Welcome to the web site for Sediment and Solute Transport on Rivers and Margins (SSTORM) Research Group! Reide Corbett and J.P. Walsh from East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute lead the team.
Check out our research in/on wetlands, estuaries, barrier islands, shelves and groundwater.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Bumpy Ride Home

26 May 2010

We are happy with all that we were able to accomplish in a relatively short time. On the evening of the 25th, we left the study area so we could make it home on the 26th; it is about a 26 hour transit to Wellington from Gisborne. Apparently, we made the journey at just the right time, just after a strong storm hit Gisborne and right as some nasty weather reached Wellington. We couldn’t have timed it better. Having said that, the trip home was hardly smooth sailing. Large swells remained in the waters offshore waters of Gisborne; the messy storm sea conditions had been cleaned up into relatively consistent, large (~12 ft) waves by the strong offshore winds that followed the storm. These waves caused the vessel to rock significantly but in a relatively controlled fashion, and our steaming during most of the 26th was pretty nice, with good views of the rugged Wairapa coastline. However, the last four hours of our trip were pretty miserable. The waves coming from the north were meeting strong southerly winds (>35 knots) around Cook Strait, and some very unpleasant ocean conditions resulted. After turning into Cook Strait, the building southerly waves (those from the south) were coming along our port side (hitting the left side of the ship). This wave direction coupled with the steep and erratic nature of the seas caused the ship to rock and roll violently and significantly. Doing anything other than sitting and watching TV became pretty much impossible. Fortunately, we had pretty well secured our science equipment and personal effects so nothing was damaged; however, a few coffee mugs were casualties of the seas. At one point, I tried to go to the bathroom and that was an adventure in itself.

Cook Strait is a notorious body of water because not only the violent winds and waves it regularly experiences but also the vigorous currents which flow through the area, making the conditions and navigation even worse. Thankfully, we had just a few hours of these conditions before reaching port. Amazingly, Carol was able to cook up a tasty meal even during our worst rolling. When I was in college I worked as a cook on a tall ship the Sea Education Association’s Corwith Cramer, and then as crew/cook on sailboat in the Pacific, both for a few months. These experiences gave me great respect for the challenge of cooking on a moving ship. Carol clearly has mastered these experiences. It is impressive to watch Carol, the Captain and crew operate during these stormy seas. It is at these times their skills and capabilities are most apparent.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Finishing Up

26 May 2010

After leaving Gisborne, we headed to the mouth of the Waipoa River where the river was high and muddy, transporting much material into the coast.  We did some water-column measuring and seabed sampling there and then headed offshore on a long transect of similar work.  Also, because it was a nice clear sky after the storm blew through, we took water samples for measure suspended sediment concentrations in the water so we could compare it to satellite images of the study area.  We finished our last station at about 6:30.  Unfortuntately we we're successful at getting cores at the last two sites, probably because of the massive swells that caused the ship to heave up and down quite significantly, but gently.  It really was pleasant and nice conditions to work, but tough for coring. 

Then, we started our long trip home....steaming from Gisborne to Wellington (on the southern end of the North Island).

Smiles and Silliness

25 May 2010

We've had some pretty rough weather and have been working hard.  But, we still have found time to have some fun.  Actually, I have laughed more on this cruise than on any other I can ever remember.  And smiles were plentiful (see pics above).  The scientists and crew are all good-spirited, and lots of effort is spent taunting and teasing eachother.  This trip has really be a pleasant because everyone has gotten along so well, and the group has really enjoyed all the interactions.  I give much credit to the crew, who are more friendly and fun than the other vessels I've worked on (of course they are serious and professional when necessary).  As you might imagine for a seabed sampling trip, there is a lot of mudslinging both literally and figuratively.  Invitably by the end of the cruise, everyone has ended up with mud on their face at some point.  We have found various ways to enjoy the rough conditions.  For example, above you can see Rip and Reide doing their ski jump imitations as the deck rolls beneath them.  In other shots, Rip prepares for a little snack, and I battle the extreme elements.  There is much fund to had on research vessels, even in stormy seas.

