Nancy McClintock, June 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 13, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: Fair to poor
Wind direction:  ESE
Average wind speed: 7 knots
Wave height: 1-2’ SE
Air temperature:  75 oF
Sea temperature:  79 oF
Cloud cover: 100%
Barometric pressure:  10144 mb

Mark Silverman and Nancy  McClintock conclude their awesome adventure. My memories truly will last a lifetime and I thank NOAA for giving me the opportunity to participate in this excellent program.

Mark Silverman and Nancy McClintock conclude their awesome adventure. My memories truly will last a lifetime and I thank NOAA for giving me the opportunity to participate in this excellent program.

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled approximately 200 miles during the night toward Port Canaveral, our final destination. Wave height increased and then decreased as morning arrived.  It will take approximately 15 minutes to go through the lock and then 1-½ hours to travel upriver to the dock at Hanger AF. The FREEDOM STAR is the sister ship of the LIBERTY STAR and they are both used in the recovery of rocket boosters for the NASA Space program.  Before leaving the dock, the FREEDOM STAR takes on freshwater that is stored in two tanks totaling 17,000 gallons – this is non-potable water. 5,000 gallons of potable (drinkable) water is stored in a separate tank.  Once the FREEDOM STR reaches the dock the wastewater goes through the city purification system before being released into open water.  Testing of this water reveals that it is drinkable at this time. However, it is not used for drinking water.  Legally, the wastewater can be released at sea, but the FREEDOM STAR  does not do this.

Personal Log 

The waves did not reach the expectations of 30 knots and the ship did not rock and roll as much as expected.  This morning is very gloomy and much cooler due to the cloud cover. The viewing of Port Canaveral in the distance brings a certain element of excitement, as does going under the drawbridge and entering the lock. However, I am sad to reach the conclusion of this wonderful adventure. I have many wonderful memories and pictures to keep forever. I thank NOAA for selecting me and giving me this fantastic opportunity to enhance my life and the lives of my students.

Mike Nicholas, FREEDOM STAR 2nd Mate, enters the lock at Port Canaveral as Allan Gravina, FREEDOMS STAR Able Bodied Seaman, looks on.

Mike Nicholas, 2nd Mate, enters the lock at Port Canaveral as Allan Gravina, Able Bodied Seaman, looks on.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: In 330’ of sea water the pressure is equivalent to 10 atmospheres of pressure from the surface to outer space.  The fish have difficulty withstanding the increase in pressure and, quite often, do not survive. Fish have swim bladders that help them keep position in the water. When they are brought to the surface from a deep depth, the pressure decrease causes the bladder to expand.  Too much expansion kills the fish. Today’s question: How does it feel to be selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and spend six days on a NASA ship in the Atlantic Ocean?

Today’s answer: This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I can hardly wait to tell everyone about this cruise, the importance of exploring the ocean for scientific purposes, and show my pictures.

Interview with Marta Ribera 

The ship passes beneath the drawbridge as it returns home to Port Canaveral.

The ship passes beneath the drawbridge as it returns home to Port Canaveral.

Marta was born in Gainesville, Florida and moved to Barcelona, Spain at the age of 3 ½ years.  She received an undergraduate degree with major emphasis in General Biology and a minor in Ecology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Following a year of graduate work in GIS, Marta received an internship at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Panama City and has been with NMFS for the past three years. On this cruise, Marta oversees the use of the CTDs (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) and records all data collected.  The larger CTD (valued at $18,000) is used to record conductivity, temperature, depth, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and clarity of water.  A smaller CTD (valued at $1,800) is placed on the ROV and records pressure, temperature, and depth of the ocean.  At the Panama City Lab, Marta also works with multi-beam mapping, GIS, and is conducting a study on juvenile snapper with Stacey Harter. One of her goals is to complete a Master’s Degree in GIS applied to Fisheries and Marine Biology. “The best thing about my job is that I love the people with whom I work and nothing is ever the same.”

Marta Ribera and Andy David, NOAA scientists, prepare the CTD for deployment.  The CTD recorded conductivity, temperature, and depth of the ocean on this cruise.

Marta Ribera and Andy David prepare the CTD for deployment, which recorded conductivity, temperature, and depth.

Interview with Mr. Wally Exell 

Chief mate and Relief Captain of the M/V FREEDOM STAR

Mr. Exell is the Captain of the FREEDOM STAR for our NOAA cruise. He was born in Bermuda and received his education from the Merchant Marine School in England. Ever since he was young he wanted to go to sea. His love for the sea led him to working with the NASA Missile Retrieving program for the past 24 years.  He has been with the FREEDOM STAR for the past 16 years. When at sea, he is on an active duty for 4 hours and then on stand down (on call) for 8 hours. “The best thing about my job is that my work is very unique and interesting and I am honored working with this Program and the great crew.”

Please see Mark Silverman’s logs for additional interviews.

Captain Wally Exell, FREEDOM STAR, stands outside the bridge visually checking our passage through the lock at Port Canaveral.

Captain Wally Exell, FREEDOM STAR, stands outside the bridge visually checking our passage through the lock at Port Canaveral.

Mark Silverman, June 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 12, 2006

FREEDOM STAR back in port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station under the dark, glowering skies of tropical storm Alberto.

Back in port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station under the dark, glowering skies of tropical storm Alberto.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: Fair to Poor
Wind direction: ESE
Average wind speed: 7 knots and building during day
Wave height: 1-2’ knots and building during day
Air temperature: 75 oF
Sea temperature: 79 oF
Cloud cover: 100%
Barometric pressure: 1014 mb

Personal Log 

This morning I overslept and woke up about 0815. Everyone was just hanging out as we ran for port so it was not an issue. I had a light breakfast, as breakfast was officially over (Patrick “Cookie” Downey, the cook, kindly left out some food for late risers).  After breakfast I went up to the bridge to work on this, my final log. The weather outside is deteriorating and the sky is dark with light rain.  The bridge crew is in good cheer and we bantered a bit.  The launch towers of Cape Canaveral are barely visible to the west through the overcast.  On radar I can clearly see the shape of the Cape and our path around it. We are about 1-2 hours from the entrance, a bit more to docking, as we have to pass through the lock.  The FREEDOM STAR should dock at Port Canaveral Air Force Station today around 1200.  The operations were curtailed 48 hrs. early due to impending tropical storm Alberto.  Alberto is currently just off the west coast of Florida around Steinahatchee.  About 0100 we passed through the Port Canaveral inlet as a number of the crew and team stood on the bridge joking, talking, and looking through binoculars. I felt quite privileged to be part of this retinue as people on shore and in other boats observed our entrance into port.  As we steamed into port, Tim Freely, Chief Engineer, gave us a tour of the one part of the ship we hadn’t entered yet, the Engine Room. Due to the dangers involved we could only enter with an engineer.  It was fascinating! FREEDOM STAR has 6 diesel engines.  Two for propulsion, two for thrusters, and two for generators.

