Susan Dee: Microscopic Sea Life – Days 1-4, May 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Dee
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 23 – June 7, 2018

Mission:  Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Northeastern Coast U.S.
Date: May 24, 2018
Weather Data from Bridge
Latitude: 40°32′
Longitude: 070°45′
Sea Wave Height:  1-2 feet
Wind Speed:  12 knots°
Wind Direction: west
Viability: unrestricted
Air Temperature:  13.5°C
Sky: Few clouds

Science and Technology Log

Tuesday, May 22, I arrived at Newport Naval Base and boarded NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to begin my Teacher at Sea journey by staying overnight on a docked ship.   Day 1 was filled with many new experiences as we headed out to sea.  The Henry B. Bigelow is part of a fleet of vessels commissioned to conduct  fishery surveys. To learn more about the Henry B. Bigelow,  check out this website:  Henry B. Bigelow. The objective of this cruise is to access the hydrographic, planktonic and pelagic components of North East U.S. continental shelf ecosystem.  The majority of the surveys we will take involve  the microbiotic parts of the sea –  phytoplankton, zooplankton and mesoplankton.  Plankton are small microscope organisms in the oceans that are extremely important to the entire Earth ecosystem.  These organisms are the foundation of the entire ocean food web. By studying their populations. scientists can get an accurate picture of the state of  larger ocean organism populations.

Susan and ship
Henry B. Bigelow
Leaving Newport Harbor
Leaving Newport Harbor

Before leaving the dock, I met with Emily Peacock from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to learn how to run an Imaging Flow Cytobot instrument that uses video and flow cytometric technology to capture images of phytoplankton. The IFCB was developed by Dr Heidi Sosik and Rob Olsen (WHOI) to get a better understanding of coastal plankton communities. The IFCB runs 24 hours a day collecting sea water and continuously measuring phytoplankton abundance.  Five milliliters of sea water are analyzed every 20 minutes and produces the images shown below.

Imaging Flow CytoBot
Emily Peacock teaching the usage of the Imaging Flow CytoBot (IFCB)


Imaging Flow Cytobot IFCB
Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB)
Images of Phytoplankton taken by IFCB

The science party on board is made up of scientists from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) part of NOAA Fisheries Division. The chief scientist, Jerry Prezioso, works out of Narragansett Lab and the lead scientist, Tamara Holzworth Davis, is from the Woods Hole Lab, both from the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Other members of the Science Party are Seabird/Marine Mammal observers and a student  from Maine Maritime Academy.  The Crew and scientist group work together to coordinate sampling stations. The crew gets the ship to the site and aid the scientists in deploying instruments. The scientists collect the data and samples at each station.  The Crew and scientists work together to find the best and most efficient sea route to each  sampling site. Note all the stops for specimen collection on map below. There definitely  has to be a plan!

map of proposed route
Proposed Cruise Track and Survey Locations


Personal Log

Because research instrument deployment is done 24 hours a day, the NOAA Corps crew and scientists are divided into two shifts. I am on watch 1200 – 2400 hours, considered the day shift. This schedule is working good for me. I finish duty at midnight, go to sleep till 9:00 AM and rise to be back on duty at noon. Not a bad schedule. Due to clear weather and calm seas, the ship headed east out of Newport Harbor towards the continental shelf and started collecting samples at planned stops.   I joined another group of scientists  observing bird and marine mammal populations from the flying bridge of the ship. Humpback whales and basking sharks breached  several times during the day

It has only been two days but I feel very acclimated to life at sea. I am not seasick, thanks to calm seas and the patch. Finding the way around the ship is getting easier- it is like a maze. Spotting a pod of humpback whales breaching and basking sharks was a highlight of the day. My Biology students back at May River  High School scored great on End of Course Exam. Congratulations May River High School Sharks! Thinking of y’all.

school logo

Samantha Adams: Day 8 – My, What a Fabulous Smell You’ve Discovered, July 31, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Samantha Adams

Aboard Hi’ialakai

July 25 – August 3, 2017

Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station deployment (WHOTS-14)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Hawaii, Pacific Ocean

Date: Monday, 31 July 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude & Longitude: 22o45’N, 157o45’ oW. Ship speed: 0.8 knots. Air temperature: 27.9oC. Sea temperature: 27.3oC. Humidity: 72%.Wind speed: 11.2 knots. Wind direction: 93 degrees. Sky cover: Few.

Science and Technology Log:

The WHOTS-13 buoy after a year at sea. These three red-footed boobies will lose their perch soon!

It’s deja vu all over again! The WHOTS-14 buoy is stable and transmitting data, and all the in situ measurements necessary to verify the accuracy of that data have been taken. Now it’s time to go get the WHOTS-13 buoy, and bring it home.

WHOTS-13 Buoy Diagram
Diagram of the WHOTS-13 mooring. Image courtesy of the University of Hawaii.

The process of retrieving the WHOTS-13 buoy is essentially the same as deploying the WHOTS-14 buoy — except in reverse, and a lot more slimy. Take a look at the diagram of the WHOTS-13 buoy (to the left), and you’ll notice that it looks almost identical to the WHOTS-14 buoy. Aside from a few minor changes from year to year, the configuration of the buoys remains essentially the same… so the three and a half miles of stuff that went into the ocean on Thursday? The same amount has all got to come back up.

At 6:38AM HAST, a signal was sent from the ship to the acoustic releases on the WHOTS-13 buoy’s anchor. After a year under three miles of water, the mooring line is on its way back to the surface!



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From the time the signal was sent to the acoustic releases on the anchor to last instrument coming back on board, recovering the WHOTS-13 buoy took 9 hours and 53 minutes.

Personal Log:

Now that I have witnessed (and participated in, however briefly) both a buoy deployment and retrieval, one of the things that impressed me the most was how well coordinated everything was, and how smoothly everything went. Both deployment and retrieval were reviewed multiple times, from short overviews at daily briefings (an afternoon meeting involving the ship’s officers, crew and the science team) to extensive hour long “walk throughs” the day before the main event. Consequently, everyone knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and where and when they were supposed to be doing it — which lead to minimal discussion, confusion and (I assume) stress. Each operation ran like a well choreographed dance; even when something unexpected happened (like the glass ball exploding on deck during deployment of the WHOTS-14 buoy), since everybody knew what the next step was supposed to be, there was always space to pause and work through the problem. Communication is most definitely key!

The other thing that really made an impression was how much emphasis was placed on taking breaks and drinking enough water. It was hot, humid and sunny during both deployment and recovery, and since Hi’ialakai had to be pointed directly into the wind during the operations, there was virtually no wind on the working deck at all. I’ve always thought as the ocean as a place you go to cool off, but, at least for these few days, it’s been anything but! With apologies to Coleridge: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any place to swim!”

Did You Know?

A tangled mess of anything can be called a wuzzle. For example: “I don’t know how my headphones got into such a wuzzle.” The mess of glass balls on the deck is most definitely a wuzzle.

Samantha Adams: Day 6 – Testing… 1 – 2 – 3, July 29, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Samantha Adams

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

July 25 – August 3, 2017

Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station deployment (WHOTS-14)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Hawaii, Pacific Ocean

Date: Saturday, 29 July 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude & Longitude: 22o 45’N, 157o 56’W. Ship speed: 1.3 knots. Air temperature: 27.8oC. Sea temperature: 27.0oC. Humidity: 72%.Wind speed: 14 knots. Wind direction: 107 degrees. Sky cover: Few.

Science and Technology Log:

The most difficult part of Thursday’s buoy deployment was making sure the anchor was dropped on target. Throughout the day, shifting winds and currents kept pushing the ship away from the anchor’s target location. There was constant communication between the ship’s crew and the science team, correcting for this, but while everyone thought we were close when the anchor was dropped, nobody knew for sure until the anchor’s actual location had been surveyed.

Triangulation of the WHOTS-14 buoy’s anchor location. Look at how close the ‘Anchor at Depth’ location is to the ‘Target’ location — only 177.7 meters apart! Also notice that all three circles intersect at one point, meaning that the triangulated location of the anchor is quite accurate.

To survey the anchor site, the ship “pinged” (sent a signal to) the acoustic releases on the buoy’s mooring line from three separate locations around the area where the anchor was dropped. This determines the distance from the ship to the anchor — or, more accurately, the distance from the ship to the acoustic releases. When all three distances are plotted (see the map above), the exact location of the buoy’s anchor can be determined. Success! The buoy’s anchor is 177.7 meters away from the target location — closer to the intended target than any other WHOTS deployment has gotten.

After deployment on Thursday, and all day Friday, the Hi’ialakai stayed “on station” about a quarter of a nautical mile downwind of the WHOTS-14 buoy, in order to verify that the instruments on the buoy were making accurate measurements. Because both meteorological and oceanographic measurements are being made, the buoy’s data must be verified by two different methods.

Weather data from the buoy (air temperature, relative humidity, wind speed, etc.) is verified using measurements from the Hi’ialakai’s own weather station and a separate set of instruments from NOAA’s Environmental Sciences Research Laboratory. This process is relatively simple, only requiring a few quick mouse clicks (to download the data), a flashdrive (to transfer the data), and a “please” and “thank you”.

July 28, 2017, 5:58PM HAST. Preparing the rosette for a CDT cast. Notice that the grey sampling bottles are open. If you look closely, you can see clear plastic “wire” running from the top of the sampling bottles to the center of the rosette. The wires are fastened on hooks which, when triggered by the computer in the lab, flip up, releasing the wire and closing the sampling bottle.

Salinity, temperature and depth measurements (from the MicroCats on the mooring line), on the other hand, are much more difficult to verify. In order to get the necessary “in situ” oceanographic data (from measurements made close to the buoy), the water must be sampled directly. This is done buy doing something called a CTD cast — in this case, a specific type called a yo-yo. 

The contraption in the picture to the left is called a rosette. It consists of a PCV pipe frame, several grey sampling bottles around the outside of the frame, and multiple sets of instruments in the center (one primary and one backup) for each measurement being made.

July 28, 2017, 6:21PM HAST. On station at WHOTS-14, about halfway through a CDT cast (which typically take an hour). The cable that raises and lowers the rosette is running through the pulley in the upper right hand corner of the photo. The buoy is just visible in the distance, under the yellow arm.

The rosette is hooked to a stainless steel cable, hoisted over the side of the ship, and lowered into the water. Cable is cast (run out) until the rosette reaches a certain depth — which can be anything, really, depending on what measurements need to be made. For most of the verification measurements, this depth has been 250 meters. Then, the rosette is hauled up to the surface. And lowered back down. And raised up to the surface. And lowered back down. It’s easy to see why it’s called a yo-yo! (CDT casts that go deeper — thousands of meters instead of hundreds — only go down and up once.)

For the verification process, the rosette is raised and lowered five times, with the instruments continuously measuring temperature, salinity and depth. On the final trip back to the surface, the sampling bottles are closed remotely, one at a time, at specific depths, by a computer in the ship’s lab. (The sampling depths are determined during the cast, by identifying points of interest in the data. Typically, water is sampled at the lowest point of the cast and five meters below the surface, as well as where the salinity and oxygen content of the water is at its lowest.) Then, the rosette is hauled back on board, and water from the sampling bottles is emptied into smaller glass bottles, to be taken back to shore and more closely analyzed.

On this research cruise, the yo-yos are being done by scientists and student researchers from the University of Hawaii, who routinely work at the ALOHA site (where the WHOTS buoys are anchored). The yoyos are done at regular intervals throughout the day, with the first cast beginning at about 6AM HAST and the final one wrapping up at about midnight.

