A Better Understanding of Coral Reef Ecosystems

Pelagic predators such as these barracuda, Sphyraena qenie, are part of the coral reef ecosystem in the U.S. Line Islands (NOAA Photo by Kevin Lino).
A team of scientists have embarked from Hawai'i on a three-month survey of coral reef ecosystems at Johnston Atoll, the U.S. Phoenix Islands, the islands of American Samoa, and the U.S. Line Islands in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The overarching objective is to better understand the coral reef ecosystems of these areas, many of which are seldom explored. The research expedition is part of a regular monitoring program, conducted by the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED), headquartered in Honolulu, Hawai'i. The expedition is supported by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program and involves extensive cooperation among NOAA scientists and research partners, including the University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Diego State University, and the Papahānaumaokuākea Marine National Monument.

The research expedition will be carried out from February 27 to May 24, 2012 aboard the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai. Under the leadership of Chief Scientists Dr. Jill Zamzow, Dr. Bernardo Vargas-Angél, and Jamison Gove, a diverse team of researchers will be conducting multidisciplinary coral reef ecosystem surveys, assessing the status of fishes, corals, algae, marine invertebrates, and the oceanographic conditions in which these organisms exist. The scientific data collected during the three-month research expedition will enable informed and effective implementation of ecosystem-based management and conservation strategies for coral reef ecosystems, helping to ensure their protection for generations to come.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 1

March 12th 2009
Day one of our trip was fairly typical.

The ship was already packed with all the equipment that we needed for the next 9 weeks. For Oceanography this meant temperature, wave, and salinity sensors, current measuring instruments (ADCPs) and all the bolts, weights and tools to install them on the reef.
All the scientists boarded the NOAA ship Hi'ialakai by 8am and we left the dock at Pearl Harbor at about 9:30am. We cruised across the harbor to pick up the decompression chamber (a chamber which can simulate being under water in case there are any dive accidents or decompression sickness). We have this on the boat as we're going to be far away from any hospitals and we a lot of diving its just in case, but if we need it, it could save someone's life.
You can track our progress across the ocean here: Hi'ialakai on NOAAs ship tracker.

Finally we left Pearl Harbor at around 12:30pm and started out toward Wake Atoll, which sits on its own in the middle of the pacific, a classic and unique coral atoll.

As we rounded Barbers Point and left the safe lee of O'ahu we started to feel the rocking of the ship. Its been a few months since I was last at sea and the rough waves were making me feel pretty sick. I don't like to take sea sickness tablets as they make me drowzy and the sickness always clears up in a day or so, but sea sickness is not pleasent, even for a day.

But there were things to do. With lots of new people on the ship we had a meeting to orientate everyone with the regulations. These are usually pretty obvious rules about how to keep everyone safe on a small and rocking ship, and are usually just common sense. Then we did some safety drills so that we know what to do in case something goes wrong. Firstly we did a 'man overboard' drill. The ships whistle blasts three times and we're told which side the person (in this case a buoy) went overboard.

Everyone climbed outside on deck and pointed to where the buoy is floating, in this case off our port (or left) side. The ship slowed down and turned toward the floating buoy. The ship is so big that it takes a long time to turn around, so it's very important that everyone keeps a look-out and points out where the 'man overboard' is. When we finally got close enough, a grappling hook was thrown to pull in the 'man overboard' and the drill was over.
Next we did an abandon ship drill, where we all went to our lifeboat stations and tried on our survival suits to make sure that they fit and that the safety equipment like lights and whistles all worked correctly.
Finally we performed a fire drill, for which the scientists just muster (gather) in the laboratory and let the ships crew practice their fire emergency skills.

After that I crawled into bed to relieve my belly ache, although the rocking boat didn't make it easy to sleep, I felt much better when I woke up.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, glad the first few days are going well. Here's hoping the wind/seas drop a bit to give you all a bit more time to find your sea legs :-)