June Teisan, Tuna: From Plankton to Plate (and a side of STEM careers), May 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
June Teisan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
May 1 – 15, 2015

Mission: SEAMAP Plankton Study
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, May 15, 2015

Science and Technology Log:


Tuna (photo from NOAA Fisheries)

Bluefin tuna are incredible creatures. Remarkably fast predators, they can swim at speeds up to 40 miles per hour and dive deeper than 3000 feet. They hunt smaller fish and invertebrates, and grow to between 6 to 8 feet long and weigh in at 500 pounds on average. Bluefin tuna are prized for their meat in the US and in other countries. Because bluefin tuna are relatively slow-growing, they are more vulnerable to overfishing than species that are faster growing or more productive. Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn in the western Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. Since the early 1980s, NOAA has worked to conserve and manage the stock of bluefin tuna by monitoring stock in the Gulf of Mexico.

The data collected on plankton cruises provides one piece of the complex puzzle of the regulation of commercial and recreational fishing. Ichthyoplankton data is added to findings from trawl teams catching juvenile sizes of certain species, analysis of gonads and spawn from adult fish caught on other cruises, and other stock assessment information. Data analysis and modeling examine these information streams, and serve as the basis of stock assessment recommendations brought to policy makers.

Below is how we collect the plankton:

Hosing down the Neuston net to collect plankton in the codend.

Hosing down the Neuston net to collect plankton in the codend.

Plankton from codend is transferred to sieve.

Plankton from codend is transferred to sieve.

Sieve is tilted and plankton is transferred to sample jars.

Sieve is tilted and plankton is transferred to sample jars.

Transferring plankton to sample jar.

Transferring plankton to sample jar.

Sample jar is topped off with preservative solution.

Sample jar is topped off with preservative solution.

Jars are labeled and boxed for analysis in the lab.

Jars are labeled and boxed for analysis in the lab.

Spring ichthyoplankton surveys have been conducted for over 30 years, and my Teacher at Sea time has been an amazing glimpse behind the scenes of NOAA’s critical work maintaining the health of our fisheries.

SEAMAP Full Cruise (3)

SEAMAP Cruise Track May 1 – 15, 2015

Personal Log:

I expanded my career queries beyond the NOAA science team to interview a few of the ship’s crew members aboard the Oregon II and heard some terrific stories about pathways to STEM careers.


ENS Laura Dwyer – Navigation Officer, Oregon II


ENS Laura Dwyer – Navigation Officer, Oregon II

Path to a STEM Career: Laura’s career path began with a bachelor’s degree in International Business. After college she spent time as caretaker for her aging grandmother, then moved to Bali and certified as a scuba instructor. When she returned to the states, Laura investigated the NOAA Corps, and took more university courses for the science credits she needed to apply. In doing so she earned her Master’s in Marine Biology. Laura began her Basic Officer Training in NOAA Corps in January 2013, graduated, and now serves her country as Ensign on the Oregon II.

Best Part of Her Job: Laura knows she has a ‘cool’ job: she gets to pilot a 170 foot vessel.

Favorite Teacher: Mrs. Coppock. Laura’s 3rd grade teacher…She was in her late 60s or early 70s but every year Mrs. Coppock would start the school year by doing a head stand in front of the class. The inspirational lesson behind this gymnastic move was two-fold: Women can do anything they set their mind to, and age is just a number.


LTJG Larry Thomas – Operations Officer, Oregon II

Path to a STEM Career: Larry earned a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology.  He worked as a fisheries observer out of NOAA’s Galveston, Texas lab, and volunteered as a guest biologist on NOAA vessels Gordon Gunter and Oregon II. Larry was raised in a military family with both parents serving in the Army, but had not known about the NOAA Corps until he met Corps officers during his time on NOAA vessels. Larry graduated with BOTC 116 in June 2010 and serves as Lieutenant, Junior Grade (LTJG)on the Oregon II.

Best Part of His Job: Larry appreciates that his work allows him to do and see things most people don’t experience, like being up close with 8-10 foot tiger sharks brought in on long line survey cruises or a rare encounter with sea turtles that have been tagged and released.

Favorite Teachers: Frank Ramano and George Cline, both college professors who were passionate about their work and helpful with any questions, offering guidance when Larry needed it.


Olay Akinsanya – Junior Engineer, Oregon II

Olay Akinsanya – Junior Engineer, Oregon II

Path to a STEM Career: Olay chose a career in the military because it was a great combination of hands on work and potential for training and further education. He served 8 years in the Navy, earning a GSM certification (Gas turbine Systems Mechanic). After his military service, he took exams with the Coast Guard to certify to be able to stand engine watch, which means qualified to be responsible for entire engine room. Olay then found out about NOAA through a friend and now works as a junior engineer on the Oregon II. He enjoys the work and finds it a good fit for his schedule; the shorter trips allow him to visit on shore with his daughter regularly.

Best Part of His Job: The opportunity to continue to build his skills and experience, to advance his career. And the food is good!

Favorite Teacher: Adrian Batchelor, a teacher at Mid-Atlantic Maritime School. “Mr. Batchelor is retired military, holds a GSM, and spent a lot of time with me, explained the job, encouraged me to reach out at any time. He’s been a great mentor.”

