Live from Seal Island!

The gray seal pupping cam is back, streaming live video of the gray seal pupping season from Maine’s Seal Island through February 2014. Join NEFSC seal researcher Stephanie Wood Jan. 8 between 1 and 2 p.m. for a live chat at http://explore.org/seals

To learn more about the seal cam and the 2013 gray seal pupping season on Seal Island, visit: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/rcb/news/features/seal_cam/

On the Home Stretch

rosette water sampler Pisces

Crewmen retrieving the rosette water sampler aboard Pisces. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso NOAA/NEFSC)

As the November nor’easter moved swiftly away from us, the Pisces was able to leave Portland, Maine at 2 PM on Friday November 9 and head for the southwest corner of Georges Bank. After about twelve hours of steaming we were back on track to resume our sampling operations that had been interrupted twice by storms. The vessel has achieved some amazing speeds to help make up for the time lost. During our transit from Portland to Georges Bank the Pisces reached speeds of fifteen knots in following seas!

nefsc cruise wave heights nor'easter

Digital imagery from the weather service indicating wave heights from the large nor’easter that interrupted the cruise. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

On the morning of the Veteran’s Day holiday, we worked our way our way west and south across the New York Bight area. Sampling here has been intense, with an increased number of plankton tows and rosette water casts to help ascertain if there have been any changes in this area from the severe pounding it received from two major storms in quick succession. The catches and data haven’t appeared to be unusual to our casual on-board observations, but a post-cruise comparison with our multi-decadal data base will reveal if any significant changes have occurred.

saury half-beak

A saury or half-beak caught at night in one of the bongo nets. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

We are seeing fish larvae and juveniles in many of the samples from the New York Bight, some of them clearly recognizable as flatfish. Some samples have had gelatinous plankton, mainly in the form of occasional medusae and some ctenophores or comb-jellies and salps too, although in far lesser numbers than we had on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine. Bird sightings have dropped off from the more northern parts of the cruise, but the bird observers say that is to be expected for this area.

Holly Goyert flying bridge bird observation

Holly Goyert at her observation post on the flying bridge of the Pisces. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

With our continued good weather and the vessel averaging thirteen to fourteen knots between stations, we are on track to achieving remarkable coverage for this cruise when you factor in the multiple days lost to two major storms. We are scheduled to dock at the Marine Operations Center in Norfolk on Wednesday morning, 14 November. The southernmost portion of the Middle Atlantic Bight will be missed, but the remainder of the survey area has been sampled very thoroughly, due to the efforts of the command and crew who have really made this vessel perform in an outstanding manner. By the time we break off, we will have sampled at 159 stations from as far north as the Bay of Fundy in the Gulf of Maine, and as far east as the northeast peak of Georges Bank.

Pisces CTD NEFSC crew

Tamara Holzwarth-Davis at the CTD computer during a rosette water sampler cast. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso.)

I must give kudos to the personnel of the Pisces for running the ship as fast as prudently possible given the conditions we’ve been faced with and safely squeezing in as many stations as w could before each oncoming storm! The scientific party on here, although few in number, has also made a tremendous effort, given the intensive level of sampling that was asked of them to document possible changes in the New York Bight ecosystem and I thank them for rising to the occasion. This should prove to be a very interesting cruise to analyze!

–Jerry Prezioso  chief scientist for Pisces 12-07 Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

Science in Stormy Weather

NOAA Fisheries Pisces docked

NOAA Vessel PISCES at the Portland State Pier, waiting for a large nor’easter to pass. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

The NOAA research vessel Pisces tied to the State Pier in Portland Maine after running in for shelter from a fierce nor’easter that had been moving up the east coast of the United States for several days. We have finished our plankton sampling and hydrography sample and data collections from Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, and will be heading south next to work in the Southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic Bight areas. The weather has not been kind to us on this trip! We have been interrupted by Hurricane Sandy and the Nor’easter of November 2012, each of which has forced us back to port for several days. However we still have enough time remaining in our cruise schedule to sample the southern half of our survey area, and the weather, although challenging, has presented us with an opportunity to sample off the coast of the hard-hit New York Bight and compare this year’s data with our time-series to see if it has changed any of the hydrography or plankton from that area.