July 29, 2017, 9:43AM HAST. On station at WHOTS-13. One CDT cast has already been completed; another is scheduled to begin in about 15 minutes.

After the final yo-yo was complete at the WHOTS-14 buoy early Saturday morning, the Hi’ialakai traveled to the WHOTS-13 buoy. Today and tomorrow (Sunday), more in situ meteorological and oceanographic verification measurements will be made at the WHOTS-13 site. All of this — the meteorological measurements, the yo-yos, the days rocking back and forth on the ocean swell — must happen in order to make sure that the data being recorded is consistent from one buoy to the next. If this is the case, then it’s a good bet that any trends or changes in the data are real — caused by the environmental conditions — rather than differences in the instruments themselves.

Personal Log:

The Hi’ialakai’s dry lab. Everyone is wearing either a sweatshirt or a jacket… are we sure this is Hawaii?

Most of the science team’s time is divided between the Hi’ialakai’s deck and the labs (there are two; one wet, and one dry).  The wet lab contains stainless steel sinks, countertops, and an industrial freezer; on research cruises that focus on marine biology, samples can be stored there. Since the only samples being collected on this cruise are water, which don’t need to be frozen, the freezer was turned off before we left port, and turned into additional storage space.  The dry lab (shown in the picture above) is essentially open office space, in use nearly 24 hours a day. The labs, like most living areas on the ship, are quite well air conditioned. It may be hot and humid outside, but inside, hoodies and hot coffee are both at a premium!

Did You Know?

The acronym “CTD” stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. But the MicroCats on the buoy mooring lines and the CTD casts are supposed to measure salinity, temperature and depth… so where does conductivity come in? It turns out that the salinity of the water can’t be measured directly — but conductivity of the water can.

When salt is dissolved into water, it breaks into ions, which have positive and negative charges. In order to determine salinity, an instrument measuring conductivity will pass a small electrical current between two electrodes (conductors), and the voltage on either side of the electrodes is measured. Ions facilitate the flow of the electrical current through the water. Therefore conductivity, with the temperature of the water taken into account, can be used to determine the salinity.

Samantha Adams: Day 1 – Things You Never Think About, July 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Samantha Adams

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

July 25 – August 3, 2017

Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Time-series Station deployment (WHOTS-14)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Hawaii, Pacific Ocean

Date: Monday 24 July 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude & Longitude: 21o22’N, 157o57’ W. Ship speed: 0 knots. Air temperature: 82oF. Humidity: 74%.Wind speed: 8 knots. Wind direction: East-South-East. Sky cover: Broken.

Science and Technology Log:

One of the first things you learn to do as a teacher is to plan for things to go wrong. When you put a lesson together, you try to identify potential problem areas, and then try to figure out how you could address those problems when they do arise, or try to avoid them altogether. One of the next things that you learn is that the biggest problem is invariably going to be something you never anticipated being a problem at all. Deploying a research buoy, it turns out, works essentially the same way.

Bird Wire

WHOTS stations are massive, self-contained buoys, designed to stay at sea for up to eighteen months, collecting data the entire time. There are redundant systems on top of redundant systems. Multiple meteorological instruments, measuring exactly the same thing, sprout from the buoy’s tower like misshapen mushrooms. If one instrument fails, there is always another — to ensure that, no matter what, the data is collected. And surrounding it all, like the spines of a porcupine, is the bird wire.

Anything that floats on the ocean winds can be a perch for birds, and the WHOTS buoys are no exception. I’ve been told that after a year at sea, the buoy is absolutely disgusting. I’ve seen some of the mess New York City pigeons can create, and I’m willing to bet that what I’m imagining cannot even come close. I’ll find out for myself later this week, when we retrieve the WHOTS buoy that was deployed last year! 

Ick factor aside, birds (and their waste products) pose a real danger to the instruments on the buoy’s tower. If something is pecked or perched on or — use your imagination — otherwise damaged, the instruments may record corrupted data, or no data at all. Which is why there are redundant systems, and why Monday morning was spent making the buoy look like a porcupine. But wait! There’s more! It turns out all bird wire is not created equal. All of the spikes are made of stainless steel, but the spikes can be mounted on different things. Bird wire with a stainless steel base is more effective at repelling birds (because the spikes are closer together)… but the spikes have to be welded into the base, which magnetizes the bird wire. And if this wire is placed the instruments, it can affect their internal compasses and, in turn affect the data the bird wire is intended to protect! Bird wire with a plastic base is less effective (because the spikes are further apart), but much safer for the buoy’s instruments.

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Cayenne Pepper, Copper and Things Covered in Tape

The tower of the WHOTS buoy isn’t the only thing that is absolutely disgusting after spending a year at sea. Everything that spends the year below the surface of the ocean (which will be described in a post later this week) comes back absolutely disgusting, too. And it’s not as though it can all just be thrown away. Of particular importance are the instruments attached under the buoy and about every 10 meters (down to 150 meters) along the buoy’s mooring line. All of these instruments must be returned to the manufacturer for calibration (to make sure they were working properly). But there’s a catch — they must be returned clean! Which means that everything that has been growing on them while they’ve been under water must be scrubbed, scraped or peeled off. To make the job easier, the search is always on for ways to keep things from growing on the instruments in the first place. This is called antifouling.

One antifouling method is painting. There are specialized antifouling paints available, but they can be toxic. So the paint that covers the exterior of the buoy contains cayenne pepper (!), which has proven to be as effective as specialized paint, but is much safer. Another antifouling method used on many of the instruments under the buoy involves replacing some stainless steel components with specially made copper ones, as copper also naturally impedes growth. And a third method that’s very popular is simply to cover the instruments with a layer of electrical tape, which can just be peeled off — no scrubbing or scraping involved!

MicroCats covered in black electrical tape. Notice the bracket on the top of each instrument — they are custom-made, out of copper, to make the cleaning process that much easier when the buoy is retrieved next summer.
Instruments on the bottom of the buoy. Once deployed, these instruments will be approximately three feet under water, which is why so much copper is used.

Personal Log:

“You’re lucky you weren’t here when we had to load for three months!”

Throughout the day, refrigerated trucks pulled up on the dock next to the Hi’ialakai. They were not full of delicate scientific instrumentation, but something just as vitally important to the cruise — food! The same crane that had been used to hoist instruments on board was also used to carry pallets of food from the dock to the deck of the ship. Then it was passed from hand to hand (by members of the ship’s crew, the science team, the ship’s officers, and the Teacher at Sea) all the way down to the galley’s refrigerators and freezers. The ice cream was handled with particular care — no surprise there!



Did You Know?

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s acronym — WHOI — has a pronunciation! You can say it like “hooey”. Or “whoo-ey!” It means the same thing either way!

Julia Harvey: The Nearest Land is 3 Miles Down, June 28, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Julia Harvey

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

June 25 – July 3, 2016


Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)

Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii

Date: June 28th, 2016


Weather Data from the Bridge
(June 28th at 2pm)

Wind Speed: 12 knots

Temperature: 26.2 C

Humidity: 81%

Barometric Pressure: 1016.3 mb


Science and Technology Log

The Aloha Station is about 100 miles north of Oahu, Hawaii and was selected because of its closeness to port but distance from land influences (temperature, precipitation etc).  The goal is to select a site that represents the north Pacific, where data can be collected on the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Hawaii Ocean Time Series (WHOTS) has used this site for research since 2004.  You can find real time surface and meteorological data and archived data at the WHOTS website.

We are stationed in the vicinity of mooring 12 and 13 in the Aloha Station to begin intercomparison testing.  CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) casts are conducted on a regular schedule. This data will help align the data from mooring 12 to mooring 13. If CTDs don’t match up between the two moorings then efforts will be made to determine why.

Mooring 13 is being inspected to make sure sensors are working. Photographs have been taken to determine measurement height of the instruments and where the water line is.

When I was aboard the Oscar Dyson, there were multiple studies going on besides the Walleye Pollock survey. The same is true on the Hi’ialakai. The focus is on the mooring deployment and recovery but there are a professor and graduate student from North Carolina State University who are investigating aerosol fluxes.

Professor Nicholas Meskhidze earned his first Physics degree from Tbilisi State University (Georgia).  He completed his PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology (USA).  He is now an Associate Professor at NC State University Department of Marine Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

Meskhidze’s study on this cruise is looking at sea spray aerosol abundance in marine boundary layer and quantifying their flux values. Sea spray is formed from breaking waves. Sea spray analysis begins by collecting the aerosol. Using electrical current, particles of a given size (for example 100 nanometer (nm)) are selected for. This size represents the typical size of environmental climatically important particles (70-124 nm). The next step is to remove all other particles typically found in the marine boundary layer, such as ammonium sulfate, black carbon, mineral dust and any organics. The remaining particles are sea salt.

Sea spray analysis
Dr. Nicholas Meskhidze with the sea spray analysis equipment

Meskhidze is looking at the fluxes of the salt aerosols.  Sea salt aerosols are interesting.  If a salt aerosol is placed in 80% humidity, it doubles in size.  But then placed in 90% humidity, it quadruples in size. Due to their unique properties, sea salt aerosols can have considerable effect on atmospheric turbidity and cloud properties.

Aerosols are key components of our climate but little is known about them. Climate models are used to predict future climatic change, but how can one do this without understanding a key component (aerosols)?

little is known
Source: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Summary for Policy Makers


Personal Log

The galley (ship’s kitchen) is a happening place three times a day.  The stewards are responsible for feeding 30-40 people.

Chief Steward Gary Allen is permanently assigned to the Hi’ialakai. He has worked for NOAA for 42 years and he has stories to tell. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida and his early work was at his father’s BBQ stand. He attended Southern University on a football scholarship and majored in food nutrition. After an injury, he finished school at Florida A & M. He worked for a few years in the hotel food industry, working his way up to executive chef. Eventually he was offered the sous chef job at Brennan’s in New Orleans. He turned it down to go to sea.

Chief Steward Allen Gary
Chief Steward Allen Gary

In 1971, he sailed for the first time with NOAA. The chief steward was a very good mentor and Gary decided to make cooking at sea his career. He took a little hiatus but was back with NOAA in 1975, where he would spend 18 years aboard the Discoverer and would become chief steward in 1984. He would sail on several other ships before finding his way to the Hi’ialakai in 2004.

In the 42 years at sea, Gary has seen many changes. Early in his career, he would only be able to call home from ports perhaps every 30 days. Now communication allows us to stay in contact more. He is married to his wife of 43 years and they raised 3 daughters in Seattle.

I asked him what he enjoys the most about being at sea. He has loved seeing new places that others don’t get to see. He has been everywhere, the arctic to Antarctica. He enjoys the serenity of being at sea. He loves cooking for all the great people he meets.

I met Ava Speights aboard the Oscar Dyson in 2013 when she was the chief steward and I was participating in the walleye pollock survey as a Teacher at Sea. She has been with NOAA for 10 years.

Ava Speights (on the right) and me
Ava Speights (on the right) and me

She and a friend decided to become seamen. Ava began working in a shipyard painting ships. In 2007, she became a GVA (general vessel assistant) and was asked to sail to the Bahamas for 2 weeks as the cook. This shifted her career pathway and through NOAA cooking classes and on the job training, she has worked her way up to chief steward.

She is not assigned to a specific ship. She augments, meaning she travels between ships as needed. She works 6 months of the year, which allows her to spend time with her 2 daughters, 1 son, 2 stepdaughters and 4 grandchildren. Her husband is an engineer with NOAA. Her niece is an AB (able bodied seaman) on deck. Her son is a chief cook for Seafarer’s.  And her daughter who just graduated high school will be attending Seafarer’s International Union to become a baker.  Sailing must run in her family.

