from the Townsend Cromwell (9/9/02)
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)
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