The Voyage of the Delaware II 1999
Trip Summary and Research Log
Week 1
Picture of Delaware II

Gian Criscitiello teaches third grade at the Smith School in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
He and the crew of Delaware II will send research information and marine mammal sightings.
Map and Information
Best Blank Map for the cruise.
Best gray tone Blank Map for the cruise.

Blank Map for the cruise.
Blank Map - North Atlantic
Map Generator - make your own maps. (USGS Site)
Ocean Temperatures
Live Data - locations, Temp, etc.
U.S. National Data Buoy System

Follow along. Plot the course and share the discoveries.

Log of the Delaware II

Summary of trip:

The primary goals of the cruise are to photographically identify individual right, humpback, and blue whales to assess population size and structure; to take biopsy samples [for analyses involving genetics, to study population structure, stable isotopes (diet), and toxicology (level of contaminants], and to conduct extensive oceanographic sampling to characterize the habitats used by the whales. Personnel on board include 12 scientists from a variety of institutions but chiefly The National Marine Fisheries Service office in Woods Hole, MA. The chief scientist is Phil Clapham. The operation of the Delaware is up to the able crew of engineers, deck workers, stewards and executive officers under the command of Jack McAdam, Master.

Observational watches rotate from 7am to 7pm. Species, number, position etc., are recorded.

Biopsy are taken from a station on the bow of the boat and from an 18' zodiac. Oceanographic data is collected by stopping and lowering CTDs (Continuity, Temp & Density) sensor, and an OPC (Optical Plankton Counter) to different depth (so far up to 200 meters). Additional plankton data is gathered from towing 'Bongos', fine mesh nets, through the water at different depths. Area to be covered in survey.

We started out on Georges Bank but will focus on different areas of the Scotian Shelf, the continental shelf southeast of Nova Scotia. We will be running survey blocks near Le Have Bank, Emerald Bank, Western Bank, Western Gully and Browns Bank.


26 July Monday
The start of another trip, DE-99-08 Large Whale Biology Survey. We were delayed in taking on 17,000 gallons of diesel fuel due the lightning in the area. In the afternoon we shifted to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) pier to calibrate a sophisticated sounding machine, the Simrad EK500. We departed Woods Hole at 2330 just before the fog set in.

27 July Tuesday
As we were west bound in Vineyard Sound the fog set in and visibility dropped to 50 yards or less. At that time of night there isn't much traffic in the sound. South of the Vineyard the visibility improved. We steamed to Hydrograhper Canyon and the 1,000 fathom depth curve. Before arrival we held our weekly fire and abandon ship drills. We then proceeded east bound along the 500-1,000 fathom curve looking for marine mammals. I don't think we saw anything real exciting. At 2000 we stopped for a test CTD cast and continued on to the Northeast Channel east of Georges Bank.

NOAA Ship Delaware 2
42 50.67N
63 29.02W

Day 3 brings cloudy skies and light SW winds. We are currently skirting the edge of the continental shelf in Canadian waters. To the south of us the deep water starts with depths of around 1400 fathoms and to the north the slope climbs up steeply to the Scotian shelf where average depths are around 70 fathoms. The water temp is 67F. Last night we stopped and 'hove to' as we didn't want to reach our survey area in the dark. It is a weird sensation to be stopped out here. I have always been moving towards a destination when I have been at sea before. The ship's engine was shut down and the after deck was brightly lit up. It made for quiet sleeping conditions. Yesterday we saw our first fin whales and a group of 300-450 common dolphins. The dolphins were everywhere around the boat. Mark, the oceanographer, monitored the sonar and detected a huge school of fish under the boat that they may have been feeding on. Tim was able to get 5 biopsy samples from the bow. The three teams of observers count the whales from the flying bridge. Each team, or watch, is on the bridge for 1 1/2 hrs. The watches begin a 7:00am and end at 7:00pm. Each watch has three hours off before they are called up again. The watch members rotate through three postions. Starboard observer, port observer and recorder.

CTD Today we should start seeing larger numbers of whales and might stop to lower the Zodiac. We will also stop so Mark can run CTD tests (Conductivity, Temperature & Depth). More tomorrow.

Position at 10:00 EST July 30
42 51.19'N
062 38.40'W

Daily Report:
Yesterday: Weather: light SW winds, Fog in morning, clearing in afternoon, glassy seas.
Whale Sightings: 34 (these are the number of times we saw whales, not the actual number of animals, which would be much higher)

Species ID: pilot whales, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolpins, fin whales, blue whales and a sperm whale.

Oceanographic Info: We stopped 7 times for CTD drops and once for a bongo tow. Main engines shut down for night, we drifted along .

We are currently 367 naut. miles east of Woods Hole and about 110 miles southeast of Halifax, N.S.

NOAA Ship Delaware II
Position at 4:31pm EST
July 31, 1999

42 49.93'N
062 03.13'W
On the Scotian Shelf

Daily Report:
Weather: light Easterly winds, Fog all day, less than 1/4 mile visibility, glassy seas.
Whale Sightings: 0
Species IDed Today: 0
Biopsy: 0
Oceanographic Info: 10 CTDs and one bongo tow.

CTD Comments: A priority of this particular survey cruise is to collect a large number of whale biopsy samples. Biopsy samples are collected from two platforms: the Delaware II and a 15 foot zodiac. Tim Cole, our chief biopsy engineer and marine mammal specialist, uses crossbows and darts fixed with 1 inch tips that on impact collect a small plug (about the size of a pencil eraser) of skin and blubber from an animal. It's important to get very close to the animals in order to achieve a successful biopsy, and different crossbows and darts are used for large or small whales. Once the biopsy sample is collected it is wrapped in autoclaved tin foil and labeled, several successive samples may be taken at once and it's imperative to label them immediately so as not to confuse the samples.

Samples are then transferred to the Delaware II's wet lab. Myself and Vicky Portway are two scientists aboard that "work up" the samples. Samples are taken from the dart using gloved hands and clean tools for contamination purposes. The sample is then subsampled or cut in three ways. First, a small slice of skin is taken for genetic analysis and stored in a particular chemical called DMSO. Next, a longitudinal slice is cut from the middle of the sample and fixed in formalin for toxicologic analysis. The remainder of the sample is separated into skin and blubber and placed in vials for stable isotope analysis. Each vial is labeled with the biopsy number, species, date and purpose. The equipment is then cleaned and some is discarded in order to prepare for the next sample.

To date we've collected 22 biopsies and we hope to collect many more before the trip is through. Once on shore the genetic samples will be shipped to the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, the toxicologic samples given to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the stable isotope samples will be stored at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole for future analysis.

Sara Wetmore, Research Assistant Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Woods Hole.

Week 2

Additional details from the Log of the Delaware II.

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