Combining expertise makes for better nautical charts and better understanding of fish habitats in Alaska

Today’s post is written by a guest blogger, Dr. Bob McConnaughey. Bob is the FISHPAC project chief scientist, with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

Fishery biologists and hydrographers in NOAA are working together to solve two very important problems in the eastern Bering Sea. This area is one of the richest and most productive fishing grounds in the world. Careful management of harvest levels is one part of the effort to sustain these populations into the future. However, it is also important to understand the habitat requirements of the managed species so we can protect the foundation for these high levels of production.

To this end, a team of scientists at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) is developing mathematical models to explain the distribution and abundance of groundfish, such as pollock and cod, and benthic invertebrates, such as red king crab, in order to determine their essential habitats. The research team gathers new environmental data at locations where other AFSC scientists sample fish populations during annual bottom-trawl surveys. In many cases, existing habitat information is very limited, but studies will identify useful variables and the best tools for measuring them over large areas of the continental shelf. Continue reading “Combining expertise makes for better nautical charts and better understanding of fish habitats in Alaska”

Fairweather’s quick reminder of why we need to update Arctic nautical charts

This week the NOAA Ship Fairweather is completing her 30-day hydrographic reconnaissance survey in the Arctic. The crew’s personal observations during this successful cruise brings home the importance of measuring ocean depths and updating nautical charts with precise and accurate modern data. Ensign Owen provides Fairweather’s last blog post for this project.  – DF

by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)

1200 hours, Sunday, August 26, 2012:55°57.2’N  166°01.2’W, Bering Sea, approximately 100 nautical miles north of Unimak Pass

Continue reading “Fairweather’s quick reminder of why we need to update Arctic nautical charts”

NOAA Ship Fairweather: “We made it!”

by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)

1200 hours, Saturday, August 18, 2012:  69°41.4’N  141°03.3’W, at anchor, 1.5 nautical miles west of Demarcation Point, on the United States/Canadian border

We made it!

Zacharias Demarcation Point
Photo by Caryn Zacharias, LT/NOAA

I must admit, I had my doubts a week ago. But we made it safely through relatively ice-free seas to the northern border between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory.

We were able to collect multibeam echo sounder data along the entire route. The area continues to be relatively shallow (8 to 25 meters) and relatively flat (1 to 1.5 meters of relief). However, dramatic ice scours and scars on the seafloor are easily visible in the data collected.

Continue reading “NOAA Ship Fairweather: “We made it!””

NOAA Ship Fairweather crew takes in Arctic beauty as they collect hydro data off Alaska’s North Slope

by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)

1200 hours, August 17, 2012: 70°13.7’N  144°49.6’W, approximately 250 nautical miles along the coast SSE of Barrow, AK

The water turned a silty gray-green early afternoon yesterday, Thursday, August 16. The Fairweather was transiting through areas with depths under our keel of between 8 and 20 meters – a somewhat caution-inducing sight for a vessel of our size. But the ice has opened up and we have made it east of Barrow. We are currently the furthest east along the North Slope of any NOAA or U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey hydrographic ship, as previous surveys were last conducted by field parties with much smaller boats, in the 1950s and 1960s. As the crow flies, we are currently 90 miles or so west of the Canadian border and our turn-around point. However, we are of course not transiting in a straight line but in the zigzag/argyle pattern, so have a bit more sea floor to cover.

Continue reading “NOAA Ship Fairweather crew takes in Arctic beauty as they collect hydro data off Alaska’s North Slope”

Ice pack recedes, Fairweather takes nearshore route

Good news! When NOAA Ship Fairweather started her Arctic reconnaissance survey, on August 1, there was some question about whether she would be able to complete the entire trackline. The icepack from Barrow to the Canadian border had not yet receded. Thanks to  satellite imagery and ice forecasts, we can see open water up to Barter Island, and then thin ice to Demarcation Point. Cmdr. Jim Crocker is now able to follow a nearshore route. They will survey closer to shore than the planned transit route – and acquire very useful hydrographic data!

Continue reading “Ice pack recedes, Fairweather takes nearshore route”

Update: Fairweather reconnaissance survey finds differences from chart depictions around Point Hope; scientists assess biological and chemical trends in Chukchi Sea

by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)

1200 hours, August 12, 2012:  70°38.7’N  162°06.6’W, approximately 22 miles north of Icy Cape, Alaska’s North Slope

In 1963, the town of Point Hope (68° 21’N  166°46’W) – a small, ancient, and archeologically-significant Inupiaq community on Alaska’s North Slope that remains at present a largely native village – narrowly avoided the creation of an artificial harbor by underwater hydrogen bombs. Part of “Project Plowshare,” the planned creation of a deepwater harbor by thermonuclear power was intended to demonstrate the peaceful use of nuclear power for construction purposes. It was opposed by Native American communities, scientists in the state, and the Episcopalian church across the United States. The protest has been credited as one of the first government projects successfully challenged on the grounds of its potential environmental impact.

Continue reading “Update: Fairweather reconnaissance survey finds differences from chart depictions around Point Hope; scientists assess biological and chemical trends in Chukchi Sea”

Fairweather in the Arctic – Log Entries, August 2 and August 5

Before we get to the Fairweather logs, we need to update the last post, NOAA Ship Fairweather zigzags her way to accurate and precised depth soundings. Cmdr. Crocker reports that the “normal” zigzagging won’t start until they head further north, starting near Point Hope. It was not planned for the trip to Kotzebue, and he would have run a straight course if he could have. This log by Ensign Hadley Owen explains why they zigzagged earlier than planned, as well as what they are doing for their first scientific project. We apologize for the error in the last post. -DF

Fairweather Log Entries, August 2 and August 5

by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)

Continue reading “Fairweather in the Arctic – Log Entries, August 2 and August 5”