About this Cruise

This month-long cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette brings together six diverse teams to survey fish populations using non-catch methods. Traditionally, fish populations have been assessed by catching fish, visiting fish markets and interviewing fishermen. Chief Scientist Scott Ferguson hopes to support Guam and the CNMI in monitoring their natural resources using non-extractive methods. The ship will also use multibeam sonar to map areas that are important fishery resources hopefully to include Galvez Bank, offshore slopes near Rota, and the banks of Farallon de Medinilla.

The survey methods include BotCams and BRUVs, two systems that put baited cameras on the bottom, and a TOAD which is a camera towed near the seafloor . An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle will travel on its own via computer programming and bring back photographs and video. Additionally, acoustic methods will be used to survey fish in the water column.

This expedition brings together scientists from NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and Northwest Fisheries Science Center, as well as the University of Hawaii’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, the University of Guam Marine Lab, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Two new pages: click the links on the right side of this page.
BotCam – Jake Asher provides the story of the BotCams used on this trip.
Meet the Crew – read about the fun lives of the people making this expedition possible.

It would be easy to start every post with a beautiful sunrise or sunset photo. In this one, you can see Anatahan Island in the background. Just before the sunset, 3 large wahoo were caught. Poke and fried fish are the favorite items on recent menus (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

Right: Steve, Frances and Mills show off their catch.

This photo/diagram shows how sonar waves ping the seafloor and also shows the bathymetric map that is made from the data.

We used the multibeam sonar to map shallow banks north of Farallon de Mendinilla and east of Anatahan and Sarigan. The multibeam work continued day and night and produced huge amounts of data that needed to be processed. I can only sit at the computer for short periods, but the map team members work 10 hour shifts and most of that time is spent processing the data and making new maps. There are always 2 or 3 people processing the data.

Left: The TOAD seen with cameras facing forward.

Monday night, we put out the TOAD (Towed Optical Assessment Device). This camera is towed behind the ship and sends video directly to the control room. We were able to see some of the seafloor we had been mapping. The first run of the camera went for 2.25 hours, covered a distance of 3 miles and went to a maximum depth of 400 feet. The second run went for 3.5 hours, over 4.5 miles to a maximum depth of 300 feet. Towing the camera sounds easy, but someone must be on the controls to keep the camera from crashing into the bottom. The camera needs to be close to the bottom for the best video, but without someone on the controls, it can crash. Driving requires constant attention. Most of the seafloor had a sand coverage with some algae. Occasionally, there would be oohs and aahs over something other than sand and sea weed: sea stars, large sea cucumbers, sponges, sea urchins or the infrequent fish. I really enjoy watching real time video of previously unseen seafloor, but I found myself falling asleep on my feet. I finally had to give up and head to the bunk.

Right: Steve & Viv prepare the TOAD for launch.

Today, we are near Saipan planning to do BRUV work during the day and the TOAD tonight. A nap might be a good plan so I can watch the TOAD through the night, but I don’t want to miss the BRUV action either.


Shark Feet said...

Hm hm.. that's quiet interessting but honestly i have a hard time understanding it... wonder how others think about this..

Hi someone,
I’m guessing that you’re talking about the photo/drawing showing how multibeam sonar works. The sonar sends sound waves from the ship to the seafloor and they bounce back. The time it takes can be translated to depth. With enough data, maps can be made showing the geography (bathymetry) of the seafloor. The colorful trail behind the ship represents the map; red being shallow and purple the deepest.

Shark Feet said...

Do the cameras like the BotCams or TOAD have limitations or capacity of getting pictures/videos even though they send it directly to the computer or to the control room? At first, I thought the topic would be about toads, hehe. Each crew has an amazing experience, but the chef really caught my eyes because of the pictures of the food, hehe. The picture of diagram of sonar mapping looks cool.

Hi Ritz,
The BotCam sits on the bottom and records video. It is generally set for a resolution that will give one hour of quality video on a memory card. The TOAD can go and go and go, until the crew has to take a break. I think the diagram gives a good representation of how the multibeam works.

