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Monday, February 28, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 30

Date 28/02/2011 Time: 23:00 hrs (UTC)

Position:   49 30.36 N   50 13.14 W   Wind speed 8 knots

The survey continued today under the best sea conditions we have experienced since leaving Cork, Ireland. A treat for sure, but a brief one, as 45 knot southerlies are expected tomorrow. With luck these southerlies will not last too long and the seas will be moderate. In the dry lab, graduate students were able to concentrate more on the acoustic signals and less on remaining upright.

Graduate students Kyle Krumsick (funny hat), Craig Knickle and Genevieve D’Avignon (looking overly serious) monitoring the acoustic displays in the Dry Lab (Photo: Wade Hiscock)

On the bridge, the crew plotted several new transects to the North Cape of the Grand Bank …

Officer of Watch Richard O’Regan working on the charts on the Bridge

Keeping all the electronic gear on the Celtic Explorer running is no mean feat. Where would we be without the technical help needed to keep it all functioning?

Where would we be without this guy? Electronics tech Lukasz Pawlikowski (Newfoundland spelling – hope its right) on one of his rare moments away from fixing gear.

Another day ends with a tranquil sea for once, heading E on the North Cape of the Grand Bank … Once the most famous fishing ground in the world.

The Celtic Explorer view from the Bridge with the sun setting over the Grand Bank (photo: Kate Barley)

Until tomorrow …

Blog by Kate Barley and George Rose

Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 29

Date 27/02/2011 Time: 23:00 hrs (UTC)

Position:   49 02.89 N   53 01.43 W   Wind speed 19 knots

Sunrise over Bonavista (Photo: Wade Hiscosk)

We spent most of today in the sheltered waters of Clode Sound, Bonavista Bay, adjacent to Terra Nova National Park, which has both marine and terrestrial components. The Sound was full of herring and capelin, and as a 60 knot storm was raging outside the Bay, we spent the time doing a stationary acoustic experiment, using the Dynamic Positioning system of the Celtic Explorer to hold us in place. The vessel moved within a 50m circle over a period of almost 24h; not bad considering she is 65m in length.

The herring were scattered throughout the water column during hours of darkness, but at the first hint of light they descended quickly to form dense schools near bottom. It will be interesting to test the effects of these movements on the acoustic properties of these fish and how that may influence abundance estimates.

Officer of Watch Richard O’Regan after setting the Dynamic Positioning controls on the Bridge of the Celtic Explorer over dense schools of herring (photo: Kate Barley)

We are close to land here, and most of it is within the Terra Nova National Park. This area was a largely uninhabited region of coastal Newfoundland away from the main cod fishing grounds, and contains a high concentration of Moose and Black Bears. The Woodland Caribou is the native large ungulate of Newfoundland, and figures large in many of the cultural aspects of Newfoundland history and culture. Woodland caribou numbers have declined recently from perhaps 80,000 to 30,000 animals, largely as a result of predation from invading coyotes and black bears.

Newfoundland postage in the 1930s before Confederation with Canada (Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949). The caribou was and remains the iconic large ungulate of Newfoundland. Note that another stamp featured, of course, the codfish. (public domain image)

The Moose is much larger than the caribou and was introduced to Newfoundland about 100 years ago, and only a few were brought over from the mainland, but from those few animals today their progeny number over 100,000. They are hunted for food and sport by Newfoundland residents and in addition support an important tourism industry.

The Newfoundland bull Moose (Alces alces)
looking regal in autumn (public domain photo)

The crew seemed a bit nervous about the bears when told they are good swimmers – we did not mention that they hibernate in winter and are now fast asleep.

A Black Bear (|Ursus americanus). They are generally not dangerous unless fed by humans (no worries at the moment although Pat’s chicken curry might tempt them) (public domain photo)

But back to the fisheries. Some concentrations of capelin were found deep in the bay. Capelin are a small pelagic fish which feed most everything in the NW Atlantic. Seabirds, whales, seals and most large fishes depend on capelin as a rich source of nutrition. Capelin are rich in fat and protein and smell a bit like cucumbers. The migration patterns of cod have evolved largely to intercept capelin. Capelin are easily the most important fish in these marine ecosystems.

Capelin (photo: Laura Wheeland)

By mid afternoon we were on our way back to the main cod grounds offshore, as the weather forecast bodes well for the next few days.

As we left historic Bonavista Bay, we were treated with a glorious sunset. A welcome change to the previous night spent running with the wind from the approaching storm. This picture was taken standing out on deck with freezing fingers in -6 degrees.

