Lisa Carlson: “No life is too short, no career too brief, no contribution too small,” July 16, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lisa Carlson

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

July 5, 2023 – July 19, 2023

Mission: Fisheries: Pacific Hake Survey (More info here)

Geographic Region: Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California

Date: July 16, 2023

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Weather Data from the Bridge

July 14 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 38° 34.9’ N, 123° 42.7’ W
15nm (17mi) West of Stewarts Point, CA

Visibility: <1 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast, fog
Wind: 19 knots from NW 330°
Barometer: 1014.6 mbar
Sea wave height: 3-4 feet
Swell: 5-6 ft from NW 300°
Sea temperature: 11.0°C (51.8°F)
Air temperature: 13.1°C (55.6°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): 330°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 10 knots

July 15 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 38° 56.3’ N, 124° 02.1’ W
13nm (15mi) West of Point Arena Lighthouse, Point Arena, CA

Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast
Wind: 20 knots from NW 340°
Barometer: 1013.1 mbar
Sea wave height: 3-4 feet 3-4
Swell: 7-8 ft from NW 320°
Sea temperature: 10.8°C (51.4°F)
Air temperature: 13.3°C (55.9°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): 270°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 9 knots

July 16 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 39° 36.2’ N, 124° 01.6’ W
14nm (16mi) Northwest of Fort Bragg, CA

Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast
Wind: 29 knots from NW 320°
Barometer: 1011.4 mbar
Sea wave height: 3-4 feet
Swell: 5-6 ft from NW 320°
Sea temperature: 11.3°C (52.3°F)
Air temperature: 13.9°C (57.0°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): 280°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 7 knots

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Science and Technology Log

Without a vessel and without a crew, none of this mission would be possible. As I’ve said before, this crew is special. Like any job, employees are required, but that does not mean that you will work well cohesively and passionately towards a goal. The two weeks I’ve been spending with this crew who is so wholeheartedly excited about their job and role, while being on the ocean, has been so rewarding and inspiring. More later, this is starting to remind me of crying along with my sobbing fourth graders on the last day of school.

While I’ve discussed a lot of the daily operations of the crew and ship, and what I’ve been learning and working on myself, however, I have not discussed the vessel and agency that has made all of this possible. Many people question, “What is NOAA?” when I explain this opportunity.

About NOAA

NOAA logo: a circle bisected by the outline of a seagull, dark blue above the seagull's wings and lighter blue below. Around the circle read the words: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is a U.S. government agency that was formed in 1970 as a combination of several different organizations. The purpose of NOAA is to study and report on the ocean, atmosphere, and coastal regions of Earth.”

National Geographic Education: “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

“Our mission: To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, ocean, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and managecoastal and marine ecosystems and resources.”
NOAA: “About Our Agency”

NOAA: “About Our Agency”

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada can carry a total crew of 24, which include NOAA Corps officers, engineers, other crew members, and scientists.

“The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.”

NOAA OMO: “NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

The Vessel

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, commissioned in 2010, is a fisheries survey vessel designed to produce a low acoustic signature, built to collect data on fish populations, conduct marine mammal and seabird surveys, and study marine ecosystems. The quiet operation provides scientists the ability to study fish and marine mammals without significantly altering their behavior.

Stats and Specs (Link for more information)
Length: 208.60 ft
Beam (width): 49.2 ft
Draft (bottom of the lowered centerboard to waterline): 29.7 ft
Displacement (full load): 2,479 tons (4,958,000 lbs)
Speed: 11.00 knots
Endurance: 40 days
Range: 12,000 nautical miles
Home port: Newport, Oregon
– 24 (5 NOAA Corps officers, 4 licensed engineers, and 15 other crew members)
– Plus up to 15 scientists


“[Dr.] Bell M. Shimada (1922-1958), served with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, and was known for his studies of tropical Pacific tuna stocks.”

Wikipedia: “NOAAS Bell M. Shimada

The ship’s namesake was known for his contributions to the study of Tropical Pacific tuna stocks, which were important to the development of West Coast commercial fisheries following World War II. Dr. Bell Shimada and colleagues at Pacific Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (POFI) Honolulu Laboratory were among the first to study the population dynamics of tunas and the oceanography affecting their abundance and distribution.

a man (Dr. Shimada) wearing a white t-shirt, shorts, and red baseball cap stands holding a penguin. He grasps the penguin securely beneath its wings, which are spread out to each side. The man, and the penguin, look at the camera. He appears to be on a vessel - we can see some ocean water in the background - and we can tell that two other people are behind him, mostly obscured.

Dr. Bell M. Shimada, circa 1957.
Wikipedia: “Bell M. Shimada

“In her remarks at the christening and launch, [Dr. Shimada’s daughter] Julie Shimada offered the following, “I hope the Bell M. Shimada is a lasting testament that no life is too short, no career too brief, no contribution too small, to make a difference.”

NVC Foundation: “NOAA Honors Nisei With Launch of Fisheries Vessel “Bell M. Shimada””

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Interviews with the Crew
(Part 1 of 2)

(Take note of the similarities and differences between how these crew members chose an ocean-related career and got to be assigned to NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada)

A photo of a photo in a wooden frame with a name plaque reading CDR Laura Gibson. The photo is a portait of a woman posing in a survival suit, hands in the air. She's wearing a navy blue hat that says Bell M Shimada R-227.

Executive Officer
Commander Laura Gibson

What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada?
CDR Gibson’s role includes a lot of administrative work, handling the budget, standing bridge watches as the Officer on Duty (OOD), along with other executive duties.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?
The mission and camaraderie of the crew, as well as getting to know the ship and happy, successful operations.

When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean-related career?
CDR Gibson enjoys Scuba diving and grew up on lakes. She worked on a research ship in college and continued working on the water which led her to NOAA. She mentions her Dad as a large motivator and inspiration of wanting to pursue an ocean-related career.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
Working a boring 9-5 desk job!

Favorite animal

Fun Fact: she brings a stuffed animal dog with her from her son, named Barfolomew.

His nickname is Barf!

a stuffed animal (a brown dog with long black ears) photographed against a carpet

A photo of a photo in a wooden frame with a name plaque reading LT Nicole Chappelle. The photo is a portait of a woman wearing a blue jacket.

Operations Officer
Lieutenant Nicole Chappelle

What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada?
Coordinate with scientists to make the plan of the day, assist in navigation and operation of the vessel.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?
Nicole enjoys seeing all of the sea life and creatures, and hearing and learning what the scientists are doing and why.

When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean-related career?
She originally wanted to work with animals, which she did as a member of a rehabilitation team at Sea World. She then wanted to join uniformed service. Nicole chose NOAA’s uniformed service (NOAA Corps) because their science missions aligned with her interests.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
Working with animals and marine life or being a scuba instructor.

Do you have an outside hobby?
Horseback riding, Scuba diving, jogging, kayaking, hiking.

What’s something you were surprised to see or learn about living and working onboard when you first started?
Nicole remarked on the times she’s been out in the ocean, hundreds of miles away from shore, and how few other vessels you see there. She says it gave her a much greater appreciation for just how big the ocean is.

Favorite animal

A photo of a photo in a wooden frame with a name plaque reading Deb Rose. This is a photo of woman wearing a green NOAA t-shirt, a purple bandana, and sunglasses.

Junior Engineer
Deb Rose

What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada?
Junior Engineer Deb Rose (in her words) handles the “hotel services” of the vessel. Her role includes plumbing, electrical work, repairs, and many other behind the scene tasks to keep the vessel running safely.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?
I get to fix stuff! Troubleshooting, figuring out what’s wrong, and fixing the problem were among steps that she described as part of her work onboard.

When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean-related career?
While working at Firestone, Deb met and befriended Jason who became a wiper on NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette. She saw pictures and heard his stories of how he is now a licensed engineer, and decided to follow in his footsteps! She mentions Jason as a motivator that inspired her to pursue an ocean-related career.

What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
Continue to work on the Alaska Marine Highway ferries. (These ferries cover 3,500 miles of Alaska’s coastline.)

Outside hobbies: Video games, Scuba diving, swimming, fishing

What’s something you were surprised to see or learn about living and working onboard when you first started?
How few women there still are in the industry. Deb has often been the only or one of the only female crew members both on land and at sea. She hopes that this trend will keep changing and that women will be in more engineering industries.

Favorite animal
Her favorite animals are the Jackson Chameleon and dogs.

Fun Fact: Humans are more related to salps than any other creatures we catch. She can also identify 12 Rockfish species!

A photo of a photo in a wooden frame with a name plaque reading Connor Rauch. The photo is a portrait of a man with glasses standing against a wall.

Deck Department
Connor Rauch

What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada?
Connor is a General Vessel Assistant as part of the Deck Department. He helps deploy and recover the trawl net and CTD rosette, stands watch as a lookout, helps keep the ship clean, and much more! He took classes at Seattle Maritime Academy for one year and is now applying his education on his first NOAA vessel!

What do you enjoy the most about your role?
He is enjoying his first assignment on a NOAA vessel and traveling up and down the Pacific coast. He says he is also enjoying being on the water, applying new knowledge to tasks, and training to a real ship. He also enjoys learning about trawling and commented on how nice the people onboard are.

When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean-related career?
He wanted to try something new after working for a non-profit group during the Covid-19 pandemic assisting those in need. He decided to work on the water since he grew up sailing and kayaking. He thought of working on local ferries, but after taking classes at Seattle Maritime Academy, he had the confidence to apply for NOAA.

Do you have an outside hobby?
Reading, kayaking, camping, and hiking.

What’s something you were surprised to see or learn about living and working onboard when you first started?
Connor said he was pleasantly surprised at how tight the crew is, how easy it is to sleep, how comfortable the ship is, and the good food!

Favorite animal
Beavers and dog

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Personal Log

As this experience comes to the end, I reflect on all parts of this mission. The crew, vessel, marine life, food, sleep, friendships, and more. I’m so thankful I was able to have this experience and share NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program more with coworkers, family, friends, and my students. Meeting and talking with the crew resulted in long conversations and plenty of laughs and connections amongst each other that they previously had not known.

Winds and swells picked up over the weekend and on Sunday July 16 we only caught six Hake. After that trawl and an increase in marine mammals being sighted when we were trying to trawl, fishing was called off for the rest of the Leg. At 1020 Monday July 17, we completed our last transect for Leg 2 of the Survey and headed due North for the long trek to Newport, Oregon. We still found ways to entertain ourselves, nap, snack, share stories and riddles, take photos of sunsets and marine mammals, watch shooting stars and have a movie night. Below are photos of our art craft: fish prints of two Chilipepper Rockfish!

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Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada has an endurance, the amount of time the vessel can be at sea in a row, of forty days. This is not because the ship can’t make its own fresh water through reverse osmosis from sea water, or a lack of fuel, oil, extra parts, or a way to exhume waste and trash in an environmentally friendly way…

but because of food!

Our galley crew is amazingly talented and spoils us with a huge all you can eat buffet, desserts, and drinks every day! But, as per various laws and for the safety of the crew, they are lawfully entitled to fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, etc. within set guidelines and window of time.

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Animals Seen Today

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins! Although these energetic friends caused us to abandon a trawl attempt after multiple marine mammal watches ended early because of their presence, they were so much fun to watch! I brought my DSLR camera up to the bridge deck and eventually sat down on the deck watching them jump and race through the ocean waters next to the hull. Below are some of my favorite photos I took of the pod.

Lisa Carlson: One Fish, Two Fish, Rockfish, Hake fish! July 10, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lisa Carlson

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

July 5, 2023 – July 19, 2023

Mission: Fisheries: Pacific Hake Survey (More info here)

Geographic Region: Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California

Date: July 10, 2023

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Weather Data from the bridge:

July 7 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 36° 00.4’ N, 122° 05.9’ W
16nm (21mi) West of Big Sur, CA

Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast
Wind: 20 knots from NW 330°
Barometer: 1013.1 mbar
Sea wave height: 3-4 feet
Swell: 6-7 ft from NW 320°
Sea temperature: 14.0°C (57.2°F)
Air temperature: 14.4°C (57.9°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): 323°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 10 knots

July 8 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 36° 34.5’ N, 122° 05.3’ W
17nm (20mi) Southwest of Monterey, CA

Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky condition: Few clouds
Wind: 19 knots from NW 330°
Barometer: 1013.8 mbar
Sea wave height: 5-6 feet
Swell: 6-7 ft from NW 330°
Sea temperature: 14.0°C (57.2°F) 13.7
Air temperature: 14.4°C (57.9°F) 14.3
Course Over Ground: (COG): 089°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 10 knots

July 9 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 37° 06.8’ N, 123° 00.5’ W
30nm (35mi) West of Pigeon Point Light Station, Pescadero, CA

Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast
Wind: 13 knots from NW 332°
Barometer: 1016.0 mbar
Sea wave height: 2-3 feet
Swell: 4-5 ft from NW 310° 4-5
Sea temperature: 14.3°C (57.7°F)
Air temperature: 15.2°C (59.4°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): 093°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 10 knots

July 10 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 37° 26.7’ N, 123° 06.4’ W
32nm (37mi) West of Pescadero, CA

Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast, fog in vicinity
Wind: 20 knots from NW 330°
Barometer: 1015.9 mbar
Sea wave height: 2-3 feet
Swell: 3-4 ft from NW 320°
Sea temperature: 14.5°C (58.1°F)
Air temperature: 13.6°C (56.5°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): 314°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 3 knots

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Science and Technology Log

Lisa poses for a photo in the wet lab with a hake fish. She's wearing heavy-duty orange overalls and large orange gloves. With her right hand, she grasps the fish by its open mouth, and her left hand holds on to the tail. We can see metal tables and equipment in the background.
Me holding a Hake before sorting. After observation, we determined this was a developmentally mature female, measuring 50cm (20in) long!

In my July 6 blog post, I explained how NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is equipped to collect acoustic data in the form of echo grams. The acoustics team uses the data to determine if there are enough return signals to suggest fish are present and attempt a trawl. In this blog post, I will explain how we get the fish onboard, and what we do with the sample of marine life once it is collected from the net.

One question I had after learning about the acoustics and environmental DNA (eDNA) pieces of the survey mission was, “How does physically collecting and researching Hake samples fit into the puzzle of understanding their ecosystem and supporting sustainable fisheries?” (NOAA Fisheries quick facts and video here)

“While echosounders are useful, they do not provide certain quantitative data that researchers need to understand the ecology of these organisms and the midwater zone. To collect quantitative data, such as biomass, length and weight, and age class distributions, researchers must gather representational samples and take direct measurements of them. The best way to do this is by employing trawls.”