Shark Feet said...

Hey Ms. Tatreau!
This blog is really funny. You want to do everything and you can't all at once, huh?
I posted a comment on your blog "Bridges", but I guess it didn't go through.
Anyway, I have a question. I'm assuming from what I've read that the TOAD is a camera. I just don't get how you can watch what's in front of it if it's focused on the sea floor. Is there another camera to monitor the TOAD? It's very confusing. I don't quite understand.
Anyway, hope you're having fun! (:

Hi Shawnese,
The last comment I got from you was about the end of the camera work. You asked, “Now what?” I posted an answer, but I’m not sure on what page. The blog was off-line for a day. Your comment may have been lost in the transition. The TOAD camera is pointed forward. It has a wide field of vision so we can see both the seafloor and what is in front of it. The “driver” tries to keep it about 3 feet above the seafloor.

Shark Feet said...

I really think the TOAD is a good apparatus, but if there was a way for it to be driven automatically then that would be so much easier, so i was wondering since you have had the TOAD under water for over six hours have you found any new species of sea life

Hi Shawn,
The people who drive the TOAD would totally agree that it would be great if it could keep itself a few feet off the seafloor. The TOAD is mainly used to learn about the structure of the seafloor. Is the bottom sandy or hard, is it covered with seaweed or coral? The fish have a tendency to swim out of range of the camera when they see it coming. We did not see any new species of sea life. We didn’t expect to. This focus of this cruise was to survey fish populations, not discovering new species. Of course, it’s always fun to find something previously unknown.

Shark Feet said...

Hey Ms. Tatreau,
I sent you a comment on the AUVs but it is not showing or got a reply from you. Any hows I am just amazed with all these tools you can use to study the Ocean. But I am not sure but is there a time lapse between what the TOAD sees and what you see on the boat? I am also wondering how come you did not fall off your feet while sleeping? I really can't wait till we see you again with other stories. Take care now and enjoy the rest of the trip.

Hi Maria,
The last comment I receive from you was asking about the difference between the AUV and the ROV. I did publish a response, but I’m not sure on what page. It sometimes takes a day or two for the responses to get published. When the TOAD is on the bottom, we are seeing the video in real time. There is a bit of a time lapse between the driver’s instructions and the response of the TOAD. You know how, when you are falling asleep in your chair at school, and you “jump” awake? It was like that. I realized I better go to bed or I’d end up on the floor.

Shark Feet said...

I am an exnavy seabee i help build a 50ft.observation tower on Farallon. This was back in 1985.It took 8 builders & 4 steelworkers to complete the job. All the steel was pre fab in Guam then loaded on the USS NIAGARA FALLS then air dropped. I was curious if anyone has photos of the tower or does it even exist?

I’ve asked around and no one onboard knows of a tower on Farallon de Mendinilla. We were fairly close to the island and didn’t see anything that looked like a tower. I will keep asking and if I discover any new information, I’ll post it on this page. You can e-mail me at greensharkfeet@gmail.com and we can stay in touch when this cruise is over in case I learn more.

Shark Feet said...

Ms. Tatreau. Hi it is me, Q, just here to ask you what was the most interesting part of the trip you enjoyed the most?

Hi Q,
This is not an easy question to answer. I have done and seen and learned so much. I think the most interesting part of the trip has been working with the BRUVs. Steve has put them on the seafloor about 130 times. He has gotten spectacular results―lots of fish and yesterday, a sea turtle. Today he got video footage of a moray eel actually chewing on the bait bag.

Shark Feet said...

Hi Miss i saw on one of the pictures that some of the scientists were under water scuba diving or doing some research, i was wondering if you got to go under water or if you guys got to swim with any of the marine life

Hi Shawn,
Did you see those pictures on the blog? We haven’t been underwater on this expedition. We all want to get wet, especially when the weather is warm, the seas are calm and water is crystal clear, but NOAA has strict regulations about swimming and diving. We did go diving, snorkeling and swimming when we were in Saipan for 3 days.

