Jacob Tanenbaum, October 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 15, 2008

Using the sextant

Using the sextant

Science Log

Our study of creatures on the bottom of the sea has been done every year for 45 years. In fact, it is the longest series of data for fish, in the world. Why is this important? I asked Dr. Michael Fogarty, head of the Ecosystems Assessment Program, at the Northeast Fisheries Sciences Center in Woods Hole, MA.

Mr. T: This is the longest uninterrupted time series of a trawl survey anywhere in the world. Is that important?

Dr. Fogarty: Really important because the changes that we are observing occur over long periods of time due to fishing and climate and other factors, so we need to track these changes to see how individual fish species are doing and to see how the ecosystem itself is responding to these changes.

Mr. T: What have you found?

Processing samples

Processing samples

We have found overall in the 45 years that we have been doing this survey, the number of fish has remained the same, but the types of fish have changed. In Georges bank, we would have mostly cod, flounder in the past, now we have small sharks, skates, which are relative of the rays.

Mr. T: What does that mean in terms of the ecosystem?

Dr. Fogarty: It has changed the entire food web because, for example, these small sharks we are seeing are ferocious predators. Because these dog-fish prey on other species, they keep the fish we usually like to eat down in number

Mr. T: Why is that happening?

Dr. Fogarty: Our hypotheseis is that because the some fish have been hurt by too much fishing, the other fish have come in to take their place.

IMG_7042-735252I thought about that for a while. It means this ecosystem has been effected by something called Overfishing and something called climate change. I started wondering about all the different factors that might have effected the environment we are studying. There are so many! Let’s look at some of the may things that human beings have done that have changed this ecosystem in the 45 years we have been doing this study. Dr. Fogarty and I talked about this and then we created talked about this mini website for you. Click each problem area to learn more.

Remember the other day when I tried to use a sextant to fix our position? I could not even get close, so today, I took a lesson with one of the NOAA Corps officers on board, Lieutenant Junior Grade Andrew Seaman. Click here to come along.

IMG_6866-762848Elsewhere on the ship, Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the dive locker on the ship. This is the area on the ship where SCUBA gear is stored. We are not using SCUBA on this trip, but it was fun to visit the locker and see all the gear. Snuggy and Zee learned that the crew can actually fill up the air bottles they need right on the ship. They have all the equipment they need to do work underwater right here on the ship.

We had a fire drill yesterday. I know you are all familiar with fire drills, because we have them at school. When we do them at school, we often practice evacuating the building and calling the fire department. Well, at sea, things work a little differently. We have to get away from danger, but then, we have to practice putting out the fire as well. After all, there is no fire department to call way out here! Click here for a video.

Finally, so many of you asked about dangerous creatures that we have caught. This torpedo ray does have an electrical charge to it. The ray can zap you if you are not careful. I used rubber gloves to keep from getting hurt. The hardest part was holding the thing while we took the picture. I kept dropping it becuase it was so slimy!

————————–

AT: I have not been frightened by anything on the ship or in the sea that we have seen. The hag-fish did seem gross. Very gross. Other than that, no.

Hi SP, I enjoy Korean food very much and have eaten lots of crab roe. It does not gross me out at all. Thanks for writing.

NV, Zee and Snuggy are just fine. Thanks for asking.

Mrs. B’s Class: I’m glad you liked the blog. We found the dead whale 100 miles or so off of Cape Cod. There are no sea snakes here. The water is too cold. I’m kind of glad about that!

Hello Mrs. Graham’s Class. I am staying nice and warm. Even working on deck, it is not too cold. We could stay out for several more weeks without a problem. Do you know what we use to make electricity? See if you can figure that out. We have to go back to port before we run out of that.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class: Very interesting. Our chief Scientists says that they can tell the whales don’t like barnicles because whales without them don’t behave in quite the same way.
This particular fish, which we call a monk fish or a goose fish has all the adaptations you mentioned. You did very well thinking those up. The Chief Scientist, Phil Politis and I are both impressed. He says that the fish hides in the mud (that is why it is brown), which keeps it hidden from predators. It has another adaptation, the illicium which we are calling a fishing rod. This adaptation lures smaller fish to the monkfish. Since it does not move around as much as many other fish, it can stay safer from predators.

