Appreciating the Small Things

The Delaware II set sail from Woods Hole on Friday morning, November 5, to embark on the fifth in a series of collaborative cruises with NASA and Old Dominion University, as part of the Climate Variability on the East Coast (CliVEC) program.  Partnering with them allows us to “ground truth” the data obtained from the SeaWiFS and MODIA-Aqua  satellites by making ship-based water column measurements throughout the survey, especially when we can time our gear deployments with satellite overpasses on clear days.

We weren’t blessed with many clear days at the start of this trip.  Sailing was delayed by a day to avoid the brunt of a large coastal storm that pummeled Cape Cod on Thursday, but even the diminishing seas on Friday gave us a rough ride to our first stations inshore along the coast from Southern New England down to New Jersey.  We took advantage of the first break in the weather to head offshore and continue south, saving our inshore stations for possibly worse weather on the way back.

Crewman brings aboard a CTD sampler

Delaware II crew member Jim Pontz brings in a CTD 911 and rosette sampler. The CTD measures conductivity, temperature, and depth, while the Niskin bottles (top) arranged in a rosette pattern collect water samples from various depths. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

Large seas hampered deployment of our CTD 911 and rosette water sampler, limiting us to using a smaller and more durable Seacat CTD, our rugged aluminum bongo frame plankton nets, and the flow-through seawater system to get water samples.  Ironically the winds and seas that have stymied our rosette deployments have mixed the water to a point where our water samples from the surface are often good representatives of the entire water column where the depths are not too great.

Many of our plankton catches have been graced with glass-clear ribbed jellyfish.  Harvey Walsh, our fishery biologist, has also spotted juvenile menhaden and hake, and some flatfish larvae in several of the samples as we proceeded south along our cruise track.

ribbed jellyfish in a bucket

A ribbed jellyfish in a plankton sieve just before preservation. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

two juvenile fish on a fingertip

Two juvenile hake on a fingertip. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

By Monday we had reached the southernmost point of this cruise. We turned inshore and then headed northward off the coast of North Carolina.  It was at this point in the trip that we started to obtain a real break in the weather and could enjoy the comforts of life that we take for granted ashore, like a good night’s sleep!

Two scientists in ship lab work on water samples

NASA scientists Mike Novak (left) and Veronica Lance filter water collected from different depths. (Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA)

We have even been able to start using our rosette water sampler on a regular basis, so the NASA and ODU scientists are now very busy filtering many water samples with all the equipment that they’ve filled the wet lab of the Delaware II with.  Hopefully this nice weather will last, but for an 18-day trip in November we’ve learned not to expect too much of it!


Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist

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