Posted by: adorsk | May 8, 2008

A Trip to the Bank

I’m just back from the bank. Georges Bank, that is. The ship was out doing a survey of Red Tide populations on Georges Bank and in the Gulf of Maine.

Georges Bank is a submarine mesa that lies East of Cape Cod and South of Nova scotia. This bank is rich. Not in gold, but in things far more valuable. There are myriads of whales, birds, and fish (charismatic marine megafauna) that live there due to the shallow depths and mixing of water from tides.

It’s also home to somewhat less charismatic toxic micro-organisms, which were the focus of our cruise. D, the chief scientist, and his group were interested in conducting a population survey of Alexandrium aka Red Tide on the bank and in the Gulf of Maine.

The cruise personnel came from a few different places. Nations represented included Honduras, Lithuania, Canada, Russia, Spain, and Poland. There were three main science groups, one from WHOI, one from the University of Maine, and one from UMASS-Dartmouth.

All three groups are working together to make a model of how Red Tide grows. Population surveys are one part of this model. One of my cruises last year (Cease and De-Cyst) focused on another part of the model, Red Tide cysts. This time we wanted to count the concentrations of cells in the water.

The timing of this cruise was particularly important. D wanted to go the bank just before the Spring Red Tide bloom started. Based on previous models, now is just the right time. Sure enough, as we got to the bank, the bloom was just beginning.

How did we conduct the population survey? With the CTD, a collection of bottles and sensors. We stopped every 8-12 miles or so and dipped the CTD in the drink to get water samples. Then the science party filtered the water for all the micro-organisms and looked at water samples under the microscope. This is how science really gets done. It’s a bit like finding out how sausage gets made. It’s dirty, wet, and gutsy, but the end result is pretty good.

After we surveyed the bank we steamed up to Harpswell, Maine, and then came down the Coast. Scientists on shore had already found evidence that the Red Tide bloom was starting in Maine, and we caught it in action.

We had somewhat chilly weather for most of the cruise. Cloudy, wet, cold days. In the beginning the waves were moderate, causing some of the science party to make a deposit in the bank (‘stomach awareness’, our first mate calls it). But later the seas calmed down. There were a even a few nice days in the middle when the sun came out and we saw many whales. But for the most part it was gray and cold.

D and his team were super-organized, the most organized science party I have ever seen. Preparation does pay off. They used every last minute of ship time. A job well done.

D and his group will be back in a few weeks to conduct the next part of their survey back out on the bank. In the meanwhile, my next cruise goes near Bermuda, to ‘Line W’. We’re going to deploy moorings. check back in a couple weeks to see how it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Here are some pictures from the cruise:



  1. […] cruise was the sequel to the previous red tide cruise. D and his gang along with the Maine-iacs from the University of Maine were back to repeat their […]

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