Classroom Fish ID Activity:

Correctly identify the “by catch” fish we brought up in our plankton nets. (Hint: we netted Flying Fish, Mahi Mahi, Half Beak, Little Tunny, File Fish, Sargassum Trigger Fish, Chub, Burr Fish, and Sargassum Fish). Enter your answers as a comment to this post!


Specimen A


Specimen B


Specimen C


Specimen D


Specimen E


Specimen F



Specimen G

Shout out to the students in Ms. Meredith Chicklas’ classes at  in Troy, Michigan, and in Ms. Kelly Herberholz’s classes at Dakota High School in Macomb, Michigan! 

A BIG thank you to the NOAA Fisheries Staff in Pascagoula, Mississippi, to the officers and crew of the Oregon II, and the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program Staff for this incredible adventure.

Jacquelyn Hams: 3 December 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jackie Hams
Aboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 6 — December 10, 2011

Mission: Project DYNAMO
Geographical area of cruise: Leg 3, Eastern Indian Ocean

Date: December 3, 2011

Weather Data from the R/V Revelle Meteorological Stations

Time: 0930
Wind Direction: 232.10
Wind Speed (m/s): 3.4
Air Temperature (C): 27.7
Relative Humidity: 77%
Dew Point: (C): 23.7
Precipitation (mm): 42.2

PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation (microeinsteins): 1942.5

Long Wave Radiation (w/m2): 409.3
Short Wave Radiation (w/m2): 373.1

Surface Water Temperature (C): 28.70
Sound Velocity: 1541.5
Salinity (ppm): 33.7
Fluorometer (micrograms/l): 0.3
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/l): 2.4
Water Depth (m): 4422

Wave Data from WAMOS Xband radar

Wave Height (m) 0.5
Wave Period (s): 7.4
Wavelength (m): 86
Wave Direction: 1140

Science and Technology Log

Surface Fluxes Group

The Surface Fluxes group consists of James Edson, University of Connecticut, Ludovic Bariteau, University of Colorado Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), and June Marion, Oregon State University. This group measures the amount of radiation and heat into and out of the ocean and was covered in the November 12, 2011 blog posting.

The purpose of this posting is to highlight the work of Ludovic Bariteau who is measuring the carbon dioxide flux between the atmosphere and ocean. For redundancy and testing, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is measured with several infrared instruments pictured below. Two of the instruments are in the pilot stage and were developed for this research cruise. The equipment used for measuring carbon dioxide in seawater is done in collaboration with Wade McGillis from Lamont-Doherty-Earth Observatory (LDEO). Ludovic plans to refine the instrumentation based on the pilot test. The carbon dioxide data will be correlated with surface flux data to present a complete picture of ocean atmosphere fluxes.

Photograph of flux instruments.

Photograph of flux instruments on the mast. The instruments measuring air CO2 are indicated by the black arrows. Image credit: James Edson.

Ludovic Bariteau in front of instrument to measure carbon dioxide fluxes.

Ludovic Bariteau in front of the specialized instrument to measure carbon dioxide fluxes between the ocean and atmosphere.

Closeup of carbon dioxide flux instrument.

The above photograph is a close-up of the apparatus used to measure the carbon dioxide content in the ocean water.

Ludovic Bariteau pointing to CO2 measurement device.

Photograph of Ludovic Bariteau pointing to one of the air CO2 measurement devices in the pilot stage.


Data printout of Carbon dioxide values of air and water measured from instrumentation aboard the Revelle provided courtesy of Ludovic Bariteau

Data printout of Carbon dioxide values of air and water measured from instrumentation aboard the Revelle provided courtesy of Ludovic Bariteau


What about the MJO?

Previous postings described the work being done by the 7 science groups and the instrumentation being used to measure the various characteristics of the ocean-atmosphere interaction that may be part of the active phase of the MJO. Readers of this blog may be asking the same question that some of my students are now asking, “Did you experience the MJO?”

Data collected to date by the science groups suggests that we experienced an active MJO phase. Although It will take years to analyze and correlate the data collected from the various organizations involved in Project DYNAMO, the Revelle experienced high winds, colder surface water surface temperatures, and the intermittent storms separated by quiescent periods that are believed to accompany the active phase of the MJO. Based on initial data this active phase may have occurred between the approximate dates of Nov. 24 through Dec.2.

Wyrtki Jet Current

Before discussing the effects of the MJO on Indian Ocean circulation, it is useful to provide a brief background on the currents in the Indian Ocean which are more complicated than those in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in several ways:

  • Indian Ocean currents are poorly defined
  • They are influenced by the presence of the Eurasian continent
  • They are more variable than the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean currents. Some Indian Ocean currents vary with the seasons. For example, on the top diagram below, notice there are two unnamed gyres located in the northern hemisphere west and east of India.

Diagram of Indian Ocean Currents

The Revelle left station on December 2, and began north south transects across the equator to delineate the extent and the speed of the Wyrtki Jet Current. The Wyrtki Jet is a narrow jet-like surface current that flows eastward during the transition periods between the Northeast and Southwest Monsoon currents and is believed to accompany the active phase of the MJO.

