Catherine Fuller: Searching for Water in the Ocean, July 9, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Catherine Fuller

Aboard R/V Sikuliaq

June 29 – July 18, 2019

Mission: Northern Gulf of Alaska (NGA) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northern Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 9, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 57° 47.549 N
Longitude: 147° 30.222
Wave Height: 0-1 with swell of 4 ft
Wind Speed: 1.7 knots
Wind Direction: 170 degrees
Visibility: 5 nm
Air Temperature:  13.1 °C
Barometric Pressure: 1014.4 mb
Sky: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

Ana’s Work: 

iron fish deployment
Dr. Aguilar-Islas oversees the iron fish deployment.
iron fish on deck
The “iron fish” on deck…
iron fish in water
..and in its habitat.

Dr. Ana Aguilar-Islas and her team of Annie, Kelsey, and Carrie are studying how the different sources of iron in the Gulf of Alaska influence its chemical structure.  Iron is considered a micronutrient, because it is a nutrient that is needed in lower quantities than silicate, phosphate and nitrate, which are macronutrients. Iron is essential for phytoplankton.  Iron does not easily remain dissolved in ocean water, but has a tendency to precipitate and become a particle.  It is essential for many functions within phytoplankton, including gene function and photosynthesis, so the presence or absence of iron in the water is an indicator of the viability of the ecosystem. 

Testing phytoplankton in both an iron-limited environment and an iron-rich one allows scientists to pinpoint the effect that iron has.  The water in the Gulf of Alaska is notable for having more iron, leading to larger zooplankton as compared to areas, such as Hawaii, where the lack of macronutrients in the water means that they’re much smaller.  The Copper River plume was an example of a naturally occurring source of iron although its decrease is exponential the farther you move from the plume. 

In order to test samples without any contamination from being in an iron ship, Ana’s team created a “bubble” room or a clean space to do testing.  Her samples come directly from the “iron fish,” a collection instrument that is towed along the starboard side of the ship, and a pump on deck sends water through a tube that is carefully strung from the “fish” through the hallways and into the “bubble.”  The team is testing water samples for dissolved iron, particulate iron, and ligands (naturally occurring structures that bind iron and allow it to stay dissolved in seawater).  Both the filtered (any plankton filtered out) and unfiltered samples that Ana’s team collects are also used by other teams to provide context for their own experiments, especially testing the behavior of phytoplankton populations in iron-rich and iron-poor water.

looking in the bubble
The bubble from the outside.
Annie at the bubble
Annie spends many hours patiently taking water samples in the bubble.

The Search for “Perfect” Water

After completing our comprehensive zig-zagging study through the Copper River plume, it was decided to continue on a path south to find HNLC (high nitrate low chlorophyll) water.  We’re specifically looking for water with a salinity over 32.4 psu and nitrates over 3 micromoles. Water like this would be low in iron.  Normally, the lack of iron is a factor that limits photosynthesis,.  However, in areas with these numbers, phytoplankton communities have evolved to survive in an iron-deprived environment. 

What Clay, Suzanne and Ana hope to do is to introduce both Copper River iron-rich water and commercially available iron into samples of these communities to see if a “bloom” or a sudden growth in population will occur.  It’s been a long search so far, taking us through an offshore eddy, watching salinity numbers slowly creep up as we leave the plume’s fresh water influence behind us.  To pass the time, my cribbage board came out and I’ve lost to Pete, Seth and Ana (although I beat Seth once).  To help Suzanne and Ana find their water, Seth stitched together a composite satellite picture of the chlorophyll in the Gulf from images taken over the last few weeks.  This showed an eddy south of the Copper River plume that provided a possible location for the right sampling of water.

Our initial target was 58 degrees N, 146 degrees W, however, we’re continuing on the journey south to see if we can find the right spot.  For a long time, we were towing the Acrobat behind us, trying to get additional readings, however, our speed with the Acrobat is limited to a maximum of 7 kts.  Early this morning, the Acrobat was pulled in and we’re now cruising at about 10 kts.  We’re supposed to move over to the GAK (Seward) line of waypoints after this, but the joke is that we’ll reach GAK 125, i.e. Honolulu, before we find water that fits the parameters we need.

