Linda Kurtz: Hydrographic Surveys – Not your Mama’s Maps! August 17, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Linda Kurtz

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 12-23, 2019


Mission: Cascadia Mapping Project

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest Pacific

Date: 8/17/2019

Weather Data from the Bridge

August 17th 2019

Latitude & Longitude: 43◦ 53.055’ N 124◦ 47.003’W
Windspeed: 13 knots
Geographic Area: @10-15 miles off of the Oregon/California coast
Cruise Speed:  12 knots
Sea Temperature 20◦Celsius
Air Temperature 68◦Fahrenheit

Future hydrographer button
Is this you?

Navigation is how Fairweather knows its position and how the crew plans and follows a safe route.  (Remember navigation from the last post?)  But what “drives” where the ship goes is Hydrographic survey mission.  There is a stunning amount of sea floor that remains unmapped, as well as seafloor that has not been mapped following a major geological event like an earthquake of underwater volcano.

Why is Hydrography important?  As we talked about in the previous post, the data is used for nautical safety, creating detailed maps of the ocean floor,  setting aside areas are likely abundant undersea wildlife as conservation areas, looking at the sea floor to determine if areas are good for wind turbine placement, and most importantly to the residents off the Pacific coast, locating fault lines — especially subduction zones which can generate the largest earthquakes and cause dangerous tsunamis.

In addition to generating the data needed to update nautical charts, hydrographic surveys support a variety of activities such as port and harbor maintenance (dredging), coastal engineering (beach erosion and replenishment studies), coastal zone management, and offshore resource development. Detailed depth information and seafloor characterization is also useful in determining fisheries habitat and understanding marine geologic processes.

The history of hydrographic surveys dates back to the days of Thomas Jefferson, who ordered a survey of our young nation’s coast.   This began the practice and accompanying sciences of the coastal surveys.  The practice of surveys birthed the science of Hydrography (which we are actively conducting now) and the accompanying science of Bathymetry (which we will go into on the next post.)  This practice continues of providing nautical charts to the maritime community to ensure safe passage into American ports and safe marine travels along the 95,000 miles of U.S. Coastline. 

Want to learn more about Hydrographic Survey history?  Click on THIS LINK for the full history by the NOAA.

Scientists have tools or equipment that they use to successfully carry out their research.  Let’s take a look at a few of the tools hydrographic survey techs use:

Want to learn more about the science of SONAR? Watch the video below.

ps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ijaPa-9MDs

On board Fairweather (actually underneath it) is the survey tool call a TRANSDUCER which sends out the sonar pulses.

Multibeam sonar illustration
Multibeam sonar illustration

The transducer on Fairweather is an EM 710- multibeam echo sounder which you can learn more about HERE

The Transducer is located on the bottom of the ship and sends out 256 sonar beams at a time to the bottom of the ocean.  The frequency of the 256 beams is determined by the depth from roughly 50 pings per second to 1 ping every 10 seconds.  The active elements of the EM 710 transducers are based upon composite ceramics, a design which has several advantages, which include increased bandwidth and more precise measurements. The transducers are fully watertight units which should give many years of trouble-free operation.  This comes in handy since the device in on the bottom of Fairweather’s hull!

Here is the transducer on one of the launches:

transducer
View of transducer on a survey launch

The 256 sonar beams are sent out by the transducer simultaneously to the ocean floor, and the rate of return is how the depth of the ocean floor is determined.  The rate of pulses and width of the “swath” or sonar beam array is affected by the depth of the water.  The deeper the water, the larger the “swath” or array of sonar beams because they travel a greater distance.  The shallower the water, the “swath” or array of sonar beams becomes narrower due to lesser distance traveled by the sonar beams.

The minimum depth that this transducer can map the sea floor is less than 3 meters and the maximum depth is approximately 2000 meters (which is somewhat dependent upon array size).  Across track coverage (swath width) is up to 5.5 times water depth, to a maximum of more than 2000 meters. This echo sounder is capable of reaching deeper depths because of the lower frequency array of beams. 

The transmission beams from the EM 710 multibeam echo sonar are electronically stabilized for roll, pitch and yaw, while they receive beams are stabilized for movements. (The movement of the ship) What is roll, pitch, and yaw? See below – these are ways the Fairweather is constantly moving!

Roll, Pitch, and Yaw
Roll, Pitch, and Yaw

Since the sonar is sent through water, the variable of the water that the sonar beams are sent through must be taken into account in the data. 

Some of the variables of salt water include: conductivity (or salinity) temperature, depth, and density.

Hydrographic scientists must use tools to measure these factors in sea water, other tools are built into the hydrographic survey computer programs. 

One of the tools used by the hydrographic techs is the XBT or Expendable Bathy Thermograph that takes a measurement of temperature and depth.  The salinity of the area being tested is retrieved from the World Ocean Atlas which is data base of world oceanographic data. All of this data is transmitted back to a laptop for the hydrographers.  The XBT is an external device that is launched off of the ship to take immediate readings of the water. 

Launching the XBT:  There is a launcher which has electrodes on it, then you plug the XBT probe to the launcher and then XBT is launched into the ocean off of the back of the ship.  The electrodes transmit data through the probe via the 750-meter copper wire.  The information then passes through the copper wire, through the electrodes, along the black wire, straight to the computer where the data is collected.  This data is then loaded onto a USB then taken and loaded into the Hydrographic data processing software.  Then the data collected by the XBT is used to generate the sound speed profile, which is sent to the sonar to correct for the sound speed changes through the water column that the sonar pulses are sent through.  The water column is all of the water between the surface and seafloor. Hydrographers must understand how the sound moves through the water columns which may have different densities that will bend the sound waves.  By taking the casts, you are getting a cross section “view” of the water column on how sound waves will behave at different densities, the REFRACTION (or bending of the sound waves) effects the data.

See how the XBT is launched and data is collected below!

Videos coming soon!

The other tool is the MVP or moving vessel profiler which takes measurements of conductivity, temperature, and depth.  These are all calculated to determine the density of the water.  This is a constant fixture on the aft deck (the back of the ship) and is towed behind the Fairweather and constantly transmits data to determine the speed of sound through water.  (Since sonar waves are sound waves.)

MVP and launching wench
MVP (left) and the launching wench (right)

The sonar software uses this data to adjust the calculation of the depth, correcting for the speed of sound through water due to the changes in the density of the ocean.  The final product?  A detailed 3d model of the seafloor!

current survey area
Our current survey area! (Thanks Charles for the image!)

All of this data is run through the survey software.  See screen shots below of all the screens the hydrographers utilize in the course of their work with explanations.  (Thanks Sam!)  It’s a lot of information to take in, but hydrographic survey techs get it done 24 hours a day while we are at sea.  Amazing!  See below:

ACQ software screenshot
Hydrographic Survey “Mission Control”
HYPACK Acquisition Software
HYPACK Acquisition Software
Real time coverage map
Real time coverage map

Did You Know?  An interesting fact about sonar:  When the depth is deeper, a lower frequency of sonar is utilized.  In shallower depths, a higher sonar frequency. (Up to 900 meters, then this rule changes.)

Question of the Day:  Interested in becoming a hydrographic survey tech?  See the job description HERE.

Challenge yourself — see if you can learn and apply the new terms and phrases below and add new terms from this blog or from your research to the list!

New Terms/Phrases:

Multibeam sonar

Sound speed

Conductivity

Salinity

Sonar

Sound waves

Refraction

Water column

Roll, Pitch, and Yaw

Animals seen today:

Humpback Whale

Bathymetry and USGS friends coming soon!

Plot room
Hydro-technician Sam Candio (right) collaborating with USGS Research Geologist James Conrad and Physical Scientist Peter Dartnell.

David Madden: Land Ho! Return Home, August 2, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Madden

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

July 15 – 29, 2019

Back on land, in Tallahassee, FL

Mission: South East Fisheries Independent Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean, SE US continental shelf ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC (35°30’ N, 75°19’W) to St. Lucie Inlet, FL (27°00’N, 75°59’W)

Weather report in Tallahassee
Conditions early on Friday morning, Tallahassee, FL

Date: August 2, 2019

sunset over aft deck
Sunset aboard Pisces on my last night.

Gratitude Log:

My time on NOAA Ship Pisces is complete. Huge thanks to the folks who made it possible. I am grateful for the grand opportunity and grateful to the many people who helped me along the way. Starting with Emily and Jennifer at NOAA Teacher at Sea. They made everything smooth and easy on my end. Special thanks for allowing me to participate in Teacher at Sea this year, considering I was originally assigned to go last year. I was unable to go last year because my Dad got diagnosed with cancer right before the trip, and I elected to stay home with him during surgery and treatment. Emily, and the NOAA scientists involved, Zeb and Nate, made this year’s trip preparation a breeze. Thank you. Additionally, my Dad is doing well (and even back on the golf course)!

Processing fish
Processing fish with Mike B (the elder) and Todd K. photo by Mike B (the younger)

In some sense I was the little brother tag along on this cruise. “Aww come on, can I play?” was basically what I was saying each day to the scientists and NOAA officers. They were happy to oblige. Thank you for being patient and supportive while I learned how to work on your team.

  1. Zeb, Todd K, Todd W, and Brad were particularly helpful and knowledgeable and patient – thanks, guys!  * Thanks, Brad, for your rocks of the day.  Our minds and our chakras benefited.
  2. Thanks to my roommate, Mike B – for being a great roommate and for helping me out with a ton of things (including excellent slow mo footage of the XBT!)
  3. Thanks to the NOAA officers who were always happy to chat and tell me about how things work and about their careers. Thank you CO, XO, Jamie, Luke, Dan, and Jane. * Did you know that all NOAA officers have a college degree in a STEM field?
  4. And thank you to the scientific team of all stars: Dave H for always being hilarious, Zach for being hardworking and friendly to talk with, Mike B for being so wise and having good taste in music, Kevan, for lots of good chats during meal times, and Lauren, for making Oscar the octopus and being so friendly!
Engine Room
Just hanging out in the engine room one more time with Steve. Thanks to Steve and Garet!

Science and Technology Log

Todd W is the Senior Survey Technician. He works on Pisces full time and helped out the science team with running the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth). Todd also helped me run a few experiments, and was overall real cool with helping me find random stuff during the cruise.

In particular, Todd and I, with Mike B’s help, tricked out the CTD to investigate how colors change with depth. We arts-and-crafted a few color strips and secured them to the CTD along with some GoPros to record video. We wanted to see what happened to various colors as the CTD descended to depth (~90m). See what it looked like at the top vs. the bottom (image below). You can see clearly that indeed the red color disappeared soonest while most everything took on a blue tone. This is because red is the longest wavelength on the visible spectrum and therefore the lowest energy (~ 700 nm); it’s the most easily absorbed by the water. Conversely, blue light has a shorter wavelength (~400 nm), and this means higher frequency and higher energy. I made a video with the footage we collected – coming soon. When it comes out you can see for yourself the reds disappear and the colors shift to blue. We also secured a Styrofoam cup to the CTD in order to watch what happens as the pressure increases on the way down. *See here for my pressure video covering similar topics. The CTD only went down to around 90 meters, but that was still enough to increase the pressure from 1 atm to around 9 atm. This nine fold increase shrunk the cup around 12%. Todd tells stories of taking Styrofoam manikin heads down to 300 + meters and watching them shrink to the size of a shot glass.

testing color and pressure
Science lab aboard the CTD – testing color and pressure.

In addition to CTD excitement, Todd let me conduct an XBT launch. XBT stands for Expendable Bathythermograph. * This cruise had the highest density of acronyms of any experience in my life. Geez. Here’s a link from NOAA describing XBTs.  And my pictures below.

 

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Bravo, Todd & NOAA Ship Pisces – you got me!!

XBT certificate
Don’t worry, my XBT bravery and expertise didn’t go unrewarded.

Neato Fact:

We stopped by the NOAA Beaufort Lab shortly after we docked in Morehead City. Todd K was awesome and showed me around and introduced me to a series of interesting characters – it was nice to see the lab and see what everyone had been talking about. I spent a short time walking near the sea wall outside the lab. I ran into Larisa who pointed out two cute baby green sea turtles. She said that recently they’ve started coming into the inlet to feed.  Related neato fact: Hawksbill sea turtles have been shown to exhibit biofluorescence.

Baby green sea turtle.
Baby green sea turtle.

Personal Log

It’s good to be back on land, and fun to trade the breezy blue ocean seascape for the hot humid green treescape of Tallahassee. I’m busy trying to process the information from the trip and figure out ways to incorporate it into my teaching and lesson plans. Surely it’ll take two forms – a little bit of distilling and planning now, and a slow seep of info from memories later. I’m hoping the trickle of revisited memories pop up at opportune times during the school year for me to take advantage. We’ll see.

I’m back to school in a few days.  This is the last full blog. Coming up I’ll post some quick hit blogs with links to some videos. Stay tuned.

Sunset
Until we meet again!

Jill Bartolotta: Sounds of the Deep, June 5, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 5, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 29°01.5’ N

Longitude: 079°16.0’ W

Wave Height: 2 feet

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Wind Direction: 128

Visibility: 10 nm

Air Temperature: 27.7°C

Barometric Pressure: 1021.3

Sky: few

Science and Technology Log

What is sonar?

Sonar is the use of sound to describe the marine environment. Sonar can be compared to satellites that use light to provide information about Earth, but instead of light, sound is used. It is used to develop nautical charts, detect hazards under the water, find shipwrecks, learn about characteristics of the water column such as biomass, and map the ocean floor. There are two types of sonar, active and passive. Active sonar is sonar that sends out its own sound wave. The sonar sends a sound wave (ping) out into the water and then waits for the sound to return. The return sound signal is called an echo. By assessing the time, angle, and strength of the return sound wave or echo one can learn many details about the marine environment. Passive sonar does not actively send out a sound ping, but rather listens for the sound from other objects or organisms in the water. These objects may be other vessels and these organisms may be whales or marine ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Sound waves move through the water at different speeds. These speeds are known as frequencies and the unit of measurement for sound is a hertz (Hz). Lower frequencies (example 18 kHz) are able to go farther down because they move slower and have more power behind them. It is like when a car goes down your street, pumping the bass (always seems to happen when I am trying to sleep) and you can hear it for a long time. That is because it is a low frequency and has longer wave lengths. Higher frequencies (example 200 kHz) move faster, but have less power. The sound waves should reach the bottom, an object, or biomass in the water column, but there may be no return or echo. High frequency sound waves are closer together. High frequencies give you a good image of what is happening near the surface of the water column and low frequencies give you a good idea of what is happening near, on, or under the ocean floor.

Type of Sonar on Okeanos Explorer

There are many types of sonar and other equipment aboard Okeanos Explorer for use during mapping operations. All have different capabilities and purposes. Together they provide a complete sound image of what is happening below us.

Kongsberg EM302 Multibeam Sonar

Multibeam sonar sends sound out into the water in a fan pattern below the hull (bottom) of the ship. It is able to map broad areas of the water column and seafloor from depths of 10 meters to 7,000 meters. Only the deepest trenches are out of its reach. It is the most appropriate sonar system to map seafloor features such as canyons and seamounts. The fan like beam it emits is 3-5.5x the water depth with a max swath range of 8 km. However, when you get to its depths below 5,000 meters the quality of the sound return is poor so scientists keep the swath range narrower to provide a higher quality of data return. The widest swath area scientists can use while maintaining quality is a depth of 3,300-5,000 meters. The user interface uses a color gradient to show you seafloor features (red=shallow and purple=deep).

Swath ranges for the multibeam sona
Swath ranges for the multibeam sonar at various depths. The y-axis shows the water depth in meters and the x-axis shows the swath width in meters. Photo credit: SST Charlie Wilkins, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
Multibeam Sonar information
Some of the information that is collected using the multibeam sonar with labels describing their purpose. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Backscatter

Backscatter uses the same pings from the multibeam. People use backscatter to model or predict physical or biological properties and composition of the sea floor. The coloring typically is in grayscale. A stronger echo looks brighter in the image. A weaker echo looks darker in the image. It gives you a birds-eye view of seafloor characteristics such as substrate density and seafloor features.

Backscatter and Bathymetry
Top image is backscatter showing you a birds-eye view of the ocean floor. The bottom image shows you what it looks like when backscatter is overlaid over the bathymetry layer. You are able to see intensity of the sound return, but floor features are more noticeable. Photo credit: NOAA OER

XBT

An Expendable Bathy-Thermograph (XBT) provides you with information on the temperature gradients within the water. When the temperature profile is applied to a salinity profile (taken from World Ocean Atlas) you are able to determine sound velocity or the rate at which the sound waves can travel through the water. When sound moves through water it does not move in a straight line. Its path is affected by density which is determined by water type (freshwater or saltwater) and temperature. Freshwater is less dense than saltwater and cold water is denser than warm water. The XBT information accounts for sound refraction (bending) through various water densities. When near shore XBTs are launched more frequently because the freshwater inputs from land alter density of the water and temperatures in the water column are more varied. XBTs are launched less frequently when farther from shore since freshwater inputs are reduced or nonexistent and the water column temperature is more stable. However, ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream (affecting us on this cruise) can affect density as well. The Gulf Stream brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico around the tip of Florida and along the eastern coast of the United States. Therefore, one must also take into account which ocean currents are present in the region when determining the launch schedule of XBTs.

Loading the XBT Launcher
Senior Survey Technician Charlie Wilkins and Explorer in Training, Jahnelle Howe, loading the XBT launcher. XBTs are launched off the stern of the ship.
XBT Capture
Sound speed or velocity is determined by the density of the water, which is determined by temperature and salinity. Focus on the blue line in each graph. The first graph takes the information from the temperature and salinity graphs to determine sound speed. If we look at the first graph, we see that sound speed slows with depth. Sound speed slows because according to the second graph the temperature is colder making the water denser, thus affecting sound speed. Salinity does not vary much according to the third graph so its effect on density is most likely limited. Photo credit: NOAA OER

Simrad EK60 and EK80 Split-beam Sonar

Split-beam sonar sends out sound in single beam of sound (not a fan like the multibeam). Each transducer sends out its own frequency (example 18 kHz, 38 kHz, 70 KHz, 120 kHz, and 200 kHz). Some frequencies are run at the same time during mapping operations. Mapping operations typically do not use the 38 kHz frequency since it interferes with the multibeam sonar. Data collected with the use of the EK60 or EK80 provides information about the water column such as gaseous seeps, schools of fish, and other types of dense organism communities such as zooplankton. If you remember my “did you know” from the second blog, I discussed how sonar can be used to show the vertical diurnal migration of organisms. Well the EK60 or EK80 is the equipment that allows us to see these biological water column communities and their movements.

