Into the Gulf of Maine

June 2, 2018
Shortly before midnight, the Henry Bigelow completed sampling on Georges Bank and is now heading into the Gulf of Maine for the last part of this Ecosystem Monitoring Survey.  We have completed 91 stations spread across the Middle Atlantic area from Delaware Bay north, all of Southern New England’s waters and now all of Georges Bank as well.  We’ve been fortunate in that excellent weather has permitted us to make rapid progress across this large area while conducting all of our monitoring and collaborative projects.  We are especially  pleased to have been able to deploy all of our sampling gear in the Northeast Channel to gather more data about the warm water anomalies currently being detected in the Gulf of Maine.

Deployment of a Canadian Ring Net by crewman John Harvey from the side sampling station on the Henry Bigelow. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC

This included bongo plankton nets, ring nets, radiometers for satellite overpass water measurements, and rosette casts for DIC (dissolved inorganic carbon), nutrients, chlorophyll levels, and temperature and salinity profiles. Our teacher, Susan Dee, even launched a NOAA drifter buoy which she has been tracking through the NOAA Drifter Buoy Program to monitor its movements and water temperatures.

Launching of a NOAA Drifter Buoy by our Teacher at Sea, Susan Dee, from the side sampling station on the Henry Bigelow. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC

We’ve been amazed at the amount and variety of life we’ve seen on Georges Bank. Our observers John Loch and Nick Metheny have documented large numbers of mola mola sunfish, pods of common dolphins, pilot whales and even sperm whales. Another interesting sighting was of a south polar skua, an antarctic seabird migrating to northern latitudes at this time of year to feed after mating and nesting down south. Large numbers of Wilson storm petrels and and sooty shearwaters have dominated the numbers of total seabirds spotted, with each species accounting for about a third of total bird sightings.

John Loch, one of our two seabird and marine mammal observers, at his observation post on the flying bridge of the Henry Bigelow.  Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC.


South Polar Skua, sighted on Georges Bank. Photo by Nick Metheney, Integrated Statistics.

With safety being a paramount concern aboard NOAA vessels, a man overboard drill was conducted yesterday.  These drills familiarize the scientific staff with what their role is in reporting and sighting anyone that goes over the side, and keeps the crews’ skills sharp on retrieving them as quickly as possible.  The drill went smoothly,with scientists gathered on the rail, their arms pointing to Oscar, a stuffed survival suit wearing a flotation work vest, while the rescue boat was launched to to go out and retrieve him.

Survey Tech Mark Bradley and Ops Officer Justin Ellis prepare “Oscar” to be thrown overboard for man-overboard drill. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC


The science team points toward “Oscar” in the water. Photo by Jerry Prezioso, NOAA Fisheries/NEFSC

Our major concern for the remainder of the cruise will now be the weather, which is forecast to change shortly, as low pressure moves in and winds and seas pick up.  We are planning to prioritize sampling at the Gulf of Maine basin stations, including Georges, Jordan and Wilkinson basins, and nearby plankton stations then head into the western Gulf of Maine closer to shore to continue working as conditions deteriorate.  However bad it gets we can’t complain about the weather we’ve had for this trip except maybe for the fog which has enveloped us again!
Jerry Prezioso
Chief Scientist
HB1803 Spring Ecosystem Monitoring Survey


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