Several shots from our tour of the engine room: From left, Mark and Tim pose, Tim proudly shows Nancy and Steve the major components of the engine room, one BIG Detroit diesel that turns one of the propellers. Note the ear muffs that are necessary due to the high noise level.

Several shots from our tour of the engine room: From left, Mark and Tim pose, Tim proudly shows Nancy and Steve the major components of the engine room, one BIG Detroit diesel that turns one of the propellers. Note the ear muffs that are necessary due to the high noise level.

Andy managed to change my flight for this evening to get me out before the storm, so I did laundry, packed my things, took a few more pictures and got ready to debark.  Nancy and the ROV team will be flying out this evening as well.  The science team and a few of the crew got together one last time at a Port Canaveral restaurant to say goodbye.  Overall, it’s been a fantastic time and I’m sad that it’s over, but I have lots of great memories and learned a lot too.  Everyone I got to know, the crew, and the science team, were super and made me feel like I belonged.  I hope I can participate in Teacher at Sea again someday and highly recommend it to anyone out there reading this and thinking about it. Hasta luego, Mark

Signal flags.

Signal flags.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Yesterday’s question is really just for your own personal reflection. To prepare for a career in marine biology, take lots of math and science.  Practice good writing skill.  Keep your GPA up and work hard in college. See my interview with Andy David on day 3 for more information. Today’s question: What do the black flags in the photo on the left mean? (See end of this log for the answer).

Addendum 1: An Interview with Marta Ribera, GIS specialist. 

Marta was a little shy about giving and interview and claimed she wouldn’t have much to say. However, once she warmed up to our discussion she was vivacious and charming, punctuating her comments with laughter and smiles.  She has a much different demeanor while working, although retaining her sense of humor, her seriousness and concentration are obvious. She appears to thoroughly enjoy what she does.  Much to my delight Marta was born in Gainesville and is a Gator fan.

Patrick “Cookie” Downey grills up some freshly caught dolphin fish.

Patrick “Cookie” Downey grills up some freshly caught dolphin fish.

Q: Tell me about yourself, where your from etc.

A: I was born in Gainesville, Florida because my father was there to study his PhD. My father finished his PhD and moved my mother, my sister and myself to Spain where he is from.

Q: How old were you [when you moved to Spain]?

A: I was 3 and a half and I have an older sister who was 4 and •••. I grew up in Spain until I was 24.  I studied my BS in Biology, the first 2 years [of college] and 2 more years in Ecology.

Q: Where did you study?

A: Universidad Autonóma de Barcelona [Independent University of Barcelona] in Barcelona.

Q: So you studied in Spanish? (Marta was quick to correct me and I could sense her pride)

A: In Barcelona we speak Catalan, but I was really fluent in English from when I was here [in the U.S.]! (Continuing on about her studies) Then I did a degree, kind of a Masters without the thesis, in GIS, Geographical Information Systems.  So, I did about a year of that and then I got an internship in the lab [at NOAA, in Panama City, FL].  I came here because of the GIS, because a friend of my father knew the lab needed someone in GIS.  I came here for 3 months and I’ve been here for 3 years! That’s about it.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

Left to right: Mike Nicholas, Freshteh Ahmadian, and Craig Bussel goof around at the post cruise get-together.

Left to right: Mike Nicholas, Freshteh Ahmadian, and Craig Bussel goof around at the post cruise get-together.

A: It’s never the same and [I like] the people I’m working with. Being away from home is hard, but they make it real easy! All the GIS and multibeam mapping, I’m doing it with Andy [David]. Then I also help Stacy [Harter] with a study in the bay in Panama City on juvenile snapper.  I want to finish my Masters in GIS.

Q: …and a PhD?

A: PhD?  Well, we’ll see about that.  Now I’m gaining a lot of experience and seeing a lot of things…like 30 people work in the lab on all kinds of stuff, like sharks, measuring age and growth. I know all the areas, now I really know what I like. I’m getting a lot of experience.

Q: How old are you?

A: I’m 27 from last May…well I’m 27.

Group shot at the post cruise get together.  Front row, from left to right, Craig Bussel, Freshteh Ahmadian, Mike Nicholas, Mark Silverman, and Steve Matthews.  Back row, from left to right, Kevin Joy, Andy David, Wayne Stewart, Stacy Harter, Marta Ribera, Nancy McClintock, and Cece Linder.

Group shot at the post cruise get together. Front row, from left to right, Craig Bussel, Freshteh Ahmadian, Mike Nicholas, Mark Silverman, and Steve Matthews. Back row, from left to right, Kevin Joy, Andy David, Wayne Stewart, Stacy Harter, Marta Ribera, Nancy McClintock, and Cece Linder.

Q: Is GIS far from Biology?

A: No, it’s not. I always loved math and computers.  My parents thought I would go into engineering. I had a high school teacher who showed me to love Biology.  Right when I finished college, I volunteered in forestry and started doing GIS.  I really loved it, because it let me mix both.  I love computers, but I cannot stand being in front of a computer all week.  Now, I can do both! I didn’t think I would work in Marine Biology because I can’t dive [Marta has an ear injury that prevents diving], but now I’m working in Marine Biology!

Marta Ribera smiles while recording fish and bottom composition data and location during an ROV dive.

Marta Ribera smiles while recording fish and bottom composition data and location during an ROV dive.

Addendum 2: An Interview with Steve Matthews, Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist 

Steve is a fascinating person to get to know. He has a background in saturation diving and has dove as deep as 650 feet. His contributions to the project are diverse, from building the 4-camera array, to expertise in deploying gear off a ship (not as simple a task as it sounds in a rolling sea). Steve has a great sense of humor and enjoys telling jokes. I was privileged to bunk with him aboard the FREEDOM STAR. On his free time I frequently found him reading a Clive Cusseler novel.  It must have been good, because he said he’s not much of a reader, but he finished it in several days.  Steve’s title is Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist.

Q: How does somebody get into a field like that?

A: I didn’t intend to get into a field like that.  I just sort of fell into it [smiles].  I’m already retired.  I was in the Navy 28 years as a saturation diver…

Q: Steve can you give me a short definition of saturation diving?