Water column information
Water column information collected with the EK60 or EK80 split beam sonar. If you look at the first row you can see, in the image to the left, the blue dots are at the top and in the second image the blue dots are moving back down into the water column as the sun rises. The process of organisms’ movement in the water column at night to feed is known as vertical diurnal migration. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Knudsen 3260 Sub-bottom Profiler

The purpose of using a sub-bottom profiler is to learn more about the layers (up to 80 meters) below the ocean floor. It works in conjunction with the sonar mapping the ocean floor to provide more information about the bottom substrate, such as sediment type and topography features. Sub-bottom data is used by geologists to better understand the top layers of the ocean floor. A very low frequency is used (3.5 kHz) because it needs to penetrate the ocean sediment. It will give you a cross section of the sea floor so floor features can be detected.

Cross section of the ocean seafloor
Cross section of the ocean seafloor shows you substrate characteristics. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Telepresence

Telepresence aboard the ship allows the science team to get mapping products and raw data to land on a daily basis. The science team can also live feed data collection to shore in real time. By allowing a land based shore team to see the data in real time you are adding another system of checks and balances. It is one more set of eyes to make sure the data being collected looks correct and there are no issues. It also allows a more collaborative approach to mapping, since you are able to involve a worldwide audience in the mission. Public viewers can tune in as well.  Support for the technology needed to allow telepresence capabilities comes in partnership with the Global Foundation of Ocean Exploration (GFOE). With GFOE’s help, the protocols, high-speed satellite networks, Internet services, web and social media interfaces, and many other tools are accessible when out to sea. The NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER) provides the experts needed to develop, maintain, and operate the telepresence systems while at sea, but also at shore through the Exploration Command Centers (ECCs) and the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center.

Live interaction
Live interaction with Okeanos Explorer, Inner Space Center at URI/GSO, and a group of high school students. Photo credit: NOAA OER

All in all, the equipment aboard Okeanos Explorer is impressive in its abilities to provide the science team with a high quality and accurate depiction of the ocean floor and water column. The science team aboard is able to interpret the data, clean out unwanted data points, store massive data files on computers, and send it back to land daily, all while rocking away at sea. Very impressive and very cool!

Personal Log

I learned all about memes today. Apparently they are very popular on the ship. So popular, we are even in the middle of a meme contest. For those of you unfamiliar to memes like I was, a meme is a funny picture with a clever caption that makes you laugh or relates to something in your life. After my tutorial in meme making, we had a great time out on the bow of the ship playing corn hole and hanging out. The night was beautiful. The humidity subsided and there was a great breeze. After the sun set, I watched the stars come out and then went inside to learn more about the mapping process. I am starting to get a better understanding of what the science team is doing. You know the how and the why of it all. After I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, I made my nightly venture out onto the bow to look from some bioluminescence, the glittering of zooplankton in the night. A magical site. I will leave you wondering how the ocean glitters until one of my future blogs when I describe the process of bioluminescence.

Corn hole
General Vessel Assistant Sidney Dunn (left) and General Vessel Assistant Christian Lebron (right) playing corn hole on the bow at sunset.

Did You Know?

The SOFAR (Sound Fixing and Ranging) channel occurs in the world’s oceans between depths of 800 to 1000 meters in the water column. Because of the density and pressure around this channel, sound waves travel for an extended distance. It is thought that fin whales travel to this channel to communicate with other fin whales many kilometers away.

Meredith Salmon: Xtreme XBTs, July 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Geographic Area:  Atlantic Ocean, south of Bermuda

Date: July 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge – July 14, 2018

Latitude: 28.58°N

Longitude: 65.48°W

Air Temperature: 27.4°C

Wind Speed:  13.96 knots

Conditions: Rain and clouds

Depth: 5183 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

Temperature and salinity are two main variables when determining the density of water. The density of water or any acoustic medium is a very important factor in determining the speed of sound in water. Therefore, temperature data collected by Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) probes, as well as historical salinity profiles from the World Ocean Atlas, are used to create sound velocity profiles to use to correct for sound speed changes in the water column.

Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) probes are devices that are used to measure water temperature as a function of depth. Small copper wires transmit the temperature data back to the ship where it is recorded and analyzed. At first, I was surprised to learn that temperature data is such an important component of multibeam mapping operations; however, I learned that scientists need to know how fast the sound waves emitted from the sonar unit travel through seawater. Since these probes are designed to fall at a determined rate, the depth of the probe can be inferred from the time it was launched. By plotting temperature as a function of depth, the scientists can get a picture of the temperature profile of the water.

On our expedition, we have been deploying XBTs on a schedule as the ship is making its way to the survey area. The XBT Launcher is connected to a deck box, which translates information to computer systems onboard so the data can be logged when the probes are deployed into the water. Aboard the Okeanos Explorer, up to 8 tubes can be loaded at one time and launched by scientists.

XBT closet in the Dry Lab
XBT closet in the Dry Lab

 

XBT Launcher
XBT Launcher on the Okeanos

xbt 2
Loading the XBT Launcher

 

 

xbt 1
Savannah and I after a successful XBT load

 

XBT Data
XBT Data from a launch aboard the Okeanos Explorer. The colors on the graph indicate the XBT number and the data is plotted on a temperature and depth scale.

 

 In addition to launching XBTs and collecting data, we completed a Daily Product so that we can communicate the data we have collected to anyone on shore. The Daily Products are completed not only to ensure that the hydrographic software systems are working correctly but to also inform the public our current location, where we have collected data, and if we are meeting the objectives of the mission. Once onshore, NOAA uses this information to analyze the quality of the data and use it for analysis for dive planning. In order to generate the Daily Field Products, we use hydrographic computer systems such as QPS Qimera for advanced multibeam bathymetry processing, Fledermaus for 4D geo-spatial processing, and Geocap Seafloor for digital terrain modeling. In addition, the Daily Field Products allow us to double check the quality of the data and search for any noise interferences due to the speed of the ship or the type of seafloor bottom (hard vs soft).

 

Personal Log

One of the coolest parts of learning aboard the Okeanos Explorer is the fact that I am a part of scientific exploration and discovery in real time.  Known as “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration,” the Okeanos Explorer is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to systematically explore our largely unknown ocean for the sole purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. This is the first U.S.-led mapping effort in support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation and all of this information is going to be available for public use. Not only do I get the opportunity to be involved with “real-time” research, but I am also responsible for communicating this information to a variety of different parties on shore.

Being immersed in the “hands-on” science, learning from the survey techs and watch leads, and observing all of the work that is being done to collect, process, and analyze the data is a really exciting experience. I am definitely out of my element when it comes to the content since I do not have any prior experience with seafloor mapping, sonars, etc., but I am really enjoying playing the role as the “student” in this situation. There is definitely a lot to learn and I am trying to soak it all in!

 

Did You Know?

XBTs contain approximately 1,500 meters of copper wire that is as thin as a strand of hair!

 

Resources: 

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/goos/xbtscience/news.php

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/xbt.html

Nichia Huxtable: Time to Make a Map, May 8, 2016

Sunset XBT deployment off Shimada

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Nichia Huxtable

Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

April 28 – May 9, 2016

Mission: Mapping CINMS
Geographical area of cruise: Channel Islands, California
Date: May 8, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge:

Science and Technology Log

Seafloor in CINMS
Seafloor in the CINMS

In previous posts, I’ve discussed the ME70 multibeam sonar on board Shimada. You’d think that I’ve told you all there is to know about the wondrous data this piece of equipment provides, but oh, no, dear readers, I’ve merely scraped the surface of that proverbial iceberg. In this post, I will explain how the raw data from the ME70 is used to create important seafloor maps. Heck, I’ll even throw in a shipwreck! Everyone loves shipwrecks.

Nichia Huxtable, Diana Watters, ME70, and EK60; aboard Shimada
Nichia Huxtable, Diana Watters, ME70, and EK60; aboard Shimada

Back to the multibeam. As you may remember, the ME70 uses many beams of sonar to capture a 60 degree image of the water column. It collects A LOT of data, one survey line at a time. Lots of data are good, right? Well, if you want to map the bottom of the ocean, you don’t need ALL the data collected by the ME70, you just need some of it. Take, for example, fish. You don’t want big balls of fish obscuring your view of the seafloor, you just want the seafloor! Leave the schools of fish for Fabio.

Kayla Johnson aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
Mapping maven Kayla Johnson

The person you need to make your seafloor map is Kayla Johnson. First, she sends the raw data to a program called MatLab. This nifty software separates the bottom data from all the other stuff in the water column and packages it in something called a .gsf file. Next, this .gsf file goes to this huge processing program called CARIS HIPS, where it is converted into an something called HDCS data.

You’d think that all you’d need to make an accurate seafloor map would be data from the multibeam, but it is actually much more complicated than that (of course you knew that! just look at how long this blog post is). Think about it: while you’re running your survey lines and collecting data, the ocean and, therefore, the ship are MOVING. The ship is heaving, rolling, and pitching, it’s travelling in different directions depending on the survey line, the tides are coming in and out, the temperature and salinity of the water varies, etc. etc. All of these variables affect the data collected by the ME70 and, hence, must be accounted for in the CARIS software. Remember how I said it was HUGE? This is why.

Cross-section of the topography found in the CINMS
Cross-section of the topography found in the CINMS

Everyone still with me? Ok, let’s continue processing this data so that Kayla can make our beautiful map. Next up, she’s going to have to load data into CARIS from the POS. POSMV (POSition of Marine Vehicles) is a software interface used on the ship that collects real-time data on where we are in relation to the water (heave, pitch, and roll).  She’s also going to load into CARIS the local tide information, since the ship will be closer to the seafloor at low tide than at high. Not including tidal change is a good way to get a messed-up map! Once the POSMV and tide files are loaded into CARIS, they are applied to the survey line.

Completed map around San Miguel Island
Completed map around San Miguel Island

Next, Kayla has to compute the TPU (Total Propagated Uncertainty). I could spend the next four paragraphs explaining what it is and how it’s computed, but I really don’t feel like writing it and you probably wouldn’t want to read it. Let’s just say that nothing in life is 100% certain, so the TPU accounts for those little uncertainties.

Since the data was collected using multiple beams at a wide angle, there will be beams returning bad data, especially at the edges of the collection zone. Sometime a bad data point could be a fish, but most often bad data happens when there is an abrupt change in seafloor elevation and the beams can’t find the bottom. So, Kayla will need to manually clean out these bad data points in order to get a clean picture of the seafloor.

Almost done! Last, Kayla makes the surface. All the data points are gridded to a certain resolution based on depth (lots of explanation skipped here…you’re welcome), with the end result being a pretty, pretty picture of the bottom of the seafloor. Phew, we made it! These seafloor maps are incredibly important and have numerous applications, including fisheries management, nautical charting, and searching for missing airplanes and shipwrecks (see! I told you there would be a shipwreck!). I’ll be getting into the importance of this mapping cruise to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary in my final post, so stay tuned.

Endnote: A word about XBTs                                                                                                      

Deploying an XBT off Shimada
Deploying an XBT off Shimada

 Before all your data are processed, you need to know how fast the sound waves are travelling through the water. When sound is moving through water, changes in temperature and salinity can bend the wave, altering your data. An XBT is an expendable bathythermograph that is sent overboard every four hours. It transmits temperature and salinity readings throughout its quick trip to the ocean bottom, allowing the computer to make data adjustments, as needed.

 

 

Did You Know?
Hey, you’ve made it to the bottom of this post! If you are interested in seafloor mapping, have I got an institute of higher learning for you. The College of Charleston has a program called BEAMS, which trains future ocean surveyors and includes a course called Bathymetric Mappings. Three of the hip young scientists on board have taken this course and it seems to be pretty amazing. If you love sailing the high seas AND data processing, you might want to check it out.

Cristina Veresan, Lights, Camera, Ocean! August 13, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cristina Veresan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 28 – August 16, 2015 

Mission: Walleye Pollock Acoustic-Trawl survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Wednesday, August 13, 2015

Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 59° 18.31’N
Longitude: 141° 36.22’W
Sky: Overcast
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 358
Wind speed: 8 knots
Sea Wave Height: < 1 feet
Swell Wave: 2-3 feet
Sea Water Temperature: 16.2°C
Dry Temperature: 15°C

Science and Technology Log

When my shift begins at 4am, I often get to participate in a few “camera drops” before the sun comes up and we begin sailing our transect lines looking for fish. We are conducting the “camera drops” on a grid of 5 km squares provided by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center bottom trawl survey that shows whether the seafloor across the Gulf of Alaska is “trawlable” or “untrawlable” based on several criteria to that survey. The DropCam footage, used in conjunction with a multi-beam echosounder, helps verify the “trawlability” designation and also helps identify and measure fish seen with the echosounder.

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The Drop Camera being deployed

The DropCam is made up of strobe lights and two cameras, one color and one black and white, contained in a steel frame. The cameras shoot in stereo, calibrated so scientists can get measurements from rocks, fish, and anything else on the images. When the ship is stopped, the DropCam can be deployed on a hydrowire by the deck crew and Survey Tech. In the Chem Lab, the wire can be moved up and down by a joystick connected to a winch on deck while the DropCam images are being viewed on a computer monitor. The ship drifts with  the current so the camera moves over the seafloor at about a knot, but you still have to “drive” with the joystick to move it up and down, keeping close to the bottom while avoiding obstacles. The bottom time is 15 minutes for each drop. It’s fun to watch the footage in real-time, and often we see really cool creatures as we explore the ocean floor! The images from the DropCam are later analyzed to identify and length fish species, count number of individual fish, and classify substrate type.

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Emily “drives” the camera from the Chem Lab as the sun begins to rise

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DropCam images (clockwise from top left) a skate, brittle stars, a cruising halibut, two rockfish in rocky habitat

Technology enables scientists to collect physical oceanographic data as well. The Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) is a probe that is dropped from a ship and measures the temperature as it falls through the water column. The depth is calculated by a known fall rate. A very thin copper wire transmits the data to the ship where it is recorded in real-time for later analysis. You launch the probe from a hand-held plastic launcher tube; after pulling out the pin, the probe slides out the tube. We also use a Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) aboard the Oscar Dyson; a CTD is an electronic device used by oceanographers to measure salinity through conductivity, as well as temperature and pressure. The CTD’s sensors are mounted on a steel frame and can also include sensors for oxygen, fluorescence and collecting bottles for water samples. However, to deploy a CTD, the ship must be stopped and the heavy CTD carousel lowered on a hydrowire. The hand-held XBT does not require the ship to slow down or otherwise interfere with normal operations. We launch XBT’s twice a day on our survey to monitor water temperatures for use with the multi beam echosounder.

xbt
Cristina launching the XBT probe Photo by Alyssa Pourmonir

ctd
Survey Tech Alyssa servicing the CTD carousel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shipmate Spotlight: An Interview with Ensign Benjamin Kaiser

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Ensign Benjamin Kaiser, NOAA Corps

Tell me a little more about the NOAA Corps?
We facilitate NOAA scientific operations aboard NOAA vessels like hydrographic work making charts, fisheries data collection, and oceanographic research.

What do you do up on the bridge?
I am a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD), so when I am on the bridge driving the ship, I am accompanied by an Officer of the Deck (OOD). I am on my way to becoming an OOD. For that you need 120 days at sea, a detailed workbook completed, and the Commanding Officer’s approval.

What education or training is required for your position?
I have an undergraduate degree in Marine Science from Boston University. My training for NOAA Corps was 19 weeks at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut– essentially going through Coast Guard Officer Candidate School.

What motivated you to join the NOAA Corps?
A friend of mine was an observer on a fisheries boat, and she told me about the NOAA Corps. When I was in high school and college, I didn’t know it was an option. We’re a small service, so recruiting is limited; there’s approximately 320 officers in the NOAA Corps.

What do you enjoy the most about your work?
I love not being in an office all the time. In the NOAA Corps, the expectation is two years at sea and then a land assignment. The flexibility appeals to me because I don’t want to be pigeonholed into one thing. There are so many opportunities to learn new skills. Like, this year I got advanced dive training for Nitrox and dry suit. I don’t have any regrets about this career path.

What is the most challenging part of your work?
There’s a steep learning curve. At this stage, I have to be like a sponge and take everything in and there’s so much to learn. That, and just getting used to shipboard life. It is difficult to find time to work out and the days are long.

What are your duties aboard the Oscar Dyson?
I am on duty 12pm to midnight, rotating between working on the bridge and other duties. I am the ship’s Safety Officer, so I help make sure the vessel is safely operating and coordinate drills with the Commanding Officer. I am also the Training Officer, so I have to arrange the officers’ and crew members’ training schedules. I am also in charge of morale/wellness, ship’s store, keys, radios, and inspections, to name a few.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a marine career?
I grew up in Rhode Island and was an ocean kid. I loved sailing and swimming, and I always knew I would have an ocean-related career.

How would a student who wanted to join the NOAA Corps need to prepare?

Students would need an undergraduate degree from a college or university, preferably in a STEM field. Students could also graduate from a Maritime Academy. When they go to Officer Candidate School, they need to be prepared for a tough first week with people yelling at them. Then there’s long days of working out, nautical science class, drill work, homework, and lights out by 10pm!

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy rock climbing, competitive swimming, hiking, and sailing.

What do you miss most while working at sea?
There’s no rock climbing!

What is your favorite marine creature?
Sailfish because they are fast and cool.

Inside the Oscar Dyson: The Chem Lab

chemlab

This lab is called the Chem Lab (short for Chemical). For our survey, we don’t have that many chemicals, but it is a dry lab with counters for workspace when needed. This room is adjacent to the wet lab through a watertight door, so in between trawls, Emily and I spend a lot of time here.  In the Chem Lab, we charge batteries for the CamTrawl and the DropCam. There are also two computer stations for downloading data, AutoLength analysis, and any other work (like blogging!). There is a window port to the Hero Deck, where the CTD and DropCam are deployed from. In the fume hood, we store Methot net samples in bottles of formalin. There is a microscope for viewing samples. Note the rolling chairs have their wheels removed and there are tie-downs on cases so they are safer at sea. Major cribbage tournaments are also played in this room!