The Celtic Explorer glows in the sunset over Bonavista Bay (photo: Kate Barley)

Until next time…

Blog by Kate Barley with local colour by Dr. George Rose.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 28

Date 26/02/2011 Time: 23:00 hrs (UTC)

Position:   48 27.61 N   53 54.66 W

Winds 30-40 Knots   Location: Clode Sound, Bonavista Bay, NE coast of Newfoundland

The winds were picking up fast today and the Celtic Explorer is now tucked safely away from those heavy winds and high seas and is inside the shelter of Bonavista Bay. Bonavista is the anglicized version of one of the romance languages – take your choice, but there is a story that John Cabot or Giovani Caboto, viewed this landfall in 1497 and cried out ‘O Buon Vista’ – the rest being history. On early maps with Basque or Portuguese notations, Bonavista Bay is referred to as the ‘Bay of Flowers’. Whatever its origins, Bonavista town and Salvage became the furthest north English settlements in the 1700s, and saw more than their share of violent NW Atlantic storms, fisheries struggles, and pirates.

The first English adventurer to enter these waters was Sir Richard Whitbourne, who not only wrote the first book (pamphlet) bestowing the virtues of Newfoundland, but found time to fight against the Spanish Armada between visits to Newfoundland. Sir Richard held the first court in the new world at Trinity in nearby Trinity Bay in 1612, and was held hostage by noted pirate Peter Easton sometime after. The Newfoundland town of Whitbourne is named in his honour.

The town of Bonavista, Newfoundland.

Of note today, a fishing set into the depths of Bonavista Bay brought up some old bones and a clay pipe which is likely hundreds of years old and of English origin. Did the bones belong to some ancient pirate? Did he take his pipe with him to Davy Jones locker? We cannot say for sure, as the bones may be from a seal, but the pipe will be taken to experts at Memorial University and the old bones subject to further analyses. We are not aware that seals smoke pipes. Perhaps we have found the grave of the famous Blackbeard himself. There are many mysteries in the depths of this part of the world.

A piece of clay pipe that came up in the fishing set today in Bonavista Bay and is suspected to be an 18th Century English Clay pipe (photo: Ed Stern)

Back to the science lab, the retreat from the storm has allowed us to do some acoustic experimentation on large schools of herring found in the sounds of Bonavista Bay. We will hold position over these schools overnight to record their target strengths and observe their migratory behaviour.

A few snow crabs were caught in the research nets today, and as a treat were given to the crew for a taste of a local delicacy.

Micheline, Damien and Steve tucking into some local Snow Crab .. it appears that they like it
(Photo: Kate Barley)

Damien McCallig enjoying the local feast (Photo: Kate Barley)

Kate Barley in the salon with an unidentified subject … (photo: Pat Codd)

Life at sea includes many more mundane activities, and even a bit of fun. Over the past few days, rumours had spread quickly around the ship that I could cut hair, and with some of the men feeling a bit shaggy after a month at sea … some did end up in a make shift salon, no names mentioned!  I did draw the line at requests for perms and hair dye! 

Meanwhile, we all wait for the weather to break once again for one last venture to the North Cape of the Grand Bank and the end of the survey … Perhaps tomorrow will bring fair winds …

Blog by Kate Barley with local colour by Dr. George Rose.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey : DAY 27

Date 25/02/2011 Time: 22:30 hrs (UTC)

Position:   49 03.64 N   51 07.27 W

Winds 40 Knots SSW, rising to 60 tomorrow and 10 m seas projected …
We continued with transects throughout the day and made a couple of sets, however once again the weather is beating us and we end the day with high winds and choppy seas.  We are heading into the sheltered Bonavista Bay where we will be able to continue some inshore work within the calmer waters of the bay. 

The stern of the Celtic Explorer in choppy seas

In the wet lab, we had some interesting new species that we needed to identify; it is always exciting to see the diversity of species that inhabit these waters. 

MSc student Kyle Krumsick working through identification in the lab

A nautical themed photograph just for fun!

Throughout the day I find myself running off to grab my camera and taking a whole heap of photographs; there are so many great shots to be had on the ship!  Tomorrow there is even talk about me doing some hair cuts for the guys so there may be some interesting photos from that!

Chief Scientist Dr George Rose enjoying a chat with Newfoundland Fishing Master Captain Cecil Bannister in their ‘tea room’, where they can be found after most meals…

With luck I will report better conditions tomorrow…

Blog and photos by Kate Barley.