NOAA Ocean Exploration: “Trawls

So, although acoustics and eDNA research is important to the overall survey, they are only pieces of the puzzle, and the puzzle is not complete without conducting trawls and physically researching samples. NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada uses a midwater trawl net that is deployed from the stern over the transom, and towed behind the vessel. As the name suggests, midwater trawls occur in the middle section of the water column, versus surface and bottom trawls. The net is conical in shape and uses two metal Fishbuster Trawl Doors, and two sets of heavy chain links called Tom weights, in order to keep the trawl in the middle of the water column.

a simple and stylized monochrome illustration of a fishing vessel towing a midwater trawl behind it. The net in tow is conical, attached at four points to two bars that hold the opening apart, and these bars are attached to lines (ropes) extending back from the vessel. This net is capturing two fish and missing a third.
NOAA Fisheries: “Fishing Gear: Midwater Trawls

“The midwater region is especially important because the creatures that inhabit it constitute the majority of the world’s seafood. Understanding the ecology of midwater organisms and their vast environment can provide us with better information to manage these important natural resources and prevent their overexploitation.”

NOAA Ocean Exploration: “Trawls

Deck department assisting in recovering the trawl net after a successful deployment.

Two deck crewmembers work with an orange and white fishing net on the aft deck of NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. They are wearing foul weather gear, life vests, and hard hats. At right, one leans over the net, searching for remaining captured fish. The other approaches from the left, looking down at the net, to assist. We can see a cloud-capped mountain range in the distance beyond the water.

Once the net is onboard, the net is emptied one of two ways depending on the size of the sample. For large samples, marine life is deposited into a hopper and subsequent conveyor belt. For smaller samples, the Hake will be put into a large basket then divided into smaller baskets of approximately 100 Hake each. Any other marine life like Salps, Myctophids, Pyrosomes, Rockfish, King of the Salmon, and small bony fish, etc. are recorded in the database and returned to the ocean.

“The ship’s wet lab allows scientists to sort, weigh, measure and examine fish. The data is entered directly into the ship’s scientific computer network.”

NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO): “Bell M. Shimada
a large black plastic bin filled with fish - mostly hake, but a few splitnose rockfish (eyes bulging from the pressure change) stand out for their red color. An orange-gloved hand reaches toward the basket from the upper left corner of the image.

Large basket containing a sample of Hake with a few (red) Splitnose Rockfish.

With our boots and bright orange rubber pants and gloves on, our first task is to distribute the sample of Hake into baskets of about 100 each. Based on how many baskets we fill, a random selection of baskets will be kept, and the others will be returned to the ocean. With the remaining groups of Hake, we determine their sex and length.

In order to do this, we use a scalpel to make an incision on the underside/belly of the Hake. Once open, we are able to examine their organs, including the gonads to determine if the fish is male or female, and if they are developmentally immature or mature. Young Hake are difficult to sex, and it takes practice to get over any initial fears of cutting into an animal; let alone being able to locate and identify the gonads. Hake usually spawn in early winter, so many of the smaller Hake we sample from during the summer are age one or younger.

Our largest Hake thus far was a developmentally mature female, measuring 50cm (20in). In order to accurately and consistently measure the length of the sample, we use a waterproof, magnetic plastic board with metric (centimeter and millimeter) markings called an Ichthystick (think: high-tech meter stick). The fish is placed on the board with its mouth touching the black board at 0cm, then a magnetic stylus is placed at the fork of the fish’s tail. Once the magnetic stylus is placed on the board, the length to the nearest millimeter is displayed on the LCD screen and automatically entered into the database program. The length data is grouped with the date, time, and identified sex for later observation and comparison.

Additional information, abstracts and outline about Ichthystick here

Ichthystick’s LCD display, motherboard, magnetic board, and magnetic stylus. Digital scale in background.

Ichthystick’s LCD display, motherboard, magnetic board, and magnetic stylus. Digital scale in background.

An even smaller subgroup is then selected and examined to record weights of individual Hake, collect ear bones called Otoliths for aging, stomach samples for diet, liver for RNA, and ovaries for maturity development. Otolith bones help determine the age of the Hake because they grow a new “layer” of bone each year, similar to coral structures and annual tree rings. Organs and bones removed from the Hake are sent to NOAA Fisheries centers for analysis and included in databases with the date, identified sex, length, weight, and location in which they were collected.

This data is used to build more of the puzzle, along with acoustical information, water samples, and eDNA data in order to further understand the ecosystem, biomass, diet, and

“support sustainable populations of Pacific hake on the West Coast.” (…)
“It provides vital data to help manage the migratory coastal stock of Pacific hake. The hake survey, officially called the Joint U.S.-Canada Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic Trawl Survey, occurs every odd-numbered year.”

NOAA Fisheries: “Joint U.S.-Canada Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic Trawl Survey

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Personal Log

Although this subtopic of explaining the Integrated Ecosystem and Pacific Hake Acoustic Trawl Survey is a bit easier to understand than my July 6 Acoustics Lab post, it certainly does not mean it’s an easy task!

When I had a tour on July 4, I remarked how clean and
organized the Wet Lab is. I hadn’t see it in action yet, but noticed how everything had its place and use. On July 6 we conducted our first trawl and collected a sample of 11 baskets of Hake (approximately 1,100 Hake since we group about 100 Hake together in each basket.) From that sample, we kept four baskets and counted, sexed, and measured 541 Hake.

Five of us were working together in the Wet Lab for that haul. I’ll admit I probably
didn’t sex 100+ Hake. It took a few minutes of watching the others carefully and swiftly cut into the underside of a fish, open the two sides, and know what to look for to determine the sex of very young Hake. Eventually I found the courage to slice in and take a look. By the fourth or fifth Hake, the uneasiness had subsided and I found the process very interesting and educational. Although young samples are hard to sex as they are often undeveloped, the others encouraged me and answered my questions and guesses with enthusiasm and support.

While working on measuring the lengths of our samples, one Science Team member paused and remarked how beautiful he found the fish. Although they do not have vibrant, bold colors, shimmering scales, or anything else particularly remarkable, he found the beauty in them. He digressed into a conversation of their role in the ecosystem, how they are living and breathing creatures, and how they probably all have their own personalities and slight physical differences. I noticed some of their eyes were shiny and sparkling, and how their faces and expressions were
noticeably unique the more you looked. That “down to earth”, heartfelt discussion was very special and demonstrated how the crew respects the process of catching and sampling Hake, while keeping each other and marine mammals safe.

From the NOAA Corps Officers, to the deck department, to the engineers,
electronics, science team, survey team, galley crew, volunteers, and everyone in between; the crew on NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is special. They take pride in their vessel and job, and always seem to have a smile and kind greeting. Being away from land and loved ones for weeks and months at a time will certainly take a toll on the body and mind, but this team is there for each other. To all of the crew, thank you for making me feel so welcomed and appreciated. We’re almost halfway through the mission, and as tired as I may get after (sometimes) 12+ hour days, I sleep well knowing the crew trusts their vessel and each other; and look forward to learning and becoming more and more acquainted each day with the people that make this mission possible. Thank you!

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Did You Know? (FAQs)

1. Are you finding schools of them?

We’ve had seven successful trawls out of nine attempts for Pacific Hake fish. They often come with pyrosomes (Sea Pickle) myctophids (Lanternfish), and salps in the net too. Some trawl attempts are successful without a hitch, but more often than not we have to restart our Marine Mammal watches a few times before deploying in order to keep our ocean life safe and not get tangled in the net. Two trawl attempts have been abandoned because of the amount of persistent marine mammal life and playfulness near the ship. (I think they know we’re watching and show off for our cameras.)

2. What’s your average depth?

The transects (Set and numbered longitudinal east-west lines NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada navigates on while collecting acoustic data) usually range from 50m – 1,500m (164ft – 4,921ft) in depth.

  • However, right now one of the displays in the Acoustics Lab, the depth reading is 3,240m which is about 10,630ft or just over two miles deep! 
  • This depth is only 1,870ft shallower than the wreck of the RMS Titanic! 
  • (We were on a long transect, we do not often see depths this great.)

3. Have you gotten seasick? Seasickness should subside after about 3 days.

I’ve never gotten seasick thankfully! Knock on wood and all the other premonitions, please.

4. What is the Hake role in the ecosystem?

More info on this coming in later posts after explaining our Chemistry lab and technology aboard! 

  • However, as predators, they can be cannibalistic towards their own kind. 
  • As far as their role in human consumption: They are often used as a substitute for Cod and Haddock, and in fish sticks and imitation crab meat.

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Animals seen July 5-July 10:

Mammals: Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, Dall’s Porpoise, Risso’s Dolphins, Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, Humpback Whales

Birds: Gulls, Black-Footed Albatross

Bony Fish: Hake, Lanternfish (Myctophid), Flatfish, King of the Salmon, Split Nose Rockfish, Chili Pepper Rockfish

Other Marine Life: Giant or Humboldt Squid (15 foot tentacles in trawl), Spiny Dogfish Shark, Shrimp, Plankton, Krill, Sea Pickle (Pyrosome), Salp, Eel Larva

Lisa Carlson: Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are, Hake! July 6, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lisa Carlson

NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

July 5, 2023 – July 19, 2023

Mission: Fisheries: Pacific Hake Survey (More info here)

Geographic Region: Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California

Date: July 6, 2023

Weather Data from the Bridge:

— July 5 Departure
(1800 PT, 2100 EST)

Location: 37° 44.9’N, 122° 39.2’W
Docked at Pier 30/32
San Francisco, CA

Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky condition: Overcast
Wind: 17 knots from NW 300°
Barometer: 1012.8 mbar
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell: 2-4 ft from W 270°
Sea temperature: 14.2°C (57.6°F)
Air temperature: 14.7°C (58.5°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): N/A
Speed Over Ground (SOG): N/A

— July 6 (1200 PT, 1500 EST)
Location: 35° 38.2’ N, 121° 18.9’ W
16nm (18mi) West of San Simeon, CA

Visibility: 10nm
Wind: 6 knots from 330°
Barometer: 1013.9
Sea wave height: 1-2ft
Swell: 2-4ft from 280°
Sea wave temperature: 14.4°C (57.9°F)
Air temperature: 14.9°C (58.8°F)
Course Over Ground: (COG): W 270°
Speed Over Ground (SOG): 10 knots

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Science and Technology Log

On July 6, our first full day at sea, we gathered in the acoustics lab to observe and keep watch on data from various screens. Data includes our current course plotted on a digital chart, a camera showing current sea state, measurements of the wind speed and direction, and displays of the multiple frequencies at which the Simrad EK80 transmitter emits sound. The EK80 is used while traveling on numbered longitudinal east-west lines called transects. NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada navigates on these lines while collecting acoustic data along the west coast of the U.S. and into Canada, in hopes of finding schools of Hake to collect for surveying.

A topographic map of a portion of the coast of California. The topographies of the both the land (beige and green scales) and water (blue scale) are depicted. Black dots mark the locations of three coastal cities: Crescent City, near the top of the map; San Francisco, a little more than halfway down; and Morro Bay, toward the bottom of the map. Black horizontal lines mark transects extending west from the coast line. The black lines are marked with red or black x's (showing previous sampling locations, perhaps) and a couple have green triangles.
Map showing transects 1-45 off the coast of California. Transect 1 is south of Morro Bay, CA and transect 45 is near Crescent City, CA.
(We hope to survey transects 8-35 by Cape Mendocino, CA before traveling north to dock in Newport, OR.)

“For acoustic surveys, the ship uses a multibeam echo sounder (MBES) that projects a fan-shaped beam of sound that bounces back to the ship. The ship’s MBES—one of only three systems of its type worldwide—acquires data from both the water column and the sea floor.”

NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO): “Bell M. Shimada

The Simrad EK80 emits sound waves from the hull of the vessel down to the sea floor. The process is very similar to a dolphin or bat using echolocation to find prey. Any object the signal hits that has a different density and reflectivity than the surrounding water will cause the waves to bounce back to the ship. An image, called an echo gram, is pieced together each time this occurs and the acoustics team is able to use this information to determine if there are enough return signals that suggest fish are present to attempt a trawl.

Fish that have swim bladders, like bony fish, reflect or echo the sound wave back to the vessel very strongly. Other marine life such as myctophids and zooplankton also have a different density than the sea water, and reflect sound, although not as strongly as fish with air-filled swim bladders. The sea floor itself also reflects sound very strongly, because of the density difference between water and rocks, sand, and mud.

Marine life that have swim bladders (represented in blue) reflect or echo the sound wave back to the vessel. Examples of such marine life include bony fish, myctophids, and zooplankton, as well as the sea floor itself, which has a different density than the sea water.

Image: Cross section example of a Black Sea Bass to show a swim bladder.

an illustrated diagram of the internal anatomy of a bony fish (perhaps a black sea bass). Labels mark the locations of the gills, kidney, swim bladder, urine bladder, gonad, intestine, spleen, stomach, liver, and heart.

If the acoustics team determines there is enough marine life (that they are interested in surveying) to attempt a haul, they will notify the bridge deck and officers that they would like to have the fishing net deployed.

Before an attempted haul, the science team conducts a marine mammal watch for ten minutes. In this time window, several pairs of eyes are observing from the bridge deck and stern for any signs of dolphins, whales, sea lions, seals, and any other marine mammals that are within 500 meters of the vessel. If any marine mammals are spotted within the ten minute observation, we will stand down and wait ten minutes before restarting the marine mammal watch. Net deployment cannot occur until the full observation window has completed.

First haul July 6:
1422-1432 Mammal watch, no marine mammals spotted.
The net deployment started, at which time the vessel continues forward at two knots. Vessel speed increases to three knots when the net is fully deployed with doors and weights in the water, which assist in opening the conical shaped net outwards linearly and laterally. During this time the science team watches displays of the EK80 frequencies and observe the linear width and depth of the net. Scientists can compare these displays to determine if the net is in the correct position to have the best chance of collecting fish.

Hauling back the net occurs after several minutes, at which time the vessel returns to a speed of two knots, and we estimate how many fish were collected. The amount of time in which the net is submerged depends on the depth of the water and acoustic information about the size of the school of fish the net is (hopefully) sampling. After recovery, the haul is deposited into a hopper which feeds onto a conveyor belt in the wet lab, then into large baskets and the wet lab team takes over.

