The crew did a great job of safely docking the ship back at the URI Bay Campus.
We cleaned our rooms and the science labs. We had to pack up our equipment and bring it back to the science labs once we docked.
Each watch team did a "freestyle" challenge demonstrating what they had learned on the ship. My team did a funny skit about 3 crustaceans who were good friends.
It is still pretty rough, but not as bad as during the night. We did
our last two handheld CTD scans. The equipment has been cleaned up and
put away. We are preparing to return home tomorrow morning.
During the morning, I took the scientists' real data and made student
activities which I will share with the students when I get back to
school. Click here to download the activities. The activities are
based on the averages of salinity and water temperature found at the
surface and at the bottom of the Rhode Island Sound.
At 9 am, the scanfish hit something, turned upside down and fell to the bottom of the ocean. The Captain stopped the ship. The technicians, mechanics and scientists all worked together to recover the scanfish. The scanfish has a crack, some dents and was filled with mud and sand. The scanfish was cleaned out. The technician, Dave, checked the scanfish inside and out and looked at his computers to see if the scanfish could be put back into the water. Dave replayed the scanfish's journey through the water using his computer. He was able to see that it ran into something like a ghost line and went falling down to the bottom of the ocean. It dragged along the bottom. Dave decided that it was safe to put the scanfish back into the water. So we did. It collected more data for the scientists to analyze.
Dan, Chris, Kristina and I plotted graphs showing when the high and the low tides were. We wanted to know what the tide was while we were collecting salinity and temperature data.
At the end of our shift, our watch team had to present what we had learned to the head scientists on the cruise. We showed them our data and graphs. We also performed a play demonstrating how the tides move more west at high tide and more south at low tide near Narragansett Bay.
The beginning of our 2nd shift today brought lots of rain and 6 ft
waves knocking on the porthole windows! It is very hard to walk around
the lab. The Captain is concerned about the technicians and the
scientists being able to get the scanfish back on the boat with all the
waves and the wet deck. We may have to take it out early and not
collect as much data as we had hoped.
The scientific tools have been collecting data for over two days now. We are looking at the data gathered from different points in Rhode Island Sound. We are learning that the saltiest water is in a canyon, where the water is the deepest. The freshest water that we have found so far is right off of Block Island. We noticed that the warmer water is near the coast. The warmer water is less salty.
Kristina and Dan just helped me to answer your questions that were sent to me in an email. Be sure to read the Questions and Answers section of the blog.
At 10 am, we deployed the scanfish. The scanfish is remotely
operated. Dave showed Dan and I how to safely release it into the
water without getting hurt, or destroying the equipment. This piece of
equipment is much like the one that Mr. Jerry showed us outside during
our field trip. The scanfish on the Endeavor is bigger. It can be
controlled by a computer from inside the boat. There are video cameras
showing the scanfish's cable. That helps the operator too. The
scanfish collects data from different depths of the ocean. It measures
conductivity which gives us the salinity levels in the water. It
measures the temperature of the water. It also measures the chlorophyl
fluorescence which measures the clarity of the water. The scanfish
software records data and is saved to a computer inside the ship. The
scientists will have this data to study when they get back to their
At the end of the watch, Kristina, Dan and I shared the data that was
collected with the next group of scientists. We discovered that the
water temperature at the bottom of the ocean is between 3 and 5 degrees
celsius colder than the water at the surface of the ocean. We noticed
that the salinity is higher deeper in the ocean.
During our 8 pm to 12 am watch, we deployed a handheld CTD
(conductivity, temperature depth) tool. This tool drops to the bottom
with a long rope and is pulled up to the boat. The equipment collects
more data for the scientists. The scientists use all the data to draw
conclusions about different places in Rhode Island Sound.
At 9:00 am, the ship set sail and we had a safety meeting. We watched a video that showed us how to keep safe on the ship and what to do if there is an emergency. We went outside and learned how the life boat works.
Saturday was a busy day. We took turns copying the data that the ship's scientific tools collect into a journal log. We wrote down the J Day, the time (GMT), the latitude and longitude, the air temperature in degrees celsius, the salinity and the depth of the ocean water. We deployed scientific equipment to collect data from the ocean. Before putting some of the equipment into the water, the scientists put vaseline and chili pepper onto it to keep organisms from settling on it.
The data that the scientists are collecting consists of water
temperature at different depths of water. The water can be as deep as
53 meters. The scientists are measuring the conductivity of the water
which tells the salinity level; just like you use the conductivity
meter to measure salinity at the marsh. We measure salinity in ppt
(parts per thousand) and the scientists on the Endeavor measure
salinity in psu (practical salinity units).
The scientists are also studying the currents. They want to know how the water from different places mixes together. They want to know which parts of Rhode Island Sound are the most salty and which parts are the least salty. They want to learn why. They want to learn how the water mixes from the ocean, rivers and different bays, like Narragansett Bay.
Twice today, the scientists used a Tucker Troll Net to catch krill, fish larvae and plankton. This is like the plankton net that Mr. Jerry showed us. One of the catches was done close to midnight and we caught creatures called ctenorphores that were bioluminescent. That means that they give off light. These are like jellyfish. The scientists find the jellyfish annoying because it makes it harder to find the fish larvae that they want to study. They will take these samples back to their labs on shore and investigate them further.
The crew was mostly old salts; they were hardly affected by the conditions at sea. They were very helpful to the scientists and tried to assist however they could to provide for the best use of the time spent at sea. It can be a challenge to be in the poor conditions that the seas throw at you, but the science must go on. It was a very rewarding experience.
We were at sea for eleven days and out of site of land for about half the time. The combination of continually rocking seas and a disjointed daily schedule created a sense of being out of "time." We all knew the date of the day, but not necessarily the day of the week! Our logs all recorded Greenwich Mean Time, so the next day always started at 8:00 p.m. for us.
This was the 5th year for these Cyst Cruises, and the data has been compiled to create computer models hopefully predicting the severity of red tide blooms for the following fishing season. Last year, they correctly predicted the type of season, enabling the fishing industry to plan accordingly. The Woods Hole team is striving to increase accuracy of these predictions, but the seas and the phytoplankton still hold many mysteries for them. At this time, there are still questions about the life cycle of the Alexandrium Fundyense, beyond the basics, making it difficult to account for the distribution of these dinoflagellates and to predict their toxicity. This area of the sea, both near shore and off shore, is complex and they are trying to work with many variables in developing a computer model of the bloom dynamics. If successful this year, the fishing industry would receive advance notice of a toxic bloom and be able to harvest their shellfish before the bloom, or to work in another region of the sea.
Working on the RV Endeavor gave me an insight into scientific methods, the questions that drive people to become scientists, and the work habits and systems necessary to carry out this work. I was inspired by the quest to answer questions about this mysterious, and major, region of our planet. I also came away recognizing the importance of our work encouraging students to keep an open mind, explore new ideas, to be accurate in everything they do and record, and to be observant of the complexity of the world around us.