Valentine’s Day Update: Thursday 14 February 2013
The NOAA vessel Pisces has made a great deal of progress since our last update. The weather has been remarkably cooperative for February, and although we’ve had some winds and seas, plus rain and snow, we’ve been able to keep working at a rapid clip, and now find ourselves approximately 40 miles south-southwest of Montauk Point, Long Island, conducting our second midwater trawl. Our first midwater trawl was done 50 miles off the coast of New Jersey, and yielded 14-15 spiny dogfish, many small squid and 1 butterfish. The total volume did not exceed a one bushel basket.
Plankton catches have been light, and very typical for this area and time of year. Water column temperature and salinity has also been fairly typical for this season, being well mixed and showing little evidence of any thermo- or haloclines in most of our casts. We had been plagued by intermittent but persistent problems with our water sampler on the Niskin bottle rosette, but today the equally persistent scientists and electronics technician on board have tracked down and corrected several problems, involving both hardware and software and the most recent casts conducted just prior to my writing this went very smoothly.
I fear that our streak of excellent weather will end this Sunday, as a front with strong winds is forecast to come through the Southern New England area. The captain has proposed targeting as many offshore stations as possible prior to that event, a strategy which has already worked very well for us farther south. We’ll be on our way inshore to calmer waters near Cape Cod when the worst of the storm hits. The art to this is all in the timing. If we stay offshore too long, we’ll get caught in the winds and seas and have to stop working. If we come inshore too soon we could end up finishing work on all the nearby inshore stations and have to stop working until we can get back offshore. The command aboard the Pisces is quite adept at this game. Our November ecosystem monitoring cruise last year on this vessel was during Hurricane Sandy and the huge un-named nor’easter that followed it. They had us out sampling prior to the storms, in for shelter for the worst weather, and quickly back out as the seas subsided, using the superior speed of these newer vessels to best accomplish this.
One fact that has been a cause for concern is that, ironically, we have had better weather at sea than many of our families have had ashore. While many ashore have had to endure blizzards and power outages, we have continued in relative comfort, by comparison. I admire the spirit with which everyone aboard has carried on while saddled with concerns about how their families were faring during the worst of the storms that hit much of the east coast. Of course in our modern age we are able to communicate with much more regularity than we could on past cruises, but it is still not the same as being there with your family when life becomes difficult at home. I’d like to say thank you, on this Valentine’s Day, to everyone on board who is continuing to make this cruise possible while so far from their loved ones.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
PC 13-01 Northeast Pelagic Survey