During the first attempt, two sea lions were spotted which required the haul attempt to be paused. We restarted the ten minute marine mammal watch from 1500-1510, the deck department retrieved and reset the net, and the vessel was turned around to return to the start of the noted longitudinal transect. With no marine mammals spotted during the observation period, the second attempt was successful and resulted in:

– 1604-1634: 30 minute haul at 350m depth.

– 11 baskets of Hake collected.

– 4 sample baskets kept at random.

– 541 Hake counted and studied in the wet lab.

Photo: Two deck department members about to open the net to allow the sample to drop into a large collection basket.

Two crewmembers, dressed in orange paints and black and neon yellow coats, face away from the camera, toward a large orange net suspended from above. They may be working to empty the net.

– – ⚓ – –

Personal Log

On July 4 I arrived to pier 30/32 in San Francisco, CA to board NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. Although I grew up volunteering on the 441’ WWII Liberty Ship SS John W. Brown in Baltimore, MD, seeing a new ship still resulted in a mix of emotions, nervousness, adrenaline, excitement, and everything in between. After five and a half years, finally seeing the 208’ vessel that would become my home for the next two weeks was a core memory and feeling I will always remember.

NOAA Ship Bell M Shimada in port, as seen from a point on the dock beyond the bow. We can see the NOAA logo and read: NOAA R 227. The water is calm and turqoise; the sky is blue with clouds. A portion of what may be the Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the background.
NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada docked at Pier 30/32 in San Francisco, CA on July 4

Once onboard, I met Chief Scientist Steve de Blois and Wet Lab Lead Ethan Beyer. I was given a tour of the acoustic, chem, and wet labs and shown to my cabin. After dinner ashore, I joined some of the crew on the flying bridge to watch the July 4th fireworks. I met additional science team members and enjoyed a long night’s rest.

In the morning on July 5, we had a welcome aboard meeting, various trainings, a safety meeting and orientation, fire and abandon ship drills, and a science team meeting. We introduced ourselves, took an official team photo, and soon departed pier 30/32 for our 14 day mission. After passing under the Golden Gate Bridge and heading to the Pacific Ocean, our cold hands were warmed by a wonderful hot dinner of chicken, steak, fresh veggies, salad, and desserts from our galley crew. After dinner, we settled in for our first night at sea, waiting with anticipation for our first trawl on July 6.

– – ⚓ – –

Did You Know?

an orange-gloved hand holds a hake (fish) up so that it faces the camera. We can see the another smaller hake hanging limply across its open mouth

– Hake can be cannibalistic!
– Some larger Hake we have collected have had a smaller Hake in their mouth, throat, or stomach!
– Their very sharp teeth often stick to our thick rubber gloves.

– – ⚓ – –

New Terms/Phrases:

“Salp: Barrel-shaped, planktonic tunicate in the family Salpidae. It moves by contracting, thereby pumping water through its gelatinous body.”

Wikipedia: “Salp

“Myctophid: Lanternfish (or myctophids, from the Greek μυκτήρ myktḗr, “nose” and ophis, “serpent”) are small mesopelagic fish (…) Lanternfishes are aptly named after their conspicuous use of bioluminescence.”

Wikipedia: “Myctophid

Simrad EK80: Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) transducer that emits sound waves from the hull of the vessel down to the sea floor. It allows scientists to observe and study returned sound wave signals that may suggest marine life is present.

Transect: Set and numbered longitudinal east-west lines NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada navigates on while collecting acoustic data.

Daniel Rivera, Days 3 & 4 Bird & Mammal Observation

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Daniel Rivera

Aboard the Ship R/V Fulmar

July 16-24, 2014


Mission: Water conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) readings; marine bird and mammal counts

Geographical Area: Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries; Sonoma County Coast, Pacific Ocean

Dates: July 18 and 19, 2014

 Weather Data from the bridge: Wind speed variable, less than 10 knots; wind waves less than 2 feet; visibility about 3 KMs, temperature range from 59-68

 Science and Technology Log: Friday and Saturday are mostly filled with marine bird and mammal observations, and we covered many transect lines in the last 2 days: Lines 1, 3, 5, 7, N1, and N3-N7.

These are the paths, or transect lines, taken by our ship on our cruise.
These are the paths, or transect lines, taken by our ship on our cruise.

The transects lines with an “N” stand for near-shore lines, and they are shorter. During these two days the near-shore lines were the only lines where we took CTD readings, so the majority of the time was spent monitoring birds and mammals from the flying bridge, which is the top deck of the boat.

Scanning for birds and mammals while riding atop a moving vessel can be quite challenging for a number of reasons. First of all, a boat is at mercy of the waves, so the bobbing motion makes it hard to focus your eyes. Second, the organisms you are monitoring are in motion as well, so you have to have a quick eye to see them and follow them. Finally, many of the organisms aren’t directly in front of the boat, so you have to be well-trained in spotting the subtle and not so subtle differences in hundreds of organisms. It’s a tough job that requires good eyes, patience, a strong stomach, lots of practice, and the ability to withstand ever-changing weather conditions.

When a marine bird is spotted, there are a series of codes that the watcher calls out to the person recording the sightings on the laptop. As mentioned in an earlier post, these codes stand for location, number of organisms, etc. For example, when on the top deck you might here this: Common Murre 2, zone 1, flying, 160. This means that there are two Common Murre birds within 100 meters of the boat, and they are flying toward 160 degrees in relation to the boat (in a 360-degree circle). For this protocol, zero degrees is always at the bow, or the front, of the boat, and 180 degrees points directly to the stern, or the back, of the boat.

When a marine mammal is sighted, there are even more codes. For example, you may hear this: Mammal, by eye, bearing 270, reticle 7, observer 9, side 1, traveling, immature, sex unknown, 2-2-2.

Now, that is a lot of information. What does all this mean? Take a look at this picture, which has the meanings for all of the codes.

Here are the codes that are called out while monitoring marine mammals and birds. As you can see, there is a lot of information that is called out during a spotting.
Here are the codes that are called out while monitoring marine mammals and birds. As you can see, there is a lot of information that is called out during a spotting.

Now look at the bottom half of this picture where it’s labeled Line Transect Entries-Marine Mammals and Vessels. In order to make sense of these codes, start with the left column and work your way down, moving along to the second column on the right and back down again. By using this chart, you realize what is being said: Marine mammal, spotted by eye (as opposed to binoculars), and it’s located at 270 degrees. Next up is reticule, which is a bit more complicated.

On reticule binoculars, there are 14 tick marks in a vertical column that the observer can see when looking through the lens; the top tick mark is 0 and the bottom is 14. When looking for marine mammals, you can estimate where they are located by these tick marks, called reticules. Reticule 0 is the horizon, and reticule 14 is the boat. If you have a mammal sighting at reticule 7, that means the mammal is roughly somewhere in the middle between the horizon and the boat, which is quite a distance. It takes a lot of practice to accurately estimate distance this way, especially on a rocking boat, but the ACCESS crew is well versed in this task. This is an important data point because the computer program will use compass direction and distance to provide a location on the ocean for the observation. At the end of the cruise, all the observations will be mapped out and you can see how many of which animals were seen in what locations as we criss-crossed the ocean on the boat.

The rest of the codes are pretty self-explanatory until you reach the counts, which gives your best estimate for number of organisms. A count of 2-2-2- means your best estimate of number of organisms is 2, the high number of organisms is 2, and the low count is 2; when you hear a call like this, the observer is certain that the number of organisms is 2 because there is no fluctuation. If you heard a count of 2-3-2, the observer saw at least 2 organisms but it could have been 3. The observers include these different estimates because sometimes it is very hard to count exactly how many dolphins or other fast-moving animals there are.

Here are some pics from the flying bridge (or top deck of the boat). Notice the different weather conditions on two different days, and how the observers have to be prepared to bundle up for the fog and have on hats and sunglasses against the sun. Conditions can change rapidly while at sea.

Many hours are spent perched atop the flying bridge when marine mammal and bird observations take place.
Many hours are spent perched atop the flying bridge when marine mammal and bird observations take place.

A sunny day on the flying bridge.
A sunny day on the flying bridge.


Personal Log: I woke up later these past two days because I learned there is time to wake up while the boat is heading out to the first transect. There is no need to wake up before the crew starts the engines because on days such as these we have at least one hour from when we leave port to ready ourselves for the tasks at hand.

As mentioned earlier in the blog, these past two days were mostly bird and mammal observations with CTD readings toward the end of the day. When the boat first set out in the morning, we headed out to the west end of the transect line, and because we have more time, everyone on board shares stories, some work-related, some personal. It’s quite nice to have time for these conversations because even though you spend 8 days at sea with everyone, it’s hard to fit in conversation when you’re watching for organisms or trying not to fall off the boat while deploying a net.

Dani Lipski, the Research Coordinator from Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, is a dive master for NOAA. She has lots of wonderful stories about diving, conducting research on different ships and islands up and down the West coast, and she is great at preventing me from tripping over myself on the back deck (I work with Dani the most). Kirsten Lindquist, from the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, loves to cook, spent two seasons in Alaska studying whales, and is an expert seabird observer. Rudy, the man in charge of IT at Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, can spot birds, mammals, and even mylar balloons; if it’s on or in the ocean, he’ll notice it. He is also the resident comedian, providing many instances of humor throughout the day. In short, everyone on board is knowledgeable about their jobs and dedicated to protecting the health of the world’s oceans, and it’s inspiring to be around a group as dedicated as the ACCESS cruise team.

Some other tidbits learned: Jaime–the director of all the marine work at Point Blue Conservation and the master of the Tucker Trawl–has a favorite spot to rest on the boat; the bunk rooms never seem to completely dry out; the best place to feel well on a boat is the back because of the least amount of up and down motion; and Dru, mammal spotter extraordinaire from Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association, can make an excellent guacamole.

Speaking of food, Cheez-It’s are a favorite of everyone on board, Coke Zero is consumed at nauseam, and apparently the presence of M&Ms brings whale sightings (having a Teacher at Sea on board also seems to bring good whale sightings). Everyone takes turns cooking dinner, but breakfast and lunch are a free-for-all; you basically eat when you want or can while at sea, but dinner is a time for everyone to come together and share their day.

One interesting fact I forgot to mention is that when you come back to shore after spending 10 hours at sea, you still feel like you are moving up and down. When I was in the shower or even just sitting down on land, I felt like I was bobbing up and down and moving back and forth. You have a dizzy-like feeling,. Some people who don’t get sick at sea will get sick from this feeling when they return to land; this is called dock rock. Who knew?!


Did you know? Northern Right whale dolphins do not have dorsal fins.

Question of the Day? What types of foods do you think are ideally suited to a trip to sea with limited or no refrigeration?

New Term/Phrase/Word: Reticule

Something to Think About: Bananas on a boat are considered bad luck for several reasons. First, when they go bad the give off a gas that causes other fruit to rot faster. But there are more superstitious reasons as well: banana boats tended to be overloaded and, thus, sank a lot. Bananas carry tarantulas in them, so sailors didn’t want to get bit. You don’t want to bring something from the mountains to the sea, so you can’t bring bananas; there are sure to be more reasons why.

Challenge Yourself: Next time you’re at the shore or beach, count how many different species of birds you see and try to estimate their direction of travel, using a 360-degree circle as reference and using the horizon as 0 degrees.

Kacey Shaffer: Let’s Go Fishing! August 1, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Kacey Shaffer

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

July 26 – August 13, 2014

Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey

Geographical Location: Bering Sea

Date: August 1, 2014

Weather information from the Bridge:

Air Temperature: 9.7° C

Wind Speed: 11.9 knots

Wind Direction: 153°

Weather Conditions: Foggy

Latitude: 58°19’42 N

Longitude: 175°14’66 W


Science and Technology Log:            

If you’ve ever been fishing, be it on a lake, river or stream, you know it is not productive to fish all day in a spot where they aren’t biting. If the fish aren’t biting in one spot, you would most likely pack up and move to a different spot. Now imagine trying to fish in an area that is 885,000 square miles. The equivalent to trying to find a needle in a haystack! Luckily, the Oscar Dyson has sophisticated equipment to help us determine where the fish are hanging out. Allow me to introduce you to a very important location on the ship – The Acoustics Lab.

When you enter The Acoustics Lab, you’ll immediately see a wall of nine computer screens. The data shown on the screens help Chief Scientist Taina and Fishery Biologist Darin make the key decision of where we will deploy the nets and fish. What information is shown on the screens? Some show our location on the transect lines we are following, which is similar to a road map we would use to get from point A to point B on land. The transect lines are predetermined “roads” we are following. Another screen tells us which direction the boat is heading, barometric pressure, air temperature, surface temperature, and wind direction and wind speed. The most technical screens show the data collected from transducers attached to the bottom of the ship on what is referred to as the Center Board. There are five transducers broadcasting varying frequencies. Frequency is the number of sound waves emitted from a transducer each second. The Dyson transducers emit sound waves at 18kHz, 38kHz, 70kHz, 120kHz and 200kHz (kHz= kilohertz). Why would it be necessary to have five transducers? Certain organisms can be detected better with some frequencies compared to others.  For example, tiny organisms like krill can be seen better with higher frequencies like the 120kHz compared to the lower frequencies. Also the lower frequencies penetrate farther into the water than the higher frequencies so they can be used in deeper water. Having this much data enables the scientists to make sound decisions when choosing where to fish.

A map of the Bering Sea showing transect lines in white. During this pollock survey the Oscar Dyson follows transect lines which benefits both the crew and scientists.
A map of the Bering Sea showing transect lines in white. During this pollock survey the Oscar Dyson follows transect lines which benefits both the crew and scientists.

Transducers produce these images displayed on the screens in the Acoustics Lab. The thick red line at the bottom is the sea floor and the  many red, oblong shaped areas indicate large clusters of fish. Let’s go fishing!
Transducers produce these images displayed on the screens in the Acoustics Lab. The thick red line at the bottom is the sea floor and the many red, oblong shaped areas indicate large clusters of fish. Let’s go fishing!

Personal Log:

Each time I share a blog post with you I am going to focus on one area of the ship so you can get acquainted with my new friend, Oscar Dyson. I’ll begin sharing about my stateroom and the lounge. I was very surprised by the size of my room when I arrived last Thursday. My roommate is Alyssa, a Survey Tech. You will learn more about her journey to the Dyson later. She has been on the ship for a while so she was already settled in to the top bunk which put me on the bottom bunk! The beds are very comfortable and the rocking motion of the ship is really relaxing. I’ve had no trouble sleeping, but then again, when have I ever had trouble sleeping?! We have our own private bathroom facilities, which is a definite bonus. Take a look at our room.