A: Go deep, stay long [everyone laughs]. (Saturation diving involves diving until the body has absorbed all the nitrogen it can.  After that one can stay down indefinitely, usually in a habitat or bell. Decompression usually occurs on the surface in a decompression chamber over several hours or days, depending on the depth of the dive.) When I retired, I went to work with FSU [Florida State University], Panama City campus, Advanced Science Diving Program.  There was a fledgling program at Panama City campus and we set up a dive locker at the Panama City lab at the National Marine Service site.  FSU did not have its own facility at that time.  That was a new program and they ran out of money and sense.  When the fisheries people heard I was going to leave, they offered me to stay on with them and matched me up to the category on the books. Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist was the closest thing. Sometimes commercial fishermen are hired on to this field. The equipment part is where I fit in best…marine mechanic, boat maintenance, welding, and fabrication of fishing gear.

Steve Matthews, Fisheries Methods and Equipment specialist on the bridge of the FREEDOM STAR.

Steve Matthews, Fisheries Methods and Equipment specialist on the bridge of the FREEDOM STAR.

Q: How long have you been with the lab?

A: Five years.

Q: Do you always work with Andy [David]?

A: I work for the lab. Andy is one of the groups I do stuff for.  There’s several others.

Q: What would you tell students that want to get into this field?

A: If the students ask, tell them the joke about the commercial fisherman who won the lottery. They asked him what he was going to do with all the money? He said, Oh, I’m gonna keep commercial fishing ‘till all the moneys gone! [laughs heartily]. It’s a tough field!

Answer to the Question of the day, today: 

The black signal flags let other boats and ships know to stay away. As Cody put it during his tour of the flying bridge (he was pointing out a red signal light that has a similar function at night), “we are pretty high on the pecking order.”  It is not permitted to come too close to a government vessel during official operations.  The flags were not flown while underway on our cruise. Other large ships are required to be familiar with signals and usually obey them.  Many small boaters often are not up to speed on the meaning of the signal flags and lights. During our cruise one 40-50’ fishing boat trolled within a half mile of our port side while the ROV was deployed.  Fortunately, many of the operations occur so far offshore that not many pleasure boats are in the vicinity.  Our mission took place 50-100 miles offshore.  The SRB recovery is about 120 miles out.

Addendum 3: FREEDOM STAR and her crew’s regular assignment 

As involved as we were in marine biology on this cruise, its easy to forget that FREEDOM STAR and her sister ship, LIBERTY STAR have as their principal function the recovery of the SRB’s (solid rocket boosters) for the space shuttle program immediately following a launch.  The crew is very proud of this role.  They must go out regardless of weather. The ship is also used to tow the external fuel tanks from Louisiana, where they are manufactured, to Cape Canaveral, Florida where they are assembled to the space shuttle and prepared for launch.

Space Shuttle lifts off from Cape Canaveral.

Space Shuttle lifts off from Cape Canaveral.

Addendum 3: The SRB recovery operations.

Recovery must go forward regardless of weather.  The LIBERTY STAR with SRB and Ambar crew still operate in rough seas.  Winches are used to bring in the parachutes and the crane lifts the nose cone.

Divers install the equipment need to float NASA ships M/V LIBERTY STAR and FREEDOM STAR the SRB horizontally for towing. The dives enter port with the SRB’s in tow. It can be dangerous, in excess of 130’ due to the length of the SRB and up and down wave motion. A decompression chamber is ready on deck.

Nancy McClintock, June 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 11, 2006

The sun begins its amazing show of lights as it sets on the shimmering water of the Atlantic Ocean signaling the conclusion of another wonderful day at sea.

The sun begins its amazing show of lights as it sets on the shimmering water of the Atlantic Ocean signaling the conclusion of another wonderful day at sea.

Weather Data from Bridge – PM 
Visibility: Good, 10 miles
Wind direction:  S/W
Average wind speed: 14 knots
Wave height: 3-4’
Air temperature:  80oF
Sea temperature:  81.5 oF
Cloud cover: 35%
Barometric pressure:  1011 mb

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled through the night to the Georgia site and today’s operations began at 0815.  We completed a CTD, two fish traps, and three ROV dives.  Once again, one fish trap came up empty and the other one contained 37 porgies that were measured, logged, and then released. Our focus is the grouper and only those are kept for biological study. Today’s ROV dives reached depths of 225 – 334 feet. The ocean floor consists of sand, small rock outcrops, and a few small crevices.

Stacey Harter and Marta Ribera, NOAA scientists, prepare one of two fish traps on board for deployment.

Stacey Harter and Marta Ribera prepare fish traps

The ship is having difficulty staying on track because it is on the edge of the Gulf Stream.  Several of the species observed are sea robin, arrow crab, saddle bass, red snapper, squid, flounder, rudderfish, eel, grunts, toadfish, and octopus. One large lionfish was seen. Due to the increased depth in the ocean floor, different species are observed. The camera array was not in operation today due to the strong currents that tend to flip over the cameras.  Also, Captain Exell wanted to shorten the workday and start heading to Port Canaveral, approximately 200 miles.

Personal Log 

Nancy stands by with buoy line as other members of the NOAA team stand by for deployment of the fish trap.  The fish trap is retrieved approximately two hours later.

Nancy stands by with buoy line as other members of the NOAA team stand by for deployment of the fish trap. The fish trap is retrieved approximately two hours later.

This is the best day ever!  I slept great, the weather is fantastic, and the food is very delicious. However, Captain Exell just informed the crew and scientists that the tropical depression is now Tropical Storm Alberto and will be in our area of operations by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  We are definitely cutting short our cruise by two days and plan to be tied up at Port Canaveral by noon on Monday. Everyone is making the best of this news and is ready for a full day of work.

Everything is going very smoothly and I feel that I really know what I am supposed to do when in the Lab or on the rear deck. Patrick cooked fresh fish for lunch and it was so good. The food is really great and there is always so much of it.  We got into the ice cream bars this evening – yum!!

Stacey Harter removes the ear bone from a grouper as darkness sets in.  The ear bone is similar to a tree ring and reveals age and growth rate of the fish.

Stacey Harter removes the ear bone from a grouper as darkness sets in. The ear bone is similar to a tree ring and reveals age and growth rate of the fish.

Be sure to read my interview with Patrick.  Once again, my desk chair is rocking and rolling in synchronization with the ship. There are whitecaps on the ocean and there is a definite change in the weather.  We are beginning to feel the first effects of Tropical Storm Alberto.  I am a little uneasy, but know that the FREEDOM STAR is in the capable hands of the Captain. We may have a rough ride into the “house” (Port Canaveral), but I know we will arrive safely.  Actually, this is very exciting because I have never been in a tropical storm. This is just one of the many things I will tell my students, friends, and family.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: One of the scientists said this afternoon that he felt, “Since oceans make up the majority of our planet, the only way to study our planet is to study the ocean.”  This is a thought-provoking question written to have you start thinking about this.  There is no right or wrong answer. Today’s question: How does the deep-sea water-pressure affect fish when they are caught and quickly brought to the surface?