Personal Log

It has been so calm on this cruise, but I have to say that I was looking forward to some bigger waves! Well, Sunday night to yesterday afternoon we experienced some rain and rough seas due to a nearby storm. For a while the ship would do big rolling motions and then a quick lurchy crash. Sea waves were about 2 feet in height, but the swell waves were over 5 feet at times. When I was moving about the ship, I’d have to keep a hand on a rail or something else secured. In the wet lab while I was working, I would lean against the counter and keep my feet spread apart for better balance.

waves
Seas picked up and the ship was rocking and rolling!

Remember the Methot net? It is the smaller net used to catch macroplankton. We deployed one this week and once it came out of the water, it was rinsed and the codend was unscrewed. When we got the codend into the wet lab, we realized it was exclusively krill!

methotlaunch
The Methot net is deployed by the Survey Tech and deck crew members

Krill
#krillfordays

Krill are  small crustaceans that are found in all the world’s oceans. Krill eat plant plankton (phytoplankton), so they are near the bottom of many marine food chains and fed on by creatures varying from fish like pollock to baleen whales like humpbacks. They are not so small that you need a microscope to see them, but they are tiny. We took a subsample and preserved it and then another subsample to count individuals…there were over 800 krill in just that one scoop! Luckily, we had them spread out on a board and made piles of ten so we did not lose count. It was tedious work moving individual krill with the forceps! I much prefer counting big things.

I love it when there is diversity among the catch from the AWT trawls. And, we caught some very memorable and unique fish this week.  First was a beautiful Shortraker Rockfish (Sebastes borealis). Remember, like the Pacific Ocean Perch, its eyes bulge when its brought up from depth. The Shortraker Rockfish is an open-water, demersal species and can be one of the longest lived of all fish. There have  been huge individuals caught in Alaskan waters that are over 100 years old. This fish was not particularly big for a Shortraker, but I was impressed at its size. It was probably my age.

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Holding a Shortraker Rockfish. Photo by Emily Collins

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Smooth Lumpsucker fish: so ugly it’s cute?! Photo by Mackenzie Wilson

We also caught a Smooth Lumpsucker (Aptocyclus ventricosus). It was inflated because it was brought up from depth, a form of barotrauma. This scaleless fish got its name for being shaped like a “lump” and having an adhesive disc-shaped “sucker.” The “sucker,” modified pelvic fins, are located ventrally and used to adhere to substrate. These pelagic fish are exclusively found in cold waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic, and North Pacific. The lumpsucker fish, and its roe (eggs) are considered delicacies in Iceland and some other countries.

lumpsucker
You can see the “sucker” on the bottom of its body. Photo by Mackenzie Wilson

Pollock are pretty slimy and they have tiny scales, so when we process them, everything gets covered with a kind of speckled grey ooze. However, when we trawled the other day and got a haul that was almost entirely Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii), I was amazed at their scales. For small fish, the herring had scales that were quite large and glistened like silvery sequins. The herring’s backs are an iridescent greenish-blue, and they have silver sides and bellies. The silver color comes from embedded guanine crystals, leading to an effective camouflage phenomenon in open water.

As this last week comes to a close, I am not ready to say goodbye…

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Herring scales are nature’s sequins

Vincent Colombo, Dynamic Positioning, June 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vincent Colombo
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 11 – 30, 2015

Mission: Annual Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: The Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 15, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge:

  • Wind Speed: 4.52 knots
  • Sea Temperature: 8.5 degrees C
  • Air Temperature: 6.4 degrees C
  • Air Pressure: 1034.33 mb

A United States Coast Guard Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk flying over the Oscar Dyson
A United States Coast Guard Sikorsky MH-60 Jayhawk flying over the deck of the Oscar Dyson

Science and Technology Log:

Are you a morning person? How about a night owl? Well if you said yes to the first question, then Alaska during the summer is your place to be. Currently where we are right now, the sun officially rises at 5:08 and sets at 23:12 (that’s 11:12 pm for those of you not used to 24 hour format). But, do not think that it means it turns dark by any means. Sunrise and Sunset are when the sun is officially seen, or disappears on the horizon respectively. So far in my time spent here in Alaska, I have only seen it dark for about one hour.

The 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth exaggerates the effect of the sun during the time around a solstice
The 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth exaggerates the effect of the sun during the time around a solstice

The reason why is easily explained, seasons. Students in Delaware learn about seasons in 8th grade, and again if they take Physics or Astronomy in high school. The tilt of the earth causes the northern hemisphere to be more exposed to the sun for longer periods of time. Thus the concept of day and night is greatly changed.

In order to fully grasp this concept, you must also understand why it never gets dark either. The term we use is twilight, or the time between darkness and sunrise in the morning,  and sunset and complete darkness in the evening. Twilight is also defined as when there is light outside, but the sun is below the horizon.

There are 3 types of twilight: civil, nautical, and astronomical.

  • Civil twilight occurs when the Sun is between 0 degrees and 6 degrees below the horizon. In the morning, civil twilight begins when the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon and ends at sunrise. In the evening, it begins at sunset and ends when the Sun reaches 6 degrees below the horizon. Typically civil twilight begins and ends one half hour before or after sunrise or sunset. Most outdoorsmen know this as the 1/2 hour before and after rule. If you’re a deer hunter, civil twilight signifies legal shooting time has begun or ended.
  • Nautical twilight occurs when the geometrical center of the Sun is between 6 degrees and 12 degrees below the horizon. Nautical twilight is usually an hour before and after sunset. This twilight period is less bright than civil twilight and artificial light is generally required for activities.The term, nautical twilight, dates back to the time when sailors used the stars to navigate the seas. During this time, observers on Earth can easily see most stars. Although not completely dark outside, one could safely get around.
  • Last is Astronomical twilight, and this occurs when the Sun is between 12 degrees and 18 degrees below the horizon. In the morning, the sky is completely dark before the onset of the astronomical twilight, and in the evening, the sky becomes completely dark at the end of astronomical twilight. This is typically an hour and a half before or after sunrise or sunset respectively.
  • During the summer months, especially around the Summer Solstice, the North and South Poles experience several days with no complete darkness at all. Currently our civil, nautical, and astronomical twilights are exaggerated, only leaving about an hour of actual darkness.

My next scientific topic I would like to discuss is the system the vessel Oscar Dyson uses called Dynamic Positioning. When we were calibrating the acoustic equipment in my last post, the ship did not move more than 0.3 meters in any direction.

Dynamic positioning diagram
Dynamic positioning diagram

The ship uses GPS systems to hold it in one single place for a period of time. Using a minimum of three satellites and triangulation, the ship’s position is able to be maintained. The ship uses its main engines as well as bow thrusters to keep it steady in one position.  I was also introduced to some new vocabulary:

  • surge: moving the ship forward or back (astern)
  • sway: moving the ship starboard (right) or left (port)
  • heave: moving the ship up or down
  • roll: the rotation about surge axis
  • pitch: the rotation about sway axis
  • yaw: the rotation about heave axis

How a ship is able to maintain it's position
How a ship is able to maintain its position

Not only can the ship stay in one position, I also learned that it can stay in one position over a column of water, which is vital for a research ship like the Oscar Dyson when conducting research one specific area of the ocean.

A view of the dynamic positioning monitor from the bridge
A view of the dynamic positioning monitor from the bridge

A view of the current state of the rudder of the ship. It changes as the dynamic positioning controls the ship
A view of the current state of the rudder of the ship. It changes as the dynamic positioning controls the ship

The bow thruster control on the bridge of the ship
The bow thruster control on the bridge of the ship

Personal Log:

It took us almost three days to reach where the scientific study was to begin. For those of you who know me, it is hard for me to stay in one place for an extended period of time. Luckily the ship has an abundance of DVDs to watch, Direct TV and a fantastic galley (aka kitchen) to make it feel more like home. I can honestly say the food is some of the best I have ever eaten.

Luckily (knocking on wood), our ship has not hit any rough seas. It has taken a day or so to get used to the rocking, just make sure you have a free hand to grab hold of something when moving about.

Underway, I got to deploy the first An Expendable Bathy Thermograph or XBT for short. You can find out more by going to this NOAA website: XBT uses

Getting briefed on use of the sensor
Getting briefed on use of the sensor. Notice I am harnessed in.

Deploying the sensor
Deploying the sensor

According to our Executive Officer, LT Carl Rhodes, we will be seeing some AMAZING Alaskan geography including volcanoes. Check back for some awesome photos.

Did You Know?

Most modern oil rigs are not fixed to the sea floor! They also use dynamic positioning. Learn more about dynamic positioning here.

 

DJ Kast, Pre-Cruise, May 18, 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 18, 2015 (Pre-cruise)

Personal Log

Chris Melrose picked me up from the hotel and really helped me get a grasp of life aboard a research vessel. I learned all about Narragansett Bay and the lab here in Rhode Island.

I then met Jerry Prezioso, the Chief Scientist for the voyage, who gave me a great tour of the Narragansett Bay Lab. I learned what an XBT (expendable bathythermograph) was and how it measures temperature at various depths.

XBT  Photo by: DJ Kast
XBT
Photo by: DJ Kast

 

I learned how a Niskin bottle works and how many Niskin bottles lined up in a circle to make a piece of equipment called a rosette. The Niskin bottle is like a hollow tube with a mechanism that closes the tube at a specific depth that will then bring a water sample indicative of that depth. They apparently cost $400 each.  I am already making plans on how to make a DYI one for the classroom.

Niskin Bottle Photo by: DJ Kast
Niskin Bottle
Photo by: DJ Kast

This is a Rosette with 12 niskin bottles. Photo by: DJ Kast
This is a Rosette with 12 niskin bottles. Photo by: DJ Kast

With Jerry, I also met Ruth Briggs who works for the Narragansett Bay Apex Predators division and she showed me the shark tags that she has citizen scientists put onto sharks on the base of their dorsal (top) fin that they catch. When the sharks are caught again, the information she requests is sent back to her and includes species, size, sex, location to shore, and weight. She even let me borrow a decommissioned tag to show to my students in California.

Decommissioned shark tag from the Narragansett Bay Apex Predators Division Photo by: DJ Kast
Decommissioned shark tag from the Narragansett Bay Apex Predators Division
Photo by: DJ Kast

 

I saw a drifter buoy that I will be decorating with all of my programs (USC, JEP, YSP and NAI) logos.

Jerry also sent me the map of all the stations that we will be visiting on our ship and at each station we are projected to measure salinity, depth, temperature, nutrients and plankton! I am so excited! We are expected to go as far south as North Carolina and as far north as the Bay of Fundy in Canada (International Waters!!!).

TAS and the NOAA Ship Arrival

My stateroom is amazing! My roommate and I even have our own head (bathroom) in our room with sink, shower and all. There are two beds in a bunk bed format, and since I showed up about 6 hours before the other scientists I chose the bottom bunk and the cabinet I wanted for my stuff. I unpacked (and gladly didn’t over pack) and managed to fit it all in the closet that was given to us. I feel so fortunate to have such amazing accommodations like this.

Important People who Keep the Ship Afloat and on Course

Today I met the Operations Officer, Laura, who showed me the ropes and introduced me to people on the ship at dinner at the bowling alley on the naval base here in Newport, RI. She also showed me the buoy yard filled with lots of different buoys that indicate different paths of travel and safe/unsafe waters for ships coming into port.

I entered a yard of buoys on the Newport Naval Base and here I am for a size comparison. They are HUGE!
I entered a yard of buoys on the Newport Naval Base and here I am for a size comparison. They are HUGE!

Here is a look at what happens when  a buoy is freshly painted and when its being fouled by marine organisms and algae (RUST!) Photo by: DJ Kast
Here is a look at what happens when a buoy is freshly painted and when its being fouled by marine organisms and algae (RUST!) Photo by: DJ Kast

 

Important Ship Personnel
CO: Commanding Officer
XO: Executive Officer
CME: Chief Marine Officer
OO or Ops: Operations Officer= Laura
NO: Navigational Officer or Nav= Eric
CB: Chief Boson or Deck Boss= Adrian
AB: Able Seaman or a Deckhand = Roger

Meal Schedule
I also learned about food times (Very important).
7AM- 8 AM or 0700-0800 hours= Breakfast
11- 12 PM or 1100-1200 hours= Lunch
5- 6 PM or 1700-1800 hours = Dinner

Roommate in Stateroom 2-22

 

DJ Kast on the Gateway Photo by: DJ Kast
DJ Kast on the Gangway
Photo by: DJ Kast

Here I am boarding the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow Photo by: DJ Kast
Here I am boarding the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow
Photo by: DJ Kast

 

I met my amazing roommate Megan and she is a master’s student at the University of Maine. We will sadly have opposite schedules for most of the trip because I will be on the 12 PM- 12 AM shift and she will be on the 12 AM- 12 PM shift. We have a lot of things in common including our love of the ocean, geology and Harry Potter. She will be looking at dissolved nutrients in the water and she will be monitoring the instruments that measure conductivity, temperature and depth or (CTD) and requesting water samples while at various stations.

Theresa Paulsen: Getting my Hands Dirty with Data, March 24, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Theresa Paulsen
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
March 16 – April 3, 2015

Mission:  Caribbean Exploration (Mapping)
Geographical Area:  Puerto Rico Trench
Date:  March 24, 2015

Weather from the Bridge:  Scattered Clouds, 26.6˚C, Wind 10kts from 100˚, Waves 1-2ft, swells 2-3ft

Science and Technology Log

Now that the interns have been trained in data collection and processing, it was my turn to learn.

Mapping Intern Chelsea Wegner taught me how to launch an XBT and how to process the data gathered by the multibeam sonar. It is a fairly simple procedure that requires diligent record keeping in logs.  I processed four “lines.” A line is about one hour of data collection, or shorter. Two of my lines were shorter because the sonar had to be turned off due to a whale sighting! This is bad for data collecting, but AWESOME for me! Again, I missed it with the camera, though.

Mapping Instructors
My Mapping Instructors: Intern, Chelsea Wegner; Expedition Coordinator, Meme Lobecker; and Mapping Watch Lead, Jason Meyer.

I have also been given the task of using a sun photometer to measure direct sunlight over the ocean as part of the Maritime Aerosol Network, a component of AERONET, a NASA project through the Goddard Space Flight Center.  Every two hours when the sun is shining and there are no clouds in the way of the sun, I use this tool to measure the amount of sunlight able to penetrate our atmosphere.

Using the Sun Photometer
Using the Sun Photometer

I use a GPS to determine our location and transfer that information to the sun photometer.  Then I scan the sunlight with the photometer for about 7 seconds and repeat 5 times within two minutes.  Keeping the image of the sun in the target location on the photometer while standing on a rocking boat is harder than it may look!

Sun Photometer
The little bright light in the dark circle above my right hand is the image of the sun.  It must remain in the center of the traget circle during a solar scan.

According to the Maritime Network, the photometer readings taken from ground level helps determine the Aerosol Optical Depth, meaning the fraction of the sun’s energy that is scattered or absorbed while it passes through the earth’s atmosphere. The reduction in energy is assumed to be caused by aerosols when the sunlight’s path to earth is free of clouds.  Aerosols are solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere.  Sea-salt is a major contributor over the ocean as well as smoke and dust particles from land that are lifted and transported over the oceans.  There are many stations over land that collect this data, but using ships is also important because the data is used to provide “ground truth” to satellite measurements over the entire earth, including the oceans.  The data is also used in climate change research and aerosol distribution and transport modeling.

Aerosols in our Atmosphere
“This portrait of global aerosols was produced by a GEOS-5 simulation at a 10-kilometer resolution. Dust (red) is lifted from the surface, sea salt (blue) swirls inside cyclones, smoke (green) rises from fires, and sulfate particles (white) stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions.” (NASA,Goddard website)
Image credit: William Putman, NASA/Goddard

It is pretty cool to be part of such an interesting project!  The people here are interesting too.  I thought I’d highlight some of their stories in my next few blogs.

Career Profile of Intern Chelsea Wegner

Chelsea’s story is a great example for high school students.  She graduated from a high school in Virginia that is similar in size to Ashland High School, where I teach.  Her family enjoyed spending time near the ocean and had a library of books about ocean adventures.  Her grandfather served in the Navy on Nuclear Submarines and liked to build models of ships.

Chelsea Wegner reading "My Father, the Captain:  My Life with Jacque Cousteau"  by Jean Michel Cousteau  in her free time.
Chelsea Wegner reading “My Father, the Captain: My Life with Jacque Cousteau” by Jean Michel Cousteau in her free time.

In high school, her career interests began to take shape in her Environmental Science in Oceanography class.   She went to college at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia majoring in environmental science with particular interest in geology and river systems.  She took advantage of a research opportunity studying sediment transport from rivers to the coast during her undergraduate career.  She took sediment core samples and analyzed them to determine human impacts, contamination, and dated the sediment layers.  She took more research courses that took her to the US Virgin Islands to conduct a reef survey, identifying and counting fish.  She described that as a pivotal experience that led her toward her Masters Degree in Marine Science.  Her Masters thesis project was a coastal processes study the potential effects of sea level rise on coral reefs and the corresponding coastline.  She used the connections she had in the US Virgin Islands and in her university to fund and/or support her research.

After competing her Masters Chelsea applied for a marine science and policy fellowship, the Knauss Fellowship, which allowed her to work as an assistant to the Assistant Administrator of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) within NOAA, Craig McLean, for one year.  Through this fellowship, Chelsea traveled the world to places like Vietnam, the Philippines, New Zealand, and France getting a first-hand look at how science informs marine policy and vice versa.

Chelsea learned early on that experience matters most when trying to make yourself marketable.  That is why she is here now serving as a mapping intern.  She takes the opportunity to learn every piece of equipment and software available to her.  She is a rising star in the world of science.  After this voyage, she will begin her new job as a program analyst at OAR headquarters working in the international office handling engagements with other countries such as Indonesia and Japan.  And she is only 28!

Did You Know? 

