We have to start by saying thank you to the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, and Greg McFall and Sarah Fangman. Without them Team Ocean would not exist, and we would not have had the opportunity to enjoy such an awesome experience. The projects we are working on allow for some great diving but that is just part of it. It has been a privilege to be included among this diverse group of scientists. The personalities and experiences that we have been exposed to over the past week have enriched us beyond our expectations.
Second we would like to say thank you the crew on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. It is obvious that they are here because they love what they do and want to be here. They function more like family than colleagues. They have made us feel welcome in their home. Special thanks go to our coxswain Ben Nolan who sat alone in the sun to assure our safety day after day.
Life on the ship is not the Hyatt, but more comfortable than you would think. The three meals a day are great, thanks to the galley crew, Lito Llena and Dennis Moore. The evening snacks are also a treat: ice cream, chocolate, cookies and popcorn; what more could you want? Hot showers and small but comfortable bunks make you feel almost at home except for the fact they rock back and forth. For evening entertainment, the movie gallery has all the latest films. But what most of us like the best is (after all the work is done) hanging out on back of the main deck to watch the sunset.
Divers depart: Caption: Coxswain Ben Nolan readies to receive the line and head out for diving operations with (from left) Chad Carey, Laurie Bauer, Mike Mullenix and Jeff Hart
Now for the diving: The morning starts at 7:00 a.m. with breakfast. The morning dive safety brief immediately follows. The next 3 hours are spent doing two dives off of a 15’ rigid hull inflatable boat that is crane lifted into the water. We return to the ship just in time for lunch. After that we have to prep our gear for the afternoon dives. We do another dive safety briefing and off we go again. We return to the ship for dinner. Then it is time to prep gear again for the following morning. All four project groups meet together to discuss what went right and wrong for the day and the schedule for the next day. In between all of this we fill more and more SCUBA tanks. Finally when all of the work is done, sun set on the back deck then a movie. Oh, and don’t forget ice cream, chocolate, cookies and popcorn (diving makes you hungry!).
A beautiful sunset ends the day. (Photo by Mike Mullenix)
While we have assisted on setting up several projects, we have been mainly focused on the Marine Debris project. This consists of nine transects, or sample areas. Each one measures 200 square meters. These areas were selected to evaluate how marine debris is related to different variables, such as high and low ledges, areas of high fishing activity and habitat type. These transects are permanently fixed to the bottom by sand screws and will be measured at set frequencies. Debris collected are categorized and weighed. This data will analyzed and used to better understand how these debris collect on the reefs.