David G Brown, Student Technican
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Posted on August 15, 2011 | Permalink
Student Technican Entry for Week of Aug 8
Location: Atlantic Ocean, Potomac River
Last week was an exciting week. I had one of my favorite days of field work and I was able to witness history. On Wednesday, I was one of the lucky few who got to witness the sinking of the 564.3 foot warship the USS Arthur W. Radford for the Del-Jersey-Land artificial reef. At about 6 oíclock in the morning, I was picked up at the Natural Resources Police office in Queen Anne and we drove all the way to Lewes, Delaware to catch the Cape May-Lewes ferry. The large ferry was used to take selected onlookers to the site to observe the historical sinking. The site where the Radford was sunk was 29 miles offshore of the Delaware coast so to say the least it was a long ferry ride. We arrived at Lewes at around 8:30 and boarded the ferry and at around 9 we were en route to the ship. The ferry ride was three hours long so we arrived at the ship at noon. When we got there, they were doing some last minute preparations on the boat and soon after they started pumping water into the vessel. In about two hours of waiting, we started to see the boat listing to left a little bit. We knew the boat was going to sink soon so we all made sure we had a good spot to watch it. After about an hour, the bow of the ship was heavy and we were all worried that it might go down bow first instead of stern first like it was supposed too. We watched the boat for about 40 more minutes and then all of a sudden the stern dropped below the water and the Radford finally started sinking. One minute after the stern fell below the surface, the ship completely sank. It was really cool to watch, especially when the air bubbles in the ship shot water out of the ocean like a geyser. Watching the ship sink was definitely worth all the waiting. History was made and I was told I would probably never see anything like it again. The USS Radford is by far the longest ship in the multi-state artificial reef and it will provide much needed habitat for fish and also provide a great place to go scuba diving. The ship will provide safety for fish like tautog, sea bass, scup, and triggerfish, and the smaller baitfish will attract rockfish, bluefish and weakfish to the sunken vessel. The Radford is going to be very good habitat for many species of underwater animals. I am very glad that I got the opportunity to witness this beneficial and historical event.
On Thursday, I went out with Fisheries biologists Eric Durell and Angela Giuliano to assist with the juvenile index seine survey in Southern Maryland. It was another early start. We left Annapolis at 5:45 in the morning to go to our first site on the Potomac in Charles County. We started working right away. When we got to the site, we unloaded the van and got everything set up on the beach. One of the first things Mr. Durell did when he got to the beach was throw a stick in the water to see which way the current was going and he stuck a stick on the shore to see if the tides coming in or going out. Itís very important to see which way the current is going because you need to seine with the current. We moved some debris off the beach so it would not get caught in the net and then we started seining. I observed the first couple of times but I still got in the water to help pull the net out and keep it straight. For those who donít know what seining is, a seine is a long net stretched between two poles with floats on the top and weights on the bottom. One person holds one pole on the shore while the other takes the other end of the net and goes out into the water until it gets about four feet deep and then he turns and pulls the net parallel to shore and then back to shore capturing all the fish that was in the small area. I was amazed at how many different fish we caught. We caught several different species of fish and we had to identify and record them all. Most of them were small minnows but we caught a few decent sized fish. We caught Rough and Atlantic silversides, needlefish, blue crabs, stripped killifish, shad, perch, rockfish, and menhaden. We counted all the fish and by the time we were done the 30 minute waiting period between seining rounds was over and we started seining again. We caught less fish than the first time but still a good amount. We sampled three different sites in the lower Potomac. I got to pull the seine at the other sites and I had a lot of fun doing it. I Love being in the water so I had a good time. Iím really happy I got to out and help them. It was a good experience and I learned how to identify a lot of fish different fish species.