NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

At-Sea Detection: About the SETTE and Ford Island

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It’s a beautiful morning to sail. Because most of the crew took the night in port off, we scientists who stayed on board had to brave the wilds of Ford Island in search of supper. This restricted-access island looks like a cross between a World War II badlands (abandoned buildings and vast paved areas with weeds growing up through the pavement) and a new housing development. NOAA is apparently going to consolidate its work force out at Ford Island by building inside and between these two old airplane hangars. The hangars are historical buildings, so the exteriors can’t be changed significantly.

The OSCAR ELTON SETTE is part of the NOAA fleet. She’s 224 feet and can go about 10.5 knots (that’s about 12 miles per hour). The information page for the SETTE is available at the NOAA Marine Operations website. The Big Eyes binoculars are set on the highest deck. See the arrow on this photo of the ship? That’s where we’ll be observing from. Note that the ship’s motion is more extreme the higher you get off the water.

We’ve been sailing now for a few hours, having left Honolulu at 9am. The observer (Big Eyes) team started observing after lunch. As we rounded Kaena Point, the wind started hitting us and the seas increased considerably. As expected, looking through the binoculars was tough on the stomach, and we had to go searching for a bucket–just in case! Our leader, Allan, finally gave in and called off the effort since most of what we’re seeing is whitecaps. We’re stilling observing with the naked eye, but it’s hard to distinguish a breaking wave from a breaching mammal, let alone see a float or piece of net. The practice is good for us though. We hope to be reasonably good observers by the time we hit the Subtropical Convergence Zone and the area where the oceanographers determine we’ll be most likely to see debris.

We had a fire drill already and are waiting now for the “abandon ship” drill. I’ll try to get a photo of us trying on our survival suits. That should be entertaining!

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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