Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Dr. Beale with “Cheesy Poofs.”

Dr. Beale with “Cheesy Poofs.”

Science and Technology Log  

You may recall from the previous log that the package, or CTD, contains “mostly” a rosette of polyvinyl chloride (PVC )bottles that collect water samples on the way up from the sea floor.  We have completed eight casts, which means we have dropped the package to the bottom eight times.  On Cast # 4, on the way up, a piece of equipment on the package broke.  On this Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) expedition scientists want to put as many devices on “the package” as possible. All of the measurements they are taking have some relationship to measuring the current, velocity, or flow of water masses.  Flow in deep water is a little like a river in the ocean, but not like the one in the film, Finding Nemo. Some of the devices measure the same thing as other instruments do, and are redundant, or duplicated, in case some device fails on the unit. A secondary reason for redundancy is to check the precision of calculations to the thousandth or even ten-thousandth place (.002 or .0005).  Other devices measure different things. For example, the altimeter measures distance to the bottom.  It is important because a device lowered from the ship does not necessarily go straight down like a nut dropping off a tree, but moves with the rocking of the ship and shifting of the current in any direction.  While the ship may show the ocean floor at say 5445 meters, the package may be over a sea mound—a big bump upward from the ocean floor—that registers 5300 meters.  Do you see the necessity of having an altimeter to monitor of ocean depth?  What the ship sees below may not be what the package has directly under it. Since it costs so much to send an expedition out, it makes sense to protect the instruments as well as to do as many measurements as possible in each cast.

In the center of the package is the biggest instrument of all, an acoustic current meter fondly nicknamed “Cheesy Poofs.”  Look at the photo… can you see why it has that name? On Cast # 5 Cheesy Poofs went “POOF!” and broke. The ocean is a harsh environment for man-made instruments.  They must be very strong because of the pressure, and very water-tight so they do not spring a leak. Poor Cheesy Poofs sprang a leak and didn’t work anymore.  It measured the speed of the current, or, the “motion of the ocean,” as Dr. Lisa Beal said, the operator of the instrument.  Luckily, Lisa had a spare instrument to replace Cheesy, so she and several technicians worked hard for three hours to remove one instrument and replace it with another.  Just one acoustic current meter costs $50,000!  So, “Cheesy Poofs” visited Davey Jones’ Locker, or the ocean depths. Observation and measurement are essential elements for scientific investigation.

Question of the Day:  What sorts of measurements need to be very precise in your daily life at school or home, and what tools make those measurements?

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis

Interview with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis Lead CFC Scientist. 

Shari, a true steward of the planet, is the lead CFC Scientist on cruise RB-06-03, aboard the RONALD H. BROWN. She studies Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or more specifically, halocarbons, anything that has carbon and a halogen attached (one column left of inert gases on the Periodic Table). She hails from Chicopee, Massachusetts and grew up there. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and doctoral degree at the University of Miami.

She wanted to use her chemistry not only in a laboratory but was inspired to apply it to natural systems.  Her work on this voyage is all about determining the age of deep water.  We are familiar with how the rings of a tree tell its age, and how the layers, or strata, of rock date the age of the earth. Tree rings are usually horizontal.  Rock strata are thin horizontal layers that show age vertically. Rock layers are more like ocean layers, except ocean layers are fat.  Ocean aging is found in the rising and sinking of warm and cold waters.  Shari is studying when the deep water was last at the surface—the zero age reference.  “Anything that is lower than the surface is older,” she explained.  This is not to be confused with how old the oceans are, an entirely different question.  Rather, if water sinks in one part of the ocean than it has to rise in another place, otherwise the dynamics of the ocean would more closely be like a pond, and it is not a pond. Wind controls the surface currents or water on top of the ocean, and temperature and salt concentrations controls the deep-water circulation.  The scientific name for deep-water circulation is ThermoHaline Circulation, THC, or Meridional Overturning Circulation, MOC.  This particular cruise gives Shari one of the best places to study and prove or disprove that HydroChloroFluroCarbons (HCFCs) can be used as age indicators, or as viable tracers of water mass motion.  If proven, these HCFCs, which are replacement refrigerants (what used to be Freon as in car air conditioning systems), propellants (like in aerosol spray cans) and foam blowing agents (like the material sprayed on ceilings), will help scientists understand the age of deep water from the time it was last at the surface.