A summary of the monsoon system in the Indian Ocean taken from the pdf version of Regional Oceanography: An Introduction by Tomczak and Godfrey. The Wyrtki Jet may be the Equatorial Jet identified on the below diagram.

Wyrtki jet speeds of 150 cm/s eastward at the surface were identified during the cruise.  In addition a current flowing westward was identified at a depth of 100 m. The purpose of the transects is to delineate the lateral and vertical extents of these currents.  The currents are measured using four Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCPs) located in the hull of the ship (these are Doppler sonars, analogous to Doppler radar and lidar measurements discussed in previous blogs).

Personal Log

I worked the winch for the last drop of Chameleon on Leg 3 of Project DYNAMO aboard the R/V Revelle.  I must say that I am proud of my work as a “Winch Winder”.  In the past 5 weeks, I experienced a range of emotions regarding the winch.  I initially felt fearful of working solo on such a valuable instrument. Once I began working solo, I was still intimidated because the winds and currents are so variable at the equator. Intimidation was finally replaced by competence after operating the instrument in 40 knot winds without slamming it into the ship! Aurelie Moulin was kind enough to shoot this video of me just before Chameleon was pulled out of the water on the last drop.

I would like to share my interview with Jude Irza, Ordinary Seaman aboard the R/V Revelle who provides extremely thoughtful advice and insight regarding career choices and preparation that may be helpful not only for students unsure of their future, but for those who may desire a career change at any stage in life.

Photograph of Jude Irza

Question: What made you decide on a career in this field?

 That question is straight forward enough but my answer is a little bit convoluted.  I never woke up one day and decided that I wanted to become a Merchant Marine and work on Oceanographic Ships.  In fact, I have been fortunate to have had two careers before this one:  Naval Officer and Finance Manager.  Here’s how I embarked on my first two careers.

 First, I attended college on a Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Scholarship.  After college, I went to Flight School in Pensacola, Florida, and flew as a navigator in the United States Navy.  While in the Navy, I decided to expand my horizons and earn a Masters in Business Administration. While completing my MBA, I decided that a career in finance would be challenging and rewarding.  So I resigned my commission and I worked at a large telecom company in San Diego.  Later, I had the opportunity to join a telecom start-up and later a consulting company.   Although I enjoyed working in finance for fifteen years, I was ready to do something exciting and different.  I had always thought working as an Officer in the Merchant Marine would be fun. Expecting to be too old for this career, I was surprised and pleased when my research uncovered a new program where I could go to sea and work towards a Third Mate License through a two-year program offered by the Pacific Maritime Institute (PMI) in Seattle, Washington.  So, approximately two years ago, I joined the program and was partnered with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  I joined the R/V Revelle as an Ordinary Seaman.  Already, this is my fourth trip on the R/V Revelle and I am close to finishing PMI’s program.  I hope to take my Coast Guard License exams next summer and have my 1600 ton 3rd Mate License shortly thereafter.

 Question:  What are the positives and negatives of this line of work?

 The exact nature of the work depends on what billet or position one is filling and to an extent that determines the positives and negatives.  For example, an Ordinary Seaman like me spends most of the time cleaning, removing rust and painting.  Work is performed both inside and outside of the ship.  Mates, however, are Merchant Marine Officers, and spend most of their time standing watch, on the bridge of the ship.  Most, if not all, merchant mariners would agree that being able to travel and see the world are positives in this line of work.  The biggest negative is separation from family members for months at a time.  Typically, at Scripps, we are out to sea for eight months out of twelve.  Moreover, especially at the lower level positions, the work can be arduous and sometimes monotonous.

 Question:  What advice would you give students who are unsure of their career goals?

 I would give students five pieces of advice:

1. Get Information and Prerequisites – Get on the internet and research the careers in which you might be interested.  Learn about what qualifications and prerequisites are necessary for each career.  Try to find a person who is in that career and ask them good questions.  Be realistic, but also look for unconventional pathways.

 2. Inventory your Skills and Abilities – Try to determine what you enjoy doing and what you are good at.  Try and see what careers other people chose that have your talents and abilities.

 3. Get Real-World Experience – Try and experience careers directly without investing too much time and energy by taking a part-time, internship or volunteer position.  You’ll learn an enormous amount by working alongside other people.

 4.  Change your Career if you find that it is not Right for You – Some people, including myself, are not suited to only one career.  Don’t be afraid to try something new if you no longer find enjoyment in your current line of work.  But be financially responsible and try to not incur too much debt especially in your younger years.  You want to keep your options open and debt can limit options.

 5.  You are Never Too Old to Start Again – I am forty-five years old, but feel energized doing something new.  I don’t know if I will be in this career ten years from now, but I am certainly enjoying it now.