Patrick Downey, FREEDOM STAR cook, is preparing lunch on the barbeque.  The barbeque was designed and built by the crew and is securely bolted to the deck.

Patrick Downey is preparing lunch on the barbeque, designed by the crew

Interview with Patrick Downey 

Cook, M/V FREEDOM STAR

Patrick joined the Coast Guard as an FS 3 – Food Service Technician and has spent the last 5 ½ years with the FREEDOM STAR.  He creates the menus, does all of the food shopping, and prepares all of the meals while at sea.  Once a moth he prepares a food report and takes inventory of all food related items on the ship.  When he goes shopping, it takes lot of shopping carts for all of the necessary items to feed the crew.  He is constantly changing the menu and has to plan menus correlated to the weather conditions – even seasoned seamen are affected by the rough weather and high waves.  When asked why he likes his job, Patrick replied,” I love the ocean and I have always liked being on boats. Especially, I like traveling with the space program and working with the great crew of the FREEDOM STAR.

Tony Freeley, FREEDOM STAR Chief Engineer, explains to Nancy the operations of the two diesel engines while touring the engine room.

Tony Freeley, FREEDOM STAR Chief Engineer, explains to Nancy the operations of the two diesel engines while touring the engine room.

Mark Silverman, June 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 11, 2006

Teacher at Sea, Mark Silverman, takes still digital photos during an ROV dive aboard the NASA ship FREEDOM STAR.  The ROV navigator, Kevin Joy, and pilot, Craig Bussel are seen in the background.

Mark Silverman takes still digital photos during an ROV dive. The ROV navigator, Kevin Joy, and pilot, Craig Bussel are seen in the background.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: Good, a little hazy on the horizon
Wind direction:  SW
Average wind speed: 12 knots
Harbor wave height: SW, 2-4’
Air temperature: 76 oF
Cloud cover: 10%
Barometric pressure: 1013 mb

Science and Technology Log 

This morning dawned with Tropical Storm Alberto expected to come off the north Florida or south Georgia coast sometime late afternoon on Tuesday, June 13.  Winds for tomorrow are forecast at 20-25 knots and seas are forecast at 5-7 feet.  In these conditions it is not possible to work safely. Capt. Exell and Andy David, the Principle Investigator, made the decision to go in early, upon completion of today’s work.  We are scheduled into Port Canaveral by noon tomorrow, so this will be the last science log.  I will do one more personal log tomorrow. This morning dawned with fine weather and no sign of the expected storm.  Three ROV dives were planned in the Options off southern Georgia.  At 0800 a general CTD was deployed to support the ROV. It was decided not to deploy the 4-camera array today because strong currents would interfere.

Before presenting a record of the dives, I will discuss a little about the importance of communication and coordination between the bridge and the ROV team.  Although the ROV is piloted by Craig Bussel, it is essential that the ship is moved in the direction that the ROV needs to go. The ROV remains tethered to the ship throughout all dives.  Craig explained that the technology is not yet in place for an autonomous ROV.  The tether provides electrical power to the ROV and returns data, information on position, and video and still photographs to the ROV lab on the ship.  The ROV team remains in constant contact with the bridge using two-way radios.  Craig or Kevin, the navigator, may radio: “move us 50 meters, bearing 273o” and the ship can use dynamic positioning technology to make precise movements.  Dynamic positioning is accomplished using the main props, bow and stern thrusters, GPS, and computers in conjunction with human pilots.  Current and wind play a large role in how well the positioning system functions.  The cooperative efforts of the bridge crew, the ROV team, along with external conditions are crucial to the success of the dive. One of my jobs on this cruise was to take still photos during the ROV dives.  The still photos are shot straight down to study bottom and habitat composition.  One photo per minute is shot and additional photos may be taken of interesting objects.

In what quickly became a “tradition,” the members of the science team and crew gather in the galley to attentively watch an ROV dive on the big screen TV.  Cheers and jeers would echo as a big grouper or snapper appeared or was lost from view.  Clockwise from left in front view, Andy David (PI), Steve Matthews(Fisheries Specialist), Tim Freeley (Chief Engineer), Darin Schuster(Winch operator), and Wayne Stewart (Crane operator).

In what quickly became a “tradition,” the members of the science team and crew gather in the galley to attentively watch an ROV dive on the big screen TV. Cheers and jeers would echo as a big grouper or snapper appeared or was lost from view. From left, Andy David (PI), Steve Matthews(Fisheries Specialist), Tim Freeley (Chief Engineer), Darin Schuster (Winch operator), and Wayne Stewart (Crane operator).

ROV dive 1 was the deepest dive of the cruise at 345 feet (104 m).  The current was very strong for blue water (1.7 to 3 knots).  This caused some difficulty with positioning the ship as explained above.  The bottom was soft, silty ooze.  Much less ambient light was present than in the previous dives. The fish seen included flounders, lizardfish, and scorpionfish. Where scattered rocks occurred snowy grouper were also seen.  One large jack appeared briefly. Invertebrates included sea pens, crinoids (sea lilies), pencil urchins, starfish, and abundant portunid crabs.

An Atlantic Spotted Dolphin frolics in the wave of the FREEDOM STAR, much to everyone’s delight.  The pod had about eight members.

An Atlantic Spotted Dolphin frolics in the wave of the FREEDOM STAR, much to everyone’s delight. The pod had about eight members.

ROV dive 2 transected a mud/silt bottom between significant rock formations and ledges at about 245 feet.  Once again it was difficult to position the ship due to the combination of current and wind. Visibility was poor; however, many grouper were seen.  Seen for the first time on this cruise were Warsaw grouper and red snapper near the larger rocks.  Snowy grouper and scamp were also seen, in addition to the usual big eyes, tattlers, etc. After ROV dive 2, two fish traps were deployed containing cut up Atlantic mackerel (tinker mackerel) as bait.  The traps were recovered after ROV dive 3.  The first trap came up empty.  The second trap was deployed in the rocky area found on ROV dive 2.  It produced 37 red porgies of various sizes, which were measured and released. ROV dive 3 was the final dive for the cruise.  The bottom was a silt and compacted sand mixture with algal patches. Visibility was poor.  Fish seen included amberjack, big eyes, bank sea bass, tattlers (Serranus phoebe), red porgies, and juvenile beeliners (also known as vermillion snapper, which are of a different genus than all other snappers).  One large rock with caves had a wrasse bass, yellow tail reef fish, and a large school of unidentified fish, possibly grunts. Several white colonial tunicates were seen.  Interestingly, they are of a type that is being investigated for possible medical applications (new drugs).  Many terrestrial sources have been tried and produced many drugs.  The ocean has many new possibilities waiting to be discovered. Other invertebrates included hermit crabs in long shells, chalice sponges, gastropod egg cases, and starfish. It is unfortunate that the cruise had to be cut short, but a wealth of important data was collected during the 5 days we worked.  Work ended around 1700, 195 miles from home, and FREEDOM STAR transited to her homeport, Port Canaveral, overnight.

