. Lowering the dredge takes a long time as the huge spool of cable unwinds.  The top speed for the cable is 50 meters/minute.  Today, the cable with the dredge attached rolled out 3850 meters before it stopped. The Healy then moves slowly up the slope dragging the dredge behind.  The metal plates at the top of the dredge catch on rock outcrops as it is dragged up the side of the slope.   Pieces of rock and sediment fall into the basket.  The dredge is pulled up by the cable and lowered back on to the deck of the Healy. The dredge is dumped and scientists pick through all the mud and find the rocks.
Full dredge is safely landed on the deck of the Healy.

Full dredge is safely landed on the deck of the Healy.

This first dredge brought back 400 pounds of mud and rock. Unfortunately, most was mud and only 10% was rock. Dredging is tricky business. Sometimes the dredge gets stuck and needs to be cut free.  Sometimes it collects only mud and no bedrock. We will be dredging at different sites for the next few days in the hope that good examples of bedrock will be collected.  The rocks we find will be catalogued and the chemistry of the rocks will be analyzed.  Hopefully, the rocks will help to answer some of the questions we have about the geologic history of the Arctic Ocean.

Personal Log 

Examples of rocks that were collected from our first dredge site.

Examples of rocks that were collected from our first dredge site.

When you work at a school, you get used to drills. Fire, severe weather, and intruder drills help to ensure that students and teachers will know what to do in the event of a real emergency.  The Coast Guard has drills each Friday to ensure the Healy will be ready to handle any emergency.  I have observed the crew practicing what to do in the event of fire, flooding, collision with another ship and various other scenarios. Last Friday, I was lucky enough to watch the crew in action.

The crew is suiting up for a Friday drill. Each member of the crew is trained to do many different jobs in case of an emergency.

The crew is suiting up for a Friday drill. Each member of the crew is trained to do many different jobs in case of an emergency.

Emergency medical situations are often a part of the training.  Friday’s drill included this mock-amputation of a crewmembers hand.  (Note the fake rubber hand)

Emergency medical situations are often a part of the training. Friday’s drill included this mock-amputation of a crewmembers hand. (Note the fake rubber hand)

If a compartment is flooded; the crew needs to do their best to contain the water.  This hatch is braced with wood and mechanical shoring.

If a compartment is flooded; the crew needs to do their best to contain the water. This hatch is braced with wood and mechanical shoring.