The stateroom Kacey shares with Alyssa.
The stateroom Kacey shares with Alyssa.

Our stateroom's private bath. Could that shower curtain be any more fitting?!
Our stateroom’s private bath. Could that shower curtain be any more fitting?!

Alyssa and I are on opposite shifts. She works midnight to noon and I work 4:00pm to 4:00am. There is a little bit of overlap time where she’s off and I haven’t gone to work yet. This is quite common for all of the people on the ship. This is a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week operation. Someone is always sleeping and someone is always working. Fortunately there is a place where we can hang out without bothering our roommates. The Lounge is a great place to kick back and relax. There are comfy chairs and a very large couch and a television with the ability to play dvd’s or video games. Over the years people have brought books with them and then left them on the ship so we have an enormous library. Sometimes there are people just reading in the Lounge and other times a group of us will watch a movie together. There is one important rule of showing movies…if you start a movie you have to let it play all the way out. Even if you get bored with it or need to leave you must let it play because someone may be watching it in their room. It would be rude of us to continually shut movies off an hour into them!

Career Connections: ST Alyssa Pourmonir

ST Pourmonir checks data on the computer during a CTD deployment.
ST Pourmonir checks data on the computer during a CTD deployment.

Alyssa hails from Pennsylvania. During her senior year of high school she chose to further her education at the Coast Guard Academy. She spent three years studying with the Coast Guard, but ultimately graduated from SUNY Maritime this past January. Alyssa landed a 10 week internship with a NASA facility in Mississippi. During the course of her internship she learned of an opportunity with NOAA. This position would be a Survey Tech, traveling on one of NOAA’s many ships. She arrived at the Dyson only a few weeks before I did.

Alyssa has many responsibilities as a Survey Tech. She assists with the deploying and recovery of the CTD instrument, helps process fish in the wet lab, completes water tests, and serves as a liaison between the ship’s crew and its scientists. When a trawling net is deployed or recovered, Alyssa is on the deck to attach or detach sensors onto the net. She also looks for safety hazards during that time.

When asked what the best part of her job is she quickly responds learning so much science is the best! As a Survey Tech, she gets the chance to see how all the different departments on the ship come together for one mission. She works closely with the scientists and is able to learn about fish and other ocean life. On the other hand, she also works side-by-side with the ship’s crew. This allows her to learn more about the ship’s equipment. Being the positive person she is, Alyssa turned the hardest part of her job into a benefit for her future self. Adjusting to 12 hour shifts has been a challenge but she noted this can also be helpful. When she is super busy she is learning the most and it also makes the time go faster.

Looking ahead to her future, Alyssa sees herself getting a Master’s Degree in a science related field. Some areas of interest are oceanography, remote sensing or even meteorology. Alyssa’s advice for all high school students: STUDY SCIENCE!

Did you know?

Lewis Richardson, an English meteorologist, patented an underwater echo ranging device two months after the Titanic sunk in 1912.

Amanda Peretich: CTD and XBT – More Acronyms? July 8, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 8, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 57ºN
Longitude: 172ºW
Ship speed: 11.2 knots (12.9 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 6ºC (42.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7ºC (44.6ºF)
Wind speed: 2.5 knots (2.9 mph)
Wind direction: 156ºT
Barometric pressure: 1020 millibar (1.0 atm, 765 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
Today’s post is going to be about two of the water profiling devices used on board the Oscar Dyson: the CTD and XBT.

CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. It’s actually a device that is “dropped” over the starboard side of the ship at various points along the transect lines to take measurements of conductivity and temperature at various depths in the ocean. On this leg of the pollock survey, we will complete about 25-30 CTD drops by the end. The data can also be used to calculate salinity. Water samples are collected to measure dissolved oxygen (these samples are analyzed all together at the end of the cruise). Determining the amount of oxygen available in the water column can help provide information about not only the fish but also other phytoplankton and more. Although we are not doing it on this leg, fluorescence can also be measured to monitor chlorophyll levels.

From left to right: getting the CTD ready to deploy, the winch is used to put the CTD into the water, the CTD is lowered into the water – notice that the people are strapped in to the ship so they don’t fall overboard during deployment

DYK? (Did You Know?): What exactly are transect lines? Basically this is the path the ship is taking so they know what areas the ship has covered. Using NOAA’s Shiptracker, you can see in the photo where the Oscar Dyson has traveled on this pollock survey (both Leg 1 and Leg 2) up to this point in time.

Transect Lines
Using NOAA’s Shiptracker, you can see the transect lines that the Oscar Dyson has followed during the pollock cruise until July 8. The ship started in Dutch Harbor (DH), traveled to the point marked “Leg 1 start” and along the transect lines until “Leg 1 end” before returning to DH to exchange people. The ship then returned to the point marked “Leg 2 start” and followed transect lines to the current location. The Oscar Dyson will return to DH to exchange people before beginning Leg 3 of this survey and completing the transect lines.
Deploying the CTD
I was lucky enough to be able to operate the winch during a CTD deploy. The winch is basically what pulls in or lets out the cable attached to the CTD to raise and lower it in the water. Special thanks to the chief boatswain Willie for letting me do this!

The CTD can only be deployed when the ship is not moving, so if weather is nice, we should just stay mostly in one place. The officers on the bridge can also manually hold the ship steady. Or they can use DP, which is dynamic positioning. This computer system controls the rudder and propeller on the stern and the bowthruster at the front to maintain position.

Here is a video from a previous Teacher at Sea (TAS) about the CTD and showing its “drop” into the water: Story Miller – 2010. Another TAS also has a video on her blog showing the data being collected during a CTD drop: Kathleen Harrison – 2011.


The thermocline is the area where the upper isothermal (mixed) layer meets the deep water layer and there is a decline in temperature with increasing depth.

XBT is the acronym for the eXpendable Bathymetric Thermograph. It is used to quickly collect temperature data from the surface to the sea floor. A graph of depth (in meters) versus temperature (in ºC) is used to find the thermocline and determine the temperature on the sea floor.

DYK? Normally, temperature decreases as you go farther down in the sea because colder water is denser than warmer water so it sinks below. But this is not the case in polar regions such as the Bering Sea. Just below the surface is an isothermal layer caused by wind mixing and convective overturning where the temperature is approximately the same as on the surface. Below this layer is the thermocline where the temperature then rapidly decreases.

The MK-21IISA is a bathythermograph data acquisition system. This is a portable (moveable) system used to collect data including ocean temperature, conductivity, and sound velocity and various depths using expendable probes (ones you can lose overboard and not get back) that are launched from surface ships. The depth is determined using elapsed time from surface contact and a known sink rate.

There are three different probes that can be used with this data acquisition system:
1. XBT probe – this is the probe that is used on OD, which only measures water temperature at various depths
2. XSV probe – this probe can measure sound velocity versus depth
3. XCTD probe – this probe measures both temperature and conductivity versus depth

On the XBT probe, there is a thermistor (something used to measure temperature) that is connected to an insulated wire wound on two spools (one inside the probe and one outside the probe but inside the canister). The front, or nose, of the probe is a seawater electrode that is used to sense when the probe enters the water to begin data collection. There are different types of XBT probes depending on the maximum depth and vessel speed of the ship.

XBT Canister and Probe
This shows a sideview (left) and topview (middle) of the canister that houses the probe (right) released into the water during an XBT.

There are really four steps to launch the XBT probe using the LM-3A handheld launcher on board:
1. Raise contact lever.
2. Lay probe-containing canister into cradle (make sure to hold it upwards so the probe doesn’t fall out of the canister!).
3. Swing contact level down to lock in canister.
4. Pull release pin out of canister, aim into ocean, and drop probe.
Important: the wire should not come in contact with the ship!

Launching an XBT
“Launching” an XBT probe from starboard side on the Oscar Dyson. There is no actual trigger – you just make a little forward motion with the launcher to allow the probe to drop into the water.

Be sure to check out the video below, which shows what the data profile looks like as the probe is being dropped into the water. An XBT drop requires a minimum of two people, one at the computer inside and one outside launching the probe. I’ve been working with Scientist Bill and ENS Kevin to help out with the XBT launches, which also includes using the radios on board to mark the ship’s position when the probe hits the water.

Personal Log

Quickest Route?
We’ve been taught in school that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line, so you’d think that the red voyage would be the fastest way to get from Seattle, Washington across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. But it’s actually a path up through Alaska!

It’s been a little slow on the trawling during my shift recently, so I’ve had some extra time to wander around the ship and talk to various people amidst researching and writing more blog posts. I think one of my favorite parts so far has been all of the great information I’ve been learning up on the bridge from the field operations officer, LT Matt Davis.

DYK? When looking at the map, you’d think the quickest route from Seattle, Washington to Japan would be a straight line across the Pacific Ocean. But it’s not! Actually, ships will travel by way of Alaska and it is a shorter distance (and thus faster).

View from the Bow
View from the bow of the Oscar Dyson.

Vessels  use gnomonic ocean tracking charts to determine the shortest path. Basically a straight line drawn on the gnomonic projection corresponds to a great circle, or geodesic curve, that shows the minimum path from any two points on the surface of the Earth as a straight line. So on the way to Japan from Seattle, you would travel up through Alaskan waters, using computer software to help determine the proper pathway.

I’ve also had some time to explore a few other areas of the ship I hadn’t been to before. I’ve learned some new lingo (look for this in an upcoming post) and plenty of random facts. One of the places I checked out is the true bow of the ship where, if I was standing a bit higher (and wearing a PFD, or personal flotation device), I’d look like I was Rose Dawson in one of the scenes from Titanic.

Animal Love
All of the time I spend on the bridge also allows for those random mammal sightings and I was able to see a few whales from afar on July 7!

Whale Sighting
Whale sighting from the bridge! You have to look really closely to see their blow spouts in the middle of the photo.

Kathleen Harrison: First Trawl, July 7, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
  July 6– 17, 2011

Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 7, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed:  18.7 knots
True Wind direction:  145.55°
Sea Temperature:  8.12° C
Air Temperature:  9.65° C
Air Pressure:  1013.2 mb
Ship’s Heading:  299°, Ship’s Speed:  11.8 knots
Latitude:  54.59°N, Longitude:  145.55°W

Science and Technology Log
The primary mission of the Oscar Dyson Walleye Pollock Survey is to estimate the biomass (mass of the living fish) of the Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska.  Read about why Pollock are important here:  Pollock    Now, you can’t exactly go swimming through the Gulf of Alaska (brrrr) and weigh all of the fish, so the NOAA scientists on board use indirect methods of measuring the fish to come up with an estimate (a very accurate estimate).  Two of these methods include using nautical charts, and trawling.

Nautical charts are used for navigation, and location.  The Oscar Dyson has several systems of charts, including electronic and paper.  Each chart contains latitude, longitude, and ocean depth, as well as lands masses and islands.  A chart that shows ocean depth is called a bathymetric chart.

bathymetric map
Here is a bathymetric map for part of the Gulf of Alaska. The change in color from green to blue shows the edge of the continental shelf.

These need updating continually, because the sea floor may change due to volcanic eruption or earthquakes.  The Officer of the Deck (OOD, responsible for conning and navigating the ship) needs to know how deep the ship sits in the water, and study the bathymetric charts, so that the ship does not go into shallow water and run aground.  The lines on the bathymetric chart are called contour lines, depth is shown by the numbers on the lines.  Sometimes every line will have a number, sometimes every 5th line will have a number.   A steep slope is indicated by lines that are close together, a flat area would have lines that are very far apart.  The OOD also need to know where seamounts (underwater volcanoes) and trenches (very deep cracks in the ocean floor) are because these may affect local currents.  GPS receivers are great technology for location, but just in case the units fail, and the ship’s technology specialist is sick, the OOD needs to know how to use a paper chart.  He or she would calculate the ship’s position based on ship’s speed, wind speed, known surface currents, visible land masses, and maybe even use star positions.  Here in Alaska, star position is helpful in the winter, but not in summer.  (Do any of my readers know why?)

The Oscar Dyson’s charted course follows a series of parallel straight lines around the coast of Kodiak Island, and other Aleutian Islands.  These are called transects, and allows the scientists to collect data over a representative piece of the area, because no one has the money to pay for mapping and fishing every square inch.

The Chief Scientist on the Oscar Dyson is always checking our location on the electronic chart at his desk.  It looks something like this:

map of transects, Gulf of Alaska
This chart shows some of the transects for the Oscar Dyson in the Gulf of Alaska.

Several things are indicated on this chart with different symbols:  the transect lines that the ship is traveling (the straight, parallel lines), where the ship has fished (green fish), where an instrument was dropped into the water to measure temperature and salinity (yellow stars), and various other ship activities.  It also shows the ocean depth.  This electronic version is great because the scientists can use the computer to examine a small area in more detail, or look at the whole journey on one screen.

They can also put predicted activities on the map, and then record actual activities.  The scientists also use several systems for the same thing;  recording the ship’s path and activities in the computer, as well as making notes by hand in a notebook.

When the scientists want to catch fish, they ask the crew to put a trawling net into the water.  The basic design of the trawl is a huge net attached to 2 massive doors.

otter trawl
This is the basic design for a trawl net, showing the doors that hold the net open, and the pointed end, where the fish are guided, called the cod end.

The doors hold the net open, as it is dragged behind the boat.  There are 2 different trawling nets aboard the Oscar Dyson:  one that trawls on the bottom called the PNE (Poly Nor’Easter), and one that trawls midway in the water column called the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl).  Another net called the METHOT can be used to collect plankton and small fish that are less than 1 year old.  The scientists determine the preferred depth of the net based on the location of fish in the water column; the OOD gets the net to this requested depth and keeps it there by adjusting the ship’s speed and the amount of trawl warp (wire attached to the net).
A trawl typically lasts 15 – 20 minutes, depending on how many fish the scientists estimate are in the water at that point (more about this later).  Today, a bottom trawl was performed, and 2 tons of fish were caught!  The net itself weighs 600 pounds, and is handled by a large crane on the deck at the stern (back) of the ship.  Operating the trawl requires about 6 people, 3 on the deck, and 3 on the bridge at the controls.  When the scientists judge that there are the right amount of fish in the net, it is hauled back onto the deck, weighed, and is emptied into a large table.

poly nor'easter
Here is the PNE being weighed with the cod end full of fish.