After careful monitoring of our position and the information screens in the computer lab, it seems that our target water is between 57 degrees 21 minutes N between 145 degrees 42.8 minutes W and 145 degrees 39.9 W.  Finding the perfect water is complicated by the number of anomalies in the sea surface. We’re having the bridge go through specific maneuvers to take us back and forth through the target patch of water. As we move through what seems reasonable, Ana’s iron fish will be deployed to start bringing in  “perfect” water samples. 

Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies
These anomalies represent changes in sea surface temperature, and in turn in the chemical composition of the water. On the map, you can see the lines we’re surveying from left to right: Kodiak, Seward (GAK) and Middleton.
our course
Our zigzag course: the bridge asked if we were making course lines with an Etch-a-Sketch!

Since last night, there has been at least one person stationed in the computer lab with eyes on the underway data display to monitor the salinity and nitrate levels.  Today, with Dr. Strom, Clay and myself there, we jump every time the nitrate value does.  Once our target patch is isolated, Dr. Strom directs the bridge to zigzag the ship through it to find maximum nitrate values and then radios the iron fish team. It’s 2.1….it’s 2.7…quick! Collect samples!  It’s a crazy system, but for now it’s getting us the best results we can, considering the fluidity and changeability of the ocean. 

I’m not sure what the bridge thinks about our maneuvers, and we’re all imagining what they’re saying! They have been very patient and willing to go along with requests; they’re pretty used to the demands of scientists in search of specific answers.  We’re finding our highest values to be about 3.2 micromoles, and it seems that we’ve also narrowed down the “sweet spot.” In addition, a group of fin whales is moving through the area and is making regular appearances as we trace and retrace our path. At one point, Eric, the captain came down to chat and helpfully volunteered to look up the definition of “zig” and “zag” so that we would have our terminology correct.  Is zig the upward progression or the downward one?

Most of the science done on board is carefully planned and prepared for.  Methodologies are clean and precise in order to produce specific and incontestable results.  Sometimes, however, science requires taking advantage of the situation at hand to find optimum data.  Science can be messy and inexact, too, if the end result is finding the perfect drops of water in the ocean.

Personal Log

We are now over the 50% point in our trip.  It is a bit ironic that as the science team and the crew get to know each better and develop friendships, both sides are also looking ahead to the end of the trip.  It’s been fun to get to know the crew and to discover the personalities that make this ship run so smoothly. 

Our weather has been notably calm so far, with today’s nearly flat seas being the smoothest to date.  We have fog every day; every day the sea surface temperature is higher than the air temperature.  What might that be an indication of? Russ seems to think it’s a fairly unusual pattern.  Even though today’s temperature is in the mid-50s, the stillness and reflected light off the surface of the ocean almost make it seem warmer.  It looks like we can continue to expect fairly calm seas for the next few days, too.  Every day someone posts a weather forecast in the mess hall, and every day the forecast is similar.    

fog bank on the horizon
Seeing fog banks on the horizon is a daily occurrence.

We continue to eat remarkably well.  Today’s lunch was spaghetti or zoodles with eggplant parmigiana, shrimp, and hot veggies.  This week already, we’ve had pecan pies and oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert and apple and berry turnovers for breakfast.  The food is definitely one of the benefits of being on this ship!

Did You Know?

The fresh water measured in the Copper River plume equates to a quarter of the yearly excess melt from area glaciers.  The question then is, where does the other three-quarters go?

What do you want kids to know about your research?

Ana: There are nutrients in the water that sea creatures need: large nutrients and small ones.  The small ones are important because they’re needed more often, like vitamins being a more regular part of your diet than hamburgers.

Sea Creatures seen today:

fin whales
A small group of fin whales came near us several times during our zigzag maneuvers.