Mud Creatures

24 May 2010

One of my (J.P.) jobs on this cruise is to sieve the seabed mud and sand we collect to examine the organisms living within it. The process is pretty tedious and usually involves getting a bit muddy and wet, but it is also pretty fun, partly because I like getting muddy, but also because I never know what animals I’ll find. Just like soils on land, there can be a lot of organisms which make sediments their home. See the pictures above.  Not surprisingly, worms (segmented ones called polycheates) are quite common. One of the interesting critters I came across first was a snail with a very ornate shell. Apparently, this snail is pretty well known as it appears on the New Zealand passport. Another interesting critter I found was a shrimp; he/she wasn’t too happy to see me. My favorite seafloor dwellor is the brittle star.  These are also quite common and are fun to watch move!

Carol the Cook and her Marvelous Meals

24 May 2010

It is arguable, but I’m pretty sure the most important person on a ship is the cook. Good food really makes the difference between a happy ship and a miserable one. (Of course, the Captain and Chief Engineer are pretty critical too, but you get my point.) Carol, the cook on the Kaharoa, is awesome, not only does she whip up some fabulous food but also she bounces about the ship making sure things are tidy and people are doing well. Her smile greets us in the morning, along with the massive plate of hot breakfast food she prepares for everyone. About 10:30, we have a “smoko”, essentially a coffee break, but Carol usually makes a tasty treat (e.g., the ├ęclairs pictured above) Lunch arrives about 12:30, and has consisted of a great variety of foods such as yummy sandwiches, pizza and scrumptious mac and cheese. Afternoon tea time is another nice break for a tasty morsel. Dinners are the most elaborate meals, usually including fish or other nicely cooked meat, potatoes or rice, and a variety of vegetables. For example, last night we had our choice of sliced pork with apple sauce, lamb with pepper sauce, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, and potatoes o’gratin. I encourage you to give Carol’s pepper sauce a try; it would be great with beef or lamb. I loved it. Off the top of her head, here ‘s the recipe:

Carol’s Pepper Sauce
300 mls cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon of cracked paper
1 teaspoon of chicken stock

Carol also prides herself on her delicious desserts. Some of the stand outs include a chocolate self-sourcing pudding, marshmallow ambrosia, and the banoffi pie (which she modified from a magazine recipe). Carol recommends Edmonds Cookery Book. For those looking for a new dessert, give this a try:

Banoffi Pie
150g butter
250 g gingernut biscuits crushed

125 g butter
395 g can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp golden syrup
300 ml whipped cream
2 bananas, sliced (Carol made ½ with sliced strawberries)
Shaved chocolate to garnish

Prepare the base- Melt butter and stir into crushed biscuits. Press into the base and sides of a loose-base flan tin. Refrigerate until firm.

Prepare the topping- Combine butter, sweetened condensed milk and golden syrup in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until boiling, reduce heat, stir constantly further 5 minutes. Spread caramel over base. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Spread slices of banana in a single layer over the caramel. Spread whipped cream over banana. Decorate with remaining sliced of banana (and or strawberry) and shaved chocolate.

Bon app├ętit!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rough Morning, Beautiful Afternoon

23 May 2010, Rough Morning, Beautiful Afternoon


Yesterday's storm is now moving off to our east, so the winds have eased.  Simon, our captain, knows we have much to accomplish, so he gets the ship and its occupants moving early.  The very able and dedicated crew are quick to rise and have rapidly prepared for our departure from Gisborne  (we came in last night to seek shelter from the storm and get some labwork done.)  I (JP) hear the engine start at 6AM and start waking up.  After a few minutes, I step into the mess area, and people are stirring.  Of course, Carol is already slaving away in the galley, preparing another fabulous (and large) breakfast.  

