Melissa Fye, April 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 18, 2005

Location: Latitude: 23*36.3’North, Longitude: 164*43.0’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10
Wind Direction:90
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Wave Height: 5-7 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.8
Cloud Cover: 2/8 Cu, As, Si
Temperature outside: 24.4

Sea turtles on the beach

Sea turtles on the beach

Science and Technology Log

The AHI research vessel was launched just prior to eight a.m. this morning with Scientist Joyce Miller and Jeremy Jones aboard.  The red and silver sonar boat would continue mapping shallow areas near 23 degrees North and 166 degrees West in the Northern Hawaiian Island chain. The ship resumed running benthic habitat mapping lines also, filling in gaps from previous surveys. Half past noon brought the deployment of several divers to the hull of the ship to determine the installation of the Trackpoint II testing. They dove in adorned with black suits, colorful air tanks, and metal weight belts.  It turned out that the Trackpoint II wasn’t installed properly and was off by 15 degrees.  That noted, changes were made to computer software to account for the degree change. Another boat trip was organized for the La Perouse Pinnacle area. Coxswain Merlyn Gordon led me, ENS Amy Cox, Scientists Rob O’Connor and Jonathan Weiss out to sea to snorkel the reef ecosystem.  Upon approaching La Perouse, it was determined to be too dangerous, so we changed course and swam the reef area near East Island.  We returned to the ship a few hours later and the AHI followed suit, and was hoisted out of the water once again. The HI’IALAKAI transited to deeper waters and ship based TOAD operations and Trackpoint II testing carried on once again. Ten p.m. brought about the reoccurrence of shipboard mapping around the outer circumference of French Frigate Shoals using the onboard multibeam sonar system.

Personal Log

I awoke and after the morning ritual of breakfast and shower, I answered emails from students in my fourth grade classroom in Ashburn, VA.  I climbed the stairs and passageway to the drylab to check to see if I could be of some assistance editing data.  The efficient scientists were caught up on the editing so my services were not needed.  I soon found out about an impromptu snorkeling trip and clambered to get ready and join the expedition. The seas were the calmest I had seen yet, so the ride was very smooth across the Pacific towards Perouse Pinnacle (a volcanic rock out cropping that serves as a good landmark in this area). The ocean looked like glass and the sun rays flashed and hit the water like bright diamonds. There was an underlying surge though, which might indicate a coming storm in the next 48 hours (according to sailors onboard).

After nearing Perouse, we could see the waves crashing around the rock, and pressed on for a safer snorkeling environment where we wouldn’t be churned to bits! We approached East Island and could see dark figures grazing the beach.  Upon closer inspection, we realized they were not monk seals, but giant green sea turtles basking in the sun. Mating season was upon us, and many of the sea turtles were populating this area to find mates. We snorkeled in four different areas of the reef, being careful not to get near the beach or disturb the coral reef ecosystem.  Several sea turtles were curious and encircled our boat, whereas I snapped some good photos.

I finally saw my first Ulua fish, indigenous to this area.  The fish had eluded me prior to today and I had been told stories of their aggressive biting behavior. Although quite large, about 3-4 feet, I was told it was small compared to most.  It swam around us, but never ATTACKED! It wasn’t nearly as ferocious as the picture the crew on board had painted in my mind.  It was a very flat, circular fish with a silver sheen. We saw many school of fish, one of which was bright yellow, and neon green coral. I learned from Coxswain Gordon that some of the clouds above the reef bore a greenish undercast or tint.  The color was reflected from the coral below and was an aide in locating reef areas. We returned to the HI’IALAKAI later in the afternoon and I spent the evening conducting some more interviews (which will be included in future logs). The sun and exercise tired me out and I fell asleep as soon as I hit the pillow in my stateroom.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  A habitat is the place where an organism lives and grows.  Examples include ponds, forests, and a coral reef. A niche is the role an organism plays in its surroundings. A niche includes an animal’s complete way of life–where it lives, how and what it eats, and how it produces. Find out more about the giant green sea turtle. Think about why the turtle is laying on the beach also. List the answer’s to the sea turtle’s niche: 1) Where does it live? 2) How does it eat (what body parts does it have to aid in eating?) 3) What does it eat?  (don’t say it eats Ms. Fye:)!! Ugh! 4) How does it reproduce?  (Does it give birth to live young, lay eggs, etc?) 5) What resource did you use to find these answers?

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’s Question:  The ocean floor is full of nutrients and food particles resulting from decaying matter settling on the bottom.

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