Mary Cook, December 19, 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 19, 2004

Location: Latitude 25°07.83’S, Longitude 81°54.62’W
Time: 0830

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.04
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.42
Relative Humidity (percent) 56.95
Air Pressure (millibars) 1018.17
Wind Direction (degrees) 155.6
Wind Speed (knots) 15.91
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.99
Sunrise 0734
Sunset 2116 (9:16 pm)

Questions of the Day

Why is the sunset so late in the day?

Positive Quote for the Day

“The world of achievement has always belonged to the optimist.” J. Harold Wilkins

Science and Technology Log

We tossed the last of fifteen drifting buoys this morning! It’s not the end, but the beginning of a wonderful new program. I’d say the Adopt-a-Drifter program got underway with a big splash! Teachers and their students around the world can adopt a drifting buoy just like my students at Southside Middle School in Batesville, Arkansas. They can map its path as it goes with the flow of the ocean currents. These drifting buoys also provide sea surface temperature and air pressure. This information can be utilized to gain a better understanding of the global oceans. I watched as Jeff and Bob deployed another Argo float. These floats are lowered over the back of the ship and when the quick-release mechanism comes in contact with the water, the powder in a small device dissolves and this releases a spring that unhinges the float from the straps. The straps are pulled back onboard as the ship leaves the Argo float in its wake.

I sat down and had a conversation with Chief Scientist Dr. Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution about the importance of oceanic/atmospheric studies. He made some very good points that highlighted the fact that when just 1ºC of heat energy is released from the ocean water into the atmosphere it affects the air flows for thousands of miles. This then can be like a domino effect and continue around the globe influencing weather patterns for people everywhere.

At 2:00 we interviewed Richard Whitehead, Chief Steward. Richard is over the food preparation in the galley. Richard shared that he has been working on ships for over 40 years and has had several trainings for the position he now holds. He said that the menus were developed based on nutritional guidelines and availability of produce. Richard shared with us that they keep the produce fresh for weeks by keeping it very cool and placing it in special bags that slows the deterioration. He also said that there are many safety issues that concern food preparation on a moving ship. All the pots and pans are deep, there are railings on the stovetop, and special care must be taken with knives. The countertops must be covered with anti-slip cloths to keep everything from sliding around. He also said that they consider the weather when deciding what to prepare because you wouldn’t want to bake a cake while the ship was moving through rough waters.

We changed “6:00 Science on the Fantail” to “6:00 Science in the Van on the Bow” because we wanted to interview Jason Tomlinson of Texas A & M about his work with aerosols. First of all, Jason explained that an aerosol is not a spray can. It is a small particle in the air. Jason showed us the Tandem Differential Mobility Analyzer (TDMA). It looks like a mad scientist’s invention with wires, tubes, canisters, and radioactive components! It is one of the best devices in the world for analyzing small particles in the air. It draws in air from outside then dries the air. It then separates the particles according to size. Jason said that these particles are too small to see with the naked eye but they have a great influence on cloud formation and cloud life length. The TDMA can determine what the particles are made of by adding moisture or by adding heat. The TDMA costs about $70,000! He also showed us the Aerodynamic Particle Sizer (APS) which analyzes larger particles. They mostly get sea salt and dust out here in the ocean. Jason said that there’s a mystery about the sea salt and its influence on clouds. The APS costs about $35,000. He also said that occasionally they take in the ship’s exhaust and that destroys their data for that particular time. He concluded by saying that it all gets back to climate change and using these data to make better models for predictions.

After our interview with Jason, we ran outside to glimpse San Felix and San Ambrosio Islands! Our first land sighting in over two weeks! These small islands, located about 300 nautical miles from Chile, are volcanic in origin. They are basically huge, desolate rocks protruding up from the ocean floor. As far as I could tell nothing is growing on them. Seafaring birds do nest on the cliffs. Since 1975 the Chilean Navy has had an installation on San Felix Island where they operate a short airstrip, a weather station and a tide station.

Personal Log

I’m just beginning to realize that this trip is nearly over. We only have four days left. I knew it wouldn’t go on forever but as the old saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”. What a superb voyage this has been for me-a voyage that is continuing my personal quest to search out the majesty of Earth. In doing so it is my heart’s desire to absorb the inexplicable magnificence of our Earth. I want to be permeated with awe for the splendor as I soak it in with my eyes and ears and nose and skin. I am amazed. How can I take it all in? Where was I when the Earth was formed and hung in the nothingness of space? From where did this splendor come? Clouds and rain and snow and hail are amazing! Mountains and valleys and canyons and caves are amazing! Oceans and rivers and glaciers and springs are amazing! Rocks and minerals and soil and sand are amazing! People and animals and languages and ideas are amazing! And they all work together in a symphony of overwhelming magnitude. I believe that we’re all an inextricable part of this grand masterpiece. Traveling is not the essential element in a voyage. Life is a voyage no matter where you are. Our voyage is how we perceive our surroundings, how we face our challenges, and how we come to Truth. Actually, none of us ask for this voyage called life. We’ve been thrust into it by forces greater than ourselves. So here we are. We do have some choices, though. Will we make the most of this journey or will we let it sweep us along without ever wondering, and questioning and being amazed?

Until tomorrow,


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