Mary Cook: Day 7, March 25, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Friday, March 25, 2016
Time: 6:49 pm

Data from the Bridge
Pressure: 1012 millibars
Speed: 0.2 knots
Location: N 58°52.509’, W 137°04.299’

Science Log

Last night we headed out to open-sea and the waters got a bit rougher. I felt queasy so I took seasick meds and went to sleep. We steamed ahead to open sea and arrived to the site for our ROV dive. But the ROV dive didn’t occur due to a mechanical problem with the ship’s engine, so we headed back into the Bay on toward Johns Hopkins glacier for another round of sampling. Today was a very good day for many of the scientists to get a much-needed rest. The ship’s labs were quiet as we traveled back to the glacier. The ship’s crew on the other hand did not get a break. The ship must still be piloted. The galley work continued with meal preparation. The engine room and all of the ship’s operations were still in working mode.

Once we arrived at Johns Hopkins glacier, the ROV proceedings for the night began. It didn’t take long to find Primnoa pacifica! Samples were being carefully taken and put into quivers until resurfacing in the morning.

ROV Quivers for Samples

ROV samples stored in quivers overnight


There are all sorts of other important work that’s occurring in addition to coral collection. One of those is water sampling.

Amanda water sample

Amanda filters water samples

Scientist/Diver Amanda Kelley helps with filtering seawater collected in a Niskin bottle attached to the ROV Kraken. The Niskin bottle has plugs at both ends that are propped open to allow it to fill with water. When the plugs are tripped, the water at a certain depth is collected and sealed so that no other water will enter that sample.

Niskin bottle demo

Dann Blackwood demonstrates Niskin bottle mechanics

Filtering the water sample will help determine the concentration of particulate organic matter in a given amount of seawater at the same location of the Primnoa pacifica being collected. Scientists are trying to determine if the corals derive their food from the particulate organic matter or chemosynthetic sources. The filtered matter will be used to assess for the presence of nitrogen and carbon isotopes helping the scientists better understand the nutritional pathways of the coral ecosystem within Glacier Bay.

The scientists are measuring as many environmental variables as possible and hoping to link these to the health of the coral in Glacier Bay.

Accurate record keeping is of the utmost importance!
Oh my goodness! There are backups to the backups!

Kathy recording data

Kathy records data and checks the logbooks

Geologist Kathy Scanlon shares that she is putting geographic position data into a Geographic Information System (GIS), a digital mapping system, along with the other data collected such as diver comments and coral samples.

Kathy and GIS

Kathy records data in the Geographic Information System (GIS)

In a nutshell, it’s a way to organize data based on geographic location. In the process of gleaning this information, she says it’s also a great way of double-checking the record keeping for any inconsistencies. Another backup to the backups!
Some of the data points being recorded and re-recorded are date, time, site, depth, species, several reference numbers, and diver’s comments.

In addition to samples of Primnoa pacifica being collected, the divers are gathering samples of other organisms for documentation. These scientist divers are looking for something new—something they don’t recognize—possibly a new species or an extension of a known species location. When they surface with something unusual to them, the excitement is palpable! Everyone on the ship wants to see what’s new!

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Personal Blog

Today I’ve been a bit groggy because seasick meds make me sleepy, but I was glad to avoid the “5-star barfing” as one person described their seasick experience.

I’m so impressed with the enthusiasm for education amongst the people involved with this scientific cruise. Yesterday, I met several people at Bartlett Cove who were reading my blog and keeping up with this research cruise. All the scientists and crew onboard the Norseman II are willing and eager to answer any of my questions.

I got an email from a co-worker, Holly, one of Scammon Bay’s English teachers! She told me that she shared my blog with two of her classes and used it as a journaling prompt. Also, our principal Melissa Rivers, is sharing photos and facts with the entire school on a monitor in the Commons. I so appreciate the enthusiasm from my co-workers and their willingness to help our students learn about this cutting-edge research being done in Alaska. What a wonderful opportunity to learn and expand our horizons together!
Thanks again for your support and interest!

Where’s Qanuk?

Stephen Bunker: Science Experiments on the R/V Walton Smith, 20 October 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephen Bunker
Aboard R/V Walton Smith
October 20 — 24, 2011

Mission: South Florida Bimonthly Regional Survey
Geographical Area: South Florida Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Date: 20 October 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 11:39 AM
Wind direction: North-northwest
Wind velocity: 4.5 m/s
Air Temperature: 23 °C (75° F)
Clouds: Alto cumulus

Science and Technology Log

We left port today at about 6:30 AM, before the sun had even come up. We are  headed out to the Florida Keys. The rain has stopped as well as the wind. We left Miami Harbor as the sun was coming up.