She loves to cook and understands that food comforts people. She likes providing that comfort.  She has also enjoyed traveling the world from Africa to Belgium.

2nd Cook Nick Anderson
2nd Cook Nick Anderson

Nick is 2nd cook and this is his first cruise with NOAA. He attended cooking school in California and cooked for the Coast Guard for 6 years where he had on the job training. In 2014, he studied at the Culinary Institute of America and from there arrived on the Hi’ialakai. He also is an augmenter, so he travels from ship to ship as Ava does.




Did You Know?

The Hi’ialakai positioned mooring 13 in an area with a 6 mile radius known as the Aloha Station. Check out all of the research that takes place here at Station Aloha. There is a cabled observatory 4800 meters below the ocean surface. A hydrophone picks up on sounds and produces a seismograph. Check the results for the night the anchor was dropped.

Seismograph during Mooring Deployment

Click here to hear whales who pass through this area in February.

Pacific Sunset
Pacific Sunset

Julia Harvey: More to a Mooring than meets the Eye, June 26, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Julia Harvey

Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai

June 25 – July 3, 2016


Mission: WHOI Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station (WHOTS)

Geographical Area of Cruise: Pacific Ocean, north of Hawaii

Date: June 26th, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Wind Direction: 100 degrees (slightly east southeast)

Temperature: 24.5 degrees C

Barometric Pressure: 1014.7 mb

Science and Technology Log

One of the primary objectives of this WHOTS project is to deploy WHOTS-13 mooring. This will be accomplished on our second day at sea.

Site of Mooring-13 courtesy of WHOTS Project Instructions
Site of Mooring-13
(courtesy of WHOTS Project Instructions)

The mooring site was chosen because it is far enough away from Hawaii so that it is not influenced by the landmasses. Mooring 13 will be located near mooring 12 in the North Pacific Ocean where the Northeast Trade Winds blow. Data collected from the moorings will be used to better understand the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. Instruments on the buoy record atmospheric conditions and instruments attached to the mooring line record oceanic conditions.

A look at interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean.
A look at interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean. [R. Weller, WHOI]






There is a lot more going on than just plopping a mooring in the sea. Chief Scientist Al Plueddemann from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his team began in-port prep work on June 16th. This included loading, positioning and securing the scientific equipment on the ship.  A meteorological system needed to be installed on the Hi’ialakai to collect data critical to the mission.  And then there was the assembly of the buoy which had been shipped to Hawaii in pieces.  Once assembled, the sensors on the buoy were tested.

Meteorological Station on the Bow
Meteorological Station

As we left Oahu, we stopped to perform a CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) cast. This allowed for the testing of the equipment and once water samples were collected, the calibration of the conductivity sensors occurred.

Sunday, June 26th, was the day of deployment. Beginning very early in the morning, equipment was arranged on deck to make deployment efficient as possible. And the science team mentally prepared for the day’s task.

The deck before deployment began. The buoy is the blue item on the left.

Promptly at 7:30 am, deployment began. The first stage was to deploy the top 47 meters of the mooring with sensing instruments called microcats attached at 5 meter intervals. A microcats has a memory card and will collect temperature, conductivity and pressure data about every three minutes until the mooring is removed next year.

Sensing instruments for the morring
Microcats for recording oceanic conditions
readied microcats
Microcats readied for deployment. They are lined up on the deck based on their deployment depth.

This portion of the mooring is then attached to the surface buoy, which is lifted by a crane and lowered overboard. More of the mooring with instruments is lowered over the stern.

The remainder of the mooring is composed of wire, nylon, 68 glass balls and an anchor.  At one point, the mooring wire became damaged. To solve this problem, marine technicians and crew removed the damaged portions and replaced the section with wire from a new spool. This process delayed the completion of mooring deployment but it showed how problems can be solved even when far out at sea.

After dinner, the nylon section of the rope was deployed. Amazingly, this section is more than 2000 meters long and will be hand deployed followed by a section of 1500 m colmega line. It was dark by the time this portion was in the water. 68 glass floats were then attached and moved into the water. These floats will help in the recovery of the mooring next year. The attachment to the anchor was readied.

glass floats for recovery
These glass floats will help when the mooring is recovered next year.

The anchor weighs 9300 pounds on deck and will sit at a depth of 4756 meters. That is nearly 3 miles below the ocean surface. The crane is used to lift the anchor overboard. The anchor will drop at 1.6 m/s and may take about 50 minutes to reach the bottom.  As the anchor sinks, the wire, nylon and the rest of the mooring will be pulled down. Once it reaches the bottom, the mooring will be roughly vertical from the buoy to the anchor.


Mooring Structure
Mooring Structure

Personal Log

I sailed aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson in 2013 so I already had a general idea of what life aboard a ship would be. Both ships have workout areas, laundry facilities, lounges, and of course messes where we all eat. But on the Hi’ialakai, I am less likely to get lost because of the layout. A door that goes up is near a door that goes down.

On our first day aboard, we held two safety drills. The first was the abandon ship drill. As soon as we heard 6 short and 1 long whistles, we grabbed our life jacket, survival suit and a hat. We reported to our muster stations. I am assigned to lifeboat #1 and I report the starboard side of 0-3 deck ( 2 levels up from my room). Once I arrived, a NOAA officer began taking role and told us to don the survival suit. This being my first time putting the suit on, I was excited. But that didn’t last long. Getting the legs on after taking off shoes was easy as was putting one arm in. After that, it was challenging. It was about 84 F outside. The suit is made of neoprene. And my hands were the shapes of mittens so imagine trying to zip it up. I finally was successful and suffered a bit to get a few photos. This was followed by a lesson for how to release the lifeboats. There are enough lifeboats on each side of the ship, to hold 150% of the capacity on board.

Survival Suit & Julia
Abandon Ship drill with Survival Suit

Safety is an important aspect of living aboard a NOAA ship. It is critical to practice drills just like we do at school. So when something does happen, everyone knows what to do. A long whistle signals a fire. All of the scientists report to the Dry Lab for a head count and to wait for further instruction.

I am reminded of how small our world really is.  At dinner Saturday, I discovered one of the new NOAA officers was from Cottage Grove, Oregon. Cottage Grove is just a short drive south of Eugene. She had a friend of mine as her calculus teacher.  Then a research associate asked me if I knew a kid, who had graduated from South Eugene High School and swam in Virginia. I did. He had not only been in my class but also swam with my oldest son on a number of relay teams growing up. Small world indeed.


Did You Know?

The Hi’ialakai was once a Navy surveillance ship (USNS Vindicator) during the Cold War. NOAA acquired it in 2001 and converted it to support oceanic research.




Donna Knutson: The Atlantic Sea Scallop – More Than Meets the Eye, June 21, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson

 Aboard the Research Vessel Hugh R. Sharp

June 8 – June 24, 2016


2016 Mission: Atlantic Scallop/Benthic Habitat Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:
Northeastern U.S. Atlantic Coast
June 21, 2016

The Atlantic Sea Scallop – More Than Meets the Eye

Mission and Geographical Area: 

The University of Delaware’s ship, R/V Sharp, is on a NOAA mission to assess the abundance and age distribution of the Atlantic Sea Scallop along the Eastern U.S. coast from Mid Atlantic Bight to Georges Bank.  NOAA does this survey in accordance with Magnuson Stevens Act requirements.

Science and Technology:

Latitude:  41 16.296 NIMG_3250 (2)better me

Longitude:  68 49.049 W

Clouds: overcast

Visibility: 5-6 nautical miles

Wind: 21.1 knots

Wave Height: 4-6 occasional 8

Water Temperature:  59 F

Air Temperature:  64 F

Sea Level Pressure:  29.9 in of Hg

Water Depth: 101 m

Science Blog:

Sea scallops are unique from clams, molluscs and other bivalves.  All of them are filter feeders, but the sea scallop filters out larger sized particles such as diatoms and large protozoans that are larger than 50 micrometers. Clams filter feed on smaller animals and particles that are too small for the scallop to retain and therefore flow right through their digestive system.

Older scallop found in a protected area.
Older scallop found in a protected area.

Dr. Scott Gallager is looking inside the stomachs of scallops.  His hypothesis is that microplastics are traveling down to the bottom of the ocean, and if they are, the scallop will siphon them into their stomach along with their food.

Microplastics are, as the name suggests, small pieces of plastic measured in micrometers.  They may enter the ocean as an object such as a plastic water bottle, but over time with the turbulence of the ocean and the sun’s ultraviolet radiation break down into smaller and smaller pieces.

Another way microplastics are entering the ocean is through the cleaning products we use.  Many shampoos, detergents and toothpastes have small beads of plastic in them to add friction which aid the products cleaning potential.  Untreated water, such as runoff, has the likelihood of flowing into the ocean bringing microplastics with it.

Small colorful scallops.
Small sea scallops.

If a sea scallop ingests microplastics the same size as its food, the scallop will not be getting the nutrients it requires.  Large quantities of micro plastics falling to the bottom of the ocean would obviously cause the health of scallops to deteriorate.

Another interesting story of the sea scallop is its “attachment” to the red hake.  It is not a   physical attachment.  There appears to be a sentimental attachment between the two even though that is obviously not possible.

The red hake is a fish that starts out its life as a small juvenile without any protection.  It finds a home and refuge inside a sea scallop shell.  The sea scallop almost befriends the little red hake and allows it to live behind its photoreceptive eyes, next to the mantle.

The fish curls its body into the same contour shape as the scallop.  The little fish can swim in at times of danger and the scallop will close its shells to protect them both.  After the threat has passed the scallop opens its shells and the little red hake can swim out.

Red hake did not make it in before closing time.

There seems to be some commensalism between the two.  Commensalism is the relationship between two different species where each live together without any one feeding off of the other.  They live in harmony with each other neither hurting the other.  It is not known whether the fish feeds on the scallops’ parasites or if they just coexist together.

It is clear something is happening between the two, because after the red hake grows and no longer fits inside the shell, the fish will still live next to the scallop.  It now will curl itself around the outside of the shell.  Looking at HabCam pictures, it appears to curl around a scallop even if the scallop is no longer alive.  Could it really be the same scallop it lived in as a minnow?

Red hake curled around its scallop. Picture taken from the HabCam.

Red hake numbers increase in areas where there are larger, more mature, sea scallops present.  What connects two together?  Is there some chemical connection where the fish can identify the scallop it “grew up” with? 

Why is the red hake red?  The red hake is part of the cod family.  The other fish such as the silver hake, spotted hake, white hake and haddock do not act like red hake.  Red hake are the same color as the scallop. Coincidence?  Maybe.

Is the red hake now protecting the scallop as it curls around it?  The scallop protected the young fish for as long as it could, so now is the Red hake returning the favor?  The main predator of the scallop is the starfish.  A starfish would have to climb over the fish to get to the scallop.  The red hake would not allow the starfish to get that far.

Red hake have a swim bladder that erupt when brought to the surface.
Red hake have a swim bladder that erupt when brought to the surface.

Is the red hake still just protecting itself?  When curled around the scallop, the fish blends in with the scallops red color and is in a sense camouflaging itself from its enemies. In this sense, the scallop is still allowing the red hake to hide, but this time in plain sight.

The Atlantic sea scallop is more interesting than expected.  It is curious how the scallop seems to realize how close it is to other scallops.  Without having a fully functioning brain, just groupings of neural ganglia, acting as a control center for a bodily functions or movement, how can the scallop decide the best place to live?  Do they move in search of a better habitat?  How do they know to disperse within their area so they are relatively the same distance apart as seen on the HabCam?  Is it competition for food?

