As I am writing this the Gordon Gunter is heading for its sixty-third station about ninety miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. This station is just off the shelf edge as we work our way east along the offshore part of the Southern New England area of our survey. Our intent to is reach and sample the southwest corner of Georges Bank in the time we have left before returning to Newport, Rhode Island on Friday morning. Yesterday this seemed like a daunting task, given a rather dire forecast for Wednesday on Georges Bank, but with the stalling of a frontal system that forecast now looks like it will be delayed long enough for us to continue working offshore and return to more sheltered inshore waters by the end of our scheduled sailing time.
Most of these stations have been sampled with bongo-style plankton nets, but eleven have made use of our CTD 911 and Niskin bottle rosette array, to gather water samples from various depths,as well as profiling temperatures, salinities, chlorophyll-a, oxygen and light levels through the water column.
All the gear has been working flawlessly, as well as the Oceanographic At Sea Information System (OASIS) software that is running it, in its first trial at sea. Thank you Joan Palmer and John O’Neil from NEFSC’s Data Management Services for your support on this! Also Maureen Taylor and Tamara Holzwarth-Davis of NEFSC for their collaborative efforts to make it work, and who are sailing with us right now to monitor its performance while performing their other sample and data collection tasks.
Most of our plankton catches have been fairly “clean”, unencumbered by large amounts of phytoplankton or gelatinous organisms, although our very last tow, in deep water near the shelf edge, did have a fairly large amount of phytoplankton. Most of the tows have been dominated by small copepods and a few stations had some hyperiid amphipods in them. We have also been seeing a few “sea angel” pteropods in some of the plankton samples, although by the time we wash them out of our plankton nets, their colors are a pale remnant of what they look like in the water.
On a larger scale, our bird and marine mammal observers, John Loch and Nick Metheny, have made a variety of observations, ranging from right whales at the very beginning of the trip, to loggerhead turtles, common dolphins, shearwaters and common terns over the past few days, while today they spotted several basking sharks.
We made excellent progress on our way south towards Cape Hatteras, but were slowed down quite a bit on our way back north by higher than forecast winds. Conditions have now improved and the vessel is back up to full speed in transiting between stations. The crew and command have things running pretty smoothly, and if these conditions hold, they should be able to get us through the southwest corner of Georges and back to Narragansett Bay by Friday morning!
Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey, GU1701