NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship KA‘IMIMOANA January 4 – 22, 2010
Mission: Survey Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands Date: January 12, 2010
We are almost there! We are holding station at 0 degrees 3 minutes North and 154 degrees 58 minutes West while we conduct out second deep (3000 meter) CTD. This cast began at 9:13 AM ship time (19:13 Zulu) and made it to depth at 10:10 AM ship time. The depth is 4650 meters at this location.
This cast has significance to Rick’s students (and his Daughter) because this is the first cup cast the cruise.
Rick spent about 30 minutes making sure that the mesh bags with 172 cups (a record for a single cast on the KA) and the bag with the Styrofoam head were attached on the instrument cage securely and in a way that would not interfere with the operation of the instruments on the CTD. As you can see from these pictures the results were profound.
When Rick returns to the classroom he will return all the cups to their rightful owners. The kids will then recalculate the volume, mass, height and diameter (if they can) and determine the rate of compression for the styrofoam cups. And of course the famous shrunken head his Daughter provided.
After recovery of the CTD Rick and Art spent about a 45 minutes getting the mesh bags off the CTD, untied and for a few of the cups that had nested, carefully pulling them apart so that they would dry as individual “mini-cups”. As soon as this task was completed we moved to the TAO-CO2 Buoy that we are going to replace.The new buoy will be the Bobcat-Bronc Buoy and will be deployed tomorrow since the recovery started around 2 PM and wasn’t complete until just about dark. Tonight we will remaining on station through the night, making five mile loops around the position of the new buoy so there is a very good chance that we will cross the equator 10 or more times tonight.
As Rick wrote, today we recovered a buoy designed to measure the amount of CO2 in ocean water in addition to typical data (i.e., temperature, wind speed, humidity, rain and salinity). During the recovery I had the opportunity to ride the RHIB out to the CO2buoy to help the Chief Scientist remove some equipment before pulling the buoy onto the ship. Our ride to the buoy was phenomenal! We were told by the Coxswain to “hold on tight” to the ropes surrounding the top of the RHIB. As we pushed through the indigo waves of the ocean at the equator, I felt like a Montana bull rider holding on for dear life. While Brian was removing the anemometer and the rain gauge, I attached a short rope with a coupling to one leg of the buoy that a larger rope could be attached and bring the buoy aboard the ship. While on the buoy, I realized that the only other thing in site for miles was our mother ship, the Ka’Imimoana!
The RHIB returned to pick us up and then went back to the ship to retrieve the rope that would be attached to the buoy. After some concern that the anchor did not release, the buoy was hauled aboard and stowed for future use. Tomorrow the new CO2 buoy will be deployed.
This morning we were at 3 minutes North (3 nautical miles) of the equator, about a half hour ago we were only 3/10th of a mile North, we are really getting close. On to the Southern Hemisphere!
I ate breakfast this morning with Lee Harris, a member of the National Marine Mammal Lab, NOAA’s ice seal team. Lee is also an Inupiat Eskimo. I enjoy listening to and learning about what he says. It is obvious in the harsh Arctic environment, that Native people have the edge in making observations and finding the ice seal. After all, they have been living in the Arctic and sharing their environment with ice seals their entire lives.
Lee’s village is Kotzebue, Alaska, a small town about 30 miles north from the Arctic Circle. Many of the people there rely on the native animals for their food, boats and some clothing. It didn’t occur to me until I talked with him this morning, that he had to make some major changes to his lifestyle in joining this scientific expedition.
Take eating and diet. I piled the fresh pineapple, melon and strawberries high in my bowl, and spooned strawberry yogurt over the fruit. Two warm hard-boiled eggs gave me a little protein boost, to keep me going until lunch.
But the food on the ship is not ordinary for Lee. He told me dried caribou, seal meat, and walrus are what he enjoys. The Native Alaskan diet needs to be high in protein and energy in order to sustain their active lifestyle and brutal cold weather. High in cholesterol, unhealthy? No way! Lee has been told he is as healthy as can be by the doctor in the local clinic. By far, more healthy than some youngsters that stray from the traditional diet and consume fast foods and white sugar.
I have lots to learn from Lee. His quiet way of talking and humble nature are as natural and true as the ice seals presence here in the Bering Sea.
One thing you can say about the BEST mission is that it’s full of adventure! Take today for example.
April 13 was the launch test date for the helicopter that the National Marine Mammal Lab (NOAA) uses for transects of seal populations. There was an air of excitement about the boat. The helicopter, pilot, and three-person crew were going to test out the machine and the instruments they needed. And they did.
