Official Vessel of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Ernestina Logbook Page

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2002
Fairhaven High School

ERNESTINA and her crew were joined by students from Fairhaven High School today. 

This morning the crew were up before dawn, eating a hot breakfast and meeting in the galley to prepare for the arrival of 22 students and 3 teachers (including science teacher Erin Gordon and retired science teacher Barbara Belanger who brought her students last year) from Fairhaven High School. The group of Marine Studies and Environmental Science students boarded at 0810 for a 6-hour sail, one of 4 legs of the SEEAL (Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance) program focusing on watersheds.

Some of the students have already engaged in explorations on the Acushnet River; others have spent a day exploring in canoes on Slocum’s River. Today’s sail on Ernestina was an integrating component, as all the watersheds in this area connect through the Bay. Also onboard and participating in today’s sail was Dan Herslinger, grant coordinator for this 4-part program.

The day fetched up sunny and fair, with light to moderate northerly breezes. So our jaunt out the harbor channel under the four lower sails was a peaceful downwind leg—a great environment for learning stations. Each group of students participated in all aspects of the morning program, progressing from bow watch and helm, to navigation, to the plankton tow, to water chemistry.

Today’s plankton tows were outrageously bountiful; whereas yesterday’s waters seemed clear and virtually devoid of life, today’s samples appeared literally jelly-like in their fecundity. The color of each dish was a rich, shiny brown, and each scope’s slide offered multiple layers of marine life for exploration and identification. We saw the usual copepods but also thousands of centric diatoms (giving that rich golden brown color to the water), several segmented worms, and varieties of phytoplankton many of us hadn’t seen before. Barbara Belanger, recently retired teacher who has led countless trips from Farihaven High School in the past, joined in to help identify the creatures.

Onboard Educator/Deckhand Kristen connected the properties of water with the students’ biological explorations. Looking at relative densities of salt and fresh water, students took samples from the surface and compared the density of [cold] salt water with that of [cold] fresh water. The take-home message from this station? Salt water is visibly more dense than fresh water; but temperature would actually have a greater effect on density than salinity does. The students puzzled this through and Ms. G. seemed satisfied that the message would reinforce their classroom experiences.

Lunch was a pleasure in today’s precious warm sunshine, but we couldn’t indulge in any lounging! Right after lunch we began setting up the otter trawl net for our bay-bottom haul. Given the light breezes, we didn’t even need to take in our mainsail. Half the students helped crew to set up and cast away the net, while half focused on food webs and marine life interrelationships, in anticipation of our haul.

Everyone helped haul in the net and crew were impressed with how clean the haul was, right off Clark’s cove. We had a little codium and red algae, a good-sized winter flounder, several moon-snail hermit crabs, a 6" conch shell, a few ctenophores, some quahog shells, and a bit of sea lettuce. Ms. G prompted students to recall that sea lettuce indicates an abundance—or over-abundance—of nutrients from runoff, connecting our findings today with students’ explorations of upper reaches of the watershed. We talked about the life cycle of each of the critters we examined, and students combed carefully through guidebooks to distinguish between summer and winter flounder.

After all hands helped to strike and furl our sails, we motored up into the harbor. Students and teachers engaged in conversations to summarize and re-cap what we observed today and how these experiences relate to their studies of the watersheds that feed into Buzzards Bay. We had a few minutes for students and teachers to write their comments and feedback on evaluation sheets before we arrived at dock.

Program Coordinator: MaryHelen Gunn
Captain: Sophie Morse

This program funded, in part, thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts
and the Massachusetts Environmental Trust.

We would like to thank Lotus and IBM for donation of software, hardware and funding to enable regular electronic updates from the ship.

NOAA Chart is provided courtesy of Maptech using Cruising Navigator 4.3 and grabbing the image using Grabit Pro 6.02.

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Copyright 1997-2002
Schooner Ernestina
89 North Water Street, P.O. Box 2010, New Bedford, MA 02741-2010
phone 508.992.4900 -- fax 508.984.7719

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