Hello to Mrs. Coughlin’s Class, Mrs. Berubi’s Class. I’m glad you like the blog.

NN, I’ll be back next week. Because the crew and I, as well as a few birds are the only land-creatures we have seen out this far! Thanks for writing.

Hi Jennnifer. Thanks for your kind words and thanks for checking in on the blog.

Jillian Worssam, July 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 21, 2008

Today is “Meet the crew Monday,” and the two sections you will meet today are both fundamental to the smooth running of the HEALY. One, you never want to visit, the other you visit three to four times a day, so with that introduction meet the “Galley, with Tysin Alley” Due to the great quality of the food I usually make it to the galley at least two and in some instances for three meals a day. I am also up most nights and I do not think a day has gone by when I have NOT seen Tysin cooking. He is always there, baking pies, cleaning, boiling crab legs the man never stops.

Surf and Turf Friday, steak and crab legs. Mouth wateringly good.

Surf and Turf Friday, steak and crab legs. Mouth wateringly good.

When living aboard a floating ice breaker, kilometers from land out for 30 days you need to think of priorities, yes maps and scientific operations are important, but full bellies vital. No one wants to work when they are hungry. And to be honest I think many individuals are gaining weight, especially with four meals a day.

There is no shortage of protein on this vessel. And even after 21 days we still have fresh greens for salads.

There is no shortage of protein on this vessel. And even after 21 days we still have fresh greens for salads.

There is not a time, 24 seven when food is not accessible. Bread and the fixings for sandwiches between meals, always cereal, and in the rare instance when zoning out after midnight a possible taste of something new Tysin has created. And yes, I am one of the few who have gained weight.

The food is hot, fast and readily available, no one goes away hungry.

The food is hot, fast and readily available, no one goes away hungry.

Since we are now satisfied gastronomically, let’s talk about the Medical division, a place where no one really wants to end up, yet, the proficiency I saw today makes me feel very safe should an injury occur.

From fillings to feet and everything in between the training and skills these men have is beyond excellent.

From fillings to feet and everything in between the training and skills these men have is beyond excellent.

Jason and Corey are always on, 24 – seven and constantly available should a medical emergency occur. They work with training teams practicing scenarios involving injuries and offer classes to the crew in topics such as CPR. These responsibilities are not only their duty, but a chosen profession to care for the welfare of everyone on board the HEALY.

Spotlessly clean with numerous testing equipment these men appear to be ready to handle any emergency.

Spotlessly clean with numerous testing equipment these men appear to be ready to handle any emergency.

Both men entered the U.S. Coast Guard when they were young, and in Corey’s case 17. Both men also entered as enlisted personnel and choose to go through “A School” as Health Services Technicians. Corey and Jason are also within the five year mark for retiring, with over 15 years of amazing service to the United States Coast Guard…

While talking with Jason I was amazed to follow his Coast Guard career. Here is a sample: Oregon→Alaska→Hawaii→Texas→Nebraska→New Jersey→Virginia→Bering Sea…

…and all this with the total support, financially, and physically, from the U.S. Coast Guard. Jason was also able to not only become a Physicians assistant, but also received a fellowship to do post graduate work at the Navy hospital in Portsmith, Virginia in orthopedics.

I find the career paths of both men fascinating and an excellent recruiting example for the Coast Guard. Two men with high school degrees and now look at them, pretty darn impressive! I am hoping my students take the hint!

Well they can't work all the time!

Well they can’t work all the time!

Quote of the Day: “The art of medicine is in amusing a patient while nature affects the cure.” -Voltaire

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you figured out yet how many career paths are available within the U.S. Coast Guard? How about in Science, have you figured out yet how many different types of scientists are aboard?

Jillian Worssam, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 5, 2008

02becce

A pre-drill brief, to discuss props, expectations and safety issues that the trainers might see. If a real casualty happens during a drill, the ETT would let the individuals who are training take control unless there were difficulties in responding to the casualty. Remember a casualty in this respect does not infer human.