Friday, February 25, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 26

Date 24/02/2011 Time: 21:30 hrs (UTC)

Position:    51 35.98 N   51 57.29  W

Wind  18  Knots

After a long sleepless night of high winds that gusted over 50 knots NE (the worst) and another bout of raging stormy seas over Belle Isle Bank everyone on board was feeling a little worn out and broken today. It was decided that any ventures further North were futile with another storm, this time SW with winds up to 60 knots, forecast in about 48 h time. So we turned south, and with the wind and swells on our stern after lunch it became much calmer. We caught a rare glimpse of sky and then even the sun came out to play, moods lifted, the sampling continued and now we have a pleasant evening ahead of us in much calmer seas.

Looking out over the stern of the Celtic Explorer as the sun sets…

PhD student Craig Knickle, deep in thought?  Or possibly sleepy… !

We managed to carry on with the acoustic surveying and with the accompanying sampling in the wet lab. Shrimp was the order of the day, as we crossed Belle Isle Bank towards the Notre Dame Channel.

Our Chief Scientist Dr George Rose keeping a close watch on the echosounder screens.

We have had an amazing sunset today, hence the photos, however I have been told in no uncertain terms to  point out that this was a rare calm between the crazy and turbulent seas that have accompanied most of this trip. Although these photos could pass for a romantic night at sea in the Caribbean, we are still in the Western North Atlantic, in February…!

Watercolour painted sky…

So to end today, here is a picture of seas more typical of what we have experienced during the past few days!

Angry seas off the beam of the Celtic Explorer.

Many waves broke over her bow last night, sending shudders through the vessel, typically followed by steep rolls that made sleep difficult for everyone!

We will have a respite for maybe 24 h before the next bout of 60 knot winds.

Until tomorrow …

Blog and pictures by Kate Barley.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 25

Date 23/02/2011 Time: 21:30 hrs (UTC)

Position:  51 53.80 N 51 03.07 W

Wind 30 Knots

The weather has turned on us once again, with 4-6 metre waves.  We managed to get some survey work in this morning before the wave height began to rise, however this evening will certainly be a sleepless one for many of us as we try to stay in our bunks!

Room with a view:  Looking through the porthole (photo: Kate Barley)

There were some great sights to be had from various lookouts along the Celtic Explorer, watching the seabirds playing amongst the sea spray. 

A picture painting from the cabin (photo: Kate Barley)

Looking through the porthole can give a unique perspective at times! (photo: Kate Barley)

Down below the cabins became reminiscent of being inside a washing machine at times throughout the day.

The rolling waves (photo: Kate Barley)

The seabirds seemed to be really enjoying it and it was a really nice sight

A gull eyes us up as it goes by (photo: Kate Barley)

Onwards we go and hope the night will become a little calmer, who knows, out here on the seas anything can happen!

Until next time….

Kate Barley

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 24

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 23

Date 21/02/2011 Time: 2230 hrs (UTC)

Position: 50 deg 32.1 N 50 deg 58.1 W, Speed 8.7 Knots

Wind 12 Knots NE

With the winds down today, even though the residual swell from the NE winds was still with us, conditions were much better both for echosounding and for the research fishing used to support the acoustic data interpretations. Several of these sets were done today.

Campelen 1800 Trawl (Photo: Kate Barley)

I got out my ‘spy lens’ for those close up but no one knows shots! 

Fishing ‘sets’ are done with great precision over short periods of time. The object is to catch a small sample of what is there – but not too much. The net is designed to do this but the main ingredient is the skill of the fishing crew.

Bosun Davy Murphy and Deckhand Paddy Kenny work on the net
(Photo: Kate Barley)

Deckhand Alec Carty signalling to the crane (Photo: Kate Barley)

Deckhand Paddy Kenny Lantry (Photo: Kate Barley)

The survey continues …

Kate Barley

Monday, February 21, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 22

Date 20/02/2011 Time: 22:00 hrs (UTC)

Position: 49 41.97 N; 50 11.43 W

Back on the survey at last! With an air temperature of 1.5 degrees and a wind speed of 5 Knots, we are having some ‘warm, calm weather’ compared to the ice filled north!  There are still some big swells as the sea recovers from the storm but on the whole, the weather is behaving a little more than it was. 

Cook Pat Codd and Assistant Cook Michael Doogan cooking up the Sunday steaks in the galley
(photo: Ed Stern)

A key part of a long sea voyage is the galley. The focus of the blog today is food!... the galley and mess, some of the favourite places onboard, with a fun and exciting menu, and a great pair of cooks who seem to be able to fix great meals in any kind of weather. They offer up a healthy and varied menu which is much appreciated by both crew and scientists.

