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!
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.
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.
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.
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