Then the scientists (and me) go to work:  sorting the fish by species into baskets, counting the fish, and measuring the length of some of them.  NOAA technology specialists have designed a unique data collection system, complete with touch screens.  A fish is placed on a measuring board, and the length is marked by a  magnetic stylus that is worn on the finger.  The length is automatically recorded by the computer, and displayed on a screen beside the board.  I measured the length of about 50 Atka Mackerel after the first trawl.

using the measuring board
In the fish lab, this mackerel is having his length measured. The data goes directly into the computer, and shows up on the screen in front of me.

By sampling the fish that come up in the trawl net, the scientists can estimate the size of the population.  Using the length, and gender distribution, they can calculate the biomass.

Personal Log
Some great things about living on the Oscar Dyson:  the friendly and helpful people, the awesome food, the view from the bridge.

Some challenging things about living on the Oscar Dyson:  taking a shower, putting on mascara, staying in bed while the ship rolls.

I started my 12-hour shifts, working from 4 am to 4 pm.  Well, maybe working is not the right word, I actually worked about 3 hours, and asked a lot of questions during my first shift.  The scientists are very patient, and explain everything very well.  We did one trawl today, and it was a good one.  I enjoyed sorting and counting the fish, and then measuring the length of them.  I will probably take a shower, eat dinner, and read for a short time before climbing into bed.  I have the top bunk, and it is plenty of room, except I can’t sit up straight.  Here is a picture of the stateroom.  After my shift, I will probably take a shower, eat dinner, watch a movie and fall asleep around 8:30.

view of my room
Standing at the door, this is the view into my stateroom. The bunks are on the right, the desk and closets are on the left. There is a tiny bathroom, as well as a small refrigerator.

The weather today has been windy, so there are 6 – 8 foot swells, and the ship is rolling a bit.  I have not been seasick yet – yippee!  The wind is supposed to calm down tomorrow, so hopefully we will have a smoother ride tomorrow night.

I learned the difference between pitch, roll, and heave:  pitch is the rocking motion of the ship from bow to stern (front to back), roll is the motion from side to side, and heave is the motion up and down.  The Oscar Dyson is never still, demonstrating all 3 motions, in no particular pattern.  Imagine standing in a giant rocking chair, and someone else (that you can’t see) is pushing it.

Here is a view from the bridge:

from the aft deck
View from the deck in front of the bridge, showing a gyrorepeater (the white column on the right), and a windbird (anemometer and wind vane) on top of the forward mast. You can also see a horizontal black bar in the center of the picture - that is the provisions crane.

Species seen today:
Northern Rockfish
Dusky Rockfish
Walleye Pollock
Pacific Ocean Perch
Kelp Greenling
Atka Mackerel
Pacific Cod
Fanellia compresson (octocoral)
Sea Urchin

Sue Zupko: 10 Steamin’ an’ a Beamin’

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Sue Zupko
NOAA Ship: Pisces
MissionExtreme Corals 2011; explore the ocean bottom to map and study health of corals and their habitat
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE United States deep water from off Mayport, FL to St. Lucie, FL
Date: June 4, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Position: 29.1° N  80.1°W
Time: 11:00 EDT
Wind Speed: calm
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Surface Water Temperature: 27.6°C
Air Temperature:27.6°C
Relative Humidity: 72%
Barometric Pressure:1018.4 mb
Water Depth: 85.81 m
Salinity: 36.55 PSU

When the strong current from the Gulf Stream stretched the tether of  the ROV  and broke one of the three fiber optic cables inside, it was time to come up with a new plan.  What do you do in the middle of the ocean if the main gear is not functioning?  Plan B.  Well, Plan B was using the spare fiber optic in the tether.  The spare one then broke as a result of being rubbed, most likely, by the sharp end of the original broken fiber during the next dive.  Now we had to go to Plan C .  Fortunately the ROV crew is experienced, and, like Boy Scouts, were prepared.  They brought a spare ROV and tethers from their lab in La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya), CA just in case.    The ship is running the sonar gear back and forth over the area we plan to dive tomorrow, mapping out the bottom, looking for coral mounds.  This process is called “mowing the lawn” since you run the beams back and forth to get complete coverage of the bottom, and it looks like the lines on the lawn left by the mower.  Think of the beam as having the shape of a flashlight’s beam shining on the floor.  Another interesting feature is that the acoustic beam can also read what fish are present.  It needs to have a swim bladder for the signal to bounce back.  When it does, based on the sound, an experienced acoustician can read what fish the signal represents.  Sharks don’t have a swim bladder like most fish do so their signals are a bit more difficult to read.

I was just up on the bridge and it seems we hit “pay dirt” (like gold miners).  The captain had been explaining to me a symbol shown on the Electronic Chart Display System (ECS).   It looks like a graphic math problem showing the intersection of lines, in this case one line running on a 110° angle with three lines parallel to each other intersecting it.  The line in the middle is a bit longer than the other two.  I asked how he knew what that symbol meant.  Apparently, there is a book for everything on the bridge.  He whipped out his handy-dandy book entitled, Chart No. 1.  It is a key to reading nautical charts (maps).  He searched for the correct page with bottom obstructions of all types and showed me that symbol and what it means.  Whenever I have a question, the bridge crew whips out a book of some type to let me see the answer.  It’s really interesting.  The Pisces is a really modern ship with the latest electronic navigation and scientific features.  The other day I asked about navigating without power.  There is a book for that.  Bowditch American Practical Navigator has everything you need to know about crossing the ocean without electronics.  As it says on my classroom door, “Reading makes life a lot easier.”  Turns out that symbol is a shipwreck.

Laura sitting in front of computer screen
Laura Kracker looks at maps

But I digress.  Back to the pay dirt (we struck gold).  Laura Kracker, our geographer started getting excited.  “Look at this!  Look at this!  Write down these coordinates.”

She went running back to the acoustics lab (where they use sound echos to map the ocean floor and the presence of fish) to mark the location along the transect (lines we’re running) because we apparently were over coral mounds.  Using  information gathered by others in years past as a guide, they were mowing the lawn with the sonar to find interesting habitat to study with the ROV.  As the ship went back and forth along the planned transect to develop a much better map than existed, Laura would radio the bridge about any changes to the courseto pinpoint the best areas for us to study over the next couple of days.

ROV crew working on transferring gear from one ROV to the other on deck
ROV crew swtiches gear from one ROV to the other

Everyone was very excited.  So, although the ROV had to be switched out, which took a lot of work, we made good use of the time on the ship.  After a whole day of mapping, it’s now late at night and the map looks gorgeous.  This is important work and many cruises are devoted entirely to mapping.  Andy David, our lead scientist, says this acoustic mapping is useful to many people and will allow more precise coral surveys for years to come.

Caroline Singler, September 1-2, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

Pizza Operations – Saturday 28 August 2010

Crew of Cutter Healy
Crew of Cutter Healy

Location and Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 1 September 2010
Time of Day: 20:15 (8:15 p.m. local time); 03:15 UTC
Latitude: 75º 12.98’ N
Longitude: 131º 29.0’ W
Ship Speed: 8.2 knots Heading: 6.9º (NNE)
Air Temperature: 1.36ºC / 34.45ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1010.0 mb Humidity: 86.5 %
Winds: 9.6 knots NNW
Wind Chill: -4.93ºC / 23.16ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.3ºC Salinity: 27.55 PSU
Water Depth:2503.9 m

Date:2 September 2010

Time of Day: 22:15 (10:15 p.m. local time); 05:15 UTC
Latitude: 76º 36.2’ N
Longitude: 129º 42.1’ W
Ship Speed: 3.9 knots Heading: 270 (W)
Air Temperature: -1.08ºC / 30.05ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1017.3 mb Humidity: 99.1 %
Winds: 9.3 knots N
Wind Chill: -6.53ºC / 20.15ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.52 PSU
Water Depth: 2492.8 m

When you are at sea for as long as the Coast Guard crew of the Healy, it’s important to build some things into the schedule that break up the monotony. Days pass without much sense of what day of the week it is, often with little difference between day and night. TheHealy Morale Committee is responsible for planning activities for the crew, and I have enjoyed attending their meetings as a science team point of contact (POC) during this cruise. Saturday nights are big nights on Healy. They start with the Morale Dinner, where the regular galley staff gets the night off and a different group prepares the meal. Then there is bingo in the mess, followed by a movie shown on the big screen in the helicopter hangar.

Last Saturday was the science team’s turn to try our hands at preparing dinner for the crew. We chose to make pizza, figuring it is usually a crowd pleaser and a complete break from the normal menu. Under the watchful eye of FS3 Melissa Gomes, we spent Saturday afternoon chopping and cooking toppings, pre-cooking the crusts, and baking a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for dessert – that was my idea; this late in the trip, it seemed like everyone could use a good dose of chocolate. Note that in the galley, everyone must where a cover (hat), but hats are not permitted elsewhere in the Mess.

Canadian Coast Guard Ice Analyst Erin Clark, USCG FS3 Melissa Gomes, USGS Scientists Helen Gibbons and Brian Edwards (in the scullery)
Canadian Coast Guard Ice Analyst Erin Clark, USCG FS3 Melissa Gomes, USGS Scientists Helen Gibbons and Brian Edwards (in the scullery)

Jerry Hyman (National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency) and Canadian Coast Guard Captain Michel Bourdeau – yes, we used premade pizza crusts; we are in the Arctic Ocean not a New York pizza parlor!
Jerry Hyman (National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency) and Canadian Coast Guard Captain Michel Bourdeau – yes, we used premade pizza crusts; we are in the Arctic Ocean not a New York pizza parlor!

Me making a cake
Me making a cake. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu

Here I am trying to figure out how to use the mixer – for this cake, the mix came in a can and the frosting mix was in a box. My watch stander partner Peter Triezenberg helped me frost the cakes, but no one was around to take our photo! Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu.

USGS geologist Andy Stevenson shows that he can cut a cake with the same precision that he uses to cut core samples. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu
USGS geologist Andy Stevenson shows that he can cut a cake with the same precision that he uses to cut core samples. Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu

Erin Clark, USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dalFerro, and USGS geochemist Chris Dufore (pictured from right to left) put their skills to the test with an efficient assembly line, combining toppings for a diverse array of pizza choices. Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons.
Erin Clark, USGS engineering technicians Jenny White and Pete dalFerro, and USGS geochemist Chris Dufore (pictured from right to left) put their skills to the test with an efficient assembly line, combining toppings for a diverse array of pizza choices. Photo courtesy of Helen Gibbons.

Captain Michel Bourdeau and Jerry manned the pizza ovens with great style and flair, earning the self-proclaimed designation “SPT” or Ship’s Pizza Technicians.
Captain Michel Bourdeau and Jerry manned the pizza ovens with great style and flair, earning the self-proclaimed designation “SPT” or Ship’s Pizza Technicians.

Sherwood Liu of the University of South Florida showed that he can cut pizza with the same good cheer and dedication that he applies to analyzing water samples.
Sherwood Liu of the University of South Florida showed that he can cut pizza with the same good cheer and dedication that he applies to analyzing water samples.

 PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker, Marine Mammal Observer Sarah Ashworth, and Andy Stevenson (pictured from right to left) greeted the hungry Coasties and served up hot pizza, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers. (Pete dalFerro and Jenny White work the deep fryer in back, with Erin Clark lending moral support.)
PolarTREC teacher Bill Schmoker, Marine Mammal Observer Sarah Ashworth, and Andy Stevenson (pictured from right to left) greeted the hungry Coasties and served up hot pizza, mozzarella sticks and jalapeno poppers. (Pete dalFerro and Jenny White work the deep fryer in back, with Erin Clark lending moral support.)

Our rewards for our efforts were the smiling, satisfied faces we saw leaving the Mess that evening, which made the job of washing dishes, cleaning tables and swabbing the decks that much easier. Somehow no one remembered to take pictures of the cleaning crew, which included many of those already named as well as Mark Patsavas (University of South Florida), Justin Pudenz (Marine Mammal Observer), and David Street (Canadian Hydrographic Service). It was a great night. We had a lot of fun and showed that we can work as a team in the kitchen as well as in the lab and on the decks.

Mission Status: We are in the home stretch now, leading Louis on what will probably be the last transect through ice. Sometime soon we will break away and start heading for Barrow to start the journey home. I am spending a good part of each day out on the decks, taking photos and enjoying my last look at Arctic ice. Yesterday’s snow added a new element to the scene.

Snow On Deck
Snow On Deck

Snow on bow
Snow on bow

Morning After Snow
Morning After Snow

Sarah Finds Her Polar Bear
Sarah Finds Her Polar Bear

We’ve also had a couple of polar bear sightings, though none were close enough to get good pictures with my camera, but here’s my roommate, Sarah, right after she spotted Wednesday’s bear.Caroline

Justin Czarka, August 9-10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II 
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Dates: August 9-10, 2009

Weather data from the Bridge

Sunrise: 6:26 a.m.
Sunset: 20:03 (8:03 p.m)
Weather: fog Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind direction: North
Visibility: less than 1 nautical mile (nm)
Waves: 9 feet

Science and Technology Log 

August 9 was a day for getting all the science gear aboard.  In order to conduct a research cruise at sea, you have to plan and pack all the materials you envision needing beforehand.  Once out at sea, there is nowhere to stop and pick up additional supplies.  Bill Peterson, the chief scientist from NOAA/ Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), and another member of the science team,

The McArthur II at port in San Francisco prior to the cruise. She is 224 feet long with a breadth (width) of 43 feet.
The McArthur II at port in San Francisco prior to the cruise. She is 224 feet long with a breadth (width) of 43 feet.

Toby Auth out of Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), up all the science equipment onto the deck of the McArthur. Some of the equipment we hauled onto the ship included bongo frames and bongo nets (used to collect specimen samples in the ocean), Niskin bottles (to collect water samples in the water column at various depths), dissecting microscopes, a fluorometer (to measure the amount of phytoplankton in the water), and crate after crate of sample jars.

In order to transfer all of the science equipment onto the McArthur II we laid out a cargo net flat on the pier that the crane dropped to us.  Then we hauled the equipment from the truck and placed it on the cargo net.  Next the cargo net holds were attached to the crane, which lifted the materials onto the deck of the ship. We unpacked the cargo net, conducted additional cargo lifts, and then stored all the equipment in the labs.  Using the crane sure beat hauling up all the equipment by hand!  The scientists have to get all the equipment placed in the labs, which is a lot of work.  I helped one of the scientists, Tracy Shaw, who studies zooplankton, set up the dissection microscope by securing it to the table.  On dry land, tables will not move around, but we had to tie it down to prepare for any possible rough seas.

