And Leg II is Under Way
The NOAA ship Nancy Foster pulled into port in Norfolk on Friday, August 31 after a very successful first two weeks of the mission. The scientists who were only on the first leg gathered their gear and headed back to their home bases with data, images, samples and work to fill many months. The ship’s crew had to get ready for the next leg of the journey, stocking the galley, off loading unneeded gear and bringing on new equipment and doing some minor repairs. Many of the science team got on board Sunday night, ready for a Monday morning departure.
Docked near us was the NOAA ship Ferdinand R. Hassler, a SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) research vessel with a unique design that makes it very useful for shallow water mapping. From the bow, it appears to be a catamaran; however, each of the twin hulls is very skinny at the water line and then flares out below. The ship is named after the founding superintendent of the Coast Survey, which later became NOAA. Appointed by President Jefferson, Hassler led the efforts to map the coast including surveys from New York south to Cape Henlopen. After his death, a steamship able to complete sounding and dredging operations was named after him and used for one of the first important marine research expeditions (1871-72). The Hassler Expedition went from Boston around South America to San Francisco. Founder of the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Louis Agassiz and his wife, Elizabeth. led the mission and collected approximately 30,000 specimens, preserved in 3,500 gallons of alcohol. These were sent to the MCZ where approximately 7,000 specimens from that early expedition remain.
During the next twelve days we plan to deploy two landers in the Norfolk Canyon as well as using the CTD (which samples water at specific depths). In addition to the conductivity, temperature and depth, we will be looking for specific isotopes of elements including nitrogen and carbon. The carbon tells us the type of energy source used by the organism, such as if it is a methane user or photosynthetic. The nitrogen will indicate the trophic level (where it is in the food web) and where the nitrogen originates, for example, if it is surface runoff from the land. We will also be collecting and preserving specimens including samples of the fish, coral and other invertebrates. Many of them will end up in museums around the nation, just as the specimens from the Hassler expedition went to Harvard. We will be keeping an eye on the weather and planning our course to maximize the science.