Kevin McMahon, July 29, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin McMahon
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 26 – August 7, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
July 29, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat. 42 deg 43.99
Lon. 70deg 02.99
Barometer 1015.71 mb
Rel Humidity 94.6%
Temp. 17.1 C
Radiosond aloft at 0710.

Daily Log

Science meeting at 0800. It has been decided that we will try to rendezvous with the J31 out of Pease at approximately 1130 and if all goes well send another radiosonde aloft.

Since I came onboard the RONALD H. BROWN on the 26th of July I have been completely amazed at how sophisticated life onboard a modern research vessel has become. On the first day waiting in line for lunch I inquired as to how long we can expect to have the fresh fruits and vegetables? Mr. Whitehead, the chief steward answered me that, “we always serve up fresh salads, very little of our produce is frozen.” When I inquired as to how they do it, I was informed that the ships refrigeration system was equipped with a device which filters out the Ethylene, a compound which causes produce to rot. As a result we can expect to have fresh salads on a daily basis.

This little tidbit of information got me to thinking about the possibility of a lesson plan which would incorporate some chemistry and some biology.


1. Can you draw the molecular structure of Ethylene?

2. What bacteria are involved in the spoilage of food and how does the elimination of ethylene play a part in this process?

Most of my time over the last 3 days has been spent getting to know the ship, the crew, and the scientific staff. It is odd in that I am being drawn more towards the operation of the vessel than I am to the scientific community. But both aspects are keeping me busy.

I have been working with Dan Wolfe, one of the main meteorologists onboard. I had thought that because I teach Earth Science, I knew something about weather forecasting. I have a long way to go. It has been an education. We have been sending aloft four radiosonde balloons per day. One every six hours. Each device is carried aloft by a balloon filled with helium. The radiosonde sends back to the ship its location, direction of travel, velocity, and altitude as a result of the barometric pressure.


Which gas law equation does one use to calculate the relationship between pressure and volume?

1400 hours and I have just been informed that my hands are needed to assist with the preparation and launch of an ozonesonde. 1500 hours and we have been informed that a DC3 out of Pease will rendezvous with us in about 30 minutes. An ozonesonde has many of the characteristics of the radiosonde but also has the capability to measure ozone levels at various altitudes. It also has a longer life span and stays aloft about 2 hours and 45 minutes. The DC3 is really an aerial platform which has equipment onboard to measure ozone. I have been informed that the DC3 is nearing our location so it is time to fill the balloon.

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