This is me working to prepare the CTD for a practice launch in San Francisco Bay. We made sure that the Niskin bottle seals were in working condition.
This is me working to prepare the CTD for a practice launch in San Francisco Bay. We made sure that the Niskin bottle seals were in working condition.

August 10 we were to set sail in the morning. That has been changed until this afternoon, which gives the science team time to prepare some of the equipment before heading out to sea, along with conducting emergency drills and briefings. This morning the science team and NOAA crew worked together to prepare the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) probe. This involved cleaning the Niskin bottles and replacing cracked O-rings to ensure a secure seal around the bottle openings. If the bottles are not sealed properly, water and air (upon reaching the surface) can enter the bottle from the water column at an undesired location.  We also ensured that the lids close tightly, providing a vacuum seal.

Personal Log 

Living and working on a boat will be a new experience for me.  There are many unknowns in the process, but it is exciting to be learning something new nearly every minute.  I took a walk around the ship’s interior this afternoon, amazed by how much space is contained inside the McArthur II. The staterooms (where one sleeps) are large, containing a desk and a lounge chair.  They also have a sink, with a bathroom that is shared by the adjoining stateroom. The McArthur also has a fitness room for staying fit at sea, along with a lounge to for relaxing with movies, books, and even espresso!  The McArthur II surely will be home for the next nine or ten days.

I have been most impressed with the welcome I have received from both the NOAA crew and the scientists from NOAA, Oregon State University, the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Everyone is friendly, helpful, and full of cooperation. It is encouraging to observe the teamwork between people.  I appreciate having the opportunity to learn alongside the scientists and crew.  Being a teacher, I am used to being the one with the knowledge to impart or the activity to do.  It is exciting being aboard because now I am the student, eager to take notes, ask questions, and learn from those alongside me.  I have to say, each person has been an effective teacher!  So we are off to Bodega Bay for our first sampling and there’s a rumor going around that a Wii Fit competition might be getting under way!

Today’s Vocabulary 

Transect line- when conducting research at a predetermined latitude or longitude and continue to collect data samples along that line Niskin bottles- these containers have openings on both the top and bottom.  As it drops through the water column it fills with water.  At a predetermined depth both ends close, capturing water from that specific depth inside the bottle that can be brought back to the surface and analyzed. Water Column- a vertical section of water where sampling occurs

Jennifer Fry, July 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 27, 2009

The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.
The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Each night beginning at around 9:00 p.m. or 21:00, if you refer to the ship’s clock, Dr. Steve Pierce begins his research of the ocean. He is a Physical Oceanographer and this marks his 11th year of conducting CTD, Conductivity, Temperature, and Density tests.

It takes 24 readings per second as it sinks to the seafloor. The CTD only records data as it sinks, insuring the instruments are recording data in undisturbed waters. For the past 11 years Dr. Pierce and his colleagues have been studying density of water by calculating temperature and salinity in different areas of the ocean. By studying the density of water, it helps to determine ocean currents. His data helps us examine what kind of ocean conditions in which the hake live. Using prior data, current CTD data, and acoustic Doppler current profiler, a type of sonar, Dr. Pierce is trying to find a deep water current flowing from south to north along the west coast.  This current may have an effect on fish, especially a species like hake.

This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.
This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.

Dr. Steve Pierce reminds us, “None of this research is possible without math. Physical oceanography is a cool application of math.” Another testing instrument housed on the CTD apparatus is the VPR, Visual Plankton Recorder.  It is an automatic camera that records plankton, microscopic organisms, at various depths.  The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman collect data about plankton’s feeding habits, diurnal migration, and their position in the water column.  Diurnal migration is when plankton go up and down the water column to feed at different times of day (see illustration below).  Plankton migration patterns vary depending on the species.The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman followed the east to west transect lines conducting fishing trawls. The first one produced 30 small hake averaging 5 inches in length.  The scientists collected marine samples by weighing and measuring them.

Dr. Steve Pierce  at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Steve Pierce at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.
This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.

Personal Log 

It was extremely foggy today.  We traversed through the ocean evading many obstacles including crab and fishing buoys and other small boats.  Safety is the number one concern on the Miller Freeman. The NOAA Corps Officers rigorously keep the ship and passengers out of harm’s way.  I am grateful to these dedicated men and women.  LTjg Jennifer King, marine biologist and NOAA Corps officer says, “Science helps understand natural process: how things grow and how nature works. We need to protect it.  Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”

Rebecca Himschoot, July 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: July 4, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less than 1 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: variable
Wind speed:  light
Sea wave height: 4 feet
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Seawater temperature: 7.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1020.4 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

US Fish and Wildlife Service seabird observer, Tamara Mills
US Fish and Wildlife Service seabird observer, Tamara Mills

Science and Technology Log: Special Studies 

Bird observer Tamara Mills has to keep track of many things.  From her post on the bridge of the OSCAR DYSON, Tamara locates and identifies multiple species of seabirds around the ship, and then records the information to be entered in the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database (NPPSD). She identifies and counts the many fulmars, murres, kittiwakes and other seabirds that are within 300 meters of the ship, often using binoculars to help correctly identify each bird before she records it. As the data are entered into the database, the computer automatically records the GPS location of the ship.

Tamara is a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but she’s sailing on the NOAA research vessel OSCAR DYSON in order to add data to the NPPSD.  Seabird observations are frequently done in the nesting colonies, but the colonies are where the birds spend the least of their time.  In fact, roughly half of all seabirds may not be nesting in a given year, so that they would never be seen or counted in a land-based survey.  USFWS has therefore collaborated with other agencies to place observers, like Tamara, on “vessels of opportunity,” or research vessels where seabirds can be monitored and counted. USFWS seabird observers can be found on Coast Guard vessels, on NOAA ships, and on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own research vessel. 

A northern fulmar photographed by Tamara on board the OSCAR DYSON
A northern fulmar photographed by Tamara on board the OSCAR DYSON

Along with counting seabirds, Tamara is also logging marine mammal sightings.  In 2006 USFWS seabird observers spent 168 days at sea and completed 14, 263 km of survey transects in the Bering Sea, some areas of the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands. In all this work they spotted 69 species of seabirds and 16 species of marine mammals.  Until this recent work, no information had been added to the NPPSD since the 1970’s and 1980’s.

“We want to get an up-to-date picture of what’s really out there,” Tamara said. “These data could be useful in studying climate change or in the event of an oil spill. It may also be possible to link what we’re finding in the bird surveys to the acoustic fish information that’s being collected, and we might then be able to correlate the types of birds we see and their densities when certain kinds of fish are present.”

Personal Log 

The Bering Sea was calm today!! We actually had some sun and were able to trawl and process without hanging on to railings and tables and such.  Tomorrow we should head for our final transect, and we have nearly collected the minimum number of otoliths we set out to, so the cruise is beginning to wind down.  We have plans for an Independence Day barbecue if the weather cooperates later in the day.

Question of the Day

Answer to yesterday’s question (What is conductivity?): Conductivity is the measure of the ability of a solution to carry an electrical current, and is used to measure salinity. 

Elsa Stuber, June 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 9, 2007

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 06:00 and arrived in San Francisco @ 08:00  Unloaded equipment, mostly by winch onto truck; cleaned quarters and wet and dry labs.

In preparing my report I have included the data from the casts I worked on. As they were a dollar each to reproduce at Kinkos, I decided to only include those four-colored graphs for beam transmission, depth, salinity, and temperature that illustrate different types of locations, near shore or at sea of varying depths. These graphs certainly show the increase in salinity with depth and the falling of temperature with depth.  They show the inverse relationship between the beam transmission and fluorescence. Compare Table 3, Table 6, Table 7, and Table 9 that are from very different depths. There is a lot of information here for my students to analyze.

This has been a stimulating learning experience.  My students like most high school students are not near the ocean, maybe have never been to an ocean.  I think sharing this first hand experience along with the pictures and doing demonstrations of our work and showing the data collected will open a perspective in their minds about the ocean.  They will realize from the chlorophyll analysis and fluorescence the narrow level of the bottom of the food chain. This will bring home the concern for the protection of the health of the biotic life in our oceans.  I intend to do a mock set up of our lab procedures and have them brainstorm how experimental error could be introduced.  This should reinforce the importance of careful procedure in any scientific work.

The scientific staff on this cruise has been exceptional in willing to share their knowledge and, even when we were all tired, to answer my many, many questions about each individuals work in oceanography.  I have found them to be conscientious scientists very interested, stimulated in their work. Some have given me pictures.  Several have done extended work in Antarctica, which was particularly interesting to me. As well, the MBARI staff was very supportive as the other Teacher At Sea and I were learning procedures for our work. It felt good to see how cooperative, flexible they all were with one another no matter how long the days.  I wish we could have been able to go to the MBARI lab this coming week to see how the work continues there.  I intend to go on line and read more about their research and research findings. This will be something to investigate and follow with my students and extending their understanding of the oceans and the oceanographers’ work.

Elsa Stuber, June 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 8, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: clear
Wind direction 282 NW
Wind speed: 18.9 knots
Sea wave height: 3-5 feet
Sea temperature: 10.5 C
Air temperature: 13.5 C
Sea level pressure: 1013.36
Cloud cover: 100 % status clouds

Science and Technology Log 

Wind woke me up at 06:00, boat rolling.  Early morning 03:00—05:00 winds were 30 knots. Casts 31, 32, and 33 processed by other teams.

Cast 34 @ 09:24 Station H3  Latitude 36.44117 N  Longitude 122.01108 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Samples processed and stored.  Data for cast is Table 16 at the end of the report.  Worked on chlorophyll analysis with flurometer.

Cast 35 @ 11:47 Station C1  Latitude 36.478487N  Longitude 121.508392 W Cast depth 225 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 225, 200,. 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Samples processed and stored.  Data for cast is Table 17 at the end of the report. I worked on chlorophyll analysis off and on throughout the day.

The HyperPro instrument to measure light up to 40 meters depth in the water has been tested at mid-day each day.  One tube is pointed down and opposite tube is pointed up sensing light levels. A third tube is strapped to the railing registering light levels at all times.  Seechi was used during the daylight hours as well. MBARI staff gave us some Styrofoam cups, two sizes, to decorate as we wanted using different permanent colored markers.  We put all of them in a mesh laundry bag and attached it to a 1000-meter depth cast.  When they came back up they had shrunk to 1/6th of the original size. It demonstrates the amount of air in the Styrofoam, which should be a good illustration for my students.

Wildlife observations: humpback whales, dolphins, sea gulls, cormorants, sooty shearwaters, and albatross. Kathryn said the sooty shearwater cannot take off from the ground very well. This bird will climb up the trunk of a tree a ways and take off from there. They will wear the bark down going up a path on the tree.  She hoped we would see a Yaeger bird, a bird that chases other birds that have been feeding, making them drop their food. That’s how the Yaeger feeds. It is very aggressive she said in pursuing other birds.

Moved to an area in Monterey Bay where whales had been sighted.  Saw five at a distance of half a mile, sometimes a fin, but mostly the whale’s spout from the blowhole.

Packing up equipment so ready to unload early tomorrow in San Francisco.

Each day the plan of the day is posted by the FOO.  I include an example at the end of the report.

We did extra stations as we are ahead of schedule.   Cast 36 @23:58 nutrients only. Final station done by Troy, nutrients only at 03:00 June 9, 2007

Bed at 01:00 June 9th

Elsa Stuber, June 7, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 7, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: clear
Wind direction: NW
Sea wave height: 5-8 ft.
Sea temperature: 12.79 C
Air temperature: 14.7 C
Swell wave: 5-8 ft.
Sea Level pressure: 1016.
Cloud cover: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 06:30. Breakfast and watched with mammal observer on flying bridge.  Saw a few albatross. Very rough water, windy, cold.

Cast 21, 22 and 23 taken by other teams.

Cast 24 @ 08:55 Station 67-75 Latitude  35.5749N Longitude 123.504491 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 2000, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Very windy. Data for cast is Table 12 at the end of the report

Cast 25 @ 11:35 Station NPS 5 Latitude  36.026137 N  Longitude 123.400087 W   Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 0 meters Nutrient samples only taken at this cast.  Data for cast is Table 13 at the end of the report.  Very windy (23 knots)

Spent time again on the flying bridge with mammal observer.  She said on the Beaufort Scale winds above 4 one doesn’t expect to see wildlife out in the ocean. Beaufort scale today is “5”.

Casts 26, 27, and 28 ( wind 26 knots) processed by other teams.

Cast 29 @ 21:27 Station NPS 3 Latitude 36.22583N Longitude 122.57275 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000,900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 0 meters Nutrients samples only collected at this cast. Very windy (wind 22 knots) and water is rough. Data for cast is Table 14 at the end of the report. Worked on chlorophyll analysis.

Took photos of some of the net tow specimen jars to show the extreme of near shore and out at sea differences in material.  Specimens observed today–some shrimp, a few jellyfish, a squid, pteropods, heteropods.  There is not the large amount of krill as observed in the net tow collections closer to shore.

Cast 30 @ 23:37 Station 67-60  Latitude  36.275608 N  Longitude 122.466380 W Cast depth 1000 meters CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Very windy (23 knots) Samples processed and stored Data for cast is Table 15 at the end of the report.

Bed 01:00 June 8th

Elsa Stuber, June 6, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 6, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: clear
Wind direction: 291
Wind speed: 16 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3 ft.
Swell wave: 5-7ft.
Sea temperature: 14.671 C
Air temperature: 16.1 C
Sea level pressure: 1021
Cloud cover: 25% scattered cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 07:00 Discussion continued on how to do deep casts with CTD and avoid kink in wire: lower it slower or put on more weight or etc.  Some staff short on sleep after working with CTD repair last night. I do fine on six hours a night but I feel it when it’s five.  I will try for a nap today.

Cast 13 and 14 were done with other staff and went without problems.  They will try a deep cast again today.

Cast 15 08:00 Station 65-90 Latitude 35.03387N  Longitude -127.45604 W at depth to 1000 m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters In the wet lab work the funnel for sample #8 was not locked tightly and the apparatus leaked. I put on a new filter and took another seawater sample for #8.  Samples processes and stored. Data for cast is Table 7 at the end of the report.

