The Delaware II returned to sea for Leg II of the November Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) cruise with a slightly different mission than it began with, and on a far better weather note than we did back on November 5, when sailing was delayed by a day so we could leave the dock safely. When we sailed this week on Monday, November 29, the Woods Hole harbor was flat calm, and we’ve been lucky to have those conditions persist until late today, Wednesday, December 1.
Our NASA and Old Dominion U. colleagues have returned home, leaving us with a lot more space aboard the vessel. With the assistance of two graduate students, Maggi Mars and Rachel Dicker, Cristina Bascunan and I are striving to complete the sampling on the shoals of Georges Bank that we missed on the first leg.
We are also sampling additional areas using a meter net as well as our bongo nets. This larger net will better enable us to target fish eggs and larvae, particularly herring, which are spawning this time of year.
We are fortunate to have three deck hands on each watch handling the deployment and retrieval of the sampling gear. Working as a team they run the winch, operate the A-frame and guide the gear over the side and back, freeing the small contingent of two scientists per watch to run the CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) computer, wash the plankton from the nets, and preserve and log the samples.
At this point in the cruise, Wednesday evening, we have completed all ecosystem monitoring stations and have moved north, into the western Gulf of Maine for our exploratory fish larvae and egg sampling. Catches have been light, with only a few herring larvae and some fish eggs taken in the nets on the shoals of Georges Bank and now in the western Gulf of Maine. The number of fish eggs did increase dramatically at a station located on Jeffreys Ledge, which was sampled earlier this evening.
There is an inverse relationship between our rate of sampling and the sea state. We seemingly raced across an eerily calm Georges Bank earlier this week, but now we are slowly tacking our way south along the coastline of New Hampshire and Massachusetts to avoid having large seas hit us broadside. This weather system is forecast to be moving fairly quickly, so once the winds come around to the southwest and west, we should be able to make better progress. Hopefully we’ll be able to complete our Gulf of Maine sampling, and have time for a foray onto Nantucket Shoals before returning to Woods Hole on Sunday morning.