At dinner last night I was invited to meet BECCE, and after a moments confusion I realized I had not been invited to meet a person, but to observe a readiness drill.  BECCE stands for Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercise and I was on my way to watch as the experienced crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY maintains their skills, and passes that knowledge on to new cadets (students from the CG Academy in New London, CT who are here for a month during their summer break) and enlisted personnel. There is an expression in the engineering department, “Slow it down or shut it down,” and that is what BECCE is all about.  Once a crew member on watch finds a problem it is their responsibility to report it to engineering and then take appropriate action, thus BECCE a drill.

The steps to take when there is a problem or alarm in Engineering are simple: investigate the alarm, take initial action to control the casualty, stabilize the plant and report status to the bridge.
Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak...the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT

Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak…the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT

This procedure might sound simple, but if 250 gallons of lube oil is rushing from a punctured pipe individuals can easily get flustered.  That is why BECCEs are such a great idea!  Drill, practice and make sure all personnel are prepared for the advent of anything, and you then have a smoother running vessel.

On a side note, as I learn more about the roles and responsibilities aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel I am constantly stumped by acronyms.  The EOW is in charge of the “plant” during this drill and is being evaluated on his responses to the various “casualties”.

LCDR Petrusa (The officer in charge of all engineering on the ship) is observing and watching protocol, with the results of this drill falling on his shoulders.  Simultaneously MKC Brogan evaluates the EOWs during their drill sets.  How about CWO3 Lyons who is in charge of all machinery technicians, both main propulsion and auxiliary divisions? Do you see what I mean, lots of acronyms, and it gets confusing.   Everyone has collateral duties, and don’t even think you can figure out what an OSG is????  I also learned that there are nicknames as well, you could be a twidget (electronics technicians), or a snipe (who are mechanics), sparky (electricians), all of which are vital positions on the boat.  There is a lot of humor as well with the use of slang, for instance I wonder if anyone knows the difference between a Clean EM and a Dirty EM?
This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged...the team is discussing the situation.

This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged…the team is discussing the situation.

Expression of the Day: “A Clean Slate” Before we had the technology of the 21st century, and there were no onboard computers, or GPS, vital information such as course and distance were written on slates.  At the end of each watch this information was copied into the ship’s log.  The slate was then…”wiped clean.”

Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O'Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.

Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O’Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you think of any other nautical expressions we now use in everyday language?

LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry (pressure, temp, and speed) represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.

LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.

Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.

Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.

Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.

Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 3, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Daytime: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft.

Evening: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft with a chance Of showers and thunderstorms

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.11.10 PMScience and Technology Log 

Today, we experienced mechanical problems on the ship. I learned that this is why there are so many crew members on board. It takes the expert knowledge of many people in different careers to repair necessary equipment imperative to operate mechanical devices onboard.  The problem we had is that a power cable connected to the pump blew out.  Then they had to cut out the bad part of the cable and replace it to the power box that connects to the pump on the clam dredge.   However, adding the new cable means that we had to reconnect all of the smaller wires to the power box. Then we had to check the power to the switch inside the pump.  It took all hands on board to correct the problem, with Vic Nordahl, the chief scientist, in charge.

The problem was corrected with Vic Nordahl’s knowledge and the assistance from the chief engineer, Brian Murphy, the 1st engineer, Chris O’Keefe, the 2nd engineer, Grady Abney, along with many other crewmembers. Following is a sequence of photos that show the problem: I was amazed at the way so many people were involved in fixing the problem. The following people are crew members on board the DELAWARE II; many who helped to resolve the problem.

NOAA Crewmembers on the DELAWARE II and Their Titles and Careers 

Vic Nordahl – Chief Scientist In command of all scientific people on the ship. In command of what each person does on the survey. Has complete control of the numerous tasks involved in the survey. He teaches and explains all procedures involved in survey to new crew members and gives advice to old crew members in a very patient and very informed manner. Vic also has expert understanding in engineering, equipment maintenance and electrical mechanics and was the crucial person who solved the problem with the power cable connected to the pump. His understanding and mechanical ability enabled us to complete this survey; otherwise we would have had to return back to port.