Jacquelyn Hams: 25 November 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jackie Hams
Aboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 6 — December 10, 2011

Mission: Project DYNAMO
Geographical area of cruise: Leg 3, Eastern Indian Ocean

Date: November 25, 2011

Weather Data from the R/V Revelle Meteorological Stations

Time: 0830
Wind Direction: 2340
Wind Speed (m/s): 9.6
Air Temperature (C): 25.5
Relative Humidity: 90.6%
Dew Point: (C): 24.3
Precipitation (mm): 41.3

Long Wave Radiation (w/m2): 442.5
Short Wave Radiation (w/m2): 114.6

Surface Water Temperature (C): 29.60
Sound Velocity: 1544.9
Salinity (ppm): 35.3
Fluorometer (micrograms/l): 0.3
Dissolved Oxygen (mg/l): 2.5
Water Depth (m): 4637

Wave Data from WAMOS Xband radar

Wave Height (m) 2.1
Wave Period (s): 8.9
Wavelength (m): 123
Wave Direction: 2780

Science and Technology Log

NASA TOGA C-Band Doppler Radar Group

The TOGA (Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere) Radar Group consists of Michael Watson, NASA Contractor from Computer Science Corporation, Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia; Elizabeth Thompson, Colorado State University; and Owen Shieh of the University of Hawaii.

The following paragraphs provide a brief description of TOGA C-Band Doppler Radar.

Radar is an acronym for radio detection and ranging. Radar was developed just before World War II for military use but now serves a variety of purposes including weather forecasting. Radar is an electronic device which transmits an electromagnetic signal, receives back an echo from the target and determines various characteristics of the target from the received signal. Doppler radar adds the capability of measuring direction and speed of a target by measuring the Doppler Effect, or the component of the wind going either toward or away from the radar.

  • Doppler radar is divided into different categories or bands, according to the wavelength of the radar.  Some common Doppler bands are:
  •  S-band radars operate on a wavelength of 8-15 cm and are useful for far range weather observation.
  •  C-band radars operate on a wavelength of 4-8 cm and are best suited for short-range weather observation.
  •  X-band radars operate on a wavelength of 2.5-4 cm and are useful for detecting tiny precipitation particles

The NASA TOGA C-Band radar has a range of 300 km. In addition to the TOGA C-band radar, the ship has both S and X band radar. These three systems allow large and small-scale forecasting capabilities.

When not deployed on field campaigns, TOGA radar resides at Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, where it gathers meteorological data and supports launches.

The large dome in the center houses the NASA Doppler C-Band radar antennae. Image credit: Jacquelyn Hams

The large dome in the center houses the NASA Doppler C-Band radar antennae. Image credit: Jacquelyn Hams

During Leg 3 of Project DYNAMO, TOGA radar scans are performed in the following intervals:

Automated high-resolution scans for a 150 km radius every 10 minutes

  • Automated high-resolution scans for a 300 km radius at the top and bottom of the hour (every 59 and 29 minutes)
  • Vertical cross sections at 9,19,39 and 49 minutes past the hour.

 Below are examples of radar scan images of a single storm cell and rainfall provided courtesy of Owen Shieh.

The TOGA Radar image on the left is a horizontal image looking down on the rain.  The ship is in the center. North is straight up toward the top of the image. The radar range is 150 km. The arrow indicates a single storm cell that is located 40 km from the ship. Towards the east (right side of the diagram) are large areas of light rain, indicated by white arrows.  Radar image on the right is a vertical cross section through the storm cell (indicated by the black arrow). The top of the storm extends up to 5 km and contains moderate rain indicated by the yellow color.

The TOGA Radar image on the left is a horizontal image looking down on the rain. The ship is in the center. North is straight up toward the top of the image. The radar range is 150 km. The arrow indicates a single storm cell that is located 40 km from the ship. Towards the east (right side of the diagram) are large areas of light rain, indicated by white arrows. Radar image on the right is a vertical cross-section through the storm cell (indicated by the black arrow). The top of the storm extends up to 5 km and contains moderate rain indicated by the yellow color.

TOGA Radar image on the left is the same as above, except taken 10 minutes later.  Notice that the storm cell (indicated by the black arrow) is closer to the ship, approximately 37 km away.

TOGA Radar image on the left is the same as above, except taken 10 minutes later. Notice that the storm cell (indicated by the black arrow) is closer to the ship, approximately 37 km away.

The TOGA radar image above is taken from a range of 300 km.  These images are taken every 30 minutes.  There are four areas of light to moderate rain surrounding the ship (indicated by white arrows).  Notice the scale of the storm cell (indicated by black arrow) looks considerably smaller. The large scale TOGA Radar image allows a wider view of the aerial distribution of rain.

The TOGA radar image above is taken from a range of 300 km. These images are taken every 30 minutes. There are four areas of light to moderate rain surrounding the ship (indicated by white arrows). Notice the scale of the storm cell (indicated by black arrow) looks considerably smaller. The large-scale TOGA Radar image allows a wider view of the aerial distribution of rain.

Personal Log

The day after Thanksgiving, the Ocean Mixing Group decided to pull the T Chain out of the water after discovering a couple of damaged cables. The Chief Scientist ultimately decided to move the ship to another location on the other side of the buoy. It was extremely windy that day and the team was trying to perform this task in hard hats which constantly blew off in the wind. I am sure we looked extremely comical to those who were watching. In addition, we had to juggle large pieces of foam used to protect the T Chain which promptly blew away. There were at least seven of us and I thought we probably looked like a scene from a Marx Brothers movie.

We are experiencing squalls on almost a daily basis that are separated by quiet calm periods and occasional sunshine. Weather data indicates that we may be in the active phase of the MJO. I managed to get some interesting sunset photographs with the cloud formations.