What might a person studying such wonders enjoy in her recreational time?  Shari likes to family golf, read Stephen King horror stories and other thrillers, and listen to Barry Manilow.  She loves science and the mysteries of the earth.  She would love to completely know the “feedback” between the ocean and climate change, as science continues to be a motivating force in her life.  She encourages going to the beach and watching the tides ebb and flow, seeing the effect of the ocean and humbly realizing we are powerless against its force.  Shari has judged science fairs from middles schools through graduate school and has mentored graduate students, who are students who after college graduation work on master’s degrees. She has a graduate student, Julia O’Hern, working with her on this trip, who is sharing a cabin with mentor NOAA teacher, Kimberly Pratt.  Shari concluded our discussion by telling me what 4th and 5th graders and everyone can do to get interested in oceanography: “Enjoy the ocean and take care of it,” she said.

Personal log—Vince Rosato 

Hello, everyone. I have been absorbing information from crew, scientists, civilians, and officers and been very busy during my shift helping scientists with getting samples and analyzing them.  I’m learning with Kim ways to put this knowledge into practice in the classroom.  Your email questions about the ship and the science, especially from your ocean books and logs, you’re your tracking our journey are filling my days with variety.  What is especially exciting to me is that misconception after misconception is being laid aside for truer models of what really is.  For example, I never thought of surface flow of water being driven differently than deeper water currents. Another insight was about what seafaring life is really like and the type of teamwork, community, and cooperation it fosters. In fact, it supports Searles’ “cooperation,” as the character education virtue of the month.  In participating in making measurements with so many specialized instruments, my uncle’s statement, “With the right tool you can do any job,” makes so much more sense.

I’d like to share something that I learned as a tribute for all future seafaring enthusiasts.  Officers, crews, and sailors worldwide have rituals not only for proper decorum, as at watch change, but also to inspire cooperation, and lift the spirits for those who live at sea away from family for months at a time.  One of the spirit-lifting rituals from maritime history was for those who were sailing over the equator for the first time.  To “measure” the courage of the sailors, so to speak, each one had to endure a rite of passage that graduated them from “pollywog” to “shellback.” Crewmates waited with fear and trepidation about what the latest rite of passage would entail. Recently, the challenge was for everyone to participate in a talent show.  Once you pass your “trial,” you receive a card of graduation that you have to carry with you.  If you are found without such documentation, you must endure the trial again!  It is reported by maritime historians and confirmed by Chief Boatswain, Bruce Cowden, also an accomplished cartoonist, that wars were interrupted by this longtime tradition.  He also mentioned that long ago, the shellback ritual was not so friendly.

Personal log—Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. It’s been an interesting two days.  First of all, I’m trying to get used twelve-hour working shifts. It’s been difficult! Staying up late has been hard but it’s getting easier.  During my shift I’ve been helping collect water from casts, helping deploy the CTD, running “salts” which means putting water in an auto salinometer machine and testing it for conductivity.  I’ve also been conducting interviews, talking with crew and trying to figure out what’s been wrong with e-mails.  Today, after not hearing from my family for over a week, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly, let me call home.  Apparently my e-mails have been going out, but when people try to answer they are bounced back. Therefore, from now on use my AOL account, grnflea@aol.com, to contact me.  That way I am sure to hear from you.  The weather has been sunny, and yes, I did get sunburned yesterday. I also saw some flying fish and am always on the lookout for marine mammals.  Now with the e-mail situation taken care of, I look forward to hearing from my students and continuing to share more of what we’re learning from the sea!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log: CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) Test Cast  

The “Package”

The “Package”

We learned what to do to help the scientists today. In other words, all science personnel were trained in CTD Data Acquisition Procedures. “The package,” is what we send down to the bottom, about 5600 meters, more than three miles deep.  The package, or CTD, is mostly a rosette of 23 cylinders, (specially machined thick PVC tubes). It is deployed, or lowered, overboard. A winch, a machine run by trained sailors, does this lowering. It has a strong wire and pulley to lift and put the package into the ocean.  Once on the surface of the ocean, the CTD was lowered to 10 meters, to get the air out of the system.  The distance of 10 meters is where the atmospheric pressure doubles.  The CTD is then returned to the surface.  We bring it back to the surface after getting all the bubbles out, in order to mark the winch line to zero so they know how far away the bottom is.  Not only is the winch line zero, but the software begins at a good water only profile level as well. All the tubes are open in the rosette on the way down so they do not burst with the pressure and they can collect water at various depths on the way back up from the bottom.  On the way down water passes right through the open tubes.  The procedure for lowering the package with the commands is given by the survey crew to the winch operator. They are simple and brief, explained Jonathan Shannahoff, the Chief Survey Technician, who along with the Chris Churylo, the Chief Electronics Technician, are in charge of the use of all the electronic equipment onboard.