Personal Log 

I woke early in order to finish up yesterday’s log.  The conversation at breakfast centered on the impending storm and Andy announced that we would head in tonight. I have had such a wonderful experience that I can’t help but be a little bit disappointed. However, I am just grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the world of a marine biologist and all the wonderful adventures of the last five days. Living and working aboard a research vessel with marine biologists fulfilled a life long dream for me.

A “biting shark” is brought up to the gunwale in order to be released.

A “biting shark” is brought up to the gunwale in order to be released.

I worked on my log until the first ROV run was under way and then assisted with the camera and recovery of the vehicle. Throughout the day I worked in various capacities, experiencing one more time life at sea. Several exciting moments occurred.  The first was when I spotted a large school of spotted Atlantic dolphins from the “Lido” deck. After announcing their presence I bolted down the stairs to get my camera.  I shot lots of pictures in order to try and get a good one. I have included one of the better ones in this log. The crew fished on and off all day and several dolphin were caught and also a shark! I asked Andy what type of shark it was and he replied, “A biting shark.”  Finally, I got up my nerve to try and toss the high-flyer float again on the last fish trap deployment (remember I dented the radar array, and nearly my head, on my last attempt).  I had been studying the technique all day and my toss was perfect! Later Cody Gordon, Ordinary Seaman, took me up to the flying bridge and gave me a great tour.  It was thrilling to be up so high up on the ship underway as the wind whipped by at about 40 knots. Cody was familiar with all the equipment topside and explained to me the function of each, such as antennae for GPS, radios, radar, etc. and signal lights, search lights and more.  As always the food and camaraderie was excellent, another great day at sea! As my Newfoundland friends would say, “I’m beat to a snot!” and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Yesterdays question about the distribution of fisheries resources has no clear-cut answer and is highly debatable. Much of the fisheries research at NOAA, such as this mission will help answer the question.  The current trend is a 50-50 split between commercial and recreational users while maintaining a sustainable fishery for the future. Today’s question: Do you think you would like life at sea or the career of a marine biologist? If so how would you prepare?

Addendum 1: Glossary of Terms 

Ambar:  Zodiac-like partially inflatable outboard boats carried aboard the ship and deployed by cranes. FREEDOM STAR normally carries two. Tropical storm:  A cyclonic storm with winds of at least 40 mph. Autonomous:  Something that operates on its own, with no connection to a source or other support system. Ambient: The natural surroundings. Colonial:  Organisms that live in close association to one another, but are not completely interdependent on one another. “Lido” deck:  A colloquialism (slang) used by the crew for the O-1 deck.  The ship has five decks from below sea level up:  the lower deck (below the water line), the main deck (at or just above the water line), the O-1 deck (forecastle – pronounced fo’cle deck), the bridge deck and the flying bridge. PI: Principal Investigator.

Ordinary Seaman, Cody Gordon, braces against the wind as he gives me a tour of the flying bridge.  Clouds from Tropical  Storm Alberto loom in the background.

Ordinary Seaman, Cody Gordon, braces against the wind as he gives me a tour of the flying bridge. Clouds from Tropical Storm Alberto loom in the background.

Addendum 2: Interview with Mike Nicholas and Allan Gravina 

Mike and Allan enthusiastically agreed to do an interview.  I approached them on day 4 while they were on they’re morning bridge watch.  Seamen on the FREEDOM STAR and her sister ship LIBERTY STAR work 2 four hour watches per day or as they say, “4 on, 8 off.” Mike and Allan were assigned 8 AM to noon and 8 PM to midnight during this cruise. I found them to be very proud of they’re work, particularly as it involved the space shuttle missions, with a good sense of humor and a very positive attitude.

Q: Describe your job and life at sea. Mike: Mostly I’m just Navigational Officer.  Each day as we go from place to place, I make sure we get there without hazards. Allan: …and charts and communications. Allan: I assist the watch; stand the look out for watch on duty is my main job.  Also, my job includes anything else that needs to be done on deck. Retrieving boosters we work on deck. Any time personnel needs to be moved we’ll drive the Ambars.

Q: How did you come to work on FREEDOM STAR? Mike: I actually started on LIBERTY STAR [sister ship to FREEDOM STAR] eighteen and one half years ago.

Q: How old are you now? Mike: I’m 38. Allan: I’m 32. Mike: I started entry level as an ordinary seaman and came up through the ranks.  I came on FREEDOM STAR as a promotion 11 years ago and I was transferred over to FREEDOM then.

Q: Do you like working at sea? Mike: Yeah, I enjoy it. I like the idea that everyday is different.  You don’t know what you’ll get everyday. Not to mention, the challenges of what we have to do.

Q: Is it fun? Mike: Absolutely…a good time!  We usually retrieve the space shuttle solid rocket boosters. This is not our normal mission. Allan: That’d be our number 1 job, that and the external [fuel] tank.

Q: What’s it like working a shuttle mission? Allan: Pretty exciting actually, a good feeling!  We know we are one of 24 people in the world that do what we do, no other country, no other boat, no other place. It’s also challenging, because we must go regardless of weather, up to 30-foot seas.  They’ve only held the boat back once or twice in the 25 year program history.

Q: Do you see the launches? Allan: About 1 minute after lift off it will fly over us.  [They are roughly 120 mi out to see in the recovery zone]

Q: How far to splash down of the boosters are you? Allan: 5-10 miles.  You can see them come down, the whole bit.

Q: Is there any danger of them hitting you? Mike: No, they know exactly where they are going to land. Allan, grinning: If you think about it, those things are 130 feet long and 12 feet in diameter coming through the air.  They’re pretty big!

From left, Allan Gravina, Able Bodied Seaman, and Mike filled 3 and ½ pages.  The Nicholas, 2nd Mate, on the bridge during the  0800-1200 bridge watch.  Their duties while on watch include monitoring the ships position in relation to other vessels, land, and obstacles, piloting the vessel and monitoring the ships systems and accurate quotes and used notes.  communications.  They’re ability to pilot the ship was crucial to the success of the ROV dives.  When not on watch they frequently lend a hand on deck.   Off duty both of them enjoy fishing or a good game of Spades.

