Melissa Fye, April 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 13, 2005

Location: Latitude: 23*48.6’N, Longitude:166*18.8’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind Direction:120
Wind Speed:14 knots
Sea Wave Height:1-2 feet
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.6
Cloud Cover: 4/8 Cu Clouds
Temperature outside: 25.6 degrees Celsius

Data processing
Data processing

Science and Technology Log

At approximately 7:45 this morning, the AHI (Acoustic Habitat Investigator), research boat was launched from the side of the ship using the crane system.  Three scientists were onboard to continue mapping the ocean floor using the sonar system attached to the bottom of the AHI.  This work would take them until four o’clock this afternoon. Meanwhile, back on the HI’IAKALAI, the NOAA officers on board led meetings on safety and concerns, etc. with the crew and department heads.

The meeting lasted over 2 hours and gave the officers, engineers, and crew a chance to discuss problems, vent frustrations, and get routine meetings finished.  The scientists were not involved in those meetings so the dry lab was full of scientists processing data from the ship’s onboard sonar system.  I helped edit data swaths (lines of data collected about the ocean floor) for several hours. It is interesting to note that the data that is collected from the multibeam sonar systems is information portrayed in number form.  Those numbers are then represented on the computers screens as various degrees of color, depending on the depth of the ocean floor. Data is taken out that lies outside the path or swath ( it is as if the ship is “mowing” lines across the ocean to gather because data like noise pollution is sometimes recorded (noise pollution can involve school of fish, etc.).

This day involved many people just sitting in the computer lab using their laptops to combine data into tables and mapping pictures.  As the afternoon progressed, the AHI came back to the ship and was hoisted aboard once more by the cranes.  CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) casts were made twice throughout the day. The ship stopped to put the CTD device in the water and measure for this information. The information was used by scientists to verify their sonar data.  Conductivity refers to salinity of the ocean water.  The ship continued to run benthic habitat mapping lines all day long.

Underwater pinnacles found by the underwater mapping system
Underwater pinnacles found by the underwater mapping system

Personal Log

I spent the day in the dry lab (computer lab) for the most part. I edited data for the scientists and interviewed three people on board. I interviewed Commanding Officer Scott Kuester, ENS Amy Cox, and GVA Greg Wells while on their watch on the bridge. Their watch schedule consists of four hour shifts on the bridge, watching the sea, recording weather data, and communicating with all hands about operations on the ship. Commanding Officer (CO) Kuester is originally from Michigan and has been sailing for twenty years. His background involves a degree in U.S. Merchant Marine and he told me if someone is interested in a career in the NOAA Corps, they need to possess a bachelor of science degree. Related fields in calculus and physics are also helpful. CO Keuster has sailed may places including the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. All NOAA Corps employees have rotational land and sea assignments and there are 5 NOAA officers aboard this ship. Current assignments aboard this ship last for 2 years and then a land assignment will occur for a few years.  The CO has had land assignments in Silver Spring, MD at NOAA headquarters. His overall responsibilities are to stand watch as needed, and he has the responsibility of insuring the safety of the ship and all those onboard, as well as working with the lead scientist to ensure the scientific mission is completed for each cruise.  The ship also collects environmental data on the weather at sea, which is used by federal agencies.

Coral ecosystem
Coral ecosystem

CO Keuster gave me an overview of many of intricate devices on the ship’s bridge, including the state of the art radar. I learned new terms like dead reckoning and nautical miles. Commanding Officer Scott Keuster recommended that anyone interested in a career in the NOAA Corps, should use their experience in college to gain more knowledge about computers. Diving knowledge is also helpful.  In his opinion, a person for this job needs to adapt easily to stressful situations, know the meaning of teamwork, should be professional, and be able to live amongst others in close quarters.

I also interviewed ENS Amy Cox, the newest Corp officer to the ship, and GVA Greg Wells.  ENS Cox is also originally from Michigan, and has training through the NOAA Corps as well as B.S. and B.A. degrees in Chemistry and Zoology.  She has worked in Alaska aboard ships for the fisheries department; estimating catch of certain species, and population and reproduction rates of fish in that area.  She enjoys her new sea assignment here in Hawaii and as an ESN she is responsible for using charts and GPS to map track lines, collecting weather data, maneuvering the ship, and for ship’s morale (by running the ship store, providing movie selections for broadcast at night, etc.)

GVA (General Vessel Assistant) Greg Wells also spoke to me while on watch.  His permanent home is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and has worked for NOAA for 4 years.  His previous occupation was as an EMT in Seattle, Washington. NOAA has provided him with training like Bridge Resource Management and licensing courses. He will spend roughly 200 days at sea this year working for NOAA and while onboard, has responsibilities of driving the boat, operating cranes, machinery, and CTD operations.

It was exciting to stand on the bridge with them at night.  The bridge was completely dark except for the glow of the red lights from radar and machinery.  The ENS and GVA also went through a series of very ritualized, historic direction language as they maneuvered the ship into mapping lines.  The bridge has to be kept dark so that watch standers can see out into the ocean for any changes or danger that lies ahead.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: My cruise along the HI’IAKALAI has been fairly smooth so far, but keep in mind that the ship rocks back and forth (called rolling) all the time.  If the seas (waves) were to get rougher the ship would roll port to starboard (left to right) and it might also begin to move up and down, which is called pitching. If the ship rolls 9 times in one minute in 1-2 foot seas, how many times will it roll in one hour?  How many times will it roll in one 24 hour period?

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’s Question: using a reference source find out more about the whitetip reef shark  1) list 3 facts about this shark: usually 5 feet long,  diet includes lobster, crab, eels, reef fish cave is used as a habitat 2) list the name of the reference source you used: Sharks of Hawaii by Leighton Taylor 3) draw a food chain for the shark like this example:  white tipped reef shark—-(eats)-> eel(eats)—->reef fish

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