Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Technology Starfish style and a beautiful place

After a week in the mountains (awesome) of not necessarily rest but a different kind of work (OK, yes a little rest) we are back in action on American Promise. The Blue Ocean Society (who are dedicated to marine conservation and do a huge amount of work in everything from marine mammal conservation to beach clean ups to awareness campaigns - getting people to clean up after their dogs...) brought us in to do some survey work as part of a NOAA Marine Debris to Energy Grant. The goal this week is to look for and identify derelict fishing gear off the NH coast.

This is exciting because it marks the shift in focus for us from the trash pickup/education part of the summer to trash pick up/research part. We are getting to get a little farther from the docks and putting the equipment through some different challenges. Yesterday was
all about the Starfish side scan sonar. Tritech is the company who makes the Starfish and who generously donated this unit for the season. This is a small, towed sonar that looks down and to the side. It 'sees' objects by giving us both bright returns and showing shadows (see photo right). The equipment is incredibly easy to set up and get running and the challenge is to learn to read the images. We are getting better and look forward to today when we do more with the Starfish and hopefully put the VideoRay down for some confirmation video.

This week is also cool because we have interns from the Blue Ocean Society aboard helping us. Yesterday's crew: Abby, Mike and Ben were great each contributing their expertise and experience from getting the GPS that goes with the Starfish to work to giving us lots of excellent info on the local marine mammals (they are in the photo at the bottom getting ready to set off for the day). We're looking forward to having them back and meeting more for the next few days.

As high tech as the Starfish and ROV, we found the iPad to be an amazing tool for our work yesterday. We used the Navionics chart plotting app to show our transects and then put in waypoints of areas of interest. Then, we were able to bring that info over to Google Earth and get some quick visual info. Even our interns (classically trained in handheld GPS units and GIS software) were impressed!

Lastly, but by no means least, I have to say how beautiful a spot we are in. James found the Kittery Point Yacht Yard by looking for a place to moor for the week that was protected and on the seaward side of the bridge that leads to Portsmouth proper (where the headquarters of Blue Ocean Society is located). It is beautiful and even better, the guys who run this yard are friendly, helpful, know their stuff boat-wise and are interested in what we are doing. They are psyched to be the hosts of the Trash Bash tomorrow and have allowed us to be on the dock rather than the mooring (yipppee).

Speaking of support, this week is also made possible with the help of Optima Bank. They helped us get American Promise in the first place and are enthusiastically supporting what we are doing with her. We even get Carol from Optima onboard to help with the survey work tomorrow.

So, as I head off for day 2 of the survey, I want to say thank you to Tritech, Blue Ocean Society, KPYY and Optima Bank and to invite you all to the Trash Bash tomorrow (Thursday August 4) from 5-7 at the Kittery Point Yacht Yard. Thanks to Boat US Foundation, we will have drinks, food and goodies to give away and the event is free and open to the public.

Watch the coming storms.


ps. I could have done an entire post on this... but on the way here from Boston we say 7 Minke whales, a seal and a jumping tuna! See the Rozalia Project facebook page for photos from that day.

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