Our scientific research will take place along the Florida Keys, a chain of low-lying  Islands that arc around the southern tip of Florida. The R/V Walton Smith will stop at predetermined stops and take measurements.

There are many science experiments happening on board. In each post, I will try to highlight a different experiment. I’ll start off with the CTD  because it is the experiment that drives our schedule throughout our cruise.

The Conductivity, Temperature, & Depth Instrument. Everyone on board calls it the CTD for short. The CTD schedule is our game plan. At about every 3 -5 hours — night and day —  we’ll cycle through a series 3-4 CTD drops.

Lower CDT

These are the instruments on the lower part of the CTD.

On the bottom of the CTD are a number of instruments that give real-time data to a scientist on board the boat. The conductivity part of the instrument measures how much electricity passes through the sea water. Using a mathematical algorithm that takes in account temperature and how much current passes through the water, we can determine the density (salinity) of the water.

Full CDT

The CTD on deck. The grey tubes fill with water.

The top part of the CTD has 12 cylinders that can trap water. Those are the grey tubes you see in the picture to the left. There are lids on the top and bottom of each tube that can be closed with a remote control from inside the boat. In this way the scientists can take water samples from any depth of water.

So, when we arrive at one of these predetermined location we’ll lower the CTD.

Once the CTD is just below the surface of the water and everything checks out, the scientist will radio to the crane operator to lower the CTD to within a meter of the bottom of the ocean. That can be anywhere from 5 meters to over 100 down. As the CTD lowers, the scientist monitors the CTD instrument real-time readouts. Using a graph of the data, he or she will decide at which locations to close the cylinders on its return trip to the surface.

CDT Control Center

Nelson monitors the CTD data as it is collected.

Water sample processing

Cheryl is processing water samples from the CTD.

Once it surfaces, we’ll  assist in placing the CTD back on the deck and securing it. We’ll then take water samples from the grey tubes. Those water samples will be analyzed in one of the laboratories on the boat. The water samples will show us chemical properties of the water.

Personal Log

Teamwork works! It takes a lot of teamwork to make things happen on board. Guiding the boat to the precise locations is the easy part for the crew. They have a GPS to help them do it. After they get there they have to maintain the location. That’s hard when currents, wind and waves, move the boat which is the size of a house. Then they delicately raise and lower the CTD.

Dave Diving

Crew member Dave preparing to dive in order to remove ropes caught in the ship propeller.

If something happens, they also need to fix it. They can’t drive it to a repair shop. They have to fix things on the spot. During the night, some ropes from lobster traps got tangled into one of the propellers. One of the crew put on scuba gear, got in the water, and removed the ropes.

The group of scientists have been organized into a day shift from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM and the other half is on the night shift for 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM. This can be uncomfortable to have to stay awake all night, but it also means they have to sleep during the day. The day shift will also have a heavier work load because there are additional experiments that have to be done during the sunshine.

The bridge of the SV Walton Smith

Crew member Bill at the helm of the R/V Walton Smith

Bruce Taterka, July 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Bruce Taterka
NOAA Ship: Oregon II

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 4, 2010

Out in the Gulf

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10:00am)
Position: Latitude = 27.58.38 N; Longitude = 096.17.53 W
Present Weather: partly cloudy, haze on the horizon
Visibility: 8-10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 17 knots
Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Sea Water Temp: 28.6 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 29.2 degrees Celsius; Wet bulb = 26.1 C
Barometric Pressure: 1011.1 mb

Science and Technology Log

The purpose of the SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey is to collect data for managing commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. SEAMAP stands for Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program.

Right now we’re working along the Gulf Coast of Texas, far from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, so we’re not seeing any effects of oil here. However, part of our mission is to collect fish for testing to make sure that oil spill has not impacted the marine life in this area and that the fish and shrimp from Texas are safe to eat. We’re also collecting water samples from this area to use as baseline data for the long-term monitoring of the impact of the oil spill in Gulf.