At 10 AM this morning there was tsunami drill, LANTEX (Large Atlantic Tsunami Exercise) on the east coast from Canada all the way down to the Caribbean.   So students in schools inside Tsunami-threatened areas likely participated in evacuation drills.  The test is part of NOAA National Weather service Tsunami Warning Program.  It helps governments test and evaluate their emergency protocols to improve preparedness in the event of an actual tsunami.

Question of the Day

David Murk: Do You Know Your ABCs? May 14, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Murk
Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
May 7 – 22, 2014

Mission: EX 14-03 – Exploration, East Coast Mapping
Geographical Area of Cruise: Off the Coast of Florida and Georgia – Western portion of the Blake Plateau (Stetson Mesa)
Date: May 14, 2014

Weather data from Bridge:

We are sailing south and are at 28.55 degrees  North, 79.44 degrees  West

Wind: 23 knots out of the southeast.
Visibility: 10 miles
Water Depth in feet: 653 feet
Temperature: 27 degrees Celsius  – both sea and air temp. are 80 degrees!

Our location can also be found at:  (http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/).

Science and Technolgy Log:

DO YOU KNOW YOUR ABCs?

Can you understand this sentence?

“During a watch change, the XO checked the AIS then handed control over to the  CO.  When contacted by the mapping room regarding the XBT launch and CTD termination check, the CO said,“Roger that”.  

After reading this- you’ll have a better idea what some of these acronyms mean and how we use them on the Okeanos Explorer. In other words, you’ll be able to say- “roger that” to show you understand and agree.

Let’s start with the XO and CO  –  They are easy and make sense.

CO – The Commanding Officer – He or she is responsible for everything on the ship. (see Personal Log for more information on Commander Ramos of the Okeanos Explorer)

XO – The Executive Officer – Reports to the Commanding Officer and is second in command.

AIS –What is it and why do we need it?

Okeanos Explorer AIS screen
Okeanos Explorer AIS screen

Automatic Identification System.  The Okeanos Explorer has an electronic chart display that includes a symbol for every ship within radio range.  Each ship “symbol” tells Commander Ramos the name of the ship, the actual size of the ship, where that ship is going, how fast it’s going, when or if it will cross our path, and a lot of other information just by “clicking” on a ship symbol!  Here is a link to get more information on AIS.  I also took a picture of the Okeanos Explorer AIS screen and below that there’s the actual picture of our closest neighbor,  the ship named “Joanna”(look closely on the horizon) .  If the CO feels like the ship is going to need to change course, he will inform the scientists in the mapping room right away.  Safety and science RULE!

Explanation of AIS

Our closest neighbor,  the ship named “Joanna”(look closely on the horizon).
Our closest neighbor, the ship named “Joanna”(look closely on the horizon).

XBT- What is it and why do we need one?

Sam Grosenick, mapping intern, launches the XBT.
Sam Grosenick, mapping intern, launches the XBT.

Every two or three hours the mapping team calls the bridge (the driver seat of the ship) and asks permission to launch an XBT – which is short for an eXpendable BathyThermograph.   That’s a heavy weighted probe that is dropped from a ship and allows us to measure the temperature as it falls through the water. WHY do we need to measure the temperature of the water if we are using sonar?  Sound waves travel at different speeds in different temperature water, just like they travel at different speeds in cold air than warm air.  So they need to know the temperature of the water to help calculate how fast the sound or ping that the ship’s sonar sends out so they can map the bottom of the ocean.  A very thin wire sends the temperature data to the ship where the mapping team records it.  There is more information about XBT’s here:

explanation of XBT

NOAA’s network of XBT data

CTD – What is it and why do we need one?

Chief Electronics Technician Richard Conway and Chief Boatswain Tyler Sheff prepare for a dawn launch of the CTD
Chief Electronics Technician Richard Conway and Chief Boatswain Tyler Sheff prepare for a dawn launch of the CTD

Many oceanographic missions use CTD’s.  The Okeanos Explorer is no exception.  CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth, and refers to the electronic instruments that measure these properties. The grey cylinders are water sampling bottles and the big white frame protects everything.   WHY do scientists need CTD’s? Scientists use a CTD to measure the chemistry of the Ocean from surface to bottom.  The CTD can go down to near the bottom and the cylinders close when the scientist on board ship pushes a key on the computer and close so that a water sample is captured at that depth.  It’s a lot easier than swimming down there and opening up a jar and closing it.

WHY do they want to know about conductivity? Why do they care how much electricity can go through the water?   If the water can conduct more electricity, then it has a higher salinity, i.e. more salt.   That helps the scientists know the density of the water at that depth and can help inform them of the biology and ocean currents of that area.

It’s a CTD, not a railing! (picture taken by Kalina Grabb)
It’s a CTD, not a railing! (picture taken by Kalina Grabb)

Close-up of CTD
Close-up of CTD

More info on a CTD from NOAA

CTD vertical cast

 

Personal Log 

Commander Ramos at the helm
Commander Ramos at the helm

As I mentioned in last blog, everyone plays a part on the Okeanos Explorer.  The CO plays a big part in making sure the scientists achieve their goals.  The man in charge- Commander Ricardo Ramos answered a few of my questions last night  in his office in the forward part of the ship.

When I say Oregon Trail, fifth graders usually think of covered wagons.  I doubt that they think of a family of immigrants from Mexico deciding to leave family and friends in sunny Los Angeles and hit the trail north to rainy Oregon. But the devastating riots in Watts in the 1960s caused Commander Ricardo Ramos’s parents to do exactly that. There were some adjustments to be made to life in tiny Klamath Falls, Oregon but his parents, 3 brothers and sister were up to the challenge of no family support and a new community.  The family worked for Weyerhaeuser and Commander Ramos knew he did not want to work in the plant the rest of his life.  It was never IF he’d go to college, but “WHERE”.  He was the second of the five children to attend college, earning 2 Associates degrees and a degree in Electrical Engineering.   After entering NOAA and gaining his masters from Averett University, he spent time on various NOAA ships and in other capacities.  He is also a graduate of Harvard’s Senior Executive Fellows program.

He had a couple words of advice for elementary school students.  First, take advantage of all learning opportunities, for you will never know when you might need the knowledge you will gain.  Second, that communication, both written and oral,  is probably the most important part of his job.  He is not afraid of getting input and editing of his writing for the job.  His greatest reward is realizing that he is charge of a tremendous asset of the United States that provides a platform for scientist to explore our vast oceans.

 

Did You Know? 

My ship – The Okeanos Explorer is about  70 meters - the length of the top of the  arch on the Eiffel Tower!
My ship – The Okeanos Explorer is about 70 meters – the length of the top of the arch on the Eiffel Tower!

Displacement – When you think displacement, you probably think of a quick definition like “moved aside” that we learned when we made aluminum foil boats.  When you get in a kiddie pool, bathtub or any body of water, you move aside water. If you measure the weight or amount of water that you move aside, that is your displacement.  The Okeanos Explorer moves aside a lot of water – more than 2,500 TONS of water.  That’s about 700,000- gallons of water that gets displaced.  The ship is 224 feet long and 43 feet wide in its widest part.  Now, I don’t know about you – but I start thinking about the really big ships and tankers that we see passing by the Okeanos Explorer on the radar (their ‘deets’ are given to us by the AIS system – See the Section on ABC’s for an explanation of AIS) Well, there was a ship called “The Knock Nevis” and it was 1500 feet long!  Did it displace water?  You bet!. 650,000 tons of water when fully loaded! (use a ton of water = gallon converter on google to figure out how many gallons that is). Let’s just say that it’s a lot more than our little MUFFIN – the winner of the Coon Creek Boat Race.

MUFFIN, the boat race “WINNER” and Mr. Murk on the high seas. (picture taken by Sam Grosenick)
MUFFIN, the boat race “WINNER” and Mr. Murk on the high seas.
(picture taken by Sam Grosenick)

Paul Ritter: Lock and Load the XBT – The Joke is on Me, July 22, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Paul Ritter
Aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces
July 16– August 1, 2013 

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographical area of cruise: southeastern US Atlantic Ocean waters (continental shelf and shelf-break waters ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC to Port St. Lucie, FL)
Date: July 22, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge

7-22-13 ship data

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday was a very exciting day.  After we dropped off our first traps, the ship’s officers brought the ship to a full stop and it was time to release the CTD.  What is a CTD?  CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth.  The CTD unit  is an array of sensors that is lowered to just above the bottom of the ocean to take a continuous profile of the water column.  Moments after the CTD reaches the bottom it is brought back to the surface and the deck hands bring it back on board the ship.  From here, the scientific crew can analyze the data from the CTD to determine the water conditions for the drop area.  On some expeditions, the CTD is fitted with a device that actually takes water samples at the different depths for chemical and biological analysis.   This information allows the scientists to get a complete picture of the water column where the traps are set and where the fish live.

What is a CTD? CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth.

Another instrument that is used by the ship is the Expendable Bathythermograph or XBT.  This device was used by the military for many years to measure the temperature of the water at various depths.  The most interesting thing about this probe is how it is deployed.

Warren Mitchell, a fisheries biologist for NOAA’s Beaufort Laboratory, decided it would be a good idea for me to be trained firsthand to deploy this vital instrument.  The first thing I had to do was put on my hardhat and safety vest and step on to the recovery deck.  At that point Warren called up to the bridge to ask for permission to drop the XBT.  The officers on the bridge gladly gave us permission and Warren then got me into a launching position with my feet spread apart and my elbow braced on hip.  The CO then happened to walk by and asked me if I had my safety glasses on, to which I immediately said yes.

It was at this point that Warren gave me permission to launch the XBT.  I was excited.  I was ready.  I could not wait for Warren to give me the signal.  The only problem was I did not know the signal and I could not find the trigger.  I did not know what to do.  I was getting worried.  Warren then repeated the orders “launch”.  “How?” I replied.  Tip the barrel forward, lean forward, he replied, and the XBT slid out of the tube into the water.

The joke was on me.  Here I had been led to believe that this was going to be some grand launch something just shy of the space shuttle taking off into space.  The reality was that the XBT just falls into the water.  Very non-exciting for me but everyone on the boat laughed for hours.  So did I.  It is good to be treated like one of the family.  After our final set of traps for the day, I ventured out to see what it is like to work in the acoustics lab.

Warren Mitchell NOAA Scientist instructs Paul Ritter on the proper use of the XBT.
Warren Mitchell NOAA Scientist gives instruction to Paul Ritter on the proper deployment of the XBT.

Personal Log

Monday 7-22-13

Nurse shark outside chevron trap.
Nurse shark outside our chevron trap.

To this point this expedition has been so amazing.  Would you believe there are 3 people aboard the NOAA Ship Pisces that live or once lived within 60 miles from my home town? Crazy I know.  We have had only one medium sized squall to this point with 3 to 5 foot seas.  We have brought up traps with tons of jellyfish, in which I got a nematocyst (jellyfish stinging cell) to the hand.  It was not too bad but I did feel a slight burning sensation.

We have had a number of different types of starfish, all of which I have never seen.  One particular trap that we sent to the ocean floor, while upon retrieval did not have any fish, but did have a secret to share.  After Julie Vecchio, one of our volunteer scientists replayed the video cameras that are on the top of the trap, we discovered that a nurse shark had been trolling the area around our trap. I have seen so many amazing things.  Several days ago we were hauling traps and just as we brought our trap up there was a sea turtle that came up to the boat.  I snapped a couple of photos, as quick as I could and then went right back to work.  It was not two minutes later and I saw a baby sea turtle the size of a fifty cent piece.  Immediately, the first thing that came to my mind was thought of Crush and Squirt from Disney’s Finding Nemo talking to me.

Crush: Okay. Squirt here will now give you a rundown of proper exiting technique.

Squirt: Good afternoon “Paul”. We’re gonna have a great jump today. Okay, first crank a hard cutback as you hit the wall. There’s a screaming bottom curve, so watch out. Remember: rip it, roll it, and punch it.

 Paul: Whoa! Dude! That was totally cool!

Turtle off the port bow.
Turtle off the port bow.

Tuesday July 23, 2013

Somewhere in the middle of the night the wind picked up and so did the waves.  I share a stateroom with Zach Gillum a graduate student from East Carolina University.  This kid is amazing.  We really have become great friends.

One of the great things about this trip is to be totally immersed in an expedition with like-minded people. We will all hang around waiting for traps, or eating dinner and start conversations about some environmental issue or ecological principle.  I sure wished I lived closer to my new friends.  Anyway, our stateroom window is about 4 foot above the waterline.  Many times during the night, our window was under the water as a wave passed by.  When we woke up, the wind and waves increased.  A four to seven foot wave is enough to make many run for the toilet.  So far so good for me when it comes to sea sickness.

I just hope we don’t find any bigger waves.  We gathered on the aft deck as we usually do but we delayed deployment, waiting for improvement in weather conditions.  The major problem we had was with larger waves comes the possibility of the traps bobbing up and down on the ocean floor.  With adverse conditions on pick-up, we are also more likely to drag traps across the bottom.  We set the first six traps, pulled them up and just as we had suspected not many fish.  Around 1:00 P.M. Zeb Schobernd, our Lead Scientist, made the decision to head to another location.   It just goes to show you that when you are at sea, you need to follow the 3 F’s.  Flexibility, fortitude, and following orders.

Waiting to work.
Waiting to work.

Did You Know?

Did you know that a jelly fish’s nematocyst are like mini speargun?

These little stinging cells fire when they come in contact with the surface of and organism.  Some jellyfish tentacles can contain up to 5000 or more nematocyst.

Elizabeth Nyman: Tropical Storm Andrea Edition, June 6, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Elizabeth Nyman
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 28 – June 7, 2013

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 6, 2013

Weather Data:
Wind Speed: 19.97 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 27.78 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 28.40 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1010.40 mb

Science and Technology Log

The Pisces is on its way to port, having had to suspend operations in wake of the bad weather that has since become Tropical Storm Andrea. We were supposed to go into Mayport Naval Base, right outside of Jacksonville, FL, but due to the storm we have been redirected to Port Canaveral.

Ocean
It’s been pretty rough out there! (Picture courtesy Ariane Frappier)

Despite all of this, we made the best of a bad situation. Even though we couldn’t do fishing or camera drops yesterday, we did still manage to get some data. We spent as much time as we could mapping the seafloor before we had to dodge the storm, and we took the time in the morning to do an XBT, an Expendable Bathythermograph.

You can use an XBT to get a temperature and depth reading for the water without having to actually stop the ship. A tube with a probe on it is attached to a launcher and is fired into the water. The probe has copper wire attached to it to send the data back to the ship.

So…you drop the probe, you get the readings, and at least you get some data even if you can’t stop the ship to send more delicate equipment down.

XBT
Launching probe…

Other than that, the past couple of days have been all about cleanup and dodging the storm. To a certain extent that makes the scientific posts a little quieter than usual, but it’s been a very interesting experience watching everyone work together to make sure that the scientists could get as much work done as possible without endangering the ship or its crew.

We didn’t get to do everything that we wanted to do on this leg of the trip, unfortunately. But we still got a lot accomplished, and I feel like it was just as interesting to see how everyone was able to react to the weather and still get their job done.

Personal Log

Whew! I didn’t imagine when I got on the Pisces in Tampa that I’d spend the last bit of the trip dodging the first named Tropical Storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. But I definitely have a greater appreciation that, with science as in all things, sometimes life does not go quite to plan.

If all goes to schedule, I will be leaving the Pisces tonight, for our detour into Port Canaveral. We had to stop working a day early, and we’ll end up arriving a day early and into a different port. My last day has mostly been spent trying to rearrange for my travel home from a new city and with assisting the science crew in cleaning up the lab spaces.

All data collection requires a certain amount of flexibility. I knew that already – social science data is notoriously difficult to collect – but the problems that I face in my work are quite different from these. When international relations scholars have trouble with data, it’s usually because of things like difficulties in getting governments and/or people to tell the truth, etc. But sometimes, as now, it’s because conditions make it unsafe to collect the data. We can’t send people into shooting wars to count casualties, and we can’t send scientists into a hurricane to count fish.

Science is a method, not a subject, and the scientific method is one wherein we all simply do our best with what we have. Science has been so profoundly influential because of the simple power of this process, testing over and over what we think to be true, so that we can learn if we are wrong. It’s true if you study fish, if you study policy, or if you study anything in between.

There are many things we’ve discovered about our oceans, and the fish and other creatures that inhabit them. But there are still many more things to learn. I’m glad that we have scientists like the ones I met on the Pisces out looking for our fish, and glad that NOAA, in conjunction with states and other government agencies like the Coast Guard, are looking out for our oceans.

My thanks go out to the entire crew of the Pisces, and the great people at the Teacher at Sea program, for letting me be a part of the process.

Did You Know?

NOAA is predicting a highly active hurricane season for the Atlantic this year. Stay safe!

Amanda Peretich: CTD and XBT – More Acronyms? July 8, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
Date:
July 8, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 57ºN
Longitude: 172ºW
Ship speed: 11.2 knots (12.9 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 6ºC (42.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7ºC (44.6ºF)
Wind speed: 2.5 knots (2.9 mph)
Wind direction: 156ºT
Barometric pressure: 1020 millibar (1.0 atm, 765 mmHg)

Science and Technology Log
Today’s post is going to be about two of the water profiling devices used on board the Oscar Dyson: the CTD and XBT.

CTD
CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. It’s actually a device that is “dropped” over the starboard side of the ship at various points along the transect lines to take measurements of conductivity and temperature at various depths in the ocean. On this leg of the pollock survey, we will complete about 25-30 CTD drops by the end. The data can also be used to calculate salinity. Water samples are collected to measure dissolved oxygen (these samples are analyzed all together at the end of the cruise). Determining the amount of oxygen available in the water column can help provide information about not only the fish but also other phytoplankton and more. Although we are not doing it on this leg, fluorescence can also be measured to monitor chlorophyll levels.

CTD
From left to right: getting the CTD ready to deploy, the winch is used to put the CTD into the water, the CTD is lowered into the water – notice that the people are strapped in to the ship so they don’t fall overboard during deployment

DYK? (Did You Know?): What exactly are transect lines? Basically this is the path the ship is taking so they know what areas the ship has covered. Using NOAA’s Shiptracker, you can see in the photo where the Oscar Dyson has traveled on this pollock survey (both Leg 1 and Leg 2) up to this point in time.