acoustical bat dectector on board the Pisces

Researcher Steven Pelletier checking the acoustical bat detector he installed on the flying bridge of the Pisces. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

We have been conducting a typical late fall ecosystem monitoring survey as we collect plankton and water samples between storm interruptions. Two bird and marine mammal observers on board have been seabirds and whales seen along our cruise track from their observation post on the flying bridge. In addition, for the first time on one of these surveys, we have along a bat-detector which is a device that records bat sounds encountered during the cruise to determine the presence of any of these flying mammals that may be crossing our cruise track.

bongo nets at sunset

Crewmen Todd Wilson and James Walker retrieving bongo nets at sunset. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

The weather has been surprisingly good during much of this cruise, considering that we have been working between major storm events. During our plankton sampling we have observed a fair number of fish larvae in our plankton samples, some of them recognizable as cod or cod-like, some flatfish, and a couple of larval or glass eels, so named for their transparency. We’ve caught large numbers of krill during many of our night tows in the Gulf of Maine, and we have also had the surprise of one of our bongo nets scooping up an adult saury or half-beak that had been attracted to the pool of light surrounding the vessel during one of our night stations.

BEAR wreck site

Wreck site of the USCG steamer-schooner BEAR near the Northeast Channel as seen on the navigation monitor. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

We’ve even had the opportunity to look for an historic sunken ship, the US Coast Guard Cutter Bear. This wooden steamer-schooner was commissioned in 1885 and sank in 1963, near the Northeast Channel at the edge of Georges Bank. The Coast Guard requested that we try to pinpoint its location with our sonar as we passed over it while transiting between sampling stations. Unfortunately, we could not locate it at the position given to us, even after several passes over that site, so its exact location will continue to remain a mystery for the time being.

BEAR wreck sonar

The captain (in foreground) and survey technician Mike Allen watch the acoustic data for signs of the BEAR wreck on our sonar, but couldn’t find it. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

We are currently scheduled to depart at 2 PM today, as the storm moves away from this area. Hopefully we’ll be blessed with more benign weather for the remainder of this trip!

Buoy cruise bonus: near perfect weather

Greetings from Woods Hole! The Delaware II is currently pier side after a successful 8-day leg in the Gulf of Maine servicing NERACOOS buoys. The ship docked Tuesday morning after transiting from Massachusetts Bay to recover and deploy the last buoy of the cruise, Buoy “A”.   A quick port call to Portland, Maine was made Sunday afternoon,  April 15, to offload and reload NERACOOS buoys and equipment onto a flatbed truck.

buoys on back deck

Chief Scientist John Wallinga (right) and Scientist Charles Fikes (left) repositioning Buoy “F” on the back deck of the Delaware II. (Photo by ENS Shannon Hefferan, NOAA)

mussels on buoy

Mussels are attached to the near-surface instrument cage on a recovered mooring. (Photo by ENS Shannon Hefferan, NOAA)

Our weather was almost perfect for recovery and deployment operations for the entire cruise—only one recovery during the evening hours had to be delayed till the next morning due to 20 knot (kt) gusts in West Penobscot Bay.  Our junior officers really enjoyed this cruise because it gave them the chance to grow in their ship handling skills.

Ensign Shannon Hefferan
Operations Officer
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Buoy Bonanza

Thursday, April 12:

Greetings from the NOAA Ship Delaware II!  We are currently in Canadian Waters,  65nm from Seal Island, Nova Scotia,  and steaming towards our second buoy on the NERACOOS (Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems) Servicing Buoy Cruise. Over this eight day-leg cruise, the crew plans to first repair 2 NERACOOS buoys, drag for lost mooring equipment in Jordan Basin, and then recover and deploy 5 buoys along the coast of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.

buoy N

Chief Scientist John Wallinga waiting for Buoy “N” to come alongside the ship in the Northeast Channel, Gulf of Maine. (Photo by Shannon Hefferan, NOAA Ship Delaware II)

A brief port call to Portland, ME, this Saturday (April 14) will be made to load 2 buoys that need to be deployed and remove 3 buoys that were recovered.  Late yesterday afternoon, April 11, the ship arrived at Buoy “N” (located in the Northeast Channel in the Gulf of Maine; 110nm east of Cape Cod).  The whole operations process took roughly 6 ½ hours—from arrival at the buoy to deploying the buoy in a requested position with a new anchor attached.

