Final days of sampling

Friday Night, March 7, 2014

Good Evening All,

Today was a bright and sunny day in the western Gulf of Maine, with us sampling at our final stations before the Gordon Gunter is scheduled to dock in Newport on Sunday morning.  We have just reached a sampling station at an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal outside of Boston Harbor, and from here we’ll be working our way east to a last set of stations, and from there to the Cape Cod Canal entrance.  We had some windy and very cold conditions between Wednesday night and Thursday night, but then the wind backed off and temperatures began climbing, so by comparison it feels positively balmy now that it is above freezing!


During our transit into the northern Gulf of Maine, splashing seawater formed icicles on parts of the ship. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

Zooplankton catches in the Gulf of Maine have been very low in biomass.  Most stations across this area were characterized by calanoid copepods, and euphausiids (krill),  although some stations, like Georges Basin, had a few shrimp, while another, just northeast of the Sewell Ridge, had a large number of euphausiids and a fair number of pteropods, (small planktonic snails).   We did also see some fish eggs at a station in the Northeast Channel, although far fewer than were found at a station on the northeastern flank of Georges Bank.

Since we are docking on Sunday, this will be my last update for this trip. Given that we had only ten days for covering a lot of territory between Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine, I think we did surprisingly well, especially for this time of year.  Georges Bank was thoroughly sampled, but the Gulf of Maine much less so, although we did cover the area from north to south, and west to east, so it is a more representative survey than if sampling had been limited to only a portion of it.

cruise track

Our cruise track as seen on the NOAA Ship Tracker website

As is always the case, it is a combination of factors that contributes to a successful survey.  Weather certainly played a large role; we had been expecting worse than we received this trip.  High winds and seas, and low temperatures only happened during part of the cruise, not all of it!  However the personnel on board played the biggest role in having everything come together.  When the marine mammal observers we usually have from the City University of New York were unable to come, a Canadian observer, Guillaume Cote, from the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environmental Stewardship Branch, joined us, filling in for that role.

marine mammal observer

Our Canadian marine bird and mammal observer, Guillaume Cote, at his post on the flying bridge of the Gordon Gunter. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

We had a volunteer graduate student, Cara Simpson from the University of Maryland, who donated her time to assist with the sample collecting.  This was a first cruise for Dan Vendettuoli, a new hire in our group, yet he pitched in and helped with all aspects of our Ecosystem Monitoring fieldwork.  Our veteran seagoing scientists Chris Melrose, Chris Taylor and Cristina Bascunan each contributed their unique talents to keeping things moving and operational when challenged by low temperatures and equipment problems.

CTD work

Cristina Bascunan installing a new CTD unit loaned to us by Stephen Allen, the ship’s Electronics Technician, onto the water sampling rosette. Our own unit failed during the coldest part of the cruise. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

In addition to doing their assigned tasks they found time to shrink some decorated styrofoam cups from pre-school students at the St Joseph School in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, by submerging them with our sampling gear to demonstrate the effects of water pressure.


Styrofoam cups decorated by pre-school students at St. Joseph School in Fairhaven, Mass.,  are nestled among the instruments on the rosette sampling array for a demonstration on the effects of water pressure. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NEFSC/NOAA

And despite making an abrupt transition from balmy Pascagoula, Mississippi, to what must seem like part of the arctic circle here in the northeast, the ship’s command and crew were always patiently and cheerfully helping us along with our mission.  Their support came in many forms, be it excellent meals, technical expertise, equipment loans, and gear handling in very difficult conditions, to ideas and advice for streamlining the cruise track and making the best use of our available time.

To all of you, I say thank you!  I hope I have the privilege of sailing with you again.

Jerry Prezioso
Chief scientist
GU 1401 Ecosystem Monitoring Survey

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