Could it be their photosensitive eyes can’t tell the difference of movement of a predator to that of another scallop?  They seem to be able to tell the difference between a sea fish predator and one that is not.  Why are they so tolerant of the red hake?  More questions than answers.

The HabCam is a wonderful tool for studying these questions and more.  So little is understood about the habitats within the oceans.   It has been easier to study space than to study the depths of our own planet.  This is a very exciting time in oceanic research.  The HabCam will reveal what has been covered with a blanket of water.

Personal Blog:

We spent a little more time at Woods Hole.  Jim, the ship’s captain, hired a crew of scuba divers to scrub off the barnacles growing on the rudder.  I was lucky enough to find a tour of some of the labs at Woods Hole.  Scott called around to his colleagues and discovered there was a tour for teachers occurring at that moment when we arrived.

Alvin the deep sea submersible in dry dock.
Alvin the deep sea submersible in dry dock.

I quickly was sent on a campus bus with Ken, a man working in the communications department, also with a science degree.  I think he said it was in physical geology.  Everyone around here has multiple degrees and they are often opposite what you would imagine.  Such diversity makes some very interesting people to chat with.

In the teacher tour was a former TAS (Teacher at Sea). She was here because she won a touring trip to Woods Hole, so we had some time to chat over lunch about our experiences.  We agreed the TAS is one of the best teacher development opportunities out there for all teachers and I think we convinced a third to apply for next year.

I never got the long walk I had planned on, but a much better one learning more about Woods Hole.  Ken even took me to see Alvin, the deep sea submersible that lives on the Atlantis.  The Atlantis was leaving Alvin behind on its latest mission so Ken showed it to me.  The navy is using it this time.

I’ve been feeling great and even got on the exercise bike.  Today we will be HabCaming the entire day.  It is a nice rest compared to the physical work of dredging from the last two days.  Both HabCam and dredging have their benefits.  Together they create a much better understanding of what’s below us.DSCN7966 (2) lobsters

While I’ve been writing this the wind has picked up 10 knots.  The waves are 4-6 ft high with an occasional 8ft and it doesn’t look like it will let up.  The HabCaming continues but it is harder to keep it level.  They are considering going in early if the weather continues to get worse.  I believe Tasha said we were a bit ahead of schedule so that wouldn’t be so bad for the survey.  Before that happens, there is more dredging to do.

Julia Harvey: Here I Go Again/Getting Ready to Sail

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julia Harvey
NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 25 – July 3, 2016

Mission: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Hawaii Ocean Timeseries Station Thirteenth Setting
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean North of Hawaii

Grand Canyon
My boys and I at the Grand Canyon in March 2016.

My name is Julia Harvey and I currently teach biology and environmental science at South Eugene High School in Eugene, Oregon. Next year I will also be teaching AP Biology. I have been teaching for 25 years beginning on the island of Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga. Some of my students have now become science teachers.

Julia with Sea Urchin copy
Early interest in marine sciences.

Eugene is at the southern end of the Willamette Valley and just about an hour away from the Pacific Ocean. In the valley, we are closely connected to the Pacific Ocean. The salmon that swim up our McKenzie River have made their way from the Pacific. Our wet and rainy climate is the result of weather patterns that originate off shore. And when it gets to hot in the valley, we head over to cool off on the beaches of the Pacific.

In 2013, I sailed aboard the Oscar Dyson on the Gulf of Alaska out of Kodiak. I was part of the third leg of the Pollock fish survey. Pollock is the fish used to make fish sticks and imitation crab. I didn’t know until this cruise, that the Pollock fishery is the one of the largest fisheries in the world. And I had never even heard of a Pollock until I was going to be sailing on the Oscar Dyson. I worked with amazing scientists on board who kindly helped me learn the process for finding schools of fish in the water using acoustics and then how to process the catch in order to provide information about the health of the fishery.

Pollock Survey
Happily surveying pollock

There were other studies going on the Oscar Dyson.  One involved surveying the ocean bottom and another involved counting  krill.

Enlarged Sorting Krill copy

Preparing to count krill.

I leave aboard the Hi’ialakai (easy to say after learning Tongan) in a few days. We will be at sea for 9 days, north of Hawaii.   The Chief Scientist is affiliated with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and other scientists are from University of Hawaii, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, and North Carolina State University. The main purpose of the study is to recover and deploy WHOTS moorings while collecting CTD (conductivity/temperature/depth) casts and data from shipboard sensors. I am especially interested to learn more about the sea spray analysis and how it relates to climatic effects.

This will be my first physical oceanography cruise. All of the studies I did aboard the Vantuna at Occidental College were biological as was the work done on the Oscar Dyson. I am excited to take my learning in a different direction.

I found it more difficult to pack for the cruise out of Hawaii then out of Alaska. This time, there is a larger range of weather that could be expected. Beginning on Oahu (shorts and tank tops) to the open ocean (steel toe boots and layers of clothes). But there are a few items that are making the trip with me again. I could not leave the Go Pro behind. I captured Dall porpoises bow surfing in 2013 as well as the processing of thousands of fish. And of course I have the anti-seasickness medication. It was wonderful to feel good the whole cruise last time. I will not be streaming videos but I will be entertained with a few books I packed.

I will be blogging several times while I am at sea and I hope you will continue to follow my journey at sea.




DJ Kast, Interview with Emily Peacock, May 25, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 19 – June 3, 2015

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast

Date: May 25, 2015, Day 7 of Voyage

Interview with Emily Peacock

Emily Peacock and her ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo by: DJ Kast
Emily Peacock and her ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo by: DJ Kast

Emily Peacock is a Research Assistant with Dr. Heidi Sosik at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). She is using imaging flow-cytometry to document the phytoplankton community structure along the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow Route.

Why is your research important?

Phytoplankton are very important to marine ecosystems and are at the bottom of the food chain.  They uptake carbon dioxide (CO2) and through the process of photosynthesis make oxygen, much like the trees of the more well-known rain forests.

Ocean Food Chains. Photo by: Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 (
Ocean Food Chains. Photo by: Encyclopedia Britannica 2006 (

The purpose of our research is “to understand the processes controlling the seasonal variability of phytoplankton biomass over the inner shelf off the northeast coast of the United States. Coastal ocean ecosystems are highly productive and play important roles in the regional and global cycling of carbon and other elements but, especially for the inner shelf, the combination of physical and biological processes that regulate them are not well understood.” (WHOI 2015)

What tool do you use in your work you could not live without?

I am using an ImagingFlowCytobot (IFCB) to sample from the flow-through Scientific Seawater System.

ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo: DJ Kast
ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo: DJ Kast
Inside of the ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo by Taylor Crockford
Inside of the ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo by Taylor Crockford
The green tube is what collects 5 ml into the ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo by: DJ Kast
The green tube is what collects 5 ml into the ImagingFlowCytobot. Photo by: DJ Kast

IFCB is an imaging flow cytometer that collects 5 ml of seawater at a time and images the phytoplankton in the sample. IFCB images anywhere from 10,000 phytoplankon/sample in coastal waters to ~200 in less productive water. Emily is creating a sort of plankton database with all these images. They look fantastic, see below for sample images!

Microzooplankton called Ciliates. Photo Credit: IFCB, from this Henry Bigelow research cruise.
Microzooplankton called Ciliates. Photo Credit: IFCB, from this Henry Bigelow research cruise.
Dinoflagellates Photo Credit: IFCB, from this Henry Bigelow research cruise.
Photo Credit: IFCB, from this Henry Bigelow research cruise.

The IFCB “is a system that uses a combination of video and flow cytometric technology to both capture images of organisms for identification and measure chlorophyll fluorescence associated with each image.  Images can be automatically classified with software, while the measurements of chlorophyll fluorescence make it possible to more efficiently analyze phytoplankton cells by triggering on chlorophyll-containing particles.” (WHOI ICFB 2015). 

What do you enjoy about your work?

I really enjoy looking at the phytoplankton images and identifying and looking for more unusual images that we don’t see as often. I particularly enjoy seeing plankton-plankton interactions and grazing of phytoplankton.

Grazing (all photo examples are not from this research cruise but still from an IFCB):

Small flagellates on a Thallasiosira Photo Credit: MVCO
Small flagellates on a Thallasiosira (Diatom) Photo Credit: IFCB at MVCO
Diatom with a dino eating it from the outside (peduncle).Photo Credit: MVCO
Diatom with a dinoflagellate eating it from the outside using a peduncle (feeding appendage). Photo Credit: IFCB at MVCO
Engulfer- Gyrodinium will engulf itself around the diatom (Paralia consumed by Gyrodinium).Photo Credit: MVCO
Engulfer- Gyrodinium will engulf the diatom Paralia Photo Credit: IFCB at MVCO
Dinoflagellates Pallium feeder- feeding externally, the pallium wraps around the prey.Photo Credit: MVCO
Dinoflagellates pallium feeding externally, the pallium (cape-like structure, think of saran wrap on food) wraps around the prey. Photo Credit: IFCB at MVCO

What type of phytoplankton do you see?

I am seeing a lot of dinoflagellates in the water today (May 20th, 2015), Ceratium specifically.

Ceratium. Photo by IFCB at MVCO
Ceratium. Photo by IFCB at MVCO

The most common types of plankton I see are: diatoms, dinoflagellates, and microzooplankton like ciliates. The general size range for the phytoplankton I am looking at is 5-200 microns.

Colonial choanoflagellate. Photo Credit: MVCO
Colonial choanoflagellate. Photo Credit: IFCB at MVCO

Where do you do most of your work?

“The Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory (MVCO) is a leading research and engineering facility operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The observatory is located at South Beach, Massachusetts and there is a tower in the ocean a mile off the south shore of Martha’s Vineyard where it provides real time and archived coastal oceanographic and meteorological data for researchers, students and the general public.” (MVCO 2015).

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.54.39 PM
MVCO Photo from:

Most of my work with Heidi is at the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory. IFCB at MVCO has sampled phytoplankton every 20 minutes since 2006 (nearly continuously). This unique data set with high temporal resolution allows for observations not possible with monthly or weekly phytoplankton sampling.

Below is an example from the MVCO from about an hour ago at 1 PM on May 20th, 2015.

Photo Credit: MVCO
Photo Credit: IFCB at MVCO

Did you know??

IFCB at Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory has collected photos of nearby phytoplankton every 20 minutes since 2006 (9 years, almost continuously). With this time series, you can study changes in temporal and seasonal patterns in phytoplankton throughout the years.

Helpful Related links:

Current Plankton at the MVCO:

Carol Glor: Lights, Camera, Action, July 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Glor

Aboard R/V Hugh R. Sharp

July 5 – 14, 2014

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey (Third leg)

Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic Ocean

Date: July 7, 2014

Weather Data from the bridge: Wind SW 18-20 knots, Seas 4-7 ft,  Visibility – good

Science and Technology Log: Starring the HabCam

The HabCam is a computerized video camera system. It is a non-invasive method of observing and recording underwater stereo images, and collecting oceanographic data,such as temperature,salinity, and conductivity.  The vehicle is towed at  1.5 – 2 meters from the floor of the ocean. The main objective of this mission is to survey the population of scallops as well as noting the substrate (ocean floor make-up) changes. Most substrate is made up of sand, gravel, shell hash and epifauna. We also note the presence of roundfish (eel, sea snakes, monkfish, ocean pout, and hake), flatfish (flounders and fluke), whelk, crab, and skates. Although sea stars (starfish) are a major predator of scallops, they are not included in our annotations.

The HabCam awaiting deployment.