Analyzing a water sample in the Oregon II’s lab.

There are four main ways the Oregon II is gathering SEAMAP data on this cruise, and we’ve already learned how to use all of them. The main way we collect data is by trawling, and this is where we do most of our work on the Oregon II. In trawling, we drag a 42’ net along the bottom for 30 minutes, haul it up, and weigh the catch.

Hauling in the trawl net.

We then sort the haul which involves pulling out all of the shrimp and red snapper, which are the most commercially important species, and taking random samples of the rest. Then we count each species in the sample and record weights and measurements in a computer database called FSCS (Fisheries Scientific Computer System).

Logging a sample into FSCS.

Here on the Texas coast, where we’re working now, the SEAMAP data is used to protect the shrimp population and make sure that it’s sustained into the future. Since 1959, Texas has been closing the shrimp fishery seasonally to allow the population to reproduce and grow. The SEAMAP data allows Texas to determine the length of the season and size limits for each species. Judging by our trawls, the Texas shrimp population is healthy.

Another tool for data collection is the CTD, which stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. The CTD also measure dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and other characteristics of the marine ecosystem and takes measurements from the surface to the bottom, creating a CTD profile of the water column at our trawling locations. These data are important to assess the extent of the hypoxic “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and to relate the characteristics of our trawling hauls to dissolved oxygen levels. SEAMAP data collected since the early 1980s show that the zone of hypoxia in the Gulf has been spreading, causing populations to decline in hypoxic areas.

We also use Bongos and Neustons to gather data on larval fish, especially Bluefin Tuna, Mackerel, Gray Triggerfish, and Red Snapper. The Neuston is a rectangular net that we drag along the surface for ten minutes to collect surface-dwelling larval fish that inhabit Sargassum, a type of seaweed that floats at the surface and provides critical habitat for small fish and other organisms.

Examining the results of a Neuston drag.


We drag the Bongos below the surface to collect ichthyoplankton, which are the tiny larvae of fish just after they hatch. The Neuston and Bongo data on fish larvae are used for long-term planning to maintain these important food species and keep fish stocks healthy.

Personal Log

This is a great learning experience, not only about marine science but also about living and working on a ship. The Oregon II is literally a well-oiled machine, and the operation of the ship and the SEAMAP study depends on a complex effort and cooperation among the science team, the crew, the officers, engineers, and the steward and cook. Everyone seems to be an expert at their job, and the success of our survey and our safety depends on that. It’s a different feeling from life on land.

Life aboard the Oregon II is comfortable, especially now that I’ve gotten my sea legs.(I was hurting after we set out on Friday in 4’ to 6’ swells, but by Saturday afternoon I felt fine.) The food is excellent and most of the ship is air conditioned. The Gulf – at least the Gulf Coast off of Texas right now – is beautiful. The seas are deep green and blue and teeming with marine life. I’m looking forward to spending the next 2 weeks on board the Oregon II and being part of the effort to study the marine ecosystem in the Gulf and how it’s changing.

View of Gulf of Mexico

View of Gulf of Mexico

Jillian Worssam, July 13, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

First there is the disclaimer, then the alarm rings indicating a general emergency.  The Crew jumps to action and the science personnel report to their designated standby stations.

I was very lucky when DCC (Damage Control Chief) George Marsden said that I could observe today’s training.   Three teams were involved in this specific drill: Medical, Damage Control and Engineering with approximately 10 people per team observing the actions of the crew as they responded to the reported emergency scenario.

It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn't turn into an actual casualty.

It is very important to prepare for any drill scenario, and make sure it doesn’t turn into an actual casualty.

Our situation is a fire in the number two boiler room with a collateral injury, a crew member with a broken arm.  Prior to the drill all training personnel met to discuss the risk assessment and make sure all safeties were in place so that an actual casualty would not occur.    The crew knows that a drill is impending, they just don’t know the specific details of this drill.  The DCC and I first traveled to the CO2 room to discuss the situation with Chief Kidd who was responsible for simulating the release of the CO2 into the Boiler room compartment.

Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.

