Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef Expedition 2012
Mission Information

Thursday: May 17, 2012
Log Day 3

Mike Mullenix
Gray's Reef Team Ocean

Small boat launch from NOAA Ship Nancy Foster

Small boat launch from NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

As a Team Ocean volunteer diver, it is truly a privilege to be part of the 2012 Nancy Foster Expedition. The past few days have been full of activity. We started by traveling to the Coast Guard base in Charleston SC. to board the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster. As soon as all of our gear was loaded on board we set sail for Gray's Reef. While in transit the setup began. Each project has a certain gear that must be prepared. Cameras, tanks, nets, traps, sensors and dive gear are just part of the list. Once everything is set the science team and the ship's crew must go through a series of safety drills to make sure everyone knows their role in any emergency that could happen. Finally, we are all ready!

Small boat departs for dive sites

Divers Mike Mullenix and J.D. Dubick board small boat for transport to Arca zebra collection sites.
(Photo: Debbie Meeks)

I have been assigned to the Arc Shell Collection project. The samples to be collected are turkey wing mussels (Arca zebra) which are filter feeders that attach to the hard bottom substrate of the ocean floor. They are abundant thru out Gray's Reef so they should be easy to find and collect. The sanctuary has been divided into 20 quadrants. We will attempt to collect a 50g sample from each quadrant. These will then be analyzed for a list of pollutants to determine the health of the ecosystem. To accomplish this we must board one of the three Zodiacs on the back deck and travel to a predetermined set of GPS coordinates. When we dive we hope to find hard bottom substrate. If we hit sand we must then decide a direction to swim in hopes of finding the habitat we are looking for. Once there, find the target specimens and use a blunt tip knife to pry them from their attachment. No problem.

Arca zebra collection site

Arca zebra collection site
(Photo: J.D. Dubick)

As of day number three of the expedition I have completed six dives in six different quadrants. I am pleased to say that in each location our goals have been satisfied. However, it was not always easy. About half the time we hit sand. For some reason the target habitat was always up current, swift current. Once we were in the right place locating the arc shells could be a challenge. Many of them are over grown with the natural fauna of the ocean floor. Trying to pry them off of their mooring was like breaking concrete. But, six quadrants six samples. After all of this there are tanks to fill, gear to clean and preparations for the next day.

Mike Mullenix collecting Arca zebra samples

Mike Mullenix collecting Arca zebra
Photo: J.D. Dubick

In between all of the prep and diving, we are fed three awesome meals a day. Today we had an omelet for breakfast, a cheese burger for lunch and roast duck for dinner. During sunset the Galley Chief breaks out the ice cream. After that it's movies in the lounge. All of this as we rock back and forth in the middle of the ocean.

It doesn't get any better than this.


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