Captain Stephen Wagner – Captain of the ship. Responsible for everything and everyone on the ship.

Lt. Monty Spencer – XO Executive Officer Second in command on the ship. Oversees all general operations of the ship and personnel. Does all the accounting on the ship, keeps the budget, take care of making sure there are sufficient personnel on all trips.

Richard Raynes – Gear Specialist Maintains all gear equipment on the ship.  Makes all fishing nets for ship.

ENS Chuck Felkley – Junior Officer of the ship In charge of safety, navigation ad driving on board the ship under Lt. Monty Spencer

Engineer Staff: (Brian Murphy) the chief engineer , the 1st  engineer (Chris O’Keefe) and the 2nd engineer (Grady Abney)

Francine Stroman – Marine Technician Enters technological data of marine species under survey.

Jim Pontz  and Mark Bolino – ABS (Able Bodied Seaman) Handle all equipment on ship’s deck department.  Lower and raise anything that goes in or out of water.

Mark Harris – High School Biology Teacher (ARMADA Teacher at Sea) Layton High School, Layton, Utah

Lisha Hylton – Third Grade Elementary Teacher (NOAA Teacher at Sea) Pelion Elementary School, Pelion, South Carolina

Patrick Bergin – Electronical Technician Takes care of all of the electronic equipment on the ship; phones, radar, computers, electronic equipment to operate ship.

Lino Luis – Lead Fisherman Radios when dredge pump is to be activated and deactivated.

Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician In charge of the team that takes care of the biological specimens on the ship. Maintains all computers for storing data for specimens collected.

Richie Logan – Works on back deck (maintains machinery)

Kira Lopez – Sophomore at North Carolina State University majoring in Zoology. Volunteer scientist

Alicia Long – Sea-Going Technician Takes care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Steph Floyd – Biological Science Technician Summer employee trained by the sea-going technicians to take care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Erin Earley – Oiler/Wiper Assistant to engineers on ship

Jonathan Rockwell – Chief Steward Prepares and cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for entire crew.

Walter Coghlan – 2nd chef Works with Chief Steward in preparing and cooking all meals.

Christi and Russell – College Seniors majoring in biology.

Sharon Benjamin– College Graduate majoring in biology.

Question of the Day 

How many crew members are on board THE DELAWARE II for The Clam Survey? Answer: 32

New Term/Word/Phrase: Conductive Electric Cable

Something to Think About: Vic Nordahl (at 2:00 A.M.) started thinking about and telling us possible solutions to the problem if it could not be fixed while out at sea.

Challenge Yourself : I will learn all I can about equipment maintenance and repair from the experts on board.

Did You Know? 

It is highly difficult to fix an electrical problem on a ship because supplies are limited at sea.

Animals Seen Today 

Seagulls and a Pelican

 

Clare Wagstaff, June 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 9, 2008

CO of the COBB and a NOAA diver heading down to explore the hull of the  COBB. They took knifes with them expecting to find netting caught, but no such luck.

Divers heading down to explore the hull of the COBB. They took knifes with them expecting to find netting caught, but no such luck.

Final Log 

I write this last log sat at the dinning table in the galley of the JOHN N. COBB. The last few days have been difficult here on the ship. Unfortunately the mechanical difficulties that the vessel suffered on June 3, have proven to be a little more serious than was originally hoped. The initial diagnosis was of some sort of obstruction, probably fishing line from a trawler, caught in the propeller. After the final leg of our journey, being towed by a much larger NOAA ship, the Rainier, and then finally the last mile by a tug boat, the COBB limped into port in Juneau. Here, the CO and two experienced NOAA divers explored the hull of the ship but unfortunately found nothing obviously wrong to report. With external problems to the ship ruled out, the crew looked internally into the ship’s engine. The engine on the COBB is 59 years old. Similar types where used in the past in trains and submarines. This engine is massive, about 20ft long by 4ft wide. In fact the ship was actually built around the engine, meaning any serious problems with it are extremely difficult to get to and fix. After closer inspection by Sam and Joe, the COBB’s engineers, they discovered that the crankshaft had a large fracture in it. With only two engines of this type known to still be in use, the COBB being one of them, finding a spare crankshaft to replace it is likely to be difficult. It seems as if the COBB may have sailed for the last time under her own power.

