Yes, some volunteer for this, people say is it fun (well not quite the right word), but it is very interesting. I am aboard the vessel Pisces which is 200 feet in length and is the third of four new Fisheries Survey Vessels to be built by NOAA. More information about the ship can be seen at: http://www.moc.noaa.gov/pc/index.html.
We tow a big cone shaped net to see what we can catch, we are working near and extinct and are working near and extinct volcano off Cape Cod, about 200 miles out to sea. Some of the tows are along the bottom and some about 1/2 way down, the bottom is about 2 miles down. We left Providence RI on October 14, 2014. We were working in the path of the hurricane and towed till 3AM Friday. The sea was very rough, some squalls wind hit 40 knots. We finished processing the haul about 5AM but it was so rough that much of it was lost. Rather than sit out there getting sick and not sleeping for a few days, and with forecast wave to hit 18 feet, the wise decision was made to run for Providence RI and drop anchor. So, here we sit. The food is great. There are 12 scientists and helpers (me) aboard along with the crew are a couple engineers and a couple on the bridge rotating thru 3 shifts. The science crew work 12 hour shifts, I work the mid nite to noon. In general layman's terms we look for new species, to determine if some of the species are really the same as ones caught in the Gulf of Mexico by taking tissue samples. We also are attempting to determine if some of the bottom dwellers migrate to the top at night and for that reason there are no tows done at dusk or dawn.
Life aboard ship is interesting, first of all, on this ship scientists room with a crew, two people in each cabin, that way we all get to know each other very quickly. The science and ships crew are about equally split between men and women, and rules are very strict in that re guard. My roommate is a young Ensign, seems a really nice guy, went to the coast guard school and would hope to have his own ship some day. The skipper is an Annapolis Navy grad and an avid J-24 sailor. We have access to the bridge except when docking. This boat is so smooth and quite, turns a submarine prop for quite running (don't want to scare the fish) and has generators to run 600 volt 3-phase motors. The rudder is huge and jointed like a hinge in the middle with a dragger that goes down 30 feet. Many instruments are attached to the dagger board such as a side scan sonar. This enables us to cruise along and look up the side of and the top of the volcano at the same time. We eat very well, usually choice of 3 entries each meal, always snacks and ice cream when one wants.
My job is helping sort the catch, many ells, small fishes, some very strange, squid and octopus and crustaceans. We then count and weigh them, some tissue samples are taken, some pickled and sent on for further study, many pictures taken. Lots of other studies are done, but it is beyond my level of knowledge,
I guess that gives one the general jist of it, we are scheduled to up anchor at 10AM Sunday (October 19,2014) and start the first tow at 8AM Monday on Bear Seamount. Unfortunately it is supposed to blow again this coming Wednesday and Thursday. We will have to see what happens!
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