Carmen Andrews: A Fishing Expedition in the Atlantic, Continued, July 13, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Carmen Andrews
Aboard R/V Savannah
July 7 – 18, 2012

Mission: SEFIS Reef Fish Survey
Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Daytona Beach, Florida
Date: July 13, 2012

Latitude:      29 ° 19.10   N
Longitude:   80
° 24.31’  W       

Weather Data:
Air Temperature: 28.3° C (82.94°F)
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Wind Direction: from Southeast
Surface Water Temperature: 27.48 °C (81.46°F)

Weather conditions: Sunny and Fair

Science and Technology Log

Catching bottom fish at the reef

As the fish trap lies at the bottom of the ocean at the reef site, fish can enter and exit freely through the opening.

Red snapper swimming near a fish trap
Red snapper swimming near a sunken fish trap
 

At the end of approximately 90 minutes, the R/V Savannah returns to the drop site and begins the process of raising the trap with whatever fish remain inside. The six traps are pulled up in the order in which they were dropped.

Scientists and crew waiting to arrive at a trap location
Scientists and crew waiting to arrive at a trap location

The crew member on watch in the wheelhouse will maneuver the boat toward the paired poly ball buoys at a speed of about 5 knots. The boat draws alongside each pair on the starboard side.

R/V Savannah approaching poly ball buoys on the starboard side
R/V Savannah approaching poly ball buoys on the starboard side

One of the scientists throws a grappling hook toward the line that links the  poly balls.

Throwing the grappling hook to secure buoys
Throwing the grappling hook to secure buoys

The line is hauled in and passed to a waiting scientists, who pull the poly balls on deck. There is substantial hazard associated with this step. Undersea currents can be very powerful near the bottom where traps are set. As scientists are pulling in the cable by hand, unexpected current force can yank the trap cable, rope and buoys out of their hands and off the deck in an instant. If personnel on deck aren’t mindful and quick to react, the speeding rope can cause serious rope burn injury.

Nate is pulling poly balls and rigging onto the deck, as Adam P. gets ready to take the line
Nate is pulling poly balls and rigging onto the deck, as Adam P. gets ready to take the line

The cable connecting the fish trap and the poly balls is pulled in and threaded through the pulley system of a pot hauler. The pot hauler is an automated lifting tool that is operated by the second crew member on watch. At this time the first crew member on watch has left the wheel house and is piloting the boat from a small cab on deck above the pot hauler, so he can monitor the action below.

Pot hauler hoisting the fish trap to the boat
Pot hauler hoisting the fish trap to the boat

The pot hauler makes a distinctive clicking sound as it draws the trap toward the surface at an angle. It can take one to five minutes to raise the trap to the deck, depending on the depth of the water.

Tight cable raising submerged fish trap
Tight cable raising submerged fish trap

As the fish trap becomes visible, shimmering rapidly changing shapes can be seen as  fishes’ bodies catch and reflect sunlight.

Fish trap breaking the surface of the water
Fish trap breaking the surface of the water

The trap clears the water and gets pulled aboard.

Grabbing the fish trap
Grabbing the fish trap and pulling it aboard

Very quickly, and with two scientists holding each side, the trap is upended onto its nose and suspended above the deck. A third scientist opens the trap door at the bottom and the fish are shaken into a plastic bin.

Orienting the fish traps to ready them for dumping into bins
Orienting a fish trap to ready it for dumping the catch into a bin
Freshly caught red snapper and black sea bass
Freshly caught red snapper and black sea bass
 

Ice pellets are shoveled onto the fish and a cover is snapped on the bin. If the catch is small, fish may be placed in a bucket or tub and cover with ice.

Fish are covered in ice before the bin cover is snapped on
Fish are covered in ice before the bin cover is snapped on

A numbered tag is removed from the trap and tied onto the bin to identify specimens from each catch. The containers holding the day’s catch are set aside for later processing.

