Cary Atwood, July 31, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cary Atwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 25 – August 5, 2005

Mission: Sea scallop survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 31, 2005

Weather from the Bridge
Visibility: Clear
Wind direction: NNW (230)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: unknown
Swell wave height: unknown
Seawater temperature: 11.4° C
Sea level pressure: 1012 millibars
Cloud cover: Dense Fog

Question of the Day 

What is bilateral symmetry?

Answer to yesterday’s question: The Hermit Crab

Science and Technology Log

As we comb through our dredge piles, intent on finding scallops, one of the most prolific creatures I notice is the Hermit Crab of the family Pagurus.  Hermit crabs are common on every coast of the United States and like many people, I am drawn to their special ability to take up residence in cast off mollusk shells. Just as we grow out of shoes when our feet grow, so must they find new homes as they age.  When seen without their shell, their abdomen is coiled, soft and very pink.  They carry their shell with them, and when threatened or attacked are able to retreat quickly for protection.  Hermit crabs are highly adapted to  carry around their permanent burden of a home because they have special appendages on their midsection segment for clinging to the spiral support of a marine snail shell. Their long antennae and large socketless eyes give them a distinct, non-threatening but whimsical  look….and it makes me want to take one home-but of course I couldn’t offer it the same kind of home it already has.

Personal Log

The six hour shifts for the scallop survey are taking its toll on my sleep needs. Every day I feel I am further behind and will never catch up.  This morning I truly did not feel awake until about 10am, even though my watch began at 6 a.m.  My daily schedule consists of the basics: eat, work, eat, relax, sleep, eat and work.  I don’t know how the crew can adjust to this kind of schedule for months on end as they go to sea.  It takes a very special person to adjust to the physical demands, let alone the demands of leaving family behind to come to sea.  However, some of the guys on board have been doing it for 20+years!

Coming to sea has a magnetic pull for some….is it the vast water and open horizons? Is it the need to assert some sort of independence? Is it the opportunity to be a part of something so much larger than one’s self?  As I speak to some of the deck hands, they are generally happy to be working for NOAA and away from the uncertainty of fishing or lobstering. In part it’s having steady work not influenced by the vagaries of what is caught at sea. These days, with the Atlantic fishery recovering, the catch is more consistent. Of the two deck hands I have come to know, both have a far away look in their eye—missing some of the action on a fishing boat, but still in love with the sea.

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