Shark Feet said...

Hi again to the ex-Navy SeaBee asking about the tower on Farallon de Mendinilla,
I’ve talked to everyone who spent time on the bridge while we were working around the island. They all agree that there is no tower. If not rust and/or typhoons, then it would have been a great target when the military started bombing the island for practice exercises. The military still drops bombs with regularity.

Shark Feet said...

Your trip sounds so complicated and fun. So many technology you have to use to get your information. So with the Botcams and toad how deep can it really go? what kinds of sea creatures did you find interesting that you saw?

Hi Ashley,
The BotCam was developed for use in deep water to a depth of about 1100 feet. The depth is really dependent upon the depth the cameras can go. The deeper the water, the greater the pressure and the more technologically advanced the cameras need to be (and of course, that makes them more expensive). The BotCams are lowered on a line that can be as any length. The TOAD has a cable that is about 1000 feet long. They put out a maximum of 800 feet. The TOAD doesn’t go straight down since it is towed behind the ship, so the maximum depth is between 400 and 500 feet.

Shark Feet said...

Hey Ms, Tatreau. I don't know if you've received my blog about AUVs, but I'd like to now ask about the BotCams. Those are some amazing pieces of equipment! If it's called an autonomous stereo-video camera, can it really record sound in the ocean? When do you release the Botcams and how often do you replace the bait? By the way, I think that is so cool how a robot can attract these fish rather than scaring them away.
Elyssa- 5

Hi Elyssa,
The last time I heard from you was when you asked about the 2,500 photos the AUV can take with each camera on one dive. I did respond to that question on comment section of the blog.
We frequently use the word “stereo” to refer to our music systems. “Stereo” means that the sound system uses both left and right speakers. In the case of the BRUVs, stereo means there are left and right cameras. With the system, the length of the fish can be determined. Both the BotCams and the Bruvs are left on the bottom for one hour. The camera resolution is set to give one hour of quality video on the memory card. I wouldn’t call these robots since they just sit on the bottom using bait to attract fish. The bait is changed for every drop of the camera systems.

Shark Feet said...

Hi Ms. Tatreau,
I can't wait for you to come back. We all miss you so much. Anyways I commented one of your blog a few days ago and it still hasn't went through. The question I have on this blog is that when the TOAD is doing its job which is recording the sea floor, is there anything attach to it from the boat or is it free floating?

Hi Toby,
The last time I heard from you was when you asked about the camera line. I did respond in the comment section of this blog.
The TOAD is attached to the ship by a cable. That’s how the video pictures travel back to the ship so we can watch in real time.

Shark Feet said...

Wow, if only sleep wasn't essential during this adventure :) i definitely can't wait to hear more about it when you get back! Out of curiosity, how long did it take to plan this whole trip out? You guys have everything on that ship, I dread thinking about leaving something important behind. When dragging the TOAD down near the sea floor, is there a certain way or method it has to descend, besides slowly carefully? How long did it take to get it down to 400 feet?
toni- 5

Hi Toni,
I talked to the Chief Scientist and he said that the whole expedition took about 6 months to plan with most of the preparations being in the last 3 months. He was the overall coordinator for 6 different groups that joined the expedition.
It only takes about 5 minutes for the TOAD to reach the bottom. First it is put in the water using a winch controlled on the back deck. Once it has cleared the propellers, they move to a winch that is operated from the E-lab where they drive it and watch the video on the computer screen.

Shark Feet said...

Given all the video and pictures you and the crew are taking with the various equipments, is there or has there been times that limited the amount of data you could record? And has that at all affected recordings of possible important data? By the way, hope your having a blast. And i think i speak for most of your classes when i say we are all looking forward to seeing you again soon!!