Every so often, unexpected sea life is brought up in the traps. The catch has included sea stars, sea urchins, several kinds of tropical fish and many moray eels.

Moray eel slithering on the deck.
Moray eel slithering on the deck. A moray’s bite can be very severe.

Video cameras are also removed from the top of the trap. Their data cards will be downloaded. Fish behavior and surrounding habitat videos will be analyzed, along with anatomical specimens and size data taken from the fish themselves in the wet lab.

Personal Log

Every day brings more wildlife encounters and sightings. I am dazzled by the many fascinating organisms I’ve been able to see up close. Sometimes I am quick enough to grab my camera and put the animal into my view finder, focusing clearly enough to catch a great image. Here are a few of those images (including some new friends from the cruise):

Adam P. holding a barracuda
Adam P. holding a barracuda
Daniel with a wahoo
Daniel with a wahoo
Trolling with a hooked dolphinfish
Trolling with a hooked dolphinfish
Sea stars
Sea stars
A sheerwater -- bird found in open water
A sheerwater — bird found in open water
Sheerwaters dive beneathe the surface to catch fish.
Sheerwaters dive beneath the surface of the water to catch fish. This bird is consuming a fish with its wings open to balance itself on the water.

Other times I have to capture a memory. Last night I tried reef fishing. I have no experience fishing. At all. Adam P. handed me his own rod and reel. The hook was baited and the line was already lowered to the bottom, down at around 40 meters (more than 120 feet).

Shortly after I took it, the tip of the rod began to bend downward and pull. I asked Adam if that meant something had been hooked.  He said, “Go ahead. Reel it in.” That’s when I discovered that even recreational fishing is tough work – particularly this unfamiliar technique of holding the rod with the right hand and reeling in with the left. Neophyte to fishing is me.

When the fish got to the surface, Adam took the big, beautiful black sea bass off the hook for me. On the deck it splayed out the spines of its dorsal, caudal and pectoral fins defensively. I was concerned because the fish’s air bladder was hanging out of its mouth from its rapid ascent to the surface. Adam punctured the air bladder to deflate it. He threw the fish back into the sea at my request, and assured me that the fish will go on with its life.  I’m optimistic it will.

Diane Stanitski: Day 15, August 25, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 15: Sunday, August 25, 2002

The FOO’s quote of the day (I really like this one!):

“Let your dreams run wild and free and always follow where they lead.” – N.E. Foster

Weather Log:
Here are our observations at 2200 today:
Latitude: 1°31.9’N
Longitude: 140°00.5’W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 120°
Wind speed: 12 kts
Sea wave height: 3-4′
Swell wave height: 4-5′
Sea water temperature: 27.3°C
Sea level pressure: 1011.7 mb
Cloud cover: 3/8, Cumulus

Hurricane Fausto is slightly diminishing in strength, but is still maintaining winds at 90 kts, gusting to 110 kts. It is currently located at 18°N, 125°W and is moving northwest. Another tropical depression has formed at 11.5°N, 148°W and has maximum sustained winds at 30 kts with gusts to 40 kts. It is expected to gain strength and move into the tropical storm category. We are definitely not in danger of being impacted by either storm because they require Coriolis to form or to be sustained. Coriolis is negligible at the equator so we’re safe!

Science and Technology Log:

This has been my favorite day of the trip so far! I awoke hurriedly at 5:50 AM and ran outside with my hard hat and life jacket. We were taking the RHIB (once again, the rigid inflatable boat) out to retrieve our first buoy. Earl, Dave, Paul, Doug and I rode toward a gorgeous sunrise, removed sensors from the buoy, and then hooked it to a line to drag it in toward the ship. What an amazing morning! It all started there. As soon as the buoy was lifted onto the dock Nadia and I began removing barnacles from the bottom of the frame. The barnacles were still alive with their legs appearing and disappearing within their hard shell. They stick to the mast, buoy, and inner flotation device in clumps. At this point, I am filthy, smelly and loving every second. The barnacles are full of sea water which occasionally bursts and runs down your arms as you work over your head. I’m sure I’ll smell like fish for the rest of the day. The retrieved buoy was then power washed to remove the salt water, algae, and remaining barnacles parts, and to prepare it to be deployed again later during the trip.