Transect Lines
Using NOAA’s Shiptracker, you can see the transect lines that the Oscar Dyson has followed during the pollock cruise until July 8. The ship started in Dutch Harbor (DH), traveled to the point marked “Leg 1 start” and along the transect lines until “Leg 1 end” before returning to DH to exchange people. The ship then returned to the point marked “Leg 2 start” and followed transect lines to the current location. The Oscar Dyson will return to DH to exchange people before beginning Leg 3 of this survey and completing the transect lines.
Deploying the CTD
I was lucky enough to be able to operate the winch during a CTD deploy. The winch is basically what pulls in or lets out the cable attached to the CTD to raise and lower it in the water. Special thanks to the chief boatswain Willie for letting me do this!

The CTD can only be deployed when the ship is not moving, so if weather is nice, we should just stay mostly in one place. The officers on the bridge can also manually hold the ship steady. Or they can use DP, which is dynamic positioning. This computer system controls the rudder and propeller on the stern and the bowthruster at the front to maintain position.

Here is a video from a previous Teacher at Sea (TAS) about the CTD and showing its “drop” into the water: Story Miller – 2010. Another TAS also has a video on her blog showing the data being collected during a CTD drop: Kathleen Harrison – 2011.

XBT

Thermocline
The thermocline is the area where the upper isothermal (mixed) layer meets the deep water layer and there is a decline in temperature with increasing depth.

XBT is the acronym for the eXpendable Bathymetric Thermograph. It is used to quickly collect temperature data from the surface to the sea floor. A graph of depth (in meters) versus temperature (in ºC) is used to find the thermocline and determine the temperature on the sea floor.

DYK? Normally, temperature decreases as you go farther down in the sea because colder water is denser than warmer water so it sinks below. But this is not the case in polar regions such as the Bering Sea. Just below the surface is an isothermal layer caused by wind mixing and convective overturning where the temperature is approximately the same as on the surface. Below this layer is the thermocline where the temperature then rapidly decreases.

The MK-21IISA is a bathythermograph data acquisition system. This is a portable (moveable) system used to collect data including ocean temperature, conductivity, and sound velocity and various depths using expendable probes (ones you can lose overboard and not get back) that are launched from surface ships. The depth is determined using elapsed time from surface contact and a known sink rate.

There are three different probes that can be used with this data acquisition system:
1. XBT probe – this is the probe that is used on OD, which only measures water temperature at various depths
2. XSV probe – this probe can measure sound velocity versus depth
3. XCTD probe – this probe measures both temperature and conductivity versus depth

On the XBT probe, there is a thermistor (something used to measure temperature) that is connected to an insulated wire wound on two spools (one inside the probe and one outside the probe but inside the canister). The front, or nose, of the probe is a seawater electrode that is used to sense when the probe enters the water to begin data collection. There are different types of XBT probes depending on the maximum depth and vessel speed of the ship.

XBT Canister and Probe
This shows a sideview (left) and topview (middle) of the canister that houses the probe (right) released into the water during an XBT.

There are really four steps to launch the XBT probe using the LM-3A handheld launcher on board:
1. Raise contact lever.
2. Lay probe-containing canister into cradle (make sure to hold it upwards so the probe doesn’t fall out of the canister!).
3. Swing contact level down to lock in canister.
4. Pull release pin out of canister, aim into ocean, and drop probe.
Important: the wire should not come in contact with the ship!

Launching an XBT
“Launching” an XBT probe from starboard side on the Oscar Dyson. There is no actual trigger – you just make a little forward motion with the launcher to allow the probe to drop into the water.

Be sure to check out the video below, which shows what the data profile looks like as the probe is being dropped into the water. An XBT drop requires a minimum of two people, one at the computer inside and one outside launching the probe. I’ve been working with Scientist Bill and ENS Kevin to help out with the XBT launches, which also includes using the radios on board to mark the ship’s position when the probe hits the water.

Personal Log

Quickest Route?
We’ve been taught in school that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line, so you’d think that the red voyage would be the fastest way to get from Seattle, Washington across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. But it’s actually a path up through Alaska!

It’s been a little slow on the trawling during my shift recently, so I’ve had some extra time to wander around the ship and talk to various people amidst researching and writing more blog posts. I think one of my favorite parts so far has been all of the great information I’ve been learning up on the bridge from the field operations officer, LT Matt Davis.

DYK? When looking at the map, you’d think the quickest route from Seattle, Washington to Japan would be a straight line across the Pacific Ocean. But it’s not! Actually, ships will travel by way of Alaska and it is a shorter distance (and thus faster).

View from the Bow
View from the bow of the Oscar Dyson.

Vessels  use gnomonic ocean tracking charts to determine the shortest path. Basically a straight line drawn on the gnomonic projection corresponds to a great circle, or geodesic curve, that shows the minimum path from any two points on the surface of the Earth as a straight line. So on the way to Japan from Seattle, you would travel up through Alaskan waters, using computer software to help determine the proper pathway.

I’ve also had some time to explore a few other areas of the ship I hadn’t been to before. I’ve learned some new lingo (look for this in an upcoming post) and plenty of random facts. One of the places I checked out is the true bow of the ship where, if I was standing a bit higher (and wearing a PFD, or personal flotation device), I’d look like I was Rose Dawson in one of the scenes from Titanic.

Animal Love
All of the time I spend on the bridge also allows for those random mammal sightings and I was able to see a few whales from afar on July 7!

Whale Sighting
Whale sighting from the bridge! You have to look really closely to see their blow spouts in the middle of the photo.

Cathrine Fox: Issue Ten: Red King Crabs, a twenty word synopsis

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
CATHRINE PRENOT FOX
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 7, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 57.33° N, Longitude: 152.02° W
Air Temperature: 10.6° C
Water temperature: 9.3° C
Wind Speed/Direction:8.25kn/338.45
Barometric Pressure: 1017.59
Partly cloudy (35%) and sun

Personal Log:

First things first: we have left the dock! We are surrounded by sea!

Being at sea is lovely. Pulling out of Women’s Bay a few of us went up above the bridge to the “flying bridge” (aptly named, as you are up in the air with the birds) for a view. In the mouth of the bay, sea otters swam through bull kelp forests and a humpback whale breached right off of the bow. Although horned puffins were more numerous by the Coast Guard pier, the farther we got offshore, the more tufted puffins there were. Pelagic (?) cormorants used the buoys as platforms to dry their wings and later, when we tested the net reels, Northern fulmars and black-footed albatross sailed in to see if we were pulling in fish: as if they were classically conditioned. The movement of the ship makes me feel sleepy when I am without a porthole; other than that, I haven’t felt any adverse effects at all. I love it.

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 10
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 10

I also feel really lucky to be working with such an interesting group of people. One of the scientists, Dr. Jodi Pirtle (now at the University of New Hampshire) studied juvenile Red King Crabs for her dissertation at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Fisheries and Ocean Science, Juneau. It is because of her and requests from three of you out there in cyber-land that Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 10 explores the natural history of these interesting organisms. I hope you enjoy Red King Crabs, a twenty word synopsis. (Cartoon citation 1. Hint: the twenty word synopsis starts with “I bite.”)

Science and Technology Log:

    Oscar Dyson's multibeam echo sounder
Oscar Dyson’s multibeam echo sounder

I came on shift this morning at 4am and immediately was able to take part in some really interesting work. Jodi (the scientist that shared her juvenile crab research) is working on mapping habitats in untrawlable places of the ocean floor using acoustic and other methods. During the night, the ship will be driven in tight transects over areas that she has identified as being potentially “untrawlable:” rocky ledges, areas with lots of pinnacles, or other areas with un-level bottoms. The ship’s multibeam echo sounder broadcasts and receives signals, providing an acoustic map of the floor. Three times during the trawl, Jodi will lower a camera down to the bottom to get live feed on what the habitat looks like.

This morning we tested the stereo video camera and lowered it 78.81 meters down. Watching it was like being able to control a live feed on the Discovery Channel! Euphausiids (krill) swarmed the lights, a huge burgundy colored halibut swam along the silty bottom, flat fish, pacific cod and a sturgeon poacher perused the camera and mushroom-like anemones called Netridium farcimen swayed with the currents.

In last summer’s cartoon series (Pura Vida Adventures, Issue 2), I quoted Stephen Sharnoff: The eye often cannot see what the mind does not already know” to explain how difficult it was to see lichen diversity until you knew what you were looking for. I think the reverse is true for life on the ocean floor. I know that the ocean is very alive. Seeing it 80 meters down in the pre-dawn light as if it were a bustling city is an all together different experience.

In the future, I will try to capture a few stills directly from the live video feed. For now, I will leave you with a few other images of science, technology and shipboard life.

Until our next adventure,
Cat

Lowering the stereo-video-camera.
Lowering the stereo-video-camera.

Jodi "drives" the lowered stereo-video-camera, watching the live feed.
Jodi “drives” the lowered stereo-video-camera, watching the live feed.

Darin Jones brakes while Jodi drives.
Darin Jones brakes while Jodi drives.

Dawn in Kalsin Bay, Kodiak.
Dawn in Kalsin Bay, Kodiak.

Deploying the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT): click here to find out more
Deploying the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT): click here to find out more

Christopher Faist: Beast or Famine, July 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Faist
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 20 — August 1, 2011

Mission: Cetacean and Seabird Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 30, 2011

Weather Data
Air Temp:  19 ºC
Water Temp: 18 ºC
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Water Depth: 64 meters

Science and Technology Log

When traveling in the ocean you never know what you will get.  Scientists can try to predict the weather or the amount of animals that will be seen in a particular area but nothing is as valuable as going to the area and recording what you see.  For the last couple of days we have been traveling in deep water off the continental shelf of the east coast of the United States.  Yesterday, we made a turn toward the edge of the shelf and we were very surprised by what we found.  (Check the Ship Tracker to view our path.)

The ocean can best be described as a patchy, dynamic environment.  Some days we have traveled for hours and not seen a single animal but on days like yesterday, we saw so many animals our single data recorder was busy all day.  Since the start of this cruise we have averaged about 30 sightings a days.  Yesterday, we had 30 sightings in the first 30 minutes of observation and ended with over 115 sightings.

Two Common Dolphins
Two Common Dolphins

Species ranged from abundant Common Dolphin, to rare and elusive beaked whales.  The sighting conditions were so outstanding the Marine Mammal Observers were identifying everything from a small warbler to the second largest whale, a Fin Whale.  Large whales, like Sei and Minke Whales, were concentrated in one area, while the dolphins were seen in other areas.  We passed over several undersea canyons and cetacean abundance over these canyons was like nothing one of the scientists had ever seen.

Two tools in the ship’s wide array of scientific tools, help scientists document the small animals that the whales and dolphins might be feeding on over the top of the canyons.  One is the XBT, or Expendable Bathythermograph, and the second is a VPR, or Video Plankton Recorder.  The XBT is launched from the moving ship to document the temperature  and water density along the ship’s track.  They are inexpensive and record data in real-time, giving accurate and up to date information about the area the animals are most abundant.  The VPR is a tool used at night, while the ship moves slowly, to take pictures of the plankton that occurs along our route.

Example of a VPR image
Example of a VPR image

The combination of temperature, depth and photographs of plankton gives scientists a clear picture of the environment that congregates large densities of cetaceans.  By understanding the factors that contribute to cetacean population changes, scientists are able to make recommendations to lawmakers about how to protect this natural resource from human impact like bycatch from the fishing industry or ship strikes in commonly trafficked shipping lanes.

Personal Log

I am disappointed that we only have two days left on our trip.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at sea.  Crazy weather this morning of 30 knot winds and 6-8 foot seas will not be a fun memory but thankfully, this evening the weather settled down and we watched a beautiful sunset while playing games on the top deck.  I am not sure that I could be a marine mammal observer but I look forward to taking this unique opportunity and turning it into a learning experience for my students.

Since this will be my last post from sea I thought I would leave you with some images of ocean life that was not a marine mammal or seabird.  Enjoy.

Flying Fish
Flying Fish

Blue Shark
Blue Shark

Dusky Shark
Dusky Shark

Kathleen Harrison: CTD, XBT, Drop, July 18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
July 4 — 22, 2011


Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 18, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed:  19.35 knots, True Wind Direction:  231.44°
Sea Temperature:  10.5° C, Air Temperature:  10.11° C
Air Pressure:  1010.53 mb
Latitude:  57.54° N, Longitude:  154.37° W
Ship speed:  12.4 knots, Ship heading:  134.5°
Fog on the horizon, overcast

Science and Technology Log

One thing that I have learned on this trip (don’t worry, I have learned more than one thing) is that the government, and scientists, like to use abbreviations for equipment, procedures, and groups of people.  For example,  did you know that MACE stands for Midwater Assessment Conservation Engineering?   Well, now you do. The NOAA scientists that are aboard the Oscar Dyson work for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, which is part of MACE.  Three of the abbreviations that I have become familiar with are:  CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth), XBT (expendable bathythermograph), and Drop (Drop camera).  These are devices or procedures that the NOAA scientists use on board the Oscar Dyson to gather information that will help in determining the biomass of Pollock.

Conductivity, Temperature and depth device
The CTD measures conductivity, temperature and depth of sea water.

When I say “the CTD”, I am referring to a device, but the letters actually come from the procedures that the device performs.  It is lowered into the water on a cable, and its instruments measure the conductivity (how much electricity will pass through – an indirect way of measuring salinity) and  temperature of the sea water, and depth.  Niskin bottles may be attached to the CTD frame to collect sea water at selected depths.  This information gives scientists knowledge about sea water properties, and over time, will indicate changes in the environment.

Watch this video to see the data as it is being collected.

launching the XBT
A hard hat and flotation device are required on the weather deck (any deck open to the weather), even to launch the XBT.

Launching the XBT has been one of my jobs on the Oscar Dyson, at least during my shift.  This device measures temperature and depth of sea water.  It is basically thrown overboard out of a handheld launcher, which looks like a giant pistol thing, and remains attached to a very thin wire.  Data is sent through this thin wire until it reaches the ocean floor, then the wire is broken.  The device is not retrieved – hence the name – expendable.

thermocline

The data is graphed, and a beautiful thermocline is produced.  An XBT is launched 3 – 4 times a day, in different locations.

camera and light attached to frame
The Drop Camera is attached to a frame to protect it. The light is at the bottom of the frame.

The Drop Camera is an underwater camera that is lowered to the ocean floor.  The camera is pressure activated, so it starts recording at a certain depth.  It has a bright light that comes on when the camera is operating.  Extra line is fed out, because the ship is still moving, and the scientists do not want the camera to drag across the bottom.  It records for a few minutes, then it is hauled back to the boat, the memory card is retrieved, and the video is examined.  This information about the ocean floor is valuable to commercial fishermen, and future scientific missions.

sea stars and flat fish
The ocean floor close to Alaska's coast is home to a variety of sea stars, including brittle stars, as well as flat fish such as sole, flounder, and halibut. (NOAA Ocean Explorer)

New Species Seen  

Minke whale

Great Northern Diver (Loon)

Harbor Seal

Fin Whale

Humpback whale

4:30 am, Shelikof Strait
I was blessed to see this full moon about 4:30 am, with Mt. Douglas (elev. 7000 ft) in the background, in the Shelikof Strait.

Personal Log

Today was a fantastic day for wildlife and scenery viewing, as the sun was shining, the winds were calm, and it stays light until midnight here in the Shelikof Strait, west of Kodiak Island.  I started the day by going to the bridge around 4:30 am, and was delighted to see a bright full moon, and volcanoes of the Alaskan Peninsula.  The day only got better, as the sun rose around 5:30 am.

fin whale blow and dorsal fin
I have new respect for whale photographers, they are very hard to capture in a photo, here is my amateur attempt.

I spent a lot of time on the flying bridge, looking for whales, and finally took a photo of a spout and fin.  I was so excited!  You have to be looking at the right spot, at the right time.  Our transects take us close to Kodiak Island and its rocky cliffs, as well as the Alaskan Peninsula with its impressive glacier covered volcanoes.

bold and steep cliffs of Kodiak
The cliffs of Kodiak rise straight up out of the sea, bold and stunning.

We had a successful trawl today, and I spent several hours in the fish lab.  My head was kept warm by this pink knit hat that my sister made for me.  Thanks, Jan!

the fish lab is cold, need a hat
Thanks, Jan, for making this hat for me, I was nice and warm while processing fish today!

Jason Moeller: June 17-18, 2011

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
JASON MOELLER
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JUNE 11 – JUNE 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Jason Moeller
Ship: Oscar Dyson
Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Geographic Location: Gulf of Alaska
Dates: June 17-18, 2011

Ship Data
Latitude: 52.34 N
Longitude: -167.51 W
Wind Speed: 7.25 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 6.6 Degrees C
Air Temperature: 7.1 Degrees C
Relative Humidity: 101%
Depth:  63.53 meters

All of the above information was found on http://shiptracker.noaa.gov. Readers can use this site to track exactly where I am at all times!

Personal Log

Welcome back, explorers!

It has been a very eventful 24 hours! We have started fishing, but have done so little that I will wait to talk about that in the next log. Tammy, the other Teacher at Sea, has not begun fishing yet, and as we will be writing the science and technology log together, I will save the fishing stories until she has had a chance to fish.

After turning in last night’s log, we managed to spot eight or nine humpback whales on our starboard side that appeared to be feeding at the surface. They were too far away to get any decent photos, but it was a lot of fun to watch the spouts from their blowholes tower up into the air.

Whale Spouts
Ten whale spouts rise in the distance.

This afternoon started off by dropping an expendable bathythermograph (from here on out this will be referred to as an XBT). The XBT measures the temperature and depth of the water column where it is dropped (there will be more on this in the Science and Technology section). I was told that I would be dropping the XBT this time, and was led off by Sarah and Abby (two of the scientists on board) to get ready.

Ready to launch!
The first thing I had to do was to get dressed. I was told the XBT would feel and sound like firing a shotgun, so I had to put on eye, ear and head protection. I was also put in a fireman suit to protect my body from the kickback, since I am so small. The XBT launcher is the tube in my hands.