Making sure that the release of the CO2 system is only a simulation.

The set up prior to the drill was that a hot work chit (notice) was placed in the engineering control center that hot work was being done in Boiler Room two.  This notice set the stage for DCC Marsden who then began to set up his props for the drill, a smoke machine, identifying flags and a strobe light.  All vital components in alerting the crew as to exactly what casualty they were responding to.

Finally the black smoke flag was placed in front of a shipboard closed circuit camera system and we were off.  Bells and whistles, crew doing exactly as they were trained and I an active observer with a  camera!

Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.

Just one of the props used in training scenarios. This flag indicates black smoke.

Here are the steps to extinguishing a fire in number two boiler room.   Shut off ventilation TOW first responder CO2 released Investigators set up for fire suppression team.

Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety

Similar to an initial response team, specialists work to ensure safety

Simultaneously on the vessel, boundary compartments are checked, water tight doors closed and ALL personnel are accounted for. Once the CO2 has been activated the fire suppression team waited fifteen minutes before entering the space, and checked the door for heat.  AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) was also discharged .

Once the all clear was issued for entering the space in went the fire suppression team, with DCC Marsden and me right on their heals.  I was amazed at how effective the smoke machine was, there was literally no visibility.  DC2 Petty Officer Redd had a thermal imaging camera which was used as soon as they entered the space.

Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.

Using the thermal imaging camera helps the crew members know more about the intensity of the fire.

Had this been an actual fire it would have taken the crew up to a day and a half to clear the space as safe.  And I was fascinated to learn that in an enclosed space at around 1800° degrees a fire can actually do structural damage, which  to me is terrifying.  And so I say again, thank goodness the crew is trained and maintains these types of training drills so that if a casualty similar to this did occur, we would no doubt be in good hands!

I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.

I would say that the smoke machine was pretty effective.

**Photo of the Day:*

Thermal imaging!

Quote of the Day: Man is whole when he is in tune with the winds, the stars, and the hills…Being in tune with the universe is the entire secret. -Justice William O. Douglas

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you ever thought of a career in the U.S. Coast Guard?

Jillian Worssam, July 12, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2008

Science Log

Yesterday I watched the deployment of the “Spider C40” a bottom mounted instrument mooring.  Today I will spend some time with Jimmy Johnson as he builds a new mooring, from scratch, right here on the HEALY.

The parts

Jimmy is building a subsurface mooring, but this one is barely subsurface, designed to float about 10 meters below the surface.  But wait a minute, I think I need to back up a bit.  Check out this drawing, the potion of the mooring Jimmy is building is at the tippy top.
BEST N55-08

This is the BEST (Bering Ecosystem STudy) mooring to be deployed on the northwest side of Nunivak Island.

The entire length of this mooring is over 55 meters.  But for our build a mooring experience we are only focusing on the top component of the mooring, which lies at the 10 meter mark.

Jimmy’s mooring has an ISCat, Inductive Sacrificial microCat, phew… This piece of equipment is designed for shallower depths, and works like a CTD, collecting information on the Conductivity of the water, Temperature, and Depth.  This microCat is an inductive device, it uses sea water to complete a circuit (similar to a potato clock) to send the data it collects to the ISCAT logger found 11 meters lower.  So what does all this mean?  If seas get rough, the mooring caught in fishermen’s nets, or the ice gets too thick, Jimmy’s sacrificial mooring has a 600 lb weak link that will snap and sacrifice his creation.  But there is no need to worry, all the data the device already collected has been sent to the logger at the end of the cable, safe from the unpredictable conditions close to surface.  Thanks to this great design scientists are able to sample areas previously un-sampleable do to the conditions I already mentioned.


The final product, you can’t see the microcat, it is on the other side.

If you look carefully at the design for this mooring you will see that it includes a:    -Flurometer:  which measures chlorophyll (primary productivity organism) concentrations. -MicroCats (3):  This measures conductivity, temperature and depth. -HOBO sensors:  Temperature sensor to look at the water column and temperature changes. -ADCP:  An Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler sends out a frequency, gets a return signal that has bounced off small animals and or particles that FLOAT/MOVE with the current (not swim) which can give them the speed and direction of the current.