The helicopter was a thing of beauty. It carries 600 pounds of cargo including human passengers. It is equipped with a camera that can take a picture of what is directly below the machine every two seconds. Seals missed in a count can be seen in the photos. It lifted straight up from the flight deck. No glitches. So fast. It circled over us and was gone. Zoom, zoom, and zoom.
After more than an hour, the helicopter returned to the ship. It approached from the starboard (right side) of the flight deck, slowly, slowly, and then landed as soft as a snowflake on the rough textured cement.
They waited for the blades to stop, then jumped out of the helicopter from doors in the passenger and navigator positions. They were covered from head to foot in safety gear, bundled against a potential problem. No problems surfaced.
They saw the ice boundary just 14 miles away. They saw a seal.
Being a scientist requires you to have top-level problem solving and analyzing skills. The scientific team from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) is a great example of this skill in practice.
Michael Cameron led a team of six skilled seal experts through a practice run of a seal launch. It may sound easy, but the Healy had never launched a zodiac of the 17-foot or 14 foot variety before. A joint dry run was held to test the abilities of the Seal Team to change into survival gear and the abilities of the Coast Guard to get the zodiacs into the water. Right after breakfast, the teams made a beeline to the heliport, where the three zodiacs patiently rested. While the Coast Guard gathered together and assigned duties to the staff, the Seal Team pulled and tugged on their safety gear.
Next, the entire team got together and the Coast Guard brought up potential problem areas. The seal team regrouped for a few reminders. And the dry run began. The Coast Guard scrambled into position, using ropes, cables, and a ‘headache ball’ (a modified hook attached to a pulley). Soon the ball and hook were attached to the zodiacs’ rope harness.
The headache ball is a modified hook and pulley that is used to haul heavy objects.
A crane operator plucked the first zodiac away from its trailer cradle and gently, so gently lowered it to the icy 31-degree water.
The first two scientists, Mike Cameron the seal catcher and David Withrow the skilled driver, descended the Jacob’s Ladder. I have always known Jacob’s Ladders to be toys that you can flip over and over again by twisting your wrist. That was not this. This was not a toy. This is science!
The scientists had to descend to the zodiac along a suspended ladder. The ladder was a twisty moving thing. They were wearing bunny boots the size of watermelons on their feet. It must have been hard hanging and balancing. But they made it. Yay, they made it! But, you can count on something going wrong on a dry run. And it did.
The first zodiac had a very nice outboard motor, that wouldn’t start. David and Mike took turns pulling. And pulling. And pulling. And pulling.
David told me later in the day, that even though the motor was a bit temperamental, it was still better than some of the motors he had to work with in the past. It was David who finally started the motor. By the set of his jaw, and the strength of the pull, I could tell that pull was the one. And it was.
Off they went waiting for the other two zodiacs. Each launch of the zodiac proved faster and smoother than the previous. Soon the flotilla circled and took off flying across the water. Two short miles later, the zodiacs slid into position on the starboard side of the Healy. They reversed the process of boarding into the process of deboarding. First they stopped the motor. Then they connected the ‘headache ball’ to the rope harness.
One at a time, the driver and seal catcher climbed the ladder. After they were safe on the Healy, the skilled Coast Guard crane operator and rope tethers eased the zodiac back into her trailer cradle. Each time they pulled in a zodiac, it was smoother. At the end of the exercise, I don’t know which group had the wider smile, the six seal scientists or the Coast Guard Zodiac Crew.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan June 26 – July 6, 2006
Mission: Shark Abundance Survey Geographical Area: California Coast Date: June 30, 2006
Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 250 degrees
Wind speed: 9 kts
Sea wave height: <1
Swell wave height: 1-2’
Seawater temperature: 17.6 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1015 mb
Cloud cover: Clear
Science and Technology Log
Today was a slower day in terms of numbers of sharks—we only caught three. But the mood was good because each of the sharks caught was large enough to accommodate satellite tags. And, we caught one of each species of shark that we anticipate seeing—a blue, a thresher and a mako. The mako was particularly lively giving a good kick as it left the shark trough. Any of the sharks tagged on this trip, or others in the same effort, can be monitored here. On this cruise we have attached SPOT tags to two makos (on Tuesday #60986 and today, #60998), a blue (#60989) and a thresher (#53797). Note: I’m told that all four of these MAY be listed as blues on the website until the website is fully updated, but the tracks of all four sharks should be viewable right now!
All sharks are in the phylum Chordata. They, along with rays and skates, and a strange and even more ancient group of fish called chimera, make up Class Chondrichthyes, which are the fish with skeletons made of cartilage. The only bony material in a shark is its teeth and for this reason very few shark fossils beyond teeth are found. The other classes of chordates are the jawless fishes (hagfish and lamprey), the bony fishes (minnows, mola, cod, seahorses, etc.), amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds.
