Wind and Weather Rule

The forecast for the predicted Sunday storm was right on target, with winds and seas increasing dramatically during the wee hours of Sunday morning.  By mid-morning after a hard slog from our last station, the Pisces dropped anchor just outside of Provincetown, tucked in snugly under the very tip of Cape Cod.  The winds are still increasing and we are seeing gusts of better than 50 knots with some regularity this Sunday evening.  The ship is also enshrouded with snow, although precipitation ended earlier today.

snow covered trawl

The midwater trawl, rolled up onto its reel, covered in snow. Photo by Lt. Kyle Byers, NOAA Corps.

The side sampling station on the starboard side of the Pisces, with snow on the deck.  Note that the Niskin bottle sampling rosette and CTD unit are secured to a bulkhead on the right side of the photo and protected from ice by a blue cover.  Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA.

The side sampling station on the starboard side of
Pisces, with snow on the deck. Note that the Niskin bottle sampling rosette and CTD unit are secured to a bulkhead on the right side of the photo and protected from ice by a blue cover. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA.

We’ve done very well until this point in time, having completed a total of seventy four stations from North Carolina to Southern New England and even the southwest corner of Georges Bank in just one week.  These stations have included four midwater trawls, twenty three rosette casts and forty seven bongo plankton tows.  The NASA personnel have also conducted several hand-deployed radiometer casts on days when it was not too rough or raining.  Our marine bird and mammal observers have been working steadily in two-hour shifts, to document all sightings along our cruise track.  The midwater trawl catches, all very small (less than one bushel basket), have included spiny dogfish, myctophids (lantern fish), pearlsides (another family of bioluminescent fish), small squid, and some butterfish.

bridge view

NOAA Corps Officer Jim Europe on anchor watch, peering through the ice-encrusted bridge windows. Note the Pilgrim Monument sticking up from the shoreline, just visible in front of Jim’s face. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

Now however, we are pinned down by very strong winds, which are forecast to last well into Monday.  Our plan is to assess the situation on Monday afternoon and then determine whether it will be safe to leave before nightfall or on Tuesday morning to head north and inshore into the Gulf of Maine.  We have ten days until we return to Newport Rhode Island which is enough time to finish sampling the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, but the long range forecast doesn’t look good for offshore, where most of the remaining stations are located.

chipping ice

Crewman Ryan Harris knocking ice off the bridge windows and windshield wipers. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC NOAA.

In the meantime we are doing what we can while at anchor.  Mike Jech, our midwater trawl expert, may conduct a calibration of the acoustic transducers used to “see” fish schools in the water column.  He is waiting for there to be less wave agitation and fewer air bubbles in the water column to get a clearer image from targets lowered over the side.  This eight-hour process will allow him to check out the performance of four transducers, each tuned to a different sound frequency to give a return from organisms ranging in size from plankton to fish.  Patrick Bergin and Reed Maloney, the electronics technician and ship’s engineer, spent some time studying the movement of the huge rack and pinion mechanism that raises and lowers the centerboard where the transducers are located, from an inspection hatch in the floor of the bridge deck.

centerboard view

Looking down into the centerboard trunk from the bridge access hatch. Note the water visible since it is open to the ocean to
permit lowering of the centerboard from the hull. Photo by Lt. Kyle Byers, NOAA Corps.

Although it is frustrating to be stuck at anchor, we have only to hear the sounds of the wind blowing across the hull and feel the ship movement even in this sheltered anchorage, to know this is a far better situation to be in than somewhere offshore!

Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
PC 13-01 Northeast Pelagic Survey

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