Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Home Again

We arrived in Newport yesterday morning and it was a long day spent loading equipment onto the Bigelow for the next trip and then unloading the equipment from our cruise. To my surprise I was presented with a book that all the scientists and crew had signed and a large, colorful document certifying Winnacunnet High School as a "plank owner" of the ship. A plank owner was a member of the crew when the ship was commissioned and they felt that because students from the school named the ship, that the school deserved to be a plank owner. I'll frame the document and bring it to school. I got home at about 9 PM last night and already miss the life aboard the ship and all my new friends.
While I was on the ship I tried to talk to as many people as possible about their jobs and asked them for advice for my students who might be interested in working as a member of the crew, or enlisting in the NOAA corps, or working as a marine scientist. I'll list some of their comments here:
-A government job is a good job; benefits include security, retirement and health care.
-College isn't for everyone; degrees are not necessary to be a wage mariner.
-Maritime academies prepare you for engineering positions.
-A college degree in math/science is expected for NOAA corps enlistees. They run the ship.
-Life at sea can be difficult; you are away from your family more than you are with them and you must live in close quarters with a lot of people.
-For a future in science:
sign up for Marmam; a list serve with marine mammal volunteer opportunities and jobs
many think you will need a Ph.D.
take math/statistics and computer courses-lots of them
field work experience is important
write to someone in the career you want and find out what they did to get there
find a mentor
co-op programs give you a big advantage
do internships in college
be able to think for yourself, being part of the group won't get you very far
volunteer to get experience
don't give up before you try
be a hard worker-be there early, stay to clean up etc. it will pay off!
pick your fights wisely, be careful how you present yourself
smart doesn't equal special, the rules apply to everyone
no job is great every day
people want colleagues they don't have to babysit

Finally, I learned of something all college sophomores interested in a career in the marine sciences should apply for. It's called the NOAA Hollings scholarship. It involves tuition money and an internship. Be sure to check this out!

This is my last blog entry. I hope you enjoyed following along on my Bigelow adventure.
Cathy Silver

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Great Day

Today was our last day for observing marine mammals and turtles. Again, the seas were very calm, there was no fog or rain, and there was no wind: a great day for observing animals. We saw fin, sperm, pilot, and beaked whales; common, bottlenosed, Risso's, and striped dolphins; leatherback and loggerhead turtles; manta rays, and ocean sunfish.

We'll be heading back to Newport tonight and should be there tomorrow morning.

I had a great time and would like to thank all my new friends for helping me to feel welcome and to learn as much as I could. There is a lot to learn to do this job and they were all very patient with me.

Thanks to Debi for allowing me to come along. Denise, Danielle, and Joy explained the acoustic system to me. Betsy collected plankton for me. Gordon, Melissa, Allison, Irene, Carol F., Betty, Pete, and Kalyn all helped me learn how to observe. Special thanks go to my roommate Carol R. who was especially helpful.

The crew of the Bigelow was also very helpful and friendly. Everyone was willing to answer questions. They definitely made the trip an enjoyable one.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Wicked Awesome day

Today was a perfect day. We went up onto the observation decks at 5:45AM and the water was so calm it was like glass. There was no wind, waves or fog-all the things that make observing difficult. We could see for miles and we could see everything on the surface of the water. The amazing thing is that the perfect conditions lasted all day. We knew the conditions were very special and right away we started to see lots of animals. We were all so excited that we stayed on deck during our breaks so that we could continue to see everything.

The picture above is of bow riding bottlenosed dolphins. They had four very young babies with them and stayed with the boat for about 15 minutes.

We saw: sperm whales, fin whales, pilot whales, three types of dolphins, loggerhead turtles, manta rays, ocean sunfish, sharks, tuna fish, and Portuguese man-o-war.

At one point I overheard one of the observers say "I love my job", and I would have to say that I too love her job!

The perfect day ended with a beautiful sunset.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I went fishing!

We probably had the most sightings today of any day so far, in spite of the conditions. We started, as we always do, at 6 AM but we were only able to observe for a few minutes before it started raining. We started observing again at 10 AM and from 11-12 it was very busy. There were so many dolphins that we extended the observation time to 12:15 to allow us to identify them all. The wind picked up and we had to stop observing for the day at 2:00.

After dinner I got to go fishing on the stern of the boat. My fishing buddy Charlie let me use one of his fishing rods and we trolled for about an hour and a half. I've done a lot of fishing, and I do like the stern of the boat, but I've never fished from a 208.6' boat that cost $60 million before. We didn't catch anything, but it was really fun.

The day wasn't a total washout in the fishing department. Just a few minutes ago, Jim the friendly survey technician, called me out to the deck where they had just brought in the plankton nets. A lamprey eel was attached to the net's weight and it will soon be on display in my classroom at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, NH.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Animals other than marine mammals

Today we observed until 2:30 when it became too rough to see well. We saw striped and Risso's dolphins and a fin whale.

A friend wrote and asked what other animals we have been seeing. Peter Duley, our resident birder, tells me that he's seen four types of shearwaters (manx, sooty, Audubon, and greater), three types of petrels (white faced, Leach's, and Wilson's), a parasitic jaeger, a yellow warbler (above), a cedar wax wing (to the right), a mourning dove, and barn swallows.

We've also seen flying fish, a mola mola or ocean sunfish, and a Portuguese Man-o-War.

Photos by Danielle Cholewiak.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Foggy Day

We started the day on Georges Bank and it was very foggy. We tried to run out of the fog and it did get better. We saw striped and spotted dolphins today.

The pictures are of spotted dolphins. They develop the spots as they age and they lose the pink coloration on their bellies. The dorsal fin on the front dolphin was probably cut by a cookie cutter shark and the mark makes it unique and potentially identifiable in the future.

We ended the day near the Balanus seamount.

Photos by Allison Glass

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Good Sighting Day

Today was one of our best sighting days, in spite of having to stop for two rain storms. We crossed over Oceanographer Canyon and saw fin whales, sperm whales, pilot whales, Grampus whales, beaked whales, Atlantic white sided dolphins, bottle nosed dolphins, and Risso's dolphins.

While we were waiting for a rain storm to pass by, I drove the boat!