A huge crack in the crankshaft, which is essential as it connects all the cylinders of the engine together and makes them rotate.

A huge crack in the crankshaft, which connects all the cylinders of the engine and makes them rotate.

One of the biggest aspects of our cruise was meant to be the last week: studying the haulout sites in two large glacial areas in Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. With the COBB out of action, I decided to jump onboard a tourist cruise that took a small group of us to the Tracy Arm fjord. It has two picturesque tidewater glaciers are set at the end of this long fjord. Along the journey down the fjord, the step cliff face rises vertically out of the water.  The captain maneuvers the small boat around massive icebergs, with the thought of the Titanic always in the back of my head, I am pleased he goes so slowly. These massive chunks of ice that have broken off a glacier and can float for many miles down stream and out to open water. They can be made of ice, possibly a thousand years old, and are very impressive floating ice blocks with an intense, bright blue color. Light is made up of many colors, all blended together. When light hits an object, some of its colors are absorbed, while others pass through it. Which colors are absorbed depends on the composition of the object: what it is made up of. In this case, the densely packed ice is thick and absorbs red and yellow light, leaving only blue light to be seen. Thinner ice appears white as all light passes through it.

A massive floating iceberg located in Tracy Arm fjord.

A massive iceberg located in Tracy Arm fjord.

As we got closer to the North Sawyer glacier: seal pups galore! It seemed every direction I looked there was a mother and her pup! Dave had spoken about this area to me and pointed out things to look for. Some distance off from our boat, I could see two juvenile bald eagles sat on the ice in very close proximately to a larger seal. Apparently the afterbirth leaves pinkish / red stains visible on the ice, is a tasty meal for these birds, and they were sat there waiting for the opportune moment to enjoy it! There was though one seal that stood out for all the hundred of others. This seal had a transmitter attached to the top of his head and what I later found out to be, a heart rate monitor around its chest! The seal did look a very strange sight and was easily spooked back into the safety of the water. Earlier this season, Dave had been helping the Alaskan Fish and Game department tag seals in the Endicott Arm area, some 40 miles from here so this seal had traveled some distance. The transmitter attached to its head relays information of its location and details from its heart rate monitor. Measuring the heart rate of the seal is used to study the stress placed on the animal in regards to cruise boats and their close proximity. A seal under stress will expel more energy as it swims away from the danger. Being in the water also means that more energy is expelled in thermoregulation to maintain its body temperature. From this sighting Dave was able to report back to the Fish and Game department that this seal had been spotted, alive and well!

Just one group of many of the seals present in Tracy Arm.

Just one of many of the seals in Tracy Arm.

Although this seal did look quite funny to the human observers, it should think it lucky that it was just a little bigger; otherwise a video camera would have been attached too! Not to worry though. As the seal molts, as they do each year, the transmitter and heart rate monitor, which is glued onto the seal’s fur, will come off! While the boat was sat stationary in the water near the South Sawyer glacier, there was a loud cracking sound. This signaled a carving of the ice from the face of the glacier. It sent ice crashing into the water with some force and in turn a wave was created that sent our boat rocking. Over the 45 minutes we were there, this braking up of the glacial ice happened four times. Looking out to the seals on the ice in this area, I wondered why they would stay on the ice so close to where this was happening, as it couldn’t be a pleasant ride with all the rocking. As it happens, these seals love this area, for exactly that reason. As the ice hits the water, it mixes the water below, sending the seal’s food source such as shrimp, closer to the surface. Basically the carving action brings dinner just one step closer to them – buffet service with a great view!

A tagged harbor seal with a transmitter attached to its head and a heart rate monitor to its chest.

A tagged harbor seal with a transmitter on its head and a heart rate monitor on its chest.

I have had just the best time onboard the JOHN N. COBB. Although my cruise was much shorter than I had expected, I saw many wonderful things that I had never done so before. I think that if you have to be stranded anywhere for a week, Alaska seems like a pretty good option to me!

Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in front of South Sawyer glacier.

Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in front of South Sawyer glacier.

Clare Wagstaff, June 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher At Sea Clare Wagstaff, Jon and Dave getting ready to depart the COBB in the JC-1.

NOAA TAS Clare Wagstaff, Jon and Dave getting ready to depart the COBB

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather: Overcast
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 6
Wave Height (feet): 0
Sea Water Temp (0C): 8.8
Air Temp (0C): 11

Science and Technology Log 

We are still anchored just outside of the native Alaskan village of Kake. Apparently another NOAA ship, the Rainier, is on its way to tug us back to Juneau late tonight. There was good news though! Dave knew of some haulout sites that he had observed and recorded data from in 2004. They were within approximately seven miles of where John N. COBB was located. So once again, we boarded the JC-1 and off we went!

Equipment on the Skiff 
The skiff is only a small-motorized boat but it can safely carry seven people and is essential in getting scientists to places unreachable by the COBB. The JC-1 is equipped with GPS, which also includes a Fathometer and depth gauge. Other basic equipment includes a magnetic compass and tachometer. Essential to any mission in the skiff is a console mounted and handheld radio so that we can stay in communication with the COBB. The operator of the skiff is required to have radio contact with the ship every hour and state our location for safety reasons. Flares, line bags and a first aid kit, all mean that our expeditions out on the JC-1 should be safe and enjoyable!

Seal Observations    
Although we saw lots of seals today, none of them from a distance of less than 200 meters. It seems these seals where much more skittish than at other areas we had previously visited and for good reason. Today’s haulout sites were within a few miles of a local village. Here, native Alaskan’s are still allowed to hunt seals. The seals we observed today seemed fully aware of their possible fate if they allowed us to get to close. On a more positive note, I am getting better at making estimates of numbers from a distance and spotting the pups in a large group. When they retreat to the water it is quite easy to spot mother and pup, as they tend to be very close together, with one head much larger than the other!

Harbor seals near Kake.

Harbor seals near Kake.

Recording the Data 

Dave Withrow uses the GPS to record new sites as well as plot routes to old sites.

Dave Withrow uses the GPS to record new sites as well as plot routes to old sites.

So what happens to all the data that we collect out at sea? Dave processes all the results we collect into a spreadsheet. Here the data is organized by ‘waypoint’ (name of location and/or latitude and longitude); it also displays the number of adult seals and pups, a long with environmental data such as tide height. Through some fancy GPS work, Dave can also record and download the route we took in the skiff, our speed and time. Plotting all this information together, gives a clear picture of patterns in the results collected. With his digital camera, Dave can also download the photos he has taken of the seals and through the wonders of modern technology synchronized them with the GPS information. This then links pictures taken at a specific site electronically to the recorded data.

In the past five years of this study, the proportion of adult seals present with a pup has remained approximately the same: 25% on rock substrate and approximately 70% on ice. Unfortunately because we have been unable to study many sites this season, the data we collected is inconclusive. However, with the effects of global climate change it seems unlikely that these percentages, particularly of pups on ice haulout sites, will continue to be as high. Adding to this data over the preceding years seems an absolute necessity for scientists to get a greater picture of the harbor seal population and its relating habitat.

A sea squirt? I will have to look it up when I get home.

A sea squirt? I will have to look it up when I get home.

Personal Log 

For the first time on the COBB, I slept through the night and well past my usual 04:00! I think I am starting to get used to this way of life. The crew on board the ship are light hearted, yet committed to their jobs: a good combination to be around onboard a ship like the COBB. Yet being stuck in Kake is really frustrating. Breaking down out at sea is not quite the same as doing it in a car: things take a lot longer to happen out here! Knowing that I will probably not get to see the glaciers, being so close is pretty heartbreaking. I’m keeping my fingers, toes and anything else crossed that the COBB gets fixed and ASAP!

“Animals Seen Today” 

While Dave and I were exploring the tidal pools on one of the small islands around Kake, we found this interesting creature. Partially buried in water, Dave dug it out to expose a rather funny shaped animal that ejected water from one end!