From left, Allan Gravina, Able Bodied Seaman, and Mike filled 3 and ½ pages. The Nicholas, 2nd Mate, on the bridge during the 0800-1200 bridge watch. Their duties while on watch include monitoring the ship’s position in relation to other vessels, land, and obstacles, piloting the vessel and monitoring the ships systems and accurate quotes and used notes. communications. They’re ability to pilot the ship was crucial to the success of the ROV dives. When not on watch they frequently lend a hand on deck. Off duty both of them enjoy fishing or a good game of Spades.

Nancy McClintock, June 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 10, 2006

Kevin Joy and Craig Bussel, ROV crew navigator  and pilot, install one of the cameras in preparation  for ROV deployment.

Kevin Joy and Craig Bussel, ROV crew navigator and pilot, install one of the cameras

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  Excellent
Wind direction:  SSW
Average wind speed: 15 knots
Wave height: 4-6’ with higher swells
Air temperature:  73oF
Sea temperature:  79 oF
Cloud cover: 20%
Barometric pressure:  1010 mb

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled approximately 121.4 miles north toward the coast of North Carolina during the night of June 9. Operations for the morning were delayed due to the reporting of strong winds and currents in opposite directions and a tropical storm forming in the Yucatan/Honduras area and moving toward the western coast of Florida.  Predictions are that the storm will cross the peninsula and track along the northeastern coast in our direction.  If this occurs, Captain Exell wants to be back at Port Canaveral on Monday, which means shortening our cruise.  Andy, NOAA Principal Investigator, has decided to scrap the North Carolina site, a man-made reef called the Snowy Wreck.  The FREEDOM STAR traveled 50 miles from North Carolina to the South Carolina Site A.  Today’s operations began at 1100 and Options 1 and 3 were successfully completed along with 2 camera arrays, 2 fish taps, 1 CTD, and 3 ROV deployments.  However, Option 2 was scrapped due to lack of time.  The ROV continues to record excellent images of the ocean floor and the species that inhabit it.  Today’s dives yielded the greatest diversity of species and a larger number within a species.  ROV dive #1 revealed several scamp (a type of grouper), soap fish, puffer fish, tattler fish, a field of sea urchin, and several lion fish.  The lionfish is native to the colder waters of the Western Pacific and is thought to have been intentionally released in the Florida area.

Craig, ROV pilot, monitors the ROV transect as Stacey Harter, NOAA scientist, identifies and records species, and Freshteh Ahmadian, ROV crew, pilots the ROV.

Craig, ROV pilot, monitors the ROV transect as Stacey Harter, NOAA scientist, identifies and records species, and Freshteh Ahmadian, ROV crew, pilots the ROV.

Personal Log 

I awoke this morning feeling great and looking forward to another busy day. Hearing the news of the tropical depression has put a somber overtone on the morning.  Andy, the Principal Investigator, is rethinking our cruise plan and working out the best possible alternatives. There is talk about shortening the cruise and returning to Port Canaveral two days earlier. The weather outside is gorgeous, warm, very sunny, and it is hard to believe that such a big weather change is a possibility. Our workday began late because we scrapped the North Carolina Site and moved 50 miles south to South Carolina. It is nice to sit in the sun, interview the scientists and crew while waiting for our arrival.  Speaking of the crew, they are great guys who love to fish and have fun by kidding around. However, they work very hard and are always there when needed and know exactly what to do. We are all settling into a routine and the deployment and retrieval of equipment is going very smooth. I get to help with almost everything and feel like I am playing a very important role in the name of science.  Seeing a moray eel on the ocean floor is just awesome.  It is amazing to watch these creatures moving in their habitat and not just as a picture in a book.

Steve Matthews, NOAA scientist, and Nancy McClintock, NOAA Teacher at Sea, celebrate the success of another ROV deployment.

Steve Matthews, NOAA scientist, and Nancy McClintock celebrate the success of another ROV deployment.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: There are many answers to this controversial question. If the MPAs designated on this cruise were established in the future, over fishing of five species of grouper and 2 species of tilefish might be prevented.  Hopefully, this would protect them from endangerment or, possibly, extinction.  Whenever one part of the “Web of Life” is affected, the entire “Web of Life” is affected.  The designation of MPAs is a very controversial topic. Today’s question: How does the introduction of a non-native species of fish affect the biodiversity of the ocean ecosystem?

Interview with the ROV TEAM 

Marta Ribera, NOAA scientist, records habitat description and fish species on a laptop as observed on ROV monitors.

Marta Ribera, NOAA scientist, records habitat description and fish species as observed on ROV monitors.

Craig Bussel 

NURC (National Undersea Research Center), ROV Pilot Craig spent most of his early years in Missouri and became a certified scuba diver at the age of 16. While in the Army, he learned about hydraulics and was assigned (via the Army) to a Navy ship with a ROV (remotely operated vehicle) on it.  This piqued his interest in ROVs and he went to work in California for a ROV manufacturer.  After forming his own company repairing and operating ROVs, Craig began working for the National Undersea North Atlantic and Great lakes Center.  The Hela ROV (formerly Phantom ROV) used for this cruise was originally built in 2002 by Deep Ocean Engineering.  In 2005 Craig helped to redesign it to carry HD-TV (high-definition) and it was renamed Hela.  “The best thing about my job is that I get to see things first and go places no one has ever been – it’s cool!  We are professional explorers.”

Kevin Joy 

NURC, ROV Navigator Kevin grew up in the New England area and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado in Environmental Design.  He received a Master’s Degree in Geography from the University of Connecticut where he became proficient in GIS.  He worked at a Consulting Firm in GIS that contracted with NURC (National Undersea Research Center) to build and maintain a GIS system.  He is now an IT Group Leader at NURC and designs databases, websites, and programs using a long-range wireless network. In other words, he wears many hats.  “The best thing about my job is that I never do the same thing twice.”

A dolphin, one of six (a pod), swims along  the FREEDOM STAR and frolics in the wake created by the bow.

A dolphin, one of six (a pod), swims along the FREEDOM STAR and frolics in the wake created by the bow.

Freshteh Ahmadian 

NURC, ROV Fresteh is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada – Reno and is a Hollings Scholar, a scholarship program sponsored by NOAA.  She has always been interested in robotics and is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  This summer she is completing a 10-week internship with NURC.  This is her first time being on a ship like the FREEDOM STAR. “This cruise has been very educational and I am learning lots of new things.”

ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) 

The original Phantom ROV cost $80,000.  The redesigned Hela ROV is now valued at $250,000. It has 3 cameras (capable of 4), video fiber optic, scanning sonar, acoustic tracking system, and 4 ••• horsepower horizontal thrusters.  It is rated to 1,000 feet depth with 1,500 feet of fiber optic cable. There are two daylight quality lights on the front.  The pictures and videos taken by the ROV are archived and then given to the scientists for three years.

