The Whims of the Weather

Monday, August 23,  finds us at anchor in Provincetown Harbor at the tip of Cape Cod, waiting for a large storm system which has brought rain and wind to much of the Northeast to pass.  We’ve had excellent weather until this morning.  The calm seas which facilitated ISIIS operations on Stellwagen Bank continued for much of the past week, allowing us to collect plankton samples from most of the Gulf of Maine in just five days of work.

The timing of the summer ecosystem monitoring cruises, in August during summer vacation, makes them an attractive volunteer opportunity for teachers and students.   Joining us on this trip is Scott Sperber, a science teacher from the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies in Tarzana, Calif.  He has assisted us in collecting plankton and water samples and taking calibration samples for our flow-through sampling system, which continuously measures the temperature, salinity and chlorophyll levels of the near-surface water that the ship is traveling through.

Scott Sperber watches computer diplays

Scott Sperber running the plankton tow by watching the real-time depth display coming from the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) unit mounted above the net. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

In addition, he has launched a NOAA drifter buoy decorated with his school’s name and mascot, a knight.  Equipped with a five-meter long (about 16 feet) drogue or sea anchor, a thermistor and a transmitter, this buoy will follow the ocean current it is launched in, and send out daily reports on its location and the surface water temperature to an Argos satellite.  The data is then relayed to a website, where students at his school can go online to monitor “their” buoy.   This buoy was launched at our easternmost station of the entire cruise, 50 nautical miles south of Sable Island, Nova Scotia, and will continue sending out daily reports on its location and water temperature for about 400 days, after which its batteries will run out.

Scott Sperber displays decorated buiou

Science teacher Scott Sperber and his decorated drifter buoy prior to launch. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

We also have aboard a high school student and Naval Sea Cadet, Anthony Gomes, who is a junior at Pembroke High School in Pembroke, Mass.  He has stood watches with the NOAA officers on the bridge of the Delaware II, and assisted with the deployment and retrieval of gear and collection of water samples.  Anthony hopes to join the Seabees after finishing college, and is gaining sea-going experience during his time with us.

Student gets a water sampler aboard ship

Pembroke High School student and Naval Sea Cadet Anthony Gomes getting a water sampler and CTD unit on board. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

teacher andf student carry a bongo net frame.

Scott Sperber and Anthony Gomes carrying a bongo frame net. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

Although data and sample collection comes to a halt while at anchor, the scientists aboard are already planning how to best manage their remaining time once we get back underway, hopefully by Wednesday.  Already contingency plans are being drawn up for possible alternate sites for the deployment of the ISIIS video system on Georges Bank if time and/or weather preclude its use at sites further south off Long Island and New Jersey.  Despite all our technology and forecasting ability, we are still subject to the whims of weather and will have to alter our schedule to best fit what we are dealt with.

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist

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