These photographs were taken at sunset on the Indian Ocean between squalls. Image credits: Jacquelyn Hams

This photograph was taken at sunset on the Indian Ocean between squalls. Image credits: Jacquelyn Hams

This photograph was taken at sunset on the Indian Ocean between squalls. Image credits: Jacquelyn Hams

My students want to know how I am adapting to the lack of privacy. This is not my first time on a ship and I own a sailboat so being at sea is not an uncommon experience for me. However, being at sea this long with so much to accomplish in a short time has caused the lack of privacy to become a big issue for me. In addition to covering the 7 science groups for this blog, I am teaching the last 5 weeks of my classes via distance education and posting assignments for my students based on data obtained on this cruise.

There are little things on the ship that make the lack of privacy more tolerable. There are steak Sundays that include a tasty non-alcoholic ginger beer – a weekly treat. There is also Yoga everyday from 1:00 p.m.to 2:00 p.m. I brought one of my yoga DVDs from home as did others so we have a variety of programs and do not get bored. The standing poses are difficult on a moving ship, but I manage to get through it.

I am beginning to realize that I enjoy my time on the winch with Chameleon because that is the only time I am physically alone. I am thinking to myself how crazy and scary it is that my idea of spending quality alone time involves a noisy sampling instrument! But alas, even Chameleon cannot make up for the fact that I miss my own private bathroom.

One morning while waiting for the sunrise on the bow, I was treated to quite a show of jumping fish. The fish are tuna and are jumping to avoid predators. I have seen jumping fish many times while on the winch, but never so many and for such an extended period of time. They continued their performance until well after breakfast. I shot this video shortly after breakfast.

Dave Grant, November 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 13, 2008

Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab

Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: AM Calm; PM 5kts
Seas: 5’
Precipitation: 0.0
Pressure: 1016

Science and Technology Log 

Big whirls have little whirls That feed on their velocity, And little whirls have lesser whirls And so on to viscosity. (L.F. Richardson)

This little imitation of Jonathon Swift’s ditty helps illustrate the parallels between the atmosphere and ocean. Just as in the atmosphere, but much slower because of the increased density, turbulence in the water is expressed by meandering currents, and vortices. Good examples of this are observable when an oar is dipped into the water to push a boat, or a spoon is drawn across a bowl of soup. One of the mysteries of the SEP (South East Pacific) region is the presence of large oceanic vortices (Eddies), the mechanisms that generate them, and the length of time they persist as identifiable entities slowly spinning in the surrounding waters.

Dave holding the UTCD

Dave holding the UTCD

In a number of coastal areas fishermen and oceanographers have discovered that some important fish species can be found associated with these so-called mesoscale water structures, like upwelling areas, meandering currents and eddies. Such links are fairly well known and heavily exploited in the vicinity of the boundary currents off eastern North America (Gulf Stream), California (California Current) and Japan (Kuroshio Current); for tuna, swordfish, sardines and anchovies. The coast of Peru and Chile is swept by the northward flowing Humboldt (Peru-Chile) Current and the area is famous for the upwelling that brings deep,  cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface (and every 5-7 years when it doesn’t, El Nino conditions). Exposed to sunlight, phytoplankton utilize the nutrients to form the base of the world’s largest industrial fishery for fish meal and oil. The area also supports a large commercial tuna fishery.



Poorly understood is the role of eddies that spin off the major current; vortices averaging about 50-Km (30-miles) wide (i.e. mesoscale). These may be either cold or warm water eddies that may last offshore for months, and move as discrete masses to the west. In general these vortices have more energy that the surrounding waters, circulate faster; and are important because they transport heat, masses of water and nutrients to less productive regions towards the mid-ocean. The eddies also transport marine life and the mechanisms for this are also poorly understood, however the outcome is not. Moored buoys out here collect and support masses of fouling organisms like goose-neck barnacles that must be cleaned off periodically, along with other routine maintenance of the batteries and recording instruments. Servicing these buoys is also part of the mission of the Ron Brown.

Chasing “Eddy”

CTD Data

CTD Data

Tracking these “cyclones in the sea” requires interpreting daily satellite images that measure water temperature and by data collected by the UCTD (Underway Conductivity Temperature Depth) probe. This is a torpedo-shaped device cast off the stern of the Brown while we are underway. It rapidly sinks to several hundred meters. Then, like a big, expensive ($15,000.) fishing lure, it is retrieved with an electric motor that winds back over 600 meters of line. The whole process takes about 20-minutes (including the 2minute plunge of the UCTD).

The information acquired is phenomenal, and if collected any other way, would involve stopping the ship and repeatedly lowering Niskin or Nansen bottles; and adding weeks or months to a cruise schedule. Once back onboard the ship, the data is downloaded and plotted to give us a continuous picture of the upper layers of the ocean along our sailing route. All of this hourly data allows the tracing of water currents. The procedure is not without trials and tribulations. Lines can tangle or break, and there is always the possibility that the probe will bump into something – or something will bump into it down in the deep, dark ocean. However, any data retrieved is invaluable to our studies, and each cast produces a wealth of information.