On our steam out to our first site, it's obvious that some messy waves have been left behind.  We refer to these conditions as a "confused sea", indicating the waves appear to be coming from every which direction, creating a quite uncomfortable ride on the ship.  At our first site for sampling, the coring operations don't go smoothly.  Due to the challenging conditions, instead of cancelling all operations, we decide to head farther south to a site more in the lee of some of the weather.  The sun starts to peak through the clouds.  At our second and subsequent sites, we have nice views of the Poverty Bay shelf coastline, with scenic cliffs illuminated by sun rays and rainbows.  Ultimately it turns out to be a beautiful and very productive work day.  After coring at sunset, we head back into Gisborne at dark, to rest up and maybe get some tripod deployments done in the morning… but another storm approaches.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rockin' and Rollin'

21 May 2010, storm arrives
The day after recovering the tripods a storm hit the region, and the weather and seas got ugly... eventually  But, we really have a lot to get done, so we decided to head out and try to do some work.  The ship got away from the dock about 630, and we made some good progress but eventually the storm conditions caught up with us and coring became unsafe.  As we moved offshore to our next site, I (JP) decided it really had gotten too rough to operate safely.  This ended our day short, but we were safe and had gotten some samples, so we were very happy. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gisborne Port of Call

Steaming into Gisborne.

The Kaharoa isn't so big next to this logging ship.

Steve prepares for docking.

Daniel tends the docking lines as storm clouds approach.

20 May 2010, afternoon

With a ship overloaded with tripods and a storm on the way, we needed to head into port. Gisborne is the northern most city on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and it is located in Poverty Bay, just north of the Waipaoa River mouth (the primary source of sediment for our research). The City has a small port, used for logging exports and some container shipping, and it is a regional hub of commercial activity. Also, it is well known for its good waves in the surfing community. My few opportunities to surf here (J.P. talking here) agree with this notion.

Arrival into a port is always exciting for ship crew and passengers, so many were scattered about the ship to view the scenery as we steamed in. Our Captain, Simon, carefully navigated us up the channel, and the crew rapidly and skillfully secured us to the dock . Upon arrival, we worked hard and quickly to get the necessary equipment unloaded. After work was complete, people scattered quickly. Some, like me (J.P.) went to find out about the shed we rented and how we could get equipment moved. Others headed to stores or place with the internet. Still others, just took the time to relax, take a walk and enjoy the stillness and strong TV and phone connections.

Three Successful Tripod Recoveries! ...and before lunch

20 May 2010, Noon

Last January we deployed some equipment on the seafloor to measure ocean conditions over time. This is a critical part of our project, the mission of which is to understand how layers of sediment are deposited by storms and modified by subsequent processes (in case you aren’t familiar with or forgot what we’re doing). The technology we now have to examine oceanographic processes is truly amazing; for example, we can monitor variations in currents throughout the water column from impressively small, rugged sensors that sit near the sea bottom. We usually attach several different types to a metal frame and deploy this “tripod” to the ocean floor. Then, we return some time later (4 months in our case) and send a special sound to an acoustic device which releases a rope and float which comes to the surface. Now all of this probably sounds pretty simple in concept. But the reality of setting up these various, expensive instruments (most of them $3,000+), strapping them to frames, getting them off a moving ship, lowering them in a controlled fashion to the seabed and then finding them and picking them up months later is really not a easy process. Also, it is a bit nerve racking… for a few months. Yes, we have insurance on most of our equipment, and we certainly have back-up systems and plans, but nevertheless, the whole thing is a bit stressful. Obviously, some of our concern comes from the fact that the ocean is vast and dynamic, but one our greatest worries is the possibility of human interference with our systems. Even in remote waters of New Zealand, fishing is common. During our last deployment we saw several trawlers.

So, hopefully after writing all this, you can appreciate how we were all much relieved to see the tripod floats pop to the surface when released acoustically (although our the primary release on one of the tripods refused to deploy initially!)

Below are some pictures of the tripod recovery process. Notice the deck of the ship filled with the three tripods. We were forced to recover all of them in succession because of our limited ship time and the approach of a storm. We are very happy to successfully retrieved all three and have gone into the port of Gisborne to unload the tripods, download their data (hopefully the instruments worked!) and get them ready for redeployment.

Daniel, one of the ship’s crew, throws a grappling hook to grab the acoustically released tripod float and enable us to haul up the equipment.

Calm seas allow for a relatively easy recovery. Note the crowded deck with the other two tripods already onboard.