The crew and science staff work on alternate shifts (called watches) to ensure the seamless collection of data. The scallop survey is a 24-hour operation. The science component of the ship consists of 11 members. Six people are part of the night watch from 12am-12pm and the remaining members (myself included) are assigned to the day watch which is from 12pm until 12am. During the HabCam part of the survey all science staff members rotate job tasks during their 12-hour shift. These include:

A. Piloting the HabCam – using a joystick to operate the winch that controls the raising and lowering of the HabCam along the ocean floor. This task is challenging for several reasons. There are six computer monitors that are continually reviewed by the pilot so they can assess the winch direction and speed, monitor the video quality of the sea floor, and ensure that the HabCam remains a constant 1.5 – 2 meters from the ocean floor. The ocean floor is not flat – it consists of sand waves, drop-offs, and valleys. Quick action is necessary to avoid crashing the HabCam into the ocean floor.

HabCam pilot
Carol piloting the HabCam.

B. The co-pilot is in charge of ensuring the quality of digital images that are being recorded by the HabCam. Using a computer, they tag specific marine life and check to see if the computers are recording the data properly. They also assist the pilot as needed.

HabCam image
One of the images from the HabCam

C. Annotating is another important task on this stage of the survey. Using a computer, each image that is recorded by the HabCam is analyzed in order to highlight the specific species that are found in that image. Live scallops are measured using a line tool and fish, crabs, whelk and skates are highlighted using a boxing tool so they can be reviewed by NOAA personnel at the end of the cruise season.

Personal Log:

When not on watch there is time to sleep, enjoy beautiful ocean views, spot whales and dolphins from the bridge (captain’s control center), socialize with fellow science staff and crew members, and of course take lots of pictures. The accommodations are cozy. My cabin is a four-person room consisting of two sets of bunk beds, a sink, and desk area. The room is not meant to be used for more than sleeping or stowing gear. When the ship is moving, it is important to move slowly and purposely throughout the ship. When going up and down the stairs you need to hold onto the railing with one hand and guide the other hand along the wall for stability. This is especially important during choppy seas. The constant motion of the ship is soothing as you sleep but makes for challenging mobility when awake.

Top bunk
My home away from home.
Captain Jimmy
Captain Jimmy runs a tight ship.


Before heading out to sea it is important to practice safety drills. Each person is made aware of their muster station (where to go in the event of an emergency), and is familiarized with specific distress signals. We also practiced donning our immersion suits. These enable a person to be in the water for up to 72 hours (depending upon the temperature of the water). There is a specific way to get into the suit in order to do so in under a minute. We were reminded to put our shoes inside our suit in a real life emergency for when we are rescued. Good advice indeed.

immersion suit
Carol dons her immersion suit.
life jacket
Life jacket selfie.


Did you know?

The ship makes it’s own drinking water. While saltwater is used on deck for cleaning purposes, and in the toilets for waste removal, it is not so good for cooking, showers, or drinking. The ship makes between 600 and 1,000 gallons per day. It is triple-filtered through a reverse-osmosis process to make it safe for drinking. The downside is that the filtration system removes some important minerals that are required for the human body. It also tends to dry out the skin; so using moisturizer is a good idea when out at sea.

Photo Gallery:

Waiting to board the RV Hugh R. Sharp
WG flag
West Genesee colors; flying high on the Sharp
Floating Frogs
Floating Frogs at the Woods Hole Biological Museum.
Seal at aquarium
Seal at the Woods Hole Aquarium – Oldest Aquarium in the US.





Sue Oltman: Getting My Sea Legs, May 22, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Mission: STRATUS Mooring Maintenance
Geographical Area: Southeastern Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Chile and Ecuador
Date: May 22, 2012

Science and Technology Log

It’s finally the day we will leave port!  I’m awakened by the feeling of my bed shaking and a crash of something falling, this could have been an earthquake.  The science party boards the boat after breakfast and spends a lot of time fastening all equipment down and securing it to shelving; even my laptop needs to be affixed to my desk with Velcro.

My stateroom is on the 02 deck, which is one floor below the main deck. I’m in 02-50-2 with a private “head.” Everything is made of steel (even the toilet and shower) and is bolted down, too.

Here’s where I will sleep for the next two weeks…and take naps so I can do my 4 a.m. watch shift.

As we move out towards open  ocean, the R/V Melville – all 278 feet of it –  is moving northwest at about 11-12 knots and all seasoned hands comment on how calm the seas are. However, there are factors such as pitch, roll and heave which I am not accustomed to!  Ocean conditions affect the ship with  roll of about 3° to 5°  – swaying back and forth to the left (port) and right (starboard.)  Pitch is the hull tilting forwards or backwards and is about 1 ° or less.  Heave is vertical displacement of the ship and is a meter or less. The roll starts getting to me after dinner, despite the sea-sick medicine! Fortunately, after lying down for a while, the sickness passes.

Next, I went up to the lab where all the monitors are to see what I can learn about our course. Watching the multi-beam sonar display (from the Bathymetry XTD) as the ocean floor drops out from below us is fascinating. An array of 191 SONAR beams maps it out. The colors appear like the depth color key on classroom maps we use of the ocean floor – dark blue where deepest and yellow or even red where it is shallower.

The monitors showed the ocean floor depth as it dropped from 2500 m to about 4700 m in an hour or so. The ship was beginning to sail over the trench!

This monitor shows the bathymetry or depth of the ocean in real time as we sail.

Two safety drills were conducted – a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. There was also training on the scientific equipment we will deploy, the UCTDs  (underway conductivity, temperature and depth probes), and ARGO drifter buoys. Sean Whelan led the class on UCTD training and Jeff Lord prepped us on the drifters. These smaller buoys will be released and will float freely, carried by the currents.

The UCTDs will be deployed hourly around the clock on the aft deck (back of the ship.) Salinity and density are derived from these values. The probe is dropped into the water, will sample for about 2 minutes to 400 m or so and then be retrieved. The casting line is then rewound onto the spool to be ready for the next deployment like a sewing machine bobbin being wound.  The data is transmitted to the computer via Bluetooth when a magnetic key is inserted to activate it.

A UCTD is taken back to the surface after gathering data. Sean Whalen, an Engineering technician, taught the class on UCTDs.

Everyone was trained how to use the winch as they will need to use it on watch. Each watch has 3 people and is 4 hours long, and then you have 8 hours off. My assigned watches are 0400 – 0800 hours and 1600-2000 hours (4 to 8) so I will need to alter my sleeping schedule! Those on watch must stay in the downstairs lab and conduct UCTD releases during those hours. The instruments inside the UCTD are very sensitive and costly and must be handled very deliberately.

There is one more session. Keith – the ship’s “res tech” or resident technician – conducts a CTD handling class. The “rosette: is the circular frame in which water sampling devices called CTDs are placed to take water sampled in international waters. These are different from the UCTDs because deep zone water is sampled for salinity and temperature. This will be done about 7 times on this cruise. It is large and the instruments are housed in a sturdier casing so it is heavier and the winch operator must lower this into the ocean with a crane.

We are looking forward to be seeing some great sunrises and sunsets from our research vessel during watches!

Enjoying the spectacular sunset with me are Elsie Denton, volunteer translator, and Jamie Shambaugh of NOAA.

Sue Oltman: Greetings from the Ring of Fire! May 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Mission: STRATUS Mooring Maintenance
Geographical Area: Vina del Mar, Chile
Date: May 20, 2012

Personal Log

I’m staying in the town of Vina del Mar, about 90 minutes from Santiago and close to the busy port city of Valparaiso.  Learning a bit more about the culture of this country. Once again, I’m reminded how useful it is to know other languages. The science team from WHOI (affectionately called by its acronym, pronounced hooey) is led by Dr. Robert Weller, the chief scientist, a renowned oceanographer whose expertise is moorings. The mooring for STRATUS 11 will be recovered and STRATUS 12 will be deployed. Another significant science contribution of WHOI is the Alvin submersible. Alvin has explored the mid-ocean ridge in the Atlantic Ocean extensively.

From the R/V Melville, in port, looking towards shore, there are many smaller touring and fishing boats in addition to cargo vessels.

Last time, I shared that earthquakes are almost expected here, so there is a common concern about tsunami preparedness.  In 2010, many Chileans lost their lives due to a tsunami they did not know how to react to. The country’s leaders are trying to implement better evacuation plans, so there is a large public drill planned in about a week here. There are banners in the street announcing the upcoming drill!  Think of the school fire drills we have…a whole country will practice in a coordinated earthquake and tsunami drill to ensure that lives will be spared in the future.

Valparaiso colorful street
Many of the steep hills of Valparaiso were colorful – the homes and artistic graffiti.

The port of Valparaiso is very colorful and busy, with a lot of commerce taking place. New cars enter South America here, as does steel for construction and other goods. The U.S. oceanographic research  ship R/V Melville arrived and the team has been getting equipment ready for the mission ahead.  The new buoy and instruments have been shipped here separately, and the technician, Val Cannon, has been checking them out before they are deployed.It’s not an everyday event that a US Navy ship enters Chile, so local government will take the opportunity to somehow enrich their citizens.  A school group visited for a tour of the ship as well as an overview of the scientific research happening aboard the vessel. The Melville science crew prepared to give a presentation to the group of high school students on Saturday morning.  The research vessel  Melville had come into port on the heels of 2 weeks of  earthquake research by Oregon State University scientists. This scientist gave a presentation about her work first.

Scientists present to Chilean students
Dr. Sebastian Bigorre, WHOI, and Elsie Denton, translator, and I speaking to the students.

Next, Dr. Sebastien Bigorre (Seb) gave a talk about the atmospheric research in the Stratus project which I will elaborate more about in upcoming blogs.  He showed them the location of the stratus mooring and why that location is chosen – it is in the area of persistent stratus cloud cover in the lower atmosphere.  Did you know that some ocean water masses have a specific “fingerprint? ” This allows scientists to determine where that water mass travels to, and this reveals more information about winds and currents in the region.I gave the students an overview of the Teacher at Sea program and how NOAA  provides resources for science instruction, and invites teachers to experience cutting edge science in the oceans.  Teachers at Sea create new lessons and curriculum related to their cruises which are then shared on the NOAA website. The Chilean science teachers asked if these materials were available to them as well, and were happy to find out that they were.

Today was also a busy day of shipboard work inValparaiso, heavy work and long hours of getting the project’s equipment aboard. Crates and crates of equipment and gear was unloaded, involving cranes and heavy lifting by all.  Even the top scientists are not exempt from the gritty hard labor! In the video clip, you will see Dr. Weller and other hardworking, versatile scientists assembling the mooring on deck. The ocean is all around us, but no one is swimming in it.

The water is pretty cool here, due to the Peru current which bring Antarctic water masses northward. There is continuous upwelling from about 1,000 meters where the thermocline is.

The coastline is on the edge of the Peru-Chile trench, part of the network of tectonic plate boundaries surrounding the Pacific. While on land, we are on the South American plate, and when we put out to sea, we will be above the Nazca plate.  This is a subduction zone where the trench descends to as deep as 6,000 meters in places! The Nazca plate is subducting under the continent. The R/V Melville will mostly be sailing in water in the 4,000-4,500 meter range.  This teacher is ready to set sail! Comment below to let me know your questions about the ship.

Answers to previous polls:

The KMS hat won! Upwelling is the movement of deep,cold, nutrient rich water to the surface. The cables can be over 4000 meters long.