So we followed a very detailed procedure of lowering the package to the depth of 2,000 meters and popped the tubes, closed the tubes on the rosette, thus collecting water samples at the depth of 2,000 meters.  This was a test cast.  It was brought to the surface and we practiced taking various samples from the water.  Kim got to do the salinity and nutrient samples and Vince got to work with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis, CFC Project Lead, and Julia O’Hern, post-graduate CFC analyst, with the trace element samples.  Each type of sample has a procedure to follow to make sure it is done in the same manner so no mistakes are made with the data.  The first actual data collection casts will be coming up on Monday. We expect to do 55 or so casts and make more than 20 samples from each cast. Yes, today was all practice. We labeled vials and sample bottles to make them more orderly. The scientific process requires that you replicate experiments, which means that someone else can do the same thing as we do under similar conditions and get the same results.  Without that procedural similarity, reliability of data is compromised.  In other words, if you don’t do the same thing you did the last time you did it, you may not get the same conclusions.

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Interview with Captain Gary Petrae 

When you enter the bridge of the RON BROWN, you probably will meet Captain Gary Petrae. Captain Petrae has spent over 27 years with the NOAA Corps. He joined NOAA after graduating from Florida Institute of Technology where he majored in physical oceanography.  Captain Petrae chose NOAA because he likes adventures and loves a challenge. His favorite ports are Barbados W.I., Kodiak AK, and San Diego, CA.  When he’s not on duty, he catches up on paperwork, reads, and watches movies.  He encourages all his staff and crew to stop and relax and he tries to practice this daily himself.

CAPT Petrae really enjoys his commission, but does admit that the family separation is difficult. He encourages anyone to join NOAA and you can apply with a college degree to the commissioned corps, or in an entry-level position with a high school diploma.  A great benefit for NOAA employees is that you can live on-board a ship, (don’t have to pay rent), eat three meals a day and you can see the world. This is CAPT Petrae’s first command upon the RON BROWN which is a class one research vessel that travels all over the world.  The RON BROWN measures 274 feet stem to stern, is 52.5 feet wide, and needs 20 feet of water in which to operate.  The RON BROWN uses diesel fuel and has six generator motors.  The ship makes its own water using an evaporation system. The RON BROWN is scheduled to go to Brazil later in the year, and CAPT Petrae with his love of adventure is ready to go!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

You have asked, what is it like on the ship? The cabin I’m in has two bunks and two wall cabinets with closet space and drawers and one tall metal Chester drawer all of which I share with my cabin mate Ho, a doctoral student from the UK.  I have the bottom bunk and I work the noon-midnight watch.  He has the midnight to noon watch, which means each of us gets the room to ourselves for the time we’re not on watch.  We share the bathroom that has a fixture and shower stall with our adjacent cabin.  When we use it we lock both entry doors and remember to unlock them when we leave.  There is a sink with a mirror in each cabin as well.  The room has two sofa-like chairs and a stool that can be used like a desk chair next to the Chester drawers that has a pullout section that acts like a desktop. In each double size bunk there are drapes around three sides since one side faces the metal wall.  They shield the light in either direction because there is a bunk light with an outlet inside.  All in all the cabins are practical and spacious and we are in charge of keeping them neat and tidy.  Speaking of tidy, I did my laundry today two decks below.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. The weather is beautiful.  I’ve spent the last two days doing interviews, taking pictures and forming friendships on board the RON BROWN.  Yesterday I was trained in CTD collection procedures and really felt like a scientist as I got to take samples.  I’ll be processing salinity samples as well as non-organic nutrients.  The ship has stopped rocking and rolling so seasickness is at bay.  Today I really go to work, collecting samples as my shift is from noon to midnight.  The crew and officers have been very helpful and friendly. It’s been going really well, and it’s nice to have a fellow teacher on board!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 9, 2006

Teachers at Sea aboard the Ronald H. Brown

Teachers at Sea aboard the Ronald H. Brown

We sail today.  After spending the entire day traveling from San Francisco to Barbados by way of Miami, we arrived in Bridgetown. We heard screeching critters at the Grand Barbados Hotel. We learned that they were tiny frogs that sounded like squawking tropical birds. We took a taxi to the port, about 20 minutes on the other side of the island, after meeting Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly Baringer, also called “Dr. Molly.”

