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.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Now that I'm at home and have some bandwidth I thought I'd post some of the videos of dolphins we saw on the way home.  I know the kids will love these.  It is alwasy fun to have a pod of dolphins visit!


Back to Wellington

17 Feb 2011

We made it back to Wellington without any troubles and after a night on the town celebrating our arrival back to port, we spent the 17th packing and preparing our equipment and supplies for shipment back to the U.S. Fortunately, the weather was absolutely perfect for our arrival and unloading.  Days like that are few and far between in Wellington, so we appreciated it!

We have had a fun and very successful series of cruises in New Zealand, and it is bit sad that our fieldwork has concluded.  But, I'm sure we all look forward to spending some time working on data at home... and then returning for a meeting at some point in the future!

Again, I need to thank the Captain and crew of the Revelle and the Kaharoa who helped make our fieldwork safe, enjoyable, and productive.  Also, I want to thank all the scientists and volunteers who worked long hours and in some tough conditions to generate some great samples and data.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Rough Start to a Beautiful Ride Back to Welly

15-16 Feb 2011

OK, well, the beginning of the trip really wasn't beautiful. It was pretty rough and miserable. It rained a little bit on the 15th during our last couple of sites. But, by the morning of the 16th the strong southerly winds that were expected had not materialized, and it ended up being a beautiful ride home.

Heading home on the 16th... with much better weather!

Life on the Kaharoa

I don't think I really every have shown any pictures of our living quarters, the bridge and the mess.  So, I thought I'd share some miscellaneous shots around the ship.  The Kaharoa is a smallish ship (30 m or 90 ft), yet she is very capable of doing work on the open ocean and serves as a very comfortable home for its Captain (Simon), Chief Engineer (Dave, this trip), mates (Steve, Dan and Pete),  cook (Carol), and up to six scientific crew. 

The ship has a comfortable mess area (where we eat) with a TV (with occasional reception) and a nice large and rotating library of DVDs and books, a moderately sized galley, a spacious bridge, two staterooms for scientists (a quad and a double, both with bunk beds), heat and even air conditioning (which we needed on this trip), and well-stocked freezers and dry stores.  There are two labs, a wet lab and dry lab and the deck is large enough for most oceanographic research operations.  All in all, its a very practical, functional and pretty cozy ship.  One drawback of the ship is that it is a pretty lively vessel during a rough sea as we have had the chance to experience on a few occasions.  The best part about the ship are its Captain and crew who really have made us feel at home and as I have said earlier are tremendously helpful, skilled and knowledgeable.

Another Good Day

15 February 2011

On our last day of work, we conducted a lot of coring near our shallowest tripod location.  It was a nice morning to start but the wind had picked up, and the seas were developing.  After completing several stations, we headed back to the Port of Gisborne where a small boat was lauched to pick up Dr. Andrea Ogston who was finalizing some details of our stay.  Once she and Dan were safely back onboard safely, we starting coring and CTDing near the Waipaoa River mouth and moved our way offshore.  The wind was blowing about 30 knots, so by the time we made our way into deeper waters, the swells and seas were much bigger, and working was challenging.  We finished our last station at ~6 PM, and started our steam towards Wellington.  But, it was hardly smooth sailing.  At our cruising speed (~10 knots), the boat pitched pretty wildly about making it difficult to accomplish pretty much anything.  Carol, unphased by the weather, whipped up a fabulous meal... meat pie, mash potatoes, gravy, peas and cauliflower.   We ate happily and then watched Diehard 4 and then Bruno.  Both were very entertaining, and the relaxation was much appreciated.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sun, Fish and Fun

14 February 2011

It's Valentine's Day, and I must admit the holiday has been pretty much ignored on our oceanographic research vessel.  Before our first core, I greeted the crew, Captain and scientists on deck by saying a big "Happy Valentine's Day", and everyone had a good laugh.  But, hugs and kisses certainly were not exchanged.  In fact if anything, the verbal teasing may have become a bit more intense...that's our fun while we work all day.  Although going to see might seem romantic (e.g., the Titanic movie), the charm is somewhat lost when you are working long hours on a steel, industrial ship and typically with a greater number of men.  To make the time pass, we all spend lots of time jabbing at other about everything.  Sometimes it can get a bit harsh, but ultimately everyone knows, we are just trying to make fun during a long, hard work day. 

Anyway, today we did more coring.  The highlights of the day were the fabulous weather, the bountiful fishing (during our transits between coring sites) and the active ocean wildlife (dolphins, birds, fish).  Around lunch time, the seas were teaming with life; a large pod of dolphins visited and fish schools surfaced underneath flocks of birds.  We were fortunate to catch a few albacore tuna (~2.5 ft long) and some kingfish, but the latter had to be thrown back.  Tonight we had some fresh sashimi, in addition to a great meal by Carol; it was great.  All in all it was a fun day.  I'm sure most of us would have rather been at home with loved ones, but nevertheless, it was enjoyable to have such a good shipboard family to share the day with.

