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August 19, 2012 Day 4, Fuel, Rain and a Practical Joke on the Department Head

Film crew for the Water Brothers, Alex and Tyler Mifflin.

My brother and I are just about to leave the boat here in Grand Isle, Louisiana and just wanted to take this opportunity to say how much we enjoyed being part of this trip.Although we were only on board for half the journey, we feel lucky to get a glimpse into the interesting work this team is conducting. They made it so easy for us to do our work and we are very excited to include this journey in our episode on hypoxia and dead zones. Everyone made us feel right at home and this boat, theManta, is an excellent research vessel…and most of all, the food was amazing!

Thank you to Dr. Steve DiMarco, NOAA and everyone at Texas A&M University, it was a blast. Now we just got to figure out how to get the heck out of Grand Isle!

Alex Mifflin – The Water Brothers


Attaching the camera to CTD.

So far this cruise has been busy! Most of the phytoplankton samples have indicated only diatoms and dinoflagellates, but since we got into the Louisiana shelf there’s been some cyanobacteria signs, according to PAM at least (when she behaves…). Each station has been a fight with Little Miss Prissy fluorometer, but eventually we get readings, and that’s what counts in the end!

Today’s my birthday, and it’s been a good one. The sunrise was beautiful and the seas were almost glass-like this morning. We’re waiting to drop off the Water Brothers and then we’re on our way back to doing transect lines with the Acrobat. It’s been interesting having the brothers aboard, and exciting to realize that the research has been catching the attention of others outside of the academic world. Thanks for the fun couple of days, guys! We can’t wait to see how the footage comes out.

Allyson Burgess Lucchese


As Allyson says, it’s been fun so far, with few of the little problems that always seem to occur when you are 200 miles away from any major source of help, although the crew did try to abandon me in Grand Isle as I was helping the Water Brothers with their bags! As we suspected, the hypoxia zone remains localized to the region from the delta to Terrebonne Bay, which agrees with our model forecasts and what has been observed previously this year – a real contrast to 2011. We are now starting back towards Galveston and everyone is working together as a team. Steve has so far curbed his desires to add too many additional stations, but this will no doubt change as we get further west!

Piers Chapman


Another beautiful day at the office.  That’s the way the crew of the Mantaget to go to work each day, and the weather offshore Grand Isle has been fantastic.  We just threw lines at the fuel dock and are headed back offshore so that the research warriors can continue the mission.  The mighty Manta and crew are off to save the world, okay perhaps a bit ambitious but we’re having fun anyway.

Captain Darrell Walker


Acrobat driving duo, Ruth Mullins-Perry and Andy Dancer ready for their shift.

One more day down, hunting for more Hypoxia, things are cruising along.

Andrew Dancer, Electronics Technician


Day 4 Shirt color is blue!  Day shift likes to coordinate outfits.  The tiredness is sinking in for people.  Everyone is really excited first couple days then we always hit a mid-week low.  Lots of napping between stations and today it is pretty easy since it is raining pretty hard out.

People also ask what we do when we are not working.  Well…we listen to music, tell stories, watch movies, nap, and a few of us actually work on things like dissertations or research.  Most days, it stays pretty busy between stations.  On a fast boat, like the R/V Manta, we transit about 20 –  30 knots between stations.  Most of the time, we only have about 45 mins – 1 hr between stations.

On the science side …. We found hypoxia in Louisiana where it was expected to be near the Mississippi River delta.  We have not calculated any areas yet, because we are still sampling in the region today.  The Acrobat has been flying great and providing really great data profiles of the water column.  Not crashes into the bottom or Sargassum coats yet.

Bottles showing hypoxia test positive off the Mississippi River. White bottle means water is hypoxic or low in oxygen.

Another question we are often asked is how do we determine if hypoxia is in the water column.  Two ways: real-time dissolved oxygen data transmitted from the CTD and Acrobat and Winkler titrations on water collected from the CTD.  When we add the chemicals to the sample, the precipitate that forms will turn very white indicating low dissolved oxygen concentrations in the sample.  Check out how white on the picture.  These samples are from bottom (far right) to the surface and you can see the color change as more oxygen is present moving from bottom of the water column to the surface.

Today we will be moving toward the Atchafalaya River area and back towards Texas-Louisiana border.  We plan to fly the Acrobat most of the day!

Off to lunch … today is Mexican day.  Enchiladas, tacos, and burritos!
Check back soon!
Ruth Mullins-Perry