The bald eagle, majestic and beautiful!

The bald eagle, majestic and beautiful! 

Clare Wagstaff, June 4, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 4, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 1200) 
Weather: Overcast and light rain
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 16
Wave Height (feet): 1 – 2
Sea Water Temp (0C): 8.2
Air Temp (0C): 12

Day 4 

Oh what a rough night! Our anchor site was in a rather exposed channel just east of Warren Island and the ship was definitely rolling. So much so, I found the best way to secure myself in bed was to wedge my body in between the mattress and the woodened bed frame! At approximately 02:00 this morning the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter, the Anacapa, arrived from Juneau to tow us part of the way back to port. The USCG boarded the 250-ton COBB around sunrise and secured a towing line for the long return journey.

USCG Cutter Anacapa. It towed us from Warren Channel (55054’N 133049’W) to Kake (56057’N 133056’), 90 nautical miles to Juneau!

USCG Cutter Anacapa. It towed us from Warren Channel to Kake, 90 nm to Juneau!

Disappointed that this might signal the end of the cruise, Dave and I were left with little to do but read, listen to music and partake in a few hours of whale watching as the Anacapa pulled us along at approximately seven knots. At around 18:00 the USCG left us for another mission and the COBB was once again anchored down for the night near the small town of Kake. From the ship this native Alaskan town appears very small and quite rundown, although I did see a very new looking building that said ‘High School’ on it. Now once again stranded, the responsibility falls on the CO and XO to find us another tow the last 90 nautical miles back to Juneau. But with tugboats in the area all already with a full schedule and being astonishingly expensive, it seems unlikely that the journey home will be a quick or cheap one! However, the crew and I do get cell phone reception here, so all is not lost. A quick phone call back to our loved ones helps us all feel a little better about the day’s events.

Science and Technology Log – Whale Identification 

Although Dave and I were not able to venture out in the skiff today, I was able to observe, at a great distance, a number of humpback whales. But identification of these marine mammals is not as easy as it seems. Whales are mammals in the order Cetacea, along with dolphins and porpoises. Cetaceans spend their entire life in water: feeding, mating, giving birth and raising their young in this aquatic environment. They have adapted to breathe through a blowhole on the top of the head. The species we will most commonly observe during our cruise fall into two suborders: toothed whales (Odontoceti) and baleen whales (Mysticeti).

For the huge mass that a whale occupies, rarely do you see the majority of its body for identification. To accurately identify the correct species you need to make a number of observations regarding three main areas. Identification starts with observations of the whale’s blow (expelled air), in regards to the shape, height and angle. Baleen whales have two nostrils and toothed whales have one, which influence the pattern created by the blow. If observed head on, this is a simple way to distinguish between the two suborders. So far on this cruise though our observations have been from such a great distance away (minimum of half a mile away) that it has been difficult for me, a beginner, to make any accurate observations.

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 9.01.39 PM

The next observation to make is of a whale’s dorsal fin that is located on its back and displayed, if present, when it surfaces and/or dives. If present, its size, shape and location should be recorded. The last basic observation is of a whale’s fluke and its shape. The most common whale seen in the southeast Alaska is the humpback. Protected from commercial harvest since 1966, it is still endangered and so seeing it is a very special occurrence. A humpback whale’s general characteristics are a two-nostril blow that is generally broad and bushy. It normally blows between four and ten times before diving. The dorsal fin is exposed as it blows but it is small in comparison to the rest of its body mass and located two thirds of the way along its back. Finally, its broad flukes tend to exhibit an irregular trailing edge and are displayed as it dives. The markings displayed on the whale’s fluke are unique to the individual, like that of a fingerprint, and allow scientists to track individual whale through sightings. Of course this is over simplifying things, but it gives me as a beginner a place to start!

“Did You Know” 

The Northern Right whale was named the ‘right’ whale by commercial whalers because it was easily approached, floats when killed, and is rich in oil. Today it is endangered and protected since 1935. Estimates suggest the population in the Alaska region could be as low as 100-200 individuals.