Tomorrow is our last day working in the study area.  We will head home in the evening.  Sounds like it might be a rough trip because a southerly is developing!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Immaculate Reception of the Tripod!

13 Feb 2011

Well, I just wrote the whole story and it got deleted...so I'm not going to retype it.  But the short version is that we found and recovered the tripod! ... there must have been some divine intervention but I won't go in it (basically, it was in a totally different place than where we deployed it... thanks to a trawler)  And the good thing is that much of the equipment appears to be in good shape.  We'll know more tomorrow, but we are all very happy. I need to go celebrate with a cold beverage!


p.s. One of the likely reasons for our good luck was that it is my wife's birthday (the 13th... my lucky number)!  Happy Birthday Denise, sorry I couldn't be there to celebrate. Love,  J.P.

Heaps More Coring

Pictures Above: The pics above show that we've had some good weather... but that it got bumpy today (probably ~8 ft swells with moderate seas under 20 knots of wind).  It made work pretty challenging.  Yesterday, the crew were excited to find out they they would be doing a trip to Tahiti soon... so, they celebrated by wearing their aloha shirts.  Also, we were fortunate that we caught a small tuna yesterday, so tonight we had some fresh sushi and some grilled steaks thanks to the Captain, Simon.  As an East Carolina University Pirate, I felt compelled to do my best imitation today while cutting a core.

12 Feb 2011

Since I last wrote, we have been doing lots of coring.  We've now collected 31 cores in total and recovered 2 of the 3 tripods. So, yes, an immediate concern is third tripod, particularly for me as this has mostly ECU instruments on it.  The good thing is that we have talked to the acoustic release by sending sound from a unit on the ship.  So, we basically know where the tripod (or at least the release) sits on the seafloor.  But, unfortunately, after sending the release command, a float hasn't popped up on the surface.  After waiting a couple days for a float to appear, we decided today to try doing some cable and a large chain to try to bump the tripod and release the float.  Basically what this entailed was deploying some cable along the seafloor with a chain attached to the end and then trying to form a loop to nudge the tripod.  It sounds easy in theory, but I assure you it isn't.  And we had no luck.  Even our experienced Captain and crew were seeming a bit frustrated.  Tomorrow we will need to get more serious and will use a grappling hook to try to snare the tripod.  So, now we remain hopeful but are a bit more concerned.  Anyway, enough of that negative thinking.  Otherwise the trip has gone very well and the weather has been pretty good... no serious wind, waves or rain.  So, the trip has pretty much unfolded as normal... our days have been spent coring incessantly (and eating Carol's awesome meals) and are nights are spent is the port of Gisborne... we finish our deck work about 6:30, then eat a yummy dinner, have an adult beverage or two over some fun conversation and then hit the hay.  We're planning to head out on the town for a little social time, but we'll be back early as the engine will start up again at 6AM and we willl coring on the open ocean not long after.  As I have said, Carol has been cooking up a storm, so we all are probably putting on some kilograms (we are in New Zealand).  But we are doing pullups during the days so our arms are getting some exercise.  Also, the boat has been moving pretty well, especially today, so we're burning some serious calories trying to do our jobs and even just to stand in place!  Today, we we thinking that most people probably can't imagine what is like trying to work and just live on a smallish ship on lively ocean.  The simplest things like going to the bathroom and drinking water or coffee become a real challenge!  Of course, the other things like move heavy objects or carrying delicate instruments/samples are that much more precarious. 

That's all for now.  Wish us luck in retrieving our third tripod and collecting lots more mud!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good Day of Coring

9 February 2011

Today was a long but productive day.  We headed out of the harbor at about 6 AM and arrived home 6 PM.  We ended up collecting 10 cores, 4 of which were used for our erosion experiments.  The weather was pretty much ideal, not too hot and not too cold.   Tomorrow will likely be another long day...we're hoping the weather remains good.  The team working in the shed has not been mentioned previously in the blog, but they deserve some credit here.  Dan and Andrea have been working with all the instruments in a dark, dirty and now hot and smelly shed.  Today, they deconstructed one of the tripods and tomorrow they'll do the other along with some calibrations.  I'm not sure what is tougher work... being on the rocking shop or slaving away in the shed.  A picture will follow soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Long Steam to the Study Area and the Recovery of Tripods

After a pretty quick day of packing and a brief chance to watch part of the 2nd quarter of the Superbowl, we boarded the Kaharoa and headed to fuel.  After that, we steamed out of Wellington.