Teeth marks on a UCTD

Teeth marks on a UCTD

Personal Log 

Today’s weather is fabulous. Most mornings are heavily overcast, but we are still close enough to the coast to enjoy breaks in the clouds. So, everyone is taking their breaks in folding chairs on the foredeck at “Steel Beach” since we are never certain when we’ll again have a sunny moment, or how long it will last.

After lunch there was a bit of excitement; we saw other mariners. In the old days of sailing, ships passing each other at sea would often stop to exchange greetings, information and mail. This practice was known as gamming. We sighted our first ship of the cruise; a cargo carrier heading north and piled high with shipping containers. It was too far off for gamming or even waving (The scientists who are sampling air want to keep their instruments free of exhaust from any nearby sources)  so it would have been out of the question anyway. The bridge gave it a wide berth; so wide that even with binoculars I could not be certain of the ship’s flag, name or registry, other than oversize lettering on containers that spelled JUDPER. Presumably it was carrying agricultural goods from southern Chile or manufactured goods and minerals from the central part of the country. Chile is a major exporter of copper; and the smelters, factories and vehicles in this upscale corner of South America (And the sulfur and particulate matter they spew into the sky) are a interesting land signatures for the atmospheric scientists and their delicate instruments. So the only gamming today is in the narrow passageways throughout the Brown. There is no wasted space on a ship, so in many areas there is “barely enough room to swing a cat.” (The cat being the cat-o-nine-tails once used to flog sailors. “The cat is out of the bag” when someone is to be punished.*)

Group watching a ship on the horizon

Group watching a ship on the horizon

I am still not certain what the proper ship’s etiquette is in passageways and stairways, but I am quick to relinquish the right-of-way to anyone who is carrying something, looks like they are in a hurry or on a mission, or in uniform (obviously) or kitchen staff in particular. Because the ship is always rocking, I’ve found that I tend to lean against the right wall while moving about. By lightly supporting myself leaning with a hand, elbow or shoulder (depending on the how significant the ship is rolling, pitching or yawing) I slide along the wall, and probably look like a clumsy puppy scampering down the hall, but it works…except for a few bruises here and there. Often I come face-to-face with the same shipmates repetitively during the day. (How many times a day can you say “Hello” to someone?) Everyone is polite and considerate, especially when moving about the ship, and in spite of repeatedly passing the same people many times every day. So generally, since everyone is busy for most of their shift, when meeting in the hallways, you resort to awkward routines like: muttered Hey, Hi, Yo or What’s-up; tipping your hat or a dumb half-salute; or a nod…or if from New England, what is known as the reverse nod.

*Flogging: There was a science to this horrible practice, not only with the number of lashes imposed, but what they were administered with: a colt (a single whip) or a cat (They varied in size from “king size” to “boy’s cats”).

Although the U.S. admirals reported that “it would be utterly impossible to have an efficient Navy without this form of punishment” Congress abolished flogging on July 17, 1862. And the last official British Navy flogging was in 1882 – although the captain’s authority remained on the books until 1949. (To politely paraphrase Winston Churchill, the British Navy was bound together by…*#@#&!, rum and the lash.)

One Final Note 

We discovered stowaways onboard…two cattle egrets. Egrets are wading birds that feed in shallow ponds and marshy areas; and the cattle egret regularly feed along roadsides and upland fields where cattle or tractors stir up insects. Even when threatened, they tend to fly only short distances, so it is odd to see them so far from land. However, in the 1950’s a small flock of these African birds crossed the South Atlantic to Brazil and establish a breeding colony. I remember spotting them for the first time on the Mexican border near Yuma in the 1970’s and today they have managed to thrive and spread all the way across the warmer half of North America.

Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal, 
Of unnamed heroes in the ships – of waves spreading and spreading  
As far as the eye can reach, 
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing, 
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations… 
(Song for All Seas, All Ships – Walt Whitman)

Stowaways – cattle egrets

Stowaways – cattle egrets

Geoff Goodenow, May 20, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
May 20, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 19 15 N
Long: 157 06 W
Sky: Beautiful day; lots of sunshine with scattered cumulus clouds
Air temp: 26.6 C
Barometer: 1015.2
Wind: 132 degrees at 15 knots
Relative humidity: 62%
Sea temp: 26.7 C
Depth: 3116.6 m
Sea: Swells less than a meter offering up a very smooth and pleasant ride.

Science and Technology Log

Several escolar, 2 snake mackeral, 2 sharks and 2 swordfish on the line today. The sharks were both silky sharks. One was tagged and released. The same treatment was intended for the other but it broke free of the hook before we got it on board. Both swordfish were dead.

The last of the swordfish was the biggest we have seen: 185 cm plus a sword of over 60cm and weighing in at 90kg. A couple skipjack tunas were landed with troll lines.

We are staying in the same area for the longline set tonight. We didn’t even bother to check Cross seamount as things are pretty good here and we would probably have had to turn away from there out of respect for others’ presence.

In reviewing Kylie’s presentation (see personal log), Rich commented that we know what the movements of the animals are, but we don’t know so well why they make various vertical movements nor how they are able to deal with the stresses imposed by those movements. The temperature/cardiac function relationship described yesterday adds a bit to the puzzle as do studies of tolerance to oxygen reduction. I found this quite interesting and hope I can condense the story to something meaningful for you.

