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2009 Nancy Foster Cruise
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Gray's Reef Expedition
Log Day 3: June 10, 2009

By Dave Grenda
Volunteer

Dive boat departing: Peter Auster (at bow), Ian LeClair (giving the thumbs up), Dave Grenda (author) and Jeff Godfrey depart for their dives with Gordon Pringle in command of the vessel.
Dive boat departing: Peter Auster (at bow), Ian LeClair (giving the thumbs up), Dave Grenda (author) and Jeff Godfrey depart for their dives with Gordon Pringle in command of the vessel. (Photo: Sarah Fangman)

We finally made it!  We're at Gray's Reef and we've started our research hot and heavy.  After a somewhat slow start due to sensor installation - research hardly ever goes as smoothly as you plan - we now have more than a full day of activities planned.  As soon as we entered the sanctuary area late last night, we began biosonic transects which continued until early this morning. 

Diving operations also began today.  After a pre-dive briefing at 7:30 a.m., two dive tenders were quickly launched from the Nancy Foster.  The first group (Laurie Bauer, Mike Mullenix, & Jeff Hart) went aboard dive tender NF3.  Unfortunately, soon after departing, they experienced boat problems.  They quickly returned, transferred their dive gear and departed on NF4.  Even with this unforeseen delay, they were able to accomplish both their planned dives in support of the marine debris monitoring effort.  The second group (Peter Auster, Jeff Godfrey, Ian LeClair, & Dave Grenda) aboard dive tender NF5, conducted two dives in support of piscivore ecology research.  Four divers, and all their equipment, definitely filled up the capable, but space-limited, dive tenders.

As soon as the divers were away, the Gray's Reef Sanctuary boat, Sam Gray, rendezvoused with the Nancy Foster.  Aboard the Sam Gray was a contingent of media personnel.  The media was present in order to learn about the research being conducted on this cruise.  Two compressor technicians were also brought aboard to make some adjustments to the new air compressor system.

Devon Dumont, curator for the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service Marine Education Center and Aquarium, watches over the projectís first subject.  The fish will be tagged and returned to the sanctuary in the same location where it was captured.
Devon Dumont, curator for the University of Georgia Marine Extension Service Marine Education Center and Aquarium, watches over the projectís first subject. The fish will be tagged and returned to the sanctuary in the same location where it was captured. (Photo: Sarah Fangman)
While the media toured the Nancy Foster, another group of researchers (Matt Kendal, Laura Kracker, & Victoria Price) went aboard the Sam Gray. Here, they were transferred to another vessel (RV 41-06) to catch groupers (gag/scamp) & red snapper using rod & reel.  Laura and Victoria were transferred to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography’s vessel, SkIO Explorer, where they tested a mid-water biosonic sensor.  The team on the 41-06 quickly caught a study subject that was then transferred back to fish holding tanks aboard the Nancy Foster for later tagging & release.

With two dives under their weight belts, the teams were recovered by the Nancy Foster just in time for lunch.  But even while lunch was being served, the Nancy Foster was busy conducting Biosonics sonar work.  We pack as much research as we can into every available moment!

After lunch, each lead researcher was delighted to sit down with the media and give them a unique insight into their research here at Gray's Reef.  Soon it was time to get the dive tenders back into the water.  After two hours of Bisonics sonar work were completed, both teams headed out for more dives. 

R/V Sam Gray, operated by Captain Chad Meckley, comes along side the Nancy Foster to pick up scientists and drop off visitors.
R/V Sam Gray, operated by Captain Chad Meckley, comes along side the Nancy Foster to pick up scientists and drop off visitors. (Photo: Sarah Fangman)
Just before the teams were finished with their second dives, the Sam Gray rendezvoused with the Nancy Foster to unload the team of researchers and their catch.  After a full day at sea, the media and contractors headed to shore aboard the Sam Gray.  The two teams of exhausted and hungry divers made it back to the Nancy Foster just in time for dinner. 

What a day.  But wait, there's more.  As the researchers compiled their data from the morning and afternoon dives, the Nancy Foster began non-stop Biosonics sonar work through the wee hours of the morning.  We had one last meeting that night to plan activities for the next day and then we readied tanks and gear for an early start once again.  We were fortunate to have great weather today to conduct our operations.  But if it wasn’t for great teamwork, we would have accomplished only a fraction of what we had planned.

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