Carolyn Bielser, May 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 27, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Cloud cover 100%
Weather drizzle
Wave height 1.3
Swell height 1.3
Latitude 3943.80 N
Longitude 07358.57W
Air temperature 10.8
Barometer 1007.4
Wind Direction 027.76
Wind speed 025.36

Scientific Log 

On this survey, we are most concerned with surf clams and quahogs; so here’s a little information on surf clams.

Surf Clam or Spisula Solidissima:   Identification: shells moderately strong, somewhat triangular.  Hinge with distinct cuplike chondrophore and strong lateral teeth crenulated on inner side, visible with a hand lens even if very small.  Outside is nearly smooth; fresh shells have yellowish-orange periostracum and grow up to 8 inches (200 mm).

Where found: Nova Scotia or Labrador to South Carolina.  Very low in the intertidal zone to subtidal, down to 100 feet (30 m).

Remarks: The most common clamshell on ocean beaches south of Cape Cod.  A favorite of scavenging gulls, who drop them from on high until the shells break.  Formerly little valued commercially, surf clams recently accounted for 70% of the U.S. clam crop, usually taken by hydraulic dredge off N.J. and Maryland shores.  Most of the catch is canned.

Personal Log 

Science involves fieldwork and lab work; this is one type of fieldwork involved in marine science. Lots of people are involved and they have to work as a team to accomplish the mission.  Often they are working on less sleep than usual and probably a whole different schedule than they are used to. This ship is not very big – only 155 feet long and 30 feet wide. Much of the space on board is taken up by equipment.  There is a wet lab (264 sq. ft), a dry/chemistry lab (230 sq. feet) a protected work area 172 sq feet, and a scientific freezer (201 square feet).  There are two single staterooms, 11 double staterooms, and four bunkrooms with a total of 32 bunks.  There is a small dining area, a very small lounge area, and for exercise, there is stationary bicycle stuck in the corner.  So you can imagine people are crammed pretty close together.  You need to think about how you would handle this if you wanted to pursue a career that took you out to sea very often.

Carolyn Bielser, May 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carolyn Bielser
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
May 23 – 30, 2005

Mission: Surf clam and quahog survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: May 25, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature 8.9
Barometer 1010.4
Fluorescence value 242.6
Total Salinity 030.11
Swell Height 1.3

Science and Technology Log

One of the things that stands out about this cruise is the use of the FSCS, or Fisheries Scientific Computer System.  This is the second time this system is being used for clams.  In 2002, the data from each station was obtained through SCS, but biological data was simultaneously recorded on the dredge log and also entered into the FCSC.  This year all operations will be directly entered into the FSCS; also a newly modified celltech clamboard, a Limnoterra board, will be used.

Some of the objectives of this cruise are to:

  1. Determine the distribution , relative abundance and biological data for surf clams and ocean quahogs
  2. Collect dredge performance readings on each dredge haul utilizing a multi-sensor sampling device attached to the clam dredge
  3. Collect positional data for the dredge using an experimental trackpoint system to determine the relative position of the dredge
  4. Deploy a camera system to document the clam dredge performance
  5. Conduct approximately 10 set up sites for commercial survey

How things operate: A hydraulic jet dredge, equipped with a 60-inch blade will be towed at a speed of 1.5 knots for 5 minutes at approximately 450 randomly selected stations.  The dredge is powered by an electric pump positioned on the dredge.

The station information will be logged by a Scientific Computer System and transferred to FSCS at the end of each tow. The catch will be sorted into one-bushel baskets separating live surf clams, live quahogs and clappers (clappers are empty paired shells).  Volume will determined and recorded for the surf clams and quahogs.  A sub-sample of one bushel each of surf clams and quahogs will be measured for shell length and recorded to the nearest millimeter.

Personal Log 

The sea got a little rough Tuesday night and I began to feel a little under the weather.  I still have the scopolamine patch on, but will change it to a new one tonight and maybe that will help. I am able to sleep well so far, but going up on deck when it’s rocking and rolling is getting to me a little.

I think I have spoken with everyone on the scientific end of things here.  There are a lot of different people here and in different status.  Some are permanent employees for NOAA, some are volunteers (like myself) who either would like to become a permanent employee or are looking at a career in marine biology, environmental science and so forth. Some people work for a different company that are contracted out for this research. Everyone really seems to work together well to accomplish the mission.

We are on a 6-12 schedule; I am on the “day” shift.  It is a strange schedule – I start to wonder if it is day or night.  Operations go on 24/7.