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Ship Logs

US Flag at halfmast in  memorium of 9/11/01.Update from the Townsend Cromwell (9/11/02)
by Stephani Holzwarth

Sept. 11, 2002. We were at sea on the Cromwell a year ago when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I still remember the stunned silence in the galley after Bruce read the message. Everyone just stared at him, the ship rocked and rolled in the waves, plodding steadily ahead, and none of us knew what to think. By the time we pulled back into port, the world had changed. Out here in the remote waters of the atolls life seems to be buffered from war and politics, though in reality ocean ecosystems are very much affected by decisions made by human governments. Luckily, the fish out here don't know that yet, and today I watched parrotfish and butterflyfish, jacks, wrasses, surgeons, and goatfish swimming Towboard Diver.about their reef business. Rusty and I completed our first tow of the trip among the sheltered patch reefs just inside the northern barrier reef. The habitat was nothing spectacular- but healthy enough, and full of variety. We towed past fields of rubble, punctuated with volkswagen sized humps of rock covered with buttery yellow swatches of coral (Porites lobata). We towed through a maze of shallow patch reefs, where a pretty little whitetip reef shark swam out of her hole a few feet in front of me. A shiny squirrelfish poked his head out of a cave as we flew by. A handful of papio followed us for awhile.

Installing a CREWS Buoy. Photo by NMFS.It was a full day. Before towing we installed 2 oceanographic instruments. The first was a CREWS buoy, which stands for Coral Reef Early Warning System, and measures sunlight levels above and below water, water and air temperature, salinity, wind speed and direction, and atmospheric pressure. It looks like a floating orange spaceship with all the antennas and sensors coming off the top. The second instrument was a Seabird temperature recorder that we attached directly to the reef in about 10 feet of water. Coral is sensitive to changes in water temperature and if it gets too warm the coral bleaches and will die unless the water cools off again. You can see why "global warming" could be a real problem for coral reefs...

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