Each class is divided up into orders, and there are eight orders of sharks— one order includes the sawsharks, another the whale shark and wobbegong, and another the angelsharks (which have some resemblance to rays). The frilled and cow sharks make up another order, the bullhead sharks another, and there is an order for the dogfish sharks (including the spiny dogfish which might be the most numerous of all shark species—closer to shore, we may hook one). All of these orders are sharks but when people think of sharks they typically envision either mackeral sharks, which include great whites, makos, tigers and threshers, or the ground sharks, which include leopard sharks, hammerheads and blue sharks.
The 16 species of mackeral sharks are among the most specialized of sharks. Many, like the mako, are swift swimmers. Threshers have a tail that is as long as the rest of their body is. It is believed that they use this tail to “corral” fish and then slap the fish to stun them. The goblin shark lives in the dark of the deep and has a strange snout jaw structure that makes it arguably the ugliest shark. The first of these was caught in 1897 near Japan. A scientist there delivered it to Professor David Starr Jordan, for whom the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship we are on is named.
With over 200 species, the ground sharks are the most diverse and varied order of sharks. The blue shark is a generalist living in open waters in nearly all of the world’s oceans. Others, like the catsharks are benthic, or bottom-dwelling. Most are small and harmless but some are the largest of predatory sharks. All of them have what’s called a nictitating eyelid which covers the eyes to protect them as the shark bites.
During today’s afternoon set, we inadvertently lost a buoy that was intended to be clipped to the longline. Fortunately, such a mishap is occasion to let loose the ship’s two engine Zodiac. Myself, Stephanie Snyder (an intern with NOAA), Miguel Olvera, and crewmembers Chico Gomez and David Gothan, set out to retrieve it. The buoy was dropped early in the set so we had to travel a couple miles out. On the way, we briefly saw four molas. Later a sea lion passed by.
An adventure here, an adventure there—the fifth day is as interesting as the first!
Latitude: 41.16.4’ N
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Speed & Direction: Light and variable
Sea Wave Height: <1
Sea Swell Height: 5-6 ft.
Sea Level Pressure: 1016.0
Cloud Cover: 5/8 of sky cloudy, AS (Alto Stratus), CS (Cumulus Stratus), AC (Alto Cumulus), C (Cumulus)
Temperature: 21.8 Celsius
Yesterday was a very slow day. One of the scientists became ill so the ship was diverted to Coos Bay, Oregon. After a medical evaluation, it was decided that he would return to the ship at a later time. We then left Coos Bay, and came into stormy weather, so operations were at a stand-still. We did still do bird observations, and we spotted Black footed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Common Murres, Fulmars, and Leech’s Storm Petrels. At 2100, I met with Oceanographers, Liz Zele, and Mindy Kelly and proceeded to help with the CTD and the Bongo Nets. The CTD gives scientists samples for conductivity, temperature, depth. Next, a bongo net is lowered to a specific depth (300 meters) and brought to the surface at a constant angle. In this way a variety of fish and plankton can be collected and later identified. The specimens collected are very special because many of them are species in larval stage. By looking at this microscopic view of the ocean you may easily identify it as the “nursery of the ocean”, displaying the many larval forms. The tests were concluded at approx. 2300 hrs.
Today was a much busier day. Watch started at 0600 and as I was entering data for the bird observations we spotted some Blue whales. Dr. Forney decided to launch the smaller boat (the Zodiac) for a closer look at the whales. I boarded the boat with the other scientists and we were lowered into the ocean. After getting everyone secure, we took off in pursuit of the Blue whales. We spotted approximately 6 whales including a mother and calf. Biopsies were taken of these whales and we spent approximately 3 hours in pursuit to identify them. We also identified Dall’s porpoise.
I must say climbing into a Zodiac in pursuit of whales has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. The Zodiac skims the water at about 35 mph. and often we were airborne. The Blue whales that we found were unbelievably huge, as they can grow to 20-33 meters long. We were approximately 100 meters away from them; I could hear their blows and was amazed at their gracefulness. Besides the whales being exciting, all is going really well. I did have another bout of seasickness, but now that I’m wearing the patch, (medication for seasickness) I’m doing fine. The food here is very good, and there is down time to read, learn or watch movies. Ship life is like a great big family and everyone gets along pretty well. Right now we are south/west of Crescent City, headed south to the Cordell Banks, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuaries. Soon, I’ll be in closer waters. Hope all is doing well back at home. Thanks for responding to my logs, I welcome comments, corrections or questions. It keeps me busy!
P.S. In the Zodiac, I’m the one in the back with the orange “Mustang Suit” on, looking a little confused. If you look closely you can see the biopsy dart on the side of the Blue whale.