The two 4′ by 6′ incubators on deck contain the C14 spiked samples placed in a continually flowing seawater bath for twenty-four hours.  Samples are placed in metal tubes with various numbers of holes in the tubes.  The various tubes are designed so that the samples are exposed to 50%, 30%, 15%, 5% and 1%.  One set of samples is not in tubes, but in full sunlight. Then they are evaluated for the rate the phytoplankton incorporate the Carbon 14 as described in Day 3.

Began chlorophyll analysis on the filtered specimens from the range of depths at each station that have been in the freezer more than twenty-four hours.

Marguerite went over the procedure using the flurometer to process the sample. It must be turned on at least one hour before running the tests and the chlorophyll samples #1-12 plus 1 and 5 micron samples must be at room temperature in the dark for at least one hour before beginning. She calibrated the flurometer with acetone.  We rinse the cuvette three times with a couple of milliliters of sample, and then add the remainder to the cuvette.  It will be about 2/3 full or more.  Wipe the cuvette well with a lab wipe to remove any oil on glass from your hand/fingers, place sample gently into flurometer.  The first reading should be taken after it has stabilized, usually 15-20 seconds.  Then two drops of 5% hydrochloric acid are added to degrade the chlorophyll pigment.  A second reading is taken to measure the remaining pigment. These are recorded on a “Bottle Sample Data Sheet”, an example of which is included as Table 8 at the end of the report.  After measurements are recorded, the sample is thrown out in a collection container and the vials disposed of in a waste container.

The cuvette is rinsed three times with acetone and then begin processing the next sample. Again it really helped to have seen this procedure demonstrated on the DVD that was sent to me ahead of the trip.  I was much better prepared.  It was important for the research done as well because if one made a mistake in the sample procedure, there was no sample in reserve to be able to run the test again. I did samples for a couple of hours in the afternoon and a couple more in the evening when I was scheduled for working but waiting for a cast to come up.

Cast 16 and 17 were processed by other team.

Cast 18 @ 15:35 Station 67-90 Latitude 35.4670N  Longitude -124.9409 W Cast depth 4380 went very well. Processed by Erich and Charlotte. Cylinders tripped at 4380 bottom, 4000, 3500, 3000, 2500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 750, 500, 250, 0 meters; Data for cast as Table 9 at the end of the report.

I observed a couple of bongo net tows today. Live net tows are collecting zooplankton and other seawater specimens from the first 200 meters of depth.  The bongo nets have two .8-meter diameter rings with a mesh net and a polycarbonate tube at the end.  The nets were deployed using the ship’s starboard winch equipped with at least 300 meters of wire. The ship maintains a vertical wire angle during the tow of approximately 45 degrees. Kit Clark, the oceanographer in charge of net tows said it was important that the winch be able to maintain a slow, constant retrieval speed.  When nets are retrieved, they are hosed down to wash specimen sticking to the mesh down into the polycarbonate tube. The specimens are transferred to jars and fixed with formalin. There were a lot of krill and one viper eel in the specimens I observed this morning.

Wildlife observer saw three albatross today.  Cast 19 @ 21:14 Station-NPS-8 Latitude 35.325665 N  Longitude 124.438304 W  Cast depth 1000 meters; Cylinders tripped at 1000, 900, 800, 700, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 0 meters; Nutrient samples only taken for this cast; Data for cast is Table 10 at the end of the report.

Cast 20 @ 11:29 Station 67-85 Latitude 35.6249 N Longitude -124.5544W  Cast depth 1000 meters; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters; Bottle # 2 leaked, was empty, so no sample collected. Always check that funnels are locked tight before I begin. Samples processed and stored; Data for cast is Table 11 at the end of the report.

Long discussion of the structure and movement of ocean currents.  Dr. Collins is a brilliant scientist, such depth in oceanography.  He uses vocabulary during his explanations that need explanation in themselves. The Great Lakes and fresh water bodies are a lot simpler.

Discussed with Dr. Collins the military value of the studies we are doing.  He said the military does sea floor mapping, looks for mines and things on the sea floor. He explained that there are levels of optimum transmission of sound, channels for submarines.  Determining these best channels relates to the salinity and temperature

Bed @ 01:00 June 7th

Elsa Stuber, June 5, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 5, 2007

Weather from the Bridge 
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction 275.64
Wind speed: 13 knots
Air temperature: 16.1 C
Sea wave Height: 1-2 feet
Seawater temperature: 13.98 C
Swell wave: 4-6 feet
Sea level pressure: 1017.4
Cloud cover: 50%, stratus

Science and Technology Log 

Up at 06:00 and went to flying bridge to observe with Kathryn.  Not much wildlife to see other than a few sea gulls. Color of water so blue.  Temperature is cool early in the morning. Breakfast good fruit, lots of starches, sausages.  A time to talk to crewmembers about the different trips of MCARTHUR II from Alaska to Peru.  Jim spoke in detail @ working as a fisherman in Alaska, ice in his moustache, not needing very heavy clothes because you worked so hard you got hot.  He said it was 06:00 until 22:00 in summer time.  He spoke about fishing limit rules, coordinating with Japanese fishing boats, and also how the catch numbers have fallen since ten or fifteen years ago.

Cast 6 and 7 were early in the morning with other cruise staff. All proceeded as expected.

Cast 8 @ 08:18 Station 60-75 Latitude 37.067N Longitude 124.4145 W Cast depth to 1000m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Data for cast is Table 5 at end of report. Cast information time is always written in Greenwich time; I subtract seven hours to show our time on ship for the station work.  The Cast information listing for latitude and longitude is close but not exact to Table 1 for the CalCOFI stations. In the 1000 meter depth casts it takes about forty minutes for the CTD to go down to depth and come up again, stopping at the different levels for the specific rosette to open.

I learned more information on the testing of samples from Marguerite Blum, MBARI oceanographer: The nutrient samples contain nitrates and nitrites as well as silicates, phosphates.  The nitrates and nitrites area examined at Moss Landing lab with an auto flow analyzer, which translates sample into voltage and indicates the amount of the nutrient in the sample.

QP (quantitative phytoplankton) will show up to fifteen general types of phytoplankton in a sample.  This is an expensive test to run.  The flow cytometry test divides the sample into four groups: bacteria, prokaryotes, eukarotyes, and zooplankton.  It will determine a general number of how many of each are present in the sample.

The Carbon 14 test shows the amount of carbon uptake by the phytoplankton.  C14 of specimen fluoresces and radioactive emission level counted on a scintillation counter. The chlorophyll analysis of the green chlorophyll is run on the flurometer.  Samples that have been in the freezer 24 hours we will process in the dry lab while on this cruise.  On this cast I also handled the A* filter, the HPLC filter and the POC filter, placing them in their red, blue, and green cryovials respectively, and then put in the liquid nitrogen container. The analysis of HPLC, POC, FCM and N15 samples are not done at Moss Landing but are sent out to other labs for processing.

Cast 9 @ 11:45 Station 60-80 Latitude 36.5677N  Longitude 125.0327 W Cast depth to 1000m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters; Data for cast is Table 6 at end of report.

There have been bongo net tows at our stations, but often when I am working or sleeping. I have seen some of the specimens caught which are in jars with formalin.  I hope to see a net tow start to finish soon.

I have watched with Kathryn, the Mammal observer, during different periods today and have not seen any wildlife. She saw seven dolphins earlier in the day.  I asked her about the tagging of sea life and she talked about the guidelines. She said the organization had to apply for a permit to the National Marine Fisheries.  This may take up to a year to obtain. A boat doing tagging must display a special flag with a research number on it. The permit will specify the number of “takes” (getting close to or affecting the animal such as a whale or turtle).  She said a lot of information was available on line at TOPP (Tagging of Pacific Pelagics). When it’s on the surface, the signal from the tagged animal will beam up to satellite and transmit its location. How long it will function depends on the battery life, and of course a small animal can only carry a small battery.  The scientist will set the frequency of the beam according to the frequency of the animal at the surface. A sea lion surfaces every fifteen minutes so its battery will last three weeks.  A turtle will surface every second day so its battery will last six months to a year or more. Scientists want to recapture radio equipment so watch closely at the animal’s location.  The equipment will give off a signal for at least a week after it falls off.  Researchers put gummy worms under the suction cups on whales and know it will take about a week for that sugar to be dissolved, and then the apparatus will fall off.  Tic Tacs with suction cups also work.. The equipment is numbered for location and will be returned if found by any ships, any countries at sea. She said a problem that can occur is that is that the sensor on the collar could get algae grown over it so it stays off.

Cast 10 and 11 were with other cruise staff.

Cast 12 was started @ 22:45 and was to be a deep cast, 4500m.  When it reached @1100m transmission of data stopped.  The CTD was brought back to the surface and worked on by staff about three hours. A kink had developed in the wire.  That section was cut out and all connections redone.

Data retrieved gives information for the 1100 m at this location for beam transmission, salinity, temperature, and fluorescence all taken by the computer monitoring system in the dry lab. Bottle samples were not taken.

To bed @ 02:00 June 6th I am greatly stewing about the CTD problems with all it means to the research, to the cruise,  and the expense of it all.

Elsa Stuber, June 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 4, 2007

Weather DAY 2: San Francisco to sea 
Visibility: Some fog before 12:00, which later cleared
Wind direction: 282.14
Wind Speed: 9 knots
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Seawater temperature: 14.159 C.
Sea level pressure: 1017.15
Air temperature: 14.1 C
Cloud cover: 100% stratus

Science and Technology Log 

Awoke 06:00 and did journal work until 07:15 breakfast.  Studied cruise information.   As suggested by CS Tim, I took a Dramamine II last evening and one this morning.  I don’t want to have seasick problems.  I don’t feel any side effects from the medication.

Safety meeting 09:00 with FOO Middlemiss. It is important to close the heavy doors when going and coming on the ship. We reviewed procedures for Man Overboard, Fire, and Abandon Ship.

Fire: signal = 10-second continuous bringing of the General Alarm bell and a 10-second continuous sounding of the ship’s whistle. Proceed to fantail of ship.

Abandon ship: signal =seven or more short blasts on the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast. Bring survival clothing and PFD to life raft location on the bridge.  We practiced putting on survival clothing:  feet and legs in then hood on your head before putting arms in sleeves and zipping up.  Difficult to do getting arms in by yourself; this is not a quick maneuver.  Mine was the smallest size; feet and arm-hand portion pretty big on me, but I would survive. I brought my mustang survival jacket along on the cruise as well.

Man Overboard: If witnessed throw life ring buoy into the water and call for assistance immediately. After one minute throw a second life ring buoy in the water.  Try to keep visual surveillance of the person in the water. Signal = three short blasts on the ship’s whistle.

For safety drills, dismissal from drill signal = three shorts blasts on the ship’s whistle. Mess hall information, store information, medicine location given.

Ship departed San Francisco approximately 10:15 with very foggy weather, foghorn blowing. It is very loud. If wearing plugs, the hearing of anyone working close to foghorn such as the wildlife observer on the flying bridge would be affected over time.  Special ear protection is needed for persons at that observational post.  Kathryn Whitaker is the wildlife observer on this cruise. She is stationed on the bridge with a lap top computer to record type and quantity of all birds and sea life she observes.  Kathryn is observing from daylight to sundown except going down for meals.  She uses powerful binoculars and camera to photograph whatever she sees.  On some cruises she has two or more staff working with her, one of whom is typing in the computer all that the observers are calling out that they are seeing which is often a great deal if the ship is nearer shore than we will be for most of this cruise.  As we leave SF Bay we see a dead gray whale floating, Kathryn points out the grease trail from the decaying whale blubber floating out on the water. There are cormorants and seagulls in large numbers flying in the area of the ship for the first three and a half hours of our trip. Then we only observe some seagulls.

The overall survey plan is to proceed offshore along CalCOFI (California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigation) Line 60, occupying stations each 10-20 nMi (nautical miles) to ~175 nMi offshore.  Then proceed to stations each 20nMi northeast to station 67-90 at the offshore terminus of Line 67, and work back into shore along Line 67 with stations 10-20 nMi apart. After the station work is completed, the ship will return to San Francisco and offload gear and personnel.  I will include the CalCOGI station information in Table 1 and Figure 1 of this report.

Operations at the stations are to collect physical, chemical, and biological data by CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) and its rosette bottles, net tows, and underway surface measurements.  All CTD casts at the stations are to the bottom or 1000 dbars whichever is shallowest. At stations #12 and #16 two deep casts (4500m) are planned conditions and time permitting. Secchi disk cast will be made at daytime stations.  HyperPro optical sensor casts are to be made at midday stations.  Oblique bongo net tows will be to 200m depths.

CalCOFI survey continuous operations while underway will include logging meteorological and sea surface property, a pCO2 measuring system in the wet lab, the incubators for chlorophyll seawater samples on the fantail, and the marine mammal observer.

Cast 1 @ 13:51 Station 60-50, Latitude 37.948N & Longitude -122.888W, Cast depth 40m, Bottom depth 48m, CTD cylinders tripped at 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 1.5, 0 meters   Data for cast is Table 2 and accompanying data graph including percent beam transmission, depth, temperature, and fluorescence at end of my report. Participants: Tim and Erich from MBARI, USN Charlotte, TAS Elsa  This was good hands on practice for the sampling work.  Charlotte and I received a lot of help, tips for technique.  Tim is very patient with our learning curve.

  1.  We check stopper at bottom of rosette cylinder to determine that it didn’t leak.  Pull out stopper and should only be a couple of milliliters squirting out.  Then open valve at top of rosette to take the sample.
  2.  Open stopper by lining up black circle drawn on stopper with peg on stopper and pull out. Rinse 280ml sample bottle three times with @ 15ml of sea water from rosette and then fill sample bottle to overflowing, close stopper.  Rinse small nutrient sample bottle 3 times and then fill it half to two-thirds full. Tim and Erich were filling other bottles for C14, N15, POC, QP, HPLC, FCM, and A* tests which are described below.
  3.  In wet lab, nutrients numbered sequentially are put in cartons and then promptly put into the freezer.  These will be processed later at the MBARI lab.
  4.  Funnels with filters for the twelve samples were set up prior to reaching the station.  Turn on aspirator pump.  Filter solutions through flasks.  Suction for all samples is improved if you turn off valve on those that have already filtered through.  You can’t get paper filter off the filter piece if suction is still operating.  Be careful at all times to check that sample number matches its numbered filter apparatus, and glass vial the filter is stored in when filtration complete.
  5.  Put particular filter for the fractionated 5 micron and 1 micron filtering.  Sample is labeled “F” collected by MBARI scientist. Pour 100ml of sample into each funnel for these samples.
  6.  Add the 10ml. measured amount of 90% acetone to each glass vial with its filter to “fix” the phytoplankton on the filter.  Place these in the carton in sequential order to be placed in the freezer. These remain there in the dark for at least 24 hours before we can test for chlorophyll levels with the flurometer.
  7. Label samples for casts read for example S307c#2, #5.  Meaning June 3-9 Cruise S307 cast #2 sample #5
  8. Three other filtrations were done which are color labeled: green POC organic carbon, how much carbon is in the water other than the plankton detritus; red A* filter will be evaluated in spectrophotometer to get all wave lengths of life, not just chlorophyll; and blue, HPLC -high performance liquid chromatography which will show 23 pigment types commonly associated with different algae so they may be qualified and quantified for the level the sample was taken.
  9.  The MBARI scientists take the C14 and N15 radioactive samples.
  10.  Set empty bottles in rack and carrying case and put out on back deck to be ready for the next cast. Put new filters in the 12 funnels in the wet lab to be ready for the next cast.

