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Ship Logs

Update from the Townsend Cromwell (9/9/02)
by Stephani Holzwarth

Sept.8, 2002. Departure Day. After weeks, months even, of preparing for this research cruise to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, we are finally ready to go. The 12 scientists and 18 crew bustled on and off the ship loading the last minute gear and supplies. A camera man interviewed Dr. Rusty Brainard and Captain Nathan Hill. Rusty is the chief scientist on this cruise and chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Investigation at the NOAA Fisheries Honolulu Lab. Nathan Hill is captain of the NOAA Ship Townsend Cromwell, our research platform. This is the TC's last cruise after 39 years with the NOAA fleet. We steam out of Snug Harbor, past Aloha Tower, and out to sea heading northwest. Once we pass Kauai, we'll be in open ocean more or less, with just a few tiny islands sticking up out of the water. Most of the action is underwater at these atolls, and we'll have to become part of the aquatic fauna to learn more about it. Rough job, but someone's got to do it. ;o)

Sept.9. We were headed for Nihoa when the Coast Guard contacted our ship and requested that we veer northeast to check out an EPIRB that had begun signaling earlier that morning. An EPIRB is an emergency position indicating radio beacon in a waterproof case (it looks something like a flashlight) and if a boat begins to sink the EPIRB sends a signal to the Coast Guard. Ships are required to respond to distress signals so we dutifully changed our course. Five hours later, we were close enough to verify it was a false alarm. Tomorrow we'll start diving. Today we worked on projects. Brian Z. and Joe (the Splice Brothers, we call them) spliced 12 strand line for the Sea Surface Temperature (SST) buoys. Everyone else helped paint the buoys with anti-fouling paint. We held a Diver Safety Briefing. I covered diver responsibilities and how to handle (or preferably avoid) 4 potential problem situations: getting separated from your dive buddy, running out of air, shark bite, and inadvertently violating time or depth limits. We are so far from medical help out here that it is essential for divers to be fully on-top-of-it. We have a good group of experienced, field-seasoned divers. Phil White, our EMT and DMT (diver medical technician), gave a brief talk about signs, symptoms, and treatment for dive-related injuries. For everything from the "bends" to a life-threatening arterial gas embolism (a bubble that goes straight to your heart or brain), you pretty much put the person on oxygen and wait for the ship to reach a runway. Joe demonstrated how to use the portable oxygen kits we carry in the small boats. Brian Z. wrapped up the meeting witha talk on the Aladdin Ultra-Pro dive computers we are all using for the first time. Tonight we'll get together for an informal workshop on meta-data, which is data about the data. It turns out you can't just collect data about fish, or corals, without also recording pertinent details about your methods, the instruments you used, who helped collect the data, etc. Science is complicated! But fun too- and tomorrow we'll be swimming with the fishies! I can hardly wait.

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