The ride north was about 24 hours, but it seemed to take a good while longer to get to the study area as the waves were not large but coming from two directions causing an uncomfortable ride.  During the transit some of us worked on processing data and others focued on prepping labs.  A couple scientists were sick, and I know I wasn't feeling 100% either. 

But, we got to the Gisborne area last night at ~8PM and did a CTD cast in ~350 m  (~1000 ft) of water.  Then we took a core and tried to take another but failed after 4 attempts.  We anchored last night in Povery Bay and got an early start in the morning.  Dr. Andrea Ogston arrived via zodiac, and after collecting a couple cores, we headed to the tripod sites for recoveries.  I'm happy to report that we recovered two tripods after some trouble... and one of them had clearly been hit by a trawler.  The third (on which I have my instruments) is still resting on the seabed.  We hope its float will release in the coming days... I'll keep you posted.  Gotta run for dinner!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Back to Wellington: The Final Reseach Expedition

Well, here we are back in Wellington!  We return for our fourth and final research expedition to the coast of the Waipaoa River, New Zealand.  The nearest city is Gisborne on the northeast coast of the North Island.  See a map by clicking here.  You can read previous blogs to learn more about our activites, but basically, we are here to recover some instruments that are measuring ocean conditions and collect cores of the seafloor sediments.  Our work is part of a collaborative National Science Foundation-funded project to understand sedimentation fromevents (floods and storms), and this research is part of large scienfic program called MARGINS that is aimed at investigation of the coastal (i.e., continental margin) geological dynamics around the world.  Continental margins are critical areas of the Earth where most humans live and work.

We met the ship this morning, and it was great to see the Captain (Simon) and crew (Steve, Dan, Pete, and Carol, the incredible cook) who we know pretty well at this point as this is our third trip this year on the R/V Kaharoa.  Now, we must work hard to get ready to go to sea today.  We visited NIWA (see previous blog about NIWA) to collect our gear.  During the drive you can see a photo of Wellington (NZ's capital) and Evans Bay, part of Wellington Harbor.  Today, the scientists and crew will spend much of the day getting our gear and provisions sorted and prepped for the expedition.  We hope to depart the afternoon.  Unfortunately, it might be a bit lumpy during our transit north as the wind is blowing at gale force!  But, the marine weather around Gisborne isn't looking too bad for the coming week.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Off to New Zealand and a BIG Thanks to NIWA!

4 February 2010

Today, a group of scientists including myself, J.P. Walsh, flys back to Wellington, New Zealand to participate in our final research cruise.  More on the cruise will follow, but I want to focus this blog on giving a huge thanks to our New Zealand collaborators at NIWA.

NIWA stands for the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, and this New Zealand organization conducts ocean and atmospheric research throughout this amazing country and its territorial waters.  NIWA researchers are among the top in the world, and NIWA has state-of-the-art facilities and laboraties for accomplishing important research.  Our research team has used the R/V Kaharoa (28 m, ~90 ft) for two previous cruises in 2010 (May and September) following our first expedition on the R/V Revelle, a U.S. ship.  The Kaharoa is one of NIWA's several research vessels, but it is considerably smaller than the R/V Tangaroa.

Over the past year during the fieldwork for our collaborative research project, NIWA scientists and staff have been incredible.  In addition to working with us on analyzing and interpreting our data, they have helped facilitate all aspects of our research, first and foremost, with the complex logistics of coordinating the research expeditions.  There are so many things to plan and prepare for in getting ready for an oceanographic trip, such as shipping, supplies, chemical clearances, safety concerns, food, weather, etc.  The personnel in the vessels office, the front office and in the Marine Geology group have been thorough, responsive and very professional.  Additionally, they have gone the extra mile (or kilometer) on many occasions, allowing us to borrow critical equipment, use needed space and have flexibility during difficult situations.  Last but not least, they have been friendly and enjoyable to work with because they are downright good people!  Indeed New Zealand is a beautiful country, and I strongly recommend to anyone and everyone that they come to visit at some point (the sooner the better).  Furthermore, if you are scientist or business person, I highly recommend connecting to a New Zealand colleague, so you might to have the great pleasure of working with New Zealanders.  Their adventourous spirit, high moral character and courteous nature makes the experience of traveling and working in New Zealand that much more enjoyable.  But I digress, let me reiterate here our extreme thanks to NIWA for all their help not only over this past year of fieldwork but also during the many years of the MARGINS research program.  They have been great hosts.  Last and not least, I must specifcally mention a few key NIWA people who helped facilitate MARGINS-related endeavours, Drs. Alan Orpin, Lionel Carter (now at Univ. of Victoria) and Geoffroy Lamarche in the Marine Geology group and Dr. Charlotte Severne, the Chief Scientist of Oceans at NIWA.  Without these people, the various science expeditions and projects would have been impossible to complete.