I then helped pull in the 4300 meters of nilspin and nylon cable by taking over one of the spools where I turned it around and around as the cable draped over the top. Fun, and tiring! Just as we finished with the last spool, Doug, the XO, decided to fish off the back of the ship. You should have seen the amazing fish swimming all around the fantail of the boat… mahi mahi, and every beautifully colored huge fish that you can imagine! A blow hole was spotted by the FOO earlier, sure signs of a whale nearby. I also saw a huge fish jump out of the water, but couldn’t identify it. The fish all hang out around the buoy because of the barnacles (food) and the shadow created by the buoy, thus creating a small ecosystem in the middle of the Pacific. Suddenly, Doug caught something! He had to keep reeling in the line until he pulled a wahoo on board (ono in Hawaiian, meaning sweet). It had unbelievable colors of green and blue and was shiny with stripes. It had a cigar-shaped body, pointed head, and triangular teeth, with a long dorsal fin separated into 9 segments. Nemo brought it into the shade, pierced its neck, and then returned to the fantail where he caught two beautiful yellowfin tuna – WOW! They were shaped like a football, were beautifully iridescent with yellow, gold and blue across their bodies and fins tinged with yellow. The fins were very long. We feasted on sushimi tonight at dinner, raw tuna fillets with wasabi and soy sauce – scrumptious! We also had baked ono (wahoo) with spices. YUM! Thanks, Doug and Nemo!

We then all worked to prepare the nilspin (cable closest to the buoy) for the next buoy deployment by placing fairings on the cable. Fairings are plastic sleeves that are rectangular and slide onto the cable to provide more friction with the water. This alleviates great movement of the cable that usually happens due to strong ocean currents at this latitude. We are so close to the equator that the equatorial countercurrent makes a huge difference in the movement of the subsurface line. It was like an assembly line with me lifting each fairing out of a garbage can, handing each one to Dave who opened it and slide it onto the cable. Then, Paul used a mallet to secure it on the line while Jon held the cable in place so it didn’t drift off the boat. We must have placed hundreds of them on the line while it was being pulled out to sea by the new buoy that we just deployed (see photo log for pictures of the buoy retrieval and deployment). In the end, it took about 3 hours for the nearly 5000 meters of nilspin cable and nylon cable to be unrolled and pulled by the buoy out to sea. The buoy was floating about 4 km away from the ship by the time the cable was unraveled. You could just see it on the horizon. The crew then dropped two massive anchors (old railcar wheels) into the sea, which sunk and pulled the cable down while pulling the buoy into place above. The entire procedure is a real sight to see because of the crew’s efficiency…truly impressive.

Before dinner, John and I sat down and completed the script for tomorrow’s broadcast, however, things might change because we will be starting the science on board at the same time our broadcast is supposed to air live (9:00 AM ship time). We may have to change the show’s schedule if something exciting is happening on the ship that might be of interest to all of you. Flexibility is key to it all, I’m told.

Personal Log:

After a workout, shower, and dinner, John shot some footage of me on the bridge deck summarizing my experiences thus far, and describing what’s yet to come during this next week. The sunset was outstanding again. There were many clouds and they created these streaming rays of bright yellow light from the setting sun down to the Pacific. I could easily watch this every night.

I’m going to finish my logs and head straight to bed. This was truly the most outstanding 24 hours of the entire trip. I am so lucky to be here and can’t believe that we’re heading to the equator tomorrow!

Question of the day: 

What does TAO stand for and what is the goal of the project?

My favorite day of the trip so far…
Diane