Its all about adapting in winter…

Good afternoon Everyone,

On a frigid Friday afternoon on February 28 at 1 pm the NOAA vessel Gordon Gunter left its berth on Pier Two of the Naval Station Newport, RI, to start the Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey.  Following the remnants of a gale out to Georges Bank, the first station on the Great South Channel was reached by late morning the next day.  Steadily diminishing winds and seas have permitted us to make excellent progress along the southern flank of Georges, heading steadily eastward toward the Northeast Peak, which we are still nearly one hundred nautical miles away from as I am writing this on Sunday afternoon.  An earlier forecast had predicted unworkable conditions on Monday, but that has been changing, and we may not have to veer off towards a more sheltered location to be able to keep working.

Gordon Gunter

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter prior to departure. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

We have completed 14 stations since leaving the dock, deploying a bongo net array to collect zoo- and ichthyoplankton, a rosette water bottle sampler and CTD system equipped with a LISST and fluoroprobe to measure particles in the water column and detect various types of phytoplankton, as well as the usual temperature and salinity profiles.  We are also testing out a Karatsuri Sand Lance Rake, modified by David Richardson to collect sand lance, (genus Ammodytes) or sand eels, as they are sometimes called.

sand lance rake

Sand lance rake being retrieved after is first tow. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

These small fish spend much of the winter in the sands of shallow areas near shore and on Georges Bank, and the rake is one collecting tool that can penetrate the sand and capture them if they are present, unlike a bottom net that would just go right over them.  We have deployed the rake in two sandy areas on Georges Bank,  and although we caught a variety of benthic invertebrates during our five minute tows, no sand lance were present.  Plankton catches have been very light, as would be expected for this time of year, and the temperature and salinity profiles have revealed most stations on Georges Bank to have well mixed water columns, which again was expected given the rough sea conditions of the past weeks out here.

fixing sampling bottles

Oceanographer Chris Melrose helps revamp sampling bottles so they will work in cold weather. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

Tonight we’ll get our next forecast which will determine our cruise track for the coming week.  So far it has been a gift to have received the weather we’ve had so far.  Even the sub-freezing temperatures, which have raised problems like weakening the rubber bands on the Niskin water sampling bottles so they weren’t sealing well (we had to shorten all of them), or freezing our salt-water wash down hoses for the plankton nets (we now leave them running continuously over the side) hasn’t caused the biggest problem of all – freezing spray, since the seas have been relatively calm.

scientific party

The 7 scientists from the Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey assembled in the Gordon Gunter Dry Lab for their vessel introduction lecture. Photo by NOAA Corps Lt. Marc Weekley.

Since we are already into the second day of our ten day mission, it is possible we may get through what has been a particularly difficult season and reach all of our planned Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine stations!

Jerry Prezioso
Chief scientist
GU 1401 Winter Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

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