Jessie Soder: Steamin’ and Swimmin’, August 10, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessie Soder
Aboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
August 8 – 19, 2011 

Mission: Atlantic Surfclam and Ocean Quahog Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Northern Atlantic
Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 

Weather Data
Time:  16:00
Location:  40°41.716N, 67°36.233W
Air temp: 20.6° C (69° F)
Water temp: 17° C (63° F)
Wind direction: West
Wind speed: 11 knots
Sea wave height: 3 feet
Sea swell:  5-6 feet 

Science and Technology Log

View from the flying bridge departing Woods Hole

Our departure from Woods Hole has been delayed a number of times due to several factors.  We were scheduled to leave the dock on Monday at 2pm, but due to rough seas (8ft on Georges Bank—which was where we were planning to go first) and a crane that needed to be fixed our departure was rescheduled for Tuesday at 10am.  On Tuesday, the crane was fixed, but then it was discovered that the ship’s engineering alarm system was not working properly, so our departure was delayed again for a few hours.  The crew worked hard to get the ship off the dock and we departed at 1:15 on Tuesday.  Yay!  We were on our way to Georges Bank, which was about a 15 hour “steam,” or, trip.

The purpose of the NOAA Fisheries Atlantic surfclam and ocean quahog survey is to determine and keep track of the population of both species.  This particular survey is done every three years.  NOAA Fisheries surveys other species too, such as ground fish (cod, haddock, pollock, fluke), sea scallops, and northern shrimp.  These species are surveyed more often—usually a couple of times each year.  Atlantic surfclams and ocean quahogs are surveyed less often than other fished species because they do not grow as fast as other species.  In fact, the ocean quahog can live for more than 150 years, but it only reaches about 6  inches across!  In comparison, the sea scallop lives for only 10 to 15 years and reaches a size of 8 inches.

There are 27 people on board this cruise.  Each person is assigned a watch, or shift, so that there are people working 24 hours a day. The work never stops!  Seventeen people on board are members of the crew that are responsible for the operation and navigation of the ship, machinery operation and upkeep (crane, dredge, etc.), food preparation, general maintenance, and electronics operations and repair.  There are a lot of things that need to happen to make things on a research ship run smoothly in order for the scientific work to happen!

NOAA Ship Delaware II docked in Woods Hole

Twelve people on board are part of the science team, including me, who collect the samples and record the data.  We are split into two watches, the noon-midnight watch and the midnight-noon watch.  We sort through the material in the dredge for the clams and the quahogs.  We measure and weigh them as well as document the location where they are collected.  Several members of the science team are volunteers.

Personal Log

A swimming beach near Nobska Lighthouse

Our delayed departure has given me a lot of time to talk to crew and to explore Woods Hole—which I have really enjoyed.  I have learned a lot about the responsibilities of the different members of the crew and about the maritime industry, which is something that has always interested me.  I was also able to visit the Woods Hole aquarium (twice!) and attend a talk given by crew from the R/V Knorr. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute operates the R/V Knorr and it was on this ship that the location of the wreck of the Titanic was located for the first time in 1985.  Additionally,  in 1977 scientists aboard this ship discovered  hydrothermal vents  on the ocean floor.  And, lastly, I had time to go swimming in the Atlantic Ocean!  The water was a bit warmer off the coast of Massachusetts than it is off the coast of Alaska…

Questions to Ponder

What is the difference between an ocean quahog and an Atlantic surfclam?

Mary Cook, December 15, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 15, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°43.66’S, Longitude 85°33.13’W
Time: 10:00 am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 132.47
Relative Humidity (percent) 66.35
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.44
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.41
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1016.60
Wind Speed (knots) 15.05
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.54

Question of the Day

For what purpose are the lights in the hallways colored red at night?

Positive Quote for the Day

“The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time.” W.J. Davison

Science and Technology Log

We had another early morning RHIB ride! The purpose was to visually inspect the newly deployed Stratus 5 buoy. It looked so small out there in the choppy ocean water. The buoy was found to be in good working condition with a minor break in a railing that surrounds the weather instruments that sit atop the buoy. The break will have no bearing on the workings of the instruments so all was approved by Jeff Lord, the WHOI engineering technician. Then we took another wild ride back to the mother ship!

I think today is a good day to show you pictures of the inside of the ship and talk about ship life. Here are some of my impressions of the ship interior. The hallways are narrow and if two people meet, one must step aside. The doors seem to weigh two tons and if one slammed on your fingers it would crush them off.

You must step up and over as you cross the threshold of a doorway. It’s built up to prevent water from getting into every room if there’s a flood. In the stateroom (bedroom), the bunk beds are comfortable but there’s no room to sit up in bed. The round windows are called portholes. The toilet (called the head) has no lid. The toilet is flushed by pressing a button then a powerful vacuum suctions everything down! There are handles to hold on to in the shower. The shower room doors have huge, strong magnets that hold them open. All the drawers and cabinets have latches so they won’t swing open when the ship moves around. Everything is tied down or secured in some fashion. There are no wheels on the office chairs. At night the hallway lights are turned to red instead of white. The food is outstanding. We eat three meals a day plus snacks are available 24 hours a day. There’s an exercise room and a laundry room and a TV room where two movies are shown each evening. There’s a library, too. It seems that computers are in every nook and cranny. There’s lots of equipment onboard like scientific instruments and big machinery. They make water on the ship. I’ll explain that on another day.

Diane, Bruce and I collaborated on the children’s book again today. Things are coming together nicely.

At “6:00 Science on the Fantail” we interview the Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He gave us the reasons for placing the Stratus 5 buoy at this particular location in the Pacific Ocean. Bob said that there needs to be greater understanding of air-sea interactions for scientists to make better models and predictions of weather and climate patterns. The area just off the coast of Chile is one that has had minimal data collected in past years. Plus, it is an area that has a constant stratus cloud deck which isn’t clearly understood. That’s why the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Office of Climate Observation have partnered to fund the Stratus program for, possibly, as long as 15 years. Now, in its fifth year, the Stratus program has collected very useful data that has helped in better understanding the eastern Pacific Ocean and the weather that originates there. Dr. Weller was also very pleased with the work effort and cooperation between the WHOI scientists, the crew, and the Chilean scientists and students. It took a well organized work effort to get it all done. Now the WHOI scientists and engineers are taking the data collected from last year’s buoy and beginning the evaluation process.

Personal Log

I have to tell you about the exercise room. Last night, Diane invited me to go down for a workout. Diane’s a runner and so she goes to workout every evening. I’d never really taken a good look in there, except to see several pieces of equipment because I hadn’t brought any clothes or shoes appropriate for working out. So, I thought, why not? I need to exercise. So I put on my trusty, old clunky hiking boots and headed down to the exercise room. When I opened the door there was a red and black stairway leading down toward a yellow grate. Most of the exercise equipment was sitting on the grate. The room was dimly lit and the air was cool. I could hear the humming of fans. There was one gray door that had a claxon sounding off from within. I considered opening it but changed my mind. I saw a red “Danger High Voltage” sign and about ten huge carbon dioxide tanks sitting upright in the corner. There were some blinking lights coming from a partially opened doorway leading into another room. Running along the ceiling and walls were cables and pipes. I knew I was alone so I looked around to survey which machine I’d try first. Over in the far corner were rows of orange-colored coveralls hanging from the ceiling by their hoods with their arms outstretched. All the orange suits were moving with the swaying of the ship. It appeared as though people were inside the suits and just hanging in mid-air! I stopped, and looked around with an eerie thought. I felt like I was in an episode of Star Trek where they have rooms filled with extra worker-drones waiting to be activated during times of crisis. OK. Maybe I have been on this ship too long. But it’s a great place for the imagination to run wild. Don’t you think?

Until tomorrow,


Mary Cook, December 14, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 14, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°45.13’S, Longitude 85°30.82’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 164.30
Relative Humidity (percent) 75.74
Temperature (Celsius) 18.60
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1016.02
Wind Speed (knots) 15.33
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 8.40

Question of the Day

Why do you think the floaters are made of glass?

Positive Quote for the Day

“Patience is passion tamed.” Lyman Abbott

Science and Technology Log

At about 5:30 this morning the WHOI guys are up early and ready to go! This is the day that the new and improved Stratus 5 surface mooring is deployed! It’s what everyone has been working toward. My understanding is that first, the mooring line and upper 50 meters of instruments will be put in the water and attached to the buoy. Second, the buoy will be deployed with a quick release hook off the port side. Then the ship will move ahead to bring the buoy behind it. Next, the ship will slow down and move ahead as needed to keep the buoy aft while the crew attaches the remaining instruments. The last things to be put on the mooring line are the glass ball floaters, the acoustic release, and then the 9000 pound anchor. We’ll wait around for a couple of hours for the anchor to sink and settle, then, they’ll take a Seabeam (echo-sounding) survey of the ocean floor where the anchor is located. After the survey, we’ll move downwind of the buoy and tomorrow inter-comparison testing will begin.

Now, it’s 5:30 in the afternoon, and all the hard work is completed. Everything went off without a hitch. Well, almost. There were a couple of tense moments throughout the day, but all in all it went very well. The planning and orchestration of the whole process is quite amazing with several people communicating with radios and hand signals, all getting it done just right.

At “6:00 Science on the Fantail”, we interviewed Keir Colbo who works for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He shared with us his duties for the day. According to Keir, his job is to stay out of the way and record everything in a logbook. I mean everything. Keir wrote down the deployment time, serial number and order of every instrument that went into the water. He counted every glass ball floater (total 90). He recorded the Global Positioning System (GPS) reading of the anchor as it was dumped into the ocean. GPS uses a receiver to locate an object by detecting a series of satellites. Keir also explained the glass ball floaters. They are 5/8 inch thick glass domes with a diameter of 17 inches. The glass balls are put into bright yellow plastic hulls that protect from breakage and enable them to be chained together. Keir’s job is very important even though at times it may seem monotonous. When the scientists return next, his records will be the first thing they pull for references to make sense of the science.

Personal Log

It’s 5:30 Tuesday morning and I am sitting at my desk thinking about the day that’s before us. The ship is constantly moving with the ocean motions. There’s no way to get away from it – it’s always a presence with me. I can’t help thinking that we’re atop something alive and breathing. Every time there’s a swell it feels like the ocean is taking a deep breath and then slowly exhaling. It reminds me of the rhythmic breathing of someone who is asleep. I must admit, I can more easily understand why some ancient cultures worshipped the ocean or devised amulets for protection from the spirits of the ocean. Well, I don’t worship the ocean but everyday I gain a deeper respect and appreciation for it – for its vastness, and power and how much all of life on Earth is so intricately dependent upon its wellbeing. Even living things that are a long way from the ocean like in Arkansas, or south central Siberia, depend on the ocean.

I enjoyed today. We watched all the guys working in unison to get the work done which has danger lurking around every corner. These guys are safety-minded, too. They do things right and they watch out for each other. It’s also cool to see the Chileans and Americas working together. It’s like it should be. My least favorite part of the day was waiting for all the cable to reel out. I took a nap. My most favorite part of the day was when the 9000 pound anchor was dumped overboard! What a BIG splash! It sounded like someone doing a cannonball at the city swimming pool. Everybody was smiling.

Happy Birthday, Deano.

Until tomorrow…..


Debra Brice, November 22, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 22, 2003

Data from the Bridge
1.  221600Z Nov 03
2.  Position: LAT: 20-00.0’S, LONG: 083-44.8’W
3.  Course: 090-T
4.  Speed: 12.6 Kts
5.  Distance: 102.7 NM
6.  Steaming Time:  8H 06M
7.  Station Time:  15H 54M
8.  Fuel: 2583 GAL
9.  Sky: OvrCst
10. Wind: 140-T, 14 Kts
11. Sea: 140-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 130-T, 3-4 Ft
13. Barometer: 1015.9 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 20.0 C, Sea 19.4 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: Deployment of surface drifter array #4 in progress.

