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The adventure begins…

November 10, 2010

It is hard to believe I am on a ship 150 miles off the coast of Florida right now. My participation in this mission has materialized quickly over the last few weeks. Liz Baird, director of Education at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences,  has represented the Museum in the past. However, due to a conflict in her schedule this year, I am fortunate enough to fill in. Also representing the Museum during this mission are professional videographer Art Howard, Curator of Living Collections Peyton Hale and middle school science teacher Beverly Owens from Crest Middle School in Shelby, NC. Our plan is to provide images and content (e.g. interviews with scientists, daily highlights, snippets of life on board, etc.) from the ship over the next two weeks. We hope you will follow along as we learn about the exciting research scheduled for the Life on the Edge: Extreme Corals 2010 mission.

Because it has taken longer to start our blog posts than we had thought due to requirements for scanning all laptops to ensure no viruses are introduced to the ship’s computer network, we’ll quickly catch you up on what has happened thus far. When we arrived Monday afternoon, most of the scientific gear had already been uploaded to the ship so our main task was to get settled into our rooms and start to meet the crew and scientists.

It turns out, my first major task wasn’t research related at all – it was to figure out how to get in and out of the top bunk. To get an idea of the challenge, try lying on your back in your bed and pull your heels to your body. The ceiling of my bunk is about two inches above the top of your knees. Now imagine trying to squeeze in and out of that space and grab one of the three ladder rails without falling out or simultaneously hitting the metal tile ceiling which acts as an alarm to let you (and your roommate) know when you fail. The first night, the “ceiling alarm” sounded three times as I crawled out or rolled over. (Last night was better – zero alarms).

Dolphin escortThe highlight as we waited to depart was the stunning overhead practice flights of the Navy’s Blue Angels – they are absolutely amazing. I was also entertained by one of nature’s precision flying groups – some Brown Pelicans flying wing tip to wing tip.  As we steamed out of the harbor, some Bottlenose Dolphins escorted the ship by riding the bow wave. They epitomize playfulness as they swim back and forth in front of the bow.

The routine of the first day was taken up by orientation and fire and safety drills by the ship’s crew (more on this in a future post). On Wednesday we attend a series of meetings to learn more about the purpose of the mission’s research and some of the techniques that will be used.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Diane Carr permalink
    November 10, 2010 5:27 pm

    I saw the map of the expedition on the NOAA website. Can you explain to me what the red dots and the yellow plus signs signify? Where are you now on the map and where are you going next?

    Diane Carr
    7th grade teacher

    • ncmuseummike permalink
      November 10, 2010 8:34 pm

      The red dots on the map are known sites of cold water coral habitat based on previous dives with ROV’s or submersibles. The yellow plus signs are areas of suspected deep water coral habitat based on acoustic mapping. They have yet to be confirmed by sampling methods. We are currently at the West Florida Slope site on the map and will be doing the first ROV dive later tonight. We will then be headed around the tip of Florida after our initial ROV dive.

  2. diane mcclain permalink
    November 11, 2010 12:33 pm

    Do you think that this time in your research you will find a fair amount of damage from [the Deepwater Horizon] oil spill on the habitats around that area and are you going to try to retrieve the equipment loss from the earlier voyage of this year or are these all new sights? Tell Jennifer Mclain-Counts hi for me.

    • ncmuseummike permalink
      November 12, 2010 5:16 pm

      The mission is set to achieve several objectives of the Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program in the southeast including but not limited to:

      Determining animal diversity and habitat associations of deep water environments of the SE; examining cold water coral habitats; describing the physical environment, mapping deep coral habitats; and collecting specimens for various research projects.

      But, if any signs of environmental damage of any sort are detected it will be noted.

      We are in a different area from where the trawl was lost and recovery of gear of that nature is usually not feasible given the operational costs of recovery as compared to the value of the equipment lost.

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