The menu of dreams on the Celtic Explorer, what more could one want for a Sunday dinner!  This is also the only way many of us keep track of what day of the week it is! (Photo: Kate Barley)

Assistant Cook Michael Doogan slices up some Gateau, mmmm! (Photo: Kate Barley)

Deckhand Paddy Kenny happy with his steak!  (Photo: Kate Barley)

Time for dinner in the mess! (Photo: Kate Barley)

Officer of Watch Richard O’Regan and Deckhand Paddy Kenny in the mess

Until next time….

Blog by Kate Barley

Sunday, February 20, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 21

Date 19/02/2011 Time: 20:00 hrs (UTC)

Position:  50 35.03 N; 054 01.59 W, on our way again!

The Celtic Explorer made a safe and swift exit from St Anthony and is now on way again in our continuing quest for knowledge of the seas. 

The weather has calmed to a nicer 15 knots and the swell seems like nothing compared to our previous adventures.  We are now moving south, away from all the ice and towards the Bonavista Corridor, where our survey will focus next. 

Chief Engineer Damien McCallig and 2nd Engineer Robert Kirby at the control panel of the Engine Control Room (photo: Kate Barley)

Today is a feature blog day, I made an exciting visit to the heart of the ship, the place where it all happens!... The Engine Control Room.  For a traditionally ‘man’ centred area I was happy to note it was very clean and tidy and perhaps one of the nicest Engine Control Rooms I have seen!

The Celtic Explorer has a diesel electric power system, which has been designed to be super quiet for use in fisheries surveys – and it is. Acoustic survey thresholds can easily be lowered to -85 decibels which is 10 times lower than typical for fisheries research survey vessels!

The main engine screen indicating pressures and temperatures (photo: Kate Barley)

2nd Engineer Robert Kirby maintaining one of the engine’s (photo: Kate Barley)

I even went for a visit to see the Celtic Explorer’s three shiny, clean engines, all 5700 Horsepower.  Ear defenders on and down we went into the engine room, pretty exciting stuff!

Centre main engine, 6-cyclinder, and a photo worthy of any engineer’s wall (photo: Kate Barley). 

Chief Engineer Damien McCallig keeping everything in order in the engine room (photo: Kate Barley)

ETO Dave Stewart looking for spares in the workshop (photo: Kate Barley)

Until next time…

Blog by Kate Barley

Friday, February 18, 2011

RV Celtic Explorer Newfoundland & Labrador Fishery Survey: DAY 20

Date 18/02/2011 Time: 23:30 hrs (UTC)

Position: 51 21.76 N; 055 34.42 W; St. Anthony, northern Newfoundland, docked

Day 20 was spent enjoying St. Anthony and getting ready for the main push of survey which will begin tomorrow. Graduate students Livia Goodbrand and Laura Wheeland went for a hike in the nearby hills, and seem to have conquered at least one.

Graduate Students Livia Goodbrand and Laura Wheeland conquering a hill near St. Anthony (photo by Laura Wheeland – how did she take it she is in the picture?)

Back inside the Celtic Explorer, quite refreshed, Laura decided to show everyone what she had learned at McMaster University during her BSc degree.

Graduate Student Laura Wheeland showing what she learned at McMaster,
and amazing dexterity in a moving boat (photo by Kate Barley)

Down in the bowels of the ship, the day shift went to work cleaning up the wet lab in preparation for the major push on the cod survey.

Graduate students Craig Knickle (foreground) and Kyle Krumsick (in background)
and sea tech Ed Stern scrubbing …
(photo by Kate Barley)

Surveys take a lot of planning. We took advantage of the down time to rethink how best to use the final 10 days of the survey to maximize coverage.

Graduate student Riley Pollom, sea tech Gordon Adams, Chief Scientist Dr. George Rose
and Fisheries Biologist Wade Hiscock discuss the coming survey
(photo by Kate Barley)

For dinner tonight, we had a fine meal of Irish haddock – almost as good as ‘northern cod’ and cooked to perfection. More about the hard working kitchen staff in a later blog – how important they are to life on the Celtic Explorer.

Outside the Bight, the winds are dropping quickly. By tomorrow they are expected to be down to reasonable levels (less than 30 knots) and the forecast is for fine weather (‘large days’ in the Newfoundland jargon) for the next week. The high seas, however, will be slower to come down, as the built up momentum in the ocean swells will not give way so easily. Our strategy will be to go with the southward swells initially, then turn north as they subside. We leave at daybreak…

Blog by Kate Barley and Dr. George Rose.