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Climate Studies of Stratocumulus Clouds and the Air-Sea Interaction in Subtropical Cloud Belts. Today we are still underway and I am going to talk about another science group that is onboard and how their research is related to the Stratus Project. We are presently located along the coast of Northern Chile and I just finished interviewing scientist Chris Fairall with NOAA’s Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado.  A group of 4 ETL scientists are participating in a study of oceanography and meteorology in a region of the ocean that is known for its persistent stratus clouds.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has maintained a climate monitoring buoy at this location for the last 3 years.  Each year they come out to take out the old buoy and replace it with a brand new one with fresh batteries and new sensors.  A year in the marine environment takes a toll on the toughest instruments.  This is a special buoy which is festooned with atmospheric sensors to measure air-sea fluxes and with a long chain of subsurface instruments to measure ocean currents, temperature and salinity.  If you go to the WHOI website ( you can read about this project and see the data from the buoy.  The data are transmitted via satellite everyday.  WHOI removed the old buoy on Nov 17 and put in a new one on Nov 19.

Why are these clouds so important?  Because the earth’s climate is driven by energy from the sun and clouds dominate how much solar energy reaches the surface.  On average, almost 40% of the sun’s energy is reflected back into space and half of that is reflected by clouds.  In the cloudy regions more than 60% of the sun’s energy can be reflected by clouds.  The surface temperature of the ocean is a result in a near balance between solar heating and cooling by evaporation and cooling by infrared (IR) radiation from the water surface into the sky.  The global circulation of the atmosphere and ocean are driven by region differences in this net heat input, so clouds have a direct effect on the winds and currents. Cloud effects on the ocean surface energy balance are very tricky because clouds affect both the solar flux (i.e., by reflecting energy back into space) and the IR flux.  It might surprise you, but the sky is ‘warmer’ when there are low clouds present than when the sky is clear.  Think about those cold clear nights in the winter and note the ‘cold’ often appears with ‘clear’. More specifically, the IR radiation coming down from the sky is higher when clouds are present than when skies are clear.  In the tropics and sub-tropics, the solar reflection cooling effect of the clouds is much stronger than their compensating IR warming effect.  Thus, these stratus clouds play an important role in keeping the subtropical oceans cool.

The region we are studying is one of 5 stratus regions around the globe (west coast of U.S.. west coast of S. America, west coast of S. Africa, west coast of N. Africa/Europe, and the west coast of Australia) that occupy vast expanses of ocean.  Both of the pictures I attached to this log show the stratocumulus clouds in this region.  Each of these cloud types has about the same area-average liquid water content but, because of the horizontal distribution, vastly different radiative properties.  The physical processes that lead to these different forms are one of the objective of the ETL studies.

Clouds are formed through various related mechanisms; most involve cooling air to below its dew point temperature so droplets condense ( i.e., clouds are suspensions of liquid water drops with typical sizes of about 10 micrometers radius).  Convective clouds are associated with cooling in strong updrafts; fog and many mid-atmospheric clouds form when an atmospheric layer cools by IR radiation.  The stratus clouds we are studying are quite different.  The key elements are a strong atmospheric cap that traps ocean moisture in a fairly thin ( about 1 km high) boundary layer over the surface.  The stratus clouds occupy the top of the trapped layer from just below the cap to down the altitude ( cloud base height) where temperature and dew point just meet.  Below that, the relative humidity is less than 100%.  The ‘cap’ on the atmosphere boundary layer is warm/dry air descending in subtropical regions, particularly on the western boundaries of continents.  This descending air is actually driven by deep convection in the tropics.  To meteo- nerds this is an amusing paradox – cool stratus clouds off Chile and California are essentially caused by thunderstorms near the Equator.

Clouds are a pain to study because they are so inaccessible.  To get into clouds with sensors you need a really tall tower, a tall building or an aircraft.  Most of these are hard to come by 500 miles from land. Thus, most climate studies of clouds rely on remote sensing methods using satellites and surface based sensors.

ETL has deployed a suite of remote sensors on the R/V Revelle to study clouds from the bottom. The showcase sensors are a special high frequency cloud radar and a 2-frequency microwave radiometer system (this system is the attached picture of the large, white van).  This is the 6th time such sensors have ever been deployed from ships and only the second time to a stratocumulus region.  The first time was to this same spot in 2001; see the web site: for information on that cruise.

The radar has a wavelength of 8mm, which is so small that it is sensitive enough to receive  detectable signals from scattering cloud droplets.  With this device the ETL group can determine profiles of cloud properties ( such as size of the droplets) through the entire cloud.  The microwave radiometer uses the emissions from the atmosphere at 2 frequencies ( 21 and 31 GHz, or wavelengths of 14 and 9mm) to determine cloud base height and, most importantly, we also measure IR and solar radiative energy reaching the surface.  Instead of just looking at the cloud, they collect megabytes of data every minute.  The beauty of this set up is that they can simultaneously measure the effect the clouds have on the surface energy budget of the ocean and the cloud properties ( liquid water content, thickness, soiled versus broken, number of cloud droplets per unit volume) that go with the radiative effects.  The ETL group are only out here a few weeks each year, but their detailed measurements provide vital information to interpret long-term continuous time series measured by the buoy or inferred from satellite overpasses.

Personal Log

We are surveying for a location for the PMEL Tsunami buoy and the weather is beautiful.  Due to our heading we have lost internet connections periodically.  The food on the REVELLE  is really amazing; last night we had steak and King crab for dinner and a group of the crew and science party met in the lounge to watch a movie.  Card games and cribbage are popular in the dining room and some of us just sit outside and enjoy the sunsets.  I’m going to sleep early as I have the late watch.


Debra Brice, November 18, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 18, 2003

Data from the Bridge
1.  181700Z Nov 03
2.  Position: LAT: 19-43.5’S, LONG: 085-15.0’W
3.  Course: 000-T
4.  Speed: 12.5 Kts
5.  Distance: 38.8 NM
6.  Steaming Time:  3H 06M
7.  Station Time:  20H 54M
8.  Fuel: 1565 GAL
9.  Sky: Ptly Cldy
10. Wind: 130-T, 11 Kts
11. Sea: 130-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 150-T, 3-5 Ft
13. Barometer: 1018.5 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 21.3 C, Sea 19.2 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: Survey in progress.

Science and Technology Log

Today the REVELLE spent the day surveying an area for deployment of the STRATUS 4 buoy.  We traveled 50 miles from the STRATUS 3 site with the hopes of getting out of the GPS mapped area of the fishing boats to prevent the fouling of the instruments with fishing line.  Fishing boats target buoys as they become areas of fish aggregation in the open ocean.  The ship took a zigzag pattern most of the day surveying the bottom topography ( see photo of survey and course). Dr Weller explained that he needed to find a relatively long, flat area on the bottom as we will be underway during the deployment of the instrumentation and we need to travel is a straight line to lay out the instruments.  Due to the wind direction we will not be exactly following the straight line of the flat bottom area, but coming in at a slight angle. Jeff Lord and Jason Smith of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Upper Ocean Processes group spent the day preparing the cables, laying out the instrumentation  and spraying various parts with de-fouling paint.  It was a very detailed all day procedure.  Moving the buoy and other heavy instrumentation requires good skills in rigging and crane operations.  The Upper Ocean Processes Group of which Dr. Weller is the head, are highly trained and make this complicated and potentially dangerous work look so easy.  This is part of the job as an oceanographer that you don’t learn in the classroom, but are taught by watching and doing with another professional. The STRATUS 4 buoy will have a slightly different instrumentation than the STRATUS 3.  The Seacat current meters with the rotating fan blades that were fouled with the fishing line will be moved deeper on the mooring and acoustical current meters will be moved to a more shallow spot.  Unfortunately the Seacats are more accurate than the acoustical current meters, but they can’t collect data if they are fouled.  The acoustical meters have no moving parts to foul.  Dr. Weller will also be comparing and calibrating some of the radiation sensors with Dr. Chris Fairall of the ELT group using they cloud radar data.  Deployment will begin after breakfast (approx. 7:45 am) tomorrow morning.

Personal Log

I didn’t help very much with the science activities today other than to stand watch and take hourly temperature readings.  Dr. Kermond and I spent the day filming several interviews.  We toured the extremely impressive engine room on the R/V REVELLE with the Chief Engineer Paul Mauricio.  Please check out our tour on the web.  We also resumed our “Fantail Interviews”  with Jason Tomlinson, Meteorologist from Texas A&M who is doing aerosol research out here with us.  I will spend an entire log in the next couple of days on Jason’s aerosol research.  Tonight on the Fantail we will be interviewing Dr. Chris Fairall of NOAA Environmental Technology Laboratories and NOAA/PMEL Tsunami buoy deployment group, Mike Strick and Scott Stalin.  be sure to tune in:)I need to work on my survey of good sunscreens and/or stronger aloe vera lotions!  The boobies from the STRATUS 3 buoy are following us wanting to know when their new “cafeteria” will be installed.  Much to do tomorrow, it will be another long day doing the deployment and I am very interested as to how they are going to get that 9000 lb anchor in the water!

hasta la vista

Debra Brice, November 17, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 17, 2003

Data from the Bridge

1.  171700Z Nov 03
2.  Position: LAT: 20-10.8’S, LONG: 085-05.1’W
3.  Course: Hove to
4.  Speed: 0 Kts
5.  Distance: 0 NM
6.  Steaming Time:  0H 00M
7.  Station Time:  24H 00M
8.  Fuel: 1845 GAL
9.  Sky: Cldy
10. Wind: 110-T, 18 Kts
11. Sea: 110-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 140-T, 3-5 Ft
13. Barometer: 1020.0 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 21.5 C, Sea 18.0 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: WHOI buoy recovery in progress.


Science and Technology Log

The R/V REVELLE was positioned roughly 100 meters upwind from the anchor position.  The acoustic release was fired and it took approximately 40 minutes for the glass balls to come to the surface.  Once the glass balls were sighted the small a line was attached and they were pulled to the stern of the ship.  The line was threaded through the A frame, the winch hauled the glass balls over the stern of the boat.  Once all the glassfuls were onboard the process of uncoupling them to the mooring began, they were then loaded in groups of 4 into the shipping container to be sent back to WHOI.

Once the fantail was cleared, hauling began.  The polypropylene line was then spooled off using a winding cart and 7 empty wooden spools. (see photos) The line on the winch was off loaded into a wired basket which was then wound onto the wooden spools and then stored.  This process was repeated for several hours until all of the 2800 meters of line was recovered and the first instrument was brought aboard about 2pm.  Then we began to bring each instrument aboard and label it by depth and place it on the deck in the order it was recovered for labeling and photographing.  It is very important to document the exact condition of the instruments as they are recovered as it will help in the data analysis later.  For example if there are some strange readings in the data or the data suddenly stopped at some point during the year looking at the photograph could tell you that this instrument was covered in barnacles or tangled with fishing line that clogged or blocked the sensors. (see photos)

With 38 different sensors on the mooring it was a very long day just recovering all of them.  Once most of the sensors were all onboard and labeled they began the recovery of the buoy and the last 12 sensors.  The small boat was deployed and a line attached to the buoy. The ship’s knuckle crane was used in this part of the operation and the buoy was lifted and secured onto the port side of the ship (see photos).  Once the buoy was secured the retrieval of the last instruments began.  Again, labeling and photographically documenting the condition of the instruments was essential.  In the photos you can see the increase in bio-fouling as the instruments get closer to the surface.  The current meters nearest the surface were heavily clogged with fishing lines and although their temperature sensors were still functioning, the portion that measures the current direction and speed was completely jammed with the fishing line.