Hi Ed,
The scientists are not limited by the amount of data that can be recorded. The cameras are limited by the storage space on their memory cards, but plans are made accordingly and the cameras are brought up for “refueling.” The major limit in data collection is the breakdown of equipment. The more complex the equipment, the more apt it is to have problems. The scientists onboard are experts at trouble shooting so problems are usually solved on the ship and the equipment is quickly back in operating order.

Shark Feet said...

Hey again, Ms. Tatreau. I just wanted to ask whose job it is to put all the complete maps that have been already zapped together? Are these maps going to be published in a book because that is some important stuff you guys are recording! What happens if a whale was to pass through the sonar? Do you zap it off the map? :)
Elyssa- 5

Most of the scientists still on the ship are the mapping team. Two or 3 of them are always working. They work 10 hour shifts that overlap so they can consult with each other. The maps are published on-line or they are available to everyone. There is a link on the blog―click Pacific Mapping Center under “See More – Links.” The sonar used by the multibeam does not harm marine mammals. If a whale passes through it will register as data points. The mapping team may not recognize it as a whale, but they will know it is not a natural feature of the seafloor and zap those dots.

Shark Feet said...

Hi Ms. Tatreau,
The pictures look really cool. Did you ever operate the TOAD? There are so many different cameras being used on this trip, how do you know when to use what? Or does it just depend on what kind of data you want to collect?

Hi Jill,
I never asked to operate the TOAD. I watched it bump bottom a couple times with the experts driving it and decided I better stay off the controls. Each type of camera system has its own experts onboard. The whole operation is coordinated with the Chief Scientist. With 4 weeks of working time, everyone has gotten ample time to collect data.

Shark Feet said...

Hey miss I was wondering how deep can the toads go? And what is the reason why they can't go deeper then 400 feet?. Also if the TOAD was to crash how long will it take to repair it or if it can even be fixed? Do you guys carry extra with you?

The TOAD works from shallow water to a depth of 400 feet and is limited to that depth because of the amount of cable on the ship. It was specifically designed to work in that depth range. For deeper studies, other equipment is used. The TOAD bumps bottom occasionally, but it is encased in a sturdy framework and hasn’t been damaged on this trip. Once, on a different cruise, a cable was damaged when it was caught in the propeller, but they didn’t lose the TOAD. They had a spare cable and got right back to work.

Linda Tatreau, blogging as Shark Feet said...

hello Ms.Tatreau!
I see that the trip has become quite an adventure and a tiring one too. I still wonder though? Why is that when towing the toad the farther the distance(4.5 miles) changes to the decrease of depth(300ft.)? Then when the short distance(3 miles) the increase in depth(400ft.)?
Can't wait to see you back in class and hear all about it!
Doreen T.-2

Hi Doreen,
Depth and distance, in the case, are not related. On the first tow, the deepest it went was 300’ because that’s how deep the seafloor was. It was towed for 4.5 miles and then the scientists moved to another location they wanted to observe. At the next spot, the ocean was deeper. After 3 miles, we had seen enough to characterize the seafloor so we ended the tow.

Linda Tatreau, blogging as Shark Feet said...

i'm soo happy that you are coming back! i miss all the fun activities! it sems like you've been gone forever! while you were looking at the whales did you feel like jumping in? i think i would've! :)
do you happen to know how long the captain of the ship has been wanting to be a captain?

Hi Aaron,
I have wanted to jump in many times every day. It is so beautiful out here. Calm seas (most of the time), warm and water so clear we can see the bottom at 100 feet deep. NOAA Ships have strict regulations about swimming so we’ve stayed dry. We did get to play in the water when we were in Saipan for 3 days.
NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers operate NOAA’s 19 ships. The Commanding Officer on the Sette, Anita Lopez, has been with NOAA for 19 years. As a child she loved the ocean and wanted to be a marine biologist. In those days, there were not a lot of job opportunities in marine biology so she went to college and got a degree in electrical engineering. The sea was still calling so she joined NOAA, trained to become an officer and worked her way up to her current position. While working on oceanographic and fishery ships, she has been able to live her dream of studying marine biology.