Chief Scientist Tim Pennington sent a DVD with demonstrations on how different sampling and testing of the samples are handled.  It was very helpful to see this walk through ahead, with emphasis on the problems that can arise with the techniques and suggestions on what to do about them.

Cast 2 @ 15:35 Station 60-52.5 , Latitude 37.864N  Longitude -123.065W, Cast depth to 80m, bottom depth 90m; CTD cylinders tripped at 80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0  meters Data for cast is Table 3 and accompanying data graph at end of report.

CTD goes down and is monitored by observer in dry lab, CTD technician Doug or Dr. Collins. The observer communicates with the bridge and crew to raise the CTD, stop at each specified depth, and to trip open the particular rosette flask at this depth.

I worked on Cast 2 and became a little more efficient.  I’m continuing to try to observe all very carefully so as not to make any mistakes.  Procedures are very precise for accuracy.

Casts 3, 4 were not on my watch.  During that time I went to the flying bridge to do wildlife observation with Kathryn. There were numbers of cormorants and seagulls.  She had seen four dolphins @ half a mile away earlier in the day.

Cast 5 at station 60-57.5 at 21:42 Latitude 36.86N Longitude -123.3612W  Cast depth to 1000m; CTD cylinders tripped at 1000, 200, 150, 100, 80 ,60, 40, 30, 20, 10, 5, 0 meters Data for cast is Table 4 and accompanying graph at end of report. The water from 1000 meters is very cold, 3.843 C compared to 12.144 C at the surface.

The seas are pretty calm so collecting water samples, working with the equipment,  walking around is not a problem.  I have no hint of seasickness so I won’t continue to take Dramamine unless I begin to feel queasy.

Spigot on rosette #12 black circle marker has faded and needs to be remarked.

Go to bed @ 00.30 6/5/07. I’m sharing quarters with three others and my bed is a top bunk. Bunks are not very big, but I’m only 5′ tall so size of bunk is not a problem.  I can just barely sit up though and it is tricky to make it up in the morning.  Plenty of blankets and linens supplied.


Elsa Stuber, June 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elsa Stuber
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
June 4 – 9, 2007

Mission: Collecting Time Series of physical, chemical and biological data to document spatial and temporal pattern in the California Current System
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: June 3, 2007

Weather DAY 1: San Francisco, Pier 30/32 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 270 NW
Wind Speed: 8 knots
Sea wave height in harbor: 1′
Seawater temperature: 15.129 C.
Sea level pressure: 1016.4
Air temperature: 15.2
Cloud cover: 1/4 cumulus

Science and Technology Log 

The day began @ 07:30 picking up equipment at Moss Landing and riding up to San Francisco in van with other MCARTHUR II cruise members: Chief Scientist Tim Pennington, Biological Oceanographers-Marguerite Blum, Kit Clark, Erich Rienecker, Troy Benbow, Charlotte Hill; Physical Oceanographer, Dr. Curt Collins; CTD technician, Doug Conlin. At Pier 30/32, Marine Mammal Biologist, Katherine Whitaker, joined us and the other Teacher at Sea participant, Turtle Haste.

Tim Pennington coordinated the staging operation with the (FOO) Field Operation Officer Lt. Amanda Middlemiss.  The large equipment for the cruise was at the pier on a flat bed truck and was loaded by crane on the ship’s deck with the assistance of the ship’s crew. All scientists were involved in unpacking the gear and setting up the wet lab and dry lab for the Time Series study work.  As these labs have been physically updated since the last MBARI cruise on MCARTHUR II, set up in these labs required some modifications. All staff commented on the benefits and advantages of the lab improvements.

I reviewed material I researched on line prior to cruise about the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) Time Series program.  The focus is on the relations between oceanic carbon and nitrogen cycles and climate variability with emphasis on measuring the primary phytoplankton production.  The research involves both observational and experimental studies with shipboard measurements of physical, chemical and biological parameters during cruises in Monterey Bay (since 1989) and offshore into the California Current (since 1997) at different seasons of the year.  The data collected over this time span is being used to construct synthetic views of the oceanographic system dynamics of the California Current. The work has documented seasonal cycles, El Ninos and La Ninas and longer decade-scale cycles (e.g., Pacific Decadal Oscillation).  The overall goal is to learn as much as possible about the earth’s climate and ocean systems, and therefore it is important to understand these cycles. Beyond construction of views of the California Current cycles and understanding the causation of them, will scientists determine that the directions show potential effects of global warming?

As stated in the summary of the MBARI Time Series Program report 2007: “Is this a local-or remotely-driven effect?  We are uncertain. Is it important? You bet.  Why? Because we area certain that (1) conclusions about global climate change begin with local observations, and (2) unusual conditions are often highly informative.”

Chief Scientist (CS) Tim Pennington went over the wet lab organization with the three of us new to working there, defining the different sample bottles and chemicals used in collecting and processing the sea water samples.  He showed us which type of samples were stored in the freezer or in the liquid nitrogen, and which were placed in the seawater bath on the back deck. We signed up for our individual research tasks, my assignment is seawater sample collection from the rosette bottles of the CTD and processing in the wet lab. When filtered samples are ready, to process with the flurometer for chlorophyll level. My shift is 08:00 – 12:00 and 20:00-24:00.  I work with CS Tim. Then we are free to study/work in other areas as you would like or as you are needed.  We put duct tape ridge along front edge of wet lab tables to help stop materials from sliding off counter if ship is rolling.

At 16:00 we moved our personal belongings to our assigned quarters and then were free to explore the set-up of the MCARTHUR II. Important to note were the areas where one must wear a hard hat and a PFD. No open toed footwear outside your quarters. Pay attention to stay far away from winches when they are being used.

FOO Lt. Middlemiss requested that we review the safety instructions packet found in our quarters and that we should be ready for the safety drill to take place the next day.

Bed at 00:30 June 4th.

Scott Dickison, September 30-October 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Dickinson
Onboard Research Vessel Shearwater
September 30 – October 11, 2006

Mission: Quantitative Finfish Abundance
Geographical Area: Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas
Date: September 30 – October 11, 2006

Santa Barbara, seen from the ship
Santa Barbara, seen from the ship


The cruise that I participated on was a multi-part project that spanned several weeks. I came on board for the final, and most interesting part of the project. Those parts you can read about in my log entries, however some background and technical information may be useful to better understand the operation.

The cruise took place onboard the NOAA R/V Shearwater. The project was called a Quantitative Finfish Abundance and Exploration of the Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas. A cooperative Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) study with the California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Applied Research and Exploration, and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

When I arrived, the bulk of the work had been completed and it was time for the experimental portions of the project to take place. These experiments were designed to ensure the reliability, precision, and accuracy of the quantitative data collected by ROV survey. The basic operations involved live boating the ROV along predetermined track lines. That is, the RV Shearwater would proceed along a predetermined line on the surface that the ROV was also independently operating on at the ocean floor. The ROV had a range of 50 meters from the stern of the RV Shearwater. The ROV pilot had on-screen-display (OSD) from the video cameras mounted on the ROV, as well as an OSD that displayed the ROV position relative to the mother ship. This display is generated with the use of a sonar beacon mounted on the ROV and a sonar receiver lowered over the side of the mother ship.

On to the logs…

Deploying the ROV
Deploying the ROV

Saturday 9/30

Arrive at the R/V Shearwater. Got the lay of the land.

Sunday 10/1

Head out of the Santa Barbara Harbor in transit to Santa Cruz Island to pick up the research crew. With the team of scientists on board, we head out for our destination of East Point on Santa Rosa Island for the first deployment of the ROV.

The weather turned on us, with the winds blowing and the rain pounding. The seas got rough and the going was slow. This being the first day out, the sea legs had yet to be adjusted. This was the cause for a quick retreat to the head…

Finally made it to our testing location. Weather was dismal as the ROV was launched. Today’s mission was to “paint” fish with lasers mounted along side the ROV camera.  This was a very interesting procedure designed to measure fish length. Essentially capturing a fish on video and “painting” it with two laser dots at the known distance of 11 cm. Total fish length can then be calculated either by determining fish camera fish length and laser dot space, or by using the screen width and the fish length in comparison.

This day I became umbilical tender and hydraulic operator for launching and retrieving the ROV. I also observed the underwater video and fish painting process. This was a very interesting day becoming part of the crew and assisting in the work. Due to a couple of technical issues, we returned to Santa Barbara for the night.

Watching and operating the launch
Watching and operating the launch

Monday 10/2 

While crewmembers were working on correcting the technical issues, I assisted others with setting up lines for the next set of experiments. This required setting up vinyl covered steel cables at a length of 110 meters and marking them with colored flags every 10 meters that would be easy to view through the ROV cameras. These cables were also set up with loops on each end for linking together, or for securing weights. The cables were then spooled for ease of deployment and stowed for later use.

The technical issues as well were repaired and again we set out to sea. This day’s destination was Anacapa Island. With some sonar scanning, a sight was selected for the next sets of experiments, to determine accuracy of transect distance precision across the spatial dimension.

For this experiment, the 110 meter cables were laid across the bottom with high relief profiles.  This distance of cable would provide a length of 100 meters to run with the ROV. Divers also swam the line and took depth readings along the cable. The cable ran up and down over rocks and various substrates that are considered fish habitat. The concept being that there were more lineal feet of fish habitat in this relief than straight line distance.  The ROV recorded this distance, but this was a means to determine if those recordings were an accurate measurement.

The sight we were working was spectacular. We were on the southern tip of Anacapa Island. The shoreline of the island was shear rocky cliffs. The cliffs are a major nesting and roosting sight for the endangered California Brown Pelicans, they were everywhere both on the cliffs and circling in the sky. The area was also populated with sea lions. They were very amusing swimming around the boat and with their barks echoing off the cliffs of the island.  After the work here was done, we headed north for a protected cove to drop anchor for the night.

Brown pelican nesting area on the high cliffs
Brown pelican nesting area on the high cliffs

Tuesday 10/3

This day we headed back toward Anacapa to continue the track line experiments. Another shallow depth sight was selected toward the North end of the island. The same procedures were used here laying out the cable lengths that were then checked by divers and then run with the ROV.

The water was thick with small baitfish that was being fed on by schools of Bonita. This was a sight to see, and was particularly amusing to see the pelicans dive-bombing into the water also feeding on the baitfish.  This went on for most of the day.  Operations went well today and when complete the gear was collected and stowed. We headed off to another protected cove for the nights anchorage.

Wednesday 10/4 

We continued the track line experiments today. Work was going well so we started preparations for the next upcoming experiment. The preparations consisted of setting up fish models of various sizes and securing weights to then to enable deployment of them floating various heights off the bottom.  The fish models were constructed of a flat piece of neoprene with color copied pictures of the local significant fish species laminated and attached to the sides.

The sight of the day was a pod of dolphins leaping out of the water and splashing around in some sort of frenzy. We assumed the must have been feeding, but were not really close enough to tell exactly what was going on. Today’s tasks went well and I went out on the Avon to retrieve the cables and the divers. With all back onboard, we headed off to the nights anchorage.

On the zodiak
On the zodiac

Thursday 10/5 

Today we set out for a deep water site to continue the track line experiment. The previous sites had been in the 10 to 20 meter depth zones. Today we would run the track line experiment in a 50 meter depth zone.  This posed a different set of circumstances.  The tracking cable was spooled into a basket for deployment. It was then deployed skillfully and precisely by the well experienced deck officer. With the cable in place, the ROV was launched to run the line. This depth was to deep to send divers down, so the ROV did all the work.  Tracking went well and the ROV was brought back on board.

Recovery of the gear was a bit more difficult.  We had to haul back the cable and weights with a power winch as opposed to winding it back by hand in shallow water. After we got about half of the length back, it got jammed and snapped so fast my head spun. At least the experiment was completed.

After gathering and comparing the ROV data with the diver collected data it was apparent that the ROV collected nearly identical data to the diver collected data. This experiment seemed to be a success. ROV use and procedures seemed to be a reliable means to determine transect distance across the spatial dimension by my observations. Naturally the collected data would be reviewed later by the scientists on board to accurately determine the results.

Full moon rising
Full moon rising

During the day we continued to prepare the fish models for deployment tonight. With the track line experiments complete, we headed for a location suitable for the fish model experiment. This experiment was conducted in the evening to simulate the light conditions in the typical habitat depth of 50 meters.  The point of the experiment was to determine the accuracy of fish length as determined by ROV survey. The ROV survey used both paired lasers and distance sonar to determine fish length. When these procedures are utilized on fish models of known length, the scientists could determine if the process could be accurate when video capturing wild fish in the test zone.

As we arrived at the experiment location, the sun was setting and a most beautiful full moon was rising over a distant horizon. Divers were used to strategically deploy the models to simulate populations of wild fish.  The ROV was deployed and ran the line of fish models while video capturing the images. Tonight I had an opportunity to pilot the ROV. I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and spent some time observing some flat fish scurrying about the bottom as I waited for the divers to collect the fish models. Soon all was complete, the divers came back on board, and we recovered the ROV safely.  We remained at this location for the night, it was quite beautiful.

Friday 10/6…the final day.  

Today was a public relations day. We returned to Anacapa and met up with the California Dept. of Fish and Game boat, the R/V Garibaldi. They had brought some local writers and reporters out to cover the project. We still went on with the normal operations of surveying fish populations. It was another great day on board the NOAA  R/V Shearwater as a participant in the Teacher at Sea Program! Back to Santa Barbara we cruised.