Although acoustic current meters are also used on the mooring, there has been some issues with the quality of their data and the mechanical current meters are still the most accurate, but they have the problems of being more susceptible to bio-fouling and  interference with fishing gear.  This emphasizes the need for redundant instruments for data collection and comparison.  Each year the sensors are evaluated and some changes in instrumentation and slight changes in buoy location might be made.  For example this year the buoy will be moved a little farther away from last years mooring to hopefully decrease the likelihood of being tangled by fishing lines. After all of the instruments were secured onboard and labeled and photographed, the cleaning began (see photographs).  Everyone participated in this phase with scrapers and , finally the power washer.  All of the instruments needed to be cleaned and many stored in the main lab for data analysis tomorrow.  All day tomorrow Nan, Lara, Jeff, Jason and Dr. Weller will be downloading and loading at the data from the sensors as well as preparing the new equipment for deployment on Wednesday.

Personal Log

An incredibly long day which began with my watch at 4am and ended sometime after 9pm.  It was great and I was fascinated by the differences in the instruments as they were recovered from different depths.  It was brought home to me yet again the importance of keeping meticulous and very detailed records of each stage of a operation and the condition of the environment and effect on the equipment.  Any of these variables have to be considered when analyzing the data and can only be collected immediately upon retrieval or deployment.  It is also essential to have a very detailed plan of operation and to work together well as a team.  I think we were also out there testing several brands of sunscreen….mine failed and and I have the racoon-eyes to prove it…ahh well, it was a wonderful day and loved it.  Tomorrow and preparing for the deployment will be equally interesting. Oh, and one of the benefits of bringing in the buoy was that all the fish who were living under the buoy were now around the ship and the crew and some of the science staff caught some very nice tuna…hmmm dinner is looking promising tomorrow too:)


Debra Brice, November 16, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 16, 2003

Data from the Bridge
1.  161700Z Nov 03
2.  Position: LAT: 20-10.6’S, LONG: 085-08.0’W
3.  Course: Hove to
4.  Speed: 0 Kts
5.  Distance: 20.8 NM
6.  Steaming Time:  1H 48M
7.  Station Time:  22H 12M
8.  Fuel: 2215 GAL
9.  Sky: Ptly Cldy
10. Wind: 120-T, 14 Kts
11. Sea: 120-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 150-T, 3-5 Ft
13. Barometer: 1019.7 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 20.3 C, Sea 19.5 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: On station in vicinity of WHOI buoy.

Science and Technology Log

We are at the STRATUS buoy from last year and are preparing to trigger the acoustical releases so that the glass ball floats will bring up the instruments, almost 50 of them!  it will take about 40 minutes from triggering the release until they surface and they the retrieval will begin in earnest.  We will spend the day bring them all aboard, recording the depth, serial number and condition of each of them before Dr. Weller’s group will begin downloading the data.  Then we will clean them and begin to pack them for the return to WHOI. A little background on the project first:  The purpose of the cruise was to recover and then deploy a well-instrumented surface mooring under the stratocumulus clouds found off Chile and Peru in the vicinity of 20’S and 85’W.  The mooring has been deployed for  for 3 years as a component  of the Enhanced Monitoring element of the Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate ( EPIC) programs.  Cruises for recovery and redeployment have occurred each October or November.  The science objectives of the Stratus Project are to observe the surface meteorology and air-sea exchanges of heat, freshwater, and momentum, to observe the temporal evolution of the vertical structure of the upper 500m of the ocean.  This year the Stratus project was joined by the ETL/NOAA group out of Boulder, Colorado.  The Environmental Technology Laboratory people are meteorologists who are looking at the formation of the stratocumulus clouds that are formed off the coast of Chile and Peru.  They brought and are using cloud radar and radiosondes to look at these phenomena. The Stratus moorings carry two redundant sets of meteorological sensors and the mooring line also carries a set of oceanographic instruments.  Although Acoustic rain gauges were deployed on the last 3 moorings, this year there will not be one on the buoy and there will be several more current meters and temperature gauges.  The Chlorophyll sensors will not be on the new one either.

Types of measurements taken by Stratus moorings:

  • Surface measurements
  • Subsurface measurements
  • Wind speed
  • Water temperature
  • Wind direction
  • Conductivity
  • Air temperature
  • Current speed
  • Sea Surface temp
  • Salinitybarometric pressure
  • Current direction
  • Relative humidity
  • Incoming short-wave radiation
  • Incoming long wave radiation
  • Precipitation

Most of the equipment , including the new buoy, was loaded on the R/V REVELLE in San Diego with some of the equipment being shipped to Guayaqil, Ecuador and loaded onboard in Manta, Ecuador.  The science party flew into Manta to meet the ship and we will fly out of Arica to return to the U.S. On November 15, we stopped to lower and test the acoustic releases to be used in the mooring.  They were lowered to  500,  and 1500m depths.  Jason Smith (WHOI) communicated with the releases at each depth.  After the release test two CTD casts were made to 4000m.  When we arrived at the buoy mooring ship and buoy data comparisons began.  This is a check to see whether the sensors on the mooring are still calibrated. At 7:20 the release of the glass balls was triggered and they should surface about 45 minutes later.  The small boat will go out to put a line on the mooring and bring it back to the ship.  The line will be secured on deck the the recovery will begin.  As the instruments are brought onboard they will be laid out in the order they are hung on the mooring up the starboard side of the ship and photographed and labeled by depth and type of instrument.  This is to document the condition of each instrument before cleaning begins.  Most of the instruments are covered by barnacles and a host of other organisms, this is termed Bio-fouling.  The bio-fouling is dominated by goose-neck barnacles.  These are quite thick on the buoy hull and down to 30m; some goosenecks were even found down to 135m last year.  These can be quite a problem for the data collection, for example: last year the floating SST on the buoy hull was stuck in the down position by the barnacles.  This is why it is important to document the condition of the instruments with photographs so that when you are looking at your data and it suddenly changes or stops you might get some clue as to why the flow on the current meters changes significantly in one of the sensors ( bio-fouling for example).  We will finish recovery of the instruments today and tomorrow will recover the buoy late today.

Personal Log

Went out on the zodiac in the morning to look over the buoy.  Sunny, beautiful, water was 20’C and 30 to 35′ visibility.  There were 3′ swells and it was a wonderful view of the REVELLE, see the attached photos.  Many fish around the buoy and there will be many around the back of the boat today when we bring up the mooring.  We are 800 miles off the coast of Chile and the ship is in water  of about 4400m depth.  Nothing but blue ocean all around and it is breathtaking, reminds you why oceanographers go to sea.  You are surrounded by a mysterious blue liquid and it becomes a lifelong fascination to learn what lies beneath.  We began our “Fantail Interviews” last night with the chief engineer, Paul Mauricio, Nan Galbraith, WHOI Information systems associate and Paquita Zuidema a scientist with NOAA Environmental Technology Laboratory.  We talked about their research, jobs and experiences working at sea.  Our first videos should be online today.  We will be touring the ship and video taping interviews with other science party and crew members all week as well as filming the work onboard. There is something special about being part of science as the observations are made.  Jason was checking his aerosol readings last night and sharing his graphs.  He was seeing some things he expected and some he didn’t.  Many things he was seeing had as much to do with visual observations of the changing cloud shapes and precipitation as the sensor readings.  This kind of on-site observation is irreplaceable in science and definitely what makes science exciting.  Chris Fairwell of ETL was talking about the stratocumulus formations and how the behavior of the clouds was not necessarily what was expected, but then observations in this area had never really been done before and this was really exciting.  For me as a teacher it is interesting because these are things that my students can share by logging onto the internet and seeing on various NOAA , WHOI and SIO web sites as well as many other good science web sites and no text book can hope to compare with this.  We can also e-mail these scientists to ask questions about what they are seeing and a possible explanation.  Well they just call the acoustical release and may watch is almost over which just means the real work begins:)


Debra Brice, November 12, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 12, 2003

Data from the Bridge
1. 111700Z Nov 03
2. Position: LAT: 01-55.6S, LONG: 083-46.1W
3. Course: 251-T
4. Speed: 13.9 Kts
5. Distance: 193.6 NM
6. Steaming Time: 13H 54M
7. Station Time: 00H 00M
8. Fuel: 2951 GAL
9. Sky: OvrCst
10. Wind: 200-T, 11 Kts
11. Sea: 200-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 200-T, 3-5 Ft
13. Barometer: 1011.2 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 24.2 C, Sea 23.3 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: Enroute to Stratus buoy site.

Science and Technology Log

Today is a travel day and we are on route to the site of the Stratus Buoy maintained by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The Chief Scientist for this cruise is Dr. Robert Weller, a Physical Oceanographer from Woods Hole and this is the 4th year of the Stratus Project. The science objectives of the Stratus Project are to observe the surface meteorology and air-sea exchanges of heat, fresh water, and momentum ( friction between the air and sea surface: currents), to observe the temporal evolution of the vertical structure of the upper 500 meters of the ocean, and to document and quantify the local coupling of the atmosphere in this region. Air-sea coupling under the stratus clouds is not well understood and numerical models show broad scale sensitivity over the Pacific to how the clouds and the air-sea interaction in this region are parameterized. The first three deployments of the Stratus moorings are part of EPIC.

EPIC is the Climate Variability study (CLIVAR) with the goal of investigating links between sea surface variability in the eastern tropical Pacific and the climate over the American continents. Important to that goal is an understanding of the role of clouds in the eastern Pacific in modulating the atmosphere-ocean coupling. Previous to this study we really didn’t understand how the stratus clouds were formed off this coast and off the coast of California which has a similar climate and currents. The effect of the ocean temperature and suspended particles (aerosols) on the climate are very important and in these regions are not well understood. Prior to this numerical computer models were used to predict climate changes in these regions but no real studies or observations had been made. These studies will help in the predicition of long term effects of global warming. The Stratus moorings carry two redundant sets of meteorological sensors and the mooring also carries a set of oceanographic instruments. Including Acoustic rain gauges. Acoustic rain gauges are located 50 meters below the buoy on the mooring line. The accoustical rain gauge uses the frequency of the sound of the rain drops hitting the sea surface , the sound varies with amount of rainfall rate. This is more accurate than traditional rain gauges as it averages rainfall over a given area and is not effected by wind. The WHOI Stratus buoys are the most highly instrumented bouys in use today with 31 instruments. Today we deployed two ARGO floats, for more information on ARGO floats please go to the website at: ARGO floats are a global array of three thousand free drifting profiling floats measuring temp and salinity of the upper 2000m of the ocean. Our watch went well and we deployed our float without breaking it and falling overboard (always a plus:)

Personal Log

Went to sleep last night after my watch at 4am and awoke at 10am. Met with Dr. Kermond and Viviana, the chilean teacher, to go over the science activities for the day. We took some still pictures and worked on the computers. Tomorrow we will begin some interviews with the scientists and crew. Weather was warm and humid, calm sea, some clouds and overall very pleasant. The REVELLE is a beautiful ship that has a very smooth ride, very little rolling motion. It was built in 1996 by the Navy for Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It was named after the former director of Scripps, Dr. Roger Randall Revelle. Revelle believed that the only way to truly study oceanography was to go to sea and he made it a goal while director to increase the number of ships owned by Scripps as well as make sure most if not all oceanographers at Scripps went to sea for some of their research. The REVELLE is 273′ long and 52′ 5″ wide at it’s widest point. Cruising speed of 12 knots, range is 13,000 nautical miles at 10 knots, crew of 22, with a scientific party of 37. It operates approximately 340 days a year worldwide, but mainly in the Pacific. For more information look at the Scripps home page at: Being on the ship is like being a part of oceanographic history.

Hasta Luego