At depths reached by bigeye tuna oxygen levels are far lower than levels experienced by skipjack and yellowfin tunas at the depths they are normally found. Tunas characteristically have high metabolic rates which might seem impossible to maintain at low ambient oxygen levels experienced by the bigeye. Fishes tolerant of low oxygen levels are typically very sluggish, have low metabolic rates and have blood with a higher affinity for oxygen than less tolerant species. In exchange for that high oxygen affinity (a benefit at the gills), they sacrifice maximum delivery of that oxygen to their tissues; their blood just doesn’t want to let go of it.

Bigeyes then, as you would expect, have blood that grabs oxygen more readily than blood of skipjacks and yellowfin. So how are bigeyes able to remain so active when their fellow fishes with high oxygen affinities just can’t keep the pace? Recall those heat exchange units we’ve mentioned before??? Bigeyes’ blood loses much of its grasp on the vital gas as it is warmed by those heat exchange units. And remember that at the gills the blood is “cold” again. What a great system — readily grab and hold oxygen at the gills even in low ambient oxygen environments, and readily release it in the muscles. Pretty cool, I think.

To conclude, I quote from the summary section of my source as to the value of these studies. I presume that what is stated here specifically with respect to bigeye applies more broadly. “Understanding the vertical movements and depth distribution of bigeye tuna, as well as the physiological abilities/tolerances and oceanographic conditions controlling them, has been shown to be critical to improve longline catch-per-unit effort analysis and long term population assessments in the Pacific.”

Goodenow 5-20-04 oceanic white tip

Geoff with a small oceanic white tip shark

Personal Log

Following the line retrieval, I managed to get some time on the upper deck in my favorite shady spot with my book. Reading, snoozing and enjoying the view passed the afternoon along with an interruption to assist with a troll line catch. This was very nice after such a gloomy yesterday that was topped off with another late night at the movies (Pirates of the Caribbean).

Just before supper Kylie did a rehearsal of a presentation she will be making in Australia about her vision studies. Rich and Kerstin made comments and suggestions to help her polish the presentation. It was interesting to hear them address content and presentation issues much as I do with my own students.

Kerstin asked me today if it is getting tough coming up with material for the log. I suggested that indeed it is becoming more of a challenge. Perhaps out of sympathy, she called me to her lab early this evening to share with me some details related to the eye socket of a swordfish. Thanks, Kerstin, and keep ’em coming!


Many native plants and animals of the Hawaiian Islands have suffered due to the introduction of non-native species to their environment. The green cover of the islands is very different in most places than what Polynesian settlers saw. Mongooses and ginger are two introduced species. See if you can find out how they got here, why they were introduced and specific impacts they have had on native species. (There are others for which you could do the same investigation including many in your home area).


Geoff Goodenow, May 10, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
May 10, 2004

Time: 1600

Lat: 18 41 N
Long: 158 19 W
Sky: Sunshine with scattered cumulus; beautiful day.
Air temp: 27.3 C
Barometer: 1010.92
Wind: 68 degrees at 8 Knots
Relative humidity: 47.9%
Sea temp: 27.1 C
Depth: 1674m (at 1800 hours, Lat 18 25N, Long 158 27W)
Sea: A few white caps tonight. What might they foretell?

Science and Technology Log

Pretty good day on the line. We tagged a yellowfin tuna (on board) and a broadbill swordfish (in the water). In the latter case, the tag was attached by sort of harpooning it into the animal from deck. We also pulled in a snakefish (head only), a big eye tuna, 2 escolar, a barracuda (of no interest so simply cut off the line) and 3 blue sharks. One was too large to safely bring aboard; it was cut loose. The two others were brought on board. From one we took blood and fin clips after which it was released. One fish was brought in by trolling today.

As you have noticed water temperature here would be quite comfortable for us (but we are not taking afternoon swims). Rich explained to me that here there is mixing of the surface layers such that the surface temps. I have been reporting would apply to a depth of about 100 meters. Then between there and 400 meters we would see about a 10 degree C drop. While some fish stay in the upper layers others hang in the depths or make regular vertical transgressions across these zones.

Fish are generally regarded as having body temperature at or very near ambient. Any heat produced in the muscles by aerobic respiration is picked up by the blood and circulated through the gills where that heat is dumped efficiently to the environment. Some saltwater fish (no freshwater ones) including tunas and some sharks have developed a kind of heat exchange system. Heat from venous blood is passed to arterial flow in order to keep certain muscles and organs above ambient temp. by as much as 20 degrees C in large fish. This allows body tissues and organs to work more efficiently.