Pranked!
This is me launching the XBT. Why no smoke? All we actually needed to do was drop the device over the side. The whole shotgun experience was a prank pulled off by the scientists on all of the new guys. Their acting was great! When I turned towards Sarah at one point with the launcher, she ducked out of the way as if afraid I would accidentally fire it. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

However, the prank backfired somewhat. As the scientists were all laughing, a huge wave came up over the side of the ship and drenched us. I got nailed, but since I was in all of the gear, I stayed dry with the hem of my jeans being the only casualty. Sarah didn’t get so lucky. Fun times!

Sarah
Sarah looking a bit wet.

Science and Technology Log
Today, we will be looking at the XBT (the expendable bathythermograph). Bathy refers to the depth, and thermo refers to the temperature. This probe measures the depth and temperature of the water column when it is dropped over the starboard side of the ship.
“Dropping” isn’t exactly the right phrase to use. We use a launcher that resembles a gun. See the photo below to get an idea of what the launcher looks like.

XBT Launcher
This is the XBT Launcher.

Pin
The silver loop is the pin for the launcher. To launch the probe, we pulled the pin and flung out our arm. The momentum pushed the probe out of the tube and into the water below.

The probe
The probe.

The probe is connected to a length of copper wire, which runs continuously as the probe sinks through the water column. It is important to launch the probe as far away from the ship as possible, as the copper wire should never touch the ship. If the wire were to touch the ship, the data feed back to the ship would be disrupted and we would have to launch another probe, which is a waste of money and equipment. The survey technician decides to cut the wire when he/she has determined that sufficient data has been acquired. This normally occurs when the probe hits the ocean floor.

This is a quick and convenient way to collect data on the depth and temperature of the water column. While the ship has other methods of collecting this data (such as a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) probe), the XBT is a simpler system that does not need to be recovered (as opposed to the CTD).

CTD
A CTD

Data collected from the most recent XBT.
Latitude: 53.20 degrees N
Longitude: 167.46 degrees W
Temperature at surface: 6.7 degrees C
Temperature at bottom: 5.1 degrees C
Thermocline: 0 meters to 25 meters.
The thermocline is the area where the most rapid temperature change occurs. Beneath the thermocline, the temperature remains relatively constant.

Thermocline
This is a graph showing a thermocline in a body of water. Source: http://www.windows2universe.org

Species Seen

Humpback Whales

Northern Fulmar

Albatross

Northern Smoothtongue

Walleye Pollock

Mackerel

Lumpsucker

Squid

Pacific Sleeper Shark

Reader Question(s) of the Day!

Today’s reader questions come from James and David Segrest, who are two of my students in Knoxville Zoo’s homeschool Tuesday classes!

1. Did pirates ever travel the path you are on now? Are there any out there now?

A. As far as I know, there are no pirates currently operating in Alaska, and according to the scientists, there were not any on the specific route that we are now traveling. However, Alaska does have a history of piracy! In 1910, a man named James Robert Heckem invented a floating fish trap that was designed to catch salmon. The trap was able to divert migrating salmon away from their normal route and into a funnel, which dumped the fish off into a circular wire net. There, the fish would swim around until they were taken from the trap.

Salmon and trap
Workers remove salmon from a fish trap in 1938. Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife - Fisheries Collection - Photographer: Archival photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS.

For people who liked eating fish, this was a great thing! The salmon could be caught quickly with less work, and it was fresh, as the salmon would still be alive when taken from the trap. For the traditional fisherman, however, this was terrible news. The fishermen could not compete with the traps and found that they could not make a living. The result was that the fishermen began raiding the floating traps, using any means possible.

Salmon barge
A barge of salmon going to a cannery. Fishermen could not compete with traps that could catch more fish. Historic Photo Courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife - Fisheries Collection -Photographer: Archival photograph by Mr. Sean Linehan, NOS, NGS

The most common method used was bribery. The canneries that operated the traps would hire individuals to watch the traps. Fishermen would bribe the watchers, steal the fish, and then leave the area. The practice became so common that the canneries began to hire people to watch the trap-watchers.

2. Have you seen any sharks? Are there any sharks that roam the waters where you are traveling?

shark
Hi James and David! Here is your shark! It's a Pacific Sleeper Shark.

shark in net
The shark in the net

Shark
Another image of the shark on the conveyor belt.

This is a Pacific Sleeper Shark. It is called a sleeper shark as it does not appear to move a great deal, choosing instead to glide with very little movement of its fins. As a result, it does not make any noise underwater, making it the owl of the shark world. It hunts much faster fish (pollock, flounders, rockfish) by being stealthy. They are also known to eat crabs, octopus, and even snails! It is one of two animals known to eat giant squid, with the other one being sperm whales, although it is believed that these sharks probably scavenge the bodies of the much larger squid.

The other shark commonly seen is the salmon shark. Hopefully, we will catch one of these and I will have photos later in the trip.

Tammy Orilio, A Little Bit of Science…, June 18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Tammy Orilio
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: 18 June 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 52.34 N
Longitude: -167.51 W
Wind Speed: 7.25 knots
Surface Water Temp: 6.6 degrees C (~43.9 degrees F)
Water Depth: 63.53 m
Air Temp: 7.1 degrees C (~44.8 degrees F)
Relative Humidity: 101% (it’s very cloudy/foggy, but not raining)


Science & Technology Log:

The XBT Launcher mechanism.
The XBT Launcher mechanism.

Today I used the Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) a few times. The WHAT??   The expendable part means we use it once and don’t recover it.  Let’s break down the second part into the two main roots:  bathy– which refers to depth, and thermo which refers to temperature.  This probe measures the temperature and depth of the water when it is dropped over the starboard (right) side of the ship.

“Dropping” isn’t exactly the correct phrase- we use a launcher that kind of resembles a gun.  The probe sits inside of the black tube, and after we uncap the end of the tube, we basically fling our arm out over the side of the ship to launch the probe into the water.  I can’t show you any pics of the probe, because if we take it out of the black tube, it’ll start recording data.  The probe is connected to a length of copper wire, which runs continuously as the probe falls through the water column, collecting data.  It’s important to launch the probe as far away from the ship as possible, because if the copper wire touches the metal on the ship, the data feed will be disrupted and we’d have to launch another probe.  Big waste of money and equipment! One of the survey technicians decides to cut the wire (or tells me to) when they’ve decided that a sufficient amount of data has been collected, and we can then look at a graph to see the relationship between temperature and depth.
The XBT is a quick and easy method of data collection, and can be run while the ship is in motion.  The ship does have another piece of equipment- the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth meter (CTD)- to collect the same data, but the CTD is very big and bulky, and the ship must be stopped in order to deploy the CTD.  The CTD can also measure parameters such as dissolved oxygen concentration, current velocity, and other things (depending on the additional equipment on the meter).  The main advantage the XBT has is that it is quick and can be deployed as the ship is sailing.

from www.windows2universe.org
from http://www.windows2universe.org

Data Collected from an XBT probe today:
Latitude: 53.20 N
Longitude: -167.46 W
Water Temp at Surface: 6.7 degrees C
Water Temp at Bottom: 5.1 degrees C
Thermocline located from 0-25 meters depth

What is a thermocline, you ask?  Root word time!  We’ve already gone over thermo, and cline refers to a gradient, or where things change rapidly.  So, the thermocline is the area where you see the greatest change in temperature.  See the diagram as an example (it’s not our actual data).  Beneath the thermocline, the water temperature remains relatively constant.
Personal log:

Launching the XBT in full safety gear (minus the hardhat, it fell off)
Launching the XBT in full safety gear (minus the hardhat, it fell off)

Safety first, my friends.
Safety first, my friends.

Yesterday, as we were finally on our first transect of many, we needed to use the XBT to collect temperature and depth data.  A couple of the scientists told me that I could do it- yay, something for me to do!!  So I go to the lab room and see a ton of safety gear out- heavy coat, hardhat, gloves, soundproof earmuffs, goggles.  The survey tech tells me that I have to use all that protective gear because the XBT launcher is just like a gun- have I shot a gun before?  No!  So this is interesting.  I don the gear, and he explains what I need to do…which doesn’t seem that dangerous.  So now here I am, all geared up, and the rest of the scientists come trickling in to the lab to watch me.  That should’ve been a red light right there.  Why would they want to watch me do something so simple?  Turns out that it’s something that all the new people on the boat go through- we get all hyped up about shooting a loud gun, get loaded with gear, and then…not much.  So I basically got all dressed up in my protective gear for no other reason than the entertainment of the crew!!


QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Why is it important to know the temperature and/or depth of the water that we’re trawling in?

Donna Knutson, September 25, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Donna Knutson
NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 1 – September 29, 2010

Mission: e Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey
Geograpical Area: Hawaii
Date: September 25, 2010

Oceanography

Me with the CTD.

Mission and Geographical Area: 
The Oscar Elton Sette is on a mission called HICEAS, which stands for Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey.  This cruise will try to locate all marine mammals in the Exclusive Economic Zone called the “EEZ” of Hawaiian waters.  The expedition will cover the waters out to 200 nautical miles of the Hawaiian Islands.
Data such as conductivity, temperature, depth, and chlorophyll abundance will be collected and sea bird sightings will also be documented.

Getting the CTD ready for the water.

Science and Technology:
Latitude: 24○ 28.8’ N
Longitude: 165○ 50.5’ W  
Clouds:  3/8 Cu,Ac
Visibility:  10 N.M.
Wind:  12 Knots
 Wave height:  1-2ft.
Water Temperature:  26.6○ C
Air Temperature:  25.2○ C
Sea Level Pressure:  1021.1 mb

Ray uses the crane to lift the CTD into the water.

Oceans cover 71% of the Earth.  They contain 97% of the water on the planet, and amazingly 95% of the world under the ocean is unexplored!

Oceanography or marine science is a branch of earth science that covers many topics.  The studies can include marine organisms, ecosystems, ocean currents, waves, plate tectonics, and changes in the chemistry or physical properties within the ocean.  Physical properties are properties which can be measured from the water such as temperature, salinity, mixing of waves, tides and acoustics.
There are many reasons to study the ocean, but one reason is to understand global changes.   The atmosphere and oceans are linked through processes of evaporation and precipitation.  Weather worldwide is determined by the oceans physical and chemical properties, and its influence on air currents.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collects data from oceans throughout the world, evaluates it, then distributes weather forecasts to various weather reporting agencies.  NOAA has the largest archives of oceanographic data in the world, and is using the information in long term monitoring of ocean climates and ocean research.

Corey is processing her chlorophyll.

The Oscar Elton Sette is obtaining such data.  The bridge of the Sette is transmitting data (as seen at the top of this blog) such as latitude, longitude, temperatures, pressure etc. to NOAA recording sites in order to plan weather forecasts.   The scientists are also acquiring data, but this data is more specific to the ocean water’s chemistry. They are measuring temperature, conductivity, salinity, and chlorophyll abundance.
Temperature and salinity differences within the ocean lead to increased circulation.  Water has a similar circulation pattern to air.  They are both fluids and behave accordingly.  When heated, fluids will absorb the heat causing the molecules to move faster.  Now that the molecules are colliding more often, they become farther apart.  The spread out molecules, in air or water, do not have the same density as before.  Because they are less dense, they are pushed up and away from the more dense portion of the fluid.

Corey is dropping in the XBT to measure temperature.

Due to the differences in density, either caused by changes in temperature or salinity, a small current will form.  This circulation causes a turn-over effect, and increases the amount of nutrients in the water. These nutrients will feed the phytoplankton (measured as chlorophyll) and microbes.  These “animals” are on the bottom of the food chain, will become food for larger animals and so on.  Changes in density and salinity are only a small but important means to move nutrients within the water column.

Most of the mixing of water is due to large currents.  The Hawaiian Archipelago, because of its location, does not have a lot of mixing water.  It is in the middle of the North Pacific Gyre.  A gyre is a large system of rotating currents.  The North Pacific Gyre is a system of four ocean currents converging in the same area causing a circular motion.  At the “edges” of the gyre, a lot of mixing is taking place due to the motion of the incoming currents, while at the center of the gyre, there is the least amount of movement and therefore the least mixing up of nutrients.
The North Pacific Gyre is located between the equator and 50 latitude.  It makes up the largest ecosystem on Earth measuring twenty million square kilometers.  If the nutrients are more plentiful at the edges of the gyre, then the ecosystem has an uneven distribution of animal life.

These are used for the bucket sample.

Testing for nutrients is part of the research being done on the Sette.  They are trying to match up animal populations in a location to the ocean water’s chemistry.  By understanding the variables that a particular species need in order to have a healthy community, will aid in population studies, and also in the tracking of more animals of that species in order to study them in a different context.

Personal Log:
I have been assisting Corey, the oceanographer on the Sette.  My “job” is not in analyzing her data, but rather to help make sure the main instrument that is used to take data is not at risk of hitting the boat when it is in the water.  It sounds as though I’m in charge of security.  Yeah that’s right I am part of the CDT security team!
The CTD (conductivity, depth, temperature) device consists of twelve bottles attached to a large rack.  The entire mechanism weighs several hundred pounds, and is lowered into the water by a crane.  When in the water, it is important that the device goes all the way down to one thousand meters without being pulled side to side or under the ship where the cable may become wrapped around a propeller.  That would be tragic!  So in the scheme of things, my meager “security” position is very important. The CTD is lowered into the ocean one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset.  (I only do the morning “security”).
Because this is a very sophisticated piece of electronic equipment, there is also a person in charge of maintaining the CTD to make sure the instrument is working correctly.  This position is called a survey tech. Scott is the survey tech who supports Corey.  As the CTD is lowered into the water, Scott checks to make sure everything is working properly, and once it reaches one thousand meters, he starts taking readings.

Scott is the “survey tech” that works of the CTD.

Scott takes a reading every one hundred meters until it reaches the surface once again.  From his work station, the data of conductivity (which is a measurement caused by salinity), depth, temperature, and oxygen is plotted on a graph.  From the data collected, Corey organizes it and reports it along with latitude and longitude.
The bottles on the CTD “fire” or rather trap water at various depths.  When brought back to the surface Corey tests the water for chlorophyll which is her nutrient indicator.  The more nutrients suggest that the water is more productive and can maintain larger animal populations.
Corey has other tests to check chlorophyll and temperature just to make sure the instrumentation on the CTD is working properly.  Three times a day along the route, (the boat stays in one place for the CTD), she does another temperature test down to 760 m, it is called the XBT (expendable bathometric temperature). The XBT is a small black sensor which is weighted and connected by a copper wire to the ships computer back in the lab.  As the XBT is dropped behind the ship it records temperature data all the way down.  The ship’s computer graphs the temperature changes from 0 – 760m for two minutes.

Only two more days left of my “security” position. I enjoyed talking to Ray, and watching the squid that kept us company. Not a bad view to start off your day!

Another back-up test is the bucket test, it will recheck the chlorophyll.  The bucket test is as it says, a narrow bucket lowered over the side.  It too is dropped into the moving water, but is brought to the surface with a water sample.  Corey pours it into a sample bottle which she will test in the lab 24 hours later.  Temperature is also recorded at the same time.
All of this testing and retesting is what is needed to provide reliable data that can be stored and evaluated at a later date.  The data may seem inconsequential at the time, but it is truly the glue that holds the clues to why animals are in some areas and not in others.
Oceanography is a very exciting science because there is so much left to learn. The more information we have, the more clearly we can understand our global environment.

Story Miller, August 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 1, 2010

Launching the XBT

Time: 1233 ADT
Latitude: 60°51N
Longitude:179°11W
Wind: 17 knots (approx. 19.6 mph or 31.5 km/h)
Direction: 171° (S)
Sea Temperature: 9.9°C (approx. 49.8°F)
Air Temperature: 12.8°C (approx. 55.0°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1009
Wave Height 2-3 feet
Swell Height 4-6 feet

Scientific Log:
Think about your morning routine from the moment you wake up to just after eating breakfast. Now imagine spending that morning on a boat in the middle of the Bering Sea. Perhaps you take a shower or wash your face and hopefully brush your teeth. Where does the water come from? Where does the waste water go? I bet at some point you will use the bathroom (Hey, it’s a fact of life and everybody does it!). Where does that waste go? How is it processed? I also bet that at some point you turned on the light. How does a boat get its electricity?

The Oscar Dyson has a truly remarkable system that allows a crew of up to 39 live on the ship for as long as we have food and fuel! The fuel used is diesel and the diesel is converted into electricity through the engine, which turns the generator and the generator makes AC power. A rectifier ridge turns the AC power into DC power and the DC power runs to the shaft which is able to turn the propeller. However not all the power goes to DC power. The rest is turned into AC power so that we can use lights, heaters, fans, and the ovens in the galley.

Below the deck of the ship is where the engineers maintain all the components that make the ship function.

The Machines:

The main shaft (what turns the propeller on the ship)

Because we would not be able to go anywhere without fuel, let’s start with it. The fuel goes from the fuel tank to a primary filter and then through a secondary filter to clean the fuel. The fuel then travels to the fuel pump which transfers it to the injector and the injector sends it to the engine.

The centrifuges that clean the fuel.

Whatever fuel is not used is returned to a storage tank where it will wait until we need it again. Because fuel can become dirty when it sits, and dirty fuel is not good for engines,  the old fuel is run through a centrifuge (a device that spins and uses centrifugal force to separate mixtures) to become purified. As you can see in the picture, there are two centrifuges because it is important to have a backup in case of a breakdown. One is currently running for the month of July and the other will run for the month of August. We have this alternating pattern because we want to make sure there is even wear on each.

Access hatch to the waste oil storage.
Entering confined spaces are dangerous
as noted by the bolted entry. Special protective materials, a work plan, and
an initial safety test must be in place prior to entry

Periodically, the ship requires an oil change and the waste oil from machines such as the crank case, winches, and hydraulics are placed in a storage tank. Because it costs a considerable amount of money to haul waste fuel, the ship has a method for disposing it. From this waste oil storage tank, it is pumped up to the incinerator where it is burned.
The ship will also obtain oily water from locations such as the bilges and that water is recycled by going through the Oily Water System (OWS) and currently it is able to clean the water to 15ppm (parts per million) of oil to water. After the purification it is released into the ocean. We are currently in the process of installing another filtration system that will run the 15ppm concentration and reduce the contaminants to 5ppm and possibly even 3ppm. The oil that is extracted from the water is put into the waste oil storage tank for future incineration.