Can you find the microCat?

A scientific work station is a sacred place, there is even a HOBO in here.

Wow, I think my brain is tired, it took a while to understand the concept of the mooring, and then to transcribe was a challenge.  Needless to say these amazing oceanic devices collect valuable data. These records are then used in scientific research papers to better explain and understand the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, thus BEST!

The nuts and bolts of any operation!

If you need it, Jimmy has it, all the hardware to make a mooring.

**Photo of the Day:*

Waiting to retrieve!

It was a little chilly yesterday as Chief Rieg and MST3 Kruger patiently waited in the cold for the signal to retrieve.

Saying of the Day:  “Rummage Sale” From the original French, Arrimage, a rummage sale historically was when damaged cargo that could not be delivered was sold at cost, or discounted.  As a source of great discounts, the present day rummage sale was originally nautical.  I wonder if Jimmy ever needed a rummage sale while making a mooring aboard a sea going vessel?

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Can you make up a list of the equipment we will need to make our mooring?   I need to add a post script…The deployment of a mooring is not the most thrilling science I have seen on board.  A lot of work, and then, well it is gone.  There is though one part that is a hoot, which I really love.  When the quick release is activated and the 800 lb train wheel plummets to the sea floor, the floats shoot across the surface before they are pulled under.  It is great and reminds me of the movie Jaws!

Jillian Worssam, July 11, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 11, 2008

Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!

Meet Kevin, Jimmy, John and Dave, all ready for mooring action on the Bering Sea!

Science Log

They are the men of the back deck, working diligently to prepare and then release their moorings in depth determined locations, where they will settle (literally) for a year.  These unsung heroes are the mooring men!

For the past week I have been observing a lot of scientific research and much has been based on living critters, but there is so much more occurring on the HEALY this summer.  Under the guidance of Tom Weingartner, the mooring men have been working diligently to not only construct, but then release their moorings which will stay here in the Bering, collect data and then be retrieved, next year!

With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40

With various forms of sampling equipment the Spider C40

So what then is a mooring, well this specific example is a bottom mounted instrument, or “Spider C40.” You will notice that the “Spider” is chock full of sampling equipment, there is an: acoustic Doppler current profiler, flurometer, Sea Cat, and transmissometer.  Each one of these instruments is designed to collect specific data, which will be saved then interpreted next year.

The “spider” commonly referred to as Helen, is the second of three instruments being placed on what is known as the central ray to the south of Nunivak Island.  There are three ” mooring rays,” central, southern and northern,  and placed on each will be a series of three mooring. At this time Tom is working on a three year NSF grant. What exactly is Tom learning from this data, well check in tomorrow for a more in-depth look at what scientists learn from moorings? I would though like to go into a bit of detail on the deployment of a “spider” to the bottom of the Bering.

This Spider was deployed in 25 meters of water.  Its objective to sit firmly on the bottom.

AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.

AS the winch raises the instrument array, the scientists and MST team work in tandem to make sure everyone is safe and the deployment successful.

Not only is this mooring going to the bottom, but it has two acoustic release mechanisms, one to be used in a year to bring the entire mooring back to the surface, and the other to be used, right now.  For a controlled fall, the spider is securely placed on the sea floor by the MST team using a 3/8inch winch wire. Kevin will then send a 12 kilohertz signal telling the second release mechanism to let go.

Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.

Kevin is setting up the electronics equipment necessary to release the mooring after placement on the sea floor.

Once the signal is sent to the acoustic release, the line to the ship is let loose, and then a GPS bearing taken so that in a year the scientists will be able to retrieve the mooring and all the wonderful data it has collected.

Check in tomorrow for a continuation with the mooring men and the science behind why they are setting these moorings, and what they will do with the data.  We will also look at the actual construction of a mooring onboard.

Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.

Using the GPS to get an accurate location so that the team can come back for a pinpoint retrieval.

Quote of the Day:  What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and looses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot

FOR MY STUDENTS:  Do you think we could construct a simple mooring to record data from the pond?

Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!

Those mooring men are working him to exhaustion! Thank goodness for the excellent food on board!