Mark Silverman, June 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 10, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  Excellent
Wind direction:  SSW
Average wind speed: 15 knots
Wave height: 4-6’ with higher swells
Air temperature:  73oF
Sea temperature:  79 oF
Cloud cover: 20%
Barometric pressure:  1010 mb

The view from the bridge of the M/V FREEDOM STAR about 100 miles of the coast of North Carolina as she  transits to the South Carolina Option.

The view from the bridge 100 miles of the coast of North Carolina as she transits to the South Carolina Option.

Science and Technology Log 

This morning seas were a sloppy 6-8 feet, again washing over the back deck and creating a safety hazard. Additionally, a low-pressure system forming near the Yucatan is forecast to be in this area early next week, possibly as a tropical storm. For this reason, the decision was made to scrub the North Carolina mission and proceed 48 miles to the southwest to the other South Carolina Option.  This would give the seas a chance to lay down and position us better if the need to retreat to port early arose due to the weather. Science operations began at about 1100 in South Carolina Options 1 and 2. The normal routine of camera array, CTD, and fish traps was followed. We also got in 3 ROV runs. All the ROV runs were interesting. The last two runs were on new transects that were selected using Marta Ribera’s maps.  The transects turned out to have a significant amount of hard bottom and good populations of fish and invertebrates. The last run revealed an extensive ledge system that harbored some very large scamp and gag grouper. All three runs also came across numerous lionfish.  The fish trap produced three scamp and a gray triggerfish.  The scamps were dissected to collect their otoliths and gonads. The otoliths are used for age determination and the gonads for reproductive analysis. As evening approached, TD #1 was threatening in the Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to be in the South Atlantic sometime early next week.  The decision was made to run south to the Georgia Options with the hope of getting in another day or two of work while being closer to port in the event that we have to go in early, a possibility that is looking very likely at this point.

Andy stands guard as Mark hurries into position in preparation to deploy the ROV in the South  Carolina Option aboard the FREEDOM STAR.

Andy stands guard as Mark hurries into position in preparation to deploy the ROV in the South Carolina Option aboard the FREEDOM STAR.

Personal Log 

Please note that the satellite system which is used for email aboard the ship went down yesterday. It is likely at this point that it will not work the rest of the cruise, so this and the remaining logs will be posted upon our return to port.   

I woke well rested after a good nights sleep, lulled by the rocking of the ship underway and the white noise of the engines. The bow thrusters woke me about 0630 as our cabin is the most forward. A quick shower brought me to life.  After eggs, biscuits, sausage gravy and coffee I had some free time while the FREEDOM STAR transited to the South Carolina position.  I read my Bible on the upper deck for a while with a grand view of the sunrise over the open ocean. It was inspiring and peaceful. I then worked on my logs. The morning mission began in a flurry of activity.  I noticed that the crew and science team are working smoothly and efficiently now. Everyone knows his or her role and the work goes smoothly.  Even I have found my niche and have become more familiar with operations, so I know when and where my help is needed.  This is a very satisfying feeling. Dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi) came up with the ROV again! I waited until the vehicle was secure and then told the second mate, Mike Nicholas, as I was busy with operations.

Wayne Stewart, crane operator, and Mike Nicholas, second mate, show off a dolphin that I spotted.

Wayne Stewart, crane operator, and Mike Nicholas, second mate, show off a dolphinfish that I spotted.

He made a cast with a spinning rod and jig and caught a fine 10 pounder for the galley. Everyone was very excited in the afternoon over the ROV run and the fish we’d caught. Every time the ROV is diving, the video is projected into the dining hall and the everyone who is not working gathers to watch and comment. Shouts, of “follow that big blackbelly,” etc. are heard. The crew also likes to gather and watch as the fish traps are brought in.  All this lends a fine sense of camaraderie.  With three ROV runs and fish to be cleaned we finished late. The evening was a bit somber as everyone began to worry about the weather and confer on our options. Nancy and I met with Andy to discuss a plan in case we go in early, which is looking quite likely at this point.  Despite the disappointment at the thought of going in early, I went to bed enthused and satisfied that I was able to be a part of this productive team and help to gather valuable scientific data that will help in improve our understanding of fisheries and habitat issues.  I will sleep soundly tonight as we transit to the Georgia site. To my family, I send my love and I miss you!  Daddy is thinking of you David!

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Nonnative species often compete with native species for prey and habitat.  Usually the introduction of nonnative species has a negative affect on the indigenous fauna.  Eliminating or controlling introduced species is extremely difficult, as the predators that feed on them and even the diseases that affect them may not be found in the new area.  Thus, they will often out compete native species.  It is estimated that there are now 1-13 million lionfish in the South Atlantic ranging from West Palm Beach, Florida to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Fortunately they have not spread south yet.  Ignorant or uncaring aquarists introduced many of the nonnative fish in freshwater ecosystems.  It is theorized, however, that lionfish may have been introduced intentionally by a recreational dive operation in order to boost their business. If this is true it was a very poor decision. Today’s question: One of the questions frequently debated is how to distribute a limited resource fairly.  Much debate has gone on regarding recreational versus commercial harvest of marine fish. How do you feel fisheries resources should be allocated and why? What would you base your decision on?

Clockwise:  Steve Matthews, Mark Silverman, PJ Zackel, and Andy David use tag lines to control the ROV as it is deployed by the crane.

Clockwise: Steve Matthews, Mark Silverman, PJ Zackel, and Andy David use tag lines to control the ROV as it is deployed by the crane.

Addendum 1:  Glossary of Terms 

GIS (Geographic Information System):  Maps dive sites, creates maps with layers such as depth, bottom type, and fish data. These are checked for patterns.  The human mind is still the best pattern recognition software available. Otolith:  An ear bone found behind the gills of fish.  Otoliths add exactly one ring a day and can be used to very accurately determine the age. Gonads: The reproductive structure of animals.  They are called testes in males and ovaries in females.  Interestingly, all scamp begin life as females.  Some will change to males later in life.  This is known as protogyny. Blackbelly:  Nickname used by the crew for a large male gag grouper.

Addendum 2: The Science Team Marine Science Team: 

Andy David-Principle Investigator
Steve Matthews-Fisheries Methods and Equipment Specialist
Stacy Harter- Fisheries Biologist/Data Analyst
Marta Ribera-GIS Specialist
Cecelia Linder-NOAA Headquarters Habitat Conservation Officer on rotational assignment to field

ROV Team: 

Craig Bussel-Pilot
Kevin Joy-Navigational Specialist
Freshteh Ahmadian-ROV Intern in the Hollings Scholar Program

Andy David, Principle Investigator, confers with Stacy Harter, Fisheries Bilogogist, on strategies for the day’s mission.