Two NERACOOS buoys waiting to be craned onto the Delaware II in Woods Hole prior to the cruise. (Photo by ENS Shannon Hefferan, NOAA)

Weather conditions have been favorable for operations so far, and the ship is scheduled to dock in her homeport of Woods Hole, MA on the morning of April 17.

Ensign Shannon Hefferan
Operations Officer
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Water sampling

A bright sunny, but windy Sunday morning finds the Delaware II slowly working its way southeast off the southern coast of Long Island.  We completed the northern portion of this survey, and came through the Cape Cod Canal on Saturday night at 6 PM.  We won our race against the weather and were able to continue working at offshore stations in the southern Gulf of Maine, including making rosette casts for water samples to measure dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity.  Now that the front is over us, we’re in rough but more sheltered inshore waters and can continue working, although only transiting between stations at  8 knots.

water sample

Chris Taylor drawing water from the Niskin bottles in the rosette to be used for dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity and nutrient samples from different depths. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

glass botles

Harvey Walsh carrying glass bottles for the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity sample analyses. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

Our plankton catches in the southern New England area have continued to be small, but we are starting to observe a few fish larvae that could be either herring or sand lance at stations just south of Block Island and Long Island. We also caught large numbers of shelled pteropods (planktonic snails) at one station in this region, and a couple of sea butterflies (Clione limacina), a shell-less variety, at another.  Back in the Gulf of Maine region our bird observers spotted a huge flock of northern fulmars, (two hundred or more) feeding at what appeared to be a current-shear region just east of Georges Basin.  These are some of the observations made since the last update.

filtering seawater

Cristina Bascunan filtering Niskin bottle seawater through a small membrane filter prior to freezing it for nutrient analysis onshore. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA)

We’ve been fortunate on this trip to have had calm, mild weather while at the northern part of the cruise track, so there has been rapid progress with little or no icing of the vessel from freezing spray.  Today, with temperatures below freezing and strong winds, we are accumulating some ice, so that will be something to watch out for in the coming days.  Hopefully this will be less of an issue as we proceed south.  Our plan for the future is to continue working our way south along the inshore stations and move offshore as soon as the weather lets up.  With about nine full days of time remaining on our schedule I think we stand a good chance of finishing this survey, which is a difficult thing to do at this time of the year.  The long-term forecast looks promising.   I’ll know better by our next update!

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
DE12-02 Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

End of Cruise Wrap-up

Photo of jumping Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) seen from the Henry B. Bigelow. (Photo credit: Allison Henry/NOAA NEFSC.)

Day 15 – July 11: Another beautiful day. We finished up line 47 and completed about half of line 26 (our two most southern and offshore lines). Our sightings were mostly of squid-eating species: Risso’s dolphin, sperm, pilot, and unid beaked whales. We also had some Atlantic spotted, bottlenose, and rough-toothed dolphins. A group of rough-toothed dolphins came to the bow and, though they weren’t there very long, Pete collected another sample! Pete’s been doing biopsies for a long time and that’s the first time he’s every darted a rough-tooth.

Day 16 – July 12: Windy, windy, windy. Everywhere. So, we stayed put where we were and got caught up on data, movie-watching and naps.

Day 17 – July 13: Completed line 26 in excellent conditions. More Atlantic spotted, striped, and Risso’s dolphins. Also some great looks at a large group of pilot whales. Timing worked out so that just as we finished surveying for the day, the engineers were able to take over and utilize our transit towards some inshore lines to take care of some of their routine maintenance needs.

Day 18 – July 14: Windy, windy, windy. Everywhere. Again. We had given it the ol’ college try, but were out of options, so decided to head back to the barn. After some initial scrambling to prepare for an early arrival, we were greeted at the dock by friendly faces and welcoming arms.

Sunsets on the close of the Henry B. Bigelow's most resent research cruise.

The sun sets on the close of the Henry B. Bigelow's most resent research cruise. (Photo credit: Sasha McFarland.)

Thanks to all of the scientific and Bigelow crew for making this leg such a success!

Allison Henry, chief scientist