NOAA Ship Ferrel operation in Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
29 Jun 2001
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- 24.66417 -82.88528
- SONY TCD-D8
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo; Neumann RSM 190 through Sonosax preamp into Sony TCDD8
NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Show: Dry Tortugas
Log of DAT #: 1
Engineer: Leo del Aguila
Date: July 29, 2001
Jim Meigs (JM)
John Burke (John)
Mark Fonseca (Mark)
Alex Chadwick (Alex)
Leo del Aguila (Leo)
0 - 4:00 Leo
Leo doing an intro. Talking about equipment. Caribbean Sea, strait of Florida in the general area of the Dry Tortugas Marine Reserve
4:15-18:00 Ambi -Plane taking off (not very good). 10:50 -plane takes off. 11:47-chat. This section of ambi doesn't have any particularly distinctive sounds. There is a lot of rumbling of engines and splashing of water.
18:03-19:42 One person giving another orders on what to during a boat transfer.
20:08 ambi-transfer from one boat to another
21:47 -22:16 Two people communicating over the speaker, giving each other directions. It sounds kind of technical and fun.
27:00 -28:00 chat about medical forms
Captain Jim Meigs
31:25 Discusses the ship Ferrel and the jobs it has done.
How many people are on the ship now, not counting the four of us who just got on.
We carry a crew of thirteen personnel and we carry scientists.
So either 13 people who are running the ship who work for you, and then you have a scientists here as well.
We have five commission officers on board, we have engineering, we have stewards, and we have deck departments. So those are the four major departments. Basically we are here to provide a platform to do science.
As I look around here on the ship I see a couple of these hard bottom inflatable boats, I see a lot of scuba tanks here and crates of equipment and things. What is all this?
Well this is primarily for this cruise on the Florida Keys here. The boats belong to the ship. We have the three boats. We have the rib here,. the 22 footer, and then we have a monarch here about the same length, that's this aluminum hull boat. That's our primary diving boat. We can use the rib though for either for a little rougher weather or for different operations cause it has a little more maneuverability. For example. This morning we put the rib over because we had a little rough weather and it's easier to negotiate that boat instead of the monarch. And then the smaller rib you see back there is our primary rescue boat. WE put that over for either to transfer a personnel or if we have a man overboard. It's the quickest and easiest boat we can get over the side. All the tanks and most of the supplies you see on deck belong to the Beauford Laboratory out of North Carolina. There air bows(sp?) for all the diving they're doing this week and all the gear they use for collecting their samples, doing they're photography and the other type of work they're doing on board.
And is this about the maximum amount of people and equipment that you carry.
Pretty close to it. The van that use see next to you here also belongs to the laboratory. And with the van on deck here it gets fairly crowded so we're pretty much on our max on equipment and personnel.
This just looks like a small shipping container or something, but it's a small van, maybe eight feet tall and twelve feet tall and it's just a little work space on deck. You can drop on deck and ...
that's the nice thing about having the big flat deck that we do have is we ca get the small vans on board. This van, they use in particular to run the mini bat. Dr. Fonseca can go into more detail than I can about what exactly the mini bat is. That's the primary reason they have it on board.
We've got a mix of a lot of dive operations. We don't put too many dives over in a day, mainly because we're diving pretty deep. We're usually diving to the limit that we can work under NOAA regulations, which is about 110 ft. All these bottles around here are filled with nitrox, nitrox 2; It's 32% oxygen, instead of your typical 21%. Reduces the amount of nitrogen that we take into our bodies so that we can safely stay down longer, safely stay down and not get the bins. It's a big logistic issue, moving all these tanks on and off the ship all the time. (laughing) It's a good way to make friends with a chiropractor.
It looks like you've got a lot of stuff here.
There's a lot of stuff. The other half of the operation is of course the sampling and the remote sense towing. Our typical daily operation is to go to these permanent stations that we've randomly selected to target the inner face between the coral reef and the non-coral environment, the soft bottom sand, sea grass and algae community are defeating the reefs.
And when you say the interface, what do you mean?
I'll show you some pictures of it, but it's where the coral wall comes down and dies and it's abutted by sand. It's just like a knifes edge. You can just draw a pencil line along it and then from there out for miles and miles you've got nothing but sand, maybe an occasional rock outcrop. But it goes from this incredible beautiful corral reef structure, teeming with fish, lots of color, then flat sand.
And that's what you're interested in?
That's what we're interested in because any place that light reaches the ocean floor, that is what drives the ecosystem, is the production on that sand layer.
My name is John Burke. I'm a fisheries biologist for the national ocean service.
He's also one of the co-p.i.s for this project so ...
We're using this interface between the two habitat types because it's a focus of energy exchange from the soft bottom, where we've got thousands and thousands of open kilometers, relatively featureless as Mark was saying, surrounding these incredibly divers and highly structured habitats, the corral refs. The energy exchange has to go across this interface.
When you all say energy exchange, what do you mean? There is something caught up in that phrase that matters.
41:25-42:25 Mark Fonseca
Essentially, out on those flat sandy areas you've got this thin carpet of plants that are fixing carbon, fixing nitrogen, taking it from the water, taking sunlight, and making biomass. And that biomass is being fed on by animals that will out at night from the reef under the cover of darkness so they don't get eaten, take that food, gets transformed into that biomass, so it's this energy, this captured sunlight, these chemicals that are incorporated in that structure are carried back to the reef in the form of gut contents, transferred to the growth of the animals. And then they excrete that onto the reef, so they are actually pumping this biomass through this energy exchange of live plants, photosynthesis, digestion, growth, but focusing it back onto the reef. Harvesting it from a really large area, but focusing it onto this really nice structure.
Another interesting characteristic of this structure is that there are large numbers of predators, so that if on this large flat bottom you are exposed during the daytime you're eaten. But there are thousands and thousands of animals per square meter, literally. Most of them are tiny, but some of them are rather large and they live in burrows. At night they'll come out of the bottom and start eating those plants. Of course there are also fishes that'll directly feed on the plants. But there's largely crustacean community that the fishes that come off the reef are feeding on.
Are these animals to small to see with the naked eye?
No they're not. Many of them are easily seen. Crabs, that people would recognize, they look like blue crabs; shrimps, the pink shrimp which the Tortugas are so famous for. We've seen some shrimp that are maybe three to the pound. Maybe not quite that big, but
All the way down to tiny species that are maybe a quarter of an inch to an eight of an inch.
The vast majority of the biomass is tied put in tiny creatures, but as you step up the food chain they are getting bigger and bigger and more readily available to the reef predators that are moving off into the soft bottom.
Mark Fonseca, research Ecologist, National Ocean Service, "chief scientist on this leg of the cruise"
What is the formal name of the project you are chief scientist of?
44:46 Dry Tortugas Ecological Reserve characterization
And it's something you're carrying out for NOAA, or...
Well, National Ocean Service is a subsidiary of NOAA
When you get to these sites, what is that you're going to do?
(engine sounds in background) First off, these are all randomly selected site on this interface that we've drawn around the reef and sand borders. When we get there the first thing we do is actually ....( discusses technicalities of the dive)