NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard R/V Fulmar
July 24– July 29, 2012
Mission: Ecosystem Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuaries
Date: July 23 & 24, 2012
Latitude: 37 48.87 W
Longitude: 123 23.04 N
Weather Data From Bridge:
Air Temperature 12.2 C (54 F)
Wind Speed 10 knots
Wind Direction: From the South
Surface Water Temperature: 13 C (55.4 F)
Day 1, July 23, 2012
Wow! I have been preparing for this day for months and now I’m here. This is the adventure of a lifetime. I’m so excited to tell everyone about everything that I’ve done so far and I’ve only been on board for two days.
Travel and Arrival
I set off early Monday July 23, 2012 for the boat docked in Sausalito from my parents’ home near Sacramento, CA. I’m fortunate to have my parents give me a ride so I don’t have to worry about leaving my car parked overnight. We got into San Francisco at lunchtime and decided to stop at the Franciscan Restaurant near Fisherman’s Wharf. The food was incredible and both Mom and Dad filled their cravings for bread bowls with clam chowder. Yummy! We had an amazing view across the bay to Sausalito. Next we headed for downtown Sausalito for dessert. (If you haven’t gotten the clue yet this trip is all about great food and making friends.) It was beautiful with lots of little places to lose yourself and enjoy the view and watch people walking or riding by. Cafe Tutti was a great little place for three waffle cones, laughs, and picturesque memories. Then it was time to head to the boat!
Boat Tour and Unpacking
I met Kaitlin Graiff and Erik Larson on board when I arrived. She is the (Acting) Research Coordinator for the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary and he is the Captain of the R/V Fulmar. They were both so welcoming and gave us all the grand tour. It only consisted of about fifty steps, but who’s counting. We saw the wheelhouse (where you drive the boat), the bunk rooms (where you sleep on the boat), the galley (where you eat on the boat), the head (where you handle business on the boat), the fly bridge (where you observe animals), and the rear deck (where you use equipment to study the ocean). I know that’s lots to remember, but it’s smaller than it sounds with cozy little places to have a snack or a cat nap. Before I said my goodbyes Mom made me take a picture with all of my gear. Thanks Mom!
Then it was time to unpack. I chose the top bunk on the starboard side of the boat. Now the important thing to remember is to duck when you get the top bunk. There is almost no head room so duck early and often. I’ve hit my head three times already.
While Kaitlin, Erik, and I were getting to know each other, two more scientists arrived throughout the evening before dinner. They were bringing the two most important parts of our cruise: the food and the equipment. Jaime Jahncke, California Current Director for PRBO Conservation Science arrived first. His name and title sound very official, but he is the most charismatic person you’ll meet. He loves to joke around and have a good time while working to preserve and manage wildlife. Last to arrive Monday night was Jan Roletto, Research Coordinator at Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. Jan is the lead scientist on the cruise, mother hen to everyone. She brought the most important thing for the trip: FOOD. We have chips, nuts, crackers, chocolate covered everything, every soda drink imaginable, and more! Did I mention that this trip is all about the food :).
Day 2, July 24, 2012
I am usually a morning person, but this morning I could have stayed in bed a little longer. The crew, scientists, and I woke up between 5 and 6 AM to welcome five more people onto the boat. Daniel Hossfeld, Intern at Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary; Carol Keiper, Marine Mammal and Seabird Observer; Kirsten Lindquist, Ecosystem Monitoring Manager at Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association; Kerri Beeker, Major and Planned Gifts Officer at PRBO Conservation Science; and Caitlin Byrnes, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Once everyone was on board and the gear was stowed and tied down we headed for the first transect line of the day.
Science and Technology Log
This section has a little more science and technical language, but just bear with me because I want you to understand what we’re doing out here. Applied California Current Ecosystem Study (ACCESS) has been monitoring 30 different transect lines (hot spots for animal activity) in Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries. Today we completed four transects: Nearshore 5, Offshore 5, Offshore 7, and Nearshore 7. On these four lines the scientists observed the wildlife – documenting seabirds and marine mammals. They use a laptop with Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking and software that shows a map of the area we are studying with the transect lines. The software uses codes to name birds and marine mammals: a number to code for behavior, a number for zone (ie. distance from boat), and a true bearing direction from the bow (front) of the boat. The birds are identified using the American Ornithology Union (AOU), which is a four letter code based on the bird’s common name (ie. Common Murre, COMU). The birds are observed at a max distance of 200 meters from the boat. Marine mammals are also given a four letter code based on the common name of the animal (ie. Blue Whale: BLWH).
Another important aspect of the observation is continually updating environmental conditions. Observers describe visibility, swell height of the waves, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, and an overall rating for the conditions for that time. Click on the Title below for an example of their codes.
What did I do Today?!
Well, to sum it up in a word: relax! I was able to get used to being at sea and rest a little from a stressful week of preparation for this trip. I was nauseous this morning for about six hours, but I was able to overcome by sitting still and gazing at the horizon. I must admit that being around a bunch of different food while feeling nauseous is not fun and makes you feel worse. When I finally felt better I was able to have lots of great conversations with Kerri and Caitlin. They are doing so much to support this ACCESS cruise and awareness about conservation of ecosystems. It was nice to get a picture of the non-profit side of these issues. I was also able to see some Pacific white sided dolphins bow riding and two humpback whales about 20 feet off the bow. They popped up in front of the boat and we had to slow down so we didn’t interrupt them.
The first two days have been amazing and I can’t wait to see what we’re going to do next. Tomorrow, we’ll be completing transect line 6. You’ll notice that there are black dots on the map. Those indicate places where I will work with Kaitlin to get water column samples and samples of krill and zooplankton.