Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some of the NOAA owned video from the Tracy Arm Red Tree Coral site!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

We're back!

We finished up 3 days of very successful diving at 3pm on thursday and sailed to Taku harbor to overnight, 2 hours from Juneau but before the Taku inlet, a notoriously windy area. Our last day was extremely windy, 50mph gusts in the fjord, along with freezing spray, made for a cold last day of diving and a bumpy ride home. The project was a great success, we've returned with all our tagged coral colonies sampled, lots of macro images and four live colonies to keep in tanks at the Auke Bay Laboratory to look for spawning. A busy, but fun, three days of diving. 

We awoke in the protected Taku harbor yesterday morning to a tsunami warning. Just 2ft in our area, but as we got closer to Juneau we heard news of just how devastating the earthquake and tsunami have been in Japan, and our thoughts go out to all those affected. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

We're off!

The weather has died down and we're good to go - so we're off! The transit is just 6 hours to Tracy Arm (yellow pin on the map - we're in Juneau, the red dot at the top left), but once we get there, we'll be out of touch - no internet, no email and no phone, true wilderness, especially in the winter. Once we get back i'll post up how our 4 days of diving went - wish us luck, we have a lot of work to do in a short period of time!

The Gastineau Channel - we'll be headed down here this afternoon!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Still windy

This is a photo of the NOAA sub port in downtown Juneau, and this is right where our boat should be today. However all we can see is the wind whipping up the water into whirligigs instead. The good news is hopefully the boat will leave Petersberg sometime this evening and go through the night (when the wind is predicted to die down), so we might actually get back on schedule to leave on Monday. However it goes, we're all standing by, Christian gets in from Hawaii tomorrow morning, and tomorrow afternoon we'll take all our gear down to the dock to wait.

Today I did my checkout dive off the Auke Bay pier and all went well, we even saw some mating King Crabs! The visibility was wonderful (20ft +) and there was lots to see - anemones, sea stars, urchins, mussels - the seafloor was teaming with life. A good sign of what we'll see in Tracy Arm!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Packing, Preparing and Waiting.

After arriving late last night into Juneau, today was a full day, packing, preparing and now, waiting. You  can prepare for months, even years, for a science expedition, but one thing you cannot predict is the weather. A very unusual spate of high winds has hit the Juneau area, which means our research vessel is stuck in Petersberg, its homeport (~150 miles south) unable to come and collect us on Monday as planned. So for now, we're all on standby, and hope we're not delayed by more than a day or two. 

Today I went down to the Auke Bay Laboratory, to catch up with Bob Stone and start to get chemicals and equipment together and packed. It's been a busy day, but we've accomplished a lot already, most of the chemicals are diluted and aliquoted, and most of the science equipment is packed. Tomorrow we'll finish up the last of the chemicals, go through diving gear and hopefully get a lot of the equipment down to the docks in Juneau, so as soon as our boat arrives, we'll be ready to go. 

Here are some photos of the day. 

View from the Auke Bay Laboratory. Despite a cloudy morning, the sun came out in the afternoon, highlighting the mountains. Auke Bay is a protected bay north of Juneau, so although the winds were blowing in the south, here it was mostly calm on the water. 

Starting to get gear together and packed. It's important not to forget anything, as once we pull out of the dock, we have to make do! 

Another thing I got to do today was check in and sample the live corals we have growing in the flowing seawater laboratory. These are corals Bob and Jennifer collected in December, and they're doing great! 

A close up of our study organism - Primnoa pacifica

This beautiful pearlescent skeleton is the reason many of these species are called 'Precious Corals' and have been harvested for jewelry and ornaments. These corals grow very very slowly, so a few inches of this beautiful skeleton could equal tens or even hundreds of years of growth. Collection of these corals in many places is now banned, as they grow so slowly, they could never recover from the damage caused. 

The weather was so beautiful this afternoon we went on a quick trip to the Mendenhall Glacier after work. Stunning, and so different from September when I was last here. This is a tidewater glacier, meaning the glacier hits the lake - only this time of year the lake has 3ft of ice on top, so it looks like the glacier ends up on land! 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Heading back to Juneau

In just two days i'll be headed to Juneau to join Bob, Jennifer and Christian on our third sampling cruise of the year long Tracy Arm coral time-series. Myself and lab technician Christian secured additional funding from National Geographic/Waitt Foundation to join this NOAA funded project to collect more samples for SEM and TEM analysis, as well as look for brooded larvae on live samples. I head out a few days earlier than Christian so will be flying to Alaska on wednesday - equipment gathered and ordered, and the boxes are mostly packed and ready to go.

We won't be able to update this blog during the field days unfortunately, as where we're going there is no internet, no phone, and few people - but in this coming week we'll be getting the boat ready, doing check out dives, preparing chemicals and collecting equipment, and as soon as we get back in range we'll let you know how it went! So stay tuned!

Dr. W.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Successful second sampling!

Second sample season successfully completed - all 48 colonies resampled for our second reproductive season. Stay tuned for the third cruise which myself and technician Christian Clark will be participating in!