Mary Cook, January 4, 2005

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: January 4, 2005

Location: Latitude 49°28.60’S, Longitude 74°26.42’W
Time: 0835

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 10.34
Water Temperature (Celsius) 11.83
Relative Humidity (percent) 74.17
Air Pressure (millibars) 997.56
Wind Direction (degrees) 226.45
Wind Speed (knots) 6.89
Cloud Cover: 8/8 Low Stratus
Precipitation: Steady rain
Sunrise 0559
Sunset 2205

Question of the Day

What does NOAA stand for?

Quote of the Day

“Midwesterners make some of the best sailors.” Tim Wright, Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN.

Science Log

Today I’ve conducted several interviews of the ship’s officers, merchant marines, and Chilean channel pilots. I’d like to thank each person for giving their time and for being enthusiastic and open in sharing about themselves and their work.

Interview: Captain Tim Wright

Captain Wright shares with us that growing up as a boy in land-locked Kirkwood, Missouri he loved to read about the ocean and romanticized about becoming a sea-faring man. He joined the Navy at 18 and served in the Vietnam War. After his time in the service he went to the University of Washington and obtained a degree in Physical Oceanography. Captain Wright achieved this rank in October of 2003 and has been the Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN since February, 2004. Captain Wright says that his most important duties are the safety and security of the crew and ship. His responsibility is a 24 hour a day job for navigation and safe overside operations. Captain Wright shares that his most enjoyable time with NOAA was when he worked three years in Paris for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It was a time when he could have his family living with him. Another very enjoyable time was his stint as the Captain of the KA’IMIMOANA, a NOAA ship stationed in Pearl Harbor. They deployed buoys along the equatorial Pacific. Captain Wright says he loves his work and wouldn’t dream of having any other career. He highly recommends oceanography and the seafaring life for the person who enjoys the outdoors, adventures, and challenges.

Interview: Navigator Jeffery Shoup

Navigator and Bridge Officer Jeffery Shoup grew up with two older sisters in Oak Park, Illinois. He obtained a Chemistry/Chemistry and Physics Education degree from “Miami of Ohio” in Oxford, Ohio. He considers his responsibilities to be standing watch, driving the ship and laying out the trackline for the scientists. After the scientists turn in a statement telling him where they want to go to do their projects, Mr. Shoup maps out a safe and efficient course for the ship. He has been with NOAA for three years and considers this cruise to be the highlight. Since he left Charleston, he has traveled through the Panama Canal and the Straits of Magellan will be great place to get off the ship. He has also been to the Canary Islands and Iceland. Mr. Shoup says that persons who aspire to the seafaring lifestyle should be independent, self sufficient and able to get along well with others. He says the only negative thing about going to sea is that the family relationships suffer because of your absence for long periods of time. This is Jeffery Shoup’s last cruise. He’s taking a new position in Maryland to work for Search and Rescue Satellite (SarSat). This is where they receive messages from beacons on ships and aircraft in distress. The SarSat beacons use GPS to locate the needy vessel and then personnel proceed with the rescue.

Interview: Ensign Silas Ayers

Junior Officer Silas Ayers grew up in Pennsylvania as one of five children. He has been with NOAA for one year. Before that, he served three years in the Army and attended school for eight years at Westchester University in Pennsylvania where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Earth and Space Education and a Master’s Degree in Physical Science.

Ensign Ayers says that he chose this career and way of life to gain real world experiences to become better equipped for a teaching career. He considers his responsibilities on the ship to be ship safety, damage control, and property accountability. Mr. Ayers says the most fascinating experience for him has been the personalities aboard the ship. “I’m a ‘people’ person not a ‘place’ person.” The human dynamics involved in living aboard a seagoing vessel are fascinating to him.

Interview: Jim Melton

Mr. Jim Melton is a pilot, a lookout and a deckhand. He is a merchant marine and works under the Department of Commerce. Mr. Melton grew up in Florida and has been going out to sea since he was about three years old. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1970. Mr. Melton has a colorful and exciting life of doing all sorts of work such as pipefitting, welding, grooming ski resort slopes, farming, being a real working cowboy, and of course all kinds ship work. He shares that his most fascinating experiences have been at sea. He loves it. But he also shares that it’s not the life for everyone. It’s lonely and hard on relationships. The sad part for a father at sea is not being there to raise your kids. He considers his father to be his inspiration because he was a hard worker, a jack-of-all-trades, and an adventurer.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Luis Holley

Mr. Luis Holley of Reñaca, Chile has been a Patagonian Channels and Magellan Straits pilot for 4.5 years. Before that he was in the Chilean Navy for 33 years and retired at the rank of Captain. Mr. Holley shared with me that before one becomes a pilot he must have certain credentials. These credentials include being an advanced Captain in the Chilean Navy or the Chilean Merchant Navy. He said that they often use the channels for navigation and military exercises. If one has the credentials then that person may apply to the Chilean Coast Guard for the position of pilot. The Coast Guard puts them through a three week course of simulations and real navigation through the passages. There are only 88 channel pilots.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Alex Waghorn

Mr. Alex Waghorn has been a pilot for the Patagonian Channels and the Magellan Straits for three years. He makes 18-20 passes through here per year. Mr. Waghorn shared with me that to become a pilot for these channels you must be ever vigilant, memorize charts and become very familiar with the passageways. He said overconfidence is dangerous and he treats every trip just as if it were his first time.

Personal Log

I awoke at 0530 in eager anticipation of passing through the English Narrows. It is a cold, foggy, rainy morning. I can see my breath. It’s cold enough that even the “die-hards” have to come in to warm up and get a cup of hot chocolate. The English Narrows are narrow. We were so close to the land, I could see the individual leaves of the trees! Just this morning in the span of one hour, I saw more waterfalls cascading down the mountains and plunging into the sea than I’ve ever seen in my entire life! I started to count them, but as the ship rounded every bend, there were more and more of them, so I just gave up on the count and enjoyed the view. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.

There’s something I’ve come realize about the RONALD H. BROWN: this is a boatload full of map-lovers! I’ve never been so surrounded with people, like myself, who love to read maps. They are magnetically attracted to maps. And when they’re reading a map, it’s like they’re being transported to that place and can visualize it as though they are really there.

It’s ironically funny that yesterday, I was on the bridge and I spied a new and different kind of map. So I strolled over to get a closer look. It was a detailed chart of the Patagonian Channels and the Straits of Magellan! I smiled and said, “I want a map like that!” Ensign Ayers said, “You and everyone else on this ship.” I realized I wasn’t the only person who had an interest in that map. I soon discovered that these maps are printed especially for the Chilean pilots who guide ships safely through these passageways. Hopefully, there’s a way to get my hands on a copy.

Now, wouldn’t that be something? ?

This evening as I sit here and ponder all the day’s happenings, I think about the remoteness of this place. How we’re one little ship seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The land and water and sky are beautiful and cold and cloudy and ………….. empty of people. I look at those massive, worn, eroded mountains with snow and blue-hued glaciers and realize that I can’t even fathom the magnitude of the powers that have formed them. It causes me to recognize my place. The reality is I’m weak and small and made of dust. And that I have absolutely no jurisdiction over the driving forces behind the natural cycle of Earth. The Earth is essential for my fleshly existence but I’m not at all essential for Earth’s existence.

Until tomorrow,


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