Three miles off the coast of Morehead City, as sun comes up, eager Marine Technology students on board the Dan Moore prepare for the final stretch of their five-day training voyage. “What we have planned today, are a couple things. The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to steam a little bit north, up towards Cape Lookout, toward the actual lighthouse itself. We have a trawl, a 20-foot trawl we’re going to drag, looking for anything – fishes or other invertebrates that might be on the bottom. Many of our students who get fisheries jobs will actually tow a trawl just like this. So this gives them the hands-on experience that they need when we’re out at sea they see how a trawl works, how you rig it, how you fish it, and then identification of all the animals that come on board, after it’s been fished,” describes department chair Jason Rogers.
Students gather around a bucket with their chosen catch to learn about the behavior and characteristics of the different species. “If we go to work for National Marine Fisheries or any other type of fisheries agency, we have to be able to deploy the nets, haul them in, and identify the catch,” said Marine Technology student Marissa Salvitti.
Around lunchtime, it was time for the second experiment – the side-scan sonar. “This is a piece of instrument; it looks like a little torpedo. It is hooked to the computers that we have in our lab, and it actually sends out ‘pings’ on either side. it listens for the returns and it paints impressive images of structures that are on the bottom,” describes Rogers.
Bright and early the following morning, students prepare for their last mission – it is a tricky one. The first day of the trip, students threw a sonar device overboard to measure the speed and direction of the current. It is called an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler and it is sitting on the ocean floor 25 miles offshore. Now, their job is to locate and retrieve it.
“What we want to do today, is send a transducer to send a signal to it, to wake it up, tell us where it is, and then we’ll send another signal to it, to have it come to the surface,” Rogers said.
On board the Dan Moore, the work load is tough, the days and nights are long, but there is not one complaint. The students feel at home on the open waters. They know this training determines their future, and they embrace it.
Wednesday we will learn more about the students and find out what it’s like living aboard a research vessel, crammed alongside 2 dozen other people.