NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 28 – June 7, 2013
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 6, 2013
Wind Speed: 19.97 knots
Surface Water Temperature: 27.78 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 28.40 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1010.40 mb
Science and Technology Log
The Pisces is on its way to port, having had to suspend operations in wake of the bad weather that has since become Tropical Storm Andrea. We were supposed to go into Mayport Naval Base, right outside of Jacksonville, FL, but due to the storm we have been redirected to Port Canaveral.
Despite all of this, we made the best of a bad situation. Even though we couldn’t do fishing or camera drops yesterday, we did still manage to get some data. We spent as much time as we could mapping the seafloor before we had to dodge the storm, and we took the time in the morning to do an XBT, an Expendable Bathythermograph.
You can use an XBT to get a temperature and depth reading for the water without having to actually stop the ship. A tube with a probe on it is attached to a launcher and is fired into the water. The probe has copper wire attached to it to send the data back to the ship.
So…you drop the probe, you get the readings, and at least you get some data even if you can’t stop the ship to send more delicate equipment down.
Other than that, the past couple of days have been all about cleanup and dodging the storm. To a certain extent that makes the scientific posts a little quieter than usual, but it’s been a very interesting experience watching everyone work together to make sure that the scientists could get as much work done as possible without endangering the ship or its crew.
We didn’t get to do everything that we wanted to do on this leg of the trip, unfortunately. But we still got a lot accomplished, and I feel like it was just as interesting to see how everyone was able to react to the weather and still get their job done.
Whew! I didn’t imagine when I got on the Pisces in Tampa that I’d spend the last bit of the trip dodging the first named Tropical Storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. But I definitely have a greater appreciation that, with science as in all things, sometimes life does not go quite to plan.
If all goes to schedule, I will be leaving the Pisces tonight, for our detour into Port Canaveral. We had to stop working a day early, and we’ll end up arriving a day early and into a different port. My last day has mostly been spent trying to rearrange for my travel home from a new city and with assisting the science crew in cleaning up the lab spaces.
All data collection requires a certain amount of flexibility. I knew that already – social science data is notoriously difficult to collect – but the problems that I face in my work are quite different from these. When international relations scholars have trouble with data, it’s usually because of things like difficulties in getting governments and/or people to tell the truth, etc. But sometimes, as now, it’s because conditions make it unsafe to collect the data. We can’t send people into shooting wars to count casualties, and we can’t send scientists into a hurricane to count fish.
Science is a method, not a subject, and the scientific method is one wherein we all simply do our best with what we have. Science has been so profoundly influential because of the simple power of this process, testing over and over what we think to be true, so that we can learn if we are wrong. It’s true if you study fish, if you study policy, or if you study anything in between.
There are many things we’ve discovered about our oceans, and the fish and other creatures that inhabit them. But there are still many more things to learn. I’m glad that we have scientists like the ones I met on the Pisces out looking for our fish, and glad that NOAA, in conjunction with states and other government agencies like the Coast Guard, are looking out for our oceans.
My thanks go out to the entire crew of the Pisces, and the great people at the Teacher at Sea program, for letting me be a part of the process.
Did You Know?
NOAA is predicting a highly active hurricane season for the Atlantic this year. Stay safe!