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expeditions/May 2005/Day1 FFS
1, French Frigate Shoals
Kelly Gleason, Maritime Archaeology Team
Monday morning, May 16th, NOAA’s R/V Hi’ialakai
arrived at French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands. After two days of transit from Honolulu, scientists
and the vessel’s crew were ready for their first day
of operations. With four small boats of scientists deploying
from the ship, this is no small task. This particular cruise
includes four groups of specialists: coral disease, maritime
archaeologists, multi-beam mapping and a fish team. Prior
to our arrival at French Frigate Shoals on Monday morning,
hours of preparation including gear set up, drills, and daily
operations planning kept crew and scientists aboard the ship
busy. No matter how much planning and tedious preparation
goes into a scientific
expedition, the first day in the field always includes a great
deal of shake down and day one was for most teams, a day to
work out kinks and figure out the best ways to achieve their
goals in these remote atolls where seas are rough and unpredictable.
Shark sightings, eight foot seas and close encounters with
ulua made Monday’s operations both challenging and exciting.
Monday morning, the first team to deploy in the ship’s
was the maritime archaeology team led by Hans Van Tilburg.
For the maritime archaeologists, this atoll is an opportunity
to conduct remote sensing survey where no shipwreck sites
have been located. We started our magnetometer survey in an
area where the whaling ship South Seaman was run aground in
1859. This was the first remote sensing survey conducted at
French Frigate Shoals, which is a very large atoll where vessel
remains could be scattered for miles across the seafloor.
Rough seas made the surveychallenging, but magnetometer data
in this area is an important first step towards inventory
of the maritime heritage resources in this part of the world.
was deployed shortly after loaded with coral disease specialists
and plenty of scuba tanks led by Greta Aeby. Their plans were
to establish permanent transects in order to collect time
series data on the coral health in the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands, particularly instances of bleaching and disease.
Encountering many of the same rough sea issues as the maritime
archaeology team, the coral disease specialists were challenged
by conditions that make working off of a small boat difficult.
Nevertheless, the team successfully set a permanent transect
that will be monitored for changes in coral health. The best
stories at dinnertime were reports from the fish team who
encountered plenty of the kind of fish they were looking for:
large jacks and sharks.
fish teams were working in tandem to collect data for two
different projects. One is a project to collect data for molecular
genetics conductivity led by Brian Bowen, and the other is
a project to track the movements of apex predators in the
Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by Carl Meyer. Ulua are one
of the seven species Meyer is looking to track by deploying
transmitters in the fish and sharks. Sharks and jacks were
in no short supply and at least one dive had to be aborted
due to the large quantities of sharks in the area.
As the fish, coral and maritime archaeology teams wrap up
for the night, the multi-beam mapping team is just getting
their operations started. Led by Joyce Miller, they conduct
their work at night, while everyone else is sleeping. The
ship is outfitted with sophisticated multi-beam mapping equipment
that allows the scientists to create a base layer for accurate
maps and benthic characterization. Their work is critical
to everything that scientists in the Northwestern Hawaiian
Islands do, and their work rounds out a 24 hour day of operations
for the R/V Hi’ialakai.
cruise is just beginning, and our first day was characterized
by the unique conditions in these beautiful, and extremely
remote atolls. As I write this, Joyce and Jonathan keep their
eye on a successful deployment of the TOAD, a camera deployed
on the seafloor (26 meters below) that will help characterize
the benthic habitat at French Frigate Shoals. I am heading
to sleep, and their “day” of work is just beginning…