Mary Cook, January 5, 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 5, 2005

Location: Latitude 53°49.76’S, Longitude 71°39.22’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 7.66
Water Temperature (Celsius) 8.94
Relative Humidity (percent) 87.33
Air Pressure (millibars) 987.72
Wind Direction (degrees) 270.59
Wind Speed (knots) 6.27
Cloud Cover 8/8 Stratus
Sunrise 0526
Sunset 2218

Question of the Day

What is the ozone layer?

Quote of the Day

“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” English proverb

Science and Personal Log

Today, I interviewed Victoria Carpenter. Vickie is an Able Bodied (AB) Seaman and she has a variety of duties aboard this ship. These duties include watch-stander, deckhand, winch operator, securing the ship for departure and darkening the ship. Darkening the ship means that she makes sure all portholes on the ship are closed at night so that the light from inside the ship’s rooms doesn’t shine out and reflect off the water which blinds the bridge crew. We all want the bridge crew to be able to see because they’re driving the ship! Vickie grew up in southern California with three brothers. She now resides in Vancouver, Washington. Vickie has traveled around the world. Really. She’s been to Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. And she’s ridden a bicycle from coast to coast in the United States. It seems to me that she has done just about everything from being a Girl Scout Leader, to a berry picker, to a camp director, to an Outward Bound leader, and even a tour guide!

She will be attending the AB to Mate School for 19 weeks later this year. Besides getting a raise, becoming a Mate will enable her to plot charts and steer the ship.

Vickie says she loves the sea and the seagoing life. She considers Ernest Shackleton, the great explorer of Antarctica, to be her inspiration. Vickie is a true adventurer and I’ve loved listening to her stories.

For some reason, I awoke at 0430 this morning. I’m not sure why I stirred at such an early hour but it could have something to do with the fact that we have been in the famed Straits of Magellan since 0200. I most certainly did not want to sleep through it. So I was out at first light. Reggie, the watch-stander called me and said that the seals were putting on a show, so up I headed to the bridge. There were seals frolicking all about! These remind me of dolphins in the way they come up out of the water. We were passing through the Tortuoso Passage. According to the Chilean pilot Luis Holley, Tortuoso means “very difficult” in Spanish. To me it sounds like torturous. A torturous passage. This is the place where the Atlantic Ocean currents meet the Pacific Ocean currents. All this water converging in a narrow canal makes for a difficult place to transit. At this junction back in early navigation days the current actually pushed ships aground. That would definitely be torturous in my book. I was intrigued that we could really see the current. It was a place of choppy waters called the “the cross tide” and when the ship encountered the current, it slid sideways a little bit! Whoa!

One of the bays on this route is called Seno Ballena which means whale fjord. The pilot explained this to be a place where whales come to have their babies. A whale nursery! We saw two whales that flipped their flukes (tails) up in the air. It’s a nice feeling to watch whales just living their lives.

Shortly thereafter, the RONALD H. BROWN with all its inhabitants rounded the southern-most tip of the continent! It’s called Cape Froward and has a huge steel cross perched on the point which is covered with gnarly looking trees.

We’ve just arrived in Punta Arenas and Captain Wright called an “all hands” meeting. At the meeting the Chilean pilots awarded us certificates documenting our passage through the Straits of Magellan! It has a map tracing our route and says that I am a “certified explorer of the Straits of Magellan”. ? Signed and sealed by the Chilean pilots!

Les Cruise, the medic reminded everyone to wear sunscreen, long sleeves, and hats because we are under the “hole” in the ozone layer. Punta Arenas has one of the highest occurrences of skin cancer per capita than any city in the world.

This is a very attractive small city. It is situated on the coast with only a few tall buildings and has low, rounded mountains as a backdrop. The main square is a tree-lined park with a central statue of Ferdinand Magellan. The statue also has a native South American on it whose foot is projecting from the base. It is said that if you rub his big toe then you’ll return to Punta Arenas someday. That big toe is shiny smooth! Well, here’s a question for you. Do you think I rubbed the colossal toe? You know the answer to that question. The Punta Arenas downtown is European quaint and bustling with people shopping, relaxing, and going somewhere. Ice cream must be a popular treat. It seems that everyone has a cone. I even saw a sign in a store window that said “Do not enter with ice cream.” I love ice cream, but when I’m wearing three layers and a muffler scarf, I prefer hot chocolate. There are tour offices that offer excursions to penguin colonies, trekking in Patagonia or boat rides to glaciers. Tomorrow morning will be my last full day here, and I’ve decided to check out the penguins. I’ll let you know how they’re doing in my next log installment!

Until tomorrow,


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