Engineering Control Room

As stated earlier, all the machinery, including the coffee maker, is maintained by the engineers. In the control room the engineers are able to monitor all functions of the ship. If needed, they could even take away the power from the bridge (where the NOAA Corps officers control the ship) and drive the ship from underneath! So, if you really want to be in control…

Sanitation: 
Some may wonder what we do with all of the garbage we collect on the ship. For example, where does all the uneaten food go? What about all the paper waste from used cups, napkins, and wrappers? In the mess hall, there are two garbage bins, one to scrape uneaten food and the other for paper. Because food is biodegradable, that bin is tossed overboard. The paper waste is sent to the incinerator to be burned. I am told that the incinerator gets hot enough that if a soup can was placed inside and incinerated, it would appear to look normal after the incineration, except once you touch it, it crumbles into dust!To get clean drinking water, we pump the salt water from the ocean into a desalination unit (a distiller). The distilled water is then sent to a 10,000 gallon holding tank. When water is needed, it is pressurized which, like in your house, sends it to the faucets, drinking fountains, and shower. Perhaps you have heard of the pens using UV light to purify water when you are camping. Well, right after the water is pressurized the boat has a large UV Pen to kill any additional microbes that might be inhabiting the water.

Marine Sanitation Device

From the toilet, the waste material is pulled down by a vacuum and travels through a pipe to the Marine Sanitation Device (MSD) tank. All the waste, including what we call “gray water” which basically is waste water from the shower and the sink, is agitated with an aroator. Solid waste will sink to the bottom of the tank where it is ground to fine particles. Oddly enough the grinder is also responsible for the vacuum in the sewage line via the eductor. The dirty water mixture is then sent through the chlorinator and is stored in the chlorination tank. When the water rises to a certain point, a sensor signals the pump to send the chlorinated water over the side of the boat.Cool fact! On other ships in the past, the catch water in the toilets was salt water (the Oscar Dyson uses fresh water). Because the water in the toilets did not need to be distilled, little bioluminescent organisms would sit inside. The thrilling activity is that when a person would flush the toilet in the dark, the organisms would become agitated and glow. Therefore, in your toilet, you could have your own light show with each flush!

Personal Log: 

Squid

Today we processed one batch of fish. The odd part to this scenario was that we caught a group of Pacific Herring. We measured, weighed, and extracted stomach samples as it is equally important to gather data about other fish we catch. The internal body structure of a Pacific Herring is very different from that of a Walleye Pollock and so I had the opportunity to dissect and study a different kind of fish. Leftover critters from the trawl that occurred last night while I was sleeping also appeared in the catch – tiny jellyfish, squid, and shrimp – and I spent some time sorting them out. Tonight, our chef is cooking up a few of the herring so we can see what they taste like. Another highlight to working with the herring is that I was challenged to locate and extract the otoliths. The otoliths of Pacific Herring are much smaller than those of the Walleye Pollock. To provide an idea, imagine clipping your pinky toenail. The clipping would be just a little larger than the otolith! Otoliths of pollock are a little less than one centimeter long and 1/2 of one centimeter wide.

Jellyfish

Today we crossed the 180° line of Longitude and entered the future, putting me a day ahead of the United States. Currently our transect has placed us near Cape Nevarin, Russia and unfortunately it is too foggy outside to see land. Because I have crossed the  dateline, I will receive the Order of the Golden Dragon, a certificate proving my adventure across the line!I am exceptionally excited for dinner tonight as we are having King Crab legs, prime rib, mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course, some herring! With Ray as our chef, it is evident that nobody goes hungry! Today he constructed a shortcake in the shape of the Oscar Dyson, decorated it, and set aside a bowl of strawberry sauce. I would have taken a picture but by the time I finished processing the herring, the cake ships were in fatal condition for sailing but I feel the crew are quite satisfied!

Animals Spotted Today:

Immature Gull

Humpback whales
Walleye Pollock
Pacific Herring
Shrimp
Squid
Jellyfish
Northern Fulmars
Black-legged Kittiwakes
Slaty-backed Gulls

Something to Ponder:
I decided that it was important to inquire what it took to be an engineer on the boat. After talking with a few members of the crew who had been doing this line of work for a long time, I was loaded with valuable insight to pass along to my readers.
According to the engineers, the best way to guarantee a well-paying job on a boat and allow one to have more options available would be to attend a maritime school because graduates will walk onboard with an officers ticket. While college is expensive, consider this: If you attend the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), your college is paid for as it is one of the five US service academies. www.usmma.edu

However, because admission is difficult, if you were to attend a maritime academy, you could potentially have a situation similar to one of our engineers on board. He attended Maine Maritime Academy for four years and earned a Bachelors of Science in Engineering. Additionally, within six months of working onboard a ship with his credentials, he had ALL of his student loans paid for! Most college students in the US spend approximately five years paying off their student loans!

While a maritime academy would be ideal, I asked the engineers of other ways one could obtain an engineering/mechanic job on a ship. They shared that there were 2-year schools available but the largest drawback to that path is that upon graduation, you would have some skills but would not be fully licensed. One rule of thumb that I have learned over the years, and the engineers echoed this, is the key to having choices in your job is to become as versatile as possible.I then asked the engineers if there were any other ways to get a job on a boat and they mentioned that one could attend a union school and learn a trade such as in refrigeration or mechanics. Keep in mind though, that person would be unlicensed and not have as many choices available to them.

I also asked the engineers what subjects in school they thought were the most important to learn. The first subject mentioned was mathematics but they brought up a very important concept: “It’s not necessarily how much math you take, but how well you understand the math.” Think of a student who aces the test and then forgets everything afterward. In other words, it would be great if a student made it to Calculus in high school but if he or she doesn’t fully understand the processes behind the algebra, that student will have difficulty in his or her engineering occupation. The engineers also shared that trigonometry was essential.
Regarding the sciences, for engineering, it was highly recommended that students wanting to get off on the right foot should take chemistry, physics, and biology.

However, one of the most important subjects they mentioned that may surprise some readers is English Composition because “You must have the ability to express yourself effectively and communicate with the people you work with everyday.” The engineers shared that, for example, they often would have to write reports and if they needed a part, the engineers would need to write to a supervisor and provide reasons to prove why they would need a part. “The better you are at communicating, the farther you will be able to go with your job and get what you want.”

So, in closing, the next time you think, “Geeze, why do I need to learn this equation and how to use it in this silly word problem?” or, “Why do I need to write this paper about persuading my English teacher that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best?” remember this: Your teachers really are not torturing you and really, are simply training you to develop the skills you will need to utilize in your job and in adulthood. The more advantage you take of this training, the more versatile and successful you will become. Ultimately though, it’s up to you to make that move!For more information a valuable website is:http://www.omao.noaa.gov/about.html

Obed Fulcar, July 24, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 24, 2010

Science & Technology Log:
Thursday, July 22: After a night of swinging and swaying from the waves at high seas, I am somewhat used to it already. Today is the start of my new shift from 0400 in the morning until 4:00 pm in the afternoon, 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Since yesterday we left the continental shelf and we are heading to deeper waters. There was a scheduled trawl to be done early this morning, but the Acoustic Lab reported no fish at all on the screens. As part of the survey it is necessary to perform a CTD launch every morning at sunrise. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth, explained Darin Jones, one of the young scientists in charge of the Pollock survey.

CTD
CTD

The CTD unit is made up of a series of bottles used to collect water samples at different depths, and also includes remote sensors to collect data such as sea temperature, salinity, depth, water pressure, and fluorescence. Fluorescence is the presence of Chlorophyll in the water which depends on the amount of sunlight that penetrates the ocean, indicating the presence of Phytoplankton (algae and other microscopic plants). They rely on sunlight to produce the energy that zooplankton growth is dependent upon. Zooplankton is the foundation of the Bering Sea food chain,since is made up of krill, small shrimp like crustaceans that are the primary source of food for commercial fish such as Pollock, Cod, Salmon, and pretty much any other fish in the North Pacific Ocean.

CTD
CTD

As the CTD is dropped the ship needs to stop in order lower the unit, which is attached by cables to an A-Frame crane, including one to transmit data. The CTD can only be used to depths of 600 meters, so another device called the XBT for Expendable Bathy-Thermograph (for depth and temperature) is used for depths up to 700 meters. It can also be launched manually while the ship is in motion, and data is transmitted through a thin copper wire that splits, hence the name “Expendable”. Once the CTD is hauled back onto deck, the water bottles are drained and samples taken for dissolved oxygen (DO)analysis. DO is sequestered using chemicals that react with the oxygen taking a solid form that preserves it for lab analysis.

XBT
XBT

Personal Log:
Last night I took motion sickness pills to keep me from getting seasick. After breakfast weather got really bad, with waves up to 6 feet, battering the Oscar Dyson. These conditions, combined with a heavy breakfast, made feel really dizzy, and next I know I was throwing up. My roommate, Vince Welton, who is also the ship’s tech guy, got me some very tasty saltine crackers, and medication, that help me feel better. I laid down on my bunk bed and doze off while listening to some Jazz by Michel Camilo.
While trying to rest the waves were crashing into the hull of the ship with a loud noise, while the ship kept going up and down. I was thinking about how seafarers of the past and the conditions aboard were so much different than today. Ocean going trips now are made much easier by the technology and modern amenities commonly found on board. Staterooms with bath, galleys or kitchens fully equipped with fridge, microwave oven, and entertainment rooms with flat TVs and DVD players are the norm. I kept thinking that the next 2 weeks on board the Oscar Dyson will be a lot like space travel, will all the walking up and down stairs from deck to deck, closing of hatches, and not been able to step outside the ship for a walk until reaching port.
The connection I can make about the CTD is that it reminds me a lot of the citizen science data collection and water quality monitoring I conduct with my students after school on the Harlem River, as part of “A Day in the Life of the Hudson River” a yearly event sponsored by NYSDEC (NY State Dept of environmental Conservation) and Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Laboratory. just like in the CTD we collect samples of water from the river to test for Dissolved Oxygen, Chlorophyll, PH, Salinity, Nitrates, plus soil samples from the mudflats.
When we collect the chlorophyll samples we use the same methods just as it’s done on the Oscar Dyson, squirting the water through a circular paper filter until it turns brownish. I am planning a lesson for next school year called “NOAA in the Classroom:Student CTD Activity” where using a student water sampling bottle my Environmental Science Club class will collect water from the Harlem River at different depths with the help of our wooden boat “Boca Chica” built after school. We test the samples for DO, Salinity, PH and other protocols using a LaMotte water quality test kit to monitor the health of the Harlem/Hudson River Estuary. This data will be reported to the GLOBE.gov Program website to be used by scientists and schools all over the world. My middle schoolMS319 is a GLOBE Program partner school, and also we will be reporting data from our new Wireless Weather Station. I strongly believe that students learn science by doing science!

Boca Chica
Boca Chica

“Navegando en Alta Mar”
Jueves, 22 de Julio: Hoy comence my primera guardia de las 0400 am a las 4pm. Desde que zarpamos del puerto de Dutch Harbor hacia aguas profundas me habia librado del mareo, pero finalmente me agarro.
El mal tiempo de hoy temprano, con violetas olas que golpeaban la nave de hasta 18 metros, mas un desayuno muy pesado me provocaron unas nauseas que termine en mi camarote vomitando y tirado en la cama. Despues de tomarme una medicina y de comerme unas galletitas de soda, me tome una siesta y me levante mucho mejor. El Sonar Acustico de la nave no detecto presencia de peces por lo que fui a ver el lanzamiento de un CTD o unidad de Conductividad y Profundidad Termal. El CTD contiene botellas para recoger muestras de agua y sensores para medir la temperatura y salinidad del mar hasta 600 metros.
Para medidas mas profundas de hasta 700 metros se usa una unidad manual desechable llamada XBT. Ambas unidades son usadas para obtener datos cientificos como el nivel de Oxygeno disuelto, Salinidad, Profundidad, y Florescencia (nivel de clorofila), la ultima es muy importante pues refleja la abundancia de algas microscopicas de las que depende elZooplankton. El zooplankton esta compuesto de minusculos crustaceos que son la base del ecosistema alimenticio del Estrecho de Bering, del cual dependen especies comerciales como el Bacallao, Salmon y Arenque, asi como casi toda especie de pez en el Oceano Pacifico Norte. El uso del CTD es muy parecido al trabajo que hago con mis estudiantes analizando las aguas del Rio Harlem. Estos jovenes cientificos tambien toman muestras de agua y practican analisis de campo para Oxygeno disuelto, PH, Nitratos, Salinidad e incluso pruebas de Clorofila, como parte de un evento anual llamado “Un dia en la Vida del Rio Hudson” .
En este evento organizado por el Laboratotio Lamont-Doherty de la Universidad Columbia, y el Depto de Conservacion del Estado de NY, participan escuelas a todo lo largo del Rio Hudson, recaudando datos cientificos sobre el rio. Pensamos usar a “BOCA CHICA”,un bote de madera que armamos de tarde, para una practica de CTD tomando muestras de agua del rio, analizarlas, y reportar los datos en el internet. Tambien mis estudiantes de la Escuela Intermedia Maria Teresa Mirabal Ms319, de origen dominicano en su mayoria, aprenden ciencia ambiental al tomar datos de la Estacion Metereologica ubicada en el techo de la escuela. Ellos reportan los datos via internet en la pagina web del Programa GLOBE.gov, para ser usados por cientificos y estudiantes por todo el mundo.

Michele Brustolon, July 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Michele
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 1, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1400
Latitude: 58.19 N
Longitude: 170.01 W
Cloud Cover: 100%, dense fog
Wind: 11.49 knots
Air Temperature: 3.800 C/ 38.840 F
Water Temperature: 3.960 C/ 39.1280 F
Barometric Pressure: 1003.10 mb

Science and Technology Log

Here fishy fishy!
July 1st began by spending time in the Acoustics Lab learning about the equipment used to analyze the data. The Oscar Dyson has 5 transducers on its center board and 1 temporary transducer on the side of the center board that looks horizontally. The transducers allow us to see where the fish are. Because of where the transducers are placed, we can only see the pollock from 16m to the bottom. This means that if there are any fish between the surface and 16m they will not be detected. This is the near surface “dead zone”. Why this happens? The transducers are mounted on the bottom of the centerboard about 9 m below the water line, and near the transducer face (first 7 m), no good data are collected. Why it’s okay? Pollock tend to hang out in mid-water. Although a few baby pollock might be in the near surface “dead zone,” the majority of pollock will be in the area we are watching. There is also a bit of a “dead zone” at the other end near the ocean floor. Yesterday the bottom was around 69.35m.

Transducer data

Why acoustics?
Ideally, the acoustic data collection would allow us to track aggregations of pollock without actually having to fish them out of the water. All parties involved (scientists, fish, bank accounts) would benefit from this change but scientists are still in the process of perfecting this process. The Oscar Dyson is part of a fleet of five boats that was specifically designed for acoustics. Specifically, it is considered a “quiet boat” where the engine noise is decreased to prevent scaring the fish. Other Acoustic projects include: Pacific hake off the coast from California to Vancouver Island (run as a joint project with Canada), herring in the northwest Atlantic, and krill in the Antarctic. Acoustics are used throughout the globe and many countries depend on acoustics for their fish surveys.

A little help from UNH!
Along with the transducers, there is also a multibeam SONAR that produces the same information as the transducers but with a wider angle range. The multibeam ME70 sends its signal out after the transducers information is sent and returned. They alternate about 1.5 seconds apart. The University of New Hampshire (UNH) is helping to use the tool and also to analyze the data. To analyze the transducer data collected, a program is in place from Tasmania to help determine what the boat is seeing. The scientists use the program to help separate species in the water column. Scientists utilize the multibeam ME 70 along with the transducers and fish trawling to ensure they are capturing an accurate picture of the mid-waters.

Multibeam ME70 data

How the survey data we collect are used. The data we collect on the Oscar Dyson during the summer pollock surveys are used by scientists and policy makers to determine the fishing quota (the “take”) of pollock for the next season. Quotas are important for maintaining the population of pollock (and other species) for this generation and generations to come. The data we collect on the Oscar Dyson help ensure that maximum stock can be taken without negatively impacting the Eastern Bering Sea pollock population.

Here I am deploying the XBT (eXpendable bathymetric thermograph)

Personal Log

Although there was no fishing yesterday, I certainly was able to be involved. I launched the XBT off the Hero Deck just as we began our fire drill. Once that was completed I returned to the Acoustics Lab until we were cleared from the drill. We then had our abandon ship drill where we get our survival suits and head to our assigned position. My meeting location is at life raft 3 and 4. Once we learned how to deploy our life raft, we headed inside to the conference/lounge to practice donning our suits. While this is very serious, it is also worth a laugh or two watching people struggle and become orange gumbies! The goal is to be able to don your suit in under 60 seconds!

Zodiac ride into the cove of St. Paul’s Island

Yesterday I had the opportunity to head into St. Paul’s Island; the largest of the Pribilof Islands. St. Paul’s is also called the Galápagos of the north. The Zodiac was driven by Joel Kellogg and Amber Payne, and our CO (Commanding Officer Mike Hoshlyk) allowed Katie, Rebecca, and I the opportunity to take the trip inland. Our mission while on land was to bring science equipment (ice-flow detector) to the airport that needed to be sent to Anchorage. Stepping foot onto St. Paul’s Island seemed eerie and mysterious. There was the lurking fog along with a very industrial feel to the island. Because most of the island consists of coalescing small volcanoes, the sediment’s dark color is due to lava flow which didn’t brighten the land at all. We did not see many people other than those working on dredging the new causeway or the people in the airport. Our taxi driver said that they hadn’t gotten mail since Monday and it was Thursday which explained why the people waiting for flights at the airport seemed a bit anxious. On our way back to the boat, we were able to see sea lions and some puffins hanging out in the water and around the break wall. As we approached the boat, it was like an apparition appearing before us. Just another once in a lifetime chance that I have had this cruise!

Want more information about the Pribilofs? Check out http://www.amiq.org/aleuts.html

Oscar Dyson coming back from Pribilofs

Animals Seen

Auklets
Murre (2 different types differentiated by bill type)
Fox
Puffins
Sea lions

(but no fur seals…everyone told me I would see them but they were missing. It seems to be a question everyone is asking.)

