North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Life on the Edge: Exploring Deep Ocean Habitats - NC Museum of Natural Sciences
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Q: How long do you get to sleep?

A: The amount of sleep you get depends on many factors, including the shift you work, the state of the seas, the equipment being used near your cabin, and what exciting things have been found. Our shifts are either 6 hours of work, followed by 6 hours off (for example, 12:00 midnight to 6:00 a.m. work, 6:00 a.m. to noon off, noon to 6:00 p.m. work, and 6:00 p.m. to midnight off), or 12 hours of work and 12 hours off. Even when you are off it can be tough to get some sleep. If the seas are rough, you roll around in your bunk.

Someone recently suggested that we needed velcro sheets and pajamas, then you would not roll quite as much! We also use lots of lifts, winches, and frames that make loud noises, which makes sleeping difficult. If there is a net in the water, you can hear the winches or if the sub is in the water, you can hear the captain and the sub talking to each other. Of course, no one wants to go to sleep if we have caught something interesting. Instead, we stay up to observe and photograph it.

Q: How much weight was there when you brought in the shark/squid/fish/etc.?

A: The weight of the catch is quite variable. Sometimes it takes two people to carry the bucket of fish that we catch, and sometimes we catch nothing at all. The largest thing we have caught is the fish called dolphin, Coryphaena hippurus. This is a fish, not the cute marine mammal porpoise. There were several large dolphins caught off the stern. We also caught one roughskin spiny dogfish that was about 32 inches long.porcupine fish

Q: On estimate, how many species of fish have you found so far?

A: We estimate that we have caught at least 52 species of fish, but we have seen many more using the cameras on the sub. One favorite fish was the porcupine fish (at right). This fish looks like a puffer fish with spines all over its body. Young porcupine fish spend all of their time out at sea. In terms of numbers, brittle stars are probably the most abundant species we have found. Our rarest catch was a roughskin spiny dogfish.

Q: How large is the ship and what is its name?

A: The Seward Johnson is the name of our ship. She is 204 feet long and is operated by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. You can find out more about her through the Harbor Branch link on our site.

Q: What is the most interesting thing you have caught so far?

A: It is difficult to choose just one interesting thing. Except for the trash that has been caught in our net (plastic cups, bits of balloons, string) everything that comes up is fascinating. One thing really caught our attention were some hermit crabs that came up in bits of old dead coral. We wondered whether the pieces of coral were broken off so the hermit crab could wander around like most hermit crabs do, or if this kind of hermit crab stayed in one place and waited for food to come to it. If we see some of these specimens with the submersible, perhaps we can answer that question.

Q: Will you end up in deeper water?

A: This mission is really focused on the slope habitats, so we should not be going any deeper. Last year we explored deeper water areas off of Cape Hatteras.

Q: What was it like catching the shark?

A: The shark was “blinded” by the lights of the sub so it was not difficult to catch. We are excited about learning more about this species.

Q: Are you anxious to go in the sub?

A: Everyone wants a chance to go in the sub, but we have had so many dives cancelled because of bad weather that not everyone will get to go. It is exciting to talk with the folks who have had a chance to dive and learn about their experiences.

Q: What are flat needlefish and where can you find them?

A: flat needlefish are a kind of surface fish. They can be 110 centimeters long, with a narrow, banded body and a very long, pointed snout. They are found in the Chesapeake Bay, Bermuda, and the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil.

Q: What exactly is a banded rubber fish?

A: We are guessing that you mean a banded rudderfish — Seriola rivolina. This fish is up to 60 centimeters long and is found from Nova Scotia to Brazil. It has dark bands on its body when it is young.

Q: What is it like being in a submarine looking at all those different little fish?

A: The sub does not have much leg room. It is a small, cramped space, but it is worth being a bit uncomfortable in order to see the incredible world beneath the waves. Looking through the porthole is like looking onto another planet.

Q: Do you like it out in the sea?

A: Yes, being at sea is very unique. There are beautiful scenes with every sunset and sunrise, magical finds coming up in the net, and exciting discussions among the science team. It also can be very challenging trying to get a net on board, trying to keep your feet dry, and on some days, trying to walk in a straight line across the deck. There are lots of ways that people get a chance to go to sea. If you are interested in this topic, you may want to start learning more about careers at sea.

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