Rip Hale, a graduate student at the University of Washington, is happy to see the tripods back...so he might have some good data for his dissertation!

The Captain, Simon, checks out a tripod...and the baby spiny lobsters who have made it their home.

Dr. Andrea Ogston from UW, a queen of tripod work, surveys the tripods for damage. She's happy to see them on deck.

Fun in the mud…

19 May 2010 Just before Midnight

We have started slinging mud here off the coast of New Zealand. It was about a 27 hour steam around the NE tip of the North Island to our study area, the Waipaoa Margin. It was about 10pm when we arrived…no sense waiting around for daylight, there is mud to collect. The crew of the Kaharoa (Simon, Steve, Dan, Chief, Carol, and Pete) has been fantastic and very accommodating…willing to do what we need to complete the science, including dealing with the fact that we wanted to work through the night (tough when you only have 6 people running a 28m research vessel!)
So, we are planning to core 4-5 stations throughout the night and retrieve the tripods in the morning. Looks like the weather may turn for the worse in a day or so, the more we can get down now the better. Again, the need for flexibility s important when working out here…go with the punches so to speak.
This cruise we are all working on one team…no A and B team. So JP and I will have to set aside our competitive spirit…or at least channel it in a different direction, maybe see who can eat the most of Carol’s fabulous cooking!

Trains, planes, automobiles…

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It seems like we used about every mode of transportation available to actually get our scientific crew to Auckland and ultimately aboard the R/V Kaharoa.  It was Monday evening when most (not all, Julia and Joey will meet us in Gisborne) of the WISE ASS (Waipaoa Investigation of Sediment Energetics And Shelf Sedimentation) group finally met for the first science meeting of the cruise.  Plans were set for the next day, meeting the ship, loading, and ultimately setting sail.  We had hoped to leave Auckland mid-day to get to our study area in time to retrieve one or two tripods before sunset.  That turned out to be impossible based on the logistics of loading the Kaharoa, getting needed supplies, and making sure the CTD is operational.  Like any oceanographic cruise, you have to be flexible, work with the hand that is dealt.  We will work it out, make sure we leave with everything we need!  It certainly looks like we have a very capable ship and crew to do the job!


The R/V Kaharoa was berthed at Queens Wharf in downtown Auckland.  A city of about 3 million known for its sailing.  Apparently the water front had a significant facelift prior to the 2000 America's Cup.  It is a nice water front!  In fact, we saw an incredible rainbow just as we were loading our gear.  We also had an impressive sloop tied up near us…~150 sailboat made for cruising the seven seas…comfortably!  I imagine sitting in the hot tub on the bow tucked in a quiet cove of a deserted island would be a nice way to spend an evening.  I took a lot of pictures so I can start building my own. Finally, after several hours of loading and prep work, we tossed our lines and left the city to our stern.  What a view…Auckland seemed to get prettier as we steamed away at sunset.  Let the real fun begin…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Boarding the Ship in Auckland

So we made it to New Zealand without troubles.  Upon arrival to Wellington at 9AM, we went to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) to meet up with Alan Orpin, our NZ colleague.  At NIWA we found the equipment we had left in the country and got it ready for being trucked up to Auckland, along with the other ship equipment.  With the multicore, CTD, and all of our stuff on the truck, there wasn't much room left. 

That afternoon, we met with the Chief Scientist of NIWA, Charlotte.  We had a great conversation about the upcoming cruise, our scientific collaborations and future work.  She has been very supportive of our efforts, and we are very thankful.

That evening, we stayed in Wellington, and over the next two days we made our way to Auckland to meet the ship.  We took a circuitous route north to avoid some nasty weather across the western part of the North Island.  We're fortunate to enjoy some beautiful scenery and a few nice stops.

Last night we arrrived in Auckland and have found the other scientists.  Today we board the ship and hopefully we start steaming to Gisborne.

Here are some pictures from the last few days...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back to New Zealand

Just got on the plane to head back to New Zealand...and I'm sitting next to Bon Jovi! Apparently he's a frequent flyer... thanks for the crackers JBJ!