Mary Cook, December 17, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 17, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°40.26’S, Longitude 89°46.38’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.59
Water Temperature (Celsius) 20.13
Relative Humidity (percent) 73.07
Air Pressure (millibars) 1017.14
Wind Direction (degrees) 101.42
Wind Speed (knots) 15.44
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.67

Question of the Day

What are the ship’s three types of motion?

Positive Quote of the Day

“Never say “No” to opportunity.” Melvin G. Marcus

Science and Technology Log

Today, we made the big turn toward the San Felix islands and we’re heading southeastward at 12 knots. We did our last CTD cast of the cruise! Several of us decorated more Styrofoam cups to send down for compression by the pressure of the ocean water at 1000 meters depth. This afternoon and for the remainder of the cruise we will be tossing drifting buoys and Argo floats over board from the fantail. The Argo float has a bladder that inflates and deflates to allow it to go down to 2000 meters, drift in the current for about 10 days, and then record temperature and salinity as it comes back to the surface. It then transmits the data to a satellite where it is then sent to a ground station. The Argo float goes up and down over and over until the battery runs out. These floats are never recovered. It is hoped that there will be 3,000 of them in the oceans by 2006.

As we toss the drifters we are doing a promotional video segment to describe what a drifter measures and encourage teachers and their students to adopt a drifting buoy. This is a great way to get real science in the classroom. The Adopt a Drifter Program is sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Climate Observation and can be accessed online at

This afternoon Diane and I toured the ship and recorded it with the video camera. We went to the galley, mess hall, our stateroom and toilet room, the ship’s bow and the bridge. The bridge is where the ship is driven. While on the bridge, we spoke with NOAA Corps officer Silas Ayers and he explained how they record and report the weather observations to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offices located back in the United States. Tomorrow, he will give us a complete tour of the bridge.

In “6:00 Science on the Fantail”, we interviewed Chris Fairall, a physicist/mathematician who works for the NOAA Environmental Technology Lab (ETL) based in Colorado. Chris explained some of their instrumentation for measuring clouds and precipitation. He said that some of their instruments can individually measure the smallest of mist droplets! They have worked closely with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution over the past few years to compile data for the stratus cloud deck over this part of the Pacific Ocean. Chris said that the main reason this particular location was selected for the study was lack of data because it had never been thoroughly studied.

This evening, Diane and I continued the writing of the children’s book documenting this Stratus 2004 cruise.

Personal Log

Today has been another good day at sea. I’ve gotten emails from students, family and friends. I’ve had good food to eat and good conversation and laughter with new friends. I spent some quiet, alone time to ponder and count my blessings. The sun momentarily broke through the stratus clouds like a smile from up above! We tossed some Argo floats and drifters overboard. We’re steaming ahead to new and exciting places! What more could I ask for?

An observation: the Argo float is tossed in the water without removing the biodegradable cardboard box, so it looked to me like a casket as it floated away in the wake of the ship. I guess it really is a burial at sea because the Argo floats are never recovered.

Paul and I are about to deploy another Argo float shortly. This will be my first Argo float where I actually get to do the hands-on tossing! I’ve just been observing up until now. We’ll lower it by a rope over the back of the fantail then release it into the water.

Another observation: As the ship steams along it is rolling and pitching. All that motion causes stuff to shift and creak and rattle. Even if I’m in a room all alone, I still feel like someone else is there, too. It’s an odd sensation to hear a noise, turn expecting to see someone and nobody is there!

I look forward to tomorrow. We have a couple of interviews and will continue working on the book plus tossing a few more drifting buoys and floats along the way.

Until tomorrow,


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