Word of the day

Desmadre: troublemaker

New Vocabulary

Transducer: instrument used to send out signals that return and show where fish are located
Ground fishing: trawling on the ocean floor

Rebecca Kimport, JUNE 30, 2010 part2

NOAA Teacher at Sea Rebecca Kimport
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2010 – July 19, 2010

Mission: Summer Pollock survey
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 30,  2010

What’s in your water?

Now that we are at sea, I work a shift each day (as do all members of the crew and science team). I began my shift this morning at 0400 and reported to the Acoustics Lab to meet with chief scientist, Neal Williamson. In addition to Neal, my shift includes Abigail McCarthy, NOAA research fisheries biologist, Katie Wurtzell, awesome biologist and my fellow TAS, Michele Brustolon.We began the shift by observing our first CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) profiler which will be deployed at least 10 times throughout our trip. The CTD measures conductivity, temperature, and depth (used to calculate salinity) and gathers samples to measure dissolved oxygen. In other words, it measures many of the physical properties of the seawater mixture in a specific column of water. In addition, fluorescence is measured to monitor chlorophyll up to a 100 m from the surface.How it works: The CTD is lowered down to the ocean floor, collecting data on the way down. Then, on the way back up, the survey tech stops the CTD at specific depths to collect water for the samples. Upon its return, the water is collected and treated for future analysis.

Here is our CTD sensor before its launch

After our first CTD, we completed our first Methot trawl. A Methot trawl is named after the scientist who designed the net used. Here is a picture of the methot getting hauled back on deck (please note, it does actually get dark here. I woke up in the dead of night and had to wait two hours for sunrise. Sunrise is at the “normal” time of 6:30 am and I think that’s because we are on the western edge of the time zone)

Here Comes the Methot

A Methot net grabs the creatures and collects them into a codend (to make it easier for us to process) at 30-40 m below the surface – our Methot collected jellies and euphausiids (also known as krill). My first duty was to sort through the “catch” to pick out jellies. Next, we measured the weight of the krill before counting a small sample. We also preserved a couple samples for use in larger studies.

Launching the XBT

Following our Methot, I assisted with the completion of an XBT (eXpenable Bathymetric Thermograph). At left, you will see that I actually “launched” the XBT overboard. The XBT is used to collect quick temperature data from the surface to the sea floor. The data are graphed at depth vs. temperature to highlight the thermocline, that is where colder water meets water warmed by the sun. Here in the Bering Sea, the thermocline is not always noticeable as the water column is subject to mixing from heavy winds and shallow depths.

Lucky for us, it was a calm day on the water and we were able to see a distinct thermocline:

The thermocline

I think the CTDs and XBTs are really cool because they are pretty routine. Both processes are conducted all over the globe at consistent locations year after year. As you can see from the chart below, the CTDs and XBTs are marked out for the area the Oscar Dyson covers throughout the summer. (As I mentioned in my blog description, theOscar Dyson must travel the same route year after year for the pollock survey to ensure consistency in data collection).

XBT CTD locations

Beyond the Oscar Dyson, these data are collected on every NOAA cruise that I read about and that data can be used to measure how a body of water is doing in general as well as how the water column of a specific location has changed over time. For example, longitudinal data are needed to note climate change within the Bering Sea. Pretty cool huh?

Vocabulary Note: I tried to define all the new terms I used in my entry. Did you notice a term I didn’t define? Ask me about it in the comments and I will make sure to provide you with a definition.

Thought Question: In the XBT data graph, why is the X axis labeled on the top rather than the bottom? (think about your coordinate plane)

Richard Chewning, June 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Chewning
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 4 – 24, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: June 13, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Eastern Bering Sea
Time: 1530
Latitude: N 56 15.380
Longitude: W 164 14.010
Cloud Cover: Overcast with light spray
Wind: 30 knots
Temperature: 5.4 C
Barometric Pressure: 1002.7 mbar

Science and Technology Log

Around 0940 Thursday morning we began our first summer 2010 pollock survey transect. Researchers have been conducting acoustic pollock trawl surveys since 1979 and bottom trawl surveys since the1950’s. The 31 transects in this year’s survey run roughly north south and progress from the eastern Bering Sea across to Russian waters in the western Bering Sea. The transect lines range in length from 60 to 270 nautical miles and are spaced 20 nautical miles apart. A nautical mile is slightly longer than a standard mile and is useful for navigating charts (maps used at sea). Only surveying during daylight hours, the Dyson will continue to run these transects till the beginning of August. A transect is a path (usually a straight line) during which the number of occurrences of an observable fact are counted (such as the abundance of pollock).

The beginning transect was marked by the launching of an expendable bathythermograph (XBT) probe. While the name might seem long and somewhat complicated sounding at first, the instrument and data being recorded are actually quite straightforward. Expendable refers to the fact that the probe is not recovered after being deployed. How is the data sent back to the Dyson you ask? Two long thin copper wires uncoil from the launcher and probe allowing data transfer back to the Dyson. The wires are broken by hand once the probe has reached the bottom. The rest of the story is revealed by subdividing the word ‘bathythermograph’ and defining its parts. ‘Bathy’ is a prefix that means deep or at depth. ‘Thermo’ is another prefix that refers to heat or temperature. Finally the word ‘graph’ means to draw a relationship between multiple variables (such as depth of the water and temperature). So an expendable bathythermograph is a disposable probe that profiles the temperature from the surface to the sea floor.

XBT probe and launcher

The XBT is a very helpful tool that enables the scientists onboard the Dyson to gather temperature data while on the move. Being able to capture this data without slowing down and stopping is a big time saver. Bringing a ship to a stop on the water takes much more time than stopping a car on the highway, and deploying a reusable instrument to the bottom and back takes even more time, manpower, and resources. Temperature data allows fish biologists to better understand how water temperature and the abundance of pollock and their food supply are related.

Darin deploying XBT

Later that afternoon, we also performed our first Tucker trawl. The Tucker trawl is a cleverly designed system of three nets that allows for three discrete (separate) samples during a single deployment. The Tucker trawl is designed to catch the zooplankton (animal-like plankton) that pollock eat such as euphausiids. This net allows researchers to study the differences of zooplankton distribution at various layers in the water.

Deploying the Tucker trawl

Tucker trawl messenger

To catch these small organisms, the net needs to a have very small openings. In fact, the openings in the net are only half a millimeter in width or roughly 1/3 the thickness of a dime! The three nets are attached to a metal frame mounted on metal skis that resembles a backwards dog sled. These skis allow the sled to slide along the seafloor and avoid snagging any obstructions. The Tucker trawl is initially deployed with one net open. The first net is closed and the next net is opened using a heavy brass messenger sent down the wire connecting the Tucker trawl to the Dyson. The messenger is attached to the wire cable at the surface and allowed to slide down the cable to the net being towed in the water. The impact of the messenger triggers a spring in a latch that closes one net and opens another net. The second net is closed and the third net is opened in the same fashion. Samples are taken at the surface, at the bottom, and evenly from the seafloor all the way to the surface. Attached to the sled are sensors to record temperature and depth, the flow of water passing through the net, and the time the net spends on the bottom. The catch is collected at the end of the net in a removable cod end jar. Any jellyfish are removed from the catch, identified, and measured. The remaining zooplankton is weighed, and a small subsample is saved and preserved for later identification.

Richard sending messenger down to the Tucker trawl

Euphausiid

Hyperiid amphipod

Personal Log

At sea, a person can easily lose track of time and even forget the day of the week as work aboard the Oscar Dyson continues uninterrupted seven days a week. I was reminded that today was Saturday by a special meal served by the galley. Rick and Floyd prepared a delicious dinner of real Alaskan king crab, prime rib, baked potatoes, vegetables, and fresh baked bread. This was a real treat (along with the cookies and cream ice cream, always a fan favorite) for the crew. There was plenty to go around, and all were well satisfied.

This was actually not my first encounter with king crab on this cruise. The day before, we had the unprecedented surprise of catching a red king crab with the Tucker trawl during the bottom net deployment. To the best of the knowledge of all the scientists onboard, this had never happened before. You might remember that the Tucker trawl is designed to catch zooplankton, which are typically small in size. This unlucky crab was so large she didn’t even fit in the cod end collection jar at the end of the net. In the end the crab was lucky as we opted to release her after recording her weight and species as we already had enough crab in the freezer for dinner the following night!

Richard holding red king crab

Dinner! Lucky for her, the crab Richard’s holding was released back to the sea!

Leisure Activities

Time spent not working onboard the Dyson can be considered among a person’s most precious possessions. Working long hours, the NOAA Corps officers, visiting scientists, and crew aboard the Dyson usually only have a few hours of time before starting their next scheduled watch or shift. Sleeping is often the first order of business on a person’s to do list. Whether you take only a short nap or can sleep for several blissful hours, time in one’s rack (bed) is essential for a productive, happy, and safe crew. Often one’s sleep schedule will necessitate missing a meal but the rest gained seems well worth the trade off. A very nice service offered by the galley is making and setting aside a plate for those crew members missing a meal if requested.

Other down time activities include reading, listening to music, and working out. The Dyson also has an impressive movie collection (including many recent titles not yet released on DVD) that is administered by the Department of the Navy. New titles are added monthly. The Dyson has a very comfortable lounge for watching movies that also includes a wide selection of magazines and books. Keeping connected with the outside world is also very important while at sea. With relative reliability, people can access the internet to answer emails, pay bills online, and surf the web for news and can call friends and family back home using the satellite phone.

Karen Matsumoto, April 27, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Matsumoto
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19 – May 4, 2010

NOAA Ship: Oscar Elton Sette
Mission: Transit/Acoustic Cetacean Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean; transit from Guam to Oahu, Hawaii, including Wake Is.
Date: Friday, April 27, 2010

Science and Technology Log

In addition to the deployment of the acoustic sonobouys and monitoring of the towed hydrophone array, we also do “XBT” drops three times a day, at sunrise, noon, and sunset. The Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) has been used by oceanographers for many years to obtain information on the temperature structure of the ocean. The XBTs deployed by the Sette research team measures temperature to a depth of 1000 meters.

The XBT is a probe which is dropped from a moving ship and measures the temperature as it falls through the water. Two thin copper wires transmit the temperature data to the ship where it is recorded for later analysis. The probe is designed to fall at a known rate, so that the depth of the probe can be inferred from the time since it was launched. By plotting temperature as a function of depth, the scientists can get a picture of the temperature profile of the water. It is amazing to think that over 1000 meters of thin copper wire is packed into that small tube! When I first launched an XBT, I was expecting to shoot it off like a rifle, but it actually just falls out of the unit by gravity. I was relieved that I didn’t experience “kick-back” from the probe unit when I pulled the lynch pin!

Chief Scientist Marie Hill preparing to launch the XBT unit.

XBT deployed and falling to a depth of 1000 feet.

Marie cutting the copper wire ending the connection to the probe and computer.

Bellow: Temperature and depth information is sent to the computer from the probe attached to the XBT unit by thin copper wires. The wires are cut when the unit reaches a depth of 1,000 meters, and the unit falls to the ocean floor. The researchers on the Sette use XBTs to obtain information on the temperature structure of the ocean, as seen on the computer screen at bellow.

We are continuing to conduct visual observations on the “Flying Bridge.” I had a chance to take a shift on the “Big Eyes” which are 25 x 150 magnification binoculars. The person at each of the Big Eye stations does a slow 90 degree sweep toward the bow and then back again, searching the ocean from horizon to ship to spot whales. I have a renewed appreciation for the skill it takes to use binoculars, especially one that weighs over 40 pounds! I had to use stacked rubber mats to be able to reach the Big Eyes at its lowest height setting, and even then it was a struggle to keep them steady every time we hit a wave! I think the Big Eyes were designed by the same people that made the huge Norwegian survival suits!

Karen on the “Big Eyes.”

Personal Log

The more I learn about sperm whales, the more I want to see one! I heard sperm whale clicks this morning, which was super exciting. John Henderson, a member of our science team sent me a cool website that shows an MRI of a juvenile sperm whale. I’ve included it below. Sperm whales are still on my wish list for whale sightings on this trip!

QuickTime™ and a decompressorare needed to see this picture.

MRI Image of a juvenile sperm whale. © 1999 Ted W. Cranford.
See website at: http://www.spermwhale.org/SpermWhale/spermwhaleorgV1.html

Question of the Day: How do sperm whales make their vocalizations? Sperm whale clicks are produced when air is passed between chambers in the animals’ nasal passages, making a sound that is reflected off the front of the skull and focused through the oil-filled nose. It has been suggested that powerful echolocation clicks made by sperm whales may stun their prey. Recent studies have shown that these sounds are among the loudest sounds made under water by animals (they can travel up to six miles despite being fairly high frequency).

Sperm whale clicks are heard most frequently when the animals are diving and foraging. These sounds may be echolocation (“sonar”) sounds used to find their prey, calls to coordinate movement between individuals, or both. Clicks are heard most frequently when the animals are in groups, while individual sperm whales are generally silent when alone. Most of the sounds that sperm whales make are clicks ranging from less than 100 Hz to 30 kHz

New Term/Phrase/Word of the Day: Expendable Bathythermograph or the XBT was developed in the 1960s by former The Sippican Corporation, today Lockheed Martin Sippican. Over 5 million XBT’s have been manufactured since its invention. The XBT is used by the Navy and oceanographic scientists to provide an ocean temperature versus depth profile. Some XBTs can be launched from aircraft or submarines, and have been used for anti-submarine warfare. How many XBTs do you think are on the bottom of the ocean?

Something to Think About:

“Thar she blows!” was the cry of the whaler!

Whale researchers can identify many whales by their “blows,” when the whale comes to the surface to breathe. Observers look for the direction and shape of the blow. For example, sperm whale blows are almost always directed at a low angle to the left, as their single nostril is located on the left side.

Grey whales, on the other hand, have two blowholes on the top of their head, and have very low heart-shaped or V-shaped blows, with the spray falling inwards. What do you think are you seeing when you see whale blows?

Animals Seen Today:

• Flying fish

Did you know?

Cetaceans evolved from land mammals in the even-toed ungulates group. The hippopotamus is most likely their closest living relative!

Picture of the Day

Abandon ship drill on the Sette!

Jennifer Fry, July 26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 26, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 100° [from the east]
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 13.5°C (dry bulb); 13.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10°C
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell direction: 315° Swell height:  6 ft.

Here I am checking HAB samples.
Here I am checking HAB samples.

Science and Technology Log 

We conducted a number of HAB, Harmful Algal Bloom sample tests. The Harmful Algal Bloom test takes samples at predetermined location in our study area. The water is filtered to identify the presence of toxic plants (algae) and animals (zooplankton). The plankton enter the food chain specifically through clams and mussels and can be a possible threat to human health.

We also conducted XBTs, Expendable Bathythermograph; and one  fishing trawl net. The trawling was successful, catching hake, squid, and Myctophids.  Fishery scientist, Melanie Johnson collected specific data on the myctophids’ swim bladder.  The swimbladder helps fish regulate buoyancy.  It acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates depending on the depth of the fish. Sharks on the other hand have no swim bladder. They need to swim to maintain their level in the water. Marine mammals such as dolphins and whales have lungs instead of a swimbladder.  Most of the sonar signal from the fish comes from their swimbladder.  The study of the swimbladder’s size helps scientists determine how deep the fish are when using the sonar signals and how strong their sonar signal is likely to be.

Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.
Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.

The scientists tried to conduct a “swim through” camera tow, but each time it was aborted due to marine mammals in the area of the net. During the “Marine Mammal Watch” held prior to the net going in the water, we spotted humpback whales. They were observed breeching, spouting, and fluking. The humpback then came within 30 feet of the Miller Freeman and swam around as if investigating the ship.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and animals trawled: Hake, Squid (Cephalopod), and Myctophids.
Marine Mammals: Humpback whale.
Birds: Albatross, Fulmar, and Shearwater.

Jennifer Fry, July 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 19, 2009

The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)
The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 42 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.4°C (dry bulb); 10.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

The seas are still very rough with 40 knot winds. No fishing trawls due to the high waves and heavy seas. However, despite the rough seas, we were able to conduct an XBT, which stands for Expendable Bathythermograph.  An XBT is a measuring apparatus consisting of a large lead weight connected to a very thin copper wire. The function of the XBT is to measure the temperature throughout the water column.  It is launched off the stern (back) of the ship. As it sinks to the sea floor, temperature data is transmitted to an onboard computer.

Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT
Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT

Personal Log 

The Miller Freeman is an NOAA research vessel.   Here’s a bit of information about the Miller Freeman…For more information go here. The Miller Freeman is a 215foot fisheries and oceanographic research vessel and is one of the largest research trawlers in the United States. Its primary mission is to provide a working platform for the study of the ocean’s living resources. The ship is named for Miller Freeman (1875-1955), a publisher who was actively involved in the international management of fish harvests. The ship was launched in 1967, but not fully rigged until 1975. The vessel was again re-rigged in 1982. Its home port is Seattle, Washington.  It is capable of operating in any waters of the world. The ship has 7 NOAA Corps officers, 27 crew members, and maximum of 11 scientists.

Following is a “tour” of the ship.  It has many nice amenities for extended life at sea.

The Laundry Room - Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick if you’re up there too long.
The Laundry Room – Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick at times.

The Kitchen - Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Kitchen – Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.

The Galley - This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Galley – This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.

The Library - Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Library – Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.

The Lounge - Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Lounge – Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.

The Gym - The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship.  This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.
The Gym – The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship. This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.

The Gift of Patience 
Wending our way through the North Pacific Ocean,
The massive waves crash against our hull with Herculean strength
As high as a one story building, their tops are dolloped with luscious whipped cream
They take their turn crashing against the ships sturdy hull, as gale force winds whip wildly past.
We play a waiting game. We practice the ancient art of patience.
When will we have hake, the silvery, slender fish that evades our sonar?

As the winds blow, cold sea spray stings my face.
I watch as the never ending line of waves wait their turn to hit the ship’s hull.
The waves wait patiently as do we.
The sea teaches us serenity.
We must not show greed or impatience.
The sea will provide.
One should lay empty and open waiting for the gifts from the sea.

~Inspired by Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gifts from the Sea

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman