2017 Spring Bottom Trawl Survey

Leg 1: Wintery Weather Tests Your Bones

Anybody who has worked at sea knows that your efforts are limited to what the elements will allow. On Friday, March 10 we experienced that first hand. We hit a bit of a squall off the coast of North Carolina. The conditions changed very quickly. In just a few hours the waves went from 3-4 feet to 12 footers with even larger swells.


Rough seas on Leg I.  Photo by NOAA NEFSC/Kateryn Thompson-Delgado

Kateryn Thompson-Delgado

Fortunately, the Bigelow is equipped to fish in rough conditions so we continued to plug away at stations. Working on a rocking vessel takes a lot of energy. Your body has to use so many more muscles just to walk around, and even if you are just sitting, it can get very uncomfortable. I felt even worse for the night watch, who needed to sleep while Mother Nature attempted to throw them out of their racks.

Just as the day-watch’s shift was ending, the winds started to turn again. With everyone drained, the day watch turned in for the night. When we woke up, we found the seas had calmed down significantly. The waves were back down to 2-3 feet. What a difference 12 hours can make on the ocean! Compared to yesterday, you can barely feel the Bigelow’s rocking and I think everyone is a lot happier for it.


Sunrise and clams seas. Photo by NOAA NEFSC/Kateryn Thompson-Delgado

Dealing with rough seas is the part of the “price of doing business” when collecting data at sea. We plan for it and are prepared. Like one NOAA Corps officer told us during our initial trip briefing, “We call it the Spring Survey but this is the month of March. It’s still winter. We expect to hit some winter weather.” When log books and back packs start to go flying across the room, it’s good to know you’re in the hands of capable people who are well prepared.


Wesley Rand

NEFSC fishery biologist

Aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow


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