Andy David, Principle Investigator, confers with Stacy Harter, Fisheries biologist, on strategies for the day’s mission.

Craig Bussel, ROV pilot, prepares for an ROV transect in a South Carolina Option.

Craig Bussel, ROV pilot, prepares for an ROV transect in a South Carolina Option.

Nancy McClintock, June 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 9, 2006

The camera array secures four digital video cameras in waterproof containers to a frame that is tethered and lowered to the ocean floor.

The camera array secures four digital video cameras in waterproof containers tethered and lowered to the ocean floor.

Weather Data from Bridge

Visibility:  good with a little haze
Wind direction:  SW/W
Average wind speed: 20 knots
Wave height: 8-10’
Air temperature: 72oF
Cloud cover: 70%
Barometric pressure:  1010 mb

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled approximately 134 miles north toward the coast of South Carolina during the night of June 8. Due to increased winds, the waves reached a height of 8-10 feet. Operations for the morning were cancelled until conditions improved.  At approximately 1300, the fish trap was deployed with 450 feet of Amsteel Blue line 7/16 inches in diameter and a breaking strength of 27,000 pounds tethered to high-flyer floats as markers for a later retrieval.  Upon recovery after 90 minutes, the fish trap contained 7 porgies and 1 triggerfish.   Three measurements were recorded for the fish – standard length (mouth to the beginning of the tail), fork length (mouth to the fork or middle of the tail), and total length (mouth  to end of tail). The camera array was readied and deployed as waves soaked the back deck. The CTD was deployed and rested in the water for 1 minute to let the water flow through the instrument and acclimate it.

Upon retrieval by NOAA scientists and FREEDOM STAR crew, containers are rinsed several times in freshwater and wiped down to remove the saltwater.  Tapes are removed, logged, and can be viewed on a small digital player.  Data is meticulously analyzed later in the NOAA Lab.

Upon retrieval, containers are rinsed several times in freshwater and wiped down to remove the saltwater. Tapes are removed, logged, and can be viewed on a small digital player. Data is meticulously analyzed later.

It was lowered to the ocean floor for 15 seconds during which time conductivity, temperature, and other data were collected. The ROV (Hela) was successfully deployed.  However, after reaching the ocean floor, one of the  cameras was not functioning and the ROV operation was terminated.  The camera was repaired, the vehicle was launched, and the ROV dive was successfully completed at 1930 at a depth of 222 feet.  This was the first of the dives during which the strobe functioned and images were excellent.  The bottom consisted of hard compacted sand called pavement, crevices, and relief rocky outcrops. Some of the species identified included a sea cucumber (an invertebrate), razor fish, porgies, groupers, hogfish, a school of amberjack, and 2 lionfish. Lionfish is an introduced species in this area and appears to adversely impact the biodiversity of native species. In spite of early morning weather conditions and the late start, all planned operations were concluded by the end of the day.

Cece Linder, NOAA scientist, records the full-length measurement of a porgy caught in the fish trap. This is one of three measurements recorded for each fish caught

Cece Linder, NOAA scientist, records the full-length measurement of a porgy caught in the fish trap. This is one of three measurements recorded for each fish caught

Personal Log 

Little did I know that the “flight simulator” from the night before was only to be an introduction to 8-10’ waves. I experienced the effect of anti-gravity as I was bounced around in my bunk.  After trying to get out of my bunk several times, I was successful only to find that I was overtaken by motion sickness.  Weather conditions cancelled the morning operations and I was very content to spend the morning in my bunk trying to recover. The afternoon arrived, weather conditions improved, and a light lunch made everything better. On rocky days it helps to keep your eyes on the horizon at the rear of the ship, just like our field investigations to Shaw Nature Reserve.  I always teach on the way to the Reserve and keep an eye on the rear of the bus – it really does help with motion sickness. This afternoon was a full-gear day and I donned my lifejacket and hardhat to help with the deployment of the fish trap and camera array.  This gear is always necessary when the crane is in operation.  Safety of everyone on board is first while conducting the operations.  It feels great to be an active member of the scientific team.  The images from the ROV are amazing and I sit at the laptop and continue to take digital images of the ocean floor.  The brightly colored sponges, the darting of the fish, the sea anemone, starfish, and sea cucumber bring excitement to the crew in the lab. This is an entirely different ecosystem that is so different to those that we see and study in Missouri and I am truly in awe!  Another unique experience is sitting at the computer working on my daily log as the ship is underway to our new position.  This is a flat-bottom ship and it really rocks and rolls.  It is a challenge to type and keep my chair (that is on rolling wheels) close to the keyboard.  Even though the weather and equipment did not cooperate 100%, it was another successful day and I am looking forward to many new adventures.

Nancy McClintock, NOAA Teacher at Sea, tries on a survival suit informally known as a “Gumby Suit.” The suit helps to prevent hypothermia in case there is an emergency requiring evacuation of the ship.

Nancy McClintock, NOAA Teacher at
Sea, tries on a survival suit informally
known as a “Gumby Suit.” The suit
helps to prevent hypothermia in case
there is an emergency requiring
evacuation of the ship.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: There are many answers to this controversial question. If the MPAs designated on this cruise were established in the future, overfishing would be prevented. Hopefully, this would protect fish from endangerment or, possibly, extinction.  Whenever one part of the “Web of Life” is affected, the entire “Web of Life” is affected. The designation of MPAs is a very controversial topic.

Today’s question: How does the introduction of a non-native species of fish affect the biodiversity of the ocean ecosystem?

Interview with Stacey Harter 

Stacey is the NOAA data manager for the cruise.  She annotates the positions, and habitats, and ocean life for the ROV tapes.  She grew up in upstate New York and always knew that she wanted to have a career in the field of marine biology.  While at Florida State University she completed an internship at the Panama City NOAA Fisheries Lab.  Upon graduation, she began working for NOAA and has been there for the past 4 years.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Marine Biology and loves her job.

Addendum 1: Scientific Personnel for the M/V FREEDOM STAR 

Andrew David, NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) Panama City, Principal Investigator Stacey Harter, NMFS Panama City, Data Manager Marta Ribera, NMFS Panama City, GIS/ROV/Deck Craig Bussel, NURC (National Undersea Research Center), ROV Pilot Kevin Joy, NURC, ROV Navigator Freshteh Ahmadian, NURC, ROV Steve Matthews, NMFS Panama City, ROV/Deck Cecelia Linder, NMFS Headquarters, ROV/Deck Nancy McClintock, NOAA Teacher as Sea Mark Silverman, NOAA Teacher at Sea.