Billfish such as swordfish also have a heat exchange system but it is located only around the eye and brain. Here certain eye muscle is reduced to little more than a container for mitochondria which generate lots of heat. The heat exchange system then only serves this region of the body keeping it above water temp. Still busy at Cross Seamount. The fishermen must be having a big time up there. We are setting at Swordfish again tonight. (Lat 18 17N Long 158 22W at finish of set)

Personal Log

Those oily escolar are not being kept for consumption. This morning we took one’s eyes and made a short incision along the belly just to take some muscle tissue In returning the escolar bodies to the sea I have scored their diving entries 1-10 as in competitive events. Most have been dropped straight in, but this morning I thought of trying something with a higher difficulty factor — a one and half back flip with tail entry. But on its first rotation, a bit of the entrails was ejected shipward striking me on the shoulder before falling to the deck. Unfortunately, this was not captured on film for replay tonight on “Funniest Ship Videos”, but for those present, it provided a good bit of humor to start the morning. Hereafter, we might just stay with the less ambitious dives. Spectators were glad it was I and not they.

Later I made my debut as a shark wrestler. As a rookie I was given the tail end. Even though the blues are comparatively tame once on board, the strength in the animal’s body was very evident as it tried to move – – not so sure I care to deal with the other end of these babies!

Goodenow 5-10-04 blue shark

TAS Geoff Goodenow and a blue shark.


This question relates to paragraph two of the science log. What is the thermocline within a body of water? How would you expect a temperature profile to change through the seasons in a deep lake in central Pennsylvania?

Any questions from you folks???


Geoff Goodenow, May 4, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
May 4, 2004

Latitude: 19 19
Longitude 156 05
Sunny with scattered clouds
Air temp 26C
Barometer 1013.75
Wind 130 degrees at 9 knots
Relative humidity 59%
Sea temp 26.5
Ocean depth 2770 meters

Scientific and Technical Log

This morning we hauled in the longline. This is the first time this team has used the larger hooks and herring (as opposed to squid) for bait as a means of avoiding taking of turtles. In that sense, we had tremendous success — no turtles. But on the downside, we caught only two fish — a mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus),still alive, and a wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) which had died on the line. Eyes, liver, blood, and muscle tissue were taken from both. For the experiments on vision that Kerstin is doing only live eyes are useful.

Some surface plankton tows were conducted over a couple hours this afternoon. Several eggs were gathered and preserved. More tows will be conducted after the longline is set.

When nothing else was going on, two lines were trolled off the stern.   This method yielded 4 fish including bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), skipjack tuna (Katsuwanus pelamis) and yellowfin tuna (T. albacares). These were sampled as above and in addition we kept stomachs for later study of contents. So 400 hooks sitting in the longline for 12 hours so far isn’t looking nearly as effective as a good old fishing line and a lure.

Tonight at 8PM we again set the longline, this one about 20 miles north of last night’s set. Because the winds are still very strong outside the shelter of the big island we are a bit restricted as to where we can go to fish right now. Winds are to becomes calmer over the next 48 hours.

Here is the longline set up in more detail than before. A spool holding about 40 miles of line sits parallel to length of ship on port side approx. mid-ship. Line feeds off to a pully along side of ship which directs line 90 degrees to stern. Via a couple more pullies the line goes to starboard side of stern. A team on the stern takes care of it from here. At center is person with basket of hooks attached to metal or monofilament leads with a clip on the other end. He withdraws the hook and clip, passing the hook to his right and the clip to his left while pulling the leader from the basket. The hook is baited, while the clip is passed to the next man to the left. On a signal about every 12 seconds, the leader is clipped to the line as it pours off the stern and the baited hook is tossed. A light stick goes on every fourth leader or so to attract fish. Better luck to us tonight!

Personal Log

My role this morning as line was retrieved was to record information (catch location, length, weight, sex) about each fish brought aboard and to assist in gathering muscle tissue samples for Brittany who is not present on this cruise as well as for others. Again I was brake man and bait boy on the longline tonight.

The afternoon hours seem to be those of least to do unless the troll lines are hot. Today I felt settled enough in the stomach to dare to enter a very confined space and enjoy my first shower at sea. Then I sought out a shady spot on the upper deck where I parked myself for a bit of reading. The wind was light and sea calm; I had a nice view of the west side of Hawaii. The lush, green slopes were interrupted in several places by lava flows. I had the opportunity to talk with the captain about many aspects of the ship, weather, ocean currents much of which I will try to incorporate into upcoming reports. But I was particularly interested in our rough weather of Sunday and he explained it as follows. As we crossed open water we were encountering winds of 20-25 knots, but as we entered the channel between Maui and Hawaii wind speeds were 35-40 knots. The reason for the increase is that both islands have very high mountains so the air is being funneled through a rather narrow slot and speeding up. This produced 10-12 foot waves with very short periods, and the ability to create a lot of discomfort in those at sea.

Tonight as we work, the light of a full (?) moon dances on the water.


One more (easy) location question for the astronomy buffs: Our latitude today is about 19 degrees north. What is the altitude of the North star (Polaris) as we view it from here? What is its altitude at your latitude?

OK, so we know where we are, but how did the Hawaiian islands get here? All of these islands are of volcanic origin. The Hotspot theory explains how the islands formed here. Briefly describe this theory.

Which of the islands (easternmost or westernmost) are the oldest in the Hawaiian Island chain? How long ago are the oldest islands estimated to have formed?

The Galapagos Islands also formed according to the hotspot theory. Which islands in that chain are oldest (eastern or western islands)? How old are the oldest of those islands?

For those who are wondering, yes, I do expect to be able to post some pictures, but we are not quite set up yet at this end to do so. That’s all for now,