Docked among cruise liners (which are huge hotel-like pleasure ships), we were greeted aboard the NOAA ship, RONALD H. BROWN, by Ensign Jackie Almeida, serving as OOD, Officer of the Deck. The OOD is the captain’s delegate like when the principal has to go to a meeting the AP (assistant principal) is in charge.  Everyone welcomed us and made us feel right at home.  After stowing our gear and being directed to where the cabin linens (bed sheets, pillows and towels) and galley (where we eat meals) were, we made our way to Bridgetown and back by foot.  One of the main sources of income for Barbados is selling things to travelers, otherwise called tourism.  They made money by our visit. It cost $1.40 Barbados for postcard postage.  We passed a fish processing area not far outside of the closed port facilities where Mahi Mahi, otherwise known as “Caribbean Dolphin” by the locals was being prepared for market.  They are not real dolphins, since they are fish, and not marine mammals.

The harbor pilot and his assistant boarded the ship yesterday when our ship was moved.  We were invited to view the ship maneuverings from the bridge, where the officers navigate and drive the ship in the front, or bow, of the ship.  Junior Officer Ensign James Brinkley invited us to the bridge at the request of the Captain Gary Petrae.  If you thought parallel parking looked difficult by car, the captain explained a ship doesn’t have any brakes, which makes it harder.  He made it look easy.  We will continue to take photos and interview officers, crew, and scientists and help out where we can.  We will be sending logs periodically to keep you informed of our journey and help make the science we are learning more accessible in school and home.

Everyone enjoys seeing critters like monkeys and dolphins, but this expedition is primarily about chemistry, currents and climate, non-living, or abiotic, features of the seas. Coming up soon are fire and abandon ship drills.  Fire and emergency drills are held weekly at sea because shipboard personnel must rely solely on themselves in the event of an emergency.  In some cases help may be days away, so ships at sea will render assistance to other vessels located in proximity.  Later we will be conducting a test run of the CTD. The CTD is a conductivity, temperature and density reading at various depths from instruments on a line that extends from the surface of the sea to the ocean floor. Stay tuned for more data.

Assignment – Maritime flags are a very important way for ships to communicate to each other. For example, when a ship wants a harbor pilot to help it navigate its way through the harbor, they’ll hoist (put up) a blue and gold pilot flag.  We all use flags in our daily lives—the American Flag, California Flag, and we use flags to start races.  Describe one flag that you know of. Describe its markings and state the purpose for the flag or what it means.

Vince Rosato—Personal Log 

At the airport after getting up around 3:30 a.m. Kim and I were in line and an agent asked me to get into a “special” line.  No, it was not the express line.  As others walked by, one said, “Are you in the penalty box?”  I said, “I was chosen–perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket.” Anyway, I was run through a glass container and puffed with air jets which sensed nothing but my cologne and was passed along to our delayed flight and Kim’s enjoyment.  On the journey here the wife of a former Minister of Trinidad watched out for us. That was memorable because she attempted to get us quick passage to our connection at Miami after our arrival terminal was switched due to our delayed flight.

Kimberly Pratt—Personal Log 

Hi all! It’s great to be in Barbados!  The students and I really worked hard to get ready for the trip. In class they decorated their Styrofoam cups (for a later experiment), signed the stickers for the drifter buoy we’ll be deploying later and most importantly, they all made me going away cards!  I was really touched (they love to see me cry). It’s beautiful here.  The weather has been warm and tropical.  The flight was long, and I met a wonderful lady named Nora.  The next day I went to the ship and checked in.  Today, we sailed and we’ll be motoring straight away for two days.  I haven’t felt really sick, so that’s good news.  It’s nice to be traveling with another teacher this time around.  My e-mail on board the ship is kim.pratt@rbnems.ronbrown.omao.noaa.gov